Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
Dec 4, 2017

Resolutions of the Senate – Asylum Seekers – Consideration of Senate Message

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:35): I rise to support this resolution from the Senate. I do so and say to the government that this is an opportunity for it to rise to the occasion. There are many things that this resolution is not about. This resolution does not stop offshore processing. This resolution does not assist people smugglers. This resolution is consistent with getting an outcome. At the end of the day, the government is responsible for outcomes, not just rhetoric. The PNG court determined in April 2016 what the closing date of the Manus facility would be. In April 2017, the government came to an agreement with the government of Papua New Guinea that it would close. Yet the UNHCR has indicated that the alternative facilities simply weren’t all ready at the time of closure.

What you also have is men who have been in detention for 4½ years with still no security as to what the future is for them. People who commit crimes, serious crimes, are often not detained for that period of time. A majority of these people have been found to be refugees—that is, they have been found under our international obligations to be deserving of Australia’s care. It has been found that we have a responsibility to these people. We simply cannot have the approach of the minister, which is to say: ‘This is nothing to do with me. This is something to do with the government of Papua New Guinea, nothing to do with Australia.’ The fact is that you can be tough on people smugglers without being weak on humanity. We on this side of the House take that approach. What we won’t do is just wash our hands of the responsibilities that Australia clearly has.

The minister says that he won’t consider the resettlement option in New Zealand now. But he leaves it open for the future. He indicates that’s correct. If not now, when? What is to be gained, apart from politics, in leaving these people in further uncertainty when the New Zealand government—under both the conservatives, under the leadership of John Key, and now under the leadership of Jacinda Ardern—has offered to assist these individuals but also, frankly, to assist Australia. If the minister says we have no responsibility, if he doesn’t think that this is impacting on Australia’s standing in the world, then he is wrong, I say to him, with respect. He might disagree with that assessment—people can look at objective facts and come to different conclusions—but it is a fact, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, that this is impacting on Australia’s standing in the world.

It is also a fact that John Howard, a person he admires, led a government where John Howard, in spite of the rhetoric, said that the people who were on the Tampa would never settle in Australia and never settle in New Zealand—that they’d be sent home. The fact is that many of those people are today settled here in Australia as Australian citizens and many of those people settled in New Zealand. Very clearly it would be possible for these people to come to an arrangement, which New Zealand has indicated would be possible, whereby they commit—they’ve said they would want to if they were settled in New Zealand—to stay there because they would feel welcome there because of the actions of the New Zealand government and the New Zealand opposition.

A good friend of mine, Father Dave Smith of Holy Trinity Church in Dulwich Hill, visited Manus Island a few weeks ago. It is interesting to look at the interviews that Father Dave, as he’s known, had with the people there. This is someone who travelled there out of his view of what a Christian should do. I have disagreements with him on some issues politically, it must be said, but there is no question whatsoever of his genuineness. There are so many Australians who are looking for a genuine outcome when it comes to this situation. The fact is that a genuine outcome is settlement in third countries.

If the government can say it’s okay for people to settle in the United States and that that wouldn’t provide a pull factor but somehow New Zealand is not okay then that is an extraordinary proposition. If the minister doesn’t think that it’s possible to deal with the issue of the relationship of New Zealand visas into Australia then I think he’s wrong there. Quite clearly, with a little bit of leadership rather than ongoing rhetoric—and I disagree very strongly with some of the characterisations that have been made personally against the minister. I don’t think that adds to the debate at all. I’m not seeking to do that here at all. What I am seeking to do is to say that these people, who have been in detention at what was intended to be a processing centre to then settle people in third countries, not in Australia, have now been there for 4½ years, and that is just too long. That is having an impact on their mental health as well as their physical health. It would for anyone.

When I was at my good old Catholic school, one of the values that I was taught was about putting yourself in other people’s positions. I say to the minister: put yourself in the position of those people. The minister needs, frankly, to act with a little bit more maturity rather than the sort of knee-jerk ‘Let’s hold these people almost as political hostages.’ That is unacceptable.

The fact is that these people need a solution. That is why we are prepared to support this resolution. We are trying to help the minister find a way out of his predicament, frankly, because, at the moment, the way isn’t just to stay in a circumstance whereby he says, ‘Oh well, this is all about Labor.’ This is about the minister. He has a responsibility. This resolution provides a way forward.

The SPEAKER: The original question was that the motion be agreed to. To this the honourable member for Melbourne has moved an amendment, so the immediate question is that the amendment moved by the member for Melbourne be agreed to.

Dec 4, 2017

Statements by Members – Petition: Small Breweries

Federation Chamber
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:13): I begin my contribution by tabling a petition of 1,477 signatures calling for an end to the current unfair tax treatment of small brewers in Australia. I do that to support the craft brewing sector, a sector that, I know, has got some bipartisan support in this parliament. The petition recognises the inequity which is there for how the Commonwealth excise is calculated between small- and large-scale brewers, disadvantaging the smaller craft brewers. In simple terms, this means that the current rate of federal excise charged for a keg containing 50 litres of beer is less than the rate charged for a keg containing 30 litres. With excise making up approximately 40 per cent of operating costs for most craft breweries, this must change.

Craft breweries are growing. There are now over 400 around Australia. They are small businesses employing people in local communities and providing a centre for community activity in our suburbs and in our regions right around Australia. They will contribute some $35 billion to the overseas market by 2020. The sector has become an economic powerhouse. With proper support from the federal government, there is enormous potential for future growth. It should get that support.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Claydon ): The document will be forwarded to the Petitions Committee for its consideration. It will be accepted subject to confirmation by the committee that it conforms with the standing orders.

Dec 4, 2017

Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:06): I’m proud to stand in support of the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 moved by the member for Leichhardt in this parliament today.

In June 1990, my courageous friend Paul O’Grady, a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, came out as a gay man. He was most certainly not the first gay man elected to the New South Wales parliament, but it took until 1990 for someone to have the confidence to declare their sexuality openly. When I discussed this move with Paul, he said very clearly, ‘I am who I am.’ It was an act of courage that made it much easier for other people in the same circumstance as Paul to openly declare their sexuality. In 1993, three years later, he and his partner, Murray, were attacked and harassed on William Street. Paul O’Grady, a member of the Legislative Council, dialled triple 0. He tried to convince the person on the other end of the phone that he was being threatened by a gang of youths in what was known colloquially as ‘poofter bashing’, which occurred then and still occurs today. He was hung up on, a member of the Legislative Council.

When we talk about discrimination and the fear in society created by intolerance and hatred, it is important today to recognise the courage of those gay men and lesbian women over decades in which debate was far different to what it is today. People like Paul, I think, couldn’t have imagined us having a debate in the parliament with such broad support for marriage equality across the political spectrum. So today I begin by paying tribute to people like Paul; to people like Craig Johnston, a Sydney city councillor; to people like Lex Watson, the academic; to people like Julie McCrossin; to all those people who marched in 1978 in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. They marched not in a parade that was being cheered and shown on national television; they marched in a parade towards a confrontation with police, who locked them up, who assaulted them and who abused them.

Part of the reason that today is so important is that today, in supporting this legislation, we are saying that we are a tolerant nation, that we are a respectful nation and that we are a nation that is stronger because of our diversity. I think it is unfortunate that we will be one of the last advanced industrialised nations to recognise marriage equality when this legislation is passed. Nonetheless, catching up with the rest of the world is a good thing. I pay tribute to all those who did the hard yards—the really hard yards—to get us to this place.

In 1996, in my first speech in this chamber, I mentioned removing discrimination on the basis of sexuality. In my first term of parliament, after consultation with the gay and lesbian community, I moved the Superannuation (Entitlements of same sex couples) Bill in this chamber. It says something about where the debate was then compared with now that we couldn’t even get a debate on that issue; that legislation wasn’t even supported by every member of my own party. But what it did was lay some groundwork for a debate within my party about the need to tackle discrimination. And, of course, eventually, under the first term of the Rudd Labor government, we removed some 84 pieces of discrimination that were in legislation. This was discrimination not just in areas like superannuation, but in social security, immigration and health care.

When I was first elected, there were very real circumstances of partners of loved ones being denied access to their partners when they were in hospital. There were issues whereby couples who shared houses were thrown out of the house that they had lived in with their partner because of non-acceptance by the family of that partner. The scourge, of course, of HIV-AIDS was still having a massive impact—including, of course, taking the life of Paul O’Grady, who showed his courage once again in openly declaring that he was HIV-positive and therefore being able to lead a campaign for the care that was required. Of course, Neal Blewett, as health minister in the Labor government, led the world in responding to the HIV-AIDS epidemic, literally resulting in thousands of lives being saved.

So, today, this is unfinished business on that march towards equality, in the march towards respect for each other. It is a reminder that society does move forward, although not always in a straight line. Opponents of progress do fight for the status quo. Reactionaries do seek to turn back the gains of the past. But here in this parliament progress is moving forward. Human rights are moving forward. Parliament is not leading in this case, of course; we’re following. We are following the voluntary postal ballot that was held.

I am very proud to support this legislation, and I won’t be supporting amendments to this legislation. This has been through the process of a Senate committee. This itself is a compromise to this legislation. It’s one that will not have an impact on religious freedom. I’m a strong supporter of religious liberty. People would be aware that, unlike many of my colleagues, at ALP national conferences I have strongly argued, even when I’ve been in a minority, for these issues to be dealt with as a conscience vote. I firmly believe that that’s the case. I’ve consistently argued that on the ALP national executive regardless of what people who I normally agree with have to say on those matters and I will continue to do so.

But the fact is that people’s religious freedom will not be impacted by this legislation just as marriage won’t be undermined by this legislation. Indeed, the institution of marriage will be strengthened by this legislation by more people being able to participate in it. During the postal ballot campaign, with people I had respectful discussions with, I indicated that I would support the Dean Smith bill, that it was the model that was there. Those who insisted on having a postal ballot should, I believe, accept the result. We asked Australians for their views, and they gave us their answer. As a result of this legislation, not much will change. All that will happen is that one group of Australians who currently don’t have the same rights that I had to marry my life partner, my wife, and other people have to marry their partner of the opposite sex will have the same right to celebrate their lifelong commitment to their partner in front of their family and friends. Weddings are joyful occasions when people come together to witness the affirmation of love, and won’t it be a good thing when more people can participate in it?

The issue of religious liberty is one that I take seriously, and I look forward to the deliberations of the committee that has been established under Philip Ruddock and will be reporting next year. I certainly have always been respectful of people who disagree with my position on marriage equality. That is why I’ve argued for a conscience vote to be the way that this issue and other issues such as this are determined. I don’t believe that people should ever be in a circumstance of having to choose between their allegiance to their political party and to their spirituality and their faith. I strongly believe that that’s the case. But this legislation will not have any such consequences. Indeed, once this legislation is carried, people will wonder what the fuss was all about, because it won’t undermine anyone’s existing relationships; it will just strengthen the relationships of people who choose to have their relationships solemnised in a marriage who are in same-sex relationships.

I do want to say this about some of this debate though. Some have sought to speak about how every child in the world needs a mother and a father. We’ve got a bit of a debate at the moment about citizenship in this parliament as well. People would be aware that I was raised by a single mother and in circumstances whereby, every time I hear that, what I hear is intolerance. What I hear is that somehow some families are better than others. What is truthful is that what matters in a family is love and care. I was in a two-person family and I got from my mother all the love in the world that I—that anyone—could have asked for. People in same-sex relationships with children of same-sex relationships are parents who have gone out of their way to have children and to care for them and love them, and what matters in a family is love. It’s as simple as that. No family structure is better than any other, and I really believe that one of the important things about the legislation before us today is that that will be formalised by the parliament.

In conclusion, can I say that this legislation is a good moment in this parliament. Some of the best moments since I’ve been here, whether I’ve been on the majority or minority side, have been conscience votes. I think we should have more of them, not less, frankly, whereby parliamentarians can make their contribution. I want to say that it’s particularly good to be with people like the member for Sydney, the member for Melbourne Ports and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Penny Wong, in particular, who has shown such courage over a long period of time, in internal and external debates, to get us to the position we’re in today. The member for Leichhardt has also shown great courage in advancing this issue within his party, and I pay tribute to him and others who have been prepared to really push this issue and ensure this reform happens.

It is, however, of course, the Australian people who have led the parliament on this issue. I’ve been convinced for some time that a majority of Australians had shifted their view to favour marriage equality some time ago. I hear many Australians say: ‘I didn’t used to support marriage equality. I do now.’ I don’t know of anyone who has said it to me the other way around—who has changed their mind from ‘yes’ to ‘no’. Australians want us to live and let live. They’ve decided that as individuals we have no right to cast judgements on love as it is felt by others. I commend the bill to the House. (Time expired)

Oct 26, 2017

Personal Explanations

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:21): I wish to make a personal explanation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): Does the member claim to have been misrepresented?

Mr ALBANESE: I do. This morning on Sky News, Minister Porter was interviewed by Kieran Gilbert. The interview said:

Kieran Gilbert: It was emerged earlier in the day. Mr Albanese made the assertion, then reports emerged. Surely amid the speculation that there was a tip-off there would have been questions asked.

Minister Porter: Well, Mr Albanese’s assertion was that the minister herself had called the media, which—

Kieran Gilbert: Was not far off.

Minister Porter: Well, that is a very serious assertion itself.

Kieran Gilber: It wasn’t far off. It was from her office.

Minister Porter: It was very far off. It was absolutely wrong.

Earlier this morning I tabled my comments from the FIVEaa program yesterday in a debate with Christopher Pyne in the Two Tribes segment. I think it’s now accepted that I absolutely said that it was the minister’s staff who had briefed the media. We now know that that is a fact. Minister Porter contacted me and apologised for his error. I accept his apology and note that that is a mature way in which members should deal with each other. I’m yet to receive an apology from Minister Cash.

Oct 26, 2017

Personal Explanations

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

Mr ALBANESE: Yes, on multiple occasions.

The SPEAKER: Please proceed.

Mr ALBANESE: Senator Cash, before the Senate estimates yesterday, made statements about me that were untrue, that she now knows were untrue and acknowledges are untrue. She said the following, ‘My understanding was that Mr Albanese said that I was tipping off the press gallery personally; that was what was put to me’. On other occasion she told the Senate: ‘Several outrageous slurs were made against me today—for example, that I was personally phoning the media gallery. If Anthony Albanese would like to apologise for that statement then he can.’ On a third occasion, Senator Cash, in response to questions from Senator Cameron, said: ‘I had a question time briefing with the Prime Minister and that is it. That is the only conversation I have had with him where I assured him that the statement made by Anthony Albanese that I had been personally phoning the media was 100 per cent incorrect.’

Mr Speaker, those statements simply are incorrect. On FIVEaa yesterday, in the Two Tribes segment that I do with the member for Sturt each Wednesday morning, I said, ‘We know that Senator Cash’s office was ringing around media organisations yesterday afternoon, telling them that this was going to occur.’ On other occasion I said, ‘People directly got calls from Michaelia Cash’s media office.’ What I said yesterday was absolutely correct. I also note that the member for Sturt said on FIVEaa yesterday, ‘I don’t accept that it’s true.’ I’m sure he now accepts it’s true, just as he should accept that Senator Cash should resign for misleading the Senate on multiple occasions.

Oct 25, 2017

Criminal Code Amendment (Firearms Trafficking) Bill 2017 – Consideration in Detail

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:41): I rise to speak on the Criminal Code Amendment (Firearms Trafficking) Bill 2017. I rise to support the bill that was carried by the Senate in February and which the government has sat on for eight months in an act of petulance, which typifies the attitude of this government towards the democratic processes.

Of course, the fundamental disagreement that we have over our position about maximum sentences versus their position of mandatory sentencing shows that they not only act in a petulant manner in the political sphere; they also don’t seem to comprehend the need for the separation of powers to be at the core of the functioning of our nation. That principle is something that can’t be bargained away. It’s a principle which applies at the local, state and federal levels, and it’s a principle which people who profess to support the rule of law should just understand as—dare I use the term—a mandatory principle.

But what we see today is a minister who, unlike most people in this place—we often get told that we grow older by multiples of the calendar while we’re here—gets less mature the longer he is here.

Mr Keenan: A personal attack, is it?

Mr ALBANESE: The minister who is prepared to act in a petulant way and an entirely inappropriate way raises the issue of personal attacks. I wasn’t going to raise what was said about the member for Cowan during the last election campaign—the member for Cowan, someone who has brought great dignity to this House of Representatives, someone who, in spite of the fact that it was at great risk to harmony and community cohesiveness in Perth, Western Australia, and in our nation, was attacked in the most outrageous way, including by someone who has the title of the Minister for Justice. And that is what is quite extraordinary.

Here we have a bill that could have become law in February. Instead, it’s been sat on for month after month, and there has been a failure to bring it on for debate, a failure to accept that the principles that we were putting forward weren’t divisible and a failure to act in a mature way, as a minister of the Crown should. The minister was sat down by the Speaker this week—something that doesn’t happen too often, I’ve got to say. I was a minister for six years and it never happened to me. Most people in this place will go through their entire political career and, if they have the honour of being a minister of the Crown, they will never be sat down. It is quite an extraordinary occurrence. But this minister chose to engage in a debate which suggested that the support of paedophilia was something that was a partisan issue, whereas it is something to which everyone in this parliament is opposed in the strongest possible way, which is why he was shut down.

I won’t cop that from a government that launches royal commissions based upon politics, whereas the single most significant royal commission that we brought about when in government was into institutional sexual abuse against children. And we did that at great political risk. We did that and it’s made a difference to people’s lives. To people who all of us know, it has made a difference, and it’s made this country better. It’s made this country better because we made this decision. Those opposite are just determined to play politics with everything—everything’s about politics, which is why you have no credibility and why you’re increasingly clutching at straws.

Oct 25, 2017

Nation-building Funds Repeal (National Disability Insurance Scheme Funding) Bill 2017 – Second Reading

We also consulted extensively in the lead-up to the 2007 election—and we will celebrate the Labor victory in just a short period of time—with stakeholders. They all said, ‘You need to break that nexus, and the second thing you need is a pipeline of projects.’ So we established Infrastructure Australia, which conducted Australia’s first ever audit of national infrastructure needs. Infrastructure Australia identified priority projects based upon the categories of ‘projects that were ready to proceed’ and ‘projects that required more work but showed promise’. It was the first ever serious attempt in this nation to have the long-term planning that is needed if we are truly going to deliver on reducing the infrastructure deficit.

In the 2008 budget, we put initial funding into three funds—the Building Australia Fund, the Education Investment Fund and the Health Infrastructure Fund—to provide that long-term approach to the planning of our hospitals, our tertiary institutions and, through the Building Australia Fund, our roads, public transport, ports and airports. With the Building Australia Fund, it was there in the legislation that you could only have funds expended if Infrastructure Australia had identified the project as a priority project. We need to remove the politics from infrastructure investment, which, for too long, has seen the electoral map rather than business cases and productivity benefit determining where funds go for infrastructure.

The Building Australia Fund made some substantial investments. I note that last night in Senate estimates the new head of the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, Steven Kennedy, identified the Gold Coast light rail project as being an example of value capture working in practice there. It’s an investment of some $365 million by the Commonwealth government, in partnership with commitments from the Queensland Labor government, then led by Anna Bligh, and the Gold Coast city council working with the private sector to deliver a project that has been an enormous success. It was opposed by the member for Moncrieff and by the state LNP, but it was delivered as a result of our determination.

It has transformed the Gold Coast for residents, who, for the first time, have an efficient public transport network that can move large numbers of people in short periods of time. It’s being extended to meet up with the heavy rail line coming down from Brisbane, and should be extended to the south to connect up with the Gold Coast Airport. Potentially, there are also proposals to extend the network into the Tweed. But it’s been particularly important for an economy that depends very much on tourism to drive jobs and economic development. And people have literally voted with their feet by walking onto that light rail infrastructure.

We funded, through the Building Australia Fund, the Regional Rail Link, which has transformed the linkages between Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, and Bendigo. It’s a project that had an allocation of some $3.225 billion by the Commonwealth government—the largest ever investment by any federal government in a public transport project in our history since Federation. Some of the Johnny- and Mary-come-latelies have pretended that this government had something to do with it, but of course at the time they opposed the creation of Infrastructure Australia and the Building Australia Fund. They were happy to go to the openings of these projects, but they opposed them. And today this legislation, seeking to abolish the Building Australia Fund, shows that they haven’t changed their attitude towards nation-building infrastructure.

The new stations along that route, at Tarneit and Wyndham Vale, have transformed those outer suburban communities in Melbourne. This is a great example of what is spoken about a lot by anyone with an interest in our cities and urban policy—that is, making sure that the infrastructure is there first, before the population, and that the infrastructure helps make sure that we don’t just open up new land areas and then think after the fact about what to do about transport, school infrastructure and health infrastructure. Good planning requires those transport connections so that people can connect with jobs and their economic communities. That is why the approach of this government is wrong. I say to this government: don’t just put out media releases attempting to claim support for projects that the government opposed at the time; actually have a think about the long-term needs of this nation.

To the government’s credit, they have changed their attitude towards Infrastructure Australia. They have maintained Infrastructure Australia as an organisation. To their discredit, they’ve sidelined it. Here, in the abolition of the Building Australia Fund that is proposed with this legislation, they are seeking to essentially gut it when it comes to having any active role in prioritising government expenditure and determining where it should go. The Building Australia Fund was absolutely critical in identifying the roads and public transport needs that are required—projects like the M80 outer ring-road in Melbourne. It was delivered by federal Labor and, when they came into office, the government cut the funds of $500 million. To be fair, they put some of those funds back and pretended it was new money, after 2½ years of delay on that M80 project. If you look right around the country at the needs that were identified, through Infrastructure Australia we funded all 15 priority projects that were identified. An example is the Goodwood and Torrens rail project in South Australia, a freight project critical for improving productivity in Adelaide and for South Australia.

You don’t actually have to go that far to see the benefit of the approach. Indeed, I suggest to honourable members that, as they pass under the underpass on the way to the airport, when they leave this fine city tomorrow, they have a think about the Majura Parkway, which is there. The Majura Parkway and the Hunter Expressway were both projects that were on the planning agenda for a very long time. The Majura Parkway was funded through a joint, fifty-fifty contribution—the total cost being in the order of $280 million, from memory—by the Commonwealth and by the government of the ACT, at that time led by now Senator Katy Gallagher. It was a project which I think it’s fair to say probably didn’t change too many votes. It is in Canberra, so, when it comes to Labor and Liberal and where the margins go, it probably didn’t change too many votes. The big benefit of the Majura Parkway is that it prevents the need for trucks to go through the middle of Canberra and takes them around the city. It was one of those projects that, frankly, was a no-brainer, but it hadn’t happened. Infrastructure Australia’s analysis showed a very positive BCR of multiple dollars returned for every dollar that was invested. The creation of the Building Australia Fund meant that that project became a reality.

The Hunter Expressway, similarly, was in planning for a long period of time. I remember having a discussion with someone who said, ‘Oh, but that doesn’t go through any marginal seats.’ ‘Why did you fund that?’ said a member of the coalition. We funded it because it had an enormous BCR of greater than three to one. It cost more than $1.7 billion, $1.5 billion of which was investment from the Commonwealth. It created thousands of jobs. It reduced the travelling time for tourists visiting the Hunter Valley. It reduced travelling time for farmers and people who live in the New England region travelling up there. It saved lives by taking people off congested roads. It increased productivity by reducing travelling times between Maitland and the Newcastle CBD. It opened up to development the suburbs in between Lake Macquarie and Cessnock along the route, and it made possible the development of new communities and new residents; therefore putting downward pressure on house prices and increasing housing affordability. It created thousands of jobs in construction. Again, this was because of Infrastructure Australia’s support and because of the existence of the Building Australia Fund, which this government, through this legislation, is seeking to abolish.

Right around the country there are examples of projects that were done. There was the Noarlunga to Seaford rail line in Adelaide, an extension and electrification of that line that opened up access, through public transport, from those southern suburbs in the electorate so ably represented by the member for Kingston. It opened that up, again taking cars off the road, reducing congestion and having good outcomes in terms of road safety.

That was our approach in government: doubling the roads budget; increasing the rail budget by more than 10 times; investing more in public transport projects than all previous governments combined, from Federation right through to 2007. In just six years, there was more investment than in the previous 107 years when it came to public transport.

And what happened? The Abbott government came to office and immediately removed the funding that had been allocated for any public transport project that wasn’t already under construction. So there were projects like the Cross River Rail, identified by Infrastructure Australia in 2012 as its No. 1 priority. It would have been of great benefit to not just the people of Brisbane but the people of the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, by increasing the capacity of the entire rail network by providing that second crossing over the Brisbane River. The $715 million allocated in the 2013 budget was cut by this government.

The Melbourne Metro was approved by Infrastructure Australia and funded in the 2013 budget with $3 billion of investment. It was supported by the business community and residents as a vital project for Melbourne and for Victoria. Again, it was about increasing the capacity of the rail network. We even established a board with the coalition government in Victoria which had representation of the federal department of infrastructure, on a similar model to the board that was established to deliver the Regional Rail Link, which was delivered under budget and under time. And yet that money was taken out of the budget as well. The government took the money that had been allocated to projects—not just public transport projects but road projects like the M80, as well—including $500 million that had been allocated for public transport projects in Perth, and they funded projects that hadn’t been through Infrastructure Australia and didn’t have a business case. The infamous East West Link in Melbourne had a business case of 0.45, or a 45c return for every dollar invested. I say the offer’s still there to members of the coalition from the time they made that decision: if they give me $100 today, I guarantee to give them back $45 down the track, because they reckon that’s a good deal. That offer is there if that’s what they think is appropriate.

They then of course funded the WestConnex project in Sydney, which is still undertaking its EIS processes. They’re still not sure where it’s going. They’ve started building the tunnel; they’re just not sure where the tunnel will come up. A project which began with a cost of $10 billion is now up to $17 billion. It began as a project where we provided $25 million to assist with proper planning to make sure of the problem that was identified by Infrastructure New South Wales, which was: how do you get freight from the port through the M5? How do you deal with that No. 1 issue for Sydney and New South Wales that was identified by the committee chaired by former Premier Nick Greiner? And the CEO, of course, was Paul Broad, who’s now in charge of Snowy Hydro. It says it all that those two senior people both left. I think it casts their view on the New South Wales government’s performance when it came to doing proper planning for its infrastructure.

What we now know with WestConnex is that, because of the current design, all of the federal funding—the whole $1.5 billion—has been expended as advance payments. In the first budget the money was paid in June 2014 for both East West Link and WestConnex. They were advance payments with no milestones being met and no planning. It was just ‘here’s some money for your bank account’, against all of the recommendations. Everything that the government said—that they would only approve projects of any value above $100 million if they had been approved by Infrastructure Australia and they had a positive business case—all that went out the window in their first budget.

Of course, now, because the WestConnex project doesn’t actually go to the port, the airport or the city, it is proposing to have another extension for the F6 down into the St George area—but not all the way through, because they can’t work out how to do that—at an enormous cost. Certainty it will end up costing more than a billion dollars. They need a gateway project, which is unfunded by anyone at this stage, to actually get from St Peters to the airport and to the port. They’re talking about a northern tunnel from the Rozelle interchange and another tunnel across the harbour because, when the cars come up at the Rozelle interchange, they’ll hit the Anzac Bridge and have nowhere to go. This is a case in point that will be studied by students and academics for decades to come. It is why planning should be done before the project commences, not during. You don’t plan it, you don’t make it up, as you’re going along, but that is what is happening.

At the same time, of course, we know the existing M4, which the people of Western Sydney had already paid for with tolls, has had a toll put back on it with not one extra metre able to be driven. On the existing road with a couple of new lanes there is a toll that’s substantial. And that is causing some real concerns as well for equity, because, depending upon where you live, particularly in Western Sydney, you’re bearing the brunt of those decisions.

The third in the trifecta was the Perth Freight Link. This was an interesting one, because I reckon this was done on the back of an envelope, maybe the back of a coaster, who knows, because the project ‘freight link’ had never been raised prior to the 2013 election with me as transport minister or with my department. No planning had been done, no EIS, nothing from the state government. We found out that it was about a freight link to the port, but it didn’t actually go to the port. What’s required in Western Australia, and the McGowan government has this vision, for freight is the Outer Harbor. The planning needs to done because, essentially, the Fremantle port is approaching capacity and needs a new facility, and any proper analysis would show that that is the case.

So money was taken away from projects that had been approved by Infrastructure Australia that had a positive business case and given to projects that hadn’t been approved by Infrastructure Australia, that didn’t have a business case and where the planning hadn’t been done. That’s why projects which were funded by the former Labor government have been opened, often with great fanfare, by those opposite. The Redcliffe rail line, first promised in 1895, was delivered by the federal Labor government in partnership with the then state Labor government and the Moreton Bay Regional Council. That’s why you’re seeing projects like that being completed. Regional rail, the Pacific Highway upgrades and a lot of the Bruce Highway upgrades that we funded have been completed now. The stages from Cooroy to Curra around the Gympie region, the Perth City Link project, Gateway Western Australia, the projects on the Midland Highway and the Majura Parkway here all were funded and were the product of Labor’s vision in government but were opened by those opposite.

The government doesn’t have a pipeline of projects, and that’s why infrastructure investment is falling off the cliff. Last year’s budget, 2016-17, was $9.2 billion; the actual spend was $7.6 billion, a $1.6 billion underspend in one year. The infrastructure investment in this year’s budget declines across the forwards to $4.2 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Office identified that infrastructure investment as a proportion of GDP will fall over the next decade from 0.4 to 0.2 per cent—half. That represents a strategy for less growth and fewer jobs. There are two things you need to do to grow the economy: invest in capital through good infrastructure development and invest in people through education and skills. This government is doing neither. It’s reducing both, and that’s why it doesn’t have a plan for growth and jobs. It just has a slogan of growth and jobs, and that’s why it’s failing. And this legislation before the House to abolish the Building Australia Fund is consistent with that.

The government tried before to abolish the Building Australia Fund in legislation that was defeated in the Senate. It was defeated because senators understood the importance of the Building Australia Fund. They understood that was the case. Hence, in terms of our approach to nation building, we will defend the funds that were established for transport infrastructure, for education infrastructure and for health infrastructure. We think setting aside funds that can only be used for projects approved by Infrastructure Australia is, frankly, the sort of discipline that this government needs. If it had applied that discipline, it wouldn’t have funded projects that never happened.

There was year after year of inactivity on any new infrastructure project in Perth, and yet, if the government had applied proper rigour, that wouldn’t have been the circumstance. Perth Freight Link was stopped. All that happened was that, tragically, some wetlands were destroyed, but that was it, three years after an announcement. That is because they haven’t got the right approach to nation-building infrastructure, and that is why they should think again before they continue to try to come up with ways to abolish the funds that were established for the right reasons and which, in the government’s own rhetoric, they say they support, but their actions undermine that rhetoric.

Oct 23, 2017

Statements by Members – Petition: International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:30): I seek leave to table a petition from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons to the Prime Minister, signed by more than 50 organisations in civil society.

Leave granted.

Mr ALBANESE: This petition is signed by a very broad group of people representing civil society: Amnesty International, the ACTU, the Edmund Rice Centre, Oxfam, Sisters of St Joseph, the National Council of Churches, and many other organisations. It’s been coordinated by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which campaigned strongly for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to be adopted by the United Nations. It has been supported already by more than 122 nations and it will enter into force when ratified by 50 countries. Due to its leadership, for a small organisation that began in Melbourne, ICAN received the Nobel Peace Prize for 2017. Nuclear weapons are the most destructive weapons on earth, as the petition says. They pose a threat so grave, they’re an existential risk to all humanity.

Oct 16, 2017

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:07): I rise to oppose this legislation, the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment (Ensuring Integrity) Bill 2017. It was American novelist Norman Mailer who said:

Obsession is the single most wasteful human activity, because with an obsession you keep coming back and back and back to the same question and never get an answer.

That’s exactly what sits at the heart of this legislation—the coalition’s obsession with undermining trade unions at any cost, a distraction for a government that has lost its way, a government obsessed with obliterating collective bargaining, with eroding human dignity and hurting working families by subjecting workplaces to the law of the jungle.

This bill is presented in the guise of improving productivity and cracking down on illegality. But the bottom line, now and throughout Australia’s history, is that the conservative forces just don’t like unions. They just don’t respect the fact that working people, due to the nature of the workplace and the power imbalance that is inherent in production, join together to bargain with employers. Their antipathy for unions is so extreme, though, that it blinds them to just a bit of common sense, and it blinds them to community standards. Even at a time when we have declining real wages and declining living standards, which have been recognised by the Reserve Bank of Australia and by the business community as a handbrake on economic growth, we have a government that is determined to drive those wages and conditions down further. This is the sort of ideology that brought Work Choices to the parliament of Australia on the first occasion on which those opposite had the numbers in both houses. And, with that Work Choices legislation, they destroyed themselves. It should give them pause. They should think back to how clever they thought they were when that Work Choices legislation, with its Orwellian name, passed the House of Representatives and the Senate. It led to their demise as a government. It led to division in Australian workplaces and in the Australian community. In the same way, they’re waging a war against penalty rates. They seem completely oblivious to the fact that so many families in their electorates rely upon penalty rates to pay their mortgages, to pay school fees for their kids, to put food on the kitchen table and to pay for the essentials of life. They don’t get it.

This legislation is just another example of their obsessive attacks on the trade union movement and its very existence. It purports to impose upon registered organisations and their officials the same level of accountability that applies to company directors. But it doesn’t do that. It goes much further than that. It even goes beyond the recommendations of the Heydon royal commission, it goes beyond the government’s undertakings in the last election campaign and it contravenes the International Labour Organization’s convention 87—the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention of 1948. But they just can’t help themselves.

Our nation faces a range of serious challenges that require government attention. Many of them could be the subject of cross-party consensus in the national interest, not the least of which delivering on infrastructure that builds jobs and creates economic growth. We could be using our time usefully working together on such matters. But what we have over and over again from this government are attacks on working people, attacks aimed at undermining the trade union movement, attacks which are ideological and attacks which are against the fair go that Australians hold dear.

In general terms, this bill seeks to increase accountability measures for registered organisations and their office holders, including making it easier to deregister them. It also imposes a new public interest test on proposed union mergers. I’ve got no problem at all with people who break the law or act inappropriately being prosecuted, as they should be. But my overriding concern is that deregistering trade unions because of inappropriate behaviour by a single official attacks union members who have nothing to do with that bad behaviour. The fact is that it is a punitive approach. It’s short-sighted. It’s the equivalent of deregistering a company because one of its directors broke the law rather than simply prosecuting the director. Take the various corporate scandals that have occurred, not the least of which were in the banking sector recently. No-one’s proposing that those companies be declared illegal and wound up because of the fact that some of our major financial institutions have been financing activities that are completely illegal. Wrongdoing by one official does not justify the denial of industrial representation for an entire workforce.

In his second reading speech, the Minister representing the Minister for Employment went to great lengths to assert that these changes would bring the administration of trade unions, employer organisations and their officers into line with the laws concerning the administration of companies. But, as you go through the provisions, it is clear that it’s just not true. The bill allows for disqualification of an officer of a registered organisation to be brought by the commissioner, the minister or what is defined as ‘a person with sufficient interest’. There are no safeguards there to prevent vexatious claims. There’s no description of how a person qualifies to have sufficient interest. Once a ground is made out for the disqualification of an officer under this provision, the onus of proof is placed upon the officer to establish why disqualification would be unjust. But the equivalent provision under the Corporations Act places no such onus of proof upon company directors facing disqualification. The bill provides no maximum period of disqualification, leaving the matter to the discretion of the court. It also creates penalties for the offence of a disqualified person continuing to influence a registered organisation. But the penalty provided here is double that provided in the Corporations Act.

Similarly, this bill’s regime for cancelling the registration of a union is far broader than the Corporations Act’s equivalent provisions relating to the winding up of a company. A company, for instance, could repeatedly be found to have put at risk the lives of its workers or to have repeatedly not paid proper wages, but it would not face a wind-up order. By contrast, this bill says a union can be deregistered if some of its members take unprotected industrial action.

The new provisions relating to union amalgamation are way out of whack with the law relating to company mergers. Under the current Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009, it is a simple matter for unions to amalgamate if members vote for amalgamation under a ballot conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. That’s a commonsense provision. It’s democracy in action. It’s workers being organised on the basis of the views of those workers themselves. That is why those provisions are currently there. No argument has been put by those opposite about why this change is necessary. This bill is deliberately aimed at making it harder for unions to amalgamate. It’s clearly aimed at the CFMEU, the MUA and the TCFUA. That’s what this is aimed at. It’s special legislation that’s an attempt to abuse political power and to impose the will of the coalition parties on how unions, specifically, should choose to organise themselves.

It’s an extraordinary proposition if we were going to go down this road. It creates a public interest test that the minister claims is the equivalent of the competition test that applies to company mergers, including whether the unions concerned have a record of complying with the law. The test also takes into account the impact an amalgamation would have on employers, employees and the industry concerned. It goes a lot further than the competition test for company mergers. Indeed, companies could have an extensive record of breaches of the law, including the underpaying of wages. That doesn’t prevent that company from merging with another company. It should be dealt with on the basis of any breach of the law, just as any breach of the law by unions should be dealt with. When there’s a breach of the law the response should be the same whether it’s unions, employer organisations or companies.

We shouldn’t have the attitude of those opposite, which is to come into this chamber and attempt to engage, essentially, in industrial relations by legislation in order to fulfil the obsession that those opposite have with undermining unions. We on this side of the House want an industrial relations system that punishes wrongdoing, whether by employees, trade unions or employers. You never hear those opposite talk about what’s happened with the underpayment of the wages of 7-Eleven workers. You never hear those opposite stand up and talk about industrial accidents and how many people lose their lives on building sites and in the construction sector, the mining sector and other sectors. You never hear those opposite talk about the pressure that transport workers are put under. Indeed, this government came in and undermined the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, a mechanism established after long consultation—with support from major employers—and aimed at producing safe rates, after a parliamentary inquiry that was bipartisan and unanimous in its recommendations. It took years to work through to get a system whereby people weren’t pressured into driving practices that weren’t safe in order to secure their employment, that it wasn’t either/or, and that you had a system whereby throughout the supply chain you had safe practices. It was a measure that had an impact on truck drivers, but also had an impact on all of us who share the roads with truck drivers—a road safety measure that hasn’t been replaced with any measures at all by this government.

We’ve seen again in the transport sector the next tranche of legislation, aimed at removing Australian seafarers from work around our coasts on ships that have the Australian flag on the back of them, paying Australian wages and conditions, and having them replaced by foreign workers being paid foreign wages and working under foreign work conditions. It is extraordinary that the government has been prepared to go down this road. That is why this legislation should be rejected. This is a government that is producing legislation that’s all about its ideology. It’s not about jobs. It’s not about national economic growth. It’s not about the national interest. It’s not about the interests of working families. It’s just about its obsession with the trade union movement. In doing that, it undermines itself, as it did with Work Choices. That’s one of the reasons this government is being rejected by the Australian people.

Oct 16, 2017

Private Members’ Business – Climate Change

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:44): I’m pleased to support the motion moved by the member for Moreton, because it is critical that this parliament and, indeed, the world act on climate change. We know that 2014, 2015 and 2016 were the hottest years on record. We know that heatwaves are starting earlier. Tragically, we know that storms, hurricanes and cyclones are becoming more frequent and intense. We know that the Great Barrier Reef has had two bleaching events over the last 18 months. We know that we’ve just had, as a country, the warmest winter on record; average maximum temperatures around Australia reached nearly two degrees Celsius above average. The nation also experienced our second driest June on record. Indeed, more than 260 heat and low-rainfall records were broken during the winter months. Australia’s average winter temperatures have increased by around one degree Celsius since 1910. Last summer, Sydney had its hottest summer on record, with a mean temperature 2.8 degrees Celsius above average; Brisbane had its hottest summer on record, with a mean temperature 1.7 degrees above average; Canberra had its hottest summer on record, with daytime temperatures and recorded temperatures of at least 35 degrees Celsius on 18 days. Adelaide experienced its hottest Christmas Day in 70 years, at 41.3 degrees Celsius. Moree in regional New South Wales experienced 54 consecutive days of temperatures 35 degrees Celsius or above, a record for the state.

When you have all of that evidence on top of the scientists telling us that we need to act on anthropogenic climate change—climate change caused by human activity—then I find it extraordinary that you wouldn’t act, even if you question all of it, under the precautionary principle, for the same reason that you take out insurance. And yet where the government’s at was exemplified by the person who appears to be leading it on climate change, Tony Abbott, who went to London to argue that higher temperatures might even be beneficial because far more people die in cold snaps. It was an extraordinarily arrogant statement to make. And what the science tells us isn’t that every extreme weather event—like Hurricane Katrina or the disaster in Puerto Rico or the increased number of cyclones that we’ve seen in North Queensland—is because of climate change. What you can say, though, is that, when you have them occurring more often, with the intensity being stronger, then there’s something going on here.

That is why this motion is so important. It calls for action. It points out that the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility shouldn’t be used to subsidise a venture such as Adani, that that is a distortion in the market, that it is an intervention, that it is an admission that the project doesn’t stack up commercially. That’s what that is. We know that the future is in renewables, like the Kidston project in the old Kidston Gold mine or like the Kennedy Energy Park or like the pumped hydro I visited with the member for Kennedy. There are 537,000 solar panels in the first stage of the Kidston project—an exciting project that will produce jobs and provide 24-hour supply because of the pumped hydro. Australia’s future is in renewables.


Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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