Browsing articles in "Grayndler Hansard"
Oct 13, 2016

Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:29): I oppose the plebiscite because it is costly. I oppose the plebiscite because it is divisive. Most importantly, I oppose the plebiscite because it is ineffective. A plebiscite will, just as the previous speaker indicated, lead to a parliamentary bill and parliamentary motion. The previous speaker also indicated what we all know: a majority of the Australian people support marriage equality. We know that is the case. It is acknowledged that that is the case. It is overwhelming. And it is now the case that a majority of House of Representatives members and senators, including the current Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, support marriage equality. We should get on with it and do our job.

The previous speaker also spoke about the conscience votes that we have had in parliament on this side of the House, even though no conscience vote was allowed by those opposite. A few years ago a majority of the parliament did not support marriage equality. When I was elected in 1996, the priority of same-sex couples was certainly not having the right to marry; there were a range of other reforms that had a practical impact on their lives that were much higher up the agenda. Those issues were dealt with by the former Labor government when we amended some 84 pieces of legislation—on superannuation, on health, on migration, on social security. All of those pieces of legislation passed this parliament without rancour, without opposition and without creating division in the community.

When they were first raised, they were controversial. When I first raised the Superannuation (Entitlements of Same Sex Couples) Bill in my first term of parliament, that was a controversial issue. There was not even unanimous support within my own party. When you spoke about sexuality in this place, people shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Now there is far greater total tolerance, and far greater respect for the fact that we are a diverse community. This campaign for marriage equality is about unfinished business. ‘Equality’ is a really important term here. That is why the plebiscite is so wrong. We decide in this House social security, taxation arrangements, infrastructure policy, health policy, education policy and defence policy. We determine that.

Why is this one issue being singled out? We know that it is all an attempt by the opponents of marriage equality, including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, to stop marriage equality. That is why this was put up within the coalition party room. When it was put up, it was opposed within their party room by the current Prime Minister and many of those opposite. Are we on this side of the House supposed to be bound somehow by the fact that Malcolm Turnbull rolled over on his own principles in order to secure the prime ministership by guaranteeing that he would adopt the same policy as his predecessor, Tony Abbott? I actually thought Malcolm Turnbull was better than that. He has a proud record of marching in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras in his electorate, and of standing up genuinely on these issues. I know that he is an opponent of discrimination on the basis of sexuality. It makes it even sadder that he is prepared to take the position that he has, knowing the consequences that it will have for division in the community, for same-sex couples and for their families. They know the consequences, which is why they are so strident in their opposition to this.

I believe very strongly that we should have a vote and a determination in this parliament, and we should do it sooner rather than later. Some of the best debates I have been involved with in parliament have been conscience votes on controversial issues like voluntary euthanasia and stem cell research. They have been respectful debates. They have been the parliament at its finest, where people have thought about each and every word that they were going to contribute to the debate. I have been in a minority—it must be said—in those debates, but they have been respectful. I actually think those debates taking place have raised the standing of this parliament as a result.

That is the way forward. In the 20 years I have had the honour of sitting as a member of the House of Representatives, extraordinary advances have been made towards removing discrimination on the basis of sexuality. Marriage equality will be not the final step, but a significant step. The debate about removing discrimination is not just about laws; it is about the way that people conduct themselves in our community. If you engage with young people now—certainly, the ones that I speak to—then they wonder what the big deal is here. What is the issue? Marriage equality will not affect anyone’s existing right; it simply extends an existing right to some people who have previously been denied that right.

It will not affect anyone’s marriage; indeed, it will strengthen the institution of marriage by allowing more people to participate in it. It will not require churches to do anything against their will. It will simply provide equality for everyone before the law. And, when it is all over, just like as happened in most of the industrialised world now—in the United Kingdom under the conservatives, in New Zealand under the conservatives, in many of the states of United States, in Canada and in many of the countries of Europe—people will wonder what all the fuss was about and people will just get on with their lives. That is why the Prime Minister really should show leadership on this.

Marriage equality does come down to issues of tolerance and respect. I believe that tolerance and respect needs to be held by all people who participate in this debate, both the supporters and the opponents of marriage equality. I have been very much on the record for a very long time as a supporter of marriage equality but also as a supporter of the conscience vote. I understand that some people of faith who regard marriage not as a civil institution that is governed by laws and legislation but as something that is a sacred institution handed down from God have a different view, and I respect their right to hold their view. That is why any of the legislation that has been drawn up by people such as my colleague, the now member for Whitlam and then member for Throsby, Stephen Jones, included religious exemptions, and that is something that is supported by the gay and lesbian community. A conscience vote of this parliament would allow people who have religious convictions and do not want to choose between that position and the position of civil lawmaking to vote accordingly. It would ensure that the parliament is able to be respectful.

But it does go both ways. The truth is that the families that I have met with through organisations such as Rainbow Families are genuinely and legitimately concerned about the implications of a divisive debate. The member previously quoted the member for Barton in her contribution last night. Due to boundary changes by the Electoral Commission, I now live in the electorate of Barton. During the election campaign, in a marginal seat, I got material in my letterbox which can only be described as targeting Linda Burney because of her Aboriginality and her religion in a way that was offensive and divisive—and it backfired on those people who distributed that material. The concerns that those families have are absolutely legitimate concerns.

I am yet to have a same-sex family in my electorate—not one—ask me to vote for this legislation that is before the parliament. I have my own views that happen to accord with that view. My gut instinct was always to oppose the plebiscite, because we as parliamentarians have a job to do and we should do it. But we do have to be very cognisant of the fact that, as The Smiths said in that great song What Difference Does it Make?, ‘Heavy words are so lightly thrown.’ One of my concerns reflects the view of that great songwriter Morrissey when he said those words. Words are thrown around in a debate which we know, from some of the comments that have been made already in this debate, will be very hurtful and will create needless division. The fact that the government intends to publicly fund this debate is, I think, even more reason to oppose this legislation.

The fact is that we could knock this over this afternoon by having a vote of this parliament. It could go to the Senate tonight and they could deal with it. Then, next week, we could just get on with business. This is an enormous roadblock to the government getting on with other business. Its insistence on this divisive plebiscite is standing in the way of the promotion of harmony and unity, which this parliament has an obligation to pursue. We can see that there is a great deal of distrust of elected representatives playing out in areas such as the US presidential election. We need to lift standards of public discourse and lead the community in promoting respect and inclusion. Have marriage equality and have it through this parliament.

Sep 15, 2016

Constituency statement – WestConnex

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:35): I rise today to express my ongoing concern about the lack of appropriate planning around the WestConnex project. This is having a considerable impact on people’s lives as a result of the uncertainty which is occurring around this project. The Premier held a press conference in Rozelle on 21 July to announce amended plans, including a tunnel connecting the Iron Cove Bridge and the Rozelle interchange of the project, which is to be located in the Rozelle goods yard.

This means that 27 properties on Victoria Road will be compulsorily acquired to allow for this tunnel to be constructed. That means that these residents deserve proper and appropriate compensation. The state government has a report that shows that its current compensation mechanisms are inadequate, and it has refused to make that report public. People will accept the fact that infrastructure does result in disruption, but that disruption should be minimised and, when it occurs to families, they deserve appropriate consultation.

It is also important that the impact on open space be minimised. That is why I have raised before in this House the potential impact on Blackmore Oval in Leichardt and suggested that this oval needs protection, as do the more than 75 specialist businesses that comprise a big part of the Australian film industry infrastructure around the Canal Road Film Centre.

It is not surprising that these changes have occurred given that there seems to be a dismissal of the legitimate concerns that residents have. Indeed, it is of great concern that the chair of the Greater Sydney Commission, Lucy Turnbull, stated to ABC radio:

I am not aware that there are houses going to be demolished in Haberfield.

She went on to say:

I’m not aware of the loss of heritage at Haberfield, I have to tell you.

Anyone who drives through that part of Sydney will see not just that homes have been demolished but that entire blocks have been demolished.

The fact that the chair of the Greater Sydney Commission had no idea of the impact that was occurring was rubbing salt into the wounds of that community. That community deserves to be treated with respect, and we deserve proper consultation and proper community impact statements. Indeed, the government during the election campaign played politics with the EIS process, pretending somehow that it was the responsibility of the opposition to approve that during the caretaker period.

Sep 14, 2016

Federation Chamber CONSTITUENCY STATEMENTS Multinational Tax Avoidance

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:56): I rise to recognise Thehidden billions report compiled by Oxfam Australia in June of this year. In 2014 it is estimated that tax-dodging multinationals operating within this country shifted $19 billion in profits offshore, depriving the Australian public of approximately $6 billion in tax revenue. This is money that could have gone into essential public services such as schools and hospitals in this country, or could have gone towards nation-building infrastructure. Furthermore, the report commissioned a poll that revealed 90 per cent of Australians want this government to prevent all multinational corporations operating in Australia from moving their profits to tax havens overseas in order to avoid paying their fair share here.

There is a real human cost to this practice, both at home and abroad. Multinational corporations based in Australia and operating overseas are responsible for depriving developing countries of tax revenue. Large developing countries such as India and Brazil, as well as neighbouring countries such as Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, are being starved of millions of dollars in tax revenue, and Australian-based multinationals are part of the problem. In the Philippines an estimated 1,700 new classrooms could be built per year up to 2020 with these concealed profits. Over the next five years Oxfam estimates that Indonesia will be deprived of US$360 million that could go towards education, and Papua New Guinea, one of Australia’s poorest neighbours and a recipient of substantial investment from Australia, stands to lose around $17 million in expenditure that could go to providing essential services like health and basic infrastructure.

If more is not done to close tax loopholes, the report estimates that tax-dodging Australian based multinationals will deprive developing countries of a further $2.1 billion in public education and $1.5 billion in health, water and sanitation services. Oxfam is calling on the Australian government to make transparent the tax affairs of large multinationals. This means modifying current legislation so that multinational companies which function in or from Australia report publicly on their incomes, employees, profits earned and taxes paid in every country in which they operate. This will make it harder for multinationals to hide their profits in offshore tax havens—in turn, providing much needed revenue to develop essential public services for both Australia and for our developing neighbours.

Sep 13, 2016

Member statements – WestConnex

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:44): I rise to raise my concerns about the latest stage in the WestConnex project, which has been characterised by poor and ill-conceived planning. The latest suburb potentially to suffer is Leichhardt. Local residents are concerned that a site on Darley Road in Leichhardt will be the midpoint for tunnelling for the extension of the WestConnex project. Darley Road is already a very busy road. There must be proper consultation with local residents and proper planning, including a local traffic plan, to satisfy residents that there will be no adverse impacts on them.

Of even greater concern is that the nearby Blackmore Oval and/or other public space in the area will be used during construction. Active and passive open space is at a premium in my electorate. Blackmore Oval is used by a variety of sporting codes for local sport. In addition, the Canal Road Film Centre is situated behind Blackmore Oval. This centre houses 75 or more specialist businesses that comprise a big part of the Australian film industry infrastructure, which is important for our national economy. I have spoken to the federal minister responsible for urban infrastructure about these issues and have had two direct discussions with the appropriate state minister, Duncan Gay, and called on him to ensure that these issues are resolved and that Blackmore Oval is protected.

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Jun 24, 2016

Labor seeks quick action on White Bay fumes

Today I contacted Minister for Infrastructure Darren Chester to offer bipartisan support for action to ensure cruise ships on Sydney Harbour use low sulfur fuel.

I offered Mr Chester full co-operation to address news that federal anti-pollution legislation passed in January had the unintended consequence of rendering inoperable the NSW Government’s new requirements on the use of low-sulfur fuel (0.1 per cent or less) on the harbour.

Residents of Balmain have expressed legitimate concern about fuel fumes from cruise ships in White Bay and it is important that the Commonwealth act to address this situation as soon as possible after the July 2 election.

I offered to work with Mr Chester to support any Commonwealth action to resolve this issue through legislation or through the designation of the International Maritime Organisation.

Cruise ships provide significant economic activity for Sydney.

But it is important that they operate with environmental best practice.

I am pleased that the cruise ship industry has agreed to voluntarily implement the NSW Government policy of using low sulfur fuel.

Commonwealth action is required to ensure this continues. This issue should be above politics.

May 4, 2016

Constituency Statement – WestConnex Project

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:00): Last Saturday, I attended a public meeting in Rozelle, following an invitation by a member of the Annandale WestConnex Action Group who came to one of the street meetings that I regularly hold on Saturday mornings. It was an expression of concern by the community about the lack of proper planning for the WestConnex Project and particularly the impact it will have in Rozelle. At the moment, it is unclear how many, if any, houses will be resumed, as has occurred in Haberfield. It is unclear where the route will go. It is unclear where any exhaust stacks will be placed. And that uncertainty is creating enormous concern in my local community.

This is an example of planning gone wrong. The WestConnex Project has been funded before the planning or the business case have been conducted. We established Infrastructure Australia to get the process right—do the planning, do the business case, then receive the funding—to make sure projects actually achieve outcomes. And yet in last night’s budget it was confirmed that Infrastructure Australia’s budget will be cut by 25 per cent—precisely the wrong direction. Infrastructure New South Wales identified freight to Port Botany as the priority for roads and rail in terms of Sydney’s urban congestion challenges. The WestConnex Project solves neither.

The WestConnex Project of course goes to St Peters. I wrote to the WestConnex Delivery Authority chairman, Tony Shepherd, saying this: ‘From what has been published, the proposal to widen the M5 and dump traffic at St Peters interchange is absurd. The notion that delivering additional traffic to King Street, Newtown, and parallel congested back-routes represents proper planning is beyond belief.’ I wrote that on 9 November 2014.

It appears that the same mistakes are being made with the rest of this project. That is why I have requested an audit of the entire WestConnex Project, as well as of the government’s infrastructure plans, because it is clear that—with regard to the East West Link fiasco, the collapse of Perth Freight Link in the courts and the blow-out on WestConnex from $10 billion to $16.6 billion—this is a failure of government planning, which is why the national Auditor-General should conduct an audit into the government’s infrastructure programs.

May 2, 2016

Statements of indulgence – Speaker

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:17): On indulgence: Mr Speaker it is perhaps not known as broadly in the community as it should be that you are visiting electorates in order to visit schools to promote the parliament and to promote the important role that democracy plays. I was very grateful to welcome you to Birchgrove Public School newly in my electorate, now currently in the electorate of the member for Sydney, last Thursday to address years 5 and 6. I think it is a very good thing indeed that you are using your role as Speaker to promote the parliament to young people not just when they are here but outside. On behalf of not just me but I am sure all members of this House, we thank you for the constructive role that you have played and the way that you have brought dignity to that office here and outside. Thank you.

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Dec 3, 2015

Urban Renewal

MR ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:42): Urbanisation has changed our way of life. Four out of every five Australians live in our cities. By 2031, our four largest capitals, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, will have increased by 46 per cent. The other capital cities, including the nation’s capital, as well as Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin are expected to grow by nearly 30 per cent.

I support urban renewal and I also support appropriately increasing density in our cities. But, as Danish architect Jan Gehl said, ‘First life, then spaces, then buildings—the other way around never works.’ Hence the concern that I have about the Sydenham to Bankstown Urban Renewal Corridor and the Parramatta Road Urban Transformation Strategy.

I am concerned that there has not been appropriate community consultation in a meaningful way on these proposals. I have met with local groups including the Save Dully Action Group, Save Marrickville, Help Save Lewisham, and the Hurlstone Park Association amongst others. They have been out in their neighbourhoods making sure that people have the information that they need and coordinating a community response.

I have also raised my concerns directly with the New South Wales planning minister, Rob Stokes. Community engagement should be at the core of any change to people’s neighbourhoods. What we have here is a considerable proposal that will change the character of many of the suburbs. We need to make sure that we get planning right, that community services and infrastructure are in place to deal with increased densities. There are examples where it can be got right and examples where it is being got wrong right in my local neighbourhood.

An example is a recent new development in Dulwich Hill on Wardell Road, right near the station. It is a box with a couple of windows on the side. It has no character. It is a considerable increase in density and an eyesore that has brought nothing to the character of our local community. In my view, it is an inappropriate development that has undermined support for increasing density.

There are other cases—even some that were controversial at the time—where it has been done properly. For example, the old Marrickville RSL site on Illawarra Road near my electorate office, right next to Marrickville station, is a considerable increase in density but it is appropriate. Right next to the station, it is appropriate that people have that rail access.

We need to make sure that we have appropriate green buildings—that we bring in renewable energy, water recycling and appropriate development that takes into account the need to also have open space and recreational facilities so that there is an improvement in the quality of life. I look to examples like the One Central building on Broadway. Again, it is a considerable increase in density but an appropriate development which has open space and therefore can bring the community with it. If there are simply lines done on a map in way that does not have appropriate community consultation and where there is, in some circumstances, overdevelopment and no accounting for community space and facilities, then the support for increased density will simply not be there.

Urban renewal does bring great opportunity. It is a chance to address issues of inequality associated with drive-in, drive-out suburbs as well as to tackle the growing problem of congestion, given that a lot of the jobs growth has been in the inner suburbs of our communities.

But we need to make sure that we get it right. We have one chance to get it right.

I call upon the New South Wales government to do much better and to have appropriate consultation that is meaningful and that can change the draft plans where they need to be changed. At the moment it is very clear that there is some inappropriate development whereby there will be an increase in traffic congestion rather than an improvement in the quality of life for people directly affected in my local community by these proposals.

Nov 25, 2015

Live Exports

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (09:43): Many of my constituents have contacted me over the past months, concerned by the recent reports of animal cruelty and mistreatment by some in Australia’s live export trade. Many of these same constituents want to see the member for New England, the agriculture minister, use the statutory powers he already has to prosecute those who breach our export laws. Labor introduced these powers through the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme, or ESCAS, in 2011. This reflects Labor’s commitment to see animal welfare maintained throughout the live export process both in Australia and overseas.

The regulatory regime we created forces exporters to show they have a plan to treat animals humanely and provides a monitoring and auditing system all the way from port to abattoir. Heavy sanctions and penalties can be applied for breaches of ESCAS. These range from financial penalties, the suspension of an export licence, the cancellation of a licence—or indeed imprisonment. These provisions are currently available and it is up to the minister to examine the recent allegations that have been made about breaches of these rules and take action where necessary.

When last in government, Labor took the strong decision to suspend exports to Indonesia while supply chain welfare assurances were sought. This was a significant decision for Australia to take, as we have been exporting livestock for over a hundred years.

Prior to the last election, Labor also committed to appointing an Inspector-General for animal welfare and live animal exports as an independent statutory officer to oversee the ESCAS. Labor remains committed to the position. Unfortunately, the coalition government has failed to implement this important and independent position.

Labor has also recently proposed that the minister provide regular reports to the parliament. The minister’s report should place on the public record an easy-to-access and understandable account of the state of the sector, any animal welfare incidents, and how they have been dealt with. I want to see effective welfare provisions in place. It is currently up to the agriculture minister to explain why he has refused to introduce the additional checks that the former Labor government proposed. The agriculture minister must also outline how he will meet his ministerial responsibilities in ensuring that animal welfare is maintained in the industry.

Oct 30, 2015

Fraser Park Football Club marks 50 year

I look forward to joining Fraser Park Football Club in celebration of their 50 year anniversary tomorrow night at their premises.

Fraser Park FC has a remarkable history, and owes its origins to a handful of Portuguese migrants who were so passionate about football that they started a club.

Today their legacy lives on and Fraser Park in Marrickville is the Club’s home.

Over the years, Fraser Park FC has cemented its place in the local community and has supported generations of talented players.

Football is an important part of our Portuguese community and we are fortunate to have such a dedicated club like this in the inner west.

I am proud the former Federal Labor Government was able to support the growth of the club, providing $2 million for the redevelopment.

More kids than ever are participating in sport in the Inner West and this is only possible because of clubs like Fraser Park FC.

I want to congratulate President Antonio Cerqueira and the Fraser Park FC Committee, as well as their volunteers, on their many years of hard work.

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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