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.

Statement on Sports Betting Ads

Sports fans around the country have voiced their outrage at the proliferation of gambling advertising in our sports broadcast. I have been one of the MPs who have been pushing for reform. I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement to introduce new rules that restrict sports bet advertising. It is a big step in the right direction, which sends a clear message to the broadcasters, the sporting codes and corporate bookmakers. From the beginning of the game to the end, promoting live odds is canned. The TV bookies have been kicked out of the stadium. The banners and logos and other promotions will no longer flash across our screens. Some of these measures go further than my private member's bill which was focused on advertising during children's viewing times. This is welcome. It may well not be the last word on the matter. Bookmakers and broadcasters must make these changes happen immediately or parliament will step in. Of course if we want to see sport on free-to-air TV, we have to have some advertising. But corporate bookies, broadcasters and professional codes are now on notice. Gambling and professional sport can coexist but we cannot have a model professional sport or free-to-air broadcasting that is dependent on gambling revenue for its viability. The greatest threat is not from government but from viewers. If broadcasters fill the remaining slots during the broadcast with gambling ads, they will see sports fans walking away from their TV sets. If that happens, other advertisers will wonder why they are paying good money for empty chairs seats.

More awareness and funding needed for childhood brain cancers

The very rare Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma accounts for around five to 10 out of every 100 brain tumours in children. Penny's interest in funding came after the tragic passing of a young Australian boy named Talin Hawkins from a diffuse pontine glioma. Talin's plight drew a huge amount of interest through social media and really increased awareness of the disease and has inspired activists like Penny to fight for a better deal for kids who are affected by this rare and usually incurable cancer.          So Penny came to me with a request. She asked that I raise this matter in parliament to increase awareness and ensure the government is injecting  as much funding as we can into the research of childhood brain cancers and diffuse pontine gliomas. Because they are very difficult to treat, the outcome for pontine gliomas is very poor. After diagnosis,  the survival time is on average only nine to 12 months. To try and improve the outcome, doctors have used higher amounts of radiation and even chemotherapy to kill the tumour cells—but we need to achieve better results. In an exciting breakthrough last year, oncologists from the Children's Cancer Institute of Australia grew Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma cells in the lab and found a drug that was able to kill them in a test tube. Following this, I wrote to the health minister to ask what we can do to increase funding in the area of childhood brain cancers and make sure this lifesaving research is able to continue. I am happy to report that, through the National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian government has made significant investments in the research of childhood brain cancers. During the period of 2000 to 2011, the NHMRC has provided over $33 million for research into brain, eye and nervous system cancers of which $19.9 million specifically targets childhood brain cancer. In 2012, the NHMRC also awarded additional grants as to brain cancer to the tune of $7.1 million. This is a commitment we are determined to see progress as a government and I have been advised by the minister that funding will continue at this level. I have relayed this good news to Penny and hope to keep working with her and other activists to progress the cause and raise awareness and funds in the Illawarra.