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Monday, 5 March 2001
Page: 25049

Ms HOARE (9:26 PM) — I am pleased to be able to rise tonight to speak on these appropriation bills—Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2000-2001, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2000-2001 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2000-2001—and in particular to support the amendment moved by my colleague and Labor spokesperson on finance and administration, the member for Melbourne. These three bills comprise the additional estimates for 2000-01 for annual appropriations and seek total additional appropriations of nearly $2.58 billion.

Appropriation Bill (No. 3) appropriates money for the ordinary annual services of government. The major additional appropriations in this bill include moneys to fund shortfalls in the current budget for the Department of Defence. No wonder the former minister has jumped ship. His past ineptitude has been highlighted by this bill.

This bill also includes an extra $223 million appropriated to the Department of Health and Aged Care, an additional $216.5 million to Treasury, $75.4 million to Finance and Administration, $3.7 million to the Native Title Tribunal, and $1.9 million to the ABC. That is a bit of a drop in the ocean. I noticed that Jonathan Shier has actually asked for $40 million. I am not sure whether he is going to be too happy about that. It is not even going to pay for one-sixth of the executive salaries that he wants to pay. An amount of $5.9 million is being appropriated to the SBS, $18.7 million to the Australian Greenhouse Office, $10.8 million to the lawful and orderly entry and stay of people outcome of the Immigration and Multicultural Affairs portfolio, and $61 million to the Transport and Regional Services portfolio.

In speaking to this bill, I want to pick up on a couple of the areas I have just mentioned. As to the $18.7 million appropriated to the Australian Greenhouse Office, I do not think this has been a very well publicised government program. I am fairly well versed on issues of the environment. I had to find the web site of the Australian Greenhouse Office to find out exactly what it was, when it came about and how it came about. What I found was fairly interesting. I will summarise a piece from that web page for you. It states:

The Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO) was established as a separate agency within the environment portfolio to provide a whole of government approach to greenhouse matters.

It continues:

The AGO is responsible for the coordination of domestic climate change policy and the delivery of Commonwealth programs and provides a central point of contact for stakeholder groups.

Last year, following the May budget and the release of the 1998 national greenhouse gas inventory figures, it was becoming fairly obvious that there was no way Australia was going to meet the Kyoto target commitment to constrain emissions growth to 108 per cent over the 1990 level. Then in November last year the Senate committee's report into climate change really put the government on notice. At this time our shadow spokesperson, Senator Nick Bolkus, said that the government had comprehensively failed to deliver a responsible and credible response to the challenge presented by global climate change. He said that we have had five wasted years on greenhouse policy. That is why I found it fairly interesting that in these appropriation bills the government has found $18.7 million for the Australian Greenhouse Office.

In May last year the minister, Senator Hill, said that the government had committed almost $1 billion to greenhouse gas reduction programs over the next five years. However, five years after the election of the first Howard government, the Senate committee has recommended immediate action for the government to take. I will read out some of these recommendations. One was that the Commonwealth government reiterate its support for the IPCC findings and establish an awareness-raising campaign about climate change. Another was that the Commonwealth undertake an assessment of the economic, social and environmental costs of a failure to adequately address climate change. It recommended that some economic modelling be done, including on the cost of failure to take action; that the Australian government seek to ensure the integrity of the protocols with the adoption of firm sanctions for non-compliance and provisions for assistance for those falling behind in their commitments; and that Australia should take a leadership role in negotiations with a view to moving through Australia's treaty making process in a timely manner to achieve gratification of the Kyoto protocol. The report goes on to talk about leadership roles, a phased introduction of a national emissions trading system, directing the old economy on a path to meet Australia's Kyoto target, and applying more stringent national power generation emission standards. And it goes on. As I said, those recommendations were really a damning report card on this government's environment policy. Five years after the commitment of $1 billion we still do not see a real lot happening.

I turn to the appropriation of $3.7 million for the Native Title Tribunal. Some might ask why we need to keep appropriating money for the Native Title Tribunal. I think one of the answers to that question was given today. I attended a press conference with the Miriuwung and Gajerrong people from the Kimberley area and Galarrwuy Yunupingu, who is the chairman of the Northern Land Council. They outlined the processes they have had to go through during their native title claim on the lands in that Kimberley area. The cost of that process currently stands at $10 million.

When the owners of that land first lodged their native title claim back in 1994, we had in place the original Native Title Act, enacted by the Keating government. In 1998, when the claim went to the Federal Court, Justice Lee found that the Miriuwung and the Gajerrong people had substantial native title rights equivalent to exclusive possession to almost all the land claimed and also that it is very difficult to extinguish or wipe out native title. However, at that stage we had the Court Liberal government in power in Western Australia, where most of these lands are situated. Some of the lands extend over the Dutch-defined borders. The conservative government in the north and the west appealed the native title decision handed down by Justice Lee in the Federal Court. That appeal was won by those two conservative governments 2:1, and now these people find themselves in the High Court with a case that is expected to last at least two weeks. They have every confidence—and I have every confidence—that they will win that case but, as I said, at this stage those costs stand at $10 million and they will increase every day of that High Court hearing.

I read an article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently about Peter Yu, who, it said, is the ideal Kimberley leader. The article is basically about Peter's career and his fight for the rights of his people. It states:

Like many other indigenous activists, Yu is familiar with flak and pressure. Lately, he has been criticised in his communities for not achieving enough. He says that the Federal Government's Wik amendments to the Native Title Act have made it very hard to achieve wins over land.

`We've been locked into a very litigious area as a result of the 10-point plan and it's rendered a lot of the representative bodies and land councils ineffectual because the Howard Government has squeezed very tightly. It's having a very real impact in the community.'

That is why the government keeps needing to find more money to fund the Native Title Tribunal. The government's 10-point plan, the watering down of the original Native Title Act, has made it very difficult to process native title claims and very litigious, as Peter Yu said.

Also in these appropriation bills we see a further $216.5 million for the bungled implementation of the GST. The reason I mention this immediately after native title considerations is that I think we can all imagine where $216.5 million might go in the areas of Aboriginal health, Aboriginal education and Aboriginal housing. How far could $216.5 million go to enable some of the people who live in those more remote communities across Australia access to at least the basic standard of living that the rest of us enjoy? Yet what do we see in these appropriation bills? We see that $216.5 million has been wasted on the bungled implementation of the GST.

Also, $1.9 million has been appropriated for the ABC. As I mentioned, Jonathan Shier wanted $40 million. That is not going to put him in very good stead with the government that has appointed him. This is an appropriation of $1.9 million for the ABC, which has had $67 million ripped out of it over the past five years by this government. I will mention one of the interesting comments I noticed when I was researching funding for the ABC—our national public broadcaster, our independent broadcaster, a public broadcaster which every Australian has the right to rely on for information and for entertainment, no matter where they live throughout the country. It has had $67 million cut out of it.

In this appropriation bill it is getting $1.9 million back. By comparison, the BBC receives 10 times the funding of the ABC. The BBC in the UK has had an injection of more than $1 billion, twice the ABC's whole budget in one year, to make more programs. I think we are seeing the result of that here with our local ABC. Our national broadcaster is being cut to the bone. We are seeing the results of the injection of funds into the UK national broadcaster; we are having to buy its programs because we do not have the funding within our own country provided by our own government to produce our own local content. That is a national disgrace.

A Newspoll on the ABC published in the Australian last month found that 82 per cent of Australians think the ABC is doing a good job in providing news and entertainment. More than half of that number think it is doing a very good job. If that is the attitude of the Australian public—the electorate—to the ABC, this government should really be listening. The Prime Minister has claimed he has listened to small business and has done a backflip on the BAS. He has claimed he has listened to motorists and has done a backflip on petrol excise. We call on the Prime Minister to listen to the majority of the electorate and to adequately fund the ABC.

I would like to take a moment to emphasise what Labor will do. Labor will provide adequate funding on a triennial basis to ensure that quality is maintained in both the program and service delivery areas as well as ensuring that Australian content levels are maintained at an appropriate level to foster the development of our cultural identity. Where appropriate, Labor will ensure that adequate funding is provided to assist the ABC and SBS with the introduction of digital broadcasting and online technologies. That is another area where this government has failed. It has failed to provide adequate funding for the ABC to move into this new technological era. I would encourage all government members to access our commitment on the ALP web site, where it can be seen. I have been attending Friends of the ABC rallies in my area and I have been pointing this out to them. This is Labor's commitment to the ABC—to our national broadcaster—and we call on the government to at least match it.

In speaking about local and quality production within the ABC, some of us would have met a few of the young people involved in the Heywire production—an ABC production which involved giving rural and regional young people a voice. Young people submitted their stories and the finalists had an opportunity to read their stories over the local ABC radio broadcasters throughout the regions. One of my constituents was living in Bonnells Bay in my electorate. She has now moved into the electorate of Dobell, but her mother still works as a doctor in my electorate.

Ms Ellis —She has still got a good member.

Ms HOARE —And she still has got a very good member. Danielle Lee was a finalist in the Heywire production. I wrote to Danielle after hearing her story. I could picture exactly what she was talking about. Her story was about being in a two-member household with her mother, who was a GP having to go out at all hours of the night to do house calls, to care for sick people, including sick children and frail elderly people, leaving her teenage daughter at home in bed. She was not a young teenager; she was old enough to look after herself. But these were Danielle's thoughts about waking up with mum not being there and then worrying about mum travelling on the road in the dark and worrying about mum attending these houses when she did not know what might be in store for her. These were Danielle's worries. These were the kinds of stories that were produced by our local radio stations right throughout the country, and I am sure many members and senators in this place would have heard their own stories. I heard many other stories when I was driving around the electorate during the summer recess. They were all very good and significant.

Finally, I want to mention the $223 million being appropriated for the Health and Aged Care portfolio. I really want to emphasise that $130 million of that has been associated with the 30 per cent private health insurance rebate. We must understand that more than half of that Health appropriation is going in to prop up the private health system. It is not going in there to strengthen Medicare—it is going in there to prop up private health insurance.

I asked a question on 4 October last year about the cost on an annual basis of the government's 30 per cent private health insurance rebate scheme and the minister has yet to come back to me with an answer. I support the amendments. (Time expired)