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Wednesday, 25 May 2005
Page: 152

Mrs ELLIOT (9:40 AM) —I am speaking today about two petitions on two issues that are of grave concern to the people in my electorate of Richmond. These are issues that they have brought up with me on many occasions. The first one is relates to the senseless whale slaughter that we are seeing at the moment by the Japanese. So many constituents have contacted me about this issue, and there has been a huge reaction to this petition. It is time the Howard government acted to stop the slaughter of whales in Australian waters. Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is very clear: whaling in the Australian Antarctic Territory is illegal and it is time the government enforced its own legislation on this. These precious and defenceless animals must be protected.

The migration we are now seeing of whales has a huge impact upon ecotourism in my region. So people have environmental and also tourism concerns. As a community, we are going to stand united in telling the Howard government that we want some action on this. In this petition we are demanding that whaling activity stops occurring in Australian waters and that immediate steps are taken to prosecute boats detected slaughtering whales and that the Minister for Foreign Affairs applies diplomatic pressure on Japan to stop this. The Howard government must take immediate action to ensure that Australia’s opposition to the proposed expansion of whale culling is clearly conveyed to all members of the International Whaling Commission. This is a major issue within my community, and as a community we will keep telling John Howard to take some action on this. It is just not acceptable to do nothing. The Howard government has been completely negative on this matter, and John Howard cannot simply feign shock and horror, given that his government has looked on while Japan has increased its whaling.

The other petition I wish to speak about today is another huge issue within my community and relates to public dental care. I launched this petition about four weeks ago, and so far about 1,000 signatures are on this petition. People are constantly contacting me about this issue. Dental health is a huge issue, particularly in my electorate. We have 25 per cent of people aged over 65. It affects their general wellbeing. People are waiting two years to get dentures. They are unable to eat. It is just outrageous. This is a federal responsibility. It is in the Constitution. The Howard government must take action on this. It is outrageous that people cannot eat; it is outrageous that elderly people’s health is absolutely suffering. It is a federal responsibility; it is in the Constitution. The Howard government cannot ignore the people of Richmond who are so desperate to get their teeth fixed, and that is why thousands of them are going to be signing this petition. We will take the fight to John Howard to restore the federal funding for dental health he took out in 1997. It is outrageous that this keeps happening. I am getting calls every day from elderly people in tears because they cannot eat. They have got to wait over two years for dentures. John Howard must take action on this, because it is just not good enough to leave elderly people in tears and in desperate straits. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—I remind the member for Richmond that when she is referring to members she should refer to them by their seat or by their title.