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Order In The House -

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Welcome to Order In The House. in Federal Parliament. A review of the week's business really earned the description The Leader of the Opposition's of Australian politics. of the 12th man LAUGHTER Well, Mr Speaker... I mean, The 12th man of Australia politics, but never gets an innings, the one who carries the drinks

who never gets a bowl, Mr Speaker... members are political terrorists? Does the Prime Minister agree these the Prime Minister And if so, is that why debate the Member for Kooyong's bill? will not allow the Parliament to to inform the House Mr Speaker, I am delighted Mr Douglas Wood, that the Australia hostage in Iraq, is safe from his captors. ALL: Hear! Hear! of the tribute in all of this I think the lion's share

of the tribute in all of this I think the lion's share must go to the Woods family extraordinarily resourceful and brave who really have been throughout this... began in the Senate. Debate on new tax cuts legislation tried to amend the laws While the minor parties

tried to amend the laws While the minor parties "Make them fairer", to, in their words,

the new tax schedules the decision not to block of the Treasurer. brought a smile to the face

that all Australian income taxpayers I think I can now advise the House tax cut on 1 July of this year. are likely to get their income by the Labor Party Mr Speaker, the attempts

for hard-working Australians to block tax cuts have failed. Over the weekend, Mr Speaker, from the Australian Greens we had an announcement that, ah... to make up their minds, Mr Speaker. Well the Australian Greens were able Ah, the Australian Labor Party

not to determine a position. is still determined

Ah, and I never thought I'd say this the Australian Greens look decisive. but the Australian Labor Party make Mr Speaker. And economically responsible, Yes, yes they do. announced over the weekend The Australian Greens a disallowance motion in the Senate that they will not be supporting to disallow the tax schedules. Senator Len Harris, Today in the Senate,

any motion of disallowance said that he would not be supporting Mr Speaker, and shortly before question time, the Australian Democrats announced to disallow the schedules that they would not be voting from 1 July, 2005. to come into effect SPEAKER: Order! Order! So, ah, so, Mr Speaker... Only one political party in Australia

to disallow schedules now reserves the right

to every Australian on 1 July, 2005. which will give a tax cut is that political party And the good news, Mr Speaker, to the tax debate in Australia. is no longer relevant can therefore take effect Mr Speaker, the tax schedules on 1 July, 2005,

for lower-income earners, of 17 cents in the dollar, the marginal tax rate in the dollar, Mr Speaker. will be cut to 15 cents For upper-income earners,

and the 47 rate will be increased. the threshold for the 42 cent And on 1 July, 2006, of Australian taxpayers this means that only 3%

to the top marginal tax rate. will be subject is grossly unfair We believe the Government's proposal in the strongest possible terms and we have been making that case since the Budget was delivered. These changes are particularly unfair the draconian welfare cuts in the context of centrepiece of the Budget. that form the other these tax and welfare changes To fail to speak out against to the electorate. would be a dereliction of our duty

But in this case,

against the Government's tax changes, Labor's not just arguing

a comprehensive alternative. we are presenting arguing for, a different package. We have presented, and are a broader tax relief A package which offers for working Australians, than that the Government is offering. a much fairer package to tackle us on that question. Even the Government has failed

as the Opposition, But this is our role

the Government's legislation, to critique to present alternative views, alternative strategies. and to put forward and that's what we take up today. Labor won't shirk that responsibility would have us not play that role, The Treasurer, for his part,

as the Opposition. not carry out our duty He would have us move aside of this unfair legislation. and quietly allow the passage of many, I think, His position, as with the thinking

that as of 1 July, is based on the fact in the Senate the Coalition will have a majority any legislation it thinks fit. and will probably be free to pass that political reality. Labor acknowledges of the Australia people We respect the verdict made in October last year. we will not oppose as best we can However that doesn't mean that legislation that we think is unfair,

by Australian families. legislation that does the wrong thing now or at any time We won't be running up the white flag over the next three years.

have supported the Treasurer's view Now some commentators quietly constrain its opposition that somehow Labor should of the new Senate numbers, on the basis that will confront us after July. on the political reality very carefully at that proposition. But I think people should look required of the Opposition They should consider that what is

over the next three years. Do they really want an opposition gives up and goes home? which, effectively, we won't have the numbers, One that says, "Oh, well, the argument? "therefore we should give up "We should give up the fight?" that argues its case, Or... Do they want an opposition

and policies presents alternative views and fights for what it believes in. this government will very soon have, I'd argue that given the power that

and unfair proposals and given the type of extreme on the basis of that new found power, we're already seeing emerge is more important than ever. a robust, vibrant Opposition ignorant of the alternative proposals The electorate remains largely and views they should consider, don't they? And whose fault is that? Whose responsibility is that? Well, it's the responsibility of the media,

the fourth estate, now mostly a big business oligopoly, often rather obviously enjoying its power to veto, suppress and edit, and to actively agitate for the interests of its owners. Just after the budget at 8:45am on Thursday 12 May, as the Democrats' spokesperson on taxation, I sent this message to AAP. And I quote, "Just thought I'd send a note to you at AAP,

"given the ALP statement that they will oppose the tax cuts package "and put up an alternative. "They, like us, will need support to get any proposal up.

"The Democrats announced the alternative proposal on Wednesday, "see below, and will be seeking ALP support. "We will have two amendments. "One opposing all tax cuts and raising the tax-free threshold "to $10,000 instead. "The second one, if that goes down, will split the tax cuts bill

"into the low-income tax cuts and the high-income tax cuts. "We will then vote for the 17 to 15 cents low-income earners tax cut "and against the rest of the tax cuts." Now, AAP did not think that was newsworthy. Surprising really, since we Democrats share the balance of power in the Senate at present. I mentioned my AAP message to a journalist I know, an obedient employee of a newspaper that confuses democracy with duopoly,

and bias with advocacy. And he exclaimed, "That lets Beazley off the hook." Well, actually it didn't and doesn't. But do you think he reported my statement? Of course not, because he and his editor wanted to keep Mr Beazley on the hook. They think the public are interested in the strength and leadership nonsense. What the public are interested in are the tax cuts. Will they get those on offer?

And should there be a different set on offer? This debate has largely been the Coalition and the media versus the Parliament. A media lynch mob has assailed the Leader of the Opposition and his party, for daring to oppose the Government. Their crude message has been, let's have an elected dictatorship. A message that echoes too many journalists own daily obeisance to the moguls or their lieutenants

or the businessmen running their companies. Thank goodness for the many other journos who do not behave or think like that. The Australian Greens oppose these tax cuts. There is a much better and fairer way to spend these funds. We'll be asking the Senate to support our amendment which calls on the Government to redirect these personal income tax cuts

into investment in public health, public education and the environment.

Investment that serves everyone. The Government's decision to waste $26 billion on tax cuts means that $26 billion will be no longer available to spend on these essential services. Things like responding to the crisis facing farming communities.

Not two weeks after the Treasurer delivered the Budget a major gathering of drought-affected farmers in my home state of New South Wales, prompted the Government into action. But the Greens say, not nearly enough action. The Government's drought relief package that provided an extra $250 million, is more bandaid stuff. Nothing to address the long-term and nothing to get on with the difficult but essential task

of making our land management ecologically and socially sustainable. I'll, at this point in time, table a comparison of the tax cuts delivered under Labor's proposed proposals,

compared to the Government's, once each is fully implemented.

The table shows under the amendments... SPEAKER: Excuse me, Senator. You need leave to table those...? Seek leave. SPEAKER: Is leave granted? No objection. Leave is granted. Thank you. SPEAKER: Senator Sherry.

Thank you. SPEAKER: Senator Sherry. The table shows, under the amendments I'm moving today, tax incentives for low-income earners of at least 1.5 times that of the Government's, up to an income of $20,000 a year. It shows a tax benefit at least twice the size of the Government's between an income of $25,000 and $63,000 a year. Between incomes of $70,000 to around $105,000 a year, Labor's proposal matches the Government's.

I should note, however, that these tables exclude the additional benefit gained by high-income earners who stand to gain further benefits from the Government's proposal to abolish the superannuation surcharge. Here we're talking about a government which brings to this Senate a proposal to reduce the tax burden on every single Australian taxpayer. And yet Senate, is proposing, in effect, to block that and insist on imposing its own regime.

We think that's wrong and this amendment should not be accepted. SPEAKER: Request is the amendment moved by the Opposition be agreed to. All those of that opinion say 'Aye'. To the contrary, 'No'. I think the 'Aye's have it. 'No's have it? Division required. Ring the bells. Lock the doors, lock the doors. The question is

that Opposition amendments 1 - 5 on Sheet 4594 be agreed to. The 'Aye's will pass to the right of the chair. The 'No's to the left of the chair. I appointer Senator Buckland, teller for the 'Aye's, Senator McGauran, teller for the 'No's. Order. There being 35 'Aye's, 33 'No's, the matter is resolved in the affirmative.

The question is... The question is that the Bill is amended be agreed to. Those of that opinion say 'Aye'. Against say 'No'. The 'Aye's have it. The question is that the Bill be reported. Those of that opinion say 'Aye'. Against, say 'No'. I think the 'Aye's have it.

The committee has considered that the tax laws amendment, Personal Income Tax Reduction Bill 2005, and agreed to it with amendments. Is the Prime Minister aware the Senate today rejected the Government's tax laws and passed Labor's fairer tax plan? Given that the Senate has endorsed... SPEAKER: Order. doubling tax cuts for seven million Australians,

why won't the Government now support Labor's fairer tax plan? SPEAKER: The Honourable, the Prime Minister. Order, members on my right. Well, Mr Speaker... Over the past few weeks, on this issue, the Leader of the Opposition has really earned the description of the 12th man of Australian politics. LAUGHTER

The 12th man of Australian politics... I mean, the one who carries the drinks but never gets an innings. Who never gets a bowl, Mr Speaker.

He has made himself irrelevant to this debate, Mr Speaker. And I don't do this very often, but I do want to place on record my appreciation of the pragmatism exercised...

yes, I will say it, by the Australian Greens. Mr Speaker, by the Australian Democrats, Mr Speaker. Of course, Mr Speaker... Look, forget it. You have lost this argument comprehensively. And if you want, I know you'll never take any advice, but I would sort of get on to something else. And I can inform the House

that 850,000 Australian businesses now have certainty about the tax schedules to apply on 1 July. And every Australian income taxpayer will receive a tax cut on 1 July of this year. Mr Speaker, the Labor Party campaign to defeat tax cuts on 1 July has been defeated.

And it's been defeated, Mr Speaker, because the Australian Greens announced that they would not disallow the schedules. One Nation announced that it would not disallow the schedule. Senator Shane Murphy announced that he would not disallow the schedule. The Australian Democrats announced that they would not disallow the schedule. And, Mr Speaker, there is only one party

that has determined not to determine a position.

Mr Speaker, it is the irrelevant party - the Australian Labor Party, Mr Speaker. And, Mr Speaker, what was standing in the way of certainty for 850,000 Australian businesses?

Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition. Now, I was interested to read...

I was interested to read in the 'Canberra Times', Mr Speaker, now suitable for quotation in this House. One disgruntled Labor backbencher quoted as saying - "We have been left like a shag on a rock "now the other parties have decided to pass this." Now, Mr Speaker... SPEAKER: Order.

There has been some debate going on as to who is responsible for this brilliant strategy, Mr Speaker. And, Mr Speaker, I don't think it's fair that the Leader of the Opposition take full responsibility. Mr Speaker, I have noticed in 'The Australian', that the cartoonist is now drawing

the Leader of the Opposition as Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty who sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But I will remind the House, that there in that Budget lock-up was the Member for Lilley and his offsider, the Member for Perth, and Senator Conroy, Mr Speaker, All of the roosters were in that lock-up. And, Mr Speaker, as Labor searches

for who is responsible for this strategy it raises the great conundrum of Australian politics. Which came first - the rooster or the egg? LAUGHTER Late on Wednesday the Prime Minister interrupted proceedings in the House with a dramatic announcement. Mr Speaker, I am delighted to inform the House that the Australian hostage in Iraq, Mr Douglas Wood,

is safe from his captors. Mr Wood was recovered a short while ago in Baghdad, in a military operation that I'm told was conducted by Iraqi forces... in cooperation in a general way with force elements of the United States. He's now under the protection of the Australian Emergency Response Team in Baghdad.

I understand that he is well. He's undergoing medical checks at the present time. I know that all Australians will be...jubilant at this news. This man has suffered immensely. And I want on behalf of all of the Parliament to pay tribute to the dignity and strength of his family. He comes from a deeply impressive family

and...the strength and resolve and courage that his brothers and the other members of his family have displayed, their understanding of the difficulty of this whole incident for all involved has been, I can only say, very deeply impressive.

The co-operation between the Government and the members of his family I want to record, I appreciate very much.

That we have of course have focused very much on his wellbeing and returning him to his family. I don't at this stage, for operational reasons, want to comment further on the circumstances of his recovery. I want to place on record the Government's great appreciation

to the offices of the Government who have done such wonderful work. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has displayed superb professionalism throughout this whole incident. The work of Mr Nick Warner, who's been the head of the Emergency Response Team has been quite exemplary.

And I want to pay a special tribute to Nick, he's an officer who's known to many of us. And he's done great things for Australia, not only in Iraq, but also in the Solomon Islands.

I want, of course, to thank the special forces and the other members of the Emergency Response Team

that went to Iraq. Brigadier McCabe, and all of the units in Iraq that have been associated with this. Can I also pay special tribute to the contribution of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who has had the day-to-day carriage of this, on behalf of the Government? And may I also thank the Opposition,

the Leader of the Opposition and the Member for Griffith, for their understanding at every stage, of the difficulties involved. And the need for us to unite to save an Australian. And this has brought out some of the best things in our people.

I also place on record, my appreciation to the efforts of Australian Islamic community and of Sheikh Taj Al-Hilali. Many people have tried. We are overwhelmed with relief, nothing compared, of course, with the relief that his family must now feel.

Can I also say, that at no stage has a ransom been paid. At no stage, has the Government compromised its position in relation to our commitment to Iraq, the level of our force commitment. We join with the Prime Minister in the congratulations and thanks

that he extended to various people who played a role in all of this. Including the remarks that he made about the efforts of the Australian Islamic community. They recognised immediately, as this situation developed, a fellow feeling with the Woods family and with Mr Woods and did their very best

from the contacts that they had and the angles that they could work to affect and secure the release of the hostage. From the outset, the Opposition said that the circumstances of Mr Wood's capture and imprisonment were such that no Government could tolerate or give in to, or adjust policy in any way associated with it.

It is not the right thing to do

to negotiate a change in policy on the basis of a terrorist act committed against you. Nor is it appropriate to pay ransom in those circumstances. Whatever the disagreements that the Opposition has with Government policy in regard to the situation in Iraq, that was firmly our view at the time.

And it remains our view. You cannot have your politics in any way shaped by the actions of evil people.

And it's very important that this outcome has no way compromised that position. But I think the lion's share of the tribute in all of this

must go to the Woods family who really have been extraordinarily resourceful and brave throughout this. They have been people, who no doubt felt the depths of despair and desperation as the days and weeks went by. It would have been enormously easy in those circumstances,

for that frustration to, in some shape or form, break out into a disagreement with how affairs are being handled or condemnation of this or that activity or perceived inactivity

by Government, by any other forces associated with this. It never happened.

In the entire time, the family maintained an enormously dignified discipline.

An enormously dignified determination that whatever it was that the family could do

to provide some form of assistance, to secure a successful outcome, the family would do. It spoke so well of all of them that they have sustained this and our hearts went out to them right through this terrible time of trial

and our admiration is there now where our hearts are. And our gratitude that this has been brought to a sensible conclusion. I very warmly welcome the fact and I know that all members of the House will equally welcome the fact that this rescue was in fact accomplished by the Iraqi forces.

What that says, Mr Speaker, is that evidence is building of growing competence and capacity on the part of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi security forces. And whatever views people may have about the coalition operation in Iraq, we are surely united in the desire to see a free, independent, democratic Iraq.

And strong security and military forces are indispensable to a free, independent and democratic Iraq. Along with the Foreign Minister, I had the opportunity this morning, after their news conference, of having morning tea with Mr Woods' family. A very impressive group of Australians. A group of men and women

who cared for their brother and brother-in-law and uncle, but also understood what was involved. And I want to say again, that the strength and the dignity and the resolve of the Wood family has been an inspiration to everybody associated with this event.

I again record my thanks to them. The best advice I have is that notwithstanding his current ailments, which have been documented in the past, Mr Wood is in a reasonably good physical condition as to whether there will be any lasting psychological impact,

I am in no professional position and am not in receipt of any advice in relation to that. He's clearly been through a traumatic experience and one that has come the way of only few people. This is a remarkable event. I think perhaps only two or three out of the several thousand people who've been taken hostage in Iraq

have been rescued. Now that is amazing. I think all of us can only find whatever expression we want to - whether he has a guardian angel... whether it's just sheer good luck... however we describe it, it's a remarkable thing. But do not forget, Mr Speaker, that he was rescued by the military forces of free Iraq.

And that is very significant. The push for mandatory detention reform by a small group of rebel Liberal MPs was an embarrassment for John Howard which Kim Beazley was keen to exploit. I refer the Prime Minister, to the public statements of the Member for Kooyong that he will proceed with his private members' bills,

dealing with a more humane system of mandatory detention.

Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking to the House that these bills will be given precedence, and that in the next two weeks these bills will be debated and voted on? SPEAKER: The Honourable, the Prime Minister. No. Prime Minister, isn't it a fact that the Member for Kooyong can introduce his Private Member's bill in the House but the bills will not be voted on unless the Government gives the bills precedence

over other business of the House?

If the Member for Kooyong's bill is not to be given precedence, for how much longer will babies and children remain behind barbed wire and razor fencing? SPEAKER: The Honourable, the Prime Minister. JOHN HOWARD: Well, Mr, um, Mr Speaker, um, I think it was the former immigration minister,

now the Attorney-General, who remarked last week,

that when he became Immigration Minister, there were 300 children, Mr Speaker, there were 300 children behind, um, behind the wire, Mr Speaker. Let me simply say this to the Leader of the Opposition. I answered his first question, and I...and I refer...I refer, I refer him, again, to that answer in relation to

the handling of any private member's bill on this subject, and I have nothing to add, nothing to add to that answer. But can I also...can I also tell the Leader of the Opposition that the government intends to maintain to the full the framework of the current policy? I indicated to this parliament a couple of weeks ago - and I'll repeat it -

that where opportunities present themselves to administer that policy in a more flexible way, those opportunities will be taken, Mr Speaker. But the truth is, that the last time the Leader of the Opposition had anything of substance to say on this subject, he flipped and he flopped, in a fashion which is well-remembered, Mr Speaker. The truth, the truth is that this government has run a successful policy of ensuring that... (Members interject) Order!

..that we decide, Mr Speaker, we decide the nature of immigration flows to this country. And I believe that that policy is not only the right policy, but it is a policy that enjoys the support of the Australian people. There has been...

The Member for Wills! Mr Speaker, there have been a number of changes made to the administration of that policy. And I've indicated - consistent with the maintenance of the framework of the policy - a willingness on the part of the government to make further changes. But those changes will not be such as to undermine

or destroy the framework of the policy, which I believe and which, incidentally,

I thought the Leader of the Opposition supported. I mean, I mean, my understanding, if my memory serves me correct, at the time of the last elect... at the time of the 2001 election, the last election, I thought... Order! Member for Grayndler! I thought, I thought there was a... I thought he said there was,

there was not a cigarette paper's difference -

not a cigarette paper's difference between how he stood, how he stood shoulder to shoulder with the Government - well, that's what he said! Order! That's what he said in 2001, Mr Speaker. When he was running around the country, Mr Speaker, trying to pretend that he was not Mr Flip Flop, Mr Speaker.

But now, in 2005, the Leader of the Opposition

is seeking to wear, as he once pronounced he would, simplicity as a talisman. But the, but the Leader of the Opposition is now trying to persuade, is now trying to persuade the Australian people that he has a markedly different policy from that of the Government. Let me say this, Mr Speaker. The Australian public knows where the Government stands on this issue.

They have not the faintest idea

where the Leader of the Opposition stands. MEMBERS: Here, here! My question is to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware of today's comments by the Member for Indi claiming the Member for Kooyoong and those supporting the member's bill of political terrorists? Does the Prime Minister agree these members are political terrorists? And if so, is that why the Prime Minister

will not allow the parliament to debate the Member for Kooyong's bill? The Honourable, the Prime Minister.

Mr Speaker, I'm very proud to lead a very rich and diverse, um... (Laughter), Coalition party. And, um, it is a coalition of all the talents. Mr Speaker, it is a coalition of all the talents. And, look, I mean, I find it fascinating, Mr Speaker, that the Leader of the Opposition has had, what - seven months or whatever it is since the last election to, to put something forward in this area, Mr Speaker? And can I, through you, Mr Speaker, say to the Leader of the Opposition, that if he wants a debate on a private member's bill, why doesn't he produce one himself?

Prime Minister, if I bring forward a bill dealing with the type of subject matter the Member for Kooyong's bill deals with, will he allow it to come to a vote? MEMBER: Here, here. The Honourable, the Prime Minister. Mr Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition is able, under the procedures of this place, to bring...

Order! bring something forward, and you will get an appropriate response from the Government! There were more questions about the handling of Chinese diplomat Chen Yong Lin's bid for political asylum, culminating in the establishment of a senate inquiry.

My question's directed to Senator Vanstone, Minister for Immigration. Can the Minister confirm whether her departmental officials contacted the Chinese Embassy or Consulate in relation to a request for political asylum they had just received for a... from a Chinese diplomat, Mr Chen Yong Lin.

Wasn't Mr Chen's request for protection based on Mr Chen's fears for his own and his family's safety if the Chinese Government were to be alerted of his application? Why then did the Minister's department put his future at risk by contacting the consulate to verify Mr Chen's identity and diplomatic status? Can the Minister confirm that this departmental disclosure immediately prompted the consulate to call Mr Chen's mobile phone, while he was still in the immigration office, making his application for protection? Does the Minister believe that her department has properly carried out its responsibilities in dealing with Mr Chen's application for protection? The Minister for Immigration. Thank you, Mr President.

And I'll thank the Senator for the question.

Senator, the short answer to both of your questions, the first one is, 'no'. And the second on is 'yes'. But let my elaborate on why I can't confirm

what you have alleged in your question.

And I draw your attention to a press release put out by the Department on the 8th of June, which I assume, if you're interested in this matter, you will have seen. And, I see that you're not giving me any indication of whether you have seen that press release or not. Um, so, I'll, read the relevant, the relevant portions

of the release into the Hansard for you. The Department issued the release because it was wanted to correct misleading reports, and place on record the facts. And then there are four dot points under that. Mr Chen contacted the New South Wales office of DIMIA, wanting to speak with the previous state director. When told that that person no longer worked for the department, he requested to speak with the current state director.

He gave no indication of the subject he wished to discuss. I might sidetrack to indicate that the current state director has been there from September last year. The previous state director hasn't been there from the end of June last year. Second dot point in the release. As Mr Chen claimed to be a diplomatic official, a DIMIA officer advised him

that she proposed to confirm this with the consulate. Mr Chen provided telephone numbers to do this, and did not indicate a problem

with his identity being confirmed in this manner. A DIMIA officer accordingly telephoned the consulate, which confirmed that Mr Chen worked there. The DIMIA officer then ended the call, without providing any other information. At the time of the conversation with the consulate, the Department had no knowledge of the matter that Mr Chen wished to discuss. At no time during this call did the DIMIA officer disclose any information as to the whereabouts of Mr Chen,

or the reason for DIMIA's inquiry.

Now, given those facts, you'll see why I say, no, I can't confirm that, which you allege, and why I say, yes, I am happy with

the way in which my department's handled this. My question's to the Foreign Minister. And I refer to

the Chinese Ambassador's statement of 6 June, 2005. And I quote, "I was asked by the Australian Government "about whether he - Chen Yong Lin - will face persecution "if he returns to China". Will the Minister advise the house

when his department spoke to and what his officials said to the Chinese Embassy about Mr Chen. The Honourable the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Well, Mr Speaker, I've seen a certain amount of debate in the media, while I've been away, about this, so let me just make this point there. Where a number of contacts with DFAT officials, initiated by the Chinese Consulate General in Sydney and the Chinese Embassy in Canberra about Mr Chen Some of this contact occurred before Friday the 3rd of June. That was the day when Mr Chen applied for a protection visa and then made public statements about his situation. The Honourable members will recall that. At no time did I or any DFAT official improperly convey information about Mr Chen's intentions, of course we didn't. And nor did DFAT officials, or I, for that matter, convey any information about Mr Chen's bid for asylum. Um, at the end of a formal meeting with Mr Wang,

who's the head of the Chinese Communist Party's international division on Thursday the 2nd of June. And the Chinese Ambassador briefly raised this issue me and she's made subsequent public comments about that. Is the Minister aware of Section 336F of the Migration Act, which prohibits under law the unauthorised disclosure of information

identifying an applicant for a protection visa to the foreign government from which protection is sought. Can the Minister provide an absolute assurance to this house that the actions of his department in contacting the Chinese Embassy

did not breach this provision of the Migration Act.

The Honourable, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Um, yes I can. The question's to the Foreign Minister. I refer to the Minister's confirmation yesterday, in Question Time, that he personally discussed Mr Chen Yong Lin's case with the Chinese Ambassador on 2 June, seven days after Mr Chen had applied for asylum.

Did the Minister himself, in his conversation with the Chinese Ambassador, discuss what might happen to Mr Chen is he was returned to China? The Honourable, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Mr Speaker, I thank the Honourable Member for his question.

As I explained yesterday, I had a..., very brief discussion with the Chinese Ambassador. I think it was on the 2nd of June. I think it was the 3rd of June, by the way, that the formal application was lodged for a protection visa, so, Mr Speaker, not surprisingly, I'm not going to go into the details of that conversation, except to make one point. To make one point. And that is that everything that was said by me in that conversation was perfectly proper. If you looked at the sequence of what happened, it's a bit like this. Remember, we have confirmation already from the Immigration Minister. And what she said was this - her officials, through the Sydney office of the Department of Immigration had already contacted, or had contact with, the Chinese Consulate General in Sydney about the Chen Yong Lin case. Remember what the provisions of the act say, "No unauthorised disclosure concerning identify." I would have though this raised very interesting questions about the application of Section 336F of the Migration Act on that point.

But there's more. We also have confirmation from the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday that his departmental officials were engaging, not the Chinese Consulate General in Sydney, but the Chinese Embassy in Canberra, on the question of Mr Chen's case. And all this is before it becomes a matter of public note and record, when it becomes a matter in the front page of the newspapers,

on or about June 4. This has all happened before that. When it's in the private domain. Then we have something further again. So not only do we have contact between the Sydney office of Migration and the Sydney Consulate General of China. Not only do you have contact between the Department of Foreign Affairs here in Canberra, and the Chinese Embassy here in Canberra, but on top of all that, the Minister yesterday let slip that he himself personally on June 2,

has direct contact with the Chinese Embassy on this case as well. And I remember the House again of the solemn obligations outlined in the legislation concerning the protection of confidential information for anyone seeking a protection visa. That is why we have not heard any consistent, coherent, responses

from those opposite on these key questions. So what do we have here?

We have a Shadow Minister making a great deal of noise, careless with the facts. And trying to stir up controversy where none exists. Mr Chen presented at the DIMIA Sydney office. He...his identity was established without breaching any confidentiality, let alone any...causing any breach of the Migration Act.

He was not successful in being granted territorial asylum but he's now gone down the route which is well travelled by a great many of his fellow countrymen and women. A significant proportion of whom, I believe, have been granted protection. He will be dealt with according to the most transparent and best practice in Australia. A Senate inquiry urged the Government to overhaul Australia's military justice system after finding that it fails to protect our soldiers. On October 30, 2003, the Senate referred to the Senate Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade References Committee an inquiry into the effectiveness of the military justice system. 71 public submissions, 63 confidential submissions, 11 public hearings and 7 confidential hearings across Australia later, we have reached some stark conclusions about the limits of justice afforded to members of the ADF. We received witnesses ranging in rank from cadets and recruits to the CDF, and every rank in between. One of those witnesses, General Cosgrove, had this to say, "The control and exercise of discipline "through the military justice system "is an essential element of the chain of command." The committee agrees, but where we part ways is where General Cosgrove feels he can have every confidence that on the whole the military justice system is effective and serves the interests of the nation,

the Defence Force and its people. The committee cannot share this assessment. The sheer volume of the evidence of this inquiry has heard leads us in the other direction. Our military justice system is failing the members that it should become protecting. In short, the system is broken and needs fixing. On both sides of politics we have lost faith in the ability of the ADF to appropriately investigate serious incidents,

discipline its members through a just process and to maintain the necessary level of independence. Over the last few years, the ADF has provided Australia with an exceptional service and dedication to duty. Now, in reforming the military justice system it is time to repay that debt. The servicemen and women of Australia deserve a military justice system that this report recommends.

One of the greatest disappointments for the committee was that time and time again, inquiry after inquiry,

report after report,

the ADF has remained obstinate in the face of gaping shortcomings in the military justice system. The ADF has simply squibbed the chance for change. We have had nearly a decade of rolling inquiries, on the one hand,

and only inertia from Defence on the other.

This report draws a line in the sand. Unlike its predecessors, it cannot be discounted as referring to an isolated incident or to a series of discreet events.

Its evidence is too persuasive and its recommendations are too strong for that. What's more our soldiers, sailors and airmen deserve better.

General Cosgrove, you are wrong - dead wrong. The military justice system is a shambolic, dysfunctional mess

and it's failing the young men and women

who enlist to serve their country in the ADF. This report is a damning indictment of a system that fails to provide 21st century standards of justice for our service personnel. The report comes out of some 20 months of evidence gathering. It details flawed prosecutions, failed investigations into suicides, accidental deaths, major elicit drug use, and serious abuses of power in training schools and cadet units. My involvement with this term of reference began when the mother of a highly decorated and courageous serviceman came to me and said... and told me her story. A story that has been repeated within the pages of our report. What she said to me was absorbed and I went away and made an inquiry. What I found so concerned me, so astounded me, that I was bound in good conscience to take some action. I found an outrageous level of ineptitude, of ignorance, of plain, simple, naked, outrageous injustice perpetrated against one of our most highly decorated servicemen. I, for one, and I know my parliamentary colleagues on the committee cannot sit by, cannot lean back in our red leather chairs and allow such a circumstance to continue to be a blot on what is a most proud history of our defence force. And so I say that in all good conscience, this report goes a long way, Mr Acting Deputy President,

to ensuring that we continue that proud history. And that we arrest and deal with these problems that have unfortunately been the exception

to what has been a very good rule in terms of military administration.

And I commend this report to the ADF and trust that they will accept it in the spirit in which it is offered. Events surrounding the mistreatment of Private Amos and the death of Private Jeremy Williams brought the issue to a head and were the main impetus for this inquiry. I drafted the terms of reference after finally spending time with Jeremy Williams's family and examining their case. At the end, I couldn't do anything but ensure that the Senate got involved in these issues. Because their case was so compelling and the failure of the military to respond was so breathtaking that I agreed that we'd launch the inquiry.

And I'm very grateful for the whole cross-party support we got for the inquiry and for the conduct during it. In early 2000, Private Amos was subjected to illegal, intimidating behaviour during initial training at the School of Infantry. His parents alerted authorities to their son's treatment

but nothing was done. They contacted the Minister's office in the hope that senior officers would fix the problem. But Private Amos remained locked up in the guard house, imprisoned without reason or charge, without reason or charge, and segregated from other detainees. He was deprived of his liberty without recourse to legal advice or to be charged. No wonder he was discharged from the army later at his own request. After reading about separate allegations of bastardisation in the Third Parachute Battalion, his parents wrote again to the Minister. Requesting an investigation into the events surrounding their son's treatment at the School of Infantry. Private Amos's father wanted to ensure that the mistreatment that their son experienced would not be experienced by other recruits in the ADF. An internal army investigation was carried out, recommendations made, and Mr Amos was informed that the problem had been fixed. But this was not true. No changes were implemented at the School of Infantry. The report was filed. In February 2003, Private Jeremy Williams committed suicide at the School of Infantry, after a period of extensive bullying and in spite of a phone call by his father, Mr Williams, warning unit staff of the family's concern for their son. Mr and Mrs Williams were treated very poorly after their son's death. Like many other families they'd experienced anguish, distress, helplessness and agony. The Williams's determination and courage helped drive the impetus for change. It's now our duty to respect their courage and their pain and their experience, and that of many other families who've suffered in similar ways. And ensure that real changes are made. We cannot allow these circumstances continue.

The committee has made the hard decision

of recommending that service discipline investigations, when they relate to criminal matters, should be handled by civilian police who are, for the most part, a few kilometres beyond the barracks gates. On operations and for military-related offences, the service police will still take charge. But on the evidence the committee has heard, we cannot trust the service police to investigate what are simple and ordinary criminal matters. In some cases, investigations have lasted several years with a poor quality of investigation throughout. Often there is a lack of independence in pursuing matters, and even less so in the decision to prosecute. The most striking example is of a former SAS soldier who was investigated in secret of spurious allegations of war crimes for nearly two years. He only found out he was being investigated on the day he was charged. He had to endure the rumour mill of slur and innuendo whilst performing his already difficult duties. Even the top brass jumped on the bandwagon, rolling out the media releases to demonstrate how they were cracking down on brutality and ill-discipline. However, those sound bites cannot describe the woeful inadequacy of the investigation. Poor evidence collection, inept handling of witnesses, inordinated delay and dubious use of forensic evidence culminated in the trial being abandoned, and adverse administrative action being taken instead. It's an all-too-common example of, "If the discipline system doesn't get you, the administrative system will." The SAS soldier's case finished with a public apology by the CDF to the soldier concerned. It's difficult to believe that even after this incident the ADF still feels that the system is sound. You have an organisation that must be trained and prepared to win wars,

but at the same time to be a sympathetic employer that must sometimes apply a discipline to its workforce which may be unacceptable in a workplace elsewhere.

The committee believes it is time to consider another approach

to military justice. It considers all criminal activity should be referred to civilian authorities for investigation and prosecution. It also considers that the creation of a well-resourced, statutory independent director of military policy prosecutions is a vital element of an impartial and fair military justice system. The committee considers the establishment of an independent, permanent military court. Staffed by independently appointed judges, possessing wide civilian experience, would extend and protect service members' rights,

leading to a more impartial and fair outcomes. I also want to pay tribute to the Australian Defence Force and its senior officers.

May I say this has not been a welcome term of reference for the ADF, for obvious reasons.

To have a group of senators put their head inside the ADF, seeking critical information as to how they conduct their inner-most workings, is something that has been difficult for them. It is the contemporary way, and I must say that in the service chiefs I see the new horizon. I see the new outlook, I see the new professionalism that goes with conducting Australian Defence Force operations,

on a day-to-day domestic basis, and internationally, in the glare of the media. In the glare of international covenants and treaties, and these men came to this inquiry, I think, honourably,

I think, transparently.

And I think they came with a view to acknowledging that what must be done had to be done and would be done properly. I trust and I really believe, Mr Acting Deputy President,

that they will approach the recommendations in the same spirit. I would like to acknowledge the considerable effort that the ADF made in cooperating with the committee. These are good people, in the main. And they're determined to improve the system. But problems are sometimes so overwhelming that the participants don't know where to start. This was often the case when problems were identified. It was not a lack of goodwill from the ADF, it was an inability to respond because the system itself was in need of a complete overhaul. The report was unanimous as has been said.

And that should never be lost. Every Senator agreed to the outcomes in the report. The report, and I hope it's not going to be left on the shelf to gather dust, as has been said by former colleagues, former speakers here today. But it shouldn't be given the polite agree. And that's the other thing. That Defence, in responding, should not just say, "Agree, agree, agree." Because it goes beyond agreement. There is action needed here and action is desperately needed to fix, not just to fix the system, but to replace the system that clearly is broken indeed. We will maintain the pressure, the report won't be filed away, I won't let the issue go, and I'm sure the other Senators on the committee won't either.

We are gonna pursue this because we think this report is a benchmark on which future actions will be held. Every failure in the future will be assessed against any failure to act on these recommendations. We cannot bring back those who've lost their lives or been treated unfairly or have been denied justice. But we can make it better for those who currently serve and those who seek to serve in the future. That is the responsibility of this Parliament. Closed Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd