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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1713


Mr IRONS (Swan) (20:13): I too rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2014-2015 and cognate bills and to take note of some of the comments that the member for Parramatta made. I was able also to catch the end of the speech made by the member for Moncrieff. I heartily endorse and echo the statements he made during the final five minutes of his speech. The member for Parramatta spoke about enabling small business and helping with funding for small businesses. I remember that during the 2007 election campaign, when I was first elected, I was taken to a technology park in my electorate. There were some fledgling businesses there who were funded by a program called Commercial Ready. Do you know what happened to that program, Member for Parramatta? It was scrapped by the new Labor government. The Rudd Labor government scrapped the Commercial Ready program, and two of those businesses that were in my electorate of Swan went to Singapore and got funded in Singapore. Why doesn't the member for Parramatta remember what her government did when it was in power, instead of trying to tell us that we are not doing the job of looking after small business?

I am pleased to join with my colleagues in endorsing the important funding measures before the House, which will help ensure the government continues to meet important obligations to all Australian people, no matter their race, religion or socioeconomic status. One of these prime obligations is the protection of their safety at our borders and in our communities. I say that this is one of the government's primary obligations and coalition governments throughout Australia's history have been recognised by the Australian people for taking this very seriously and for being proactive in developing policies that appropriately meet this obligation.

In my electorate of Swan, protecting our borders, law and order have consistently been two of the top issues raised with me since I was elected to this place in 2007. They are the top issues not because my constituents walk through Swan and constantly feel unsafe but because they understand that without law and order on our streets then this is exactly how they would and unashamedly should feel. It is also because they know that if our border protection officers were not preventing drugs and weapons from hitting our streets by diligently screening every person and every piece of mail that arrives in our country, then again their safety would be compromised.

It is for these reasons that I unreservedly endorse the approval of additional appropriations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund that are being sought in the cognate appropriation bills before the House, as they seek to further bolster the protection of Australians through a range of measures. This includes $558 million being directed to the Department of Defence for overseas operations, because—unlike those opposite—the coalition government is one which understands how integral a country's defence force is. Rather than stripping $16 billion from the Defence portfolio as those opposite did, this coalition government has been working with the Department of Defence to carefully and methodically implement a fully funded white paper.

Now, I am sure those opposite will be shocked by this concept, but the reason this government has been systematically working through the Defence budget mess that was left to us—just as we have been forced to do with every other government portfolio—is because those are normal processes for implementing good policy and running a good government. The examples I could give of the Labor Party's inability to govern this great nation would take me well through the night and probably into tomorrow. I just heard member for Moncrieff give some great examples as well.

The real kicker has always been the former Treasurer's promised surplus. All members on this side of the House are still trying to figure out where good old Swanny put it, but it has never appeared. This is despite the member for Lilley promising this imaginative surplus on more than 500 occasions in the 2012-13 financial year. There were no surpluses. They were nowhere to be found. The only thing the former Treasurer and the Labor Party delivered for this country is $200 billion in deficits, including $123 billion of future deficits. That is their only legacy. It is a legacy they should be ashamed of and one they should be working with the government, instead of against it, to fix.

Unlike those opposite, this government recognises the value of our Defence Force and every member of its personnel not just for their ability to respond to threats against our country but also for their ability to assist in cases of great tragedy. Most recently, we witnessed this when Australia's Defence Force played a key role in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight, MH370. It is a search which I am saddened to say remains ongoing nearly one year on. I also welcomed the Assistant Minister for Defence's statement in this place earlier today, announcing this government's objective to recruit and develop a larger, more representative, culturally and linguistically diverse Defence Force to strengthen Australia's operational capability and to better reflect this country's multicultural society.

While this coalition government recognises the importance of adequately funding and appreciating our Defence Force personnel, I highlight that we also recognise the importance of developing and protecting our nation in other ways to ensure its long-term sustainability. It is because of this recognition that a key election policy of this government was to deliver the infrastructure of the 21st century to make our industries more productive, to create jobs and to alleviate congestion for road users. In my electorate of Swan, Western Australia's largest ever infrastructure project—the $1 billion Gateway WA—is now well on its way to competition, surpassing its 60 per cent completion mark just last month. I am very pleased to inform the House it is also six months ahead of schedule. Works on the $1.6 billion Perth Freight Link project—which runs from the Kewdale industrial hub in my electorate of Swan to Perth's other major industrial hub, the Fremantle port—are also progressing, with the key focus of this project being to boost productivity for Perth's freight network. These are works that will benefit my home state in the long term thanks to funding efforts by this government and the WA state Liberal Barnett government.

Despite the enormity of these projects, my cabinet colleagues also heeded my calls for vital environmental funding to ensure the future sustainability of two of Perth's most iconic rivers, the Swan River and the Canning River, which run through my electorate of Swan. I was very pleased to welcome the Minister for Environment, the Hon. Greg Hunt, to Swan recently to formally launch the Swan-Canning Rivers Recovery Programme and highlight how this funding commitment will be utilised to safeguard the river systems' future biodiversity through weed eradication, practical community action and local government initiatives. I know that there are many volunteer groups within the Swan-Canning river catchment area. I know that they are very happy about the fact that this government made the commitment of a million dollars for that area to improve the biodiversity and to get rid of noxious weeds, particularly the hydrocotyle weed. Those community groups are led by many good people, like Russell Gorton, who is with the Wilson Wetlands Action Group. He has welcomed the opportunity to be engaged with other local groups to make an impact on the Swan and Canning rivers' biodiversity area.

Members opposite may ask how we managed to achieve all this on time and on budget. The answer is actually very simple, even though it was something those opposite have never managed to achieve. I also note that during those two terms when we went to elections promising a million dollars for that area, neither the Labor Party nor the Greens matched that offer. We developed a good policy, we costed it appropriately and then we managed it like a good government does.

Now, as I previously mentioned, key aspects of the cognate appropriation bills that are before the House today relate to defence, foreign affairs and counter-terrorism measures. As members know, Australia's Customs and Border Protection Service plays a vital role in protecting the safety of all Australians. It is with this in mind that I am therefore also pleased to join with my colleagues in endorsing funding measures outlined in Appropriation Bill (No. 4), which includes just under $35 million for officers to perform additional counter-terrorism activities.

On Monday, I welcomed the Prime Minister's national security statement, which outlined the government's latest move to combat home-grown terrorism, including the appointment of a national counter-terrorism coordinator and revoking the citizenship of any Australian proven to be involved in terrorism. This is necessary because the fight against terrorism simply cannot be won unless we are proactive about protecting our country and our people. It is funding such as this $35 million, which is outlined in the Appropriation Bill (No.4), that will help ensure Australia is best placed to respond to potential acts of terrorism on our home soil.

I have witnessed firsthand on more than one occasion the integral role Australia's Customs and Border Protection officers play in meeting Australia's national security objectives and combatting terrorism. In fact, it was only recently that I welcomed the opportunity to join with the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon. Michaelia Cash, at Perth Airport's Customs House, which is within my electorate, to see how our Customs and Border Protection officers are working to keep every Australian safe, and to understand the scope of prohibited items that organised crime syndicates, in particular, try to smuggle through our borders every day. As was highlighted to me that day, from January to October last year over 12 kilograms of methamphetamine, or ice, 1.5 tonnes of molasses tobacco and over 2,000 prohibited weapons, including firearms knuckledusters, automatic knives, and laser pointers, were seized from air cargo by Perth's customs officers. While this is a significant achievement, Australia also has, for many years, recognised the abilities of detector dogs, which are often able to find even the most sophisticated concealed illicit imports.

Because the coalition government recognises the importance of bolstering security, whether it be on a local, state or national front, that in February 2014 we committed $88 million in funding to boost Australia's customs and border protection measures. This significant funding commitment was specifically focused on increasing screening of international mail and air and sea cargo, while an additional $8.5 million was also committed to expand our Detector Dog Program. In the 2014-15 budget we also committed a further $480.5 million toward a four-year package to bolster the enforcement capabilities of Australia's Strategic Border Command and our intelligence, trade and travel systems, and for workforce measures and training. In the case of national security, members would be aware that the government has also committed an additional $630 million over four years to counter-terrorism measures and has strengthened our intelligence agencies' ability to prevent and disrupt domestic terrorist threats. That is more than $1.2 billion in funding toward these crime preventative measures, before we even look at the number of local initiatives that are being rolled out in communities across Australia.

As I have stated, the prevention of crime in any form is a primary priority of this government, and it is consistently raised as a concern in my electorate of Swan. I am pleased to update the House on my work responding to these concerns since being elected to this place to fight for funding for a number of crime preventative measures in Swan. This has included a local action campaign to have additional security guards hired, increased CCTV and street lighting to reduce the rate of crime at Lynwood Village Shopping Centre, in my electorate of Swan, particularly in the shopping centre's carpark at night. Similar crime issues are also prevalent in another local government area of my electorate, the City of Belmont, and in particular at the region's main shopping centre, Belmont Forum. Many constituents from this area have contacted me over the years to raise their concerns about the rate of crime at the shopping centre and its surrounds. To respond to these concerns, I again initiated a local campaign to secure funding for the crime preventative measures, which, I am pleased to inform the House, were delivered by this government in our 2014-15 budget. At that time, I welcomed to Swan the Minister for Justice, the Hon. Michael Keenan, to join with me in announcing the government's $100,000 commitment to install additional CCTV around the perimeter of Belmont Forum and Belmont Village to help bolster Belmont Police's ability to find and prosecute criminals in the area. These are funding commitments that I am very proud to have secured for Swan, because I believe that there is nothing more important than protecting our communities and ensuring that every man, woman and child can feel safe at their local shopping centre or playground, and, most importantly, in their own home.

Unfortunately, as my latest crime prevention campaign has revealed, this is not always the case, with many people in my electorate becoming the victims of crime purely because of where they live. I have been told repeatedly by constituents throughout my electorate that they believe living near a train station increases the level of crime in their suburb or in surrounding areas. This is also the key reason why residents in South Perth, which is another locality in my electorate of Swan, have repeatedly opposed plans by the West Australian state government to build a train station in the area. In fact, 71.9 per cent of respondents to my Tackling Train Crime community survey, which I distributed last October to residents and local business owners along the Armadale-Thornlie train line throughout Swan, specifically stated this belief. By way of background, the aim of the survey was to gain direct feedback about the perception of passenger safety on Perth's train network and the safety of those who live or work along the train line, as I do not believe the state government's current transit security model is adequately protecting passengers.

In my electorate of Swan and across Australia, it is clear that the coalition government is doing everything it can to deliver the infrastructure, services and protection our communities need. But, like everything in this world, our policies need to be sustainable. Gone are the days of cash splashing by those opposite, and in its place is a government focused on delivering policies on budget and ahead of time, as is the case with the Gateway WA project in my electorate of Swan.

The reality, though, is that there cannot be a sustainable Australia when we are still strangled by nearly $250 billion in debt. That is something this government has always known, so it is time those opposite got on board and recognised the good policies we are rolling out across Australia and the budget savings we are still generating, despite their inherent opposition to fixing the budget mess they left us with. I commend my cabinet colleagues and I commend the cognate bills to the House.