Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
Sep 12, 2017

Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (A More Sustainable, Responsive and Transparent Higher Education System) Bill 2017 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:49): I rise to speak against the Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (A More Sustainable, Responsive and Transparent Higher Education System) Bill 2017. I do so because if this legislation is carried by this parliament it will undermine tertiary education in Australia as we know it. This bill represents a $3.8 billion cut to higher education in this country. It is a cut that’s across the board and a cut that will damage the nature of educational opportunity in this country.

This is a cut, of course, that overwhelmingly will have an impact on young Australians. It is an increase to the average student contribution towards the cost of a degree from 42 per cent up to 46 per cent. It represents a $12,000 decrease to the amount that a graduate is allowed to earn—a decrease to $42,000—before the mandatory repayment of HECS-HELP fees begins. Furthermore, access to Commonwealth supported places for permanent residents and New Zealand citizens studying in Australia will be removed indefinitely. It is ironic, given the debate that has taken place over the citizenship of the Deputy Prime Minister in this country, that they’re undermining the ability and capacity of New Zealand citizens to fully participate in Australian society.

It is a concern that across the board this represents an attack on opportunity. Whilst student contributions are increased and repayment thresholds are lowered for all tertiary institutions, including TAFE and vocational education and training students, those worst hit in this latest round of cuts are our universities. Australian universities are about to be subjected to a 2.5 per cent funding cut that Malcolm Turnbull’s coalition, in its finest example of doublespeak yet, calls an efficiency dividend. Not to mention the 7.5 per cent hike in student fees over the next four years and the removal of Commonwealth supported places for postgraduate students.

This, of course, is about government priorities—whether a government priority is corporate tax cuts for the top end of town or whether it is providing support for the higher education needs of our country. If Australia is going to prosper in the Asian century, we need to prosper on the basis of how smart we are and how innovative we are, and on the capacity of our human capital to compete in this region. We shouldn’t try to compete by lowering wages and conditions and we shouldn’t try to compete by undermining the capacity of our population—particularly our young population—but this is what the government would do. This is what this legislation represents.

It also represents, I believe, a fundamental, philosophical divide across this chamber. Those in the Liberal Party seem to believe that education is just about benefitting the individual—that an individual benefits and gets a higher income, and that they should therefore contribute more to that educational opportunity. The problem with that is twofold. Firstly, it doesn’t understand or take into account the fact that increasing educational opportunity and increasing the capacity of our population—particularly our younger generations—to make the most of themselves and to educate themselves in ways which both contribute commercially to the economy and contribute to their capacity to make a difference in society, is a benefit for that society as a whole. It’s not just about the individual and the benefit to them.

That is a fundamental difference in what Labor has always understood about education: that education is the great enabler. That is why the Hawke government and the Keating government were very proud of the fact that in 1983 some three out of 10 Australian young people completed their Higher School Certificate and, at the end of that period in 1996, that figure was above eight out of 10. That was a great legacy of the Hawke and Keating governments. That followed the great Whitlam government reforms that opened up tertiary education to working-class people.

Many of us who sit in this chamber would be the first people in their families to complete a university degree. I was the first person in my family to complete schooling, let alone a university degree. That means that we maximise the benefit for the individual, but we also maximise the benefit to the economy and to society as a whole by maximising the collective potential of those people who make up our local communities.

Federal Labor came into office in 2007—something that we will be celebrating in coming months. We increased funding for universities from $8 billion to $14 billion over our six years in office, a $6 billion increase in contributions to universities. During that period, we saw again a massive increase in the number of people who were able to go to university. That changed the composition of the people who were going to universities. People from lower and middle incomes who had been missing out then got that opportunity.

Labor also has a plan for TAFE and the vocational education and training sector. The last Labor government contributed over $19 billion in Commonwealth funding towards the VET and TAFE sector, including investment in infrastructure and technology upgrades. There is legislation before this parliament to abolish funds that Labor established—the Building Australia Fund, to build transport infrastructure, which was approved by Infrastructure Australia; and the Education Investment Fund, which was for building education infrastructure around the country. They just want to abolish those.

The reinvigoration of TAFE and VET courses is of particular importance to me. The Design Centre Enmore, one of the most notable TAFEs in New South Wales, resides in the inner west. This centre specialises in industrial design, fashion design and visual design, and has flourished in spite of the cuts to services imposed by the coalition and reinforced by the state government, which has also undermined TAFE. Just down the road, Petersham TAFE in West Street has been forced to close its doors. It specialised in communications. How extraordinary is it that a TAFE centre in a global city like Sydney specialising in communications, giving young people that opportunity, has shut its doors because of cuts by the New South Wales coalition government, reinforced by the attitude of the federal government?

It is because of Labor’s proven track record and our belief in higher education that we will oppose the measures in this bill that increase student fees and lower the HECS, HELP, TAFE and VET repayment thresholds. We oppose these changes, just as we opposed and successfully defeated the proposal from Tony Abbott in the last term of government to have $100,000 degrees. We know that the changes proposed in this legislation come at a time when Australians are paying the sixth-highest level of university fees in the OECD. The memory of university fee deregulation is still fresh in the minds of most. Had this plan been accepted, we would have had a two-tiered higher education system—the privileged, who could afford it, and the underprivileged, who could not. One of the great distinctions and divides in Australian politics is between Labor, who believe in creating opportunity, and our conservative opponents, who believe in entrenching privilege. And that is why we see education as the great enabler.

I am concerned with this legislation and the impact that it has on universities. Universities support more than 130,000 jobs across Australia. If you cut an amount of funding from an institution, somewhere down the line a job is lost. If you cut $3.8 billion from the institutions, you could be certain that the jobs lost will be in the thousands. That’s important in local institutions like the University of Sydney and the University of Technology Sydney, which service my electorate even though they’re just outside my boundaries. But it is also critically important for universities like the University of New England, in Armidale, the University of Newcastle and the University of Wollongong. All of these campuses have had a critical role to play in those local regional economies.

One of the things Australia has been very good at over the years is developing new technology and innovation—whether it be solar technology at the Australian National University or the University of New South Wales or wi-fi and information technology down at the University of Wollongong. Across the board our universities have been world class in innovation, research, ideas and breakthroughs. What we haven’t always been good at it commercialising those opportunities and value-adding so that we create the jobs here in Australia. And the real debate should be how we do that, how we maximise the intellectual capacity that we have here into job creation down the line.

This government really isn’t interested in that, though. A university campus, a TAFE campus or a school they just see as a target for cuts. Australian electrical engineer Dr John O’Sullivan invented an integral component of wi-fi while looking for a way to measure the mass of a black hole. Dr O’Sullivan undertook his undergraduate degree in engineering at Sydney uni. Australian writer Garth Nix penned the Old Kingdom trilogy, an internationally successful series that raised the bar for science fiction and fantasy writers worldwide. He was a graduate of the University of Canberra. Across the board, there is enormous success that we should be proud of.

This legislation would provide a loss of over $600 million in my home state of New South Wales alone. This legislation is not worthy of support in this parliament. This legislation will undermine our capacity as an economy. It will hurt individuals and their capacity to make the most of themselves in life and provide support to their family. It will undermine our standing on the global stage, where we’ve been very proud of the high ranking that our universities have reached over recent years. Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon with which you can change the world. Nelson Mandela was right. This legislation is wrong.

Sep 11, 2017

Statements by Members – Infrastructure

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:54): Nothing signifies this government’s neglect of regional Australia more than having a look at the gap between the rhetoric and the reality when it comes to infrastructure. Let’s have a look. Black spots: promised $220 million over three years; actual: $115 million. Heavy Vehicles Safety and Productivity Program around those regional roads: promised $171 million in the first three years; delivered: $64.6 million, cut by $107 million—the Bruce Highway cut and the Pacific Highway cut. The Northern Australia Investment Facility: not a single dollar actually spent. The only money that has gone out is for the board meetings that are held in the CBD in Sydney! Not a single dollar out of that program! Financial assistance grants: frozen.

Then comes the New England Highway—the Bolivia Hill upgrade, the Tenterfield bypass and the Scone bypass, funded by the previous federal Labor government: nothing done in 2014, nothing done in 2015 and nothing in 2016. It’s taken the member for New England facing a by-election before they’ve even called tenders!

What a joke! This is a government that has contempt for regional Australia until they face a by-election. Then they turn themselves to action. 

(Time expired)

Sep 5, 2017

Regional Development and Decentralisation Committee Report

Federation Chamber
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:16): I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate as the shadow minister for regional development, and to be able to outline what four years of neglect and failure mean in our regions when it comes, particularly, to energy, to the National Broadband Network, to infrastructure investment and to water policy. Energy is what I will begin with.

When it comes to energy, there’s a bit of a debate as to whether there should be a new coal-fired power station in Northern Queensland, or whether, indeed, renewable energy is the future. Last fortnight, I visited Hughenden, Kidston and the Kennedy Project in north-west Queensland with the member for Kennedy, Bob Katter. There we looked at the reality of what is happening on the ground, not because of the coalition government, but in spite of the federal government. There we looked at exciting projects which are taking place.

The Kidston Solar Project is about 280 kilometres north-west of Townsville. It sits on the side of the abandoned gold mine, which ceased production around the turn of the century. The developer, Genex, came up with the quite ingenious idea of redeveloping the site as a solar and pumped hydro facility, taking advantage of the existing mine infrastructure. The company is installing 537,000 photovoltaic cells mounted on a tracking system that will follow the sun across the sky. Once fully commissioned early next year, this facility will generate enough electricity to power more than 26,000 homes, with its second stage set to add more capacity, making it the largest solar farm in Australia.

As part of stage 2, the company will utilise the old mine’s tailings dam to create a 250-megawatt pumped storage hydro project. Some of the power produced by the sun by day will be used to pump water up to the dam, and at night the water will be used to drive turbines. This integration of solar and pumped storage will provide stability to the grid and a pathway to the 24/7 supply of renewable energy.

I also visited what will soon become the site of the Kennedy Energy Park located outside of Hughenden. This project will combine solar, wind and battery storage to create renewable energy on a scale comparable to Queensland’s large coal-fired power plants like Tarong and Stanwell—enough electricity to power up to a million homes. Both projects have been strongly backed by the Palaszczuk Queensland Labor government, but they might have withered on the vine without the mitigation of risk through the support of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, both of which were set up by the former federal Labor government and which are agencies that the current government tried to abolish when it came to office.

The current government is also continuing to resist Professor Finkel’s recommendation of a clean energy target to provide the certainty for investment that’s required. Regional Australia will particularly benefit from certainty in investment and job creation. On the ground, the ideological conflict between the Abbott forces and the Turnbull forces in this coalition government are completely irrelevant to the people of Hughenden, to the people who are creating jobs and to the people who are developing north-west Queensland.

Moving to other opportunities for decentralisation when it comes to infrastructure, we hear a lot of rhetoric from this government about infrastructure investment. What we don’t actually see is dollars. When it comes to the Bruce Highway and the Pacific Highway, the major routes up the east coast of Australia, we haven’t seen new investment from the coalition government. What we’ve seen is the government relying upon the investment that was put in place by the former Labor government. Projects which the member for Maranoa mentioned, such as the Warrego Highway, were already in the budget. We haven’t seen any additional investment there. The Parliamentary Budget Office has advised that over the coming decade infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP will fall from 0.4 per cent to 0.2 per cent—a halving of investment. Over the forward estimates, from an estimate of over $9 billion that was supposed to be spent last year, investment declines to $4.2 billion in 2021—it falls off a cliff—and it is regional Australia that will suffer as a result. There will be not only fewer short-term jobs and less activity in the construction sector but also, in the long-run, much less economic activity.

There is one powerhouse project that the government could support to support regional economic development and decentralisation, and that is high-speed rail from Brisbane to Melbourne through Sydney and Canberra. High-speed rail would provide an economic stimulus to towns along the route such as Lismore, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, the Southern Highlands, down through to this great inland city, the bush capital of Canberra, then through Wagga Wagga, Albury and Shepparton. Yet this government has withdrawn the funds that were there to establish a high-speed rail authority when it came to office.

The next issue that the government could address is the National Broadband Network. The National Broadband Network is vital for creating the same business and economic opportunities for people, whether they live in the CBD of our capital cities or whether they live in a regional centre. In terms of the competitive advantage that the NBN would bring to regional Australia where it has been turned on properly in places with fibre to the home and with fibre to the business, it has certainly done that. It would enable a business in Coffs Harbour to compete on the same basis for international contracts and international business opportunities as one based in George Street in Sydney. Yet this government has this so-called hybrid model, which is essentially that if you can afford to have fibre connected to your home, you can pay for it. But for everyone else it is a matter of privilege. And sometimes it is just a matter of accident. Depending upon where in a regional town you live, you might have fibre on one side of the street and copper—second-rate delivery—on the other side of the street. That will impact the economic value of those homes. It is quite extraordinary that the National Broadband Network has had to concede that its development of fibre technology is such that it can be rolled out more cheaply than the millions of metres of copper wire that have been purchased by the current government—it is quite extraordinary that that would happen—in 2017.

Lastly, when it comes to the proper management of our water resources, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin, we have seen a failure by this government to manage those issues properly. We have referrals to various corruption agencies as a result of that, but it is a complete failure of government leadership. Whether it is high-speed rail, water management, energy, the National Broadband Network, rail or road infrastructure, this government is failing regional Australia and that is why it is suffering a decline of support in regional Australia. The huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality of this government means it stands condemned.

Aug 14, 2017

Bills – Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:08): I’m very pleased to follow my friend and colleague the member for Blaxland and that the member for Greenway and the member for Werriwa are in the chamber as well—three other Sydney MPs who represent multicultural electorates and who are proud of the fact that Australia is the nation that we are today because, with the exception of the First Australians, we are all descendants of migrants, be they British migrants or migrants from all over the world who have come to make Australia their home.

When I see a bill which is aimed at an existing law, my starting point is always: what problem is it trying to fix? If something’s broken then it is the responsibility of this parliament to intervene, to create new laws, to update the laws of the nation and to make sure that laws become fit for purpose. But this piece of legislation—indeed, even the very title of the bill, including the word ‘strengthening’—implies there is something weak about the existing arrangements. We’re asked to accept that being able to speak conversational English is no longer sufficient for people to become Australian citizens. This is snobbery of the highest order. We’ll now require people to pass a university-level English test—a test which, frankly, I would question whether members of this House would be able to do. We’re asked to accept that being a law-abiding citizen who has lived here for four years is no longer enough to justify the privilege of Australian citizenship. Under these changes, people would be required to demonstrate that they possess Australian values and that they have integrated into our community.

Now, I am always pleased to keep an open mind when it comes to legislative amendments, but the truth is that there is no evidence that this legislation is necessary. It didn’t originate in the bureaucracy. It certainly didn’t come from our national security agencies. It has its genesis in the ideological obsession of some of those opposite in the Liberal Party—a Liberal Party that is prepared to play politics with issues of our national citizenship. To me, the issues of citizenship, national security and law and order should be taken very seriously indeed. What they shouldn’t become is a plaything for the Liberal Party’s internal divisions—divisions based upon some in the Liberal Party who hark back to a golden era of white picket fences, an Anglo Saxon culture being predominant in this country, a lack of diversity and a lack of modernism that has made Australia the successful nation that we are today. My fear is that this legislation is all about the culture wars, where the Prime Minister has been prepared to just throw out all the things that he knows Australia needs. He is prepared to throw out decades of conviction that he has held in order to appease the culture warriors in the right wing of the Liberal Party.

This is an extraordinary proposition that has come before the parliament, which is why we have referred the bill to a Senate inquiry and why the member for Watson has moved such a comprehensive second reading amendment to it. There have been no arguments put up for its adoption. Let’s just have a look at some of the issues which are specifically created by this legislation. Firstly, there is the issue of the English tests. The fact is that the tests which people currently sit for are, of course, written in English. The existing courses teach what is known as competent standards under the International English Language Testing System. The proposed change means that what would actually be required to be competent in English would be a university level of English, which would change the whole dynamic. One of the great privileges that we have as members of parliament is attending citizenship ceremonies. What we have then, as in my part of the world, is people from all over the world—Asia in our region, South America, Africa and Europe—who come to pledge their allegiance to this great nation. It is extraordinary the emotion that people feel. There is no better place to be in Australia than at Enmore Park on Australia Day, on the afternoon of those citizenship ceremonies. There are tears, there are hugs, there are people proudly waving the Australian flag, there are speeches and there is a huge gathering of the family and friends of those people who are becoming citizens on that day. It seems to me to be quite remarkable that the legislation before us is aimed at making the process harder and longer before people can enjoy those ceremonies. That flies in the face of what we should be doing as a nation, which is encouraging people to declare their allegiance to Australia—encouraging people to become full citizens and to participate fully in the civic life of this country.

These people currently pay taxes and they work damn hard in this country. If you have a look at the sorts of people who do these jobs, menial work in particular, whether it be in the agricultural sector or whether it be cleaning our offices here in this building, you see that they tend to be people who have come to Australia to make a better life for themselves and for their families. They don’t ask for much. What they do ask for—and what they expect and what they deserve—is respect. And that is what this legislation does not give them. This legislation changes the parameter of the debate from one in which we’re encouraging people to become citizens to one in which we’re thinking up barriers to citizenship and barriers to that civic participation, including voting—which may well be the motivation of those who are putting forward this proposition.

The extraordinary thing about the requirement for university-level English is that none of the proposals put forward by the government speak about an increase in funding to assist people to learn English. Indeed, the changes to the Adult Migrant English Service and other organisations and the attacks on TAFE have undermined participation by community members. We don’t expect people to have a PhD in English in order to be citizens, unless we’re deliberately putting the qualification bar so high that we are excluding people. Another issue in the bill is the extension of the time for people to be eligible to become citizens.

It is interesting that national security agencies haven’t even been consulted on the issues in the legislation. We take a bipartisan approach to national security issues. I had another briefing this morning about transport security. I’ve worked very constructively with the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Darren Chester, on all the issues that have been raised in recent times about threats to our security, and Labor has never played politics with these issues. But there is no national security justification for these moves.

This, of course, goes to Australian values. Australian values are about respect for democracy and respect for the rule of law. We’re also talking about the Australian value of the fair go. The truth is that the fair go is given short shrift by this legislation. The legislation also gives the minister the right to set aside Administrative Appeals Tribunal findings concerning character and identity if the minister believes it is in the public interest. Labor have reserved our position on that. We want to see some evidence, though, that that is necessary, and that’s one of the things that we’ll consider through the Senate process. The process up to now has been atrociously handled by the government, with a sham community consultation process. There certainly hasn’t been adequate consultation with the communities who will be directly affected by this. Multicultural leaders who go out and promote Australian citizenship have had that process undermined.

Today, a day on which the great Les Murray, one of the champions of multiculturalism in this country, is being farewelled at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, is a day on which it is timely to remind the House of the contribution that people who’ve come from across the world have made to Australia. Les Murray, who came here as a young boy in 1957 in the wake of the Hungarian uprising, put down by the Stalinists in 1956, made an incredible contribution to turning football into the amazing participation sport that it is in this country today. He was also a constant advocate of multiculturalism and, from such humble origins, an iconic figure in this country. Indeed, he became a character in popular culture with the TISM song, What Nationality is Les Murray?—one of my favourites, where the chorus is ‘Les is more’—because everything about Les Murray was larger than life, and I think that his contribution should be valued.

We have heard a lot about Australian values, and part of that is respect and inclusion. I do want to make a brief comment about the rejection by Waverley Council and the Land and Environment Court recently of a planning proposal to establish a Jewish synagogue at Bondi. This is a very poor sign for our country. We cannot allow the threat of terrorism and violence to stop people being able to practise their faith, whatever faith that is. Whether it be a Jewish synagogue, or an Islamic mosque, or a Catholic Church, or a Buddhist temple, people have a right to practise their faith in this country. We shouldn’t ever, ever concede that because some would threaten a particular faith or group of people in our society we should allow those threats to be successful. I think that was quite an appalling decision, and I want to put on the record my opposition to it.

Australians are made up of people of different religions, different ethnicities, different racial backgrounds, different genders and different sexualities, but we make Australia what it is today—this great melting pot—through citizenship. I think that we should support the amendment that has been moved by the member for Watson, and the government really needs to reconsider where it’s going with its approach to Australian citizenship—it should be something that we’re advocating, not something that we’re making harder.

Aug 14, 2017

Private Members’ Business – 50th Anniversary of ASEAN

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:15): I rise to support the motion on ASEAN moved by the member for Bruce, and I congratulate him on this initiative. This year marks 50 years since the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was founded. Since its inception, ASEAN’s membership has grown and today it includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Australia’s relationship with ASEAN dates back more than 40 years to 1974, when we became its very first dialogue partner—yet another groundbreaking, international initiative of the Whitlam government.

In the past 50 years, the world has seen a great deal of change in a number of areas—improved outcomes in health and education, a great many people lifted out of poverty, massive advancements in technology and changes to the pattern of human migration. Throughout these decades, ASEAN has promoted peace and stability in an extraordinarily large region, and it should be congratulated for this. The rewards of this effort can be seen in the region’s economic growth. In the years from 2001 to 2014, ASEAN’s combined GDP rose threefold to approximately $2.5 trillion. Today, ASEAN collectively is one of our largest trading partners and the importance of our strategic partnership with ASEAN cannot be understated.

It is a very simple fact that Australia must be engaged in this part of the world. To put it in context, ASEAN’s combined population of more than 620 million is larger than the European Union or North America, and 65 per cent of this population is under 35 years old. What’s more, ASEAN is home to a rising middle class, which has more and more money to spend and therefore contribute to the Australian national economy. This is particularly important, given the role that tourism plays. Tourism has been identified by Deloitte Access Economics as one of five supergrowth sectors. It supports more than one million jobs and generates nearly $100 billion in economic activity. The 2018 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit is the first of its kind and will provide an unprecedented opportunity to showcase our nation to the ASEAN members and dialogue partners. It is being held in Sydney.

As we continue to grow our relationship with ASEAN, it’s clear tourism is one important beneficiary. Indeed, of Tourism Australia’s 16 core markets, three of these—Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia—are part of ASEAN. We have been fortunate to see international visitors from these countries increasingly choose Australia as their tourist destination. For the year ending March 2017, the number of visitors to Australia from Singapore rose seven per cent, from Malaysia 11 per cent and from Indonesia 18 per cent—an excellent testimony to the relationship Australia has with the people of these nations.

We should also look to ASEAN for best practice when it comes to our shared challenges. The fact is there’s much we can learn from each other. Urbanisation is one such example. I visited Singapore earlier this year to look at their urban policy. As a city state, Singapore is leading the world in many areas, and one of the areas is the rollout of high-speed broadband, where they actually used the Australian model as an example—except that they kept going with it and didn’t abandon it for a third-rate copper network.

As the member for Grayndler, the fact is I’m very fortunate to represent an electorate that is a melting pot of multiculturalism. Our multiculturalism, language skills and relationship with the region can be a great source of not just social and cultural benefit but also benefit to our economy. More than 1.3 million Australian residents were either born in ASEAN countries or have South-East Asian ancestry. We all benefit from the fact that Australia is a dialogue partner with ASEAN. I look forward to seeing Australia deepen its collaboration in the coming years, and I congratulate ASEAN on this important celebration of 50 years.

Aug 10, 2017

Condolence Statements – Mr Les James Murray AM

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:44): I rise to pay tribute to the great Les Murray. Les Murray was born Laszlo Urge in November 1945 in a small town on the outskirts of Budapest in Hungary. The family migrated to Australia in 1957 under the Hungarian Refugee Assistance Scheme in the wake of the Hungarian uprising of 1956 that was crushed by the Stalinists of the Soviet Union. By the end of 1967, Australia had provided sanctuary to about 14,000 Hungarian refugees, bringing the total of first-generation Hungarians in Australia to just over 30,000. Les Murray never forgot where he came from and was a strong supporter of the rights of refugees and a passionate supporter of multiculturalism in this great country.

Murray had an extraordinary passion for football, known, when I was growing up, as soccer. When I was talking to him at Drummoyne Oval a few years ago, at the upgrade opening, he was very proud of the fact that, when I was young and he was younger, you had to talk about soccer. And you couldn’t call it football—if you did, people would assume you were talking about rugby league or, in the southern states, Australian Rules Football. But, over his lifetime, it successfully became the No. 1 sport for young people in this country. It also became, of course, as we have seen recently with the extraordinary success of the Matildas, a game played by both young boys and young girls in ever increasing numbers.

He had been interested in football from a very early age, but his passion was sparked after watching a replay of the 1960 European Cup final. He began working as a journalist in 1971. In between time, he found time to perform in a rock music group, Rubber Band, where he was the lead singer. He moved to Network Ten as a commentator in 1977, where he changed his name to Les Murray. The interesting thing about Les Murray is just what a cult figure he became. Indeed, TISM, the Melbourne band, have this wonderful song—What Nationality is Les Murray?—in which excerpts of the recordings of Les Murray calling games, pronouncing everyone’s name absolutely correctly and in which his passion for the game shines through.

He moved to SBS in 1980 as a Hungarian language subtitler but soon turned to covering football. He was president at the outset of the National Soccer League, and he hosted several World Cup broadcasts as the sport transitioned to the A-League era and as the Socceroos, after a long gap from 1974, returned to playing in the World Cup. He always referred to football as The World Game, which was the title of the SBS’s football program. He also referred to it as the beautiful game, a common name given to soccer because of its simplicity and because of the skills that are on display. Murray was inducted into the Football Federation Australia Hall of Fame in 2003 before he retired in 2014. Murray was made a member of the Order of Australia for services to football on 12 June 2006, as part of the Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Les Murray has two daughters, Tania, a singer song-writer, and Natalie, a television journalist and presenter. Michael Ebeid, the CEO of SBS had this to say:

No one better embodied what SBS represents than Les Murray. From humble refugee origins, he became one of Australia’s most recognised and loved sporting identities. Not just a football icon, but a great Australian story and an inspiration to many, to say that his contribution to SBS and to football was enormous, doesn’t do it justice. This is a devastating loss for all of us …

Indeed, Australia had no greater champion of multiculturalism than Les Murray. There is no greater champion of the way that sport can unify us as a nation and, indeed, us as a human race than Les Murray. His passionate support for young people, his support for equality, his opposition to racism and his determination to lift up this country was quite extraordinary. As someone who arrived here from such humble beginnings as a refugee, I think he deserves to be considered up there with any of our sporting heroes. I pay tribute to Les Murray and I pass on my condolences to his family, to his many thousands of friends and also to the millions of Australians who will miss hearing him call The World Game.

Jun 20, 2017

Condolence – Mr Mark Colvin

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:37): I rise to pay tribute to Mark Colvin, who was a constituent of mine who lived in Lilyfield in the inner west of Sydney. Of all the tributes I read after the passing last month of Mark, I was most touched by a piece written by one of his colleagues, Stephen McDonnell, the ABC’s former China correspondent. Stephen wrote:

You would walk out of the office after PM had gone to air, and there he would be sitting next to a young reporter going through their story.

Stephen wrote that Mark could be overheard going through the reporter’s copy line by line. He would say:

“You could’ve flipped the piece around; what about this question instead? You’ve buried this information; here you could be a bit cheeky.”

This description of Mark as a concerned mentor speaks volumes for the man. Journalists are a bit like politicians; it is a very competitive business. They are all chasing stories and always aiming to be first. Yet here was one of the best-known journalists in the country, finished a hectic work day but still happy to make time to share the benefit of his experience with a young journalist. This does not surprise me. He was indeed a very generous man.

He was born in the UK in 1952. He moved to Australia aged 21 after studying literature at Oxford. He was certainly well read, and indeed, as others have said, he was a Renaissance man. He fell into journalism after stint as a builder’s labourer. In his early years he worked as a cub reporter on Double J. But his talent was quickly recognised. He was promoted to the ABC’s London bureau before he had turned 30. He worked in London and around the world reporting on all the iconic ABC programs, including AM, PM and Four Corners. He was the first host of The World Today when it began back in 1984.

Of course, in his later years Australians knew him as the host of PM. So many of us would end our day driving home or on public transport listening to that very recognisable voice. Throughout the 1980s he covered the biggest stories of his time, including the rise of the Solidarity movement in Poland and the break-up of the former Soviet Union.

When he was stationed in Africa in 1984 he picked up a rare virus while covering the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda. The illness ended his career as a foreign correspondent and left him with health problems that continued for the rest of his life. Others have commented about his now famous kidney transplant, which is the subject of a play, titled Mark Colvin’s Kidney that is running, and will continue to run.

Mark was also someone who refused to look back. He was a keen music fan and, unlike many people as they get older, he moved with the times, keeping up with the musical trends of the day. With the same spirit he embraced social media. He was a keen Twitter user and described himself in his profile as:

Lifetime Lance-Corporal in the Awkward Squad.

So many people who use Twitter use it to attack others; Mark used it to pass on interesting information or to praise others, consistent with his generosity.

Another close friend of Mark’s was the former head of the Australian Security Intelligence Service, Nick Warner. He commented on Mark’s passing:

He never took sides, he was interested in presenting the facts, not pushing a particular line.

Indeed, Mark Colvin was universally renowned for being fair, which for a journalist is the gold standard in career achievement.

Mark died on 19 May. I express my condolences to his family, including his partner, Michelle McKenzie, who was a Leichhardt councillor on the former Leichhardt Council in my electorate in Leichhardt, and his sons, Nicholas and William. Vale Mark Colvin.

Jun 19, 2017

Statements by Members – WestConnex

Federation Chamber 

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:27): I want to take the opportunity to raise the impacts of the WestConnex project on St Peters, a community in my electorate. The fact is that St Peters has suffered substantially not just from the compulsory acquisition of tens of homes but also where the state government literally withheld a report that they had about the financial compensation that should be due to those homeowners. They have suffered from the demolition of those homes and factories in their area, much of which has had an impact on local schools, particularly St Peters Public School. But since March they have suffered from a noxious smell that has impacted the local community from the fact that much of the major works is in an old tip. Indeed, the Environment Protection Authority produced a prevention notice to contractors in March which said that they should ‘undertake all reasonable and feasible measures to prevent leachate from pooling’ and to cover or remove pooled leachate as soon as practicable. That has not happened. Children are being kept inside St Peters Public School, unable to play or go out at lunch. This needs to be fixed by the state government. and it needs to be fixed now.

Jun 13, 2017

Questions without notice – Rail

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:36): My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project was approved by Infrastructure Australia in 2012, was the subject of a detailed agreement between the federal and Queensland governments in 2013 and was funded in the 2013 budget? Why is the Prime Minister purporting to support public transport in our cities while pretending that this essential project is not ready to go?

Jun 13, 2017

Questions without notice – National Rail Program

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:28): My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that under the so-called National Rail Program not a single dollar is available in this entire term of parliament? There is nothing this year, nothing next year and nothing the year after that. Isn’t the National Rail Program in fact the new NAIF—the ‘No Actual Infrastructure Fund’?

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Email: A.Albanese.MP@aph.gov.au

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