Monday, 2 May 2016
It is rare to be able to speak twice in your first term in the address-in-reply debate. The last time I spoke during the address-in-reply debate was actually my first speech, and that was the result of an election. We all came back into this place and, when it was our turn, we spoke during the address-in-reply debate. It is very rare to speak twice in a term to the address-in-reply debate: it is very rare because what the government did, in asking the Governor-General to recall and open the parliament again, is rare. The last time it happened in federal parliament was when Queen Elizabeth was in town and it was a special occasion. It may never happen again. It is definitely rare that within one term of parliament we have had two openings of the same parliament.
You would think that it would have to be a pretty serious reason as to why we would need to reopen our parliament; it would have to be something pretty serious or something that urgently needed to be dealt with. The rationale that we were given by the Governor-General, because he was asked by the Prime Minister to reopen the parliament for the second session, was:
The cause for which I have recalled the parliament is to enable it and, in particular, the Senate to give full and timely consideration to two important parcels of industrial legislation—the bills to provide for the re-establishment of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and the bill to improve the governance and transparency of registered organisations.
That was the justification that was given for why we reopened this parliament and why we were all recalled. Yet, the second reason—the registered organisations bill—does not appear to be on the government's agenda anymore. It is not listed for debate. It was listed for debate and then taken off. It has been completely dropped. This government has decided that it is no longer important to talk about registered organisations. It has dropped the matter entirely. It is no longer on the government's Notice Paper, yet it was relevant enough for the Governor-General to be asked to reopen parliament for this issue—another example of how this government is playing politics and using this parliament to pursue its own agenda. It is too clever and too tricky by half. Sometimes it feels like you are at a National Union of Students debating conference rather than the Australian parliament, because of the way this side is trying to use procedure to push its agenda through.
It is not the first time that we have seen this government try to play games to push its agenda. Since coming to power, it has put forward multiple pieces of legislation that are not about ensuring safer workplaces and that are not about ensuring that we protect your rights at work. In fact, as I will say later in my speech, what is going on in our workplaces is the worst that it has been for decades. Wages are down, workplace health and safety incidents are up, people cannot find full-time work and workers are being exploited. All of this is going on on this government's watch.
Rather than tackling those serious issues in our workplaces, this government has instead gone after a movement—a Labor movement—because of this government's blind hatred for the movement, whether it be the trade unions and the workers or whether it be the Labor Party. If you step through what this government has done and how it has used our justice system, how it has misused this parliament, how it has used question time to ask questions, and how it has portrayed people here in this place and in the media, it is all about one thing and one thing only—to try and destroy its opponents. It is a cynical attempt by this government to set up a narrative and a case to destroy its opponents.
Those on the other side are a bunch of bad sports. Somebody just interjected about the royal commission—an $80 million witch-hunt that had no recommendations that would be enacted with ABCC legislation or with the registered organisations legislation. That expensive witch-hunt and waste of time was a show trial, which pulled up previous Labor leaders, which pulled up current Labor leaders, and which did not recommend one criminal charge, because it did not have the capacity to do so. I acknowledge that there have been people in the union movement who have done the wrong thing—one or two bad people. Those people have faced the Fair Work Act and they have faced criminal charges.
Mr Nikolic interjecting—
This is also a Liberal Party that will deny the fact that they have a few bad eggs in their movement. They are everywhere. Just as you throw at us the issues with Craig Thomson, we throw at you the issues with the Victorian Liberal Party and the fact that this week one of their own is pleading guilty to embezzling $1.5 million of Liberal Party funds.
There are bad people in every movement. They should face the full force of the law. But what this government has tried to do, through this parliament, through a royal commission and through the court system, is blame an entire movement. What we are seeing now, in quite possibly the last days of this government—
Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I refer you to page 518 of the Practice, where it is not in order to be reflecting in that way on the judiciary. I would invite the member to be very careful about the way that she reflects on our courts and the members of our judiciary, which is clearly inconsistent with the standing orders.
As I was saying in my statement about the way in which this government has tried to portray the 'evil' deeds of the union movement, it is just wrong in the way in which it has manipulated the system. The royal commission was a show trial. It was there to name and to shame individuals within—
It is inconsistent with standing 100(c) to reflect and be critical on the character of our judiciary. In saying it is a show trial, the member is imputing motives against the royal commissioner and the judiciary of this country. That reflects poorly on her and poorly on her party. I invite her to withdraw those comments immediately.
Mr Speaker, you ruled on the first point of order and then you allowed the member for Bass to make it again. I suggest that once you had ruled on your first point of order, the speaker with the call should have been allowed to continue without interruption on the same point again.
Mr Deputy Speaker, in relation to the point of order, it is open under the standing orders for a member to call a point of order at any time. A previous ruling does not stop me from raising a point of order. I would invite the honourable member not to reflect in the way she has on the judiciary or the royal commissioner, imputing the most improper motives to a senior and respected member of the judiciary of this country.
I will move to the Fair Work Building and Construction Commission and what is going on with the Fair Work Building and Construction Commission. We have seen time and time again in this place and the other place members of this government use the fair work building commission to name and shame individuals involved in the union movement. In fact, this government has used 195 questions without notice in question time to ask about the conduct and the behaviour of the fair work building commission.
We have to question how independent the fair work building commissioner is, with this statement by the Federal Court slamming the fair work building watchdog for abuse of power. On 7 April 2016 an article that appeared in the paper said that fair work was 'unjustifiably vexatious'. These are not my words; this is what was reported in a local paper—the director of fair work has unjustifiably vexatiously used his power. This is what the paper was saying. This was a report on what the Federal Court said, slamming the fair work watchdog. It went on to say in this particular case that the justice presiding over the matter 'on Thursday morning ruled the director of Fair Work was being "unjustifiably vexatious"'. These are pretty strong words that were used to describe the fair work building commission.
How does it come about that the Federal Court is saying this? I think we have to step through what is actually happening in some of our workplaces. In my electorate there is a worksite where construction work had gone on. It was a project that was partly funded by the previous government through Stronger Regions, which back then was known as the Regional Development Fund that was funded through the state government. There were issues in that case. The first thing that happened was, unfortunately and quite tragically, a worker fell into the orchestra pit and almost lost his life. Then we had a case where some subcontractors in that workplace went into receivership because they were not being paid by the principal contractor. Those people were sent letters of demand—somebody threatening to sue somebody else. That is what happened on this workplace.
This project was not without complications. A worker almost lost his life. Workers were not paid and subcontractors were not paid. Clearly there were issues, yet the fair work building commissioner did not go after those issues. Instead, he pulled up the organiser for the CFMEU and said, 'You didn't show your permit when you were asked.' Are these the most pressing issues on that worksite? The answer is no. It is not the first case and it is not the last case. As the Federal Court said a few weeks ago:
There is an established pattern of the FWBC pursuing the union at every opportunity, dragging union officials through courts …
This is what was reported in the media about what the fair work building commission has become.
How close is this government to the fair work building commission? This is now out in the public jurisdiction. You step through what happened in these workplaces—workers almost lost their lives and workers were being exploited and not being paid. Rather than investigating that—small businesses being threatened to be sued for speaking out about the fact that they had not been paid—they tried to slap the union official and it goes up in the local paper. It is a name and shame game.
The other example in relation to this is the Bendigo Hospital redevelopment project and Lendlease. I acknowledge Lendlease because they have now paid those workers. Some $600,000 in wages were owed to those workers. The Prime Minister sat down with Lendlease and said, 'We need to stop the lawlessness going on in Lendlease workplaces,' yet the Prime Minister was not asking Lendlease to pay the workers who had not been paid—migrant Chinese workers who lived in Melbourne and were driving up to Bendigo. They lost thousands and thousands of dollars because their company went into receivership. It took the CFMEU and a protest to get Lendlease to go: 'Okay, we have got a problem. We need to fix this.' Yet this government would say that it is not the contractor that is the problem; it is the union for being the whistleblower and exposing what is going on.
Unions are speaking out day in and day out about what is happening in our workplaces and this government has turned a blind eye to it. Whether it be the exploitation of temporary workers—and we found out again today that this government has said nothing to support the people who were working for 7-Eleven who were not paid properly—guest workers and migrant workers in this country, or whether it be temporary workers working in the cleaning industry, this government again is turning its back on them. This government cut the wages of the cleaners working in Parliament House. This government is failing Australian workers. Australian workers are being sacked and replaced for being Australian. We see it happening in our shipping industry. We see it happening in our construction industry. We see it happening in our health industry.
The number of 457 visas under this government has increased. People are being signed up for jobs and being paid less than Australian workers. That is what is happening under this government's watch. Yet the reason why this parliament had to be reopened was not that workers were being treated badly; it was that the people who try to help them are apparently the people who are behaving badly.
The crisis going on in Australian workplaces is all to do with the fact that we do not have a regime or support system strong enough for those workers, and this government is now trying to convince the Australian people that it is all the fault of a few union officials. That could not be further from the truth. It has recalled parliament, brought us back here. It has used every trick in the book in parliament to try to get the legislation through. It uses friends in the media to try and push forward cases about individuals, cases which have now been thrown out of court, as I tried to demonstrate earlier. Where is the apology for all those union officials who have been named and shamed in this place and in the other place only to be proven innocent? Where is the apology for those union officials? This government claims to be the great advocate of truth and justice, yet it has not apologised. It has not once said, 'Sorry, we got that wrong.' There have been almost 200 questions in question time naming and shaming not just an organisation but individuals.
This is the reason why this parliament had to be recalled, yet those opposite will not talk about what is going on in our workplaces. Temporary workers, people who have come here, are being exploited, but the government has failed to act. It said it would set up a committee. It has not done anything. This is a government that wants to cut the pay of low-paid workers. It is going after penalty rates. It wants to do is set up tougher rules for registered organisations because they are the organisations speaking out about the impact that cutting penalty rates will have.
This is a government that wants to go to an election on a real con, on a sham. It wants to go after its opposition. This is a government that has no respect for our democracy. It has no respect for this institution. It has no respect at all for the rule of law, even though it invokes it all the time. It has used the last three years to try to create a narrative to get to the point where they can try and con the Australian people that the biggest problem, the most urgent problem, we have to deal with and the reason we need to go to a double dissolution is a few union officials. That could not be further from the truth. If only the government went after the people who are ripping off temporary workers with the same vigour. If only the government went after the employers who are not ensuring safe workplaces with the same vigour. Instead, it has have brought us back here today, and here I am for the second time in my first parliament doing an address-in-reply after the Governor-General has reopened parliament. It is not because of an urgent matter but because of a lie. (Time expired)
There we have it, the most compelling thing the member for Bendigo has to talk about in her address-in-reply is protecting militant unions and those whom the royal commission has said have cases to answer for quite serious criminal offences. She talks about the rule of law and in the process slanders one of our most esteemed High Court judges. This is the most compelling thing that the member for Bendigo had to come into this House this evening and talk about to the Australian people. I am staggered and I am sure that the Australian people—her electorate—will be staggered when she returns for the election campaign and says to them that the No. 1 thing on her mind is protecting the CFMEU and the militant unions and some of the appalling acts that they have perpetrated on this very important industry over the years.
Deputy Speaker Goodenough, you will be pleased to know that what I am here to talk about this evening is reflective in nature. On 13 November 2013 I had the great honour of leading this side of the House in the address-in-reply. As we approach the beginning of the 2016 election campaign I thought it appropriate to reflect on the priorities that I identified for my electorate of Bass almost three years ago. I spoke about beautiful north-east Tasmania and how the people of Bass are rich in character and aspiration. I said that my early priorities in Bass included helping to deliver a healthier Tamar River, transforming Launceston's North Bank, new mountain bike trails in the north-east, the refurbishment of Invermay Park, where our famous cricketer Ricky Ponting—the boy from Mowbray—first made his mark, and enhancing the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, creating the irrigation infrastructure we needed to grow and export more fresh, clean, green, quality Tasmanian products into growing middle-class markets in the Indo-Asia region and exploring the exciting possibilities to develop the DSTO facility at Scottsdale.
Three years on, I am proud to report to the House that those promises and more have been fulfilled. I have secured over $150 million in federal funds for Bass since the 2013 election, including to help restore our rivers' health. These resources have been used in a collaborative effort with Launceston City Council, the Launceston Flood Authority, NRM North, TasWater and the federal government's National Landcare Program. $10 million has been won for silt removal, rejuvenating North Bank and Riverbank Erosion Grants and Green Army riverbank projects on the Tamar and South Esk rivers. Recently I had the privilege of hosting the Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, at Launceston, where I pitched the benefits of extending the Tamar River Recovery Plan for another three years.
Since the 2013 election I have ensured that the federal government plays its part in addressing the Tamar River's many issues, caused by 16 years of inaction by state Labor and Greens politicians. We have applied $500,000 for TasWater to investigate Launceston's inefficient combined drainage system. That study is just about complete and will identify how best to address longstanding sewerage infrastructure issues in coming years. Federal funds have also been applied to upgrade the gritter at the St John Street pump station and there have been other quick wins relating to sewerage infrastructure. The gritter upgrade in particular provided immediate benefits in reducing the amount of pollution entering the Tamar River. The strategic importance of upgrading our sewerage infrastructure has also been acknowledged as one of only 93 Australia-wide projects in Infrastructure Australia's 15-year plan. Despite the criticism of certain Greens politicians from the sidelines, I cannot recall them standing next to me when I was fighting for that outcome here in Canberra.
A solution to the health problems of the Tamar is not going to be found in one single element. There is decades of pollution and the catchments will continue to deliver pollution and silt into the estuary until a suite of remedial measures start to make a difference. That work is underway, and even though it is not a federal government lead, I have secured federal resources to help fund it. All of my efforts have been directed towards a healthier Tamar River, and you only have to look at the work done so far on riverbank clean up, riverbank stabilisation and the relocation of industry. The First Basin area in Launceston would look much worse after the relatively rain-free years of the last two years if the Launceston Flood Authority had not shifted 450,000 cubic metres of silt with funding I had secured.
A lot of that has been done through an innovative raking program. There is a cray fisherman called Karl Krause. When he is not catching the most beautiful crayfish off Flinders Island, he is raking the Yacht Basin area and the upper reaches of the Tamar River. Three years ago, when there were 20 days of flow over Trevallyn Dam during heavy rain events, he managed to shift 250,000 cubic metres of silt. In the last two years he has done much less than that. The silt has built up once again, but we are going to stay on top of that problem, and we are certainly going to do a lot better job than the state Labor Party promised at the 2010 election.
At that time state environment minister, Michelle O'Byrne, said that the Bartlett government would devote $6.65 million to remove silt from the Tamar River. They spent $1 million on Environmental Protection Authority permits and other administrative expenses; they did not shift one bit of silt. In contrast, we stayed on top of that silt problem. When we can get even more water down the gorge, which I am working on with TasWater and the state government authorities, then I know that those three key things—silt removal through raking, heavy tidal action and water down Cataract Gorge—are going to make an even more impressive dent in that silt problem in the future.
All of these things that I have talked about contribute to a healthier Tamar, as will my consistent advocacy for stronger, reliable flows down the Cataract Gorge. We did a three-day trial last August where TasWater let more flow down the gorge at times when we were undertaking our raking program and during heavy tidal events. That additional input of water down the gorge improved our raking efforts tenfold, by 1,000 per cent. So it has been proven that water down the gorge is the missing link and we are working on that into the future.
I want to also report to the House that $6 million has been secured for the North Bank project, turning something that is currently a dirty, dusty industrial site where Boral run a concrete business into something that is much more family friendly, extending the use of our riverfront and giving the City of Launceston even more reasons to turn back towards our river.
I talked about new mountain bike trails. They are completed—the Blue Derby mountain bike trails. This is part of our strategy to make Northern Tasmania more of an entry point for our state. We now have mountain bike trails at Trevallyn reserve, at Hollybank and at Blue Derby. In the last budget I got some funding to make sure we could build a rail trail for cyclists between Launceston and Scottsdale. That is absolutely vital infrastructure. I will give you some grassroots examples of why it has been so successful. Mary and Murray Partridge run Cottage Bakery in Scottsdale. They have just had their best few months on record because every weekend mountain bike riders from all over Tasmania and all over Australia come to ride these trails. They are Olympic standard trails. Max Rainsford has opened up Red Dirt Cycle Company in the centre of Scottsdale. One of the restaurant owners there told me that he had 160 covers last weekend—meals sold in his restaurant. There are people who are opening new accommodation for that area, and it just goes to show that when you establish that infrastructure, then good things happen around it.
My view is we are going to make those Blue Derby mountain bike trails like Fruita in Colorado. Fruita used to be a small agricultural town in the middle of nowhere and, by virtue of investment in mountain bike trails, it is now mountain biking central in the United States. That is my plan for Scottsdale and, as the patron of cycling in Tasmania, I am thrilled at the amount of cycling tourism we are getting into our state. It is making a fundamental difference at the grassroots of my community. It shows you that when you invest in infrastructure of that sort, it is not a short-term political sugar hit for tomorrow; it is about delivering year-on-year benefits for these communities and I am excited about it.
All of these things, as I said, help make Northern Tasmania more of an entry point for our state: food, wine, adventure, recreation, arts, heritage—so many opportunities. There was a lady in the centre of Launceston the other day who had come all the way from Germany to take photos of beautiful heritage architecture and art deco buildings like Holyman House in the centre of Launceston, on the corner of Brisbane and George Streets. It goes to show what opportunities we have in Northern Tasmania to make it more of an entry point. When people think of Tasmania I do not want them to just think of MONA and Salamanca and Port Arthur, beautiful though those attraction are; I want them to think about Northern Tasmania and the Blue Derby mountain bike trails; Bridestowe Lavender Estate, the home of Bobbie the bear; Barnbougle Dunes, the 11th best golf course in the world. I want them to think about Pipers River wineries and Jansz and Josef Chromy's new food experience at the vineyards at Relbia. I want them to think about all of those new features that are opening up on the riverfront and throughout the north-east that will have more and more people coming to my community.
The refurbishment I promised of Invermay Park, where former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting first showed his talents, is now complete. Great work was done by the Baker brothers to ensure that new lighting and ground drainage now allows year-round use of this excellent facility. It is used by the North Launceston Football Club, Old Launcestonians, the Mowbray Cricket Club, umpires, soccer players and too many groups to mention. I also promised to help enhance the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme. Indeed, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott promised that on 15 August 2013 as part of the economic recovery plan for Tasmania. And we did not just talk the talk; $203 million has been delivered to make sure that we equalise the cost of getting those clean, fresh, quality goods from Tasmania into those growing international markets.
We promised to do more about irrigation schemes, to grow and export goods into those growing markets overseas; and what have we delivered? We have delivered $60 million for phase 2 irrigation schemes. Just a couple of weeks ago I was at upper Ringarooma opening a new $28 million dam. There is $20 million of federal money in that dam development—at the time, the largest dam development in Australia. Now, that is going to provide year-on-year benefits. With 95 per cent water certainty for water rights holders adjacent to that river, they are going to be able to turn marginal farmland into something more productive—greater farm efficiency.
I married that with a small $100,000 project to look at where it was best to locate phase 3 power in those regions, because, when you have reliable water and you have reliable phase 3 power, magic happens in agricultural terms. I am really excited that we have found those optimal locations to leverage the water infrastructure schemes where power is needed.
In my maiden speech, I said I would explore the exciting possibilities of developing the Defence Science and Technology Group facility at Scottsdale, and I am pleased to report that just a couple of months ago we approved a $7.2 million microwave assisted thermal sterilisation machine for Scottsdale. By virtue of the fact that it heats and cools food so rapidly, it sterilises the food so it does not need refrigeration, and the food's taste, texture and nutritional value is such that it will be excellent for our troops, it is going to enable us to have a food response option for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief contingencies, and it is going to have commercial potential. That is why we are going to locate that MATS machine at the Defence Science and Technology Group at Scottsdale but also have a production facility at Launceston so people can do small production runs to determine the commercial potential of this technology.
This is the first time this technology has been located in the Southern Hemisphere. It was developed by Washington State University and the US Army. I first got a sniff of it when I was the international fellow at the US Army War College in Pennsylvania. Now we have it here in Australia, at Scottsdale. It is going to be wonderful for my community.
As well as the things I have mentioned, there are so many others that have been achieved for my community, including $34 million for north-east freight roads to ensure the efficient and safe movement of freight, $19 million in grants to the Launceston campus of the University of Tasmania and $17 million in financial assistance grants to local government. I got $10 million to save the John L Grove centre in Launceston, a brand-new 20-bed rehabilitation facility opened by the Labor Party with much fanfare just before the 2013 election. The problem is that the deal Julia Gillard made with then Premier Lara Giddings was that the feds would build it and the state Labor Party would put the money in the budget to run it. Unfortunately, they did not do that, and so health minister Michael Ferguson came to me and said, 'This brand-new facility looks like closing,' a couple of years after it was opened because Labor did not put the money in the budget in accordance with the National Partnership Agreement. We managed to get two years of funding to enable the state government and the health minister, my good friend Michael Ferguson, to work out how to integrate the operations of the John L Grove rehabilitation centre into the state system. I am very pleased we were able to deliver that.
We also have $9 million from the Tasmanian Jobs and Growth Package, $5.7 million in Roads to Recovery funding, $3 million in innovation and investment grants, and $3 million for the Dorset Renewable Industries project. We have $2.7 million to establish the Major Projects Approval Agency in Launceston, co-located with the state government Office of the Coordinator-General. The agency are looking at hundreds of millions of dollars of projects for Tasmania, and they might be able to assist them in overcoming regulatory obstacles to optimise their investment. There is $1.15 million for Flinders Island Airport upgrade, $850,000 in capital grants for non-government schools, $790,000 to save StGiles speech pathology services and $500,000 to fix an accident black spot on Westbury Road. I could go on—Centenary of Anzac grants, support for the Ravenswood Neighbourhood House, the upgrade of the Launceston Police and Community Youth Club, grants under the Local Sporting Champions Program and money for Men's Sheds in Norwood, Rocherlea and Flinders Island.
The forthcoming election will be about jobs and growth. Around the time of the 2013 election, things were looking pretty grim. Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was pictured on the front page of TheExaminer, rushing to Launceston to meet with the then Labor Premier because the unemployment rate was 8.6 per cent. I am pleased to tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker Goodenough, the unemployment rate today is under seven per cent. There is still a lot to do; let us not get too excited about that big drop from 8.6 to under seven per cent—but it is moving in the right direction. All of the things that I have talked about just now will assist us in creating more local jobs and are enablers of our future prosperity in northern Tasmania.
I can also say that today's CommSec report confirms that Tasmania's economy is heading in the right direction. It states that Tasmania is currently experiencing a 'lift in momentum'. The report notes that Tasmania has 'moved up the rankings' and caught up with South Australia. When we came to government, sadly—and this was in my maiden speech as well—Tasmania was last on every single CommSec measure. In this latest report, we have improved on all of those measures bar one. The report highlights the strength of Tasmania's tourism and hospitality sector, building activity and population growth as positives for my state. Importantly, it rates jobs as our main positive. The efforts of this government over the last three years have made a real difference. That will continue, and I hope to have the great honour of continuing that work as the member for Bass.
In the future, we have to make the most of those free trade agreements that Andrew Robb, our trade minister has organised. Why? Because at the moment there are 500 million people in the middle classes from India to Asia, and that is projected to triple to 1.7 billion in the next 15 to 20 years. The eyes of the world have shifted from the north Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific as the engine room of global economic prosperity for the next 50 years. Australia is astride the Indian and Pacific oceans, ready, willing and able to take advantage of that unfolding economic miracle on our doorstep, and the policies of this government will make sure that we can tap into those markets through our irrigation schemes, through the Freight Equalisation Scheme and through many of the other projects that I have mentioned.
I will mention that my wife, Christine, and daughter Julia are sitting in the gallery. It does not happen very often. My daughter Julia finished the Port Macquarie IRONMAN yesterday. It was 180 kays on the bike, a four kay swim and a marathon. I am very proud of her, and I know that they will be standing next to me as we deliver for the constituents of Bass and the constituents of Tasmania. Thank you.
After the recent proroguing of parliament, I rise to respond to the Governor-General's opening speech about the resumption of debate on the proposed address-in-reply. We are reliably informed that this might be the last Canberra week of the 44th Parliament. It is an opportunity for some to bow out. I acknowledge all of those MPs who are leaving—some by their own choice, some by colleagues in their own parties suggesting it is time to move on, and some moving on at the election through no fault of their own and some through fault of their own. I wish them all the best. It is a tough job being in Canberra, away from our families and loved ones—ACT MPs and senators aside—and it is tough on families. I thank all of those many people who turn up to support this job of democracy, from the clerks right on through.
I would like to particularly acknowledge the good staff at Hansard. I note the Hansard reporter did smile there, whilst doing his job. Just for those listening, Hansard write up the words of MPs for posterity and, eventually, we even receive a bound copy of these very words that my children or grandchildren can have a look at. It is frozen in time for posterity. I know that if we stumble over certain words Hansard are so kind and attentive that they will fix them up. They will turn slang into standard English and if the word 'pronunciation' is mispronounced, they will turn it into standard English. Sadly, Hansard reporters only record what politicians say in this chamber or up in the Federation Chamber. They do not, actually, record what politicians do. They do not record if politicians are true to their word. So as this is only the third day of this new session of parliament, I thought it timely to explore, in my reply to the Governor-General, that yawning gap between what some politicians have said in the 44th Parliament and what they have done.
This is budget week—I remember that first budget week from 2014, after the 2013 election. Before that, I remember that Joe Hockey had said the LNP would return the budget to surplus in its first year. Instead, the deficit has been at least doubled by the LNP, and Mr Hockey, after that disastrous budget of 2014, has been punished for his incompetence. He earned the title of 'the worst treasurer in Australian history' and has been punished. They did that by sending him to a diplomatic posting in Washington.
Since then, we have had a few changes in those opposite. We have had a change of Prime Minister, a change of Treasurer and a change of a few others of the old guard. We had that strange situation where the Prime Minister—now the member for Wentworth; not the member for Warringah—wrote on 21 March 2016 to His Excellency General the Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retired). And I have a copy of that letter. It is available. He said:
Et cetera, et cetera—a little-used section 5 of the Constitution. And he said:
The reason for recalling the Parliament is to enable it to give full and timely consideration to two important parcels of industrial legislation—
The second one he mentioned was the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Bill 2014 (Registered Organisations Bill); that is in the letter by the Prime Minister to the Governor-General. He said a few other things. I will skip on. He said:
Although the grounds for a double dissolution under s. 57 of the Constitution exist in respect of the Registered Organisations Bill, it is the Government's preference to have it … passed by the Parliament rather than invoke the s. 57 procedure.
And, in fact, the Governor-General has written 'Noted' right next to that point.
The Governor-General—a man of honour; devoted his life to serving the Australian people; I have a lot of respect for him—made the point of saying that he had noted what the government intends to do. The Governor-General responds. Reading to the joint session of parliament—after the proroguing—the Governor-General's speech, which is available from Hansardsays:
…the House of Representatives—
The Governor-General is working on the instructions from the executive, from the Prime Minister—we, obviously, do not want adventurous Governor-Generals. We saw that back in '75. That did not go so well for Australian democracy. The Governor-General, repeating what the government has asked of him—what the executive have asked of him—said:
… the House of Representatives has three times passed legislation to give effect to the commitment on registered organisations. This legislation has been three times rejected by the Senate.
I have, on the advice of my ministers, recalled you so that these bills can be considered again, and their fate decided without further delay.
My government regards these measures as essential for the rule of law in our workplaces.
My government also regards these measures as crucial to its economic plan for promoting jobs and growth, and managing the transition of our economy from one reliant on the mining construction boom to a more diversified economy.
I will skip a paragraph. And this is Hansard recording the Governor-General's comments in the Senate chamber:
Honourable senators and members, as I declare open this new session of the parliament, you are called together to conclude your consideration of the Australian Building and Construction Commission and registered organisations bills.
That was a clear statement from the Governor-General expressing the views that the executive had made clear in the letter signed by the Prime Minister of the day.
In fact, we saw in the draft legislation program for the House of Representatives for the 2016 winter sittings of parliament—it was an indicative program that was subject to change; I admit that—that it said that the resumption of debate on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill was to take place from 9.30 am on Monday 18 April and, if time required, also to take place after question time. Then even on Tuesday 19 April it listed a resumption of debate on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill.
So the Prime Minister wrote to the Governor-General and said, 'This is what we are going to do.' The Governor-General responded. But when you look at the actual draft daily program for Tuesday 19 April you see there is no mention of the registered organisations amendment bill. Parliament was prorogued. Then we had all the politicians flown back to Canberra. All the MPs, all their staff and all the support staff were brought in here so that the government could do what it said in writing it would do. Instead, in the actual program there was no mention of the registered organisations amendment bill. I wonder if the Governor-General is aware that he was told one thing by the executive and then the executive decided to go back on its word. As I said, it is incredible that we would have the Prime Minister saying one thing and then doing another.
As I mentioned, the former Treasurer said that their government would be back in surplus within the first year of government. They have been a million miles from that. This week, government debt is at $424 billion. It is on track to hit $550 billion by 2020. Surely a government of Australia asking the people of Australia to live within their means would not contemplate, when debt is blown out like that, a tax break at this time. We have had the press reporting that it is only going to be a $5-a-week tax break. And it will not be everyone. It will not be for 75 per cent of workers. They will miss out. The government are suggesting a $5-a-week tax break, which, by any traditional budget measuring standard, is not even enough for a sandwich and a milkshake. You could not buy a milkshake for $5 in many cafes in my electorate.
We have the situation where those opposite are the highest ever taxing government as a percentage of GDP, higher than any preceding Labor governments. We have the high-taxing and high-spending government opposite coming in here to suggest to Australians that they need to live within their means. The lifestyle of most Australians that we take for granted took a hammering in the 2014 budget. That budget attacked many of the things that we take for granted.
I will particularly mention the trade union movement May Day holiday in Queensland where people have gone out to celebrate the people who came 125 years before. I note that Premier Palaszczuk was up in Barcaldine, the birthplace of the Labor Party and much of the labour movement. It worked on the eight-hour day, safer workplaces, striving for equal pay for women, superannuation, Medicare—all those great things that the labour movement has delivered for all Australians. Sadly, those achievements were attacked by Treasurer Hockey in the 2014 budget, and I fear that those attacks will continue tomorrow.
We saw in the legislative agenda of those opposite that the Governor-General was informed about and spoke about that the government said they would bring in legislation to establish a registered organisations commissioner who would have powers greater than the general manager of the Fair Work Commission. The thing that separates the Labor side of the chamber and those opposite is that we will always serve the national interest. We believe in doing the right thing all the time. We are not just about economic statements that are about grabbing power. We will always take the right steps to stamp out unlawful behaviour, particularly criminal behaviour, whether it be by a banker or a union official. In fact, I would suggest that Labor people hate corrupt union officials more than those opposite ever will because the idea of stealing from poor workers and union members is something we find particularly abhorrent. Whether by a banker or a union official, the full force of the law should be applied to any unlawful activity—but in an appropriate manner.
We already have agencies empowered to investigate and prosecute unlawful activity in all industries. The Australian Federal Police and the state and territory police forces do a great job. They have the power to investigate criminal activities. Where there is serious organised crime, the Australian Crime Commission has coercive powers that can be applied to investigations as well when appropriate.
Sadly we have seen from those opposite that the best evidence of their motives is in the millions of taxpayers' dollars that they have spent so that former and current Labor leaders could be questioned before the government's politically motivated trade union royal commission. What did that royal commission actually achieve? The government have not introduced any legislation as a result of that commission. The registered organisations legislation and the ABCC legislation that the Governor-General referred to in his opening speech are not a result of that royal commission. Both of those pieces of legislation were before the parliament already when the royal commission handed down its findings, and neither of those bills have been amended by the government since the royal commission concluded.
The government, at great expense to the taxpayer, recalled parliament so that those bills could be debated. Then, as I said, the registered organisations bill just dropped off the Notice Paper, despite that public letter from the Prime Minister to the Governor-General. This was an extraordinary thing for a government to do. It is an extraordinary case of a Prime Minister saying and writing one thing and then doing another.
You would think that with such a lot of money spent on the royal commission and all that money spent on recalling parliament that somehow the bills parliament are debating right now would be the result of urgent recommendations from the royal commission. Sadly, those two pieces of legislation have been kicking around this parliament for years. The registered organisations bill was rejected not once, not twice but three times by the democratically elected Senate. In fact, this bill was no longer even before the parliament when parliament was prorogued. As for the other bill, the ABCC legislation, the government in the Senate voted to reject debating just a few weeks ago.
Prime Minister Turnbull complains that the democratically elected Senate is unmanageable. It is interesting: I have said in Queensland that there is a bit of a campaign by the Liberal and National Party about the change from optional preferential voting to compulsory preferential voting. I did not hear Lawrence Springborg talking about Malcolm Turnbull's card trick in the Senate a few weeks ago. No, suddenly they got hoodwinked by Yvette D'Ath, the Attorney-General and the Premier through changing the voting arrangements. Admittedly, there could have been more consultation. But it was bizarre to see the way Lawrence Springborg and some of those people have been completely silent on Senate reform, but are up in arms because they were outsmarted by the Labor state government.
I think those opposite need to remember that the Senate is a house of review. The job of the Senate is to review legislation. If the Senate just rubber-stamped all the legislation that those opposite put before us, we would now have a GP co-payment.
Mr Husic interjecting—
Do you remember that, member for Chifley? The GP co-payment? When all the 20 leaders of the world gathered in Brisbane to hear the great challenges of the Asian Century, what did our Prime Minister say? A GP co-payment. I have never been more embarrassed. It is unbelievable. But if the Senate just rubber-stamped these bits of legislation, we would have a GP co-payment, we would have cuts to paid parental leave and we would have $100,000 degrees—and I could go on.
Labor supports tough penalties for those who do break the law, but I also say that we should do the right thing by people. We should carry out our word, for too often we see politicians say one thing and do another. We see that personified in this Prime Minister when it came to marriage equality: he said one thing beforehand and then change after. I can give you countless examples of this Prime Minister doing this. In 2010, he said:
… I have for many years taken the view that … marriage was or is a union between a man and a woman. That is the traditional view.
That was in 2010. Fast forward to 2012, he says:
If we had a free vote on the matter and, subject always to the wording of the Bill, I would vote to recognise same sex couples’ unions as a marriage.
Then there was a flip again. In September 2015, the Prime Minister said:
I certainly think we should have a free vote and I've been very public about that.
It is unbelievable the way he would say one thing and then change.
We saw it in terms of acting on climate change. He said that direct action was 'fiscal recklessness on a grand scale'. Now, that is his policy. Under that policy, we have seen the carbon emissions go up. We have seen his views on the republic. I remember that referendum on 6 November 1999, where Malcolm Turnbull led the campaign to have a republic. Now, he is totally silent on it. I remember the comments from those opposite saying there would be no unexpected adverse changes to superannuation. We have already seen more changes flagged in the budget. The LNP also said that every $100-million-plus infrastructure project would have a cost-benefit analysis. That has been thrown out the window.
They said that there would be no tax increases. That was changed in the first budget and we are about see more of that tomorrow night. They said they would cut the company tax rate by 1.5 per cent. That has not happened. They said they would provide mothers with 26 weeks of paid parental leave. They said it and did nothing. They said there would be no cuts to the ABC and no cuts to the SBS. They have broken both of those promises. They said they would publish a draft amendment for constitutional recognition of Aboriginal people within 12 months. It has not happened under Prime Minister Abbott or under Prime Minister Turnbull. They said there would be one million additional solar energy roofs over 10 years. They said one thing before the election and broke that promise after. They said that they would send a Customs vessel to the Southern Ocean to monitor whaling—nothing. They said that there would be no Medicare Local closures. Well, we have seen the complete breaking of that.
They said that there would be a great investment in innovation, and we have seen an investment. I have got to say—the member for Chifley would attest to this—there has been a $28 million investment in innovation. Unfortunately, it is only in advertising innovation, when at the same time they have made cuts: they have doubled the NBN rollout and doubled the cost and they have cut back on the number of scientists. I think they have sacked about one-in-six scientists. This is unbelievable. They say one thing but do another. Unbelievable. For too long in politics in this country—three years—people have said one thing and done another. It is time to change. (Time expired)
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate, giving me as it does the opportunity to highlight a number of very important community organisations in my electorate of Banks that are doing great work across our area. I certainly would like to take the opportunity to thank them for their efforts.
Just this past Saturday afternoon, I attended the Beverly Hills Eagles Cricket Club's presentation at Olds Park Sports Club. The Beverly Hills Eagles Cricket Club have a long-standing tradition of playing cricket in the area. I want to thank their president, Gary Crowder, and secretary, Elizabeth Chipman, for all their efforts. Congratulations also to Ilyaan Raza of Under 12A, Anthony Rock from the Under 12B and Damien Ha from Under 16B, all of whom won the Banks Outstanding Sporting Achievement Awards. To everyone at Beverly Hills Eagles Cricket Club, congratulations on another successful season.
Also on Sunday I attended the Bankstown Sports Little Athletics' presentation day. Bankstown Sports Little Athletics are sponsored by Bankstown Sports Club, who do a great job sponsoring many sporting clubs and other clubs in our community. They had the good fortune to train and compete at a great facility at Bass Hill. It was actually built as a training facility for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. It was great to get down there on Sunday to present awards. There were kids from the ages of five or six right up to 17. It is a very active and successful club. I would like to congratulate all of the winners. To the club president, Steven Jones, and Leanne McDonald, the secretary, I very much enjoyed my visit and look forward to visiting again soon.
Earlier in April, I attended the Advanced Diversity Services Table Tennis Championship held in Hurstville. A little known fact is that Hurstville is arguably the table tennis capital of Australia. We have many, many people who play table tennis in Hurstville. We hosted the national championships a couple of years ago. Advanced Diversity Services did a great job in putting together this event, alongside the St George and Sutherland Shire Table Tennis Association, who look after table tennis in the southern regions of Sydney. There were players from high schools across St George and Sutherland. I would like to thank Antoinette Chow, CEO of Advanced Diversity Services, and also my friend Connie Chan from the St George and Sutherland Shire Table Tennis Association. Table tennis is a fantastic sport. Australia, as a nation, gets stronger every year in our international events. One of the really strong centres for table tennis in Australia is Hurstville, in the heart of the St George district.
One of the privileges in our role as a member of parliament is the opportunity to attend Anzac Day services. I have a very active range of RSL sub-branches across the Banks electorate. Our community has an immense respect for those RSL sub-branches, because the reality is that many of the members of those sub-branches literally risked their lives in defence of Australia in different conflicts. I have not done that. Most of us have not done that—but they have, and, because they did, we are here. So, we should never miss an opportunity to thank them and acknowledge the depth of their service. On 17 April, Mortdale RSL Sub-Branch held a service at the Memorial Gardens on Boundary Road. It was attended by many ex-service personnel sub-branch members. I would like to thank Royce Lockhart, who did a lot of the work in putting it together, and John Delaney, the sub-branch president. It was also good to see the Riverwood Hornets from the Australian Air League there, as they do so often in helping out at important community events in our area.
Also in relation to Anzac Day, I attended Lugarno Public School for its Anzac Day ceremony. Every year, Lugarno Public School puts on a very respectful and well-organised Anzac Day commemoration. They invite along the gentlemen from the Riverwood Legion Club who served in World War II in Korea and in other aspects of our military defence. It is nice to see the Riverwood Legion gentlemen there as representatives of that generation who fought on our behalf and little kids as young as five or six at Lugarno Public School really reflecting on the importance of Anzac Day. They do a great job. There are always a number of songs which can become quite emotional. It was a beautiful occasion. I would like to thank the relieving Principal Allyson Bartley, who did a great job with this year's event.
Also in Lugarno, which is in the heart of my electorate, I want to thank my friends at the Lugarno Progress Association. The LPA is one of the longest standing organisations anywhere in Banks. It has been around for many, many decades. For no goal other than the advancement of Lugarno, the progress association regularly gets together in a local hall to discuss important issues to the suburb and then, frankly, does something about them. It is no debating society. It is a group of very practical and action-oriented people. One of the projects that we have been able to complete in the green army area in recent months was initially suggested to me by the Lugarno Progress Association. We had a situation down there at Murdoch Crescent where, over the years, an old walking track had fallen into disrepair because trees had fallen over it in storms and there was various debris on the track and so on. For years, probably decades in fact, that trail has been unusable. You could not walk on it. So the Lugarno Progress Association said, 'We should clean this up and make it useable again.' Through the auspices of the green army and the cooperation of the New South Wales Parks and Wildlife Service, we have achieved that. That trail is open again. It is a great walk between Murdoch Crescent right through to Evatt Park, along the Georges River. It has beautiful views; it is a very relaxing spot. I want to thank the Lugarno Progress Association for bringing that my attention. They put that issue on the map, and I am pleased we were able to get that done.
Also in my electorate of Banks, we have a strong community in the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army at Hurstville, which, until the recent redistribution, was in my electorate, and also the one at Panania are very active in providing a wide range of services in their areas. They include things like financial counselling for people that have fallen on difficult times, child care and fellowship for older residents who are looking for companionship. They run a number of outings and so on for them. At Hurstville, they have a Chinese-speaking congregation. Hurstville is the largest centre of the Chinese Australian community in New South Wales, and the Salvation Army is working closely with the local Chinese Australian community on a whole range of matters. I would like to congratulate Majors Peter and Gail White, who were recently inducted as the new corps officers at Hurstville Salvation Army. I would also like to thank Diane Cameron, the welfare manager, for all of her hard work at Hurstville.
Another great organisation in the south-eastern corner of my electorate is the Connells Point Progress Association. The Connells Point Progress Association meets down at Connells Point Sailing Club. They focus on the issues that are of most relevance to the Connells Point community. The environment is an extremely important issue in the Connells Point area. It was very pleasing that through the Green Army we were able to do some clean-up work at the Poulton Park area in Connells Point. It is a beautiful location, but it had run into some environmental issues over the years. It was pleasing to be able to address those issues.
Another issue that the Connells Point Progress Association raised with me was speeding on Kyle Parade, which runs through Connells Point and Kyle Bay. This was a real problem for the local community. Over a number of years there have been a number of accidents. Frankly, the configuration of the road somewhat contributes to the problem, because it is a long, winding road. Unfortunately, it tends to attract some people who want to drive along it at speed. One of the things we worked on with the association was to get were some traffic-calming devices. I want to thank Kogarah City Council for the sensible attitude they took to that issue. It was pleasing that we were able to put those speed humps in place on Kyle Parade through Kogarah City Council. Whilst the speeding problem is not completely solved, it has certainly been reduced. I am pleased about that, and I want to thank the Connells Point Progress Association.
Another really important community organisation in my local electorate is the Southern Region Chinese Business Association. As I said earlier, I am very fortunate to have one of the largest populations of Australians of Chinese background of anywhere in our nation. Many of the members of the local Chinese community are very active in small business. Hurstville is a great economic centre, in the region, with hundreds of small businesses and very large numbers of people employed.
Five years ago the New South Wales Southern Region Chinese Business Association was founded. The focus of that association is to work on issues of interest to the local Chinese-Australian business community. The association is very active and plays quite a significant role in raising various matters of concern. I would like to congratulate the Southern Region Chinese Business Association on its fifth anniversary. In particular, I would like to pay tribute to Nancy Liu and Benjamin Jiang, who are real driving forces within that association, and I would also like to pay tribute to all the other members of the executive.
One of the issues that the executive has raised with me on a number of occasions is the issue of safety in Hurstville. People in Hurstville just want to go about their business. They want to go to work, do their shopping, go out to dinner or whatever the case may be. The unfortunate reality is that there have been incidents of crime in recent years: petty theft, break-and-enter and so on. The Southern Region Chinese Business Association has been very forceful in advocating the need for those issues to be addressed. The St George local area command has taken note of those concerns and, in recent months, has increased the level of patrols and activity in the Hurstville CBD. I was very pleased to raise that issue with the police on behalf of the Southern Region Chinese Business Association, and I am pleased progress has been made on that most important of issues.
On 5 April I hosted a veterans' affairs forum at Panania Diggers with the Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Minister for Defence Materiel. I want to thank the Panania Diggers for hosting that event, and, in particular, its president Gary Murray. Panania Diggers plays a very important role in the Panania area, and, indeed, the broader Georges River region of Bankstown. It sponsors many of our local sporting clubs: East Hills Baseball Club, Panania East Hills RSL Cricket Club, Panania RSL Soccer Club, St Christopher's Junior Rugby League and St Christopher's Cricket Club.
This is a club that is both a hub for the local community where people come to visit, but it is also a hub that contributes back out to the community. If you drive along past Kelso Park on a Saturday morning or a Thursday night you will see hundreds of people playing various sports. Many, if not most, of those clubs will have been supported in some way by Panania Diggers, so I do thank them for all of their efforts in the community. One of the really good things about the club is the family-friendly environment. The club did show great foresight, some years ago, in creating an area that is very appropriate for young families, with play equipment and so on. I do want to thank Panania Diggers, and, in particular, president Gary Murray, for all of their efforts.
Also in Panania I recently visited St Christopher's Soccer Club. St Christopher's Church in Panania, and Saint Christopher's school are very important institutions in our local community. St Christopher has also lent its name to a number of sporting clubs that participate in the broader community competitions. Recently, at Panania Diggers, I met with the committee of the St Christopher's football club. I had a very frank and interesting conversation with the executive. I want to thank Steve Michael, the president and all of the executive members who were there that night. This club has a great community spirit. It celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014. As part of its fundraising activities it organises golfing days, fundraising barbecues, coaching expos and a number of other activities. The play, of cause, down at Marco Reserve. There are a number of issues down there. Frankly, some of the facilities could be better. I certainly look forward to progress on those matters.
I also want to acknowledge and thank ROAR, the residents organisation at Riverwood. I recently visited ROAR in early April. I had a great chat with the residents, as I always do. Neale Owen is Chair of ROAR. He does a great job in bringing together local residents in the Riverwood area. A number of issues are important to residents. Congestion on local roads is one. There are various phone reception issues in the Riverwood area and various other issues in relation to housing that are particularly important. It is a very dynamic group. I would like to thank Clare Baillieu for all of her contributions to both ROAR and to the broader Riverwood community, and all of the other residents who are so active in that region.
Another very strong community in my electorate is the Toastmasters community. We have wide range of very active Toastmasters clubs. I went down to Oatley RSL early in the month and participated in one of the meetings of the Oatley Toastmasters. It was a lot of fun. Their various activities are designed to test people's speaking capacity and improve it, because, of course, that is ultimately what it is all about. It is a very good thing for people to be engaged in learning more about public speaking and their capacity to speak in public. In a sense, regardless of what your field is, being able to speak publicly is really important. It was good that everyone got feedback on their speeches on the night, including myself. It really was a lot of fun. So I do thank the Oatley Toastmasters for having me on that evening.
I would also like to thank Maso's at Mortdale for their recent Anzac service. Each year, Maso's holds an event traditionally on the Sunday before Anzac Day. It was, again, a particularly well-attended event. I would like to thank the club for hosting that important function. Maso's is a very central club in the Mortdale area in my electorate. At the Anzac Day commemoration, we were entertained by bagpipe players. There was Scottish dancing and various other activities. I would like to thank Ian Manley, the club president, and everyone else who was involved in what was a traffic commemoration of Anzac Day—so, another tremendous community organisation in my electorate.
The Liberal Party has decided to endorse the Liberal branch stackers' and powerbrokers' candidate for Tangney. This demonstrates the moral and ethical bankruptcy that are now fundamental to the major parties.
It is certainly interesting that the Liberal Party believes that Tangney belongs to them, not to the constituents. The branch stackers' and Liberal Party machine candidate for Tangney stated in his email announcing his candidacy for preselection for Tangney to Liberal branch presidents and the state executive: 'It is coming up 12 years since Dennis Jensen was first elected as member for Tangney. I believe that after a decade of doing the same job, it is the right time for both the employer and employee to take stock, make an assessment about the effectiveness and to consider the prospects for the future.' So the Liberal apparatchik candidate clearly believes that his bosses are the Liberal Party, not the constituents. Indeed, he believes he has a right to the seat, as did some Liberal Party powerbrokers. He believes he is entitled to a safe seat. It was about him and about the Liberal Party only. The constituents to him were irrelevant. What they thought of my performance representing them and their issues was irrelevant. It was never about the constituents; only about him and the Liberal Party.
This arrogant attitude clearly runs through the party. Michael Kroger, the Victorian Liberal President—indeed, he is the longest serving Liberal president in history in Victoria—and powerbroker stated of me on Sky News that:
He may have been popular in the electorate ... but inside the party he wasn't popular.
So I have been an excellent servant to both my constituents and the Liberal Party. But, to Michael Kroger, that does not make any difference. I was not popular with the Liberal Party. Ultimately, however, my constituents come first. I did a lot for the Liberal cause, as many here know—for instance, on the issue of the ETS, which I opposed while most of the party supported it. It was, ultimately, by getting rid of the emissions trading scheme as policy that we became a significant force opposing Labor in the 2010 and 2013 elections—indeed, winning in 2013. I have never simply been an apparatchik or 'yes man'. There is now a Liberal branch stackers' and Liberal machine candidate for Tangney.
If I stand as an independent, there will be a clear choice—a candidate who has deep Liberal values, but who will fight for constituents first and foremost; a free thinker who will be their voice in parliament without fear or favour. I thank the people of Tangney for supporting me so strongly over the years. Thanks to them, I improved my margin by almost seven per cent. I obtained a record margin for the seat in 2010, and then increased that record in 2013. Just in case it is not clear: I also closed the gap between Tangney and the member for Curtin's seat by over three per cent in my time, despite the member for Curtin having a huge profile.
To me, it is my constituents that matter most. If I run as an independent, that will be the case more than ever. The people of Tangney would have a member that put their interests first and with a definite Liberal flavour, as those are my core values. Unlike some, I do not sell out on my core values. In Robert Menzies' speech to the 'forgotten people', he said of being a member of parliament:
The true function of a member of Parliament is to serve his electors not only with his vote but with his intelligence. If some problem arises in Parliament about which he has knowledge and to which he has devoted his best thought, how absurd it would be - indeed how dangerous it would be - if he should allow his considered conclusion to be upset by a temporary clamour by thousands of people, most of whom in the nature of things could not have his sources of information, and have probably in any event not thought the problem out at all.
Nothing can be worse for democracy than to adopt the practice of permitting knowledge to be overthrown by ignorance. If I have honestly and thoughtfully arrived at a certain conclusion on a public question and my electors disagree with me, my first duty is to endeavour to persuade them that my view is right. If I fail in this, my second duty will be to accept the electoral consequences and not to run away from them. Fear can never be a proper or useful ingredient in those mutual relations of respect and goodwill which ought to exist between the elector and the elected.
I believe that I clearly fit Menzies' view on what constitutes a good member of parliament.
Ultimately, however, it is not Menzies' view on what constitutes a good MP, or even the faceless men and women who make up 64 people on a preselection panel who decide what constitutes a good member. It is the aggregate view of the entire electorate, expressed at the ballot box, that determines what makes a good member for that electorate, and these will be different for different electorates. In my electorate of Tangney, the aggregate view is that I have done an outstanding job, as is evidenced by my electoral performance. That is an objective measure of how effective or not an MP is in their electorate. Unfortunately, as can be seen by the quote of the branch stackers and the Liberal Party machine candidate, in addition to the view of a Liberal state president on the other side of the continent, that is not what matters to the Liberal Party. What matters to the Liberal Party is conformity, fundraising and branch stacking. Doing a good job as an MP, objectively measured by election results, is irrelevant.
Our democracy has lost its way, and we now see small thinking, and no vision on either side. We have parties that will act in a bipartisan manner on what is in the national interest, unless there is political advantage to be made by opposing it, despite it being in the national interest. There is too much timidity with regard to genuine policy reform. We see fiddles around tax policy, but nothing of critical importance. We have about half of Australia paying no net tax, meaning that the other half of Australia has to fund things for all Australians, including welfare. This is unsustainable and there is nothing fundamental or structural being done about it. These issues need to be addressed.
There is no Paul Keating in the Labor Party to do what is necessary on their side. The coalition are the worst economic managers, apart from all others! This is a travesty. We need to deal with the very real issues facing Australia, and do what is necessary. I believe in doing things in the spirit of President John F Kennedy, who said:
We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept …
Let us do the things that are hard because ultimately my constituents in Tangney and the people of Australia will thank us for it.
Good government needs members like me to check and assist governments through honest feedback, not through forelock tugging of a party hack looking for his next pay rise. Winston Churchill said, 'Honest criticism is essential to good government'. It acts like pain, signalling where there is a problem needing correction. Our political system has been swamped with carpetbaggers looking for ministerial positions rather than voicing the concerns of their electors squarely and without favour.
One of the issues of concern for me is banks and the behaviour of banks, especially in the wake of the GFC. They received significant benefit from government guarantees, and didn't they use it! They gobbled up a lot of smaller institutions that lacked that guarantee. Remember how they passed on every single increase in interest rates immediately when rates went up in the middle of the last decade? Remember how slow they were to follow the Reserve Bank's reductions when the interest rates went down, and, indeed, often did not pass on the full, or any, interest rate reduction? Now it is being proposed to get the banks, or really the customer, to fund ASIC to look into them. Why would ASIC's performance be any better than it is now? We really need to have a thorough review of the banks; in my view, a royal commission into the behaviour of the banks is needed. The banks have a massive impact on our economy. Healthy banks are critical. Systems that are transparent with banks, and ensuring that they operate in a manner that constitutes fair competition is critical. Public confidence in the banks and their behaviour is critical. So let us do what is necessary with regard to banks. In general, let us do what is right for Australia; let us do the hard things and let us do it in a bipartisan way for the benefit of all Australians.