Senate debates

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bills

Banking Amendment (Covered Bonds) Bill 2011; Second Reading

1:10 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Today I introduce a bill which goes to the core of the government's agenda to secure our financial system for the future.

Exactly three years ago today, the collapse of Lehman Brothers pushed the global financial system to the very brink of collapse.

The government's swift actions helped Australia avoid recession, and secured the strength and competitive foundations of our banking system.

We have continued to build on the strength of our financial system in the last three years, working with our regulators and industry.

The government has worked closely with industry and our regulators since early last year on a framework for covered bonds in Australia.

We released exposure draft legislation for consultation in March this year, followed by a second round of targeted consultation in July.

There could not be a more appropriate day than today—exactly three years on from Lehman Brothers—for the parliament to now consider this key element of our plan for a strong and sustainable financial system.

Today I will outline the substantial economic benefits flowing from the introduction of covered bonds in Australia.

But first, I will provide an update on just some of the reforms we have already put in place to build up competition in the banking system.

Just nine months ago, I announced new reforms to build a competitive and sustainable banking system to give every Australian a fairer go.

We are introducing three broad streams of reform to empower consumers, support smaller lenders, and secure the flow of credit to our economy.

We have already delivered over half of these reforms, and we are firmly on track to deliver the rest working closely with industry and consumers.

The government has already banned mortgage exit fees from 1 July this year so consumers can now walk down the road and get a better deal.

We have legislated the introduction of a simple, standardised, one-page fact sheet for consumers to compare loans from 1 January next year.

We have passed historic reforms through the parliament to crack down on unfair treatment of Australians with credit cards and save them money.

I also recently announced a new 'tick and flick' service to give Australians the freedom to switch deposit accounts with the stroke of a pen.

The Gillard government has also put in place important measures to help smaller lenders compete with the major banks.

In April this year, I directed the AOFM to boost the government's investment in high-quality, AAA-rated RMBS by a further $4 billion.

The government's now $20 billion investment since late 2008 has been absolutely critical in helping smaller lenders secure cheaper funding.

This important program has allowed smaller Australian lenders to continue offering competitive loans to families and small businesses.

We are also taking action to build a fifth pillar in our banking system from the combined competitive power of our mutual sector.

We have already seen several mutual lenders out there leveraging our reforms to help them use the new term 'mutual bank' in the branding.

In addition, the government has already kicked off its community awareness and education campaign which I announced last December.

We have put credit unions, building societies and our regional and other smaller banks right at the centre of this awareness campaign.

It is all about informing consumers of the many safe and competitive alternatives to the major banks when it comes to loans and deposits.

It is fantastic to see our reforms have helped trigger a new breakout of competition in the banking sector to the benefit of consumers.

We have seen the major banks scrapping their exit fees, offering cash to swipe customers from their competitors and cutting other fees too.

Just recently we have seen them slashing their home loan fixed interest rates and one major bank promising to match its competitors' on price.

The big winner here is the everyday Australian family who now knows the power is in their hands when it comes to shopping for a better deal.

Sustainable funding

Last December, I also announced further reforms to secure the long-term safety and sustainability of Australia's financial system.

These reforms are critical to ensuring our banking sector can keep providing reasonably priced credit to households and small businesses.

I announced measures to develop a deep and liquid corporate bond market to further reduce our reliance on offshore wholesale funding.

We are well advanced in our delivery of these reforms which include trading Commonwealth Government Securities on a securities exchange.

The government is also making strong progress in finalising reforms to reduce red tape for corporate bonds issuance to retail investors.

We will continue to work with corporate issuers and investors to build a deep and liquid Australian corporate bond market.

On top of this, we continue to work on ways to make the RMBS market more sustainable and diverse for smaller lenders in the years to come.

In December, I tasked Treasury to accelerate its work on promoting smaller lender issuance of alternative-style RMBS 'bullet securities'.

These securities are more like 'regular bonds' than traditional RMBS and are therefore more attractive to superannuation fund investors.

The Treasury is making very strong progress in working with the industry and our regulators to develop the market for smaller lender bullet RMBS.

The bill I introduce today is all about taking the next logical step to strengthen the funding options available to our banking system.

The bill makes amendments to the Banking Act to allow Australian banks, credit unions and building societies to issue covered bonds.

This is a critical economic reform to strengthen and diversify the Australian financial system's access to cheaper, more stable and longer term funding in domestic and offshore wholesale capital markets.

Treasury estimates the government's framework will allow Australian institutions to issue some $130 billion of covered bonds in coming years.

Covered bonds will assist our banks in meeting the new Basel III liquidity reforms, which require a transition to longer term sustainable funding.

Of course, a deep and liquid covered bond market will also help to channel Australia's national superannuation savings through the financial system into productive investment in all sectors of our economy.

We have already seen banks from Canada and Norway coming down here to issue covered bonds and take our savings home with them.

It defies logic that our own banks can't issue the same covered bonds themselves to our local superannuation funds for Australian investors.

Allowing our institutions another string in their bow—to compete for funding with banks around the world—is an absolute no-brainer.

Covered bonds are already well established overseas, and were one of the most resilient funding markets during the global financial crisis.

The bill I present today will strengthen the long-term funding capacity of all major and regional banks, credit unions and building societies.

In fact, the bill includes an express framework which allows smaller lenders to pool together and jointly issue covered bonds.

This further builds on the measures I have outlined today which the government has already taken to diversify funding for smaller lenders.

The government's covered bonds framework ensures the absolute security of depositors' savings and protection of taxpayer funds.

Australian depositors will continue to have absolute certainty over their deposits under the Financial Claims Scheme.

On Sunday, I announced a new, permanent cap of $250,000 per person per institution to be introduced from 1 February 2012 to protect the savings held in around 99 per cent of Australian deposit accounts in full.

The scheme was developed over the period leading up to the global financial crisis by our financial regulators.

The government accelerated its introduction to secure confidence after the severe dislocation of global funding markets following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in late 2008.

The timely introduction of the scheme, combined with the wholesale funding guarantee, helped ensure the stability of our banking system at the height of the global financial crisis.

These decisive actions maintained the continued flow of credit—the life blood of any modern economy—to Australian households and business.

Together with both fiscal and monetary policy stimulus, this action saw Australia as virtually the only developed country to avoid recession.

At that time, the government committed to review the settings of the scheme after three years.

Australia's credit unions, building societies and banks are highly capitalised, well-rated and have benefited from years of tough supervision by our world-class regulators.

Our institutions are very soundly managed by international standards, having developed strong practices of responsible lending and risk management.

They are very well funded for the period ahead, having done a lot of heavy lifting to reduce the amount of funds they borrow offshore as they move to more stable, longer-term funding.

The Council of Financial Regulators has advised that the cap should be set at a new, permanent level to reflect the almost unparalleled strength of the Australian banking system.

In the extremely unlikely event of the Scheme being activated, the government would step in and swiftly give depositors their money.

The government would then sell the assets of the institution to recover taxpayers' money and in the extremely unlikely event that there wasn't enough would levy the whole banking system to recover any shortfall.

So Australian household depositors and taxpayers are always protected.

As an additional protection, this bill includes a regulatory cap on the amount of covered bonds an institution can issue.

This regulatory cap ensures that only a small proportion of an institution's assets in Australia are ever used as security for issuing covered bonds.

Specifically, the pool of assets used to secure covered bond issuance can be no greater than eight per cent of an institution's assets in Australia.

This further reduces the likelihood that a levy on the banking industry would ever even be required under the scheme, as the sale of an institution's assets would almost certainly recover taxpayers' funds.

Conclusion

The Gillard government is working hard to build a more competitive and sustainable banking system for all Australians.

We worked hard through the global financial crisis to secure our financial system, and preserve the competitive foundations of our banking sector.

In December last year, I announced a further reform package to help build up competition again in the banking system for all Australians.

We have already seen these reforms deliver great results for consumers, with the major banks now having to compete hard for their business.

The challenge now is to ensure that our banks, credit unions and building societies have the capacity to safely lend for the decades to come.

The bill I present today is the next logical step in that process.

1:11 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The coalition supports the Banking Amendment (Covered Bonds) Bill 2001. In fact, this legislation implements a suggestion that was made by the coalition as far back as October last year. It was, of course, part of Joe Hockey's nine-point plan. In fact, it was point 8 of the coalition's nine-point banking plan, which was announced on 25 October 2010. It took the government only 12 months to finally act on what should have happened some time ago.

Schedule 1 of the Banking Amendment (Covered Bonds) Bill 2011 makes amendments to the Banking Act 1959 to enable authorised deposit-taking institutions—which includes banks, credit unions, and building societies—to issue covered bonds. This is an initiative to increase financing options for domestic Australian deposit-taking institutions. It will allow them to increase the amount of funding they get from domestic sources and will reduce their reliance on offshore markets for funding.

Covered bonds are likely to be used mainly by the big four banks, although the bill does provide for ADIs to enter into an aggregating entity to issue covered bonds as well. It is unlikely that the smallest authorised deposit-taking institutions will use this funding facility. Nevertheless, any increase in domestic sources of funding for the financial system as a whole is of course very worthwhile. Covered bonds are bonds issued by a financial institution that is secured by a pool of assets. The value of assets in the covered bond pool must be at least 103 per cent of the value of the covered bonds.

In the event of insolvency, the holder has recourse to the pool of assets underpinning the bonds, and the holders of covered bonds have first rights to the pool of assets covering them ahead of shareholders and ahead of other holders of debt. The rights of other holders of debt are protected in two ways. First, the proportion of Australian assets that can be committed to covered bond pools is limited to eight per cent. Second, the financial claim scheme provides a government guarantee for small depositors, currently up to a limit of $1 million, which will be reduced to $250,000 from February 2012. These protections are crucial, because the introduction of covered bonds is a major departure from one of the core elements of the banking system in Australia, which has been the primacy of the claims of depositors.

As I have mentioned, this is an idea that was promoted by the shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, as far back as October last year. It was a very prominent part of the coalition's nine-point banking plan and was copied in Treasurer Swan's announcement of the government's Competitive and Sustainable Banking System plan. While we are disappointed that it took the Treasurer so long to finally act on this, we are pleased that we are now finally dealing with this legislation and commend it to the Senate.

1:14 pm

Photo of David BushbyDavid Bushby (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I also rise to contribute to the debate on the Banking Amendment (Covered Bonds) Bill 2011. In the coalition's nine-point banking plan, announced on 25 October 2010, at point No. 8 it was recommended that a debate about whether the banks should be able to issue covered bonds in the same way that other jurisdictions allow their banks to should be commissioned. This was the first time that either major party had publicly declared support for changing a long-held view that covered bonds were not consistent with our banking laws, primarily due to the impact it has on depositor primacy in the event of a bank wind-up—that is: the idea was ours, not the government's. But, as so often happens with this government, it soon followed and adopted our idea, and even had the temerity to try to present it as its own. But here we are, 12 months after the coalition put the idea on the table, and the government is finally seeking to implement it.

As has been outlined by my colleague Senator Cormann, we are, not surprisingly, fully supporting the bill and the outcomes that it seeks to legislate. But I think it is useful to look briefly at the context of the events 12 months ago and the government's approach since. Our nine-point plan was released in the context of considerable public concern about the direction of interest rate changes, particularly rises implemented by the banks independent of the official cash rate. The government was very slow to respond to what were very valid concerns of the public, releasing its Competitive and Sustainable Banking System report in mid-December.

In the meantime the Senate, on a motion jointly moved by Senator Williams, Senator Xenophon and me, had moved to set up a comprehensive Senate inquiry looking into the state of competition in the banking industry and inter alia the impact of competition on prices within the banking industry. I thought it was always interesting that the government's report was released the day before the first major hearing of that inquiry. Having had the benefit of that inquiry and its findings, I acknowledge that the government's report did contain some useful measures—mostly, like the covered bond recommendation, copied from our nine-point plan. But it did not go anywhere near far enough in addressing some fundamental issues and challenges, particularly in the broader funding side of things that the inquiry found were required. Indeed, the inquiry made some 39 recommendations on matters that it considered, if implemented, would collectively serve to increase the level of competitive tension within the banking industry without sacrificing standards or protections for consumers.

One of these was to allow the issuing of covered bonds by Australian prudentially regulated entities. But there were many others, which have not yet been addressed by the government and which in the absence of action mean that Australians continue to enjoy a less competitive banking environment than they might otherwise, and hence likely higher rates and fees than they might otherwise—recommendations that were designed to help address the competitive disadvantage that smaller institutions face in obtaining funds that they can then lend out at a price and availability that enables them to compete on rates and fees with the larger players; and recommendations that would remove some of the legislated taxation disadvantages that make it harder for foreign banks to compete on price with locals, meaning local banks do not have to price as keenly to maintain market share.

Examples include some that could be implemented immediately, like the standardisation of the fee for all borrowers under the wholesale funding guarantee, for the run-out period of those guarantees; or tweaking the terms of which the AOFM can purchase RMBS to allow it the discretion to purchase securities issued by entities with a substantial bank shareholding where it judges this would promote a more competitive market; or even to allow it to consider assets other than those based on home mortgages or securities rated AA or A.

I might mention here that the RMBS market, upon which a lot of the competition from small players in the 1990s and the early 2000s, like Wizard, RAMS and Aussie depended, depended almost entirely on the availability of money that was raised through the RMBS securities market. At this stage it does not look like that market has fully recovered. Although there have been some positive signs over the last six or so months, those signs have not necessarily been followed through. Quite clearly, measures that could be implemented by the government that would improve the attractiveness of the RMBS market in Australia to investors would be well worth while following for the end result of better competition in the Australian financial sector and better prices for consumers.

Other recommendations included requiring the Reserve Bank to publish more of the information it currently holds to show its assessment of the comparative overall cost to the consumer of the various products available from financial institutions, and a range of recommendations designed to lower the burden for consumers and businesses when they switch banks; or even simply allowing mutual financial institutions to call themselves a mutual bank or approved banking institution.

There was a lot contained in that report that would be of benefit to Australian consumers of bank and finance products, yet this government seems to think that, because it put out a report last December tackling a few minor aspects of what could be done, it has acquitted itself of any obligation it has to consider the issue. I contend that the government needs to do more and that the blueprint contained in the Senate Economics References Committee report into competition within the Australian banking sector is a good place to start.

1:20 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank senators for their contribution and their fulsome support of this important Labor initiative and commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

Photo of Judith AdamsJudith Adams (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As no amendments to the bill have been circulated, I shall call the minister to move the third reading, unless any senator requires that the bill be considered in the Committee of the Whole.

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Senate and I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a third time.

Debate resumed on the motion:

That these bills be now read a second time.

1:21 pm

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to indicate that the coalition will be supporting the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Measures) Bill 2011, but I would like to make some comments about the process which has got us to this limited stage of reforming this area after effectively three years of inaction before finally announcing the improvements in a press conference in June this year from the government. Prior to getting to that stage the government shelved a Productivity Commission report for about 18 months, until after the 2010 election, and then broke a subsequent promise to announce its changes as part of the 2011 budget. Under the minister's direction, as long ago as mid-2008 there was a commitment that anti-dumping should be the subject of reform. Yet what we have here is really only partial reform and we still do not know what the government's full regime of changes might be in relation to this area. As the coalition sees it, even these limited changes are as a result of pressure from the coalition, Senator Xenophon, who I acknowledge has some interest in this also, and industry associations.

The Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill 2011 legislates in four particular areas. It imposes a time limit of 30 days on ministerial decision making, widens the range of factors available for consideration in the determination of material injury, expands the list of subsidies against which Australian industries can apply for countervailing duties and grants affected party and interested party status to a wider range of stakeholders through the Customs Act 1901. These changes are sensible and, as I said, the coalition supports those amendments.

One part of the package that is disappointing, though, is the government's claim that they are increasing the resources to Customs through an increase in staff from 31 to 45 in the trade measures branch, which is the administering authority to Australia's anti-dumping system. The reality is that Customs itself gets no further resources. This is nothing more than a reconfiguration of resources within Customs, so the overall budget for Customs is in fact being rejigged and there are resources being taken out of other areas of Customs to take up the additional work that is being done in the trade measures branch. The government is not in fact increasing resources to Customs; all it is doing is rejigging the numbers within that portfolio. At a time when Customs is under significant pressure you really wonder why the claim of additional resources is not being matched by real action. So we have got issues with border protection and border control, a promise to increase resources to Customs to deal with anti-dumping, and yet all we have is a recycling of numbers within the Customs portfolio itself and no additional resources in reality as part of this process. It is very important that Customs is adequately resourced. While the additional resources to anti-dumping are obviously welcome, the coalition does not believe that necessarily should be at a cost to other areas of the important Customs portfolio.

The coalition has obviously been quite active on this. Our leader, Tony Abbott, put together a dedicated four-person task force some time ago this year to work through with industry and look at Customs on a broader scale. That followed on from our 2010 election promise when we said we would review Australia's anti-dumping scheme so that it does effectively look after our important manufacturing sector. We have heard the government talking about destroying business models over the recent past and particularly in relation to people smugglers. About the only business model that has been destroyed in Australia in the immediate recent past is the manufacturing industry's business model, where we see a complete haemorrhaging of jobs. I think over 100,000 jobs have been lost since this government came to power and that is a complete tragedy. We see continued pressure on that area.

There is important work being done by the coalition in relation to anti-dumping and, against the will of the Labor Party and the Greens, the coalition also instigated the Select Committee on Australia's Food Processing Sector, one of the terms of reference of which is Australia's anti-dumping regime and its effectiveness in relation to the food processing sector. Manufacturing, as I have just mentioned, is under enormous stress. The food manufacturing sector is in fact Australia's largest manufacturing sector and so the importance of an effective anti-dumping regime to that particular sector of manufacturing is highly important. The coalition remains very active in this space and is not operating in a piecemeal way as the government has done, which is effectively just drip-feeding some amendments to the system with no indication of when it might continue the remainder of its changes.

While we as a coalition obviously support this legislation, these first four elements of the government's regime, we would certainly like to see that process activated much more rapidly. There are no signals coming out of government. It has taken a long time to get to this stage. This is a commitment that goes back to the 2007 election, as I said before, and there has been a series of processes that the government has been through of promise, of delay, promising high but delivering low, which seems to be a feature of the way that this government is operating. In supporting this legislation we would urge the government to continue with this process at a much increased pace.

1:28 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank senators for their contribution to this debate and I commend the bills to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.

Photo of Judith AdamsJudith Adams (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As no amendments to the bills have been circulated, I shall call the minister to move the third reading unless any senator requires that the bills be considered in the Committee of the Whole.

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That these bills be now read a third time.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a third time.

Debate resumed on the motion:

That these bills be now read a second time.

1:30 pm

Photo of Scott RyanScott Ryan (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business and Fair Competition) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a pleasure to rise to speak upon the Business Names Registration Bill 2011, the Business Names Registration (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2011 and the Business Names Registration (Fees) Bill 2011. These bills represent a worthwhile objective, and that is to rationalise an important procedural element for businesses that are active across state borders. There are an increasing number of businesses that perform this way, and this represents a positive attempt. The bills are a combination of several years of activity, including work started under the previous coalition government, to achieve this objective. I also make the point that this is actually a rare attempt at reducing red tape and compliance from a government that has seemingly been relentless in its increasing burdens placed particularly upon small- and medium-sized businesses. So we as a coalition support this bill, but we do have our concerns with it.

The Senate Economics Legislation Committee report highlights a number of these concerns, and I will let my colleague and Deputy Chair of the Economics Legislation Committee, Senator Bushby, speak specifically to a number of the concerns he eloquently outlined in the minority report on these bills, but a couple of the concerns I will highlight now. There is an issue here with respect to the rushed time line for this legislation. We support the legislation. We understand that it needs to be passed now, but it has become apparent that there is in fact a drafting error in the legislation that causes a problem with the operation of the consequential and transitional provisions, which will require another bill to be put to parliament next year to clarify that error. That error is reflective of the rushed nature at the last minute of parts of this legislation.

We will not, however, in any way oppose the bills. We appreciate that there needs to be complementary state legislation and that COAG has agreed to implement that legislation, so we will be supporting the bills' passage. But we point out that that was an entirely avoidable problem that did not need to be presented to people and businesses across Australia.

There is an issue here also for microbusinesses, because microbusinesses have not always had to register an ABN. But we now have strict liability offences about operating a business without a business name. I have my concerns increasingly that we are almost creating a situation where one needs the permission of authorities to operate a small business, and I do not think that reflects the historical place of small business in Australia. I do not think it represents our economic model. Again, it is something we have some concern with, particularly with the burdens placed upon microbusinesses, but we accept that there needs to be some regulation of business names across state borders in the increasingly national economy.

Also there is some concern about how we are going to deal with names that are very similar. There might be a John Smith Plumbing in Victoria, and I venture to say that there would be a John Smith Plumbing somewhere in Queensland. We do not yet have the details exactly about how all of these are going to be rationalised. We have been told that there are likely to be geographical identifiers attached to the database to enable people to continue to operate under the names that they may have operated under for a long time. That is fine, but we would like more protocols made clear to us about how we are going to deal not only with conflicts about names but also with the situation when people seek to register a business name that may be very similar to another or when a name might contain a term that some would find offensive and that might not be ideal for a business. We have not yet had all the protocols about that outlined to us, so we do not exactly know how it is all going to operate.

That said, amongst a number of other concerns, we are aware that this could lead to substantial cost savings for businesses across Australia—for some of them, at least, who have to register in multiple jurisdictions where the costs are very different. That is a particular benefit for small business. But we are concerned with a number of issues. We are concerned that there has been a drafting error that will require another bill to come before the parliament to fix up a mistake that did not need to be made in the first place, and I am sure that Senator Bushby in his Economics Legislation Committee report outlined a number of others. The coalition will be supporting these bills.

1:34 pm

Photo of David BushbyDavid Bushby (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I also rise to speak on the Business Names Registration Bill 2011 and associated bills. The principle behind these bills is excellent. The bills will vastly improve the ease of registration of an alias, under which a legal person can operate a business, by eliminating the need to register in more than one state and, in most cases, will reduce the fee required to pay for that registration—even before taking account of the additional cost of registration in more than one state. This is all good, and my colleague Senator Ryan has more than adequately explained how this will work and its advantages to businesses across the country.

However, like so many good ideas that this government touches, it has inexplicably failed to execute the principles without creating unnecessary and potentially damaging consequences that could easily have been avoided with a little more thought and by actually listening to the results of the consultation that it undertook. These consequences were so apparent that even the government senators on the Senate Economics Legislation Committee inquiry into these bills pointed them out in the majority report—even though, having noted them, they effectively concluded that urgency trumped good drafting and that it was okay to wear a few adverse consequences to get the bills up quickly.

But I disagree with this. My view is that it would not have been hard to iron out the wrinkles in these bills to eliminate the issues and still get them enacted in a timely manner. Indeed, the failure to do so may yet be the cause of delay. I am aware that the Tasmanian Legislative Council held an inquiry into these bills and found similar issues to those identified by all senators in the Economics Legislation Committee inquiry. However, it went further and concluded that these flaws were sufficiently serious to warrant further consideration. As the bills require state parliaments to enact complementary legislation, this finding by the Tasmanian Legislative Council sends alarm bells about how the states may treat this legislation, given the clear flaws that the bills contain.

There are flaws like the new regime no longer allowing the longstanding practice in most states of allowing non-government entities, such as financial institutions, to access details of the persons behind a business name alias to help them comply with their obligations under the anti-money-laundering act and similar antiterrorism acts. There are issues relating to jurisdictional issues between the Commonwealth and the states and territories relating to clause 40 of the bill. There are potential difficulties relating to the separate processes for registering a business name and a domain name. And there are issues related to the grandfathering of existing business names where identical or very similar names currently exist in different states and the manner in which they would be transferred onto a new single national database. The argument about privacy is of course a furphy. The whole purpose of business name registration is to enable those who have dealings with a business operating under an alias to identify the legal identity behind that alias. As such, the information that is provided as part of the registration process is clearly provided for that purpose when released for the purposes of establishing requirements under the anti-money-laundering act and similar antiterrorism acts.

To argue, as the department did at the hearing of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, that some information could not be provided because, under federal privacy laws, it could only be released for the purposes for which it was provided is counterintuitive. The purposes for which people seek to use it is for just that reason: to establish the identity behind those aliases.

And, as Senator Ryan mentioned, we have just heard today that there is a further problem with the bills, which was not identified at the hearing, to do with the timing and the dates contained in the Business Names Registration (Transitional and Consequential Provisions) Bill 2011. This will require a further bill to fix it. Despite the fact that Senator Sherry, I think, described it as only a small technical amendment which should not impede the passage of the three bills, it actually makes a substantial difference to the way that business names are treated in a transitional sense and will need to be fixed to solve the problem.

If the government had done what it should have done with this legislation—that is, consulted properly, listened to the consultation—the need for a further bill, even before we have passed this one, to fix the errors that it contains would not have been necessary.

But it reflects the tendency of this government to fail to give due weight to consultation it undertakes. I think that is endemic throughout this government and is of great concern. It is incumbent on this place to ensure that good legislation is passed. That means legislation that not only seeks to implement good public policy, as these bills seek to do, but also is well drafted and which does not unnecessarily introduce issues that will be to the detriment of our nation, or parts of it, or otherwise address issues arising from its enactment. To then proceed regardless, in my view, is arrogant and incompetent but, in the case of this government, not surprising.

1:39 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank senators for the contribution they have made to this debate on the Business Names Registration Bill 2011 and the two related bills. I commend the bills to the Senate.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No amendments to the bills have been circulated. I will call the minister to move the third reading, unless any senator requires the bills to be considered in the Committee of the Whole.

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That these bills be now read a third time.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a third time.

Debate resumed on the motion:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to make some comments on the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment Bill 2011. This piece of legislation has now been before the parliament in various forms for some time. This bill provides for the establishment of a national regulator for the vocational education and training sector. It sets out the regulatory framework within which the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator, the NVR, will operate.

The NVR will take over the regulatory functions of state regulators in referring states and territories and, in non-referring states, it will have responsibility for registered training organisations which offer training to international students or which also operate in a referring state.

Certainly, the coalition has been broadly supportive in principle of having a national regulator. There are around 4½ thousand registered training organisations across the country and the coalition certainly believes that it is appropriate that we have a national regulator in place. There has been, though, not necessarily consensus as to how this regulator should operate and, in the past, there has been a divergence of views with regard to this amongst the states, in particular in Victoria and Western Australia.

Interestingly, as I travel around communities, particularly regional communities, the level of awareness of the importance of the VET sector is on the increase. There is absolutely no doubt about that. While we heard a lot about higher education in the past, we have not necessarily heard as much about the VET sector. So I think it is entirely appropriate that there is now a greater understanding out there in the community of the benefit and contribution of the VET sector.

I will take a moment to note the instances of collaboration between the VET sector and the higher ed sector which are starting to emerge. I look at areas such as Port Macquarie and others where they are starting to do pathways through the VET sector to the university sector and I, for one, certainly applaud that. If we look at Charles Darwin University—which is in my good colleague Senator Scullion's part of the world—we see that the entire model is a collaborative higher ed VET model, which is indeed highly appropriate for the instances that we see in the north of Australia. I commend those at Charles Darwin University for the work that they are doing.

With regard to this piece of legislation, the coalition have previously voiced their concerns on record about why we agree to it in principle, that there have been some real difficulties in terms of a lack of cohesion from the separate jurisdictions about the way this regulator will work and about how the regulator will be implemented.

Having said that, over recent times there has been some movement from the states, particularly, as I understand it, from Victoria and Western Australia, which will provide a more cohesive background, if you like, to the regulator being put in place. It is still by no means perfect and, from the coalition's perspective, we would like to see a much more streamlined and cohesive approach to the regulator. There is still the issue of referral powers, and while we think a national approach makes sense we also think the government could have done a better job in ensuring that the path to the implementation of the regulator was done in a more appropriate and streamlined manner. So, while we do have those reservations, as I said at the outset we are supportive in principle of the National VET Regulator and do not oppose the legislation.

1:45 pm

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment Bill 2011 answers a number of concerns previously expressed by the Greens. It inserts six objects into the act, a basic part of any act and one that stakeholders and the Greens did request should be present. The Greens had also pointed out that, as things stood in the original bill, people using qualifications that had been cancelled without their knowledge would be committing an offence—something that obviously could bring great difficulty to many individuals. Given that such people would already have been victims of shonky training providers whose qualifications had been deemed invalid, it was of course necessary to ensure that individuals would not be committing an offence in using their cancelled qualification unless they knew it had been cancelled.

The Greens are pleased the government has acknowledged and will address this shortcoming and a number of others. Accountability and quality assurance are vital in our VET system, where so much of our future skills training takes place, especially with the estimated future shortage of about 36,000 tradespeople by 2015. That is in only four years. It is an extraordinary number that was set out by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, when she spoke to the centre for economic development in February this year.

For over a decade, skill shortages have been recognised as a looming threat to meeting the future needs of our communities and our economy, yet what long-term planning investment have successive governments made? The rise of the private contractor or provider who cannot or will not invest in the full three to four years of apprenticeship training and in the task-specific training that is more and more insisted upon by private industry to save time and money has seen new generations of broadly skilled and fully qualified tradespeople diminish with every passing year. Add to that the factor of the megaminers sucking up the remaining skills base across Australia and collapsing everyday economies around the country and I question what exactly we are doing to ensure that Australia's communities and economy will be supported down the track. Who will have the skills to teach the new generations of tradespeople when the current older generation retires along with the rest of the baby boomers? This is a huge challenge that needs to be addressed much more thoroughly by all of us.

The implications of these questions are serious. They illustrate how important a well-planned and supported VET system is and how essential a strong and viable publicly funded TAFE system is. Yet, despite explicit knowledge of this looming crisis, we have federal and state governments diminishing investments in our public TAFE systems by privatising the vocational education and training market, where TAFE must compete against more and more private providers for contested funding.

I do want to put on the record that the Greens recognise there is a role for private VET providers, but that is where TAFE is unable to provide the training. In a price based framework, TAFE cannot compete with the smaller, more nimble private provider who can cherry-pick the cheap-to-run courses such as business training, special personal care and sales reps without the overheads of large community infrastructure and expensive high-tech equipment or a responsibility to permanent staff such as TAFE should and must support. Yes, it is the cheap-to-run courses that TAFE is dependent on to cross-subsidise the more expensive courses, such as the latter stages of apprenticeship training and high-tech digital courses. What will happen not so far down the track when TAFEs can no longer afford to run these essential courses?

If the trade-offs here continue, they will result in a really deskilled Australia. We are already seeing this happen in Victoria, where full contestability and a pure demand-driven publicly funded voucher system for diploma and certificate I to IV courses has seen a 110 per cent growth in enrolments in low-cost occupation-specific privately provided courses. At the same time TAFE enrolments grew by just two per cent in the higher cost specialised courses such as health care and trades. The reporting of a surge in publicly funded enrolments in privately provided fitness instructor courses in Victoria to the tune of 1,000 per cent since 2008 should sound very loud warning bells about Australia's willingness to skip down the path of fully contestable funding of VET at the expense of TAFE.

Let us not forget the lessons of New Zealand's doomed pure demand-driven tertiary system, where the polytechnics and private providers grew out of control, with bloated enrolments of students and commensurate unsustainable public costs, questionable qualifications for courses with little public benefit and rising student failure and attrition. Just across the Tasman there is another example of going into the private sector, and when we get the balance wrong the long-term sustainable and viable economy you need to build is damaged.

The Greens have serious concerns about the direction the VET systems are heading in. We are committed to a well-funded, publicly owned TAFE system as the dominant provider of vocational education and training. We are pleased with this bill. It is an area to which I look forward to giving more attention in the future.

1:51 pm

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

The National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment Bill honours the government's commitment to the Senate on 23 March 2011 to address concerns with the primary legislation that were unable to be addressed at the time of passage due to the nature of the text based referral powers from the New South Wales government. I thank senators for their contribution to this debate and I commend the bill to the Senate.

Question agreed to

Bill read a second time.

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As no amendments to the bill have been circulated, I shall call the minister to move the third reading unless any senator requires that the bill be considered in the Committee of the Whole. If not, I call the minister.

Photo of David FeeneyDavid Feeney (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a third time.

Debate resumed on the motion:

That this bill be now read a second time.

1:52 pm

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Deputy Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to make the coalition's contribution on amendments to the Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011. This bill contains one schedule that effectively makes three sets of amendments to Indigenous affairs legislation. The first is to change the title of a number of office holders, the second is to ensure that information held by Indigenous Business Australia will be appropriately protected and the third is to remove some references to the availability of review under the Judicial Review Act 1977.

The first set of changes are the changes to job titles. Presently, a number of statutory positions created under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005 refer to the term 'general manager'. These roles are deemed to be better reflected with the title 'chief executive officer'. This brings it into line with other agencies. While it does not seem particularly important on the face of it, the change in the titles from 'general manager' to 'chief executive officer' does not involve any changes to remuneration packages associated with the positions, and aligning the position titles with comparable positions in other authorities is expected to assist these boards in attracting suitably qualified applicants.

The second area of amendment deals with the Indigenous Business Australia. Currently, there are secrecy provisions relating to Indigenous Business Australia in section 191 of the act. This has at times prevented disclosure of information to agencies responsible for overseeing Commonwealth administrative practices, such as the Ombudsman and the Privacy Commissioner. It is clearly preventing disclosure when that was not intended. They would have been quite happy, apparently, to have provided that information but were unable to because of these provisions. This amendment will allow for the disclosure of information in limited circumstances and hopefully will indeed also allow further scrutiny by this place.

The last area relates to two discontinued Aboriginal hostel schemes that are unlikely to be reinstated that are currently subject to the normal processes that take place in terms of auditing and compliance procedures, which are not only onerous and unnecessary but expensive. Clearly, this is just a tidying up process. We support those three sets of amendments. We think that they are sensible amendments.

When this bill was originally introduced in the other place, there was in fact a second schedule that involved procedures for making acting or temporary appointments for the Executive Director of Township Leasing and the Coordinator-General for Remote Indigenous Services. We have advised the government that we oppose this schedule for the reason that we think that both these positions were designed to remain completely separate from those individual agencies. We still remain concerned that both these positions are being incrementally absorbed into FaHCSIA. We think that that independence is absolutely essential in directing some of those very important changes. Rather than having these changes compromised, we believe that these positions must remain appointments by the minister and not delegates of a government department.

The government moved an amendment in the other place to remove schedule 2 of the original bill, which acknowledged and satisfied the opposition's concerns in this regard. That leaves the Indigenous Affairs Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2011 as it is presented today. I thank the government for supporting the very sensible coalition amendments. The coalition supports the bill as printed.

1:56 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I will come to the provisions of the bill shortly. Before I do that, I want to say that I continue to despair at the way that this Labor government—the Gillard government—and previous Labor governments treat Indigenous people generally. They seem to me—and the Wild Rivers legislation is a classic example of this—to be saying to Indigenous people: 'You're not as good as we are. You can't operate as we operate. You need to spend your life on welfare, because you can't till your land, you can't look after yourself and you can't create industries as other Australians do.' It always distresses me that that is the case. I have recently driven 3,500 kilometres through north-west and western Queensland and through the lower Gulf of Carpentaria area and in the lower Cape York area. That theme comes through.

I want to tell the Senate about a cattle property called Delta Downs. Nine years ago I was honoured to be able to hand over the deeds and the shares in that company on behalf of the Commonwealth to the local Indigenous group and the Morr Morr Pastoral Company. This is an iconic cattle station up in the Gulf of Carpentaria next door to Karumba. Nine years ago, I was impressed by the property. It had for some time been operated by Indigenous people, although very often with non-Indigenous managers. Going back there just the other day, it was remarkable to see how this property had been improved by Indigenous people, by Indigenous managers, by people relevant to that area. It is a great example of what Indigenous people can do.

Clearly, Acting Deputy President Back—and you particularly would be aware of this—they had concerns about the stupidity of the Gillard government's live cattle ban. It affected their property, as it affected many land owners. It did not affect their property quite as much as others, because they recently bought another property down near Hughenden to which they can send cattle off for fattening. But it did have an impact on them. They and everyone else I spoke to in my travels on the roads around the gulf and lower Cape York were incensed at the way the Gillard government had overnight banned the live cattle trade. What concerned them more than just the banning of the trade was the fact that they just do not know what this government is going to do next. It has taken all confidence out of businesses that operate in those remote parts of Australia.

Debate interrupted.

2:00 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I am pleased to inform the Senate that the President of the United States, Mr Barack Obama, has accepted the Prime Minister's invitation to visit Australia over the period 16-17 November 2011.

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

Are you sure?

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

He has accepted the invitation. I can advise that President Obama will address a combined sitting of the parliament on 17 November. The President's visit takes place in the same year that we mark the 60th anniversary of the Australia-United States alliance and the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. It is also a visit in which we will focus on strengthening our long-held alliance and the future opportunities for Australia and the United States in this Asian century. I am sure members and senators will warmly welcome President Obama to the parliament.

2:01 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—The coalition welcomes the announcement of this visit by the head of government of our most important friend and ally in the world, the United States.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer the minister to the statement of the Australian Council of Social Service that:

Many welfare service providers spend disproportionately on essential goods and services likely to be impacted by a carbon price, notably energy and food.

Is it correct that, as ACOSS has claimed, Labor's carbon tax plan does not even recognise, let alone address, the impact of the carbon tax on the disability, community and welfare sectors?

2:02 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to take a question on carbon pricing on the day after the House of Representatives has supported the government's Clean Energy Future package, a great achievement for this Prime Minister and this government in a minority government. Against the opposition of those opposite—against the scare campaign of those opposite—the Labor Party and the crossbenchers have delivered a reform in the finest traditions of the Labor Party, which is about the future prosperity and wellbeing of the Australian people.

I am asked about the position of ACOSS. I would remind those opposite that the government has worked very closely with stakeholders, including the Australian Council of Social Service, who have welcomed, for example, the government's priority for low-income earners in the assistance package under the clean energy package—a package which increases the pension, increases family tax benefits and increases the tax-free threshold, thereby giving Australians earning up to $80,000 a tax cut, all of which you will remove. You have pledged in blood, so I hear, to remove it, so you should go and tell the pensioners of Australia that you will be ensuring they have lower pensions; you should tell the families of Australia that you will be ensuring that they have lower family tax benefits; and you should tell all Australians earning under $80,000 a year that you want them to pay more tax whilst you ensure that mining companies pay less. That is fairness and equity according to Tony Abbott: 'Let's slug the pensioners, slug the families and slug low-income earners, but let's let miners off the hook.' So do not come in here—through you, Mr President(Time expired)

2:04 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question, and I hope the minister can answer it without any self-congratulatory backslapping. I refer the minister to further statements made by ACOSS that carbon tax related cost increases 'may lead to a reduction in the quantum or quality of services' for low-income, disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals and families. Can the minister guarantee that Labor's carbon tax will not increase costs for service providers in the disability, community and welfare sectors and that service providers will not have to increase their costs to some of Australia's most disadvantaged people?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

Areas such as health care, disability services and housing are funded by this government under national SPPs. The funding under those arrangements is ongoing and indexed each year. I would remind those opposite that this government is doubling Commonwealth funding, to around $7.6 billion over 6½ years, for more and better specialist disability services under the National Disability Agreement—things that were never provided under the Howard government in the long years that they were in office. They were not funded then; they were funded by a Labor government. So when those opposite come in here and talk about impacts on services—disability services, health care and the like—they ought to be honest about two things: first, that they never funded these things in government; and, second, that they would impose higher costs— (Time expired)

2:05 pm

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I note that the minister has not at any stage stated that there will be direct compensation to disability and not-for-profit groups. How can the minister claim that this carbon tax plan is fair when we know it will leave millions of small businesses, millions of households and millions of families worse off and, as highlighted by ACOSS, will even leave disability, volunteer and charitable service providers serving the most vulnerable worse off?

2:06 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

I will take with a grain of salt an assertion by a Liberal senator as to what ACOSS said. In terms of the impact of the carbon price on charities, for example, the fact is that the government has put in place as part of the package the Low Carbon Communities program, which will fund grants for local councils and community organisations to retrofit or upgrade community-use buildings to reduce energy use and enable them to cut energy costs, which is obviously of importance. I also remind those opposite that we will increase the pension, the disability support pension and family tax benefits—all of which increases you will take away. I invite the senator to tell us which of the disability services he will rip away to fill the $70 billion black hole that his economic team has put forward.

2:07 pm

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

I draw to the attention of honourable senators the presence in the chamber of a parliamentary delegation from Malta, led by the Speaker, the Hon. Michael Frendo, MP. On behalf of all senators, I wish you a warm welcome to Australia and in particular to the Senate. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I ask the Speaker to take a seat on the floor of the Senate.

Honourable senators: Hear, hear!

Hon. Michael Frendo was then seated accordingly.

Whilst I am on my feet, I draw to the attention of honourable senators the presence in the gallery of a distinguished former senator from the state of New South Wales, Sandy Macdonald. On behalf of all senators, I warmly welcome you back to Parliament House and in particular to the Senate chamber.

2:08 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Evans. Can the minister advise the Senate how important creating a clean energy future is for our Australian economy?

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Pratt for her question and make it clear that the government are taking very important steps to move Australia to a clean energy future because we know it is about securing Australia's economic future. Australia must not be left behind as the rest of the world moves to a clean and renewable energy based economy. The race to create low-emissions economies is on. The time for Australia to make the move is now.

Ninety countries representing 80 per cent of global emissions and 90 per cent of the world's economy have already pledged to take action on climate change. Globally, more money is now invested in new renewable power than in conventional high-power generation. China is now the largest manufacturer of both solar panels and wind turbines. India has a tax on coal, which is expected to generate more than half a billion dollars annually to fund research into clean energy technologies. The time for action is now. This is clearly the time to plan for a clean energy future. We need to cut pollution, we need to create clean energy jobs and we need to promote clean and renewable energy. Australians get that. They understand that it is important for the future of Australia's economy.

Under this government, polluters will pay and drive investment in low-emission technologies and renewable sources of energy. We are determined to make this happen. If we do not act, we will put at risk the future of our economy. We will put at risk the jobs of our children. Our competitors will race ahead in investment in low-emission and clean energy technologies, and Australians will miss out on the jobs and the economic opportunities that will come with the transition of our economy to clean energy.

2:10 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate what new job opportunities will be presented in a clean energy economy?

2:11 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

This government's main priority has been securing job opportunities for Australia, be it throughout the global financial crisis or since then. The fundamental strength of our economy has been confirmed today with the job figures for September, which show the creation of another 20,000 new jobs—and resulting, pleasingly, in the unemployment rate dropping to 5.2 per cent. It is a really strong result at a time when the global economy is facing significant challenges and people's confidence has been shaken by recent events.

Moving to a clean energy future is all about continuing to create new jobs for Australians and attracting investment in clean energy technology industries. Under a carbon price, we expect to see 1.6 million new jobs created in Australia by 2020. As the economy transitions, new job opportunities will open up across Australia. There will be good, high-paid, high-skilled jobs as a result of that transition to a clean energy future. (Time expired)

2:12 pm

Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is the minister aware of any risks to developing Australia's clean energy future?

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Those who pose a risk to that clean energy future of course are the opposition and those who continue to oppose taking action. As we know, in 2007 then Prime Minister John Howard committed to putting a price on carbon and to taking strong action. He said it was important that the Liberal Party show leadership. He did not say, as Mr Hockey now claims, that somehow we will wait for the rest of the world to move.

Honourable Senators:

Honourable senators interjecting

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Senator Cormann and Senator Wong, if you want to have a debate, now is not the time; after question time is clearly the time. I need to hear Senator Evans's response.

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Howard said we ought to move regardless of what our trading competitors do. He said we ought to provide a model for other nations to follow, that we ought to provide leadership. That is the sort of leadership the Liberal Party used to have. We encourage the Liberal Party to actually get on board and help achieve a clean energy future in Australia, a policy they once supported and unfortunately have now moved away from. (Time expired)

2:13 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. I refer Senator Wong to answers she gave to questions about the carbon tax on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, where she referred to Treasury modelling to support her various assertions. Will the minister confirm that the models used by Treasury for its carbon tax modelling—ABARES' model, the GTEM; and Monash University's model, the MMRF model—and all other relevant parameters, frameworks and assumptions used by Treasury have not been made public to the extent necessary to enable third parties to independently scrutinise that Treasury modelling?

Is the minister aware that, in contrast, when the former coalition government asked the Productivity Commission to assess the National Reform Agenda it ensured that the MMRF model used by the commission was made fully available so that others could independently scrutinise all the modelling scenarios? Why is this government not doing the same?

2:15 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Cormann for his question, which can best be summarised as him saying to us, 'You're bad, we're good'. I think that was the whole tenor of the question, which of course I disagree with. So, that has taken the debate a long way forward. It is surprising, a day after the parliament has supported action on climate change—

Photo of Brett MasonBrett Mason (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

It isn't the parliament!

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

All right, the House of Representatives—that part of the parliament—has supported action on climate change, has supported pricing pollution, has supported policies which are about jobs, job creation, reducing the risk to our children, and all that those opposite can do is come in and continue to harp about a whole range of details which they often get incorrect. The modelling builds on the modelling which was released in the previous parliament—the largest modelling exercise ever undertaken in Australia's history.

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Deputy Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

Show it to us.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

I invite the senator to go and read it because a lot of information, including assumptions, was provided. That modelling shows that the economy continues to grow, average incomes continue to grow, jobs continue to grow and carbon pollution falls by 160 million tonnes from what it otherwise would have been. These are the facts and they are the facts that Senator Cormann simply cannot bear.

Senator Cormann interjecting

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Cormann, you asked the question. I am trying to listen to the answer.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

He cannot bear the fact that the premier economic advisers to government, whether it is a Labor government or a Liberal government, have said, 'You can price carbon and grow your economy, you can price carbon and increase the number of jobs, you can price carbon and incomes will still grow and you can grow your renewable energy industry and grow clean jobs for the future'. He cannot bear that proposition and all his questions stem from that fact.

2:17 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Why is it that eminent Australian economists like Professor Ergas, Professor McKibbin and Dr Fisher, and a range of industry groups—

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Order on my right! Senator Cormann is entitled to be heard in silence.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr President. Why is it that all these economists have not been able to get access to the GTEM model and related datasets and specifications used by Treasury in its carbon tax modelling, even though Treasury—

Government senators interjecting

Photo of Stephen ConroyStephen Conroy (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Henry Ergas went bankrupt!

Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, on a point of order: this is one of the most important questions that could ever be asked and I cannot hear the question. I ask you to get control of this place.

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Boswell, that is not a point of order. You know that it is not a point of order. If I had the cooperation of both sides of this chamber it would be very helpful indeed, Senator Boswell.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Why is it that eminent Australian economists like Professor Ergas, Professor McKibbin and Dr Fisher and a range of industry groups have not been able to get access to the GTEM model and related datasets and specifications used by Treasury in its carbon tax modelling, even though Treasury said in evidence before the Senate Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes that access to that model was available through ABARES?

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the minister it will help in the setting of the clock if those on my right are quiet during the asking of the question. I am entitled to hear the question; so is the chamber.

2:19 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

The senator talks about eminent economists. There are no economists, eminent or otherwise, who support his policy so he might be better off considering why it is that no economists support his policy? It is probably not a question he wants to answer or think about.

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I raise a point of order in relation to the requirement for the minister to be directly relevant. I asked very specifically why certain information was not available when Treasury, in evidence to a Senate committee, said it was. The minister is giving us a lecture about something that is completely unrelated.

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

There is no point of order. The minister has 40 seconds remaining.

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

It is unsurprising that the opposition is so sensitive to the fact that no eminent economist or non-eminent economist supports its policy. It is unsurprising that it is embarrassed about the fact that its policy does not add up. It is unsurprising that it is embarrassed about the fact that its policy is predicated on ensuring that the pension increases are wound back. It is unsurprising that the opposition is embarrassed by the fact that its economic team, of which I understand Senator Cormann is a member, has never got their costings right, never got their numbers right and has a $70 billion black hole. We have put out an extraordinary amount of modelling and an extraordinary amount of material. It shows we can grow our economy and cut pollution. (Time expired)

2:21 pm

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given these models used by Treasury for the carbon tax modelling were paid for by the taxpayer, and given those models have not been released to date, will the minister give a guarantee that all of its modelling, including the actual models, datasets and specifications used by the Treasury, will be released before the carbon tax bills are debated by the Senate so that third parties can review and scrutinise them?

2:22 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

This government has now released modelling on two occasions. We have updated the modelling. We have been extraordinarily transparent on this issue. I am asked whether or not more information will be received before the bills are dealt with. I make this point about that question: Senator Cormann's motivation in asking it is demonstrated by what his leader has said. No matter what, come hell or high water—written in blood—you are going to oppose this and then you want to repeal it should you ever win government. You are not interested in more information, Senator Cormann, so do not come in here and pretend you are. You never have been. Your side has never been interested in more information; you simply want to oppose. You are an opposition incapable of good public policy debate, you are an opposition addicted to wrecking and you are an opposition which will do anything and everything you can to wreck policies which are in the national interest if you believe it is in your short-term political interest to do so. That, Senator Cormann, is the truth of it.

2:23 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, Senator Ludwig. Bearing in mind that dementia is currently affecting over one million Australians—including those directly affected and those caring for a person with dementia—is the third most common cause of death, costs this country $6 billion annually and will be the third greatest source of healthcare and residential care expenditure within 20 years, and considering the importance of this issue and the fact that our community services and our health and aged-care services are ill-prepared to face this, why has the government terminated the dementia initiative? Will the government guarantee that the programs funded under this initiative will continue to receive at least the same level of funding that they received under the initiative?

2:24 pm

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Siewert for her question about dementia programs. The Australian government is committed to funding the delivery of a range of dementia support activities. This support includes provision of $8.3 billion for the care of people in aged-care homes, 52 per cent of whom have a diagnosis of dementia. The government also funds the Extended Aged Care at Home Dementia packages and respite care to support people in the community and has funded around $30 million in service improvements, including in information provision, counselling services, referral, education and training. The government does take this issue very seriously.

The report into dementia amongst aged-care residents found that the Aged Care Funding Instrument recognises that residents with dementia have greater care needs and that it provides, on average, additional funding of approximately $7,000 per annum per resident to assist with those needs. The government provided funding of $8.5 million to the NHMRC for dementia research, including funding for Dementia Collaborative Research Centres, of which there are three, to undertake dementia research and to translate the outcomes of that research into practice.

Emerging evidence suggests that a healthy lifestyle assists in the prevention of dementia. The Australian government's $872 million investment in healthy living and the establishment of the National Preventive Health Agency are also contributing to better management of lifestyle factors, which may help prevent the onset of dementia. The government welcomes the release of the report Dementia across Australia 2011 to 2050. (Time expired)

2:26 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I noticed that the minister, although giving us some figures, did not answer the two questions I asked. The first was: why was the dementia initiative cancelled? The second was: will the government guarantee that the funding available will remain at at least the same level as under the initiative? I repeat those questions. While he is answering those questions, can he also talk about what the government are doing about timely diagnosis, risk reduction and continuing the cutting edge research that is needed if we are going to address dementia in this country over the next 20 years?

2:27 pm

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Siewert for her supplementary question. I will deal with research funding, which was part of the supplementary question, before I come back and deal with the issues in the primary question. The government funds three Dementia Collaborative Research Centres to undertake dementia research and to translate the outcomes of that research. The government does so because it is incredibly important to get the facts right and to understand the nature of dementia so that we can undertake some of the work that you described. One of the three centres is focusing on early detection and prevention.

Evidence shows that the risk factors for dementia are similar to those for other chronic diseases, such as heart disease and stroke. That is why I indicated earlier, in my answer to the primary question about funding— (Time expired)

2:28 pm

Photo of Rachel SiewertRachel Siewert (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. The minister referred in his answer to the Aged Care Funding Instrument and to work in aged care. One of the issues raised by the community is the fact that the Productivity Commission report, Caring for older Australians, did not make many recommendations about, or greatly touch on, dementia. There is concern in the community about that. When the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing is undertaking his consultation on this issue, is he talking to people specifically about the issues of dementia and residential aged care?

2:29 pm

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

(Queensland—) (): I thank Senator Siewert for her further supplementary question dealing with aged care. As an indication of the direction we are heading in this area, an additional 17,916 residential care and 2,000 transitional care places have been allocated nationally since we were elected in 2007. The issue of dementia is one of those areas that, as I understand it, is also included within that work. As we age and as we require additional places for aged care, if you look at the statistics around Alzheimer's and dementia, it is an issue that will have to be managed in aged-care facilities. I will take the funding part of the question on notice to make sure we can provide a more detailed response. (Time expired)

2:30 pm

Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, Senator Evans. Can the minister confirm to the Senate the costs incurred by the Australian Defence Force for fuel in 2009-10 to generate energy for the propulsion of aircraft, ships and large pieces of ADF equipment?

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the senator for the question. As I understand it, he is asking me to give him the cost of the fuel used across the defence forces. I think it will come as no surprise to the Senate—and I suspect this is a set-up for a supplementary—that I do not have that answer at my fingertips. I am sure that if I were the Minister for Defence and not just representing him I would have had that information at my fingertips, but as it is I do not. I will have to assure the senator that I will take it on notice and make the appropriate inquiries. I suggest that questions of such detail would probably be best asked at estimates. I am sure Senator Johnston will spend some time at estimates pursuing answers of the defence minister and the department. Clearly, as a representing minister I do not have access to that sort of detail at question time, but I will certainly do what I can to get an answer for the senator as soon as possible. I suspect that will not be until after parliament rises today, and therefore he will get it when he pursues the issue at Senate estimates sometime next week.

2:31 pm

Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I ask the minister whether he knows how many tonnes of carbon were emitted by the Australian Defence Force in its generation of energy in 2009-10.

2:32 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Again, I cannot give the senator the detail that he seeks. I can say that Defence is considering the potential implications of the introduction of a carbon price on its activities. Noting the widespread nature of goods purchased by Defence, it would be reasonable to forecast the impact on Defence to be broadly equivalent to that of the wider community, namely, about 0.7 per cent. While looking at the question and its implications, Defence is also aggressively looking to reduce its carbon emissions. It has committed to reducing emissions to the extent practical, particularly in non-operational and support activities. It supports the use of renewable energies through its purchase of green energy. As part of its electricity agreements, it currently purchases 10 per cent green energy. That is the information I can help the senator with. If there is more I can get for him I will provide that. (Time expired)

2:33 pm

Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, for my second supplementary question, can the minister guarantee that the Australian Defence Force will be exempt from paying the carbon tax on its carbon emissions of 1.7 million tonnes per annum, which is 68 times the government's tonnage threshold for the carbon tax?

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

As I indicated in my responses to the primary question and the first supplementary, I do not have briefing on the level of emissions Defence is responsible for, nor the amount of fuel used et cetera, but I will get what information I can. As I say, I suspect it will have to be pursued at Senate estimates next week. What I can say, and what is important to put on record, is that defence operations are funded on the basis of no win, no loss, so there will be no impact on Defence's actual operations. The actual costs of operations are funded on a no win, no loss basis. I think the senator well knew that he would not get the sort of detail he asked for until Senate estimates or later. We will do our best, but I suggest that if he wants to use question time for that he got the answer that he thought he would get.

2:34 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. Can the minister please update the Senate on the work the Gillard government is doing to support farmers to participate in domestic and global carbon markets?

2:35 pm

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Gallacher for his question and his interest in agriculture, unlike those opposite. The Gillard government Carbon Farming Initiative is in place and underway. It is good news for farmers and other landholders across rural and regional Australia. It is delivering real differences in rural communities, who know that the threat of climate change is real for Australian agriculture. It will open up opportunities for farmers to create new streams of revenue while at the same time reducing their own and the nation's carbon emissions.

Across the country, regional Landcare facilitators have been engaged in training which will equip them to go into regional committees and deliver the CFI. The facilitators are training to gain the tools they can use to communicate the opportunities under the CFI to farmers and land managers. The facilitators will soon commence their work with landholders and farmers to identify opportunities for a clean energy future. The regional Landcare facilitators will use their network to engage with the farming community to provide information to farmers in their regions on how they can benefit under the initiative.

Some of the possible carbon farming projects cover a wide range of activities right across the landscape, including manure management, fertiliser management, reduced livestock emissions, soil, carbon and reafforestation. Many of these projects will have multiple benefits for farmers, not only generating income but improving the health and productivity of their land.

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

It is unfortunate that those opposite seem to be interjecting in complaint when they could be encouraging farmers and landholders to engage in a clean energy future, to engage in how they can assist and how they can— (Time expired)

2:37 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister please outline to the Senate the benefits for farmers under the Carbon Farming Initiative?

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Gallacher for his supplementary question. As I have already indicated, the Carbon Farming Initiative will deliver real benefits to farmers. Senators—on this side, at least; maybe not on that side—will be interested to know that the National Farmers Federation has expressed its support for the Carbon Farming Initiative. The NFF President, Mr Jock Laurie, has said:

The NFF has been broadly supportive of the concept and intent of the CFI from the outset as positive recognition of the major role agriculture can play in mitigating carbon emissions through on-farm management.

The NFF went on to say:

... with a continued focus on productivity-based research and the development of methodologies underpinning abatement projects, we hope that the CFI can mature to draw a meaningful contribution to Australia's carbon mitigation effort.

Those in the rural and regional areas are on board. Those opposite are still stuck in the past. (Time expired)

2:38 pm

Photo of Alex GallacherAlex Gallacher (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister please inform the Senate about any risks posed to the Carbon Farming Initiative or any similar initiatives?

Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Gallacher for his second supplementary question. The Gillard government is deeply committed to taking action on climate change and providing opportunities to farmers. The passing of the Carbon Farming Initiative also demonstrates that the government is getting on with the job of tackling climate change, looking to a clean energy future. The challenge for those opposite will be to put aside, in the national interest, their repetitive negativity and join in the process. The Gillard government supports and will continue to support farmers and landholders. Those opposite seem to be stuck in only saying no, no and more no and just paying lip-service to farmers. The Liberals and Nationals are content to ignore the potential benefits of the Carbon Farming Initiative to farmers and land users. As they ignore the benefits, they also ignore the science and they also do not want to deal with clean energy— (Time expired)

2:39 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the minister representing the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Senator Wong. Will the minister guarantee that not one taxpayer dollar will be lost in the investment the government makes under its $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation?

2:40 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the senator for her question. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is obviously an important aspect of the clean energy package that the government has put forward. I was pleased yesterday to see the announcement that the inaugural chair of the corporation is Ms Jillian Broadbent, who would be known to senators as a member of the board of the Reserve Bank, a director on the boards of Woolworths and the Australian Stock Exchange and previously a director of Woodside, Coca-Cola and Qantas.

The government, through the Treasurer, has asked Ms Broadbent to conduct a review of the investment mandate of the corporation and its governance structures, because we are of the view that it is important that these structures meet the highest standards of corporate governance practice. We have also appointed Mr David Paradice and Mr Ian Moore to assist Ms Broadbent in establishing the new body. Mr Paradice has over 20 years experience in funds management and manages a $6.6 billion investment fund. Mr Moore is an actuary with some 20 years of actuarial experience and an expert in risk and return profiles and debt and equity financing.

This is an extremely impressive team and one that reflects the priority the government assigns to ensuring that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation structures and processes are robust. We propose to pass legislation for the corporation in the first half of 2012. I indicate very clearly to the senator that we are working very closely with experts and people of significant standing in the private sector to ensure this corporation works effectively and manages taxpayers' funds most effectively.

2:42 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer the minister to the US House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce memorandum which noted that the Department of Energy and the Office of Management and Budget did not take adequate steps to protect the taxpayer dollar. What changes has the government made to its Clean Energy Finance Corporation legislation or supporting regulations to better protect taxpayers' money?

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

The key here is getting the personnel, the investment mandate and the governance structures right. I have referred to the process associated with the governance structures. The investment mandate will set out criteria that the board should apply in choosing which investments to make and which projects to support. This will obviously need to strike a balance between encouraging investment in riskier projects and ensuring there is a return to taxpayers at the end of the day. That is why it is important that the chair, Ms Broadbent, be given the time and the resources to conduct extensive consultations and report to government.

In relation to the US experience, I am sure that members of the board will have regard to that. I again make the point that the corporation is independent of government. (Time expired)

2:43 pm

Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I refer the minister to a question on notice that Treasury has provided to the Senate Select Committee on Scrutiny of New Taxes. The Treasury confirmed that a portion of the $944 million budget expense of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation relates to the allowance that is made for defaults. As such, can the minister now inform the Senate precisely how much the government has allowed for defaults under its Clean Energy Finance Corporation plan?

2:44 pm

Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

First, I would make the point that the government is establishing this corporation as a body independent of government, to be run by a board of private sector experts. I think that imperative is demonstrated by the personnel whom we have appointed to this point. Investment decisions will be based on a case-by-case analysis of candidate projects, at arm's length from government. The government will obviously be informed by its experience with bodies such as EFIC, which is the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation. The fiscal balance cost reflects the accounting approach associated with such bodies, and I think that is the figure to which you refer. It takes account of administrative costs, expenses associated with concessional loans as well as a conservative allowance made for defaults. Treasury does expect that taxpayers will recoup their funds— (Time expired)

2:45 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Sherry. In February this year the ACCC found that airports drive away competition from other parking venues and bus operators by imposing excessive access levies and controls on the available space for those operators. I note that Australia has some of the highest on-airport car park fees in the world. But in August the Productivity Commission's draft report on economic regulation for airport services said:

Access charges paid by competitors to on-airport car parking are not so high as to impede competition …

Does the government side with the ACCC or the Productivity Commission when it comes to competition at airports, and does it believe the ACCC currently has sufficient powers to deal with excessive airport charges?

2:46 pm

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Senator Xenophon, for the question. The Gillard government has asked the Productivity Commission to investigate airport pricing, investment and services as part of a major public inquiry into the economic regulation of major Australian airports. Having established an inquiry, it is important that I do not pre-empt the outcome of that inquiry by going to a specific response on at least some of the issues that Senator Xenophon has raised.

As far as the ACCC submission goes, there is no doubt it will form a significant part of the Productivity Commission's deliberations. I have no doubt about that—the ACCC is a highly authoritative and knowledgeable organisation in the area of competition. It is important to note that, whatever the outcome of the PC's reviews, there are already measures in place to deal with market power issues in airports and other sectors of the economy. For example, section 46 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 prohibits the misuse of market power. In 2006 the Productivity Commission conducted a review of the regulatory arrangements for pricing airport services, and that review examined the price monitoring regime that had replaced the price capping—

Photo of Stephen ConroyStephen Conroy (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Max Moore-Wilton had the fix put in. You might remember that, Nick. Oh, and then he went and got a job there.

Photo of Mitch FifieldMitch Fifield (Victoria, Liberal Party, Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Stephen, is there no-one you won't slur?

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! When there is silence on both sides, we will proceed. Senator Xenophon is entitled to hear the answer and be able to listen to it without the noise.

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

I did not think I was being that provocative, frankly, until Senator Conroy started interjecting on me. I am just outraged at the misbehaviour that we are seeing at times in this chamber!

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

He's still upset about Collingwood.

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, I'm a Geelong fan. It is no wonder he is upset about Collingwood. (Time expired)

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Excuse me, we are not discussing football.

2:49 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. We are talking about $15, $20 or $30 an hour that consumers are being slugged. Does the government support the ACCC submission to the just released draft Productivity Commission report where it argues that 'more monitoring and more inquiries will not constrain the exercise of airports' market power and does not provide an effective ongoing solution'? Does it support the ACCC's proposal for a deemed declaration regime for aeronautical services under part IIIA of the Competition and Consumer Act, as well as mandatory access undertakings for services such as car parking?

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Xenophon, I certainly do understand your concern at the level of the charges—$15 to $20 an hour or more. I appreciate the concern of consumers about this issue. By way of illustration, I fly in and out of Devonport Airport. I know that is across the other side of Bass Strait, but it does illustrate the point. At Devonport Airport you can park for $1 forever—there is no limit. So I think that illustrates the comparative—

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

Shhh!

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

I am being told not to disclose the secret. Sorry, Senator Colbeck. As a senator from Devonport, it has been one of the less advertised advantages of flying in and out of Devonport Airport. But I think it does illustrate the comparative charge rate when you can have $15 to $20 an hour in Melbourne and $1 forever, for weeks— (Time expired)

2:50 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the ACCC reported that Melbourne airport makes almost $104 million a year from parking alone and Sydney airport makes $95 million, is the government conceding that as a result of the privatisation contracts and a weak regulatory environment competitive car park prices at Australian airports will never in fact be achieved?

2:51 pm

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

I think I have already conceded. I can understand the concern of consumers at that level of pricing at Melbourne and Sydney. I take your figures as being accurate in terms of the quantum of profitability from car parking at those two airports, particularly when I compare it to what occurs in Devonport—albeit Devonport's is a slightly more modest airport than Melbourne's or Sydney's. However, it is not for me to pre-empt the outcome—

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

Only fractionally.

Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

Fractionally, yes, but a wonderful airport, a wonderful part of the world that I would encourage people to visit. Come through Burnie, Wynyard or Devonport airports—a wonderful part of the world. But, to come back, as I have said, there is concern. That is why we have established the inquiry. That is why we have asked the Productivity Commission(Time expired)

2:52 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the government pursue its Migration Legislation Amendment (Offshore Processing and Other Measures) Bill to a vote in the other place today?

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you—

Senator Cormann interjecting

Come on, 'Matedious'. We have got until Thursday. We have heard enough from you this week.

Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Order, Senator Evans! You need to refer to senators by their correct title.

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

As Leader of the Government in the Senate I have many and varied responsibilities, and that includes working with the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, Senator Ludwig, in the management of this chamber and the business of the chamber. I congratulate him on the great job he did yesterday in ensuring the proper management of the chamber.

One of the things I am grateful for is that I am not responsible for management of the House of Representatives. As to how they have organised their business today, I am afraid I am not in a position to advise you. Unlike many others, I do not tune in to the House of Representatives television coverage all that much. I focus much more intently on the important role that the Senate plays. I find the debate to be more interesting and stimulating and the contributions to be of a much higher order. So I cannot assist the senator with an update on what is occurring with the management of business in the House of Representatives. But, if he is interested, I will see if I can get Minister Albanese to give him a call or to inform the Manager of Opposition Business, Christopher Pyne. If he seriously wants me to find out for him, I am happy to. But, as he would understand, I am not responsible for managing the business in the House of Representatives.

2:54 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given the government's incapacity to commit, can the minister advise what the government's current border protection policy is? Is it: to rewind further the proven Howard solution; the East Timor solution; the Malaysian solution; or none of the above?

2:55 pm

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

The government remains committed to a fair and orderly immigration system. That includes the management of unauthorised arrivals. It has been this government's very strong intention to try to get an arrangement in place with Malaysia which allows for the return of unauthorised boat arrivals to Malaysia for processing there. The agreement we struck with the Malaysian government was, we thought, the best way of discouraging people who were seeking asylum in a country of first asylum from seeking to move again. We sought to negotiate that arrangement with Malaysia within the broader framework of the Bali process and the regional responses which we know are essential to finding long-term solutions to movement within the region.

2:56 pm

Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given one of the fundamental tasks of any government is to ensure border security for its nation, what is the government's plan to provide border protection for Australia?

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

We as a government have increased the resources available to border protection agencies and take the protection of our borders very seriously. That is why any unauthorised arrivals are intercepted and detained by our border protection services. They have been very successful at providing that service.

We also understand that, in terms of unauthorised movement through the region, we need to work with our neighbours. I am pleased to say that the minister informed me yesterday—I had not seen press coverage of it—that the Indonesian government recently successfully prosecuted an Indonesian national for the new offence of people smuggling in that country. That is a really encouraging development. They passed legislation making people smuggling unlawful and they have had a successful prosecution of an Indonesian national. That is a very important development in the ongoing regional response— (Time expired)

2:58 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science And Research, Senator Carr. Can the minister inform the Senate of the significance of the outcomes of the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science awarded last night?

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a great pleasure to recognise in this place the outstanding people we honoured last night in the Prime Minister's science prizes. These are the people who are very much the nation builders of the 21st century: Professor David Solomon and Ezio Rizzardo for reinventing the science of polymers; Professor Min Chen for finding the first new form of chlorophyll in 67 years; Professor Stuart Wyithe for shaping the agenda for the next generation of telescopes; and Dr Jane Wright and Mrs Brooke Topelberg for showing young people why those discoveries matter. We acknowledge Professor Brian Schmidt, Australia's newest Nobel Prize laureate.

Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

Here we hear from the knuckle draggers, who cannot even handle acknowledgment of Australia's great scientific talent. It is too much for them to give due credit to a great Australian and Nobel Prize laureate. If you want to carry on like that, Senator Macdonald, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

These people are a testament to the courage, creativity and capabilities of Australian researchers. This is a government that is very proud to back their ambition. I have called this our great compact with our research community. This is where we back them with the very best kit this country can afford and we ask them in turn to give us the wherewithal to help our people achieve the great ambitions that this nation is proud of. We want them to help us cure the sick, feed the hungry and save the planet. That is what they are up for and that is what they are capable of. It is a pity you do not come to the party on that issue.

Senator Brandis interjecting

Lord Brandis, it is a pity you do not have more respect for the great scientific brains of this country. It is a pity you do not have more appreciation. (Time expired)

3:00 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister respond to the fact that several prize recipients were born and raised overseas, including our new Nobel laureate?

3:01 pm

Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

I regard this as a fact that ought to be celebrated. Scientists like Professor Schmidt, who was raised in Alaska and is now an Australian citizen, prove that Australia can attract and retain great scientific talent of the very highest calibre. He undertook work that could only ever be done in Australia and he is a testament to the infrastructure, the collaborations and the opportunities that we offer the global scientific community in this country. This is at the heart of our vision for Australian research, because research is very much a global business. With less than half a per cent of the world's population, we produce some three per cent of the world's new research. That is a contribution that we leverage so we are able to access the other 97 per cent and Australian scientists can stay very much at the forefront of progress. That is where we must remain if we are to bring the benefits of new technologies to Australia. (Time expired)

Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.

3:03 pm

Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness) Share this | | Hansard source

On 12 October Senator Fifield asked me a question about disability enterprises and the carbon price. I seek leave to incorporate additional information in response to the senator's question in my capacity representing the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.

Leave granted.

The answer read as follows—

Further answer to the Question without Notice from Senator Fifield to Senator Arbib, representing Minister Macklin: Australian Disability Enterprises and the carbon price

Australian Disability Enterprises are not-for profit community organisations that provide employment opportunities in competitive business operations for people with moderate to severe disability.

The Low Carbon Communities program is an important part of the Government's plan for a Clean Energy Future.

It supports community organisations like Australian Disability Enterprises to understand and improve their energy efficiency.

The Low Carbon Communities initiative includes:

      Through this year's Budget, the Government also provided an extra $6.67 million in extra funding to ADEs for 2011-12 — a 3.3 per cent increase for the sector. This included:

            Senator McLucas was pleased to call for applications for the capital fund early last month. Australian Disability Enterprises can apply for grants up to $20,000 from this fund for capital improvements that enhance their business viability.

            Most workers in Australian Disability Enterprises are also receiving the Disability Support Pension. Through this, they will be eligible for support under the Household Assistance Package.

            Australians receiving Disability Support Pension will receive assistance equivalent to a 1.7 per cent increase in the maximum rate of the pension.

            This means a Disability Support Pensioner on the single rate will receive $338 per year in carbon price assistance and a Disability Support Pension recipient who is the member of a couple will receive $255 per year extra.

            This assistance will more than offset the average expected carbon price impact on their cost of living (a modest 0.7 per cent increase to the CPI — less than one cent for every dollar spent).

                      The Government understands the financial pressures on people with disability and their carers.

                      That is why we have delivered historic increases to the Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment ($148 per fortnight for singles and $146 per fortnight for couples combined), improved indexation to both of these payments, and introduced a new $600 annual Carer Supplement.

                      In shaping the Carbon Price Household Assistance, we have ensured that assistance is provided to low and middle income households and the community organisations that support them.

                      The Australian Government will continue to work with Australian Disability Enterprises to help them continue their good work with Australians with disability.

                      We are working with disability advocates and Australian Disability Enterprises to develop a ten year Vision for supported employment.

                      This will work toward improving access for people with disability who need supported employment, improve the experiences of people with disability in supported employment, and strengthening Australian Disability Enterprises as progressive and sustainable organisations providing inclusive supported employment.

                      Photo of Sue BoyceSue Boyce (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      Pursuant to standing order 74(5), I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, Minister Ludwig, for an explanation as to why answers have not been provided to questions on notice Nos 464 and 465 asked at the last estimates regarding superclinics.

                      3:04 pm

                      Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I thank Senator Boyce for raising this issue. I will try to be brief in this respect. I am advised that the number of senate estimates questions on notice for the Health and Ageing portfolio has increased very significantly, from 190 in roughly 2008-09 to 567 in 2011-12, which is approximately a 198 per cent increase. It is not providing an excuse but an explanation as to the challenge. The health portfolio has tabled answers to almost all of the estimates questions on notice, something in the order of 99.5 per cent. The health portfolio has been very diligent in trying to manage and get out all of the answers to estimates questions. I am advised the three remaining questions involve verifying significant amounts of information. The government understands the need to meet those deadlines. In this instance, it has not. Although that explanation may not meet your expectations fully, we are working very diligently to meet the expectation of providing that information. The government will table the answers to these questions as soon as it is able to do so. I do not have a specific date, but we do have estimates on next week. I think that will be the second time you will be able to bring this to the attention of the health portfolio.

                      Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

                      We are in estimates next week, Joe.

                      Photo of Joe LudwigJoe Ludwig (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Manager of Government Business in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I do recognise that you are in estimates next week. I am advised that the government is working very diligently to get the information out. 99.5 per cent of them have been answered. I have indicated that the amount of information involved in dealing with the questions is significant and they will be tabled as soon as practicable.

                      3:06 pm

                      Photo of Sue BoyceSue Boyce (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I move:

                      That the Senate take note of the explanation.

                      It is quite fascinating, isn't it: there has been a huge increase in the number of questions up to 567; three remain unanswered; and two of those are about the diabolical mess that the superclinics are currently in. The questions are based on a table that was developed by Senator Fierravanti-Wells about 12 months ago, which the department in fact thanked her for because it simplified their task of telling us how the progress was going on the development of the superclinics.

                      Senator Fierravanti-Wells interjecting

                      Yes, Senator Fierravanti-Wells, I was about to point out that in fact the answer is not about progress; it is about complete lack of progress. In some instances it is about a complete debacle. My office has tried the best it could to give the minister the opportunity to provide the answers to these questions. We have contacted Minister Roxon's office three times in the last two days. We were afterwards advised that the answers to the questions were not with the department—they were in the minister's office. I would assume that by the time they get to the minister's office the facts are there to be seen. It is not a matter of the government having to look for the data to do it; it is waiting in Minister Roxon's office for the minister to work out how to spin her way out of the appalling situation that the data will present, when and if we get it. Minister Ludwig is perfectly aware that next week is Senate estimates. Yes, we will be happy to see this information any time, but it is very hard not to draw the conclusion that this material is being deliberately held up in the minister's office in an attempt to stop the opposition querying, as closely as possible, the complete misspend of government moneys on superclinics.

                      Let us just have a look at the pathetic record that they have. We have the $5 million Northern Territory superclinic scrapped. It was scrapped—the one for Darwin—because they could not find anybody who wanted to run it. Minister Roxon has the immense hide to suggest that it is somehow the problem of the member for Solomon, Mrs Natasha Griggs. 'She should have given wider support to the project,' is what the minister is trying to say. Of course, the fact that no-one applied was not the minister's fault, was it? It is yet another example of the bizarre and politically motivated way that this government has gone about the rollout of superclinics ever since they were initially developed.

                      Let us look at the wonderful Redcliffe superclinic. I was pleased at the last Senate estimates to ask when that would be completed. It was May at the time and the answer was midyear. So I said, 'Do you think perhaps by June 30?' People were looking as though they were going to agree with that until I produced a photo of some scaffolding—that was what the Redcliffe superclinic looked like three weeks before it was due to open. Then suddenly 'midyear' became 'by the end of August' according to the very elastic datelines set by this government and by Ms Roxon. Suddenly, end of August was when the Redcliffe superclinic would be finished.

                      You may not be surprised to know, Mr Deputy President, that the Redcliffe superclinic is still not finished. It has in fact been the subject of potential court action. Work has stopped. The Queensland state health minister has not only refused to provide a $3½ million loan that his own Treasury said would be okay to provide to finish the work there, he has impugned the reputations of members of the foundation and the CEO. The local state Labor member—who is the patron of the foundation—has gone into hiding and refused to come out in support of the foundation. The state health minister even had the nerve to refer this matter to the CMC—the corruption commission in Queensland—which found within minutes that there was no case to answer; there was no corruption in the area.

                      What we have in fact is a ridiculous game of argy-bargy going on between Minister Roxon and the Queensland state government on the topic of the Redcliffe superclinic. Yet, just after the last federal election, there we had the Prime Minister, Ms Gillard, the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, the local member for Petrie, Yvette D'Ath, and the Queensland state Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, all parading around in Redcliffe with the big photo opportunity for the $20 million Redcliffe superclinic that would have been opened in June except that this government cannot sort out how to get a $3½ million loan approved or how to get it through. And the list goes on and on. In Tasmania, after a huge amount of work by Tasmanian senators and members, the government has finally admitted that one is not going to open there either. That was after they opened a brand new, wonderful superclinic in Hobart that had three GPs. It replaced a normal GP's practice that had three GPs. People were left wondering what was super about this clinic except the huge waste of money—the super waste of money—that went on turning a private GP's clinic into a different sort of private clinic with huge inputs of government funding along the way.

                      If GP superclinics are going to be the great panacea that this government claims they will be, why are they not where they were planned to go? I cannot even say where they are because most of them are not anywhere. The vast majority of them have not happened. If they are happening, they are well behind time or subject to potential litigation. So why are they not where they should be? It is because, if you look at a map, where they were positioned had absolutely nothing to do with need for medical services.

                      Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      Try telling that to the people of Wanneroo.

                      Photo of Sue BoyceSue Boyce (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      You look at the map and look at where they are electorally positioned, Senator Pratt, and you will see that I am right. There is not one superclinic planned between Brisbane and Gladstone.

                      Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      Try telling that to the people of Perth.

                      Photo of Sue BoyceSue Boyce (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      Well, I do not know that the people of Gympie who do not have medical assistance are very worried.

                      Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      Order, Senator Boyce and Senator Pratt! Senator Boyce, could you direct your remarks to the chair and not across the chamber.

                      Photo of Sue BoyceSue Boyce (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I beg your pardon, Mr Deputy President. I do not think that people between Gladstone and Brisbane, who have one of the lowest ratios of medicos to patients in the country, would be particularly interested in the story of Perth. It would be good, I am sure, if there were one success story out of these superclinics, but I doubt it.

                      We get to the bottom of the real ideology behind this when we find out that, whilst the department of health is intending to evaluate the superclinics, they are not going to evaluate the effect of superclinics on local private practices. Quite frankly, this government does not want to know. This is part of trying to socialise medicine and to do so in areas where they think they will get their biggest vote for their buck—with nothing whatsoever to do with success.

                      I am appalled that the minister is holding up the answers to these questions in the way that she is. I can understand that she feels the need to, but her slipping and sliding and spinning and hiding caused this problem in the first place. If she came out and honestly told us what the issues were and what, if anything, she was going to do to fix them, we would not be in the situation that we are currently in. I would like to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing to do his very best to ensure that we get prompt answers to those questions so that the matters can be pursued and so that taxpayers' money can be accounted for properly.

                      3:16 pm

                      Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I too rise to speak on the response given by the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing. This is just another example of the debacle that has become health in this country. Minister Roxon has to rank amongst the most incompetent in the line of incompetent government ministers in the Gillard government. Not one day goes past without some problem occurring in this portfolio. What Senator Boyce said in relation to the GP superclinics typifies just how appallingly this woman has run that portfolio.

                      The problems that we are seeing with the Redcliffe GP superclinic are only the tip of the iceberg. It is very clear that at some point in time the Commonwealth knew that there was a major problem with the Redcliffe GP superclinic. My question to the government is: how long have you known and what have you been covering up in relation to the Redcliffe superclinic? You now know that the proverbial is going to hit the fan and you are taking as long as you can to keep it out of the public arena. That is what this is all about. This is about Minister Roxon not wanting to give out important information in relation to superclinics because she knows that we are now going to start, as Senator Boyce correctly said, examining the fine print, examining the detail, of not just Redcliffe but Sorell, Darwin and all the other debacles of this whole superclinic fiasco.

                      This table has been routinely provided. Indeed, I was the one that originally drew up the table which gave us a status of GP superclinics. The last one that we have is dated 19 May. The procedure that we have adopted is that, to facilitate the progress of questioning in the community affairs committee and to save the time of the committee, the department has provided us with an update on a routine basis. However, this time, it is the very question that is still outstanding. It is the very question about which Minister Ludwig says, yes, he is conscious of the fact that estimates are on next week and he is conscious of the fact that we need this answer. The point is that it has been sitting on the minister's desk. I would like to know how long it has been sitting on the minister's desk. Why has this not been released to us?

                      GP superclinics were the great part of the so-called health reform, all tied up with Kevin Rudd and Nicola Roxon running around the countryside in their hospital attire, looking like they were actually doing something to do with hospitals. Might I add as an aside, so much for the 3,000 or so new hospital beds that they promised around the countryside. In New South Wales we have only had 11 extra beds. So much for the thousands that they promised but have not delivered.

                      The philosophy behind the GP superclinics is what really underlies this government's philosophy in relation to primary care—that is, that shift away from the family doctor. We will shove everybody in, like the national health system, which of course has hardly been a success in other countries—

                      Senator Polley interjecting

                      Yes, we have, Senator Polley. If you had been actually listening in these committees, where you sit for hours and hours, you would have heard some of the evidence that has been given by various people. Evidence has shown that some of the programs that this government is running are a deliberate attempt by this government to drive a wedge through private health and, most importantly, primary care and choice of doctor.

                      We were going to have about 29 or 30 GP superclinics. How many are actually up and running? Only a handful. But if you go onto the website of the Department of Health and Ageing you will see these little maps with dots everywhere. They are trying, duplicitously, to imply that this is where these superclinics are—all over the countryside. In fact, they are not. If you look at the various proposed superclinic sites, you will see that the majority of them—which it was promised would be delivered long before now—are all behind in terms of both their establishment and the nature of the services they are supposed to be delivering.

                      Redcliffe, for example, which Senator Boyce talked about, is going to demonstrate where the whole thing is going to unravel. Let me remind the Senate that most of the contracts that are given to these superclinics are for 20 years and that they are given to organisations, for the purchase of buildings or other facilities, from which the Commonwealth will not get back the resources. In effect, the government is subsidising organisations to make these purchases, often in circumstances where they are displacing established private GP services in the area.

                      To the minister I say that today's example and today's response to these questions is simply not satisfactory. It is very clear that the minister is hiding behind the delay. She knows that the detail of the Commonwealth's relationship with the Redcliffe Hospital Foundation, the various project plans, the budget, the financing requirements and the costs that were required by the various funding agreements, will demonstrate that the Commonwealth has not undertaken the appropriate scrutiny and the appropriate examination of this GP superclinic. It will demonstrate that the Commonwealth has not been keeping proper governance over this project.

                      This is the one that is now in the spotlight, but my question to the government is: if this is the problem with the Redcliffe superclinic, are delays with other superclinics—of which we do not yet know the details—for the same reasons? Those reasons being the lack of proper governance and what appears to be the lack of proper scrutiny by the Commonwealth. Minister, can I have your assurance that we are not going to get this answer at 9 am on Wednesday, when we are due to commence estimates? That would be the ultimate travesty but it is what I would expect of this government, because it is very clear that this government will resort to whatever means are necessary to keep proper information away from the Australian public.

                      Photo of Stephen ParryStephen Parry (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      The question is that the motion moved by Senator Boyce be agreed to.

                      Question agreed to.

                      3:26 pm

                      Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I seek leave to make a short statement.

                      Leave granted.

                      Unfortunately I was constrained from getting to the chamber in time during the earlier debate on the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Measures) and Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) bills. As such, I seek leave to incorporate my second reading debate speech into Hansard.

                      Leave granted.

                      The speech read as follows—

                      A couple of years ago I was at a public meeting at the shores of Lake Alexandrina, near the mouth of the Murray. The meeting was about the looming environmental and social disaster through the lack of water flowing into the Lower Lakes.

                      Darren O'Halloran, travelled 160 kilometres that morning to talk to me about another looming disaster in his home town of Millicent in the south east of South Australia.

                      This looming disaster however was not environmental, it was in fact completely man-made, and it related to Darren's fears as a worker at the Kimberly-Clark mills in the south east.

                      His complaint wasn't with the company that he regards as a good employer, but with the fact that his employment was on the line because of dumped goods from Indonesia and China.

                      After asking a series of questions through the Senate estimates process and in the parliament, it has become clear to me how unfair current dumping rules are, how difficult and expensive they are for Australian manufacturers to access, and how, what is supposed to be a 'level playing field', is anything but.

                      Since hearing about the case involving South Australian tissue paper producer Kimberly-Clark and dumped goods from China and Indonesia, I have not only learned more about international trade rules, I have become more and more frustrated with them.

                      And that is what led me to introduce a private senator's bill—the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping) Bill earlier this year.

                      I should state at the outset that I am pleased with the discussions I and my office have had with the government on my proposals, and that it has since announced it will make a series of improvements to the dumping regime, including through the measures in this bill being debated today.

                      In the case of Kimberly-Clark, the government imposed dumping duties on Chinese and Indonesian tissue products in 2008 after investigations found that Chinese products were being sold at 2 to 25 per cent below the cost in its domestic market, while Indonesian toilet paper was found to have been dumped at 33 to 45 per cent below value.

                      But, this decision was overruled in 2009 following a review by the Trade Measures Branch of Customs which determined that there was, quote, 'no material injury' to Australian manufacturing as a result of these dumped imports.

                      The TMRO had determined that even though dumping had been proven and even though Kimberly-Clark had suffered injury, the two were not linked.

                      If you ask me, this case highlighted key concerns about a lack of access, and an absence of fair consideration for the impact on Australian manufacturers, when it comes to fighting dumped goods.

                      And then there is the case of CSR Viridian which instigated an anti-dumping case in 2010 for clear float glass against imports from China, Indonesia and Thailand.

                      CSR Viridian had to spend around $300,000 conducting preliminary investigations prior to launching their application with Customs, whose investigation found that goods were being dumped from China between 11 and 26 per cent below the cost in the domestic market, from Indonesia at 3.3 to 22 per cent below cost and from Thailand at 3.5 to 12 per cent below cost.

                      But, the investigation was terminated because material injury to Viridian could not be confirmed.

                      The processes these two companies faced—and I dare say they aren't alone in their frustrations—I believe is unfair.

                      Whether it's the application process, the review or appeals process, it seems it is the Australian companies on the back foot when it comes to dumping.

                      Free trade is a good thing, don't get me wrong. But it shouldn't be 'free for all' trade. And from all reports, that's how we're perceived by other countries.

                      The 'Free Trade Taliban', they call Australia, because of our fundamentalist approach free trade. Instead, I believe we should be fighting tooth and nail in support of our domestic manufacturers, not leaving loopholes open for overseas companies to continue to dump goods into our markets.

                      Today's bill is the first of three bills the government will introduce to improve Australia's dumping regime. It will extend the definition of 'interested parties' to include representative bodies and trade unions, and will expand the economic factors the Minister must consider to include impact on jobs and impact on capital investment.

                      These are two of the issues I raised in my bill, and I welcome these changes.

                      I also welcome the government's announcement that it will provide additional funding to increase the resources available not only to the office of the TMRO but for a position to assist small to medium sized businesses with dumping claims.

                      The government has also announced it will consult with industry stakeholders to improve its protocols when it comes to accessing independent experts for investigations, accepting new information, reducing the timeframe of investigation periods and changes to the review process.

                      These are also matters I raised in my private senator's bill and will significantly improve the status quo. Having said this, I believe we can go further.

                      I want to take this opportunity to raise three key issues which the government does not support because it says they are not compliant with the WTO.

                      The first one is to reverse the onus of proof; allowing Customs to approach the overseas company selling goods in the Australian market and require evidence that they are not dumping and, should the overseas company be uncooperative, to assume that dumping is occurring.

                      I believe such an amendment would save considerable time and cost and would allow Customs investigations to be completed in a timely manner, before significant damage to the domestic industry is caused.

                      Why is it that Australian companies have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to gather evidence of dumping, when it should be the requirement of the person trying to export their goods into Australia to prove they are not dumping?

                      The second key issue relates to the Kimberly-Clark and CSR Viridian cases, where even though dumping had been proven and material injury had been proven that the two were not considered to be linked. If goods are being dumped, you have to assume that domestic manufacturers are going to be affected.

                      Finally, the third key issue is the delay in applying preliminary affirmative determinations.

                      After all, by the time a company discovers goods are being dumped, spends months gathering evidence that dumping is occurring, presents it to Customs which then waits 60 days before it provides a preliminary assessment and applies preliminary affirmative determinations, the damage that has been caused could already be significant.

                      We need to do everything we can to support Australian manufacturers. It is that simple.

                      And for the government to say we can't 'because the WTO says so', I do not think is good enough.

                      The WTO's rules on anti-dumping were finalised in 1994. That is a long time ago. Perhaps it is time we question some parts of the agreement rather than take them as is.

                      The dumping of goods destroys domestic markets. It is basic economics.

                      There is a need for Australia's anti-dumping framework to be substantially overhauled and I welcome the measures the Government has announced it will make in coming months through legislative changes and through changes internally within Customs.

                      I support this bill and I look forward to debating the subsequent bills the government will introduce to improve Australia's anti-dumping regime.

                      But I foreshadow now that I will push for those three key issues I have raised with regards to reversing the onus of proof, the application of duties where dumping and material injury have been proven and the ability for preliminary duties to be applied from the outset.

                      3:27 pm

                      Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

                      Pursuant to standing order 74(5), I ask Minister Carr, in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration: why has no answer has been forthcoming in response to question 1,104 regarding the riots on Christmas Island in March 2011?

                      Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I thank Senator Cormann for his question, and I thank him for providing notice of this inquiry. I have the following information from the minister:

                      The question posed by the senator seeks information on persons who were involved in the riots on Christmas Island in March of 2011. The question is now six days overdue.

                      I can assure the Senate that the department is committed to providing Senator Cormann with an accurate and complete response to this question and all its relevant subparts. In order to address all the issues raised by Senator Cormann's questions and subparts, the department has been required to consult extensively with all those agencies and organisations who were involved in this particular incident. In particular, the department has had extensive consultations with the government's contracted detention service provider, Serco, whose input obviously is vital to ensuring that the senator does receive a comprehensive and accurate answer.

                      In addition, the department has advised me that they are consulting with the Australian Federal Police, who, I am sure the Senator would be aware, were involved in the investigation and the subsequent compilation of the briefs of evidence for consideration by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions. As this matter is still before the courts, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions was also consulted in relation to the current court proceedings which are on foot in relation to the 22 that have been accused and whether or not there have been any developments on each individual case.

                      Bearing all these factors in mind, the department has had a significant amount of work involved in obtaining all the relevant information from all the various parties involved. I am advised that, nonetheless, the department is fully committed to provide an answer to the senator's question as soon as possible.

                      3:29 pm

                      Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I move:

                      That the Senate take note of the explanation.

                      I will not hold the Senate up for long, you will be pleased to know, Mr Deputy President. I will just observe, though, that this is a very important issue and that the answers to these questions are overdue. While we appreciate getting accurate and comprehensive answers, we also want to have answers in a timely fashion that help us in this chamber to participate in a timely fashion in the debates as they happen.

                      I remind the Senate that back in March 2011 the Australian Federal Police had to use tear gas and shoot beanbag rounds during violent clashes with protesters at the Christmas Island detention centre; that 200 protesters rushed at a police line, throwing rocks at officers after they were called to the centre about 8.15 pm; that the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, had to send an extra 70 staff; and that the Christmas Island fire brigade, who were called to respond, were not able to go in because of safety concerns. Very simply, there were some questions that I had in my capacity as a senator for Western Australia after some constituents had raised this issue with me. The first was: how many people were identified—which I think should by now have been able to be done quite easily—as having been involved in organising or participating in those riots back in March 2011? I think that the department should have that information at its fingertips. I wanted to know how many of the people that had been identified as either organisers or participants had actually been arrested and how many had been charged, and I wanted to know—on behalf of the people of Western Australia, where many constituents have raised this issue with me—how many of them have since been accepted as asylum seekers or been rejected as asylum seekers.

                      These are pretty straightforward questions, and it should not take the department or the Gillard government—if the Gillard government is committed to appropriate levels of transparency—this long to provide this very simple and readily available information. I can only assume that the Gillard government again has something to hide and that it wants to delay release of this information and time it. Probably they will release it at five o'clock in the afternoon on the Friday before Christmas or something like that so that there is minimum scrutiny. Certainly it would not want this sort of information to be part of the current debate about the absolute fiasco that is the border protection policy of the Gillard government.

                      We have had the former minister for porous borders, or minister for immigration, Senator Evans, today not being able to answer a question from Senator Abetz. Of course, this government is ducking and weaving. It does not know where to go. It is trying to hide information. It is embarrassed by the absolutely devastating impact that the dismantling of the Howard government's solution to the border protection challenges in the late 1990s and early 2000s has created. Of course, here they are at it again. We were promised a new era of openness and transparency, yet what we have again and again is the most secretive government in the history of the Commonwealth, and the government will stand condemned for it.

                      Question agreed to.

                      3:33 pm

                      Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I move:

                      That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations (Senator Evans) to a question without notice asked by Senator Johnston today relating to a proposed carbon tax and the Australian Defence Force fuel costs.

                      In so doing, I want to highlight that the Australian Defence Force in 2009-10 spent about $290 million on fuel and emitted about 1.7 million tonnes of carbon. The complete fraud of this carbon tax is highlighted by the fact that this government does not even know of that figure, which is 68 times the 25,000-tonne threshold. The government has no policy and is completely oblivious to the numbers that I have just mentioned.

                      This carbon tax is the greatest betrayal of Australians in our political history. It emanates from a lie, and we all know the words off by heart. Both the Prime Minister and the Treasurer of the Gillard government said that there would be no carbon tax. It was an unqualified promise. It was unequivocal. It was the clearest promise, compact and contract with the Australian voting public that one could ever wish to remember. The question that flows from that promise is: why did she say we would not do it? Why did she say, 'No, no, no, we are not having a carbon tax'? Could it be because it will remove from the Australian economy $9 billion every year? Could it be because everybody—rain, hail or shine; pensioner, new home buyer or student—will get a 10 per cent hike in their electricity bill in the very first year alone? Could it be because there is a nine per cent hike in everybody's gas bill? Could it be because higher marginal tax rates and low- and middle-income earners will be hit for six and there will be a $4.3 billion hit on the budget bottom line? Could it be because the trillion-dollar cost to the economy over the coming decades will send hundreds of billions of hard-won Australian dollars overseas in the pursuit of these crazy carbon credits and $3.5 billion will be spent each year on foreign carbon credits whilst this government pursues, in line with all of its failed policies, this crazy policy?

                      Small business will be hit for six. Electricity utilities in each state, and particularly the manufacturing heartland of our country in Victoria, will be hit for six. The mining industry will be not only ravaged and savaged in Western Australia and Queensland by this deceptive and lazy government with a mining tax but also copping it in the neck with a carbon tax. As I have said, manufacturing industry will be completely annihilated by this tax, and I have not even begun to talk about the long-term cost of living for ordinary Australians. But they do not care.

                      In Western Australia, in 2015 the owner of every truck over 4.5 tonnes is going to have pay up the carbon tax. In a state the size and dimension of ours, this is a cyanide capsule for our economy. It is an absolute shocking disgrace that this government stands up and says, 'This is in the national interest.' This is a government that is bringing us the NBN at $50 billion with no cost-benefit analysis. It is going to be late and it is probably going to cost double that. This is a government that has given us school halls and pink batts. Of course, we are repairing the damage from the mismanagement and the negligence of the pink batts program to the tune of a billion dollars. This is a government that says that a carbon tax will be in the national interest. And who can forget the stirring performances of the citizens assembly, the cash-for-clunkers scheme and the digital set-top boxes that you could buy at Harvey Norman? This is the most incompetent government we have ever been saddled with. This tax will be forever writ large on the tombstone of this government when we finally and surely get rid of it. (Time expired)

                      3:38 pm

                      Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      Could it be that those opposite, including Senator Johnston, are just sceptics? They come into this chamber and ask questions about the legislation that was passed in the other place yesterday—legislation that is going to take the Australian economy forward; legislation that is going to build jobs for the future in the clean energy sector; legislation that is going to ensure we have a clean energy future that is going to protect the environment for our children, our children's children and future generations. We will have the opportunity to debate this legislation when it comes before the Senate.

                      I take note of Senator Johnston's contribution, which was wide-ranging, but I cannot miss the opportunity to respond to one comment about the BER—an argument often made by so many on that side. I love talking about the school halls. I love talking about the new libraries. I love talking about the new classrooms and the new early childhood education centres. If you came to Tasmania and visited the number of schools that I have and attended the number of openings of these wonderful new facilities that I have, you will not find one school principal, one school teacher or one parent who will say: 'We want the government to take away this money. We do not want the new classrooms. We do not want or need the new libraries. We do not want or need the new school assembly halls.' Many of the schools in my home state have not been able to meet as a school in a covered area.

                      Let me return to what I think Senator Johnston's contribution was targeted at—that is, carbon pricing. On this side, we know that it does not matter what legislation was passed in the other place yesterday, those sceptics opposite and even those who are believers and those who supported John Howard when he was Prime Minister will vote against this legislation when it comes into the Senate next month. They will vote against it because they are in the mode of opposing anything that is good for this economy and good for this country.

                      I want to congratulate the Prime Minister for the leadership that she has shown in a very difficult circumstance. As those opposite keep reminding us, we are in a minority government. Prime Minister Gillard has been able to negotiate this legislation through the other place and have these 18 bills passed. I am looking forward to the debate when it comes before us here in this chamber.

                      Let us not forget that it is Tony Abbott who has no policies for the future. The community are understanding that. But he does have one policy—that is, oppose, oppose and oppose, and to act like a two-year-old by saying, 'No, no, no.' That is what those opposite are doing in this debate on the carbon price. On this side, we have acknowledged that there will be a need to compensate those in our community who are most vulnerable. That is why we have committed to providing an increase in pensions and other allowances. That is why we are providing tax cuts. That is why we are providing the increases to family payments. But those opposite have said through their leader that they will roll back this legislation and they will take away those increases and tax cuts from families and workers who need them.

                      We are looking forward. We are a party of reform. We have set the agenda and we are going to see this through. I am very proud of the fact that this Labor government are tackling the hard decisions. We are the ones who are taking on climate change. We are not doing what those opposite wanted us to do when the global financial crisis hit and that was to put our heads in the sand, sit back and wait to see what happened. We cannot afford to do that. We have to catch up with the other countries. We have to catch up with what is happening in Europe. We have to catch up with what is happening in India and China. We have to show that leadership. On this side of the chamber, we have the fortitude to ensure that this sort of legislation is passed through this chamber. (Time expired)

                      3:43 pm

                      Photo of Alan EgglestonAlan Eggleston (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      Senator Polley began by saying that people on this side of the chamber are just sceptics. Having listened very carefully to what she said, I can only wonder at the lack of information and understanding on display by those on the other side of the chamber about the impact the carbon tax will have on the Australian economy, about the cost of living for average Australians and about the impact on jobs for those people who might otherwise vote for Senator Polley. Senator Polley demonstrated no awareness of any of those impacts. Given the fact that this matter has been debated not only over the last year or so but also in several Senate committees prior to the last election, I think it is a very sad reflection if Senator Polley is typical of the level of understanding among ALP members and senators of the impact that the carbon tax will have. This taking note of answers is very largely about the impact on the defence forces. Of course, the defence forces are part of the Australian economy and they have a lot of suppliers who are not military people but, nevertheless, are suppliers to the military and so should be considered part of the military establishment. Just like any other members of the community, the people who are suppliers to our military forces will be very adversely affected by a carbon tax if it is brought in. There is no doubt whatsoever that the cost of fuel will rise, and that will mean the cost of consumer goods will rise. Other goods delivered to any military establishment in Australia will reflect that increased cost of transport. The cost of electricity will rise and that will mean that the cost of producing goods, making things and packaging food, for example, will rise. In a general way, the military will bear at least some, if not a lot, of the increased costs impacted on the community by the carbon tax.

                      There are other ways also that the defence forces will be affected. I spend a lot of time in the north-west of Western Australia where they are very concerned about things like border security. Now there is going to be an increase in the cost of fuel, and I presume that will have an adverse impact on the capacity of the Navy to mount coastal surveillance patrols by ship and of the Air Force to run the coastal surveillance flights that it operates around the northern coast every day of the week. It is not only close coastal surveillance that is involved when our armed forces are seeking to stop people who are smuggling drugs and to detect illegal immigrants; the RAAF also carries out surveillance around the Australian coastline and a long way out to sea every day of the week. The cost of those very long flights will go up. As the cost of those things goes up, it is possible that there will be some restriction of them, and that, undoubtedly, will affect the border security of Australia. The security of our borders is something that the ALP claims is a matter of great importance to it. I am just surprised that the ALP is taking such a light-hearted approach to this matter.

                      With Australia's security, we also have to look in a broad and general way to the strength of our economy. If our economy is weakened so our military capacity will be weakened. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the imposition of a carbon tax, followed in a nightmare fashion in 2015, we are told, by an emissions trading scheme, is going to substantially adversely affect the Australian economy. It is going to cost a lot of jobs, it is going to reduce our international competitiveness and, overall, it is going to mean that this country has less capacity to spend on the defence of our borders. (Time expired)

                      3:48 pm

                      Photo of Louise PrattLouise Pratt (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      For this nation to move forward, we have to be a modern and competitive economy. We cannot just live in the past and be dedicated to the old ways. We know that a fundamental plank of that is moving towards a clean energy economy. This nation cannot countenance any future other than that. All credible analysis shows that we can make significant cuts in pollution while our economy continues to grow strongly. This is the path we need to be on.

                      Senator Eggleston made reference, as did a question in question time, to our defence forces. We cannot resile from the fact that the carbon price is a price that is borne around the economy so that it can have the effect of encouraging people to make energy savings. It is pure and simple. It is an emissions trading scheme and it is a philosophy that many of those opposite have supported. It is an economic principle that many of those opposite have supported. Senator Eggleston referred to the notion that pricing carbon will somehow affect our national security. Those opposite have, frankly, made up a great many things in relation to the carbon price but I feel that I have heard it all now with the notion that pricing carbon will somehow pose some kind of risk to our national security.

                      It is typical of the kind of scaremongering that we have had from those opposite and the kind of wrecking attitude that we have had from the Leader of the Opposition, who really is just interested in playing politics. We know that every living Liberal leader has supported a price on carbon. The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Abbott, has supported a price on carbon. Over half of the Liberal MPs have made expressions of support for a carbon price. Mr Abbott can admit to families and pensioners of this nation that he is planning to claw back money from their pockets, or he can admit that he is not going to roll back the carbon price. It can be one or the other, but he cannot do both.

                      Mr Abbott should admit what everybody knows—that it is a very difficult task, and I think an impossible one, to roll back a price on carbon. And that is a fortunate thing, too, because all credible analysis shows that we can cut pollution and have our economy grow. But, if we do not do this, we will be stuck in the old ways and we will be doing a great disservice to our economy. We must modernise it. I think failing to price carbon is a form of protectionism. That is because we know that, in order to address climate change—if you believe that climate change is real—the world must cut its emissions. That will require economic and industrial change right around the globe.

                      If Australia leaves itself behind in those changes, we will be left behind economically as well. But we know that, with a carbon price, the economy will continue to grow, with an average growth in GNI per capita of 1.1 per cent per year; average incomes will continue to grow, rising by more than $8,000 per person by 2020 in real terms; and the number of jobs will continue to grow, with 1.6 million additional jobs by 2020. The evidence in support of pricing carbon just continues to build and build. I have heard no credible evidence to the contrary. The policy of those opposite is simply to pay polluters. It will inevitably lead to higher prices, more spending and higher taxes. (Time expired)

                      3:53 pm

                      Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I rise to take note of the answer from Senator Evans. He was asked whether the ADF would be expected to pay, or be exempted from, the carbon tax in terms of its use of energy. Senator Johnston mentioned the 1.7 million tonnes of pollution per year in 2009-10 and the fact that that is 68 times over the threshold. What was Senator Evans's response? He had had no brief; that is fair enough. He had no knowledge; that is fair enough. The important thing to recognise is that, like many of their other policies, there will be no accountability from this government for the unintended consequences that flow from their policies.

                      I see Senator Wong making a face, but let us look at the BER. Nobody complains about school halls; we celebrate the fact that the community has good infrastructure. But nobody should celebrate the fact that there has been over $3 billion of waste because of poor implementation of policy and unintended consequences. Another example is pink batts—it was a great concept, but what were the unintended consequences? Not only waste and corruption—in this case it actually caused death. Unintended consequences can be really serious. Then we have border protection. There has been a lot of talk about the change from three boats in the last year of the Howard government to something in the 200s since then, but what is really important is not the number of boats but the number that did not arrive. Nobody actually knows the true number, but, even by the Labor Party's own estimates, probably over 400 people have drowned. That is a dreadful unintended consequence of policy. In the area of national security, the response to the Black review showed a dreadful lack of understanding by this government of how their response to that review of just adding more layers of bureaucratic oversight to defence will actually decrease accountability and effective outcomes—the very things that they have been talking about—as opposed to achieving them.

                      Now we have the carbon tax. Here we are in the Senate—it has been passed over from the House of Representatives—with the opportunity to save Australia from the unintended consequences which will flow from yet another government policy. The question related to defence and Senator Evans had one bit of knowledge—that additional funding is provided in operations so there is no win and no loss for defence. In terms of something fairly straightforward, such as fuel operating costs, that is true. But defence capability is not just about platforms; defence capability also includes our defence industry, which is a vital part of our ability to maintain, to repair and to improve our equipment for use both during peacetime emergency responses and during operations.

                      We need to have a defence capability onshore and ministers from their own side—Minister Combet, Minister Carr, Minister Clare—have talked about the important role, the vital role, the defence industry plays. They have also noted, importantly, that defence industries are only sustainable, in many cases, when they can link into a global supply chain. What is interesting is that Senator Carr said at the Paris Air Show:

                      Australia has undoubtedly earned its place amongst the leaders of the global aerospace industry, with a reputation for cost-competitive, market-leading solutions.

                      The magazine SA Defence Businessthe defence industry puts over $2 billion into South Australia's economy— says that all businesses in the defence industry must be globally competitive.

                      What do commentators say? What do experts in the field say about this carbon tax? Frontier Economics has identified that Australian industry will be unique in having to compete in the international market while burdened by the carbon tax. So we have identified that our defence capability needs industry; that our industry needs to be in the global supply chain to be sustainable; that, to be in the global supply chain, our industry has to be cost competitive; and that experts such as Frontier Economics are clearly identifying that these sorts of things will make our industry uncompetitive. Clearly, then, one of the unintended consequences of this policy from this government is that we are putting our defence industry, and therefore our defence capability, at risk—as well as the livelihoods of many people in states such as South Australia which rely to a large extent on the defence industry. Senator Wong, as a representative of that state, should be ashamed that she is not standing up for the workers in the defence industry and for our defence capability.

                      Question agreed to.

                      3:58 pm

                      Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I present a ministerial statement relating to the appointment of members to the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board

                      I present a ministerial statement relating to the global financial crisis three years on.

                      3:59 pm

                      Photo of Michael RonaldsonMichael Ronaldson (Victoria, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

                      by leave—I rise today to take note of the ministerial statement given in the other place yesterday by the Minister for Veterans Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of Anzac, Warren Snowdon. I also note that my colleague in the other place Stuart Robert, the shadow minister for defence, science, technology and personnel, provided a detailed response on the coalition's behalf. In my capacity as shadow minister assisting the Leader of the Opposition on the centenary of Anzac I rise today to take note of the minister's statement and remind the Senate of the government's ongoing failure to establish a budget and funding program to sit alongside the centenary commemoration period.

                      In February this year the Prime Minister and Minister Snowdon received a blueprint to deliver a centenary of Anzac commemorative program. This blueprint was prepared by the National Commission on the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary. The commission comprised former prime ministers Bob Hawke and the Malcolm Fraser, the president of the RSL, Rear Admiral Ken Doolan, cartoonist Warren Brown, recently retired Major Matina Jewell and war widow Kylie Russell. The commission received more than 1,000 ideas for consideration from more than 600 individual submissions. The commission recommended the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board be established and now, some eight months later, the government has finally seen fit to establish a board and appoint its members. The appointment in July of former CDF Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston AC, AFC, retired, as the inaugural chair was warmly welcomed by the coalition, but for more than three months ACM Houston was hamstrung by ongoing delays in appointing the rest of the board. Both the board and the centenary of Anzac commemorations have full bipartisan support.

                      I note that the board that the minister has announced comprises four ex officio officeholders, including the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, the President of the RSL of Australia and the High Commissioner of New Zealand. I am very pleased to see the involvement of the High Commissioner in what are the most significant commemorations for our two countries. Five of the 20 board members have experience in the Australian Defence Force and/or represent ex-service organisations. However, I restate the coalition's concern that the Australian War Memorial—forgotten by the Gillard-Brown Labor government early this year when its funding was slashed, before pressure from the community and the coalition restored it—has been forgotten again and left out in an official capacity on the board. This is regrettable, and the government should have ensured that the Australian War Memorial—the home, as it is, of Australia's national commemoration, remembrance and reflection—was afforded its due place on the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board.

                      I now wish to draw the Senate's attention to the plight of projects across Australia which are now solely reliant on the minister finally determining a budget for the centenary of Anzac, now just three short years away. The first project to come to my attention was the Anzac Interpretive Centre in Albany, Western Australia. I want to place on record the magnificent support for this project from Senator Judith Adams, the patron senator for the great southern part of the state, and the work of the Liberal candidate for O'Connor, Rick Wilson, who supports Albany's pre-eminent position in the centenary of Anzac commemorations.

                      I have now visited Albany twice; first in November last year and more recently in late July, when I spoke with the veteran business community about preparations for the centenary commemorations. In late July my well publicised visit coincided with the minister making a flying visit to announce $250,000 for a scoping study to determine the final cost to the government for the interpretive centre. To date this money has not made its way to the local community. About 10 days ago there was significant local community pressure and press expressing concern about the delay in payment of the scoping study money. I understand that as a result of that it may well be that the Western Australian RSL have received documentation, which they have returned. It should not have taken local community pressure to ensure the delivery of the funding agreement.

                      The Anzac Interpretive Centre is the first of many projects planned for the Centenary of Anzac. A failure to get this right could jeopardise the entire period of commemoration and mire it in controversy similar to other government programs like the pink batts and the school halls programs. After all, this government's past behaviour and poor practices are the best guide to what its future performance could be like.

                      Close to my own heart is the nationally recognised Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne. It requires many millions of dollars for refurbishment and safety upgrades ahead of the centenary, and I understand requests have been made to the government for funding, albeit with no response. At a local level, veteran and ex-service organisations and community groups are thinking about ways to commemorate local service and sacrifice but are flying blind in the face of no guidance or direction from the government. Without any funding certainty community organisations are between a rock and a hard place when deciding how to best conduct local commemorations. After all, it was the extraordinary deeds of ordinary men and women from every corner of this nation, from the big cities and, more importantly, the small towns, which determined the course of the war and defined the Anzac legacy that we commemorate today.

                      These decisions must be taken now. I hope the size of the Anzac Centenary Advisory Board does not slow down the pace of decision making. Setting a strategic direction will be pivotal to the success of their mission. I congratulate them on their appointment to what is a significant board of Australians. They are charged with enormous responsibility. The commemoration of the centenary of the Anzac landing will be the most defining moment in our nation's history and for the first generation of the 21st century. If we get this right we can ensure that the commemoration of these significant moments in our nation's history will never be forgotten. Our legacy must be in the hearts and minds of future generations of Australians. They will remember, reflect and commemorate the service and sacrifice of those who defend our values in times of war and peace, ensuring that they—and we—vow never to forget. It is not my role to direct the board as to what recommendations they should make, but they could do a lot worse than repeat the actions and the programs put in place by the former ALP Minister for Veterans' Affairs Con Sciacca. Many of us were here during the Australia Remembers program. I most certainly was. I was the member for Ballarat in the other place. Minister Sciacca left a great legacy to this country. I have publicly congratulated and thanked him before, and I do so again today. Minister Sciacca drove what I thought was a magnificent locally based commemorative program, where right across this country, from the smallest towns up, there was the opportunity to participate in the Australia Remembers program. I hope that this will be repeated.

                      I have offered the current minister my full and bipartisan support to make this centenary of Anzac work. It can have no less than bipartisan support, but with that of course comes the responsibility to ensure that the opposition is actively engaged in decision making and that we are consulted in relation to what programs the government intends to put in place. I have great confidence that Angus Houston will lead this board with great dignity and with very substantial outcomes. His appointment came with the strong blessing of the opposition. The board is tasked with a massive responsibility, and I am confident that they will do it the justice it deserves.

                      Question agreed to.

                      4:09 pm

                      Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

                      I present three government responses to committee reports as listed on today's Order of Business. In accordance with the usual practice, I seek leave to have the documents incorporated in Hansard.

                      Leave granted.

                      The reports read as follows—

                      AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE SENATE EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT AND WORKPLACE RELATIONS REFERENCES COMMITTEE

                      REPORT ON THE ADMINISTRATION AND REPORTING OF NAPLAN TESTING

                      AUGUST 2011

                      The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is part of the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA) National Assessment Program (NAP), an ongoing program of assessments to monitor student performance against key performance measures. The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) manages the national and technical aspects of NAPLAN test development, assessment and reporting on behalf of MCEECDYA. State and territory Test Administration Authorities are responsible for the administration and delivery of NAPLAN tests in their jurisdiction.

                      The Committee's recommendations are directed to ACARA and MCEECDYA. As ACARA's work is directed by MCEECDYA, all recommendations need to be considered by MCEECDYA which may then direct changes to ACARA's work plan or Charter as required.

                      The Australian Government has consulted with ACARA and state and territory governments in developing its response to the report, and their comments have been incorporated in this response.

                      It should be noted that work is already being progressed in a range of areas related to Recommendations 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12. Since the establishment of the Inquiry a working party of stakeholders has met and recommended to ACARA a number of changes to the My School website. Many of the concerns raised in the submissions to the Inquiry have been addressed in My School 2.0 by broadening the range of information provided and increasing levels of user choice.

                      The Australian Government response to each recommendation in the report is provided below.

                      Recommendation 1

                      The committee majority recommends that ACARA and MCEECDYA explore and report publicly on ways in which to use below-average NAPLAN test results as a trigger for immediate assistance aimed at helping individual schools and students perform at appropriate levels.

                      Australian Government Response

                      The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

                      Decisions on the provision of assistance at school and student level are generally made at state and territory level. Through the National Education Agreement and the National Partnerships, announced by MCEECDYA in 2008, the Australian Government provides funding to states and territories so that government and non-government schools can deliver an education that provides all young people with the skills to participate actively in our society and support students to achieve their potential.

                      In May 2008 the Council of Australian Governments agreed that students who have not achieved the national minimum standards for literacy and numeracy “need and will receive focussed intervention and support to help them achieve the skills they require to continue in schooling”1.

                      All state and territory government and non-government education authorities in Australia have developed means to evaluate and assess system and school performance. Student outcomes, including student level NAPLAN results, already inform state and territory school planning and improvement practices. At the school level, NAPLAN provides a wealth of information to support teachers to identify and analyse areas for improvement as well as strengths in student performance.

                      School level data as reported on the My School website provide valuable information that enables governments to identify and respond to areas of need. State and territory governments have access to these data within the same year that students sit the tests. This information can be used to target funding to where it is most needed.

                      Support for schools not performing at appropriate levels is also provided through improved teaching methods and planning that do not require additional monetary investment.

                      ————

                      1 MCEETYA Media Release 12 May 2008

                      The Australian Government has delivered unprecedented levels of investment in Australian schools, more than doubling the level of funding provided to schools in the last funding period. In total the Australian Government has committed to provide a record $64.9 billion for schools from 2009 to 2012.

                      This includes additional funding under the three Smarter Schools National Partnerships: the National Partnership for Teacher Quality - $550 million over five years (2008-2009 to 2011-2013); the National Partnership for Low Socio-Economic Status School Communities - $1.5 billion over seven years (2008-2009 to 2014-2015); and the National Partnership for Literacy and Numeracy - $540 million over four years (2008-2009 to 2011-2012). The notional allocation of funding to each state and territory under the National Partnership for Literacy and Numeracy is based on each State's share of students at or below the minimum standard in Reading and Numeracy for Years 3, 5 and 7 based on the 2008 NAPLAN results.

                      In addition to this funding, the Commonwealth provided $11 million to states and territories to support 110 schools that were identified from My School 1.0 data as having substantially below average student outcomes in literacy and numeracy compared with the national average and similar school average.

                      Recommendation 2

                      The committee majority recommends that ACARA assess and report publicly on the potential benefits of moving to a system that reports the median rather than the mean school performance.

                      Australian Government Response

                      The Australian Government agrees in part with this recommendation.

                      The Australian Government will raise the issue with MCEECDYA and recommend that ACARA investigate the feasibility of showing the median in addition to the mean in its reporting in school performance.

                      Mean and median both provide an idea of where the middle of a set of scores lies. The mean averages all scores of students in a school and as a consequence includes extreme scores that are either very high or very low. On the other hand the median score is the middle score when all scores are placed in numerical order.

                      All states and territories consider that the mean is the better measure for the statistical analysis of school data as it enables:

                              Reporting NAPLAN results for 2008-2010 has used the mean as the expression of score averages. The use of the mean in the analysis of NAPLAN data has enabled the above statistical analyses to be used with NAPLAN results from 2008, 2009 and 2010, including comparisons of data between years. Continuing to use the mean means it will be possible for these analyses and comparisons to be made into the future. It is not possible, however, to do the same statistical analysis using the median so comparisons across years will not be possible and a new baseline year for reporting will need to be established.

                              The My School website provides information on the distribution of student performances within a school and so reveals whether the distribution is skewed in a way that would make the median substantially different from the mean.

                              States and territories provide data to schools in a number of ways. Some, including Tasmania and Victoria, use the median in reporting school level performance to complement their analysis of NAPLAN data for schools. This additional information is helpful for schools with small student populations.

                              Recommendation 3

                              The committee majority recommends that MCEECDYA and relevant jurisdictional test administration authorities look at and report publicly on ways to ensure that children with disabilities are not discriminated against and denied the right to participate in national testing.

                              Australian Government Response

                              The Australian Government agrees with this recommendation.

                              All students are encouraged to participate in NAPLAN. The National Protocols for Test Administration state that students with disabilities should be given the opportunity to participate in testing should their parent/caregiver prefer that they do so. This is consistent with the Disability Standards for Education, which set out the rights of students with disability and the obligations of school authorities in relation to education under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. The Protocols do allow students with significant intellectual and/or functional disabilities to be exempted from sitting the tests if they are unable to access the tests within the guidelines for accommodations.

                              In the past, interpretations of provisions in the Protocols varied across jurisdictions. ACARA has revised the Protocols for the 2011 NAPLAN tests to provide clarity about positive expectations for participation in NAPLAN and accommodations to facilitate access to the tests and to ensure consistency of application of the provisions in the Protocols.

                              My School reports the participation of students in NAPLAN at the school level compared with the national average. In My School 2.0, there is stronger reporting with categories of exempt, absent and withdrawn students reported separately.

                              ACARA will be publicly reporting levels of participation in testing to make this more transparent at a school level. These data are already published at state, territory and national levels.

                              There are a number of accommodations already made for students with disabilities that range from separate supervision and rest breaks to use of assistive technology for students who would have them as part of their normal classroom support. ACARA will report to MCEECDYA on the type and number of accommodations.

                              ACARA is already looking into further ways in which the tests can be made more accessible to students with disabilities.

                              Recommendation 4

                              The committee majority recommends that ACARA analyse and report publicly on how NAPLAN tests are serving different groups of Language Background Other Than English (LBOTE) students.

                              Australian Government Response

                              The Australian Government agrees with this recommendation.

                              ACARA currently publishes information annually about the performance of children by LBOTE status in the NAPLAN National Report, and will publish data on the percentage of LBOTE students in each school profile on My School 2.0.

                              At present all students are encouraged to sit NAPLAN tests, though students from a non English speaking background who have arrived in Australia within a year of the test may be exempted. ACARA also advises schools in the Protocols that literacy

                              should not be a barrier to the numeracy tests. ACARA is already looking into ways to improve accessibility to the tests for LBOTE and Indigenous students.

                              The current definition used for LBOTE is very broad, and does not identify the group of LBOTE students who are educationally disadvantaged. As a result, data show that LBOTE students perform as well or better than non-LBOTE students.

                              In My School 2.0, account has been taken of the presence of students from a language background other than English when establishing comparison groups of schools that serve students from similar socio-educational backgrounds. To do this, it is inappropriate to use a simple measure of the proportion of students from language backgrounds other than English since some students in this category are not socio-educationally disadvantaged. ACARA uses an additional LBOTE measure in calculating the influence of family background on student results, specifically the proportion of LBOTE students at a school whose parents also report low education levels.

                              ACARA is also looking at enhancing the definition of LBOTE used for NAPLAN data collection to enable reporting of more useful information to support LBOTE students who are educationally disadvantaged.

                              Recommendation 5

                              The committee majority recommends that ACARA investigate and report to MCEECDYA on enhancing NAPLAN to support the diagnostic needs of higher and lower student achievers.

                              Australian Government Response

                              The Australian Government agrees with this recommendation.

                              The discrimination of the NAPLAN tests at the higher and lower levels of student achievement is supported, and under direction from MCEECDYA, ACARA is investigating alternative test delivery mechanisms that might facilitate this. ACARA will also seek ways to decrease the time taken to provide feedback to schools.

                              The Australian Government made a commitment to provide teachers with a diagnostic tool that will enable them to identify and support the individual learning needs of their students at any time. Feedback provided through the online service will link teachers to resources that are targeted to the particular needs of the students.

                              To make NAPLAN strongly diagnostic at the higher and lower end could require a longer test. There are limits on the length of the tests in regard to what students can reasonably be asked to do, particularly for year 3 students. The provision of tests with a greater diagnostic capacity at the higher and lower ends could be achieved by moving away from pen and paper testing to adaptive online testing.

                              An element of the Australian Government commitment to online diagnostic tools is the move to online delivery of the annual National Assessment Program sample assessments. This would enable future trials of adaptive testing for NAPLAN.

                              The Australian Government will ask ACARA to report on the feasibility of enhancing NAPLAN to provide improved diagnostic capability for the students achieving in the highest and lowest bands.

                              Recommendation 6

                              The committee majority recommends that ACARA and MCEECDYA expand NAPLAN to include annual testing from years 3 to 10 in order to more accurately track student performance and give parents, teachers and policymakers a far better understanding of how students, teachers and schools, are progressing.

                              Australian Government Response

                              The Australian Government does not agree with this recommendation.

                              Further large-scale cohort testing is not the best option for giving parents and teachers better information. The next step will be to provide teachers with better diagnostic tools to address the needs of individual students. The government has committed to developing a national online assessment and learning bank for students, parents and teachers to provide a sophisticated diagnostic assessment of each student's strengths and learning needs.

                              National testing is agreed by COAG and forms part of the National Education Agreement. The costs for test development are shared by the Australian Government and state and territory governments (using the MCEECDYA formula for cost sharing) but states and territories carry the cost of test delivery. The cost of test delivery is currently around $48 million for states and territories.

                              Providing parents with meaningful reports more frequently would require tests that measure student improvement more precisely than the current test program. ACARA has trialled “off level” testing (in which students undertake NAPLAN assessments from a higher or lower level than their year level, eg a year 5 student sitting the year 7 test) and will be asked to trial online testing, which in the future may be able to provide this more precise measure of student improvement.

                              A decision to expand testing would have significant cost implications both at a national level and for state and territory governments with responsibility for test delivery. The NAPLAN scale was constructed for a testing regime where students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 are tested. If the test program was altered and students in all years from years 3 to 10 were tested, the scale would need to be reconstructed or a new scale developed that would be sensitive enough to measure student improvement in yearly increments. If the tests were to be held for all year levels the scale would need to be recalibrated to measure the smaller increments of student progress. This would be a significant task requiring additional funding. It would also have a significant impact at a school level, due to the impact on teaching time. Consideration should also be given to any possible negative consequences of increased testing.

                              NAPLAN is only one form of student assessment, although an important one. Schools use additional assessments to provide a more detailed picture of student performance and parents receive information about their child's school performance from the school every year.

                              In addition to classroom assessments, each year a sample of students participate in the National Assessment Program sample assessments and, while individual students reports are not provided, schools where classes participate get reports of their performance.

                              Recommendation 7

                              The committee majority recommends that MCEECDYA explore ways for state and territory test administration authorities to more strongly enforce security protocols.

                              Australian Government Response

                              The Australian Government agrees with this recommendation.

                              National Protocols for Test Administration have been agreed by all governments so that all students around Australia sit the tests under common conditions. Test Administration Manuals are provided to all schools and teachers supervising the tests.

                              MCEECDYA had already asked ACARA to review the National Protocols for Test Administration before the 2011 tests to ensure that they are providing clear and

                              consistent advice to test administrators and principals. This work has been completed.

                              For the first time, the Protocols include a Code of Conduct which outlines expected behaviour and processes, with a view to strengthening security requirements. Also at the request of MCEECDYA, ACARA will report publicly for the first time in early 2011 on allegations and substantiations of cheating and security breaches.

                              It is important to note that compliance with security protocols is the responsibility of state and territory testing authorities. The revised Protocols will enable tests to be administered in a more consistent manner.

                              It is noted that the Test Administration Authorities do not have a mandate or authority to investigate incidents or enforce penalties for breaches of test protocols in all jurisdictions and sectors, and that there are a broad range of legal and industrial frameworks that determine the way in which investigations are made. ACARA is working with government and non-government education authorities in developing a nationally consistent approach to handling test incidents.

                              Recommendation 8

                              The committee majority recommends that ACARA prioritises the improvement of the method used to develop like school comparisons and commits to the introduction of a method based on student-level SES data for all schools prior to the reporting of 2011 NAPLAN test results.

                              Australian Government Response

                              The Australian Government agrees with this recommendation.

                              Consistent with this recommendation, MCEECDYA has asked that ACARA collect and use student level data for all schools when reporting on NAPLAN 2011. ACARA is working with schools and school authorities to collect the additional data required to implement this method for 2011.

                              For 2010, the ICSEA (Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage) which is used to reflect the level of socio-educational advantage in a school for My School 2.0 uses direct student level data where available and includes the addition of a language background other than English factor. For 2010 it is anticipated that the ICSEA calculation will be based on direct student data (parent education and occupation information) for 76 per cent of schools, representing 92 per cent of students nationally.

                              The improved ICSEA now being used is the result of ACARA's analysis and advice to ministers. It builds on the existing ICSEA, and uses better data that have since become available. The new approach draws more extensively from data collected directly from parents. The two ICSEA measures are, overall, very close (Their correlation is 0.9). The new ICSEA, however, is an even better predictor of school-level NAPLAN performance. The new ICSEA explains 67% of the variance in school performance on NAPLAN; the initial ICSEA explained 59%.

                              Recommendation 9

                              The committee majority recommends that ACARA and MCEECDYA examine and publicly report on ways to mitigate the harm caused by simplistic and often distorted information published in newspaper league tables.

                              Australian Government Response

                              The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

                              The Australian Government does not support the media using data obtained from the My School website to publish simplistic league tables. The Australian Government also does not support the use of legislation to restrict website users from publishing these data.

                              Simplistic league tables fail to take into consideration the context within which a school operates and thus are likely to provide unfair, misleading and invalid comparisons between school performances.

                              The My School website provides the public with a means for making valid school comparisons and is the only source of genuinely nationally comparable information for all Australian schools.

                              The My School website reports performance comparisons of statistically similar schools only.

                              At the request of MCEECDYA, ACARA has strengthened legal and technical protections of the data published on My School 2.0 and will continue to actively advocate against league tables based on school performance data.

                              The My School 2.0 website has new logon requirements and terms and conditions to protect the integrity of the data and to help prevent misuse of data.

                              Ministers have also agreed that ACARA will be supported to closely manage the information it provides to prevent individual students from being identified and to

                              promote the meaningful use of data by third parties. ACARA will work with the media to explain the information published, advise on how to properly interpret it, and will take steps to counter any inaccurate use of the information including, if necessary, responding publicly with correctly interpreted data.

                              Recommendation 10

                              The committee majority recommends that ACARA identify, analyse and report publicly on possible means of strengthening the relationship between NAPLAN tests and the wider curriculum. The committee majority reserves its support for any alignment between the tests and the new national curriculum until the quality of, and community support for, the curriculum become clearer.

                              Australian Government Response

                              The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

                              It is Australian Government policy to review the NAPLAN assessment framework to provide alignment with the new national curriculum. This has been agreed by all states and territories.

                              The current NAPLAN tests align well with current state and territory curricula taught in schools, and will be reviewed to align with the Australian Curriculum as it is progressively implemented.

                              The NAPLAN tests are based on curricula that all teachers throughout Australia are required to cover and reflect the essential elements that should be taught at each year level. The NAPLAN test items are currently developed using the National Statements of Learning. The tests in future years will be informed by the Australian Curriculum. At the December 2010 MCEECDYA meeting, Ministers agreed to publish the content for Foundation to Year 10 English, mathematics, science and history, as the nation's first Australian Curriculum.

                              ACARA will consult with senior education officials and provide recommendations on measures to ensure that future national assessments, including NAPLAN, align with the Australian Curriculum as the successive phases are implemented.

                              This recommendation follows a discussion in the report on the high stakes nature of the tests and the potential for teachers to teach to the tests. ACARA actively discourages this practice in its communications about NAPLAN and promotes broad-based teaching practices. Once students' familiarity with the test form is assured there is no benefit in repeated test practice. The best way to develop literacy and numeracy skills is through students' experience of a full, rich curriculum.

                              NAPLAN is a test of literacy and numeracy skills not a content based test. The main purpose of the NAPLAN tests is to identify whether all students have the literacy and numeracy skills and knowledge which provide the critical foundation for other learning and for their productive and rewarding participation in the community. Inadequate attention to the fundamental areas of literacy and numeracy undermines students' ability to participate effectively in other important areas of the curriculum.

                              Recommendation 11

                              The committee majority recommends that ACARA and MCEECDYA move to include more contextual information about schools on the My School website, reflecting the complex range of factors that affect schools, and acknowledge to users of the website their awareness of the limitations of comparisons based on raw performance data due to extrinsic factors. The committee majority further recommends that ACARA commit to ensuring this contextual information is available ahead of the reporting of 2011 NAPLAN results.

                              Australian Government Response

                              The Australian Government agrees with this recommendation.

                              The Australian Government agrees there is more to a school than academic results, and My School shows a range of features about a school in terms of its operating environment (eg proportion of Indigenous students, staff numbers), resources (income) and performance (eg Year 12 attainment) in addition to NAPLAN results.

                              The framework for information published on the My School website was agreed by education ministers, and reflects research and expert advice that the most appropriate indicators to publish about schools are those that provide insight into three aspects of a school:

                                    The indicators published on the original My School, and additional indicators on My School 2.0, have been developed in response to this framework, and published prior to 2011 NAPLAN testing.

                                    On My School, there is already a significant amount of information provided to reflect the makeup of the school for example, the type of school, the year range, student and staff numbers, location, the level of socio-educational advantage of the school student body, the proportion of students with an Indigenous background, and as well as student attendance rates.

                                    Schools are able to draw attention to their particular circumstances through the statement about their school on the school profile page. Here schools have the opportunity to outline their enrolment policies, promote any special programs that they operate or detail their student profile. A link to the school's own website is provided so that users of the My School website can better understand unique characteristics of the school.

                                    For My School 2.0 an indicator has been added to report on the proportion of students with a language background other than English and information is provided for the first time about a school's finances.

                                    In the future ACARA will add the option for principals to comment on their NAPLAN and senior secondary outcomes, information from student, teacher and parent satisfaction survey data, information about student destinations and information on students with disabilities.

                                    The My School website has been designed to avoid comparisons of raw performance data through presentation of this contextual information and through use of the Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ICSEA) to limit school comparisons to schools with similar student intakes. ACARA is committed to enhancing contextual information and working to enhance the understanding of the media and the public of the school data made available through the My School website.

                                    Recommendation 12

                                    The committee majority recommends that ACARA and MCEECDYA comprehensively revise the type of information available on the My School website to shift the focus from raw school performance data to value-added measurement of school performance.

                                    Australian Government Response

                                    The Australian Government agrees in part with this recommendation.

                                    My School 2.0 reports NAPLAN results in a number of ways to allow different aspects of performance to be shown. The NAPLAN mean scale scores and the spread across the bands were depicted on the original My School, and My School 2.0 also shows student gain for students who remained in each school between 2008 and 2010.

                                    For any numerical score that is published, My School 2.0 also shows margins of error to reflect the accuracy of the estimate average and the degree of confidence one can have in this estimate.

                                    In relation to student performance “value added” is a term that is used in a variety of ways that can mean different things. Value added modelling is a relatively complex econometric approach to measuring school's performance. Value added models essentially seek to measure residuals i.e. the difference between a school's observed outcomes and its predicted outcomes.

                                    While value added models are designed in an attempt to ensure that the residual only approximates the contribution of the school to student performance, this is difficult in practice. This is because residuals reflect whatever other influences there are on student outcomes that have not been captured in the value added model.

                                    There is a risk with this approach that what becomes important is how much better or worse the school did compared to the predictions, and the performance of the students themselves can be lost. A school may perform as well as expected but could still have unacceptably low levels of literacy and numeracy.

                                    There would be a number of challenges to the suitability of value added modelling for Australia, not least of which being the need for longitudinal data. In its report for MCEECDYA, Reporting and Comparing School Performances, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) did not recommend this approach.

                                    As a result MCEECDYA has agreed to show gain between NAPLAN years. Measuring gain in this way allows users of the website to see how well students have progressed no matter what school they attend. Schools with a student population that have high levels of aptitude and who are already highly proficient may not show a high level of gain, while schools with students with lower levels of aptitude may be able to demonstrate their students have made large gains while not necessarily achieving at the highest proficiency levels. This measure allows us to see and acknowledge progress at all levels.

                                    This is the first time this form of school performance information will be available. Student gain is an important addition to My School 2.0, showing what improvement has occurred over time in a school for a specific group of students.

                                    Government Senators ' Recommendation

                                    Government senators recommend that in the interests of transparency, accountability and facilitating meaningful comparisons, the My School website capture full disclosure of financial assets. Those schools who do not agree to this requirement should not receive public funding.

                                    Australian Government Response

                                    The Australian Government notes this recommendation.

                                    All schools are required under the National Education Agreement (NEA) and the Schools Assistance Act 2008 to supply income data for My School. The specific information to be supplied is a matter for education ministers.

                                    School income reporting commenced in 2010 with My School 2.0. The series begins with income for each school for the 2009 calendar year.

                                    For My School 2.0 education ministers agreed to report on the following financial data:

                                      Total gross income by source for the year

                                      - Australian Government recurrent funding

                                      - State/Territory government recurrent funding

                                      - Fees, charges and parent contributions (school initiated) - Other private sources (parent or 3rd party initiated)

                                      total net recurrent income reflecting the following deductions from the gross

                                      - income allocated to a current year capital expense - income allocated to a future year capital expense

                                      - income allocated to debt servicing of capital loans.

                                        - State/Territory government capital funding

                                        - new school loans

                                        - income allocated to current year capital expense - other sources.

                                        School net recurrent income is the key finance measure for My School. It provides a measure of the income available to deliver schooling to each school's students in the year reported.

                                        School income from government can be used for the purposes set by government. School income from private sources may be used to meet recurrent costs, or to allocate to a capital project or set aside to meet future expenses.

                                        The recurrent income reported on My School includes the amount earned by schools from income set aside from previous years, for example, interest and dividends earned on financial assets (shares, trusts) held by the school or school system.

                                        Where cash reserves held by the school or proceeds from the divesture of assets are used to fund capital expenditure, this amount will be shown on My School as capital expenditure in the year expended.

                                        The Government is committed to further enhancements to My School to build community understanding of school operations and outcomes. The Government recognises that financial assets comprised of income set aside from prior years or held in reserve by school systems may be of interest to the community in connection with transparency of resources available to meet recurrent costs.

                                        MCEECDYA has asked ACARA to provide advice on how school assets, for all schools, such as financial assets including trust accounts, term deposits and investment portfolios, as well as physical assets, could be captured and presented to the community on the My School website.

                                        GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION

                                        REPORT

                                        SUPERANNUATION CLAIMS OF FORMER AND CURRENT COMMONWEALTH PUBLIC SERVICE EMPLOYEES

                                        INTRODUCTION

                                        The Australian Government welcomes the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration (Committee) into the Superannuation Claims of former and current Commonwealth Public Service Employees. The Government notes the Committee's findings that the Department of Finance and Deregulation (Finance) has established an appropriate claims handling process for individuals who believe that they were incorrectly advised about their eligibility for Commonwealth superannuation.

                                        The Government is committed to seeing the resolution of Cornwell-type claims managed systematically and rigorously in accordance with the Legal Services Directions 2005.

                                        RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION

                                        The Committee made one recommendation.

                                        Response

                                        The Government supports the Committee's recommendation.

                                        Since the High Court's decision on the Cornwell superannuation case in April 2007, there has been media coverage on the decision through local and national newspapers, solicitors, media releases, unions and Commonwealth agency websites. The unions that have advertised the potential for claims include the Community and Public Sector Union, Australian Services Union, Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance and the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers' Association.

                                        A targeted campaign will notify potential claimants of their ability to register claims with Finance. Finance proposes to place information advertisements on Cornwell-type claims in local and national newspapers. Information will also be disseminated to relevant unions and an all staff advice issued across the Australian Public Service.

                                        SENATOR ' S MINORITY REPORT

                                        The Independent Senator Nick Xenophon lodged a minority report with three recommendations.

                                        Response

                                        The Government supports in principle Recommendation 1 of the Minority Report.

                                        This recommendation is similar to the Committee's majority recommendation. A targeted campaign will notify potential claimants of their ability to register claims with Finance. Finance proposes to place information advertise­ments on Cornwell-type claims in local and national newspapers. Information will also be disseminated to relevant unions and an all staff advice issued across the Australian Public Service.

                                        Response

                                        The Government does not support Recommendation 2 of the Minority Report.

                                        The Government considers the general waiver of the statute of limitations for Cornwell-type claims is inconsistent with the current Government policy embodied in the Legal Services Directions 2005 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997. However, Finance will continue to liaise with the Office of Legal Services Coordination in the Attorney-General's Department to obtain approval to set aside limitations-based defences or extend limitation periods where appropriate, on a case by case basis.

                                        Response

                                        The Government does not support Recommendation 3 of the Minority Report.

                                        The Government considers the current administrative processes in the assessment of Cornwell-type claims are appropriate to deal with claims in a cost-effective, streamlined and equitable manner. This view was supported by the Committee's majority report. The establishment of a tribunal would be costly and would not necessarily expedite the finalisation of claims, nor would it be an appropriate jurisdiction for the determination of legal issues, such as contribution from entities other than the Commonwealth.

                                        GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO THE REPORT OF THE JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE CHRISTMAS ISLAND TRAGEDY AUGUST 2011

                                        INTRODUCTION

                                        On 2 March 2011 the Parliament established the Joint Select Committee on the Christmas Island Tragedy of 15 December 2010 to inquire into the incident in which an irregular entry vessel foundered on rocks at Rocky Point on Christmas Island. The Committee examined the Commonwealth's management of the incident, its operational response, and the adequacy of subsequent support provided to survivors and others.

                                        The Committee tabled its report on 4 July 2011 which contained three recommendations. The report also contained two additional recommendations from Senator Crossin and seven additional recommendations from Senator Hanson-Young.

                                        The Government welcomes the report prepared by the Joint Select Committee on the Christmas Island Tragedy of 15 December 2011 and recognises the significant amount of work and consideration that has gone into providing these recommendations.

                                        The Government's official responses to the Committee's recommendations are provided below.

                                        Table 1 – Summary of Government Response to Recommendations

                                        RECOMMENDATIONS

                                        Recommendation 1

                                        The Committee recommends that DIAC and its relevant contractors continue to monitor the wellbeing of the survivors and that counselling and support services should be provided for as long as is necessary.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees to Recommendation 1.

                                        The Department of Immigration and Citizenship and its contracted Detention Service Providers work to ensure that all persons in immigration detention have access to appropriate health and support services. The Department is particularly sensitive to the trauma experienced and consequent needs of survivors of the December 15 Christmas Island tragedy.

                                        Contractors and Departmental staff adhere to strict protocols to monitor the wellbeing of all people in detention, with a particular emphasis on those who have experienced extreme stress and trauma.

                                        All survivors from the SIEV 221 boat tragedy who have not been granted a visa are currently accommodated in community detention arrangements on the Australian mainland. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship will ensure that appropriate care and support arrangements remain in place while these people continue to be in immigration detention.

                                        The Humanitarian Settlement Services program provides a range of initial settlement services for clients who are granted a protection visa. This includes a strong case management approach to assessing each individual client's needs.

                                        If a person required trauma counselling, they would be referred and assisted with access to the appropriate service provider.

                                        Recommendation 2

                                        The Committee recommends that the Department of Regional Australia and DIAC liaise with the Christmas Island community to explore options for a permanent memorial to be erected on the island, at a site of the residents' choosing, for the victims of the tragedy.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees to Recommendation 2.

                                        The Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government is liaising with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Christmas Island Shire regarding appropriate locations upon which to erect a permanent memorial. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship will, as appropriate, provide the necessary support to the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and the local community in this process.

                                        Recommendation 3

                                        The Committee recommends that relevant Commonwealth agencies continue to monitor the wellbeing of their personnel and that counselling and support services should be provided for as long as necessary.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees to Recommendation 3.

                                        Each affected Commonwealth agency has employee assistance arrangements in place. Immediate steps were taken to provide such support to Commonwealth personnel on the day of the tragedy and

                                        agencies will continue to monitor the wellbeing of personnel involved in the response to SIEV 221 and provide appropriate counselling and support for as long as necessary.

                                        ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS - Senator Crossin

                                        Senator Crossin - Recommendation 1

                                        That, in addition to the implementation of the recommendations of the Emergency Management Committee in its January 2011 report, the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government take all necessary steps to ensure reliable radio coverage is available on all parts of Christmas Island before the end of 2011.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees in part to Senator Crossin's Recommendation 1.

                                        In relation to radio coverage, the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government notes that 100 per cent coverage of Christmas Island will be difficult to achieve due to the Island's topography. The Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government is liaising with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Australian Federal Police regarding implementation of this Recommendation and progressing radio communication improvements to provide more extensive radio coverage of Christmas Island.

                                        In support of this work and as part of the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service

                                        SIEV 221 Internal Review recommendations, an audit of the technical capabilities and limitations of communications equipment currently held on Christmas Island by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has been undertaken. This was followed by a gap analysis which recommended the procurement of dual UHF/VHF hand held radios as an improvement for the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers (by negating the need to carry two radios). It was also identified that the installation of additional repeater infrastructure on Christmas Island would further improve radio coverage. Planning regards system design is currently underway.

                                        An aspect of this issue was also raised in the report of the Christmas Island Emergency Management Committee with the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government procuring five marine VHF hand held radios for use by emergency personnel. Additional communications equipment is also part of the trailer of emergency equipment currently being built under the auspices of Western Australia Fire and Emergency Services Authority.

                                        The Government has agreed in part to the implementation of the recommendations of the Emergency Management Committee report. This report was presented to, and considered by, the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government who is monitoring its implementation.

                                        Senator Crossin - Recommendation 2

                                        That the Department of Regional Australia immediately establish a full time Community Emergency Management Officer on Christmas island, to serve both Christmas and Cocos Islands.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees to Senator Crossin's Recommendation 2.

                                        The Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government is consulting with Emergency Management Australia, Western Australia Fire and Emergency Services Authority and the Administrator of the Indian Ocean Territories on how best to implement this recommendation. The Community Emergency Management Officer would be part of the Department's Indian Ocean Territories Administration Office.

                                        ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDATIONS - Senator Hanson-Young

                                        Senator Hanson-Young Recommendation 1

                                        The Australian Greens recommend that as matter of urgency an independent review into Australia's border protection surveillance is established.

                                        Response

                                        The civil maritime surveillance function has been regularly reviewed over a number of years through a series of independent and whole-of-government strategic level reviews on national security and border protection issues.

                                        The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service also continues to monitor new and emerging technologies which have the potential to enhance detection and response outcomes. These activities have included a static radar trial at Christmas Island which is still underway.

                                        Further, the last tender process conducted by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service for wide area surveillance did not reveal the existence of commercially viable surveillance options beyond those currently employed in the layered surveillance response.

                                        The sheer size of Australia's maritime domain does not allow for the persistent surveillance of all areas and threat axes all the time, rather Australian Customs and Border Protection Service uses an intelligence led risk based model which provides the most effective utilisation of its available resources and surveillance capabilities against known threats.

                                        Accordingly, the Government does not agree to Senator Hanson-Young's Recommendation 1.

                                        Senator Hanson-Young Recommendation 2

                                        The Australian Greens recommend that Commonwealth funding be directed to establish a full-time emergency services volunteer coordinator on Christmas Island.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees to Senator Hanson-Young's Recommendation 2, noting the essential similarity with Senator Crossin's Recommendation 2.

                                        The Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government is consulting with Emergency Management Australia, Western Australia Fire and Emergency Services Authority and the Administrator of the Indian Ocean Territories on how best to implement the recommendation. The emergency services volunteer coordinator would be part of the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government's Indian Ocean Territories Administration Office.

                                        Senator Hanson-Young Recommendation 3

                                        The Australian Greens recommend that a permanent mental health team, funded through the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, is established on Christmas Island, as part of the Christmas Island health service, to provide services for all members of the community.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees to Senator Hanson-Young's Recommendation 3 and notes that it is currently being met as part of business as usual services provided by the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government.

                                        The Indian Ocean Territories Health Service has a regular establishment of one psychologist, one social worker and four torture and trauma counsellors on Christmas Island. The torture and trauma counsellors are funded by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on a year-by-year basis. These services are available to the Christmas Island community and are adequate on a day-to-day basis.

                                        In any emergency situation, the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government is able to augment this capacity as required, through a Service Delivery Arrangement with the Western Australian Government. In response to this tragedy and with the assistance of the Western Australian Government, an additional psychologist was deployed to Christmas Island from 23 December 2010 to 19 January 2011 and from 25 January 2011 until

                                        8 February 2011. As school commenced on 9 February 2011, a replacement counsellor was deployed from 8 February 2011 for ten days to provide help to people as they dealt with their experiences.

                                        Commonwealth agencies directly involved in responding to the incident were able to access counselling support through their agencies. Volunteers with, for example, the Volunteer Marine Rescue Service, those who assisted directly in a personal capacity or who had been impacted indirectly by the events were directed to a number of counselling services available on Christmas Island, including the local social worker, the local school psychologist and counsellors engaged with the Torture and Trauma Unit of the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service.

                                        At the Joint Select Committee hearing on Christmas Island, Dr Julie Graham, Director of Public Health and Medicine at the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service, noted that ongoing mental health services are required at the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service. If the Department of Immigration and Citizenship were to stop funding the torture and trauma counsellors, the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government would review the mental health establishment of the Indian Ocean Territories Health Service

                                        Senator Hanson-Young Recommendation 4

                                        The Australian Greens recommend that the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, implement all recommendations from the Christmas Island emergency management report.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees in part to Senator Hanson-Young's Recommendation 4, noting the similarity with Senator Crossin's Recommendation 1.

                                        The Christmas Island Emergency Management Committee report was presented to, and considered by, the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, who is monitoring its implementation.

                                        Senator Hanson-Young Recommendation 5

                                        The Australian Greens further recommend that the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, conduct an infrastructure audit on the standards and conditions of facilities on Christmas Island.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees to Senator Hanson-Young's Recommendation 5 and notes that this process is ongoing as part of the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government business as usual processes.

                                        The Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government undertakes regular evaluations of its asset portfolio as part of its strategic asset management plan to confirm that its assets continue to be appropriate to meet its program delivery requirements.

                                        This is line with the ANAO 'Better Practice Guide on the Strategic and Operational Management of Assets by Public Sector Entities', September 2010.

                                        Senator Hanson-Young Recommendation 6

                                        The Australian Greens recommend that as a matter of urgency, a review into the protocols by which decisions are made to transfer asylum seekers with special needs to the mainland, is established.

                                        Response

                                        It is standard practice for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to transfer clients from Christmas Island should they have special needs which cannot be met on Christmas Island. Protocols already exist to guide decisions on transfer of asylum seekers with serious health, mental and psychological needs to the mainland and these are working well.

                                        The decision to transfer such clients is made on a case-by-case basis, depending on individual clients' needs and availability of suitable accommodation on the mainland.

                                        Accordingly, the Government does not agree to Senator Hanson-Young's Recommendation 6.

                                        Senator Hanson-Young Recommendation 7

                                        The Australian Greens recommend that the role of community liaison officer, funded through the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, continue to be funded.

                                        Response

                                        The Government agrees to Senator Hanson-Young's Recommendation 7.

                                        The Department of Immigration and Citizenship will continue to provide funding for a Community Liaison Officer position on Christmas Island while the operational need exists.

                                        Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                        I present the 2010-11 annual reports of the Department of the Senate and the Department of Parliamentary Services.

                                        Ordered that the reports be printed.

                                        In accordance with the provisions of the Auditor-General Act 1997, I present the following report of the Auditor-General: No. 8 of 2011-12—Performance audit—The National Blood Authority's management of the national blood supply.

                                        I present a response from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, to a resolution of the Senate of 18 August 2011 concerning Libyan students.

                                        4:11 pm

                                        Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                        On behalf of Senator Fisher, I present the report of the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee on recent ABC programming decisions, together with the Hansard record of proceedings and documents presented to the committee.

                                        Ordered that the report be printed.

                                        by leave—I move:

                                        That the Senate take note of the report.

                                        I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

                                        Leave granted; debate adjourned.

                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                        I present the 148th report of the Senate Standing Committee of Privileges, entitled Person referred to in the Senate—Mr Ian Lazar.

                                        Ordered that the report be printed.

                                        I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report.

                                        Leave granted.

                                        That the report be adopted.

                                        This report is the 62nd in a series of reports recommending that a right of reply be afforded to persons who claim to have been adversely affected by being referred to in the Senate, either by name or in such a way as to be readily identified.

                                        On 30 September 2011, the President received a submission from Mr Ian Lazar relating to comments made by Senator Williams during the adjournment debate in the Senate on 21 September 2011. The President referred the submission to the committee under privilege resolution 5. The committee considered the submission earlier today and recommends that the proposed response be incorporated in Hansard.

                                        The document read as follows—

                                        Appendix

                                        Response by Mr Ian Lazar

                                        Pursuant to Resolution 5(7)(b) of the Senate of 25 February 1988

                                        Reply to comments by Senator John Williams in the Senate

                                        (21 September 2011)

                                        On 21 September 2011, I was defamed in the Senate under parliamentary privilege by Senator Williams. As I have no other avenue to refute these allegations, I seek to respond in writing and to have my response incorporated into Hansard.

                                        The implication in Senator Williams' allegations is that I am involved in ripping people off, "laundering money, taking people's life savings and leaving them homeless and in dire financial straits". He also makes certain very specific allegations of wrongdoing. In short, Senator Williams is in effect alleging that I am involved in unlawful white collar criminal activity, a charge which I vigorously deny.

                                        I am aged some forty years, and have never been convicted of any criminal offence. Neither am I facing any charges of having committed any criminal offence, nor to the best of my knowledge am I being investigated for any alleged wrongdoing.

                                        I am engaged in the business of acquiring and dealing in defaulting mortgage securities; a lawful occupation. The owners of property over which I purchase defaulting securities are inevitably in a state of financial distress at the time I acquire such securities. Such financial distress is caused by business decisions that they have made long before coming into contact with me.

                                        In answer to some of the Senator's specific allegations, I say as follows:- 1. As to John Nicoll:-

                                        Mr Nicoll was a pool cleaner who inherited a sum of money.

                                        Prior to meeting me, Mr Nicoll put a large portion of his money into failed investment schemes.

                                        Mr Nicoll approached and met the Nauruans, with whom he invested, directly.

                                        I was subsequently engaged to manage the recovery of the bad loans.

                                        I was involved in a mediation process before Sir Laurence Street. At that mediation the borrowers offered to settle the matter for $2M. I was the only one who held out against such offer, with the result that the amount finally recovered was $8M.

                                        Some parties to the transaction recovered money in priority to others. This was by operation of law, and not as a result of any misdeeds by me. The simple fact was that some parties held independent specific securities over certain assets, and therefore recovered ahead of unsecured investments. I reiterate, I was not involved in the making of the bad investments. My involvement was in trying to recover monies on behalf of investors.

                                        As to the allegation that ASIC found that BACF was running a managed investment scheme, this is not true. ASIC did not make such a finding. Indeed, the court appointed an independent auditor who found there was no scheme operating.

                                        It is alleged that the BA group of companies was my group; that is not true. The BA group of companies consisted of a number of companies of which only two (Business Australia Capital Finance Pty Ltd and Business Australia Capital Mortgage Pty Ltd) were companies in which I had any interest.

                                        As part of the overall settlement and prior of the liquidation process of entities of which I had direct involvement in, I ensured that all legitimate creditors were paid. The ASIC RATA (and an independent auditor) confirms the same. To date, the creditor claims made initially still remain unproven.

                                        2. As to David Nicholson:-

                                        As to the allegation that "David and his wife invested $100,000 with Ian Lazar", I say that such allegation is false. Mr Nicholson and his wife lent $100,000 to a private company which owned a pub in Yass. Two months after the Nicholsons made such loan, the borrower went into default. My company Business Australia Capital Finance Pty Ltd was engaged to manage the recovery of such loans. Prior to that occurring, I had not met either Mr Nicholson or his wife. The company to which the Nicholsons lent money, to the best of my recollection, went into administration. The moneys were subsequently seized by the administrator of the borrower and the administrator's lawyers. Neither I nor any company in which I held an equitable interest, received any part of the $100,000 that was recovered.

                                        As to the allegation that "Steven Brown of Etienne Lawyers arranged with his client Ian Lazar to take David's money in fees owed in other matters", I say that I made no such arrangement with Steven Brown or his firm. I further say that Mr Nicholson has previously made this complaint to the Legal Services Commissioner. The gist of such complaint was that Etienne Lawyers, not me, had misappropriated the money. At Mr Nicholson's request I supplied him with a statement to assist him with his claim to the Legal Services Commissioner. I understand that the Legal Services Commissioner has not yet finalised his investigation into the matter.

                                        3. As to Kevin Jacobsen:

                                        (a) Senator Williams alleges that "Since the time Kevin Jacobsen first met Lazar, which was less than one year ago, he has lost all his businesses and had all his trading companies placed in liquidation". I admit that is true, but what Senator Williams did not disclose was as follows:-

                                        Kevin Jacobsen had been in extended litigation over many years with his brother, Colin Jacobsen (better known as "Col Joye"), and companies owned by Colin Jacobsen. He was ultimately not successful in that litigation, and had orders including orders for costs, made against him. Such costs orders were in favour not only of his brother, but also in favour of his own lawyers.

                                        Both Kevin Jacobsen and his wife declared themselves bankrupt because of their inability to meet such costs orders.

                                        Kevin Jacobsen and his wife currently face eviction from their home (which stands in Mrs Jacobsen's name) because of their failure to meet their mortgage obligations to their bank.

                                        Kevin Jacobsen has placed his own company, Kevin Jacobsen Pty Ltd, into liquidation.

                                        My association with Mr Jacobsen occurred when he was already in a state of extreme financial distress and he sought assistance from me to stop standover man, Jim Byrnes, from doing a sweetheart deal with the Sydney Harbour Foreshores Authority in respect of a dispute between one of Jacobsen's companies and the Sydney Harbour Foreshores Authority. I successfully case managed the litigation and substantially contributed funds for over two years which resulted in a successful outcome in favour of Mr Jacobsen's company.

                                        vi. I have yet to be paid the monies that are owed to me by Mr Jacobsen and for that reason, I appointed receivers over his company. That is what one does when one is owed money in corporate Australia.

                                        (b) Senator Williams has alleged that I stole Mr Jacobsen's car. I deny this and say the relevant facts are as follows:-

                                        One of Mr Jacobsen ' s companies, Kevin Jacobsen Pty Ltd, acquired a Lexus motor vehicle on hire purchase from Lexus Finance. His company was in default of hire purchase payments concerning the car to the tune of approximately $12,000. Mr Jacobsen was concerned that because his wife had guaranteed the hire purchase contract herself, that she would be sued for the arrears.

                                        At Mr Jacobsen's request, one of my companies paid off the $12,000.00 arrears on his behalf.

                                        At Mr Jacobsen ' s request, a motor vehicle dealer attempted to market the vehicle.

                                        At Mr Jacobsen ' s request, the motor vehicle was ultimately delivered to one of Mr Jacobsen ' s co-directors at Kevin Jacobsen Pty Ltd.

                                        Mr Jacobsen subsequently threatened me that unless I gave him certain financial benefits, he would use his connections in the NSW Police Force to allege that I had stolen the car. Eventually, he made good of this threat and reported me to the Police.

                                        I fully co-operated with the Police and through my solicitor, advised them of what had transpired in relation to the car.

                                        The Police fully investigated the matter. Their investigation did not result in me being charged with any offence.

                                        To the best of my knowledge, Mr Jacobsen's co-director still has the car.

                                        (c) Senator Williams has alleged that I fraudulently charged $84,000.00 to Mr Jacobsen's Amex Card. I say as follows:-

                                        Mr Jacobsen was engaged in Federal Court proceedings seeking to remove a liquidator who had been appointed to one of Mr Jacobsen's companies, Arena Management Pty Ltd.

                                        Mr Jacobsen was unable to meet the legal costs of such proceedings and sought my help to do so.

                                        Mr Jacobsen made a payment as part payment through his wife ' s credit card towards his legal costs.

                                        Mr Jacobsen was an authorised signatory on his wife ' s credit card account.

                                        All documentation relating to that credit card payment was signed by Mr Jacobsen.

                                        The totality of the transaction is evidenced in an exchange of e-mails between my office and Mr and Mrs Jacobsen.

                                        I am happy to co-operate with any investigation conducted by the Police, the Parliament, a Royal Commission or any other properly appointed regulatory authority; I have nothing to hide.

                                        I am, however, disappointed in the extreme that Senator Williams has chosen to grandstand by airing these complaints under parliamentary privilege before passing them to the AFP. If he thought I had been involved in wrongdoing, he should have simply referred the matter to the Police and thereby given me an opportunity to answer any questions the Police may have had of me. Procedural fairness would have been served.

                                        As it is, Senator Williams ' grandstanding has enabled the allegations which he aired under the protection of parliamentary privilege, to be rebroadcast by virtually every major newspaper in the country in circumstances where I do not get a proper right of reply or get an opportunity to bring court action to vindicate my name.

                                        The result of Senator Williams ' abuse of parliamentary privilege has been to cause severe and ongoing damage to my business, against which I have no recourse. I note that as an employer I have responsibilities to my employees, who rely on the ongoing viability of my business for their wages.

                                        I do not have a problem with the concept of parliamentary privilege. Responsibly used, it ensures political debate is not stifled. Senator Williams has not used it responsibly; as a matter of last resort after all other proper investigations have occurred. He has used it (before referring the matter to Police for investigation) to grandstand for his own purposes, regardless of the damage done to the livelihood of me and the employees for whom I am responsible.

                                        I am told that Senator Williams was given the information about my alleged business dealings by National Party figures in Queensland who had in turn been supplied them by Mark Mclvor of Equititrust Ltd. I am currently engaged in long running litigation with Equititrust. Both Equititrust and Mark Mclvor face an existential threat from such litigation. Mr Mclvor has adopted the strategy of raking up disaffected persons with whom I have done business and then having Senator Williams do his dirty work for him under the cover of parliamentary privilege.

                                        I note that standover man Jim Byrnes boasts that Mclvor was the best man at his wedding. I also note that Byrnes was a multi- million dollar borrower from Equititrust.

                                        If after reading this, Senator Williams still has the courage of his convictions, perhaps he could walk the few metres from his office to the steps outside parliament, and repeat his allegations. I challenge him to do so, then they could be tested on the level playing field that our courts afford, and both he and I can risk our respective houses on the outcome. If he no longer has the courage of his convictions, perhaps he could promptly give me an apology in the same forum in which he defamed me.

                                        I won ' t be holding my breath for him to do either.

                                        The committee reminds the Senate that in matters of this nature it does not judge the truth or otherwise of statements made by honourable senators or the persons referred to. Rather, it ensures that these persons' submissions, and ultimately the responses it recommends, accord with the criteria set out in privilege resolution 5.

                                        I commend the motion to the Senate.

                                        Question agreed to.

                                        4:13 pm

                                        Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                        On behalf of Senator Fifield, I present a report and alert digest of the Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills.

                                        Ordered that the report be printed.

                                        On behalf of Senator Birmingham, the deputy chair, I present the 120th report of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, Treaties tabled on 5 July and 16 August 2011. I seek leave to incorporate a tabling statement.

                                        Leave granted.

                                        The statement read as follows—

                                        Senate

                                        Tabling Statement

                                        Report 120:

                                        Treaties tabled on 5 July and 16 August 2011

                                        Senator Simon Birmingham

                                        Deputy Chair, Joint Standing Committee on Treaties

                                        For presentation on Tuesday 11 October 2011

                                        Mr President, today I present the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties' Report 120, which contains the Committee's views on, firstly, a series of treaties on Antarctic environmental and tourism issues which were tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament on 5 July 2011. The Report also reviews five taxation treaties and a social security treaty, which were tabled on 16 August 2011.

                                        Mr President, I intend to briefly comment on all the treaties dealt with in this report.

                                        Firstly, there are three proposed amendments to the Antarctic Treaty, which will:

                                              These amendments align with Australia's commitment to protecting the Antarctic environment.

                                              Mr President, I will now turn to the Agreement between Australia and the Republic of Hungary on Social Security.

                                              This treaty provides access to Hungarian age, disability or survivor's benefit for Australians of Hungarian descent who worked in Hungary long enough to establish an entitlement to these benefits.

                                              The Treaty also ensures that people who move between Australia and Hungary will have their entitlement to benefits recognised in both countries.

                                              Finally, Mr President, I would like to deal with the five tax treaties covered in the Report, which involve the Marshall Islands, Mauritius and Montserrat.

                                              These treaties are part of Australia's implementation of the Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD) standards on the elimination of harmful tax practices.

                                              The Committee supports these treaties as they are a powerful tool for transparency in international financial transfers.

                                              Previous tax treaties have resulted in a decline in fund flows from Australia of 80 per cent to Liechtenstein, 50 per cent to Vanuatu, and 22 per cent to Switzerland.

                                              I each case, the Committee concludes that these treaties should be supported with binding action.

                                              Mr President, I commend the report to the Senate.

                                              I move:

                                              That the Senate take note of the report.

                                              I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

                                              Leave granted; debate adjourned.

                                              4:14 pm

                                              Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                              On behalf of the respective chairs, I present additional information received by committees relating to the 2010-11 additional estimates hearings and the 2011-12 budget estimates hearings:

                                              Economics Legislation Committee––1 volume

                                              Environment and Communications Legislation Committee––3 volumes

                                              Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee––1 volume

                                              Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee––1 volume

                                              Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee––2 volumes

                                              The Clerk: Documents are tabled pursuant to statute. Details will be recorded in today's Journals of the Senate and the dynamic red. Letters of advice are tabled in response to the continuing order relating to departmental and agency appointments, vacancies and grants.

                                              Details of the documents appear at the end of today ' s Hansard.

                                              4:15 pm

                                              Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                              I present the 425th report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit and move:

                                              That the Senate take note of the report.

                                              I seek leave to have a tabling statement incorporated in Hansard.

                                              Leave granted.

                                              The statement read as follows—

                                              JOINT COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC ACCOUNTS AND AUDIT

                                              REPORT 425: ANNUAL REPORT 2010-11

                                              TABLING STATEMENT

                                              Senator Mark Bishop

                                              CANBERRA 12 OCTOBER 2011

                                              Mr President, on behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, I am pleased to present the Committee's Report 425: Annual Report 2010-11.

                                              The JCPAA is one of the oldest parliamentary committees. The Committee plays an important role within a parliamentary democracy with responsibility for providing oversight and scrutiny of public monies. This report showcases the activities undertaken by the Committee since the commencement of the 43rd Parliament, and the bi-partisan approach the Committee has taken in its work.

                                              Two of the most significant reports tabled by the Committee in 2010-11 were reports on the powers and role of the Auditor-General – Report 421: Role of the Auditor-General in Scrutinising Government Advertising, and Report 419: Inquiry into the Auditor-General Act 1997.

                                              The previous Committee recognised the Auditor-General had been performing additional functions and considered it timely to review the adequacy of the Auditor-General's powers in the current public sector environment. As a result of this review, the Committee put forward 13 recommendations directed at enhancing the power of the Auditor-General. These powers included to 'follow the dollar' giving the Auditor-General greater authority to audit non Commonwealth bodies receiving billions of dollars of Commonwealth funding. In line with the Committee's recommendations, a bill amending the Auditor-General's powers was introduced to the parliament shortly after the report's tabling. Once passed into law, this will ensure that Commonwealth funding is better accounted for and that taxpayers are receiving value for money. This shows the Committee's ability to use the Parliament to influence important changes to the nation's laws.

                                              Throughout 2010-11, the Committee continued its scrutiny of the financial affairs of Commonwealth authorities. This was achieved through the Committee's regular activities, which are to:

                                                    This work enables the Committee to publicly report on matters of interest to the Parliament and the public while empowering the Committee to recommend to agencies where improvements and changes need to be made. This Committee sees the importance of actively following-up on its and the ANAO's recommendations to ensure that the intended impact is being realised. To this end, the Committee will often request evidence from agencies to show they are making the recommended adjustments.

                                                    With the completion of the inquiry into the Auditor-General Act, the Committee commenced a new major policy inquiry into National Funding Agreements. Under the new federal financial framework, $45 billion from the Commonwealth flows to the states and territories. In light of these new arrangements, this inquiry is topical and important, reviewing the operation of funding agreements that are major determinants of how vital services in areas such as healthcare and education, are delivered throughout the country.

                                                    The annual report also details the findings of the Committee's ongoing reviews of ANAO reports. The Committee conducted reviews across a broad range of agencies and topics.

                                                    Notably, the Committee conducted inquiries into audit reports on controversial programs such as the Green Loans and Home Insulation Programs. The Committee also reviewed the ANAO's 'cross-portfolio' audit into Direct Source Procurement. The selection of this report for further examination shows how the Committee is using its mandate to broaden the scope of its scrutiny across the public sector in hope of more systemic improvements. The Committee was particularly concerned with the ANAO's findings of high levels of direct source procurement instead of more competitive procurement options, putting forward three recommendations in this area.

                                                    In total, the Committee made eight recommendations across the 14 ANAO reports chosen for detailed review. These recommendations will support continued enhancements in the administration of government programs and funds.

                                                    Other substantive work by the Committee was its review of the 2009-10 "Major Projects Report". The Committee received four submissions for its detailed examination of this report and also held a private briefing and public hearing with the Defence Materiel Organisation and the ANAO. The Committee tabled a report completing this inquiry in April 2011. The report demonstrates the JCPAA's commitment to enhance the Parliament's scrutiny of major defence projects with recommendations aimed to:

                                                          As highlighted in the annual report, the Committee geared up its scrutiny of tax administration issues in 2010-11, positioning itself to become a 'central monitoring and scrutiny body' of the Australian Taxation Office. In support of this, the Committee presented a report based on its eighth biannual hearing with the Commissioner of Taxation. This report is the first in a series of future reports in this area and included nine recommendations to the Australian Taxation Office. Recommendations were made across four main areas—service standards, compliance, policy development and external scrutiny.

                                                          Over the years, the Committee has been actively involved in broader engagements within the public accounts and audit space and as a member of the Australasian Council of Public Accounts Committees has taken the opportunity to attend the Council's biennial conferences. This platform has allowed members to engage with and share the experiences of the Committee with other like committees in Australia, and its international counterparts. In April this year, representations were made by the Committee Deputy Chair and the Committee Secretary at the Council's 11th biennial conference in Perth.

                                                          The activities performed by the Committee over the last financial year, show that from the onset, this newly formed Committee has actively exercised its oversight powers to scrutinise the use of public monies on the Parliament's behalf and to increase parliamentary and public awareness of government's operations. In particular, the annual report displays the Committee's ongoing commitment to hold to account Commonwealth agencies' expenditure of public funds, and ultimately, the Committee's influence on agencies to implement changes to support and drive improvements and efficiencies across the public service.

                                                          Looking forward, the Committee is taking steps to strengthen its visibility, reach and impact across the public sector. An example of this is the Committee recently calling upon external scrutiny bodies such as the ANAO, the Ombudsman, the Inspector General of Taxation and other peak industry and consumer bodies to participate in the biannual hearings with the Commissioner of Taxation. The Committee has also identified the need to work more closely with and support the work of other scrutiny bodies.

                                                          Mr President, the Committee is also readying itself for the additional duties it may perform next year with the proposed establishment of a Parliamentary Budget Office. This office will be a major addition to both the parliament's and the public's toolbox for building better policy and in pulling apart sometimes opaque budget and election costings. The JCPAA recognises the significance of such an Office and is looking forward to performing its future oversight functions. The Committee will be working to support the long term credibility of the Parliamentary Budget Office and its speedy establishment. This includes the appointment of a Parliamentary Budget Officer with the necessary expertise and gravitas to embed the Office in its rightful place as a central mechanism of this parliament.

                                                          With these achievements on record, I sincerely thank each Committee member for the spirit in which this valuable work has been completed. In particular, I would like to emphasise the bi partisan recommendations reached by Committee members who have acted as true parliamentarians, rather than just politicians, in scrutinising the government's performance.

                                                          Mr President, I commend the Report to the Senate.

                                                          Senator Mark Bishop

                                                          Question agreed to.

                                                          I present the 10th report of the Joint Committee on Publications.

                                                          Ordered that the report be adopted.

                                                          Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                          The President has received letters from party leaders requesting changes in the membership of committees.

                                                          Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                          by leave—I move:

                                                          That senators be discharged from and appointed to committees in accordance with the document circulated in the chamber.

                                                          The document read as follows—

                                                          Community Affairs Legislation Committee––

                                                          Appointed––

                                                          Substitute member:

                                                          Senator Urquhart to replace Senator Carol Brown on 21 October 2011

                                                          Participating member: Senator Carol Brown

                                                          Community Affairs References Committee––

                                                          Appointed––

                                                          Substitute member:

                                                          Senator Kroger to replace Senator Boyce on 19 and 20 October 2011

                                                          Participating member: Senator Boyce

                                                          Environment and Communications Legislation Committee––

                                                          Appointed––

                                                          Substitute member:

                                                          Senator Milne to replace Senator Waters for the committee's inquiry into the provisions of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency Bill 2011 and a related bill

                                                          Participating member: Senator Waters

                                                          Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee––

                                                          Appointed––

                                                          Substitute member:

                                                          Senator Mason to replace Senator Boyce on 17 and 18 October 2011

                                                          Participating member: Senator Boyce

                                                          Privileges—Standing Committee––

                                                          Appointed––Senator Ludlam.

                                                          Question agreed to.

                                                          Bills received from the House of Representatives.

                                                          Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                          I indicate to the Senate that these bills are being introduced together. After debate on the motion for the second reading has been adjourned, I shall move a motion to have the bills listed separately on the Notice Paper. I move:

                                                          That these bills may proceed without formalities, may be taken together and be now read a first time.

                                                          Question agreed to.

                                                          Bills read a first time.

                                                          I move:

                                                          That these bills be now read a second time.

                                                          I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

                                                          Leave granted.

                                                          The speeches read as follows—

                                                          Maritime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011

                                                          SECOND READING SPEECH

                                                          On 3 April 2010, while traversing a well know shipping route south of the Douglas Shoal in the region of the Great Barrier Reef, the Shen Neng 1 ran hard aground just east of Great Keppel Island.

                                                          The vessel's grounding caused damage to the coral reef on the Douglas Shoal and there was a spill of oil.

                                                          The impact caused the ship's fuel tanks to rupture and released approximately four tonnes of fuel oil into surrounding waters.

                                                          Fortunately, this oil spill was not severe and was broken down by the elements, chemically dispersed or contained and recovered.

                                                          While this incident was considered relatively minor, there was the potential for a significant oil spill.

                                                          If the salvage operation had been unsuccessful or the vessel had been more severely damaged as a result of the impact with the reef, the Shen Neng 1 incident could have resulted in a spill of up to 975 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and around 65,000 tonnes of coal causing significant environmental damage and requiring an extensive shoreline clean-up.

                                                          But the Shen Neng 1 is not the only example of environmental damage by a vessel in recent times.

                                                          A year earlier, on 11 March 2009, a Hong Kong China registered general cargo ship, the Pacific Adventurer, lost 31 containers of ammonium nitrate overboard east of Moreton Bay while enroute to Brisbane from Newcastle.

                                                          The fallen containers caused damage to the ship that resulted in the loss of more than 270 tonnes of heavy fuel oil.

                                                          This oil impacted significant portions of the south-east Queensland coast, in particular the eastern and northern beaches and headlands of the Moreton Island National Park, the eastern beaches of Bribie Island, the beaches and foreshores of the Sunshine Coast and small areas of the Brisbane River.

                                                          The majority of oiling occurred on sandy beaches in areas that have high tourism and community amenity value.

                                                          Clean-up operations continued for two months, with a total of about 2,500 people deployed for the entire clean-up, including workers from many State and Commonwealth agencies and community volunteers.

                                                          At the height of the response operation 400 personnel were working on Moreton Island each day.

                                                          Approximately 3,000 tonnes of sand contaminated with oil was removed from Moreton Island.

                                                          Considering the size of the oil spill very small numbers of wildlife were affected but the potential existed for many birds, turtles and sea snakes to be injured or worse.

                                                          These two incidents highlight the impact that pollution from ships can have on Australia's coastline and coastal waters.

                                                          At that time, I committed the Federal Government to improving safe navigation through the Great Barrier Reef marine park.

                                                          In April 2010 AMSA issued its report into the Shen Neng 1 grounding, titled Improving Safe Navigation in the Great Barrier Reef.

                                                          The Report made four recommendations:

                                                                  Since April last year we have implemented these recommendations.

                                                                  On 1 July this year I launched the extension of the REEFVTS to the southern boundary of the Great Barrier Reef.

                                                                  As part of the REEFVTS extension navigational aids within the Great Barrier Reef have been enhanced.

                                                                  For example, the North Reef Lighthouse north of Gladstone has been refurbished with new vessel tracking equipment.

                                                                  There is also a new under keel clearance management system for the restricted waters of the Torres Strait.

                                                                  This technological advance will show the best times and safest speeds for vessels to move through the area, making sure that there is a minimum level of water beneath the keel at all times.

                                                                  I understand this is the first time such a system has been developed for open water.

                                                                  In developing a whole of government management response to prevent such incidents in the future we have re-established the Great Barrier Reef Shipping Management Group.

                                                                  It has members from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Maritime Safety Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.

                                                                  This group plays a vital role in monitoring the new safety measures.

                                                                  Finally, the Bill I am introducing today delivers on the last element of the Government's commitment at the time of the Shen Neng 1 grounding.

                                                                  Large incidents are relatively rare however; the number of reported oil spills in Australian waters has averaged over 250 per annum over the last 10 years.

                                                                  While the majority of these oil spills are relatively minor, the potential impacts of these spills on the maritime industry, the environment, the tourist and fishing industries and the broader economy needs to be recognised.

                                                                  That is even before we consider the economic impact to some of Australia's most important export ports.

                                                                  99 per cent of Australia's international trade is carried by ships.

                                                                  Our ports manage 10 per cent of the world's entire sea trade.

                                                                  $200 billion worth of cargo is moved annually.

                                                                  There are over 25,000 voyages by ships to and around Australia each year.

                                                                  All this means that we need strong safety regulations and penalties when shipping companies ignore their responsibilities.

                                                                  This Bill will:

                                                                        There is a widely held view that Commonwealth penalties are too low to discourage violations.

                                                                        Currently, Commonwealth penalties for incidents like the Shen Neng 1 and Pacific Adventurer are inconsequential when you take into account the economic capacity of modern shipping companies.

                                                                        This Bill will amend Commonwealth legislation to ensure that our regulatory regime is strong enough to provide sufficient deterrent for shipping companies and their crews from engaging in unsafe and irresponsible actions at sea, particularly near environmentally sensitive marine ecosystems.

                                                                        Penalties for a corporation will be increased from $1.1 million to $11 million.

                                                                        This brings Commonwealth penalties into line with the States.

                                                                        This Bill brings in changes that will have a significant positive impact on our environment by influencing better practice in navigation and vessel operation in Australian waters.

                                                                        In April 2010, I said the Government's aim here is simple “to further deter shipping companies and their crews from engaging in unsafe and irresponsible actions at sea, particularly near environmentally sensitive marine ecosystems.”

                                                                        This Bill achieves that.

                                                                        Veterans ' Affairs Legislation Amendment (Participants In British Nuclear Tests) Bill 2011

                                                                        SECOND READING SPEECH

                                                                        I am pleased to present legislation that further improves the operation of Australia's repatriation system and provides improved access to compensation and health care for former Defence force members.

                                                                        This Bill will amend the Veterans' Entitlements Act and the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act.

                                                                        The Department has received claims from a small number of personnel who should be, but are not currently, eligible for compensation and health care under the Acts as a result of their participation in the British nuclear test program.

                                                                        The personnel were involved in the maintenance, transporting or decontamination of aircraft used in the British nuclear test program outside the currently legislated nuclear test areas or time periods.

                                                                        These amendments will facilitate and streamline access to compensation and health care for these Australian personnel, and any future claimants, who participated in the British nuclear test program conducted in the 1950s and 60s.

                                                                        This streamlining will be achieved by enabling the Repatriation Commission to determine, through a legislative instrument, additional eligibility criteria relating to participation in the British nuclear test program under both the Veterans' Entitlements Act and the Australian Participants in British Nuclear Tests (Treatment) Act.

                                                                        The quality of the records from the test period, and the secrecy surrounding the operation, means that it is impossible to rule out the likelihood that new information may come to light which warrants further extension of coverage to additional groups of participants.

                                                                        Streamlining will enable the Department to be more responsive to new information regarding personnel associated with, and tasks undertaken as part of, the British nuclear test program.

                                                                        The Bill will benefit Australian personnel who participated in the British nuclear test program, and their dependants, by enabling compensation and health care to be provided with a minimum of delay.

                                                                        These amendments are a demonstration of the Government's commitment to continually improve the services and support we provide to our current and former military personnel.

                                                                        Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.

                                                                        Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.

                                                                        4:19 pm

                                                                        Photo of Gary HumphriesGary Humphries (ACT, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Materiel) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        At the request of Senator Fifield, I move:

                                                                        That the Senate notes the failure of the Gillard Labor Government to maintain the confidence of the Australian people in its ability to protect our borders.

                                                                        To illustrate the point which this motion is making, I ask senators to cast their minds back to the scene a little over four years ago, when the Howard government relinquished office, with respect to border security and the arrival of unauthorised maritime vessels. Members of this place will recall that at that point in time there were very few boat arrivals. The average number of arrivals each year was something in the vicinity of three boats. The issue had largely gone off the radar of Australians and certainly Australian politicians. The government, which had opened an offshore processing centre on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, was able to close that centre because it was no longer necessary. The centre at Nauru opened by the government had very few people in it because the number of boats that were arriving necessitated very few people being detained at that centre.

                                                                        How much difference a short year or so makes. In August 2008 the new Rudd Labor government decided that it would change those settings with respect to migration. The new Rudd Labor government decided that it would allow for the closure of Nauru and allow for processing to resume onshore. It would now use the facility on Christmas Island, built by the previous government and described by the Labor Party in opposition as a white elephant, to start to process boat arrivals. The rest is history. In a little over three years since that policy announcement was made, 12,500-plus people have arrived on over 244 boats, pursuant to the collapse of the government's policy on protecting Australia's borders. We have gross overcrowding at Australia's detention facilities. New facilities have had to be opened onshore. We have seen rioting and disorder at those places. Litigation is besetting the Commonwealth government. There have been a series of unedifying negotiations with other nations to attempt to restore an offshore processing system. Most recently the government, which has comprehensively failed to manage the situation, announced and presented legislation to the parliament to the effect that one solution only was available and would work, and that was the offshore processing in Malaysia of migrants or asylum seekers arriving on this shore. I ask senators to consider what has transpired between the dismantling of the previous government's policy and today. I particularly ask honourable senators to consider how many iterations we have had of this government's policy on border protection and to consider how credible today this government might be on this question.

                                                                        We were told throughout the period of 2001 to 2007 that offshore processing did not work, that offshore processing was a failure. I recall one particular media release issued circa 2004 by the then shadow minister for immigration, one Julia Gillard, in which the headline read, 'Another boat, another policy failure.' It was a media release issued, incidentally, when the second boat for the year had arrived—shock, horror! Two boats in the course of one year was labelled by the Labor opposition then as policy failure.

                                                                        We were told that offshore processing would not work and so the government undid offshore processing in August 2008. It became obvious after a short period of time with the surge in boat arrivals that this was not going to work. So in 2010 the new Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, announced that the government would indeed be seeking to restore an offshore processing model and it would be based on an offshore processing centre in East Timor. Of course, it quickly became apparent that East Timor was not signed up to that idea and after a few months of negotiation, if you can call it that, the option fell over.

                                                                        So it went from, 'There will be no offshore processing,' to, 'Yes, we will have offshore processing.' But the option of East Timor fell over, so the government then started to look further afield. It rejected going to Nauru, where the previous government had a facility—and, indeed, those facilities still exist—because, we were told, Nauru was not a signatory to the UN convention on refugees and therefore an option based on Nauru was unacceptable. The government said, 'We could not go there. They didn't accept civilised values. We couldn't go to Nauru.' So the government looked at other places. It tried to set up a facility on Manus Island. For reasons not entirely clear to anybody, Manus Island appears not to be on the government's agenda at the moment. Eventually, a few months ago, the government announced it was going to adopt the Malaysian solution, that it would go to Malaysia. So it went from a position of saying, 'We don't believe in offshore processing,' to, 'Yes, maybe we do need offshore processing, but it has to be in East Timor,' to, 'Yes, we do want offshore processing, but it should now be on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea,' to, 'No, we cannot go to Nauru and, yes, we must go to Malaysia. Malaysia is not just the best solution available to us but the only solution. No other place is acceptable as a reception point for asylum seekers arriving on Australia's shores. It has to be Malaysia.'

                                                                        The government comes to this parliament and says, 'After all those iterations of our policy, we have now got it right. We now know what the solution is and you must pass our legislation. Yes, we did tell you that offshore processing did not work, but now we believe that it does. Yes, we did tell you that we as a nation could not possibly deal with a country which has not signed the UN convention on refugees, but now we think that we can.' This government has had no consistency with its position. It has no credibility. It cannot be trusted now to explain to the Australian people how border protection policy has collapsed and collapsed totally. Like freshly caught fish at the bottom of a boat, thrashing about and breathing desperately for life, this government's policy is dying before the eyes of the Australian people. The lack of any vestigial remnants of credibility on this policy is painfully obvious to all who have observed the situation the government has put itself in.

                                                                        This is reinforced by the Newspoll published earlier this week in which a paltry 17 per cent of Australians expressed confidence in the Labor Party to solve the issue of asylum seekers arriving in Australia. That is an appalling indication of how totally the Australian people's confidence in this government has fallen. Of all the areas of public policy listed in that poll, none recorded a lower level of public confidence than the government's treatment of asylum seekers. For the government to maintain that the parliament must pass this legislation now, given the complete collapse of its credibility in this area, is breathtaking in its audaciousness.

                                                                        There were other iterations in all of this. At one stage the government promised a coast guard. They were going to protect Australia's borders with coast guard vessels which were going to ensure that somehow these people smugglers would not be able to ply their trade. We learnt that that was going to be based on three vessels. Three vessels were to protect 34,000 kilometres of coastline from the arrival of people by boat. It was such a ridiculous policy. I do not think it even made it to the 2007 election it was so lacking in credibility.

                                                                        We have in front of us now, amidst the smoky ruins of policies, a policy to send people to Malaysia. The Senate has had the opportunity through its Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee to examine what this option actually means. In examining the evidence, the committee was overwhelmed by the inappropriateness of this option. It was not hard to discern a drift on the part of the witnesses and the submitters to the inquiry because there was only one class of witnesses and submitters—one that said that this option was not going to work. Every single witness and every single submission said the same thing. The result was a report which justifiably came to the conclusion—indeed, on the available evidence must have come to the conclusion—that the option was simply not the right one for Australia to pursue. It was based in part on the evidence of appalling conditions in Malaysia with respect to the treatment of asylum seekers: the mistreatment of those people in a country which does not recognise legal rights for asylum seekers or refugees; the caning of people in those places in cruel conditions; the fact that women often have to sell themselves into prostitution to support their families because they are not legally, as asylum seekers, entitled to work in that country; and other privations and unacceptable conditions which any civilised nation ought to shy away from, not embrace.

                                                                        That stands in contrast to the proposals that were working on Nauru under the previous government, which the federal coalition would return to if elected to government. If Australia itself were again running the facility on Nauru, as it did under the Howard government, all of those horrendous circumstances prevailing in Malaysia could be avoided.. We could guarantee that people would not be caned, that people would be treated fairly and that there would be proper education, health care and so forth for those detained. But this government persists, or at least we think it persists. We are yet to discover what the government is going to do today. We are aware of rumours that the government's policy is being reconsidered as we speak in this chamber. Perhaps it will not be long before the members of the Labor Party in this place support what I am saying and accept that Malaysia is not the right solution. Who knows? That might be the outcome of a meeting which is underway in the building at the moment.

                                                                        The government has proffered countless excuses as to why it cannot return to the proven, successful policies of the previous government. The explanation that we could not deal with a country that had not signed the refugee convention fell over some time ago when we discovered that Malaysia would not sign the convention but Nauru would. It is in the process of ratifying it at the moment. We were told that Nauru did not previously work because most people, it was asserted, who were sent to Nauru ended up in Australia as permanent residents anyway. We know that is also not true. We know that assertion excludes those people who were sent to Nauru but were found not to be refugees. That is one of the reasons for sending people to Nauru: so it is easier to ensure that you can process people and exclude from consideration those who are not found to be genuine refugees. Others who were found to be refugees were not sent to Australia. So in fact the total percentage of those who were sent to Nauru who came to Australia as permanent residents was something in the order of 43 per cent.

                                                                        Whether that figure is high or low enough to satisfy the critics of the Nauru policy is irrelevant because it succeeded at another much more important level. It succeeded because it discouraged the people smugglers. It prevented the people smugglers from being able to offer a product. We know that for a fact because from 2001, when the Pacific solution was implemented, the boat numbers plummeted. As many people arrived in the succeeding six years under the Howard government under this so-called unsuccessful Nauru policy as have arrived in a single month under the failed Rudd-Gillard policy. That is in my view a very clear success. We were told that Nauru was a very expensive option and that it would cost us a lot of money. Towards the end of the period of the Howard government when it was possible to close the Manus Island centre—there were so few boats arriving it was not necessary any longer and there were very few people in Nauru—this policy was costing something in the order of $200 million a year. Today, the policy of this government is costing more than $1 billion a year—$1 billion to handle the government's policy of failure.

                                                                        I ask honourable senators to put the question to themselves: how much better could Australia do if it spent that $1 billion on other things in relation to the plight of refugees around the world? Imagine if we, by returning to a policy that was not so expensive, could invest that $1 billion in improving conditions in refugee camps, in improving education and health in those places and in dealing with the extreme needs of people in those places, rather than catering exclusively to the clients of people smugglers. Perhaps we could even increase our own humanitarian resettlement program. We would have the support of the Australian public to do that because they would see that we were in control of that policy; we were not victims of circumstance. That is another very important point about why this policy has failed. With that 17 per cent figure attached to the government's policy on asylum seekers, we have seen a collapse in public confidence in the ability of government to handle these issues properly. That sometimes can feed intolerance on the part of Australians towards asylum seekers. That is a very serious concern. It is important for the government to recover control of this system and confidence in its handling of it. The fact that the people of Australia are not confident in this government's handling of this policy is contributing to the problem we see in the Australian community with intolerance towards refugees.

                                                                        We could measure the extent of the government's failure by those opinion polls, but there is another much more sobering and sadder way of measuring the failure of this government's policy—that is, by the extent of the deaths this policy has led to. It has been reasonably estimated, on the basis of the minister's own estimate of failed journeys from Indonesia and other places, that at least 400 people have died on the seas between Australia and the rest of the world attempting unsuccessfully to reach these shores. We saw some of those people die on our television screens last December when an asylum seeker vessel that was approaching Christmas Island crashed on its shores and 50 lives were lost. As sad as the loss of those lives were, they were not the full extent of the lives lost under this government's policies. There must have been at least another 350 people—probably more—in that category. That is a compelling, powerful reason to end this failed policy.

                                                                        The Australian people are now hearing the government claim that, for all its different versions of what the right policy is, it has now got it correct. But the more Australians hear about the horrendous implications of sending asylum seekers to Malaysia, the clearer it is that this policy is also not going to work, quite apart from the fact that, under the swap arranged with Malaysia, the 800 people whom we are to send to Malaysia have already arrived in Australia. The quota which justifies Malaysia sending 4,000 people has already been met. So people smugglers who follow these issues would realise that more asylum seekers after that 800 will not be affected by the arrangement. It cannot work; it is doomed to failure. But I do not need to tell the government that. It is smart enough to realise that the Australian public knows that as well. The Australian public knows that this policy is falling apart in front of us. Give it a decent burial is my advice. Put it to rest. Go back to a policy which works and is more humane. It is galling, I know, to have to say that from your own lips, but it is true. It is more humane, it will fix the problem, and it is time that you went back to a policy that works.

                                                                        4:39 pm

                                                                        Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I speak in opposition to this motion on border protection. I do so because this government has done more than any other government in modern history in Australia to protect our nation's borders. This government has done more than any other government in modern history to develop a workable, long-lasting, sustainable, regional solution to what is a very difficult and emotive area of public policy—a solution which, in our view, would prioritise an approach to a humanitarian intake of refugees to our nation. Such an approach would give priority to the principle that the Australian government has the right—as many other nations in the world have—to control our immigration intake. What have we seen from the opposition on this particularly important area of public policy? Nothing more than blatant opportunism and blatant opposition for the sake of opposition—a complete trashing of the notion and the tradition that the government should have the right to control the intake of immigrants to this nation. That is a right which has been established over many, many decades in our great Federation.

                                                                        The Gillard government is committed to strong border protection and an orderly migration program. That is why we have maintained the excision of offshore islands and maintained an offshore processing regime and mandatory detention of irregular maritime arrivals for rigorous health, security and identity checks. Australia's borders are well managed and they are secure. Labor established the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to provide a single point of accountability for the 15 government agencies directly and indirectly involved in maritime border security and to ensure that all agencies are coordinated to respond to the full range of border threats. These new arrangements have worked effectively, with better coordination between agencies now guided by Australia's first comprehensive strategic border management plan. This plan ensures that border security agencies operate as a coherent whole working towards joint rather than individual agency priorities.

                                                                        Labor has invested more than any other government in protecting our borders and detecting unauthorised boats. Over the last two budgets we have invested more than $1.8 billion towards stronger border and aviation security and, indeed, combating people smuggling. Labor has also increased investigatory and intelligence resources in the AFP People Smuggling Strike Team. We funded the Customs and Border Protection Service and the AFP to work with their law enforcement counterparts in countries including Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. We have provided $24.8 million to help our regional law enforcement partners stop the business of people smuggling, including extra boat patrols, surveillance aircraft and communications equipment for the Indonesian National Police to detect and disrupt people-smuggling ventures in Indonesian waters.

                                                                        Under this government, more than 200 people have been arrested and prosecuted in Australia in connection with people-smuggling ventures. That is 200 people who are not involved in this insidious trade of asking vulnerable people to risk their lives on the open ocean. In addition to that, we have had more than 100 arrests in other countries in the region based on the work of our law enforcement agencies in cooperation with those areas. In cooperation with our regional counterparts, Australian agencies have disrupted more than 200 people-smuggling ventures, with more than 5,000 foreign nationals prevented from coming to our shores by illegal means. In 2010, we introduced tough new people-smuggling offences. They included penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment and mandatory minimum terms of up to eight years. We legislated to give ASIO enhanced powers to investigate people smuggling and other serious border security threats and to collect foreign intelligence about people smugglers and their networks. We have also cracked down on remittance dealers being used to finance people smuggling.

                                                                        We believe in a border protection policy that is an effective deterrent to people smuggling. We believe that to provide an effective deterrent we need to work with our regional partners. We need to establish a regional architecture that ensures that people do not make these dangerous boat journeys and potentially end up on the rocks at Christmas Island. To ensure this we have been working with countries in the region to put in place strong people-smuggling laws. We welcome moves in several countries, including Indonesia, to criminalise people smuggling.

                                                                        Labor supports strong border protection and increased opportunities for genuine refugees. The focus of our policy is prioritising genuine refugees who have been identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who have been sitting in camps for up to 10 years. Those that have been identified as genuine refugees are the priority of Labor policy. Since 2007 Labor has detected and intercepted more than 99 per cent of boat arrivals before they have reached the mainland. We have overseen the offshore arrests of more than 270 people-smuggling suspects. We have invested in eight new Cape class patrol vessels, strengthening our fleet of 18 ships and 17 aircraft devoted to working on tackling this difficult public policy issue. We have reached agreement with Afghanistan and the UNHCR on returning unsuccessful Afghan asylum seekers. We have worked with the Malaysian, Pakistani, Thai, Indonesian and Sri Lankan police to break up people-smuggling rings.

                                                                        Importantly, we support genuine refugees. This is evidenced by the fact that Australia will increase its humanitarian visa program to 14,750 people a year should the new legislation be passed. We believe that the claims for protection of those who can afford to pay a people smuggler are no greater than the claims of those who cannot afford to do so.

                                                                        There are 15 million refugees throughout the world. We need a regional solution to what is very much a regional problem. Australia will always only take a small share of the world's asylum seekers. What we have done through the Bali process is to set in train a regional process here which takes into account the nearly 100,000 asylum seekers in the Thai camps, which takes into account those waiting in Malaysian camps and which tries to recognise that we have got to shut down this insidious trade of people smuggling. The Bali process remains the only grouping in our region which comprehensively addresses the challenges of people smuggling and human trafficking.

                                                                        Labor's border protection policies deliver. They deliver a fairer and orderly migration system for an increased refugee intake and for secure national borders and enforcement of Australian laws. Labor's policies aim to break the people-smuggling business model and discourage dangerous boat journeys before they start.

                                                                        In the wake of the High Court decision, the Gillard government did what any good government would do. We acted quickly, we acted decisively and we took the advice of experts. We came up with amendments to the Migration Act which are workable but which importantly re-establish the principle, the tradition in Australia, that the government has the right to control its border protection policy, that the government has the right to control the numbers of those that come to our nation as refugees. It is consistent with a policy approach set down as a tradition by governments of the past but also consistent with international practices of many governments which are signatories to the United Nations convention.

                                                                        To do this we offered amendments to the Migration Act that were workable—the clearest possible deterrent to people smugglers. This did involve an agreement with Malaysia as the principal architecture for ensuring this. We believed that this would send a clear message not to get on a boat, because you would not end up in Australia. It is a genuine regional solution made under the auspices of the Regional Cooperation Framework. Importantly, it was shaped with the cooperation, guidance and involvement of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It did have the potential to improve conditions for refugees throughout the region and it would have seen an increase in Australia's humanitarian intake. Most importantly, it would have re-established that principle that the Australian government has the right to control our borders and the intake of immigrants to our nation.

                                                                        In the wake of this announcement, what did the Leader of the Opposition do? He made it very clear that he simply does not care about the lives of innocent asylum seekers. He is more interested in petty political point scoring. Meanwhile, the lives of women and children are being risked on the open seas. By opposing the government's efforts to amend the Migration Act, the Leader of the Opposition effectively gave a green light to the insidious trade of people smuggling. The people smugglers responsible for these boats have obviously received the Leader of the Opposition's message. As long as the opposition blocks these amendments to the Migration Act, it will leave open the possibility that the boats will keep coming, which would leave open the very real prospect of another— (Quorum formed)

                                                                        As long as the opposition continues to block the very sensible amendments proposed by the government to the Migration Act, it will leave open the possibility of the boats continuing to come. That, of course, leaves open the very real possibility of another Christmas Island incident. We simply cannot allow that to occur. We all saw the terrible footage of those involved in that tragic accident. When I saw the footage of that crowded boat being battered against the rocks in the ocean, and women and children being flung overboard and hanging on for their lives, I, like many, felt an overwhelming urge to dive into the water and help and protect those people. But of course we could not.

                                                                        I have spent 26 years as a surf lifesaver, and that is the sort of thing you have nightmares about: watching a tragedy unfold before your eyes but being able to do absolutely nothing about it. We on this side believe that there is something we can do about it. There is something we as a nation could have done to ensure that vulnerable people do not end up in this situation, and that would have been to ensure the passage of the very sensible amendments to the Migration Act.

                                                                        But what have we seen from the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott? He has been blocking that effort. He might as well have been standing on the docks himself in those red budgie smugglers, ushering in the boats, saying, 'Come on in.' Usually, the red budgie smugglers are a sign of security. They are a sign of a person who is there to help—a lifesaver, a person with good intentions. But in the case of the Leader of the Opposition, when it comes to this very important public policy area, that could not be further from the truth. The opposition insists on making a mockery of this issue. Their refusal to face the facts and to accept the advice of experts is simply arrogant.

                                                                        Let us be fair to those opposite: they are just blindly following their leader, just as they have done on the issue of the emissions trading scheme. They used to believe in emissions trading, but now most of them no longer do. Why? Because the Leader of the Opposition has changed his view. Now they are blindly following their leader on the migration issue as well. And they are too egotistical to admit that they are wrong on this and that they are not forward thinking. They will not re-establish the principle that the executive level of the government has the right to determine the immigration policies for our borders.

                                                                        The government offered the advice of experts on this issue. We offered a briefing to the Leader of the Opposition from the head of the immigration department, Andrew Metcalfe, a person whom the former immigration minister, Amanda Vanstone, has described as a 'first-class public servant'—a first-class public servant, dispensing wise advice to a government. He offered the advice to the Leader of the Opposition, and that advice was quite simply that Nauru will not work. But what does the Leader of the Opposition do? He ignores the advice of experts. The Leader of the Opposition has been told on several occasions that Nauru is not a workable alternative policy. Nauru will not work, because it is too costly, because it is an ineffective model and because it is not an effective deterrent to people smuggling. It will not stop asylum seekers risking their lives or the vulnerable getting on those boats and paying people smugglers, and it will not stop that trade to this country.

                                                                        Here they all are, struggling to make this argument. Nauru does not break the people-smuggling trade. We know that from the facts. You simply have to look at the statistics. About 68 per cent of those resettled from Nauru were resettled in Australia. A massive 95 per cent of those resettled from Nauru ended up in either Australia or New Zealand. In terms of the Pacific solution, 96 per cent of those resettled from either Nauru or Manus Island ended up in Australia or New Zealand. We also know that 61 per cent of those resettled from either Nauru or Manus Island settled in Australia alone. The opposition refuse to accept the current estimate on the cost of Nauru as a processing centre, which is about $1 billion in operational costs alone. The Leader of the Opposition refuses to accept that Nauru is ineffective and expensive. The opposition know it and they just will not admit it.

                                                                        Then we had the issue of 'boat phone'. What a wonderful public policy response that was to this very difficult issue! Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, would simply get on the phone and turn the boats around. He failed to understand that the nature of the problem had fundamentally changed and that unfortunately we are not dealing with civil human beings here. What did those who involve themselves in people smuggling do in response to that? They simply disabled the boats. They punched holes in them and allowed people to potentially drown, and they potentially put at risk our armed services and those involved in coastal protection.

                                                                        The UNHCR made it abundantly clear that the Nauru solution just involved dumping Australia's problem on small Pacific islands. It is quite clear through this motion that Nauru will not work, that those opposite do not care about border protection, that those opposite fail to understand— (Time expired)

                                                                        5:02 pm

                                                                        Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I rise too today to contribute on general business notice of motion No. 485, in relation to border security. The bad news for Australians is this: despite the comments of the previous speaker, Senator Thistlethwaite, in which he continually referred to the Gillard government's border security 'policy', unless the Prime Minister is currently doing a press conference the Australian Labor Party do not have a border security policy. Had you worked that one out yet? Do you remember that this morning you had an urgent cabinet meeting because you are in such disarray when it comes to protecting Australia's borders? Do you recall that you have all just been at a 4.15 pm caucus meeting to discuss what you are actually going to do by way of a policy? The Australian Labor Party, the current government, are in a situation that no other government in the history of Australia has ever been in: they do not have a policy in relation to the protection of Australian borders. Not only was their latest policy solution, the Malaysia solution, thrown out by the other place when a vote was taken on it, and not only has the High Court had a look at their latest policy solution, the Malaysia solution, and thrown it out; they actually cannot bring the legislation into the parliament. Do you know why they cannot bring the legislation into the parliament? Because they do not have the support for it.

                                                                        A number of members of the left wing of the Labor Party last night were probably celebrating and drinking their chardonnay, which they like so dearly—if they were not bathing in it; whether they were drinking in it or bathing in it I am not quite sure—when the Prime Minister had to go to them and say, 'I can't bring the legislation on tomorrow, because the government will actually fail; we do not have the numbers.' The reason that they do not have the numbers is that, without a doubt, the so-called Malaysia solution is one of the most disgraceful policies that has ever been brought before this place. For the left of the Labor Party to have even been entertaining the idea that they would sit on that side of the parliament and vote for the Malaysia solution just shows that they are prepared to compromise every principle that they have ever held dear.

                                                                        Since the inception of the Commonwealth in 1901, the first and foremost responsibility of a Commonwealth government has been the protection of Australia's borders, to ensure the security of its nation and its people. This is a fundamental responsibility of the nation's Commonwealth government, and it is a fundamental responsibility which every government other than the former Rudd government and the current Gillard government has taken seriously. A government, when it is elected, has some very clear choices to make. One of those choices is whether or not it will discharge its fundamental responsibility of protecting Australia's borders and ensuring the security of the nation of Australia. If a government is serious about discharging its fundamental responsibilities, it will take policy steps to ensure that this important portfolio area is not compromised. If you look at the track record of the former Rudd Labor government and the current Gillard Labor government, you will see that both governments have failed dismally when it comes to their first responsibility to the people of Australia. We now have a situation whereby the Australian Labor Party are confronting an institutional failure in their border protection policies. Why? Because when they were elected to office in 2007 they deliberately chose to commence a wind back of the proven border protection policies of the former Howard governments.

                                                                        When the Labor Party were elected to office they inherited a solution. Let's not start talking about the $22 billion in the bank that they inherited. Let's not start talking about the billions of dollars in future funds that they inherited. Let us talk about the fact that in relation to border protection they inherited a solution. Under the former Howard government, we stopped the boats coming to Australia. As the former Speaker said his own government wanted to do, we broke the people-smugglers model. We instituted strong and effective policies. We stopped the boats.

                                                                        When those on the other side were elected to office in November 2007 they inherited a solution. What did they decide to do with that solution? A little like the $22 billion surplus, a little like the future funds that we actually shed blood over to create whilst paying off Labor debt, which was in excess of $96 billion, they decided: 'We were given a solution, but we are smarter. All the coalition did was stop the boats. All the coalition did was break the people-smugglers model. We are so smart and we will do it one better.' I do not know what that one better was meant to be. What did the other side do?

                                                                        In 2008, the Labor Party took steps to wind back our strong border protection policies. I would say that that is possibly one of the most stupid acts ever undertaken by a government in Australia. Why do I say that? The statistics prove that that is exactly what that act by the Labor Party was. The Labor government abolished the Howard government's strong, proven and effective border protection policies—and that was only in August 2008, not that long ago in the scheme of things—and over 12,000 people have jumped on boats and attempted the treacherous journey to Australia. Two hundred and forty-one boats have arrived in Australian waters. That is a successful policy if ever I heard of one, especially when their stated objective is to stop the boats! Twelve thousand people on 241 boats, and what is worse is that the Labor government have only been able to remove three per cent of those 12,000 people because they have failed, yet again, to negotiate return agreements with other countries.

                                                                        In Senator Thistlethwaite's contribution to this debate, he raised a number of issues in relation to Nauru. He said that Nauru was not a valid option for three reasons. He said it was not effective. That is just plain wrong because, again, in 2007 zero people came to Australia and, unless my recollection is incorrect, we had offshore processing on, lo and behold, Nauru. The argument put forward by Senator Thistlethwaite that Nauru was not effective is just plain wrong. He also said that Nauru was more expensive than the Labor government's policy. He quoted a figure of $1 billion. Senator Thistlethwaite, $1 billion to reopen Nauru and keep it running is far less expensive than the $1 billion of taxpayers' money that the Labor Party are wasting every year in cost blow-outs in the area of immigration policy. The current Labor government have had more than $3 billion of taxpayer's money in that area and they have thrown it up against a wall, because they could not leave the border protection laws in Australia alone.

                                                                        The third point that Senator Thistlethwaite made was that we could not do it because the High Court said that Nauru was wrong. Yet again that is just plain wrong. That is not what the High Court said. The High Court made it quite clear, and the coalition received legal advice from the former Solicitor-General that Nauru was not impacted by the High Court's decisions for some very salient reasons. One of those reasons was that the asylum seekers on Nauru were overseen by Australians. We were able to ensure that the human rights of those people sent to Nauru were actually upheld because Australians were working on Nauru. That is very, very different to the current arrangement, which is no longer an arrangement as of this morning because there is no Malaysia solution. But the government of Australia did manage to negotiate an agreement with Malaysia—a rather strange agreement because we send them up to 800 and we get 4,000 back. It is an agreement with a country that is not a signatory to the UNHCR treaty and clause 16 of the transfer arrangement negotiated between the parties specifically states that the agreement is not legally binding. Clause 16 states that this agreement represents merely the political aspirations of the party. How absolutely fantastic! The last time I checked, if something was not 'legally binding' it meant that neither party was able to enforce its obligations under the agreement. But the Labor Party, the champion of those in need, does not seem to care about that. It does not seem to care at all.

                                                                        What is worse, though, in relation to the Malaysia solution, which we really should not be calling a solution, based on what is currently occurring down in the caucus room—Senator Mason, do you have an update for me? Does the Labor Party have a border protection policy? Has there been an announcement?

                                                                        Senator Mason interjecting

                                                                        Okay, there has not been an announcement so we are still in the situation where there is no border protection policy in Australia. But what is worse is that over 1,200 people have arrived in Australia since the Malaysia solution was announced. Remember, the deal was good for only 800 people. What did the Labor Party do? They slightly reworded what they were going to do and said, 'No, no, it was not since the agreement was announced; it was since the parties signed the agreement'. So, 1,200 people have arrived since the solution that is neither a solution nor a policy was announced. The solution was only good for up to 800 people since it was signed, and guess what? Guess how many people have now arrived in Australia since the two parties signed the agreement? That would be just shy of 800—730. One more boat, which may have left Indonesia and be arriving shortly, and guess what? The Malaysia solution is all over before it has even begun.

                                                                        The government can stand up and say, if and when it manages to get this legislation through, 'By the way, 800 people who arrive here all know—' But guess what? They have already arrived. Do you know who I feel good for? That is lucky No. 801. Do you know who I feel really bad for? No. 800. Can you only imagine? 'No. 800, you are off to Malaysia, but you, No. 801, have won the Labor Party border protection jackpot. You get to stay in Australia.' That is absolutely farcical and does not in any way represent responsible border protection policy in Australia.

                                                                        It is not just those on this side of the chamber who have consistently criticised the stance that the Labor Party has taken on the Malaysia solution. Only yesterday in the chamber I had to remind those on the other side who were not from Victoria that the Victorian branch of the ALP had voted unanimously—yes, unanimously—to urge the Labor caucus to reject the so-called Malaysia solution. The last time I checked, none of us were in the Victorian branch of the ALP so that must mean the Victorian branch of the ALP does not support the current federal government's policies. But it went further than that. What did Michele O'Neil, the National Secretary of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia, have to say about the government's Malaysia solution? A big supporter of the Labor Party is dear Ms O'Neil, and she had this to say:

                                                                        This is a shameful moment for us as a party.

                                                                        Again, that was not anybody on this side of the chamber saying that—that was a staunch Labor Party supporter.

                                                                        Let us not forget the emotional pleas made both publicly and behind closed doors in caucus by Labor elder statesman Senator John Faulkner. He is someone you might say those in the Labor Party should be minded to listen to. It did not stop there. You had Left faction convenor, Senator Doug Cameron. Maybe he was one of those who was celebrating last night that Mr Crook was not going to support the government's Malaysia solution. And it did not stop there. We all know Senator Gavin Marshall is passionately against the Labor government's Malaysia solution. They all came out against the current government's policy.

                                                                        Again, they are not on this side of the chamber—they are not us. I am quoting directly from members of the ALP, the Victorian ALP and a member of a union. All of them are opposed to the position that the government has taken on Malaysia. But it does not stop there. The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee had an inquiry into the Malaysia solution. If you go online and read the submissions to the inquiry, all of them oppose the government's Malaysia solution. Then we have the Monash University research, which shows that only 7.3 per cent of Australians think that the government is doing an okay job when it comes to border security.

                                                                        Photo of Brett MasonBrett Mason (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        How many?

                                                                        Photo of Michaelia CashMichaelia Cash (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        It is 7.3 per cent. What does that mean? It means that 92.7 per cent of Australians are not happy with the job that Labor is doing in relation to border protection. Let us not start quoting statistics on just how upset the public is about the fact that the carbon tax went through the House of Representatives yesterday. It would appear patently obvious to everybody, except those in the Labor Party, that their direction on border protection policy is inadequate and unacceptable.

                                                                        Over 12,000 people have arrived since the Labor Party wound back the Howard government's proven policies. Over 1,200 people have arrived since the Labor Party announced the so-called Malaysia solution. Let us not forget that the Malaysia solution was on top of the failed East Timor solution, which was on top of discussions that we may or may not have been having at any particular point in time with PNG, which were on top of—the list goes on and on. Some 1,200 boat people have arrived since the deal was announced. The deal is only good for 800 people and we are already at 730—and the deal has not even started. One more boat and it is all over—before it has even begun. The coalition's approach of processing on Nauru, reintroducing temporary protection visas and turning boats back when it is safe to do so is the only way forward. The Labor Party just cannot seem to swallow its pride and do something effective. (Time expired)

                                                                        5:23 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ursula StephensUrsula Stephens (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        We are in an extraordinary position today simply because of the recent High Court decision. Until that ruling was made, we were in the same place as the opposition on this issue. We were in the same place in that we were all supporting an offshore processing regime based around the outcomes of the Bali process—the ministerial conferences on people smuggling. The Fourth Bali Regional Ministerial Conference supported the Malaysia approach in the sense that the conference, co-chaired by Australia and Indonesia and held in March this year, agreed that there needed to be:

                                                                        … an inclusive but non-binding regional cooperation framework would provide a more effective way for interested parties to cooperate to reduce irregular movement through the region.

                                                                        The conference also agreed:

                                                                        … where appropriate and possible, asylum seekers should have access to consistent assessment processes, whether through a set of harmonised arrangements or through the possible establishment of regional assessment arrangements, which might include a centre or centres, taking into account any existing sub-regional arrangements.

                                                                        I was quite horrified by two things about Senator Cash's speech. The first was the fact that nothing in her 20-minute tirade actually reflected on the extraordinary situation of people who find themselves seeking asylum in Australia. Honestly, I gasped at the fact that there was not a single ounce of compassion in anything that she said. She used expressions like 'being able to remove people quickly' and 'not being able to articulate and act on return agreements'—returning people to where they came from.

                                                                        One of the most gut-wrenching stories I have heard—from the previous government's regime—was about the return of heavily pregnant women to China. Once they were returned to China—forced by the previous government—they had to endure late term abortions. Let us just think about the real circumstances of people coming to Australia and let us think about what a return to Nauru and temporary protection visas reflects. That is the opposition's position here. That is really what they want to see; that is how they think they are going to turn the boats back. What that policy effectively did—and we know this from all the submissions from several inquiries—was send people mad. It destroyed them and damaged them for life. It stressed people—and not just the asylum seekers themselves. It distressed and stressed the people who had to care for them; it distressed and stressed officials. It created a permanent sense of displacement amongst people who were seeking asylum from circumstances in their own countries which were pretty horrific.

                                                                        The driving of this debate to such a space, to such a level, is fundamentally bottom feeding. It is bottom feeding on the perils, the misery and the concerns of these people. What should we be doing instead? I will quote from someone from the other side of politics, the former Liberal member for Kooyong, Petro Georgiou, who last month wrote that it was:

                                                                        an indictment of Australian politics—

                                                                        I so agree with this—

                                                                        that refugees are being treated as human footballs.

                                                                        He says that there is a very obvious way we need to go. When you think about these things, this is exactly what the government has been trying to prosecute. Petro Georgiou suggests:

                                                                        The first step is to recognise that boat arrivals, regardless of punitive measures, will continue.

                                                                        You only have to look at what is happening all around the world. You cannot ignore what is happening in the rest of the world. You cannot put a metaphorical fence around our borders and say that no-one can come here, because people are desperate. They are in desperate straits, fleeing persecution, fleeing tyranny, fleeing circumstances that we cannot even begin to imagine. We cannot deny that people have a right to seek asylum and a right to try to escape their circumstances. Petro Georgiou goes on to say:

                                                                        The second step is to explain to the Australian people why humane treatment of boat arrivals is not a threat.

                                                                        That is really true. As Petro Georgiou says, we need:

                                                                        … to inform Australians about the number of arrivals, who they are, how we determine they are genuine, and the persecution to which they have been subjected.

                                                                        And, I would add, we need to inform Australians about how their processing is being managed. Petro Georgiou's article continues:

                                                                        The third step is to reach agreements with regional nations that give them some degree of comfort … relieve the pressure on them and make for a more orderly process, and hopefully reduce the number of people coming on unseaworthy crafts.

                                                                        Quite frankly, that is what this was all about. That is what the Malaysia solution seeks to do: it seeks to consider the issues of the millions of displaced people in the world, to share the load, to create an orderly process and to provide disincentives. I remember when the Prime Minister announced the agreement with Malaysia she said, 'This isn't the end of the process; this is the beginning of strengthening a regional cooperative framework.' The Papua New Guinea proposal was being acted upon as well.

                                                                        We have a responsibility here to reflect on the urgent need for us to be part of a global resettlement process. We need to ensure that the Australian people understand that, no matter what side of politics you are on, we are a compassionate government. This motion today, which goes to the notion of fear mongering about our borders and pretends that we have porous borders on the immigration issue, really goes to the basest fears and fear mongering that Australian politics has so often become in recent years. It is bottom feeding, and people deserve better. People deserve to know that we do adhere to the United Nations refugee convention, that we do try to process people and that we do have a fundamental policy that is about minimising the impact of people who come here and about assessing their bona fides—and that is not easy when someone is displaced. We also know that there are people to whom the expression 'stopping the business model' is fundamentally important, because there are always people who make money out of other people's misery—they traffic in human misery.

                                                                        The stories we have been hearing about what has happened as people have come on the boats are horrific. The first part of the deal is of gangs that are starting to sell passages out of Indonesia and other places and the second part of the deal is of then sending pirates after them to disable the boats and steal everything that everyone has, including any documentation. There have even been some unsubstantiated reports of children being stolen. All kinds of things are happening around the world—it is not just happening out of Indonesia. This is the misery of human slavery and human trafficking, and we cannot ignore it. We are an intelligent, educated, sophisticated and wealthy country and we cannot ignore that we have a responsibility to be part of the global solution here.

                                                                        We need to do what we can. We need to think about the issue of resettlement. We need to explain to the Australian people that a refugee seeking asylum is assessed and then is offered resettlement. We need to educate Australians about the process. We need the issue to be taken seriously. We need to ensure that we can do what we want to do in supporting our economy and in supporting people who come here in an orderly way.

                                                                        The High Court decision has meant the opposition taking the opportunistic view of not to support the changes to the legislation which would have reinstated the position that we all thought we were in a few months ago. That is honestly not about border protection; it is about playing base politics. It is about preventing the notion that we can be a people and a nation that has some compassion and some capacity to be sensible about these things. The idea that it is not in the national interest to pursue a regional framework is really mischievous of the opposition spokesperson. It is simply base politics to be playing with words. It is not about border protection. The national interest is served when we can play our part in a global solution to this issue and when we can put in place systems and processes that help to manage people's expectations.

                                                                        The notion that we had of taking an additional 4,000 refugees who had been processed from Malaysia and bringing them to Australia was all about saying to people: 'We are giving you hope that there is a process. We are giving hope to asylum seekers who have been languishing in refugee camps close to us as part of a regional solution and our regional role of leadership and concern by saying that there is an option, and we will start to process these things quickly.' Isn't that what we should be doing? Isn't it where we should be going? We should be getting away from playing on people's emotions and playing to their fears and concerns. The idea of whipping up a campaign that says, 'We cannot possibly take these people from Malaysia because we are going to lose Australian jobs,' just goes to the issues that are being played in the community right now because of the uncertainty and the challenge that the High Court decision left us with.

                                                                        I agonise about this issue of offshore processing—I can tell everybody that. I have not had the opportunity to speak publicly about it before. I would much prefer that we move more quickly to an onshore processing system, but I do acknowledge that the idea is bigger than us, the system is bigger than us and the processing challenge is bigger than us. We need to do so much more. We need to move quickly to supporting identity checks, security checks and health checks, to supporting what the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship is doing now in trying to get children out of detention centres, to supporting people in community detention and to processing people much more quickly than we have.

                                                                        Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

                                                                        The option from Senator Macdonald and those opposite is that we would go back to temporary protection visas, which, as I said, sent people mad. The notion that you should be in suspended animation with no support, no contact and no opportunity for family reunion is seriously flawed. It is inhumane in the extreme. It is isolating. It is desperate. It led people to do self-harm. It really is the most inhumane way forward.

                                                                        The issue that we have on our side of politics is how we manage the concerns that we have about people and how we manage the concerns that we have as a government with protecting our borders and our national interests. Beyond the arguments that underlie this debate are all the other things that we are doing to protect our borders. The things that we are doing in terms of the environment, illegal fishing, antidumping and so on do not hit the radar in this debate because this is about base politics. This is really about the things that the government can do to destabilise people's confidence. It is really very frustrating.

                                                                        The spirit of the refugee convention is alive and well and underpins the solution that we had before us. We will continue to pursue the Malaysia agreement, I am sure, because it is part, as I said, of the regional framework—

                                                                        Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

                                                                        It is part of what you would be doing too, I am sure, if the opposition really believed in the Bali process, really wanted to continue that kind of regional framework and really wanted to play the leadership role that is part of Australia being an educated and wealthy nation in the South Pacific. These are the things that we have to take on board. These are the challenges and the responsibilities that we have to shoulder as a nation.

                                                                        It is not about playing base politics. It is not about closing our borders to anyone. It is not about deciding the how and who and when of allowing people to come to this country. It is about being compassionate. It is about being an international citizen. It is about recognising our responsibilities. It is about ensuring that we find a strong regional and international arrangement that actually deters secondary movement of asylum seekers. This is not an easy issue. If we take it down to a very simplistic 'stop the boats' kind of three-word slogan, we avoid the intellectual responsibility to turn our minds to the ways in which we can stop the business of people smuggling, stop the misery of human trafficking. We need stop playing this kind of base politics and stop fearmongering in the electorate for political gain.

                                                                        We have a responsibility here to say to the Australian people that there are millions of displaced people around the world and we do not have the right—if we want to have international trade, if we want to have the freedom to travel all over the world, if we want to be international citizens ourselves—to say, 'We will put bunkers up and no-one will come here unless we allow them to.' We have to be quite reasonable and strategic about the way in which we deal with border protection issues. We have to be compassionate and strategic in the way in which we deal with asylum seekers. We certainly have to be compassionate and strategic in the way in which we deal with the whole refugee issue around the world. If we are playing our part in military conflicts around the world, there are consequences to that, and the consequences come with responsibilities.

                                                                        For me, the issue of the Malaysian solution and the amendment to the migration bill now not proceeding, because of the obfuscation of the opposition, is a real disappointment, because it would have been a way forward in terms of our regional strategic framework. It is something that we have to live with. We will have to find a way forward. If the opposition were the government tomorrow, they would have to find a way forward on this too. It is not an issue that is on one side of politics; it is for all of us to deal with.

                                                                        Let us be real about this. We need to have compassion and humanity. The issue of refugees and asylum seekers is about much more than border protection. It is about our role as international citizens and our reputation as an international strategic nation in the world. We have a big reputational risk here, and it behoves us all to find a way to resolve the problem.

                                                                        5:42 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        As provided for in standing order 199, I move:

                                                                        That the question be now put.

                                                                        Question put:

                                                                        That the motion (Senator Macdonald's) be agreed to.

                                                                        The Senate divided. [17:48]

                                                                        (The President—Senator Hogg)

                                                                        Question agreed to.

                                                                        Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The question now is that the motion moved by Senator Humphries at the request of Senator Fifield be agreed to. A division having been called and the bells being rung

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Mr President, before the vote is taken, could you just read out the motion so we are all clear on exactly what we are voting for? I suspect the Greens might not understand that by voting with the government—

                                                                        Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I am advised we usually say it is in the Notice Paper.

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I thought there was a standing order—I do not have my standing orders in front of me—that provides that any senator can ask the presiding officer to read what the motion is.

                                                                        Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I do not read the motion, the clerk reads the motion.

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Could I asked the clerk to.

                                                                        Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        No, once we have locked the doors.

                                                                        Senator Macdonald, I will now ask the clerk to read the motion.

                                                                        The Clerk: General business notice of motion No. 485, standing in the name of Senator Fifield, to move—That the Senate notes the failure of the Gillard Labor Government to maintain the confidence of the Australian people in its ability to protect our borders.

                                                                        The Senate divided [15:55]

                                                                        (The President—Senator Hogg)

                                                                        Question negatived.

                                                                        Debate resumed on the motion:

                                                                        That the Senate take note of the document.

                                                                        5:58 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I know the Greens will have a view on this particular item because they were one of the ones that convinced Senator Ludwig that he should ban the live cattle trade. But what about the way they have just voted on the last motion, where, after spending all fortnight attacking the government on the Malaysian solution, they just came into this chamber five minutes ago and supported the government on the way the government has run the borders, that is, sending children to Malaysia for dealing with over there. What hypocrisy, again, from the Australian Greens. And we will see it in this document that I am referring to about livestock mortalities. One would think that the Greens would be here en masse talking about this particular document, but they are so hypocritical.

                                                                        I just emphasise to anyone who might be listening to this debate at six o'clock on a Thursday afternoon as they drive home from work that we have just seen the spectacle of the Greens, after all fortnight attacking the government on Malaysia, proposing all of these other issues and threatening to vote against the migration arrangements, then, when a vote came in the Senate, slipping over and voting with the government to support the Malaysian options. Does the hypocrisy of the Greens know no bounds? It is just incredible.

                                                                        On this document I am talking about, who knows where the Greens would be? Are they in favour of live cattle exports or are they opposed to them? They do not know themselves. You see, Madam Acting Deputy President, they came in here on the last motion, and first of all they were going to oppose the guillotine. But when they saw that it was me who had moved that the motion be put and the only person who was guillotined by that motion was me, the next speaker, they then suddenly decided, 'Oh well, we don't want to hear Macdonald, so we'll go over there.' They are all over the ship. It used to be the case that, on the live cattle issues and issues of livestock mortality, they were always seen as the principled party, the ones who always did the right thing. Yet you see from today that they have supported the guillotine seven or eight times, and they even supported the guillotine that, as I say, I moved against myself.

                                                                        The Greens seem to now be addicted to guillotining debates. I have been here a long time. I used to have to put up with Senator Brown speaking for hours at a time about how awful, how evil, the John Howard government was when a guillotine was introduced. And here they are, seven or eight times this week already, supporting the guillotine.

                                                                        For those who might be listening, what we are doing now is going through a whole list of government documents that are filed during the week. These documents give senators and members the opportunity of looking a bit more closely into the reports that are given to government. This one before us deals with livestock mortalities. It is the sort of thing that senators relish the opportunity of getting a bit closer to and having a look at, but where are the Greens when we have these documents here? They never show up, because we know that at this time of night it does not attract much media, so Senator Brown and his cohorts are out of the chamber. This report on mortalities is a document that I would urge senators to look at to understand the issues involved. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

                                                                        Leave granted; debate adjourned.

                                                                        Debate resumed on the motion:

                                                                        That the Senate take note of the document.

                                                                        6:03 pm

                                                                        Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I would like to speak to the document 'Trade—New Zealand—Export of apples to Australia—Order for production of documents'. This is an issue that is of significant concern to apple and pear growers in South Australia. They have an industry which is known for its clean and healthy fruit that can be exported to a number of markets around the world. They are seriously concerned by the actions of this government, which, for very political reasons, made a commitment to New Zealand before even seeking advice from its department. The subsequent actions of trying to justify those actions through Biosecurity have caused a great deal of concern for growers, their families and the communities who depend on that, who are concerned about the future for their industry.

                                                                        One of the things that have been very pleasing to see in South Australia is that the Foodland supermarket group has actually taken its own steps to decide that it will support local growers. It has taken a decision not to stock New Zealand apples but to stock local apples and so support the industry there. I take this opportunity to put on record the actions that it has taken, which I think are very supportive of our local growers, and I encourage people in South Australia to support people who are supporting local growers of fruit and vegetables, to keep our industry and our growers viable and sustainable into the future. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

                                                                        Leave granted; debate adjourned.

                                                                        Debate resumed on the motion:

                                                                        That the Senate take note of the documents.

                                                                        6:05 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Document No. 9 is 'Departmental and agency grants—Orders for production of documents', and one of them refers to the Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government. If you look into the grants made by this department, you come up with what I was going to say are some surprising discoveries. Perhaps they are not surprising though. You would find that most of the grants made by Regional Development Australia went to electorates that are held by members of the Australian Labor Party or by the two New South Wales rural Independents, the members for Lyne and New England. One might just think that that is coincidental, but when you consider that most rural and regional electorates are actually represented by members of the Liberal and National parties, and in one case by an Independent who did not support Ms Gillard in her successful bid to become Prime Minister, those electorates got absolutely nothing—sorry, some of them got something, but it was a pittance. You will also note, if you look at the grants approved by Regional Development Australia, that the biggest grant of $400 million for regional development went to—hang on, wait for it—roads around the Perth airport. I know that my colleagues from Western Australia will tell me that the roads around Perth International Airport and Perth Domestic Airport are important and should be funded—and I agree—but out of the regional development fund! Since when is Perth airport regional development? I was there a few weeks ago and it was only a 10-minute taxi ride into Perth CBD. That is hardly a regional development program.

                                                                        Just last week I attended a meeting of the Gulf Savannah Development Association in Doomadgee, in north-west Queensland. For those who do not know, the Gulf Savannah Development Association comprises all of the mayors of the five shires, up around the Gulf of Carpentaria, all fairly remote. It also comprises some other regional development organisations in that area. The meeting was, coincidentally, held the day when, or the day after, these regional development grants were given. The whole of Northern Australia—very much a part of the grants approved by the regional development department—got one grant, for a walkway on Magnetic Island, just off Townsville.

                                                                        Senator McLucas interjecting

                                                                        Senator McLucas interjects, 'Don't you want that?' Of course I do. All congratulations to Mr Ewen Jones, the Liberal member for Herbert, in whose electorate Magnetic Island is. Great work, Mr Jones, on your lobbying effort and great work on getting this actual walkway, which is important.

                                                                        In fact, the Labor government promised it prior to the last election, but the money came out of the Regional Development Australia Fund. But that was the one grant for the whole of Northern Australia. How much was it, Senator McLucas? You would know. A couple of million dollars? Yet Perth airport, almost in Perth's CBD, gets $400 million and the one grant for Northern Australia, which Senator McLucas sometimes claims to represent, got the Magnetic Island Walkway. I am delighted that Magnetic Island got the walkway but, gee, come on! All of those councils that I talk about in the Gulf Savannah Development Association put up magnificent projects, projects that would have been very important for the development of that part of regional Australia. But did they get anything? No. All the money went to Perth airport.

                                                                        6:10 pm

                                                                        Photo of Bridget McKenzieBridget McKenzie (Victoria, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I would like to congratulate Senator Macdonald on quite a good synopsis of the general feeling on this side of the chamber on how the regional development grants were distributed. In my own state of Victoria, out there in the regions there are two seats that are held by the Labor Party, being Ballarat and Bendigo. Both of them received significant grants under this program. I too would never ever denigrate money being spent in the regions and I appreciate the effort. However, it is hard not to be cynical when you look at the fantastic projects that were put up right around regional Victoria that just did not make the grade. I want to mention the playground in the Wannon electorate. A couple of hundred thousand dollars was thrown at Wannon, while much more significant amounts were delivered into the seats of Bendigo and Ballarat. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

                                                                        Leave granted; debate adjourned.

                                                                        6:11 pm

                                                                        Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Madam Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to move to document No. 16.

                                                                        Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Leave is granted, with the proviso that we will move back after that time to the other documents.

                                                                        6:12 pm

                                                                        Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I move:

                                                                        That the Senate take note of the document.

                                                                        This gives me the opportunity to talk about a forum that was held in Launceston last week for older Australians, which talked about the Productivity Commission's report on health and ageing and what we are confronted with moving forward as an Australian community with our ageing population, of which we are all very much aware.

                                                                        I want to put on record the fact that Minister Butler attended that forum, along with local member, Mr Geoff Lyons. Tonight I want to talk about the overwhelming enthusiasm from the almost 200 people who attended that forum. As we all know, Tasmania is one of the states that has a rapidly ageing community. We have fantastic aged-care facilities and the majority of them are run by not-for-profit organisations. They are facing many challenges in relation to infrastructure and cost. We all know that too many of the tough decisions about aged care were not addressed by the previous government because they did not want to have to make those tough decisions. Once again, the Gillard Labor government will move towards addressing the aged-care issues that need to be addressed.

                                                                        I want to touch on some of the issues that were raised by community members. It was a true reflection of those people not only in Launceston but in the surrounding areas who either work in aged care or have family members, like me, who declared an interest in ensuring that we move in the direction that we need to, to ensure that older Australians have the best possible opportunities to stay at home for as long as they can but are given the support that they need to be able to have an engaging and fulfilling life as they continue to age. We have made the transition over the last hundred years to add another 25 years to the age that we can expect to live, which means that people who would normally be looking at retirement at 65 have to plan for their future for a considerable time ahead. They have to make decisions about what they want as their normal life expectancy comes to an end.

                                                                        It will take not only a great deal of money but also a great deal of patience to ensure we get the processes right. In terms of the issues that were raised it is really important that we not only look at keeping people in their homes but also address issues relating to dementia. I am sure that everyone in this chamber and many who are listening know of or have been affected in their own families by dementia. The reality is that because we are living much longer, which is a good thing, we should be instilling good health practices throughout our life to ensure that we give ourselves the best opportunity to have healthy and fulfilling retirement years. We have to make sure that, wherever possible, we give support to the families and individuals in relation to how we treat dementia.

                                                                        When we are talking about older Australians, we have to also remember that there is an increasing number of older women who are now finding themselves homeless. These women have, unfortunately, not had the opportunity to be in the workforce as long as people like me and my generation have, and future generations will have. They are finding themselves without any superannuation, and in some cases where their marriages break down they are left with nothing. Homelessness is affecting older Australians and it has to be addressed. That is part of what we need to do in planning for the future. In that planning we have to ensure that, with the peak we hit with the baby boomers and those of us who are on the tail of the baby boomer generation, we have infrastructure and facilities that can be used for the community and that huge influx of needs.

                                                                        I want to place on the record once again my thanks and appreciation to those members of the community who all came with good intentions to put forward their views on what needs to happen and I also acknowledge the work that this government and the Productivity Commission have undertaken. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

                                                                        Leave granted.

                                                                        Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        We will now return to item Nos. 10, 11 and 12.

                                                                        6:17 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I move:

                                                                        That the Senate take note of the document.

                                                                        Document No. 10 is the 2008-09 report of the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia, which senators will recall was an initiative of the Howard government and which, in brief, succeeded in putting the proceeds of the sale of Telstra into good environmental projects around Australia.

                                                                        In the NHT, as I refer to it, there were a number of grants in that year for parts of North Queensland and Northern Australia. What we as a government wanted to do was make sure that the natural heritage of those areas was supported. It was supported through NRM groups, where people who lived on the land—in the case of the gulf and Cape York, Indigenous people, cattleman, graziers and community dwellers—could do things cleverly, allowing for production to come off that land.

                                                                        All the good work that the Natural Heritage Trust did do and could have done more of was abrogated when the Queensland government for purely political reasons introduced the wild rivers legislation. The way in which the wild rivers legislation was introduced into Queensland is well known: there is a coffee shop in South Brisbane where the Greens got in representatives of the Australian Labor Party state government and said to them, 'Look, if you want our preferences for the next election, you'll lock down Cape York.' So the Bligh government, never known for its—

                                                                        Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        That is not right and you know it.

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator Walters, a Green from Queensland. Weren't you at the meeting, Senator Walters?

                                                                        Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Get my name right.

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator Waters, sorry. That is clearly understood as being what happened. Perhaps the good senator will indicate where the deal was done if it was not done in a coffee shop in South Brisbane. Bad though it was shutting down that part of Cape York adjacent to what are called wild rivers, we now have the proposition by the Greens, the Pugh Group and a few other loonies of the Left to shut down the whole of Cape York by declaring it a World Heritage area.

                                                                        Anyone from Queensland would have seen the outrage from the Indigenous people when they heard that the Greens and others and the Labor Party were intending to put a World Heritage listing over the total landmass of Cape York. Can you imagine what that will do to Indigenous people up there?

                                                                        Photo of Jan McLucasJan McLucas (Queensland, Australian Labor Party, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Why don't you tell a bit of truth?

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator, if you want to contribute to the debate you get up and tell me where I am wrong. You told us, Senator McLucas, just before the last election that there was not a detention base at the Air Force base near Weipa, remember? You told us that was not going to happen just before the last election.

                                                                        Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator Macdonald, you know that discussions across the chamber are disorderly.

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I am sorry. I was provoked by the interjection, Madam Acting Deputy President. Giving Cape York World Heritage listing will destroy Indigenous communities up there and take away any prospect they may ever have of looking after themselves. It will condemn them to a life of welfare. I cannot but help think that it is for some reason part of the approach of the Australian Labor Party to ensure that Indigenous people are always subject to government funding and welfare, because they take away under Wild Rivers and under World Heritage listings the opportunity for Indigenous groups in those areas to conduct businesses, to participate in mining businesses and to conduct cattle operations. That has been well publicised. You would have seen in the Queensland press just a few days ago, if I recall correctly, how Indigenous leaders were incensed and were making their voices heard on the proposal that is floating around the make Cape York a World Heritage listed property.

                                                                        6:22 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I am indebted to Senator Macdonald for raising this issue. It is a very serious issue, World Heritage listing for Cape York. It is where most of the Indigenous people in Queensland live. About 16,000 Indigenous people live in Cape York. They are led by a very able Indigenous leader, Noel Pearson, who has come to the conclusion that welfare has destroyed his people. He is trying to lead them out of it.

                                                                        In 1987, the then Premier, Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, under a deed of grant in trust, gave millions and millions of acres to the Indigenous people. He gave it to them under a deed of grant in trust to allow them to go to their local council and say, 'I want 20 acres to grow bananas,' or 'I want 10 acres to grow passionfruit' or whatever. That was deeded to them. Everyone was pretty happy with that until the Greens decided that they wanted Wild Rivers. Wild Rivers was put in as a forerunner to World Heritage listing. I could see this coming. It stood out so vividly that I asked Mr Warren Truss to get an assurance or an ironclad guarantee from the then environment minister, Mr Garrett, that World Heritage listing would not go ahead without the support of the Indigenous people. And he did; he said he would never do it without the support of the Indigenous people.

                                                                        But now we are getting World Heritage by what I call creeping acquisition. Mr Burke said the other day: 'We'll just go and get some selective little places. Instead of listing the whole of Cape York, we will get little pieces—a beach here, a mountain there. And we will give $3 million.' Then the state government said, 'We'll give $3 million, too,' So that is $6 million for them to go out and buy the favours of Aboriginal people and to get them to support World Heritage listing. Fortunately, Noel Pearson saw this coming. He has rallied against it and told the people not to sell their heritage out. He told them that their land is worth more than that.

                                                                        As Senator McLucas would be aware, at the last election it was a wipe-out for the Labor Party in the communities. Aboriginals who have traditionally voted Labor—who have done so for as long as I can remember—at the last election turned around. They turned around on Stradbroke Island, where the Greens demanded the closure of the mineral sands. There were 60 Indigenous jobs there, and they were wiped out. I walked onto the island and the Aboriginal people came to me and said: 'We have never voted for the National Party or the Liberal Party in our lives. We voted for them this time because the Labor Party is trying to destroy our livelihoods. What do we do? Do we sell out or stay here and catch planes up to Rockhampton?'

                                                                        Then the Greens demanded World Heritage listing for the Lake Eyre Basin. To get that, they are going to promote Wild Rivers legislation for that. They are going to hold the line under Wild Rivers while they work to get World Heritage. I warn the graziers to not ever fall for it. You might think it attractive because it will stop mining, but once that World Heritage area is declared you will not be able to put a shovel or a post in the ground. You will be frozen in time on your properties.

                                                                        The Greens—and Senator Macdonald alluded to this—want the Aboriginal people to be frozen in time. They talk about some sort of far out tourism that is never going to eventuate. Fortunately, we are seeing Aboriginal leaders in Western Australia and Aboriginal leaders in Queensland coming through the ranks, having the guts to lead their people and disassociate themselves from the green groups. I congratulate them both. These two Aboriginal leaders are great men and they deserve every bit of support. (Time expired)

                                                                        6:28 pm

                                                                        Photo of David FawcettDavid Fawcett (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I would like to address the Natural Heritage Trust of Australia report for 2008-09. The National Trust definition of 'heritage' is 'all that we as a society wish to pass on to future generations'. That is a really important thing to understand: there are certain things that we need to pass on to future generations so that they understand why the world is as it is and why they are where they are at. Another definition of 'heritage' is 'the background from which one comes'. We teach history because it is important that our young people understand what has occurred in history. I was fascinated while here in the parliament some years ago to be talking to a group of young people who were here for a leadership forum. The topic of the Iraq War came up. One of them—and these were all well-educated young people in their twenties at university—said: 'What has Saddam Hussein ever done wrong? He has never hurt anyone. He has never invaded another country.' I must confess that I sat back in amazement as others in the group started echoing similar sentiments. When I asked them if they had heard of the first Gulf War and the invasion of Kuwait, I was largely met by blank looks. I suddenly realised that most of these people were only 10 or 12 years old when that occurred. They were judging events that were occurring in the current day without any understanding of the world events and the personalities that had led to that. That was leading them to make a number of quite unsound judgments about why Australia was involved and why the world was taking action. My point is that our history curriculum therefore must cover and give people appropriate context of why the world is as it is. So I am deeply disturbed to see that the new national curriculum that is going to come into effect in 2013 is actually looking to remove the terms BC and AD, which have forever in our modern history set our calendars. BC, before Christ, or AD, in the year of our Lord, determines how we measure time. More importantly, it describes the background of our culture. When you are looking at heritage and the things that have led to the world being as it is, it is important that people understand that the Christian faith and the person of Christ, whether or not you believe that faith, have had a significant impact in the world. It informs you as you look around at different countries and try to understand why our culture is different—why some cultures value freedom, why some cultures value individual lives and rights and others do not.

                                                                        Just this week we passed a motion here in the Senate looking, for example, at the actress Marzieh Vafamehr, who is getting 90 lashes and a year in jail for her role in a film. There is a pastor in the same country on death row because he has decided to change his religion. We have to ask the question: why is it that some cultures celebrate freedom, give people choices and options, and others do not? I believe it is important that, rather than writing out our cultural roots and our heritage, our national curriculum should be helping young people to understand the background of the world. I think it is political correctness gone mad and I for one would certainly welcome any opportunity we have in this place to change the national curriculum to make sure we accurately reflect the cultural heritage that we here in Australia have. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

                                                                        Leave granted; debate adjourned.

                                                                        6:32 pm

                                                                        Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I move:

                                                                        That the Senate take note of the document.

                                                                        I rise to speak on the 2010-11 report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Commonwealth Grants commission is a critical body when it comes to the interaction of the Commonwealth with the states and the financial management of the states. Of course, some states are better managed at a financial level than others. Some have competent management, sound government and clear leadership and others lack competent government, sound management and particularly clear leadership. In fact, if ever there were a leadership vacuum in a government in Australia one may contend—and it is often contended in this place—that it is in the federal Labor government. They certainly have their leadership woes and there is at times a leadership vacuum or a waxing and waning of leaders at the federal Labor level.

                                                                        However, in the case of South Australia, a state that is of course a recipient of Commonwealth Grants Commission funds, we see the ultimate waxing and waning of leadership at present. Over the last few months it has been hard in the case of South Australia to work out whether we have two premiers or no premier. It has been hard to work that out since July this year, when Mike Rann announced that he was going—not exactly a voluntary announcement. He had been tapped on the shoulder by the factional masters, and not even the factional masters that we see at play here in Canberra, who have at least managed to get themselves elected to parliament.

                                                                        No, we saw Mr Peter Malinauskas, the head of the shop assistants union in South Australia, trundle along to the Premier's office and say, 'Mr Premier, your time as Leader of the Labor Party and Premier of South Australia is up.' The Premier said, 'Thank you, Mr Malinauskas. You, of course, are a duly elected representative of the people of South Australia and I bow to your will. I shall depart the office of the Premier and depart the office of the Labor leader in South Australia. I shall leave the decisions of the Commonwealth Grants Commission to somebody else as Premier of South Australia.' Strangely, amazingly, that somebody else is Mr Weatherill, the current education minister.

                                                                        Mr Rann insisted that he was going to stay. He was going to stay because he wanted to mentor his successor, Mr Weatherill. He probably wanted to tell him how the Commonwealth Grants Commission would work. So Mr Rann said he was going to stay. Significantly, one of the key things that he wanted to see done, and presumably wanted to mentor Mr Weatherill through during the several months that Mr Rann would hang around, was the BHP Billiton deal for the expansion of the Olympic Dam uranium mine. That is another matter that will have significant implications for Commonwealth grants to South Australia. The royalties coming from that mine will have an impact on those grants.

                                                                        What did we see happen through that deal being struck between the government of South Australia and BHP Billiton? What happened to the mentoring process? Every time there was a meeting between Mr Rann and BHP Billiton the invitation to Mr Weatherill must have been lost in the mail. The mentoring opportunity for him to go along somehow went missing.

                                                                        Senator Edwards interjecting

                                                                        As Senator Edwards rightly suggests, in Melbourne this week we finally saw the deal signed. And who was there? The outgoing Premier, Mr Rann, who has just a few days left on the clock as Premier. 'Turbo' Tommy Koutsantonis, one of the shoppie union officials, the disgraced former road safety minister who acquired dozens and dozens of speeding fines, made it to Melbourne for the BHP Billiton announcement. Kevin Foley, the Minister for Police who seems to occupy an extraordinary amount of police time as a result of his late night activities, managed to make it to Melbourne, but where was Jay Weatherill? Where was the mentoring for the allegedly incoming Premier? Nowhere to be seen. He has been nowhere man over the last few weeks.

                                                                        It has been quite a remarkable situation. In fact, over the last few months the mentoring has been cast aside. Mr Weatherill has not been seen nor heard from. South Australians have no idea what this man will do who will soon be cast into the premiership as a result of Mr Rann's factional enemies in the shop assistants union. South Australians have no idea what this man will do, what he stands for, what his vision for South Australia is or what he has learned from Mr Rann during the mentoring process. We do not even know whether Mr Rann has explained to him what the Commonwealth Grants Commission does.

                                                                        6:37 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I wish to speak on the Commonwealth Grants Commission report 2010-11. In that you will see the grants that the Commonwealth, through the Grants Commission, makes to Queensland and other states and to various local governments around the country. In speaking to this particular document, I raise the question: what is going to happen when the carbon tax comes in and costs the Queensland government? I speak of Queensland because I am a Queensland senator, but the same would apply to everywhere else. When the carbon tax comes in on 1 July next year, what will happen with the cost of electricity, for example—just taking a small point—for every state government building? If you look around Brisbane at night-time you will see how many state government buildings there are and how many of them have lights on and electricity churning through. We all know, on the government's own figures, that electricity is going to go up 10 per cent. If you work on state government modelling from New South Wales and Victoria, it could be anywhere between 15 per cent and 20 per cent. I would suggest that their modelling is probably more accurate. All of this extra cost of electricity is going to have to be paid by the Queensland government. As well, every local authority in Queensland will be paying more for their water pumps and for the general electricity they currently use—and they use a lot of electricity. I wonder what the Commonwealth Grants Commission is going to do for the Queensland state government and local governments to make up for this huge additional tax that they will have to pay.

                                                                        I have heard about compensation—not that I believe much of it. Why would you believe anything this Prime Minister said after she promised us there would not be a carbon tax under a government she led? Today she is celebrating and wildly throwing kisses around to acknowledge the absolute breach of that solid promise. So why would you believe anything she says? But she has said—

                                                                        Senator Marshall interjecting

                                                                        No, I would not like to kiss Mr Rudd or, I might say, Ms Gillard, Senator Marshall. Take my word for that.

                                                                        Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator, again I remind you about discussions across the table.

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I was diverted by an unlawful interjection. There has been talk of compensation. But I have not heard of any talk of compensation for states. Nor have I heard about compensation for local governments. So I just wonder how the Commonwealth Grants Commission is going to make equitable distributions to these utilities for the additional costs they will have to pay.

                                                                        I mentioned only electricity, but councils are big users of fuel. Is the Brisbane City Council going to get additional funding for all of the buses they run? Was there something said about that? Perhaps there was. Is there additional funding for all of the transport costs that will increase with all the graders, bulldozers and rollers that are used by councils and the Queensland government? I have not heard anything about this compensation. So I wonder what my state of Queensland is going to do when the carbon tax comes in and it has to spend more money on paying tax to the Commonwealth without, as far as I can recall, any word said by the Commonwealth Gillard government about any compensation for state governments and local governments for the additional funds that they will be called upon to spend.

                                                                        This is something that the Grants Commission will have to seriously look at, because they try to equalise in a vertical way—or is it a horizontal way?—the costs on each state, but some states will use more electricity. For example, will our state, because it has big air-conditioning bills—local governments up our way have big air-conditioning bills; it is a big cost—get more out of the Commonwealth Grants Commission's allocation? I do not know, but it is going to mean that this same report, the Commonwealth Grants Commission report, for 2013-14 will be a fascinating document to see how the Grants Commission addresses that issue.

                                                                        6:42 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I will speak on the Commonwealth Grants Commission report. Senator Macdonald raises some very valid issues and issues that I do not think have been addressed. This report is going to have to take note of what compensation is going to be paid. I do not believe that people have even remotely scratched the surface of what is going to happen with this carbon tax, although Senator Macdonald has raised certain issues. For instance, the price of fuel for any vehicle that is over 4½ tonnes will go up 6c per litre. The state governments and particularly the local governments with their graders and roadworks machinery are going to pay enormous increased amounts for fuel because the excise will go down. In fact, anyone who has an end loader, a bobcat or any machine that works on fuel is going to be hit not from 2013 but from 2012.

                                                                        The state governments, with all their instrumentalities—hospitals and old people's homes—are going to be hit for six. Most of them are being good little Labor Party stooges and have not really raised complaints. If I were the Premier of Queensland with a bankrupt treasury, I would be screaming from the high heavens, 'How are we going to be compensated for this?' All their electricity generating plants are going to be devalued by billions of dollars. But, of course, it is not the Premier's money; it is the people of Queensland's money. The people of Queensland will be hit, not the Premier and not the government. The people's assets, which have been accumulated over hundreds of years, will be hit. Already we have the lowest certificates and when Queensland cops this on top of its already precarious financial position it will drive us down further and further. Anyhow, it will not be the Premier's worry; it will be someone else's worry. There will probably be a new government taking its place in a couple of months, certainly by March, and it will be its worry. The Premier will walk away and wash her hands of the whole thing instead of standing up now and warning the people of how much this carbon tax is going to cost them and how much it will be adjusted.

                                                                        I do not know where the Commonwealth is going to get all of its money from to recompense all the states. If you add 23 per cent and about another 10 per cent for renewable energy to every bill that the state government and the local councils run up—the air conditioning, the lights—it is going to be billions of dollars. It is billions of dollars that Queenslanders are going to have to pay in higher rates and higher taxes or lose from spending on facilities.

                                                                        This has not been thought through. The Labor Party were rejoicing yesterday. They are going to rejoice and then spend the next 20 years regretting. Have your couple of days in the sun and then you will regret it for the next 20 years. When everyone gets their electricity bills for the next 20 years, whether it be small business, big business, government departments or councils, they will always remember that fateful day when a carbon tax became law and everyone in the Labor Party was kissing, hugging and rejoicing. Have your day in the sun because you are going to regret it for a long, long time.

                                                                        6:47 pm

                                                                        Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I note with interest the report from the Commonwealth Grants Commission and I await with even keener interest reports of the future. I firmly believe the Commonwealth Grants Commission process is deeply flawed. When you look at the inequality in the distribution between the various states and territories, it is unsustainable. It is unsustainable to the extent that the government has determined that it will bring in outside advisers and previous premiers of states—mind you, I must say they are from south-eastern Australian states—to actually review the Commonwealth Grants Commission process. From my discussions with the Commonwealth Grants Commission officers, I have little confidence that we will see these sorts of issues properly addressed.

                                                                        You would be well aware that some 68c in the dollar of GST money now returns to my home state of Western Australia. The larger states of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria get somewhere into the 90s. Of course, Tasmania achieves well in excess of that, as do South Australia and the Northern Territory. This is unsustainable because those states that are capable of actually earning greater wealth for the nation, which ultimately will assist all Australians, are being held back, especially in the case where we are only getting two-thirds and possibly having that reduced even further to some 50c in the dollar. I look with keen interest to future reports of the commission.

                                                                        The following orders of the day relating to government documents were considered:

                                                                        Acts Interpretation Act 1901—Statement pursuant to subsection 34C(7) relating to the delay in presentation of a report—Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997—Funding agreement 2010-14 between the Commonwealth of Australia and Australian Livestock Export Corporation Limited (LiveCorp). Motion of Senator Macdonald to take note of document agreed to.

                                                                        Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997—Funding agreement 2010-14 between the Commonwealth of Australia and Australian Livestock Export Corporation Limited (LiveCorp). Motion of Senator Macdonald to take note of document agreed to.

                                                                        Crimes Act 1914—Witness identity protection certificates—Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity—Report for 2010-11. Motion of Senator Macdonald to take note of document agreed to.

                                                                        Crimes Act 1914—Authorisations for the acquisition and use of assumed identities—Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity—Report for 2010-11. Motion of Senator Macdonald to take note of document agreed to.

                                                                        Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—Report for 2010-11, including financial statements for the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service and National Residue Survey. Motion of Senator McKenzie to take note of document agreed to.

                                                                        Departmental and agency appointments and vacancies—Order for production of documents—Budget (Supplementary) estimates—Letter of advice—Climate Change and Energy Efficiency portfolio. Motion of Senator McKenzie to take note of document agreed to.

                                                                        General business order of the day no. 11 relating to government documents was called on but no motion was moved.

                                                                        Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Order! The time for consideration of documents has expired.

                                                                        6:49 pm

                                                                        Photo of Penny WrightPenny Wright (SA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Madam Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to move a motion to vary the order permitting divisions to take place after 4:30 pm today.

                                                                        Leave not granted.

                                                                        Debate resumed on the motion:

                                                                        That the Senate take note of the report.

                                                                        6:50 pm

                                                                        Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I speak on this motion to take note of the Select Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes interim report entitled, The carbon tax: economic pain for no environmental gain. This was a significant inquiry undertaken under the chairmanship of my colleague Senator Cormann, who spoke on this report the other day. What is noteworthy about this inquiry, before I turn to its findings, is that it is an inquiry that actually had the opportunity to undertake some real scrutiny of the carbon tax proposal. It actually had the opportunity to go into some real detail in looking at the carbon tax proposal. Uniquely, it took submissions from all comers and published submissions from all comers about the carbon tax proposal and travelled around Australia to hear from Australians of all walks of life with an interest in and concern about Labor's carbon tax proposal.

                                                                        It stands in stark contrast to the next committee report listed for consideration, that of a committee that I had the pleasure of serving on. Although, it was not much of a pleasure because that was the joint select committee established to look purely at the government's carbon tax bills. In marked contrast to the committee that Senator Cormann chaired, we saw that committee have just three weeks to do its job—looking at more than 1,100 pages of legislation in 19 bills, which are being rammed through this parliament at present. We saw that committee try to undertake the mammoth task of scrutinising a sweeping change to the Australian economy. Of all the points in this debate that are argued over, I think the one that everybody around the chamber agrees on is that the carbon tax is a sweeping change. The government likes to claim it is a sweeping change, the Greens like to claim it is a sweeping change, the crossbenches acknowledge that it is a sweeping change, and the National Party and the Liberal Party certainly believe it is a sweeping change. Some think it is a change for the better and others think it is a change for the worse, but we all acknowledge and agree that it is a sweeping change—a fundamental change to our economy.

                                                                        Such a fundamental change, you would have thought, warranted thorough and decent scrutiny, but no, it would seem that the proponents of the change want minimal scrutiny—the least amount of scrutiny possible. So they rammed through this three-week inquiry. There were six days for people to make submissions, with 4½ thousand submissions essentially ignored by the inquiry. They were rejected by Labor and the Greens using their majority on the committee to say, 'These aren't worthwhile submissions; we won't bother publishing them.' Hearings were held in the very diverse range of cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra!

                                                                        Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Not Wollongong?

                                                                        Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Not Wollongong, Senator Fierravanti-Wells—no regional centres whatsoever.

                                                                        Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Wollongong—the carbon capital of Australia.

                                                                        Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Certainly not Wollongong, the carbon capital of Australia.

                                                                        Photo of Claire MooreClaire Moore (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator, which committee report are you addressing in your contribution?

                                                                        Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I am presenting a contrast, Madam Acting Deputy President, between the two committee reports. Indeed, you are correct to say that Senator Cormann's committee did take evidence in a wider range of places over a longer period of time. Senator Bushby was part of that inquiry. Importantly, the more detailed inquiry—the inquiry that actually took evidence from a range of individuals—found, quite sensibly, some serious concerns about the carbon tax. It did not have to make up the evidence. It actually had the time to scrutinise the evidence that was available—the evidence of the Treasury modelling.

                                                                        We have concerns about the modelling. We believe that it is based on overly optimistic assumptions and we believe those overly optimistic assumptions probably understate the impact of the carbon tax. We should also note that some of the assumptions are things like there will be continued full employment, so its findings on the matter of employment are rather pointless in the extreme. But, all of that aside, it is at least the best we have got of any analysis of the economic impact of the carbon. It finds in its projections that over the forward estimates and beyond that right through to 2050 income will be lower than it would otherwise be. In fact, if you look at the Treasury modelling as to how much lower and the trend of that reducing income, you see that it continues to reduce. It keeps reducing and the trend line is still pointing down in 2050. The difference in income for Australians as a result of the carbon tax is shown by the trend line still pointing down in 2050. Beyond 2050, which is as far as the modelling goes, it will keep going down and down and we will see a bigger gulf.

                                                                        The report of the Senate Select Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes chaired by Senator Cormann found very clearly that in the period to 2050 the cost—the difference in lost income for Australia—tallied up to $1 trillion. That is not a figure that is used very often in Australian politics or in Australian economic discussion. We may have a $1 trillion economy, but thankfully, unlike our close allies in the US, even this government has not managed to get our deficit to the stage where we have to start talking about trillions of dollars.

                                                                        Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        They will.

                                                                        Photo of Simon BirminghamSimon Birmingham (SA, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray Darling Basin) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator Boswell is correct: if they are left there long enough they certainly will. That is the one thing we can be very certain of, especially with the carbon tax managing to run at a deficit. Senator Boswell, you remind me of the point—again highlighted by Senator Cormann and also highlighted in the dissenting report of the Joint Select Committee on Australia's Clean Energy Future Legislation—that the carbon tax is like a miracle of the government. They implement a new tax worth about $9 billion a year and—guess what?—they manage to run it at a deficit. It is like the Magic Pudding in reverse for this government that they manage to apply a new tax to the Australian economy and the end result is the budget deficit increases by $4 billion over the forward estimates.

                                                                        It is not just the forward estimates where we see the budget deficit likely to take a whack. It will stretch way beyond that—it will stretch way into the future. The government claims that the carbon tax will become budget positive in the future, but the reality is that, if they live up to their promise, the compensation will keep up with the cost of the tax and the deficit will continue to grow as a result of the carbon tax. Why is that? That is so because of the sale of international permits. The evidence received by both committees made it clear that Australian companies will go into the market and buy international permits. In 2020, they will be worth about $3 billion a year. By 2050, they will be worth about $60 billion a year. Between $3 billion and $60 billion a year will be going offshore to purchase international permits. What will the Australian companies purchasing these permits do? They will pass the costs on to consumers. That is accepted. Even Mr Comley, the Secretary of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, provided that information and advice to the committee that I served on, and no doubt Senator Cormann's committee heard that as well.

                                                                        So the costs will be passed on to consumers, but the money is going overseas. The question is: how does the compensation keep up without increasing the budget deficit even further? If, in 2020, $3 billion is going overseas yet the government claims the compensation to Australian households and industries will keep up, how is that going to stack up? How will you make it work without stripping elsewhere from the budget or without the carbon tax becoming a generator of even bigger deficits—deficits that continue to increase because the price and value and expenditure of those international permits continues to increase? From 2020 through to 2050, the $3 billion morphs into $60 billion. The money is still going overseas—it is not going into the government's pocket—but consumers are having to pay because companies have passed the cost on to them. Yet what happens? Where is the government going to fund it? There are only two things that can happen: either it breaks its promise about compensation—just like it broke its promise about there being no carbon tax—or it increases the deficit even further and we get even closer to that trillion dollar deficit that Senator Boswell remarked upon before. One or the other is most likely to occur under this regime.

                                                                        Unfortunately, of course, Labor and the Greens are not willing to have proper scrutiny applied to their carbon tax by the normal processes of this parliament. It took Senator Cormann and his select committee to be able to do so. I praise the work that they have done. It is an outstanding report and I commend it to the Senate.

                                                                        7:00 pm

                                                                        Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        It is not surprising that the findings of Senator Cormann's report reflected the politics that those opposite are running in this debate. It really is just another piece in their armoury of mounting a scare campaign against actually doing anything on the climate. The problem with engaging in this debate in its totality is that very few people who sit on that side of the chamber, very few people who are in the coalition of the Liberal and National parties, actually believe that climate change is happening. They simply do not believe that climate change is happening. The logical extension of that—it is the logical extension; I understand their conclusions—is that if it is not happening you do not need to do anything about it. I understand that position.

                                                                        I happen to believe that climate change is happening. I happen to believe that it is induced by human activity. And I believe that human activity or a change in human activity can reduce the consequences of climate change. I think this is an important responsibility for those that have been given responsibility to manage our environment, to manage our economy and to manage our society. It is not an obligation and it is not a responsibility that I as a legislator think we should simply walk away from and ignore.

                                                                        Why do I believe that climate change is happening and that it is being created by human activity? It is because that is what the overwhelming body of reputable scientists who are specialists in this area say. In most other countries this debate is completely settled. The science has been accepted and people have accepted that we have a responsibility to do something. It is going to be a long-term change, and that is why there does have to be a significant change to the way we behave in our community. Part of that is putting a price on pollution.

                                                                        If you put a price on pollution, activity will change because the market will seek to avoid paying that price. That is the way the market works. That is what I think most people in this chamber actually support. We actually support the process of the market.

                                                                        Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        You've been a union hack all your life; you wouldn't know what a market was!

                                                                        Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Instead of actually trying to engage in the debate, Senator Boswell has simply reinforced that they do not believe that anything is happening, so they do not believe that we should do anything about it. We can engage in as many reports as we like but it will not change their vote. This report that has been handed down by Senator Cormann is simply part of the coalition's strategy of building up a case that supports doing nothing. You cannot make strawberry jam out of something that cannot be made into strawberry jam, and that is what you are trying to do.

                                                                        I am not going to stand here knowing what we need to do, knowing there is a problem, knowing we have the capacity to address these issues and not take responsibility for doing something. I am not going to do it for me, because I will probably be gone before the serious effects of climate change really kick in. I am going to do it for my kids and my grandkids and for everyone else's kids. I do not want to be condemned by future generations when our generation—which has probably consumed more of the earth's resources than any other generation—knew what we had to do and what needed to be done and then failed to live up to our responsibility and left it to the next generations to clean up the mess. What we do know and what the Liberal Party used to know—what John Howard knew and what Peter Shergold knew—is that the sooner we act to mitigate the effects of climate change the cheaper it will be. The longer we wait the more expensive it will be. That is irresponsible to the next generation.

                                                                        The model that we have put in place has been modelled over a long time. This is a culmination of a debate that has been going on for many years, going right back to the Howard government. Modelling was done. The Howard government commissioned Peter Shergold to come up with a process and they said that an emissions trading scheme was the way to go.

                                                                        What all these systems have in common is that they actually put a price on pollution. That is the important aspect of this. That is what the coalition does not want to do. They believe that the big polluters in this country should be able to pollute our environment for nothing. They should simply be able to pollute our environment and there should be no costs involved in that. We say that there should be a cost because that pollution is damaging the environment. If you put a cost on that damage, people will seek to avoid that cost. It will drive innovation, it will drive engineering—

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        It hasn't worked in the European Union.

                                                                        Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        You say that, Senator Macdonald, but quite frankly I do not think you would know. You are running this scare campaign. You are part of the overall opposition strategy to be absolutely negative on this. This debate has been going on for many, many years and the Liberal Party have had several different positions on it. At the present time they have a very hardline position of denying that climate change is happening. That was not their position some time ago. In fact they went to the 2007 election with a policy of an emissions trading scheme. John Howard finally came to the conclusion, because of all the modelling that was done and all the research that was done, that we need to act and we need to act now. So that is the reality. We know that what we have now introduced will reduce our annual emissions by at least 159 million tonnes from where they otherwise would have been by 2020. That is equivalent to taking around 45 million cars off the road. People talk about the cost of it, but the coalition's policy simply says that the big polluters can continue to pollute for nothing, and we will give them taxpayers' dollars to subsidise them to maybe do something to reduce their emissions. Instead of letting the market drive that, they are just going to give a taxpayers' gift to these polluters. That is going to cost many, many times more than anything our price on pollution will be.

                                                                        All the money collected through the price on carbon will go back to offsetting the flow-on costs, back to households. It will go towards helping businesses cope and make the adjustment and the investments in new clean energy technologies. It is actually saying, 'Let's put a price on carbon and let's use that price to help the economy adjust and drive the change we need to achieve.' The alternative is that we simply wait and do nothing. That would be so easy. We could do nothing and wait for the next generation to have to clean up and pay for it. Not only would they have to pay for it but they would have to pay so much more. Every year we wait, the costs of making the changes we need to make to address human-induced climate change go up.

                                                                        I am very proud of what this government has done. We have not finished it yet. We have to get it through this Senate, and we are going to have some serious debate over this over the coming weeks. I am voting for this because I actually believe that climate change is real and that it is caused by human activity. I believe we have an absolute responsibility to do something about it. That is why I am going to be supporting this carbon price and that is why I am going to continue to argue for it. Again, we do not want to be in a position where we simply abrogate our responsibility to the future generations of this country.

                                                                        The opposition really needs to grow up, accept the science and accept that something needs to be done. It is something they did accept at one time, but because of political opportunism they now reject the science. They reject the opportunity to be responsible.

                                                                        7:10 pm

                                                                        Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I congratulate the Cormann group for the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes, upon which we are commenting. It is the only true scrutiny that these bills have been the subject of. Perhaps that is part of the reason 80 per cent of the adult population of Australia is condemning the government now for the undemocratic move we saw in this place only yesterday.

                                                                        Yes, of course climate changes. 'Climate change' is a tautology: climate changes continually. It has always and will continue to. Go outside and you will see it changing. But the most important thing that needs to be considered in this whole debate is that this is a global issue. It is not an issue fenced around Australia. The previous speaker spoke about efforts of the past, about recommendations of the past and about actions of the Howard government, but it has always been predicated and always should have been on the global context. It is only this current Labor government that fails to understand that any action taken in Australia must be in the global context. As much as we think we are an incredibly important country, we are a very small player—a very small cog in an enormous wheel.

                                                                        I draw your attention to the second part of the summary—'Economic pain for no environmental gain'. That it is for no environmental gain is the greatest travesty of this carbon tax, introduced and passed in the lower house yesterday. This country produces less than 1.4 per cent of the world's greenhouse gases. People have said that if we stopped emitting tomorrow there would be no change. Well, there would be a change: there would actually be an increase in global greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, because efficient industry from Australia would move overseas.

                                                                        The best example, from the state of Tasmania and the state of South Australia, is the refining of zinc. It is my understanding that our Australian refineries in Hobart and in South Australia convert a tonne of zinc for some three tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted. In the event that Australia were to stop this activity, zinc refining would move to China, where the equivalent figure per tonne of zinc refined is 10 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This shows the stupidity of this argument about environmental gain that is being put by the Labor government. Clearly there will be leakage out of this country, and the contribution to world greenhouse gases and climate would actually increase. Has anybody stopped to ask themselves why this country has done as well as it has and is as wealthy as it is?

                                                                        Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        That doesn't make it right to pollute.

                                                                        Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        It is a simple fact that it is not because of iron ore. We have only had income from iron ore in relatively recent years. It is not from much produced out of Tasmania, I can tell you, Senator Bilyk. And it is certainly not even from agriculture. Why is it that in a country the land mass of America, which has 300 million people whereas we have a population of 23 million people, we are so advantaged? The answer is two words: cheap energy. That is what has made this country the great country it is—cheap energy. That is because we are very rich in resources, originally coal but more latterly LNG, upon which we can generate cheap power. That is the advantage this country has for so long had. One has to ask the question: why is it that this Labor government wants to tax the very thing that has advantaged this country and given us such a high per capita income and such wealth? One need only have a look at the actions of the Indian and American companies when it was announced recently by the Prime Minister that the carbon tax was on the agenda: of course, they went straight in—Mittal Steel and their associates, Peabody—to make a bid for Macarthur Coal. Prime Minister Gillard came out and said it was a round endorsement by the Indians and the Americans of this decision by Australia on a carbon tax. What a lot of nonsense! It was simply the fact that Mittal and Peabody, two of the world's biggest steel manufacturers, saw the advantage of an Australian government that is now phasing out the use of coal in this country and therefore saw a capacity to grab hold of as much as possible of the best coking coal in the world for their own purposes. So here is the duplicity and hypocrisy of this decision, which actually says, 'We want to sanctimoniously try and reduce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, but we're going to continue to sell coal to the rest of the world so that China, India, Indonesia and other countries can go on polluting at will'?

                                                                        What are other countries doing? What decision has the United States of America taken as the leader of the free world? It is making a decision to not proceed at all. What are the Indians doing? The Indians' greatest concern at the moment, as a stimulation to their economic wellbeing, is to get more access to Australian and other coal. We have heard the Chinese say, 'Oh, yes, we're going to have a look at all this.' Of course they are going to have a long look at it. They are going to have a look at it whilst Australia stupidly reduces its competitiveness. These were the issues that came out in the select committee.

                                                                        I move now to the first of the points made, and that, of course, is economic pain. Who will suffer the economic pain? Of course, everybody will. As said by Senator Joyce yesterday morning, every power point in every home and every business, everywhere across Australia, will become a tax collector for the government. What will happen to business? Of course, business will suffer badly, with increased electricity costs and power costs for anybody who requires foodstuffs to be chilled, frozen or held in a particular condition. We have seen evidence, for example, that business development and stimulation will stop. There was the evidence given recently by my colleague Mr Truss in the other place, talking about abattoirs in Australia being faced with the prospect of a quarter of a million dollars a year more in power costs—but only if they stay at their current levels of production. If they increase their production and put themselves into a higher category, the costs will be even greater.

                                                                        Reflect on the companies here in Australia that produce in competition with importers. They will immediately be disadvantaged because the importer from another country will not be suffering the same carbon tax in their country; they will be landing the product here, in competition with our own local producers. Why was it that Manufacturing Australia came out in the last few days sounding a warning to the government to not move on this in the current uncertainty of the world economic climate? You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say that climate changes in Australia and we must do something uniquely here but leave the rest of the world to do nothing and then turn around and say, 'Yes, we understand that the economics of other activities in the world do impact on this country'—and, of course, as we know, they do. I then come to those companies in Australia that are themselves exporters. They, of course, will be the subject of greater competition as they try to put products into markets overseas where the local suppliers are not subject to this same tax.

                                                                        On the question of transport, I was in Kalgoorlie only the other day; I was in the wheat belt of Western Australia and in the northern wheat belt of WA. In every one of those places, Mr Acting Deputy President Furner—you, being from Queensland, would understand this only too well—everybody is so fearful, because we all know the importance of the cost of transport for freight. We heard Senator Singh say to us the other day, 'Oh, all trucks under a limit of five tonnes won't be paying this carbon tax or the equivalent for fuel.' There are not too many trucks in Western Australia that deliver anything outside the metropolitan area at less than five tonnes. To put it into perspective for you, Western Australian roads are now moving 400 million tonnes of freight a year. That is the roads. That is not rail; that is the roads. Imagine the impact of this carbon tax on fuel in that circumstance.

                                                                        I conclude with these questions. Who are the '500 big polluters'? Imagine using the word 'polluter'. I have been trying to find out. We are not told. I would like to ask the question: how many of them are actually among our 500 biggest employers? How many are among our 500 biggest investors—our investors in R&D or in exploration? How many of those 500 operate overseas, where they are welcome in other countries and are not blasted as being polluters but are very, very welcome companies? I congratulate the select committee on its findings.

                                                                        Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        You have the call, Senator Boswell. What committee report are you speaking on?

                                                                        7:20 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I was going to speak on this report, but I understand someone else wants to speak. Is that correct?

                                                                        Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I understand that Senator Kroger was returning to item 2.

                                                                        Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator Kroger has not told me that, but if she would like me to yield then I will.

                                                                        Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        You are on your feet. Away you go, Senator Boswell.

                                                                        Photo of Ron BoswellRon Boswell (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I was part of the Senate Select Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes, and I thought it would be appropriate for me to say a few words and particularly respond to Senator Marshall. Senator Marshall has said that we all have to do this. I accept that; I do not mind if we all do it and no-one pays the penalty and the rest of the world does it. I will accept it, and I think we would all accept it. I do not know—I never get into the detail—whether science is right or wrong, because I do not think it matters whether science is right or wrong. What matters is whether we can make a change. There is no point in Australia, with 1.4 per cent of the world's emissions, going out unilaterally trying to do something. After heavy questioning to the Treasury and the climate change department, the committee were told: 'Don't worry about it. Everyone in the world is going to come to a position by 2016 and we will all be committed globally to reducing carbon, in one way or another. Although Australia, New Zealand and the EU will be the only ones that will have a carbon tax.' So somehow miraculously everyone will be reducing carbon. I have a reasonably inquisitive mind, so I said, 'What is America going to do?' They said: 'Nothing. They have a couple of states with carbon taxes that don't really amount to much.' I said, 'What is Japan doing?' They said, 'Nothing, until America does something.' I said, 'What is India going to do?' They said: 'They cannot afford it. They are impoverished. There would be riots in the streets if they tried to increase the price of food, increase the price of cement and increase the price of steel. They have millions and millions of unemployed, so they can't do it.'

                                                                        Senator Back would understand why I went to Jakarta to try to sort out the diabolical mess with the live cattle trade. When I saw the poverty there, I thought: 'How are these people going to cope with an increase in the price of food, an increase in the price of electricity and an increase in the price of steel? They have nothing.' It is so obvious that even if the rest of the world wanted to, and they don't, they could not. What we are doing here is an exercise in futility. Not only is it an exercise in futility because the rest of the world will not do it; the savings we make will be spent in one day by 2020. The 54 million tonnes that we are going to save will be blown by one day's effort in China.

                                                                        When I first came to this place the Labor Party had a range of people. There were graziers like Peter Walsh, solicitors, doctors, retailers and waterside workers—people who actually did things. They had a world of experience. They understood what the world was all about. They had been in the real world. What do we have on the Labor side now? We have a bunch of party hacks and union hacks who are told when to put their hands up, and if they don't, they are told, 'Don't come knocking at the door for preselection next time because it will not be open to you.'

                                                                        What we have on the other side is a bunch of people who have had no life experience. They would not know a market if they fell over one. They have never had to go out and put a pay packet in someone's pocket every week. We are being led by people who have no life experience. It is a tragedy. If you look at this side of the chamber, you will see we have farmers, accountants, a vet, a fisherman, a paint salesman, a winemaker and a carpenter, and we have a great range of experience across the whole spectrum. On the other side, they have union hacks who have never had the slightest bit of experience in the real world. Yes, they have stood over some workers and told them, 'Put your hands up and if you don't, you'll be in serious trouble.' That is not experience. Experience is going onto the factory floor and worrying, 'How am I going to pay those nine people?'

                                                                        I got a letter yesterday from one of Queensland's leading fishmongers, Morgans Seafood. They have a restaurant and a reasonable sized coldroom. The electricity cost for the restaurant will increase by $8,000 and for the coldroom by $18,000—totalling $26,000. Mr Morgan does not mind me mentioning this; in fact, he encouraged me to mention it. He said: 'I employ 30 to 40 people. How am I going to do it?' He is going to battle to do it. He can do it a couple of ways. He can put up the price of his fish and chips. He can put up the price of his prawns. But a point will come when no-one will buy and that point will be reached very soon. Those are the sorts of stories the committee heard as it went right around Australia. We listened to the nickel industry and the sugar industry, and all the industries said these same things. We moved from one town to the other as we took evidence and we found time after time that these things came through. 'Things are tough.' 'The dollar is high'. 'How are we going to compete?'

                                                                        Senator Back said it was going to cost the abattoir industry a quarter of a million dollars. I know two abattoirs that have costed their carbon emissions and their renewable energy costs at $3 million. If you work that back, it will mean $7 to $8 a beast by the time you put in increased transport costs. Those abattoirs are competing on a worldwide market. They are not competing in Australia; they are competing against America, Canada and Brazil. We have top producers, but no producer can cop a high dollar and then cop a carbon tax. If you put in a thousand head of cattle—and that is large—it will mean $8,000 off your income. There is no way in the world that an abattoir can pay an extra $8 to compensate the farmers. They will have to pay producers $8 less just to be competitive to sell overseas. That will mean $8 for every beast that goes through Australia. It is going to hurt the graziers—of course, it is—yet the government come in here and say what a wonderful thing they are doing for farmers. It is going to hurt the graziers. It is going to hurt the graziers but, by gee, it is not going to hurt the graziers as much as it is going to hurt those people who trust the Labor Party and pay their union fees because they think you people are looking after them. The Electrical Trades Union, Senator Cameron's union, and the mining industry union are kicking into the Greens. Would you believe, people are sitting over there representing unions that are paying Greens campaign fees? Isn't this the craziest thing in the world? If you believe in the Greens, go and sit with the Greens. If you believe in the Greens, do not sit with the ALP and pick up the tab and pay them.

                                                                        In the last few seconds I have, we were told—and this is not a Ron Boswell figure; it was produced by economists—that there is going to be a cost of about a trillion dollars. We are going to keep our lights on and we are going to have to pay that by the year 2050. What are we signing up for here? Why are we putting this great encumbrance— (Time expired)

                                                                        7:31 pm

                                                                        Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I am very grateful to Senator Boswell for that version of '"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan', from Australia's archives. We are dealing here with a report in 2011 entitled The Carbon Taxand that is a misnomer from the outset—Economic Pain for No Environmental Gain, an interim report by the Senate Select Committee on the Scrutiny of New Taxes. Mr Acting Deputy President, you may have seen the front page of that august journal the Australian yesterday which had an article—

                                                                        Opposition Senators:

                                                                        Opposition senators interjecting

                                                                        Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        There are a few readers on the conservative side of the house, I see. It had an article by Sue Neales about Mr Roderic O'Connor, of Connorville in Tasmania, and it explained how keeping the forests on his magnificent property under the Great Western Tiers was potentially a greater money spinner for him in an age of carbon trading than running sheep or certainly logging the forests and trying to export them as woodchips or whatever. What is so fascinating in that article is the win-win situation that is underlined in the carbon trading future which all of us face. Listening to Senator Boswell and the opposition, you would think that the better option is the non-market option, which is very curious for a conservative political party, and that is the central state option—and this has overtones of Eastern Europe of some time ago—where the state pays the factories to hopefully get them to stop polluting. Doing that, of course, does not come out of thin air—it takes money off the taxpayers.

                                                                        The alternative option by the Greens and the Gillard government is for the polluters to pay for the damage they are causing to the economy, to the environment and to society. This option allows that money to be collected and to go in a well-honed way to a number of pursuits, including offsetting the cost on householders, not least pensioners, low-income earners and middle-income earners as well and, at the same time, give a boost to renewable energy via energy sources of the future. That means relief to taxpayers who recognise there will be a cost of any action in an age of climate change.

                                                                        We have here the extraordinary thing of a Labor government with the Greens going for the market option—the capitalist option, if you like—of requiring those who create the damage to pay for it. It is very simple logic. From the money collected, it is given across to those who suffer the consequences of the pollution of the most polluting industries—that is, householders, through increasing power costs. Also, it is to look at a better way for the future, which is to put somewhere between $13 billion and $15 billion collected in coming years into renewable energy, including solar, wind, geothermal and the other very promising options of the future.

                                                                        In this report, we do not see any backing of that. It is largely a report based on the numbers in the committee system and the conservatives had those numbers. But what a different conservative we have under Mr Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, here in Australia from those in Britain under its Conservative government, the Cameron government, which just a few months ago put into place a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in that country by 50 per cent—a whopping half—by 2025. If that were to be touted in Australia now there would be paroxysms from the conservatives and their backers down there in Holt Street, where the Australian newspaper, the Murdoch newspaper, is produced.

                                                                        However, what is perfectly reasonable and has backing across the board in Britain is not contestable or debatable here in Australia. You have to think beyond the sections of the media that do not support reasonable, sensible and logical action on climate change in Australia. You ask yourself what it is that has made this huge difference in our country and then you come to the power of the mining industry, not least the coal industry, and its enormous ability to purchase the policy outcomes of this parliament against the public interest. We saw that last year when the then Rudd government proposed a mining superprofits tax which had been recommended by Treasury, that very conservative think tank. In doing so, they were following the simple principle of many other countries—Norway is a good example—of having a mining boom reined in at least to the extent of some money being put aside for the public from that mining boom to ensure the national wellbeing into the future.

                                                                        In Australia's case, if Treasury's advice had been followed, the proposal would have brought in, over the next decade, some $100 billion more—$60 billion on conservative estimates—than the now proposed Gillard government alternative. That is because, in the course of a couple of weeks in this city, three big mining companies came to town—Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Xstrata—backed by a $22 million advertising campaign and the fury of that section of the press which resides in Holt Street, and the government dissembled. The outcome of the talks which followed was one in which the Australian people will lose $100 billion that should have been invested in their future over the next 10 years. Had it been left to the Abbott alternative, however—the opposition of Mr Tony Abbott—it would have been $140 billion going to the mining companies rather than to the people of Australia who own the coal, the iron ore and the other minerals which were to be taxed. They were only to be taxed, it should be noted, when superprofits were being made, not during ordinary times or if the companies were losing money at any given time.

                                                                        That means that, because of the $22 million advertising campaign and the rollover of the big parties, in particular the opposition, there will not be the money for high-speed rail in Australia, there will not be the money to promote Asian languages as we would want to in this Asian century and there will not be the money to preserve Indigenous languages as we would like to in Australia. We have to be concerned that there will not be the money for a national dental healthcare scheme as there ought to be, there will not be the money coming from Canberra to help big cities get light rail and better transport systems and there will not be the money to help ameliorate the impact of climate change, including the impact on the 700,000 vulnerable properties on the eastern seaboard of Australia let alone, as we saw from a report this week, the impact of the loss of the ski fields with all the associated jobs. All the wherewithal of this nation—

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        You don't believe this, do you? Not even you!

                                                                        Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator Macdonald, representing Mr Abbott on the opposition benches, is saying 'You don't believe this.' We have a sceptic and a denier in the seat. (Time expired)

                                                                        7:41 pm

                                                                        Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate defer further consideration of the clean energy bills until after the next election for the House of Representatives.

                                                                        Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator Brown, are you seeking leave to continue your remarks?

                                                                        7:42 pm

                                                                        Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        No, I think we should keep this debate going.

                                                                        Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I will put the question.

                                                                        Photo of Anne McEwenAnne McEwen (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I would like to speak on the reports, if I may.

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        On a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President—

                                                                        Photo of Anne McEwenAnne McEwen (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I am on my feet.

                                                                        Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        There is a point of order.

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Mr Acting Deputy President, by leave you can do anything. Senator Abetz has sought leave to move a motion. You can either grant the leave or you can disallow the leave, but by leave in this chamber you can do anything at all. He has sought leave and it is a question of whether leave is given or not.

                                                                        Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Is leave granted? Leave is not granted. I call Senator McEwen.

                                                                        Photo of Helen KrogerHelen Kroger (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        On a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President: if you had been looking around the chamber, you would have seen the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate on his feet before the Government Whip. I think that he should have had the call.

                                                                        Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator McEwen got the call. She stood first, I am afraid.

                                                                        7:44 pm

                                                                        Photo of Anne McEwenAnne McEwen (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I too would like to contribute to this debate on the report currently the subject of a motion moved—

                                                                        Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. There was a matter before the chair which had not been determined by you as the chair when you gave the call to Senator McEwen. That matter was subsequently dealt with. Senator McEwen could not have had the call when there was still a matter before the chair that you, as chair, had not finalised. You cannot say that Senator McEwen had the call because the matter before the chair was Senator Abetz's request for the motion that he had moved. You cannot give the call to Senator McEwen on the guise that she had the call before you dealt with that matter because you as chair had to deal with that matter before you could give anybody the call. The matter was essentially with Senator Abetz.

                                                                        Photo of Mark FurnerMark Furner (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Senator Brown, you have a point of order?

                                                                        Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Mr Acting Deputy President, on the point of order. There are two matters here. Firstly, you were quite right in giving the call to Senator McEwen. We were dealing with the government responses to parliamentary committee reports and Senator Abetz tried to intervene on that with another matter. You quite rightly discounted his ability to do that, and that should have pertained. I welcome the President of the Senate to the chair. That was a correct ruling. However, Senator Abetz persisted in wanting to seek leave, which should have waited. When leave was not given he sat down. You then rightly gave the call to the senator on your right. That ruling should remain.

                                                                        Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I have not been here for the situation, and I note the hour of the night, but I do understand that there is a question before the chair. The question before the chair is that the report be taken note of. That is the question that is before the chair at this stage.

                                                                        Senator Abetz interjecting

                                                                        Senator McEwen interjecting

                                                                        Order! The question before the chair has to be disposed of. That is the first thing that must take place in the order of debate. The question must be disposed of, and the question before the chair is that the report be taken note of.

                                                                        Senator Ian Macdonald interjecting

                                                                        Senator Macdonald, I have not given you the call. Senator McEwen.

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Point of order, Mr President!

                                                                        Photo of Anne McEwenAnne McEwen (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Mr President, I have a point of order. My point of order is that I stood with the intention of taking note of the report listed at page 8 on today's Notice Paper. I made it quite clear that my intention was to contribute to the debate.

                                                                        7:48 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Mr President, pursuant to standing order 198, I give you notice that I take objection to the ruling you have just made and I have written somewhere here that I object to the ruling of the President, which is writing in accordance with that order. I move:

                                                                        That the ruling of the President be dissented from.

                                                                        Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        If you are going down that path then that is disposed with and will be entertained on the next day of sitting, in accordance with the standing orders. I refer you to the standing orders. You are quite within your rights—you must table it in writing—and that is disposed of on the next day of sitting. The question now is—

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Mr President, if you read the rule further it states:

                                                                        Debate on that motion shall be adjourned to the next sitting day, unless the Senate decides on motion, without debate, that the question requires immediate determination.

                                                                        I move:

                                                                        That the question of dissent requires immediate determination.

                                                                        Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The advice I have is that that needs to be put without debate. Question put.

                                                                        The Senate divided.   [19:55]

                                                                        (The President—Senator Hogg)

                                                                        Question negatived.

                                                                        The motion of dissent will appear on the Notice Paper for the next day of sitting.

                                                                        7:57 pm

                                                                        Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Northern and Remote Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Mr President, in view of what has just happened, I seek leave to withdraw my motion.

                                                                        Leave granted.

                                                                        Mr President, I ask that you consider the ruling you made and perhaps report back to the Senate later.

                                                                        Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I will consider the ruling and, if necessary, I will report back. But at this stage I see no reason to. I will stick by my ruling.

                                                                        Order! It being past 7.50 pm, I propose the question:

                                                                          That the Senate do now adjourn.

                                                                        7:59 pm

                                                                        Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Tonight I would like to highlight what I think was absolutely disgraceful behaviour by Paul Howes yesterday in front of my electorate office in Wollongong. On Tuesday afternoon, the Australian Workers Union posted a media release entitled 'Save Our Steel Jobs: National Day of Action for Steel', promising:

                                                                        Tomorrow hundreds of steelworkers will front up to Coalition MP offices in their local communities …

                                                                        Three offices were named: my office in Wollongong, Greg Hunt's office in Hastings and Bob Baldwin's office in Raymond Terrace. My office was advised that the police were expecting about 300 people. Sky News reported 50 people. It was a complete fizzer. No-one visited my office. Only about 30 people attended and that was mostly when the media turned up. I am told that all of about 20 people turned up at Mr Hunt's office and no-one turned up at Mr Baldwin's office, according to a press release that he put out yesterday.

                                                                        I have a couple of photos here, taken when Paul Howes was speaking. I can count 11 people—hardly the hundreds that Mr Howes was boasting. There are 3,000 steelworkers at the Port Kembla BlueScope plant and, from the look of the photos, most of those attending were well-known union officials. May I say that I respect the rights of the unions to protest outside my office. Had they done it when I was there, I could have spoken to them. But they seem to protest outside my office only when I am not there. On the last occasion, they came up to my office and intimidated my young staffer at the counter, demanding to know where I was. She politely told them that it was a sitting day and that I was at work in the Senate.

                                                                        So what did Paul Howes tell his merry little band? First he said that by the end of this week a carbon tax would be law—wrong. For someone who no doubt aspires to political office in this place, might I say: learn the basics. The legislation needs to pass the Senate before it becomes law. Paul Howes spent all day yesterday criticising me. He could start by saying my name properly, but what does one expect from an arrogant man like him? Then Paul Howes asserted that I should be—wait for it—'run out of town' for daring to stand up for my constituents in New South Wales who do not want this toxic tax. This is the sort of language that Paul Howes and his ilk are now able to get away with under Julia Gillard's regime. The Prime Minister's mate has threatened me because I dare to hold a different point of view. The sheer arrogance and conceit of this man is beyond belief. I am standing up for those who are opposed to this toxic tax. I am representing the views of thousands of Illawarra residents who voted against the Australian Labor Party at the recent state and local government elections. I stood at the polling booths and I heard the message loud and clear—anti-Labor and anti-carbon tax.

                                                                        I will take you to a couple of the blog comments that appeared after this so-called protest. This is one by Tom yesterday at 2.57:

                                                                        Saw this protest, was half a dozen "workers" until the media turned up and then this number increased significantly for 5 minutes while someone ranted and raved. And then it was over, everyone back on the union bus and back to work. More like sheep than true protestors!

                                                                        Here is another comment:

                                                                        Unions and their supporters protest about this but they wave the white flag when it came to the carbon tax, a tax that will decimate manufacturing in Australia. Don't complain when you have no jobs at all boys.

                                                                        Of course, Paul Howes is the very man who on election night with me on the ABC tried to argue that the political assassination of Kevin Rudd had nothing to do with the massive swing against Labor at the last election.

                                                                        The vote for Ms Gillard's carbon tax is illegitimate. It is prefaced on a lie. She knifed the former Prime Minister and now her faceless man is threatening to run me out of town. Well, let me tell you, Mr Howes: I will not be bullied. I was born and bred in Wollongong. I was there long before you were born or even came to the Illawarra. No-one, Mr Howes, is going to run me out of town. Your conduct yesterday, Mr Howes, demonstrates all the hallmarks of the classic union thug and bully. So today I have called on the Prime Minister and asked her whether she condones this sort of thuggish language and bullish behaviour. It demonstrates that Mr Howes has no respect for the office. He has threatened me, but I will not be intimidated.

                                                                        Let me turn to the Steel Transformation Plan. This plan only helps the big steelmakers, BlueScope and OneSteel, while many smaller companies in the Illawarra and around Australia will be left out. The remaining businesses, which employ 80 per cent of Australia's steelworkers, will be excluded. So let's look at how this plan came about. It is really not about protecting steel jobs; it is only about protecting the job of one man. We know that Mr Howes went down to the steelworks at Port Kembla and told the workers down there that they had to cop the tax. But after lots of finger pointing at this meeting and very heated discussion he made a hasty retreat. All of a sudden we started to hear about this Steel Transformation Plan, using the funds destined for carbon tax compensation. This is about protecting the job of one man and one man only. Ms Gillard owes her faceless man and this is his payback. It has very, very little to do with helping the steel industry. Indeed, it is only a stay of execution for the steel industry. As the coalition has repeatedly said, if you have no tax there is no need for compensation.

                                                                        Yesterday we saw the spectacle of Labor celebrating this massive win with no thought whatsoever for what the impact is going to be on the Australian public. Having broken faith with the Australian people, they turned around and gave themselves a round of applause. Ms Gillard and others may now seek to push opportunistic political slogans like 'buy local'. What hypocrisy when the carbon tax is Labor's 'buy foreign content' plan. So what will Stephen Jones, the member for Throsby, and Sharon Bird, the member for Cunningham, say to the coal and steel workers of the Illawarra whose jobs are at risk because their industries are being deliberately placed at a competitive disadvantage? What will the member for Robertson, Deb O'Neill, and the absent member for Dobell, Craig Thomson, tell the Central Coast workers? What about Daryl Melham?

                                                                        There is an article today titled 'Carbon tax costs worry Gosford and Wyong councils'. This article in the local paper highlights concerns that the councillors have about the carbon tax. But of course they cannot go and tell Craig Thomson about their concerns because he is the member you have when you do not have a member—the missing-in-action member. They said, 'We had a carbon tax rally. We couldn't even approach his office because the police were called to keep us away.' People from his constituency could not even get near his office to complain about the impact of the carbon tax on them. They could not even complain, so forget the Gosford and Wyong councils having any impact at all on Mr Thomson or the grand carbon tax pooh-bah himself, Greg Combet, in Charlton or Ministers McClelland, Burke and Ferguson. What are they going to tell their workers in the seats of Barton, Watson and Werriwa? That they are happily cheering and kissing each other?

                                                                        I must say that the Daily Telegraph had it right when they called it the 'kiss of death'. I would not be feeling very comfortable if I were the Prime Minister after that kiss from Mr Rudd. But there you are. You are all standing there cheering while the costs of living and fuel will go up. The costs for small business will go up. The struggle for families in these electorates will get worse. Saying sorry will simply not be enough for this Prime Minister or this government. Go to an election. What are you scared of? Why don't you let the Australian public be the final judge and adjudicate on this toxic carbon tax?

                                                                        8:09 pm

                                                                        Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Tonight I rise to speak about something important to a number of members in this place, and that is the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia. In particular I want to speak about the release of its National drowning report 2011. As an ambassador for the society, as I know a number of other members and senators are, I was present for the launch of the National drowning report on 21 September at Parliament House in Canberra. The society undertakes some very important work in promoting water safety, and I am pleased to be able to support the organisation whenever I can.

                                                                        The report reveals that 315 people in Australia drowned in the period between 1 July 2010 and 30 June 2011. When broken down, state by state, the number of drowning deaths were: 107 deaths or 34 per cent in New South Wales; 93 deaths or 30 per cent in Queensland; 38 deaths in Victoria; 37 deaths in Western Australia; 15 deaths in my home state of Tasmania; 13 deaths in South Australia; eight deaths in the Northern Territory; and four deaths in the Australian Capital Territory. It is a tragic fact that drowning deaths are now at their highest level since 2003 and are 11 per cent higher than the average over a five-year period. The report shows that men are 3½ times more likely to drown than women and that the tendency of men in the 18 to 34 age group to drown is a particular concern. It also shows that 36 per cent of all drowning deaths across Australia occur in rivers, creeks or streams. This figure includes the 38 people who tragically lost their lives in the Queensland floods in December and January of this year.

                                                                        The report highlights the challenges Australia faces to meet the Australian Water Safety Council's goal of a 50 per cent reduction in drowning by the year 2020. The report also indicates that there is a great need to focus on prevention strategies to counter river drownings and also drownings by people aged over 55 years of age and men aged 18 to 34. All areas of water safety need to be looked at in order to make a real impact on the number of drowning deaths.

                                                                        There has been an alarming increase in the number of deaths in the 55-year-plus category with 117 in the 2011 report compared to only 82 deaths in 2008. The deaths in this category account for 37 per cent of all drowning fatalities in Australia. This age group most commonly drown in rivers, creeks and streams while undertaking a variety of activities, such as fishing, boating or swimming. The statistics in this age group are particularly concerning. They are concerning not only because they account for such a large number of deaths but because the figure is likely to rise. It is likely to rise because of Australia's ageing population and the fact that the baby boomer generation is approaching retirement. When talking about this age group, the society's chief executive officer, Rob Bradley, states:

                                                                        Older Australians drown in a range of aquatic settings. Improving fitness and swimming skills, and increasing awareness of the impact of medication and pre-existing illnesses on their ability to stay safe are key strategies to prevent drowning …

                                                                        Mr Bradley also emphasises the importance of people having a buddy system in place when they are involved in water activities.

                                                                        Across all age groups, the report also examines the environments in which people drown, such as pools, waterways and the ocean. The society highlights the increased work that has been done to reduce the number of drowning deaths occurring in rivers, creeks and streams because of the dramatic increase in deaths in those circumstances. The number of fatalities in these circumstances have almost doubled since 2008, with 114 deaths this year compared to 58 three years ago. If the deaths that occur in lakes, dams and lagoons are added to this figure, deaths in inland waterways account for nearly 45 per cent of total drowning deaths.

                                                                        In regard to the 18- to 34-year-old male category, which I mentioned before, alcohol is known to be a factor in more than 10 per cent of deaths and, in that 10 per cent, many of the alcohol readings were high. Many men in this age group continue to take unnecessarily life-threatening risks, including consuming alcohol or other drugs prior to undertaking water activities. Prescription drugs can be a factor in fatalities, especially if they are abused, and people should consult their doctor about the side effects of medications and about whether aquatic activity is suitable while taking their medication. Men in the 18 to 34 age group are also very difficult to reach with prevention messages. The society believes that secondary school students should complete a lifesaving program, such as the Bronze Medallion, because such training is vital to develop strong swimming, water safety and basic rescue skills. This year's report shows a reduction of 15 per cent in children under the age of five drowning, but the society urges all adults to remain vigilant when supervising children around water as child drowning still remains at unacceptably high levels. The number of child deaths fluctuates and a low number of deaths in one reporting period is no reason for any of us to become complacent.

                                                                        In the area of backyard pool safety, there has been a significant reduction in drowning deaths in Queensland in this reporting period. This has coincided with the Queensland government's reforms to legislation around backyard pools. The message of being vigilant about pool safety is starting to get through to Queensland pool owners via increased public awareness campaigns. They are required to register their pools and are subject to mandatory inspections. The society urges state and territory governments to review their policies and programs around pool safety and to continue to encourage people with backyard pools to comply with legislation or best practice.

                                                                        Keep Watch, the society's program focused on child water safety, continues to urge all parents to supervise their children constantly when they are near water, and to learn CPR so that they are prepared should they ever need to resuscitate a child. The Swim and Survive program is a wonderful way to introduce children to the water and to teach them the importance of water safety.

                                                                        Despite the common belief held by society, drowning deaths occur all year round. On average the summer period accounts for 41 percent of deaths, spring for 22 percent, winter for 20 per cent and autumn for 16 percent. Vigilance around water is important regardless of the time of year. It is also important to remember that you do not have to intentionally go into water. Death often occurs when people fall or wander into the water, especially if they have been drinking. In the nought-to-four age group, 57 percent of fatalities entered the water unintentionally, while in the 55-year-plus age group 14 per cent of deaths resulted from falling or wandering into water.

                                                                        I want to mention some other statistics before I finish. Sixteen per cent of deaths in the 15- to 34-year age group occurred at the beach, and in the 55-year-plus age group 14 per cent of deaths occurred while using watercraft. In the reporting period, 19 international tourists drowned while in Australia and eight Australians drowned outside of their home state or territory. The international tourists were from a variety of countries: Ireland, China, India and Germany.

                                                                        The statistics I have just spoken about cannot be ignored. To do so would be at our own peril. These statistics show that drowning can happen to both males and females. It can happen to people of all ages and it can happen in a variety of locations. This is why we all need to be vigilant around water. There are many steps we can take to reduce the number of drowning deaths. We should swim in pairs or groups. We should always watch children and other weaker swimmers around water. We should act sensibly and make sure that we do not go into the water after consuming alcohol. We should always assess the conditions at the beach or the river before we go in the water. Of course, as last summer's flood tragedy has proven, we need to be cautious in times of extreme rain conditions. We should not drive through floodwaters or swim in drains.

                                                                        Drowning is an all-too-regular event and it is one that we need to do everything possible to prevent. I am proud to be an ambassador for the Royal Life Saving Society's important work and I congratulate them on their efforts in making people more aware of the dangers we face in and around the water. I urge everyone to be sensible in and around the water. As I have said, this is important not only in the hot summer months but all year round because we know that drowning can happen at any time of the year. Water safety is everyone's responsibility and together we can reduce the number of fatalities that occur in the water.

                                                                        8:18 pm

                                                                        Photo of John MadiganJohn Madigan (Victoria, Democratic Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        Tonight I would like to speak on a matter which I believe should be at the forefront of every senator's mind when we consider legislation in this house—that is, the dignity of work and the sense of self-worth and community responsibility gainful employment delivers. Whether we are considering the current carbon tax legislation, which I do not intend to speak about tonight, or legislation on land, water, minerals or communities, in fact almost any bill we examine, we will be considering issues that affect Australian workers, families and communities involved in the manufacturing and farming sectors.

                                                                        Manufacturing involves real people, real jobs, real skills and real prosperity. It also delivers tangible social and economic benefits. Approximately 100 years ago in Ballarat, my home town, HV McKay set up, having come from Elmore, which is north of Bendigo, and built the famous Sunshine Harvesters. After he left Ballarat he set up the famous HV Mackay Sunshine Harvester Works, the largest implement works in the Southern Hemisphere, which is where the harvester case came from. As much as I would have disagreed with Hugh McKay on his industrial relations stance, he did provide worker housing and let workers pay off their homes. He did have some sense of community responsibility, which is still in evidence today with the homes that are dotted around Sunshine and Albion.

                                                                        Australian businesses are not competing on a level playing field, yet they are competing. Many businesses across the length and breadth of Australia are at the technological cutting edge. Our manufacturing sector feels that it is under siege and our farming sector feels like it is being taken for granted. Quite frankly, almost every worker and farmer I have spoken to believes they have been forgotten by some members in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, not just under this government but under successive governments. As I said in my first speech, during my time here, however long that may be, I hope to take steps to change this situation and restore the confidence of Australia's industry to the best of my ability for the betterment of Australian families and workers. One of the ways I hope to achieve this is by raising the awareness of members of both houses of the daily pressures facing Australian workers, manufacturers and farmers. It is for that reason that I advise that I will be seeking to establish a manufacturing-farming sector parliamentary program similar to the one that we are all aware of for the ADF, which has so successfully raised among parliamentarians the level of understanding of and support for the sacrifice and devotion of members of our defence forces for the protection of our country and its people.

                                                                        Australian workers, whether they work in the agricultural sector or the manufacturing sector, are the people whose hard work and devotion keep our nation alive—they pay taxes and they contribute to local communities. These people are losing their jobs. Just today, 20-odd workers in my home town of Ballarat lost their jobs at ECM, where the privatised workshops of the Country Fire Authority used to build the fire trucks for Victoria. Also, a couple of months ago another 25 workers lost their jobs at Walkabout clothing. Each day I go to my office, which is opposite Centrelink in Ballarat, I see people walking into Centrelink to apply for benefits or to collect them, and I see the despondent look on their faces. When people lose their jobs there are mental health problems like depression, there is drug and alcohol abuse and there is vandalism. We quite often talk here about the cost of things to our nation and what it does to the bottom line, but the worst cost is in people. We also talk about intergenerational unemployment. If you go into the working suburbs of Ballarat you see the look on these people's faces when they are walking home at night and there is a total sense of despondency. It should cut all of us to the quick to think that people feel life is so hopeless.

                                                                        As you would imagine, after sitting through several months in the Senate I was unsure how senators and members would view my proposal for this manufacturing-farming sector parliamentary program. I had my doubts whether I could get anyone to consider the idea, let alone get bipartisan support. However, I can report with great pleasure that I have found considerable support from senators and members from all parties. I can also report that, having spoken to many businesses—small, medium and large—there is an overwhelming enthusiasm for the program, and they have asked to be included in its establishment. These groups, representing hundreds of businesses and many thousands of people, can see how beneficial it would be for every aspect of their industry to be opened up, showcased and examined by their parliamentarians.

                                                                        The opportunity to experience the day-to-day lives of workers, farmers, their families and communities across the length and breadth of Australia would help to give each of us a greater insight into how much our decisions affect their lives. I am hopeful to announce the details of the proposed program early in December in Ballarat, and I have already received a great response from many here and in the other house. With this level of support, I am sure that the program will be seen as worthwhile and will receive the support it must have from the government and the opposition.

                                                                        8:26 pm

                                                                        Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        I rise tonight in the adjournment debate to highlight the highly successful community cabinet that was held recently in Kingston in southern Tasmania. The community cabinet was hosted by my colleague the federal member for Franklin and Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services, Julie Collins MP, with the community cabinet taking place at the newly constructed Kingston High School. Julie Collins, as everyone would know, is an extremely hard-working and dedicated local member, and I congratulate her for holding a successful community cabinet.

                                                                        The community cabinet was also attended by my colleagues the federal member for Lyons, Dick Adams, and Senators Anne Urquhart, Catryna Bilyk and Lisa Singh. The community cabinet was a wonderful opportunity for the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and members of the ministry to travel to Franklin and its surrounds to meet and talk directly with Tasmanians on issues that are affecting them. The community cabinet at Kingston High School proved to be extremely popular, with people signing up to attend the community cabinet at a record pace. I believe we may even have set a record for the fastest filling of a community cabinet event. This highlights the passion and interest Tasmanians have in being politically engaged and involved in policy debate.

                                                                        On Monday, 3 October, around 300 people filled the recently opened Kingston High School auditorium to the brim, with people even sitting in the aisles to get a seat due to the overwhelming enthusiasm for the event. The session began with a welcome from the principal of the Kingston High School, Ms Gourley, who was delighted that her new school had been chosen to host such a prestigious event. I would also like to thank Ms Gourley and everyone involved from the Kingston High School for their hospitality and professionalism in hosting such a successful event.

                                                                        Before the formalities of the community cabinet got underway, we were treated to some outstanding musical performances from the students of Kingston High School, firstly, to a wonderful rendition of Advance Australia Fair, performed as a duet by Harriet and Zoe. This was followed by a solo musical instrumental piece by Nick, who blew the audience away with his gifted and talented performance playing multiple instruments, including the didgeridoo and the guitar at the one time. These performances showcased the wonderful talent at Kingston High School.

                                                                        After these two outstanding performances the Prime Minister and her ministers were faced with the unenviable task of having to follow these young people and their musical items. The Prime Minister spoke about her vision and plans for the future of the nation, with particular focus on the transition of our economy towards a clean energy future and on the limitless potential of our National Broadband Network to increase productivity and drive growth whilst also delivering better health outcomes with great educational possibilities. The Prime Minister also highlighted that Tasmania was in the enviable position of featuring so prominently in the rollout of the NBN compared to the rest of Australia, presenting us with the opportunity to capitalise on its capabilities before the rest of the country. This was particularly pertinent given that earlier in the day the Prime Minister and the member for Franklin, Julie Collins, had announced the rollout of stage 3 and the connection of another 90,000 Tasmanian homes to the NBN.

                                                                        The Prime Minister spoke about her passion and vision for the introduction of a national disability insurance scheme in Australia and the benefits this would bring to people living with disability. She also spoke about local issues, including the challenges currently facing the Tasmanian economy and the intergovernmental agreement on the Tasmanian forestry industry. The Prime Minister then introduced her ministerial colleagues, who all outlined their portfolio responsibilities and what they had been doing in Tasmania that day and highlighted events and activities they had planned for the next day in Tasmania. I really think this is one of the great aspects of community cabinet—for ministers to visit an area and have the opportunity to meet with local organisations and constituents and to attend events. As each minister described what they had been doing during the day with different local members and senators, it was evident that it represented a vast cross-section of activities and programs operating in southern Tasmania. This allows ministers to see firsthand projects that local MPs have been highlighting in parliament or raising with individual ministers.

                                                                        The question-and-answer session was extremely fulfilling, with questions from the floor again focusing on a wide and varied range of topics including climate change, asylum seekers, the forest industry, road safety, children with disabilities and foreign aid, and even one question from a parochial Tasmanian—not that there are many of those, as I am sure Senator Colbeck will agree! The session was highly informative, with a number of people in the audience commenting to me after the community cabinet how worthwhile and successful it had been. A lovely lady that Senator Urquhart and I sat next to in the audience even sent through an email thanking us for making special seating arrangements for her hearing impaired husband so that he was able to sit at the front of the room within easy view of the person conducting sign language, giving him an opportunity to grasp the proceedings.

                                                                        Whilst the 'official' community cabinet event involving the question-and-answer session with the Prime Minister and her ministerial colleagues was extremely well received, the informal meet-and-greet session over a cup of tea and a sandwich also proved to be extremely popular. This provided an informal setting for the Prime Minister and ministers to mingle and meet local constituents. Many people took this opportunity to seek out a minister to chat about a topic they were interested in. The Prime Minister also proved a big hit during the informal meet and greet, with people taking the rare opportunity to get up close for a chat with the Prime Minister, and a few even managed to sneak in a photograph or two. Prior to this mingling session there was an opportunity for individuals, community groups and other organisations to have formal face-to-face meetings with the Prime Minister and her ministers.

                                                                        As I mentioned earlier, before the Prime Minister and her ministerial colleagues attended community cabinet, they spent the day in the local community. The Prime Minister's first event for the day was the official opening of stage 1 of the Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park, GASP. The GASP project is a fantastic local project which is designed to connect the world-class Museum of Old and New Art, MONA, via a walking path, which includes a breathtaking boardwalk across Montrose Bay, shelter areas and a jetty for ferry access. The GASP was also recently successful in gaining funding to complete state 2 of the project through the Regional Development Australia Fund. As a long-time supporter of GASP, I was delighted that the project was able to secure this funding and I look forward to watching the project continue to grow.

                                                                        I had the opportunity to host the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, at an aged-care conversation in Hobart. Minister Butler is conducting over 30 aged-care conversations around Australia, listening to views and thoughts from consumers, unions and the sector on how we best support our ageing population into the future. The Hobart forum was extremely well attended, with over 140 people sharing their views and experiences. The Minster for Mental Health and Ageing also visited Lifeline for afternoon tea and a chat with staff and volunteers about their highly successful Chats program and their 24-hour counselling service. Chats is a wonderful program targeted to older people living independently and is about having fun, meeting new people and building relationships which create a feeling of friendship, support and connection.

                                                                        I also had the pleasure of attending Princes Street Primary School with the Minster for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, to talk to students about being a good global citizen and about Australia's role in the world. The students were fascinated by the topics of discussion and asked some very good questions. The foreign minister also conducted a foreign aid roundtable discussion with key Tasmanian stakeholders, which was hosted by Senator Anne Urquhart and the state member for Lyons, Rebecca White.

                                                                        The day after the community cabinet, Julie Collins and I joined the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, to deliver an election commitment at the Royal Hobart Hospital, where we officially opened Tasmania's first public PET scanner. The minister also announced over $17 million of funding to provide more beds and services for southern Tasmania. I was also able to show Minister Roxon firsthand the roaring success of the Building the Education Revolution when she officially opened the new BER facilities at Holy Rosary Catholic Primary School in Claremont. It was also a significant occasion for the school as they are celebrating their 50th birthday this year. I acknowledge the Principal, Ms Kate O'Driscoll, and the staff and students at Holy Rosary Catholic Primary School for their warm hospitality.

                                                                        I would like to acknowledge all the hard work of everyone involved in organising the Kingston community cabinet, which made it such a successful event. I look forward to the next community cabinet in Tasmania. (Time expired)

                                                                        Senate adjourned at 20:36

                                                                        The following documents were tabled by the Clerk:

                                                                        [Legislative instruments are identified by a Federal Register of Legislative Instruments (FRLI) number. An explanatory statement is tabled with an instrument unless otherwise indicated by an asterisk.]

                                                                        Australian Prudential Regulation Authority Act—Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (Confidentiality) Determination No. 16 of 2011—Information provided by life insurers and friendly societies under Reporting Standard LRS 100.0, LRS 120.0, LRS 210.0, LRS 300.0, LRS 310.0, LRS 330.0, LRS 340.0, LRS 400.0, LRS 420.0 and LRS 430.0 [F2011L02063].

                                                                        Civil Aviation Act—Civil Aviation Safety Regulations—Instrument No. CASA EX110/11—Exemption – take-off with residual traces of frost and ice [F2011L02062].

                                                                        Commissioner of Taxation—Public Rulings—

                                                                        Class Rulings CR 2011/87 and CR 2011/88.

                                                                        Product Ruling—Addendum—PR 2011/5.

                                                                        Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act—Commonwealth Companies (Annual Reporting) Orders 2011 [F2011L02060].

                                                                        Corporations Act—Accounting Standard AASB 2011-11—Amendments to AASB 119 (September 2011) arising from Reduced Disclosure Requirements [F2011L02053].

                                                                        Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act—Amendment of list of exempt native specimens—EPBC303DC/SFS/2011/29 [F2011L02052].

                                                                        Financial Sector (Collection of Data) Act—Financial Sector (Collection of Data) (Reporting Standard) Determinations Nos—

                                                                        6 of 2011—Reporting Standard GRS 210.1_G (2011) Premiums Liabilities – Insurance Risk Charge (Level 2 Insurance Group) [F2011L02049].

                                                                        10 of 2011—Reporting Standard GRS 310.0_G (2011) Income Statement (Level 2 Insurance Group) [F2011L02050].

                                                                        Freedom of Information Act—Disclosure Log Determination No. 2011-1 (Exempt Documents) [F2011L02059].

                                                                        Higher Education Support Act—Higher Education Provider Approval No. 6 of 2011—Academy of Information Technology Pty Ltd [F2011L02051].

                                                                        Insurance Act—Insurance (Prudential Standard) Determinations Nos—

                                                                        2 of 2011—Prudential Standard GPS 001 Definitions [F2011L02054].

                                                                        3 of 2011—Prudential Standard GPS 111 Capital Adequacy: Level 2 Insurance Groups [F2011L02055].

                                                                        4 of 2011—Prudential Standard GPS 311 Audit and Actuarial Reporting and Valuation: Level 2 Insurance Groups [F2011L02056].

                                                                        Migration Act—Migration Regulations—Instrument IMMI 11/051—Alternative English language proficiency tests to the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) for student visa purposes [F2011L02058].

                                                                        Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act—Select Legislative Instrument 2011 No. 130—Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Amendment Regulations 2011 (No. 2) [F2011L01360]—Explanatory statement [in substitution for explanatory statement tabled with instrument on 5 July 2011].

                                                                        Therapeutic Goods Act—Poisons Standard Amendment No. 4 of 2011 [F2011L02057].

                                                                        The following documents were tabled pursuant to the order of the Senate of 24 June 2008:

                                                                        Letter of advice (appointments/vacancies)––Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio [2]; Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; Immigration and Citizenship portfolio; Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities portfolio; Health and Ageing portfolio

                                                                        The following documents were tabled pursuant to the order of the Senate of 24 June 2008:

                                                                        Letter of advice (grants)––Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio [2]; Immigration and Citizenship portfolio; Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities portfolio

                                                                        The following answers to questions were circulated:

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 21 March 2011:

                                                                        As at 31 December 2010 (QON 503) and 30 June 2011 (QON 779):

                                                                        (1)   With reference to the acquisition of the first 14 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) aircraft:

                                                                        (a)   what is the expected expenditure on the acquisition;

                                                                        (b)   what is supplied as equipment, supporting systems, weapons, services or infrastructure to the Australian Defence Force (ADF);

                                                                        (c)   when will these aircraft be delivered;

                                                                        (d)   when will they become fully operational; and

                                                                        (e)   what is the estimated through-life support and operating costs for these aircraft over an expected 30 year period of operation.

                                                                        (2)   When will the remaining 86 F-35 JSF be purchased (as referenced in the Defence White Paper 2009, p. 78, paragraph 9.60, 'The Government has decided that it will acquire around 100 F-35 JSF, along with supporting systems and weapons. The first stage of this acquisition will acquire three operational squadrons comprising not fewer than 72 aircraft').

                                                                        (3)   With reference to the acquisition of the remaining 86 F-35 JSF aircraft:

                                                                        (a)   what is the expected expenditure on the acquisition;

                                                                        (b)   what will be supplied as equipment, supporting systems, weapons, services or infrastructure to the ADF;

                                                                        (c)   when will the aircraft be delivered;

                                                                        (d)   when will they become fully operational;

                                                                        (e)   where will the JSF squadrons be based, and when; and

                                                                        (f)   what is the estimated through-life support and operating costs over an expected 30 year period of operation.

                                                                        (4)   What savings would be made by cancelling the purchase of 24 F-35 JSF aircraft and purchasing 24 Super Hornets.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The honourable senator has asked two questions on the same subject six months apart. The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's questions:

                                                                        (1)   With reference to the acquisition of the first 14 aircraft:

                                                                        (a)   The first 14 JSF, with infrastructure and support required for initial training and testing, will be acquired at an estimated cost of $2.8 billion (then year price and exchange rate of $0.83). The aircraft are anticipated to cost approximately $1.6 billion (then year price and exchange rate of $0.83) including some contingency. Some additional contingency is approved in the broader Stage 1 acquisition against risks and cost uncertainty. The figures are in ‘Then Year’ Australian dollars (i.e. they take inflation into account).

                                                                        (b)   The acquisition comprises:

                                                                        (i)   initial pilot training in the United States;

                                                                        (ii)   initial spares associated with 14 aircraft;

                                                                        (iii)   auxiliary mission equipment (such as weapons adaptors);

                                                                        (iv)   training equipment and simulators to support operational testing;

                                                                        (v)   weapons to support commencement of operational testing;

                                                                        (vi)   support equipment associated with 14 aircraft;

                                                                        (vii)   facilities design and environmental planning activities;

                                                                        (viii)   initial contributions to a mission systems reprogramming facility;

                                                                        (ix)   information technology integration;

                                                                        (x)   initial contributions to shared JSF Program costs;

                                                                        (xi)   ongoing Defence Science & Technology Organisation support activities;

                                                                        (xii)   operational test activities in Australia; and

                                                                        (xiii)   ongoing industry support initiatives.

                                                                        (c)   On current plans, the initial 14 aircraft will be delivered through 2014 to 2017.

                                                                        (d)   The aircraft will not become fully operational until at least 2018.

                                                                        (e)   Assuming an operational life out to 2046, the estimated through life and operating cost of the 14 aircraft (including capability upgrades but not including acquisition cost) will be approximately A$9 billion (Then Year).

                                                                        (2)   A decision on purchasing the next batch of aircraft and all necessary support and enabling capabilities – leading to a total of no fewer than 72 aircraft to form the first three operational squadrons and a training squadron is planned for 2012. A decision on acquiring the fourth operational squadron to bring the total number of JSF aircraft to around 100, will be considered at a later date in conjunction with the Government’s decision on the timing of withdrawal of the 24 Super Hornets.

                                                                        (3)   With reference to the acquisition of the remaining 86 JSF aircraft:

                                                                        (a)   The expected acquisition cost for 86 additional JSF aircraft, which includes all project costs, is approximately A$13.5 billion (Then Year) Significant additional contingency is approved against risks and cost uncertainty.

                                                                        (b)   The acquisition breakdown is broadly similar to the first 14 aircraft but comprises the full support capability:

                                                                        (i)   initial spares associated with remaining aircraft;

                                                                        (ii)   auxiliary mission equipment associated with remaining aircraft;

                                                                        (iii)   additional training equipment and simulators to support four operational squadrons and a training squadron;

                                                                        (iv)   weapons for use in initial operational testing and training;

                                                                        (v)   support equipment associated with remaining aircraft;

                                                                        (vi)   facilities construction and noise mitigation activities;

                                                                        (vii)   remaining contributions to a mission system reprogramming facility;

                                                                        (viii)   remaining contributions to shared JSF Program costs.

                                                                        (c)   On current plans, the bulk of the aircraft to form the first three operational squadrons and a training squadron will be delivered through 2018-2022.

                                                                        (d)   On current plans, the first three operational squadrons will achieve Full Operational Capability by 2021. The fourth (and last) operational squadron will not be operational until post 2020 as determined by Government consideration of AIR6000 Phase 2C scheduled for “not earlier than 2015”.

                                                                        (e)   The indicative plan is as follows:

                                                                        (i)   RAAF Base Williamtown - first operational squadron in 2018,

                                                                        (ii)   RAAF Base Tindal - second operational squadron in 2019,

                                                                        (iii)    RAAF Base Williamtown - training squadron in 2019,

                                                                        (iv)    RAAF Base Williamtown – third operational squadron in 2020, and

                                                                        (v)   RAAF Base Amberley – fourth operational squadron in 2022-23.

                                                                        (f)   Assuming an operational life out to 2046, the estimated through life and operating cost of the 86 aircraft will be approximately A$36 billion (Then Year).

                                                                        (g)   The procurement cost of 24 Super Hornet (aircraft only) would be expected to be approximately A$180-200 million less than the cost of 24 JSF.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 22 March 2011:

                                                                        As at 31 December 2010:

                                                                        (1) Is it still planned to acquire 12 submarines as per the White Paper direction 'the Government takes the view that our future strategic circumstances necessitate a substantially expanded submarine fleet of 12 boats in order to sustain a force at sea' (Defence White Paper 2009, p. 64, paragraph 8.40).

                                                                        (2) What plans and strategies are in place to man the 12 future submarines given the great difficulty in 2010, of manning and operating our current submarines.

                                                                        (3) What is the expected cost of acquiring 12 future submarines, over the next:

                                                                          (a) 12 months;

                                                                          (b) 5 years;

                                                                          (c) 10 years; and

                                                                          (d) 15 years.

                                                                        (4) What funding has been provided to assist in the planning for the 12 future submarines.

                                                                        (5) When is it expected that the first pass approval will be provided to advance the purchase of the 12 future submarines.

                                                                        (6) What is the expected through-life support and operating costs of a fleet of 12 future submarines over a 30 year operating period.

                                                                        (7) When is it envisaged that the first of the 12 future submarines will be launched and fully operational.

                                                                        (8) What is the expected cost per year of maintaining and operating our 6 Collins Class submarines until they are de-commissioned, broken down by year until 2025.

                                                                        (9) What is the specific phasing-out program for the existing Collins Class submarines.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        (1)   Yes.

                                                                        (2)   In 2010 there were three sustainably crewed Collins Class Submarines operating.

                                                                        In response to the 2008 Submarine Workforce Sustainability Review, the Chief of Navy agreed to implement all the Review's recommendations and in early 2009 established the Submarine Sustainability Program to execute remediation actions, over a five year, five-phase Submarine Sustainability Strategy.

                                                                        Since the launch of the Submarine Sustainability Program, it has proved to be a highly effective framework for implementing the 29 Review recommendations and realising intended benefits. The Submarine Sustainability Program is primarily concerned with workforce-related reforms that benefit submariners and their families. The Submarine Sustainability Program has implemented more than two-thirds of the 29 recommendations and is still aiming to achieve the objective of growing a fourth submarine crew without undermining workforce growth in other areas critical to maintaining an effective submarine capability. The Submarine Sustainability Program is the foundation for expanding the submarine workforce to meet Future Submarine capability requirements.

                                                                        (3)    Until the submarine to be acquired, the support concept and the exact acquisition model are determined; it would be premature to speculate on the likely cost. The public DCP lists the main acquisition of SEA1000 as greater than $10 billion. Considerable work on scope, schedule and cost is required before more detailed data could be made available.

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has authorised a total of $19.306 million (Dec 11 Price Basis) for the Future Submarines Program.

                                                                        (5)   Current planning is that the Future Submarines Program will be considered by Government more frequently than less complex Defence acquisitions. Given this planned approach, there may not be a first pass approval as described in the Kinnaird process.

                                                                        (6)   These costs cannot be specified until the preferred submarine design and its associated usage-upkeep cycle is known.

                                                                        (7)   The date will depend on the submarine design and acquisition strategy agreed by Government.

                                                                        (8)   The costs provided are the estimates over the 10-year forward period, which is the estimating horizon, employed by Department of Defence.

                                                                        Table 1 details DMO's maintenance and support costs for the Collins class submarine, which are primarily incurred for contracted services to support the platform. These costs also include provision of Escape and Rescue Services, the Submarine Escape and Rescue Training Facility and support to the combat system.

                                                                        Table 1. Current Funded DMFP FYs 2011-12 to 2020-21

                                                                        Reference: CN 10 Milestone 20120120 (DMO)

                                                                        The expected operating budget for the six Collins Class submarines in each of the financial years 2011-12 to 2020-21 is detailed in the Table 2. The methodology used is consistent with the recent answer to QON 76 (asked by Senator Johnstone on 31 May 2011). The Operating costs include the cost of suppliers, facilities and personnel in both Defence and DMO deemed to directly contribute to the submarine capability along with rations, fuel, and EO (firings and sustainment costs).

                                                                        This table does not include sustainment and project costs.

                                                                        Table 2. Estimated Future Submarine Capability Operating Costs

                                                                        Note: Excludes Sustainment Costs for Collins Class (CN10)

                                                                        (9)   Current planning is for the first Collins Class submarine to be withdrawn from service in 2026. This is subject to an exhaustive assessment of the estimated life of the Collins, yet to be effected by Defence. It is intended that the Collins Class submarine withdrawal program will be closely coordinated with the introduction into service of the Future Submarines; the schedule for which is yet to be determined. The transition plan will be designed to minimise the impact on overall submarine availability, the period of transition and the associated costs.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        Given that the replacement of the Collins Class submarines is scheduled to begin in 2024-25, what is the current schedule to retire each of the Collins Class submarines?

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        The Collins Class Submarine life of type is currently planned to extend to around 2031, with the fleet being progressively withdrawn from service around 2025.

                                                                        The life of the Collins Class is notional rather than fixed and will be influenced by the ongoing supportability and relative capability of the Collins Class

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        How many staff were employed in the SEA 1000 Project office for the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 financial years.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        In 2008 – 09, the full year average strength was 7.5.

                                                                        In 2009 – 10, the full year average strength was 26.33.

                                                                        In 2010 – 11, the full year average strength was 37.25.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        What are the staffing projections for the SEA 1000 Project office for the 2011-12, 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 financial years.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        The current funded SEA 1000 workforce allocation for forward years is as follows:

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        What funding was allocated to the SEA 1000 Project office in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        Approved funding for the Future Submarines Program to date is as follows:

                                                                        December 2008—$4.670 million;

                                                                        October 2009—$10.840 million; and

                                                                        June 2010—$4.026 million.

                                                                        Out turned to a February 2011 price basis the total approved funding is $19.522 million.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        What is the projected spending in the SEA 1000 Project office for the period of 2011 to 2015.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        Funding for SEA1000 is outlined in the Defence Capability Plan (DCP), a classified document. A public response cannot be provided.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        With reference to the Defence White Paper 2009, which states that the Collins Class replacement submarines will be assembled in South Australia:

                                                                        (1) Is this still the case.

                                                                        (2) Why not describe the submarines as being 'built' in South Australia.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        (1)   Yes.

                                                                        (2)   As was the case with the Collins Class submarines and the Air Warfare Destroyer (AWD) projects, it is expected that Future Submarines will be assembled from components and possibly modules manufactured in a number of locations around Australia and overseas. Final assembly will take place in South Australia. The term 'built' would therefore be misleading.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        Given that it was stated at the Submarine Institute of Australia Conference in 2010 that the design experience of the United Kingdom, with regard to their future submarines, was greatly enhanced by having significant input from groups who would potentially be involved in the servicing of the submarines: what involvement have such groups had in the SEA 1000 project to date, and/or in the future.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        A key lesson learned from the Collins Program is that insufficient attention was paid to supportability during the design phase. It is intended that suitably experienced companies will be engaged during the design and development of the Future Submarines to minimise the likelihood of sustainment issues.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        (1)   What is the current build schedule to ensure that the first of the Collins Class replacement submarines is fully operational by 2025.

                                                                        (2)   What is the current delivery schedule for the remaining 11 submarines as defined in the Defence White Paper 2009.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        (1)   Current planning is based on 2nd Pass in late 2016. The exact schedule will depend on the capability required and the solution chosen. The phasing out of the Collins Class and the introduction of the future submarines will be managed to avoid any capability gap.

                                                                        (2)    The delivery schedule for the remaining submarines will be developed to minimise transition issues from the Collins Class and to take account of Industry capacity and Navy's ability to generate crews for the new submarines.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        (1) Has the Scorpene Class submarine been considered as a military off-the-shelf [MOTS] replacement for the Collins Class submarine.

                                                                        (2) What would be the estimated cost of purchasing 12 of this class of submarine as the 'new' submarine.

                                                                        (3) What are the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing this class of submarine.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        (1) Yes.

                                                                        (2) The cost estimate provided to Defence by the supplier of "Scorpène" is commercial-in-confidence and cannot be made available publically.

                                                                        (3) Advantages:   Proven design and possibly a relatively shorter delivery time compared with some other potential options.

                                                                          Disadvantages: The design does not meet Australia's broad needs as outlined in the Defence White Paper.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        (1) Has the HDW 209 Class (or an export variant) submarine been considered as a military off-the-shelf [MOTS] replacement for the Collins Class submarine.

                                                                        (2) What would be the estimated cost of purchasing 12 of this class of submarine as the 'new' submarine.

                                                                        (3) What are the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing this class of submarine.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        (1) The HDW Type 209 class of submarine is a 1960s vintage design that has not been offered to Australia and is not among the submarines considered as an off-the-shelf option for the Future Submarines.

                                                                        (2) No estimate is available.

                                                                        (3) No assessment has been made.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        (1) Has the Spanish S-80 Class (or an export variant) submarine been considered as a military off-the-shelf [MOTS] replacement for the Collins Class submarine.

                                                                        (2) What would be the estimated cost of purchasing 12 of this class of submarine as the 'new' submarine.

                                                                        (3) What are the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing this class of submarine.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        (1) Yes.

                                                                        (2) The cost estimate provided to Defence by the supplier of "S-80" is Commercial in Confidence and cannot be made available publically.

                                                                        (3) Advantages: The design is under construction for another Navy, therefore Australia would not be the parent.

                                                                        Disadvantages: The design is not at sea yet and is therefore unproven. The design does not meet Australia's broad needs as outlined in the Defence White Paper.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 29 April 2011:

                                                                        (1) Has the Japanese 'Soryu' Class (or an export variant) submarine been considered as a military off-the-shelf [MOTS] replacement for the Collins Class submarine.

                                                                        (2) What would be the estimated cost of purchasing 12 of this class of submarine as the 'new' submarine.

                                                                        (3) What are the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing this class of submarine.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        (1) No. The Japanese do not export submarines.

                                                                        (2) No estimate is available.

                                                                        (3) No assessment has been undertaken.

                                                                        Photo of John FaulknerJohn Faulkner (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the President of the Senate, upon notice, on 9 June 2011:

                                                                        (1) With reference to Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) staffing numbers and staff management policies:

                                                                        (a) what is the current number of full-time equivalent (FTE) staff and at what levels are these positions classified;

                                                                        (b) what is the projected number of FTE staff and associated classifications for the next 3 financial years;

                                                                        (c) for each calendar year since 2005, can figures be provided for:

                                                                        (i) the number of staff separations from DPS,

                                                                        (ii) the number of separations in the following categories: termination, resignation, retirement (age), retirement (other) or death, return to home agency, end of non-ongoing employment, and transfer or promotion to another agency, and

                                                                        (iii) the number of incidents of bullying reported to or recorded by DPS;

                                                                        (d) what measures (in detail) have been taken by DPS to address complaints and incidents of bullying in the workplace;

                                                                        (e) have any incidents of bullying been identified through staff exit surveys; and

                                                                        (f) what measures does DPS use to assess the success of measures to counter bullying in the workplace.

                                                                        (2) With reference to the treatment by DPS of billiard tables and other equipment from the former staff recreation room:

                                                                        (a) apart from the two billiard tables sold through ALLBIDS Auctions, what has become of all other furniture, fittings and fixtures from the former staff recreation room, including the following items:

                                                                        (i) pool table,

                                                                        (ii) ping pong table,

                                                                        (iii) dart board and cupboard,

                                                                        (iv) trophy cabinets and trophies,

                                                                        (v) piano,

                                                                        (vi) tables,

                                                                        (vii) chairs,

                                                                        (viii) light fixtures,

                                                                        (ix) carpet,

                                                                        (x) accessories, and

                                                                        (xi) any other items;

                                                                        (b) for all items disposed of, can the following details be provided:

                                                                        (i) any heritage assessment, significance or expert advice undertaken, assessed or obtained before disposal,

                                                                        (ii) the manner of disposal,

                                                                        (iii) whether any intermediary such as an auction house was used in the disposal,

                                                                        (iv) the original value,

                                                                        (v) the valuation prior to sale, and the basis of that valuation and of the original valuation,

                                                                        (vi) any reserve set,

                                                                        (vii) the value realised through sale,

                                                                        (viii) the destination of any funds realised, and

                                                                        (ix) any other details available including the date of sale, provenance and ownership of the item, and identity of the purchaser;

                                                                        (c) if any items from the former staff recreation room were retained, can details be provided of the retained items, including their current location and plans for future use; and

                                                                        (d) was Old Parliament House contacted before the sale of the billiard tables; if so, when and with what response; if not, why not.

                                                                        (3) With reference to the construction of the Parliament House briefing room:

                                                                        (a) how many DPS staff were displaced by the construction of the briefing room;

                                                                        (b) where are those displaced staff currently located; and

                                                                        (c) how many of those staff have moved, or will move, into the new office accommodation on the site of the former staff recreation room.

                                                                        (4) With reference to the asset management policies and practices of DPS, including, but not limited to, the Parliament building itself, and its furniture and artworks:

                                                                        (a) can details be provided of any charter for managing Parliament House and related assets, including governance arrangements and authority to dispose of items;

                                                                        (b) can an account be provided of the disposal policies and procedures followed by DPS, including: the procedures involved for initiation and consideration of disposal proposals, the decision-making processes, the valuation of items to be disposed of, the basis on which the value of assets is assessed as appreciating or depreciating, and procedures for ensuring value for money is achieved in the disposal process;

                                                                        (c) when items are disposed of for sale, is there any policy in relation to the disclosure during the sale process of the Parliament House provenance of the items;

                                                                        (d) does DPS maintain a register of assets, including artworks; if so, how are items recorded and updated;

                                                                        (e) when was the last full audit of DPS assets conducted, by whom was it conducted and what was the outcome, including the number, value and significance of any items missing or unaccounted for and action taken to locate them;

                                                                        (f) can details be provided of any original Parliament House items disposed of since 2000, including the reason for disposal, the value of the items and the manner of disposal; and

                                                                        (g) in relation to furniture, can details be provided of any items of furniture that have been replaced since the building opened in 1988, together with:

                                                                        (i) the reason for replacing them,

                                                                        (ii) the date of replacement,

                                                                        (iii) details of plans for future replacement of furniture as reported in the press on 21 May 2011,

                                                                        (iv) the rationale for the planned replacements,

                                                                        (v) the original value of the items to be replaced,

                                                                        (vi) the cost of planned furniture replacement,

                                                                        (vii) an assessment of how the quality and design of the replacement furniture compares with the original furniture, and

                                                                        (viii) procedures for ensuring that the design elements of the original furniture are maintained in the replacement furniture.

                                                                        (5) With reference to the Bertoia diamond chairs and other original outdoor furniture at Parliament House:

                                                                        (a) can details be provided of any original outdoor furniture that has been disposed of, including:

                                                                        (i) any heritage assessment, significance or expert advice undertaken, assessed or obtained before disposal,

                                                                        (ii) manner of disposal,

                                                                        (iii) whether any intermediary such as an auction house was used in the disposal,

                                                                        (iv) original value,

                                                                        (v) the valuation prior to sale, and the basis of that valuation and of the original valuation,

                                                                        (vi) any reserve set,

                                                                        (vii) value realised through sale,

                                                                        (viii) destination of any funds realised, and

                                                                        (ix) any other details available, including: the date of sale, provenance and ownership of the item, and identity of the purchaser;

                                                                        (b) if original outdoor furniture has been retained, can details be provided of its current location and any future plans in relation to it;

                                                                        (c) can details be provided of any new outdoor furniture that has been acquired; and

                                                                        (d) can the following details be provided in relation to the Bertoia diamond chairs:

                                                                        (i) how many have been sold or otherwise disposed of,

                                                                        (ii) what were the proceeds of any sale,

                                                                        (iii) is DPS satisfied that value for money was achieved in any sale of the Bertoia diamond chairs,

                                                                        (iv) if any Bertoia diamond chairs were disposed of, did DPS undertake a heritage assessment of the items before the sale, and

                                                                        (v) if a heritage assessment was undertaken, by whom was it undertaken and what qualifications or expertise did they have.

                                                                        (6) With reference to the terracotta pot plant holders previously located throughout Parliament House:

                                                                        (a) what is the current location of the terracotta pot plant holders and are there any future plans in relation to them;

                                                                        (b) if any of the terracotta pot plant holders have been disposed of, can the following details be provided:

                                                                        (i) whether any heritage assessment, significance or expert advice was undertaken, assessed or obtained before disposal,

                                                                        (ii) the manner of disposal,

                                                                        (iii) whether any intermediary such as an auction house was used in the disposal,

                                                                        (iv) the original value,

                                                                        (v) the valuation prior to sale, and the basis of that valuation and of the original valuation,

                                                                        (vi) any reserve set,

                                                                        (vii) the value realised through sale,

                                                                        (viii) the destination of any funds realised, and

                                                                        (ix) any other details available, including: the date of sale, provenance and ownership of the item, and identity of the purchaser; and

                                                                        (c) what is the estimated value of the original collection of terracotta pot plant holders.

                                                                        (7) With reference to the heritage management of Parliament House:

                                                                        (a) has Parliament House been nominated for Heritage Listing; if so, can full details be provided;

                                                                        (b) is DPS satisfied that it has discharged all of its responsibilities to ensure that Parliament House complies with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the Commonwealth Heritage List, the Commonwealth Heritage Management Principles, and the National Heritage List; if so, how has this been achieved; if not, why not;

                                                                        (c) what strategies does DPS employ to ensure that:

                                                                        (i) the original design elements of Parliament House, and

                                                                        (ii) the integrity of the original design and construction of Parliament House,    are maintained to the appropriate standard for the estimated 200 year life of the building, and how are these documented and reported;

                                                                        (d) can copies be provided of the current and all previous versions of the Heritage Strategy for Parliament House, including the date of each draft, and its current status and author/s;

                                                                        (e) who was consulted in the preparation of the Heritage Strategy for Parliament House;

                                                                        (f) is there any independent or expert oversight of Parliament House in relation to heritage management and design integrity;

                                                                        (g) does DPS retain spare original building materials, fixtures and fittings to meet the requirement of the building throughout its 200 year life; if so, can details be provided, including quantities of such materials and their original value;

                                                                        (h) has DPS disposed of any spare original building components, materials, fixtures and fittings; if so, can full details be provided, including: the rationale for the disposal, whether any heritage assessment was undertaken, the manner of disposal, the original value of the materials, and the value realised from the sale or disposal;

                                                                        (i) in managing projects to upgrade physical security or disability access or in undertaking modernising works, what procedures does DPS employ to manage the heritage aspects of the work; and

                                                                        (j) are architects engaged by DPS required to provide:

                                                                        (i) written reports to confirm how their new work conforms to the design integrity of Parliament House, and

                                                                        (ii) heritage impact statements as part their work.

                                                                        Photo of John HoggJohn Hogg (President) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

                                                                        I refer to Senate Question on Notice 682 (Senator Faulkner), the response to which we provided to the Senate on 8 July 2011.

                                                                        One component of the Questions related to terracotta pots in and around Parliament House.

                                                                        DPS officers have now become aware of some further information about terracotta pots, and we advise that some terracotta pots may have been disposed of via public auction around 1995/1996 by the Joint House Department.

                                                                        While we can find no record of the transaction we have become aware that the Parliament House Construction Authority originally acquired around 1300 pots. DPS records indicate that we have around 900. The estimated date of disposal is based upon information provided by former staff members.

                                                                        Photo of Scott LudlamScott Ludlam (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 27 June 2011:

                                                                        (1)   What is the Australian Government's understanding of the circumstances in which the US would be willing to use its nuclear forces in Australia's defence.

                                                                        (2)   Is it the Australian Government's understanding that the US would be prepared to use its nuclear forces both pre-emptively and responsively in relation to both nuclear and non-nuclear (chemical, biological, conventional) threats to Australia.

                                                                        (3)   What specific nuclear and non-nuclear threats does Australia face that could be countered or addressed by the use of US nuclear weapons.

                                                                        (4)   Does Australia consider the policies outlined in the [2010 NPR]report to be in conformity with Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and international humanitarian law.

                                                                        (5)   On what basis does the department assert, in paragraph 6.34 of the Defence White Paper 2009, that Australia is 'able to rely on the nuclear forces of the United States to deter nuclear attack on Australia'.

                                                                        (6)   Has the US Government ever offered an explicit guarantee directly to Australia that it would be prepared to use its nuclear forces in Australia's defence; if so, when and in what form was such a guarantee made.

                                                                        (7)   What practical steps, if any, has Australia taken since 2007 to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in its defence doctrines.

                                                                        (8)   What role do the US military bases situated in Australia, including the joint facility at Pine Gap, play in supporting US extended nuclear deterrence.

                                                                        (9)   Aside from hosting US military bases, in what other ways, if any does Australia provide support to US extended nuclear deterrence.

                                                                        (10)   How many and what class of US submarines will be involved in the Talisman Sabre 2011 military exercises in July, and will they be armed with nuclear weapons.

                                                                        (11)   Does the presence of nuclear-armed vessels in Australian waters pose a security risk to the Australian public.

                                                                        (12)   Will the Talisman Sabre 2011 military exercises include preparations for joint military activities involving the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons.

                                                                        (13)   What information, if any, does the department offer its personnel in relation to the lawfulness or otherwise of using or threatening to use nuclear weapons in armed conflict.

                                                                        (14)   Has the Australian Government offered any advice or other information to the 'Future Fund Management Agency' in relation to nuclear weapons, cluster munitions or anti-personnel land mines; if so, what was the content of such advice.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        (1) and (2) The United States Nuclear Posture Review 2010 (NPR) declares that the United States will only consider the use of nuclear weapons in extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners.

                                                                        The NPR declares that the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations. The United States would counter chemical or biological weapons attacks against it, or its allies, with a conventional military response.

                                                                        In regard to states which possess nuclear weapons and states which are not in compliance with the NPT obligations, the NPR states that there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which US nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional, chemical or biological attack against the United States or its allies and partners.

                                                                        The United States has also declared it will continue to strengthen conventional capabilities and reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks, with the objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack on the United States or its allies and partners the sole purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons.

                                                                        Australia welcomed this change in declaratory policy as a significant reduction of the role of nuclear weapons in US national security strategy and made clear the view that Australia would be comfortable if the United States were to reach its objective of making deterrence of nuclear attack the sole purpose of its nuclear weapons, subject to the significant work required to establish the conditions to do so safely.

                                                                        (3) The 2009 Defence White Paper states (at para 6.23) that Australia will most likely remain a secure country over the period to 2030 and (at para 4.59) that stable nuclear deterrence will continue to be a feature of the international system for the foreseeable future, and in this context extended deterrence will continue to be viable.

                                                                        The White Paper notes a possibility that states of concern could develop the capability to couple long-range ballistic missiles with WMD warheads. The White Paper notes also that extended nuclear deterrence will be part of our defence against WMD proliferation, alongside other measures such as customs and export control regimes, and counter-proliferation activities.

                                                                        (4) Australia welcomed the United States' Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) 2010 as another very substantial step by the United States towards meeting its obligations under Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, while maintaining an effective deterrent both for the United States, and for its allies, including Australia.

                                                                        For the time being, Australia accepts that nuclear weapons are part of the strategic environment.

                                                                        Australian defence policy acknowledges the value to Australia of the protection afforded by extended nuclear deterrence under the US Alliance.

                                                                        Under this, as long as nuclear weapons exist, we can rely on US nuclear forces to deter nuclear attack on Australia.

                                                                        Australia supports the commitment in the NPR to pursue further reductions in the number of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles held by the United States and Russia in the wake of entry into force of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, including non-strategic and non-deployed nuclear weapons aimed at achieving substantial further nuclear force reductions.

                                                                        Australia also endorses the commitment to engage over time other nuclear weapons states, in a multilateral effort to reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons.

                                                                        Australia is pleased that the NPR rejects the development of new nuclear weapons or the pursuit of new military missions or new capabilities for nuclear weapons, while taking measures to sustain a safe, secure and effective arsenal.

                                                                        Australia welcomed the NPR's reaffirmation of President Obama's pledge in Prague in April 2009 that the United States will not resume testing of nuclear weapons and will seek ratification and entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

                                                                        (5) and (6) The ANZUS Treaty states that the Parties will "act to meet the common danger". As close allies, Australia and the United States consult on security matters of importance, including the policy of extended nuclear deterrence. The United States policy of extended nuclear deterrence to its allies is contained in its public statements on its nuclear policy, most recently in the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.

                                                                        (7) As a non-nuclear weapon state, Australia's military and defence doctrine contains no reference to nuclear weapons other than to emphasise the US guarantee under extended nuclear deterrence.

                                                                        Australia has consistently called for deeper and irreversible reductions in the number of nuclear weapons held by all nuclear-armed states, and the reduction of the role of nuclear weapons in national security strategies.

                                                                        Australia is working hard to achieve the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

                                                                        Australia is also working for the negotiation of an effectively verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty and, pending that, a moratorium on the production of fissile material for weapons purposes.

                                                                        Australia is active in efforts to implement strengthened non-proliferation measures, such as support for the IAEA's Additional Protocol and effective export controls.

                                                                        Australia is working with others in the international community to reinforce the vital importance of full compliance with the NPT's non-proliferation obligations, in particular by Iran and North Korea.

                                                                        Australia is an active participant in the Proliferation Security Initiative, which seeks to prevent illicit trafficking in weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems and related materials.

                                                                        Together with Japan, Australia established the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. The Commission's independent report, launched in Tokyo in December 2009, has been seen as a major contribution to global disarmament and non-proliferation efforts.

                                                                        While the Commission was not set up, or its report written, to reflect Australian Government policy, much of its analysis, action agenda and recommendations are in step with the Government's own nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament policies and priorities.

                                                                        Australia and Japan have also established the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) to help drive implementation of non-proliferation and disarmament outcomes of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

                                                                        (8) and (9) Australia hosts joint facilities with the United States. The Defence White Paper 2009 states (at para 11.12): the Joint Defence Facility at Pine Gap "will continue to contribute to the intelligence collection capabilities of both countries, support monitoring of compliance with arms control and disarmament agreements, and underpin global strategic stability by providing ballistic missile early warning information to the United States".

                                                                        (10) and 11) One United States Los Angeles class nuclear powered submarine participated in Talisman Sabre 2011. The United States has a policy of neither confirming nor denying whether such vessels are carrying nuclear weapons or not.

                                                                        (12) No.

                                                                        (13) All ADF personnel are required to undergo training in the Law of Armed Conflict, which includes training in the lawful mechanisms and means of conduction warfare.

                                                                        (14) The investment decisions of the Future Fund Board of Guardians (the Board) are made independently of Government. The Department of Finance and Deregulation regularly consults and shares information with the Future Fund Management Agency (the Agency) on an ongoing basis, including on the issues referred to in the question.

                                                                        Photo of David JohnstonDavid Johnston (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 5 July 2011:

                                                                        As at 30 June 2011:

                                                                        (1) Is it still planned to acquire 12 submarines as per the White Paper direction 'the Government takes the view that our future strategic circumstances necessitate a substantially expanded submarine fleet of 12 boats in order to sustain a force at sea' (Defence White Paper 2009, p. 64, paragraph 8.40).

                                                                        (2) What plans and strategies are in place to man the 12 future submarines given the great difficulty in 2010-2011, of manning and operating our current submarines.

                                                                        (3) What is the expected cost of acquiring 12 future submarines, over the next: (a) 12 months; (b) 5 years;

                                                                        (c) 10 years; and (d) 15 years.

                                                                        (4) What funding has been provided to assist in the planning for the 12 future submarines.

                                                                        (5) When is it expected that the first pass approval will be provided to advance the purchase of the 12 future submarines.

                                                                        (6) What is the expected through-life support and operating costs of a fleet of 12 future submarines over a 30 year operating period.

                                                                        (7) When is it envisaged that the first of the 12 future submarines will be launched and fully operational.

                                                                        (8) What is the expected cost per year of maintaining and operating our 6 Collins Class submarines until they are de-commissioned, broken down by year until 2025.

                                                                        (9) What is the specific phasing-out program for the existing Collins Class submarines.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        You previously asked the same questions under Senate Question on Notice No.504 on 22 March 2011. This response has been provided to you and remains extant. Based on your most recent question, the following update to the response is provided as follows:

                                                                        (1)   Same as response to QoN 504.

                                                                        (2)   In 2010 there were three sustainably crewed Collins Class Submarines operating.

                                                                        In response to the 2008 Submarine Workforce Sustainability Review, the Chief of Navy agreed to implement all the Review's recommendations and in early 2009 established the Submarine Sustainability Program to execute remediation actions, over a five year, five-phase Submarine Sustainability Strategy.

                                                                        Since the launch of the Submarine Sustainability Program, it has proved to be a highly effective framework for implementing the 29 Review recommendations and realising intended benefits. The Submarine Sustainability Program is primarily concerned with workforce-related reforms that benefit submariners and their families. The Submarine Sustainability Program has implemented more than two-thirds of the 29 recommendations and is still aiming to achieve the objective of growing a fourth submarine crew without undermining workforce growth in other areas critical to maintaining an effective submarine capability. The Submarine Sustainability Program is the foundation for expanding the submarine workforce to meet Future Submarine capability requirements.

                                                                        (3)   Same as response to QoN 504.

                                                                        The Minister for Defence has authorised a total of $19.306 million (Dec 11 Price Basis) for the Future Submarines Program.

                                                                        (5)   Same as response to QoN 504.

                                                                        (6)   Same as response to QoN 504.

                                                                        (7)   Same as response to QoN 504.

                                                                        (8)   The costs provided are the estimates over the 10-year forward period, which is the estimating horizon, employed by Department of Defence.

                                                                        Table 1 details DMO's maintenance and support costs for the Collins class submarine, which are primarily incurred for contracted services to support the platform. These costs also include provision of Escape and Rescue Services, the Submarine Escape and Rescue Training Facility and support to the combat system.

                                                                        Table 1. Current Funded DMFP FYs 2011-12 to 2020-21

                                                                        Reference: CN 10 Milestone 20120120 (DMO)

                                                                        The expected operating budget for the six Collins Class submarines in each of the financial years 2011-12 to 2020-21 is detailed in the Table 2. The methodology used is consistent with the recent answer to QON 76 (asked by Senator Johnstone on 31 May 2011). The Operating costs include the cost of suppliers, facilities and personnel in both Defence and DMO deemed to directly contribute to the submarine capability along with rations, fuel, and EO (firings and sustainment costs).

                                                                        This table does not include sustainment and project costs.

                                                                        Table 2. Estimated Future Submarine Capability Operating Costs

                                                                        Note: Excludes Sustainment Costs for Collins Class (CN10)

                                                                        (9)   Current planning is for the first Collins Class submarine to be withdrawn from service in 2026. It is intended that the Collins Class submarine withdrawal program will be closely coordinated with the introduction into service of the Future Submarines; the schedule for which is yet to be determined. The transition plan will be designed to minimise the impact on overall submarine availability, the period of transition and the associated costs.

                                                                        Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 22 August 2011:

                                                                        With reference to the First Home Saver Accounts, including program and administrative expenses, what is the total amount budgeted for this program for each of the following financial years: (a) 2011-12; (b) 2012-13; (c) 2013-14; and (d) 2014-15.

                                                                        Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        The administered expenses for the program for the financial years requested are shown on page 212 of the Treasury's portfolio budget statement. http://www.treasury.gov.au/documents/2027/PDF/08_ATO.pdf

                                                                        Departmental funding for the ATO's administration of the First Home Saver Accounts measure was agreed as part of the 2008-09 Budget. The ATO's departmental resourcing for 2011-12 is $12.503 million as set out on page 159 of the 2008-09 Portfolio Budget Statements – Treasury Portfolio. This funding is ongoing from 2012-13.

                                                                        Photo of Gary HumphriesGary Humphries (ACT, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Materiel) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 12 September 2011:

                                                                        (1) Have staffing numbers in agencies within the Ministers portfolio been reduced as a result of the efficiency dividend and/or other budget cuts; if so, in which areas and at what classification.

                                                                        (2) Are there any plans for staff reduction in agencies within the Ministers portfolio; if so, can details be provided i.e. reduction target, how this will be achieved, services/programs to be cut etc.

                                                                        (3) What changes are underway or planned for graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs, and if reductions are envisaged can details be provided, including reasons, target numbers etc.

                                                                        Photo of Chris EvansChris Evans (WA, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet:

                                                                        (1) Current staffing numbers have not been reduced as a result of the efficiency dividend.

                                                                        (2) The 2011-12 Budget indicates that departmental staff would increase by 200 largely due to Machinery of Government (MoG) changes. Once one-off factors are taken into account (such as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, MoG changes, and establishment of the National Mental Health Commission), the department has estimated that average staffing levels will fall slightly over the year from levels as at June 2011 due to a range of factors and it is difficult to isolate the separate impact of the efficiency dividend.

                                                                        (3) No changes are proposed to the current graduate recruitment or cadetship programs.

                                                                        Office of National Assessments:

                                                                        (1) There has been no specific target for staff reductions to achieve savings, however, staffing levels are being closely monitored and managed.

                                                                        (2) The Office does not have any staff reduction plans in place.

                                                                        (3) ONA does not currently have a graduate or cadet program, however it is currently investigating a range of recruitment opportunities through the development of a recruitment strategy.

                                                                        Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General:

                                                                        (1) The Office has reduced staffing levels by around 14 per cent over the past 3 years through natural attrition to achieve a number of efficiency measures. Due to the range of factors it is difficult to isolate the separate impact of the efficiency dividend.

                                                                        (2) The Office does not have any staff reduction plans in place.

                                                                        (3) No changes are underway or planned in relation to graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs

                                                                        Refer to QONs 1116, 1133, 1135, 1140 and1148 for answers from other PM&C portfolio ministers.

                                                                        Photo of Gary HumphriesGary Humphries (ACT, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Materiel) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Arts, upon notice, on 12 September 2011:

                                                                        (1) Have staffing numbers in agencies within the Ministers portfolio been reduced as a result of the efficiency dividend and/or other budget cuts; if so, in which areas and at what classification.

                                                                        (2) Are there any plans for staff reduction in agencies within the Ministers portfolio; if so, can details be provided i.e. reduction target, how this will be achieved, services/programs to be cut etc.

                                                                        (3) What changes are underway or planned for graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs, and if reductions are envisaged can details be provided, including reasons, target numbers etc.

                                                                        Photo of Mark ArbibMark Arbib (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        Australia Business Arts Foundation Ltd

                                                                        (1)   No.

                                                                        (2)   No.

                                                                        (3)   The Australia Business Arts Foundation Ltd does not have graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs.

                                                                        Australia Council

                                                                        (1)   No.

                                                                        (2)   No.

                                                                        (3)   None.

                                                                        Bundanon Trust

                                                                        (1)   No.

                                                                        (2)   No.

                                                                        (3)   None.

                                                                        Australian Film, Television and Radio School

                                                                        (1)   No.

                                                                        (2)   No.

                                                                        (3)   None.

                                                                        Australian National Maritime Museum

                                                                        (1)   No.

                                                                        (2)   No.

                                                                        (3)   None.

                                                                        National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA)

                                                                        (1)   No.

                                                                        (2)   Yes, up to 7 ASL positions in 2011-12 will be reduced however the areas, services and classifications cannot be provided as the NFSA is relying on natural attrition for these staff reductions.

                                                                        (3)   None.

                                                                        National Gallery of Australia (NGA)

                                                                        (1)   Yes, staffing levels have been reduced as a result of the efficiency dividend, however it is not possible to quantify the exact numbers as these changes are affected by other internal staffing and funding decisions.

                                                                        (2)   In order to remain within budget the NGA must reduce its average staffing level. This will be achieved through a combination of strategies including: reducing the number of casual staff; not replacing some non-ongoing staff at the termination of their contracts; deferring for as long as possible the replacement of some ongoing positions; and natural attrition of ongoing staff.

                                                                        (3)   The NGA does not have any graduate recruitment or cadetship programs.

                                                                        National Library of Australia (NLA)

                                                                        (1)   Yes staffing numbers have reduced as a result of the efficiency dividend. It is not possible to quantify the exact changes because such decisions are mixed in with a range of other internal staffing and funding changes.

                                                                        (2)   No.

                                                                        (3)   None.

                                                                        National Museum of Australia (NMA)

                                                                        (1)   Yes. Staffing numbers have been reduced at the NMA as a result of the alignment of strategic priorities with available resources. The efficiency dividend is one part of the budget environment the agency has to address. It is difficult to quantify the exact impact of the efficiency dividend component on the changes since the staffing decisions are based on a range of internal structural, resourcing and funding changes.

                                                                        (2)   The NMA's projected budgets for the outyears assume staffing reductions as follows: six positions in 2012-13 and six positions in 2013-14, all to be achieved through natural attrition. At this stage there are no reductions planned for 2014-2015.

                                                                        (3)   None.

                                                                        Museum of Australian Democracy (MOAD) at Old Parliament House

                                                                        (1)   No.

                                                                        (2)   There are currently no reduction targets. The MOAD continues to review how to best achieve its objectives while operating within the limits of the funding identified in the forward estimates.

                                                                        (3)   Not Applicable. The MOAD currently has no programs of graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar, so there will be no impact.

                                                                        Screen Australia

                                                                        (1)   No.

                                                                        (2)   No.

                                                                        (3)   Screen Australia does not have graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs.

                                                                        Refer to QONs 1111, 1133, 1135, 1140 and1148 for answers from other PM&C portfolio ministers.

                                                                        Photo of Gary HumphriesGary Humphries (ACT, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Materiel) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, upon notice, on 12 September 2011:

                                                                        (1) Have staffing numbers in agencies within the Ministers portfolio been reduced as a result of the efficiency dividend and/or other budget cuts; if so, in which areas and at what classification.

                                                                        (2) Are there any plans for staff reduction in agencies within the Ministers portfolio; if so, can details be provided i.e. reduction target, how this will be achieved, services/programs to be cut etc.

                                                                        (3) What changes are underway or planned for graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs, and if reductions are envisaged can details be provided, including reasons, target numbers etc.

                                                                        Photo of Kim CarrKim Carr (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

                                                                        DEPARTMENT OF INNNOVATIO N, INDUSTRY, SCIENCE & RESEARCH

                                                                        (1) In the 2011-12 Budget and across the forward estimates there have been no specific reduction in staffing numbers as a result of the efficiency dividends and or other budget cuts.

                                                                        (2) No target has been set for staff reductions to achieve savings. Staffing changes are a result of decisions made by the Government as part of the Budget process. Other than Budget decisions which are disclosed in the Portfolio Budget Statement there has been limited impact on specific functions within the Department.

                                                                        (3) There are no plans to change or reduce graduate recruitment or cadetship programs in operation in the Department.

                                                                        IP AUSTRALIA

                                                                        (1) As an agency that derives 95 per cent of funding on a cost recovery basis, IP Australia is not subject to the efficiency dividend.

                                                                        (2) None related to the efficiency dividend. IP Australia will reduce staff numbers over the next four years as workload levels return to steady-state. This should see a reduction of approximately 50 staff (5 per cent), via natural staff turnover.

                                                                        (3) IP Australia does not run a formal graduate program, though the majority of examiner vacancies are filled by people with university qualifications. There is no intention to alter recruitment from existing steady-state workload projections which will see small offers to recruit for any natural attrition of staff beyond workload decrease projections.

                                                                        AUSTRALIAN RESEARCH COUNCIL (ARC)

                                                                        (1) There has not been a reduction of staffing numbers as a result of the efficiency dividend and/or budget cuts. The effect of the efficiency dividend has been managed through changes to the staffing profile (i.e. both classification and categories).

                                                                        (2) Some vacant positions will now not be filled as a result of the budgetary position.

                                                                        (3) The ARC does not have graduate recruitment, cadetships or other similar programs.

                                                                        AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER STUDIES

                                                                        (1) The Institute is currently reviewing its overall structure as a result of the efficiency dividend.

                                                                          It is noted that the Institute received one-off funding for the Digitisation project which ended at 30 June 2011.

                                                                          This funding employed 36 staff. Consequently, the Institute applied to the Minister for Finance for an operating loss of $3.2 million. This was approved and allows the Institute to continue to employ the affected staff for the 2011-12 year. However, without funding beyond the 2011-12 year, the Institute may potentially need to reduce staff members accordingly.

                                                                        (2) This cannot be quantified until such time as the review is completed which is expected to be late October/November.

                                                                        (3) N/A at this point in time.

                                                                        Photo of Gary HumphriesGary Humphries (ACT, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Materiel) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research upon notice, on 12 September 2011:

                                                                        (1) Have staffing numbers in agencies within the Ministers portfolio been reduced as a result of the efficiency dividend and/or other budget cuts; if so, in which areas and at what classification.

                                                                        (2) Are there any plans for staff reduction in agencies within the Ministers portfolio; if so, can details be provided i.e. reduction target, how this will be achieved, services/programs to be cut etc.

                                                                        (3) What changes are underway or planned for graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs, and if reductions are envisaged can details be provided, including reasons, target numbers etc.

                                                                        Photo of Nick SherryNick Sherry (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Minister Assisting the Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        Please refer to the answer provided to Senate Parliamentary Question on Notice 1126.

                                                                        Photo of Gary HumphriesGary Humphries (ACT, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Materiel) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity, upon notice, on 12 September 2011:

                                                                        (1) Have staffing numbers in agencies within the Ministers portfolio been reduced as a result of the efficiency dividend and/or other budget cuts; if so, in which areas and at what classification.

                                                                        (2) Are there any plans for staff reduction in agencies within the Ministers portfolio; if so, can details be provided i.e. reduction target, how this will be achieved, services/programs to be cut etc.

                                                                        (3) What changes are underway or planned for graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs, and if reductions are envisaged can details be provided, including reasons, target numbers etc.

                                                                        Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

                                                                        Australian National Audit Office:

                                                                        (1) There has been no specific target for staff reductions to achieve savings, however, staffing levels are being closely monitored and managed.

                                                                        (2) The ANAO does not have any staff reduction plans in place.

                                                                        (3) No changes are underway or planned in relaations to the graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs.

                                                                        Australian Public Service Commission:

                                                                        (1) There has been no specific target for staff reductions to achieve savings, however, staffing levels are being closely monitored and managed.

                                                                        (2) The APSC does not have any staff reduction plans in place.

                                                                        (3) No changes are underway or planned in relations to the graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs.

                                                                        The Office of that e Inspector General of Intelligence and Security:

                                                                        (1) There has been no specific target for staff reductions to achieve savings, however, staffing levels are being closely monitored and managed.

                                                                        (2) The OIGIS does not have any staff reduction plans in place.

                                                                        (3) The OIGIS does not currently have a graduate or cadet program.

                                                                        Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman:

                                                                        (1) There has been no specific target for staff reductions to achieve savings, however, staffing levels are being closely monitored and managed within the Office to achieve efficiencies.

                                                                        (2) The 2011–12 Portfolio Budget Statements includes an average staffing level of 149. The current forward estimates show reductions in employee benefits expense in 2012–13 as a result of terminating measures for the Northern Territory Emergency Response and Christmas Island Processing Oversight. Staffing numbers will reduce in line with these terminating measures.

                                                                        (3) No changes are underway or planned in relations to the graduate recruitment, cadetships or similar programs.

                                                                        Refer to QONs 1111, 1116, 1133, 1135, and 1140 for answers from other PM&C portfolio ministers.

                                                                        Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, upon notice, on 13 September 2011:

                                                                        With reference to the department and all agencies within the Minister's portfolio:

                                                                        (1)   What was the total cost of allowances for government employees or contractors working at sea for the 2010-11 financial year.

                                                                        (2)   What is the daily allowance for working at sea.

                                                                        (3)   How many days in total were spent at sea in the 2010-11 financial year.

                                                                        Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Minister for Finance and Deregulation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

                                                                        (1)   Not applicable.

                                                                        (2)   Not applicable.

                                                                        (3)   Not applicable.

                                                                        Photo of Eric AbetzEric Abetz (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        asked the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, upon notice, on 13 September 2011:

                                                                        With reference to the department and all agencies within the Minister's portfolio:

                                                                        (1)   What was the total cost of allowances for government employees or contractors working at sea for the 2010-11 financial year.

                                                                        (2)   What is the daily allowance for working at sea.

                                                                        (3)   How many days in total were spent at sea in the 2010-11 financial year.

                                                                        Photo of Penny WongPenny Wong (SA, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Finance and Deregulation) Share this | | Hansard source

                                                                        The Special Minister of State has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

                                                                        Please refer to the Minister for Finance and Deregulation’s response to Question No. 1171.