Browsing articles in "Grayndler Hansard"
Mar 14, 2012

Statement of Indulgence – NSW Floods

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (10:10):  Natural disaster declarations have been made in some 63 local government areas in New South Wales and Victoria, which gives an idea of the scale of these floods. I acknowledge the work that has taken place from the federal government, state governments, local governments and, most importantly, from volunteer organisations, particularly in areas such as the Riverina.

Today, though, I take the opportunity to recognise the work that takes place in urban communities. I would like to recognise the contribution of the Marrickville SES in the recent rain and flooding in the inner west of Sydney. In my electorate the Cooks River flooded; houses were affected and cars floated away. There was a devastating impact in a way in which I, who have lived in the area my whole life, have never seen. It was the worst I have seen occur.

During the storms last week and the flooding that occurred in the inner west of Sydney, the Marrickville SES unit was involved in 47 flood and storm operations which included flood response, tree and debris removal, local road closures and traffic response. The Marrickville SES unit services the entire Marrickville local government area and is led by local controller Michael Carney, who has served our local community for 22 years now. It is important to recognise that these people are all volunteers. They give up their own time to go out whenever there is an incident. In the past, it has been more storm damage that they have had to deal with, including major storm damage some years ago.

The unit is involved in many local community events and provides a wide range of local education programs—there are committed volunteers at every single local community festival and event. On Sunday I attended Bairro Portugues, the Portuguese festival in Petersham hosted by Marrickville Council. There it was quite evident that the local community were going up to the SES, who were wearing their traditional orange uniforms, and thanking them for the contribution that they make. The NSW State Emergency Service is dedicated to helping people when they are in most need. In NSW, the service consists of 231 units and over 10,000 volunteers. I take this opportunity to thank those people, whether they be in rural communities or in urban communities such as mine, who make such a great contribution to civil society.

Nov 24, 2011

Consideration of Senate Amendments – Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (11:46):  I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

Today this chamber considers amendments to the Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 passed by the Senate last night. This government is unequivocally of the view that family violence and abuse of children are entirely unacceptable. The amendments respond to recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee. These amendments will simplify the bill, deliver certainty for litigants and ensure relevant information about the risk of family violence and abuse of children can be considered by the courts.

Amendments (2) and (4) simplify the provisions outlining the relevant weighting to be given in assessing the primary considerations used to determine a child’s best interests. They continue to support the principle that the protection of children from harm should be given the most weight in decision making. They do not alter the focus on the child having a meaningful relationship with both parents, particularly where there is no risk of harm to the child. Amendment (2) amends the provisions which govern how the family courts determine what is in the best interests of a child. Amendment (4) ensures that people who are resolving their parenting arrangements outside the family courts, who are the vast majority of parents, also receive clear and consistent advice about how they should determine their child’s best interests.

Amendment (3) provides for the courts to look, in appropriate cases, at both current and past family violence orders that apply to the children or members of their family. It also recognises that the relevant evidence to consider in assessing a child’s best interests relates to the circumstances which led to the making of a family violence order rather than the mere existence of the order itself. Amendments (1), (5) and (6) will in combination deliver certainty to the litigants in the family law system about what law will apply to their parenting proceedings.

There will be a clear start date for the amendments in schedule 1 of the bill. This will be six months after royal assent. This time frame reflects the need of the family courts to update their rules and to allow the government to implement an education campaign on the effect of the changes in this bill. The other amendments to item 45 of the bill have the effect of applying the changes prospectively to those matters instituted on or after the commencement date. Without this amendment, only a very limited degree of certainty could be provided to litigants. These are important reforms to protect children and families from family violence and child abuse. I commend the amendments to the House.

Oct 13, 2011

Motion on Coptic Christians in Egypt

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler—Leader of the House and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport) (10:11): by leave—I very much want, on behalf of the Australian government, to express our outrage at the attacks that have occurred on Coptic Christians in Egypt.

The resolution that was just carried unanimously by the House had an action component to it. The government has already acted on each and every one of those action components. The Prime Minister and the foreign minister issued a strong statement. The foreign minister, I know, raised these issues in discussions at the highest levels at the United Nations when he was recently in New York. The immigration minister, I know, has had a number of discussions with the bishop and leaders of the Coptic community to ensure that there are appropriate understandings with regard to the circumstances in which Coptic Christians have found themselves.

The Australian government will continue to make the strongest representations that the Egyptian government provide equal rights and protection for all Egyptian citizens, regardless of their race or religion. This is a fundamental human right. As the federal member for Grayndler I can say that I have received strong representations, including from my local mayor, Morris Hanna—the Mayor of Marrickville—and from others in the community who have very strong ties.

Historically the first Coptic church in Australia was at Sydenham in my electorate. Indeed, my association with the bishop goes back many years, to the Marrickville District Hardcourt Tennis Club, when we were both very much younger. It is an association that goes back 35 years—that gives away our ages—in terms of our friendship and our dialogue.

I can say this on behalf of the government: we will not be shy about putting forward these principles in terms of human rights, which we regard as universal. We have not been shy up to now; we will continue with this course. I am very pleased that this is a position which unites everyone in this House of Representatives.

I congratulate the member for Hughes on his initiative in putting forward this motion that was unanimously agreed to and I assure the members of the community that this is an issue which continues to be discussed and acted upon at the highest level of the Australian government.

Oct 11, 2011

Clean Energy Bill 2011 and Related Bills Second Reading Speech

After decades of debate, the time for talking is over.

The science is in.

It’s now time to get this critical reform in place.

Other nations are already acting.

They know that in a competitive, globalised 21st century world, successful economies will be those that adapt early to a carbon constrained future.

Labor is not prepared to ignore the threat, ignore the science and ignore the economists.

We cannot say it is someone else’s problem.

We all share the one planet.

We are all citizens of the world.

It would simply not be fair to leave it to our children and grandchildren to deal with the consequences of our inaction.

Because if we do nothing, dangerous climate change will impact on this and future generations.



As Minister for Transport, I feel a particular responsibility.

Here in Australia, transport accounts for around 15 per cent of total greenhouse emissions – a little lower than the global average of about 18 per cent.

The vast bulk of this is from road transport and light vehicles, responsible for around 87 per cent of emissions.

That is why the Government is taking action to reduce greenhouse emissions from our vehicles.

But we are doing this in a measured and fair way.


Light Vehicles

Under the Government’s climate change plan businesses which use vehicles of less than 4.5 tonnes such as cars, utes and light commercial vehicles will be permanently excluded from paying the carbon price when they fill up at the bowser.

This means that the carbon price will have no direct impact on the fuel bills of many small and larger businesses – the couriers, taxi drivers, tradesmen, hire car companies and minibus operators.

The Government is also excluding the family car and ute.

Families in the regions don’t have a bus or a train station down the road like families in capital cities do.

Similarly, tradies can’t replace the work ute easily.

So, light vehicles will be permanently excluded from the carbon price.


Rail and Maritime 

Looking at rail and maritime sectors, the carbon price will have only a modest impact.

To offset the effect of any rises, nine out of ten households will receive assistance.

This means more than four million households will receive assistance via tax cuts for any increased prices they may pay.


Heavy Vehicles 

In the case of heavy vehicles, operators will have a two year transitional period to reconfigure their fleets and re-negotiate contracts with customers.

From 1 July 2014, a carbon price will apply to the fuel used by trucks over 4.5 tonnes.

The Government has already stated that the agriculture, forestry and fishery industries will be permanently excluded.

Trucks powered by CNG, LNG, LPG or biofuels will be permanently excluded. Once in place in 2014, the carbon price will have only a marginal impact on fuel bills.

In fact it will tiny, compared with the fluctuations we regularly see at the bowser from variations in world oil prices.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has calculated that the extra cost of driving a B-Double from Sydney to Melbourne under the carbon price, at today’s diesel prices, will be about $35 – or 7 cents a litre.



Let’s look now at how a carbon price will affect air travel.

From day one – that is, 1 July next year – an effective carbon price will apply to the fuel used by domestic airlines.

To maintain the competitiveness of Australian carriers, it won’t apply to the fuel they use when flying internationally, at least until there’s a global carbon price.

We are also allowing large liquid fuel users, such as airlines, to voluntarily opt in, in 2013.

This is because a carbon market already operates in the EU and our international carriers may want the ability to trade across markets.

It is worth repeating: a market for the price on carbon already exists and Australian companies competing internationally want the ability to trade across markets.

The carbon price will have only a small impact on domestic airfares – less than many of the extra fees airlines already charge.

For example, it’s expected to add about $2 to the cost of a seat on a flight between Sydney and Melbourne – and around $1 on a flight between Sydney and Armidale.

Qantas and Virgin have put the average fare rise across their entire domestic networks at $3.50 and $3 respectively.

Any increase would occur against a backdrop where flying is today FIVE TIMES more affordable than it was two decades ago as a result of earlier Labor reforms such as the deregulation of domestic aviation market.


Public Transport  

Once fully implemented in 2014, the Carbon Price will have little impact on the cost of the daily commute.

The expected rise is only half of one percent, significantly under the eight percent that was added by John Howard’s GST.


Complementary Measures

But we are doing much more.

We are also working to reduce the sector’s footprint through smart regulations and by empowering consumers.

Already we are:

  • Introducing the first ever mandatory CO2 emissions standards for all new cars and light commercial vehicles sold in Australia. We are working with local manufacturers to set the emission levels – and these will apply from 2015. This will be a big saving for motorists through better fuel efficiency.
  • We are also requiring all new cars sold in Australia to display fuel consumption labels, spelling out their emissions and fuel consumption in both city and highway conditions. Coupled with our Green Vehicle Guide, consumers will be able to make more informed choices about the environmental performance of the car they buy.
  • We are investing in new technologies to better manage the flow of traffic along some of our busiest roads. By using this so-called Smart Motorways technology we can substantially reduce congestion and carbon emissions, while making our roads safer and smoother for motorists.
  • And we are restoring national leadership when it comes to the growth of our major cities. After all, that is where three in four Australians live. Our recently published national urban policy – Our Cities, Our Future – supports locating new jobs and future employment precincts closer to where people live, thereby minimising the daily commute.



Labor has long recognised the risk of climate change to future generations and to the nation’s economic wellbeing.

Indeed, the first official act of the Rudd Labor Government was to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Personally, this was a proud moment.

I had campaigned long and hard for Australia to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

When I was the Shadow Minister for the Environment and Heritage, I introduced a Private Members Bill in an effort to get the then Prime Minister John Howard to take action.

In 2006, I worked with Kim Beazley on Federal Labor’s policy paper -entitled Protecting Australia from the Threat of Climate Change.

This was Labor’s blueprint for tackling climate change.

It is worth remembering some of the practical measures in that blueprint:

  • a commitment to 60 per cent cuts to Australia’s year 2000 level of greenhouse emissions by 2050;
  • a commitment to ratify the Kyoto Protocol;
  • ensuring Australia realised the economic benefits of sustainable industry, by supporting carbon-friendly technologies and emissions trading;
  • a commitment to sustainability by increasing and extending the Renewable Energy Target to 20 per cent by 2020;
  • the development of commercial solar, wind and geothermal energy technologies by Australian research, including a commitment to “rebuild the CSIRO”, and
  • the establishment of a National Sustainability Council to monitor the performance of the entire country against agreed sustainability targets.

The similarity of the Beazley Blueprint, and what is now contained in the Bills currently before the House, is striking.

Unlike those opposite, Labor has always been committed to practical, real and fair action on climate change.

The Liberal Party once was too.

On 14 February 2005, while introducing my Private Members Bill that would ratify the Kyoto Protocol, I stated:

“We must start working actively on climate change because it is an issue affecting Australia’s future prosperity.”

Six years ago I stood in this Place and argued that we needed a planned approach to shift Australia towards a modern, clean-energy economy.

That the potential for innovation and therefore business investment and growth, would be immense.

In six years nothing has changed, except the urgency of the need to act.

Australian companies and our economy will be disadvantaged if we exclude ourselves from carbon markets and the growing market in renewable energy technology.

Just as science and technology have given us the tools to measure and understand environmental problems, they also help us solve them.

The potential for innovation, scientific discovery and hence business investment growth is immense.

With the right policy framework, the very act of addressing our challenges can unleash new commercial forces and unimagined opportunities.

New jobs, new technologies, new markets.

Think of the potential economic benefits – and jobs – for this nation.

The global trading market for carbon will be worth billions of dollars.

If we don’t act, our businesses and the national economy will be simply left behind.

It is not just a question of economics.

The Opposition puts at risk more than just our future economic prosperity.

By pretending the world is not taking action, by pretending that climate change is not real, by ignoring the science, the Opposition risks the health and indeed future of Australia.

There is only one planet.

Let’s treat it, and all of us that depend on its health, with respect.

We must not be condemned by history as the generation that knew but did nothing.

The time for words is over.

Now is the time for action and delivery.

That is what the Gillard Government is doing with these Bills.

I commend the Bills to the House.


Aug 24, 2011

Constituency statements – Same-Sex Relationships

Mr ANTHONY ALBANESE (12:02): The Australian Labor Party, of which I am a very proud member, has a long and proud tradition of advancing the cause of equality and social justice in our society. We recognise that all men and women are born equal regardless of their sexuality. In my very first speech in this parliament in 1996 I talked about the need to remove discrimination where it existed, whether it be on the grounds of race, gender, class or sexuality. In my first term in June 1998 I introduced a private member’s bill to give same-sex couples equal rights aimed at removing discrimination with regard to superannuation in terms of the parliament. I introduced this same bill a further three times without success. I could not even get it debated on the floor of the House of Representatives. Indeed, when I first raised it in the ALP caucus there was some shifting of people on the seats; people were uncomfortable with even a discussion about the issue of sexuality and discrimination.

The world moves on very quickly, and indeed I am very proud that in our first term of office the Labor government amended some 84 Commonwealth laws to eliminate discrimination against same-sex couples and their children in a range of areas—reforms that meant people were treated equally in line with that great Australian tradition of a fair go for all, reforms that it took a Labor government to deliver. At the last ALP national conference the party platform was changed and further progress made. In addressing the conference I acknowledged that history was moving forward on this issue. I said this to the conference:

I have a view that my relationship, because I happen to be heterosexual, is not undermined by someone else’s relationship because it is homosexual.

I remain very much of that view. The Australian Labor Party will be debating the issue of marriage equality at our upcoming national conference later this year. There are widely held views within the Labor Party, as a broad based political party, as there are in society. Each and every person is entitled to their opinion and entitled to have their opinion respected. I have long been an advocate of change, but I have also been an advocate who has stressed the need to bring the community with us. This is about inclusion and the debate must be conducted in an inclusive way, one that respects different opinions that are deeply held. I also want to make it clear that I do not support the state imposing its will on particular religious communities in relation to these issues. I think that particular groups of people, if they have that view, have a right not to have the state impose their views on them.

I certainly did not need a motion from the parliament to discuss these issues. I have been engaged with the community, whether they be people from the gay and lesbian community or people from the heterosexual community, who have views on these issues for a very long time. I did not need the motion; I have been doing this for 15 years across a range of issues and I am very proud of the fact that I think people see me as being open and accessible.

In recent times, of course, the number of people wanting to make representations to me has increased. I have met with people, whether they be advocates of marriage equality or opponents, and I respect their views. I have made my views clear at ALP conferences as is appropriate under our rules and I will continue to do so. People know the position that I will take at the ALP national conference. But I think change is difficult for people, and that has to be respected. As the debate goes on, I look back at same-sex superannuation and say, ‘Who today says that was a bad reform?’ There is now consensus on something that was radical when I introduced that bill in 1998. I think that society is moving forward in terms of giving people equal rights and I look forward to further debate in this parliament.

(Time expired)


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.




Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

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