Browsing articles in "Shadow Ministerial Hansard"
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)

Nov 29, 2016

Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (17:33): I move:

That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

   ‘the House:

   (1)   declines to give the bill a second reading as the existence of this Bill is policy-on-the-run in that:

      (a) an increase in the Passenger Movement Charge bears no relation to the issue of the appropriate level of taxation for backpackers who work in Australia;

      (b) an increase in the Passenger Movement Charge was not part of the original package in the May 2015 Budget;

      (c) over sixteen months later, in September 2016, the Government announced further changes to the package and randomly added a $5 increase to the Passenger Movement Charge to fund other unrelated policy decisions;

      (d) the increase in the Passenger Movement Charge was done without any consultation with the sectors affected – including airlines, cruise ship companies, tourism operators, and tourism peak organisations.

   (e) the Treasurer indicated in a media conference on November 8 that he would simply seek to double the $5 increase to $10 if other unrelated elements of the package failed; and

      (f) the increase in the Passenger Movement Charge has real consequences for tourism and will have jobs impacts in the tourism industry, which employs a million Australians, is Australia’s largest services export and has been nominated as one of Australia’s five super growth sectors; and

   (2)   notes further that the handling of the Passenger Movement in the Parliament has been chaotic in that:

      (a) no modelling of the economic and jobs impact of this measure accompanies the Bill before the Parliament;

      (b) this increase breaks an election commitment from the Government not to increase the Charge;

      (c) this Bill directly contradicts the statement of the Minister for Tourism, who told the Parliament on August 31 that previous increases in the Passenger Movement Charge would choke “the golden goose that is Australia’s tourism industry”;

      (d) the increase failed in the Senate last week after the Government sought to bring it on for a vote; and

      (e) the five-year freeze would extend beyond the life of this Parliament, and is a meaningless statement designed to secure support for this flawed legislation’.

Speaking to the amendment briefly, it is very clear that this is a clear breach of a commitment by the government. We know now that there is absolutely no possibility of this parliament binding future parliaments for five years and that that is simply a con in order to secure the support of the Senate crossbench.

Importantly, the tourism sector have been treated with contempt. They were treated with contempt when the government failed to nominate a tourism minister after the 2013 election. They were treated with contempt when the people in Senate estimates could not say where the tourism sector would be represented and by which department. They were treated with contempt by the failure of the government to produce a tourism policy at the last election. They were treated with contempt when the government then failed to consult with them before this increase of $5 in the passenger movement charge. They were treated with contempt when the Treasurer threatened to double the increase over unrelated measures, in a fit of pique for which this Treasurer is becoming known.

The fact is that tourism is a vital sector for Australia. The truth is that it cannot continue to be treated by this government like a cash cow. The passenger movement charge was originally introduced to pay for customs services and, essentially, a user-pays model for services provided by the Australian government. That has long since gone. The passenger movement charge delivers more than $1 billion, most of which goes straight into consolidated revenue, as will this increase go straight into consolidated revenue. At a time when the tourism sector employs many people, particularly in regional Australia, it has been hit with a double whammy of the backpacker tax and this increase. That is why I am moving this amendment. I commend the amendment to the House. This increase should not go forward. Labor are being consistent with the policy approach that we had at the election and consistent with the approach taken by people such as the member for Solomon, who will second this amendment. He campaigned on this issue, as did the member for Lyons, the member for Paterson and the member for Brand, who will also have the opportunity to make contributions to this debate.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Goodenough ): Is the amendment seconded?

Nov 29, 2016

Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (16:59): I seek leave to move the following motion:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Grayndler from moving immediately—That:

(1) government business order of the day No. 2, Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016 be discharged; and

(2) the reintroduction of a bill relating to the Passenger Movement Charge not be permitted unless it does not contravene well established Parliamentary practice by purporting to bind future Parliaments.

Leave not granted.

Mr ALBANESE: I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Grayndler from moving immediately—That:

(1) government business order of the day No. 2, Passenger Movement Charge Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2016 be discharged; and

(2) the reintroduction of a bill relating to the Passenger Movement Charge not be permitted unless it does not contravene well established Parliamentary practice by purporting to bind future Parliaments.

Mr Speaker, the motion that I am seeking to suspend standing orders in order to move here today is consistent with your statement to the House earlier this morning, where you pointed out the fact that it is within the parameters of this parliament to make laws at any time. Indeed, the passenger movement charge increase of $5 that is provided for by the bill that is before the House does just that. Given the fact that the government itself promised, prior to the 2 July election, that there would be no increase in the passenger movement charge, it is, frankly, absurd that this parliament would consider legislation that purports to bind not just this parliament but the next parliament as well, for the next five years, to not have an increase in the passenger movement charge.

The fact is this: an increase in the passenger movement charge bears no relation to the issue of the appropriate level of taxation for backpackers who work in Australia. That is why, earlier today, we moved to separate the bills. It is also the case that the increase in the passenger movement charge was not part of the original package that was part of the May 2015 budget. Over 16 months later, in September 2016, the government announced further changes to the package and randomly added this $5 increase to the passenger movement charge to fund other, unrelated policy decisions. The increase in the passenger movement charge was done without any consultation with the sectors affected, including airlines, cruise ship companies, tourism operators and peak tourism organisations.

This legislation that is before the parliament today not only seeks to break the promise that was made just months ago, prior to the July election; it also seeks to bind governments, not just up until the next election but during the next term. The sole reason for that happening is that last Thursday—the government having lost the vote on the passenger movement charge increase in the Senate last Wednesday night—when the One Nation senators walked onto the floor of the Senate, they were handed an amendment which was written for them by the government in their name, and they were told that they could move that amendment to the legislation that was before the Senate last Thursday. They then received advice from the clerks, who were also caught on the hop in the Senate with this last-minute, policy-on-the-run proposition. The clerks ruled that it could not be moved in the Senate. Then the legislation came across here. The government were in a farcical position whereby they only had the numbers for a majority for the passenger movement charge increase by, essentially, telling the senators a falsehood—that somehow they could make a decision today that would bind the next budget, the one after that, the one after that, the one after that and the one after that, regardless of who was in government.

I accept the explanation that Senator Hanson of One Nation gave before the Senate last Thursday in response to Senator Wong, where said that she was inexperienced. She was indeed. But once bitten, twice shy with this mob, because they got them to vote for a breaking of a promise, and they broke the promise to those crossbench senators on the very same day. We then had a farcical situation whereby they came in here and moved legislation, with not just the passenger movement charge but the supposed five-year freeze in it. That is why standing orders should be suspended, Mr Speaker, because, as you pointed out earlier today, it is simply not possible for this parliament to bind future parliaments. Any future increase in the passenger movement charge will occur exactly the way that this one is—a government coming in here, having the numbers in the House of Representatives and then trying to secure the numbers in the Senate.

The policy just did not exist until the 2 July election. It existed beyond that because, after this election, unlike the one before, the government actually appointed a tourism minister. The tourism minister actually got a dixer in one of the first weeks of sitting. The member for Moncrieff, Mr Ciobo, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, rose in the parliament and said that increases in the passenger movement charge would choke ‘the golden goose that is Australia’s tourism industry’. That is what he had to say—not in the distant past but right here in this parliament, in this chamber. Then the government have the hide to move legislation that allegedly binds future governments. It is an absolute absurdity.

The government, having not consulted on the passenger movement charge before it was introduced; having promised to not do it; having reaffirmed that on the floor of the House of Representatives, saying it was bad policy, in the first and only dixer taken on tourism since they came to office in 2013; having lost the vote in the Senate last Wednesday night; and having recommitted the vote on the Thursday morning on the basis of a falsehood told to the crossbenchers, then came in here this week, yesterday, and moved this legislation, trying to ram through the parliament changes to the passenger movement charge, with a nonsense alleged five-year freeze.

That is why standing orders should be suspended and why we should, frankly, decline to give this bill a second reading. We should decline to consider this bill. It should be discharged by resolution of this House and it should be discharged until such time as the government can actually put up legislation that it itself is not laughing at behind closed doors, that it itself is not running around going: ‘We conned those crossbench senators. We were short votes in the Senate. We lost the vote on the Wednesday night but put it forward and we conned them by telling them that it was a good idea.’ But this follows of course the absurdity of the backpacker tax, which followed the same thing: not thought out, no economic modelling, no consultation, a shemozzle and a change—32.5 down to 19 down to 15. Who knows where the government will actually end up on this position.

It was careless of some of the crossbench senators to trust those opposite. But I do say this, having some experience at running a minority parliament: you can only lie to people once. You can only do it once. And that is why, when you are dealing with people who are crossbenchers, you have to treat them with respect and treat them with the dignity they deserve as elected members of parliament. What this legislation purports to do is, quite frankly, absurd.

What is very clear from this government is it is incapable of running this parliament. And if you cannot run the parliament, you cannot run the country. With the backpacker tax fiasco and the passenger movement charge fiasco, they have shown that they are incapable of running the country. Here we have tourism, an industry that employs more than one million Australians, an industry that contributes $107 billion to the economy, an industry where every dollar spent on tourism generates another 92c in other parts of the economy and an industry that deserves support not this attack with no notice and no consultation that we have seen from the government. That is why standing orders should be suspended and that is why we should discharge this legislation.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?

Nov 28, 2016

Private Members’ Business – Road Safety

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (13:10): I, too, rise to speak on the issue of road safety, an issue that impacts on all Australians. I was very proud to introduce the current National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, part of a global response to this issue. It seeks to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads by 30 per cent over this decade.

Unfortunately, however, as we stand up to this point we have, in the last two years, headed in the wrong direction if we look at the number of fatalities on our roads. After literally decades of improvements, for a range of reasons, we are going backwards. There are three key elements of road safety: safer roads, safer vehicles and better driver behaviour. The latest figures show that to October there have been 1,081 deaths so far in this calendar year, 6.5 per cent higher than the same period last year. These figures hide the real trauma—the trauma of all those who have families and friends. There would be not Australian who has not been affected directly in losing a loved one or a friend on our roads. Every death is one too many.

We do need to address safer roads. Major investments in roads such as the Pacific Highway and the Bruce Highway were a part of that. That funding needs to be accelerated, not slowed down as has occurred over the last two financial years. The motion refers to a range of programs for the government. The problem here is that a range of those programs have seen underinvestment compared with what the 2014 budget promise was. The Black Spot Program, for example, in its first two completed years—2014-15 and 2015-16—had an underspend of $34 million, so 55 per cent of the budgeted amount was not spent. The Bridges Renewal program had a $25 million underspend—40 per cent of the budget not invested. Most disappointingly, the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program, one that I was proud to introduce—basically, truckies’ rest stops—had $27 million not spent, or 70 per cent of the budget not invested.

I was concerned last year with the government’s abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. We know that fatality rates for accidents involving heavy vehicles are about 12 times the national average, and there are about 200 lives lost annually—not just heavy vehicle drivers but, more often than not, people in passenger vehicles impacted with heavy vehicles. We need to address it. The government abolished the tribunal but did not replace it with anything.

Also, the second part of our campaign needs to be safer vehicles. Data shows that the percentage of new light vehicles sold with a five-star ANCAP rating has increased from 56 per cent to 86 per cent since 2010. That is a good thing. New technology, including smart vehicles and telematics, should also provide opportunities for increasing safety to all road users and pedestrians.

The third part of the strategy is targeting driver behaviour. The strategy measures both responsible and irresponsible driver behaviour patterns, including age, type of vehicle, lack of restraint, consumption of alcohol or not holding a licence. The segmentation shows considerable difference in results between 2010 and 2014. Federal support for programs like keys2drive, which is administrated by AAA, are very important. It is a free lesson for learner drivers at a cost of $4 million per annum, but also, importantly, a lesson for those people who are training those young people—for the parents and the friends who are doing that—and making sure that good lessons are passed on.

Safer roads, safer vehicles and better driver behaviour—all three need to be supported by all sides of this parliament if we are going to truly address these rising figures and turn it back to where it should be, which is reducing the number of fatalities on our roads. (Time expired)

Nov 28, 2016

Private Members’ Business – World AIDS Day

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:12): I rise to support the motion from my friend the member for Griffith, acknowledging that this week we will hold, on Thursday, World AIDS Day, and the theme this year is: HIV is still here and it is on the move. World AIDS Day has been held every year since 1988. More than 36 million people around the world are living with HIV.

The first recorded case of HIV AIDS in Australia was in Sydney in October 1982, and the first Australian death from AIDS occurred in July 1983. Between 1984 and mid-1985, there was a 540 per cent increase in HIV infections. And there was no cure. Labor health minister Neal Blewett, with the support of the then opposition, deserves incredible praise for embarking on a world-leading, pioneering and brave campaign to promote a safe-sex message. A television advertisement showing the Grim Reaper knocking people down like pins in a bowling alley was first screened on 5 April 1987 and kicked off efforts to provide the public with reliable information on preventing HIV and AIDS.

The success of the campaign can be judged by the reduction in the rate of infections. New diagnoses of HIV—according to the Australian Federation of Aids Organisations, based in my electorate in Newtown—have stabilised at just over 1,000 per year in the last three years. HIV diagnosis among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, however, has been increasing over the last five years. Ninety per cent of people living with HIV are men.

The stabilisation follows a concerted effort to increase the scope and regularity of HIV testing. The key is awareness. Pre-exposure prophylaxis has revolutionised HIV prevention. Through its use—along with rapid HIV testing, treatment as prevention, condoms and lube, and supportive attitudes and laws—the situation in Australia has stabilised. What is more, highly effective treatment for those with HIV means that deaths in Australia are now rare.

Unfortunately, people are still dying, including my dear friend and the first out MP in Australia, Paul O’Grady, who passed away in recent times after a very long illness. When he contracted HIV he resigned from the New South Wales parliament because he was not expected to live very much longer. He of course lived for decades longer as a result of the effort of science in prolonging people’s lives and providing that treatment.

Internationally, there remains a massive challenge. In our region of the Asia-Pacific, 180,000 cases of AIDS and 1.2 million cases of HIV are reported each year. The Australian government has committed $220 million over three years towards the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This fund operates in 120 countries and is estimated to have saved 20 million lives since 2002. Australia should play a leading role in our region in tackling HIV, and this of course should be a bipartisan effort.

I want to today pay tribute to those people who in the early years had the courage to come out and say that they were HIV positive, sometimes attracting criticism and very personal derision as a result of the courageous stance that they took. Many of those people are no longer around. But, as a result of that many—hundreds of thousands—of lives here in Australia have been saved. The courage and vision that the former Labor government showed—and also it must be said the fact that the opposition of the time was prepared to support that leadership from Neal Blewett has made a real difference in our society. It is another reason why we need to be open about these issues, how we need to as a community do whatever we can to ensure that in future years we do not actually have a theme of ‘HIV is still here and it is on the move’; but that we can celebrate that HIV is in the past.

Nov 23, 2016

Constituency-statements – Westconnex

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:43): Today I rise to give voice to the concerns, frustration and suffering of my constituents in the suburb of Haberfield who are being adversely affected by the construction of the WestConnex project. Many have experienced ongoing noise pollution as a result of late-night construction works, as well as increased risk to pedestrian safety caused by large-truck movements in local streets. For several months, residents in Wattle Street and adjoining areas have been suffering from unacceptable late-night noise between 9 pm and 5 am. Older residents and families with small children have been particularly impacted and are finding the ongoing noise pollution very distressing. Residents have informed me that they have continually raised concerns with the Sydney Motorway Corporation and New South Wales Roads and Maritime Services about the impact this noise is having on their sleep patterns and quality of life.

Unfortunately, to date the response from New South Wales government agencies has been hopelessly inadequate. This extraordinary level of late-night noise pollution is certainly not acceptable. I understand that RMS would prefer to carry out works at night in order to minimise daytime disruption to traffic flows and to expedite completion of the project; however, indefinitely sacrificing the quality of life of hundreds of Haberfield residents in order to meet these objectives is unfair and unprofessional. The failure to police limits on the movement of heavy vehicles in local streets in Haberfield is also posing safety risks for residents there.

There are specified routes that trucks working on WestConnex are required to use; however, residents have continually reported to me that drivers are not adhering to this plan. In addition to that, some of the work that has been carried out in streets such as Northcote Street have occurred before the notification has gone out to residents saying that this work will occur. When this was raised with one of the workers on site, he said, ‘That way we’ll get less complaints’. And they wonder why the community are concerned about these issues! Once quiet streets, including those on which primary schools and childcare centres are located, have now become thoroughfares for large and dangerous vehicles because conditions of consent for this project are not being enforced. Added to that is the anguish caused by the fact that the head of the planning system in New South Wales, Lucy Turnbull, stated that she was not even aware that houses were being demolished in the heritage suburb of Haberfield. The New South Wales government has a responsibility to protect the amenity of people living in Haberfield; they are not doing the right thing, and they must do better.

Nov 21, 2016

High Speed Rail Planning Authority Bill 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:37): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Introduction

If you want to create a better future, you need to imagine a better future.

And once you identify where you want to go, you need to act to make it a reality.

That is the thought behind this bill.

It would create a High Speed Rail Authority to advance planning and corridor acquisition for the construction of a high-speed rail link between Brisbane and Melbourne via Sydney and Canberra.

A feasibility study conducted by the former Labor government found the project was viable, returning, for example, $2.15 in economic benefit for every dollar invested on the Sydney to Melbourne section.

It is time to stop talking about high-speed rail and to start working on the project.

This bill does not propose that we start construction tomorrow, but it does create a vehicle to advance the project—a planning authority that would work with the governments of Queensland, NSW, the ACT and Victoria.

It would capitalise on the work of the feasibility study I mentioned earlier to begin that detailed planning.

Importantly, it would begin to secure the corridor for the project before urban sprawl makes the project unviable.

The former Labor government proposed the creation of such an authority in 2013 and allocated the funding.

Regrettably, in 2013 the incoming coalition government scrapped that allocation.

That was a disappointing decision.

It has also been disappointing that on the three occasions that I have introduced this private member’s bill since the change of government in 2013, the government failed to bring it on for debate.

But that is in the past.

I come to the parliament with this bill again today because I am as convinced as ever that there is a strong case to proceed with high-speed rail.

But I also note recent strong indications that those opposite are coming around to a position of support for this visionary concept.

This is partly due to the strong interest being shown in an Australian high-speed rail project from the private sector, including overseas companies with experience in the technology.

Barely a month goes by when I don’t receive a visit from companies from nations like Japan, China and Korea, as well as European countries.

Prior to the 2 July election, Labor announced it would mandate the High Speed Rail Authority envisaged in this legislation to call for expressions of interest from international consortiums to participate in the project.

The consortiums would bring their expertise and their investment.

It is clear that a portion of the funding for this major project could come from value uplift, which has been used for infrastructure projects for more than a century.

However, the study completed by the former Labor government dismissed the idea that this project could be funded solely through this method.

For example, the most expensive component of construction is 67km of tunnel through Sydney, which would have little capacity for any such funding mechanism.

The development of high-speed rail does need to be bipartisan.

The project would cover a period longer than the life of any particular government.

But Australians are increasingly asking themselves: if the Europeans and Americans, as well as countries in our region, can successfully develop high-speed rail, why can’t we?

A long road

This is the fourth time that this bill has come before us.

I first introduced it in December 2013 as the first private member’s bill before the parliament in the previous term.

It is a shame it was not debated previously.

Indeed, at one stage earlier this year it was literally the only piece of legislation that was before the House of Representatives and the government still declined to bring on a debate.

The project

As infrastructure and transport minister in the former Labor government, I commissioned a two-part study involving extensive consultation with industry and international operators of high-speed rail, as well as significant community input.

The study, published in April 2013, included the business case for the project, consideration of environmental issues, projections of patronage, the proposed route, proposed stations and proposed time lines.

It found that high-speed rail down the east coast of Australia was indeed a viable proposition.

Once fully operational across the Brisbane to Melbourne corridor, high-speed rail could carry approximately 84 million passengers a year.

At speeds of 350 kilometres per hour, people would be able to travel from Melbourne to Sydney, or Sydney to Brisbane, in less than three hours.

As this technology is being rolled out across the world the cost is becoming smaller and the technology is becoming better and more efficient. Emerging new technology offering even faster speeds offers even shorter trip times.

The report found that Commonwealth leadership and coordination would be essential, given the number of jurisdictions involved.

High-speed rail would also be an engineering challenge, requiring at least 80 kilometres of tunnels, mainly in Sydney.

But despite these challenges, the experts said that high-speed rail had huge potential, particularly if we consider where our society is headed over coming decades.

We can anticipate significant population growth over coming decades along the route of this proposed line.

We can also anticipate that growing pressure for a carbon constrained economy will drive the economics of this project ever more positively over time.

We can also anticipate that if we fail to act soon, delivery of high-speed rail will be made more difficult and more costly, perhaps even impossible, because parts of the corridor will be built out by urban sprawl.

That is why this bill proposes to create an 11-person high-speed rail authority to bring together all affected states and territories as well as rail and engineering experts to progress planning and, critically, focus on the corridor.

The authority’s roles would include consideration of:

land use planning relating to the corridor;

safety;

measures to minimise environmental impact;

public consultation; and

intervention to purchase the corridor.

As minister, I insisted that such a large project be the subject of intense and non-partisan examination.

I appointed a High Speed Rail Advisory Group that included former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, the Business Council of Australia’s chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, and the late Bryan Nye, representing the Australasian Railway Association.

These were serious people having a look at a serious issue on the cold, hard facts.

They endorsed high-speed rail on the basis of the evidence.

Vision

To best understand the potential of high-speed rail, we need to look well beyond 2016.

In coming decades, our population will be significantly larger, and much of the growth will be concentrated on areas along the proposed route. We need to take pressure off the capital cities in particular and grow the regional cities along the route. There is no doubt that high-speed rail will assist that.

According to the study, travel on the east coast of Australia is forecast to grow by about 1.8 per cent every year over the next two decades and to increase by 60 per cent by 2035.

The study said east-coast trips would double from 152 million trips in 2009 to 355 million trips in 2065.

That is why a project of this size and importance requires that policymakers exercise vision.

When it comes to high-speed rail this is critical, because high-speed rail’s greatest strength will be its contribution to regional development.

Travelling between capital cities by rail in just a few hours would be fantastic.

But consider the possible benefits of high-speed rail for the regional cities along the route of the line, including Australia’s largest inland city, Canberra, where we are right now, but also the Gold Coast, Casino, Grafton, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Taree, Newcastle, the Central Coast, the southern highlands, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Shepparton.

The project will position these centres to take some of the population growth pressure off our capital cities. It will transform these regional communities.

New businesses means jobs: jobs for today’s kids and jobs for their kids.

There is a role for government in investing in the infrastructure that underpins jobs growth.

Building high-speed rail would do just that, particularly in regional Australia.

Conclusion

Australia is in a state of economic transition.

The decline in the investment stage of the mining boom means that we need to develop new industries and strengthen existing sectors—a process that will take many years.

As that process continues, we need to keep the economy moving.

We need to keep Australians at work.

Investing in good infrastructure projects that provide a return for investment must be part of that process.

Reserve Bank Chair Philip Lowe and his predecessor, Glenn Stevens, have both noted in recent speeches that monetary policy can only go so far in stimulating the economy.

Both men have indicated that investment in good infrastructure projects will have a positive role in economic stimulus, provided the projects stack up in boosting productivity. What the study showed was that high-speed rail does indeed stack up.

The research has been done.

It is time to progress this visionary nation-building project.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): Is the motion seconded?

Ms Brodtmann: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

Debate adjourned.

Nov 10, 2016

Constituency Statement – Nuclear Disarmament

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (10:49): I rise to address the issue of nuclear disarmament. On 27 October, the United Nations adopted a crucial and important resolution to convene a UN conference in 2017 to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons. One hundred and twenty-three nations voted in favour of this resolution. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has said:

This historic decision heralds an end to two decades of paralysis in multilateral nuclear disarmament efforts.

I commend the hard work of ICAN in Australia in helping to progress the disarmament agenda. However, it is disappointing that Australia was not one of the 123 countries that voted in favour of this resolution; they did not even abstain. They were one of the few countries very much in the minority that voted against this resolution. As well as establishing the conference for 2017, the proposal also recorded the international community’s urgency in securing substantive progress in multilateral nuclear disarmament talks in the meantime. Yet, in the fortnight that has followed this important vote, and even after extensive questioning that took place in the Senate, the federal government is still to provide a sufficient answer as to why Australia was not one of those that supported a ban on the worst weapons of mass destruction.

The Labor Party’s platform affirms our belief that, as a non-nuclear armed nation and a good international citizen, Australian can make a significant contribution to promoting disarmament, the reduction of nuclear stockpiles and the responsible use of nuclear technology. Unfortunately, the recent voting record of those opposite shows that they do not share the same priorities that we do. We have now reached a time where an overwhelming majority of the world’s nations are ready to outlaw nuclear weapons, just as the world has outlawed chemical and biological weapons. The Turnbull government must stop working to undermine this process; instead, it must work with other nations. The government should commit to attending the 2017 negotiating conference. If Australia fails to participate, this will tarnish our international reputation as a disarmament supporter. This is a huge opportunity for the international community to make real progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

Nov 9, 2016

Migration Legislation Amendment (Regional Processing Cohort) Bill 2016 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:03): I will not be voting for this legislation. This is legislation which has no policy basis whatsoever. Neither the contributions of those opposite nor indeed the legislation itself indicate why the government believes this legislation is necessary. The previous speaker spoke about Labor’s position and what we said before the election. He should have a look at what his own government said before the election. They said that they had got the policy settings right. They said that they had stopped the boats. They said they had removed all of the incentives with regard to people smugglers. Yet now we have new legislation, which was not mentioned during the election campaign, that is all about politics and not about substance or policy. They should be better than that. This country deserves better than that. But what we have here is a government without an agenda, contriving division as a means to attack the Labor Party for political reasons. It is a government that is preoccupied with conflict when it should be looking for solutions to the challenges facing this nation. It prefers conflict to outcomes. The government’s justification for this bill is that the legislation will deter people smugglers. But you can be harsh against people smugglers without being weak on humanity.

What this government should be dealing with is the challenge of settling people who are now on Nauru and Manus and have been there indefinitely. Indefinite detention causes mental anguish. All of the experts say that that is the case. If we are aware that circumstances not of those people’s making are causing mental anguish then we as a parliament, as people concerned with our common humanity, have a responsibility to do something about it. What the government should be doing—and should have done well before now—is identifying those people and placing them in third countries so that those who have been recognised as genuine refugees are settled in accordance with the responsibilities that we have. Those people who are not genuine refugees should, of course, return to their country of origin. But this legislation goes much further than suggesting that people will not be settled here in Australia; it says that people will be banned for life from coming to Australia, whether it be as tourists, to visit relatives or as business representatives.

Last Saturday night I had the honour of attending the Ethnic Business Awards in Melbourne. The government was represented by the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Julie Bishop, the member for Curtin and Minister for Foreign Affairs. She gave quite a good speech to that event, lauding the major recipients. The recipient of the major business award was a former Iranian refugee. The recipient of the major small business award was a refugee—a boat person—who came from Vietnam. The fact is that the government, in its rhetoric, is reinforcing views in the community very deliberately that somehow anyone who seeks asylum is not legitimate, does not have a contribution to make. And the government must know that it is sending that message to the Australian community, which is perhaps why Pauline Hanson has been so supportive of this policy.

But they must know something else as well, because we on this side have been determined, in a bipartisan way, to support policies that genuinely deter people smugglers. But in question time, for answer after answer, they have been prepared to stand up here and send a message to the people smugglers that somehow there is not a bipartisan position in this parliament on deterring people smugglers—being prepared to send that message. It is consistent with a government that, when it is in trouble, reaches into the bottom drawer and brings out policies, such as this one, for which there is no mandate—policies that were never mentioned before an election that we have just been through.

They say there is a justification in terms of assisting the settlement of the people of Nauru and Manus, but we know that that is not true. How do we know that is not true? Because the conservative Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, told people it is not true when he told the people of Australia and, importantly, of his own country, New Zealand, that he would not cop a two-tiered citizenship for New Zealand citizens and that his offer to provide settlement for people on Manus and Nauru, which he has made and repeated a number of times, would be withdrawn if it was conditional upon granting a secondary citizenship status to those refugees. Therefore, it would be even more difficult to provide a solution to the major issue the government should now be dealing with, which is the settlement of those people—something they have a responsibility to do.

The fact is that the whole of this parliament has put forward a clear message, and that consensus is being breached by those opposite. How irresponsible of them: sending a message to the people smugglers that somehow this is not a bipartisan position but at the same time wanting to send a message to the Australian people that there is political gain for the government in seeking to create a political division where none should be. They are prepared to use these people as pawns whose human rights, dignity and mental health can just be taken and given away in order to secure the game of politics, which is what their plan is here.

The fact is that there is extraordinary dysfunction within this deeply divided government, led by a Prime Minister who is constantly looking over his shoulder to ensure that he is not abandoned by the hard right-wing members of his own political party. The polls are bad. Morale is down. The critics are circling. The Prime Minister needs a political circuit-breaker. The two things that they draw on is that they usually complain about unions and try to create a division and political conflict over the issue of asylum seekers. And that is what we are seeing here: no practical reason for this change. Its only purpose is to give the government an opportunity to attack the opposition.

A government that should be concerned with economic growth, should be concerned with job creation, should be concerned with future education, should be concerned with health care and should be concerned with nation building through infrastructure has, because it does not have an agenda on any of those issues, fallen back on this issue. Similarly, the inquiry announced by the cabinet to have a parliamentary committee inquiry into the conduct of the Human Rights Commission and antidiscrimination law in this country was, again, an attempt to create division and conflict in the community, to create a return to the old culture wars by putting people against each other. They cite, of course, the investigation into the cartoonist Bill Leak, claiming that 18C denies Mr Leak his freedom of speech. The truth is that in this country we do have freedom of speech. Whilst that cartoon might not be something I would have drawn, he had the right to do so. I think the complaint should be dismissed, and I have no doubt that it will not result in any consequences against Bill Leak.

I spoke to Bill Leak today, and I accept that he is someone who is going through some real anguish as a result of the complaint being made against him. I am certainly sympathetic with the view that, whether it is Bill Leak or the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo in France or cartoonists anywhere else, people have to have their right to be provocative from time to time and to be defended on that basis—not because you agree with them, but because artistic freedom is an important part of our democracy. So I do think that it is unfortunate. There is no doubt that section 18D of the act provides protection for fair comment, which is why the investigation will go nowhere. Indeed, if there is any problem at all here it is that the Human Rights Commission should have an extended power to be able to deal expeditiously with complaints that have no chance of being upheld or having any further consequences. That would of course be a positive thing, and I understand the Human Rights Commission itself has asked for that to occur.

But here we have the government again looking to have an issue where none should be. Proper leadership of the country is about creating unity and harmony and dealing with the issues where we have common interests. As I speak in this chamber, there is a count being conducted in the United States, which is a deeply divided country. We in Australia, particularly those of us in this parliament, have a responsibility to show leadership. But, from what we have seen from the Prime Minister—someone I know very well and I have known since before he was in parliament—he is not himself. The Malcolm Turnbull I met last century, before he was in parliament, would never have given the angry, full of vitriol answers that we have seen in question time when talking about the bill that is before us today, and we would not have had any of the hyperbole and the exaggeration that we have had from this Prime Minister. I think that is quite sad. I read an important analysis in The Australian written by Peter Van Onselen on the weekend. He wrote:

The re-emergence of the culture wars is a sure sign the current PM has lost control of the political narrative, not to mention his party’s right flank and the handle he would have hoped to have on the philosophical and cultural direction of the country.

When we talk about this debate, we need to start and end with this: when we talk about asylum seekers and refugees, we are talking about real people and we should not be doing anything in this parliament to cause pain to them simply for the sake of a perceived political advantage—and that is what this legislation is about.

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