House debates

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Other Legislation Amendment (Emergency Response Consolidation) Bill 2008

Second Reading

12:56 pm

Photo of Damian HaleDamian Hale (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Member for Bowman, I will just tidy up on your ex-government’s contribution, anyway. I will start again, seeing that you interrupted me. Children’s service programs were cut by $800 million; childcare benefits for low-income women were eroded, resulting in increased fees; there was a withdrawal of children; there were risks of reducing quality and closure of centres; and non-work-related childcare was restricted. It is amazing how the new party of compassion has suddenly become so caring about many of these programs which they tore the money out of. They have suddenly become so caring about working families, they have suddenly become so caring about interest rates and the stuff they did not care about initially.

I want to have a look at other parts of the bill as well. There are different things in this bill, not just pornography and the permit system. The bill is also to do with community stores. We fully supported the intervention, but there was a lack of consultation at the time with regard to community stores. The amendment will ensure that, where a roadhouse effectively takes the place of a community store, it is properly treated as a community store and can be assessed and licensed along with other community stores. In remote Australia a roadhouse may be the main source of groceries for residents of some communities. It is important that these people have access to a reasonable range of nutritional food and some essential goods to support the wellbeing of children and families in their community. Assessment and licensing of roadhouses that provide such an essential local service will set a standard for the quality, quantity and range of goods available to local people. Licensing will also enable roadhouses to receive managed income contributions. Assessment for a licence will ensure that the roadhouse has the financial, retail and governance capacity to comply with the requirements of the income management regime. Roadhouses upon which local people are not heavily dependent for groceries will not be subject to licensing requirements.

Schedule 2, the transport of prohibited material, amends the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to permit the transportation of prohibited pornographic material through prescribed areas. It only applies when the sole purpose is to transport it to a place outside the prescribed area. Amendments will also be made to the police seizure powers and return provisions. This will ensure that prohibited pornographic material merely being transported through a restricted area is not seized and, if seized, will be able to be returned. The previous government introduced bans on pornographic material in prescribed areas. Offences for progressing pornography within a prescribed area and for supplying it within those areas came into effect on 14 September 2007. However, this meant that distributors and travellers transporting prohibited pornographic material through prescribed areas but not supplying it to those areas could not do so lawfully. The pornography bans were intended to be consistent with the alcohol bans which allowed transit. This schedule addresses this anomaly.

It will remain an offence for a person to supply intentionally prohibited pornographic material to persons in prescribed areas. R18+ films, DVDs and videos continue to be permitted in prescribed areas and subject to the restrictions in the NT legislation on underage purchase or viewing. However, amendments will prohibit subscription television narrowcasting of programs rated R18+ to subscribers in prescribed areas. This is in keeping with the concerns raised in the Little children are sacred report about the programming on Austar services. It goes back to that report and to my mate Stewart O’Connell, who actually worked on the report. I do not why we do these reports and then do not listen to their outcomes. I do not know why we ignore 20 warnings from the Reserve Bank—we just do.

Let me finish on bipartisanship—it is that warm and fuzzy thing. Today I went and had a look at the Close the Gap conference in the Great Hall. I always enjoy listening to my Prime Minister speak. I listened to the Leader of the Opposition speak, and he speaks very well also on Aboriginal issues. I sat next to the member for Warringah, which was a pleasure—it always is. I played rugby union with him the other week. I did not see too many other senior members of the opposition there supporting the great cause of closing the gap. If they were fair dinkum about Aboriginal issues, they would not oppose things that they have said about bipartisan support. I remember being here on the day of the apology. I saw the Leader of the Opposition and I listened to his speech. I saw the Prime Minister put his hand out in friendship to the Leader of the Opposition in a bipartisan approach to Indigenous issues. I really do hope that, when it comes to supporting amendments to bills or reviews of the intervention, the opposition use the opportunity for the betterment of Aboriginal people and not as a way of scoring political points with the media. I think I have put that as nicely as I can.

During the election campaign the ALP offered support to aspects of the intervention while undertaking the reinstatement of the permit scheme. A modified version of the Community Development Employment Program was also one of our commitments. It is not as if we are springing this on people. It is not as if we have come out in the middle of the night, snuck along and decided to push this legislation through. The Australian people knew our position—unlike in 2004 with Work Choices when they were hoodwinked into believing that when you vote for John Howard you vote for the Aussie battler and he will look after you, and then just as the poll is declared after the election—bang!—‘Welcome Work Choices’. We were totally transparent, because on 26 June, the day that the national emergency response occurred, as a country we galvanised behind the Prime Minister.

I am very proud to say that I have only voted Liberal once in my life, and that was in a meeting of a joint parliamentary committee. There were two Liberal members and they could not work out who was going to be deputy chair. I told them that I had never voted Liberal in my life but I had to vote for one of them. And it hurt me to do it. But I got it right; I think I picked the right one. The point that I am making here—and I will get back to the point before I get interjections from over there—is that we need to continue to be bipartisan on this. It is not about scoring political points. I am sure there will be mistakes made. We have got 200 years of mistakes behind us but we—and I address particularly the member for Kalgoorlie and the member for Solomon—need to be walking forward on this. It upsets me that with something as important as closing the gap I did not see enough colleagues from the other side. We can fight about Work Choices and we can fight about ideologies on business and how we approach all sorts of things—and we can scrap as much as we like; I love it as much as anyone—but on this issue it is time to stop the rot. On 24 November the Australian public chose to go with the Labor Party. They chose to go with Kevin Rudd as their new leader to go forward on all issues. It was a unanimous vote of confidence in Kevin Rudd’s mandate and in the front bench that we enjoy sitting behind now. So please—I hope the members here present take this back to their party room—do not muck around with this. It is not about mucking around and scoring points; it is about doing something for Indigenous people. It is about time that we as a parliament got that right, because I am sick of seeing too many of my friends buried before they are 40.


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