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Tuesday, 19 June 2001
Page: 27948

Mr TIM FISCHER (10:52 PM) —On the eve of the first World Refugee Day, which will be commemorated at the front of Parliament House tomorrow, I want to raise a couple of issues relating to life, health, safety and security. Firstly, let me commend the Rotary clubs of Australia and the federal budget recently and previous budgets on their commitment to inoculation against poliomyelitis. This is a devastating problem in parts of the world but no longer in this part of the world. Why? Because we have actually gone out with AusAID programs, a few million dollars over a period of time, inoculating to the extent where it is now several years since the last confirmed case of poliomyelitis here in Australia, let alone in many of the countries immediately to our north. By investing in protection in countries near Australia we are in fact helping to protect our own children and also many refugees on their way through these parts of the world.

I might add that this pre-emptive strike mechanism also plays out in other sectors. I am chair of the Crawford Fund, through which we go into Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and elsewhere to intercept the papaya fruit fly and destroy it in those locations at the request of those nations, and that again eases the pressure and burden on our borders with regard to the introduction of that particularly devastating fruit fly.

Secondly, let me turn to a security issue and report some figures from 1998-99 relating to an issue which I know is the cause of great concern to many—crime, safety and firearms. Australia has chosen a particular course of action. The United States has chosen another course of action. I want to quote from a speech given on 23 November 2000 by Adam Graycar, Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. He said:

In 1998-99 Australia had 64 firearm homicides, the lowest number since the national homicide monitoring program commenced at the Australian Institute of Criminology a decade ago. On a population basis this worked out at a rate of three firearm homicides per million people. In contrast, the United States, whose crime rate other than homicide is generally no higher than Australia's, had 9,143 known firearm homicides and on a population basis 41 per million, or 14 times the Australian rate. This is powerful evidence—

he says—

of the significance of firearms in homicide.

The point I want to make is that I stand to support those who would seek legitimate recreational use of guns, those who have farm and other requirements in agriculture for the use of guns. I will defend that and those who want a proper duck shooting season and the like, but at the end of the day the pathway that Australia has chosen has stacked up—not without pain; not without adjustment—and most notably stacked up, against the NRA-Charlton Heston course, which is a 14 times worse situation in terms of firearm homicides.

As a matter of safety and security in life now relating to my electorate, I really do want to see a breakthrough with bridges along the Murray River—something I know is of interest to the parliamentary secretary, the member for Murray, at the table. It is long overdue. We have been pushing for that for the safety of our electors who have to cross state government bridges which should have been replaced years ago. We will continue to work to that end and also on the clean-up at ADI and the revamping and modernising of ADI at Mulwala, again a project which I worked on with the member for Indi, as it relates to both Yarrawonga and Mulwala. I am pleased to see in the budget the $63 million clean-up for the acid drain in that area.

Finally, I simply say that I do not know how many more opportunities I will have to speak in this parliament, but I do know I owe thanks to many people who have helped me along the pathway of politics over 30 years, state and federal. I wish to thank them.