In Parliament

2008 In Parliament

2008 NOV 27 – Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Committee Report


November 27, 2008

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (11.57 am)
— I rise to speak on the Funding regional and local community infrastructure interim report and the dissenting comments by the member for Hinkler. I do take up the commentary from the member for Longman, who I thought made a very constructive contribution to the debate, though he could not resist in the last 30 seconds giving the Nats a spray on the way through.

I think there are many positive aspects to the report, just as there are many positive aspects to the previous Regional Partnerships program. I do fear that, in its desperate attempts to trash the legacy of previous government, the new government has shown a willingness to perhaps throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to the Regional Partnerships program. I am not suggesting for a second that members of the committee are that way inclined, but there are some opposite who have shown perhaps a willingness during the heat of an election campaign to go a little bit too far.

As the member for Parkes indicated, now that we are 12 months into the new government, I hope that cooler heads will prevail and there will be a real emphasis on ensuring that regional development projects and initiatives with the support of local communities do get undertaken in the future.

I will take up the comments from the member for Hinkler, who submitted his report with a great deal of respect and reluctance. The member for Hinkler has an enormous amount of experience in regional development. While I am a newcomer to this place, I am a strong believer, as is the member for Hinkler, in the committee system and working together to achieve better outcomes for all Australians. I know he was reluctant to submit his dissenting report, but he did so in good faith and I believe he made some very pertinent points.

The member for Parkes also referred to the Regional Partnerships program, basically appealing for people to understand and let the facts speak for themselves. There was an overwhelming amount of good that came out of the Regional Partnerships program. In my electorate of Gippsland, without running through every project that was supported, I think there was some enormous good done in my community with projects like Lifeline Gippsland with its $1.9 million centre. It received $550,000 of federal government funding. For those who do not understand the work of Lifeline, it provides an absolutely critical service in Gippsland, providing counselling, information and referrals for those contemplating suicide and that type of thing.

That particular project was very well supported in my electorate, as was the Churchill and district community hub, which received $880,000 for redevelopment of the town centre of Churchill—one of the most perhaps disadvantaged communities in my region with very high unemployment rates and in need of a major commercial centre redevelopment. That and other projects were funded through Regional Partnerships.

One of my particular favourites, for which we saw funding from the state Labor government as well as the Regional Partnerships program, was the paddle-steamer Curlip, which will be launched this weekend. Volunteers have built a replica of a paddle-steamer, and it will be plying the Snowy River this weekend for the first time. It is an enormous achievement by the people of Orbost, a community that has been knocked around by some, particularly, state government decisions in relation to resource allocation in the timber industry. This Regional Partnerships funding—and it was supported by state government funding—has been incredibly important to the people of Orbost and the wider East Gippsland region in terms of promoting the tourism industry.

There was a Gippsland Immigration Wall of Recognition, which received $40,000 funding, in the town of Morwell. It recognised the enormous contribution that migrants have made to the community of the Latrobe Valley over the past 120 years, and it is a fabulous project. I note that the chair of the committee is the member for Ballarat. I notice that Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, an outstanding regional tourism attraction, received $500,000 for its Chinese village. It just reflects that the Regional Partnerships program did fund a very diverse range of projects. It had flexibility and it was innovative, and that was one of the strengths of the program.

I note that the Funding regional and local community infrastructure report raises some of the issues that have been raised by other members in relation to the administration of Regional Partnerships, and I am happy to concede that there were some negative findings in the audit and that some aspects of the administration of the program have been criticised. But I completely reject the commentary from the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, who has gone as far as claiming in this place that former ministers were corrupt.

I think the minister is developing an unsavoury reputation for this type of grubby politicking. Yesterday he defamed the character of the former mayor of Port Macquarie and claimed that he had been sacked for corruption. He has made similar allegations about ministers involved with the Regional Partnerships program.

I think that it is an outrageous slur from a minister who cannot help playing the man, and I really think he needs to take a cold shower, settle down a bit and realise that there are members on both sides of the House who actually want to get on with the job—in particular with Regional Partnerships or regional development initiatives. There are people who want to get on with the job and start delivering for their communities, and the minister himself would be well advised to do that. It took him 12 months to finally announce some funding for regional development last week.

That was well received, I accept, throughout regional areas, but it did take 12 months. The minister should spend more time on those positive and practical applications of his skills rather than playing the man and making false allegations of corruption without any substantiation whatsoever. It reflects poorly on him and on his side of politics.

The member for Hinkler made a dissenting report. I read the dissenting report and the interim report, and I think there is a lot of good in both of them, but there are two aspects of the reports that I want to concentrate on. They deal with the recommendations regarding the grant sizes and the approval processes and also the recommendations on the exclusion of for-profit entities from this program. I would like to start with recommendation 6, and I quote from the report:

The Committee recommends that the new Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program exclude applications from for-profit entities.

I note the contribution from the member for Longman in this regard, but I am afraid that we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. At a time of rising unemployment, when job opportunities, particularly in regional areas, are going to become tighter and tighter, I believe that seed funding can really make a difference to these commercial entities, and I think it is a mistake by the committee in this case to recommend that the funding not be provided to for-profit entities.

It is not just my opinion; it is also one that is shared by the member for Hinkler, who I believe has demonstrated, with his vast experience in regional development before entering this place, his breadth of knowledge. It is also the opinion of the former Victorian Minister for State and Regional Development, now Premier of Victoria, the Hon. John Brumby. I would like to quote from a media release from the Premier when he was Minister for State and Regional Development, from 30 October 2006:

A $300,000 Bracks Government grant will trigger a $21 million expansion of Patties Foods Bairnsdale plant creating 100 new full-time jobs …

The minister, who has never been one to hide his light under a bushel, went on to say:

This expansion by Patties Foods is a major investment for East Gippsland that will allow the company to export into other new markets, especially in the lucrative US market, for its range of savoury pies, pasties, and sausage rolls.

He went on to say:

… the Regional Investment Initiative was a key part of the Victorian Government’s agenda to drive prosperity and growth across provincial Victoria …

I have not always agreed with the honourable Premier of Victoria, but in this case I feel I must. Patties Foods is one of the great companies in regional Victoria and in East Gippsland. I will just say for the record that the former chairman of the company, Richard Rijs, has been a great contributor to regional development through his involvement with a group called Champions of the Bush, which is a successful lobby organisation, based primarily in Victoria, where regional companies have invested their own money—about $10,000 each per year—to support regional development and to encourage state and federal governments to invest in regional communities. Richard Rijs, as the former chairman of the board and ongoing member of Champions of the Bush, has been a great champion of regional communities.

Some of the commentary from the member for Longman was that it is difficult for governments to pick winners, and I accept that. There have been some mistakes made in the past and I am sure there will be some more in the future. As the member for Hinkler says in his comments, to exclude ‘commercial development is a denial of the stated role of the department itself, Regional Development Australia’.

The focus on community and social infrastructure is not something that I oppose at all, but I believe that the committee is being unnecessarily restrictive in this recommendation by excluding commercial operators from applying in the future. Providing a helping hand to existing or new operators to establish ventures in regional areas is a valuable use of taxpayers’ resources if used appropriately.

I accept the need for checks and balances, which is a point that has been well made by members opposite. The government has had no hesitation in putting up about $6 million to bail out the car industry, and I believe it is serious about regional development. It will provide a funding stream for commercial developments to access in the future. I appreciate that the committee’s report in recommendation 7 supports the establishment of a regional industry grants scheme under another department, but I believe that scheme rightfully belongs with the new Regional Development Australia. In any case, I am not convinced that the government is committed to providing funding in relation to recommendation 7. I believe this program would lose its local input and focus if the commercial aspect was taken out of the grants scheme, and I support for-profit enterprises being able to apply for funding.

I also take up the committee’s recommendation 13, regarding the sliding scale of complexity for forms and information requirements. I think it would be an excellent move to streamline the application process. If it is at all possible to go further in the future, I would urge the committee to consider some type of smaller community grants scheme—a quick grants scheme, for want of a better phrase—for the not-for-profit sector.

We have a problem in our smaller regional towns in that, if you apply for a small amount of funding, it almost becomes too onerous to bother. If communities raise dollar-for-dollar funding for projects up to $20,000, they demonstrate that they are committed to the project. I would strongly advocate a low-paperwork scheme of some description. The type of work carried out with that type of program would be upgrading community halls in small country towns, upgrading or establishing playgrounds—which have a regional tourism focus in themselves—and improving sporting facilities.

I accept that you will need to maintain the accountability factors that go with it, but I think we need to actually start trusting some of our local communities a lot more. If the local community groups and the not-for-profit groups have the capacity to raise $5,000 or $10,000 themselves for a worthwhile community program, I think we can develop a quick grant type of scheme to assist them to undertake that type of work.

I make one point, though, in relation to improving sporting facilities, and this links into other discussions about excessive use of alcohol and responsible service of alcohol. We have a major problem in country communities in that the only avenue available to some of our country sporting clubs to raise funds is selling alcohol. We can preach to them as much as we like about the responsible service of alcohol and encouraging young people to pursue healthy lifestyles but, unless we are prepared to put some money in to help these footy, netball and cricket clubs, the way they make their money will be over the bar. We are going to need to support them in the future and I think this grants program is one opportunity to do that and to really support these small local communities.

Regarding the approvals process, I believe that we need to make sure we have a focus on developing local solutions to local problems. I take up the views of the member for Hinkler again on support for local development boards, views which were echoed by the member for Parkes and also the member for Lindsay in his commentary about the success of the Roads to Recovery program. One of the great successes of that program was the local buy-in—that we have trusted local people to understand their local area, to develop their own practical solutions using their common sense and to set their own priorities in their communities. The Roads to Recovery model is a very good model for us, particularly when looking at smaller infrastructure projects.

I believe there are opportunities to involve local government more in that regard, and I encourage the minister to involve local government directly in the $300 million program announced last week. My only criticism of that program is that it needs to go two, three or four years further into the future to give these councils some surety that funding is on the way. The backlog of projects is always going to be there—you can invest as much as you like in regional infrastructure but there is always another project waiting around the corner.

The minister made a good decision in relation to that $300 million project. It was well received in my community, and the only hesitation we have is that we would like to see some surety of investment going forward.

Just in terms of local input and ensuring that local communities are engaged in the process, once you get your local communities involved in setting the priorities and achieving the funding you will find that the local communities will actually leverage off the available funding and turn 10 bucks into 100 bucks very quickly. They are very good in small country communities: one bloke will have a truck and the other bloke will know someone with a bobcat whose cousin is a painter whose mate will put the whole playground up for a slab of VB.

That is the type of leveraging you will get out of country communities. They will put in a lot of in kind community work for you and use their resources for the benefit of their community once you have engaged them and ensured they have some control over how the funding is allocated.

In closing, I would like to acknowledge that the Regional Partnerships program did an enormous amount of good for country areas. I would also like to put on the record the support for the area consultative committee, particularly in Gippsland, where the staff and the board members have unfortunately been caught up in this whole debate. I join the member for Hinkler in raising some serious reservations about the report and urge the government to abandon the politics completely and just get on with the job at hand. In saying that, I am not seeking at all to reflect negatively on any of the individual committee members. I believe they have been put in a difficult situation where the heat of an election campaign has flowed into a report, and now we really want to get on with the job of doing some good for regional areas.

I commend the committee at many levels for the work they have done with their interim report. As I said at the outset, there are many positive recommendations in the report. As an interim report there is always room for improvement. I urge the members to have the courage to possibly take risks in their final report and support the potential growth in regional communities.

I also join with the member for Parkes in calling on members on all sides to ignore some of the rantings and ravings we have seen by the minister in relation to this and focus on the important job at hand. I believe the committee will focus on the important job at hand and that they will ignore the minister, because he is actually going through the process of discrediting himself with some of the ranting and raving he has been going on with in parliament of late. I wish the committee well with their deliberations and look forward to supporting them in their efforts to invest in the future of regional communities.

(Time expired)

2008 DEC 02 – Matters Of Public Importance – Hospitals


December 02, 2008

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (4.21 pm) — I rise to speak in support of the matter of public importance before the House, and in doing so I seek to highlight the government’s failure to manage the budget and the impact this is having on its commitment to fix public hospitals and the health system, particularly as it affects Gippsland and other parts of regional Australia. As the minister has just mentioned, last week we marked the first anniversary of the Rudd government—and it is a bit of a pity because if the people of Australia had a 12-month warranty on the government then they would want their money back. I do not pay much attention to the newspaper polls, but I do listen to the people in my own electorate who tell me that families are worse off now than they were 12 months ago. There are many angry people out there who would cash in a 12-month warranty card on the government if they had it—they would ask for their money back, if only they could. They would happily change their vote if only they had that chance as well.

There have been three by-elections this year and the only time the government had the courage to turn up, in the Gippsland byelection, there was a swing of six per cent against Labor. The people of Gippsland took their first opportunity to cash in their warranty.

I believe it will happen again, because the people of Australia have not got what they voted for. Normally when you buy a dud product you get to send it back. I do not blame the people of Australia, because they were subjected very much to union backed advertising—a slick marketing campaign— but they did not get what they voted for.

Mr Byrne — Why don’t you shave off your moustache?

Mr CHESTER — It is interesting that the member picks up on my moustache, because I have to accept that probably the only thing in this place uglier than my moustache is the ugly set of budget numbers that the Treasurer has presided over in just 12 months. My ugly moustache will go away, but the problems associated with the public hospital system will remain as long as we have Labor governments and as long as we have state Labor parties running them into the ground.

As I said, I do not blame the people of Australia for the choice they made 12 months ago. They were subjected to a barrage of union backed advertising and a slick marketing campaign. But they simply did not get what they voted for. They were promised a better public health system. And they were promised an economic conservative. How many times did we hear that in the lead-up to the 2007 election? From the Prime Minister himself, on 23 November on the AM program, we heard:

Economic conservative means a fundamental belief in budget surpluses.

And on 8 November on The Today Show he said:

When it comes to the detail of Labor’s policy, the core of it and why I’m an economic conservative is to ensure that we have budget surpluses.

There is a lot more, as we have found, to running a government than these 24-hour news cycle and glib one-liners we had from the Prime Minister. We are rapidly finding out that there is very little substance backing up the Labor spin. The member for Dickson referred before to the obsession with the focus groups. Last week we had the Prime Minister referring to the ‘national project’— whatever the national project may be—but I am sure it will get another run in the months ahead.

And whatever happened to the Prime Minister’s promise, when it comes to public hospitals, that the buck stops here? Actually, given the Prime Minister’s extensive travel schedule it is no wonder the buck does not stop any more; it is probably the peso, the yen or maybe even the euro that now stops here. We have already heard the shadow minister’s contribution about the postelection editing of the Prime Minister’s website.

Whatever did happen to that commitment to fix public hospitals or else seek a mandate to a Commonwealth takeover of state responsibilities? What happened is that Labor got elected and found out that it is actually a lot tougher running government than they thought—and to secure our economy and to deliver a better health service for all Australians. So instead of the decisive action that we have heard so much about we have seen a continuation of the blame game and desperate attempts by Labor administrations to patch up the mess of their state Labor colleagues. Nowhere is this more obvious than in our public hospital system.

We have also seen the changes to the Medicare levy threshold, which Access Economics has forecast will result in up to one million Australians dropping out of private health cover by 2012. That is a real act of genius at a time when we have public hospital waiting lists completely under pressure! Now we are going to add more pressure to the system, with people dropping out of private health cover.

The various state Labor administrations are still failing miserably to deliver the promised services. We can look forward to longer waiting lists in already stressed public hospitals. I would like to refer briefly to my own electorate, where Latrobe Regional Hospital is located between Traralgon and Morwell. After nine long years of state Labor administration the latest Your Hospitals report has confirmed everything that the community has been saying to us for the past three or four years. The report found that one in three Latrobe Regional Hospital patients were forced to wait over eight hours for a bed after being admitted to the emergency department. It also found that the waiting list soared from 812 to 1,590 in just 12 months.

I am not blaming the staff for a second. They are doing a magnificent job in extremely difficult circumstances, but earlier this year Latrobe Regional Hospital ran out of money completely and cancelled all elective surgery  before the end of the financial year. They simply told people to come back in a couple of months. ‘We haven’t got the funding to fix your knee, your shoulder, or whatever it might be.’ People were being left in pain because of an economic time frame that was set by the state Labor government, and it was all back to business at the start of the next financial year.

Is it any wonder that Dr George Owen, a highly respected orthopaedic surgeon at the hospital spoke out in the media and told the Latrobe Valley Express newspaper, at the height of the crisis:

Patients are currently booked in good faith with the bookings accepted by the hospital, but now on a daily basis cases are being cancelled.

Patients were simply being told to come back later. It is simply not good enough for us in Latrobe Valley or anywhere else in regional Australia. I do stress that the men and women at the coalface are not the ones to blame in this mess. They are caught up in the state Labor administrations and their failure to properly administer our health systems. Of course, it is not a situation that is unique to Gippsland.

We have heard the member for Parkes already speaking in this House on many occasions, and he asked a question in question time a month or so ago to bring the attention of the House to the situation of the Greater Western Area Health Service, where meat supplies were cut to a number of hospitals and vital medical supplies were paid for by staff out of their own pockets. It is an appalling situation, and the people of regional New South Wales and all of regional Australia deserve better than they are getting from their Labor members of parliament. In mid- October it was estimated that the health services in the greater western area could be in debt to the tune of up to $66 million.

Now that the government ministers have finally mentioned the D-word, my concern is how this will impact on the government’s promises in relation to health spending going forward, particularly as it relates to regional areas. I fear that the forecast budget surplus will never eventuate and that we are on track, now, for a series of deficits, one after another.

Mr Hartsuyker — Temporary deficits!

Mr CHESTER — Yes! The health and wellbeing of regional Australians will be affected as this government fails to keep its promises to invest in the promised health infrastructure and service delivery throughout regional areas.

One of the biggest preventative health issues in our nation is ensuring that all Australians have the decency of a job. The ability to be gainfully employed has a flow-on benefit to all aspects of family health and wellbeing.

Those opposite continue to come in here and parrot their key messages—their key lines from the focus groups—about ‘working families’, but I fear that in 2009 we are going to hear a lot more about ‘out-of-work families’. They will not be working families any more; we will be hearing about out-of-work

One of the great legacies of the former government was the number of jobs it was able to assist in creating in a quite buoyant economy. As we move into 2009, the forecast of further growth in unemployment is going to start hurting families across Australia.

And the forecast budget surplus has already gone. There will be no further opportunities to draw down on the good work of the previous government for public hospitals or for anything else. As the Leader of the Opposition correctly warned last week, when he was speaking in the House, experience and history tell us that Labor deficits are never temporary.

Deputy Speaker, it gives me no pleasure— I take no relish in standing here today—in criticising the government for its failure to manage Australia’s budget and deliver the promised improvements to the public hospital system. I am a person who believes in outcomes and, as a member of the Nationals, my main concern is with everyday Australians in rural, regional and coastal communities.

They are my No. 1 focus. They have the right to a quality health service; it is a fundamental right for all Australians. It gives me no pleasure at all to stand here and talk about the administration of hospitals being run down over the past decade of state Labor administrations. As I said, I believe that providing quality health services is a fundamental right for all Australians, regardless of their postcodes. I accept it is an enormous challenge for the government of the day. But, as we have seen repeatedly, the state Labor administrations are simply not up to the job.

The Prime Minister made a lot of promises prior to the federal election about where the buck stops, but you simply do not treat patients with empty rhetoric. Some of the empty words from the Prime Minister were:

I have a long-term plan to fix our nation’s hospitals. I will be responsible for implementing my plan, and I state this with absolute clarity: the buck will stop with me.

As I mentioned before, it is more likely to be the peso or the yen that will stop with the Prime Minister these days. We all accept that times are tough, but being in government is all about making the hard decisions. I have only been here for a short time but I have already learnt that when it comes to the Labor Party there is always someone else to blame. If it is not the previous government, it is the global financial crisis. They bleat about it continually. If it is not their fault, they blame the state governments or they go to the previous administration, the coalition government, despite the fact they were handed a surplus in excess of $20 billion. The people of Australia are worse off today than they were 12 months ago, and I fear the worst is yet to come.

(Time expired)

2008 DEC 04 – Parliamentary Year


December 04, 2008

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (10.54 am) — I wish the member for Kingston good health. I know she has been feeling poorly and I wish her well for the Christmas season. It is in that spirit of Christmas that I rise and extend my personal best wishes to all MPs from both sides of the House, to the parliamentary staff and to our families. I would like to capture the goodwill of the PM’s valedictory speech just moments ago in the House and perhaps echo the sentiments of the Leader of the Opposition about his reflections on the standards of behaviour here in the parliament, the level of interaction we can have as members of parliament and the opportunity for us to raise the level of debate. I believe we can hold each other to account without some of the animosity which sometimes trickles into debate and I think we are all lessened by those types of comments.

I think that we can aspire to higher standards, and I believe that the people of Australia expect us to do better. To win their respect we will need to do better in the future. It does reflect poorly on the House when we sometimes descend into the juvenile heckling and name-calling that we have seen in the past. I guess that none of us are saints; we have all done it, but I look forward to, perhaps, a New Years resolution from all of us to aim for higher standards.

As a newly elected member of parliament—this being my first year in parliament—I would like to thank the people of Gippsland for entrusting me with their vote and for honouring me with this important role that I have to carry out. In doing so, I wish all Gippslanders a very happy and safe Christmas, particularly on our roads. It is a busy time of year and I wish them all safe passage as they travel throughout our region. The holiday season in Gippsland is a very busy time, and we encourage people to just slow down and enjoy the festive season with their loved ones.

I would also like to extend a personal thank you to my staff for the magnificent support that I have received in my first six months in office—in particular, Joanne Crawford, Diane Lilburne, Jenny Graham, Heather Buntine, Renae Cook, Nicole Conway, Kirsten Collins and Ruth Lucas. It may seem like there are a lot of them, but they do work in a job-sharing type arrangement. My staff have brought to my office an incredible amount of experience, developed over many years working with the former member, Peter McGauran, and having such highly-skilled staff to support me has made my transition into this high office for the people of Gippsland a far easier one. I could not have done it without them.

I would also like to mention my own family and the support I have received from them during the last six months—my wife, Julie, and my four children: Morgan, Jamieson, Clancy and Lachlan. The difficulties partners face when members of parliament are away for extended periods of time has been reflected upon many times today already, and I extend my best wishes to the families of all members of parliament at this time of the year.

Finally, I want to reflect on a little fellow who did not quite make it to his first Christmas. Riley O’Brien was born here in Canberra on 14 September, and, despite the love of his parents, Danny and Vicky, and the dedication of hospital staff, he passed away within hours of his birth. It may have been a brief life but he touched the hearts of many. Adding to the tragedy is that Riley’s twin brother, Finn, is also facing many challenges and is in hospital as I speak. He is a seriously ill boy. Many members on this side of the House will know the boys’ father, Danny, well. Danny was an adviser to former Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile and a former chief of staff to the Victorian leader of the Nationals, Peter Ryan. The enormous courage that he and Vicky have displayed in the past three months has been inspirational to us all.

All those who love and care for the O’Brien family send their best wishes at this time of the year. To Danny and Vicky, the love and support of National Party families is with you at this special time of the year, and we pray that you get to enjoy Finn’s company at home on Christmas Day.

Regardless of our religious beliefs, Christmas is a time of great love, fellowship and sharing of good times with family and friends. It is also a chance for us to reflect on the year just past. There have been many challenges for us all on both sides of the House, and this is a good time to set our course for the future. For many of us Christmas is also, hopefully, a time to get some rest and some quiet time with our families. I look forward to returning in the New Year refreshed and ready to take on the challenges of that time.

It is a great honour and privilege to serve in this parliament; to be here on behalf of this great nation. As I mentioned earlier, I would like to see us aspire to higher standards of personal interaction with each other on both sides of the House. The experience that I have had already on committees in the very short time I have been in this place shows that there are many things that we can do by working together. I believe that the sum of us is greater when we do work together than when we descend into the heckling and name-calling that is sometimes an inglorious feature of this place. I would like to wish all a very Merry Christmas and a safe New Year.

(Time expired)

2008 DEC 04 – Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Television Switch-Over) Bill 2008


December 04, 2008

Consideration of Senate Message

Message received from the Senate returning the bill and informing the House that the Senate has agreed to certain amendments made by the House and has disagreed to other amendments made by the House, has made a consequential amendment and requests the House to reconsider the bill in respect of the amendments disagreed to by the Senate and requests the concurrence of the House in the consequential amendment made by the Senate.

Ordered that the amendments be considered immediately.

Senate’s amendment — (1) Schedule 2, page 7 (lines 16 and 17), omit “after the making of the first determination under subclause 5G(1)”, substitute “from 1 April 2009”.

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (9.50 am) — I rise briefly to endorse some of the earlier comments made by the members for Riverina, Maranoa, Hinkler, Forrest, Mayo, Calare and Grey. I appeal to the minister, in the spirit of Christmas, by saying that we have just had more than 100 years of practical representational experience in this House speak with a great deal of passion, common sense and practical knowledge of what is happening on the ground in rural and regional areas.

Mr Albanese interjecting

Mr CHESTER — I take up the minister’s point about a lot of emotion. There is a lot of emotion and passion associated with this issue —

Mr Albanese interjecting

The SPEAKER — Order! The minister is not assisting now.

Mr CHESTER — because we are talking about the social and economic importance of the communication services in regional areas. I take up the point from the member for Grey in relation to the news services. Our regional TV services are very important in keeping our social connectivity going, and I say to the minister that he ignores these warnings at his own peril, because the people of regional areas are watching with a great deal of interest and they would like to keep watching in the future.

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