House debates

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Tax Laws Amendment (Foreign Source Income Deferral) Bill (No. 1) 2010

Second Reading

Debate resumed from 13 May, on motion by Dr Emerson:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Before calling the member for Chifley, I understand it is the wish of the House that there should be no points of order taken during his contribution.

10:52 am

Photo of Roger PriceRoger Price (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I start by thanking my family, who are in the gallery today. To my wife, Robyn: thank you for all your love and support and bringing our children up single-handedly! You have always been my rock and the love of my life. I appreciate that I have over 25 years worth of accumulated jobs to do around the house, but I beg of you not all in one year!

To our wonderful children, Michelle, Stephanie, Ben and Courtney and their partners, Jason, Scott and Katie: I cannot sufficiently convey the depth of joy and pride you inspire in us as your parents. Robyn and I are blessed to have wonderful grandchildren. To Kayleigh, Blake, Ellie, Braydon, Declan, Lachlan, Cody and Nathan, who could not be here: you are the light of our lives.

I also thank my mum, who is at St Hedwig’s home, and my late father, who may have been somewhat eccentric—this may go some way towards explaining my own behaviour! I used to joke that I had my in-laws about as close as I wanted them in Perth, Western Australia, but I very much miss Ruth and Jim Moloney, who have passed on. Our families exaggerate our successes, cushion our disappointments and often unfairly bear the brunt of any adverse publicity. Where and what would we be without them?

Our staff make us look better than we really are. I have too many to be able to name them here, but in my electorate I thank Rose Maccarone, David Field, Nicole Seniloli and Barbara Williams. Barbara has been with me for 10 years. I also thank all my former staff. In Canberra I thank Anna George—who everyone knows runs the show—Joy Brogan and Matthew Tredwell. The whip’s office can sometimes get a little willing, and Anna is a sea of calm. Anna is a magnet for the caucus children, and I sometimes wonder how we get any work done at all!

I have worked very closely with Jill Hall throughout my time as whip, and she has provided me with invaluable advice and support on a whole range of issues. I also thank Michael Danby, who was our deputy whip when we were in opposition, and Chris Hayes, who is our deputy whip in government. We have been a whips team. Jill and Chris run the second chamber, still confusingly called the Main Committee, and I thank them and their staff.

It has been a privilege to serve the caucus and leader as Chief Government Whip. As Chief Opposition Whip you work closely with the Manager of Opposition Business, and as Chief Government Whip you work closely with the Leader of the House. I thank Julia Gillard in her former role as Manager of Opposition Business and especially her successor in government, Anthony Albanese, for the opportunity to work closely with them. I thought Anthony and I made a pretty good team as leader and whip. I also mention Jo Haylen, his right-hand person.

I very much enjoyed working with Kim Beazley when he was leader again in 2005. I commend the Leader of the House for moving on the very first sitting day of this government the motion to provide proxy voting by the chief whips for nursing mothers who are members of parliament. If anything denotes the change in this parliament since its inception as an old men’s club, it is this resolution.

I also thank Henry Thomson, the PLO, and his team. They seamlessly keep the legislation flowing into the chamber as well as to the occasional minister! I thank my counterparts, Kerry Bartlett and now Alex Somlyay. Whips constantly make handshake agreements and our word is our bond. We also deal with the human side of the parliament and face common challenges.

When I was first elected in 1984 the parliament had been expanded. New temporary accommodation had been provided in the rose gardens with the building of a covered walkway. This was intended for the new members, of whom I was one, but as these suites were considerably larger than the dog boxes in Old Parliament House they were snapped up by the more senior members. It was my first brush with seniority, but I have always been pleased that I spent some time in the old parliament building.

The flashiest bit of equipment members were provided with was an electric IBM typewriter. But I was determined to be ahead of the game and brought in my apple 2E computer, which had about as much memory as a modern day calculator. I eventually bought an interface for about $1,000 to connect the computer to the electric typewriter. This allowed me to produce about 300 letters at a time, which took a couple of days and produced a wondrous noise throughout. I used my computer for the Bass by-election when Neville Wran resigned and happily got the result out ahead of time. Unfortunately, though, we lost the seat of Bass in that by-election. Eventually we were provided with computers in both our electorate offices and Parliament House, although we had incompatible word-processing software. One of the word-processing packages was, by the way, called ‘whips’.

Speaker Joan Child, as she then was, appointed me as the inaugural Chair of the Presiding Officers Information Technology Advisory Group and later the inaugural Chair of the Parliamentary Education Office Advisory Committee. Prior to entering parliament, I was employed by Telstra and had resisted the invitation to become involved in communications. That did not last long, and I was involved in a minor deregulation with John Saunderson and Knockers—Neil O’Keefe—while working for former Minister Gareth Evans. We were known as the gang of three. My job was to ensure that Knockers did not stray over to John, and I was mostly successful.

In 1991, I was appointed to chair the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Telecommunications Reform, which comprised all sections of the industry. I was proud of the fact that we were able to achieve consensus and I wrote the industry paper. Kim Beazley sent me all around the country to address meetings of union delegates and the Western Australian state caucus. The experience was most character forming.

I never did make the front bench but was appointed Bob Hawke’s parliamentary secretary. It was not the happiest of times for Labor, but my appointment was an extraordinary privilege. When Paul Keating was elected Prime Minister, I was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Robert Ray. Working in Defence was no doubt the happiest period of my career. The industry report we produced in record time was warmly welcomed, but I fear never implemented—perhaps because it was warmly welcomed!

I have always enjoyed parliamentary committees, which generally reveal the best side of members of parliament, irrespective of their party affiliation. The first committee I ever chaired was the Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training, which was somewhat ironic given that my parents were invited to withdraw me in 5th year—or year 12 today. It sounds so much nicer to say that, rather than that you were expelled. The restless years, which was about retention rates, and Student financial assistance were two reports I was proud of. For the latter report, we commissioned cartoons to enliven what could have been a somewhat turgid report.

Two of the reports by the Defence Subcommittee I set great store on were From phantom to force, a radical report restructuring the Army, and that of the Military after next inquiry into officer training. Bronwyn Bishop still calls it ‘that dreadful Price report’. The Human Rights Subcommittee report on detention centres followed up on one by the Joint Committee on Migration, which did not contaminate their findings by interviewing detainees. The report caused a furious attack on coalition members of the committee by Minister Ruddock. It did lead to the closure of the notorious punishment Juliet Block at Port Hedland, whose existence the department had vigorously denied. I hope one day to see all the in camera evidence taken by the committee made public.

I have been involved in a number of inquiries concerning child support and family law, and chaired one of them. Kevin Andrews and Belinda Neal served on that committee. We set up a hotline to the committee in my room manned by committee members and staff. The telephone traffic was so great that the stand-by PABX lit up like a Christmas tree and the trunk lines from WA were totally congested. We brought down an interim report, Thanks for listening, which was a common theme from all corners.

It is important for members of parliament to see things for themselves and listen to the views of their constituents. I have always tried to do that. Some time ago I was a recipient of some unexpected advice from an environmentalist in a letter dropped in my letter box:

Mr Price

What are you doing with the manure? It’s good for your plants but bad for the people around the area to inhale the rotten smell & also polluting the environment, don’t you know that it is damaging the ozone layer, you should know that.

You are a politician with no brains. Why don’t you get the manure and stick it right up your fat arse you stupid politician.

Well, naturally I did object to the use of the word ‘fat’ and I thought the suggestion somewhat impractical.

You are often asked what is your best achievement for your electorate. I would nominate the campaigns with Richard Amery MP and others to have a public senior high school firstly at St Marys and then at Mount Druitt, and the establishment of the University of Western Sydney after the then state Labor minister said we would never get one.

I would describe myself and Con Sciacca as early adopters as far as the member for Griffith is concerned. I have been on an incredible journey to see him elected first as Leader of the Opposition and then in 2007 win the federal election against a formidable opponent. I would like to thank the PM and Therese for their friendship and for the opportunity to be a small part of the support team. The Rudd government has been a good one and I am in awe of the tremendous job that the Prime Minister and the team performed in getting Australia through the world economic crisis. I am chuffed at the tremendous impact Building the Education Revolution is having on government and non-government schools in my electorate.

I was delighted that the last opening of the parliament saw the first Indigenous welcome, which, given what the Leader of the House has just done, will be a part of every opening of the parliament, as well as the apology to the stolen generations. Both were highly emotionally charged and moving events. I could go on. We have a good ministry and a very talented backbench, none better in my opinion than the classes of 2004 and 2007.

I need to thank my Chifley Labor Party members for their tremendous steadfast support, encouragement throughout my time and their forbearance when they did not agree with me. There are so many to thank but I mention Tom Kenny, secretary of the FEC, who has held that position for more years than I care to remember. I would also like to thank the community, who are proud and very direct people and who, in my opinion, are the salt of the earth. The Indigenous elders have been very kind to me. I cannot mention them all—Uncle Wes and Uncle Greg and Aunty Gloria and Aunty Mavis to mention just a few—but I thank them all. I thank the Holy Family parish and in particular Father Paul Hanna and Coral McLean. You provided inspiration and a spiritual well which I dipped into frequently. I think I can have a glass of water now! I thank my group for the opportunities I have had and I thank Senator Forshaw as we have worked well together supporting each other for a long time. There are many people who assist us in our work—the cleaners, the gardeners, Comcar drivers, the clerks and officers of the parliament—and I thank you all.

I have spent the majority of my time in government and served under three Labor prime ministers, a rare privilege for a Labor member. They say if you want a friend in politics get a dog. I have formed friendships here but I will not out them—and I did it without acquiring a dog. As I bid you farewell I hope that I have left the odd footfall and fingerprint to signify that Price was here. If it is said that I was a good bloke, a good Labor man and a good member I am well satisfied. As a long chapter in my life draws to a close I face a new one undaunted. Thank you all for the journey.

Debate (on motion by Mr Albanese) adjourned.