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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 736


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (12:16): I want to uncharacteristically spend a significant part of my contribution to this address-in-reply debate on the last campaign in Werriwa. I do that on a number of bases. In high probability it was probably my last campaign. It was certainly the one in which I had the most difficulty holding my seat. It was the only time I really nearly lost my job in my whole career. It was a very well financed campaign by my opponent. My Liberal opponent had so much money that they put so much money on betting that I went out to three to one by election day. It was certainly a very spirited campaign.

I want to thank particularly my siblings and their families; my wife, Maureen; my immediate family; and state colleagues Andrew McDonald and Paul Lynch. I have never been beholden to institutions. I have received a minimal amount of money over my political career from the trade unions, but I want to thank the individuals from the CFMEU and the Finance Sector Union who worked for me in the campaign. I want to thank local councillors Anne Stanley and Anoulack Chanthivong. I have no doubt whatsoever that they have political careers in their immediate future. I want to thank Chris Gambian, the early campaign director; Paul Drayton from my old electorate who in 2007 lost his big toe through an accident on the campaign but was out there again this time; and John Sutton, a former official of the construction union. Then there are other people from my old electorate I would like to thank such as Ian Pandilovski, Alex Petrov and Mark Phillips. These people are representative of groups, so I will not go through every individual. There was tremendous support from a significant part of the Young Labor organisation and from those who identify with the struggle for democracy within the Labor Party.

My electorate has nowhere near as many people who were born overseas and from non-English-speaking backgrounds as my former electorate of Reid. There has been significant Bangladeshi population movement from their traditional suburbs of Malabar, Botany and Eastlakes out to my electorate. I want to thank Selima Begum and her husband Tariq and Masud Chowdry for their efforts on that. Selima has learned a lot in politics. Her father is a member of the Bangladeshi parliament. She certainly had experiences that were worthwhile to my campaign. Then there is Mal Fruean from the New Zealand Maori community and Seumanu Toailoa from the Samoan community.

Speaking of the local campaign, the Minister for Health yesterday said in an attempt at humour he was old style. Well, I am old style about my feeling about the separation of state, municipal and federal politics in elections. A few decades ago I went to the village of Kolsass near Innsbruck, where my stepson lives. I was appalled to find the use of council facilities to promote a single political party. The furniture of the village, its municipal band and other institutions were used to further one political party. I was also surprised to see political signs in the local Catholic Church. I have always believed in old-style politics and that you should not use public facilities for the purposes of campaigning. I have to say that the performance of the Liverpool City Council in this last campaign was appalling.

I will use the phrase the member for Berowra uses at many events to describe me, 'My friend and colleague.' In a conversation the member for Berowra said the last time that he had heard in Australian politics of federal members of parliament being denied the right to speak at citizen ceremonies was when the Labor-controlled Parramatta City Council did it 30 or 40 years ago. It is wrong if Labor does it and it is wrong if the Liberals do it. There is a role for federal members of parliament at citizenship ceremonies. I want to say that that typifies the way in which that council operated during the campaign, denying me and the member for Fowler the right to speak at those ceremonies. They constructed so-called rosters for who would speak so that we were equal to their local councillors.

I found it deplorable that a paid employee of the council was putting up party signs in work time. Also of concern was the Indian film night that was paid for by the public, the ratepayers. That was utilised as a political rally, with my colleague the member for Hughes speaking and promoting my opponent.

The council conducted a series of so-called anti-intermodal rallies. The intermodal near Liverpool was a decision of the Howard government that was supported by later Labor governments. The council pretended that they were going to somehow stop the intermodal and with ratepayers' money they organised rallies and said that there would be no politicians speaking there, yet the member for Hughes was allowed to address the rally as was my political opponent. They also falsely claimed that the arts centre, which they have long condemned as being a waste of money, was threatened by this intermodal and said that they should get compensation for it.

The same council has had a series of embarrassments since election day with their association with Matt Daniel, a council officer. It turns out he was bankrupt and was legally employed. He was a Liberal Party apparatchik and a close associate of my opponent. He was sacked by the council later because he was a bankrupt who had not declared it. This situation typifies the interference by these councillors in the campaign—that is, the use of council facilities, the use of ratepayers' money for political purposes.

During the campaign I did have a large number of anonymous and identified allegations against my opponent from Liberal Party members in Sutherland, and from nonparty sources. I chose not to utilise them, but I am pleased to say that the Sydney Morning Herald has been very assiduous in its exposes of my opponent and the council in Sutherland since election day. We had an ICAC investigation which, for lack of evidence, found them innocent. The situation is extremely disturbing. I hope the new minister for immigration does something about making sure that councils around this country respect the role of members of parliament at these ceremonies, which are people's introduction to this country, their enmeshment with our society and our values.

I also want to say it was pleasing to win against great odds. Both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party were fairly sure that I would lose Werriwa. As I said, the betting on election day was three to one. My opponent had enormous resources. I have never seen so much money spent in a campaign in that region. I was also quite amused to find, looking at some of my Labor colleagues' websites, the amount of money that they were able to have committed by the Labor Party to holding their seats. In Werriwa we held the seat despite minimal election promises; minimal millions of dollars were poured into that electorate. I am also pleased that not only did we succeed, despite the analysis of political pundits, but we also overcame an analysis of our campaign by anonymous critics within the Labor Party. They thought that by going to Crikey they could somehow affect election day results by saying that I was running an idiosyncratic, unscripted campaign and that therefore I would lose. We won because we had a locally based campaign, we were connected with the people and we were assiduous in our commitments in the electorate office. We very much appreciate the ethnic composition of the electorate and we are very much inclined to be involved with those people.

I want to turn to one aspect that is very important in our society—that is, the question of climate change and the need for governments to do something. In a recent article in the Guardian Weekly, Suzanne Goldenberg, on 3 January this year, exposed the manner in which large corporations—some of them pretending to believe in climate change, pretending to do something about it—have been funding an international campaign based in the United States to try to dispute the science. Suzanne Goldenberg, in that article, repeated the analysis of Robert Brulle of Drexel University in the magazine Climate Change. He went through the stated contributions to organisations that had been putting out material against the scientific world, against all evidence with regard to climate change, and determined that the amount of money expended was $1 billion. He said that was not the full extent of it. He said:

This is how wealthy individuals or corporations translate their economic power into political and cultural power.

The analysis was of 91 groups that put out material against climate change. Seventy-nine per cent were determined as charitable. They have a tax definition that they have a charitable purpose, but their whole exercise is to go out there and convince the public that this climate change is a big dream, all the scientists in the world are wrong, all the evidence is irrelevant, it is not happening—'don't believe your eyes'—and they are able to get tax deductions for this.

He determined that over the eight-year period 2003 to 2010, the amount of money devoted to this was $7 billion. Despite what those opposite say, this situation means I would put more stress on the remarks of Nicholas Stern, Chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, and President of the British Academy. He said recently:

… without triggering dangerous climate change—as without radical policies to cut emissions humanity will exceed the limit within 15 to 25 years …

He has estimated that 3.7 per cent centigrade extra global surface warming is likely by 2081 to 2100; a 63 centimetre sea rise, a 40 per cent rise in atmospheric CO2 has happened between 1750 and 2011. And 275 billion tonnes have been lost from the world's glaciers from 1993 to 1999. I repeat that: 275 billion tonnes lost from those glaciers from 1993 to 2009. The IPCC—the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—has noted a 50 per cent chance of keeping to less to two degrees centigrade of warming. The International Atomic Energy Agency, an organisation that we cite with regard to examination of the threat of nuclear weapon development around the world, an internationally respected organisation, in the New Scientist of 6 July 2013 was quoted as saying that within three years electricity from solar and hydro will be greater than natural gas and will outstrip all by 2016. These are the things we should be emphasising. This is the direction in which we should be going. But we have a government that are in denial. Sometimes they say that they believe the science. Sometimes they say that we do not have to do anything. But when it comes to a debate between doing something and appealing to an electorate that is concerned about cost, they go for the easy line.

Going back to Nicholas Stern, in another article in the British Guardian Weekly on 21 February this year, he said:

Four of the five wettest years recorded in the UK have occurred from the year 2000 onwards. Over that same period, we have also had the seven warmest years.

That is not a coincidence.

He noted:

The lack of vision and political will from the leaders of many developed countries is not just harming their long-term competitiveness, but is also endangering efforts to create international co-operation and reach a new agreement that should be signed in Paris in December 2015.

If we look around the world, the evidence is manifest. Canadian Prime Minister Harper might want to exploit the mineral sands of Alberta; he might line up with our Prime Minister as a small minority in the world who partially deny. However, in the real practical policies of Canada, what do we see? We see Canada arguing with the United States about borders. These are two countries that have had no conflict between them since 1812, and yet they see the gradual disappearance of the Arctic ice shelf. That is the reality, despite the rhetoric from the Canadian government.

Talking of Canada, I have heard it said on occasion that the last Canadian elections were supposedly an endorsement of the same kinds of policies we have in Australia. In actual fact, in the last Canadian elections—it is a first-past-the-post system—four of the five political parties went to that election demanding climate change; but, because of the first-past-the-post system, a minority of the electorate voted for the current government and they got a massive majority in the parliament.

Look around the world. Look at Greenland, for example. The government changed because the previous Prime Minister was putting the emphasis on protection of the environment and not going down the road of exploitation of oil and gas. He was replaced by a woman who feels that Greenland's future lies with exploitation of these resources. However, the important point to note is that it is happening in Greenland. A decade ago, there would have been no speculation; no talk about gas and oil exploration. Greenland is where Viking settlements disappeared in the 11th or 12th century because of climate change. Now, that same country is able to be a major future force in regard to these energy sources.

We have a situation where the Chinese are sending boats around Russia for a quicker link to Europe, exactly because they know it will become possible. That is the reality of what we see. Around the world you see changes in habitat; you see conjecture about the movement of diseases into areas where they were not before; you see discussion of sea rise on the islands in our Pacific region. People talk about refugees; we have seen nothing yet compared to what can possibly happen in the Pacific region with some of these low-lying islands. Yet we have a situation, in this country, where the government has basically said: 'It is going to cost people too much money. Let's appeal to the hip-pocket nerve. Let's not act. Let's pretend that we do not have to worry about our children and grandchildren. It is all going to disappear. It is not going to happen.' But the evidence is manifest.

Finally I want to turn to the question of the previous government's performance in regard to the economy and the denial of the international reality by those opposite. We had a situation—caused by speculation in the US housing market in particular—we had an international crisis. They would pretend that it did not happen. They would pretend there was no need for action. They would seek to say that, because there were a few wrong alignments in some schools and some suburbs of this country, we should not have had a massive school construction project which kept apprentices in employment, which kept the building materials sector going, which made sure that troubled building companies could survive. Let's look at the reality of what is happening around the world in regard to the alternatives they put forward.

They wanted austerity; they wanted inaction. I quote from an article by Susan Watkins in the London Review of Books to give an example of what their alternative would have given to Australia:

The Troika’s record of economic management has been abysmal. Greek GDP was forecast to fall by 5 per cent from 2009 to 2012; it dropped by 17 per cent and is still falling. Unemployment was supposed to peak at 15 per cent in 2012; it passed 25 per cent and is still rising. A V-shaped recovery was forecast for 2012, with Greek debt falling to sustainable levels; instead, the debt burden is larger than ever and the programme has been renewed.

… … …

The Greek economy has shrunk by a fifth, wages have fallen by 50 per cent and two-thirds of the young are out of work. In Spain, it is now commonplace for three generations to survive on a single salary or a grandparent’s pension; unemployment is running at 26 per cent, wages go unpaid and the rate for casual labour is down to €2 an hour. Italy has been in recession for the past two years, after a decade of economic stagnation, and 42 per cent of the young are without a job. In Portugal, tens of thousands of small family businesses, the backbone of the economy, have shut down; more than half of those out of work are not entitled to unemployment benefits. As in Ireland, the twentysomethings are looking for work abroad, a return to the patterns of emigration that helped lock their countries into conservatism and underdevelopment for so long.

That is the alternative that they would have us believe. They would say that it did not happen, that the government should not have gone into debt, that there should have been inaction, that we should not have worried about people lining up at Centrelink, that we should not have worried about young people's future, that we should not have worried about the possibility of them being attracted to drugs and antisocial practices through long-term unemployment.

This is a government that has opposed trade training centres in my electorate. This is a government that has sought to decry the previous government's emphasis on training youth and training people who are unemployed. This is an opposition that campaigned continuously for three years on the question of debt alone. What we see around the world, what we see in Europe, is the result of the alternatives that they put forward. I conclude there.