“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.
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.
Thank you for your contribution
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.
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.
Mr 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.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (15:35): On this side of the House, all Labor members of parliament are celebrating a very important anniversary. This month marks the 40th anniversary of the passage through the federal parliament of the bills which brought Medicare into place—the introduction of the most historic healthcare reforms in this country. It did not come easily. Gough Whitlam took the Medicare policy to three elections and still could not convince those opposite to support the legislation. So we saw the first and only joint sitting of parliament, which was convened to break the deadlock with the Senate. But even after the legislation was voted up by a joint sitting of parliament, did those opposite give up? The answer is no. A defiant leader of the coalition, one William Snedden, made a firm promise which echoes down the generations. He said: 'We'll fight this till it is finished because that is what we believe in.' So while we on this side of the House hold the flame for universal health care, those on the other side of the House are the heirs to that solemn promise of Billy Snedden's. They were doing it in 1975 and they are doing it today: they are trying to wreck universal health care in this country.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (16:21): I am happy to make a few observations in the debate on the Corporations Amendment (Streamlining of Future of Financial Advice) Bill 2014, because it is topical but it is also a matter that has had, in the absence of decent regulation and protections—what I prefer to call guardrails and not red tape—a devastating impact on hundreds and hundreds of investors within my electorate of Throsby.
It is worth recounting some of the background to this legislation. You would be aware that through the global financial crisis we saw a range of large investment vehicles, which may have not been sound at the get-go, come under enormous pressure and ultimately fail. What we saw as a result of that was a whole heap of—ordinarily what we like to call, sometimes pejoratively—mum and dad investors left high and dry and exposed to the collapse of some of those investment vehicles. What we also saw exposed were people who had become the victims of less-than-optimum financial advice. Regrettably, I saw a lot of that in relation to the collapse of Trio Capital, an investment vehicle to which a number of constituents in my electorate were exposed.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (11:14): At approximately 12.15 pm on 17 July Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 departed from Amsterdam airport, due to arrive at Kuala Lumpur at approximately 6 am the following morning. I know the flight well. I have travelled on it many times myself. Tragically, the flight never landed, as we know. Flight MH17 was shot out of the sky in an act of terrorism and crashed near Torez in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk Oblast region, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. There were 38 Australian citizens and residents on that flight that morning. There were five victims from New South Wales and two from Kanahooka, a suburb in my electorate of Throsby. They were Michael Clancy, 57, and Carol Clancy, 64, both schoolteachers from the Illawarra. Both of them had dedicated their lives to helping young students get the very best start they could in their lives. Carol was a schoolteacher from Lakelands primary school and Michael, who I knew—although not well, but I did know him—had just retired as Assistant Principal at Albion Park school. Together the couple were taking their dream holiday and they were on their way home from a three week trip through Germany, France, Norway and Holland to celebrate Michael's retirement.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (19:59): In December this year we will mark the 110th anniversary of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It was then, as it is now, probably one of the most controversial pieces of legislation that has ever been debated by the Commonwealth parliament. In fact, the 1904 act did not have an easy birth. It saw the collapse of three governments—the first Deakin government, the Watson government and the Reid government—before it was established in law. The government of Chris Watson, the then leader of the first Labor government in this country, that ushered through the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and appointed, shortly thereafter, the man who was at that time the Attorney-General of this country, Henry Bournes Higgins—he was also one of the finest High Court judges—as the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
It is a shame that the member for Solomon is not here to hear this, because she said in her contribution that Labor is always on the wrong side of this debate. I beg to differ, and history will bear this out. Henry Bournes Higgins, in his memoirs, described the architecture of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act as a new province for law and order in this country. He said this with quite some experience because, as a barrister at equity before the Melbourne bar and a president, for many years, of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration he saw many cases. He also had experience of the bitter industrial disputes which characterised employer and employee relations before the establishment of this court.
He said that the conciliation and arbitration legislation established a new province of law and order in this country. That judgement of Henry Bournes Higgins echoes down over the 110 years since the first piece of real, robust industrial legislation was passed through this Commonwealth parliament.
Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (16:37): This is an absolute outrage—that the coalition today have gagged debate on the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014, this important bill. I make this point: they had the opportunity to let the people of Australia vote on this proposition, but they did not have the courage to put this proposition to the people of Australia not 12 months ago when we went to a general election. They then ram the bill into the parliament and demand that we vote on it without having a full debate. Well, there is a very good reason they will not let us have a full debate on it: they do not want sunlight on it.
As the shadow minister, the member for Ballarat, has pointed out just now, they could not even fill a speaking list on it. In fact, the shortest queue in the building yesterday was the queue of government MPs who were willing to stand up in this place and defend this atrocious legislation. Only four speakers were willing to stand here in this place yesterday and defend this atrocious legislation. There is a very good reason for that. We know that one of the last reports that the COAG Reform Council published before the government shut it down—because they do not like the message that the COAG Reform Council is giving them—showed that there are already people who are failing to fill the scripts that their health professionals have told them are essential for their health. There are already people who cannot afford to fill those scripts. In fact, in June they found that around 8.5 per cent of people were already delaying or failing to fill their prescriptions.