Statement on Indigenous Health

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (13:48): Deputy Speaker, congratulations on your elevation. One of my first acts on being re-elected as the member for Throsby was to participate in the second annual Tour da Country, which is a two-week-long bike ride organised by Illawarra Aboriginal health workers Shane Venables and Ben Russell, who are also members of the Koori Men's Support Group, in my electorate of Throsby. They are part of a 13-rider team that completed a gruelling 12-day, 900-kilometre route from Albion Park, in the Illawarra, down to Albury to raise awareness and promote healthier lifestyles in Aboriginal communities. It is an unfortunate reality that Indigenous Australians suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease at a higher rate than the rest of the population. These guys come from communities and they have seen the damaging effects firsthand and wanted to do something about closing the gap. The aim of the ride was to encourage their mates to make small changes, like walking an extra 10 minutes a day, eating less junk food, quitting the smokes or getting a health check. These are changes that in the long run will make a big difference to their overall health. The best thing about this initiative is that it is not old men in lab coats lecturing them about how they should live; it is their brothers, cousins and mates providing peer support and being mentors. It is a great initiative. I congratulate all of the organisers and participants and I wish them well in their future endeavours.

Australia – where to next?

The Sydney Institute - September 2, 2013 At the turn of the last century a new nation was born.  Crafted in the Antipodes from the colonies of Britain.  As inspired by the new democracy in North America – as it was loyal to its imperial sovereign.  In the 112 years since, we have built one of the most successful, peaceful and wealthiest nations on earth.  Not without fault or cost.  For too long we denied the rights of the Aboriginal people.  We have not always been good custodians of the land.  We persisted with the idea of White Australia, long after we knew it was wrong. But – today – we are a peaceful, wealthy, resilient and energetic nation, with every reason to be optimistic about our future. As we look around the world we know that this future is not guaranteed.  Our future will be forged in the suburbs of our cities, in the regions – and in the Parliaments of our nation.  It will be imagined – and contested – by the next generation who offer themselves as leaders. I enter this election confident of where our best future lies. I believe that our future prosperity and security lies squarely within the Asia Pacific. We have it within our grasp to build an economic powerhouse – an open trading nation that is truly integrated with the nations of this region.  A prosperous, stable, outward-looking democracy.  Reconciled with its Aboriginal people, confident as a new Republic – but proud of its British ancestry. Continue reading

Federal Labor has delivered for the Illawarra

The Labor government is working hard to assist people in businesses in the Illawarra to modernise, to protect current jobs and to prepare the region for the jobs of the future. Initiatives such as the Steel Transformation Plan, which provides $300 million worth of assistance to the steel industry nationally, particularly BlueScope, which is headquartered in Port Kembla; initiatives such as the $100 million plus worth of funding that the Labor government has invested in Wollongong university in capital works and projects, which will assist the university to be a real leader on growth and development of technology in the future; and the Regional Development Australia fund, which has over $12 million worth of projects including the $2 million worth of funds to local councils recently announced by the minister. We have put $25 million into the Maldon-Dombarton line to bring that important piece of infrastructure one step closer to completion. The Illawarra Region Innovation and Investment Fund is a $30 million fund to attract and develop local businesses and create job opportunities. Over $136 million has been invested into capital works programs in local schools. Add to this the fact that we are rolling out more fibre optic cable through the NBN to more suburbs in the Illawarra than any other region in the country and we are doing our fair share to assist the local economy, which is going through a very difficult transition. Continue reading

Australia needs to focus on domestic gas policy

Gas is a major source of energy in Australia. It provides 20 per cent of our energy consumption. Australia has abundant reserves of gas. Our proven reserves of coal seam gas and conventional gas are enough to meet more than 70 years of know n gas demand. The government's 2012 energy white paper shows that exports of natural gas are booming. Australia has seven of the world's 12 major LNG projects currently under construction. Gas exports are projected to triple from 20 million tonnes to over 63 million tonnes by 2017. This export boom is accompanied by a huge investment in Australia by those countries looking to develop gas for export facilities. This investment is around $50 billion in Queensland and around $116 billion in Western Australia. However, out of this boom in gas production we are not seeing a competitive advantage for Australian manufacturing or for domestic customers. In fact, international demand for Australian gas will drive up domestic prices and make supply on the east coast scarce. This is because of the structure of the Australian gas market. Largely for geographic reasons, Australia has three gas markets that are separate and distinct from each other—the eastern, northern and western gas markets. For mostly historic reasons, there are no pipelines that link these markets. Continue reading

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