In Parliament

2013 In Parliament

2013 DEC 10 – Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013


December 10, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (17:49): In joining this debate on the Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 I note the contribution by the people’s choice for Leader of the Opposition, the member for Grayndler. He is right in what he said, on some occasions. It is a bit sad to see the member for Grayndler living in the past with almost a sense of denial that 7 September occurred. When I referred to the former minister being right, he did deal with me reasonably as the member for Gippsland when I came to him with issues relating to the Princes Highway and other infrastructure issues but he did always say no as well in relation to those issues. So it is not as though the former minister can claim any great credit for infrastructure development in Gippsland when the answer, although it was pleasantly given, was inevitably no when it came to extending the national network to include the Princes Highway east of Sale to the New South Wales border.

The former minister talked about the independent assessment process and keeping ministers out of evaluation for major infrastructure projects to avoid, as he described, rorting or inappropriate influence. But he conveniently overlooked his government’s own record in its dying days in relation to the regional development association and the way it approved grants under Regional Development Australia for a sports complex on the outskirts of Melbourne, at Wyndham in the seat the former Prime Minister; for a swimming pool in Ringwood in the suburbs of Melbourne; and for the Penrith football club, again in the suburbs, this time in Sydney. There was a long list of projects approved by the former government under Regional Development Australia with no regional links whatsoever. So it is a bit rich for the former minister to come in here and make allegations and cast aspersions about a coalition government when his own government’s record in relation to pork-barrelling and inappropriate use of regional funds had a long and chequered past.

The Australian people know that we have a big task to undertake here as the new government. They know that we are cleaning up the former government’s mess, and they want us to get on with the job. So it is disappointing to listen to the former minister engaging in old battles dating back to the Howard era. He had to cast his mind right back—almost a decade—to find fault.

Ms MacTiernan interjecting—

Mr CHESTER: My firecracker friend over here: just light the fuse and off she goes! It is almost like Groundhog Day—every time I stand up, I get the member for Perth!

The Infrastructure Australia Amendment Bill 2013 will help to meet the government’s election commitment to make Infrastructure Australia a more independent, transparent expert advisory body by changing its governance structure and better clarifying its functions. The policy embodied in this bill was taken by the coalition to the election, and the coalition was rewarded with the majority vote of the Australian people. I call on those opposite to, rather than be obstructionist and oppose for the sake of opposition, recognise that on issues such as infrastructure the Australian people have clearly spoken and given us a mandate to proceed in a responsible and moderate manner.

The new Prime Minister has clearly indicated that he wants to be seen as an infrastructure Prime Minister, and one of the steps in delivering on the coalition’s infrastructure promises to the Australian people is this bill before the House today. The government understands that investment in nationally significant infrastructure is central to growing Australia’s productivity and to improving the living standards of Australians—not only Australians in the cities but also Australians in regional communities—now and in the future. There is a long list of projects that this government has committed itself to building in our term and beyond, if we are so fortunate at future elections as to be given the opportunity by the Australian people to govern again.

We have already made some significant commitments to a number of vital infrastructure projects right across the country, starting with $6.7 billion for the Bruce Highway in Deputy Speaker Vasta’s own state. I am sure that he would be well aware of the issues confronting the Bruce Highway. In fact, last year I drove the Bruce Highway in the company of several members from the Liberal-National Party and the now Deputy Prime Minister. We took a firsthand look from Brisbane to Cairns; we drove the whole road and had a look at the issues confronting communities up there, including the productivity, social and economic concerns which go with having a highway which is not up to standard. The new coalition government has undertaken to spend $6 billion on the Bruce Highway project alone.

There is $5.6 billion to finally finish the duplication of the Pacific Highway. I know, from campaigning during the election with candidates—at that stage they were candidates; they are now the new members—for Page and Lyne, and with the continuing member for Cowper, how important the Pacific Highway is to people in communities near the highway. There is a great need to improve the links between Sydney and the South-East Queensland growth corridor. There is also: $1.5 billion to WestConnex in Sydney; $1.5 billion to the East-West Link in Melbourne; another billion dollars to continue the Gateway Motorway upgrade in Brisbane; $615 million for the Swan Valley Bypass; $686 million to the Gateway WA project; $400 million for the Midland Highway in Tasmania; and $500 million for the north-south corridor in Adelaide. On top of all that, other funding has been committed to projects such as Roads to Recovery and the regional Bridges to Renewal program. These are areas where this government is committed to investing in the critical infrastructure which will really make a difference to people’s lives and also make a difference to the economic productivity of the Australian nation. We are looking to create jobs for people right throughout Australia—not just in our cities but also throughout our regional communities.

We do intend that Infrastructure Australia will play a role in assisting all levels of government to plan for the longer term investment in infrastructure which will be required into the future. I take exception to the member for Grayndler’s comments at the end of his contribution in which he suggested that it sounded as though we may as well abolish Infrastructure Australia. That is not the intent of the coalition. We believe that Infrastructure Australia has done some good work, and we want to strengthen its independence through improved processes and a more traditional, board-like structure. We believe that Infrastructure Australia will go on to deliver even better results for the Australian people.

In the five years since Infrastructure Australia was created it has become evident to members on this side of the chamber—and, clearly, others may have a different view—that the current structure does not provide the degree of independence and transparency needed to give the best advice to government about the infrastructure priorities which will reverse Australia’s productivity slide. I am not one of those people who ever stand in this place and suggest that the former government, in which the member for Grayndler was a senior minister, did nothing. I would never stand in this place and suggest that, because I think members come to this place with the full intention of delivering for their communities: they want to make a difference. I believe that the member for Grayndler, when he was the minister for infrastructure and minister for transport undertook some good reforms and did strive to deliver for the Australian nation. But that does not mean that a new government cannot come to office and seek to make improvements. That is what the coalition is endeavouring to do with this legislation.

This bill will establish Infrastructure Australia as a separate statutory authority under the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act. The bill will give Infrastructure Australia the capacity to be more independent and to strengthen the work it does in partnership with the Commonwealth government, other levels of government and the broader Australian community. The bill will see the Infrastructure Australia authority as led by a CEO responsible to their board rather than, as in the current structure, responsible to the minister—which we believe is again a great improvement in the independence that Infrastructure Australia now has from the government.

There are things about infrastructure on which we agree with the opposition. We agree that there needs to be a more integrated and broader approach—a more holistic approach—to making sure that all the infrastructure fits together better, and I think that the member for Grayndler made that point well. The new government recognises that Australia needs improved long-term planning for infrastructure investment which is based on robust, evidentiary assessments of our future needs. To achieve this goal the government has tasked Infrastructure Australia with: undertaking new, five-yearly, evidence based audits of our infrastructure asset base; developing top-down priority lists at national and state levels; developing a 15-year infrastructure plan; evaluating both economic and social infrastructure proposals; and publishing the justification for prioritisation, including cost-benefit analysis.

I cannot go past the point made in the chamber by the Minister for Communications, who noted the failure of the previous government to undertake a proper cost-benefit analysis of the National Broadband Network. This coalition government, which does aim to invest heavily in the future infrastructure that Australia will require, is determined to deliver value for money to Australian taxpayers. We will be regularly publishing cost-benefit analyses, as the former Labor government failed to do.

From my perspective, in the seat of Gippsland you will not be surprised to hear there is a long list of infrastructure requirements that I will be aspiring to deliver over the course of this parliament and beyond. Every member comes to this place seeking to make a difference in their community and secure a fair share of government funding for critical infrastructure and new services. I will be working with the new minister, the assistant minister and other senior colleagues on a range of projects I will be hoping to fund in partnership with state and local governments.

These projects will be like the East Bairnsdale Enabling Infrastructure Improvement Project, to which the coalition committed $1 million during the election campaign. This is a very good flood mitigation project that seeks to resolve a complex drainage problem that exists in Bairnsdale’s industrial precinct. For those not familiar with the Bairnsdale area, the project we are talking about is at the rear of Patties Foods, which bought Four’N Twenty pies. It is a business we are very proud of in Gippsland. It started out 45 years ago when the Rijs family, an immigrant family, came to Australia and started their own cake shop. Now, 45 years later, they are responsible for a business that turns over $250 million per year. That is an extraordinary success story. We have a plan to work in partnership on the first stage of that project. The new federal government is putting in $1 million, the state government is making a major contribution and Patties Foods is also contributing to the project. This will assist future residential and industrial growth in the Bairnsdale area, but it will also benefit the Gippsland Lakes by reducing the nutrient run-off into our Ramsar listed wetlands, which are so important for the tourism industry in the greater Gippsland region.

In addition to that, during the election campaign the coalition, through Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, announced that we would partner with the Victorian state government on an $11 million safety upgrade on the Princes Highway East. This work will allow for the construction of three new overtaking lanes between Nowa Nowa and Orbost. These overtaking lanes will provide more opportunities for safer transport in our region. I mentioned previously that the Princes Highway, east of Sale, currently does not qualify for federal funding. It is one of those issues I have been working on with the former minister and with the current minister. In that the Princes Highway is recognised as a road on a national network, until Sale, it has been the beneficiary of $140 million of federal funding over the past five years and $35 million of state funding. But the highway from Sale all the way virtually to Sydney does not receive federal funding. I think this is a problem and I will be working with the new member for Eden-Monaro and other members who are interested in the road to try to improve safety. This may be through off-network projects in partnership with the Commonwealth, or seeing whether we can get the status of the road changed. It is an issue for us. The road has a high accident rate. Tragically, many fatalities occur on that stretch of road and there are also many accidents, where people are seriously injured. I will be working with the new minister, with the new member for Eden-Monaro and with the New South Wales and Victorian state ministers on efforts to upgrade the Princes Highway, not just to Sale but right through my electorate and all the way up the south-east coast of Australia, through the seat of Eden-Monaro.

I would like to mention one other infrastructure project that I am very keen to see progressed in this term of government. The Victorian coalition government is carrying out the first stage of the Macalister Irrigation District 2030 plan. This plan has been around for a long time. It is basically an attempt to modernise irrigation infrastructure that has been allowed, through decades, to deteriorate to the extent that it does not meet modern needs. These planned upgrades include channel automation projects, outlet rationalisation and construction of a balancing storage that will support the return of more than 12,000 megalitres of water a year to productive use.

For members who do not live in rural seats, talking about irrigation upgrades and 12,000 megalitres might not sound particularly important. But 12,000 megalitres per year means more wealth created in regional communities. It means greater productive capacity for the Macalister Irrigation District. It means that milk production can be boosted by in the order of 24 million litres per year. So it is a critical infrastructure project and one that the previous federal government failed to invest in in any way, shape or form. The previous state Labor government failed to invest in it. So I am very proud to see that the Victorian coalition government is going to start this project with $16 million over the first three years. It will be a challenge in the future for any Commonwealth government, whether it be a Labor or coalition government, to work with my community to invest in critical infrastructure like the Macalister Irrigation District 2030 plan.

I thank the House.

2013 DEC 9 – Nelson Mandela


December 9, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (16:30): I appreciate the opportunity to make some comments this evening on behalf of the electorate of Gippsland regarding the death of Nelson Mandela. I am sure that the people of Gippsland would like me to extend their condolences to Nelson Mandela’s family, his friends and his nation. Mandela spent much of his life standing up against the injustice of apartheid and, as we have already heard this evening, when that fight was won he inspired us again by his capacity to forgive and to reconcile his country. While the world may never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again, he has certainly inspired countless men and women throughout the world to live more courageous and more honest lives. Much has been written and said already about Mandela’s legacy. There is little I can add, perhaps, beyond a simple thank you. Thank you to this great man, and thank you for a life well lived.

Naturally, over the past three days we have seen extensive media coverage—and I must commend the Australian media for the way it has covered the death of Nelson Mandela—and that coverage has been exhaustive but it has been very reflective as well. It has taken the time to delve into the intricacies of the issues that Mandela faced and the way he triumphed against great adversity. There has been grief, and there has been a sense of loss, of course, for his family and for the South African nation, as the world mourns a father, grandfather, a great-grandfather, a husband and simply an extraordinary individual. But there has also been a sense of celebration, to commemorate 95 years of an extraordinary life which, by any standards, has been well lived.

We have already heard in this place many moving tributes—from the Acting Prime Minister, the member for Wide Bay; from the acting opposition leader; and from the member for Berowra and the member for Gorton—both of whom had the opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela. Even in his death, Mandela has been a great unifier; he has managed to unify this place—which in many ways would probably be one of his greatest miracles!

At his trial in 1964, Mandela spoke of his determination to achieve a free and harmonious society, saying:

It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

The courage contained in that statement alone is stark. Mandela remained true to those words during his long and arduous 27 years in prison. I believe his passing serves as a challenge to us all here in this place. His inspirational leadership can guide us as we make decisions and as we make the most of the opportunities that have been afforded to us as leaders of our own communities. I was particularly taken by the comments from Mandela’s biographer, Richard Stengel, which appeared in The Weekend Australian, and I want to quote from them:

Deep in his bones was a basic sense of fairness: he simply could not abide injustice. If he, Mandela, the son of a chief, handsome and educated, could be treated as subhuman, what about the millions who had nothing like his advantages? “That is not right,” he would say to me about something as mundane as a flight being cancelled or as large as a world leader’s policies, but this phrase – that is not right – underlay everything he did.

To see something that is wrong and to take action to make it right must surely underpin our actions as members of this place.

As Mandela himself remarked, he was not a saint; he was just a man. Surely, he was an extraordinary man. But he was just a man. As was reported in The Age over the weekend, both Verne Harris, project leader at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, and Adam Roberts, a former correspondent from The Economist, say that Mandela had his flaws. He led an armed struggle which, by some definitions, could be seen as terrorism. Some have spoken about his stubbornness, his tendency to be aloof, and some other less attractive qualities. But in those failings, flaws or traits, we see Mandela as more of a complete human being. That should serve as further inspiration to us all and to our communities. He was just a man; he was not a saint. This man was able to achieve some remarkable things for his nation—but not through some mystical qualities. If one human being can achieve so much, why can’t others rise to greatness?

His life, including any faults or failings, whether they are perceived or otherwise, can inspire us all—men and women, black and white—to protect the legacy of Nelson Mandela and to reach within ourselves to find our better selves.

The resilience and the capacity to never give up even in the face of oppression are enduring qualities and values that can achieve change everywhere, including in our wonderful nation of Australia. To see something that is wrong and to take action is to take responsibility for that situation. To never give up, to remain determined in the face of adversity and to ultimately triumph are lessons that every generation can learn from. I believe they are the fundamental lessons that Nelson Mandela taught his nation and the world.

Many quotes from Mandela have appeared in the press over the last few days and they have been inspirational. I have taken perhaps greatest inspiration from two of them, and I would like to quote them now. One is: ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others.’ And another is: ‘There is no passion to be found playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one that you are capable of living.’ I was taken by those quotes because they are the types of messages that I try to convey to school students when I visit them in my electorate of Gippsland—when I meet them to discuss civics or citizenship or their future and the opportunities that might lie ahead for them. I must say that Mandela put them far more eloquently than I ever could, but the intent is the same.

Mandela demonstrated through his life the values and principles behind the words ‘respect’ and ‘responsibility’. It is the same message that I like to give to students in my community when I meet with them. It is about respecting others and treating them in the same way you expect to be treated. As MPs, we have a long way to go in that regard. We can do better on the lesson of respect and the way we treat each other in this place. It is also about self-respect, and in his quote, ‘There is no passion to be found playing small,’ Mandela is saying to me: ‘Let yourself achieve your absolute best with the skills and the abilities and the lessons you have learnt in life. You owe it to yourself to achieve whatever you possibly can in your life, and there is folly in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.’

The lessons for all of us in Nelson Mandela’s life are the values of hard work, of determination, of humility, of respect and of taking responsibility when you see something is wrong and trying to make it right. I know that taking responsibility these days is not always a popular course of action—it may not be so fashionable—and there always seems to be someone else to blame when we do make mistakes. And we do make mistakes as members in this place—we all make mistakes, some on a daily basis, some more regularly than that. When we make a mistake, we have to take responsibility. If we see a fault or if we make a mistake, we have to act in the best interest of our nation and try to correct it. They are the lessons that I have taken from Nelson Mandela’s life and from reading more about his experiences over the past few days. In Mandela’s example, it is to recognise what is not right and try to do something about it.

Finally, as I mentioned before, even in death Nelson Mandela has continued to achieve greatness. He has unified what is an often troubled and divided world. The speeches we have heard here today have demonstrated that unity, as members from both sides have recognised Mandela’s contribution to the world. We have had tributes from world leaders, both black and white; from European leaders and Asian leaders; and from celebrities and mums and dads. We have seen people in the street crying and people in the streets celebrating. He has that enormous capacity to bring the world together to recognise a person who did in fact change the world. The lessons are there for us to see in his writings, in his speeches and, more importantly, in his deeds. As we in this place seek inspiration, and search for wisdom to see what is wrong and help make it right, I believe many of us would benefit from taking guidance from Mandela’s struggles and his extraordinary achievements. My last words this evening are from Mandela himself: ‘I learnt that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’ In years to come I think we will all do well to reflect on the words and the life of Nelson Mandela.

2013 DEC 5 – Alpine Grazing / Wild Dogs


December 5, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (11:18): I would like to take this opportunity to update the House on two natural resource management issues which are of great significance to the people of Gippsland, and also to people in the neighbouring seat of McMillan. Both of these issues are primarily a state government responsibility, but there are some federal implications. I am referring to the matters of alpine grazing and aerial baiting plans for wild dogs. Both of these issues are subject to EPBC Act considerations. And I do stress, in making my comments today, it is not my intention to pre-empt any decision the Minister for the Environment may make; I am confident he will discharge his duties in a responsible manner and he does not need my advice. But I would also like to stress the importance of these two issues to the people of Gippsland.

By way of background, I have spoken in the past about the issue of alpine grazing and the former Labor government’s treatment of mountain cattlemen—which I think was, quite frankly, appalling—but today I would like to update the House on the current proposals being put forward by the Victorian government. It submitted an application to the minister on 25 November for a scientific study to occur on the reintroduction of cattle to a small section of the Alpine National Park—that is, the Wonnangatta Valley, which has been continuously grazed since the 1860s. The research trial is an investigation into the use of strategic grazing of domestic livestock to manage fuel loads. Before members opposite object it must be noted that, here in the Canberra region, the Labor government uses strategic grazing of cattle to reduce the impact of fires in the ACT. The trial in Victoria is intended to compare the effectiveness and the impacts, both positive and negative, of livestock grazing and of the current planned burning practices of bushfire fuel management.

The Victorian government has a clear mandate for this trial; it took the proposal for the trial to the people of Victoria at the last election, and the trial has strong support in the community. I do not wish to suggest for a second that it has unanimous support; it is a controversial issue which has received both positive and negative feedback. But the government won a clear mandate and has support for this trial, particularly amongst communities which are adversely affected by the impact of bushfires. I refer specifically to the communities around the seats of Indi, McMillan and Gippsland.

The proposal for the high country grazing to return has won strong support from the Victorian Farmers Federation. I refer to the Omeo branch president, mountain cattleman Simon Turner, who in a statement said:

The former Labor Government’s refusal to revive alpine grazing has damaged the alps. Not only has it left the area bushfire prone, it has risked wiping out a 200-year-old tradition.

Since alpine grazing came to an end, fuel loads have reached dangerous levels and valleys have been choked with weeds.

Let’s hope there is still a future for both the heritage of our cattlemen and the sustainable management of the land.

Simon Turner makes a very good point about the sustainable management of the land. His point reflects directly on the impact that severe bushfires have had not just on property and human life but also on the biodiversity of the Australian Alps. There is a direct link between alpine grazing and wild dog management, which also has significant impacts on the biodiversity of the natural environment.

The Victorian government will submit an application to the minister on the aerial baiting of wild dogs sometime this month. The Victorian government released its new wild dog action plan in the past week. The plan involves the use of trapping, baiting and shooting and a flexible resource model using full-time staff, contractors and casuals to best reflect the nature of the problem. The key thing concerning the Victorian government is aerial baiting. The previous government did not support an application for aerial baiting in Victoria even though aerial baiting of wild dogs is occurring just across the border in New South Wales. We had the ridiculous situation where the environment department called on the Victorian government to undertake a multimillion dollar study to justify aerial baiting in Victoria even though permission had been given for aerial baiting in New South Wales.

I believe that the Victorian government has acted responsibly in the matter of wild dogs. They have used the full range of options at their disposal to try to control the wild dog menace, which is significant—it has obvious economic impacts on our agricultural production and on native fauna. It also has social impacts: the deterioration of the mental health of farmers who have to deal with the problem on a daily or nightly basis is very significant. I support the Victorian government in its endeavours to introduce aerial baiting in the future in Victoria as one of a suite of measures to help control the wild dog menace in Victoria.

2013 DEC 3 – Matters of Public Importance – The GovernmentÕs failure to implement real education reform


December 3, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (16:03): I do thank the House for the opportunity to address them and debate this matter of public importance. It is clear to anyone listening that a bit of calmness is needed in this debate. The Australian people voted for change on 7 September, and, after listening to those opposite in this matter of public importance, it is not hard to see why. I take up the comments from the member for Boothby, who is right when he said that he thought those opposite would actually talk about their own record in government. It is a reasonable thing to think that after six years in government they would talk about their record in government. But those opposite did not mention it once—not a word. Zilch! Zip! Nada! Nothing! Not a single reference! It is like they were just getting up to it. They were just getting there. After six years, if you had only given us one more term we would have done it, we would have delivered that education reform. You just have to trust us and give us one more chance.

Today we even had a lecture on trust by the member for Maribyrnong, the man who did not tear down just one prime minister, he tore down two prime ministers. The same member who stood up here day after day in the previous parliament and defended the previous government on that great carbon tax deceit: ‘There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.’ We have had lectures on trust and not a word from those opposite on their own record when it comes to education reform. Having stripped $1.2 billion from its own funding package prior to the election, members opposite now want to lecture us again. They stripped $1.2 billion from their own funding package prior to the last election, and they have the audacity to come in here and want to lecture us because the Minister for Education has had the audacity to actually increase the funding. He has increased the funding and provided an opportunity for having a genuine national approach.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr CHESTER: I know that the three new members opposite are a little bit embarrassed. They should be a little bit embarrassed because the Leader of the Opposition, when he was in the role of minister, stripped $1.2 billion, carved out Western Australia, carved out Queensland and carved out Northern Territory. I know they are a little bit embarrassed about that, as is the member for Perth. The three jurisdictions that were going to be adversely affected by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Minister for Education are going to benefit because the coalition government has come in and undertaken to provide $1.2 billion and provide a real opportunity for some sort of national reform in relation to education funding.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr CHESTER: All the ranting, all the raving, all the hooting, all the hollering over there—keep it going, keep the hooting and hollering going—we love it. We love listening to the new members. It is good to hear your voices, but it does not change that simple fact: you carved $1.2 billion out of the forward estimates for education funding. We are putting it back in, and those opposite have a problem with it. We are actually going to give Australian schools the opportunity to participate in a truly national program. So we can have this faux outrage. We can have all this confected anger. We are actually going to deliver more money. This side of the House, the government, the coalition, the Liberals and Nationals in government are going to deliver more money than you were able to provide when you had the opportunity.

This is a better deal. It is a better result for students across Australia, particularly in those jurisdictions that were financially penalised by the opposition leader when he was the education minister.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr CHESTER: Oh! They are going again. The member for Perth is going again. It is not hard to get her going, I must admit. She fires up very quickly. But I just urge the member for Perth to recognise that the Leader of the Opposition—

(Time expired)

2013 NOV 21 – Shop Small Campaign


November 21, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (11:15):  I rise to encourage Gippslanders and in fact all Australians to shop locally and support small businesses in their own communities. As we approach the festive season, I make the point that the best gift you can give a young Gippslanders this Christmas is a chance at getting a job in their own region. Most of us would be aware that by shopping locally or utilising local tradespeople and contractors we help to retain a strong small business sector and help to create jobs and opportunities for young people to have a future in our region.

I fear that we export too many young people from regional Australia into our cities, because the lack of career opportunities in some of those regional towns. It has been very interesting to watch over the past 12 months the focus on supporting local businesses and Australian made products. Throughout this year we have seen initiatives such as the Too Big to Ignore and Shop Small campaigns which have been driven by the Australian small business community to highlight these benefits to a broader national audience. I note that the Prime Minister himself was involved in the launch of the Shop Small campaign in the federal seat of Deakin, where he said:

Every small business is providing a service. Most small business are employing people and small business is at the heart of the creativity which our economy needs.

The average small business person has put his or her life on the line in a way that big business people don’t. The average small business person has a mortgage over his or her house to keep the business going and that’s why small business is a section of our community which deserves particular respect from government and from officialdom.

The Minister for Small Business, Mr Billson, also said:

We’re encouraging people to consider spending some money in a small business to show that this is something that’s valued in our community.

I commend both the Prime Minister and the Minister for Small Business for those comments.

As we approach the festive season—and people do tend to spend more at this time of the year—this is a very important message to get out into the broader community, particularly through Gippslanders. As I say to them, ‘Before you fill up the car and head off to the city to go shopping, take a closer look at what is available in our own community. Our region has an extraordinarily diverse range of businesses which offer a range of services, facilities and retail opportunities, and it is a perfect time to give them a chance to do a deal with you.’ I accept that some people believe they can go to the city and chase down a bargain. But, by the time you factor in the fuel prices and the lack of return service, in the sense that they are not part of your local community, I do not think you actually get a bargain at all.

This is an issue that regional people need to consider in the sense that it is the small business community in our regional towns which we rely on a day-to-day basis. We rely on them to provide support for our sporting and community organisations, and it is a bit hard to expect those small local businesses to support you if you are not prepared to support them during the rest of the year. So I say to the people of Gippsland and throughout regional Australia that before you log onto a website and purchase items from an overseas based company—which does not even pay taxes here in Australia and contributes nothing to the health and wellbeing of our nation—give your local small businesses a chance to do a deal. In most cases, when you purchase something online there is no benefit flowing into your local community. Young people in your community do not get any benefit whatsoever from that. Young people do not get the opportunity to get a part-time job to develop their skills which may well go on to lead to career opportunities for them down the track.

Since being elected I have run a constant campaign called Putting Locals First. It has been something that I have promoted over the past five years. It encourages people to not only shop locally and to use local services but also to take a break in the Gippsland region. As we approach this holiday season, there is a real opportunity for people to get out and explore their own region. Gippsland is one of the greatest regions in Australia. I argue that it is the greatest region in Australia. There is a diverse range of attractions—from the Gippsland Lakes to the mountain alps, to the rivers and streams and the 90-mile beach. There is a whole range of places in Gippsland you can visit. By taking a break in Gippsland—exploring your own region and getting an understanding of the culture and the heritage of our own region—you are also going to help the local economy at the same time.

The message that I am giving to the people of Gippsland this summer is one of supporting small business by buying your presents for the festive season locally. Also, if you do get a chance to take a break, try to take that break in the Gippsland area. If you shop or have a holiday in Gippsland this Christmas, you will be helping to give a young Gippslander a job, and I do not think anybody could ask for a better present than that.

2013 NOV 21 – Presentation of Petition: Maryvale Mill


November 21, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (09:51):  I rise to table a petition which has been found to be in order by the Petitions Committee. It contains 4,300 signatures, which were achieved in just one week earlier this year. The petition has been driven by the local CFMEU members on behalf of mill workers at the Maryvale Mill, paper manufacturers in the electorate of Gippsland. I suppose some listening might think it is unusual that a member from the National Party would be standing here today tabling petitions from the union movement, but I have been working very closely with the CFMEU in relation to the issue of government support for paper manufacturing in an Australian sense. I will always stand up for local jobs, and I am proud to be here today on behalf of the CFMEU people who have initiated this petition and in partnership with the Australian Paper mill at Maryvale and the owners of that facility.

The future of the mill in Gippsland is of great interest to the regional economy, but it is also, more broadly, an issue of great significance to the Australian economy. The Australian government is one of the biggest purchasers of paper products, but at present contracts are awarded on a financial basis only—that is: which company can provide paper products for the cheapest price? That is a point in this campaign put forward by the CFMEU. It calls on the government to take a broader view of how we make those procurement decisions.

This petition makes the point that purchasing policies need to reflect what we call a ‘true best value proposition’. Once you consider all the socioeconomic benefits associated with a local producer such as Australian Paper at Maryvale, the support for Australian jobs, the environmental credentials of our own paper-manufacturing industry and our own timber industry, and the taxation receipts of the government in the longer term, the petition makes the point quite clearly that the cheapest is not always the best. It calls on the government—it was the previous government that it called on originally, but now it calls on this government—to consider a pilot project in the Gippsland region, taking into full consideration the true best value proposition.

Many members may have received a letter in the last couple of weeks from Australian Paper. It was written by the chief executive officer, Jim Henneberry. It made it clear to members that, as a local manufacturer, Australian Paper is facing unprecedented pressure from the high Australian dollar and imported papers, including some that are currently the subject of an Anti-Dumping Commission investigation. Despite those difficulties, the Australian Paper mill in Maryvale is investing in a de-inked recycling plant. This $90 million plant will divert up to 80,000 tonnes of local waste paper from the Australian landfill each year, producing premium recycled pulp to make innovative Australian recycled copy and printing papers.

I urge all members to consider purchasing locally where they can. The Australian Paper manufacturers deliver fantastic products to the Australian community. So I urge MPs and I urge businesses right across Australia to make an informed decision, when they make these decisions, to support Australian jobs by purchasing locally made products wherever possible.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House:

That Australian Paper at Maryvale is Gippsland’s largest private employer. Almost 1000 people work at the pulp and paper mill and many more thousands of jobs in the community rely on its operations. Last year workers from the Maryvale mill went to Canberra to talk to politicians as part of the CFMEU’s ‘Let’s Spread It Around’ campaign (

The Australian Government is the biggest purchaser of paper in Australia and we want the Government to buy less imports and more Australian made paper to support our jobs, our families and our communities.

Workers are still concerned that Australian companies continue to lose procurement contracts with Federal Government agencies to overseas suppliers which are putting jobs at risk.

We therefore ask the House to:

* Commit to getting true value for money when buying paper and paper products by taking into account the socio-economic benefits to the community of supporting Australian manufacturing jobs, the significant taxation receipts from local production and the environmental benefits of procuring paper which reaches high Australian Standards.

* Achieve this through implementing a pilot project covering all Government procurement of paper and paper products which core principle is preference of Australian made product except where it is independently assessed against agreed Government-CFMEU criteria that net cost to the community of the imported product is lower than the Australian made product.

from 4,293 citizens

Petition received.

2013 NOV 18 – Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2013 & Related Bills


November 18, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (20:39): It is with great pleasure that I join the debate this evening. The reason I say that is because the people of the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland have waited a long time for this moment. Right from 2010 when the former Prime Minister betrayed the people of Gippsland by announcing after the election that she would in fact introduce a carbon tax—after promising in the days leading up to the election that there would be ‘no carbon tax under a government I lead’—the people of Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley have lived under a cloud of uncertainty as they have lived the real-life experience of the carbon tax and the uncertainties provided not just in the Latrobe Valley power stations and major manufacturing industries but also through the small business sector and into households and farming communities. The people of the Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley have waited a long time for this opportunity to hear tonight’s debate and they welcome in no uncertain terms the Prime Minister’s commitment and capacity to deliver on his promise to repeal the carbon tax as the first order of business of a new coalition government.

There is a clear contrast between this coalition government and the former Labor government in that we went to the election with a clear promise to the Australian people that we would, as a first order of business on the first sitting day of parliament, take measures to repeal the carbon tax. Contrast that with the former Prime Minister, who told the Australian people that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led and then promptly ditched that promise in the most extraordinary betrayal of trust the Australian people have seen in a very long time as part of the deal with the Australian Greens. That decision by the former Prime Minister to go into a formal agreement with the Australian Greens and to betray the Australian people by introducing a carbon tax was pivotal in the former Prime Minister’s failure to connect with the Australian people over the ensuing months of her prime ministership.

So it is with great pleasure that I stand here tonight on behalf of the people of Gippsland and welcome this decision by the Abbott and Truss government to repeal the carbon tax. While the previous speaker, the member for Grayndler and former minister for infrastructure, would like to pretend that there is no mandate for the coalition government in this regard, there is a clear mandate. Leading up to this election the Prime Minister, then Leader of the Opposition, all the shadow ministers and candidates right throughout the Liberal and National parties across Australia made it very clear that this was a referendum on the carbon tax. Quite clearly the Australian people handed a majority of seats to the Liberal and National coalition and we are in the position we are in today where the legislation is before the House.

The reasons for my support for this legislation to repeal the carbon tax relate specifically to jobs and the future of the Latrobe Valley. Throughout the period of 2010 to 2013 we have seen enormous uncertainty affecting investment decisions made by the brown coal power station generators in the Latrobe Valley. That uncertainty has lead to reduced investment in maintenance and that has had a flow-on effect right through the heavy construction sector and the contract workers in the Latrobe Valley region.

During this period the people of the Latrobe Valley were given enormous assurances from former cabinet ministers. They were told that there would be a regional structural adjustment package to assist my community as it dealt with the impacts of the uncertainty and the additional costs imposed as a result of the carbon tax. The government actually came down to the Latrobe Valley, met with community leaders and promised in the order of tens of millions of dollars would be available under the structural adjustment package. I think it was a $270 million package across Australia, but I could be corrected on that. But once the government abandoned its Contract for Closure scheme, it also abandoned the regional structural adjustment package.

What we have seen over this period of the last three years is a region disadvantaged by betrayal of trust in the form of the former Prime Minister; then misled on the policy direction that was supposedly going to assist that community to adjust to these new policy directions; and then finally left with virtually nothing, until, in the very dying days of the former government, we had the new regional infrastructure minister visit the region and make some more promises of the Latrobe Valley about how they would be assisted, if only they re-elected the Labor government. Thankfully, that is not the case. Thankfully the Labor Party was not re-elected and we have this opportunity today in this place to begin the process of repealing the carbon tax and providing more certainty to large manufacturers and large employers in my electorate, including the power stations.

I cannot quite figure out what it is about this issue that the Labor Party do not get. What don’t they understand about the decision made by the Australian people on 7 September? The Australian people made their position on this issue abundantly clear. The previous speaker, the member for Grayndler, spoke about rallies on the weekend, with supposedly thousands of people supporting the opposition’s position. There were rallies week after week after week between 2010 and 2013 opposing the carbon tax and demonstrating against that betrayal of trust I spoke about earlier. I cannot quite figure out why the Labor Party will not listen to the Australian people on this issue. If they took the time to go out and meet with regional business owners in my electorate they would understand very quickly just how hated the carbon tax is in regional Australia. It is not just the major manufacturers I talked about before; in the small business sector and in the agricultural sector I am constantly approached by business owners raising their concerns about how the carbon tax has added to the input costs of their businesses—the cost of doing business in the transport sector and a whole range of small businesses, particularly the dairy sector. The average dairy farmer is faced with an extra $5,000 a year in energy bills as a direct result of the carbon tax. These are businesses that we were assured, in the aftermath of 2010, would not pay the carbon tax. They may not have been liable for the carbon tax directly, but they had the indirect costs associated with higher energy prices and fuel costs.

At a time when the Australian dollar was strong and Australian exporters were finding it difficult to compete on world markets, what genius in the former government came up with the idea to add to the imposts on Australian business owners? It was not the Labor Party who came up with it—it was the Greens. We all do an analysis of our party’s result after elections and try to figure out what went right and what went wrong. I suggest to those in the Labor Party that they need look no further than the Australian Greens to find out where their problems started. They need look no further than the Australian Greens to find out why the Australian people are abandoning the Labor Party in droves. The Greens are the greatest threat to jobs in regional communities throughout Australia. They are a threat to jobs in our traditional industries, such as the timber industry. They are opposed to commercial fishing and they are opposed to jobs in the agricultural sector. They keep passing on an enormous burden to the agricultural sector. They led the charge against the live export industry, which led to enormous job losses through Northern Australia and that had a flow-on effect throughout the entire beef industry in Australia. As the Labor Party does its analysis of where things went wrong, they should look no further than their formal agreement with the Australian Greens and the carbon tax and the betrayal of trust that that led to.

The broken promise by the former Prime Minister led to an enormous lack of confidence in Labor in regional communities. Small business owners in particular were saying to me that they simply did not trust the government and the direction it was taking . Some of those listening tonight will have played team sports. When your team lacks confidence it is almost impossible to get it back. It is the same in the business sector. Once the business sector starts losing its confidence, it takes a lot of things to go right for business to regain the confidence to invest, whether it be in new infrastructure or in hiring more people. Following the betrayal of trust by the former Prime Minister in 2010 business simply lost confidence that the government was heading in the right direction. They simply did not believe that the government knew what it was doing. We had a Prime Minister who promised one thing before the election but did something completely the opposite after the election, and that led to a severe lack of confidence in the business sector right throughout regional Australia and indeed through our cities.

Today we hear members opposite saying they are not prepared to listen to the will of the Australian people—the will clearly communicated through the ballot box at the federal election. It strikes me as extraordinary that any party which intends ever to govern again in Australia would fail to learn the lesson from their electoral experience and think it could continue to support a carbon tax when the Australian people have so clearly called for its repeal. The key issue for those listening at home tonight is the extraordinary additional costs of living which have been passed onto their households as a direct result of the previous government’s carbon tax. According to Treasury modelling, upon repeal the cost of living across all Australian households will be on average $550 lower than it otherwise would have been if the carbon tax remained in place. Extending that figure into the broader community, the modelling indicates that the carbon tax has been a $9 billion a year hit on the economy.

When I talk to people in the broader Gippsland region, they say to me that they are keen to have a government that listens to them—not a government that continually lectures them and tells them what they are doing wrong; not a government led around by the Australian Greens, who tell people what jobs they can and cannot have. The people of Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley tell me they have had a gutful of being told by city-based Greens what jobs they can and cannot have. They are saying to me that they want a government that tells them what it wants to do before the election and then does it after the election. That is the fundamental trust that the Australian people want to have in their government. When the Australian people voted at the last federal election they were very clear in their own minds about what they would get in an Abbott-Truss government. It was clear to them that they were voting for the abolition of the carbon tax, and that is what is eventuating. The Australian people expect us to repeal the carbon tax. There is a level of expectation in the community that has been factored into the lives of ordinary householders and into the decisions of both small and large businesses. They knew in advance that if the coalition government won government we would take action immediately to repeal the carbon tax. So it is a proud day for me, as a member of the coalition and as a member of the Nationals, to be able to stand here today and support the measures being taken by the coalition government.

One of the key issues members opposite try to use as a political weapon against the coalition is the environmental measures associated with the carbon tax. The bottom line is the carbon tax did not do anything for the environment in Australia. The carbon tax did not result in reduced emissions from Australian sources. It never has and probably never will whereas the coalition’s plan for direct action is targeted precisely at improving the environment for the Australian community.

Dr Leigh interjecting—

Mr CHESTER: It is interesting the member opposite, who seeks to interject, has been in the parliament for all of 30 seconds and is already keen to have an argument. Perhaps he would like to go back to his constituency and explain why his party is ignoring the will of the Australian people, the overwhelming majority of Australian people who voted to repeal the carbon tax, and explain also why his former leader promised one thing before the election and promptly betrayed the Australian people only days later as a part of a dodgy deal with the Australian Greens. Perhaps he would like to go back to his constituency and explain all that or get on board with the Nationals and with the Liberal Party and support the repeal of the carbon tax; it is his choice. The great thing about the Australian democracy is we have a choice. The Australian people made that choice and, in making that choice, were very clear.

I will finish where I started and refute the member for Grayndler’s suggestion that there is no mandate for this. The member for Warringah, the current Prime Minister, and all National and Liberal shadow ministers at the time—now cabinet ministers—campaigned precisely for this moment. We campaigned and said this was a referendum on the carbon tax. We campaigned and told the Australian people that we were prepared to repeal the carbon tax as the first order of business if we were elected. That is what we have done; that is why we are here tonight. I encourage those opposite to listen to the will of the Australian people and support the coalition in its efforts to repeal the carbon tax. Let us get on with delivering for the Australian people what we promised.

2013 NOV 18 – Surf Life Saving


November 18, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (13:58): Across Australia surf-lifesaving clubs have started their seasons. In Gippsland we started last weekend with our junior program called Nippers. I would like to congratulate all the young surf-lifesavers right across Australia for getting involved in this outstanding program. It is one of the great community organisations in our nation.

The Nippers movement provides young people with a real path towards leadership roles in their communities, not just within their surf clubs. It also provides them with an opportunity to learn first aid, teamwork, valuable life skills and how to overcome challenges.

I wish all the Australian Nippers and their families every success this season. I note for the benefit of the House that many members of parliament are actually members of their surf-lifesaving clubs, including the Prime Minister at Queenscliff. There is a Parliamentary Friends of Surf Lifesaving, which the member for Kingsford Smith and the member for Corangamite are very keen to support and reconstitute in this the 44th Parliament. So I would urge all members who are interested in supporting the Surf-Lifesaving clubs to get behind the parliamentary friends group. It has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past and it is good to see the member for Kingsford Smith and the member for Corangamite taking up the cudgels again on behalf of Surf-Lifesavers right across our nation.

2013 NOV 18 – Private Members’ Business – White Ribbon Day


November 18, 2013

MR HAYES: To move-That this House:

(1) notes that:
(a) 25 November 2013 is White Ribbon Day, a day dedicated to raising public awareness of as well as eliminating violence against women across the nation;
(b) one in three Australian women over the age of 15 will experience physical violence while one in five will experience sexual violence at some point in their life, with 64 per cent of the incidents occurring at home;
(c) one Australian woman dies every week as a result of domestic violence;
(d) 64 per cent of women who experience physical assault and 81.1 per cent of women who experience sexual assault do not report these incidents to police; and
(e) domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness in Australia and carries high social and economic costs to the economy—an estimated $14.7 billion annually which is expected to surpass $16 billion by 2022 if significant measures are not taken to challenge the attitudes and behaviours that allow violence to continue; and

(2) calls on all Australian men to take the following oath: I swear never to commit, excuse or remain silent about violence against women.

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (10:46): In commending the previous speakers I also acknowledge the mover of this motion, the member for Fowler, who has been an outstanding advocate for the cause of preventing violence against women, and the seconder, my neighbour and friend, the member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent.

This is an important motion. I note that we debated a very similar motion last year, and I would be quite happy to debate this motion every year for as long as it takes until through action here in this place we can do something to reduce the scourge of violence against women. We must keep working together across the party divide to achieve change and to achieve a community response of zero tolerance when it comes to family violence and violence against women.

The member for McMillan talked about the need for a cultural shift in community attitudes, and particularly men’s attitudes to family violence. As is often the case, I found myself in furious agreement with my good friend, the member for McMillan. We do need to achieve a cultural shift. We need to recognise that this is not a women’s problem, it is not a problem for the police and it is not a problem for community health workers; it is a problem for our nation. In taking the White Ribbon Day oath never to commit, to excuse or to remain silent about violence against women we are making a stand for our wives, for our girlfriends, for our daughters, for our mothers, for our aunties and for our female work colleagues.

I am very proud to represent the seat of Gippsland but I am not proud of our figures in relation to family violence—and the member for McMillan touched on this. Latrobe City is the highest ranked local government area in terms of call-outs for family violence per 100,000 people in Victoria. East Gippsland, also in my electorate, is seventh in Victoria in terms of call-outs per 100,000 people. Overwhelmingly these family violence instances that police are being called to feature women and children as the victims, and overwhelmingly the offenders are someone they know.

The most common location for physical assaults and sexual assaults for women is in their own homes. Women have more to fear in their own kitchen, in their own lounge room or in their own bedroom than they do in the roughest pub or the worst nightclub in Melbourne, Sydney or our regional cities. We should be ashamed of these figures. Domestic violence, as the member for McMillan correctly referred to—and I think the member for Fowler described it as well—is a cancer on our community. But I am pleased to say that we have so many members in this place and so many members in our own communities—the right-minded people in our communities—who are actually trying to do something about it.

Two weeks ago I attended a White Ribbon Day event in my electorate, headed by the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Ken Lay, where Ken, who has been an outstanding advocate on behalf of women in our community, made the point that he had decided to have domestic violence as one of the key issues he would address as the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police—a real leader in our community.

This Friday I am attending another breakfast in my electorate, which is going to have the former member for Wills, Phil Cleary, as a guest speaker. Phil Cleary was a member here more than 20 years ago, and has been a champion of the cause of prevention of violence against women not only in this place but also in his community life. Some people may think it strange that a member of the National Party will be sharing a stage with an Independent. We probably have nothing in common politically, but I am happy to share a stage with anyone who is passionate about this cause and I hope Mr Cleary feels the same way.

We share a passion about this issue and we are determined to achieve change—change to our culture, change in our communities—because we can do better. We can do better; in fact, we must do better. The challenge is there for all of us not only in this place but in the broader community.

The figures I referred to earlier are extraordinary in the sense that we do not seem to have made a great deal of progress over the past 10, 20 or 30 years. I will acknowledge that the extra reporting of domestic violence perhaps inflates some of the figures, but as the member for Fowler correctly referred to, there is still under-reporting of family violence and sexual assault. But when we know that one in three Australian women over the age of 15 will experience physical violence and that one in five will experience sexual violence at some point in their lives, with 64 per cent of those incidents occurring in their homes, we know we have an issue that we must do more to address.

I do commend the member for Fowler for bringing this motion to the attention of the House again this year. I look forward to working with him and working with my colleagues on this side of the House as well, not only to support programs that government has put in place but also to drive that cultural change and drive that shift in attitudes which are so desperately required. I commend the member, and I commend the motion to the House.

2013 NOV 13 – White Ribbon Day


November 13, 2013

Mr CHESTER (Gippsland—Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence) (13:46):  Thank you Deputy Speaker and may I congratulate you on your election to this highly esteemed office.

While I have the opportunity I would like to reflect on a community breakfast that was held in Bairnsdale on 1 November, where the Victorian Police Chief Commissioner, Ken Lay, spoke on the issue of prevention of violence against women. Ken has been an outstanding advocate in his role on behalf of Victoria Police. He has made it a real focus of his efforts in that position.

Violence against women is not a problem just for women, it is certainly not a problem for just the police and it is not a problem just for MPs and members of this place. It is a problem for all of us. Violence against women cannot be tolerated in any circumstance in our community.

In this context I note that White Ribbon Day is occurring this year on 25 November. It is an occasion for the entire community to re-focus its efforts as a nation to never commit violence against women or to excuse it or remain silent about it. As a White Ribbon Day ambassador I encourage all members, particularly the male members of this place, to consider signing up as ambassadors and advocating the white ribbon message throughout the nation through the offices we hold as members of parliament. I also encourage other members of the public to take the White Ribbon Day oath on that day and to help fight this scourge in our society.

While White Ribbon Day is an opportunity to focus on the issue of domestic violence and violence against women, it should not be seen as the only day for that. It is challenge for us all as a nation to pursue this issue every day of the year. I commend the organisers for their efforts.

(Time expired)

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