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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 2946


Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (15:59): Before I was interrupted by members' statements and then question time, I was posing the question: why? Why has the government failed to deliver on its election promise to establish a transparent register which would provide the Australian community with the information they deserve and require? And I was prosecuting the case that it was more likely to be motivated by the desire to keep concern in the community alive and well rather than by incompetence.

I point out that Fairfax reported today that only a month on from the release of the register Chinese investment in Australian agricultural land has doubled. The Australian Taxation Office conceded that in fact the register, as it has been designed by this government, mainly relies on self-regulation. We know that the land register is already a failure, so based on the fact that the water register is only a replication of the land register we can expect that the water register will also be a failure.

This does not just go to aspirations—it goes to incompetence and it goes to the need for this government to learn that it must proceed on evidence-based policy; it must do its research and check the facts before leaping to populist policies. The list is very long on this front. There is no greater example than the one I mentioned earlier, the backpacker tax. It was proposed without any thought, consideration or consultation and certainly no modelling on the economy-wide effects, including the second round effects. There was no analysis before the decision was made to relocate the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra, the national capital, to Minister Joyce's electorate. It was very damaging to the agriculture sector. Belatedly there has been a cost-benefit analysis but the minister will not release it. Then there is the abolition of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity. The Deputy Prime Minister was going on about biosecurity in question time today. Soon after his election he attempted to abolish the position of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity. Then of course there is drought policy. The government's response to the most recent drought was a complete failure. It was so bad that Minister Joyce stood here in question time and embellished the effectiveness of the drought policy only, of course, to change his Hansard and then when he was caught out he sacked his departmental head. This is the way this government does policy, so we should not be surprised to see this particular policy before the House failing before it even begins.

In this debate there has been a lot about the inflow of financial capital, and I appreciate the opportunity the government has given me to take a bit of licence, a bit of an indulgence, to talk of another inflow from foreign sources which is also very important to our country, and that is the inflow of human capital. In September the Armenian community in Australia celebrated a very significant anniversary—it is 25 years since the Eurasian nation state secured its independence from the Soviet Union. Over that period Armenia's development has been rapid and impressive. Already it is punching above its weight. Modern Armenia is enjoying great success despite its difficult history. The Armenian genocide and seven decades of Soviet rule would be enough to break the spirit of any culture or community, but Armenians are resilient and tough. They are also smart, sophisticated and enterprising. They hold a deep commitment to the wellbeing of their fellow man. Today I pay tribute to them and celebrate their anniversary with them. I honour all Australians of Armenian descent. The contributions of Australian Armenians to our country have been significant. I think of our own Joe Hockey—not of my political party but a significant achiever and contributor. I think of Greg Soghomonian, chair of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, who has been recognised for his leadership in diaspora communities. To mark the 25th anniversary Mr Soghomonian was awarded the Medal of Gratitude by the President of the republic at an awards ceremony in Yerevan, Armenia's capital. I have been a keen student of Armenia and its past. I have come to the conclusion our community of nation spends too much time playing word games, arguing about whether what the Armenian people suffered in 1915 was or was not genocide. Rather, we should collectively spend more time recognising that between 1915 and 1923 hundreds of thousands of Armenians had their lives cut short for no other reason than their ethnicity. The best and most effective way to heal those wounds—the wounds still carried today by Armenians and others—is to recognise and acknowledge both the events of the past and the motivations behind them. Only then will the global community collectively be able to offer the Armenians sufficient empathy and only then will the international community be able to genuinely claim an unqualified determination to identify and eradicate genocide in every corner of the globe.

The world is a better place for the emergence of a young Armenian nation with such a rich history and culture. Today I celebrate their anniversary with them and congratulate them—including all those living here in Australia who are making such a great contribution. I thank the House for its indulgence.