Maldon Dombarton needs matched funding from State Government

I want to speak this morning about an important piece of economic infrastructure in my electorate and the neighbouring electorate of Cunningham in the Illawarra. It is the Maldon-Dombarton rail link. In September 1983 the Wran state Labor government announced that the Maldon to Dombarton line would be constructed and completed by 1986. Unfortunately, in June 1988 the incoming Greiner state government cancelled the project, contrary to their election promise. The Maldon-Dombarton line is to provide an alternative to the existing Illawarra and Moss Vale-Unanderra lines for the transport of freight to and from Port Kembla. It involves laying only around 35 kilometres of track, with multiple passing loops and new bridges over the Nepean and Cordeaux rivers. After more than two decades of inaction, the incoming federal Labor government showed a genuine determination to complete this iconic infrastructure project. This rail link is back on the agenda today, thanks to the nearly $30 million of funding provided since Labor come to office in late 2007. The federally funded engineering, planning and environmental works are now under way. Continue reading

Labor's priority should be to get Aussie workers into quality jobs that pay well and are secure

The simple proposition before the House is this: that if an employer or another wants to come to the government and say, 'We require access to a particular type of visa which was designed to address labour market and skill shortages,' then they must be required to demonstrate to the Commonwealth, the government and the minister that there is a shortage and that there is no local worker who is ready, willing and able to fill that position. That is a very simple proposition. When stated like that, you find it very difficult to disagree with the proposition. Is it any wonder that in their contributions to the debate today the opposition have not addressed the proposition? In fact, they have stooped to their normal cant of casting aspersions on the motives behind those who bring the proposition before the House—their allegiances, their friendships and their former employment, and even their country of birth. But do they address the question before the House? No, they do not. The question before the House is a very simple one and it should enjoy the support of all members in the chamber. I will be very surprised if it does not. A couple of weeks ago, the member for Batman gave a speech in this House. He described it as his first and last speech as a backbencher. It was a speech that enjoyed applause from around the House. He said something that really stuck in my mind. He said that his priority and the priority of any Labor government should be to get Australian workers into quality jobs that pay well and are secure, and to use that as a vehicle to lift their standards of living. He said that had been the driving force behind all of his work in public life. That is a statement and proposition which I wholeheartedly agree with. To achieve that you need to have a strong economy. You need to have effective markets, you need to intervene in those markets where they do not deliver fair and just outcomes. That is why we have awards and collective agreements. That is why we have workplace regulation. Continue reading

Public Disclosure Bill will maintain culture of good governance in our Public Service

I am very pleased to be speaking on this important piece of legislation. I am also very pleased to be following the member for Banks in this debate, who brings to the debate and the subject matter decades of experience as a parliamentarian and, before that, years of experience at the criminal bar. The contributions that he makes must be listened to. Of course, the Public Interest Disclosure Bill 2013 does not stand alone. It is part of a package of reforms that have been introduced by the government since winning office in 2007 which go to the issues of integrity and disclosure. I reference the reforms to the freedom of information provisions within this country, which put in place for the first time a presumption in favour of disclosure, and the abolition of the rorts that were occurring under the previous government such as the use of conclusive certificates, which were used as a device—if not a vice—to ensure that documents and information that should properly be provided to the public on request were prohibited. In equal measure the reforms that this government has put in place in the area of lobbying and lobbyists, to ensure there is greater transparency and greater regulation in this area, also take up public integrity measures, which is a great step forward in ensuring that there is a register of lobbyists for those who come to this place seeking to influence parliamentarians. In addition to that, there are prohibitions on ministerial staff engaging in lobbyist work for a period of time after they leave their ministerial employment. Continue reading

GAVI Alliance funds cervical cancer vaccine for world's poorest

I would like to pay tribute to the GAVI Alliance, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, that funds vaccines for children in the world's 70 poorest countries. It is fantastic that GAVI has recently negotiated to dramatically slash the cost of the vaccine used to prevent cervical cancer. Globally, 270,000 women die of cervical cancer every year. The vast majority, over 85 per cent of those, are in the developing world. HPV is an extremely common infection. One in two women will get it in our lifetime. In the developing world, it is more likely to persist and more likely to lead to the development of cervical cancer. In countries like Australia, it costs $100 a dose to vaccinate against HPV. GAVI Alliance has changed the economics of access to this vaccine by driving a hard bargain with the makers of the vaccines. Because GAVI are buying for 60 per cent of the world's birth cohort and buying over multiple-year periods, they have been able to negotiate a bulk price for the vaccine. The new price per vaccine is $4.50. This means that millions more women can be vaccinated out of the pool of aid funding in developing countries. In many of these countries, women with cervical cancer die because, by the time it is diagnosed, it is too late for preventative treatment or the drastic therapy which cannot be obtained easily in the developing world. That is why, for women in developing countries, prevention through vaccination is a life-saving option. Well done, GAVI.

Support for the constitutional recognition of local government

With great pleasure I rise to speak on the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) 2013, which would provide a modest amendment to our Constitution for the recognition of local government for the purposes of financial grants from the Commonwealth to local governments. I listened with great interest to the member for Hughes in his contribution and was surprised to hear some of the claims that he made. I will deal with them first before addressing some of the substance of the bill. If you listened to the member the Hughes, there were two concerns raised in his contribution. The first concern was that somehow this was a massive overreach of central government into the affairs which have traditionally been the privilege of state governments and that this is somehow improper. We have seen similar claims made by a former senator for South Australia, Nick Minchin, and more recently by others on that side of politics. I find it very strange that these claims are made because they come from the only party, as far as I am aware, which has introduced laws and come to arrangements in this parliament, together with other parliaments around the country, which tie to grants made to independent organisations political requirements that those organisations do not speak out against the policies or decisions of the government of the day. If the member for Hughes or the former senator for South Australia were so concerned that financial grants via this or any other level of government would somehow tie, inhibit or constrain the political independence of a local government or any other organisation in this country then I suspect those concerns would be best voiced in their party rooms and not in the parliament. It is the Liberal and National parties in this country that have a track record of ensuring that there is political constraint on the grant finances to independent organisations, not those on this side of the House. If they are concerned about the political interference in independent bodies, raise them in their party rooms. Raise those objections, particularly in New South Wales and Queensland, but also in Victoria, where coalition governments in those states are including those constraints within their contractual arrangements with independent bodies at this very point in time. Continue reading

Call for recognition of Macedonia by constitutional name

Tonight I am calling for bipartisan political leadership to recognise the Republic of Macedonia under that constitutional name. It is unfortunate that in Australia we are expected to use the anachronistic name, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in formal address. The constitutional name of the republic is the Republic of Macedonia. One hundred and thirty-five countries have recognised Macedonia under its constitutional name, including the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Canada, Russia, China, India, Indonesia and many others in our region. The antecedents for the use of the anachronistic name go back into history. The Republic of Macedonia declared its independence from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia on 17 September 1991. It is well known that Greece objected to Macedonia's application to join the United Nations under its constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, leading to the country being admitted to the United Nations under the provisional name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 1993. Since that time negotiations to resolve the naming dispute have been held under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, but no agreement has been reached. Continue reading

When it comes to broadband Liberals are good salesman of lousy product

This is an important public debate around one of the most important pieces of infrastructure to be built in this country this century. It is unfortunate in many respects that the debate that surrounds this important piece of infrastructure does not live up to the importance of the project itself. In his 15-minute submission in this debate the member for Wentworth amused us with an analogy about the salesman who found it very difficult to shift a product. I have got a salesman's analogy of my own and I think it is more apt. The truth that gets told to every salesman who is sent out there to flog a lousy product and the rule of every salesman knows is that if you have got to go out there and flog a lousy product, an inferior product, one that is not nearly as good as the competition, you do not talk about it. You do not talk about your own product—go out there and fling as much mud and do as much nitpicking as possible, do as much bagging and carping and whingeing as possible about your competition's product. But for God's sake never mention your own, because once you mention your own everybody will realise what a lousy product it is. The member for Wentworth actually understands his policy. He does not believe in it but he understands it, unlike the Leader of the Opposition. The most awkward press conference we have seen in the last 12 months was the press conference where the Leader of the Opposition was standing alongside the member for Wentworth to announce their policy. You could see that the member for Wentworth could not get out of there quick enough. His hands were in his pockets, he was fidgeting. The Leader of the Opposition was reading from notes and had a very puzzled look on his face because he did not have a clue what he was talking about. That lies at the heart of this argument. You have got a Leader of the Opposition who does not understand his policy and a spokesman for that policy who does not believe in it. Is there any wonder that they are standing by that salesman's maxim that if you have got a lousy product in the marketplace, don't talk about it. Just go out there and bag the opposition because you do not want anyone to focus on your own product. It is a slower product that is going to cost the punters more for less. These guys have turned Joyce Mayne on her head: they are offering less for more. Continue reading

Using our natural gas reserves to advance national interest

Tonight I want to talk about Australia's natural gas reserves and how they can be best used to generate Australian jobs and provide energy to Australian homes. In a few short weeks, parliament will be over and we will return to our electorates. The campaign for the 2013 election will begin in earnest and debate will be joined on the issues around which the next government will be formed. Elections are always a crowded place for discussing detailed policy, but one issue that is worthy of an important national debate is how we best use our bountiful reserves of natural gas to advance the national interest. Australia is a leader in the supply of natural gas to world markets. Growth in Australian gas and LNG development is set to continue for many years. The Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics reports that our LNG exports reach 20 million tonnes, worth $12.4 billion in 2011-12. We will be the third largest exporter in the Asia-Pacific region and the fourth largest in the world. Exports are forecast to exceed 23 million tonnes this year as Western Australia's Pluto facility reaches its full capacity. Seven major LNG projects are under construction representing more than 60 million tonnes of additional capacity and investment in access of $175 billion. When these projects reach capacity, Australia could be the world's No. 1 LNG exporter by around 2017. Yet more gas projects are in the planning, including the Equus project off Western Australia and the Arrow and Browse projects in Queensland. Australia's rapid rise in the global LNG production is due to a number of factors: strong demand from our Asia-Pacific trading partners has seen new projects underwritten by some of the world's largest supplier agreements with customers in Japan, China, Korea and India. Continue reading

Recognising the importance of older Australians

Tonight I want to speak about the importance of seniors, their contribution to our community and the need for policies which meet the needs of the seniors' community. I believe the House should acknowledge that the government has a positive reform agenda for older Australians and is delivering enormous commitments and investments in aged care and promoting positive aged-care issues. For example, the increase in the age pension, which I will talk about; reforming the aged-care system; and helping older Australians stay at work longer. Australia has one of the longest life expectancies in the world—something that we should be celebrating as a nation. With a growing population, over-65-year-olds will represent one in four Australians by 2047. There are great opportunities for our community and for our economy if we encourage healthy ageing, the lifelong development of skills and capitalise on the extensive experience of older Australians. Continue reading

Celebrating 100 years of Port Kembla Branch

On Saturday I had the great pleasure of attending the 100th anniversary of the Port Kembla branch of the Australian Labor Party. The branch was formed in 1913 and pivotal in the formation of the branch were the iron-workers who were then working in the newly established steelworks at Port Kembla. Branch records also show that numerous in the branch at the time were the seafarers and wharfies, together with the shopkeepers who lived in and around Port Kembla. The Port Kembla branch of the Australian Labor Party has always strongly reflected the community in which it is based. The branch today has members from Malta, Macedonia, Greece, Australia, Italy and just about every country that you would find represented in the electorate. It has had an active role in all of the debates that have featured within Labor Party history and indeed Australian history over those 100 years—very fierce debates around issues such as conscription and our roles in our foreign wars. I pay tribute to all of the people who attended and participated in the organisation of this wonderful event. I was very pleased to see there one of my friends Michael Wilson, who is a fourth-generation member of the Australian Labor Party. He, his mother, his sisters and his cousins were in attendance at that meeting. It was an absolutely fantastic event. I also pay tribute to Bobby Turner and Vicky King, the president and the secretary.