Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
Feb 5, 2018

Private Members’ Business – Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:59): I rise to take the opportunity to contribute to this debate, which acknowledges the importance of the trade and economic relationship between Australia and Japan. In particular, I welcome the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Australia-Japan Agreement on Commerce. Indeed, given the history of World War II, it’s quite a remarkable thing that we’re recognising that 60 years ago, just after the end of that conflict, Australia and Japan entered into a relationship based upon friendship and, whilst not forgetting the past, acknowledged the need for us to move forward into the future as two peoples in two sovereign nations. Indeed, what a success that relationship has been over the last 60 years! There is no doubt that there is a significant opportunity, moving forward, for that relationship to continue to be strengthened. It is of mutual benefit to our two nations—in terms of job creation and our cooperation in international forums—that our trade relationship has formed the basis of that. It has been of great benefit, Japan being a major importer from Australia of our resources, our agriculture and our technology, which has allowed Japan to be one of the economic success stories of the late 20th century.

Indeed, Japan has played an important role in international forums. Twice as a minister in the previous government I was able to go to Japan, and on a number of occasions I was able to host here in Australia infrastructure delegations from Japan. Japan was critical in forming the MEET, as it was known—the ministerial council on energy and emissions in transport. Japan understood that, in playing an important role in the development of the Kyoto Protocol—the global foundation that came out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in Kyoto—we need to work cooperatively as an international community to drive down our emissions, and one of the ways we can do that is in the transport sector. That’s why Japan has been at the forefront of the development of electric vehicles and zero-emissions transport.

Japan’s success in the postwar period has been put down to many things, but one critical factor is the development of high-speed rail. With the Shinkansen, they were ahead of the rest of the world in having the vision of being able to transport large numbers of people in very short periods of time, and they continue to lead the world in that technology. They have much to offer Australia as we seek to develop a high-speed rail network down the east coast. Just as high-speed rail stacks up in Japan, just as it has led to significant economic development along the routes in regional centres in Japan, Australia has much to gain from high-speed rail. So I look forward to continuing to have discussions with executives from the Japanese rail sector on how their knowledge can provide a basis of support for the development of high-speed rail here in Australia. We know that it stacks up, with a return of more than $2 for every dollar of investment between Sydney and Melbourne, and we know that it could be a major factor in developing our regional economies, taking pressure off the capital cities on the east coast.

I commend the resolution to the House and I look forward to strengthening the friendship between Australia and Japan in the future.

Dec 7, 2017

Questions Without Notice – Broadband

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (14:52): My question is to the Prime Minister. The member for Warringah once famously ordered the now Prime Minister to demolish the NBN. Given that the Prime Minister’s second-rate NBN is plagued by cost blowouts and problems with speed and reliability and is subject to a record number of complaints from Australians, can the Prime Minister now proudly declare to the member for Warringah ‘mission accomplished’?
Dec 7, 2017

Adjournment – Queensland Infrastructure

Federation Chamber
Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:26): A key issue in the recent Queensland state election was the future of the Cross River Rail project. The Labor team of Annastacia Palaszczuk, re-elected as Premier, promised to build Cross River Rail. Jackie Trad, the re-elected Deputy Premier, as the infrastructure minister, promised to build it. The coalition opposed it. Labor won a decisive victory, picking up seats, particularly in South-East Queensland. What the Cross River Rail project will do by providing a second river crossing is expand the capacity of the entire rail network, not just in Brisbane, but for the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. This is a project that was approved by Infrastructure Australia in 2012. It was the No. 1 project on the Infrastructure Australia priority list. So we put funding in the budget for it in 2013. Indeed, we had an agreement with the Newman government and with Scott Emerson as their transport minister to fund it: $715 million from both levels of government and an availability payment model to ensure financing for a project that would create thousands of jobs in construction, lift productivity and address the issue of urban congestion. We know that urban congestion cost the Australian economy $16.5 billion in 2015 alone. That’s why this project should be funded. The agreement with Campbell Newman’s government was based upon that mixture of grants as well as innovative funding mechanisms like value capture for the new stations around Woolloongabba and along the route.

Tony Abbott, when he became the Prime Minister, scrapped that arrangement—he came to office saying that he would withdraw all funding from any public transport project that wasn’t under construction. He said in 2009 in his book Battlelinesthat this was an ideological position. He said:

Mostly, there just aren’t enough people wanting to go from a particular place to a particular destination at a particular time to justify any vehicle larger than a car, and cars need roads.

That was the philosophy outlined in Tony Abbott’s book Battlelines. He became Prime Minister and he put that philosophy into action. He had no understanding of cities and that the need to move vast numbers of people can only be done through public transport. There is of course a role for roads. That’s why we funded the Ipswich Motorway and that’s why we funded upgrades to the Gateway Motorway and other road projects in Brisbane and South-East Queensland, such as the Pacific Motorway.

But Cross River Rail is the game changer. With the change in prime ministership, we now have a Prime Minister who likes taking selfies on trains; he just won’t fund them. He should fund this project because it has been voted for by the people of Queensland over and over again. Indeed, the former Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Scott Emerson, who I sat down and negotiated the arrangements with, lost his seat in parliament. He was one of the people who fell over due to their failure in the Queensland election. I’m conscious of the fact that Tim Nicholls, the extraordinary leader of the LNP in Queensland, this numpty, won’t even concede defeat even though it is very clear that he has lost the election and that the Palaszczuk government has been re-elected. Queenslanders got it right on Cross River Rail. It’s now time for the Commonwealth government to come to the party and to help fund this project and to do what the current Prime Minister says he supports—engage in cities policy, engage in urban policy, support public transport and fund the Cross River Rail project.

Dec 7, 2017

Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Bill 2017 – Consideration in Detail

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (09:55): Those great philosophers Mick Jagger and Keith Richards once sang: ‘You can’t always get you what you want, but you get what you need.’ This bill is what people need. They do not need delay or for the bill to be put off or for a series of amendments to be carried by this House that then get referred to the Senate, begin the whole debate all over again and return to this House at some time in the future.

What my community want, as they have clearly indicated, is to get this done. That’s what Australians voted for in overwhelming numbers. Is this bill perfect? No. It’s a product of a consensus. It is a product of a collective effort by people of goodwill, across the Senate, to ensure that reform can move forward. During the voluntary postal survey, I and other advocates of a vote for yes, in response to the misleading campaigns of those who suggested that this would have all sorts of unknown consequences to the lives of people who won’t be impacted by this legislation at all, clearly said: ‘There is a bill already. It’s a bill in the name of Dean Smith in the Senate.’ It’s a bill which has received, quite remarkably, unanimous support and consensus in the Senate.

I say to the member for Melbourne that there’s a time when you don’t think, ‘Oh, I can make this improvement here so that it satisfies all of my wants.’ This bill is it. This isn’t a time for grandstanding. This isn’t a time for trying to ensure there’s product differentiation. This is a time for national unity. This is a time for support by people of goodwill, across this parliament, and I pay tribute to people on the other side of the chamber—people I don’t normally agree with—because it’s hard. It’s easier if you’re in a party looking for purity all of the time on every issue and you say, ‘I think maybe there might perhaps be consequences to this, though I don’t think they’re real,’ which is what the member for Melbourne just indicated, and it is what he indicated in his second reading speech. He spoke about these amendments as restating things that are already in the Sex Discrimination Act. He said that this amendment would seek to change the title of the bill. Guess what? Do a survey of Australians and see how many people know the title of any particular bill, and I’d be amazed if you still want to hold up marriage equality in order to make change that is not of substance.

That’s a fundamental area of disagreement that I have and why I’m in a major party, the Australian Labor Party. What I do in this place is come in here to make a real difference to real people and to real lives. That is what this legislation will do. That is why all of the amendments to this legislation should be rejected, whether they be the amendments we’re considering now or future amendments moved by some of the opponents of marriage equality seeking to make changes which are not necessary. These issues were considered during the Senate processes. We have an outcome—we have an outcome that will produce marriage equality and can do it today. The big campaign of marriage equality was ‘let’s get this done’. Let’s not delay, let’s not look for areas of disagreement, because that’s simply not productive. I say to the member for Melbourne that I think it’s unfortunate that these unnecessary amendments are being moved. I won’t be supporting them. I call upon other members of the House not to support them, not to support the other amendments and to get this done today.

Dec 5, 2017

Questions Without Notice – Broadband

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:08): My question is to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister promised that all Australians would have access to the NBN by the end of 2016. But last week NBN Co announced it was immediately halting the rollout of the second-rate NBN to two million premises because the technology still doesn’t work properly. How much will the HFC delay cost taxpayers?

Dec 4, 2017

Debate on Senate Motion Regarding New Zealand’s Offer to Settle Refugees

Message No. 253, 29 November 2017, from the Senate was reported informing the House that the Senate had agreed to the following resolution:

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i)      The New Zealand Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern, has continued to pressure Australia to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees who are currently in offshore detention;

(ii)     New Zealand will begin work to expedite processing refugees if, and when, the offer is accepted; and

(iii)    Prime Minister Ardern stated: “We made the offer because we saw a great need. No matter what label you put on it there is absolute need and there is harm being done’’; and

(b)     Calls on the Government to accept New Zealand’s offer to resettle 150 refugees and negotiate conditions similar to the United States refugee resettlement agreement.

The Senate requests the concurrence of the House in this resolution.

 

MR ALBANESE: 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 four and a half 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 OK 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 four and a half 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.

 

Dec 4, 2017

Marriage Equality Speech – House of Representatives

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.

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.

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)

 

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)

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