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Wednesday, 5 March 2014
Page: 1780

Mr ROBERT (FaddenAssistant Minister for Defence) (18:30): It is a great pleasure to follow my friend and colleague the member for Flynn as he spoke passionately about his electorate and some of the great things around Gladstone. I have been to Heron Island and remember my experience fondly. It is a beautiful part of the world he represents.

I will first of all thank the men and women, boys and girls but especially the voters of the northern Gold Coast seat of Fadden for once again entrusting me with their vote and their representation in this House of Representatives of the Australian parliament now for a third term. It is an honour to represent them and I look forward to working as hard as I can to represent their hopes and dreams, their aspirations and their challenges in this great place of democracy. It is certainly an honour also to be a member of the government as the Prime Minister's Assistant Minister for Defence.

I think it is appropriate that I start my address in reply to Her Excellency the Governor-General on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen of Australia. It is important also to recognise Fadden school leaders. The world runs because leaders step up and do what they are asked to do. Leadership can be a lonely path. I have got hundreds and hundreds of new school leaders who, like me, will be working very hard to represent not just their schools but also their communities, their families and all of the northern Gold Coast. I know these new school leaders will do us exceptionally proud as we hope to see them serve our country proudly. I believe that each and every one of them will do a great job. I know that their schools and families are proud of them.

Make no mistake, these young leaders of our schools today represent 100 per cent of the future of our nation. Their exciting leadership journeys have just begun. I look forward to seeing, one day, one of those young leaders, if not more of them, taking a role in this House. As parliament begins and we debate the great issues of our nation, let me say to these young leaders: leadership means speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves; it means asking the tough questions and asking them when others will not; it means difficult decisions and making them when others will not; and it means realising that the popular choices are rarely right and that the right choices are rarely popular.

Everyday leadership begins with the 'I will' challenge: I will achieve things; I will take ownership when things go wrong; and I will look to give credit when things go right. Leaders should mentor, they should encourage, they should lend support and they should care for the less fortunate. We say to these young leaders on the Gold Coast: people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. It is more about others than about self. If these young leaders of the Gold Coast, these extraordinary young men and women, can grow into all that we proclaim in this place then I think the nation can be proud of them. Right now they are learning what it means to sacrifice their time and their talents to do what is right. They are learning to be role models and to lead by example. They are learning to inspire and be creative. They are learning to have a go.

John Quincy Adams once said: if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. Let all of us, especially in this place, remember that as we get down to business in this parliament and as our schools get down to the business of educating the next generation of future leaders. Congratulations to our Fadden school leaders. I shall be watching their leadership with enormous interest, and I will table the names of my school leaders so that their names can fill the halls of this place, their potential can be recognised and their journey can be watched.

As we praise our school leaders, it is also important to recognise that, in my part of the world, the northern Gold Coast, we are indeed in paradise. It is a beautiful area with great potential, from the waterways of the broadwater as it touches the hinterland and reaches into Mount Tambourine to the great suburbs where many of our more senior Australians have decided to live and the more family areas where people are having a go. With SeaWorld, Whitewater World, Wet'n'Wild, Movie World and the RM Williams show, we are the theme park capital of the country. There is an enormous amount the northern Gold Coast has got going for it, and it is a great pleasure to represent it.

During the last two terms it has been my pleasure to do a range of initiatives and to achieve a range of goals for the area. We have been running for the last five years our Fadden Seniors' Expo, which is a one-stop shop for senior Australians to come along and receive information about the services that are on offer and what they can expect. The former opposition leader, now the Prime Minister, has been twice. The then shadow minister for seniors, now our esteemed Speaker, has been three times. The former deputy leader of the opposition, now the Foreign Minister, has come along. Over 10,000 individual seniors have been through our Seniors' Forum with 12,000 sausages cooked by community groups including Lions and Rotary; 50,000 bottles of water; well over 300 exhibitors; thousands of muffins; and I am sure well over 5,000 pieces of fruit consumed. We try and provide not only a free lunch and morning tea but an avenue to connect in friendship, to learn about services and to enjoy our latter years.

It has been my pleasure over many years to run our Fadden Volunteer Awards recognising the hundreds and hundreds of the great unsung heroes in our community: those people who are the glue that keep the community together; those people who have over 300 times donated blood; those people who have spent 60 years of their life advocating for road safety; and those people who have served the likes of St Vincent's, the Red Cross or the Salvos for over half a century. These hundreds of local volunteers in our community do an outstanding job, and the Fadden volunteer awards are all about recognising that.

It has been a pleasure to give over 100 local sporting grants to recognise wonderful young people who are reaching, and trying to reach, their maximum potential in sport. Each received a $500 grant. I have signed over 5,000 birthday and congratulatory cards, and as many anniversary cards, and other terms, to say: 'Well done. Thank you for your help and community'. I have been proud to provide $70,000 to the local Men's Shed at Labrador for the great work they do in reaching out. They reach out not only to the men in their community, but also, on school days on certain afternoons, they bring in marginalised students from the community and engage with them, involve them and assist them.

It was a pleasure to give $45,000 to the local Labrador cricket club, which is on an iconic piece of ground that, frankly, needed a fence. For those of us who enjoy a good game of backyard cricket—it is a good game because the backyard stops the ball from getting out, except for every now and then when that mighty stroke puts it through the neighbour's window. The Labrador cricket club does not have a fence, and getting the ball from the local trees and swamp is particularly painful. All politics is local; we are going to build them a fence.

It has been great to give thousands and thousands of dollars to Australian Business Week, and I will continue this year to be the major platinum sponsor for Australian Business Week, which is about taking a program into schools to teach them business principles, financial principles—this year it is all about manufacturing.

It is great to give thousands of dollars to various P&C committees for their fetes. I think last year it was $1,000 to support Biggera Waters P&C fete. There was money for the scout group Easter raffles and for the Livingstone Christian College spring fairs. It was fabulous to buy a vehicle—worth over $9,000—for New Life Food Barn. They run a food bank that provides food parcels free—or for about five or 10 bucks—for families that cannot afford it. They wanted to deliver to more senior Australians and other families that could not get down to the food bank, but they did not have a refrigerated vehicle. So we all dug deep and bought them a refrigerated vehicle. Now they can increase their food parcels from a couple a week to hundreds and hundreds of food parcels a week to Australians in the northern Gold Coast who are not able to travel to get their food parcels.

Like all things, if there are community groups that do not have shade on weekends, we are more than happy to provide marquees—as we did for the Pacific Pines Netball Club, for the migrant centre, and for the Ugandans in Queensland—to assist with their community activities.

It has been a joy over the last few years to preside over ceremonies for 300 people becoming citizens. I enjoy running the northern Gold Coast citizenship ceremony with the Helensvale Lions, who do an absolutely amazing job. They do all of the work pulling it together, all of the work with the community, all of the work liaising with the department of immigration. And they allow me the opportunity to run it on the day as the presiding officer, only because of the magnificent work that the Helensvale Lions Club does. It is the biggest citizenship ceremony now in the Gold Coast, which is the nation's sixth-largest city, which is really quite phenomenal.

I want to thank some people who were instrumental in terms of the last election; the election where the Abbott government got a resounding victory and where the Labor Party reached its lowest primary vote in—goodness!—almost 100 years. So many people were involved. I thank those who manned booths: Peter Grant; Glenn Snowdon; Horace Wright; Robert Schweizer; Peter Stinchcombe; Bev Gordon; Kyle Shapland; Bill McMahon; Pam McMahon; Natalie Davis; Richard Towsen; Neil Lennie; David Callard; Elena Gold; Mark Tull; Rick Martos; Michael Mills; Rae Mills; Geoff Rossman; Kerry Knight; Phil Hunniford; David Huth; Dominque Lummus; Howard Ellems; Grant Kemble; Phil Lovell; Peter Corcoron; Allan Smith, who is also the FDC chair and did a fabulous job; Adam Brereton; Jane Stackpool and her husband, Allan Blaikie, who did an amazing job out on the western side of the electorate; Greg Zipf; Ross Linton-Smith; De Aneel Nihal; Ross Clement; Deryl McConaghy; Con Pandelakis; Gunter Pfitzer; Jan Monument; Craig Monument; Mark Hatton; Paul Shelley; and Karen Robertson. They went out of their way to assist during the campaign. They worked hard and they assisted with another great victory on the northern Gold Coast.

I thank the fabulous team at New Life Food Barn who also came around and fed and watered volunteers and those working on the day. We intentionally packed enough food and enough water for every single volunteer from every single political party at every single booth. Whether you were with the Liberal-National Party, the Labor Party, the Greens, the Katter Party or Clive Palmer, you were fed and you were watered by our team, because democracy is important. We want people to come out. We want them to participate in democracy, and it was a great pleasure to feed them all, the whole lot. It was great to see New Life Food Barn—that every day feeds the homeless and the hungry and the disadvantaged—and to be able to pay them well-and-truly over market price because I wanted that money to go back into the services they do. That was intentional. I wanted them to feed everyone and to send the message that that is what we do in Australia.

I thank Peter Campbell and Kay Hobson, who were instrumental in getting out and about and making things happen. And there were over 400 other supporters I want to thank; volunteers who worked day in, day out, believing in us as a government and believing that there is a better way of governing our nation.

As the Assistant Minister for Defence, my job now is to work with the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister to ensure our Defence force is capable of achieving a disproportionate strategic combat effect on the battlefield. The first priority of any government is national security. It pains me to say that the last six years of Labor saw that first priority relegated down. During the latter years of the last government, into the campaign, we produced a book, The Little Book of Labor's Defence Backflips,just to highlight the sheer difference between what the last government brought and what this government brings. I was proud to do the Defence launch with the now Prime Minister and the now Minister for Defence with the Aviation Brigade down at Luscombe Field at Holsworthy, as we stood there and nailed our colours to the wall. We, as a political party seeking government, said that we would not cut Defence expenditure; that any savings we found in Defence we would reinvest in Defence, and we would take the budget back to two per cent of GDP by 2022. What that means in dollar terms is that we will put up to $25 billion back in, to take the budget back to two per cent of GDP, because right now it is 1.58 per cent of GDP, the lowest level since 1938, and the former Labor government ripped out $25 billion.

The last Labor government said that they would give budget certainty but they reduced the level of GDP spend to 1938 levels. They said they would have a completely committed and funded white paper, but the funding for their white paper in 2009 was 1½ pages and their white paper in 2013 was, generously, a joke! We will have a properly funded white paper delivered by March 2015. We will have a force structure review properly attached to the 2015 white paper. The Labor government's last white paper had no force structure review attached to it. It had no approved Defence Capability Plan. In fact, the Defence Capability Plan right now is the one from 2009, because Labor could not even get around to endorsing one in 2013.

We will ensure that we will get that funding guarantee back up to two per cent of GDP. We will ensure that what we put in place is properly costed and properly funded. We will ensure a generous military superannuation system and we will index DFRDB pensions to the level of male total average weekly earnings or, indeed, the new living cost index. The Labor government indicated that they would do that in 2007 and delivered nothing. We will deliver it. We will deliver indexation for our veterans. We will do it in the first half of this year. It will be budgeted for. It will be in the May budget. It will start on 1 July.

We have not only announced but also implemented the coalition's commitment for free Australian Defence Force health care. As of 1 January this year any out-of-pocket costs for Medicare for any dependent spouse or other dependants, be they children or an aunt or an uncle who is classified as a dependant, will be paid for by the system. There will also be $400 per dependant per year to spend on ancillary health care—podiatry, physiotherapy, chiropractic and dentistry—and you can pool it. If you are serving member—for example, a female sergeant in one of our regiments—and you are married with, say, three kids, the four of you can pool that $400 and that gives you $1,600 to get little Johnny's teeth fixed.

In 2007 Labor promised to build 12 health centres, which they never did. They then promised a trial in terms of providing health services on bases. The trial went forever. In their last budget they cut $50 million out of the program. We promised it and we have delivered it. It is live right now. People were receiving the benefit on day one, 1 January. Navy Health as the provider is doing a fabulous job.

We committed to giving Australian industry the opportunity to compete for project work as much as possible. Unfortunately, something like 5,000 local Australian jobs in small to medium enterprises have disappeared over the last six years because the previous government simply ripped money out of defence and has left us with a procurement bow wave that we will have to deal with. The problems in procurement that have been left for us are an unmitigated disaster.

We take the defence of our nation seriously. When we make commitments in terms of the defence budget we will keep them. When we make commitments in terms of Australian Defence Force health care we have already implemented them. When we make commitments in terms of properly indexing DFRDB we will legislate for that in the coming months to allow it to be in the budget and to allow it to start on 1 July. When we make commitments that we have backed up subsequently for defence industry and giving defence industry a level playing field we mean it. When we spoke about Operation Sovereign Borders and committed a single chain of command through Minister Morrison through to a joint agency task force headed by a three-star, and when we said that we would force assign military assets to achieve the effect we wanted in the North of Australia, we did it. We committed those assets and kept them committed there to achieve the strategic effect which today, I think, is 76 days with no successful people-smuggling ventures. We will continue to keep our commitments in terms of defence.

It is a great privilege for all of us to be here in the House of Representatives, and I know every member here in the House—all 150—count it as a privilege and seek to serve their constituencies as best as possible. I am no different from others. I seek to do my very best here to represent my constituents to the best of my ability and to represent the government as a minister to the best of my ability.

I once again thank the constituents of the northern Gold Coast for their hard work, their commitment and their faith in me. I certainly will not let them down.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Vasta ): I thank the assistant minister. Is the assistant minister seeking leave to table some documents?

Mr ROBERT: I do, and I have, and I have done.

Ms Macklin: You haven't, but I will grant leave.

Leave granted.

Mr ROBERT: Thank you.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question is that the address be agreed to. I call the honourable Minister for the Environment.