Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:27): The opposition looked forward to this debate with great anticipation. When in government we repealed over 16,000 acts and regulations. We thought this was the business of government each and every day and not just something you consign to one particular day of the year, preceded my mountains of press releases and lots of hyperbole.
Mr Nikolic: Why didn't you do it?
Mr STEPHEN JONES: I hear the member for Bass. He sat down short when he had time to speak on this matter. He did not use all of the time allocated to him, so the dignified thing for him to do would be to be quiet now that someone else is at the dispatch box.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:42): Today I pay tribute to Her Excellency the Hon. Quentin Bryce, the Governor-General of Australia, whose five-year term ends this week. Ms Bryce has served with dignity and will leave having earned the respect and reverence of monarchists and republicans alike.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (16:45): If Medicare was a Facebook page it would have around 23½ million 'likes'. It is every Australian's favourite brand. Peter Dutton and the coalition claim that they are Medicare's best friends. They are waiting until after the Western Australian election before they hit the 'unfriend' button. Peter Dutton says he wants to start a national conversation about the future of Medicare, but it is not a real conversation because if you are going to have a real conversation you listen to what the other side is saying. He has already concluded what he wants to do—he is just not letting on. A national conversation would be welcome, but that is not what the government plans.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (18:07): There are a couple of extraordinary things about the debate about the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014 before the House this evening. The first is that they are actually having a debate. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will recall the last piece of infrastructure legislation that was before the House—and these people on the other side of the House. It with their own bill, but they did not have the confidence to have the legislation considered in detail. So confident were they about the subject matter of their legislation that they gagged the debate. They were not willing to have their own legislation considered in detail and there was a very good reason for that. There was much to be ashamed of in that bill—the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013. So the first thing that is extraordinary about the debate before the House today is that we are actually considering this bill in detail. A welcome thing that is too.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:44): Anybody who has spent any time in the Illawarra knows there is a fantastic sense of community spirit and a community willingness to pitch in and help those who are in need. That spirit—that ethic—was on display this weekend when there were at least four large community events organised to raise funds and awareness for community health issues. On Sunday alone, there was a melanoma walk in Wollongong, which was attended by over 250 people and led by former Olympian Stephanie Rice.
I see the member for Gilmore in the chamber, and she would be aware that on Sunday there was also Kiss Goodbye to MS—or the 'big pash' as many are calling it down in the Illawarra—to raise support and funds for people suffering from multiple sclerosis. They fell well short of the Brazilian record, but you cannot beat the Brazilians when it comes to matters like this.
We also had an arthritis walk on Sunday at Reddall Reserve, but a local member cannot be everywhere which is why, as a patron and ambassador for Relay for Life, I spent time with the Shellharbour community during the Relay for Life. We had over 900 people over the 24 hours of the relay, including a team organised by me. We fell over the line and will raise in excess of $100,000. It also gave carers and people with cancer the opportunity to share a bit of time with the community and get a bit of support. I commend the organisers, particularly Tracy Jansen for her work. (Time expired)
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (18:36): I am very pleased to be in the debate tonight on the important issue of infrastructure, and transport infrastructure in particular. When it comes to land transport infrastructure, the government has not got off to a very good start. I do not blame the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. He is probably a pretty good bloke, but he has got one of the toughest jobs in government. His job is to try and put some truth into the slogan that the Prime Minister is somehow going to be the 'infrastructure Prime Minister'. That is the toughest job in parliament because he does not have a lot to work with. One minute you have the government out there saying that everything that Labor have done in this space is a disaster, that in fact we have done nothing at all. The next minute you have members and the minister himself running around the country taking credit for Labor projects, reannouncing Labor projects and, best of all, cutting the ribbon on Labor projects.
We know that cutting is in the Liberal Party DNA. Quite clearly, infrastructure is not in the Liberal Party DNA at all, because you have to go a long way back in history before you can find a conservative Prime Minister who has been serious about investing in infrastructure. That is in stark contrast to Labor prime ministers, because history is resplendent with Labor prime ministers who have been committed to nation building and to improving the productive capacity of this country by investing in infrastructure. I have in mind the contribution made by Andrew Fisher, an early Labor Prime Minister, who was responsible for pushing through his cabinet and then through a very difficult parliament the proposition to build the transnational rail link. It was Andrew Fisher and a Labor government that ensured work could commence on the project and that we have a rail link to Perth today.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:51): I would like to pay tribute to Terry Tindale, a constituent and former southern New South Wales MUA branch secretary and legend of the Illawarra seafaring industry, who passed away last Monday after a long battle with illness. Terry first went to sea on 16 April 1947; he was only 14 years of age. He soon developed an enormous reputation for his seafaring skills and political and industrial commitment. He worked aboard many ships during his long career, most famously working on the iron boats the Iron Master and the Iron Yampi.
Terry's achievements were legendary on the iron boats and in the land of the 'long red cloud', the name he gave to his home town, Port Kembla. He was also famous for his involvement in the South Coast Labour Council and as the official and branch secretary of the MUA. No problem was ever too big or small to take to Terry. No matter what it was, he was always happy to sit down and have a yack and make sure his men were well looked after. He was particularly proud of his grandson Ben, who followed his grandfather to sea and is a respected, active trade unionist and is known as an esteemed delegate. There are no two ways about it—Terry has left an indelible mark on the Illawarra seafaring landscape. My thoughts are with his wife Annette and three daughters Renay, Tracey and my colleague Danielle and their families at home. Vale Terry Tindale. You will be sadly missed mate.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (20:02): I am pleased to be participating in the debate on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Increased Employment Participation) Bill 2014, particularly as it focuses on how we can create opportunities for young people to get off benefits and find their way into jobs. We all know that the most important thing we can do to ensure that a young person does not suffer a life of long periods of unemployment is to ensure that they finish school, because there is a very stubborn correlation between the completion of high school and long-term unemployment. So the first thing we need to do to ensure that young people find their way into work is to ensure that they get a decent education, and that is why investing in our school system is so important.
The second thing you can do is to ensure that we are working with, and not against, the economic cycle to ensure that the government withdraws when the economy is growing and that we provide the right sorts of stimulus to the economy when it is slowing down, to keep businesses alive, to keeps jobs growing and to ensure that young people leaving school have the opportunity that we did when we left school—to find a job.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (10:14): We have seen an extraordinary passage of events in the parliament this morning, where the government clearly do not have the confidence of their own convictions. What we have seen this morning is the minister responsible for this piece of legislation come into the House, read the bill and then have the opportunity to have that bill debated in full—the opposition granted the government the opportunity to have that bill debated in full. The government then tried to move a gag motion on a debate on their own bill. They tried to gag debate on their own piece of legislation. What this shows is that they do not have confidence in their legislation. They do not have confidence in their ability to manage this debate. It shows that the government are struggling to convert their seductive three-word slogans into serious policy, legislation and a legislative agenda to bring before the House.
It is actually a reflection of the haphazard decision-making process that has typified this whole matter. We have seen question time after question time being concentrated on the future of Qantas. There has not been a question time this year where the future of Qantas has not been debated. You would think, given all of that, they would be prepared to come into the House and defend the legislation which we argue is not in the national interest. That has not been the case.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:18): Earlier today the Leader of the Opposition advised the House that I have been promoted to the front bench, which is a great honour for anybody who sits on this side of the House and any Labor MP. I was promoted to the health portfolio, and I was very keen to ensure that the first speech I gave after being promoted to the front bench was in this important area. This is essentially a public health measure.
The Excise Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2014 and the Customs Tariff Amendment (Tobacco) Bill 2014 amend existing acts. Essentially, they increase the rates of excise and customs duty on tobacco through four staged increases of 12½ per cent, commencing on 1 December 2013, and index the rates of excise and customs duty on tobacco to average weekly ordinary time earnings instead of the consumer price index. I support the legislation. I think it is important. It reflects Labor's commitment to improving preventative health across the board and easing the pressure on our public health system.