Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
Feb 28, 2017

Hansard – Statements by Members – Perth Freight Link

When the current government announced the Perth Freight Link project in their 2014 budget, I was quite surprised. It was a project that no-one had ever heard of and for which there had been no submissions whatsoever. What we found out, though, was that it was essentially the Roe 8—a project that had been rejected—with an extension on the end. It was one, though, that did not actually go to the port. A freight link project that does not carry the freight to the port!

Yesterday, it was asked in Senate estimates, and the department said: ‘Just to clarify, Senator, I assume you mean by stage 3 an upgrade between the end of current project and into Fremantle Port.’ ‘Yes, where the freight is going.’ This is what Roland Pittar from the department said: ‘We have not seen a draft project proposal report for that.’

Here we have, up until the 11 March election when there will be the chance to make a decision on it, a project that does not go to the port, that will not achieve any outcomes, and where this government is saying $1.2 billion of funding will be withheld from WA—funding that should be used for the Outer Harbour, for METRONET, for the North Lake Bridge, for the Wanneroo Road upgrade, for Scarborough Beach Road and for the Denny Avenue grade separation project.

Feb 27, 2017

Hansard – Federation Chamber – EU-Australia Leadership Forum

The European Union is Australia’s second-largest trading partner, and the largest source of foreign investment. All up, the total stock of European investment in Australia is more than $600 billion. Today, I want to take the opportunity in speaking to this motion to talk particularly about the impact on infrastructure and aviation.

The EU is Australia’s largest aviation market. Each year, more than 1.3 million Europeans visit Australia and more than a million Australians travel to Europe. When I was the minister, we signed the EU-Australia horizontal agreement on 29 April 2008. That entered into force in July 2009. This agreement replaced 16 outdated bilateral air services agreements and has allowed Australian and European airlines to offer more flights and a wider range of services at more competitive prices.

We need to continue, though, to work for a comprehensive Australia-EU air services agreement. That has been agreed to in the past, when Minister Tajani was the minister responsible for transport in the European union. He was very supportive of such an agreement. However, the bureaucracy in Brussels seemed to intervene at each stage and that put Australia at a disadvantage. We should continue to push for such a comprehensive agreement. Indeed, we had substantial benefit, I think, from our engagement with the European Union and infrastructure companies.

In November 2012 I hosted a delegation of Italian infrastructure and transport companies. That was led by the Italian Secretary of State, Mr Staffan de Mistura, and it was a very large delegation. They visited parliament here. Companies included Ansa do STES, Thella and Meramec. What we saw after meetings I held in Italy, France and Spain was an increased presence of these European infrastructure companies here in Australia. In some cases that is beneficial simply because it brings competition. In other cases, they bring specific required skills—for example, three is the South Road Super way project in Adelaide, which is an elevated roadway. The Italians, particularly, due to their topography, have an expertise in this. The company Rizzio de Escher was also part of the consortium that built this project. That was, at the time, the biggest project in the state’s history and opened in 2013.

Similarly, projects like Legacy Way in Brisbane benefitted from the fact that it was a consortia. BMD Construction, a local Queensland based company working in partnership with Thella from Italy and Action from Spain, built that $1.5 billion project, which opened in 2014. The Italian industrial group Saline, part of the consortia that are building the elevated sky train section of Sydney’s North West Rail Link, and German companies Hochstein and Ballinger Berger have a strong presence here in engineering and construction. And the French company Veolia has established itself, particularly in the water waste and transport sectors.

All of this bring skills and presence here in Australia but, importantly, for our overall economic future I have argued with the European companies that they can use Australia as a base into the Asia-Pacific region, with the certainty that is provided with our legal system, with the lifestyle that comes from senior executives basing themselves here in Australia. It is of great mutual benefit, this relationship between Australia and the European Union, and it should be strengthened into the future.

Feb 15, 2017

Matters of public importance – Infrastructure

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:18): We just saw, writ large in question time, the government’s incompetence when it comes to infrastructure. Here we have a major investment in infrastructure in Perth, just weeks before the state election is due to be held, on 11 March, and they do not know two important facts. One is that they do not know that the Perth Freight Link project does not even go to the port. It stops three kilometres short. This is a $1.2 billion investment in freight transport infrastructure to a port, but it does not get there; it stops three kilometres short and vehicles will have to go through the suburbs of Fremantle in order to get the freight to the port. But it is worse than that because it is a road near a port that is at full capacity. We know that the port will be at full capacity in 2022, which is why the outer harbour is so important. The new port is what is critical if we are going to deal with exports and imports in the west. That is why during the election campaign we committed to fund the planning for that port project. That is what Mark McGowan is doing—planning for infrastructure for the future.

Of course, this is nothing new for the people of Western Australia. When we were in government, we engaged in the largest ever road project in Western Australia, the Gateway WA project. It was promised, funded and built on our watch, and yet those opposite came along at the end to the ribbon cutting, having opposed the nation-building program and the economic stimulus, and tried to suggest that they had something to do with it. It is not just that. When you land at Perth and leave the airport, the first road you go on is the Great Eastern Highway. It was widened and upgraded by Labor. If rather than east you go west, you will hit the work that is taking place on the Swan Valley Bypass, which is now called NorthLink under this government. Giving a road a new name does not make it a new road. It is the Swan Valley Bypass and it was funded by the former Labor government.

We understand that to deal with urban congestion you do not just need roads; you need rail lines as well. We invested in the Perth City Link project. It was promised, funded, built and opened under federal Labor. Those opposite talk about value capture. This project is a great example of value capture in action. You use the area where the road has been built to build the railway underneath and then you develop on top, to reunite the Perth CBD with the Northbridge entertainment precinct. It is a great example of Labor vision, Labor being engaged in urban policy and Labor being engaged in making our cities more productive, more sustainable and more livable.

We are not just engaged in cities, of course. We did the Great Northern Highway, the North West Coastal Highway, the work around Port Hedland, the work in Kalgoorlie, the Esperance port access road and the work around Bunbury—all delivered as part of the $6.9 billion that we put into Western Australia. We took investment from the Howard government’s $92 per Western Australian to $261 per Western Australian—we tripled the infrastructure investment, because we understood that transport infrastructure was critical.

But of course we also did the National Broadband Network. We also did the support for hospitals. We also did the support for every school in Western Australia, because we understood that that was important.

At the last election there was a battle that will be played out on 11 March, which is: do you put money into a road to a port that is at full capacity, a road that does not even get to the port, or do you build rail infrastructure that will truly build on the legacy of Labor? That is the legacy that built the Mandurah rail link and the legacy that built the link up to the north, up towards Joondalup. Do you engage in that infrastructure investment? That is what is critical. WA Labor have made it clear that their commitment is to building the Morley-Ellenbrook line, building the Yanchep line, building the Byford line, commencing the circle line linking the suburbs, starting to fix level crossings and, of course, completing the Forrestfield to airport line. That is an example: $500 million was ripped out of the budget in 2014; two years later, in order to compensate for the GST, some funding is put back, and they pretend it is new!

The fact is that what we have seen under this government in Western Australia is symptomatic of their approach everywhere. Yesterday, there was a report into the funding of WestConnex in Sydney that followed the funding of the East West Link in Melbourne. In all these cases, commitments had been made; money was taken away from public transport projects like the Melbourne metro and Cross River Rail in Brisbane, and taken away from projects like the M80 in Melbourne that had been approved by Infrastructure Australia, and forwarded as advanced payments for projects that had no business case and that were not ready to proceed. And we wonder why it is having a negative impact in terms of the economy!

What we see from the Australian Bureau of Statistics are remarkable figures. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures in this graph, where the red is Labor and the blue is the coalition, show that, for every single one of the 12 quarters that the coalition has been in office, public sector infrastructure investment has been less than in any single one of the 21 quarters where Labor was in government, from the time of our first budget in the June 2008 quarter right through to September 2013. Indeed, in their first two years in office, what we saw was a drop in infrastructure investment of some 20 per cent. And they stand up and speak about the $50 billion fantasy that they have; they stood up at the 2014 budget and said: ‘Going forward, we have a $50 billion plan.’ There is just one problem there, which is that budget papers get produced and show how much investment is actually occurring. And what we know is that up to 2019-20 the investment is $34 billion, and beyond that it is $8 billion at some unforeseen time, booked into the future. What we know is that there have actually been cuts each and every year to projects like the Pacific Highway and the Bruce Highway. When you compare what they themselves said they would spend with what actual spend is, last financial year the underspend was something like $1.2 billion.

This comes at a time when the resources sector is moving from the investment phase to the production phase. The Reserve Bank governor, last Thursday night, warned again on, and called for, investment in infrastructure. We have record low interest rates. We have a demand that is there, with a massive need for infrastructure, particularly in dealing with the challenges of urban congestion, and in dealing with the challenges of freight—projects like finishing off the freight line from Mascot to Port Botany; that is an absolute no-brainer, but they will not even proceed with that.

What we see from this government is all politics and no substance. They have abandoned the processes of Infrastructure Australia, they have cut funding for Infrastructure Australia, and they have not listened to what Infrastructure Australia has had to say. They have ministers who cannot even agree on who is in charge of what particular issue or project. This failure comes at a time where infrastructure is one of the keys to growth and to future jobs. If it is in the right projects, it boosts productivity and returns to government. That is why this government stands condemned, whether it be in Western Australia or any other state or territory in the nation, for simply failing when it comes to infrastructure.

(Time expired)

Feb 15, 2017

Auditor-General’s Reports – Reporr No. 38 of 2016-17

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:27): I rise to speak to the Auditor-General’s report into the WestConnex project and into the Commonwealth financing of that project. The report resulted from an investigation which I requested last year, both as the shadow transport minister and as a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit. This report that was tabled in the parliament yesterday represents the Auditor-General revealing an extraordinarily cavalier approach to the handling of literally billions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds. The objective of the audit was to determine whether the government had taken appropriate steps:

…to protect the Australian Government’s interests and obtain value for money in respect to the $3.5 billion in funding committed for the WestConnex project.

On both accounts, the Auditor-General has delivered a scathing verdict.

Desperate to appear to be doing something on infrastructure when they came to office, the Commonwealth government cut funds that had been allocated to projects that had been approved through Infrastructure Australia—such as the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, the Melbourne Metro project in Melbourne, the M80 project and the Outer Ring Road in Melbourne—and cut $500 million which was for public transport projects in Perth and was then allocated to toll roads that simply had not been through appropriate processes. They did not have a business case, they had not been through Infrastructure Australia and they were not ready to receive funding.

The Commonwealth coalition came to office saying that they would require all Commonwealth funded infrastructure projects worth more than $100 million to have undergone a cost-benefit analysis by Infrastructure Australia. The Auditor-General says this in the report:

The WestConnex project had not proceeded fully through the established processes to assess the merits of nationally significant infrastructure investments prior to Australian Government funding being committed.

They went further: they even ignored their own department. The report says:

The May 2014 decision to make the $500 million advance payment led to the project being approved without there being any documented analysis and advice to Ministers that the statutory criteria for giving such approvals had been met.

It also went through the processes of milestone payments. Milestone payments were established when I was the minister to ensure that the objectives for which money was allocated from the Commonwealth were actually being met—that is, you did not just forward an advance payment of money without there actually being construction. This arose because when I became the infrastructure minister it was clear to me that under the Howard government the only key performance indicator that it was ever looked at was, ‘Has the money gone out the door?’—not whether anything had been built—and hence you had a whole range of advance payments being made every June.

What we had here was $500 million forwarded as an advanced payment for WestConnex at the same time as $1.5 billion was forwarded as an advance payment for the East West Link. That was all designed to bring forward expenditure into the 2013-14 financial year in which, of course, the Labor government had handed down the 2013 budget so that the deficit in 2013-14 would appear to be bigger and finances in future years would appear to be better. This was a manipulation based upon politics and nothing more. But it is even worse than that, because in the words of the Auditor-General in the report:

… three milestone payments—

worth $1 billion—

were designed and administered in a way that did not adequately protect the Australian Government’s financial interests. This was because, in order not to delay payments, milestones were agreed to after the respective event had already occurred or amended shortly before the payment was due to be made where New South Wales (NSW) had not met the milestone.

Just think about that. Here you had the federal government and the federal minister working out criteria for payments to be forwarded not in advance saying, ‘If you build this portion of road, we will forward further money to you’, but working out criteria which had already been met. The exact opposite of what milestone payments are due for! It included the fact that the department, to quote the report:

Advice provided prior to the first payment (of $500 million in June 2014) identified that a payment of that magnitude was not yet required.

The report went on further, in terms of incurring unnecessary public debt, to criticise the concessional loan. It makes it very clear in the report:

… Stage 2 could have progressed towards construction as planned without the concessional loan.

It goes on to say:

There are relatively few features built into the loan contracts for the benefit of the Australian Government in its role as subordinated lender.

This has been a farcical situation from the beginning.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 12 : 34 to 12 : 43

Mr ALBANESE: The coalition have somehow attempted to argue that the responsibility for this fiasco is not theirs. Of course, it is. The fact is that page 22 of the report outlines:

The Labor Government also attached the following preconditions to that commitment:

development of a full business case and its submission to and assessment by Infrastructure Australia;

that the design include suitable connections to the Sydney CBD and Port Botany; and

that no tolls be imposed on currently untolled existing roads.

When people in Western Sydney who today are driving on the M4 untolled drive on exactly the same section of road later on once the toll is reintroduced for road they have already paid for I think there will be a great deal of frustration that the government of New South Wales and federally under the coalition have reimposed a toll on a road that has already been paid for. Also, when Infrastructure New South Wales recommended to the New South Wales government that this be a priority, they recommended it on the basis that it deal with freight to and from the port. There was an issue with the M5 reaching capacity, and Infrastructure Australia even looked at a truck-only road from the M5 directly to the port.

At the moment, what you have with this project is perhaps the only road project in global history where tunnelling began—at Strathfield where the M4 ends—without knowing where the tunnel would come up. After literally every single dollar of Commonwealth’s $1.5 billion grant funding had been fully forwarded to the New South Wales government, they were still changing its final destination and, indeed, removing the exit point at Broadway and just maintaining the two exit points at St Peters and at Rozelle. Good infrastructure requires the planning to be done first and then the financing and construction. This report reaffirms that and reaffirms that this government continues to get it wrong.

Debate adjourned.

Feb 13, 2017

Bills – Transport Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:33): I rise to support the Transport Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2016—even though I note that it is 2017 before we have got around to actually debating this legislation. As I indicated on behalf of the Labor Party during the last debate, it is my view that aviation security must always come before partisan politics. This has always been my commitment. I have pursued it both in government and in opposition. This legislation provides for some simple but necessary changes that will ensure that Australia is up to date with a modern system of transport security. Importantly, it seeks to ensure the right balance between privacy and security, upholding Australia’s commitment to an equal and non-discriminatory screening program.

All Australians expect that the Commonwealth will ensure that ongoing vigilance, particularly in the aviation sector, is awarded the utmost importance. Transport safety in today’s world is dynamic. Governments must respond to threats as they emerge with appropriate legislative changes. This legislation will play an essential role in ensuring that this continues to occur. It will update the process that airports use for the screening of people, vehicles and goods which are already in a security zone at an airport, bringing it in line with international standards. While legislation currently permits screening of people, vehicles and goods when entering a security zone, there is no additional provision for the random screening of these when they are already inside the security zone.

Put simply, this will allow for the scrutiny of a person, a vehicle or a package which has already gone through security screening and is at the gate inside an airport or in the shopping centres that exist around international airports, in particular, but many of our domestic airports as well. It is, I think, a practical suggestion in responding to what might be future threats. The main aim of this legislation is to provide this authority, but I do note that it also reinforces that we do not have in any of our screening procedures racial profiling or profiling of any other sort. We have in place, I think, very good security provisions at airports, and this provides just another layer which, on the advice of experts, the government believes is necessary and therefore the opposition will be supportive of. The use of this authority will be a matter between the airport and the Office of Transport Security, the government body that approves transport security plans for each airport. The government has indicated that these arrangements will initially apply at nine airports, including all of the mainland capitals as well as the Gold Coast and Cairns airports, which are significant tourism destinations and, indeed, significant international arrival and departure points.

Importantly, this legislation sits alongside enhanced security awareness training for employees and contractors who work in security zones. It also authorises greater delegation of powers under aviation and maritime transport security legislation to facilitate quicker responses. While the government has highlighted removal of regulatory constraint as a benefit, Labor believes that transport security is too important to simply be an exercise in extending light-handed regulation. Regulatory settings should always be reviewed, but Labor’s main reason for supporting this legislation was, first and foremost, because it updated security measures so they are consistent with world standards. The legislation also includes an additional sensible option to enhance the central objective of removing threats to aviation security.

Australia has always taken aviation security seriously. We are a signatory to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, also known as the Chicago Convention. Recently, the International Civil Aviation Organization, established under the Chicago Convention, has increased standards for screening of persons, goods and vehicles in security controlled zones at airports. Australian legislation should be updated to reflect this higher standard, which is what this bill will achieve.

We have, from time to time, responded to events that have occurred internationally. When I was the minister over the Christmas period of one year, we had what became known as the ‘undie bomber’, which required a very busy January as throughout the world we responded very quickly to put in place changed regulations. We also, as a result of that incident and other perceived threats, introduced here in Australia full body scanners. We undertook a process whereby we examined world’s best practice. We introduced, I believe, the best system—the most thorough in the world. At the time, the shadow minister, Warren Truss, gave full support to that. There were some people who argued that we could not actually bring in full body scanners, that people had a right to refuse. The legislation that was carried before this parliament was tough legislation. Indeed, it has a no-scan, no-fly policy—the toughest of the options that were put up—and that was supported by both sides of parliament. I thank the now government, the then opposition, for the fact that they did not play politics with that. There were attempts by some, on the basis of perceived civil liberties interference, who said that these mechanisms should not be given support. We went to a great deal of trouble, including locating body scanners here at Parliament House so that members of parliament, members of the media and anyone else who was interested could go through and see in real circumstances the way that they would operate. If there had been an issue with those full body scanners, I would have had a health problem because I went through them hundreds and hundreds of times, demonstrating for others that they were essentially emitting fewer waves than people’s mobile phones. Getting across the reality of a response as opposed to the potential for a scare campaign is often at the heart of security issues.

The government has done a very good job, in my view, of providing assurances so that people will not be singled out on the basis of any particular characteristic that they may have. There is a diligence contained in this legislation which is consistent with our non-discriminatory policy when it comes to all of these issues. We know from recent events, including the bombing of a Metrojet flight in Egypt in October 2015 and the attempted bombing of a Daallo Airlines flight in Somalia in February last year, that even a potential threat requires action. Of course, these changes must ensure that people’s rights to equal treatment and privacy continue to be protected.

The explanatory memorandum to this legislation outlines its commitment to both of these in the formal ‘Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights’. On equality and non-discrimination it says:

All people have the right to be treated equally. In keeping with Australia’s egalitarian screening regime applied to aviation passengers, selection of airport and airline workers, visitors and contractors for screening inside the security restricted areas … of airports will be conducted on a purely random basis. Individuals will not be selected according to their race, religion, gender, or any other personal characteristic.

Because that is included in the explanatory memorandum, it effectively becomes part of any consideration by any court as to what the intention of the legislation is and provides that legislative security. On privacy it says:

In cases where a frisk search is necessary the individual may request that procedure to occur in a private room or within a screened area. A frisk search will always be undertaken by someone of the same gender as the person being searched.

Once again, that is an appropriate provision in terms of privacy.

I congratulate the department, through the minister, and the Office of Transport Security and others who have been engaged with the drafting of this legislation. They have ensured that those provisions are made explicitly clear. Inevitably, there are concerns raised about these issues, and it is best to address them up-front. We expect that airports and the government will ensure that appropriate arrangements exist and for those provisions to be applied in practice at all times. Importantly, the statement in the explanatory memorandum enshrines people’s rights whilst also underpinning a robust and effective screening program.

It builds on Labor’s strong track record for aviation and airport security. When in government, we oversaw the strengthening of the security regime applying to air cargo and we committed more than $54 million to install X-ray screening technology at freight depots. We also invested an additional $200 million in the nation’s aviation security. Much of this funding facilitated the introduction of new and improved security technologies at airports, including not just the latest body scanners that I referred to but next generation, multiview X-ray machines and bottle scanners capable of detecting liquid-based explosives. It also provided for increased policing at airports, enhanced security procedures and strengthened international cooperation.

We improved security at regional airports, introducing legislation that requires screening of domestic checked baggage at all regional airports operating RPT services. That piece of legislation did not have unanimous support, but everyone supports it now as it was the right legislation. Some said that it would have an impact on flights to regional areas, and it did not. It did the right thing.

Certainly, what you could not have was what previously occurred. There was best-practice security at the major capital city airports, but if you were flying in from a small, regional centre on a regular passenger transport movement service, nobody checked anything as you went through. Common sense prevailed there. The government of the day prevailed, and now it is particularly important that that security is there.

More than 150 million passengers fly through Australian skies each year, and Labor will always support sensible measures that protect Australian citizens and continue the nation’s reputation for aviation safety. We have an enviable safety record that is second to none. It is a credit to our existing system of regulation and all participants in the system, including airports and airlines. The bottom line is that this requires people on the ground to carry out these sorts of changes. By and large, they do so with goodwill and cooperation and with understanding that our record of aviation safety and security is something that we as a nation should be very proud of. This legislation is consistent with maintaining that record. Labor will be supporting this legislation.

Feb 13, 2017

Private Members’ Business – Northern Australia Beef Roads Program

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:04): As always with members of the government with private members’ business, this is a self-congratulatory motion, but it is somewhat misplaced. The Northern Australia Beef Roads Program typifies this government when it comes to building infrastructure: an announcement with much fanfare followed by little action on the ground.

The program was announced in June 2015, when Tony Abbott was the Prime Minister. However, not a single actual project was announced until 16 months later, in October 2016, after the election campaign when, essentially, this program was used for election announcements. Then, 15 priority projects were announced with only half the funding—some $56 million—that was originally announced, and, as we stand here today, in 2017, not a single project from this program that was announced in 2015 has begun. It has taken two years, and not a hole has been dug for any project under this program.

This stands at a time when, just last week, the Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe, again reiterated the need for investment in infrastructure. The previous speaker, the member for Durack, spoke about the fantasy of the government’s so-called $50 billion program. But the answers in Senate estimates indicate that that program is, in fact, only $34 billion, with $8 billion in the future at some unspecified time. Indeed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that for every single one of the 12 quarters that the coalition have been in office, public sector infrastructure investment has been less than for every one of the 21 quarters that the former Labor government spent in office, from the time of our first budget in 2008. We did not just make announcements; we actually went ahead and did it.

Our total commitment to Northern Australia over that time was some $5.5 billion. Some $500 per person was spent in Northern Australia on an annual basis. The Bruce Highway upgrade, the Cape York package, the Kennedy Highway upgrade and the Peak Downs Highway upgrade are all in Queensland.

In the Northern Territory, there was the community, beef and mining road package, and the highways package, including the widening of the Victoria, Barkly and Stuart highways. There was the regional roads productivity package; some $90 million in the Northern Territory alone. There was the Tiger Brennan Drive upgrade, the Great Northern Highway upgrade in northern Western Australia, the Dampier Highway duplication, and, of course, the North West Coastal Highway.

So we did not just talk about infrastructure in Northern Australia. We got on with the business of ensuring that it happened. As it is, you can see there has been an underspend on a project like the Bruce Highway, where the government has wound back the spending that it allocated, if you look at the forwards from the 2014 budget.

What we need to do is make sure that we step up infrastructure investment, particularly in the context of the resources sector moving from the investment to the production phase. Of course, the member who represents the area around Gladstone will know full well that the investments we made in roads in his region—in terms of access to the port and other projects at and around Gladstone—were significant after years of neglect under the Howard government. What I want is for the government to match its rhetoric with actual investment on the ground that will lay the groundwork for future economic growth.

Feb 8, 2017

Committees Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee Report

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:36): This 230-page report is a significant piece of work by the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities, and the 13 recommendations contained in it are generally sound. They cover a range of areas, including value capture, high-speed rail, smart infrastructure, joint procurement and city deals. However, the upbeat tone of the report also highlights a gap that is there between what the members of the committee think should happen and what is actually happening under this government.

On value capture, you would think, frankly, that this was something new. That is nonsense. That is how the underground was built in London in the 19th century. That is how road and rail projects have functioned for such a long period of time, and it has become an excuse for the government to not fund projects. The Melbourne metro project and Cross River Rail both have value capture in them—that was a part of the Infrastructure Australia deliberations way back in 2012 when they were included on the priority list. That is why they were funded in the 2013 budget by the former Labor government. Funding was to come from the federal government, the state government and the private sector on the basis of, in the Cross River Rail’s case, the uplift value around Woolloongabba Station in Brisbane, and, in Melbourne metro’s case, the uplift value around the key points there. That would allow for higher densities around those rail stations.

There is nothing new in this at all. Nothing. But what you have is a whole lot of rhetoric from the government at the same time that we are actually seeing cuts to infrastructure investment. One figure above all is very stark in demonstrating that: for each of the 12 quarters that the Abbott and Turnbull governments have been in office—for every single one of them—public sector infrastructure investment, as demonstrated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, is less than every single quarter of the 21 between June 2008—that is after the first Labor government budget in May 2008—right through to September 2013. Those are 12 quarters with less investment than any single one of the 21 quarters when Labor was in office. There is a stark contrast between the attitudes of an actual nation-building government and a government that comes up with excuses and, frankly, policy proposals in value capture that have been around for 200 years and pretends that somehow it is something new and a panacea for these issues.

The last speaker, the member for Gilmore, was saying that the federal government should be the government that captures the value and coordinates everything. Well, the truth is that, under our system of Federation, state governments have responsibility for planning—that is the way it works—and local governments exist as entities only under the auspices of state governments. This is perhaps well meaning but not in terms of actual outcomes we are seeing on the ground.

The government again, yesterday in question time, was speaking about the so-called $50 billion infrastructure plan that was announced in the 2014 budget. It is a nonsense! The answers to the Senate committee by the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development show that the infrastructure program is worth $34 billion, not $50 billion, between 2014-15 and 2018-19. So there is one year left at the end there—2019-20. Perhaps they might argue that that is where the catch-up is going to occur, except the $8 billion has been allocated onwards—that is, from 2019-20 right through to the never-never. In some cases, it literally is the never-never. Take projects like the Bruce Highway, for example. It was a 10-year plan, so the figures that are included there are for right up until 2024-25.

Since the mining boom has moved from the investment to the production phase and there has been a drop-off in that private sector infrastructure investment associated with the resources sector, this should have been a time when public sector investment was stepping up to fill that gap to create employment and to provide a skilled workforce to keep the economy going. But what we have seen is the opposite. It is not surprising, because what we have seen is public transport projects stopped and new road projects announced in their place. There have not been very many; there have been only four or five road projects. As an example of this, the East West Link has not happened in Melbourne. They took money away from the Melbourne Metro and the M80 Ring Road project in Melbourne to fund the East West Link that never happened. Therefore, the investment has dropped off.

In Brisbane they took money away from the Cross River Rail and have not put it back into anything. In Perth they have the Perth Freight Link project, for which they have allocated over a billion dollars of Commonwealth money, but they have not dug a hole yet. That was announced in the 2014 budget. It is a road that will go through wetlands and destroy them. It is a road that has been rejected time and time again by environmental assessments in Western Australia. It has required special intervention from the government to overturn all those proper processes. It is a road that allegedly is supposed to fix the freight problems in Western Australia, but it will not actually go to the port of Fremantle. It will stop three kilometres short of the port. What is more, that is a port that the government reports all indicate will be at full capacity by 2022. Therefore, planning has to happen now for the outer harbour and for how freight will get to and from the outer harbour.

We have had from this government a series of attempts to capture projects that were already underway and pretend that they had something to do with them, as well as a slowdown in projects on the Pacific Highway and Bruce Highway. In the case of the Swan Valley bypass in Western Australia the name was changed to NorthLink and in Sydney the F3 to M2 connection’s name was changed to NorthConnex. A new name does not make it a new project. They were projects that were already funded in the budget, so what we have seen is simply less.

What we have also seen is proper processes break down: Infrastructure Australia being sidelined, the Major Cities Unit being abolished, the national freight strategy being ignored, the National Ports Strategy being ignored and the priorities that are there for urban public transport being ignored. With Badgerys Creek airport, the government knows, and common sense tells you, to build in rail from day one when the airport opens. The government says, ‘Yes, that is a good idea.’ It is just not funding it and not progressing it.

On high-speed rail, one of the report’s recommendations, recommendation 2, says:

The Committee recommends that state and federal governments consider appropriate coordination arrangements, including if and when a planning authority is required to progress high speed rail.

I will give you a big tip: there is a private member’s bill before the parliament in my name right now to establish a high-speed rail authority, as recommended by the proper processes that were established prior to 2013. They should get on and do that. High-speed rail is a game changer. It is a game changer for regional Australia and a game changer for the national economy. It is something that would really change the dynamics. It should be given support and it should be progressed. It cannot happen short term, but you need to get the planning right to make sure that it is progressed. This government is not doing that, and it should progress the recommendations in this report. (Time expired).

Feb 3, 2017

Bills – Transport Security Legislation Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016

Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:20): I rise somewhat belatedly because it has taken some time for the Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016 to get to a debate in this chamber. To that end, I move an amendment that has been circulated in my name, which reads as follows:

That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

“whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House:

(1) notes that the Government failed to articulate a policy for the aviation or maritime sectors at the 2016 Federal election;

(2) notes the Turnbull Government’s failed WorkChoices On Water legislation would have seriously undermined the Australian maritime sector;

(3) notes in particular that the Government has:

(a) failed to rule out further laws in coastal shipping that would aid the displacement of Australian crews on the Australian coast with foreign crews doing the same work for reduced wages and conditions;

(b) failed to outline its response to the High Court’s decision to overturn the Government’s attempt to circumvent Parliament’s intention to give priority to Australian jobs in our offshore oil and gas sector;

(c) actively worked to facilitate the replacement of Australian maritime crews by foreign crews for permanent work in Australia, by arranging rapid visas, skills recognition and access to ports in cases such as the MV Portland in January 2016; and

(d) previously considered relaxing air cabotage arrangements that could have the effect of displacing Australian flight and cabin crews with foreign crews on lower wages and conditions while working in Australia; and

(4) notes that the Government and its expert agencies have repeatedly acknowledged the obvious point that criminal and security vetting of foreign aviation and maritime workers is much harder than for Australian workers; and

(5) calls on the Federal Government to develop as a matter of urgency aviation and maritime policies, ensuring that such policies prioritise jobs and skills for Australians while also facilitating more reliable background checks”.

Security standards in Australia’s maritime and aviation sector should have nothing to do with politics. Public safety should be the only priority. For most of the time, that is the case, whether the Labor Party is in government or the coalition parties are in government. Laws and regulations relating to the security of ports and airports need to be tough and clear so that Australians and criminals who might wish us harm are in no doubt of the strength of our resolve to keep our nation safe. The legislation which is before us today would toughen background checks on workers in airports and in the maritime sector.

Under existing arrangements, people applying for aviation security identification cards, or ASICs, and maritime security identification cards, or MSICs, undergo background checks, and those checks are designed to establish whether applicants have links with terrorist organisations. This bill would add an extra layer of checking, to ensure that applicants have no links to serious and organised crime. Therefore the opposition will not oppose this bill, but we will be proposing amendments to this legislation, both in the form of the second reading amendment that I have just moved and in the form of consideration-in-detail amendments, because we certainly take security seriously.

I have had the privilege of serving as the transport minister, and, when that was the case, we introduced a range of legislation to ensure that security was maintained at our ports and airports. We have quite an enviable record in this country, and it is appropriate that we take advice from experts when it comes to aviation and maritime security. We are, however, very deeply concerned indeed about the glaring inconsistencies in the government’s approach, particularly when it comes to maritime security but also, of course, aviation security, and that is the point of the second reading amendment that I have moved.

When it comes to ideology before common sense, what happened during the last term of government, in both the aviation and the maritime sectors, was that various people, some of whom have moved on—I speak of Andrew Robb, the former minister for trade—had a real flat-earth approach to competition in the sector. They refused to acknowledge that both aviation and transport are global industries that have within them, however, national interests and that governments around the world understand the importance of having either a domestic aviation industry or a domestic shipping industry and therefore put in place regulations that ensure that that can occur.

If we have unilateral disarmament, if you like, in the form of regulation unlike the rest of the world, there is the potential for Australia, as an island continent located where we are in the world, to not have an aviation or a maritime sector. When it came to aviation, the former minister had a view that I know was opposed by many—particularly in the National Party and regional members—which was that you could open up cabotage, remove the preference for Australian aviation, in the northern part of Australia, as a first step, and foreign carriers could come in, and that would somehow solve problems by providing reduced airfares. Of course, what Qantas and Virgin—and the various subsidiary airlines that they operate—stated would happen was that you would have a withdrawal of those sectors that rely upon cross-subsidy, if you like, within the aviation sector from operating in northern Australia. So you would have a withdrawal of Qantas and Virgin, effectively, from those regional airline routes and they would just concentrate on the highly profitable Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane and other major routes. So routes to and from places like Mount Isa, Cloncurry, Charleville and Bundaberg, and other routes in regional Queensland, in particular, would stop. Roma is the first step on the way to further destinations. In New South Wales, the same thing happens with routes like Taree and Grafton and other routes; you would have a withdrawal. Then, of course, the next step would be to just allow them to fly to Adelaide. And, because the Australian companies could not compete with those airlines offering fares based upon, essentially, Third World wages and Third World conditions and safety checks—safety checks that are not of the same standard that we have here in Australia—you would have a competitive disadvantage for Australian carriers and they would withdraw. That would lead to ongoing consequences for the people and the economies of regional Australia.

But in the end, that proposal was resisted and defeated in the early period of the Abbott government. It was defeated because of the principled actions of some people in the coalition and of the Labor Party, but also, of course, from those regional communities, themselves, who understood what the consequences were. There are also consequences for national security because the truth is you cannot have the same level of checks that are required with ASIC and MSIC in the transport sector as you have for foreign employees. The same thing has happened with the government’s Work Choices on water legislation in the maritime sector: legislation that was defeated in the parliament. The explanatory memorandum for the bill outlined that it would result in the replacement of the Australian flagged vessels with foreign flagged vessels and Australian crews with foreign crews being paid cheaper wages and conditions. And that, indeed, was the advice that the department was giving out to people like Mr Milby, the cruise ship operator in the Kimberley who gave evidence before the Senate committee which led, in part, to that legislation been defeated.

But what has happened is that the government has circumvented its own legislation and has ignored the national security implications behind that, let alone the issues of safety. The national security implications were completely dismissed when the government, for ideological reasons, agreed to a temporary licence to replace the MV Portland. The MV Portland operated between the smelter at Portland and the Western Australian coast. It picked up the natural resources and went around Portland—one top and then back again. It was anything but temporary. For more than a decade, that ship went from one location to another, to and fro, employing Australians—Australians who lived in the local community and people down on that southern coast of Victoria. Yet, on the replacement vessel, people were granted special migration visas and cleared to take that ship to Singapore to be sold off. It was replaced by a foreign vessel without any clear indication about what the implications were for our national security.

That move destroyed Australian jobs. And today, we are being asked with this legislation to toughen the background check on Australian mariners in the name of security but, on the other hand in practice, this government is allowing for temporary licences to be issued with minimal checks—a free-for-all around our coasts. Where do these ships go around our coasts? They go into our ports and into our harbours. The idea that there are not national security implications! I say this in the sincerest way possible, we have not sought to engage in a campaign that is provocative about these sorts of issues. When a ship is in Sydney Harbour or in Brisbane port or in Port Phillip—and many of our harbours located in the most densely populated areas of Australia—you want to be pretty clear and pretty sure that the security of those people who would seek to do us harm is looked at. Do not say on the one hand, ‘We want a free-for-all, we want to get rid of the Australian flag, we want to get rid of the Australian crews around our coastlines,’ and say on the other hand, ‘If you’re an Australian working at a port, we’re going to further toughen up even further the security clearances that you have to go through.’

So I say to the government, and I say to the minister who is here in the chamber, with respect: Minister, you have a great responsibility. I know that you have taken these issues seriously and have been prepared to sit down and engage with people in the sector and that is to your credit. But put the ideology of the free market aside because it does not work for Australia’s economic interests. It does not work for our environmental interests because every one of the major incidents around our coastlines—the Shen Neng and the other disasters that have occurred—have all had something in common: they have all had a foreign flag on the back of the ship. They have all had a mariner who has said that they were not aware that they had to turn through the reef at the appropriate time, and they have crashed into the reef causing a great deal of damage. Australian mariners know the coastline, they have the skills, they have the training and they have the long-term commitment to the national interests. But it is also in our national security interests to have an Australian maritime sector.

I offer again to work with the government in the national interest to get outcomes that would see a growth in the Australian flag—rather than a reduction in the Australian flag—around our coasts. Because—and you do not have to spell it out; common sense tells you—there are people in the world who seek to do us harm, who seek to cause incidents. We know that our security agencies work very hard, and they are doing a great job. I am someone who has been prepared to call it out as I see it; our infrastructure is obviously an area of vulnerability. That is why it is fine to toughen up MSIC cards and ASIC cards—and we will respond constructively to any proposals that come forward. But you cannot do that on the one hand—say we are going to have increased checks of Australians—and on the other hand actually replace those Australians with people who cannot possibly have undergone the same level of checking. That is why this amendment also refers to the High Court decision which overturned the government’s legislation seeking to undermine the priority to be given to Australians working in the offshore oil and gas sector. It is almost at the point where it just defies common sense—when the court decision came down, we had Senator Cash give an ideological statement in the Senate, opposing the court’s actions—what could go wrong in the oil and gas sector in terms of security! I mean seriously; if people do not understand that, then there is something very, very wrong.

In the last campaign, Labor put forward a comprehensive shipping policy. It covered the full range of maritime issues including security, industry taxation arrangements, workforce planning, cruise shipping, ports, the Australian International Shipping Register and Labor’s approach to coastal trading. We have an aviation policy that sets out all of our policy principles for that sector. Indeed, we have put in place mechanisms that have seen a considerable growth in the Australian aviation sector, and I think the success of Virgin and Qantas, as the two major carriers—particularly Qantas as our major international carrier—has been something of which we can all be proud. When it comes to issues of aviation and shipping, that—in part—is how the world sees us as well. I think it is important that the flying kangaroo on the back of a plane is seen in Los Angeles, Beijing or London, or in Johannesburg, Bangkok or Tokyo—anywhere in our region. That really says to people: this is an iconic Australian company. That has a great deal to do with promoting our nation. And we know also that one of the things we can point to in that sector is security and safety, and our proud record. Australian carriers and Australian ships have an extraordinary record, second to none in the world, We should make sure that we recognise that.

This bill would amend the Transport Security Assessment Act and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Act. These acts concern the issuance of MSICs and ASICs. It comes to us as a response to a recommendation from the National Ice Taskforce for greater rigour in guarding against drug smuggling in ports and airports through a toughening of background checks. The opposition agrees strongly with the need to secure our borders against drug smugglers. We would also like to see the government increase its focus on the treatment of people whose lives are being ruined by drug addiction. Drug abuse is a serious problem affecting tens of thousands of Australians. Law enforcement is important, but so is helping the victims of dealers of hard drugs to recover from their addiction, so they can improve their own lives and make positive contributions to our community.

This legislation came to the House in the 44th Parliament, and I noted then the opposition’s concern about whether the addition of an organised crime check to the existing terrorism check might inadvertently reduce the level of rigour that applies to the terrorism check. That remains our concern, and we put that on the record. For example, when people are engaged in security checks through our airports, they are concerned with a very narrow task—which is keeping people on those planes, in those airports and in those areas safe. That is their one priority. They concentrate on what they are looking for because, if they were looking for everything then, by definition, they would be diluting the concentration on the issues at hand—and when it comes to the threats to our airports and ports, the main issue at hand has to be terrorism. It has to be. And so we seek assurance from the government that this broadening of the definition will not dilute that concentration.

For many years, the number of Australian flagged vessels operating in coastal trade has been an issue. Labor tried to arrest the decline by having the Revitalising Australian Shipping package; a series of mechanisms working with industry, with unions and with the sector, including the Navy, around those issues. We think that is particularly important. There is a security element to the importance of our national legislation as well.

In a submission to a Senate inquiry into the increasing use of flag of convenience vessels in Australian waters, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection rang alarm bells about the use of overseas vessels. It said:

There are features of FOC registration, regulation and practice that organised crime syndicates or terrorists may seek to exploit.

This is the government’s own department. It went on to say that in many flag of convenience nations, there was limited transparency about the identity of the owners of vessels. It said:

Reduced transparency or secrecy surrounding complex financial and ownership arrangements are factors that can make FOC ships more attractive for use in illegal activity, including by organised crime or terrorist groups.

This means that FOC ships may be used in a range of illegal activities including illegal exploitation of natural resources, illegal activity in protected areas, people smuggling and facilitating prohibited imports.

The security advisers, the Department of Immigration and Border Security, under the coalition government, could not have been any clearer in their advice to the government. There is greater security risk in using overseas vessels whose crews have not been properly vetted, than it is to use Australian vessels, with clear ownership lines of accountability, crewed by Australians whose backgrounds have been carefully examined by the authorities.

The government chose to ignore this advice about the growth of flags of convenience rather than Australian flagged vessels, yet today it wants our support to toughen checks on Australian transport workers. In the words of the great John McEnroe: ‘You cannot be serious.’ You have to look at both. You have to look at proper checks on Australian workers but also take account of those alarm bells. I note that this minister is conscious of those issues, and I hope that we can work together to get reforms. The amendment that I have moved is very important in addressing these issues.

A High Court judgement last August exposed the government’s zeal for facilitating the replacement of Australian workers with cheap overseas labour. In December 2015, the government granted working visa exemptions to overseas workers on oil and gas rigs in Australian waters. The government argued that oil rigs were vessels; they were not rigs at all. It wanted to help employers to cut costs by hiring overseas workers instead of Australians. In August, the High Court ruled the exemption invalid and declared that the minister for immigration had exceeded his authority. The government has made no formal response to the judgement. But, in comments to The Guardian, reported on 31 August last year, the minister for immigration made no apologies for exceeding his authority to put Australians out of work. Instead, he complained that requiring overseas workers to go through the working visa process would increase costs.

Given these comments, it is clear that we need to do much better. The temporary licences for vessels such as the replacement of the MV Portland with a foreign vessel crewed by overseas mariners should not happen again. The government should rule out changes to air cabotage, because it is very clear that that is not an appropriate change at all. Also, the government has exceeded the changes which are in the bill. This arises from the National Ice Taskforce. There is a big change here. Instead of having the recommendation as ‘serious and organised crime’ the legislation refers to ‘serious or organised crime’. That is a very important legal distinction to draw. I will be moving an amendment to change this back to the original intention of the experts that were put forward, and I would ask the minister to seriously consider supporting that amendment in the spirit in which it is moved.

We are not moving amendments to legislation such as this just for the sake of it. The minister would know that, in the area of transport and security, I have a record of more than a decade in this place of not attempting to just play politics with it. The amendment that we will move is to bring the legislation in line with the expert recommendations. If you expand it to ‘serious or organised crime’ as opposed to ‘serious and organised crime’ you really widen what you are looking at in terms of the impact on the workforce. Overzealous consideration—with the greatest intention—of what that means means that, if you are looking at things that are not serious, you, by definition, are undermining the intent of the bill. So, when it comes to the consideration-in-detail debate we will move that amendment and hope to get the government’s support.

Consideration in Detail

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:31): by leave—I move amendments (1) to (6) and (8) to (11) as circulated in my name together:

(1) Clause 1, page 1 (lines 5 and 6), omit “Serious or Organised”, substitute “Serious and Organised”.

(2) Schedule 1, item 2, page 3 (lines 9 and 10), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(3) Schedule 1, item 3, page 3 (line 15), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(4) Schedule 1, item 4, page 3 (line 18), omit “Serious or organised”, substitute “Serious and organised”.

(5) Schedule 1, item 4, page 3 (line 21), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(6) Schedule 1, item 4, page 3 (line 24), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(8) Schedule 1, item 7, page 5 (line 3), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(9) Schedule 1, item 12, page 5 (line 22), omit “Serious or organised”, substitute “Serious and organised”.

(10) Schedule 1, item 12, page 5 (lines 25 and 26), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(11) Schedule 1, item 12, page 6 (line 4), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

The amendments that I have moved in this first section are amendments relating to the distinction between ‘serious or organised’ and ‘serious and organised’. This is not just a question of language; it is a question of language translating into action when it comes to legislation. The significance of this is that the amendments that I have moved are consistent with the recommendations of the National Ice Taskforce and the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement report from 2011. That is the basis of the Transport Security Amendment (Serious or Organised Crime) Bill 2016. These amendments would replace the statement—including the title, it must be said—of the bill throughout this legislation. It is a uniform change and will impact the aviation and maritime bills in the same manner. It is important that we get the language right when we are adding new purposes to important legislation. We need to ensure that we are targeting identified problems in a precise manner. If we do not do that, we are inadvertently weakening the intent of the legislation by broadening the definition so widely that it undermines the intent of the bill to respond to organised crime involved in the trafficking of ice, and that was the basis of this legislation.

We on this side of the House are being constructive. We have not said that we will oppose the legislation. However, we have said, and given clear notice, not just to this minister but to the previous minister, that we have concern here that, essentially, what has happened is that whoever has drafted this legislation has been sloppy about it. I say that because it is the nicest term that can be used. It is better that this is an inadvertent error rather than something that is a calculated decision to abuse the circumstances of the trafficking of drugs to try to widen, in an improper way, the scope of the people who will be caught up by this definition.

As I said in parliament when this bill was first put forward during the last term, we are concerned that the mission of transport security remains tightly focused around managing the post 9-11 security environment. Currently, that is about safeguarding against unlawful interference at our regulated airports and seaports, and really focuses on terrorist-related activity—and that is the purpose of this legislation. These amendments are intended to widen that purpose to include targeting serious criminality which may not be unlawful interference of a terrorist type, which is what is in the previous definition in the bill. Now, no doubt, serious criminality should be targeted. It is of a different focus to terrorism—hence, this legislation. We acknowledge that and we are being constructive in the arguments that we are putting forward. So whilst Labor will not oppose the widened purpose—widening it from terrorism to serious criminality, particularly in the context of the trafficking of ice and other serious drugs—it is important that we take up the experts’ opinion. The views of the experts who conducted the Ice Taskforce and the Joint Committee on Law Enforcement report should be the basis of the legislation, rather than us taking it upon ourselves to widen it inappropriately. (Extension of time granted)

The problem with what the government has done here is that the language has changed from ‘serious and organised crime’ to ‘serious or organised crime’. We believe that we should follow the experts. Frankly, I will be surprised if the government rejects these amendments, because this is an opportunity for the government to have consensus around this legislation. That is certainly always my preferred option. If the government does not agree to the amendments here, perhaps the government might take it upon itself to move the same amendments in the Senate as government amendments. We do need to get this right and wherever possible we have tried to create a circumstance whereby transport security is above the day-to-day argy-bargy of politics that often infects this fine democratic institution here in the House.

I refer to the Ice Taskforce report. I say to the minister, who was not responsible for this bill, that this is an opportunity for him as the new transport minister to show how much better he is than the transport minister that he replaced and suggest that he read the report. This transport minister should not try to attain more than transport ministers any further back than that—because, put simply, the Nats will never have the big picture—but he can be the best National Party transport minister. That is the opportunity that he has here. The Ice Taskforce report uniformly talks about targeting ‘serious and organised crime’. The Joint Committee on Law Enforcement report of the inquiry into the adequacy of aviation and maritime security measures always refers to ‘serious and organised crime’. Both reports refer to it throughout. This is something that the current Minister for Justice should recall, if the transport minister wishes to consult with him, because he was a member of the joint committee at the time. Indeed, this is what the joint committee unanimously recommended to this parliament:

The committee recommends that the scope of the Aviation Transport Security Act 2004 and the Maritime Transport and Offshore Facilities Security Act 2003 be widened to include serious and organised crime in addition to terrorist activity and unlawful interference.

All we are suggesting is that you go to that unanimous recommendation. Indeed, the Attorney-General’s Department’s submission on this bill during the previous parliament uniformly talked about targeting ‘serious and organised crime’. The law enforcement agencies, such as the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, almost always refer to ‘serious and organised crime’. The Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Bill 2015, the coalition government’s legislation, which Labor supported and which was carried through both houses of parliament last year, refers to—guess what, Minister? ‘Serious and organised crime’. Indeed, the Senate report on this very bill talks about targeting ‘serious and organised crime’, despite the use of ‘or’ throughout. This is never explained. Only the bill itself uniformly talks about targeting ‘serious or organised crime’. Even the department’s 2015-16 annual report, tabled in the House on 7 November last year, refers to this legislation, on page 30, as targeting ‘serious and organised crime’.

I commend these amendments to the House. They are important amendments. This is not a matter of semantics; this is a matter of ensuring that we truly target, in an appropriate way, serious and organised crime.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:46): I am somewhat disappointed that the minister has indicated the government will not support these amendments, given the spirit in which they have been moved. There is no question that the growth of ice use, particularly in regional communities and, as the minister has said, in Indigenous communities, is having a devastating impact. This is a drug that certainly was not around just a few years ago, and governments have to respond to changes in circumstances. That is why, whether our amendments are carried or not, I indicate that we will support the legislation that is before the House.

But I do note that when the minister addressed the joint parliamentary committee report which preceded the National Ice Taskforce reports in 2011 and 2015 respectively, he spoke about them recommending addressing serious ‘and’ organised crime. They were the words that he used, because they are the words that are in those reports. They are the words that are in the department’s annual report. They are the words that the Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Bill 2015, that was passed by this parliament, includes. They are the words that the Attorney-General’s Department’s submission on this bill in the previous parliament talked about. Consistently, they are the words that are appropriate to be used, and not just to widen without any proper consideration the implications of changing from serious ‘and’ organised crime to serious ‘or’ organised crime.

We really need to concentrate our efforts if we are going to have a correct impact on it. I would accept the fact that in this chamber the government has a majority to deny the opposition’s amendments that I have moved here. But I would say that the minister should ask for advice from the department or from the AFP—or anyone would do—to support the change in this definition. It is my view that part of the reason for there being able to be a bipartisan position on security issues moving forward is that the politicians are not playing politics with these issues but listening to the experts. If the experts came to me and suggested that we were out of step with what they themselves had previously recommended, then that would be worthy of proper and appropriate consideration. But that has not occurred. Every agency, from the department, through the security agencies and through to the National Ice Taskforce and the joint committee have recommended wording that is consistent with what we are putting forward in these amendments. I commend the amendments to the House.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (15:51): I will not delay the House for too much longer before we vote on this. I will simply point out two things.

Now, firstly, I appreciate the fact that the minister has outlined, for the first time, some rationale for the government being fairly intransigent on this issue. But the problem I have with that and with the explanation he has just given is that the Australian Crime Commission Amendment (National Policing Information) Bill 2015, which passed the parliament last year, refers, with Labor’s support, to ‘serious and organised’ crime. It defies logic that, somehow, this has arisen in circumstances that legislation was carried. That is legislation that is relevant to national security concerns and, in particular, specifically addresses the Australian Crime Commission and its operations. It seems to me that if this legislation is carried as it currently reads—being put forward by the government—it will put it out of step with the other legislation.

Frankly, people will read that, and there is an opportunity where legislation is inconsistent, particularly legislation that has an impact on prosecution of criminal activity—for people to point towards those inconsistencies between the two pieces of legislation. I expect what we will see before this parliament, which should have happened before now, is that if they are going to change the definition then amend the Australian Crime Commission legislation that has been carried by this House—it will be in need of amendment in order to bring it into consistency with this definition.

Secondly, what has to happen as well, with this, is for draft regulations to apply to this legislation, and the regulations to specify relevant offences that would be deemed to rule out people being eligible for ASIC or MSIC cards. I would have thought that the revised definition we are proposing here—going back to a definition that is consistent with legislation that has previously been adopted in this parliament—would be more appropriate. If the government has any concerns about any specifics, then the appropriate way is to address it in those regulations.

I know from experience that determining what is included in those regulations to be a relevant offence is something that could be the subject of considerable debate and making sure it is got right. But, at all times, it has to be focused on terrorism or very serious organised crime activity. It cannot be such that people who have committed minor infringements get caught up in this. What that will do is undermine the purpose of the legislation.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:06): by leave—I move amendments (7) and (12), as circulated, together:

(Amendment to motion for second reading to be moved by Mr Albanese)

That all the words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

“whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House:

(1) notes that the Government failed to articulate a policy for the aviation or maritime sectors at the 2016 Federal election;

(2) notes the Turnbull Government’s failed WorkChoices On Water legislation would have seriously undermined the Australian maritime sector;

(3) notes in particular that the Government has:

(a) failed to rule out further laws in coastal shipping that would aid the displacement of Australian crews on the Australian coast with foreign crews doing the same work for reduced wages and conditions;

(b) failed to outline its response to the High Court’s decision to overturn the Government’s attempt to circumvent Parliament’s intention to give priority to Australian jobs in our offshore oil and gas sector;

(c) actively worked to facilitate the replacement of Australian maritime crews by foreign crews for permanent work in Australia, by arranging rapid visas, skills recognition and access to ports in cases such as the MV Portland in January 2016; and

(d) previously considered relaxing air cabotage arrangements that could have the effect of displacing Australian flight and cabin crews with foreign crews on lower wages and conditions while working in Australia; and

(4) notes that the Government and its expert agencies have repeatedly acknowledged the obvious point that criminal and security vetting of foreign aviation and maritime workers is much harder than for Australian workers; and

(5) calls on the Federal Government to develop as a matter of urgency aviation and maritime policies, ensuring that such policies prioritise jobs and skills for Australians while also facilitating more reliable background checks”.

(Mr Albanese)

(1) Clause 1, page 1 (lines 5 and 6), omit “Serious or Organised”, substitute “Serious and Organised”.

(2) Schedule 1, item 2, page 3 (lines 9 and 10), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(3) Schedule 1, item 3, page 3 (line 15), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(4) Schedule 1, item 4, page 3 (line 18), omit “Serious or organised”, substitute “Serious and organised”.

(5) Schedule 1, item 4, page 3 (line 21), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(6) Schedule 1, item 4, page 3 (line 24), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(7) Schedule 1, page 4 (after line 17), after item 4, insert:

4A After section 126


126A Review of decisions relating to security checking under the regulations

(1) This section applies if regulations are made, under any of the following sections, dealing with the security checking (including background checking) of persons who have access to an area or zone:

   (a) section 35;

   (b) section 36;

(c) section 36A;

   (d) section 37;

(e) section 38;

   (f) section 38A;

(g) section 38AB.

(2) The regulations must include provisions allowing a person in relation to whom a security check is carried out to seek:

   (a) reconsideration by the Secretary or the Secretary AGD of a decision in relation to a security identification card; and

   (b) review by the Secretary or the Secretary AGD of a decision in relation to a security identification card; and

(c) review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of a decision by the Secretary or the Secretary AGD on review of a decision in relation to a security identification card.

(3) To avoid doubt, nothing in this section permits:

   (a) the Secretary or the Secretary AGD to review an adverse security assessment or a qualified security assessment; or

   (b) the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review an adverse security assessment or a qualified security assessment other than in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975.

(4) In this section:

   adverse security assessment and qualified security assessment have the same meanings as in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979.

   Secretary AGD means the Secretary who is responsible for administering the scheme prescribed for the purposes of section 8 of the AusCheck Act 2007 (the AusCheck scheme).

(8) Schedule 1, item 7, page 5 (line 3), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(9) Schedule 1, item 12, page 5 (line 22), omit “Serious or organised”, substitute “Serious and organised”.

(10) Schedule 1, item 12, page 5 (lines 25 and 26), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(11) Schedule 1, item 12, page 6 (line 4), omit “serious or organised”, substitute “serious and organised”.

(12) Schedule 1, page 6 (after line 19), after item 12, insert:

12A After section 201


201A Review of decisions relating to security checking under the regulations

(1) This section applies if regulations are made, under any of the following sections, dealing with the security checking (including background checking) of persons who have access to a zone:

   (a) section 105;

   (b) section 109;

(c) section 113;

   (d) section 113D;

(e) section 113F.

(2) The regulations must include provisions allowing a person in relation to whom a security check is carried out to seek:

   (a) reconsideration by the Secretary or the Secretary AGD of a decision in relation to a security identification card; and

   (b) review by the Secretary or the Secretary AGD of a decision in relation to a security identification card; and

(c) review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of a decision by the Secretary or the Secretary AGD on review of a decision in relation to a security identification card.

(3) To avoid doubt, nothing in this section permits:

   (a) the Secretary or the Secretary AGD to review an adverse security assessment or a qualified security assessment; or

   (b) the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review an adverse security assessment or a qualified security assessment other than in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975.

(4) In this section:

   adverse security assessment and qualified security assessment have the same meanings as in the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979.

   Secretary AGD means the Secretary who is responsible for administering the scheme prescribed for the purposes of section 8 of the AusCheck Act 2007 ( the AusCheck scheme).

The opposition has moved these amendments in two blocks to try and minimise the disruption to the activity of the House. We believe that, just like our last set of amendments, this set of amendments is very reasonable indeed. It goes to the review of decisions made in security checking. This second group of amendments will put in place the legislative basis for existing review mechanisms. There are, of course, existing review mechanisms available, but, as part of the change package that is before the parliament, the government is proposing to harmonise what are currently different appeal systems for the ASIC and the MSIC. Holders of the ASIC, the aviation security identification card, will have a clearer system of review rights which is equivalent to the existing system which applies for holders of the MSIC, the maritime security identification card. The amendments will retain the new uniformity between the maritime and aviation systems.

About a quarter of a million Australians have an ASIC or an MSIC. For many, the access to those cards is literally a precondition of their employment and their livelihood, to enable them to look after their families. The amendments that I have moved, one of which applies for aviation and one for maritime, will simply require that regulations made after this bill passes into law contain a review mechanism that either already exists or is proposed by the government as part of the harmonisation. Inserting in the respective maritime and aviation security acts a requirement for regulations to include a review mechanism provides an extra level of assurance that the system will include reviews where an adverse finding is made.

When you are doing legislation like this, extending the scope of scrutiny pertaining to the issue of maritime and aviation security identification cards, it is reasonable that, at the same time, there be assurance given. Many of the quarter of a million Australians who have an ASIC or an MSIC will be concerned that somehow they will inadvertently get caught up, in what I believe is in contravention of the government’s aim here—and the opposition shares that aim—in having appropriate security arrangements around our airports and seaports.

I believe that the amendments we are advancing here are worthy of support. I think the government should consider them. This is an example of the government having the opportunity to seize parliamentary process to make the legislation that it proposes better. Common sense suggests that, where people, in a spirit of goodwill, come up with suggestions that will improve legislation, governments should not be stubborn and just say, ‘That’s coming from the opposition; therefore that’s a bad idea.’ This is a good idea. This is about providing certainty. This is about building on the government’s good idea of harmonising the processes for the appeal system for ASIC and MSIC that it says it has. That is a good idea. So let us make it better by carrying these amendments, which the opposition commends to the House.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:15): Can I thank the minister for putting on the record during this debate his assurances about his objectives and his statement that he has no plans to change the comprehensive appeals process that is in place. I accept his comments at face value. The minister, I have found, is someone of integrity, and he would not say that unless he meant it. But the truth is that ministers come and go. The minister who introduced this legislation is gone. The minister who wrote this legislation is gone. I note the rate at which the Prime Minister has to table new sheets containing his frontbench at the beginning of question time.

The fact is our task in this place is to have good legislation that goes beyond the, what is, a very short-term survival instinct of a minister in the current coalition government. Whilst I appreciate his personal assurances and I wish him no ill will—indeed, I hope that he stays a minister until the next election, not beyond that, but until the next election; I wish him well—I do not think we can have legislation on that basis, which is why having the appeals processes included in the legislation is common sense.

It is true that legislation can be changed, but it is also true that legislation has a different status from regulations. That is the truth. When regulations are brought forward, they can often be put under circumstances whereby there are nine parts of the regulations being put forward that are agreed to but the 10th is a problem. Then, the parliament has to make a view as to whether to disallow the entire regulation, or proposed amendment to the regulation, not just one section. That is why legislation is better than regulation, because it allows for proper scrutiny in the law of the land.

What is more, when you are dealing with people’s appeals rights for the consumers of that legislation—those directly impacted, and we are talking about those 250,000 people—those 250,000 people, I think, who currently have ASICs or MSICs, have a different view about what the law is, the legislation, than a forage around looking for some rather obscure regulation which may or may not be relevant to them.

This legislation is trying to get transport security on our ports and airports right for the medium term. It is true that there will have to be change to legislation at some time because we have to keep up with the threat that comes from those who would seek to do us harm or those who are engaged in organised criminal activity. They adjust their methods, therefore, we need to adjust our legislation and our response, together with the appropriate agencies, and they, of course, need to adjust their action on the ground.

Our amendments here are sensible and, I think, are worthy of consideration. We will see what happens with them in the Senate. I would have thought that if they were carried in the Senate then the government would agree with the changed legislation, particularly given the comments that the minister has made. So why not? Here is an opportunity for you, Minister—cut out the senators, get it done now, get the legislation right, and then we can save ourselves a bit of time talking to those in the other place, and say, in a bipartisan way, that this is legislation that has the support of this parliament that it deserves. But only if we get it right, and this minor amendment would make it even better legislation.

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:31): Labor will be voting for the third reading of this bill, as we just voted for the second reading of the legislation. I want to make that clear to the House. We will be pursuing our amendments in the Senate, but we would be happy if the minister has suggestions about ways in which the amendments could perhaps be adjusted to satisfy the government, because I do believe that they have been reasonable amendments, and they were put forward in that spirit. I would much prefer for transport security legislation to not be the subject of divisions in the House, because I think it is a national interest issue. So, in speaking in favour of the third reading, I commend the bill to the House but suggest that there are flaws in the legislation that could be easily fixed, and that is the spirit in which the amendments that we just proposed before the House were moved.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a third time.

Nov 30, 2016

Ministerial Statement – Infrastructure

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:57): Early on in his infrastructure statement to parliament last Thursday, the Prime Minister said something that I agree with. He said:

If Australia is to ride the wave of opportunity that the 21st century offers, we need better infrastructure.

From there, the speech went downhill. What we heard was that he had a plan; he was going to do a study; there was going to be an examination; he was going to have a committee to look after the reports that had already been done by a committee. What we did not have in an infrastructure statement for the parliament was, of course, any attachment of legislation to it or any appropriation from the budget—because there was not a project named; there was not a project advanced; there was not a dollar announced. I do not know why you would give an infrastructure statement to the parliament that does not announce any infrastructure, that does not have anything of substance in it whatsoever.

This comes at a time where infrastructure investment in this country is in freefall. The context here is the resources sector going from the investment phase to the production phase. At that time, because of the decline in infrastructure investment associated with the resources sector, what you should have had—when combined with the fact that capital is almost free and when the government earlier this year could have borrowed for infrastructure at long-term rates, at a rate of under two per cent per annum—is the government stepping in and ramping up that investment, because we know that there is a need.

The member for Chifley just spoke about the M9. Why didn’t the government use last Thursday to announce funding for the M9? They did not even announce funding for planning for the M9, for preservation of the corridor, for getting the environmental approvals—nothing came from last week’s announcement. This comes when public infrastructure investment has fallen by 20 per cent in the government’s first two years. It also comes when the government continues to say that it is going to spend $50 billion on infrastructure in the forward estimates. It is just not true. Indeed, they are not even spending what they said they would spend in the budget papers of 2014. For example, in the last financial year the government did not spend $8 billion in 2015-16; they spent $5½ billion. When you take into account the fact that there was a $490 million payment to Western Australia to compensate for the GST, it is a $3 billion underspend on what they said they would do, or 35 per cent. This follows a $1 billion underspend the year before.

At this year’s election campaign, we put forward a comprehensive plan for infrastructure investment: the Cross River Rail in Brisbane, Melbourne Metro, Adelaide light rail, Perth Metronet and Western Sydney Rail. We put forward a comprehensive plan. We put forward and have advanced in this parliament again the need for a high-speed rail authority to advance that proposal. The coalition just offered more cuts. The Prime Minister likes to ride on trains and trams and take photos on them. We want him to actually fund them, not just take photos on them. He spruiks city deals and yet all that does is match our commitments to UTAS in Northern Tasmania and match the commitments that we made to the stadium and regeneration of the City of Townsville. The vague promise in Western Sydney is, frankly, a pittance compared to what is required in Western Sydney. He said in last Thursday’s statement that he is going to develop a freight strategy. There is one. It was done by Infrastructure Australia just after they did their national port strategy. It complements the two things together. Yet they cannot even fund the final section of the Port Botany rail freight plan. Through the Australian Rail Track Corporation, it can be funded off-budget, and they can fix the loop around South-West Sydney for a total of just under $200 million so that the freight corridor can be brought into the 21st century, where it should be. At the moment, for the last section between Mascot and the port, it is one way, so you cannot have trains going in and out to the port. If a train is going out, a train cannot go in. It is a two-way corridor with a one-way road. It is completely absurd. And yet they cannot do that.

If you look at the smallest programs, like the Black Spot Program, there was a 55 per cent underspend last year; the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program had a 65 per cent underspend on what was put in the budget; and the Bridges Renewal Program was 40 per cent down on what was promised. Last week I was reminded of their 2014 budget when they spent $70,000 making a video about the 2014 infrastructure investment plan. The video has been taken down because it is so embarrassing because none of it has happened. Then, during this year in the lead-up to the election, they took $18 million that was allocated to build roads, rail lines, ports and infrastructure and they spent it on TV ads to tell people what they did not have and what they were not getting.

The truth is that people need to hold this government to account. When it comes to Badgerys Creek airport, there is the circumstance whereby people get information from a website about flights based upon some theory. It is not based upon any flight paths that have been worked out. The government says that it can follow Labor’s announcement of ensuring there are no flights over communities at night—and nor should there be. That is the advantage of the planning protections that were put in place around the Badgerys Creek site 30 years ago. That is why it is perfectly able to ensure that flights do not go over any communities at night from the second airport. The government should not have that contradicted by some bureaucrats on sites that are out of date. They need to get on top of that and they need to get on top of proper community consultation for that vital piece of infrastructure, not just for Western Sydney but also for the national economy.

This government needs to match up its rhetoric with reality. They need to start investing. They need to have proper consultation. They need to have proper infrastructure plans. They need to restore respect to Infrastructure Australia and put it at the heart of infrastructure development.

Nov 29, 2016

Income Tax Rates Amendment (Working Holiday Maker Reform) Bill 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (12:54): In policymaking, just like in life, it is important to think things through very carefully. If you make decisions on the run, if you fail to consider what the consequences of those decisions will be, you end up with bad outcomes. If you get it really wrong, you can absolutely damage our economy, you can destroy jobs and you can have a devastating impact on average Australians. That is what has happened with this backpacker tax.

The member for Durack, who just spoke, who spoke in here in favour of 15 per cent, last Thursday was supporting 19 per cent and two months ago was supporting 32.5 per cent. Their position is quite frankly farcical. It is an indictment of their failure to have proper policymaking processes built into the budget situation, and this comes from a group of people who farcically pretend that they care about regional Australia. For the National Party in particular to have presided over this policy disaster, when it has the Minister for Agriculture as the Deputy Prime Minister in a senior cabinet position, is quite frankly extraordinary.

It is not just us saying this. This is what Fiona Simpson, the new head of the National Farmers Federation, said this morning on Radio National: ‘We were absolutely blindsided by an item in the budget that came in that we were not consulted about that said that they were going to put the backpacker tax up to 32½ per cent, from nought per cent. When that happened we saw the dangers of what would happen to our industry. People, backpackers particularly, would have a look at that tax rate, would compare it to how well off they would be in Canada, in New Zealand or other countries, and they wouldn’t come, and they haven’t come.’ That is what the National Farmers Federation said about this debacle, presided over by this incompetent, neglectful government.

The fact is that, prior to this, there was no consultation with the industry. The backpacker tax has been causing chaos and uncertainty across the Australian community for more than 18 months. We know this from members such as the member for Solomon, who has reported mangoes lying on the ground, rotting, because of the unavailability of a workforce. We know that farmers have said that they would not plant crops because they were not sure they would be able to be picked. We know that the tourism sector, which I am proud to represent in this chamber on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, particularly in northern and regional Australia, has been devastated by these changes. It has been unable to get those seasonal workers, who are so important, just like in the agricultural sector—particularly in areas like Broome, in the member for Durack’s electorate, which has a very short tourist season. People come in and provide support for those businesses.

Yet they introduced this tax, which went from zero to 32.5 per cent, not only with no consultation with the industry but with no research or modelling into the economic effects of the tax. Indeed, there has been no evidence provided from the government that they weighed any benefits from a so-called increase in revenue from this tax against the negative effect on jobs, on businesses and on taxation from the fact that backpackers were not coming here to pay any rate at all. So, far from an increase in revenue, you have had a reduction in revenue and economic activity, particularly in regional Australia, as a result of this government’s position.

They introduced this in May 2015, and the first time it was voted on was last week, in late November 2016—18 months without them having the capacity to bring legislation before the parliament. The 2016 budget came and went; the whole of that parliament came and went; the election came and went—and still we did not have any legislation. It is quite extraordinary that you would have a 2015 budget measure still being debated in November 2016—not because it had been rejected by the Senate, because it had failed to be introduced. But, over that time, month after month, as the agriculture and tourism sectors were warning about the impact that it was having—that backpackers were not coming here and that that was having a devastating impact on small business and on regional communities in places like northern Australia and Tasmania that rely upon these people for the local economy—what we had from this government was an arrogance that refused to listen.

And then, at the last minute, you had the 19 per cent figure that they attempted to get through the parliament last week. The government had again said, just two days ago, that they would not budge. And now of course we know that that is precisely what they have done: to budge; to change their position—now down to 15 per cent, because of an amendment proposed by a very minor party in the other place, the once great National Party, rolling over to the Liberal Party on one circumstance in this place around the cabinet room, but rolling over to One Nation senators in the other place, a fact that they stand condemned on.

But the chaos has continued in this parliament. Not only did you have an idea plucked out of the air and put in the budget—and, one would assume, supported by people like Barnaby Joyce and Warren Truss, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister of the country—but then, when they changed to 19 per cent, you had, again plucked out of the air, an increase in the passenger movement charge. That increase in the passenger movement charge was made, again, with no economic modelling and no consultation with the sector. It was just a thought-bubble from an unconnected piece of legislation somehow attached to this because they had the farcical situation of having to deal with this legislation.

Last week, first, they knocked off the increase to the passenger movement charge in the Senate. So they had to put it again. And what they said to the One Nation senators was: ‘If you just agree to this, we’ll have an amendment and we’ll bind the parliament for five years.’ And of course we heard from the Speaker, in his ruling earlier on, how farcical that is. You cannot bind the parliament for next year, let alone bind the next parliament. The idea that you can do that is, quite frankly, absurd, and the legislation we will deal with next, arising after this, will have no practical effect at all. But it shows that this is government by chaos. On policy integrity, it is a fail. On proper research, it is a fail. On industry consultation, it is a fail. On parliamentary procedure, it is a fail.

Backpackers are critical to the Australian economy. They come here, they work largely in regional communities, and, what is more, they bring more money than they earn. They contribute to those local economies. It is not rocket science. If they are working in Darwin or Broome or Townsville or Launceston, what they do is: they bring money to those local economies. They earn money, and they spend it in those local economies where they are working. The money circulates around those local economies. They help to create local jobs. That is what they contribute.

But also they do something more than that, because all of the research shows that they come back. It is a bit like the people who have gone through the Colombo Plan and why that has been a fantastic investment in Australia’s future. These people become advocates. They circulate the pictures of them working in the tourism sector or the agricultural sector through social media. They become advertisers for our great nation. They encourage other people to come here right now. But they also come back. They come back with their families. They come back and, instead of staying in the hostel, they stay at the Hilton, when they come back, down the track. They become advocates for Australia. It is one of the reasons why the tourism sector is growing so strongly.

Research shows that most backpackers earn about $16,000 while they are here, and they spend many times more than that. But we have had these ridiculous arguments put forward by those opposite—ridiculous arguments about backpackers somehow being better off than Australian workers. Well, let us be clear and let us knock off that furphy. Backpackers, under Labor’s proposal, would pay 10.5 per cent from the first dollar earned. Thanks to the Labor government, there is a thing called the tax-free threshold. That is now $18,200. We tripled it when we were in government. If you want to talk about progressive tax reform—and I pay tribute to the member for Lilley for this—the most significant single progressive income tax reform in generations was when we tripled the income tax-free threshold. It took a million Australians out of the tax system completely. And, of course, most backpackers do not earn anything like $18,200. So it is the complete furphy that they have raised. They have gone out there and they have tried to argue, somehow, this case. But then, in the ultimate indictment, if anyone was unsure of whether we were right and whether they were just talking rubbish, compare their speeches of last week when 15 per cent would be ‘a disaster’ with speeches of this week when they have legislation before the House for 15 per cent. They simply cannot have it both ways.

When it comes to tourism, there are a few points. It employs more than a million Australians. It contributes $107 billion to the economy. Every dollar spent on tourism generates another 92c in other parts of the economy. Tourism has been recognised as one of the five super growth sectors. It represents three per cent of Australia’s GDP. In the 12 months to August this year, overseas arrivals show eight million international visitors came into Australia, with a 10.9 per cent increase over the previous years. We have a real opportunity at hand to grow the economy through tourism.

If you have a look at the jobs in one seat. Leichhardt, which is based around Cairns, has 8,535 jobs. We will see which way the member for Leichhardt votes on this legislation. The tourism minister himself, the member for Moncrieff, has 6,672 jobs and businesses in his seat. The member for Durack, who just spoke, has 6,195. The courageous member for Dawson will not be voting for this, surely. He has 5,325 people employed. And across Tasmania there are 10,000 direct jobs and over two and a half thousand businesses rely upon tourism.

The fact is: this government has completely botched this legislation. It has damaged tourism and it has damaged agriculture. (Time expired)


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