Browsing articles in "Grayndler Hansard"
Aug 22, 2011

Personal Explanation

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (15:33): I wish to make a personal explanation.

The SPEAKER: Does the member claim to have been misrepresented?


The SPEAKER: Please proceed.

Mr ALBANESE: by Senator Lee Rhiannon at the Politics in the Pub meeting held at the Gaelic Club in Sydney on 22 July 2011. I have received a copy of a transcript of that event where Senator Rhiannon outlined in great detail a misleading critique of my position with regard to my opposition to the BDS campaign of Marrickville Council supporting a boycott of Israel. Nowhere in her comments, where she was critical of my engagement in the issue, did she state the fact that the resolution carried by Marrickville Council was that Marrickville Council write to the local, state and federal ministers informing them of the council’s position and seeking their support at the state and federal levels for the global BDS movement; nor did she outline that on 12 January the general manager had a letter which was held back that stated: ‘In accordance with the provisions of part 3 of the resolution I wish to formally advise you of the council’s decision in this matter and seek your personal support for council’s initiative by raising the issue in the state parliament, the federal parliament and urging your parliamentary colleagues to contemplate support for similar action.’

Senator Rhiannon went on to state to the meeting: ‘Then what happens is that on 14 January 2011 in the Australian there is an opinion piece by Anthony Albanese. This is an opinion piece that really lays out the form in which the whole BDS debate will go in the coming months.’ What she did not state was that on the day before, 13 January, the mayor, Fiona Byrne, put a position on, on The Drum website. Through the position she went on to say that I opposed broader involvement by local government in broad issues. I did not and my article in the Australian made it clear that I did not. I opposed the specific campaign by the Greens on Marrickville Council.

Jun 2, 2011

Statements on indulgence – Italian National Day

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (16:09): Very briefly, Mr Speaker, I also wish on indulgence to acknowledge that today is Italian National Day; indeed, this year is the 150thanniversary of the unification of Italy. I will be attending a function later today in Leichardt. I know you support the Farm Vigano project, which, of course, is in your electorate, Mr Speaker, I note that the Italian community plays an important role here in Australia.

Feb 22, 2011

Condolences – Australian natural disasters

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (6.25 pm)—I rise this day to speak on the motion and add my voice to those in this House of Representatives who have acknowledged the tragedy and loss experienced by so many Australians this summer. I speak primarily not as the Leader of the House, nor as the federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport and nor as the member for Grayndler. I speak today from the heart as a fellow Australian who simply cannot imagine what it is like to endure what so many Australians have been forced to endure over this terrible summer of tragedy.

The floods in southern Queensland included the devastating wave of water that took so many lives in the Lockyer Valley. The devastation then moved through the towns and farmlands of Victoria. Cyclone Yasi then blasted Far North Queensland, wrecking towns, destroying homes and ruining livelihoods. Then there were the bushfires of the West. The summer of 2011 will be recalled as the season where nature did not relent, when the nation watched and suffered and asked when it would all end. And, of course, for those who lost a child, a husband, a parent or a friend, the summer of 2011 will really never go away.

The statistics never reveal the human pain, so I am going to tell just one story. One of the enduring images of the floods was of a mum, a dad and a young boy sitting on the roof of a four-wheel-drive as it was carried down by the roaring waters that coursed through the Lockyer Valley, near Toowoomba. Their plight was caught by the news team in the helicopters overhead and was pictured on the front page of the Australian and broadcast around the world. That family was James and Jenny Perry and their son, eight-year-old Teddy. The family had just moved to Queensland so that James could take up the position of senior steward at the Toowoomba and regional racetrack after a number of years in Korea, where he had established a very successful career in the racing industry.

Remarkably, Jenny was saved by passing rescuers, who waded 50 metres through the wild current to reach her. Downstream, another rescuer plucked Teddy from the waters. He had been clinging to a hay feeder. Tragically, his dad, James Perry, has never been seen again. A memorial service was held for him recently in Sydney, where his family have returned to start rebuilding their lives. The country has lost a fine Australian. A man, from all reports, of great integrity, decency and honour.

I tell this story because my good friend and Labor Party colleague, the former Premier of New South Wales, Nathan Rees, had just spent Christmas with the Perrys at their home and then returned when the floods hit. Nathan Rees is now helping to administer the James Perry Trust to raise funds to help his family find their feet again.

The story of the Perry family is one of so many tragedies this summer. You ask yourself, ‘Has anything good come from all this loss?’ Of course, it has. Each day our television showed us the best of humanity—the teams of volunteers with their buckets and mops, the selfless rescuers whose bravery saved so many families from certain death and the personal initiative of Australians in the suburbs and towns who have passed around the hat, have held fundraisers or have packed up a bundle of clothes and sheets and toys to send to those who have been left with nothing.

In my electorate of Grayndler we held our own fundraiser on 31 January in Steel Park in Marrickville. It was a barbecue at which around 200 locals turned up. We raised close to $2½ thousand. I give special thanks to the Sydney Turkish Islamic Culture and Mosque Association in my electorate, which passed over a cheque for $1,500 for the relief appeal. My thanks also go to Marrickville resident Hellen McGlade. Hellen was so affected by the human tragedy of the floods that she felt compelled to do something. So throughout the recent Sydney heatwave she, her mum and 40 neighbours doorknocked the local neighbourhood collecting fresh linen, toys, clothes and household goods. She said they had set aside a couple of hours but was so overwhelmed by the response that she is still receiving donated goods from the neighbourhood—from people so grateful for a way to help their fellow Australians. Hellen works for Hewlett Packard, which is covering the cost of delivering the many packing boxes filled with goods, and I thank that company for its effort.

As transport minister I have had a busy summer watching our precious roads and rail lines face nature’s force. We have had to slow the progress of some of our large road and rail projects to help fund the national rebuilding program. But I am delighted at the speed at which the damaged roads have been repaired. I personally thank the 2,000 workers who have worked around the clock to get Queensland moving again. Around 70 per cent of Queensland’s roads were badly affected. Some 150 major roads were cut. We have put together a $5.6 billion package to help with the recovery. This includes a $2 billion up-front payment to Queensland to help with the rebuilding effort. In Victoria we are still assessing the damage.

These disasters have tested us, but out of the human misery we have united as a nation and shown how powerful we can be as a force of good to help people we have never met but who our hearts go out to, knowing that they would do the same for us. So while we continue to mourn those who have gone, we look ahead to what we can do. Let us heed Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s call and book our Queensland holidays and help the mums, dads and many, many small business operators whose livelihoods depend on tourism. Let us heed the Prime Minister’s call on the weekend for people of all ages to get behind the rebuilding effort. We need an army of skilled workers and an army of apprentices to join the front line to rebuild the homes, the roads, the bridges and many other building structures ruined by the floodwaters. Of course, the Gillard government has a series of incentive programs in place to encourage new apprentices. Let us help the people of Queensland to repair their lives and look forward to the future with hope. And let us all go forward knowing with confidence that when the nation is hit by disaster the rest of Australia does not sit idle; we pitch in. That is us; that is who Australians are. In these worst of times we have seen the best of Australian humanity. I commend the condolence motion to the House.

Aug 13, 2007

Second Reading – Judges’ Pensions Amendment Bill 2007

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (8.11 p.m.)—I rise to speak in favour of the amendment moved by my colleague the member for Gellibrand to the Judges’ Pensions Amendment Bill 2007. It is important to refute the arguments put by the member for O’Connor in what can only be described as an extraordinarily narrow speech in each and every way. Labor does support equality between same-sex de facto couples and heterosexual de facto couples.

We support removing discrimination in a range of areas, including immigration, social security, health care and, indeed, economic issues such as superannuation. The member for O’Connor made an extraordinarily homophobic contribution to the debate suggesting that somehow this is a secret Labor position. In fact, I moved a private member’s bill as far back as 1998 and had to reintroduce it three times when it lapsed because the government refused to allow it to be debated. It was called the Superannuation (Entitlements of same sex couples) Bill. That bill sought to give the same recognition for and entitlements to superannuation for same-sex couples as are currently enjoyed by heterosexual couples. This amendment seeks to give effect to that principle. It states:

… whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading the Opposition believes that the bill fails to give equal treatment to all judges by not treating judges in same-sex de facto relationships in the same way as heterosexual judges and their spouses or de facto spouses, and calls on the Government to amend the bill in order to give judges in same-sex relationships equal treatment.

It is a very simple principle, one which should not be contentious in this parliament in the year 2007.

We had no justification from the member for O’Connor as to why that would not be permitted. Pandering to prejudice was essentially the only argument that was put forward. Yes, there are people who disagree with this proposition, but it is the role of parliamentarians to appeal to people’s better nature, to drive forward social change in a way which improves the social relationships between individuals and groups in our society. I am afraid that that is something which the Howard government has not been prepared to do. The Howard government at each and every opportunity has been prepared to divide people according to race, class, gender or sexuality.

I read in today’s paper that the member for Wentworth suggested that he is going to champion this cause. Well, let him come into this House and vote for this amendment; let him come into this House and support this very basic, fundamental amendment, which goes to the human rights of individuals, and the right to respect that every individual deserves.

We all know of course that being part of a minority, not just on the basis of sexual preference but on the basis of race or religion, can be extremely difficult. We know that Justice Michael Kirby paid a great price for being open about his sexuality and about the fact that he is in a long-term stable relationship with a partner of the same sex. For that, he suffered vilification in the Senate from the Prime Minister’s hatchet man, Senator Bill Heffernan. It is quite clear, I think, that this amendment should not worry anyone. For someone, like the minister opposite, who wears an Amnesty International badge, which would indicate a concern for human rights, it certainly should not concern him.

Mr Ruddock interjecting—

Mr ALBANESE—The minister says he does not have it on his tux and dinner suit, and that is right—perhaps you should consider not putting it back on again, Minister, until you are prepared to actually show that you do support human rights in any direction. The fact is that you cannot call yourself a liberal and not support human dignity and equal treatment on the basis of relationships, whether they be same-sex relationships or heterosexual relationships. That is all this amendment does.

Indeed, prior to the last election the Howard government gave a commitment that they were going to deal with the issue of superannuation—a small element. Indeed, the Prime Minister has made comments that he supports equal treatment across a range of areas for people in same-sex relationships. Yet, not only have we seen no movement in social security, health, migration and other areas from this government; on the minuscule area of superannuation we have seen a very inadequate reform, which has left discrimination in place for Public Service employees. I commend the amendment to the House and urge all those opposed to discrimination to vote for it.



Jun 12, 2007

Statement – Hui Fraud

Mr Albanese (Grayndler) (4.18pm) – I rise today to warn of an issue that has arisen in my electorate of Grayndler, particularly involving the Vietnamese community. A ‘Hui’ is a type of informal club in which the members of the club, usually from Vietnamese families, contribute money to the club on a regular basis. The money is lent to other members of the club to assist them when those other members have been unable to obtain financial help from banks or official lending institutions. Hui is an unregulated practice and is not monitored by the government. While most Hui take place between small groups of families, they can grow to enormous sizes involving tens of millions of dollars. Families and individuals deposit money with an administrator or chairman, who then lends money with interest to the other members upon request. The potential for abuse and fraud, particularly by the chairman or administrator, is enormous. The chairman is responsible for large amounts of money, and that chairman is the only person aware of the amounts involved and often has sole control of the money.

Because of the distrust that groups in the community have of traditional banks and government agencies, members are reluctant to come forward when they suspect something is amiss with the administrator’s handling of the money. Potential taxation issues also may be a contributing factor to members’ silence on these issues. No member of a Hui wants to be the one to bring it down. At the moment there is an allegation against an administrator of a Hui centred in Marrickville and comprised of Vietnamese families, mainly in my electorate but also extending right through to Cabramatta. The administrator has allegedly defrauded the club of possibly tens of millions of dollars, funnelling the club’s money offshore and into personal assets. There is also an allegation that the administrator was obtaining fees from members which, in itself, is an illegal act. I understand that in this matter the police have become involved.

While I make no comment on the allegations in particular, I do speak today to warn of the inherent dangers of investing money in high­risk, unregulated and probably illegal financial schemes. When investing money, care should be taken to ensure the bona fides of the scheme. I include in this both regulated and unregulated investment opportunities. I am particularly concerned that it is vulnerable members of the Vietnamese community in my electorate who stand to lose, in many cases, their life savings. They have made representations to me and have asked that I make these issues public in order to warn other members of the community of the dangers which can take place. In this particular case there are ongoing investigations and I certainly encourage the police to pursue them. But I also encourage members of the community to be very wary of schemes such as this which are open to abuse.


May 30, 2007

Second Reading – Workplace Relations Amendment (A Stronger Safety Net) Bill 2007

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (1.15 p.m.)—Australians are not afraid of hard work. They are not afraid to put in the hard yards to get ahead. Generally speaking, Australians will do what it takes. They are amongst the hardest working individuals in the world. By their nature, Aussies are also a flexible lot, ready to roll up their sleeves and get on with it. But they also have a good sense of what is fair. Built into the Australian psyche is the notion of a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. When women and men choose to work longer hours on weekdays and decide to give up their weekends, they deserve to receive overtime and penalty rates to help pay a bit extra off the mortgage, pay for the kids to be involved in sport and simply have a bit more peace of mind. It is because Australians know what is fair that they can instantly recognise a political quick fix when they see it, especially when it comes from the Howard government wrapped in television and newspaper ads, and badged with the words ‘fairness test’. They know that this is the same government that rode roughshod over their working rights and conditions earlier in the election cycle that is now proposing this so-called test—just months after they were out there proclaiming that these conditions would be guaranteed by law, and now we have a political quick fix just months before an election.

I listened to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey, this morning on radio talking about how in the past Australians who signed on to AWAs were worse off—they gave up their conditions without getting proper recompense for them—but now it would be different. The problem with that is that the government, when it passed its Work Choices legislation, said that this would not occur, and it has. Make no mistake: no amount of rebadging, no amount of advertising and no amount of amending the legislation formerly known as Work Choices will restore the balance in our workplaces. This Workplace Relations Amendment (A Stronger Safety Net) Bill 2007 is all about the job of the Prime Minister rather than the jobs of working Australians.

The Labor Party remain totally opposed to the Prime Minister’s unfair Work Choices laws because we are a party created by working people and built on their determination and steadfast belief in the fair go. We remain opposed to laws that were born when the ideology of a single man started to dictate the shape of the nation, when a Senate majority of one provided a temptation so great that the Prime Minister abused the trust Australians placed in him when they returning his government in 2004, when unfettered control of both houses of parliament became an attack on the values of Australian society. It is a government so driven by ideology that it did not hesitate to make draconian changes to the Australian industrial relations system despite never having sought a mandate from the Australian people to do so. For the same reasons, Australians were forced to endure draconian changes to the welfare system, the gagging of important debates like that on the antiterrorism bills, inquiries on important legislative items done and dusted in a matter of days and sometimes hours, the ideological abolition of voluntary student unionism and, indeed, the gagging of this very debate before the parliament today.

How can anyone forget the comments of a government so drunk on power that the chairman of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, Senator Brandis, in August 2005 was reported telling his coalition colleagues that the idea of an inquiry into the Work Choices legislation was ‘stupid’ and that:

There’s nothing in this for us … Senate inquiries are a free kick for the Labor Party, the media never run anything except things that are embarrassing for the Government and it won’t have any public purpose because the detail will be in the legislation for all to see anyway.

For his efforts, for trashing democracy, the Prime Minister saw it fit to reward Senator Brandis with a promotion to the ministry.

These unfair industrial relations laws are driven by a man who has lost touch with the Australian people and what they value: the right to a fair go regardless of what you do for a living, where you live and how much you earn. The changes inflicted on Australian workplaces have turned worker against worker and undermined the security of family life. Salaries have been cut, conditions scrapped, entitlements slashed and minimum standards attacked. The Howard government have gone too far. Rather than governing for all of us, they govern for some of their friends. The Prime Minister said he would keep interest rates low, but we know rates have gone up eight times. He said he would get the economy right, but now he is squandering the opportunities offered by the unprecedented resources boom. He said he would protect us from terror, but instead he has taken Australian troops to war in Iraq and made all Australians feel less safe. He said the Senate majority would not go to his head, but, of course, we know he has gone too far. But there are some things he never said anything about: nothing about his plans to slash wages and smash awards; nothing about scrapping penalty rates, overtime and redundancy pay; nothing about trashing public holidays like Anzac Day; and nothing about giving bosses the right to sack workers whenever they like.

Australians know what is fair when they see it and they know that these amendments to Work Choices will not stop the unfair industrial relations laws continuing to hurt working families. This is because these changes are not motivated by the national interest. These changes are purely motivated by the political interests of the Howard government. The Prime Minister admitted that his hasty Work Choices amendments have been made because of perception and said:

There is this perception in the community that there might be situations where people are vulnerable to having their penalty rates and overtime loadings traded away or taken away without adequate compensation.

Now I don’t want that to happen …

It is too late; it has already happened.

The Work Choices legislation is no perception. Just ask the workers at Spotlight or the long-serving Tristar workers in my electorate who have been cheated out of their entitlements because of the Howard government’s extreme industrial relations laws. These Australians have worked hard to contribute to community life and the economy. They have been thrown on the scrapheap. What they have to do is turn up to work each and every day and clock on when there is no work to do. Why is that occurring? So that when they are laid off they will reduce their redundancy payments. These Tristar workers came to this parliament last year. I asked questions in the parliament last year. They were prepared to meet the government, the Prime Minister, the then Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Kevin Andrews, or anyone else from the government. The government ignored their plight. The government sat on their hands. That is not perception; that is the reality. For the government, the employees’ plight became an issue only when Alan Jones and others in the media took an interest. This spurred the government to call the actions of the company immoral and criminal, but it did not drive them to action and to make changes to the Work Choices laws. They sat on their hands for months while Tristar workers were being treated so unfairly day after day.

It is clear the Howard government is not interested in the plight of Australian workers; it is just interested in being re-elected. It has already spent, in a week, $4.1 million of taxpayers’ money on industrial relations advertising in an attempt to achieve that goal. That was, of course, advertising before the legislation was actually introduced into this chamber—contempt for this parliament and for proper legislative processes. That was on top of the $55 million advertising campaign in 2005 to tell hardworking Australians that their award conditions would be protected by law. Of course, we know that that protection is not there. We know because the government itself says it is not there but proclaims that this legislation will fix the problem that it said was never there in the first place. So why should Australian workers trust the government? We could have done a fair bit in employing extra doctors and nurses or putting more money into education and housing with that $60 million, but it is a self-indulgent government that is prepared to spend an unlimited amount of taxpayer funds in order to secure its own political interests.

I would like to turn to the gaping holes in the Work Choices amendments before us. Firstly, there is the argument that there is fair compensation for loss of protected award conditions. The proposed amendment states that, if a workplace agreement modifies or excludes any of the listed protected award conditions, the agreement must provide fair compensation for the loss of the protected award. This raises a number of concerns. Firstly, there does not appear to be any compensation provided for loss of award conditions not subject to the so-called fairness test. These include conditions such as additional leave for certain industries, redundancy pay and rostering protections. Given that the Howard government’s own statistics on AWAs show that 100 per cent of all agreements took away at least one protected award condition, and recently leaked figures show that workers have lost all 11 so-called protected award conditions in 44 per cent of AWAs signed since Work Choices was introduced, it is likely that many employees will still be worse off under an AWA than under an award, despite the government’s proposed amendments.

Secondly, it is unclear what ‘fair compensation’ constitutes and how it might be calculated by the Workplace Authority. This is particularly concerning because the government has always argued there is no methodology that enables proper comparison of the circumstances before and after an AWA. In fact, on 26 March this year, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations stood at the dispatch box opposite. The Deputy Opposition Leader, Julia Gillard, had asked:

Will the minister give the Australian people one reason—just one reason—why his government will not direct the Office of the Employment Advocate to recommence the analysis of Australian workplace agreements and to publicly release it?

The minister, Joe Hockey, replied:

Because, with the introduction of AWAs and the changes made under our laws a year ago, no-one has shown me a formula that allows you to compare apples with apples.

So, what does ‘fair compensation’ exactly constitute? The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations outlined in his second reading speech that ‘a slice of pizza will not constitute non-monetary compensation’. We are grateful for that clarification, but what about an occasional fancy dinner, some frequent flyer points, a discount on grocery items for someone who works in a supermarket or a weekly tank of petrol? I am sure that further clarification would be appreciated not just by workers but also by employers across Australia.

The second argument is that these amendments to the Work Choices legislation are about the issue of consultation with employees. Let us presume for a moment that the Workplace Authority does find a way to calculate the value of lost award conditions. The proposed legislation remains unclear as to whether the Workplace Authority will even consult with the employee to ascertain whether he or she considers the compensation to be a genuine benefit. Also, the legislation appears to make no provision for the employee to appeal the decision if he or she considers it to be insufficient compensation. It seems to me that, despite the government’s rhetoric that the Workplace Authority will consider the ‘industry, location and economic circumstances of the business and the specific employment circumstances or opportunities of the employee’, the fairness test provides an escape route for employers who undercompensate rather than a protection mechanism for employees incurring the loss. It is not surprising really. The Howard government would never have introduced their extreme industrial relations laws if they had the needs of working Australians in mind.

Labor will move amendments in the consideration in detail debate later this afternoon. If the Howard government is genuinely concerned about compensating all workers for the loss of award conditions, it will support our amendments. But let us be clear: Labor remain totally opposed to the Prime Minister’s extreme Work Choices laws. There is nothing in the proposed amendments before us that will stop Labor abolishing Work Choices. They are not about introducing flexibility or fairness into the industrial relations system. They are all about clever politics. Australian employers and employees were expected to comply with changes to the Work Choices legislation from Monday, 7 May, even though the legislation had not been written, let alone released. To add insult to injury, taxpayers’ money was used to advertise the new laws that had not seen the light of day. This is clever and cunning politics before sound policy, and public relations before parliamentary process.

It is clear that the proposed changes to the Work Choices legislation will not fix the lack of balance in Australian workplaces. They will not change the fact that the Prime Minister has lost touch with the needs of working Australians and with the challenges they face when juggling work, family and sudden roster changes. Labor supports the amendment in the hope that it may benefit even one working Australian. But, in government, Australians can rest assured that we will do things differently. Labor supports a real safety net: legislated minimum conditions and modern, simplified awards. We support enterprise level bargaining to drive productivity. Labor introduced enterprise bargaining. Labor supports individual common-law agreements which cannot undercut the safety net. We will ensure that, when minimum wage cases are handed down, pay rates are published to assist employers.

Labor’s system will be overseen by a new, one-stop shop industrial umpire. We will be tough on unlawful industrial action. Above all, Labor’s policy will be fair, balanced and productive. The Prime Minister may be a clever politician, but hardworking Australian families can see that the only job the Prime Minister is worried about is his own.

It is quite extraordinary that the government, which says that this legislation is so important, which has spent so much of taxpayers’ funds on advertising this campaign, which is truncating debate in this House by moving a gag motion, can only find eight members of parliament who are prepared to speak on this legislation. There is not a single frontbencher, besides the minister, who is prepared to put their name on the speakers list to speak on this legislation. It is extraordinary that the government is too embarrassed to actually stand up and support this legislation which, it says, is critical. This is all about the Prime Minister’s past ideological obsessions. It has nothing to do with securing Australia’s future prosperity.



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