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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 116


Dr JENSEN (4:55 PM) —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker Jenkins, and congratulations on your appointment. I am privileged to represent the people of Tangney, a geographically small inner suburban electorate in Western Australia—being about 70 square kilometres in area—which is bounded by the Canning and Swan rivers to the north and predominantly by the Roe Highway to the south. The Tangney electorate is fundamentally residential, with light industry, numerous small businesses and no heavy industry. Murdoch University, one of Australia's premier education institutions, is the largest employer in the electorate.

I emigrated from South Africa in 1982 with my parents and siblings, some of whom are in the gallery today. I am eternally grateful for the sacrifices they have made that resulted in me having the opportunity to forge a life in Australia. I am also grateful for all the help that my wife's family have given over the years. I believe my standing here today is testament to the opportunity every single citizen of this great nation has, whether born here or overseas.

There are numerous people that have provided a great deal of advice and assistance to me. First is my wife, Sue, who was instrumental in me actually thinking seriously about a parliamentary career and who has been tirelessly supportive. My three brothers and one sister provided a challenging environment that allowed me to develop my debating skills. There is Tony Ansett, my campaign manager in my ultimately unsuccessful bid for election in a safe Labor seat in 1998. There have been those critical to this campaign following my late preselection. David Siglin, my campaign chair, and Josie Moore, campaign secretary and treasurer, both worked full time on the campaign for a period of four months prior to the election. There is Peter Abetz, who was always ready to volunteer his services, regardless of how onerous the task.

Thanks must also go to the Hon. Tony Abbott and the Hon. Ian Macfarlane, who both campaigned in the electorate; to my friend Murray Cowper, with whom I have spent a great deal of time speaking about political issues; to my father, Norman, who I remember chiding me for not knowing that Richard Nixon was the US President when I was eight years old; to my mother, Pearl, who supported me regardless of my life's decisions; and to my children, Madeleine, Emily and Liam, who are going to have to put up with me being away from home on a regular basis. I will do my utmost to make you proud so that you feel that the sacrifices you will have to make are worth while.

The return of the coalition government has been a magnificent achievement, particularly given that this is the coalition's fourth term in office. Credit must go to both Brian Loughnane, who so ably coordinated the central campaign federally, and Paul Everingham, the state director in Western Australia. Also the efforts of the Prime Minister and other senior coalition members need to be recognised, as do the efforts of those in all the individual campaigns. The quality of the members elected is clear for everyone to see. This quality will benefit Australians due to the excellence of governance that they will continue to receive. Having spent my youth in an authoritarian nation, I have long cherished the notion of the rights of the individual, freedom of choice and expression, and the right of people to succeed in their business, unencumbered by government red tape and restrictions. To a large extent the Howard government has delivered on all of these areas.

Prior to being elected to parliament and after completing my PhD I was a research scientist, most recently working as a defence analyst. This has given me insight and knowledge on the issues relating to Australia's defence. Indeed, we live in what an ancient Chinese curse would call `interesting times'. The last five years have seen a massive change in the geopolitical situation world wide and this has resulted in a paradigm shift in defence. This new reality has to be accepted and acted on. There are those who do not accept this paradigm shift and see the new circumstances as a mere perturbation on what has gone before. To understand the fact that the current state of affairs is a significant shift, we need to reflect on what the situation has been historically.

For the last century, what has been required to defend Australia has been to ensure that our Defence Force has had the wherewithal to defend the air-sea gap to the north. We were threatened with direct military action only in World War II and our Air Force and Navy, with backing from our American allies, proved sufficient to safeguard Australia. The position today is very different. There are those who suggest that the terrorist threat we see today is no different from what we have seen in the past. It is different. Before the military action undertaken by al-Qaeda recently, terrorism was by nature fundamentally localised. Strikes by al-Qaeda and their kin in Kenya, Yemen, the US, Bali, Jakarta, Madrid and the Philippines show that it is now global in its reach.

Indeed, the threat is such that the word `terrorism' is a misnomer. The current threat would more correctly be labelled `asymmetric warfare'. Weapons to defend against this threat are not conventional. The civilised world's most powerful unconventional weapon in this war is intelligence. This weapon is multinational in scope. Australia does not have anywhere near the resources to go it alone in defending itself. We do not want to know about an event after it has occurred. The nation with the most significant resources in this area is the USA and we need to be closely allied to get full access to the information that the US gathers. In having a close relationship we are able to have a greater influence on US strategic policy in this war.

There are those who say that our involvement in the war in Iraq has made us more vulnerable to terrorist attack. Those asserting this include the 43 so-called notable defence and foreign affairs veterans. I point out to these people that the Bali attack occurred well before any attack on Iraq. It was not our policy on Iraq that resulted in this attack but, rather, the geopolitical ambition of those who support fundamentalist governments such as Afghanistan's Taliban regime. This is clearly not what we want.

There are also those who say that pre-emptive action is unacceptable and only places us in greater danger. They also say that, if any military action is undertaken, it should only be at the behest of the United Nations. I have a little history and some what-ifs for these so-called experts. In 1936, contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany remilitarised the Rhineland. The League of Nations did not sanction force to move the German military out. Does that sound familiar? We know how the story ends and about the horrific cost of tens of millions of lives. Now let us consider an alternative where, despite having no League of Nations mandate to forcibly prevent remilitarisation of the Rhineland, France and Britain act militarily. At that stage, Germany would have been easily defeated. In today's context, if that had happened, many would have been up in arms—pardon the pun—about the unnecessary action taken. This action would have saved tens of millions of lives, but nobody would have known. The problem is that the number of lives that would have been saved by pre-emptive action will never be known.

Clearly, pre-emptive action should never be taken lightly, but those peaceniks who have `peace in our time' as their refrain would do well to remember this. In short, in Australia, as well as ensuring that we are able to defend our air-sea gap, we need to maximise our intelligence-gathering capability. This means keeping very close links to the US as well as developing multilateral links so that we can pose an asymmetric threat to our asymmetric foe. We also need to recognise that sometimes pre-emption is valid, even when not mandated by the glacially-paced United Nations.

Australia has been recognised in the international arena as a global participant in defence, but we must not forget the domestic issues that are important to individual constituents. There are many issues that, on a family-by-family basis, completely overshadow policies relating to global geopolitics. One of these issues relates to family breakdown. The particularly high rate of breakdown in marriages today means that one out of two marriages will end in divorce. This is painful enough for the adult parties concerned but it is worse for the children of these adults. Where the break-up is acrimonious, things are far worse. Far too frequently the children are used as weapons. Custodial parents all too often blatantly ignore access provisions to punish the non-custodial parent, ignoring the pain that this causes the children. We must not allow these acrimonious break-ups to cause any more pain than is absolutely necessary for children and non-custodial parents.

One such example that was related to me involved a non-custodial parent who lives in my electorate and a custodial parent living in Sydney. The children were supposed to fly to Perth to be with the non-custodial parent as per access provisions. When the non-custodial parent arrived at the airport, there were no children. On phoning the custodial parent and asking why the children were not on the aircraft, the answer given was that the custodial parent simply did not feel like sending the children over at the time.

Custodial parents such as this are clearly demonstrating that, to an extent, they are not fit and proper parents in that they are not allowing their children their right to maintain contact with non-custodial parents who have been granted access. There are numerous other stories that I have heard in the period of the election campaign, and they are heart wrenching. We should pause to consider how many more of these stories are occurring daily in every single electorate in the land. It is critical that the interests of children are paramount at all times in the break-up process. We need to ensure that access provisions are not ignored by embittered custodial parents to the complete detriment of the interests of the children concerned.

Family law needs to be revamped to ensure adequate sanctions for those ignoring access provisions and the psychological wellbeing of the children concerned. Child support provisions also have to be revisited. There are far too many non-custodial parents who are being financially crippled for many years by the excessive portions of wages that are taken for child support measures. Clearly, not all divorces can be amicable. Whilst this is recognised, we must ensure that, to the maximum extent possible, children do not become the flotsam and jetsam of ruined relationships.

If the current system is allowed to continue unchecked and unchanged we will, tragically, continue to be the sad observers of the murder-suicides that are becoming all too common. We need to reverse the trend that is becoming all too prevalent or we will have a potential national tragedy in the making, with children not allowed the access to both parents that they deserve. I look forward to becoming involved in discussion, policy formulation and legislative action as we grapple to find an equitable solution to this problem.

Also on social issues, I take a very dim view on retrospective action that the tax office takes in many cases, such as the so-called tax effective schemes. Retrospectivity is patently unfair, and when the tax office keeps retracting previous rulings and then charging those caught up in these retracted rulings not only the tax but penalties and interest as well, it becomes clear that here you have a bureaucracy that is profiting by its own ineptitude. Nowhere else that I can think of is there a profit to be made from making a mistake. What is worse is that we have a primary industry—the agricultural sector—living through hard times. This is an industry that would really appreciate money being injected into the sector, but the tax office is closing off many of these avenues to funds. We must ensure that the collection of taxes is fair and that the tax office does not place an onerous burden on those who simply wish to invest in schemes that would have the dual benefit of allowing capital growth for the investor and providing a source of much needed finance.

On the subject of raising revenue, state governments have become so greedy that they blithely ignore simple fairness in enforcing speed limits that are quite often not set on a scientific basis but established from simple guesswork or, worse, with a view to maximising revenue from speed enforcement. Speedometer accuracy is legislated to be within 10 per cent by Australian design regulation 18, yet in many cases this is ignored in the threshold that is used to enforce speed limits. Picture hiring a car at an airport, obeying the speed limit according to the ADR-compliant speedometer but then getting a speeding ticket due to overzealous enforcement. As if this were not bad enough, speed-measuring devices in many states have scientifically unsupportable tolerances applied, blatantly ignoring Australian standards.

In many cases, they are supported by suppliers, such as Multanova, who are either totally technically inept or simply not beyond using lies to support the illegitimate tolerances to ingratiate themselves with the authorities to ensure repeat business. This highlights the need to generate legally enforceable national standards. We do not need police standing adversely affected and undermined by opportunistic traffic enforcement policies. Ensuring fair enforcement thresholds that allow for speedometer errors can be achieved by an amendment to the National Measurement Act. Scientifically justifiable speed-reading device tolerances could be enforced by ensuring that Australia standards have the full backing of legislation. Currently they do not, and the states are thumbing their noses at these standards.

Another problem with traffic legislation relates to the incorrect setting of speed limits. Internationally, it is known that the 85th percentile method is the best way of setting speed limits for road safety. This method is almost totally ignored in Australia, apart from many bodies paying lip-service to it. Instead, we get the results of junk science and fraudulent statistics thrown up to demonstrate that ever reducing speed limits and ever increasing enforcement are the way forward. They are not, and we need to improve driver training as a priority.

Australia is a nation where the tyranny of distance is apparent and individual mobility is extremely important. As this means that cars and traffic will be with us for the foreseeable future, we need to act on this and institute nationally mandated high standards of driver training as a matter of priority. Australia's love affair with the motor vehicle brings to mind the environmental consequences of our use of fossil fuels. Being an analytical person, I tend to take a dim view of sacred cows that are not backed up by verifiable facts. One example of these sacred cows having wide currency is the issue of global warming.

This issue has been taken up by parts of the community with almost religious fervour; however, the problem is that the science backing the claims is suspect. The warming trend that has been covered repeatedly in the media has been generated from ground based measuring stations. Problematically, these stations are affected by urban heat islands. Of course, this is not mentioned by the proponents of global-warming theories. There are far more reliable ways to measure global temperatures, such as through the use of Aerosonde balloons and satellites, which are unaffected by urban heat islands. Unfortunately for the global warmers, the data from these sources do not show the warming trend, so, disingenuously, only the ground based readings are used.

There is another piece of evidence that runs counter to the global warmers' view. The major scare issue with global warming is that of melting polar caps, particularly the Antarctic ice cap. All models for global warming have the maximum increase in temperature occurring at the poles, for good reason: the absorption of heat by greenhouse gases occurs predominantly at temperatures that are common at the polar regions. So, given this, maximum heating should be observed at the polar regions. The problem for the global warmers is that this is not happening. Of more than 10 measurement stations in Antarctica, only one, on the Ross Ice Shelf, shows the warming trend. The rest exhibit no such heating. There is much other data pointing to the fallacy of the global warming scare campaign. Despite this, the global warmers want us to not only bet our economy but, more likely, significantly damage our economy on a theory that will probably go the way of the flat earth theory: restricted to a few adherents who have become totally divorced from reality.

Do not for a moment think that this makes me an antienvironmentalist. I believe that there are significant benefits to be had by controlling harmful emissions. In fact, in many cases a reduction in emissions can result in economic benefits as a result of converting some of the pollutants collected into useful products. This leads me to conclude that during this term of the Howard government we should be focusing on positive solutions to the many challenges which we face. I wish to sincerely thank the people of Tangney for voting for me and thereby bestowing this significant honour upon me. I do not take this honour lightly and I assure the people of Tangney that I will do my utmost to see to their best interests.