Address to 2014 CRANA Plus Conference

POSTED ON
October 17

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Wurundjeri tribe of the Kulin Nation, on which we meet here today in Melbourne.

I’d also like to acknowledge CRANAplus President Dr Janie Smith and Chief Executive Officer Mr Christopher Cliffe.

I’m also very pleased to be speaking in the same session as Associate Professor Paul Bennett.

A story of dealing with complex health needs in remote Australia

The Spring Edition of the CRANA Plus Magazine features a compelling story of Peter Strachan, known to his mates as ‘Strachy’, from Alice Springs.

Peter was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) in April 2010. Determined to fight the disease for his wife and 8 year old daughter, Peter was forced to get on the next plane to Adelaide for radiology and oncology treatment, over 1,500 km away.

And so began his journey.

The same journey thousands of Australians and their families from remote areas have to make every year to access treatments many in the cities and regions take for granted.

Six months after treatment, Peter relapsed. The advice from his doctor in Adelaide was straight to the point – chemotherapy will give you another 12 months, a transplant can give you at least 5 years. 

As many of you would know, stem cell transplants are not easy to come by in Alice Springs. So it was back to the Royal Adelaide Hospital for stem cell replacement and another five months as an outpatient before Peter was able to return home to his family.

He still requires monthly blood tests and quarterly bone marrow biopsies back in Adelaide – but he survived.

There are many more in his situation, living in remote areas of Australia for whom cannot say the same.

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Statement on National Security

POSTED ON
October 02

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (10:27): This morning Australians woke to the terrible news that ISIS forces have besieged the town of Kobani on Iraq's northern border with Turkey. Its proximity to the border with Turkey means that artillery that was intended to destroy the town of Kobani has overshot its targets and is now landing inside Turkish territory. Unsurprisingly, Turkish forces have moved to the border. There are tanks and artillery now positioned on the border, and the world waits with bated breath to see whether this conflict is going to expand across another border.

Meanwhile, the fighting continues in Syria. The slaughter of Shiahs, of Kurds, of Christians and of all those who do not agree with the ISIS sect's view of the world continues throughout Iraq. It is a terrible time and everybody looks upon it with a mixture of horror, disgust and concern for what it means for the world that we live in and what it means for us back home.

In September, I gave a statement in this House and I made four key points about why I believed it was important for us to support action against the ISIS forces. The first point I made was that it is for governments to decide, in this country, when and where we deploy our troops. I pointed out the fact that governments have at their disposal the facts and the information, and necessarily the chain of command and the resources, that are necessary to deploy our troops, so it is absolutely reasonable that governments are in the best position to make those decisions. That does not mean the parliament has no role; it does. In a Westminster system and with responsible government it is the role of parliament to hold the executive to account, and we should do that through vigorous debate. This debate is today is one such instance of that.

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Winding back workers' entitlements is a glaring statement of Coalition priorities

POSTED ON
October 01

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:14): It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak on the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Amendment Bill 2014. This matter is one that is a passion of mine, for reasons that I will set out in a moment. I also understand that industrial relations is a passion of members of the government. However, it must be said that in this particular debate that it is a private passion—a very private passion, because there has only been one member of the government willing to come to the chamber today and defend their legislation. Indeed, if there were a standing order that said a government bill had to have a minimum number of government speakers who were willing to stand and speak in defence of it then I am quite certain that this legislation would not get out the gate.

Legislation—the business that a government brings before the House—is a statement of its values and a statement of its priorities. I would like to address some of the priorities and the values that are resplendent within this legislation. As the member for Fowler has just told the House, we are debating this legislation in the very same week that one of the most important reports, that goes to the heart of who is paying tax and who is not paying tax in this country, was published.

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Matter of Public Importance: Rural and Regional health services

POSTED ON
October 01

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (15:20): Thank you, Deputy Speaker. The question that all members on this side of the House are asking themselves today is why the government insists on punishing Australians who live in rural and regional Australia. Why are they so insistent on punishing people who live in the bush? The other question we are asking is: why is the National Party so eager to support them?

The issue is this: the government's budget is a war on the poor; it is a war on the people who live in rural and regional Australia. The $7 GP tax will cost patients over $1.4 billion in communities outside of metropolitan centres.

The destruction of the PBS safety net is going to cost an additional $1.2 billion for people for their medicines. If you look at the top 12 electorates that will pay the greatest out-of-pocket expenses as a result of this rotten budget in the PBS, they are all in rural and regional Australia. And they are going to be wacked an additional $112 million over the next four years.

Where is the member for Gippsland? Where is the member for Hinkler? Where is the member for Murray? Where is the member for Gilmore? And where are the other members who claim to represent regional and rural Australia electorates? Why aren't they here today, standing up for their electorates?

The sad truth is this. If you live in the bush, you do not enjoy the same health outcomes as you would if you lived in the city, whether they be diabetes, the incidence of a melanoma or other cancers, injuries or, tragically, suicide. The sad fact is that, if you live in the bush, you do not enjoy the same sorts of health outcomes as you would if you lived in the city. Tragically, those on the other side are letting down their constituencies.

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Free Trade Agreements must not trade away our national sovereignty

POSTED ON
September 26

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.

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Coalition must not walk away from Australia's shipping industry

POSTED ON
September 25

port_kembla_shipping.jpgMr 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.

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Cormann must honour commitment to Trio victims

POSTED ON
September 25

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.'

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Nationals do nothing on regional health

POSTED ON
September 23

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:48): It has been more than a year since the election, and the Nationals have comprehensively failed on regional health. The Nationals have recently published their 25 achievements after one year in government. I have had a look at this document, and regional health does not rate a mention. There is a good reason for that. They promised before the election, 'No cuts to health'. But they have cut hospital funding by over $50 billion dollars. That means people in regional hospitals all around the country will have even worse facilities and fewer doctors and nurses. They promised to provide a full-time regional health minister. Instead, we got a somebody who is excluded from all the big decisions when it comes to health. They promised to increase the Medicare rebate for regional doctors—instead, they cut it by $5, then they froze it and then they washed their hands of it. They have been lying about the cost of Medicare ever since they set foot in this place. They have said the cost is going up but in fact it has been constant for over 10 years as a proportion of government outlays. They promised to look at making the safety net fairer for medicines. Instead they have put huge holes in the safety net. I have produced a document which I seek leave to table. It will remind the Nationals of their promises and hopefully they will come in here and vote in accordance with their conscience.

Leave not granted. 

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Statement on the Interim Report on Constitutional Recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

POSTED ON
September 23

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:27): Thank you, Deputy Speaker Porter. Can I say at the outset how pleased I am that you are in the chair, being a member of this committee and somebody who I have enjoyed an interlocution with over the subject matters of this report. As you know, all of those members of the 44th Parliament who represent a major party were elected on a platform which included the bipartisan proposition that it is now time to recognise the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and their language, cultures and unbroken connection to land, in the founding document of our Commonwealth—that is, our Constitution.

I cannot improve on the words of my friend and colleague Senator Nova Peris, who explained that in this act of recognition we do not ask that Australians relinquish 200 years of settlement and that history, but rather we join to that over 40,000 years of continuous Aboriginal history. Nova is a renowned Australian and the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to our federal parliament. She is a powerful advocate and tells a poignant personal story on the importance of recognition. Nova is the first Indigenous woman to be elected to the Australian Senate.

As you would know, it took over 70 years from the time of Federation for the first Aboriginal Australian to enter the federal parliament as a member of this place. On 8 September 1971, that first Aboriginal Australian to take up a seat, Senator Neville Bonner, made his first speech to parliament. In that speech he made the following observation:

Less than 200 years ago the white man came, I say now in all sincerity that my people were shot, poisoned, hanged and broken in spirit until they became refugees in their own land. But that is history and we take care now of the present while, I should hope, we look to the future. Following the advent of the white man came a transitional period which still exists today. Then began to appear the emotional scars; the psychological wounds became a torment from which by and large we have still not recovered.

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Address to the AHHA and ACHS National Conference

POSTED ON
September 10

AHHA_meme.jpg“MAKING QUALITY COUNT”

 

WEDNESDAY 10 SEPTEMBER, 2014

NOVOTEL BRIGHTON LE SANDS, SYDNEY

 

Newspeak/Doublethink: The Contribution of Eric Blair to Public Debate on Australian Health Policy in 2014

I would like to acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the land on which we meet – the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation.

Our health system is facing its greatest challenge in 40 years.

For the past five months the public has been drawn to the debate on how we fund health services in Australia. This is not a new debate. 40 years ago the country was enthralled in an idea called Medibank. The name was different the issues were the same.

The Medibank legislation was historic for the Parliament and for the country. It was the first Joint Sitting of Parliament under s59 of the Constitution following a double dissolution – the deadlock provision for resolving disputes between the Upper and Lower House. There has not been another. 

More importantly it fundamentally transformed the way we think about health care in Australia. It set the framework for Bob Hawke and Neal Blewett to introduce Medicare a decade later.

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Stephen Jones MP
Stephen Jones MP For Throsby