In Parliament

2012 In Parliament

2012 NOV 27 – Latrobe Regional Hospital


November 27, 2012

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (16:07): I rise to highlight my ongoing concerns at the lack of funding to support a much-needed redevelopment of facilities at the Latrobe Regional Hospital in my electorate. By way of background, the LRH board applied to the Commonwealth for $65 million under the Health and Hospitals Fund Regional Priority Round. I acknowledge the presence of the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing and I appreciate her correspondence earlier this year when she advised me that applications totalling more than $3.4 billion were received for the programs, obviously exceeding the $475 million that was available at the time.

I have also been advised by correspondence from the department that LRH was eligible but, due to the strong demand in this round of funding, not all projects would proceed. Unfortunately, that leaves the Latrobe Regional Hospital in a difficult situation in that I have heard that the state and federal governments have both recognised that the need is there and the project is regarded as essential for the community but there is not a readily available source of funding or future rounds at this stage. I do recognise the difficulties the government is facing. I also recognise the difficulties the coalition is facing in this regard because of difficult budget conditions. Both sides of the House will face challenges in developing their future policies for regional hospitals.

Therefore, I encourage both sides to recognise that, while the closure of this particular program was expected, there are a number of hospitals located throughout regional Australia that are now searching for avenues of funding to support such critical developments and associated capital works. Naturally, I am very keen to see the Latrobe Regional Hospital project proceed in the future because I believe it will provide improved care for residents in Latrobe Valley and the broader Gippsland region. It is a critical project for the future of my region, with far-reaching health, social and economic benefits.

In short, we will need a future round to allow regional hospitals to undertake much-needed upgrades in partnership with state governments. The LRH staff and board do a tremendous job in quite difficult circumstances at the moment. The board chair, Kellie O’Callaghan and her team, both the paid staff and the volunteers, are working hard to meet the region’s future health needs. They have been very diligent in their efforts to raise funds. The auxiliary’s work is quite extraordinary, with a fundraising ball each year which raises tens of thousands of dollars, a fun run and a lot of other activities in which the community can demonstrate its support for Latrobe Regional Hospital. But the scale of the funding we are talking about is beyond the capacity of a community in terms of its own fundraising activities. Unfortunately, we have the situation with LRH where the growth in demand has outpaced the existing facilities, and a major upgrade is required to meet both the current demand and the future needs of the Latrobe Valley.

To be fair to the government, this is not intended as an attack on it, because my region has benefited from more than $20 million to the Gippsland Cancer Care Centre, and work is about to start on that project. On Friday I attended the official opening of the Gippsland Rotary Centenary House, which benefited from $1.5 million from the government. At that ceremony I paid credit to the government and to the minister in her absence for the bipartisan support that this project has received. Unfortunately, more needs to be done, and I encourage the government to work in partnership with state governments and the coalition in securing funding for future upgrades of regional hospitals, both in Gippsland and throughout Australia.

2012 NOV 26 – Private MembersÕ Business – White Ribbon Day


November 26, 2012

Debate resumed on motion by Mr Hayes:

That this House:

(1) notes that:
(a) 25 November is observed as White Ribbon Day, a day aimed at preventing violence against women through a nation-wide campaign to raise public awareness of the issue; and
(b) the current statistics indicate that one in three women will experience physical violence and one in five will experience sexual violence over their lifetime;

(2) encourages:
(a) all Australian men to challenge the attitudes and behaviours that allow violence to continue, by joining the ‘My Oath Campaign’ and taking the oath: ‘I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women’; and
(b) Members to show their support for the principals of the White Ribbon Day by taking the oath and wearing a white ribbon or wristband on the day; and

(3) acknowledges the high economic cost of violence against women and their children, estimated to be $13.6 billion in 2008-09 and, should no action be taken, the cost will be an estimated $14.6 billion in 2021-22.

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (18:40): In supporting this motion, I would like to commend the member for Fowler. His contribution here tonight joins a lot of fine words that have been spoken in the last 72 hours as community leaders right throughout Australia have denounced violence against women and supported the principles of White Ribbon Day. I had the opportunity to speak last night at a community function in Briagolong, where we took the oath in front of another 100 or 200 men.

In making my contribution, I would like to reinforce the words of the member for Fowler and also those of the Victorian police chief, Ken Lay, who pointed out that violence against women is an issue which is often discussed in terms of statistics. It is easy to talk about these sorts of numbers—51,000 family incident reports, 17,000 arrests or 36,000 offences. On average, one woman is killed by her partner or a former partner every week in Australia. One in three women over the age of 15 report physical or sexual violence at some in their lives. Then we had the incidents in Melbourne quite recently with the tragic deaths of Jill Meagher and Sarah Cafferkey. But the reality is that we do not put a human face to the tragedy when we just talk about statistics. It is important in this place, as we discuss White Ribbon Day, to recognise the human toll of violence against women. It is also important that we recognise that, for a lot of women in Australia, the streets of our cities and regional towns are safer than their own homes. For a lot of people in Australia, the tragic reality is that there is more danger for them in their own bedrooms than there is in a public bar room, and that is a disturbing fact that we need to think about as we talk about White Ribbon Day.

In my electorate, the Gippsland Women’s Health Service takes the leading role in the fight against violence in Gippsland. I had the opportunity to meet with representatives from that service in recent weeks, and the really strong point to be made is that this is not a women’s problem, it is not a problem for the police, it is not a problem for members of parliament like those gathered here today and it is not a problem just for the Gippsland Women’s Health Service. This is a problem for our entire community and, in particular, it is a problem for the men in our community. It is up to us as men, particularly members of the House of Representatives who are leaders in our own communities, to set the example for other men and young boys within our community. Swearing the oath, as we did today in the parliament at the White Ribbon Day function, is the easy part. We must be vigilant for the other 364 days of the year. There are simple things that we can do to demonstrate our respect for women in our daily lives. In swearing to never commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women, we are taking a stand and setting a standard in the community. When we hear degrading jokes about women, we can choose not to pass them on. We can choose not to forward degrading emails. We can choose to treat all the women in our lives with the respect that they deserve, both in the workplace and in our family lives. The very simple question we can ask ourselves as men is: would we laugh at that joke or enjoy that pornographic video if it were our mother, our daughter, our sister, our wife or our girlfriend? These are the choices we can make every day of the year as men.

On that point in relation to pornography, I want to raise my concern about what I see as the increasingly violent nature of pornography and the extraordinary level of accessibility that now exists. It has the potential, I believe, to distort men’s views of women in the community. I was going to demonstrate this on my iPad today, but I thought we might lose our G-rating on A-PAC. When talking about this issue on Friday in my office with two of my staff members, we googled three words on the iPad: nude, women and sex. These are words which I would say any 10-year-old boy could spell and certainly could search online—they are very competent with the technology. Within 10 seconds, Google had provided us with a long list of sites which met those search parameters. Within 30 seconds we could download visual images of sexual acts which were demeaning, violent and aggressive towards women. We were not asked at any stage to verify our age and we could access that 24 hours a day with a mobile device like an iPad, anywhere we liked. We have access to hardcore pornography wherever we are—at home, in the workplace, in the parliament of Australia or anywhere we choose to go online.

I know some people listening will say, ‘That’s freedom of choice—what’s the problem with that?’ But as a father with two sons and two daughters, and as a member of parliament, I am deeply concerned about the potential impact that such violent and aggressive images will have on young people. The objectification of women within the porn industry has direct links to violence against women in our community. Women are continually depicted in demeaning roles. The gender role they are given in the pornographic industry is to serve men. The images are often violent and graphic, and it can give young people and particularly young men a false sense of how a healthy sexual relationship should work.

I fear, and the evidence supports me, that there is a strong link between violence and pornography. The industry would deny it, but you would expect that from the industry because it is a $25 billion industry—we are talking about a big business. It is constantly developing even more hardcore images as consumers become bored with previous offerings. I quote an extract from the summary of the report from the United States Attorney-General’s Commission on Pornography, which looked at the violent repercussions of porn:

Since the clinical and experimental evidence supports the conclusion that there is a causal relationship between exposure to sexually violent materials and an increase in aggressive behavior directed towards women, and since we believe that an increase in aggressive behavior towards women will in a population increase the incidence of sexual violence in that population, we have reached the conclusion unanimously and confidently, that the available evidence strongly supports the hypothesis that substantial exposure to sexually violent materials as described here bears a causal relationship to antisocial acts of sexual violence and, for some subgroups, possibly to unlawful acts of sexual violence.

I am a realist. I am not a wowser. What adults choose to do, within reason, is entirely up to them. In this modern era of accessibility and increased accessibility via the internet, I acknowledge that we cannot ban pornography and we will not be able to stop it or police it, but I think we can discredit it. We can work harder as a community to discredit it. We can give our young people the appropriate skills, the resilience to cope and an understanding of how a positive sexual relationship works, and reveal to them the ugly side of the porn industry. We can help them understand that the violent sex depicted in pornographic videos is highly unlikely to be the type of physical contact or physical relationship their girlfriend or wife in the future will enjoy.

I have been reading the work of Victorian researchers Maree Crabbe and David Corlett, who have studied the porn industry very closely. They are developing prevention measures to help young people understand the difference between pornography and reality. I encourage other members to take the time to have a look at some of their work. They say that we need to help young people to understand issues of gender, power and consent, and we need to do this by having conversations with young people in our schools, at home and in society more broadly.

It is not just the young people we need to educate. We need to give parents the skills to talk more comfortably about this issue, because it is a difficult issue for parents to talk about with their sons and daughters. I think young people are very smart, and they are pretty tech-savvy; I think they are better than the porn industry and I think they are going to figure it out. If we are serious about reducing the incidence of violence against women, we have to take on the porn industry and give our community those skills and the capacity to counter this cancer in our society. The violent and extreme scenes which have become mainstream pornography are a cancer in our society. It is slowly eating away at our morality and it is certainly eroding the social fabric of our community.

On White Ribbon Day we talk a lot about justice and equality for women, but there can be no justice and equality for women when we have a $25 billion industry that survives by depicting violent, aggressive and dominant roles for men over submissive women. There can be no justice or equality for women until we address that fundamental issue. Exercising control and power over women is the absolute core of pornographic material in the 21st century, and exercising control and power over women is a fundamental feature of violence against women. The link is undeniable, and our challenge is to help our young people to develop the skills to have healthy relationships in the future.

I am certainly not saying that if you watch porn then you are automatically going to commit violent crime towards women, but when we have such young and impressionable viewers exposed to such images on a constant basis the risk is obvious to us as a community. In raising this issue today in the context of the debate put by the member for Fowler I am not wishing to sound alarmist, but I think parents need to be aware of the risk. I challenge parents listening tonight to take the 30-second test I took on Friday with my staff. Anywhere, at any time, their children could be downloading hardcore pornography and violent images.

We all need to start working together to explode the porn industry myth. We need to be telling our sons about healthy relationships and how to respect girls and women. We need to let our daughters know what they should expect and what they deserve. Preventing violence against women is something that all members of this place have expressed their passion about here today. As men, I believe that we do have the capacity to make a difference. Violence against women is never acceptable and in the 21st century it is up to us to redefine what masculinity is about. Real men do not hurt women.

As I said earlier, it is fine for us to come in here today as members of parliament and swear the White Ribbon Day oath, but the real challenge is going to be what we do for the other 364 days of the year. I commend the motion and I commend all members for taking the opportunity to speak on behalf of the White Ribbon Day event. I wish them well in the future as we work as a community to eliminate violence against women, wherever it may be.

2012 NOV 1 – Matters of Public Importance – The adverse effect of the carbon tax on electricity and gas prices


November 1, 2012

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (15:51): It is with a deep sense of sorrow that I join this debate. I feel sorry for the Australian people, who have had this carbon tax imposed on them without any chance at all to vote on the merits of the policy. They have had enormous increases in their electricity and gas bills—nine and 10 per cent imposed on them in the first year alone by a government that gave them no chance whatsoever to decide whether they actually supported the policy. I feel sorry for Australian business owners and farmers, who have incurred the extra energy costs, making them less competitive with their international trading partners.

You might find this hard to believe, but I also feel sorry for those opposite—those who are the true believers in the Australian Labor Party, the ones who are still committed to standing up for the battlers, the ones who are interested in fiercely representing the interests of the blue-collar workers and are still interested in helping those in the community who are less fortunate.

I feel sorry for those opposite, because their grand old party has been led down a path to political oblivion by a leadership team that lacks judgement and lacks political conviction beyond its own survival. I get the opportunity, as other members on this side do, to move around my electorate a lot. I speak to a lot of blue-collar workers. Many of them have been union members. Many of them are involved in Latrobe Valley power stations. They tell me they feel absolutely abandoned by the Australian Labor Party. Latrobe Valley power station workers have been facing the uncertainty over the last two years of this government’s Contract for Closure policy. What they asked me during that whole debate was why this Prime Minister doesn’t fight for their jobs like she fights for her own job. That is what they say to me; they ask, ‘Why doesn’t she fight as hard for my job as she’s fought for her own job within her own team?’

So it has been up to me and my colleagues, like the member for Flinders and others in the coalition, to fight to stop the Contract for Closure policy on their behalf. The reason we fought so hard in relation to that policy in particular is that it is about protecting jobs, about protecting blue-collar workers. It is also about reducing the cost of living for all Australian people.

I just have a message for the Prime Minister and her cabinet, and I mean this in all sincerity: I can tell you now that the blue-collar workers who used to support the Australian Labor Party in the Latrobe Valley have had an absolute gutful of being vilified and being called ‘big polluters’ by this government and the Greens. They have absolutely had a gutful of being told what jobs they can have and what jobs they cannot have, and they have had a gutful of listening to this Greens mantra, which is being preached by inner-city MPs who have absolutely no understanding of life in regional Australia. They are angry; they are still angry. Those opposite might want to console themselves with a Newspoll bounce this week, but let me assure them that they are still out there waiting for you; they are angry and they are waiting for you.

The Contract for Closure policy, as part of the carbon tax policy, was always going to force higher electricity prices and energy prices across the board, and that is what we are seeing. It was always going to force the switch to more expensive forms of power generation, making it tougher for Australian businesses, making it tougher for Australian families and also making it tougher for Australian pensioners and those on low incomes.

This matter of public importance debate today is a critical discussion for the House because it reveals the arrogance of the modern Labor Party. The previous speaker really typified my concerns with the modern Australian Labor Party. This party has become so out of touch. It has no interest in the issues that actually affect regional communities. But those on this side of the House are not surprised by that. We are not surprised that the ALP has no interest in regional issues, because there is not a single member of the Labor cabinet who actually lives in regional Australia. I believe that, to have a passion for regional Australia—to actually care about the future of regional Australia—you have to live amongst us; you have to live and breathe and work amongst the people of regional Australia. There is not a single cabinet minister who is completely committed to standing up for the interests of regional Australia. So we should not be surprised that we do not have anyone in the Labor cabinet advocating on behalf of regional communities.

One of the great myths of the carbon tax debate has been this claim by those opposite that only the so-called big polluters pay the carbon tax. But what we know now—the lived experience of the carbon tax—is that it has forced up energy prices on every household, on every business, on every factory, on every sporting club, on every hospital and on every aged-care and childcare facility. And every Australian knows it, except those opposite, who are still out here every day parroting the party lines fed to them by their party apparatchiks.

Those opposite also like to claim that somehow our opposition to the carbon tax—our anti-carbon-tax campaign—is running out of puff. I can tell you now that the winds of change are still blowing right across Australia, and every member on this side remains committed to fighting this battle all the way to the next election. Those opposite would like to believe that the community has moved on, that no-one is worried about it anymore. Well, if no-one is worried about it anymore, why not test the theory? If this government is so confident that no-one cares anymore about the carbon tax—

Ms Marino: Go to an election.

Mr CHESTER: Go to an election! That is one way to test the theory. We could go to an election. If the Australian community has really moved on, what is stopping us from going to an election?

Ms Saffin: You’re dreaming!

Mr CHESTER: The member for Page says I’m dreaming. I am dreaming—dreaming that anyone in this government would have the decency to actually let the Australian people in on their dirty little secret that they always planned to have a carbon tax. If this Prime Minister is so arrogant and out of touch—if she actually thinks the Australian people do not care anymore about her fundamental breach of trust—then let us test the theory. Let’s have the election. It would give the Australian people a chance to finally have their say on whether or not they want to have a carbon tax, which this Prime Minister explicitly ruled out prior to the last election.

I can assure those opposite that no-one in the community has forgotten that fundamental breach of trust. It goes to the core of every bit of anger that is still there in the community, because they know they simply cannot trust this Prime Minister or anything she says. This is the Prime Minister who said boldly before the last election, ‘I rule out a carbon tax,’ and, ‘There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead’. Of course, the Treasurer himself was complicit in this deceit, because he said that the claims about a carbon tax were ‘hysterical’. They were perhaps not as hysterical as his claims about returning the budget to surplus this year—but I have digressed.

I said at the outset that I feel sorry for the true believers in the Australian Labor Party, and I do save my greatest sorrow for those who are offended by the deal the Prime Minister did with the Australian Greens. How they must hang their heads in shame in this place knowing that they are in power with the Australian Greens—getting into bed with the Australian Greens for a grubby political deal must tear at the heart and soul of the true believers in the Australian Labor Party.

Finally, and I suppose in the spirit of the Spring Racing Carnival, I was inspired to review the list of previous Melbourne Cup winners—and I can assure the House that the list of Melbourne Cup winners is a rich treasure trove of metaphors for the Labor cabinet. We had the minister himself—

Mr Christensen: The government that stops the nation!

Mr CHESTER: The government that stops the nation—I love it! The minister himself reminds us of Comedy King, who won in 1910. As he stood here joking about the carbon tax, he was hoping voters were thinking, ‘It’s just a carbon tax; What A Nuisance’—the winner in 1985. Then, of course, there is the member for Maribyrnong—or Rising Fast, as he is known; he was the winner in 1954. He displayed his might and power to destroy the member for Griffith. Ominously—

Mr Hunt: I am waiting for Light Fingers.

Mr CHESTER: Oh, we will get to Light Fingers, don’t worry. Ominously, though, the member for Griffith is the Think Big of the Labor Party—ominous because he saluted twice. So perhaps the grey stayer from Griffith has another run in him yet. Of course—and the member for Flinders has been waiting for this—there is the Treasurer, old Light Fingers himself, a winner in 1965. But, with a little bit more research—and in light of his mining tax flop—perhaps he is Subzero. Only this Treasurer could deliver a tax that delivers zero—a winner in 1992 but not such a big success in 2012. I do like that—the government that stops a nation.

But the metaphors are everywhere to describe this dysfunctional government and its carbon tax. I will leave it to others to decide which of those opposite has the title Windbag—the winner in 1925.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr CHESTER: Yes, there was Big Red and White Nose, but I am not going there! All I can say is that, when the minister stood in this place and tried to describe our approach to the carbon tax as something akin to the Fine Cotton affair, I was reminded that the Fine Cotton affair looked like a picnic race meeting compared with the carbon tax con, which really is the Melbourne Cup of all deceits. This carbon tax should be sent to the knackery. I thank the minister for his inspiration today.

This is a government that has made a lot of promises to the Australian people. The Prime Minister made a promise before the last election that there would be ‘no carbon tax under a government I lead’. This Prime Minister has also made promises in relation to the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski review, yet we have not had one announcement from the Prime Minister on how she is actually going to pay for any of this. This is a government that is running out of excuses, running out of ideas, and I feel sorry for the Australian people that they will not get their chance, probably until the next Melbourne Cup, to finish their race.

I thank the House for the opportunity, and let me assure those opposite that no-one on this side has run out of puff when it comes to our campaign to destroy the carbon tax.

(Time expired)

2012 NOV 1 – Wild Dogs


November 1, 2012

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (11:23):  I rise to condemn the Labor-Greens alliance in this place that pretends to care about the environment but does absolutely nothing to protect native wildlife and farming stock from the impact of wild dogs in regional Australia.

I do not have much time this morning, Deputy Speaker, so I will keep my message very simple—so simple that perhaps even the minister and his greenie mates will understand what I am talking about. You have blood on your hands. Minister, while you sit in this place and hide behind your department’s advice, wild dogs are killing stock and native animals in my electorate every day of the year. For the people on the ground who have to clean up this mess, it is devastating, it is traumatic and it is soul-destroying. The minister and the Greens pretend to care about the environment, they pretend to care about animal welfare issues but they allow wild dogs to kill native species and rip the guts out of livestock in my electorate and right throughout regional Australia every day of the year.

I say to the Greens, those animal rights activists that we often hear about on television, and I say to the minister for the environment: you are hypocrites of the highest order. If any of these people who pretend to care about the environment and pretend to care about animal welfare issues actually gave a damn, they would support all measures to control wild dogs in Australia—including aerial baiting in Victoria.

My local community and the Victorian state government are doing their best to control wild dogs, and the federal government is actually obstructing their efforts. The federal government is obstructing the efforts of the Victorian government to control wild dogs. The Victorian government has sought Commonwealth approval for a trial of aerial baiting to complement its increased funding for other measures like trapping, ground baiting, fencing and the newly introduced bounty on foxes and wild dogs. For its part, the Commonwealth department has demanded additional research, leaving Victorians with a choice. They can fund additional research—waste their money that was going to be used for wild dog control on research—or they can spend that money on actually killing dogs. I am right to say ‘waste’—and I am not against research; don’t get me wrong there—because the research has actually been done.

I urge the minister to read the New South Wales department of environment fact sheet on wild dogs, which I have here with me. It reports on the research it undertook in relation to aerial baiting of wild dogs and the impact on native species like quolls. Keep in mind that New South Wales has been aerial baiting for more than 30 years, and the research found that aerial baiting had a minimal impact on the quoll populations:

While individual quolls may die from 1080 baits, this research suggests that aerial baiting is unlikely to have an impact on quoll populations as a whole. In fact, aerial baiting which suppresses local fox and dog populations may benefit quolls in an area.

Wild dogs are destroying the native environment and tearing at the fabric of communities in regional Australia, where farmers are being left virtually on their own to battle without significant support from the federal government. I acknowledge that aerial baiting is not the panacea; it is not going to solve this problem. But it will help. The Victorian government should have every tool at its disposal to help it reduce the impact of this menace, and the families in my community are rightfully demanding more assistance.

In closing, I would like to quote from a letter which was sent to me by the daughter of a farmer who had invited the environment minister to actually visit their property, near Omeo. It is a formal invitation. The lady writes:

‘I would like you to join my father every day for a week as he goes out every morning to pick up dead and dying sheep that have been mauled, some eaten alive, some still running around with their innards half hanging out. Help him put these sheep down. You can then partake in the task of picking up the bodies and piling them up to burn. Come and join him in this task and see how it affects him. Come back with him to his house and sit down with him to poke your food around on your plate because you cannot eat as you feel so overwhelmed by the feeling of helplessness.’

The letter goes on:

‘After this fun-filled week—when you may be able to experience some of the desolation and heartache felt by this man—sit down and explain to him why he has to wait while more studies are carried out before anything more proactive will be done. Explain to him why he has to watch his beloved animals that he has tended for most of his life be murdered. Explain to him why his income has been cut so drastically. Explain to him that all the meetings he has attended over the years, all the letters he has written and all the people that he has lobbied have all been a waste of time. Explain to him why the animals he used to marvel at as he rode through the bush are no longer there. Explain to him why he has to keep going. Explain to him why he does not get stress leave. Explain to us—his family—why we have to watch him slowly shrink from a vibrant, energetic man to a beaten, heartbroken shell.’

I accepted that offer and attended in Omeo last week. I urge the minister to take up the same offer. Walk a mile in the boots of these people, who have to attend to this tragedy every day of the week. I challenge the minister to stop hiding behind his department staff and actually do his job. On behalf of farmers in regional Victoria, I urge the minister to simply intervene in this matter. His department is off on a green-tape frolic of its own that is unsupported by the research and is harming the economy, the environment and the social fabric of regional Victoria. Every day that we stop this aerial baiting in Victoria is another day that wild dogs feast on native wildlife and kill livestock. I seek leave to table the letter from Sonia Lawlor, from Omeo, to the minster for the environment. I also seek leave to table the fact sheet on wild dogs from the New South Wales government.

Leave granted.

2012 OCT 12 – World Sight Day


October 12, 2012

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (12:29): I rise to speak in relation to World Sight Day. At a time when we seem to have a national or international day for every cause known to man—and I do not want to be disparaging of those other causes—World Sight Day is a very important event. It is the main advocacy event to raise awareness in the global effort to prevent avoidable blindness. The campaign also encompasses the World Health Organization’s VISION 2020: The Right to Sight initiative, which is a global effort to prevent avoidable blindness.

The theme of World Sight Day this year is prevention. The House would be interested to learn that over half a million Australians aged over 40 are living with some form of vision loss. Of those, over 66,000 are blind. But it is estimated that in Australia 75 per cent of blindness and vision loss is preventable or treatable. A number of members and senators on both sides of the chamber and on the crossbenches have joined the campaign as World Sight Day Champions, including me. Many of us attended a breakfast here in the parliament this morning that actually doubled as the 80th birthday celebration of a former member for Lalor, Barry Jones. Barry is the Chair of Vision 2020 Australia and I do not think it would be stretching things too far to describe the former member as somewhat of a national treasure. As World Sight Day Champions, the members of parliament have been actively engaging with our local communities to raise awareness about preventable blindness and encourage local residents to have their eyesight tested on a regular basis.

There are many causes of vision loss. The major eye diseases that can cause blindness and vision impairment in Australia are macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy. Together with under- or uncorrected refractive error, they account for more than 90 per cent of vision impairment among older Australians. It is also more common for people to develop a vision impairment as they age; however, some of these conditions, if caught early, can be treated. That is the key prevention message of World Sight Day that is being promoted here today in the parliament.

There are a lot of things that Australians in particular can do to protect their eyes. In a hostile environment like many of us experience in our rural and regional communities, wearing sunglasses and sunhats wherever possible in the sun is a good preventative measure, not only for your eyes but also for protection against skin cancer. Also, wearing eye protection at home and at work and quitting smoking are valuable measures. It is a known fact that smoking is one of the major contributing factors to poor eye health outcomes.

The prevention message of World Sight Day is emphasised in the need for people to have eye tests on a regular basis. On Monday, before I came to the parliament I met with an optometrist and good friend of mine in Lakes Entrance, Evan Bryant. Evan passed on the following recommendations to me. The average eyesight test only takes about 30 minutes and is painless for the majority of clients. People who have a family history of eye problems, are dealing with other medical conditions such as diabetes or are in the older generation should have annual check-ups. People over 40 should have their eyesight tested every two years, while younger people with good vision should have their eyes tested every five years. That is all good advice from Evan and I thank him. Evan and his wife, Elaine, are heavily involved in World Sight Day, as they donate all their fees on World Sight Day to Vision 2020: The Right to Sight.

The impact of vision loss on an individual’s contribution to our community is very significant and also affects a person’s emotional wellbeing. People who are blind or vision impaired are much less likely to work and are less independent than those with normal vision. That is not to say that they cannot make a major contribution to our community in many ways, and the overwhelming majority do, but there is no question that our sight is important to us and there are poor health outcomes related to people who have a loss of vision or are vision impaired.

Eyesight is something that we should never take for granted. I can only encourage the people of Gippsland to be proactive and to take a simple eye test that could save their sight. People with vision loss are twice as likely as others to use health services. They are twice as likely to have a fall. They have a rate of depression three times that of someone without vision impairment. The message again from World Sight Day 2012 is that the overwhelming majority of eye problems are preventable or treatable. I congratulate Vision 2020 Australia on its work in promoting good eye health and I encourage other members to support its work in the future.

2012 OCT 10 – Dental Benefits Amendment Bill 2012


October 10, 2012

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (13:21): I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the new Speaker’s panel on their election over the past 24 hours. In particular, I congratulate the member for Chisholm on her promotion to the position of Speaker. It is unfortunate for the members of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Petitions because we will miss the member for Chisholm, who has been a valued member of our committee. But she will move on to higher duties. I also congratulate the member for Maranoa on his elevation to the position of Deputy Speaker and the member for Hindmarsh on his elevation to the Second Deputy Speaker role. To all the members of the Speaker’s panel, I wish you well in your work.

In rising this afternoon to speak on the Dental Benefits Amendment Bill 2012, I will be speaking in support of my colleagues in the Liberal and National parties who have raised concerns about the direction this government is taking in relation to dental health care in the nation. I wish we could be in a position where we would support this government’s position, because there is a desperate need to support the dental healthcare needs of the Australian people, but—as has become, I think, symptomatic of this government and its approach to a vast range of public policy areas—it has simply failed to do its homework, and it has failed to get the details right.

I have had the opportunity to follow this debate quite closely, and I recall the speech of the member for Aston, who perhaps summed up the situation quite succinctly when he said that basically this is just an election promise. It has all the credibility of an election promise when this government talks about its reforms in relation to dental health care, because so much of what this government announces is not funded. Unfortunately, this government has a long history of making promises and then not keeping them. The most obvious one that has had a direct impact on my community is the Prime Minister’s announcement only days before the last election, where she specifically ruled out introducing a carbon tax, and we all know what happened to that promise. So I believe that the health minister’s announcement—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): Excuse me. Is the member for Kennedy seeking the call?

Mr Katter: No, he is already talking, isn’t he?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry. I saw you standing there; I just thought I would check. I beg your pardon; the member for Gippsland has the call.

Mr CHESTER: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. There may have been some confusion. I understood that the member for Kennedy was arriving late, so I am sorry if there has been some confusion there, but I thank him for giving way.

As I was saying, the health minister’s announcement in relation to the government’s reforms on dental health is as shambolic as some of those other public policy areas that I am going to touch on in a few moments time, in the sense that it was openly contradicted by the Prime Minister within 24 hours. We had on one hand a minister saying that this was an announcement that the government would need to find money to pay for in the future, and on the other hand we had the Prime Minister saying that it was a savings initiative. It has been quite confusing for the Australian people to listen and to watch the government in relation to its management of this and many other issues.

Unfortunately, I am concerned that this is a pattern of behaviour within the government, where, in its desperation and its need to try and generate positive news cycles, it is making a lot of unfunded promises and feelgood announcements to try and engender some level of support within the community but then failing to do the homework and explain to the Australian people how it is going to deliver some of these programs.

We have seen that, unfortunately, with issues like the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I am one member who, like many others on both sides of this House, has been strongly supportive of the need for a National Disability Insurance Scheme, but the government has not been honest with the Australian people on how it is actually going to fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It has made grand announcements, and it parades itself around the country as being the only side of politics committed to the NDIS, but the simple fact of the matter is that the government has not explained how it is going to fund it.

It is the same with the grand announcements the government made in relation to Gonski and its education plans. Again, there is no explanation from this government about how it is going to meet its financial commitments into the future.

We have seen that with the aged-care package of reforms. The government has not explained how it is going to pay for it. And its mental health package has ended up being more smoke and mirrors than anything else. Unfortunately for the Australian people, they have had some very significant promises made to them but are yet to have an explanation from this government about how it is going to pay for them.

I am afraid that the dental plan fits into the same category. Any government can come out and make an announcement, but how are they actually going to pay for all this? How are they going to pay for all of the commitments that the government have promised?

If it assists the member for Kennedy, I will not be long, and I will give him every opportunity to make his contribution.

The coalition strongly supports investment in dental health. We are concerned about the government’s announcements in relation to the Medicare Chronic Disease Dental Scheme. It announced the closure of the scheme effective from 30 November but failed to provide assurances to the Australian community that there would be a replacement scheme in place until 2014. We are very concerned that many patients throughout Australia, particularly in regional communities, will miss out on treatment under the CDDS during this gap period.

We have seen this government’s announcement of the $4.1 billion dental program, which was made on 29 August by the Minister for Health and the Greens health spokesperson, Senator Di Natale. Again, as I referred to earlier, it was unfunded. It just reinforced within the community the view that this government almost inevitably has to do the Greens’ bidding. But I would caution members opposite about continuing down the path of responding to concerns, issues or policy positions from the Greens, who have proven themselves to be economically illiterate when it comes to managing the major issues facing our nation, and this is a classic case in point.

It is beyond me to try and understand why any cabinet minister, let alone the Prime Minister, would ever stand beside a member of the Australian Greens and do joint press conferences, when you consider that at the last election less than 10 per cent of the Australian population voted for the Greens. It strikes me as more than passing strange that the Prime Minister was prepared to do a joint press conference announcing this fantastic power-sharing agreement, supposedly in the aftermath of the last election, with the leader of a party which 90 per cent of the Australian people had voted against. I am not sure who within the strategy department of the Australian Labor Party thought it was a great idea to have the Prime Minister with the Leader of the Greens playing happy families in the courtyard at the Prime Minister’s office, but the pattern continues. We see once again this time the health minister doing a joint announcement with the Greens health spokesperson on this program, which I believe is a folly.

I recognise Deputy Speaker Scott in the chair. You missed me moments ago, Member for Maranoa, as I passed on my congratulations to you on your elevation to this important role. I know that the way the parliament works is something that you have taken very seriously during your career in parliament, and I am sure that you will do a great job in the role of Deputy Speaker and be an enormous support to the Speaker herself. I congratulate you in your presence and wish you all the best in your new role.

The opposition has spoken at length in relation to this issue, and I am not going to delay the House any longer. I recognise that the member for Kennedy has arrived in the chamber and is ready to make his contribution as well. May I simply say that the opposition, the coalition, are very concerned that we have a government which makes decisions and takes actions which are more about the politics of the day than good public policy.

We have, as the member for Bradfield described it, a half-baked plan before us. It is designed more to keep at bay Kevin—the member for Griffith—and to discredit the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, and his scheme than it is to deliver good public health outcomes. I predict that the pressure will be on this government, that there will be another Twitter campaign or another email campaign like we saw with Margiris, that there will be a backflip on the dental plan and that the government will be forced to accommodate the thousands of Australians who face the unfortunate situation of putting up with a gap of at least 13 months before receiving treatment under its dental plan.

I appreciate the opportunity to raise my concerns about the government’s position on dental health. It concerns me that the government is making an enormous number of completely unfunded promises. It is committing future governments to extraordinary expense for schemes such as the dental plan, the NDIS, the response to the Gonski review, the aged-care reform package and the mental health package. All these commitments are being made on a wing and a prayer, and unfortunately it is going to be left to future governments of this nation to clean up the mess left by the Rudd and Gillard governments. I thank the House.

2012 SEPT 20 – Matters of Public Importance – The adverse impact of the carbon tax and its implementation on the Australian economy and households


September 20. 2012

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (15:59): The minister clearly should have stuck to the script. He liked to claim that the shadow minister’s address was pathetic. He liked to claim that there was a desperate, failing, fear campaign. All this week we have had members opposite saying that our carbon tax campaign has run into a brick wall. They claim the community has moved on and that nobody is worried about it anymore. I thought’ ‘Why not test the theory? How might we test the theory?’ If the government is so confident, if the minister is so confident that no one cares about his carbon tax anymore, what not test the theory? Why don’t we have an election? Minister, why do we not have an election and test the theory? Here is something novel: you say you want to fight; well, do not run from the Australian people. Let them have a chance to have their say. The carbon tax is a bad tax. It is not based on the truth and we will repeal it. We can repeal it, we will repeal it and we look forward to the day we get the opportunity to do so.

No one has forgotten about the fundamental breach of trust of this Prime Minister and it goes to the core of every little piece of anger in the community relating to the carbon tax. What was it that the Prime Minister told the Australian people before the last election? ‘I rule out a carbon tax. There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.’ The Treasurer was also complicit in that deceit. He said that claims about the plans for a carbon tax were ‘hysterical’. Well, they are not as hysterical as the claims from the Treasurer that they are going to have a budget surplus this year. They are not as hysterical as that because, quite frankly, that will never happen.

I am prepared to bet that the Treasurer will never deliver a surplus. In fact, I have invited the Treasurer to put his money where his mouth is. I have offered him a $1,000 bet. In October last year I offered the Treasurer a genuine wager. He will not bet with me. But if he so confident why would he not? I said, ‘Here is a chance to win 1,000 bucks for your favourite charity, Treasurer.’ I told him in this chamber if he delivers that budget surplus this financial year I would donate $1,000 to his favourite charity. But if he does not deliver the surplus he will donate $1,000 to my favourite charity, which happens to be my local surf lifesaving club. This is a Treasurer who has presided over four budget deficits in a row. Like the rest of Australia, I simply do not believe he will ever achieve a surplus. I am prepared to put my money where my mouth is. I am not sure while why the Treasurer will not do the same.

All Australians, just like me, want to know where the money is going to come from. This government has no credibility on economic issues. At a time when the economy is slowing, no one has faith in this Treasurer or this Prime Minister to get the big calls right, which goes to the very heart of this matter of public importance. I am disappointed the Prime Minister is not here. At a time when the manufacturing sector is struggling and the mining industry is giving indications that times are getting tough and when the agricultural sector is going through hard times to compete on world markets, why would any government elected to govern in the national interest make it harder? Why would you make it harder for the manufacturing sector, for the mining sector and for the agricultural sector? Why would you make it harder for any Australian industry to compete with the imposition of the world’s biggest carbon tax?

What we are seeing, as this Treasurer tries to prop up this artificial surplus he keeps talking about, is a freeze on spending by the government on programs like the Regional Structural Adjustment Assistance Package, which was meant to assist regions adversely affected by the carbon tax. Members who are not from regional electorates may not have heard of this package before but it is a $200-million package and not a cent of that package has been delivered. In fact, the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government admitted during the budget consideration in detail stage that the guidelines of the $200-million package had not even been prepared.

Regional communities were promised in the lead up to the introduction of the carbon tax that they would be helped through the adjustment phase, that there would be structural adjustment funding. I am sure the minister at the table knows that. This is what the minister for regional development, the Minister for Climate Change and the Prime Minister repeated during visits to my electorate in the Latrobe Valley. This is what the minister for regional development said during the budget consideration in detail:

The guidelines for the Structural Adjustment Fund for the regions most affected by the carbon pricing initiative are still being considered and, in any event, they were always going to be contingent upon impact, once we knew where the ‘contracts for closure’ were going to occur.

Those who were not listening at that time may not have picked up the get-out-of-jail card hidden in the minister’s weasel words: ‘…they were always going to be contingent upon impact, once we knew where the contracts for closure were going to occur.’ But the problem is the contracts-for-closure process has now been abandoned. Are we to assume that the $200 million is gone? The $200 million that was meant to be given to regional Australia is gone because, according to the minister, it was always going to be contingent upon contracts for closure. Those opposite might say that is fair enough. The contracts for closure is gone and the $200 million package is gone. Except that is not true. That is not what the government promised.

I have here a fact sheet that I printed out this morning on the Clean Energy Future website. Let me read the section on the Regional Structural Adjustment Assistance Package.

The $200 million Regional Structural Assistance Package will be set aside for structural adjustment assistance for regions and communities, and if required there will be other initiatives which assist strongly affected areas and sectors.

The Department of Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government will monitor the impacts of the carbon price on regions to determine areas where structural adjustment assistance may be required

… … …

Funding will support regional communities on a case-by-case basis. Examples of programs that may be supported include support for displaced workers and their families, support for affected small businesses, community development programs and economic diversification programs.

It is interesting the minister, who is due to speak next, has run from the House. I am assuming he is going to try and find this little fact sheet and try and find what the writing instructions are going to be about contracts for closure and the $200 million. The reason I wanted record that in Hansard is, I imagine, that website may be adjusted in the very near future. I imagine the fact sheet may be pulled from the website because in this fact sheet there is not one mention of contracts for closure. The package was put together because the government supposedly understood that some regions and communities will face more significant impacts than others from reforms like the carbon price.

On 11 July this year Minister Crean put out a press release with the heading: Clean Energy Opportunity for Regional Australia.Mr Crean said:

… the Government recognised the reality that some regions and communities would face more significant impacts than others.

Labor’s major economic reforms of the past have been underpinned by structural adjustment assistance, to ease the transition for affected regions and communities.

We will build on our legacy with a $200 million Regional Structural Adjustment Assistance Package.

We will closely monitor the impact of the carbon price and ensure affected communities have access to the employment and training opportunities needed to underpin community development and economic diversification.

There was no mention again about the $200 million and the fund being contingent upon the contracts for closure program. Where is the $200 million?

Mr McCormack: It is in the dispatch box.

Mr CHESTER: No, I am not going to search in the dispatch box. I fear the good people of the Latrobe Valley and regional Australia have been conned again by the Gillard government. We were promised ‘no carbon tax under a government I lead’ and now we have that tax—thanks to a grubby little deal with the Greens and the Independents. We were promised a Regional Structural Adjustment Assistance Package to help secure jobs and protect our future and we have received nothing, zero, nought, zilch, nada. It is a saving. I will be interested to see if the minister has been able to find the answer in the last couple of minutes. We have been conned. There is no structural adjustment package funding, and if the Prime Minister was honest with the Australian people she would walk in here and explain it herself. She would confirm that the package has been abandoned.

Mr McCormack: How mendacious!

Mr CHESTER: The member for Riverina says it is mendacious. I just said that so it would get on the record.

The Prime Minister would confirm that $200 million has been covered up by the Treasurer, who is desperately trying to cling to his claim of a surplus in this financial year. Make no mistake: the cuts are coming, and this program is on the chopping block because this government has given up on Australia’s blue-collar workers.

The other great con about the carbon tax that this government likes to perpetrate in the community is that only the so-called biggest polluters will pay that carbon tax. That is as misleading as the Prime Minister’s promise that there will be no carbon tax under a government she leads, because everyone pays the carbon tax through energy prices—through our local football and netball clubs, with their lights; our local aged care facilities; our hospitals and our surf clubs. The Lakes Entrance fishing industry wrote to me the other day. They have a $24,000 a year estimated increase in their power bills. And the carbon tax will affect local dairy farmers. The member for Forrest has dairy farmers in her electorate as well. They are going to be hit with a $5,000 extra cost to their energy bills on an annual basis. Everyone pays a carbon tax every day of the week.

But what does the Prime Minister say when asked about these increased costs? The Prime Minister repeatedly comes in here and says that businesses can pass those costs through. So the Prime Minister is quite happy for the cost of living to increase. In fact, she is suggesting that businesses pass the cost through and make life more difficult for their customers.

What concerns me most of all in relation to the carbon tax is the crisis of confidence it has caused in regional communities. It is directly linked to the uncertainty this government has created through its reckless decision to legislate the world’s biggest carbon tax. As long as this carbon tax hangs over the heads of regional Australians and their businesses and families it is hard to see that confidence being restored.

If the members opposite really think the anti-carbon tax campaign has run out of steam—if they really think we have hit a brick wall with this campaign—then let’s have an election. Let’s let the people of Australia decide.

(Time expired)

2012 SEPT 18 – Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012, Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2012


September 18, 2012

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (21:09): I join the debate, like all of my colleagues on this side of the House, to express my great concerns about the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012 and the related bill. We have had speaker after speaker on this side of the House raise their concerns. Like the member for Kooyong, I make the point that this is not intended to be a partisan debate; it is more about speaking on behalf of our communities, where, quite rightly, the not-for-profit sector and charitable organisations have expressed their concern about the direction being taken by the government. We are not taking our position lightly or, as I said, for any party-political reason. We simply do not believe this government has got it right, and we do not trust this government to get it right during the regulation stage either. We simply do not believe the not-for-profit sector will flourish under the proposed reform.

The not-for-profit sector and charitable organisations in a community like Gippsland are critically important for emergency services, aged care, education, faith based communities and churches, and sporting organisations. The government quite naturally relies very heavily on the goodwill of the millions of Australians who are prepared to donate their time to, or work in, the not-for-profit sector. The sector is based on the goodwill of Australians who are prepared to make a commitment to helping those in their society who are less fortunate or in need.

While the government should be encouraging and empowering people who are prepared to make that sort of commitment to their community, this legislation is in fact placing more obstacles in their way. Time is one of the most precious gifts that a person can give to their community. It is a resource that should be treated with respect by our government. If people give their time willingly, it is because they want to try and make a difference in their community; it is not because they want to do more paperwork for a federal bureaucracy. Adding to the compliance burden adds to administration costs and reduces the amount of good work these organisations are able to do on the ground.

I think the member for Solomon made a valid point when she looked at the issue from the other side of the equation, from the perspective of people who are prepared to make donations to the not-for-profit sector. When people make a donation to a not-for-profit organisation, they expect it to be used to make a difference on the ground, not to be absorbed in administration costs.

It bothers me—and the member for Kooyong touched on this in his speech here tonight—that since 2007 the Rudd and Gillard governments have managed to introduce 18,000 new regulations. That is a staggering record, and it is a shameful record. The Australian people have every right to be sceptical when this government claims it is reducing red tape when, in fact, since 2007 it has introduced 18,000 new regulations.

The coalition oppose the government’s proposed big new regulator for charities and not-for-profits because we fear it will not reduce red tape. We believe it treats the sector as untrustworthy and that the people involved in it are somewhat tainted by the approach being taken by the government. We fear also that it is going to hinder the activities of our charities and not-for-profit organisations and actually discourage involvement in those organisations into the future. I do not make that point lightly. At a time when it is already difficult to attract and retain volunteers or people prepared to work in the not-for-profit sector, placing any more barriers in front of them will just make it more difficult into the future.

We believe that the government should be getting out of the way of this sector and letting them do what they do best, and that is helping people and helping our communities. I fear that this government—and I am not for a second suggesting that it is its deliberate intention—is actually creating a roadblock to the operation of the charitable and not-for-profit sector and people’s involvement in it.

The states also generally do not support the direction being taken by the government of a new regulator. In fact, they have not actually wound back the compliance burden as was intended by the government in this place. The states have not agreed to hand over any of their powers with respect to charities and not-for-profits to the Commonwealth, so the new regulator will be an additional layer of red tape and thus not achieve its primary objective of reducing regulations.

My concern directly relates to my community of Gippsland, where we have an extraordinary number of people who are prepared to give their time and effort to volunteer and to work in the charitable and not-for-profit sector, but, as I said, it is getting harder and harder to attract and retain those people. Anything we do in this place that makes it more difficult to volunteer or work within the not-for-profit sector should be opposed.

The coalition believes we should be trusting the voluntary sector and trusting those working in charitable endeavours, whereas this approach from the government reverses that cornerstone assumption of trust. Essentially we are creating legislation that assumes people who are involved or who volunteer are untrustworthy and tainted. I believe that the government has taken quite a punitive approach to this matter. I believe the coalition’s approach to help the sector to support a small commission to focus on innovation, education and advocacy is a better way to go.

I refer to the shadow minister’s contribution in the debate when he made many important points that I think the government should take on board. In his contribution the shadow minister highlighted that what was proposed as simplification by the minister in his address turns out to be costly and burdensome additional reporting requirements with no reduction in red tape and no reduction in duplication. He gave the example of the Baptist Church, which said in its submission to the legislation that it had estimated that it alone will have to spend an additional $1 million per annum of scarce resources to meet the new requirements. That is a staggering amount of money for an organisation which is set up to help our communities. If the Baptist Church alone is expecting to spend an additional $1 million per annum of its resources to meet these requirements, imagine what the compliance costs will be if we extrapolate that across all the associations upon which this regulatory system will be enforced. The cost to the community will be enormous both in direct monetary costs and also in the opportunity cost in what is lost and what could have been delivered with those resources.

As I also pointed out in my opening remarks, the other great concern of the sector is that much of the burden of this new legislation will be in the regulatory requirements. The government is really asking the Australian people and asking this parliament to take them on trust. The government’s record in relation to trust is not one that anyone should be proud of. No-one in the Australian community, if asked the question, ‘Do you trust this government to get it right in relation to this legislation?’ would be confident in saying that, yes, they can trust this government.

We view the government’s approach as both heavy handed and unnecessarily intrusive to such an extent that we believe that it would diminish the work of charities and of the not-for-profit sector. We are concerned that the government has failed to consult properly with the sector and we fear it needs to go back to the drawing board. That is not just our view; that is the view that many organisations have raised concerns about.

I will refer to a few of those comments for the benefit of the Leader of the House. We had the Australian Conservation Foundation—

Mr Albanese interjecting—

Mr CHESTER: It is not my view, Leader of the House; it is actually the view of the Australian Conservation Foundation, which said:

ACF is concerned that rather than remove duplication, the ACNC bills will duplicate reporting obligations.

The Australian Baptist Ministries made a submission to the inquiry and said:

The reporting requirements for medium sized entities are too onerous. In our view the increase in compliance obligation will make it more difficult to fill volunteer roles within local congregations as well as requiring more time to be spent on compliance matters and therefore less time on matters that will provide a benefit to the community.

This is direct feedback from people directly impacted by the government’s legislation and highlights the point that has been raised by the coalition and by the many, many speakers who have spoken against the legislation over the past 24 hours. Catholic Health Australia said:

… the effect of the Bills would be to add additional regulation to the operation of most not-for-profit organisations.

That is in direct contrast to the government’s claims. We have Catholic Health Australia saying that the effect of the legislation would be to add additional regulation. This is meant to be a streamlining process and this is meant to be reducing red tape and reducing regulation. But the feedback from the people directly affected, like Catholic Health Australia, is that they will be faced with a higher regulation burden and higher compliance costs. The CEO, Martin Laverty, said:

… we cannot look to the bill today and have any confidence or indeed certainty as to how in the future those organisations currently governed under the corporations law would be governed in the future.

He went on to say:

Companies would not settle for governance standards being changed by way of regulation. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto would not allow a government to create an ability to use regulation to change the way in which their governance operates. Why should the not-for-profit sector be any different to that?

I have a long list of similar comments and I will not prolong the House any further by reading them out.

Mr Albanese interjecting—

Mr CHESTER: I can if the Leader of the House would like me to. Mission Australia said that the legislation:

… is not sufficiently well balanced by a commitment to enable the not-for-profit sector to reduce duplication of reporting and to provide public confidence in the sector.

The National Disability Service said:

NDS supports the concept of a national regulator but is concerned that during the early stage of implementation it is possible that the reporting burden will increase for those organisations that retain a requirement to report to a state or territory regulator. Negotiations between governments to eliminate or minimise any duplication of reporting requirements arising from dual regulation need to be fast-tracked.

It goes to the heart of our concerns. The government claims to have consulted, but it is not consultation if you are not listening. It is not consultation if you are not prepared to take the submissions from organisations raising legitimate concerns to do with the compliance burden, duplication and additional costs that are going to be incurred. It is not consultation at all if you are not prepared to look at the very real issues raised by people on the ground dealing with this government’s heavy-handed approach to compliance.

Adding to the red-tape burden and adding to the compliance costs means that every dollar diverted for compliance with this new regulatory environment and the duplication involved will result in fewer services in our communities. Like the member for Parkes said earlier this evening, I fear that it is the services in regional areas, which tend to have smaller staff numbers, that will suffer the most as precious staff resources are diverted away from the core business of those organisations. I say again, every single dollar diverted, every staffer or volunteer that is tied up in red tape and compliance burdens enforced upon it by government, in this case possibly the duplication of state and federal government burdens, will result in less service, less support and less activity in the not-for-profit and charitable sector in our community.

I will close by referring to the minister’s second reading speech. He said:

The introduction of this bill represents a significant milestone in delivering reforms that strengthen and support the sector so it can continue to grow and flourish into the future.

I genuinely believe the minister was well intentioned but I do not believe this legislation achieves his claimed objectives. He went on to say:

Ensuring that the sector can consolidate its standing in the community through enhanced transparency and accountability is essential to its ongoing growth and sustainability.

A regulatory system that promotes good governance, accountability and transparency for NFP entities will help to maintain, protect and enhance the public trust and confidence that underpins the sector.

In closing, the sector already has good standing in the community. It does not need the heavy hand of this government driving people out of the sector. There is a great amount of public trust in the sector already and there is also a great amount of confidence. I acknowledge the sector is not perfect and the coalition does support reforms but this heavy-handed, overly regulated approach will create more problems than it solves. I oppose the bill.

2012 SEPT 17 – Private MembersÕ Business – Australia’s Future Workforce Needs


September 17, 2012

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (20:14): I move:

(1) commends the Australian Government’s:
(a) commitment to meeting Australia’s future workforce needs;
(b) strong investment record in skills and training; and
(c) partnership with industry to meet Australia’s skills challenges;

(2) notes that all Australians should have the opportunity to get the education and skills they need for the jobs on offer, and the importance:
(a) that the TAFE system plays in providing training opportunities; and
(b) of federal, state and local initiatives to provide jobseekers with customised employment and training to meet their individual needs and the demands of the labour market for a skilled workforce; and

(3) calls on Governments at all levels to:
(a) provide funding for employment and skills services; and
(b) continue to invest in TAFE and skills training,

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (20:46): It is with pleasure that I join this debate on late notice and take up on the contributions from members on this side of the House in relation to the motion put forward by the member for Blair. And I take up the comments that the member who preceded me, the member for Throsby, just raised in relation to whether members on this side of the House actually care about TAFE funding. I can assure the member that the members on this side of the House are equally as passionate about the skills shortage facing the Australian nation and facing each of our states and are as passionate about TAFEs as are the members on the other side. However, what the member failed to discuss at any stage during his contribution was the simple fact that you have to be able to pay for it, which the member for Hughes raised in his contribution.

Mr Craig Kelly: A novel concept!

Mr CHESTER: It is a novel concept for Labor governments. You can keep on spending—you can spend and you can spend and you can spend—but one day the Australian people have to pay for it. If the member for Throsby wants to talk about political parties having form on this, then let us talk about the form of the state Labor governments, of the former federal governments and of the current federal Labor government in relation to being able to manage a balanced budget. The simple reason the Victorian government has had to make some very difficult decisions in relation to TAFEs is that it is cleaning up the mess left behind by the Bracks and Brumby governments. The prime reason the Newman LNP government in Queensland is making some tough budgetary decisions right now is that they are cleaning up Anna’s mess—an $80 billion mess. It is hard to believe that a state government could achieve an $80 billion mess like that, but Anna Bligh was up to it, ably assisted by Peter Beattie.

And then we look at the New South Wales situation. If you listened to those opposite you would think that members of the Liberal Party and the National Party just want to cause grief for people when it comes to making tough budgetary decisions. The simple fact of the matter, once again, is that the O’Farrell government has had to clean up after—how many years was it? How many years of torture in New South Wales was it?

Mr Craig Kelly: Too many!

Mr CHESTER: The member shakes his head. There were years and years of poor budget performance in New South Wales, and now the O’Farrell government is once again cleaning up the mess. And it is a pattern that the Australian people know so well. Go into any public bar in regional Australia, perhaps even suburban Australia, and ask people about the Australian Labor Party. Ask, ‘Can the Australian Labor Party manage money?’ and you will not find a single person in that bar who believes that the Australian Labor Party is good with taxpayers’ money. It is accepted wisdom throughout Australia that Labor cannot manage money. Every time Labor gets to the Treasury benches they prove themselves incapable of managing balanced budgets.

So we have this motion here from the member for Blair, talking about providing funding for employment and skills services and continuing to invest in TAFEs as if the Labor Party is the only party that cares about investing in skills. Well, here is a news flash for the member for Blair: members on this side are equally as passionate about this issue, but we just have this feeling that you have to be able to pay for it; one day you have to pay the bills. Unfortunately for those in the Labor Party, they never have to pay the bills; they just leave it for the Liberals and Nationals to come into government and clean up the mess. In the last month, as members of the Labor Party walked into this place, you could have sworn they were running for state parliament. You could have sworn that the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and a whole assortment of the gaggling crowd opposite are running for state parliamentary seats, because they do not want to talk about the federal parliament anymore; all they want to talk about is what New South Wales is doing, what Queensland is doing, what Victoria is doing. You would have thought that at least one member opposite actually cared about the state of the Australian budget and what is actually happening in this parliament. Then again, if I were presiding over another budgetary mess, with a $120 billion budget black hole, the last thing I would want to talk about would be the federal parliament. So we have Anna’s mess, we have Brumby’s and Bracks’s mess, we have the mess of whoever was leading New South Wales for about 15 years—all their mess—and now we have Kevin’s and Julia’s mess to clean up.

The previous speaker was right: there are some people in this place who have form on this, and it is the Labor Party. We cannot afford Labor governments at state level, and we certainly cannot afford Labor governments at federal level.

Debate adjourned and made an order of the day for the next sitting.

2012 SEPT 17 – Private Members’ Business – Surf Lifesaving


September 17, 2012

Debate resumed on the motion:

That this House:

(1) notes that with more than 150,000 members and 310 affiliated surf lifesaving clubs, surf lifesaving is the largest volunteer movement of its kind in Australia;

(2) recognises the outstanding contribution made to health and safety of beach goers by volunteer and professional surf lifesavers;

(3) highlights that the economic value to the Australian economy of surf lifesaving’s coastal drowning and injury prevention efforts in 2009-10 was independently assessed to be $3.6 billion;

(4) supports the important role played by surf lifesaving clubs in developing young people’s health, fitness and leadership skills through an extensive junior program; and

(5) acknowledges the Coalition’s commitment to implement a $10 million fund if elected into government to:
(a) assist clubs to purchase vital rescue equipment, first aid and medical supplies; and
(b) extend the Beach Drowning Black Spot Reduction Program.

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland) (11:19): It is with great pleasure that I move the motion in relation to the outstanding contribution made to our nation by our surf lifesaving movement. In advance, I would like to thank the other speakers who are listed here to speak today. I note they represent many, many surf clubs along the Australian coastline. There were several reasons for my decision to move this motion beyond my role as a member of the Parliamentary Friends of Surf Life Saving and also my roles as club member and volunteer water safety officer for the junior program at Lakes Entrance Surf Life Saving Club, where my four children are all active participants.

I want to give all members a chance to talk about the importance of surf lifesaving in their own electorates. As we approach the warmer months and many Australians flock to our beaches, I want also to be able to assure our professional and volunteer patrol men and women that they have the complete, bipartisan support of the Australian parliament and to assure each and every one of the more than 44,000 patrolling members and the 160,000 or so total adult membership that their efforts are not being taken for granted. I also want to take the chance to highlight the opportunities for governments to work in partnership with this very successful movement to achieve even better outcomes in the future. We have every reason in this place and throughout the Australian community to be very proud of the history of the surf lifesaving movement. Any discussion of the surf lifesaving movement should recognise its remarkable history in this nation, because it dates right back to the early days of the 20th century. As Australian bathing laws were relaxed and there was increased activity on our beaches, concerns were concerns raised about safety. So much so that in October 1907 the Surf Bathing Association of New South Wales was formed, and that was the forerunner of the Surf Life Saving Australia movement.

When you walk into any of the larger surf lifesaving clubs along the Australian coastline, there is a sense of real pride in their heritage. My own club, which was formed more than 50 years ago, is a good example. We endeavour to pay respect to life members, the foundation members, and others who have achieved outstanding results over many years in competition or through their service. We do that with our honour boards and with photographs dating back to the 1960s. I think it is really important that these surf clubs recognise their heritage. It gives the younger members a sense of stability and security—that, when they join their clubs, they have actually joined something that really matters. Naturally, the key role of the surf lifesaving movement is to save lives.

Surf Life Saving Australia is Australia’s major water safety, drowning intervention and rescue authority. We have 310 affiliated clubs working to create a safe environment on our beaches and coastline through their patrols, education and training, public safety campaigns and the promotion of health and fitness. But there is a lot more to the surf lifesaving movement than just that. While water safety may be at the core of surf life saving—and, during the 2010-11 season, volunteers were involved in more than 12,000 rescues and professional lifeguards were involved in 2,394 rescues—the clubs are also critical from a social and an economic perspective. The economic importance of surf lifesaving was highlighted during last year, with the release of a PricewaterhouseCooper report which highlighted the importance of surf lifesaving to coastal communities and the wider public. The report valued the drowning and injury prevention efforts of Australia’s surf lifesaving clubs at $3.6 billion.

The report went on to highlight the key statistics, which estimated that, without surf lifesavers, there would have been an additional 596 drownings and more than 3,000 additional injuries. It also found that for every dollar the government, sponsors and the community have invested in surf lifesaving, the cost-benefit ratio was 29 to one. There is no doubt that surf lifesaving clubs are critical from an economic perspective. But, beyond that economic value, I want to talk about the role that our surf lifesaving clubs have in developing our young leaders of the future. At its core, the vision of the surf lifesaving movement is to save lives, to create great Australians and to build better communities. It is the best example that I can find of any organisation in Australia that actually introduces young people to community service early in their lives. The program that is provided through the surf lifesaving movement for personal development also allows for a whole-of-life involvement in the club movement.

I have no doubt that the program is in a fun based learning environment. They are out there on inflatable rescue boats or on rescue boards, or learning first aid skills. So, whilst I have no doubt that there is a level of enjoyment for the young people, they are also developing skills that will hold them in great stead later in life. There is competition if they want to be involved, and they can compete as an individual or as part of a team, but they must also fulfil a number of volunteer hours before they are allowed to compete. So they cannot just turn up and be competitors; they have to be making a contribution back to the club. You must be part of something bigger than yourself to be part of the surf lifesaving movement, and the clubs are very good at engendering that team spirit, that pride in the club colours, which is deeply embedded in the culture of the surf lifesaving movement.

As much as I say there are jobs for everyone of all ages in the surf lifesaving movement, there is also a very non-discriminatory environment when it comes to the involvement of men and women. The representation of women in surf lifesaving is very strong: in the 2010-11 key figures there were 70,000 female members and 90,000 male members. In addition to that there were an estimated 60,000 juniors, or nippers as they are commonly known within surf lifesaving. So it does provide a whole-of-family involvement, a whole-of-family activity which provides for sharing for people of all ages. I must say from my own perspective that the young people in my community almost live at the club over the summer months They are learning new skills, they are developing their leadership abilities, they are overcoming their fear and managing potentially dangerous situations, and at the same time they are making a great contribution to our community. It is a extraordinary opportunity to introduce young people to community service and it also keeps them out of trouble and gives them a real purpose to get involved in health and fitness.

I think the opportunity presents itself for the surf lifesaving movement—and perhaps I issue a bit of a challenge to our clubs here today—to become even more important in the culture of our nation. I think we can play an even great role in building better communities, which is something at the heart of Surf Life Saving Australia’s 2020 plan. I think there is a challenge there for us to become even more inclusive into the future, to make sure that we provide an even more non-discriminatory environment that attracts more Indigenous members to our clubs and also people from more diverse cultural backgrounds into our ranks. I am not suggesting for a second that that is something surf lifesaving has ignored in the past—I think we have tried very hard to get Indigenous volunteers and to get people from diverse cultural backgrounds into our clubs—but I do believe it is an area where there are opportunities for us to do it better. I think we can improve as club members in the way that we become more inclusive of those who have perhaps not had a strong background in the surf lifesaving movement.

I think it is at least part of the solution to some of the scenes we saw on the weekend with the racial intolerance and violence in Sydney. Part of that answer is eliminating the cultural gap, and I think the Leader of the Opposition was very accurate—and, incidentally, the Leader of the Opposition is a surf club member—when he said that newcomers to our country must leave their hatred behind. There is no place in Australia for violence. It is not the Australian way to resolve our differences through mob anger or criminal activity, and that is the sort of thing we were exposed to on the weekend. I am not trying to put all the burden on our surf lifesaving club movement but I believe our surf clubs can help to give newcomers to Australia, particularly in urban areas, a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. The surf clubs are very good at giving people from all walks of life the opportunity to learn new skills, to improve their health and fitness, to have the responsibility of running a beach problem and to help make a difference by helping others.

So I think we can within the surf lifesaving movement become even more inclusive and attract more young Indigenous members and more members with diverse cultural backgrounds. It will strengthen our clubs, and I have no doubt whatsoever that it will actually strengthen our communities. The people from diverse cultural backgrounds will learn about the culture of the surf lifesaving movement, and our communities will be better off for the experience. So I think there is a win-win opportunity there for us. Perhaps I am an eternal optimist, but I believe that our nation’s surf clubs have proven their worth to the nation. I think they are at least part of the solution to more than just surf safety issues in the 21st century. They can continue to bring much more to our nation in terms of linking our communities together.

In the brief amount of time I have left I want to mention that the coalition has committed to providing a $10 million fund, if we win government, to assist surf lifesaving clubs with purchasing vital rescue equipment and first aid and medical supplies and also to extend the beach drowning black spot reduction program. That would partner the already great amount of effort put in by the business community and local supporters and sponsors of our surf lifesaving movement. I think there is a role for government to work with the local communities to improve the infrastructure on clubhouse buildings and associated facilities. I would also like to take the opportunity to wish all members well from my own perspective from the Gippsland region, particularly the three clubs in my electorate at Woodside, Seaspray and Lakes Entrance, as they approach the summer season. I would like to wish all the members well and for a very safe and successful season. As I have said before, perhaps the most important role played by our surf clubs is in helping young Australians to achieve their full potential, and I think the parliament should continue to work with the Surf Life Saving Australia movement to achieve that outcome.

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