Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (10:17): Five years after the end of the Second World War the Korean peninsula was again thrust into a very bitter war. Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost, hundreds of thousands more were thrown into turmoil and for three years the Korean people were facing war on their soil. I use this story is an introduction to a discussion on the Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement to make this point: in my lifetime South Korea has gone from a position of being a net recipient of aid from the rest of the world to being a net donor of aid to other countries within the region. There are many reasons for this: obviously a robust democracy, a lot of work has gone into the modernisation of its economy, a lot of cooperation between the private sector and the government sector, and obviously intense interest and assistance from the rest of the world to ensure that South Korea was able to get back on its feet. We are now in the happy position of having a very good diplomatic and trade relationship with South Korea as a democracy within the region. This trade agreement takes that relationship to another level.
We support free trade and we support the trade agreement with Korea, but, as my friend the member for Moreton has said in his contribution to this debate, there are some reservations. Were Labor still in government and if we had the opportunity to complete the work that we started in 2009, we would have concluded an agreement, but there would have been some differences—and I will go to those shortly.
The Republic of South Korea is our third-largest export market. This bilateral trade agreement presents significant opportunities for Australian exporters and for Australian workers. It is not without its downside. Any trade agreement involves trade-offs and often they felt within particular parts of the economy and particular regions around the country. They are felt within regions such as mine, a region that has traditionally gained its employment and its wealth from a mixture of manufacturing, mining and other services. When we reach agreements such as this, there is no doubt that it adds further pressure to those manufacturers who are competing against nations such as South Korea and others in an open market.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (12:49): I rise to speak on the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2014 Measures No. 4) Bill 2014. There are four parts to this bill which is before the House today; two of which Labor supports, and two of which we cannot support. This is in complete contrast to the member for Deakin—who has spent, out of 15 minutes, the best part of 30 seconds talking about what is probably the most important part of this bill: the abolition of the seafarers offset, which he sought to dismiss because somehow it provided a benefit to workers who also happened to be union members. It just goes to show how far members of the government will go to drive jobs offshore, but it also shows what a very clouded view members of the government caucus have not only of economic policy but also of how to introduce policy for the betterment of ordinary Australian workers.
There are four parts to the bill. We will support two of them. We will support the mature age worker tax offset; in fact, in office we started the process of abolishing this, by a number of measures. In our view, it is a high-cost method of boosting older workforce participation, and can be done more effectively through other means. We will also support, obviously, the updating of the conditions relating to deductible gift recipients. These updates by way of legislation are generally bipartisan propositions, and I see no reason to depart from that today. Those will have our support as well.
We will not be supporting the changes to the R and D offset, because we do not think they are in the public interest. We certainly will not be supporting the changes to the seafarer tax offset, and I would like to put a bit of context around that. The bill seeks to abolish the offset, and it does this as a bloody-minded attempt to pull apart the previous Labor government's shipping policy reforms which were contained in the Stronger Shipping for a Stronger Economy package of measures. It is the start of the coalition's systematic attempt to dismantle historic reforms that were put in place to strengthen and revitalise the Australian shipping industry. It has probably been the most significant overhaul of the Australian shipping industry in over 100 years—so it beggars belief that those opposite are coming in here today and advocating the dismantling of these important reforms. In 2012, a bloke who spent most of his life at sea and knows a fair bit about the Australian industry, Paddy Crumlin, had this to say: 'This, without doubt, is one of the most important days in Australian maritime history. It marks the day that Australian shipping was saved from near death.' He was referring to the stronger shipping reforms, the package of bills introduced into this House by the member for Grayndler and former minister for transport and infrastructure—a package of bills that was welcomed by industry and literally gave us the chance to save our maritime industry.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:48): The collapse of Trio Capital was the largest superannuation fraud in Australia's history. Around about $176 million of investor funds were lost and sent overseas. Hundreds of these victims came from my electorate of Throsby and throughout the Irrewarra. It was in part response to the Trio Capital fraud that Labor introduced the financial advice reforms to the last parliament.
In the lead up to the 2013 election, the Trio Capital victims' circumstances were hotly contested in my electorate. Indeed, the Liberal minister responsible, Senator Cormann, said that there was a series of unique circumstances in Trio Capital and there would be some justification for a level of compensation. I am told that it has been 382 days since that commitment was given to the Trio Capital victims and still there has been no honouring of that commitment. What is more, the FOFA laws are being wound backwards.
I today standard parliament and demand that the Liberal minister honour the commitment that he gave to electors in my electorate, which was that he would pay the compensation and do what he said he would do. I call on the government to listen to the advice of the experts in the industry who are saying, 'Ditch your FOFA reforms.'
Local Federal Members, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, today welcomed the release of a comprehensive Labor plan by Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese, to promote productivity, sustainability and liveability of regional cities including Wollongong.
“In Government, Labor made investing in regions a priority and funded over $865 million in local projects in the Cunningham electorate alone. The Abbott Government has ignored the Illawarra in his first Budget – he has axed $50 million in seed funding for the Maldon Dombarton Rail link and sacked our Local Employment Coordinator and we have seen no new investment in infrastructure for our region.
“We need to be investing in our regions for job creation and economic prosperity. Anthony Albanese’s comments today reinforce Labor’s commitments to regions like the Illawarra.
Stephen Jones said the previous Labor Government committed $7.4 million in federal funding to kick-start the Home of Soccer at West Dapto from the Regional Development Australia Fund.
Today Member for Throsby Stephen Jones called on the Abbott Government to honour their pre-election commitment to the victims of the Trio Capital fraud
In May last year, then Shadow Finance and Superannuation Minister Mathias Cormann said that, “there would be some justification for a level of compensation” for the victims in the Trio Capital case.
Senator Cormann also said there were “a series of unique circumstances” in the Trio Capital case which could allow the Government to do more for victims.
“It has been 382 days since the election, and even longer since the Finance Minister made these commitments and still nothing has been done for the victims”, said Jones.
“What’s worse is that this very same Minister is now in Government trying to wind-back the Future of Financial Advice reforms that Labor introduced to protect investors in the wake of the $176 million Trio fraud – the largest in Australia’s history.
“In Parliament today I demanded the Finance Minister honour the commitment that he gave to electors across the region last year that he would provide compensation for victims that was in his words ‘justified’.”
“I also called upon the Abbott Government to heed the advice of the experts in the industry who are overwhelmingly demanding the watering-down of the Future of Financial Advice reforms be ditched as a matter of urgency.”