Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (10:49): Yesterday was the darkest of days for workers at Holden and workers in the automotive industry around the country. We learned the devastating news that Holden had decided to cease production in Australia by 2017. In Elizabeth 1,700 workers and around 2,900 workers nationally are affected. It was not an easy decision for Holden to make, I know. It was made a lot harder by the political controversies surrounding the automotive industry in this country.
This is going to have a knock-on effect to over 200,000 Australian workers whose jobs depend directly or indirectly on auto and automotive components around the country. The Australian automotive industry and the transport industry represented about eight per cent of the total domestic steel volumes last financial year, with the number expected to have risen over the next 12 months. Of course, that is not going to happen. That will have a direct impact on workers in my electorate of Throsby and in the Illawarra in New South Wales, many thousands of whom draw their employment through BlueScope and related industries.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:45): Today the High Court has ruled on the validity of the Marriage Equality (Same Sex) Act 2013, an act of the Legislative Assembly of the ACT. It held that the territory was unable to make such laws. It found that section 51(xxi) of the Constitution gives the federal parliament power to pass a law providing for same-sex marriage. We can presume that the government or the Prime Minister brought the appeal to the High Court on the presumption that it is proper that this parliament should consider such laws.
In February last year I brought a private member's bill before this parliament which would have provided for marriage equality. The bill did not succeed, and the reason it did not succeed is that members of the coalition were not given a conscience vote on the issue.
I believe that on this issue members of this place are lagging behind public opinion. I believe we are different but equal and we should not be differently equal before the laws of this place. I call on members opposite and I call on the government to allow its members to have a conscience vote on this issue when a bill is next brought before us.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:54): I want to brief the House on the great work of a local education training, and employment organisation in my electorate of Throsby, Access Community Group. In particular, I want to talk about the success of the nationwide Youth Connections Program.
Youth Connections has provided assistance for over 30,000 disadvantaged young people between the ages of 13 and 19, helping them break down the barriers to education or entering the workforce. In the Illawarra and Southern Highlands, Access Community Group has served over 350 young people in the program, with 223 reported to have successfully re-engaged in education or employment.
One of these kids was Jeremy, who was referred to Youth Connections for not attending school for almost two years because of family breakdown and bullying by classmates. Jeremy had a long history of running away and used drugs and alcohol to cope. He engaged in criminal behaviour to get basic items like food and clothing. But after getting one-on-one attention and support from his Youth Connections case manager, Jeremy was supported to enrol in Wollongong Flexible Learning Centre to complete his studies.
Ongoing contact shows that he is attending regularly and doing well, with a goal of going to TAFE to study hospitality and become a chef, like his dad.
The former Labor government funded Youth Connections to run until December next year. However, there is no commitment at this stage from the coalition government to re-fund Youth Connections—a shame considering the hard work and fantastic results the program is achieving in communities across Australia. I strongly encourage the government to continue funding the program to deliver real assistance for kids like Jeremy.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (18:04): The rationale for the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 as outlined by the minister in his second reading speech is a fig leaf—a complete fiction. It is a fiction because, while pretending to strengthen the independence of Infrastructure Australia, the minister, through this bill, is in fact making Infrastructure Australia less independent. We know this because the bill repeals section 6(3) of the existing act to remove the provision that says:
Directions given by the Minister … must be of a general nature only.
In its place, the bill before the House sets out a whole host of ways that the minister can direct the work of Infrastructure Australia and intervene in the arm's length process that was fundamental to Labor's approach.
There can be no doubt that the establishment of Infrastructure Australia has been a resounding success. In the relatively short space of time it has been up and running Infrastructure Australia has successfully entrenched the idea of a more strategic approach to infrastructure investment in Australia. In fact, the model has been so successful it has been mimicked by state governments around the country. Infrastructure Australia has shown that the allocation of scarce government funding should be directed to projects in order of national and economic importance.