Speech: Dairy Industry, Economy, Donations to Political Parties, Aged Care

This is my first adjournment speech in the 45th Parliament. Deputy President, I congratulate you on your appointment.  It is great to see that girl power riding right along—good on you. I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to the elders both past and present. I also acknowledge the great sacrifice that the men and women of our defence forces have willingly given to this country so that we can meet safely here today.  I thank the people of Tasmania for their advice, trust and votes and for gifting me the great honour of representing them, once again, in this great Senate. It is a responsibility that I cherish and take very seriously. The decisions I make and the votes I take in this great chamber of debate will be governed by this one principle: I will always put Tasmania and its people first. In the short time remaining for this speech, I will briefly touch on some of the issues that urgently demand the government's attention.

Everyone in the Australian dairy industry—the big supermarkets, the big milk processors—are making huge profits and massive amounts of money.  Everyone, that is, except our Australian dairy farmers, who are going broke. Australia's largest milk processor, Murray Goulburn, has just reported a 61 per cent increase in an after-tax profit totalling more than $40 million while retrospectively slashing milk prices for farmers and leaving them with huge debts. And this government thinks that a referral to the ACCC will deliver justice and a fair go to our dairy farmers and rural communities? The government knows that an ACCC referral is just a sly, clever way of covering up wrongdoings. The ACCC referral continues this government's role as apologists for big business. This shameful cover up and this injustice for our dairy farmers and their families must not be allowed to continue. The dairy crisis must be referred to a Senate committee immediately, where big business executives, under oath, will have to explain their actions to all of Australia. In the meantime, if Australia's future milk security—not to mention the jobs and prosperity of many rural and regional communities in Tasmania—is to be protected then an immediate 50c per litre milk levy, returned directly to our dairy farmers, must be supported by all members of this parliament.

We have been warned by the Treasurer that our children will know what a recession feels like and that Australia's AAA rating is in jeopardy because of a growing, unaddressed debt crisis. The government's solution is to cut spending on Australia's poor, aged, sick, veterans and unemployed—what's new? I simply ask this: why don't we just make the super rich and big business pay their fair share of tax in this country? My tax plan, which has been independently assessed, will target the top one per cent of Australia's richest and increase tax revenue by $94 billion over a decade. It will mean taxing some of the government's and opposition's biggest political donors and may stop many members of this parliament being awarded plum jobs with big business after politics. My tax plan is guaranteed to stop our children from knowing what a recession is, while keeping Australia a nation where our poor, our aged, our sick, our veterans and our unemployed receive a fair bloody go.

The news headlines read that Australian businesses with close ties to China donated $5.5 million to political parties. Finally, the truth is being uncovered about the dangerous influence people linked to the Chinese communist government have over major Australian political parties and their policies. No longer will politicians be able to hide behind shrill shouts of 'xenophobia' when we criticise Australian asset sales to Chinese state-owned companies. The Liberal, National and Labor parties must immediately disclose to the Australian people how much political funding is linked to the Chinese government or any other foreign powers.

A growing aged-care crisis must not be made worse by allowing this government to cut $1.2 billion from our national aged-care budget. Of these cuts, $40 million are proposed for Tasmania alone. If these cuts are allowed to continue it will result in the loss of 750 Tasmanian jobs in aged care, and elderly patients, who should be looked after in aged-care facilities, will be transferred to state public hospital beds. This is nothing more than a shameful cut by the federal government, cost shifting onto a Tasmanian public health system which is already under serious financial stress.