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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3587

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (10:22): I rise on behalf of the coalition to lead some comments on the Military Justice (Interim Measures) Amendment Bill 2013, which extends the interim measures applicable to the military justice system following the invalidation of the act establishing the Australian Military Court in 2009. This is the second time I will speak on an interim measures military justice bill—almost two years to the day that I spoke on the last interim justice bill. The interim measures are about the ability to actually pay the current judges who sit on the tribunals because we still do not have a military justice bill in the House to debate—staggering I know, unbelievable at best.

A little history is always good. The Australian Military Court was established in 2007 in a bipartisan series of legislation following a number of Senate committees and other reports. On 26 August 2009, the High Court handed down a decision in Lane v Morrison that found the Australian Military Court unconstitutional. The High Court found unanimously that the provisions of the DFDA 1982 establishing the Australian Military Court were invalid because it purported to exercise judicial power over the Commonwealth but did not meet the requirements of chapter III of the Constitution. Therefore, the interim measures bill was put into the parliament in 2009 to deal with the issues at hand and provide interim measures so that judges and other judicial officers could be paid.

We were told by Minister Faulkner at the time, in 2009, that this was about rectifying the military legal problems and that it would be afforded the government's highest priority. Yet by 22 June 2011 we still had no bill in the House to deal with Australian military justice. So the first interim measures came in, and here we are two years later—four years after the Minister for Defence said, 'this will be afforded the government's highest priority'—and we are still passing interim measures bills so that justices can be paid, because this government cannot get a bill together to put in place a military court that satisfies the constitutional requirements. It is simply and utterly staggering. But when you look at the litany of this government's highest priorities, even in Defence, it is staggering. I will read a paragraph from my speech on 22 June 2011:

Keeping military matters in mind, in 2007—I look at the member for Moreton—

and, surprise, surprise, here he is again—

who came in in 2007—the government said in the election campaign that one of its highest priorities was to address the fairness of the indexation of defence pensions.

Well, Member for Moreton, you came in on that platform, you came in spruiking the fairness of veterans' pensions. After six years, where are we? What have you done, sir, to ensure that military pensions for DFRDB are properly indexed? What has the member for Moreton done? The answer is: nothing.

Mr ROBERT: No, I won't take a question, Member for Moreton, so sit yourself down and find a way to explain to your constituents why, in six years, you have done nothing for the veterans of our country. In 2009, it was 'the highest priority to address the issue of military justice.' It was the highest priority to index military pensions. Nothing was done in six years. Do you know what another highest priority was, Mr Deputy Speaker? Defence of the realm and national security were the highest priority. Prime Minister Rudd issued the first national security statement and promised that every single year he would update that. He never updated it, and the current Prime Minister has done one. We have had two in six years—and national security is the 'highest priority'. In fact, national security is of such a high priority that the current Prime Minister would not attend the National Security Committee of cabinet; she would send her bodyguard. That is how much 'high priority' the Prime Minister puts on national security.

An honourable member: One of the members of the National Security Committee told us.

Mr ROBERT: Goodness! Would that have been Kevin? Who would have thought! If national security is so important, why has this government cumulatively cut $25 billion from defence—statement of fact? Why, if it was such a high priority? I am sick and tired of this government's 'highest priorities' when it comes to defence.

We had the budget handed down on Tuesday. Defence apparently did well: a 2.25 per cent increase in the budget. So it kept up with CPI. But when you read through it—their great announcement that there would be $2.9 billion for electronic attack warfare Growlers, how much extra money did the government give for Growler attack? Was it $200 million? $2.7 billion is absorbed.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I remind the member for Fadden: the bill before the Federation Chamber is the Military Justice (Interim Measures) Amendment Bill 2013. I would just like to draw his attention to that and bring him back to the bill before the chamber.

Mr ROBERT: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am simply looking at what the last Minister for Defence said; we are onto our third in six years. He said it was the highest priority. To understand what the minister says when it comes to 'highest priority', a history lesson is also worthwhile.

Let me conclude with another paragraph out of the last speech I gave on this bill—which was to provide interim measures—two years ago. I said:

If it takes two years to move to reaffirm the interim measures bill, which was the highest priority, frankly I am not holding my breath on the government's capacity, capability, courage and conviction to actually get a proper bill before the House.

That is what I said two years ago. I went on:

It is 12 months since fundamental injustice day, 12 months since the government lost its way. The Prime Minister's three priorities are still nowhere. All we have learnt is that the Prime Minister's highest priorities simply do not get any priority and the Minister for Defence's highest priorities get zero priority. That is a fabulous analogy for this wretched government—moribund, rotten and incapable of actually setting an agenda or a vision for the nation; setting priorities it does not keep and setting agendas it has no hope of ever reaching.

Mr Perrett: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would ask that the member for Fadden withdraw the term 'rotten'—

Mr ROBERT: You goose! Sit down.

Mr Perrett: And calling me a 'goose' as well.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Moreton will resume his seat. The member for Fadden will assist the chamber by withdrawing the comment 'rotten'.

Mr Robert: I withdraw the word rotten.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Have you concluded your remarks?

Mr Robert: I have concluded my remarks.

Mr Mitchell: We asked that he withdraw the name-calling, and the member opposite—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: He withdrew the word 'rotten'.

Mr Mitchell: The member for Moreton asked him to withdraw the name he was called. The member refused to do so.

Mr Robert: To assist the House, I withdraw unconditionally.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for McEwen will resume his seat. The member for Fadden has unconditionally withdrawn his comments. The question is that the bill be read a second time. I call the member for Moreton.