Pages tagged "Speeches"

  • Lalor community survey and the cruel Budget

    I am glad to be back in the chamber today to take the fight back up to this government and its unfair budget.

    Despite a five-week parliamentary recess and countless distractions from bumbling members of the government's frontbench, the budget is still what people in my electorate want to talk about. My community survey suggests that cost-of-living pressures are the number one concern in my electorate. And who would be surprised by that, given the detail that keeps coming out and showing that the people of Lalor are going to be hard hit by countless and compounding budget measures?

    In the past five weeks we have heard that 'poor people don't drive'—that they do not have cars. Sixty per cent of the 60,000 families in Lalor have two cars and drive long distances to their employment. We have heard that the unemployed will have to apply for 40 jobs. The next thing we heard was that unemployment in the electorate of Lalor had jumped to 8.8 per cent—2.4 per cent higher than the national average. And there is no news yet of a jobs plan. We heard that Lalor will be worst hit by the education cuts, by health cuts, by a GP tax and by a petrol tax.

    And what do we hear from the government? We hear that there is a budget emergency; that there is no budget emergency. Let me tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, there is a budget emergency: it is a household budget emergency and it is going to crash on the people of Lalor.

  • Jags Premier League 2014 Grand Final Night

    I would like to pay my respects to the traditional owners, the Woiwurung and Wathaurung people and their elders past and present.

    I’d like to welcome you all to what is going to become an increasing important day in our local sporting calendar.

    Our region has historically participated in outstanding sporting events and has a well established reputation for doing so.

    We have produced some outstanding national and international sports performers and events like this play an important role in achieving that.

    Our region contributes across a broad range of sporting – from cricket, AFL, netball, soccer, basketball and athletics; to BMX riding, cycling, golf, swimming, and Ten Pin Bowling.

    The Jags Premier League puts cricket in the spotlight across Wyndham and a T20 cricket competition is a welcome addition to our annual calendar or sporting events.

    Matthew Wade and Joanne Ryan congratulate Western Tigers Captain Stephen Varghese

    Melbourne Renegades legend Matthew Wade and I had the pleasure
    of congratulating Western Tigers Captain Stephen Varghese
    and his team for coming runner up of JPL 14 last weekend.

    Photo courtesy of Wyndham Jags Cricket Club (

    I see this event growing and growing over the coming years – especially given its success during the past two months.

    The Wyndham Jags Cricket Club has only recently been established, it is therefore an amazing achievement to see such a well-run sporting event in our community.

    Like many of you, I am a keen advocate for sport in our community.

    As many of you are already aware – I have been an avid netballer for many years.

    The importance of leading healthy active lives should not be understated.

    Sport delivers enormous social benefits to our community.

    It teaches you how to be part of a team, about fitness and persistence, and about winning and losing.

    Sport improves our overall health. Both physically and mentally.

    Sport teaches us to work hard and brings us closer to other members of our community.

    And that is what this community does so well. We come together.

    Our multicultural community is something that I am extremely proud of.

    We have all grown up in different ways, shared different experiences, and have different stories to tell.

    Being part of a sport brings us together as a community.

    The Jags Premier League is an excellent example of how community’s right across Melbourne can come together.

    Sometimes we see athletes who do it tough come through with greater strength and flying colours in the end.

    This competition is about celebrating our multiculturalism. It is about making new friends, being more connected, and having fun at the same time.

    Congratulations to all involved in staging the Jags Premier League.

    Well done to all of you who have come throughout the past 7 weeks to support the cricketers.

    To all the cricketers, the fact that you are participating and trying is a victory in itself.

    I also congratulate the many coaches, family members, friends and organisers for your involvement.

    I also particularly recognise those who are come from outside of the Wyndham area. Our community is a welcoming one.

    We thank you for your participating – you are warmly welcomed into our community at any time.

    Without all your support the event would not be possible and the cricketers would miss a golden opportunity to strive for their best.

    This is a great occasion for our community.

    I am confident it will continue to grow strongly in the future.

    Thank you very much.

  • Statement on Abbott's budget

    I rise to speak about the budget the whole country is still talking about some months after it was delivered. The Treasurer was talking about it yesterday as well. He said that, if we on this side of the House and those on our side in the other place continued to block the nasty measures, there were alternatives he could take. I assume that these will be alternatives that were not talked about before the election, much like the budget we have in front of us was not talked about before the election.

    Today, I rise to say that we have seen some of the recommendations from the Commission of Audit and we want to know which of those are in and which of those are out. Are the government going to slow down the rollout of the NDIS? This is a question that is hot in my electorate. Are they going to increase the GP tax to $15 rather than the $7 that is on the table now? That question is hot in my electorate too. Are they going to abolish family tax benefit part B, as the Commission of Audit suggested? That question is hot in my electorate. Are they going to reduce the staffing size of Defence headquarters in Canberra? That question is certainly very hot in Canberra. Or will they rule out the rolled gold PPL, save themselves some money and deliver a fairer budget?

  • National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014

    I welcome the opportunity to speak on this bill, the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical Benefits) Bill 2014, and I ask for indulgence. I am up speaking about pharmaceuticals and am probably in desperate need of some antibiotics, so I hope the House bears with me.

    I welcome the opportunity to speak on this bill because nothing demonstrates the differences between the Labor and Liberal parties more than our history in government on health. Nothing demonstrates it quite so clearly; nothing at all. I note the number of times I have heard the Minister for Health, Minister Dutton, on his feet wanting to talk about Labor Party history. Again today in question time, the Prime Minister was giving us some kind of history lesson from across the chamber. I say, in opening, that sometimes the temptation to twist the facts becomes irresistible to those opposite.

    Recently Minister Dutton made a call for those on our side of the chamber to answer for our 'astounding hypocrisy' on health, at the same time suggesting those opposite were working steadily and methodically to reform our health sector and ensure it remains sustainable. As an English teacher, I love to play with words; and I love the notion that the changes we are seeing to our health system under this government are described by the word 'reform', when what in fact we are seeing is the absolute undermining of our universal health program in this country. That includes the changes being suggested here—this $1.3 billion tax.

    In my mind when I enter the chamber these days I remind myself I am entering the 'house of irony', but what we have heard from Minister Dutton goes so far as to be farce. The theatre of the absurd is occurring in here every day. Harold Pinter could not have written some of the things we are hearing about the history of the Labor Party and health, or thought of some of the resounding uses of language to describe what is an attack on Medicare and our health system.

    We have Minister Dutton making all sorts of assertions about history and yet, when we look at the history, it is quite clear where the Labor Party stands when it comes to health and people's access to our health system. We do not have to go that far to remember Whitlam introducing universal health care into this country; we do not have to go very far—certainly in my lifetime—when Prime Minister Fraser killed it off; and then of course Prime Minister Hawke reintroduced our universal health program as Medicare. To say that this party would be doing anything that goes against those credentials is absolutely outrageous.

    The argument that they put forward all of the time and that I have heard over and over and over again is this link to the introduction of a co-payment for the PBS by Labor. The twisting of the facts that is occurring on the other side, of course, is one of omission. They are omitting to tell us that when Labor introduced that we also increased the pharmaceutical allowance, so concessional patients received the equivalent of the cost of a script per week to compensate them. Every time the PBS co-payment went up so did the pharmaceutical allowance. They forget to mention that Prime Minister Howard broke that nexus in 1997.

    They also forget to mention that when we introduced a co-payment it was not part of a budget that began the dismantling of the universal health care system. It was not part of a budget that ripped out more than $50 billion from our hospitals. It was not part of a budget that included a GP tax. It was not part of the budget that included pension cuts that will leave pensioners more than $4,000 worse off. It was not part of the budget that included family payments cuts that would leave families $6,000 worse off. It was not part of a budget that scrapped seniors concessions, increased the cost of petrol et cetera et cetera et cetera. We can take these things one at a time and the Prime Minister can stand at the dispatch box in question time and assert these things and omit the facts that the Australian public are very well aware of and probably do not need reminding of. They omit information that Labor made targeted and responsible savings in the health sector, including the means testing of the private health insurance rebate, which was opposed by those opposite—and that we made medicines cheaper through simplified price disclosure. They omit those issues every time they get to their feet.

    They also omitted to tell people that Labor made unprecedented investments in hospitals, primary care, aged care and the health workforce—all of which this government has ripped money out of in this year's budget, and all after promising no cuts to health! And why? The question is being asked in my electorate in most households: why are we hearing this day in, day out? Why would anybody want to? The answer provided by those opposite is around the notion of a budget emergency that has now been dismissed by the economists. It has been dismissed in the community, because people understand, because people have a living memory of a global financial crisis. People understand that we have a AAA credit rating. So the furphy does not stand up to any kind of test.

    I stand here today to oppose the $1.3 billion tax increase on medicines because it will hurt every Australian. It will hurt people in my electorate probably more than most other electorates, given that in Lalor we access bulk-billing services more than 1.5 million times per year, greater than anywhere else across Australia. If you extrapolate that in terms of visits to the doctor, how does that work in terms of the number of people accessing medicines? If they are the bulk-billing rates in my community you need to build into that the notion that there are 10,000 pensioners in Lalor who will be hurt by this $1.3 billion tax.

    The COAG Reform Council report released in June found that 8.5 per cent of people delayed or did not fill their prescriptions in 2012-13 due to cost. I do not have to go very far to see that, because I have lived that memory. In my home somebody I care deeply about has a regimen of medicines that he should be taking daily, and across the last five years I have seen him in circumstances where he has been making those choices. Because when it comes to going to the chemist and having to get $170 worth of medication that is going to last you a month, you start to pause. I have heard him say to me a million times, 'But I am feeling well and I don't know that I need it.' It is not difficult for me to extrapolate that into the homes of pensioners, into the homes of families with young children who will be hard by this budget. It is not difficult for me to imagine and know that those facts are true.

    The last time a Liberal government increased tax on medicines in 2005 prescriptions for some essential medicines fell by as much as 11 per cent. So we have lived history, lived memory of what happens when we put in increases that those opposite want to put in and fail to do what Labor has always done, and that is compensate those families and those individuals for that increased cost—to put in that safety net for those who can afford it least.

    If this were really about the sustainability of the health system, as we keep hearing—building this notion, this picture of Australia in crisis, our health system in crisis, which we know is a furphy, we know from the facts—the revenue would be going back into the PBS, the revenue would be going back into Medicare. That is not what is going to happen here. It is going to go into the research fund. From the moment I heard it come from this Prime Minister's mouth I had to stop and question it. How could anyone stand in this chamber and suggest that they were going to tax the sick and the vulnerable so that they could put money into research for cures somewhere down the track—which, by that time, with this government in control, Medicare would be gone, and those people who had paid for it would not be able to afford to access the cure. It is absolutely outrageous that those things can be argued in this place.

    These changes are an ideological campaign to get rid of Australia's universal healthcare scheme. We know that—we can see it—and Australians know it. Worse, it is to introduce a two-tier user-pay system. On this side, we will not support Tony Abbott's unfair slug on sick Australians, because it is built on lies told before the last election.

    Some of Australia's most senior doctors have already warned that the changes in Tony Abbott's budget will put Australia's health system back more than 50 years—back to the dim, dark past. I think about that. The member for Moreton mentioned a family talking to him about Kalydeco, and I have had several families in my electorate talking to me about the same, and I have been on my feet about that in this place before. What comes to mind when I talk to them and what comes to mind when I think about this government and the changes it wants to make to our health system is that Americanised two-tier system—all of the episodes of ER, of Grey's Anatomy and that compelling episode that ran for a week on prime-time television that advertised the episode. Nine times out of 10 the most compelling episodes in those medical sagas that America produces for us are the ones where the poor family without the medical insurance cannot afford the life-saving surgery.

    They are the most compelling, particularly in this country, because it is not what we live and it is not what we know, and it is not a world we want to walk into. Yet this government puts on the table things that are going to create that world in this country, this country that has always stood for the fair go, this country that is built on notions of egalitarianism—to think that we have a government that wants to embrace this kind of exclusion, this kind of health program.

    These price increases are coming off the back of $80 billion cuts to Australian public hospitals and schools. They come off the back of that GP $7, that 'It doesn't really matter what the cost is, it's about the outcome.' It is about the attack on our GP business model that is hidden behind that $7 co-payment, that $7 tax. It is about the destruction of our universal healthcare system. I ask myself all the time: what is going on here? I think about this research fund. I think about the fact that we are going to make all of these savings to make Medicare sustainable, to make the PBS sustainable, that we are going to collect this money but not put it back in there—we are going to put it into the research fund. Then I remember why. I remember the addition to the slogans in the campaign. I remember the Prime Minister having to be the PM for women and the signatory PPL scheme, and having to be the PM for Indigenous Australians. I do not know if he has found his signatory policy for that yet, but he has certainly found the signatory policy for the PM who finds a cure for cancer.

    I wonder about a country that can be in a situation where we stand here talking about undoing our universal healthcare system and hurting the PBS system—and all for one man's vanity. I really do wonder what we have come to.

    What we are not seeing from this government—consistent with its approach to governing so far, especially when it comes to health—is a government that is saying to Australians everywhere, 'You pay.' Those of us on this side of the House will stand against that, will oppose that.

  • Statement on Abbott's GP Tax

    I too rise to condemn the GP tax and to speak for the people of Lalor, who will be hard-hit if this tax becomes a reality.  Lalor has a bulk-billing rate of 93.5 per cent.

    Families across my electorate access bulk-billing services more than 1.5 million times each year—greater than anywhere else across Australia. This GP tax will cost Lalor families over $11½ million annually. If you turn to the letters page in the Age yesterday, Deputy Speaker, you will see a letter from a local Werribee doctor, Dr Joe Garra. He writes:

    As a western suburbs GP with many elderly patients the introduction of the co-payment worries me. I cannot afford to waive it; the loss of $7 equates to a 30 per cent drop in income. My worry is that elderly patients with chronic illness, often on necessary medication, will pick and choose what to miss out on to save $7. It may be seeing me or having an important blood test or X-ray. If this leads to a hospital admission, then the projected savings convert to a huge expense for taxpayers.

    The GP tax is the most insidious part of this budget, and the thing that goes to the core of this government's callous disregard for the welfare of everyday Australians. If this government cannot listen to those MPs on this side of the House, perhaps they will listen to respected doctors like Joe Garra.

  • Saving Medicare, Abbott's GP Tax and Kalydeco

    For over 30 years we have had universal health care, the core of which is every Australian's capacity to see a GP and have x-rays, blood tests and imaging without the need for cash on the day. It is the cornerstone of our health care system—that primary care is easily accessible. How do we do this? Through a Medicare levy paid by taxpayers. These services have not been and are not free, as was asserted yet again by the Minister for Health in question time today, and those who use bulk billing services are not a burden on our economy.

    What will it mean if this GP tax becomes a reality? It will mean families will have to find the cash for primary health care costs every time they go to the doctor or have follow-up tests. It is bad enough that this government thinks that that is okay—but they also fail to understand that this will mean families make choices that may mean worse health outcomes and a longer term, more expensive treatment. Or do those opposite fail to understand? I think they understand too well what this means—they know it will undermine Medicare. They know it will change the business model for GPs and be the end of bulk billing, just as they know that starving public hospitals of recurrent operating costs will undermine the system and cancelling preventative health programs will lead to higher costs and worse health.

    The people I represent in this place and I struggle to understand the rationale behind these measures when the so-called budget emergency argument has been shown to be a furphy. There is, however, an emergency developing—a health funding emergency. We have a health funding emergency and a health minister emergency.

    We have a health minister who does not seem to take advice from those professionals delivering health services on the ground and, worse than that, who will not take the time to listen.

    I heard yesterday a story that demonstrates this lack of listening and that paints a picture of a minister who lacks empathy. I heard this story from a resident who has a small child suffering from cystic fibrosis, who is, like others around the country, waiting for the outcome of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee process to see Kalydeco made available under the PBS. Understandably parents, whose children are set to benefit from receiving this treatment, are anxious for approval to be granted as soon as possible. These parents understand the approval process. They know that the minister has no role to play in the process but, understandably, they cannot do nothing and just wait. So they are doing what any parent would do when faced with these circumstances—they are engaging in the process through any avenue possible. These parents have been running an awareness campaign: visiting electorate offices to talk to their members of parliament, visiting Canberra, writing letters, appearing on TV and being active in social media. Naturally, this includes engaging, or trying to engage, the health minister. And what is the health minister's response? Does he engage with them on social media? No! And, even worse, he deletes their postings and blocks their access to his Facebook page!

    As a local member, I have also taken the time to try and engage the health minister and have found a similar response—letters go unanswered for months, requests for meetings are not followed up and, as a result, the brand new Catherine McCauley rehab centre in the Werribee Mercy Hospital and its need for recurrent funding is ignored. I have to ask: what does this minister do with his time? The only time he bobs his head out from the sand is to announce a new health tax or a new health cut. This is a minister prepared to destroy our world envied health system; cut hospital funding; increase costs to patients; and cut preventive health programs. All these measures place an added burden on family budgets and on the longer-term health costs of the country.

    The Kalydeco families, the local GP who wrote to the Age today, the Werribee Mercy Hospital, the seniors I met with last week, the families and pensioners responding to my community survey and the 30,000 people who marched in Melbourne the other Sunday all know the value of our current Medicare health system and want to defend it. I implore this minister to get a heart, to start listening and to act in the interest of Australians.

  • Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014

    I, like the member for Scullin, rise to speak again on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014. Like the member for Scullin, I spoke in December. As then, tonight I will speak for a few moments and return to the speech at another time.

    I oppose this bill, just like I oppose the Treasurer's so-called fair budget, with its so-called fair changes to pensions, fair cuts to education, fair GP tax, fair changes to Newstart eligibility and fair changes to higher education, training and apprenticeships. I rise to oppose the ludicrous, the ridiculous situation whereby this government would retain the word 'fair' while making amendments that are not fair.

    When I was working in schools in the western suburbs of Melbourne I saw the impact on local families of the then Minister Abbott's WorkChoices legislation. I saw students exploited by individual contracts. I heard direct from these kids about being paid in pizzas. I heard time and time again about kids who did not get a job when they asked about the conditions and overtime arrangements. I saw parents under pressure, too—

    Debate interrupted.

    I have deep concerns about the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014. I saw the negative impact of Work Choices and celebrated the introduction of the Fair Work legislation by Labor. Since September last year, this government has broken many promises, election commitments have been tossed aside, and taxes and cost-cutting measures that were never dreamed of have been introduced. Here we are again. Before the election, the Abbott government made a commitment to regulate registered organisations in the same way as corporations. This bill does not implement the coalition's election promise. This bill makes provision for higher penalties on corporations and registered organisations will have a more onerous regime to deal with.

    There are new criminal provisions which, if enacted, mean that registered organisations, employer bodies and unions will have difficulty in persuading people—often in a voluntary capacity—to take on official responsibilities. It is not just Labor saying that. The AIG states:

    If the proposed criminal penalties and proposed massive financial penalties for breaches of duties are included in the RO Act, this would operate as a major disincentive to existing voluntary officers of registered organisations continuing in their roles, and would deter other people from holding office.
    These are genuine concerns that have not been addressed by the government. Unions have also raised quite legitimate concerns about the impacts of the proposed laws. Usually, when you have industry bodies and unions lining up on a unity ticket against a proposition, there is something very wrong. This is apparent here.

    I have seen workplaces disrupted by employees making a point on legitimate concerns. As a former teacher, there have been disputes over conditions and funding. Very rarely have I seen frivolous claims. With three young adult sons, I hear about workplace conditions in the building, transport and warehouse industries. I know there are some workers and indeed some bosses that could behave better, take workplace safety more seriously and ensure that correct rates of pay, especially overtime, are adhered to. As I move around my community, people discuss unfair dismissal and other workplace matters. Safety and dignity at work are paramount in the electorate of Lalor. Union membership is valued.

    Many make the point that they would prefer to be in a unionised workplace, as their rights and their safety are protected. As a mother and someone who has worked with young adults, I can speak firsthand to the peace of mind it brings. I do, however, read the paper and watch the news. I know that not everybody acts with integrity in the workplace. That is why the Labor Party has no tolerance for corruption by union officials or officers in employer bodies. We support tough penalties for those who break the law and we support appropriate regulation for registered organisations, including a properly empowered regulator and consequences for those who do not follow the rules.

    Labor is committed to ensuring financial accountability by unions and employer organisations. That is why in 2012 the now Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, as Minister for Workplace Relations, toughened the laws to improve financial transparency and disclosure by registered organisations to their members. As a result, the regulation of trade unions in Australia has never been stronger, accountability has never been higher and the powers of the Fair Work Commission to investigate and prosecute for breaches have never been broader and, with a tripling of penalties, they have never been tougher.

    What we are not hearing from those opposite about this legislation is that the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act already prohibits members' money from being used to favour particular candidates in internal elections or campaigns. It already allows for criminal proceedings to be initiated where funds are stolen or obtained by fraud. It already ensures that the Fair Work Commission can share information with the police as appropriate, and it already provides for statutory civil penalties—

    Debate interrupted.

    I rise for the third time in an attempt to complete this speech on the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Amendment Bill 2014, which only goes to show my commitment. I begin where I finished by saying that the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act already provides for statutory civil penalties where a party knowingly or recklessly contravenes an order or direction made by the federal court or the Fair Work Commission under the registered organisations act or the Fair Work Act.

    Under the Fair Work Act, officers of registered organisations already have fiduciary duties akin to those of directors under the Corporations Law. The registered organisations act already requires officers to disclose their personal interests. It already requires officers to disclose when payments are made to related parties. It already requires officers to exercise care and diligence, act with good faith and not improperly use their position for political advantage. It is, therefore, not surprising that we should question the motives of this government and the reasons for the introduction of these proposed reforms.

    The government promised to regulate registered organisations in the same way as corporations. However, they have broken that promise. This bill places higher penalties and a more onerous regime on officers of registered organisations than those that are imposed on company directors. There are still recommendations to come from the various inquiries this government has established. Wouldn't it make more sense to wait for those outcomes and recommendations? This bill is pre-emptive and ill-conceived and it is also a broken promise.

    Why is this government rushing to impose this onerous regime and penalties that exceed those in the Corporations Act? As always, we need to question the motivation of the government. Is this just a political attack on unions. I will remind members of the impact on workers when Work Choices was introduced in 2006, to help them think about and determine whether this legislation is just an attack on unions. Three workers at a cabinet installation company in the west of Melbourne were sacked on the day Work Choices came into effect and then offered casual positions at a lower rate of pay. Seventy Optus workers received letters from the company directing them to a seminar to teach them how to set themselves up as contractors. As contractors they would be up to $300 a week worse off and would have to pay $12,000 for their own van, as well as workers compensation, superannuation and other overheads. A woman employee of 15 years was sacked while she was on sick leave, just days after the Work Choices laws came into effect. A clerical employee was dismissed via email for requesting her pay, which was six weeks in arrears. A university student was working in a medium sized business which dismissed all permanent employees on the day the new legislation came into effect. They were offered AWAs with lower levels of pay and worse conditions. A young worker lost her job in a cafe after refusing to sign an AWA which included a hefty pay cut. A hairdressing apprentice was offered a contract which included an unpaid trial as a condition of employment and no overtime or penalty rates.

    Workplace laws are about balance between the workers and the employers. They are about balance between unions and big business. They are about balance between law breaking and good governance. Is this legislation about balance or is it just an ideological attack? We have reason not to trust the coalition when it comes to workplace relations. They have form. In 2004, they did not tell the Australian people about their plans to introduce Work Choices and AWAs. In 2005, they told the Australian people their pay and conditions were protected by law, when they were not. In 2008, Tony Abbott said Work Choices was:

    … good for wages, it was good for jobs and it was good for workers. And let’s never forget that.
    In his book Battlelines, Tony Abbott said, 'Work Choices wasn't all bad.' Labor will not support a politically motivated witch-hunt designed to kill off unions just because the government seeks to reward its friends in big business.


  • Manor Court - Aged Care Payroll Tax Supplement removal

    I rise today on behalf of Manor Court aged care in my electorate of Lalor. I have been contacted by the managing director, Mr Ross Smith, who has deep concerns about the removal of the aged care payroll tax supplement as of 1 January 2015.

    Mr Smith calculates that even with the increase in the base subsidy, which he welcomed, the removal of the supplement will mean a net cost to Manor Court of a staggering $85,000 per year. So whilst the Abbott government throws a bone with one hand it removes so much more with the other. Mr Smith has highlighted this in his letter of 2 June this year to the Minister the Social Services, where he wrote that the significant impact 'will mean that we once again have to reduce services to elderly residents to survive.'

    I met with residents at this facility engaged in a knitting session. They are still making valuable contributions to our community through their work supporting hospitals and animal care shelters. These residents and all other residents in aged care deserve this government's support. I urge the Abbott government to stop playing games, to stop and listen to the people who are running our aged care facilities and to reinstate the aged care payroll supplement.

  • Low-Income Superannuation Concession

    I rise today in what I have recently termed 'the chamber of ironies'. Today we have been debating a piece of legislation that would see us take money from families through the schoolkids bonus and low-income support concessions to give money to millionaires. The legislation which has been before us is outrageous.

    I have been inundated with emails from local constituents about the low-income superannuation concession. To read from one of those:

    The LISC provides more than 3.6 million working Australians earning less than $37,000 per annum with a rebate of the tax paid on their superannuation contributions. This is worth up to $500 which is paid into their superannuation accounts. If the LISC is withdrawn, these workers will receive no tax breaks on their contributions. They will be the only group of working Australians not to receive a tax break on their superannuation contributions. In fact, under the changes proposed, these workers will pay more tax on their superannuation contributions than if the money were part of their take-home pay. It is surely unfair that while the highest paid workers receive a tax concession of 30 per cent, the lowest paid would be penalised for saving for their retirement. On behalf of the 3.6 million Australians who will be affected, I ask you sincerely to block this law.
    Hasta Gurung—
    from my electorate.

  • Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 and Cognate Bills

    I welcome the timing of this debate today when this issue is so hot internationally—the shifting sands of time are important this morning. Some of you were in this chamber when US President Obama addressed this Australian parliament in 2011. As a new member, I was not lucky enough to be here. However, I, like many across the world, do take an interest in what he has to say. So when US President Barack Obama took the opportunity in a commencement speech at the University of California to rip into climate change deniers only a few days after meeting Prime Minister Abbott, I read his speech with interest. President Obama labelled global warming as 'one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet faces'. He made a powerful moral case for action.

    He said:

    So the question is not whether we need to act. The overwhelming judgement of science, accumulated and measured and reviewed over decades, has put that question to rest. The question is whether we have the will to act before it's too late. For if we fail to protect the world we leave not just to my children but to your children and your children's children, we will fail one of our primary reasons for being on this world in the first place. And that is to leave the world a little bit better for the next generation.

    He is not alone with views such as these. The European Union has long been committed to international efforts to tackle climate change and has set a strong example through robust policy making. It has introduced legislation and a range of initiatives to tackle climate change. That is why it is difficult to hear EU officials saying:

    Australia has become completely 'disengaged' on climate change since Tony Abbott was elected in September last year.
    It has been reported the EU officials are disappointed with the Prime Minister's approach, saying Australia was considered an important climate change player under Labor. One well-placed EU official has likened the change to 'losing an ally'. But Mr Abbott has pledged to scrap the carbon price in favour of his Direct Action policy. 'You have a huge amount of scientists and economists saying the Direct Action policy isn't going to work,' one EU official was quoted as saying. There is a particular disappointment in Mr Abbott's decision not to have climate change on the agenda when the G20 leaders meet in Brisbane later this year. Climate change has been on the G20 agenda at the most recent leaders meetings in France, Mexico and Russia.

    I note a report in The Guardian says:

    Fighting climate change would help grow the world economy, according to the World Bank, adding up to $2.6tn … a year to global GDP in the coming decades.
    It states that fighting climate change:

    … would lead to global GDP gains of between $1.8tn and $2.6tn a year by 2030, in terms of new jobs, increased crop productivity and public health benefits.

    The World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, said the findings put to rest claims that the world could not afford to act on climate change.
    He goes on to say:

    These policies make economic sense … This report removes another false barrier, another false argument not to take action against climate change.
    Like President Obama, I know climate change is real. It astounds me that this is a debate we are still having. Last summer was the hottest on record in Australia: May 2014 in Melbourne broke all weather records with the most days over 20 degrees in the history of the Bureau of Meteorology recordkeeping. The BOM has added a new colour to their weather chart spectrum to indicate temperatures over 50 degrees Celsius, and study after study, report after report, show that our weather extremes, fire, floods and droughts, are happening more often and are becoming more intense. So, yes, climate change is a very real and a very serious issue.

    What is it that the bills before us want to do? Through this legislation, the coalition, led by Prime Minister Abbott, wants to abolish the price on carbon and remove the ETS without any mechanism to take its place. It wants to remove industry assistance, including support for Australian jobs, through the Steel Transformation Plan. It wants to abolish the Climate Change Authority and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, ceasing any new commercial term loans to help new ambitious renewable projects over the forward estimates. He wants to repeal income tax cuts that were due to come into effect on 1 July 2015. And, because this government cannot get its act together to get legislation through in a timely way, this bill is designed to work retrospectively and everything will be backdated to July 1.

    This Liberal government talks about their economic credentials, about how they now accept the science and

    about how they are finally serious about climate change. But, as with so many things, actions speak louder than words: the introductions of these bills show that.

    So how did we get here? We are here, because in 2009, the Liberal party walked away from their commitment to action on climate change and blocked an ETS. As an aside, the Liberal Party were not alone in walking away from this issue; the Greens also must take some of the responsibility for delaying action on climate change: they too decided to play politics with our future and got action and inaction confused. The Liberal party, however, are most culpable for leading a campaign of misinformation in an attempt to influence public opinion. We are here, because political opportunity overcame good sense, responsibility and knowledge.

    The ETS model has been recognised around the world as the most appropriate and efficient way to tackle carbon pollution. Under an emissions trading scheme, polluters are encouraged to pollute less, so they pay less. An ETS is the most appropriate market mechanism to achieve both a cap on emissions, while at the same time creating incentives to change long term behaviours. But instead, the Abbott government is pursuing the so-called Direct Action Plan—perhaps more aptly named 'indirect inaction.'

    I am often approached by my local constituents confused, asking: what does direct action actually mean? Beyond a misnomer, a contradiction of terms, a joke, not much. In the words of Tony Abbott, under direct action, the Liberal government 'will bring in more trees and better soils'. Experts, including the CSIRO, have dismissed the claims of Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt on reforestation. They show that, even for the most hopeful of souls, tree planting on the limited scale proposed by Mr Abbott simply will not work.

    One of the other aspects of the policy—and there are only a few—is utilising soil carbon technology. Under this part of the plan, Mr Abbott and Mr Hunt have decided that soil carbon can deliver up to 85 million tonnes of reduction per year at just $10 per tonne. This is in spite of recent studies showing the price is more likely to be around $80 per tonne. Mr Hunt's own department is estimating that this technology would only deliver one 20th of the claimed reductions. In fact, based on the CSIRO's study, the government would have to take two thirds of the Australian land mass to meet the emissions reduction targets. It is, as former Treasury Secretary Ken Henry has described, quite simply bizarre.

    A Senate inquiry into direct action did not have a single expert who would support this government's Direct Action Plan, and that probably suits this government, because Mr Abbott does not think climate change requires urgent, serious action—we know that. We know that he believes that climate action is not an issue that should concern world leaders. He believes there is no sign other countries are adopting emissions trading schemes and that China will never introduce carbon trading.

    And now we are seeing some detail about the minister's Emissions Reduction Fund. It has a good name, Emissions Reduction Fund—that has got to be a good thing—but recent research by Monash University shows that the ERF will see pollution increase by eight to10 per cent above 2000 levels by 2020; reduce pollution by nearly one third less than Labor's policy; require significant additional investment of between $4 billion and $15 billion to achieve the 2020 target of at least a five per cent reduction on 2000 levels; see costs and pollution both increase over time—even with spending increasing to around $88 billion from 2014 to 2050, pollution would still increase by about 45 per cent over this period; and subsidise the pollution of businesses who do not make changes, with these public subsidies calculated at around $50 billion to 2020.

    Despite these issues and posturing by the coalition over the last three years, there is still no comprehensive approach that can be seen as a credible alternative to Labor's policy. Tony Abbott and those in his government are willingly consigning themselves to the wrong side of history. In generations to come, this inaction, this indifference, this incompetence, will be judged harshly.

    Locally, my electorate is playing its part in pollution reduction. Our tip, a main contributor of pollution in our community is utilising innovative methane capture technology. With Labor government funding we are also using renewable technology to power our public spaces and we are pursuing public lighting strategies to reduce our energy consumption. Our local industries are also making changes with the assistance of Labor's Clean Technology Investment Programs. Labor's $1 billion investment has assisted some of our local manufacturers, from a steel processing plant to a sausage maker to an agricultural chemical plant, to become more efficient, more cost effective and more sustainable.

    In speaking with local residents, I find that they too want to do their bit to reduce emissions, and many already have. They know it may have its costs, but do they like the idea that it might save our planet; do they think they have changed their behaviours in order reduce their footprint? They certainly do. So then, if my electorate is doing its part and getting serious about climate change, why can't the Abbott government? Because, as outlined previously, they simply do not take this issue seriously. But on this side we refuse to do nothing. What Labor put forward is a policy which will ensure action on climate pollution. Our sensible, reasonable amendments included a much-needed legal cap on carbon pollution; the retention of the Climate Change Authority to ensure independent analysis and advice; and a continued commitment to Australia's renewable energy research and development.

    It is one of the most important debates that we are having in the chamber this week. It is for all of us to think, and to think long and hard about why we are here. Are we here to do the best for our chosen parties, or are we here to do what is best for our nation? Are we here to play politics, or to represent the best interests for our communities? Are we here to make the easy decisions, or the right decisions? I know why I am here, and it is certainly not to close my eyes and ears and hope that a problem of this magnitude will go away. In short, as a country, we could lead. But these bills mean that we will not even follow those who will lead.