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- Start of Business
- National Flag
- National Flag
- Medicare: Abortions
- National Flag
- Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Asia
- Earth Repair Charter
- National Flag
- Capital Punishment
- Civil Aviation Authority: Gliders
- Health Care Access
- National Flag
- Electoral Advertising
- National Flag
- Collinsville: TV
- Five-dollar Note
- Australia Post
- Five-dollar Note
- Medicare Funding of Abortions
- Australian National University Legislation
- Serbian Chetniks: Anzac Day Parades
- Townsville: Roadworks
- Australian and Overseas Telecommunications Corporation
- Family Law Act
- Farm Profitability
- ABC Funding
- Federal Industrial Relations Act
- Postal Industry
- East Timor
- Farm Profitability
- Procedural Text
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
- GRIEVANCE DEBATE
Radio and Television Services: Mid-north Coast of New South Wales
Tax File Numbers
- GRIEVANCE DEBATE
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
- International Swindle
- Private Health Insurance
- Logan Migrant Neighbourhood Centre
- Australian Army Band, Perth
- Labour Day
- Rehabilitation: Operation Flinders
- Railways: Western Line, New South Wales
- Victoria: Education
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Dr HEWSON, Mr KEATING)
(Mr SAWFORD, Mr GRIFFITHS)
(Mr DOWNER, Mr DAWKINS)
(Mrs EASSON, Mr BEAZLEY)
(Mr ANDERSON, Mr CREAN)
Wool Industry: Drought Assistance
(Mr SNOW, Mr CREAN)
(Dr KEMP, Mr BEDDALL)
(Mr STEPHEN SMITH, Mr LAVARCH)
(Dr KEMP, Mr BEDDALL)
(Mr GRIFFIN, Mr BRERETON)
(Mr CLEARY, Mr KEATING)
(Mr GIBSON, Mr FREE)
(Dr KEMP, Mr BEDDALL)
(Mr GRACE, Mr BILNEY)
- PAPERS: PRESENTATION
- NORTHERN LAND COUNCIL
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- BROADCASTING SERVICES AMENDMENT BILL (No. 2) 1993
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL'S SPEECH
Thursday, 6 May 1993
Ms HENZELL (10.31 a.m.) —Thank you, Mr Speaker. May I congratulate you on your elevation to your current position, and also the Deputy Speaker.
On Saturday, 13 March 1993, against predictions of most media and political analysts, the Labor Government was returned for an historic fifth term with a 15-seat majority in the House of Representatives. I am proud to be a member of the 37th Parliament and the Keating Labor Government as the new member for Capricornia and the first woman to hold the seat.
It gives me a great deal of pride to have the honour to represent the people of Capricornia, which has a long Labor tradition. The seat was one of the original electorates following Federation. In its 92-year history Capricornia has returned Labor Party representatives for 71 years. One of its famous members was Frank Forde, who held the seat for 24 years from 1922 to 1946. Mr Forde was Defence Minister in the Curtin Government and caretaker Prime Minister for four days until Ben Chifley was installed.
It was gratifying to have the support of Mrs Bray Gray, the widow of George Gray, the man who represented Capricornia from 1961 to 1967. Bray was the first Labor woman to be elected to the Rockhampton City Council and has an unequalled record of service of 18 years. More recently Capricornia has been held by Dr Doug Everingham, who was a Minister in the Whitlam Labor Government. It was a great pleasure and privilege to meet Gough and Margaret Whitlam and Fred Daly at the opening of Parliament.
Capricornia is a big electorate in every sense. It extends over 114,000 square kilometres, from Great Keppel Island and the beautiful Capricorn coast to the town of Jericho west of the Drummond Range in central western Queensland. Rockhampton is the major city in the electorate, with a population of over 60,000 people. The city's original wealth derives from the goldmining at Mount Morgan, half an hour's drive away. However, the great Fitzroy River and associated rail and port facilities helped it develop as an important regional centre.
Historically, the railway workshops and meatworks have been large employers. Rockhampton is promoted as the beef capital of Australia with its saleyards at Gracemere and meat processing works at Lakes Creek. These facilities service the cattle industry of Central Queensland, which is responsible for an export market which comprises up to 20 per cent of the total primary commodity production in this region. This is followed by grain and seed production.
However, coal production in the Bowen Basin is the dominant wealth producer for the region, accounting for approximately two-thirds of central Queensland's commodity production value. Central Queensland coal production contributes 80 per cent of Queensland's $4.5 billion coal export industry—a major contribution to the Australian economy. A significant proportion of this wealth is produced in the seven coalmining communities in the electorate of Capricornia; Blackwater, Capella, Clermont, Moranbah, Dysart and the two towns where I have lived and worked for ten years, Tieri and Middlemount. I will refer more particularly to these communities later in my address.
What is clear, however, is that the region is overly dependent on export industries which are notoriously vulnerable to world commodity prices. This has been pointed out in the results of a major study of the Central Queensland region by the University of Central Queensland, titled Strategic Directions. The report makes this point:
The message is clear for central Queensland as it is for Australia: value-adding, wherever it is economically feasible, must be encouraged and systematically developed.
A key recommendation of the study is the development of an integrated agri-food industry to service the fast growing economies of North-East and South-East Asia. It was therefore pleasing to hear the new Minister for Industry, Technology and Regional Development (Mr Griffiths) refer to this opportunity during Question Time in the House yesterday. Apart from the positive contribution such value-adding industries would make to alleviating our external debt, they would provide much needed employment in the region.
The potential I have just referred to makes it even more imperative that the Federal Government, together with the Queensland Government, assists primary producers affected by the worst drought in many years in the central Queensland region so that breeding stock is saved, and efficient and normally viable producers are not forced off the land.
During consultations that I and my colleague the State member for Fitzroy, Jim Pearce, had with cattle producers and grain growers, I detected a sense of frustration and desperation as they watched cattle die or crops turn to dust. From their perspective they feel that the Labor Government does not care about their predicament. I know this is not the case and welcome the initiatives announced by the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Mr Crean). However, I request that the Minister as a matter of urgency review options which I have submitted to him for providing further assistance.
The current drought has also highlighted the necessity for strategic planning for water storage and management in the region. Many of the smaller towns in Capricornia are in dire straits for what most of us consider a basic necessity: clean running water for domestic and industrial purposes. The problem is now affecting the operation, with potentially serious economic consequences, of some of the coalmines in the electorate. These difficulties are already being felt by local government authorities. I applaud the Government's commitment to water conservation strategies and hope the central Queensland area will not be forgotten.
In my opening remarks, I referred to the beauty of the Capricorn coast and that brings me to two important concerns of my electorate: environmental protection and tourism. During the recent election campaign, the protection of Shoalwater Bay and its future use was a key issue. A major concern of those who have campaigned long and hard to protect this unique coastal environment was whether the Government would keep its promise after the election.
I wish to pay tribute to the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories (Mrs Kelly), to the then Minister for Tourism, and to Senator Margaret Reynolds and the work of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment, Recreation and the Arts. Visits to the region and consultations with all the representative groups did much to regain the community's trust in the commitment of the Labor Government to environmental protection. I believe that the terms of reference of the inquiry will address all of their concerns.
The opportunity to fly over Shoalwater Bay was a profound emotional experience which reaffirmed my personal commitment to protect the area. It is essential that all those involved in decisions about the future management of the area come and see it first-hand. I have the utmost respect for those people who have given so much of their personal lives to protect this priceless asset. I urge the Minister to ensure that all groups making representations to the inquiry have adequate resources to put their case. The economic opportunities of carefully managed eco-tourism in the region will be one of the numerous benefits which will result from protecting this pristine coastal dune area.
Tourism in the Capricornia region is contributing to the health of the economy in my electorate and is providing important employment opportunities. Apart from the Capricorn Coast and Great Keppel Island we have the Dreamtime Cultural Centre, other local attractions in Rockhampton, and the proposed cattle industry park at Gracemere. The old goldmining town of Mount Morgan has the potential for tourism development and will shortly benefit from other employment generating initiatives being developed with assistance from the Department of Employment, Education and Training. All levels of government need to ensure that those communities that have provided so much wealth to this country are not forgotten.
Mr Speaker, together with other new members whose first speeches in this House it has been my privilege to hear, I commend the priority given in the Governor-General's address to the need to tackle the unemployment issue. I am pleased to report that many innovative training programs are currently being developed in Capricornia to assist people to re-enter the job market. The most effective programs involve cooperative ventures between the Department of Employment, Education and Training, private industry and technical and further education.
One example worthy of special mention is a program developed by the construction team during the building of the new Stanwell power station, a project of the Queensland Electricity Commission. In order to employ local people during the construction phase, a total training program was developed in consultation with unions, contractors and training institutions. An incorporated body, the Stanwell skills development program, was set up and has provided training and multiskilling to 700 workers.
The result has been high employee retention rates, comparatively improved productivity and an excellent safety record. This innovative program has received deserved recognition elsewhere in Australia and overseas. Although not under my direct responsibility as the first woman appointed to the Capricornia Electricity Board, this is a further example of innovation in statutory authority human resource management.
Mr Speaker, it is fair to say that, with the wealth previously mentioned, the Capricornia region has not experienced the recession as severely as other parts of Australia. The Queensland Department of Business, Industry and Regional Development reports that approximately $300 million worth of major developmental projects was completed in the region during 1991-92.
A significant new industry is the Queensland magnesia project consisting of an open-cut mine 60 kilometres north of Rockhampton and a state-of-the-art processing plant in Rockhampton. I was pleased to be able to take the Minister for Finance (Mr Willis) on a tour of inspection during the campaign. Here is an industry contributing directly to Australia's exports, with further developments planned.
An important employer in the region is the University of Central Queensland, which owes its present success to that process referred to by the vice-chancellor as `Dawkinisation'. Not only is the university providing on-campus and distance education to many in the region—including, I might add, my husband—but its faculties are also committed to working with industries throughout the region. The university is developing ties with overseas groups to develop joint educational services to our Asian neighbours.
I was pleased to represent the Minister for Employment, Education and Training (Mr Beazley) at a function in the neighbouring electorate of Dawson last week to launch the Asia-Pacific Studies Centre of the Thailand Australia Foundation. This function was attended by the Thai Ambassador, members of the Thai Parliament and the Chaiyong Limthongkul Foundation. The foundation's chairman, Mr Sondhi Limthongkul, praised the promotion by the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) of the debate on constitutional reform and the recognition of Australia's future as an integral part of the Asia-Pacific region.
Mr Speaker, the reference to constitutional reform brings me to an important issue in the Governor-General's speech, that is, the fundamental importance of the reconciliation process with our indigenous fellow Australians. The time for platitudes and talk is past; it is a time for action. The Mabo decision does provide all Australians with a unique opportunity to redress past wrongs.
In the course of the campaign I was privileged to meet many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Rockhampton, Mount Morgan and Woorabinda who are working hard to improve the situation in their communities. The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs entitled Mainly urban needs wide dissemination to assist European Australians to confront the myths that exist and prejudice that all too easily prevails, especially during times of recession.
There is a forgotten group that is relevant here, that is, the community of South Sea Islander peoples, who survived a less than glorious episode in Australian history but have not gained the necessary recognition or assistance to which they are entitled. I am proud to say that some of them live in my electorate.
Mr Speaker, I am proud to be a member of a government that believes that economic success should serve social ends and, indeed, that economic success is substantially dependent on creating a fair and just society. Essential to that process is its treatment of women. The Federal Labor Government has achieved a great deal in the past 10 years in its legislative program and support of community initiatives. The commitments to child care, to Medicare, to heath initiatives for women and to the national strategy on violence against women outlined in the New national agenda for women and launched by the Prime Minister on 10 February contributed to the electoral support that women gave to our Government.
However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics report Women in Australia launched by the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) this week and the report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs entitled Half way to equal indicate that much more needs to be done to achieve true equality of opportunity.
I now return to my reflection on living and working in the mining communities of Capricornia. These are in many ways fortunate communities with relatively low unemployment rates, high incomes and the work-related benefits that are the outcome of a long history of industrial struggle to achieve safe working environments and recompense for the dangers involved in the mining industry. The great challenge now is for management and unions to work cooperatively to improve our international competitiveness. Thankfully, the election result has allowed the positive industrial relations approach of the Government and the trade union movement to proceed.
I digress from my theme, which is to indicate that my experience of living and working with men and women in mining communities was a key factor in my accepting the challenge of campaigning to win Capricornia. Firstly, because half the members of my electorate live and work in the hinterland, I deemed it important that their aspirations be represented. Secondly, the structural inequalities in communities that do not provide employment for women lead to particular problems, not the least of which is the lost opportunity to utilise the considerable talents of half the population. This has an impact on the aspirations of young women. These communities are not immune from the issues of family violence and family breakdown and often do not have the safety valve of extended family support. The development of the Twin Creeks Employee Assistance Program Inc. demonstrated the commitment by management and unions to the welfare of employees, and I was proud to be the first counsellor for that program.
Therefore, when asked to submit myself to the preselection process for Capricornia, I was driven by the realisation that, if women are to address the structural inequalities and attitudes that continue to impede their progress, we must continue the fight taken up by our sisters before us so that our daughters may benefit. This election has demonstrated that the Australian electorate is ready to support women candidates. The challenge is now for the main political parties to endorse women in safe seats such as Capricornia so that they may redress the gender imbalance in this House more effectively. I imply no disrespect to the members in this chamber by these remarks.
However, the issues of domestic violence against women and children and of sexual abuse of women and children, which are essentially issues of the abuse of power in relationships, will not wait. These issues have been my focus as a family counsellor but their solutions are ultimately political. The new initiatives in educating the judiciary and police services are essential in a more effective response to combating family violence in our community.
Many people contributed to my successful campaign for Capricornia. The following people are among the many to whom I owe a debt for giving me the opportunity to participate in the nation's affairs as we move towards the year 2000 and to represent the people of Capricornia in this House: the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), National President of the Australian Labor Party; members of the national executive; Lindesay Jones, Assistant Secretary of the Queensland Branch; Federal members and senators, especially Senator Margaret Reynolds; local, State and national coal mining unions; the Federated Clerks Union and all other unions at local, State and national level who supported our efforts in Capricornia; all members of my local campaign committee and ALP branches who worked so hard, and all those supporters who contributed to the campaign.
Today will see the funeral service of a wonderful person who, despite serious illness, came in and worked in my campaign office because she had a great commitment to the Labor Party and its philosophies. Fay Kerr will join in my memory a long list of women who have inspired me.
Last but not least, I thank my husband, Tony, and my beautiful daughters, Katherine and Rosemary, for their support and encouragement. I owe a debt to my father, who taught me my socialist principles, and to my mother, who worked hard to give me and my twin sister, Marilyn, the education which the Depression had cruelly denied her.
Mr Speaker, on International Women's Day I purchased some locally designed T-shirts in Rockhampton. The messages were: `Nice got me nowhere' and `100 per cent real woman—outrageous, courageous and here'. I thank the House for its indulgence.
Government members—Hear, hear!