Browsing articles in "Grayndler Hansard"
May 26, 2015

Constituency Statements – Marriage equality

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:19):  Many of my constituents were overjoyed at the overwhelming vote in support of marriage equality in Ireland at the weekend.

This means at least 20 nations support marriage equality, including the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand.

It is now time for Australia to join the nations which have recognised that people should be allowed to marry the person that they love.

Institutions, just like society’s values, evolve over time.

Only 22 years ago, homosexuality was illegal in Ireland.

Now marriage equality is a reality.

When I introduced a Private Members Bill in my first term in Parliament to give same-sex couples equal rights on superannuation, it was seen as a radical proposition.

The Howard Government prevented it going to a vote.

By the time the Rudd Government removed discrimination on the basis of sexual preference in more than 80 pieces of legislation, it carried the Parliament with broad support.

Giving one group of people the rights they have been denied does not, in any way, diminish the rights that currently exist for the rest of us.

I fail to see how the institution of marriage is weakened if more people have the right to participate.

I strongly believe there should be a vote in this Parliament this year.

It should be a conscience vote.

That would enable parliamentarians to have a mature debate in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Whilst I have strong views in support of marriage equality, I respect those who hold a different view.

You cannot promote diversity and tolerance whilst not showing tolerance for those who disagree with you.

I have argued consistently that the Coalition needs to allow a conscience vote on this issue.

It is inconsistent to argue something different within the Labor Party.

In 2002, as a member of the ALP National Executive, I dealt with a report to resolve the issues surrounding the use of conscience votes in a process which included Labor’s pre-eminent authority on our internal history and processes John Faulkner.

There have been conscience votes on a range of issues over the year including the Family Law Bill 1974, euthanasia in 1996 and the Marriage Bill (1961).

The ALP National Executive decided unanimously that “the most appropriate model is the case-by-case, political model, but with consideration and tolerance of other factors relating to religion, the party platform and precedent’’.

As the document says: “These types of questions are not easily resolved in the party room, so conscience votes provide a way in which divisions over contentious social or moral issues carry over into the Parliament without adverse repercussions for those who differ from the majority view.’’

There is also a pragmatic reason to argue for a conscience vote across the Parliament and it is this.

It is my judgement that there are now majorities in favour of marriage equality in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

There is therefore no argument to delay this reform.

Let’s get this done.

May 14, 2015

Condolence Motion – Mr Richard Benaud, OBE

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:50): I think it is appropriate that this parliament pay tribute to a great Australian in Richie Benaud. Is there any other sports commentator in the world who is so much of a cult figure that literally hundreds of grown men are prepared to don white wigs and cream-coloured suits in an annual fancy dress party to pay tribute? I doubt it. But, once a year at the test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, hundreds of cricket fans dress up as Richie Benaud. I noticed during this year’s test it was not just men. It does not matter if the temperature is 40 degrees. They are there all day—’The Richies’—paying homage to a man who became a familiar and a very welcome presence in their lives and in the lives of millions of people around the world over a period of more than six decades. I suspect there is something very Australian about The Richies’ presence at the SCG, and I think next year will break the record for the number of Richies, as I am sure even more people will pay tribute to this great Australian.

So much has been said about the death of Richie Benaud that it is hard to break new ground in any tribute to his remarkable life. The key word that comes to mind when I think of this great sportsman and journalist is integrity—integrity as a bowler and batsman; integrity as a captain who led his team with an intense fighting spirit but never forgot to treat his opponents with courtesy; and, later, absolute integrity as a journalist and commentator.

It is often difficult to explain to visitors to our great land how people can sit and watch every ball of a game that goes for five days without, potentially, getting a result. But what cricket is about is not just what is written down. It is what is unwritten: the culture of sportsmanship that someone like Richie Benaud embodied—a man who would never have claimed a catch that he knew had not been taken; and a man who played absolutely within the spirit of the game and embodied it as a sport—a contest, yes—but a sport. It was about relationships and bridging those relationships between all countries who play that great sport.

What made Richie Benaud stand out was his understanding that, while winning was important, what was more important was the way that you played the game. After his death last month, many people described him as the voice of the Australian summer. But the truth is he was the voice of world cricket—a man known as widely in other cricket-playing countries as he was in Australia. He was also the voice of English summer, which is remarkable—broadcasting every year, regardless of whether Australia was playing or not. He loved cricket, but he refused to let that affect his commentary as an Australian. He was above all a cricket enthusiast. He was as generous about the great batting of Tendulkar, or performances by Botham or Viv Richards, as he was about Mark Waugh or Allan Border or Dennis Lillee.

He was happy to offer criticism where it was warranted. When Greg Chappell ordered his brother Trevor to bowl underarm against New Zealand in 1981, Richie Benaud had no hesitation in condemning the decision. Whoever was playing, you always felt that when Richie was commentating, his key concern was you—the listener. He did not see his job as barracking for any particular team. His concern was to use his special knowledge and experience to help people understand and enjoy cricket. Much-loved ABC commentator Jim Maxwell perhaps put it best when he described Richie as ‘cricket’s pope’.

He was indeed a gentleman who I had the honour of meeting on a number of occasions. His knowledge, his authenticity and his genuineness just shone through. I will miss hearing that voice: he was very much a part of our lives. He played 63 tests for Australia; he was the first player to score 2,000 test runs and take 200 wickets. As Australian captain, he never lost a series; as a commentator, he had no peer.

Recently I was listening to an ABC radio documentary about the 1961 West Indies tour of Australia, which of course featured the famous tied test at the Gabba. Richie was interviewed for the program along with other greats of the era. What impressed me the most was the way that Richie and his opposing captain, the great Sir Frank Worrell, formed an informal pact at the beginning of the series. Of course they were going to try to beat each other, but the most important thing was they were going to play to win, not just to draw, and they played an exciting brand of cricket that re-energised cricket from that 1961 series on. I think that tells you everything that you needed to know about Richie Benaud: just as he put his viewers first when he was in the commentary box, he put those people at the ground watching the game first when he was a player and a captain. He knew that they wanted to be concerned about the style of the game as well as the outcome at the end of a test match. I think that was the secret of his greatness.

Even in his final months, as he fought the melanoma that he linked to sun exposure during his playing career, he was happy to appear publicly to urge children not to make the same mistake. His tribute to Phil Hughes was quite remarkable, even though he himself at the time was going through his illness. He never looked for sympathy. What he wanted though, with his campaign against sun cancer, was to make sure that others benefitted from his experience.

To his family and many friends, particularly his wife, Daphne, whom he spoke about often and so affectionately, I offer my sincere condolences. And to cricket fans here and indeed everywhere throughout the world, I say we are all very lucky to have shared time on this earth with Richie Benaud.

Mar 26, 2015

Member statements – New South Wales State Election

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:39): On Saturday the Baird government wants the voters of New South Wales to step into the unknown. They want them to vote them back into government even though there is an ASIC investigation into Mike Baird’s office over the removal of the headline ‘Bad for the budget’ from a report about electricity privatisation. Mike Baird has refused to answer questions about that unprecedented intervention to doctor a report. The people of New South Wales deserve better. The people of Victoria had to wait for the Tories to lose office before they found out that the East West Link had a cost-benefit analysis of 0.45. Infrastructure has to be transparent. What we are seeing is that they are hiding from the people of New South Wales. This morning, Mike Baird reaffirmed that there is no plan B—all of their promises fall over if they cannot get electricity privatisation through the upper house. The upper house members will know it is bad for the budget according to their own independent analysis. Voters will also know that there is a two-for-one deal on Saturday—get rid of Mike Baird and you will get rid of Tony Abbott. If you want Bill Shorten as the next Prime Minister—or Malcolm Turnbull or Julie Bishop—vote Labor this Saturday. (Time Expired)

Mar 26, 2015

Constituency statements – World’s Greatest Shave

Federation Chamber 

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:18): I rise today to pay tribute to the students and staff at my old school, St. Mary’s Cathedral College, in Sydney. On the first day of the new school year, his fellow students learned that Jacques Pacifique had had a relapse of the leukaemia that had been in remission for five years. His fellow students decided, in a great spirit, to show solidarity with their mate. They went to their teachers and decided collectively to engage in the World’s Greatest Shave. Sixty-five year 12 students shaved their heads and five teachers did the same. They have raised $50,000 so far for the Leukaemia Foundation.

They got a lot of support from the community. The Bulldogs—the great supporters of Camp Quality who do such great work in the local community—sent along Josh Reynolds, and the Western Sydney Wanderers sent along Ante Covic and they assisted in shaving these young student’s heads. The wellbeing master, Daniel Khoury, deserves congratulations for overseeing this process. It is such a heartening sign to see such school spirit at my old school. I wish Jacques all the best for his health and with what he is going through. His fellow students are in contact with him in between his treatments. On behalf of everyone in the parliament, I say best wishes to Jacques and well done to all of his mates.

Mar 25, 2015

Constituency statements – Multiculturalism

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:20): I am pleased that the community-based Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville, in my electorate, has apologised for refusing to allow the Jewish student group Hillel to use its space on the basis that it was pro-Israel. I was disturbed to read newspaper reports about this earlier this week. They said that after Hillel sought permission to use the space for a cultural event the Red Rattler had informed Hillel via email:

Our policy does not support colonialism/Zionism. Therefore we do not host groups that support the colonisation and occupation of Palestine.

Australia is a multicultural community. Multiculturalism is our strength. In the inner-west of Sydney, we live in harmony. Different people of different beliefs live side by side. We are enriched by our diversity. Many people came to Australia from strife-torn regions where people do not enjoy the same level of safety and harmony that we enjoy in this country. There is no place, in Australia, for the lack of tolerance shown by that email to this Jewish student group. This should not be confused with a proper debate about solutions for the Middle East. Like many people, I was deeply concerned by television images of Israeli bombs levelling schools on the Gaza Strip last July and August, in the latest manifestation of this conflict. I stated then that that was wrong. I believe that is the case today. I believe there needs to a Palestinian state, but I also believe that Israel has a right to exist in peace and security. A two-state solution is the way forward.

From what I can see, the Hillel group is an international organisation that seeks to bring together Jewish university students for social events, leadership training and cultural events. From what I can see, it is a group promoting friendship and celebrating cultural traditions. The Red Rattler is a community-based theatre in my electorate. It has been used by a range of communities and some political parties. It is important that tolerance be celebrated, and that where intolerance is shown people are prepared to speak out about it. I am pleased that the statement from Red Rattler’s directors says that they welcome organisations from all cultures, and they have invited Hillel to hold a forum there. Former US President John F Kennedy once made a critical point about tolerance that is worth reflecting on today. He said:

Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.

Mar 5, 2015

Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL-Community and Environment

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:26): Next Wednesday I will have the honour of cutting the ribbon at the launch of a new trigeneration energy system at Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club. This was funded with a grant of over $580,000 from the former Australian Labor government. Trigeneration is the simultaneous production of three forms of energy—electricity, heating and cooling—from a single system. It is nearly three times more energy efficient than a coal fired power station. This will cut the energy costs for this local community based club by up to $185,000 every year. It will have significant benefits for the environment. It will reduce carbon emissions by 1,590 tons per annum. This is the equivalent, this one plant, of taking more than 350 cars a year off the road. 

The expected return on investment for the trigeneration system is 35 per cent per annum. This is good investment —good investment in our environment and good investment in improving the economic capacity of Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club. This is a club, like many other RSLs, that makes an enormous contribution to the local community, whether it be hosting schools, such as Ashbury Public School—I attended the presentation day there last year—whether it be sponsoring local sporting organisations such as Hurlstone Park Wanderers Football Club or Summer Hill Cricket Club, or whether it be putting money back into the community for junior sport.

 This club also was the venue, appropriately, given the impact on climate change and reducing omissions of this trigeneration energy system, of a climate change forum that I hosted last year with Labor’s climate change spokesperson, Mark Butler, and with Amanda McKenzie, the CEO of the Climate Council. It was attended by about 300 people who participated in a discussion about how we could have an impact locally, as well as about the broader implications of climate change for our way of life into the future. The club itself anticipates complete cost recovery from the trigeneration system within four years.

 One of the best functions it has been my honour to attend was held last year as part of the lead-in for the Anzac Centenary commemorations. The main speaker was Brendan Nelson, who is now, of course, in charge of the Australian War Memorial. There were representatives of local schools and local community based organisations, as well as veterans and families themselves.

 It was a great example of the role that a club can play in harnessing community capacity, in making sure that we recognise our history. In particular, this year we are recognising the sacrifice made by those brave men and women in our Defence Force who defended our nation and suffered such dreadful losses during World War I and during engagements ever since. Our thoughts are also with our Defence Force members who continue to serve us, at risk to themselves, in theatres such as Afghanistan today.

 This is a great project. It is great management by the Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club. I pay tribute to them for their vision and I look forward to participating in this event next Wednesday.

Mar 4, 2015

Constituency statements – Multiculturalism

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:13): In the current global political atmosphere, we hear a lot about ethnic and religious tension. That, of course, is understandable. Recent incidents here and overseas have had the effect of making some people feel uncomfortable. There are, indeed, a few lunatics in our midst who want to promote division and disharmony—but I reject such sentiments. Today I want to highlight the positive side to the ethnic and cultural development that has underpinned the development of our great Australian society.

I count myself very lucky to live in the inner west of Sydney, a multicultural heartland where neighbours live side by side in harmony. What I see are good people who care about each other and their communities, people with goodwill raising their families and living their lives in peace. I see people who are prepared to maintain the vibrant cultures from their birth lands but mesh them with Australian values of freedom and the fair go to create a kind of cultural alloy that is as strong as it is interesting. I see beauty in people’s faces, whatever their colour, and music in their voices, whatever their language.

To go into a local school in my electorate is to see the success of modern multiculturalism. To have my son return home from school with a few words of Chinese or Vietnamese or Arabic or Greek benefits not just him but also the whole the community. There is nothing unusual about my electorate. There are electorates right around the country that are just like that. Most people in the community take the same view. The message is simple: we should stiffen our spines as we resist hatred. Diversity is strength; tolerance is natural. We are all part of the same human family.

I will be enjoying that diversity in coming weeks. Just a couple of weeks ago I celebrated the Lunar New Year in Ashfield, which has a large Chinese and Vietnamese community. It was a fantastic celebration, with the local kids from Ashfield Public School, whatever their ethnic background, participating in a Chinese song and dance routine in Mandarin. In a couple of weeks time I will be at the Bairro Portugues celebration of the Portuguese community, which is based in Australia at Petersham—a ‘little Portugal’—in my electorate. It is a street celebration that grows each and every year. The Ashfield Carnival of Cultures will be on 22 March. This is the 18th year that it will be held. More than 20,000 people attend that celebration. Diversity is our strength. We must ensure that we protect it, defend it and promote it.


Feb 25, 2015

Adjournment – Infrastructure Australia: No Business Case for Westconnex

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (19:50): I was surprised last December when in a media release from the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, and his assistant, Mr Briggs, they stated, along with their magical infrastructure reannouncement tour trying to claim a range of projects that were funded by the former Labor government, that Infrastructure Australia had appointed a new CEO. I was surprised by that because no announcement had previously been made of who that was, and in fact that was not the case. Michael Deegan, the infrastructure coordinator, left Infrastructure Australia on 7 February 2014. More than a year later there has been no-one in charge of Infrastructure Australia. There have been three acting CEOs or coordinators, but no-one in charge. It is no wonder that the infrastructure process has been abandoned that was established and supported by the business community and by all who are concerned with infrastructure development in this country.

Indeed, we have seen in two examples the consequences of a lack of proper process from this government. One of those is now subject to an Australian National Audit Office inquiry into the approval and administration of the Commonwealth grant funding for the East West Link project in Victoria. We now know this has a cost-benefit analysis of 0.45, or 45c of benefit for every dollar that would be invested—and not just $3 billion allocated by the government, but $1.5 billion paid in the last financial year. This was for a project that was not due to commence for some period of time, in contravention of the government’s policies that it would make milestone payments—upon actual construction. And, secondly, there would be an Infrastructure Australia assessment and a cost-benefit analysis published for all projects above $100 million. Both of those have been breached.

In New South Wales, the WestConnex project has had $2 billion made available through a loan concession to New South Wales. During the last financial year—for a project, again, where a hole has not been dug—$500 million has been paid into the bank account of New South Wales. And that is before the proper process has happened. Indeed, the New South Wales Auditor-General said this in his report, WestConnex assurance to the Government, released at the end of last year:

The preliminary business case … had many deficiencies and fell well short of the standard required for such a document.

That was on page 3. And:

… we have seen no evidence of an independent, arm’s length review of the traffic analysis used for the final business case, by someone technically qualified to do so, before the business case was presented to the Government.

We did not find peer review outputs for land use, urban planning or transport planning.

That was on page 26 of the New South Wales Auditor-General’s report. That is of great concern for those who want to ensure that there is proper value for taxpayers’ money and that infrastructure of projects achieve their objectives. In this case the objective is allowing access to the city for people who live in Western Sydney and allowing freight to get to the port for the important freight task that will grow at Port Botany. Those are the objectives and it needs to be outlined how they will occur.

The minister himself on last night’s Channel 7 News was interviewed by Lee Jeloscek, and he was asked this: ‘How many at the moment use the M4 and the M5?’ His answer was: ‘Um, sorry, I haven’t got those numbers with me.’ The next question was: ‘So, how many tunnel stacks will there be for stages 1, 2 and 3 of the WestConnex?’ Mr Gay’s answer was: ‘Look, I couldn’t tell you the exact number.’ Another question was: ‘How many drivers a day are expected to use the WestConnex when it’s operational?’ Duncan Gay: silence, laughs.

But it is no joke. Infrastructure development must be done properly—not just rhetoric and handing over money for projects that are not ready to commence, that have not been through proper processes, that do not achieve the outcomes they were intended to reach. This government needs to get its act together on infrastructure development, and these projects show exactly why.

Feb 9, 2015

Private Members’ Business – Reclink National Program Funding

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:51): I am pleased to support this motion moved by the member for Melbourne Ports in this parliament today. The great, late Nelson Mandela once famously said:

Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does … Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.

Last year, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in Reclink’s Community Cup in Sydney. This Reclink Community Cup event is, of course, a much larger event in Melbourne. My team, the Rock and Roll Walers, coached by Jason Evans and skippered by Mark Evans, took on the media industry based Sailors, captained by Adam Spencer, at Henson Park in my electorate of Grayndler. It was my Aussie Rules debut. I took a mark, somewhat surprisingly, which features, for those doubters, on YouTube. This was the highlight of my short Australian Rules career and, given that the KPI I had set myself was simply to be able to walk off the field, I was pretty pleased. Yet for the third year in a row my team, the Walers, lost.

The real winner of the day, however, was undoubtedly the community. The money we raised went to Reclink, a Melbourne based charity that works in partnership with over 450 charities from around Australia. It is a charity that until the coalition’s first budget in May last year received funding from the Commonwealth government.

Reclink has a long and proud history of coordinating sporting and cultural programs for those less fortunate. It provides a valuable link between vulnerable people and their community in towns and cities across Australia. Reclink makes a difference for youth at risk, those experiencing mental illness, people with a disability, the homeless, and people tackling alcohol and other drug issues and social and economic hardship. In the year 2013 to 2014, Reclink Australia delivered over 115,000 participation opportunities for sport, recreation and arts. Reclink helps facilitates pathways for education and employment, often giving people a confidence in themselves they previously struggled to find. Reclink believes there is sufficient anecdotal evidence to suggest that, for every dollar invested by the federal government in the Reclink National Program, there is at least a tenfold equivalent dollar benefit to the community. That makes the federal government investment of $560,000 per annum value for money in economic terms, as well as priceless in social terms. I would like to recognise the hard work of the team behind Reclink Australia and congratulate founder Peter Cullen for all that he has done to make communities around the nation a better place.

The Senate select committee into the Liberal government’s budget cuts recommended that the government reinstate Commonwealth funding for Reclink Australia immediately. Today, the coalition should do just that. Brian Millett, a participant in the Reclink program, spoke to the Senate select committee about his friends and the positive impact of Reclink in their lives. He said:

Wednesday is football and they cannot wait for Wednesday. They belong there; they have a connection there. That is what I needed. I needed that gap filler to get me there.

It seems that the coalition know the price of everything and the value of nothing. You do not create stronger communities by tearing them apart.

I call upon the coalition to immediately reinstate funding to the Reclink national program and express some disappointment that there are no coalition speakers on this motion that has been moved by the member for Melbourne Ports and seconded by the member for Lalor in this House today. That is extraordinarily unusual. It is the case that people front and put their argument when debates occur in this parliament. To simply withdraw from the debate, to have nothing to say, does not do anything to give credit to the coalition government. However, all will be forgiven with the stroke of a pen if they fix up this funding shortfall and reinstate the cuts that they made in last year’s unfair budget.

Debate adjourned.

Feb 9, 2015

Condolence Motion – The Hon. Tom Uren, AC

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:12): I join with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in supporting this condolence motion for my friend and comrade Tom Uren. Tom Uren saw deprivation in his early years, and then the worst of humanity. Born into the Depression in 1921, he left school at the age of 13 because his father could not get employment. He was a great sportsman. He represented Manly, unfortunately, in rugby league, but he also fought for the Australian heavyweight boxing championship. He was also a surf lifesaving champion at Freshwater. He had a lot to look forward to; and then, of course, World War II intervened. He put his nation before himself and, like so many other young men and women of that time, he enlisted. He went to Timor and was captured. He served in Timor, in Singapore, on the Burma-Siam railway and in Japan as a prisoner of war of the Japanese. Those people who read Richard Flanagan’s extraordinary book would respond to it as I did: you just wonder how these men came through that process without being bitter about the world and their place in it.

He was an extraordinary man. If he can be characterised by anything it is by his faith in humanity and his fellow man. He came through that process with love and used to speak—unusually for a man—about his love for people. It was genuine, and he received love in spades in return.

He was, in my view, the most significant grassroots campaigner in the history of the Australian Labor Party, given the longevity that the issues, be it the anti-Vietnam war moratoriums, which he and Jim Cairns led, his role on the environment—well ahead of the pack; well ahead of the intelligentsia—he understood a love for our natural and our built environment or whether it be issues of justice for our veterans. He was very proud that his last victory was to convince Prime Minister Gillard to grant justice to the surviving former prisoners of war of the Japanese. That occurred in 2012.

He leaves a tremendous legacy: the greening of Western Sydney, access to sewerage for people in our outer suburban communities, the first significant investment in public transport by a national government, the Australian Heritage Commission, the Register of the National Estate and the saving of the Sydney Harbour foreshores. Wherever you look around this country, particularly in outer suburbs and our regional cities, Tom Uren leaves a legacy of which he and his family can indeed be proud as both a minister in the Whitlam government and a minister in the Hawke government.

When he was nominated for the Companion of the Order of Australia I contacted Tony Abbott, the then Leader of the Opposition, and told him—as I told Bob Brown, the leader of the Australian Greens—that Prime Minister Gillard was supporting that nomination. All three of them enthusiastically and genuinely supported that nomination. He was someone who, in the noise of politics and conflict and petty squabbles that go on, soared above the political landscape—in this building and out there in the community.

To Christine, Ruby, Michael and Heather—and all of his family—I pass my condolences to you. His state funeral was a very historical event. I think it was wonderful to see Sir John Carrick, a good comrade of Tom’s as a prisoner of war. They led parallel lives of different political viewpoints but both are people, for those of us who have come after them, to whom we owe eternal respect for what they did for our nation.

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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