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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

   Insert:

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

   Insert:

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)

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.

Contact Anthony

(02) 9564 3588 Electorate Office

Email: [email protected]

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