GOVERNOR GENERAL'S SPEECH - Address in Reply

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (10:54): The formality of this speech requires some explanation to those who might be reading it hence and wondering, 'What is thing called an address-in-reply to the Governor-General?' Seven months ago, the Governor-General gave a speech which purported to set out his plan for the next three years of the 45th Parliament. It is a sad indictment of the capacity of the government to manage the business of the House that it is nearly seven months after the opening of the parliament and we are still dealing with the addresses-in-reply to the Governor-General's speech. Continue reading

Illawarra Flash Floods

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (13:49): For the last two weeks, the Illawarra has battled wild weather. After a week of being hit by hard, heavy-hitting rain we had flash flooding, which resulted in road closures, public transport disruptions and damage to many properties throughout the region. It was a difficult time for our local SES, police and rescue workers. There were over 400 calls for help across the region and at least 30 rescues in the Unanderra area alone, with people in cars getting stuck in floodwaters, damage to property and roads closed, causing lots of traffic disruption. Continue reading

Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2016-2017, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2016-2017 Second Reading

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (17:18): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker Wicks, for your protection; I am sure I need it. This government came to power on a promise to fix everything and cut nothing, and they have broken both promises. They have fixed nothing and cut everything. This is the government that came to power—we will never forget that pre-2013 press conference with the then Opposition Leader, then Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, promising that there would be no changes to Medicare, no cuts to pensions, no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to the SBS. Of course, they broke each and every one of those promises in their first budget, and things never got any better from there. Continue reading

Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan) Bill 2016 Second Reading

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (17:53): I rise to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan) Bill 2016. I agree the challenge is for us to do what is right for the country. We have before the House, we have before the parliament and we have for the people of Australia two propositions. One is to give a $50 billion unaffordable tax cut to Australia's largest companies. The other is to improve school education funding to ensure that our kids have the resources in their schools to grow up, to get the education that will enable them to participate fully in the modern world. I cannot support an unaffordable tax cut to the biggest companies in this world and I challenge the government's proposition that this is going to benefit the Australian economy. Continue reading

Treasury Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (13:15): The message has to be made loud and clear: if you want a fair society then multinational companies have to pay tax and if you want a strong economy then multinational companies have to pay tax. It sticks in the craw of many hardworking Australians when they pay their tax. They go to work week in and week out, they pay their tax week in and week out and they are happy to make a contribution to society, but what sticks in their craw is when they learn that some of the wealthiest companies in the world and some of the biggest companies operating in Australia are not paying their fair share. Australians are a generous people and they are willing to put their hands in their pockets to pay for the schools, hospitals, roads and ports that make this a great country—a great country in which to do business, to bring up your family in and to run a small business—but what sticks in their craw is when they see that the playing field is skewed so that the biggest companies in the world with some of the largest incomes are not paying their fair share of tax. Frankly, they look at the Turnbull government and they know that the Turnbull government is not doing a good job of reining them in. Continue reading

Health Insurance Amendment (National Rural Health Commissioner) Bill 2017

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (17:35): Today we are debating a bill to establish a rural health commissioner. Government MPs will say it is a great breakthrough in health care for regional Australia. I do not say it is a bad thing, but it falls a long way short of a great breakthrough, for most of the reasons that have been set out very eloquently by the member for Grey in his thoughtful contribution right now. I say, at best, it is an admission of failure. It could be much worse than that, and that is a distraction from a whole heap of issues that really are facing health care in regional and rural Australia. Continue reading

National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (18:51): It is a great honour to follow my friend, the member for Dobell, in speaking on the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2016. She brings to the parliament and the subject matter before the parliament decades of experience as a professional pharmacist, and I understand that she is very passionate about this subject matter—as I am. So I will be supporting the bill, as will Labor. It marginally improves access to PBS medicines, and that is something we have to support. I note that it has broad support from a range of stakeholders, including the Pharmacy Guild and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Continue reading

Building Better Regions Fund

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (13:51): There is a dispute between the Liberal and National parties which is threatening funding of critical projects in Western Australia and other regions. The dispute concerns the boundaries for the Building Better Regions Fund, in which $300 million of taxpayer money is allocated to development projects. Many MPs have raised their concerns—I see the member for Wakefield, the member for Macquarie and the member for Lalor in the chamber—but it was in WA that the Liberal member for Canning went so far as to accuse the National Party minister of redrawing the map to exclude Mandurah and Peel from the fund. He was so angry he took it to the Prime Minister and believes that he received a guarantee that the National Party minister would be overruled. He told his local newspaper: Continue reading

NDIS Savings Fund Special Account Bill 2016

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (18:52): I am delighted that the National Disability Insurance Scheme is coming to the Illawarra on 1 July 2017. It was introduced into the Southern Highlands area of my electorate much earlier but in the Illawarra it will be providing services to people with disabilities and their families from 1 July this year. That is a good thing. When Labor developed the NDIS, we envisaged a game-changing approach to receiving the services and equipment needed by people living with a disability to enable them to live their lives to their absolute fullest. Continue reading

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (18:08): The parliament has spent too much time on this. When I move through the country and my own electorate I can honestly say that I am not bowled over by people who are saying to me we need change on 18C. I can honestly say that it has never happened to me. It is a boutique issue that is more controversial in the coalition party room than it is in the community. Continue reading