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Thursday, 30 September 2010
Page: 469

Senator ADAMS (1:35 PM) —I rise today to speak to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Abetz, seeking to add certain words to the address-in-reply. I find it very distressing that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has had to come forward and provide a list of all the problems that have been associated with the Governor-General’s speech, and the lack of clarity and policy that the Gillard government has provided within that speech. As a senator from Western Australia, I see that most of the issues will affect Western Australia and, as far as we—I know that my colleagues here in this place would agree—are concerned, Western Australia is not a cash cow for the rest of the country. Unfortunately, we have had the Prime Minister saying that there would not be a carbon tax; now we have a carbon tax, and this will affect Western Australia very badly. Then, on the climate change issue, firstly a people’s committee was to be formed, but that got dumped. Now we have a committee of people for whom the conclusions have already been predetermined. So what is really the point of having that committee dealing with this issue?

As far as the influx of asylum seekers arriving by sea, today we have another parliament and another boat arrival. The 97th boat this year—carrying 20 people, in the first sitting week of the new parliament—will add to the ongoing crisis in the government’s immigration detention network that is now accommodating a record population. We in Western Australia are fed up with having our detention centres increased and with the nonconsultation of the government with local governments who have to house these people. It is completely unfair and we have really had enough. Within the Governor-General’s speech, unfortunately, there was no policy. That is another issue which will affect us badly.

The government has also failed to provide a dedicated minister for education and a dedicated minister for disability services.

Senator Fifield —Shame!

Senator ADAMS —I think it is, Senator Fifield. Senator McLucas is the parliamentary secretary and she has certainly worked in that area before, but I think that for disability services they should have had a dedicated minister.

The government have failed to clarify their position on a private health insurance rebate and unfortunately, with the alliance with the Greens, we know where that is going to go. I just feel that the people of Western Australia especially have really been conned on all of these issues. As far as the government being economically responsible in dealing with housing affordability and announcing to the Australian people that they would not be bound to the promises they made to the voters during the election campaign, we now have this new paradigm. In our leader’s amendment it further notes that the government has outlined no credible plan to bring the budget back into surplus, to cut the waste, to pay off the debt, to stop the boats or to stop new taxes such as the mining tax. I was certainly very concerned today when I read in one of the papers that an economic committee said that we should be taxing all the mining people, not just coal and iron ore. I wonder how those people who are mining copper, nickel and other minerals are feeling today with that sort of thing hanging over their heads. For Western Australia our exploration is very important with the junior miners, and I really do feel for them when they do not know just where this is going.

I would now like to come back to how a government works and the people within the government who are elected to represent their states and their electorates here in Canberra. My WA colleague Senator Back has already mentioned Mr Ken Wyatt. Mr Wyatt is now the member for Hasluck and, as I think most people in the world would know, he is the first Indigenous person to sit in the House of Representatives. As the patron senator for Hasluck, I have worked very closely with and acted as a mentor to Ken. We have worked very hard and doorknocked enormous parts of the electorate, which is the only way that we could break through there. Ken is going to make an exceptional member for Hasluck. Yesterday at a meeting of some of the elders he was told, ‘You have really done us proud. You are there, but just remember that from now on, in the future, you are the member for Hasluck and you are there to represent the people of Hasluck.’ From this day forward I am sure that he is going to make a marvellous contribution.

Ken comes from a very humble background. His mother was one of the stolen generation. He was one of 10 children and his father worked on the railways as a ganger. Ken spent his early days and had his early education in a little wheat belt town called Corrigin. The Corrigin people, the Rotary Club, the Country Women’s Association and two other people felt that Ken had shown so much ability in his junior primary days that he should be given an opportunity to go to Perth to finish his secondary education. So, between them, they sponsored Ken to go to boarding school and to finish his education in Perth. He then went on to teachers college and became a primary school teacher, and he worked as a primary school teacher for approximately 20 years. During this time, he rose through the ranks of the education department in Western Australia and became the director for education in the Swan area, which encompasses the whole area of Hasluck. As we moved around the electorate, introducing Ken as the Liberal candidate for Hasluck, it was amazing the number of people we spoke to who held positions of senior authority within those schools and whom Ken had actually mentored to take those positions. He is very, very well known. In his other area of expertise, Indigenous health, he resigned from the health department as the director of Indigenous health to take up his present position. He is highly respected in the Aboriginal community and he has also shared his expertise in Indigenous health in New South Wales, where he spent a considerable amount of time working in that same area.

I believe in Ken Wyatt. We have someone who is a very humble Noongar man and can take responsibility for teaching us about the Indigenous people and how they would like to be represented and he has all these other skills as well. He has an AM for his contribution to education and to health. As people here are well aware, this award does not come cheaply. He also has a citizens award that was bestowed upon him several years ago for his community service. So we have someone within the House of Representatives who really has done it the hard way. He has worked in many, many different ways and, as he described yesterday, he has had to work hard to contribute to the family pay packet so that his family and his siblings could all be fed and clothed. I cannot speak more highly of such a person.

Another person I would like to speak about is someone who in the last election unfortunately lost his seat. That person had given 30 years to this place—that is, Wilson Tuckey. Wilson came from a very humble background. His father was a mechanic and his mother worked as well. In those days most women probably would have been at home looking after their families, but she had to work too. Wilson became an hotelier before he was even at the age that he could drink. He had a farm and then went on, as an entrepreneur, to establish shopping centres and caravan parks and he had an earthmoving business in the town of Carnarvon. He was the shire president of Carnarvon from 1965 to 1969, had a further seven years on council and then went on to become the president of the country shires association. It was at this stage that he was asked to stand for the newly created seat of O’Connor in 1980. He got through the first preselection. There were a few problems and he had to go back for a second preselection, but he made it into the parliament. During his time here he served as the Minister for Forestry and Conservation, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister and the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government. He also served on the committee of the Western Australian Turf Club for nine years and was chairman of that body for two years.

I have lived in O’Connor, during which time I was president of the Liberal Party’s O’Connor division for four years and I have worked very closely with Wilson for probably the last 20 years. O’Connor is such a huge electorate and it has had many boundary changes. It goes from Albany up to Geraldton, out as far as Hopetoun and through the wheat belt. You could not have got a more fearless advocate for the seat of O’Connor. Wilson always said he was the sitting member who stood up for O’Connor, and he certainly did. It was very sad that, with boundary changes, unfortunately he was unable to retain his seat.

The people of O’Connor are rather confused because, after O’Connor had been in Liberal hands for 30 years as a very strong Liberal stronghold, it has now gone not to the National Party but to the Western Australian National Party and we have that member sitting on the crossbenches as an Independent. So there is much confusion within O’Connor. I am terribly disappointed that, firstly, we lost, but, secondly, the current member for O’Connor is not sitting as a National Party person or within the coalition party room. So once again there will be a three-cornered contest for O’Connor at the next election, and the Liberal Party will certainly be doing their best to win that seat back.

But just to go on with some of the achievements of Wilson Tuckey. He was very keen on education and was able to convince the Howard government that university places were needed in Geraldton. At that stage universities were in Perth, so anyone who wanted to go to university had to go to Perth to study. He came up with an idea that if places were placed in Geraldton and the universities had to bid for them, that would give his constituents within the Geraldton area an opportunity to attend university. This happened with the combined university in Geraldton, and it has gone from strength to strength. A number of people have been able to obtain degrees in nursing and teaching. These people would not have been able to do that, because they could not travel to Perth or spend the time away from their families. So it has given that area a very good opportunity.

Another thing: the freezing of the wool stockpile. That was a very important issue. And there is the work he did towards deregulation of the wheat market. I was very pleased to be able to support him in the Senate with that particular issue.

Regional Partnerships probably was one of Wilson’s main achievements. He was very keen on having the area consultative committees help regional areas to obtain funding for many different projects. With the demise of the Regional Partnerships, I think the country and regional areas are very much—we really do miss that particular network. Unfortunately, Regional Development Australia has not taken up where the area consultative committees left off.

Another issue is the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. Wilson Tuckey was very strong on that issue and simply refused to sit back and allow that to go forward, and hence we had a change of leader and of policy direction. I feel that Wilson’s efforts in that respect certainly helped the Liberal Party to once again become a very strong contender for government.

The other thing that we have a problem with in Western Australia is the proposed mining tax. This was something that, again, Wilson Tuckey was very strongly opposed to. We still do not know what will happen in this area. A secret deal was done with the big miners, but the small miners are very disillusioned. As I said, it was reported in the newspaper that there is a push for other minerals to be included in the measure.

In the few minutes I have left I would like to raise the issue of the Council of Australian Governments reform package for health. Western Australia is not prepared to give up its GST revenue, but it is prepared to put funding into a pool so that health can be funded. The COAG reform package resulted from bilateral negotiations with other states and territories and there are a number of reforms that are already being implemented in WA, but the ones that we are really worried about include the redesign of clinical services of surgery, elective and emergency services and outpatient services at a cost of $30 million; emergency care models, $7.2 million; enhanced service delivery in the north-west, $55 million; and aged-care programs, $63 million. Since 2005 there has been a 4.8 per cent decrease in the number of operational residential aged-care places in WA, compared with a 1.7 per cent increase nationally. As at February 2010, the number of non-operational aged-care places in WA was 2,541, resulting in a $90 million annual saving to the Commonwealth government. To address the shortfall in Commonwealth expenditure it is proposed that funding be provided directly to hospitals to cover the full daily cost of providing services for patients who are ready for discharge from state funded care but are unable to be placed in residential aged-care accommodation because of the shortage of beds in the non-government residential aged-care sector.

Also proposed is a $20 million child development service. Population growth has fuelled an increased demand for expansion of child development services in Western Australia. Investment in child development services would increase the number of children who are able to achieve their full potential and participate positively in all areas of society. With proposed investment this would include innovative work practices such as the use of clinical nursing specialists, therapy assistants and intake and triage teams, as well as the expansion of service models such as telehealth and public-private partnerships. Western Australia is in the process of developing private sector capacity to provide these services and would welcome Commonwealth funding to assist these initiatives. Regarding the expanded use of telehealth, which is cost neutral, and given the geography of WA, it is in the interests of Western Australians to have ready access to telehealth services. Currently, however—(Time expired)