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

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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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Statement of support for Australian assistance in Iraq

POSTED ON
September 04

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (12:13):  This morning the world learned that a second American journalist had been murdered in the civil war in Iraq. It was met with international outrage. It is understandable that citizens of other countries attend their view to an atrocity when it touches one of their own, but this does not overshadow the more than 5,000 Iraqis who have been slaughtered or the 12,000 who have been wounded, enslaved, abused and otherwise had their lives cut short at the hands of the murderous criminals who are masquerading as a cause. The United Nations has reported ISIS and its allies have committed 'systematic and egregious violations' against civilians, including mass killings, sexual violence, kidnapping, destruction of property and attacks on places of religious worship and of great historical importance. These must be resisted.

To deploy Australian forces to another country—to engage in operations in a theatre of war—is probably one of the gravest decisions any country can make. I believe it is proper that these decisions are made by governments, who necessarily have more information and intelligence at their fingertips, and are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their decisions. That does not mean that parliament does not have a role. It is equally proper that the Australian people are engaged in this debate and, through their representatives in parliament, can express their views.

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Closing address to the 4th Rural and Remote Health Scientific Symposium

POSTED ON
September 03


Thank you for your contribution
IMG_4007.JPG

Thank you for the role that each of you play in improving the health of rural and remote Australians.

Whether you are a frontline healthcare provider, a researcher, data analyst or a public servant.

Together, you help provide us with one of the best, most efficient health systems in the world.

Australians are rightly proud of their health system. You can be proud of your contribution to it – and to our nation.

It’s fair and efficient.

World class health systems don’t just build themselves.

They take events like this, with the sharing of ideas. They require the primacy of evidence and science to underpin decision making and imagination.

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University education should not be a rich man's privilege

POSTED ON
September 03

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (19:37): When the subject matter of these bills first came before the House, I said some rather unfair things in the context of the budget debate. I characterised the minister responsible, the member for Sturt, as a person who—when he looks at the graduation halls and sees them full of shabby students from the suburbs and regions—sees not the operation of an equity program, but universities that have lowered their standards, because they are undermining the elitism that he thinks should be the feature of the Australian university system. That was a bit unfair because, whilst there is the truth in that statement, it runs the risk of trivialising what in effect is a very serious set of reforms. Make no mistake about it: the legislation which is before the House today is going to have the effect of transforming a sector of our economy, which is one of our greatest exports and one of our most important assets. It is going to be the only driver of productivity for our workforce into the future it and it is that sector of the community which we rely on to produce educated and productive citizens.

I will make a harsh criticism of the minister by saying this: normally you would expect some of the most intelligent contributions in a debate to be made by the minister who is responsible for a particular set of bills. That is not the case in the course of this debate. I had the benefit of being in the chamber earlier today and listening to the contribution of the member for Pearce. I will have a few observations to make about his contribution. I note that he has been in the news quite a bit today. Apparently, he had a spat with the Treasurer in the party room and apparently the Treasurer came off second best. But that is not the force of my argument. The point I want to make is this: an intelligent contribution can be made but we have not heard it from the minister and we did not hear it from the member for Bass just now. I will also have something to say about his contribution and some of the things he did not say. I fundamentally disagree with the points that have been made by the member for Pearce but they do need to be joined.

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Renewable energy never stood a chance with this Government

POSTED ON
September 02


solar_power_australia.jpgMr STEPHEN JONES
 
(Throsby) (16:17): The legislation before the House today, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Repeal) Bill 2014, is part of the government's dogged campaign to destroy and dismantle the policies and the programs that were put in place by the former government to implement a clean energy future. We have seen it with the legislation to dismantle the price on carbon—something that I will return to during my address; the attempts to kill the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, an organisation to set up and fund on a commercial basis those commercial projects which are very bankable but which, for reasons best known to the banking sector, are not attracting the finance that they should otherwise deserve; and, of course, the bill before the House today, the bill to abolish the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

We knew that we were in a bit of strife with this package of reforms when we heard that devastating admission by the Treasurer himself, who told us that he breaks out in a sweat every time he drives past a wind farm. It must be a terrible trip from North Sydney down to Canberra, as he has to avert his eyes as he drives past the wind farms on Lake George. But never mind; like some latter-day Don Quixote riding his wooden horse, he comes in here waving his wooden sword and says, 'I'm going to do away with all of that'—not tilting at windmills but destroying them. That is what this legislation is designed to do. This legislation—and the whole approach of this government since they were elected—is to dismantle the package of reforms that were put in place to give us a clean energy future.

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Stephen Jones MP
Stephen Jones MP For Throsby