Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (18:08): The parliament has spent too much time on this. When I move through the country and my own electorate I can honestly say that I am not bowled over by people who are saying to me we need change on 18C. I can honestly say that it has never happened to me. It is a boutique issue that is more controversial in the coalition party room than it is in the community. Continue reading

Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (17:09): It is a pleasure to be here but a very sad subject matter. I oppose the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017. This bill contains the same measures and the same provisions that were contained in the 2014 budget, which led to Tony Abbott, the member for Warringah, losing his prime ministership and brought the government to the very brink of losing the election in 2016. I oppose the bill. It is unfair. It must be defeated and the message that we have got from many members in the other place is that that is exactly what is going to happen. We can only wonder why it has been brought into this House, this week, in this form. Perhaps it is because the government do not have anything else for us to debate. Whilst they are off somewhere else debating their own internal troubles, they have put this in here for us to fill in time. It is an unfair bill which introduces a range of cuts which have already been rejected by members in this place and in the other place. It contains cuts to family payments, to pensions, to families, to new mothers and to young people. I will go through a whole range of the measures and how they impact on some of the areas throughout regional Australia—because I think this point needs to be brought home. Perhaps throughout the course of this debate, I will be able to change the opinions and perhaps the votes of some of those coalition members who represent regional electorates, because they really do need to be considering their position and how this bill is going to impact their electorates. Continue reading


Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (13:45): This morning, the Prime Minister had the opportunity to stand up for low-paid workers. He failed the test. He failed the 42,000 workers in retail, in hospital and in food in my electorate and over 70,000 workers around the country who rely on penalty rates for their take-home pay. In this place we call them penalty rates, but the people who earn them just call it money in their pocket—money to pay for their groceries, money to pay for their food, money to pay for their power, money to put petrol in their car, money to pay for their kids' school shoes et cetera. This is what it means to these workers. Continue reading

National Stronger Regions Fund

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (18:06): I am always delighted to welcome programs which are aimed at delivering more funding to regional Australia. As a representative from the regional area of Whitlam, I know how important it is to get federal funds supplementing local and state funds for new infrastructure projects into regions like ours. Continue reading

National Affordable Housing Agreement

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (13:45): Today I am calling on all members of parliament, in particular members of the coalition parties, to back my call to save the National Affordable Housing Agreement, because we know it is under threat. It can be saved if all members of parliament stand together and ensure that affordable housing still has a place in the national political agenda. Continue reading

Unemployment in our region

  Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (10:55): Madam Deputy Speaker Bird, can I say how delighted I am to have you in the chair when I advise the House that next week, on Tuesday, you and I are hosting a jobs forum in the Illawarra at 10.30 at the Illawarra Regional Airport. We will have with us the shadow minister, Brendan O'Connor. I also want to advise the House that shortly thereafter he will be in Nowra for a jobs forum. That is a region recently visited by the Prime Minister to run a political stunt, not a jobs forum, and I think you have there in a nutshell the different priorities of Labor versus the coalition. I am not surprised that the Prime Minister does not have unemployment and jobs on his agenda, because the world he lives in, Deputy Speaker, is very, very different to the world that you and I live in and the places that we represent. Continue reading

Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Amendment Bill 2017 (Second Reading)

  Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (17:46): I note that there are no further government speakers who are willing to get up and defend the legislation that has been put forward in their name, and I can understand full well why. The innocuously named bill, the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Amendment Bill 2017, is designed to induce or coerce employers to break an agreement that was made with them in good faith. I will say that again, because it is absolutely true and it is important that every member on the other side understands this. This is a bill designed to coerce or induce employers to break an agreement which has been made with their workforce in good faith. If an ordinary business, a union or a private individual did that, we would call it a crime or we would call it a tort. But when the government does it we call it lawmaking. It is no less a crime or a tort because it is brought forward in the name of the government. Continue reading

Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (12:40): I would like to make some observations on what I would like to characterise as a well-meaning but ineffective bill. I would like to make a few comments first about how the original bill works. The bill is a bill to amend the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. It arises from recommendations of the O'Farrell review. The O'Farrell review is just the latest in a series of reviews which have inquired into this piece of legislation and the surrounding area of problem gambling in this country. I have been involved in some of them but not all of them. Continue reading

Statute Update (A.C.T. Self-Government (Consequential Provisions) Regulations) Bill 2016 (Second Reading)

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (13:20): Nothing gets the juices of parliament going more on its first day back after the break than the Statute Update (A.C.T. Self-Government (Consequential Provisions) Regulations) Bill 2016! The bill amends the Statute Update Bill 2016 to ensure that relevant Commonwealth legislation continues to apply to the ACT. Presently the applicability of the Commonwealth law in the ACT relies on the A.C.T. Self-Government (Consequential Provisions) Regulations following the establishment of self-government in the ACT in 1988. As you know full well, Deputy Speaker Mitchell, the ASGR made modifications to the application of as many as 47 acts. While some of the modifications made by the ASGR were subsequently incorporated into the relevant Commonwealth acts, 18 others were not. The bill will therefore make some minor technical amendments to those remaining 18 acts, across nine portfolios, to incorporate the modifications made by the ASGR. This has not been an issue before now because, while the text of some Commonwealth law does not refer to the ACT, a court currently reads that the Commonwealth acts apply in the ACT because of the operation of the ASGR. Continue reading

Centrelink Robo-Debt Debacle

  Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (13:39): Well, it is time for the human services minister and the Prime Minister to admit that their robo-debt system has been an unmitigated disaster. Over 40 per cent of the letters that have been sent out to people around the country have proven to be false. Government MPs know this to be true, because in electorates all over the country they have been in inundated with complaints from their constituents distressed about the Centrelink robo-debt debacle—real people who have done nothing wrong being treated like petty thieves over fake debt through fake leadership. Continue reading