Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant the accuracy of closed captions. These are derived automatically from the broadcaster's signal.
Order In The House -

View in ParlView

(generated from captions) THEME MUSIC

Welcome to Order in the House, in Federal Parliament. a review of the week's business It is not an excuse to rape a child. We will continue to say that, to support these communities. and we will continue No Member of the Opposition has ever say something like that. or would ever to be withdrawn, it's a disgrace. That implication ought believe it is appropriate Does the Acting Prime Minister enables penalty rates and overtime that the Government's legislation princely sum of two cents an hour? to be sold down the river for the and a dangerous situation. This is a dangerous mission from the possibility And we must not walk away that casualties could be suffered. THEME MUSIC With John Howard absent overseas, armed off a favourable poll, the Opposition, was keen to test the mettle Peter Costello, of Acting Prime Minister of skilled migration. first on the issue and Acting Prime Minister. My question is to the Treasurer

that the trade skills training visa Isn't it the case is unable to be filled has a requirement that a position but that not one of the 50 questions by local recruitment, visa application form on the employer's if they have advertised the job? actually requires them to say Will the government now fix this? the Acting Prime Minister. The Honourable has the call. Order! The Acting Prime Minister Any apprentice who was seeking a visa to undertake training in Australia if a regional certifying body could only get one was available. certified that no suitable Australian That is...ah... How do they know, Mr Speaker? How do they know? are set up and authorised These regional certifying bodies by state Labor governments. and supervised (Opposition Members interjecting) Oh, doesn't that come as a surprise!

set up regional certifying bodies. So the state Labor governments by the state Labor governments. They have to be endorsed that the state Labor governments For present purposes we believe are not failing in their duties. have to give that certification. The regional certifying bodies no Australian would be displaced That being the case, by this visa. from a training opportunity Minister is aware of statements I ask whether the Acting Prime company Hanssen Industries by officials of Perth construction in relation to Australian workers, the less they work." "The more you pay them, And in relation to foreign workers, by using migrant labour... "We found that and do it the way we wanted. "..they'd just follow it a lower level of intelligence... "I am not saying they are at that they can do one task "..it just seemed to do anything different "and not want to do something different." "until they're told endorse this conduct Does the Acting Prime Minister the Government's so-called available under 'Skilled' Migration Program? If not, will he now fix it? the Acting Prime Minister. The Honourable work very hard, I think that Australian workers

wages under this Government, and they work very hard for increased unlike its predecessor. under this Government. Real wages have increased by 16.7% in restricting wage increases, If there was ever an experiment Labor Party between 1983 and 1996. it occurred under the Australian

operate a skilled immigration program Having said that, our country does and it always has. the '50s and the '60s. It did through who are in this Parliament today There are a lot of people in the '50s and the '60s because their parents came out here as skilled immigrants. Australia in the '50s and the '60s, Skilled immigrants were welcome in and they will be welcome now. if they can come to this country They will be welcome and contribute to the development and bring their skills with them of the Australian nation. to run around here and try to impute, I do not want anybody as the Shadow Minister did, are not welcome in Australia. that somehow skilled migrants the Leader of the Opposition. The Honourable

order on the question of relevance. Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of

This is about temporary work visas. about here ? temporary work visas. That is what we are talking What have you got to say about that? is answering the question. The Acting Prime Minister I call the Acting Prime Minister. migrants and skilled labour. I am giving my views on skilled workers and Australian wages, I am asked my views about Australian and I will give my views. want more than anything else My views are that what Australians a lot more of today is a job, which they are getting than they were under the Labor Party.

which they are getting. What they want is a decent wage, they also welcome the fact In addition to that, to this country and contribute. that people with skills can come has a skilled migration program, Our Government which will continue. in recent years, It has been vastly improved was thrown out of office. ever since the last Government and Acting Prime Minister. My question is to the Treasurer

Pleased no doubt, as we all are, to drop in, with the Prime Minister's decision the Acting Prime Minister when did the Prime Minister advise

to Australia a day early that he would be returning for question time, to be here on Thursday try to talk him out of it? and did the Acting Prime Minister LAUGHTER the Acting Prime Minister. The Honourable warm reception back here on Thursday. The Prime Minister will get a very We look forward to seeing him for the Northern Territory does. just as much as the Member you come across a political party But every now and then that is demoralised. with all sorts of economic issues, Here we are in Australia in petrol prices, interest rates where people are interested and jobs for their kids, asking a question like that. and you have some dropkick If that is the level of the attack out of the Labor Party, that is coming for you - bring on Bill Shorten. I have but one piece of advice was put into regulations, From the day this visa should have to advertise Labor went out and said that you if you cannot fill it locally, the position locally and that, you should have to advertise the position in neighbouring regions. Not once has the Government had the guts to stand up and defend what the circumstances would be

in which it would be fair to not advertise a position locally. They will not defend it, and yet they will not change it either. They will not change it for the simple reason that,

if it is driving wages down, it is doing the job they asked it to do.

If it is denying opportunities to young Australians, then it is doing the job they wanted it to do. And if they don't want it to drive wages down, if it does not want young Australians to miss out on TAFE opportunities and apprenticeship opportunities because of this visa, then it should change the criteria. Don't blame state-registered bodies for not applying criteria that do not exist.

If you want them to apply the criteria, put it in the regulations. That is all the Government has to do, and it will not. And they won't do it because we can see throughout this exactly how effectively it works to drive wages down. The Treasurer has stood up a couple of times in the last couple of days wanting to defend it, and he has claimed that any apprentice who is seeking a visa to undertake training in Australia could only get one if a regional certifying body certified

that no suitable Australian was available. That is not one of the criteria - that no Australian was available. That's not one of the criteria. That you even have to advertise and check whether an Australian is available is not on the form. Nowhere on the form is there an instruction to the regional certifying bodies. The bottom line in all this, despite all the huff and puff we have heard on the other side ? for the third time, I might add ? is that the introduction of the trade skills training visa is demonstrably good for young Australians. For young Australians, right? If you had listened the last two or three times we had this discussion, you might have some sense of it. The Parliamentary Secretary will address the Chair. It is not a matter of neglect, as has been brazenly asserted by opponents who would rather play politics than do the hard yards on policy. We are still not seeing policy from the Opposition. This is just politics, plain and simple. And it is very base politics. We are seeing xenophobia being used, xenophobia being used - no, they might laugh - xenophobia being used as an attempt... xenophobia is being used as a crass attempt to appeal to a base that they betrayed long ago. Australia does face It does face a skills challenge. It is estimated that within five years there will be 200,000 more jobs than people to fill them. That is with our current very high levels of skilled immigration. 200,000 more jobs than there are people to fill them. Have we heard any recognition of this on the other side in any of the policy pronouncements ? not just in the area of immigration but in so many other areas of policy? Not one word. Not a word. They are just playing politics. As the immigration minister in the Queensland Government, I advocated at the ministerial conference that we move to 350,000 migrants a year. That was a position on which I got full agreement from the Queensland Bjelke-Petersen cabinet, and I had a dreadful fight with Senator Robert Ray at the time. There is one hell of a difference between the situation now and the situation then. We had an award system. Bringing in those people was not going to crush the incomes of Australians. Now we have no award system, and the bringing of those people into Australia on an unlimited basis will crush the award system and the standard of living of the employee class ? the workers, if you like ? in this country. If you are short of labourers out in the bush or any other part of Australia, Ever since the Phoenicians invented money there has been one sure way to get more workers ? and that is to increase wages. When I was a young man, thanks to the enlightened governments of the day ? of John McEwen and Joh Bjelke-Petersen ? we had huge mining booms and beef roads being built, and we were paid colossal money. As an unskilled labourer, within two or three months I had saved enough money to go out and pay cash for a brand new small car ? in today's money, nearly $20,000. I played up a bit, Mr Deputy Speaker, so I was not saving all of it. There is another way to supply those workers ? to bring people in from countries where people are used to working for absolutely nothing, under no pay and conditions whatsoever. That is the other method of doing it. There is no doubt which pathway the Member for Goldstein wishes to take us down. Labor also used the nuclear power issue to keep the heat on Peter Costello. My question is to the Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister. As part of the Government's intention to consider nuclear power in Australia, will it nominate the proposed sites of its nuclear reactors and their associated high-level nuclear waste dumps? UPROAR Order! Order! Order! UPROAR The Honourable the Acting Prime Minister. On this side of the House, we welcome a debate about the nuclear industry. On this side of the House, we have no hang-up at all about exploiting Australia's resources to gain export income for this country. It is the Labor Party that says it's okay to mine uranium in three places, but wrong to mine it in a fourth or a fifth. I have no higher authority for the inconsistency of Labor's policy than the next Labor leader, Bill Shorten, Mr Speaker. Bill Shorten himself, who said this. Listen to this, here's...oh! (Government Members interject) The Acting Prime Minister will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition on a point of order. The point of order is on relevance. We have no problems with this, but we do want to know where the reactors... (Mr Beazley continues, microphone is turned off) I call the Acting Prime Minister. He is answering the question. The day will come when he will be unable to silence Bill Shorten any further.

Let's hear his views now! Bill Shorten! Order! The Acting Prime Minister will resume his seat. The Chief Opposition Whip on a point of order. In raising my point of order, I wish to quote one of your predecessors when he said, "I propose to apply a commonsense approach to these issues. "I expect questions to be specific, and answers to be relevant." I am rising under standing order 104, which says, "An answer must be relevant to the question." Not connected to the question, not partially relevant, but relevant. The Chief Opposition Whip will resume his seat. He is well aware that I have already ruled on that point of order, and I call the Acting Prime Minister. This Government has no hang-ups about exploiting Australia's natural resources, and exporting to countries that comply with nuclear safeguards. As Bill Shorten himself has said, "Federal Labor has a three mines uranium policy, "and the way which we get around that "is we call every new mine part of an existing mine." Part of an existing one! You can only have three, but they can have multiple sub-branches all over Australia! It sounds like a Labor Party branch stack to me! Three branches with multiple sub branches all over Australia. Bring on this debate! UPROAR The Acting Prime Minister will resume his seat. INTERJECTIONS Order! Order! The Member for Grayndler on a point of order. Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order under standing order 104. They wanted a debate, we are giving them one. Where are the reactors going to be?

(Mr Albanese continues) The Member will resume his seat. INTERJECTIONS Order! In response to the Member for Grayndler,

I am listening carefully to the Acting Prime Minister. I call the Acting Prime Minister. We welcome this debate. We think it is in Australia's national interest, and we will take great pleasure in seeing Bill Shorten lead the Labor Party again in relation to this very important issue. Will the Government rule out south-east Queensland and the Northern Rivers region of NSW as potential sites for a new nuclear power plant and nuclear waste repository? INTERJECTIONS Members on my right are not assisting. The Member has a right to ask her question, I call the Member for Richmond. Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister. Will the Government rule out south-east Queensland and the Northern Rivers region of NSW as potential sites for a new nuclear power plant and nuclear waste repository? the Acting Prime Minister.

As I said earlier, the Government believes that it is an important debate

for Australia to have as to the nuclear industry. This Government already has a policy which allows Australian uranium to be mined and exported. The Australian Labor Party supports that in three places. It would be a funny kind of a policy if Australia was prepared to mine uranium and to sell it to other countries but was so opposed to the nuclear industry that it would not allow it in Australia. What the Prime Minister has said is that this is a debate that Australia should have. It is a debate which will be an important debate for the future. Debate over the complicated and controversial issue of Aboriginal violence and child abuse

became heated and emotional. The Government believes that there is no substitute for law enforcement in Aboriginal communities. The Government believes that there is no such thing as a cultural defence for rape or child molestation. The Government believes that,

whatever the colour of a child's skin, it deserves a safe life - and the Government believes that, whatever the colour of the skin of a perpetrator, that perpetrator must be brought to justice. The Federal Government pledges every support to the Northern Territory Government and its police force in relation to bringing to justice... Order! The Member for Ballarat. ...in bringing to justice those people who are reasonably suspected of crime, ensuring that they are processed by the courts and punished. The Commonwealth Government stands ready to lend any assistance to the Northern Territory Government to ensure that policing function can be properly discharged. Yesterday I wrote to all of the premiers and chief ministers of the states and territories to invite them to a summit on violence and child abuse called by Minister Mal Brough, the Minister responsible for Indigenous affairs. I urge all premiers and chief ministers, including the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, to attend. I have not had the chance to inform the Acting Prime Minister yet ?

but I am able to do so now and, in doing so, to inform the House ? that the Northern Territory has today informed me that its Police Minister and Attorney-General

will be attending the summit. That is a very positive thing. I spoke last night to the South Australian Indigenous Affairs Minister, who was also very positive and intends to attend the summit ? as does the NSW Minister. I remind those Members from the Opposition who continue to interject that law and order and the criminal justice systems have always been the responsibility of the states and territories. The Howard Government are saying, "We are going to stand by you, and we are going to assist "Australian men and women no matter who they are or where they live." partisan politics aside. We are putting aside the issue of states and territories. I am very saddened by the attitude of some who sit opposite. Today I have spoken with a number of Indigenous people right around Australia, outlining the way I see this moving forward. I want to highlight two comments from two different individuals. The co-principal of the Daly River School, which is not far from Wadeye, is very concerned that the violence that has been occurring in Wadeye

and with the dry season now coming will spill back out of Wadeye and into these other communities, and wants us to be aware of that. She says that there has been a lid on this for too long, that the people have had no voice and now they have hope. She says that people are hurting and they hope that they get the support they need. The support they need, first and foremost, are police on the ground so that crime can be reported and crime can be dealt with. It beggars belief that Members opposite shake their heads, saying that that is not the answer. Live in a community where your child cannot be safe because there are no police. I ask you to consider such consequences. Order. The Minister will resume his seat. The Manager of Opposition Business on a point of order. I refer you to standing order 90, which deals with improper reflections on Members, a standing order you construed quite strictly last night. On a number of occasions now, and it seems the Minister is about to do the same, there has been an implication... (Government Members interject) Order! Members on my right. There has been an implication from the Government that somehow Members of the Opposition condone violence or child sexual abuse. There is no worse allegation that could be made in this place. It is grossly unparliamentary,

and you should prevent that improper motive being ascribed to Members of the Opposition. The Member will resume her seat. I will...order! The Manager of Opposition Business raises an important point. I would remind all Members of the points that were raised. And I call the Minister. Finally, in speaking to one of these women today, who in fact I should not identify for obvious reasons... MR RIPOLL (ALP, OXLEY): Then don't! It responds to some of the interjections that came across earlier to deal with housing. This woman has been in the field for 12 years, working with family violence in remote communities. She said to me, "I want Australia to understand "that this is not an issue about housing." I strongly reject the notion that it is about housing. (Mr Laurie Ferguson interjecting) I am listening to people who are actually on the ground, who actually understand domestic violence.

Let me tell you what a woman that deals with the consequences every single day says ? not what the ALP says. She says that most of the abuse

happens privately behind closed doors. She says, "It is especially a problem "in remote homeland communities where overcrowding is not a problem." This Government does not for one minute suggest that housing is adequate.

We say that it is not an excuse to rape a child. We will continue to say that, and we will continue to support these communities.

Thankfully, Labor state Governments today are willing to work with us. MR CREAN (ALP, HOTHAM): Who says that? MS GILLARD (ALP, LALOR): No-one's ever said that. MR KERR (ALP, DENISON): What a bunch of pious, canting, hypocrites! Order! The Member for Denison! UPROAR MR CREAN: That is a hypocritical stance. Who said that? Who said it, Mal? Who said it? Who? Order. The Manager of Opposition Business.

Order! The Member for Hotham! MR CREAN: And be constructive. On the question of disorder and unparliamentary conduct, the Minister just gestured at the Opposition and said, "You say that," referring to his statement that there are people unnamed who somehow believe that overcrowded housing justifies the rape of a child. No Member of the Opposition has ever or would ever say something like that. That implication ought to be withdrawn. It is a disgrace. INTERJECTIONS Order! UNKNOWN MMEMBER: Just withdraw it, you coward! You're a coward. Order! INTERJECTIONS Order! Order. There have been far too many interjections, there has been far too many interjections coming from both sides of the House. I did not hear the particular point that you have made. (Opposition Members interject) MR CREAN: Withdraw it. MR ALBANESE: You said it twice. (Stumbles) There have been interjections from both sides of the House, quite a few of which Members would, on reflection, probably think it better not to have been said. MR CREAN: Get up, withdraw it. Show a bit of guts! I will listen carefully, but I ask all Members to show more restraint. UPROAR The Manager of Opposition Business. Mr Speaker, I accept you might not have heard it, but I heard it, members of the Opposition heard it. And it was accompanied by a hand gesture.

It must be withdrawn. Mr Speaker, you cannot set this as the standard in this place. You cannot do that. The Manager of Opposition Business will resume her seat. If the...Minister made an offensive remark, then he will withdraw. I did not hear the remarks. Order. Order! The Member for McKellar. Mr Speaker, on the question of disorderly remarks and unparliamentary language, it was the Member for Denison who made a most unparliamentary comment, and I would ask him to withdraw. The... Order! Order. I have ruled on that point that the Member for McKellar has made. There have been a number of interjections and a lot of disorder.

It will assist all Members if those on both sides would show more restraint. The Opposition returned to an issue which it believes can swing votes - workplace relations. My question is to the Treasurer and Acting Prime Minister. I refer him to an AWA offered by Spotlight, a company with nearly 100 stores and 6,000 staff, to a prospective new employee in NSW, which provides an hourly rate of two cents above the award rate of pay, but which has no provision for any penalty rates and no provision for any overtime. Does the Acting Prime Minister believe it is appropriate that the Government's legislation enables penalty rates and overtime to be sold down the river

for the princely sum of two cents an hour? The Honourable the Acting Prime Minister. Needless to say,

long experience in this place has led me to believe I will never take an assertion from the Leader of the Opposition in relation to this or anything. But can I say that the Government's Work Choices legislation enables employees to come to agreements with employers which suit both of them, with terms that are protected by the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard. Those standards protect important matters and ensure that there is a floor under wage negotiations. They do not stand in the way... Order! Order! They do not stand in the way of people ensuring that they come to mutually bona fide agreements which are in the interests of both employers and employees. I again refer to the Spotlight AWA, which satisfies the Government's minimum legislative requirements, and in particular to clause 20 of this AWA, which provides, and I quote, "This expressly excludes "the operation of protected award conditions "in relation to, incidental to and/or with respect to: "rest breaks, incentive-based payments and bonuses, "annual leave loadings, public holidays, "loadings for working overtime or shift work, "and penalty rates, including for work on public holidays." Does the Acting Prime Minister believe that it is appropriate that the Government's legislation enables these conditions

to be sold down the river at the stroke of a pen for the princely sum of two cents? The Honourable the Acting Prime Minister. Mr Speaker... Order! Order! The Australian Government's Work Choices legislation is based on enabling employers and employees to come to agreements which are in their mutual interests, and which are above and beyond the Australian Fair Pay and Conditions Standard. What that means is that there is a floor under terms and conditions

and, above that floor, employers and employees can negotiate for the advantage of both. Can I point this out - employees are in a stronger position today than they have been in for at least 30 years... Employees are in a stronger position today than they have been for at least 30 years because unemployment is lower today than it has been for the last 30 years. The proof is in the Government's performance. This is a Government under which there has been massive job creation. This is a Government under which there have been real wage increases. The worst thing that could ever happen for Australian employees was the return of a Labor government. He can't answer the question so he goes right off the point. The Member for Perth has asked his question. Is there a point of order? I have another question, Mr Speaker. I assumed you were going to even up. I assumed you were going to even up, Mr Speaker. The... MR BEAZLEY: You called him! You called me!

The Honourable Member for Bowman. Sorry? You called me! I asked the Member for Perth whether he had a point of order. I said I had another question. I thought you were evening up. I have called the Honourable Member for Bowman. In which case, I seek leave to table the two cents... ..the princely sum of two cents. Let me go through what this AWA offered by Spotlight to a new employee in New South Wales constitutes - two cents an hour above the current award rate, but with no penalty rates, no overtime payments, no rest breaks, no break between shifts, no cap on the number of days worked in a row, no rostered days off, no annual leave loading, no incentive-based payments and bonuses and no public holidays. All penalties and loadings sold off for the princely sum of two cents an hour. Employees on contracts expected to work late at night and all day Saturday to earn $91 less

than their fellow workers still on the award. Saturday work will be paid at the ordinary rate, not at time and a quarter, as under the award. Sunday is paid at the ordinary rate, not at time and a half, as under the award. This isn't simply just a five-year contract - it is that - under the terms of this contract, these conditions can not be raised and dealt with for a period of five years. But it isn't just a five-year contract. This is a coercive, harsh five-year sentence, five years locked in harsh, punishing work conditions with no prospect of a wage rise

unless the company offers one. The door is now wide open for these reduced conditions to be imposed on 6,000 workers across the country. It is black-and-white, there in the company brochure. And I'll read from that company brochure. "With the new Work Choices legislation well underway, "Stage One for Spotlight is as well. "Stage One for Spotlight is as well." MR CREAN (ALP): What's Stage Two? "All new staff will be employed "on Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs)." We've got it there, Mr Speaker, absolutely there in black-and-white from the company, on it intends for their workers. This is Stage One. Stage Two will be when they work through the opportunities provided for them - and they are many - in this Government's industrial relations legislation -

to manipulate the provisions that are there for employers to manipulate so that they can start to move all their employees

onto what is now being offered to all their new workers. The thing about this is...that it is completely legal. We have taken a very careful look at this. There is no element of the Government's legislation which has been introduced by Spotlight, not a single jot or tittle of it! Annette Harris, the 57-year-old Coffs Harbour employee who was presented with the AWA, had this to say, "I thought it was an insult. Absolutely disgusting. "I've voted Liberal all my life, "but there's no way I'd sign up to this." "I've voted Liberal all my life, I'd sign up to this." She voted Liberal all her life. Did John Howard tell her anything about these matters in the run-up to the last election? No. On the contrary. Indeed, at the Liberal Party's policy launch of its industrial relations policy in Brisbane in the course of the 2004 election campaign, John Howard was expressly asked whether he was proposing to reduce the number of allowable matters, and he said 'no'. He said 'no'.

The Prime Minister was asked in that election campaign, "Are you proposing to reduce the number of allowable matters?" And he said 'no' - a disingenuous, misleading of the Australian people, then and now. The Prime Minister returned from overseas as preparations were being made to send troops to East Timor. Having played a decisive role in the birth of the nation of East Timor, we recognise that Australia has a particular obligation to assist what is a small and poor country in its struggle for a stable, democratic future. This deployment also reflects what I have said on many occasions: and that is that Australia - a large, stable and prosperous country -

has a special responsibility to act as a force for peace and order in our immediate region. I want to reaffirm in the strongest terms that this action is in our national interest, because the world we live in is one where the problems of weak and fragile states, especially ones on our doorstep, can very quickly become our problems. At the same time, I want to underscore the importance of states accepting their own responsibility for improving governance and reducing corruption, as the path to a better future. It is always a solemn responsibility of any government to place the men and women who defend our country in danger. This is a dangerous mission and a dangerous situation. And we must not walk away from the possibility that casualties could be suffered by the forces that will go to East Timor. I know that I speak on behalf of all members when I say that our forces undertake this mission with our admiration and our hopes and prayers for their safe return. It is the case now that in the Solomons, Afghanistan and Timor we have found ourselves obliged to go back in after a situation or a settlement

had been reached which we believed permitted us to exit. This imposes upon all of us who have some responsibility for the development of Australian foreign policy, for the devising of Australian national security strategies to think through the character of our commitments at the time when those commitments are made, to learn from any errors that may have been made and to see how things can be done better. It is not a critical statement that I am making here today, and I am not at all attempting to diminish the bipartisan character of this, but I simply point out the obvious. When circumstances are produced that you are obliged to go back in with the level of regularity that we are now being obliged to undertake, then there clearly is a requirement on us to start to think these things through in some detail. There are other areas of the South Pacific in that arc of instability where it is conceivable that Australian assistance may at some point be sought. This is a clear and immediate area of national security concern and deliberation and, as I said,

is currently our most important area. Growing public concern about the privatisation of the Snowy Hydro Scheme was reflected by one Government Backbencher's admission that she wished she'd voted against the proposal. Mr Speaker, I rise in the House today in grievance debate with frustration and despair at the intention of the Commonwealth Government, the New South Wales Government and the Victorian Government to sell off the Snowy Hydro Scheme. It's interesting that I do note that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister is sitting at the Dispatch Box, and I would hope that he might listen to the plea of myself but also to the plea of many Australians as to why the Commonwealth should not be assisting or involving themselves in the sale of Snowy Hydro Scheme. We held a meeting at the Yoogali Club in Griffith on Wednesday, 26 April. It was after the time that there was a motion

put in this House, of which I didn't have previous notice of and managed to come into the House to speak off-the-cuff of my concern of the sale of Snowy Hydro Scheme. At the time, that motion was put to the House and a vote was put and called for by the Independents, I had my say and then determined to leave the House and abstain from the vote, so as to not actually vote against the sale

but abstain and not be involved with a vote that could see the sale go through. I must say, in this House now, if I knew then the additional detail I know now, I would not have abstained. I should have crossed the floor and committed my vote wholly and solely

against any proposal to sell any holding in the Snowy Scheme. It was at that meeting at Yoogali in Griffith that I heard experts speak. And these experts, among them were Mr Vin Goode, who is the former commissioner for Snowy Hydro, who has extensive knowledge.

Also, Mr Max Talbot spoke there and provided information, again, who had extensive knowledge on the Snowy Hydro Scheme. A view was put that the documentation that was drafted for the Snowy corporatisation actually saw, was there in place for, the privatisation for the Snowy Hydro. And there's been a view espoused to me in this place that the corporatisation was the time that we should have been preventing or having this discussion on the sale or future sale of the Snowy Hydro Scheme. I do not believe that is the case, knowing now that I have further information. The corporatisation documentation was drafted with corporatisation and not privatisation in mind. It does includes a 75-year water licence that grants Snowy Hydro Ltd rights over collection, storage and release of the scheme's water resource, not over the ownership of the entire kit and caboodle. Snowy Hydro Ltd is being privatised, as we know. It is being privatised with undue haste. It took us nine years to corporatise, but only seven to nine months to privatise. Number 1, without consultation from anybody. Without parliamentary debate in any purpose but with a few mutterings in this House. Without parliamentary debate held in the Victorian chamber or the New South Wales chamber, who are selling off the entire system. Without a due-diligence exercise on the adequacy or otherwise of the agreements, how those agreements would operate in the hands of private enterprise. I would like to see that we could look at all the opportunities. There has been a call for me today, as matter of urgency, to seek to have a National Heritage Order on the Snowy Mountains scheme, placed there so that this can preclude this sale, or prevent this sale. That came from the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council and the Snowy River Shire Council, who certainly do not support, under any circumstances, this important infrastructure being in the ownership of private hands. There is a need for us to rise up against this sale. There is a need for the people across Australia to do all that they can to prevent this sale. I am only sorry that I did not have further information at the time it was put into this House that I could have exercised a true and conscientious vote against this sale - a vote of conscience for me, but a vote for the Australian people - against any efforts to sell off any component of the Snowy Hydro. Mr Speaker, my question is to the Prime Minister. Given differing legal opinions on the constitutionality of the sale of Snowy Hydro Ltd

and on the motion used to achieve this Parliament's agreement, will the Government listen to growing public concern, and from within its own ranks, and consider a full public inquiry

before proceeding with any sale of the Commonwealth's share and seek similar undertakings from the New South Wales and Victorian state governments on the sale of their respective shares in Snowy Hydro? If not, why not? Well, Mr Speaker, we have decided to sell our 13% stake in Snowy Hydro for three main reasons. The first is that the Commonwealth holds a minority 13%, and we have accepted that the New South Wales Government decided in December of last year to proceed with the sale, whether or not the Commonwealth chose to participate. Secondly and very importantly, we are selling because we are very confident that the sale will not affect water flows for irrigation and the environment in any way, and let me tell the House why. Firstly, Snowy Hydro does not own any water itself - the public owns that water. All Snowy Hydro has is a licence issued by New South Wales that permits them to make use of the water. That licence is locked up for 75 years - or locked in for 75 years -

through legislation and agreements that New South Wales has signed with other governments. That licence is the instrument that obligates Snowy Hydro to make guaranteed minimum annual releases to the River Murray into the Murrumbidgee, and the sale will not change that obligation in any way, nor will it change our commitment to making environmental releases down the Snowy River. And the arrangements we have had with Snowy Hydro and the Murray-Darling Basin Commission, can I remind the House of the budget subvention of some $500 million along the way to the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. Those arrangements, put in place since the sale was announced,

will mean that the commission and New South Wales and Victorian water agencies will have more information and more certainty on the timing of releases for irrigation. The third reason why we support the sale is that we believe that the private sector is best at running businesses, not government, and we are instructed by long years of experience in relation to that. Our responsibility is to make certain that the regulatory regime protects the stakeholders. I remind the House and I remind the Member for Calare that much of Snowy Hydro's infrastructure is now 40 or more years old, and privatising the company

will give it access to new capital and it can reinvest in and upgrade its clean, green energy business. And I think that is a very good result for the environment, a good result for electricity consumers and a very good result for the region, Mr Speaker. I understand the concerns that have been expressed and I acknowledge that this is probably an issue where, on the surface, a majority of public opinion would oppose what is being done by the three governments. But I think, for the reasons that I have outlined to the House and for other reasons - and I would be very happy to further explore them with the member for Calare and, indeed, any member of the House who has concerns. And the concerns that others have in this Parliament have been put to me and I have a feeling they will be put to me very forcefully within the next few days and in no uncertain terms but, as always, I will listen to those and I will respond as best I can. But for the reasons I have outlined, I think the Government has taken the right decision. There were tributes for the Indigenous and environmental activist and former head of the National Farmer's Federation, Rick Farley, who died a fortnight ago. I first met Rick Farley when he was working at the National Farmers' Federation. He was recruited by the then Executive Director, Andrew Robb - from the Cattleman's Union, I believe - and the then President

of the National Farmers Federation, Ian McLachlan. At that time, I was a counsel for the National Farmers Federation in various legal matters and national wage cases, and I got to know Rick reasonably well. He was always someone who had a great idea. He had an incredibly fertile mind. He gave everything that he had to the National Farmers Federation and he was somebody who, I think, could bridge the gap between farmers, who are generally on the conservative side of politics, and environmentalists, who are generally on the opposite side of politics. That is the way that I think many of us will remember Rick Farley as somebody who bridged a lot of divides in his life and brought many people together who normally would not have known each other. Rick was born in Townsville and he grew up in Brisbane. He went to university in the 1970s, and began his political career protesting against the South African rugby team. He dropped out, he became a journalist - by his own description, "a bit of hippie" with long hair and bracelets. He went to work with Doug Everingham in the Whitlam Government. Many people would have thought that that would set the direction for the rest of his life, but his life was one of total surprises. Rick was recruited to the Cattlemen's Union, which was a breakaway from the pastoralists in Queensland. The Cattlemen's Union was a mildly conservative organisation with a very firm agenda. Rick observed that, in moving to the Cattlemen's Union from a Whitlam Government staffer,

he moved from being a vegetarian to a meat-eater. He is reported as saying, "You couldn't work "for the Cattlemen's Union and not enjoy a good steak." As I said earlier, he was recruited to the National Farmers' Federation under Andrew Robb and Ian McLachlan. When Andrew Robb moved on to become the Federal Director of the Liberal Party, Rick became the Executive Director of the National Farmers' Federation. The National Farmers' Federation had raised a considerable sum of money, which was used to assist farmers but also to fund a lot of legal actions in relation to the waterfront and against some trade unions. But Rick took that organisation and he brought a new respect, I think, to land care and environmental matters. One of his great achievements was, under the period of the Keating Government, with Phillip Toyne, to join up with the Landcare program and brought farmers into that program - farmers who, of course, have an interest in respecting the environment,

which, of course, is their livelihood and their life. To his widow, Linda Burney, to his children, from his many friends on this side of the Parliament and on the other side of the Parliament,

we mourn his loss and we send our condolences to his family. MEMBERS: Hear, hear. Rick Farley was a man who worked to break down barriers, succeeding in drawing together the shared aspirations of cattlemen, farmers, conservationists and Indigenous Australians. During his life, he had a profound influence on what were otherwise sensitive and divisive issues. As Director of the National Farmers' Federation, he led the farmers into an inspirational partnership with the conservation movement, creating the National Landcare movement, which has changed attitudes forever in regard to farming practices and conservation matters. In 1991, he became a member of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation.

Along with the environment, that was to be the great driving issue in his life. His role was critical in negotiations with the Keating Government over the passage of the native title bill. I remember the roles he played during his discussions on many issues with the Hawke and Keating Governments. It was always a matter of, in the first instance, surprise and then great gratification that it was possible for the Government, through Rick Farley, to have a dialogue with many diverse interest groups who are not naturally in dialogue with the Labor Party, the labour movement and a Labor government. He was an important source of transmission of ideas

from the national parliament and the national government through to a very important sector of our society. The role he played in reconciliation when he took this same approach in matters related to Aboriginal affairs was an equivalent. In the days since his death, many people have spoken with very great feeling about his contribution, and the ability I mentioned to reach out to people everywhere ? farmers, conservationists, Indigenous Australians. He has been described by Aboriginal leader Pat Dodson as "a peaceful warrior and patriot who changed Australia, "a champion who carried the vision of reconciliation and justice for Indigenous people in his heart and in his hands - "he delivered where others postured." His partner, Linda Burney, said this of him,

"His legacy is immense, and one of justice and decency. "He was full of foresight, principle and practical good sense, "and this shone through constantly... His life mattered, he made a difference." Today we remember the difference that Rick Farley made. We mourn his early passing. Our thoughts are with Linda and his children, Jeremy and Cailin.

I would like to conclude with some words spoken by Rick Farley in his Australia Day address three years ago. They reflect his passion for his country and his irrepressible optimism for its future, "Our nation has come a long way in a very short time, "and we have much to be proud of. "We have made mistakes along the track, "but we can try to correct them. "We live in a unique place and we know enough to look after it better. "We have the priceless gift of the oldest living culture in the world. "Caring properly for our country and resolving unfinished business "with our first peoples can unify our communities "and create greater national certainty and confidence." I would like to think that we will make a devoted effort in this Parliament to live up to those remarks and the spirit that exists behind them. THEME MUSIC Closed Captions by Captioning and Subtitling