I rise to contribute on the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Amendment Bill 2015. I note that this is non-controversial legislation which both sides of this parliament agree to. The government have stated in their brief:
The Bill is part of a reform agenda for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) to place AIATSIS on a sustainable footing for the future.
The reform agenda comprises three parts.
The first tranche secured short-term funding of $3.3 million in the 2014-15 Budget and $5 million in the 2015-16 Budget to assist AIATSIS in addressing immediate risks to the preservation of their national collection of Indigenous cultural materials.
The government brief continues:
On 28 July 2015, as part of the second tranche, Cabinet agreed to amendments to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Act 1989 (the Act) in order to: retain AIATSIS as a Commonwealth corporate entity; reform the appointment process for the AIATSIS Council; and refocus the functions of AIATSIS to ensure a better targeting of resources and direction of maximum efforts to the AIATSIS national collection.
The third tranche of the agenda will explore options to place AIATSIS on a sustainable footing for the future and will be considered as part of the 2016-17 Budget process.
It is to the principle of appointments of people to an Indigenous body—the AIATSIS Council, mentioned in the second tranche of the reform process—that I wish to direct my comments today. The bill's explanatory memorandum also addresses this principle of representation of Indigenous people on Indigenous organisations funded by governments. The bill's explanatory notes state:
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 1989 (AIATSIS Act) to enable changes to the AIATSIS Council appointment process to ensure that an Indigenous majority is maintained, while allowing for a broad skills-based Council in keeping with contemporary governance.
The Premier of Tasmania recently made an Australia Day address which reset his party's relationship with Indigenous Tasmanians. It has fundamental implications for the principle of maintaining Indigenous majorities on elected Indigenous organisations and bodies funded by the Commonwealth and state governments. I have written a reply to the Tasmanian Premier's speech which I will read to the Senate today:
I write with regard to your Australia Day Speech 2016 where you talked about your Government's commitment to: "reset our relationship with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community."
Before I bring to your attention media comments linked to you, I want to congratulate you on this Australia Day Speech on Tasmanian Indigenous eligibility and recognition.
Your argument to "reset" the Tasmanian State Government's relationship with our Indigenous citizens was magnificent in describing the injustices faced by tens of thousands of Indigenous Tasmanians, however your plan to remedy these wrongs by applying a political policy "reset"- is nothing more than a continuation of a clever political cover-up of serious crimes and official misconduct.
The new facts and disclosures revealed in your Australia Day speech, are proof that a situation was engineered over time by politicians and others - where tens of thousands of Indigenous Tasmanians were deliberately disadvantaged - by having access to hundreds of millions of dollars in health and social services denied to them by the Government of Tasmania.
Your research into this rort will have also revealed that it was not only the physical necessities of life that successive State Governments denied to 2 out of every 3 Indigenous Tasmanian — but Labor/Green and Liberal Governments also wrongly fully and criminally denied to roughly 20,000 Indigenous Tasmanians - cultural identity and democratic rights - including the right to vote and stand for election to Indigenous councils.
Premier, you will have been made aware - through the state based Tasmanian Electoral Commission - how Indigenous Tasmanians, who were tested and found by Federal Tribunals in 2002 "to be of Aboriginal Race" — were denied by your laws, the ability to enroll on the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania Electors' Roll and vote or stand for elected office.
As Premier, you will have been told that those people felt as if State Governments of Tasmania had stolen and denied those people their racial identity — and no-one cared.
One Indigenous man who approached me for help and who provided documented evidence that on the 18th of October 2002, a Federal Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia had found him "to be a person of Aboriginal Race of Australia" — was denied his right to vote in Indigenous council elections — by State electoral laws which are clearly in conflict with Commonwealth laws and the Federal Anti-Discrimination Act.
How do you deliver justice to this person who had his right to vote and racial identity stolen by a State Government? Are you going to amend those State laws?
So Premier, perhaps now you can understand why I was stunned when I read the following media comments in response to my call for a forensic audit of all Federal and State funds allocated to Indigenous Affairs:
"The state government was critical of Ms Lambie's statements. "If Senator Lambie has any evidence of misappropriated funds then she should contact police," a state government spokesperson said."
Firstly, it is an absurdity for you to acknowledge (as you now publically have) that nearly 20,000 Indigenous Tasmanians have been officially denied their cultural identity, resources, approximately $500M in Federal funds - and access to social and health services for decades - and for you to dismiss my call for an independent judicial investigation - into what can only be called a calculated and deliberate State sanctioned race crime. What you've essentially acknowledged in your Australia Day address is that for more than a decade—both Labor/Green and Liberal Tasmanian governments have been party to the theft or misappropriation of Federal funds tallying almost $500M, official discrimination and denial of basic human rights—for 2 in every 3 Indigenous Tasmanians.
Secondly, given your Government spokesperson's media comment, it will obviously come as a surprise to you, that I did contact the Police about 16 months ago regarding this crime relating to Tasmanian Indigenous eligibility and recognition.
You can read about my actions in a speech I delivered to Federal parliament in September 2014 … Indeed you seem to have copied parts of my speech to Parliament and added them to your Australia Day speech.
You'll note in my Speech to Parliament I said:
"According to Parliamentary Library study, there are more than 19,000 Tasmanians who claim Aboriginal ancestry who live in Tasmania.
However, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) and associated Mansell family members and friends —w ho are effectively in charge of the official state re cognition of Indigenous people—o nly acknowledge approximately 3000 Tasmanians who claim official Indigenous recognition. This fact alone should ring alarm bells."
Which is very close to the words and point you made in your Australia Day Speech where you said:
"In homes across Tasmania there are families who identify as Tasmanian Aboriginals, yet these statistics tell us that potentially only one in three members are actually recognised as such by this state
It is an issue that even statisticians can't agree. The last census in 2011 found there were 19,625 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Tasmania. The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics from 2014 reported 25,845 Indigenous people in Tasmania. Yet, under the current Tasmanian Government policy, it's estimated that there are just 6,000 Indigenous Tasmanians. Something is very wrong here."
You'll have to agree that while you used slightly different words and updated statistics (which your government had refused to release to Parliamentary researchers when requested 16 months ago) — after I made my Senate Speech—you plagiarized my policy and essentially repeated my warnings about Tasmanian Indigenous eligibility laws.
And now for obvious political reasons you've conveniently failed to acknowledge that fact.
Once again I turn to your magnificent Australia Day speech.
It graphically detailed evidence of a half billion-dollar crime, which most likely contributed to a widening of the mortality gap, the premature deaths of—and harm to many Indigenous Tasmanians.
You've cut to the heart of the criminality and resulting dysfunction in Tasmanian Indigenous Affairs management where you state in your speech—and it's worth repeating this extraordinary admission:
Our existing policy is a long way from aligning with the Commonwealth's process meaning Tasmanians can be recognised as an Aboriginal in a national context, but not in their own home state of Tasmania.
In homes across Tasmania there are families who identify as Tasmanian Aboriginals, yet these statistics tell us that potentially only one in three members are actually recognised as such by this state
It is an issue that even statisticians can't agree. The last census in 2011 found there were 19,625 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in Tasmania. The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics from 2014 reported 25,845 Indigenous people in Tasmania. Yet, under the current Tasmanian Government policy, it's estimated that there are just 6,000 indigenous Tasmanians. Something is very wrong here.
So the question is "if something is very wrong": What are you going to do about the misuse or misappropriation of what you concede is almost half a billion in Federal funds which were supposed to be spent on and shared with over 20,000 Indigenous Tasmanian people—not a select 6000?
Your suggested remedy of a "reset" and "realigning" of policy is a grossly inadequate response to gross injustices—which have been forced on two thirds of Tasmania's Indigenous people for at least a decade.
If the Indigenous whistleblower's accounts provided to me are to be trusted—your government and previous Labor/Green government allowed the management of hundreds of Billions of public funds—by bullies, stand over merchants, liars, thieves and people who brazenly associate with organized criminals—not to mention some of the world's worst terrorists!
An independent judicial inquiry with the powers to protect whistleblowers, summon witnesses and root out entrenched corruption, is the only way that victims will be heard, justice will be served—and the guilty are discovered and punished.
Should an independent inquiry ever be established into this scandalous state sanctioned crime and cover-up—the first witness will be you, Premier.
All you'd have to do is confirm that your Australia Day speech is truthful—to be guilty of turning a blind eye for many years to serious crimes which at the very least—adversely affected the health of tens of thousands of Tasmanian Indigenous people.
So I understand why you will never support my call for an independent judicial—and will use every means, including personal attacks—to distract from this crime and cover-up.
In closing, should a miracle ever happen and a Royal Commission were ever established into this sad, disgusting official abuse of Indigenous Tasmanians, I'll gladly be the second witness. I'd love an opportunity to put my hand on the Bible and tell the truth to an independent unbiased authority—that can't be influenced by political parties.
I'll present to them the speech and accompanying documents I delivered to the Senate more than 16 months ago—where I not only referred allegations by Indigenous whistleblowers of serious criminal behavior involving organized criminals in Tasmania—to the Senate, Prime Minister and Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs—but also to the Australian Federal Police.
What have the AFP done with the evidence and allegations I took to them?
I naturally assumed that the ensuing law enforcement crack down on Tasmanian organized crime groups—outlaw bikers who were also alleged to have influence over the management of public Indigenous funds—was in part—a result of my strong advocacy for the Indigenous whistleblowers who contacted my office 16 months ago. I've requested an immediate brief from the AFP on the actions they and other Law enforcement agencies took when I provided them information on alleged serious criminal activities in September 2014.
I will share that information with you as soon as I receive it. I would be very surprised if the information I provided to the AFP has not been acted on—or shared with your government.
Premier you stated in your speech:
'Our existing policy is a long way from aligning with the Commonwealth's process meaning Tasmanians can be recognised as an Aboriginal in a national context, but not in their own home state of Tasmania.'
This statement is only half a truth. You know as well as I do that it's not just 'policy' that doesn't align with Commonwealth's process and denies Aboriginal recognition for tens of thousands of indigenous Tasmanians.
You know that it is our state laws which do not align with Commonwealth laws that has caused this crisis in Indigenous management over decades. Indeed, our state laws directly contradict Commonwealth laws and breach others like the Federal Discrimination Act.
Using words like 'reset' and 're-align' when describing the mess and crisis we are in—is a deliberate attempt by you to minimize the size of the crime and harm—
which your government, Premier, the Liberals and the Greens have known about for years—
By using political weasel words like 'reset' and 're-align' you continue the cover up of these crimes which have clearly been carried out in the management of Tasmania's Indigenous funds and resources.
1. What happened to hundred's of millions in Federal Government resources and funds over the years—which were allocated for the 20,000 plus Indigenous Tasmanians—was it only spent on 6000?
2. Were those funds unfairly, unjustly, or illegally allocated only to 6000 Indigenous Tasmanians instead of 20,000?
3. Which politicians and public servants were responsible for allowing hundreds of millions to be misappropriated and illegally used?
4. Who designed, supported and voted for the state laws, which in direct contravention of Commonwealth Laws—excluded two thirds of Tasmanian Indigenous people from hundreds of billions of Federal and State social and health resources?
They are just some of the questions it appears you don't want asked and answered by a Royal Commission.
I don't have anything to hide from an independent inquiry into the management of Tasmanian Indigenous affairs—for the sake of the tens of thousands of victims seeking justice and accountability for half a billion dollars of taxpayers funds—I only wish that you and the Liberal party were of the same view.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a third time.
I rise to contribute to today's matter of public importance, whose subject is the Turnbull government's lack of courage on matters of importance to everyday Australians.
I have to agree that up to today the Turnbull government has displayed a lack of courage to many issues of importance to everyday Australians, but I make this point: it can change. I have just had a meeting with the PM and I have taken to him some very important issues, including the plight of SAS soldier Evan Donaldson and former Army officer Marcus Saltmarsh. I thank him for the time he gave to me today. Talking to him is always pleasant. He is a very good listener and talker, but it is actions that I judge him by.
With reference to the harm and damage that have been clearly done to Evan Donaldson and Marcus Saltmarsh, the PM has agreed to support genuine mediation processes for those gentlemen. I can only hope that that happens extremely quickly. That would be the best and easiest way of ensuring they are compensated for the incredible harm they have suffered for 7 years and 16 years, respectively.
I also spoke to the PM about the $650 million of Medicare cuts. He did not promise to lift them but he did promise to speak with Tasmanian medical scientist Richard Hanlon who warned about the $30 pap smears Australian women are faced with if the Liberals' cuts to Medicare go ahead. I hope the PM shows common sense and courage and abandons the cruel Liberal cuts to women's cancer checks and Medicare bulk-billing.
Other areas where this government can show some courage is to stop their freeze on federal assistance grants, grants the rural and regional local governments of Australia are heavily reliant on. These assistance grants are central to a council's budget and are intended to help build and maintain roads. Why did the coalition freeze these grants? As if rural Australians were not struggling enough, now their rates have increased. With rates at an all-time high, families will be incapable of achieving the Australian dream and own their own home.
That leads me to the Tasmanian municipality of King Island, an island that relies heavily on exporting its produce. Within 12 months their only shipping service will be taken out of the game, and neither the federal or state Liberal governments will contribute the necessary $60 million to upgrade the deepwater port at Grassy to ensure King Island. Without this upgrade, King Island will not be able to continue to export its world renowned products. Every person on King Island is crying out for help, but the Turnbull government and the Hodgman government have ignored their desperate pleas.
Now let us talk about Tasmania's public health system. My state is in the grip of an extreme health crisis, but the state Liberal government has no feasible plan to nurse the system back to health. In fact, the state Liberal government plans on reducing the number of hospital beds and medical staff instead of providing a much needed increase. The hospitals are operating at more than 100 per cent capacity, and Tasmania already lags behind the national average on bed numbers. Tasmania needs a further 150 beds to service its population. Only last week, The Mercury reported that a 95-year-old woman was left vomiting for hours on the floor of the Royal Hobart Hospital because there were no available beds. This woman had nothing but a blanket to lie on. It is not the fault of the healthcare workers. Tasmania's hospital staff are wonderful, highly skilled people. They simply do not have the resources. To make matters worse, Tasmanians are already waiting four times longer for elective surgery than any other Australian and are dying between one and two years earlier, on average, than their mainland counterparts. The only way to save the Tasmanian health system is to start by opening another 150 beds and, in the long term, place a third, fully serviced, hospital on the north-west coast. In the meantime, I ask the Minister for Health, Susan Ley, to stop making the health crisis in Tasmania worse by introducing $650 million worth of cuts to bulk-billing incentives on cancer and diabetes checks, which will mean people will not seek help until it is too late, which can only mean hospitals will be inundated with cases that could have been prevented. (Time expired)
In this last adjournment speech before Christmas I wish a very Merry Christmas to all the parliamentary staff who make working in this place a pleasure and safe. To the Hansard reporters, Senate workers, security personnel, cooks, cafe workers, Comcar drivers and coordinators and in particular the cleaners, who I support in their industrial actions, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. I also extend my Christmas greetings and best wishes to fellow senators and their staff.
I have received warnings from members of Tasmanian local governments about the significant reduction in services to their rate payers brought about by the reduction in federal assistance grants. The correspondence I received in part reads:
Federal Assistance Grants to Local Government have been frozen for period of three years, placing financial pressure on Councils and their rate payers in regards to having to either reduce services and or increase rates to cover.
Local Government has lost millions due to this freezing.
I commissioned Parliamentary Library research on the issue to verify the facts on the freezing of federal funds to local government. The report says:
The first series of grants to local government bodies occurred for the 1974-75 year and were provided for by the Local Government Grants Act 1974. In 1991-92, the Commonwealth began to provide additional amounts to the local government bodies with respect to local roads. Grants to local government are now provided for by the Government (Financial Assistance) Act 1995.The freeze to the indexation of FAGs was announced by the current government in the 2014-15 budget.
The government will achieve savings of $925.2 million over four years by pausing indexation of the local government Financial Assistance Grants program for three years commencing 1 July 2014. The savings from this measure will be redirected by the government to repair the budget and fund policy priorities.
How much money has been lost to local government? The Parliamentary Library supplied me with a chart which details the amount of money per year lost to each state by the freezing of FAGS federal assistance grants. I will attach the chart to my social media and website for all to see. However, I will detail tonight Tasmania's losses. In total, over the four-year forward estimates Tasmania will lose over $18 million in federal assistance grants—$1.9 million for 2014-15, $3.9 million for 2015-16, $5.9 million for 2016-17, and $6.1 million for 2017-18.
These figures are a disgrace for the Liberal members of this parliament from Tasmania. Indeed, they are a disgrace for all the Liberal and National members of this parliament from every Australian state. You are in government. You should have the influence and courage to change this rotting leftover policy from Tony Abbott's horror budget of 2014-15. It must be changed—or else all National and Liberal members of this parliament will be directly responsible for the rate rises forced on local government by the Turnbull-Morrison reduction in local government assistance grants. I invite Tasmanian rate payers to send copies of their rate rises to their local federal Liberal members of parliament and demand an explanation and also a refund. This matter is once again another example of the Tasmanian Liberals not standing up for their state and putting a political party before the people they represent.
In summary, the Parliamentary Library research shows that over the forward estimates almost $1 billion has been lost to all Australian local government authorities. This is at a time when the government, over the forward estimates, will borrow $16 billion in order to give it away in poorly targeted and managed foreign aid. I call on this Turnbull-Morrison government to unfreeze the federal assistance grants to our local governments.
In today's Australian Financial Review there is an article which reinforces and reaffirms why the government should support the JLN policy of establishing an enhanced pensioner loans scheme based on a reverse mortgage principle. The article in part reads:
The Productivity Commission will recommend that retirees should tap into their family home to fund their retirement.
This is thought to be worth $1 trillion.
Retirees would enjoy a higher standard of living and save billions in the budget.
The Commission found 40 per cent of single pensioners and 33 per cent of couples live on less than the yearly amount the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia says is needed for a modest lifestyle.
The Commission found by tapping into the family home, they would live above the standard of living and still have money left over for the next generation.
The Federal government is likely to use this report to gradually change the living and spending habits of older Australians to reduce their reliance on state subsidies, free up housing and make the retirement system more financially viable.
Scott Morrison is considering allowing the elderly to sell their homes and switch to smaller properties without reducing their pension.
At the moment only 2 per cent of older Australians unlock equity in their home to fund their retirement.
The Commission found older Australians were afraid of running out of money and were misinformed about the cost of residential care, which is why there is a lot of precautionary saving and people refusing to tap into their family home as a source of income.
Quite clearly, the Productivity Commission, when they recommend that retirees should tap into their family home to fund their retirement, were referring to a policy very similar to the pensioner loan scheme that myself and other crossbenchers again call on the government to establish. The government should be bringing in the pensioner loans scheme before it starts taking entitlements away from families just before Christmas. Whoever thought of introducing legislation to parliament which guaranteed a reduction in family payments just before Christmas obviously had never heard of Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge. If our new Liberal Treasurer does not want to develop, or enhance, a reputation as a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas, then you would think he would withdraw his legislation, which is not a budget saving but simply a theft of entitlements from hardworking, struggling Australian families. This week my office received correspondence from ACOSS in Tasmania which supports my argument that our Treasurer needs to change his ways and stop the cuts to welfare, or else—if Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol is anything to go by—Treasurer Morrison runs the risk of being visited by a number of ghosts in the near future. The message from ACOSS, in part, reads:
You would no doubt be aware that the Government has announced further minor changes to its family payments reforms, including protecting grandparents and single parents over 60 years from any cuts to Part B.
ACOSS believes that the changes announced this week will do nothing to ameliorate the harshness of the changes for the majority of low income families.
Our analysis suggests that less than 4% of those receiving FTB B are over 60 years, and about half of those are single parents so it is a very small cohort.
We urge Senator Lambie to vote against the legislation.
I have attached our submission and supplementary evidence to the Community Affairs Inquiry into the family payments bill.
Analysis of the changes to family payments proposed in the current Bill shows that, when all of the changes have come into effect in 2018:
â�¢ A sole parent with one child over 13 years will lose roughly $2500 per year and a sole parent with two children will lose roughly $3000 per year ($48 per week and $58 per week respectively);
â�¢ A low income, single income couple family with one child over 13 will lose $3500 and with two children will lose $4000 per year ($67 per week and $77 per week respectively);
â�¢ For those families with children under 13 not affected by the Part B eligibility age changes, most will be worse off compared to their current position due to the loss of supplements.
The Part A supplement is $730 per year per child and will be offset by the Part A increase of $262 per annum (a loss of $468).
The Part B supplement is $354 per family. Therefore a dual income family with one primary school aged child will be $468 a week or $9 a week worse off.
A single income family with a child under 13 years will be $822 a year worse off, or $16 a week.
I will not be supporting any cuts to family payments. You will recall that I put out a press release last week describing my plan to reform the Pensions Loans Scheme, the PLS, which read:
New costings from the Parliamentary Budget Office show the government could help retirees boost their own incomes at nearly no cost to the budget by making the Pension Loans Scheme (PLS) available to all who wish to use it.
In May 2015, Senators Xenophon, Lazarus, Lambie and Muir called for the PLS to be expanded and made available to all who wish to use it, as proposed in a report from The Australia Institute last year.
Costings requested by Senator Lambie and released today show expanding the PLS could help retirees unlock more than $2.8 billion to boost their retirement incomes at a cost to the budget of only $23 million over the estimates period.
With the new costing, the crossbench Senators have today renewed their call to expand the PLS.
What is the PLS? The PLS is a long-running but little known government scheme allowing retirees to unlock their home equity on a voluntary basis and draw a fortnightly income through loans secured against their house.
The PLS interest rates are set below market rates, making them an attractive way for retirees to unlock home equity while they live in their home. The loan balance is settled once the house is sold.
Currently only those who are not eligible for the pension can access the PLS. In addition, maximum fortnightly payments are capped at the full aged pension rate.
What do the costings show? Because PLS payments are loans secured against property, they can be offered at little cost to the government, and yet also at below market rates The costings include two scenarios. In Option one, the maximum payment rate is increased to triple the Age Pension rate, allowing payments on average at 'what is required for a comfortable retirement'.
Option One would give all pension recipients access to the Pension Loans Scheme in addition to their pension. In 'Option Two' eligibility is opened to all retirees.
While the PBO costing notes it is very difficult to estimate uptake of the voluntary scheme under the changes, its costings, show that whatever the uptake, it could be done at low cost.
Higher uptake is likely to reduce administrative overheads further.
In addition to the many benefits the Pension Loans Scheme would bring to our elderly Australians, a boost to our economy for additional grey power spending would be significant and it certainly cannot be dismissed. Last week I started my name and shame campaign against the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and the bureaucrats who work in this dysfunctional and dangerous department. I continue my campaign by bringing to the attention of the Senate the plight of a former member of the Australian Defence Force, Danielle Khan, who because of proven Department of Veterans' Affairs incompetence and maladministration now has a $16,000 legal bill which the minister, Stuart Robert, refuses to acknowledge or even address in my letter. Danielle writes in one of her letters to me:
My name is Danielle Khan and my solicitor Jim Paterson whom you have dealt with previously has given me your details to get my story out in the public arena.
I have been dealing with dva and their maladministration for the last 16 years, since injuring my back while serving.
I and Mr Patterson put in for a review of my disability which should normally take 6-8 weeks. We are now going on 2 years and going to a third aat meeting, due to dvas incompetence and in legal speak "denial of autonomy of delegates decisions". Put simply they admitted making a mistake so are now trying to change decisions made by their delegate 10years ago. As you could probably imagine the stress this has caused to both myself and my family. My husband is still serving and is my full time carer, also full time carer to our 2 special needs children. To the point my brother has been living with us full time for the last year to help out.
Not only the stress of the above matter this time last year dva sent me a letter citing I owed in the region of S182,000. This I did not owe and after me Patterson looked into this dva admitted the letter should never have been sent due to their maladministration.
I have spent time in hospital dealing with this. As I also lost my daughter's father to suicide in 2002 after army incompetence after his return from East Timor. After there blatant disregard for me and Mistakes to the extreme, I almost left my daughter a Double orphan in 2005 after a suicide attempt leaving me in a coma.
So after receiving this letter cleverly ignoring the fact all correspondence had to go through my legal team, I thought my only option was to take my own life as I cannot go on after 16 years of their blatant disregard and poor administration So after yet another hospitalisation and a year to finally sort the mess out on their end and withdraw the request for owed funds admitting maladministration. But when I was left with a $11,000 legal bill to fight this horrendous mistake of theirs, I was told by a dva staff member they were not allowed to tell me how to go about claiming this from them and also admitted that I should not have this bill to pay.
At this I have spent weeks trying to track down how to have dva pay this bill, as I don't have the money. Also contacting minister for veterans affairs office, whom will not return my calls.
I have no idea where to turn but to the media to expose dvas incompetence. I know many others have received similar letters trying to claw back funds mostly for amounts up to $30,000 and are shocked to hear of the $182,000 they requested from me.
I am asking you please to take this story and make this horrendous life of mine dealing with dva public so we can show what government and dva are doing to people like me …
For anything further you can please contact me …
Obviously the number is there, but I will not read that out. Danielle goes on:
I would really appreciate you help with blowing this whistle as loud as possible for myself and all other veterans who are no longer able to fight. As I full well know of the 6 veterans I spent time with in new farm hospital with in 2005, I am the only one still alive. All where clients of Mr. Patterson and all ended their lives for the same reason "dva utter incompetence".
So please I am not doing this just for me. Please help me do this for them, my daughter's father and many more out there that no longer have a voice. Also the ones still breathing to fight and hope they will not get to the brink of the abyss for which dva are happy to wipe their hands of.
I truely believe that dva and government have blood on their hands pushing these people to the edge and this needs to come out.
Thank you, I anxiously await your reply as I really don't know how much more I can take.
I raised this issue during estimates on 21 October this year, and I have written to this Liberal government's DVA minister and asked that the Department of Veterans' Affairs fix this problem by paying for their mistake. But the new veterans' affairs minister, Stuart Robert, who served in Bougainville as an Unarmed Peacekeeper, prefers to put another black mark against his Prime Minister, and to discredit his political party, by ignoring this very serious complaint from Danielle Khan.
Out of desperation, Danielle has given me permission to make her name public in order to try and force this government to deliver her some justice. I should not have to do this. Former members of the ADF and veterans should not have to go through the added trauma of making their story public. But they will. The list I have of veterans who are willing to join my list—to name and shame the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the defence officials and the medical practitioners out there that are doing the wrong thing—is growing enormously. And I can assure you that this is just the tip of the iceberg, because of some of the stories that we will start hearing from February next year are absolutely shameful.
I will take every opportunity I have to speak in the adjournment debate in the last 20 minutes of the night, and I will spend 10 minutes naming and shaming the delegates and the practitioners out there who are killing our veterans. And I will not stop shaming this government until justice is delivered for Australian veterans; until those politicians, Australian defence officers, and DVA workers, who are responsible for the harm and deaths of our veterans, are brought to justice. I will say this: it is now Christmas time coming up, and this girl has a $16,000 bill over her head which is not her fault. It is a simple procedure: give her the $16,000 so she can pay out her lawyer. This is maladministration because of veterans' affairs. I have begged the veterans' affairs minister to fix this up. For goodness sake, before we lose another life—please. Please ask your Minister for Veterans' Affairs to fix it. Enough!
I rise to contribute to the debate on the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Allegiance to Australia) Bill 2015. There are two questions that come out of this government legislation. First, should Australians who betray us by supporting our enemies be stripped of their citizenship, and should they hold a second citizenship? Absolutely. Second, should a politician and not a court make the decision to strip treasonous individuals of Australian citizenship? Absolutely not.
The Vice-Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, Greg Craven, put the argument best when he wrote on 4 June this year:
By conferring a profoundly judicial power on a minister, it mocks the separation of powers. It would be swatted down like a bug by the High Court.
As a new senator, I know that the last thing you would knowingly do as a legislator is to pass laws that are in breach of our Constitution and that would likely be ruled against by the High Court. It would mean that all the effort and time spent presenting and passing this legislation would be wasted. So, before I make a decision to support or oppose this bill, I would like the Attorney-General to give an assurance in his summation to this Senate that he will resign from the nation's first law officer's position should this bill pass and should it subsequently be successfully challenged in the High Court.
If the Attorney-General can give that guarantee, then I will know that he has got some political skin in the passage of this legislation and that it has not been presented as another political stunt to give the appearance that the government is doing something. I believe that this government can do more legislatively to take the fight to our Islamic State enemies but has instead taken the easier path of fiddling with our citizenship laws instead of going straight to the heart of the matter at a time when we find ourselves under attack from within and without and charging Australian citizens who help our enemy in any way whatsoever. If we were debating laws which strengthened our existing sedition and treason laws designed for these very circumstances, I would feel a hell of a lot more comfortable.
My position on the way our federal authorities have managed suspected Australian terrorists and terrorist sympathisers is clear. If a government has enough evidence to confiscate passports and stop people from travelling to the Middle East to fight with ISIS, then we have enough evidence to charge them with sedition or treason. Quite clearly, those Australian citizens not only have a formal allegiance to a foreign power—as spoken about in section 44(i) of our Constitution—but also have a formal allegiance to a hostile foreign power which has obviously declared war on us. And the government still have not given me or this Senate a proper answer as to why they refuse to charge suspected terrorists, their Australian sympathisers and accomplices with sedition and treason. One sedition or treason trial in our courts would do more for de-radicalisation than any control order or any government handout to the Islamic community.
One sedition or treason trial in our courts would also educate our citizens about the fact that being an Australian citizen means that you cannot have divided loyalties—and certainly not with hostile foreign powers. On Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin, on the Menzies Walk, set in stone, is Australia's oath of allegiance, which is sworn by new citizens. It reads:
As an Australian citizen, I affirm my loyalty to Australia and its people, whose democratic beliefs I share, whose rights and liberties I respect, and whose laws I uphold and obey.
To some people they are some of the most sweetest-tasting words they have ever spoken; to some they are just words—once said, they will be quickly forgotten; and to others, they have been forced out and taste like poison, because they stand for the opposite of that person's values. These are the Islamic State supporters who hate our democratic values, who are disgusted by our civil rights and freedoms and will do everything they can to subvert, disobey and overthrow or laws and replace them with their sharia law.
Support for sharia law shows a clear sign of extreme radicalization; shows a split or divided loyalty to Australia and a clear sign of allegiance to hostile foreign powers; and attacks democratic principles found in Australia's Constitution and therefore is a clear sign of seditious or treasonous behaviour worthy of investigation and possible charges. It is an indisputable fact, backed up by many daily, gruesome and brutal examples, that states, countries and communities which support and enforce sharia law allow the death penalty by beheading or stoning to be imposed from a religious court on those found guilty of being homosexual, adulterous or choose to become atheists; allow their governments to torture, mutilate and remove the limbs of those, including children, found guilty by a religious court of property offences, including theft; allow their governments to strip women of the basic civil rights of freedom of thought, religion, assembly and equality before the law; allow their governments to discriminate against women by making it illegal for them to attend sporting fixtures, drive, drink alcohol, smoke, have sex before marriage, appear in public without a male chaperone, and seek an education; allow their government to encourage, tolerate or turn a blind eye to female genital mutilation and forced marriages; and allow their government to encourage, sanction, tolerate or turn a blind eye to the reintroduction of human trafficking and slavery.
Surely many Islamic people can peacefully practise their religion without supporting and advocating for sharia, or the terrorists' law. I call on all Australian Islamic leaders and leaders of other religions to condemn those who do support sharia law. If they do not condemn sharia law then, at the very least, they should not be allowed to preach hate on Fridays to impressionable young minds. I also call on the Federal Police and the federal Attorney to use longstanding, existing laws and charge with treason or sedition those citizens who support in any way whatsoever the imposition of sharia, the terrorists’ law, in Australia.
One of the problems that immigrants, particularly people from the Middle East, have is that they have no respect for or understanding of our democratic beliefs. To a degree that is understandable, because in the Middle East there really are not many functioning democracies which show a respect for Australian human rights, liberties and the rule of law. Apart from Israel, which shines a light in a very dark and dangerous neighbourhood, the majority of the Middle East is ruled by corrupt governments which, putting it nicely, are antidemocratic.
In these days where everyone is scared of political correctness, people are afraid of being seen to be discriminating against anybody. But it is okay to discriminate against people with respect to their attitude towards democracy. Like most fair-minded Australians, I do not care what colour you are, what ethnicity or race you are or whether you are a man, woman or transgender: you deserve to live a life free of discrimination. However, if you think that you can come to Australia and undermine Australia's laws, democratic values and human rights under the guise of cultural practices, then I am going to discriminate against you. It is okay to discriminate in favour of democracy and Western human rights and liberties, because we love them. That is why so many Australians died fighting in world conflicts—because of their love for their family, their friends, their mates, their country and our democratic way of life. At various points in world history, violent bastards who controlled large militaries and who hated democracy, civil rights and Western freedoms have tried to impose their sick culture upon us by force of arms. It was then up to the people who proudly discriminate in favour of democracy to take up arms and defend the innocent and our way of life.
I will now turn to the existing powers that the immigration minister has to revoke Australian citizenship. A Parliamentary Library research brief on this legislation states:
A June 2015 report by the Australian National Audit Office states that Australian citizenship has been revoked in only 16 cases over the 66 years in which Australia has offered citizenship. The provision under which a person’s citizenship ceases due to service in a foreign armed force has reportedly never been used.
The proposed amendments in the Bill represent what has been described by the Director of the Centre for International and Public Law, Professor Kim Rubenstein, as ‘a major change to the current Citizenship Act, in that the current Act only has extremely limited ways in which a person can lose their citizenship’.
It is appropriate in this debate that we remind ourselves of the powers that the minister has to revoke citizenship. The Parliamentary Library research brief on this legislation states:
Under the Citizenship Act as it currently stands, there are four main ways a person’s Australian citizenship may cease. Specifically, where:
a person explicitly renounces their citizenship in an application approved by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (the Minister)
the Minister revokes the person’s citizenship on the basis of a conviction for an offence relating to fraud in the course of obtaining Australian citizenship, or for conviction for certain offences after applying for, but before being granted, Australian citizenship
the Minister revokes the person’s citizenship for failure to fulfil residence conditions associated with becoming an Australian citizen or
the person is a national or citizen of another country and serves in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia; this is a ‘self-executing’ provision, that is, it applies automatically at the time the person’s service commences.
The first and last of these apply to Australian citizens by birth; the Ministerial revocation provisions do not. If a person ceases to hold Australian citizenship for any of the reasons outlined above, the Minister may revoke the Australian citizenship of any dependent children provided certain conditions are met, including that the child would not be rendered stateless.
You can lose your citizenship in three new ways. According to the government's explanatory notes:
The person ceases to be an Australian citizen if the person fights for, or is in the service of, a declared terrorist organisation. A declared terrorist organisation is any terrorist organisation as defined by the Criminal Code and declared by the Minister to apply.
According to Australia's national security website, currently 20 organisations are listed as terrorist organisations under the Criminal Code. The 17th on that list is the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK. The PKK was listed on 17 December 2005 and re-listed 28 September 2007, 8 September 2009, 18 August 2012 and 11 August 2015. The PKK is one of the most effective ground fighting forces against ISIS. They are heroic in their war against the Islamic State brutes.
In my view, after meeting with the Kurdish community delegation at Parliament House, they are strongly supported by the Kurdish community of Australia. Estimates records confirm that Australia's military along with American military supports the PKK with supplies and humanitarian aid and, most likely, arms in order to help their fight against Islamic terrorists. Apart from the obvious question of how is it possible and legal for Australia's military to resupply and help a supposed official terrorist organisation, the next question in the context of this legislation is: can an Australian citizen who is part of our Kurdish community and who has dual citizenship, be stripped of their Australian citizenship after this bill passes this Senate?
As this bill reads, it is a threat to the citizenship of members of Australia's Kurdish community. A minister, not an impartial judicial process, can strip members of our Kurdish communities of their Australian citizenship. This takes me back to an expert legal opinion I read at the start of my speech by the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, Greg Craven, who said:
By conferring a profoundly judicial power on a minister, it mocks the separation of powers. It would be swatted down like a bug by the High Court.
This legislation is a farce. It will be proven to be a farce and a waste of taxpayers' money and time in the High Court of Australia when it eventually happens.
It will not do anything to better protect Australians from the threat that Islamic State terrorists and their supporters who live amongst us, and who are supported by our welfare system, pose to us. We are in a war where our opponents are not limited by any rule of humanity. They do not care how they kill us—the more gruesome the better; certainly for social media effects. Islamic terrorists will use every weapon including nerve gas, poisons, chemicals, bacteria and radiation—whatever it takes—to kill us.
We are in war to an extinction of one side. It is kill or be killed. It is time to get real and to get tough in our fight against Islamic State. Islamic State wants to impose sharia law on the world. We must treat support for sharia law, the terrorist law, by an Australian as a sign of Islamic radicalisation. Support by people living in Australia for the terrorist law should be treated as clear evidence of treason and seditious activity, and those people should be charged with sedition or treason. If Australians are found guilty of sedition or treason, they should face between seven years and life in jail. Islamic preachers in Australia who advocate for sharia law in Australia must be immediately banned and once again charged with sedition and treason.
Terrorists who kill in their attacks on Australian soil and who then survive and are brought before a court, should be subjected to a death penalty if an Australian jury decides that is the best way of delivering justice. Imagine if Man Haron Monis had survived the Sydney Lindt cafe attack. Should an Australian jury have had the option of sentencing the traitor and murderer to death? Absolutely, and I think you will find the majority of Australians would support that.
Australia must double the size of our military. If every full-time member of our Defence Force was put in the MCG we would barely fill half of it—shame! We have 57,000 full-time troops—get real. We can boost the size of the military by introducing a voluntary national service and trade training scheme for our young people. Why would young people volunteer for national service? If our young people are not going to earn, learn or serve and be trained in our military then they should not receive any welfare payments. That is why we do not have to make national service compulsory—how about that. There would be a strong financial incentive for young Australians to get a job, continue their studies or join our military and serve and learn. This would change Australian culture for the better and strengthen our nation for the hard road which is in front of us.
In closing, last week I expressed my solidarity and sympathies with France after those terrible attacks by Islamic supporters of sharia law. This week I would also like to acknowledge the role that the state of Israel plays in the global fight against Islamic radicalisation. The Jewish people have shown grace, compassion, common sense and bravery under extreme attacks by people who want to wipe them from the face of the earth. It is only now after Islamic state declared war on us that we are slowly coming to the realisation that our enemy is merciless and will not stop until we are dead or we are converted to their way of life.
The Jewish people have known this truth for many years and have made preparations to properly protect their grandchildren from this madness and terror which comes from the Middle East. Australia can learn a lot from the Jewish people. Indeed, some of Australia's greatest citizen leaders and protectors of freedom have been Jewish. When the Liberals are prepared to stop pussy footing around with half-linked terrorism legislation, and are prepared to tackle terrorism head on, please wake me up and then you may get my support. I absolutely oppose this bill.
I rise to speak on the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. To an outsider, Australian shipping laws can be very complex and daunting. However, this government legislation boils down to one simple question: do the Australian people want an Australian shipping industry? If the answer is yes then this legislation must be strongly rejected, because, if this Liberal National Party legislation passes this Senate, the Australian shipping industry will be killed and thousands of direct and indirect Australian jobs will be destroyed in the process. I will not stand by and allow this government to betray the Australian people and future generations in such a reckless and treasonous manner.
The government's official summary of the act reads:
Amends: the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 to: rename the Act as the Coastal Shipping Act 2015; replace the existing three tiered licensing system with a single permit system, available to Australian and foreign vessels, which will provide access to the Australian coast for a period of 12 months; and establish a framework of entitlements for seafarers on foreign vessels engaging or intending to engage in coastal shipping for more than 183 days; the Shipping Registration Act 1981 to allow vessels to be registered on the Australian International Shipping Register when they engage in international shipping for 90 days or more; and four Acts to make consequential amendments. Also repeals the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2012.
This legislation effectively takes away any protection that Australian shipowners and maritime workers had against unfair, heavily subsidised, monopolised competition from cheap overseas vessels and cheap overseas maritime workers.
This legislation means that members of the Liberal and National parties are prepared to sacrifice Australian maritime jobs and national shipping security on the altar of free market economics when the opposite of a free market exists in shipping. However, there are many countries around the world who are prepared to acknowledge reality and protect their nation's merchant marine, maritime workers' jobs and skills, because they know history shows that their nations become less safe in times of world conflict.
If we place ourselves at the mercy of foreign shipping and seafarers in times of world conflict, what happens to our supply chain security? What happens to the security, safety and reliability of (1) fuel and oil, (2) containerised goods, (3) dry bulk stores such as coal and iron ore and, of course, passenger cruise liners once we lose the maritime skills, personnel and ships to act in Australia's national interest at all times?
If you listen to those irresponsible Nationals and Liberal Party members of this place, we should vote for their legislation and adopt their 'she'll be right' attitude in response to the multiple
threats to world peace and Australia's national security and interests. Are those threats real? Let me briefly remind the Senate of a few facts that some opposite are trying to bury.
For the first time in history, we have armed guards with machine guns patrolling the perimeter of Parliament House after religious psychopaths declared war on us because we do not want to accept their religion and law and prefer to live in a secular, free, democratic society. Today, most Australians—as a matter of fact, three out of four people—believe we will suffer a Paris-style terrorist attack.
The Chinese government, when it is not scaring the hell out of its near neighbours with over the top military parades, is implicitly threatening to kill our sailors as they support our allies in freedom-of-navigation exercises in international waters. The US President and security advisers have warned our Prime Minister and senior Defence officials about the dangers of selling vital civil
infrastructure like our ports to the Chinese companies which, of course, are closely linked to the Chinese military, who are threatening to kill our sailors while they act peacefully and within international laws. A sitting royal commissioner, Commissioner Heydon, has told us that he discovered a grave threat— (Time expired)
Continued Thursday, November 26:
Yesterday Senator Abetz made an extraordinary contribution to this debate. He essentially tried to coerce me into voting for this legislation by using political standover tactics. As when Senator Abetz, Mr Whiteley and his Liberal mates tried to use mistruths and political blackmail with their unfair university deregulation, they have again been caught out using the same political tactics with their flawed shipping legislation.
Senator Abetz offered a promise of 40 extra jobs at the Burnie port through a proposed development. But he failed to mention that, with the Liberal shipping legislation, he is prepared to sacrifice 580 maritime jobs from his own state and, according to the maritime industry association, to place in jeopardy 31,000 Australian jobs and a $9 billion industry. I agree with the argument that Australian shipping must be reformed.
The Burnie port proposal from DP World can still go ahead, but with changes that will not kill off our shipping industry. That is why I have been working very hard for the last six to eight months in meeting with maritime unions, Australian ship owners, captains of the Tasmanian industry and shippers—so that a consensus shipping reform package can be put before the parliament. The consensus shipping reform package will reduce shipping costs, promote efficiencies, open up domestic markets and enhance international markets while protecting Australian jobs and our national interest.
Senator Abetz is the senator who has single-handedly strangled Tasmania's economy for decades. This is the man who stood by and allowed an RET tax system to be imposed on our heavy industry, despite the fact they used almost 100 per cent renewable hydro energy. For nearly two decades, Senator Abetz's RET tax has cost our biggest employers almost $30 million a year in addition to their normal taxes—and now he has the gall to use his cheap, grubby, standover threat on me! I am glad that Senator Abetz has been preselected at No. 1 on the Liberals' Senate ticket, because with the Jacqui Lambie Network Senate candidates the people of Tasmania will have an opportunity to express their opinion of the party and the politician who tried to kill off our heavy
industry and has now been caught out trying to kill off Tasmania's, indeed Australia's, maritime industry.
They will be given an opportunity to vote for senators who will always put their state first—before any political party that is receiving funding from big corporate mates. I can assure you that, unlike the Liberal Party, I will not be taking political funding from people closely associated with the Chinese government. A sitting royal commissioner, Commissioner Heydon, has told us that he discovered a grave threat to the power and authority of the Australian state during his investigations. He will not share that threat with the 'naughty' Senate because, apparently, we cannot be trusted with state secrets; but Commissioner Heydon will share that information with state premiers.
Despite all those real threats to Australian sovereignty, security and national interests, politicians like Nationals Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, present to the Senate this treasonous document with a grin, a bit of straw on one side of the mouth and a chuckle like Goofy coming from the other side, saying, 'She'll be right, mate!' If this legislation passes then she will not be all right, mate—especially for Tasmanians. We will be hit hard with maritime job losses if the Liberals' and Nationals' plan to change our shipping laws succeed.
After a meeting with union representatives on 5 November and having consulted more broadly within the maritime industry over many months, I have discovered that 148 seafarer and stevedore jobs at Toll, 96 at SeaRoad and 436 jobs at TT-Line are being placed at risk by the Liberal shipping plans that the member for Braddon, Brett Whiteley, and other government representatives are trying to push through the Senate. A total of 580 direct Tasmanian maritime workers' jobs will be threatened by Mr Whiteley's plans for our nation's shipping industry, and the majority of those workers—400—will be from Mr Whiteley's own electorate. I wish him the best of luck in the next election.
I have not even begun to calculate the flow-on effect should our maritime workers lose their jobs to foreigners. In Tasmania alone, thousands of direct and indirect jobs will be lost if the Liberals have their way. Official proof this legislation does not protect our maritime workers is buried on page 156 of the government's own explanatory notes, where it clearly states what will happen if the Senate passes this legislation:
Many of the operators currently operating under the Australian General Register would likely re-flag their vessels in order to compete with the foreign operators who enjoy the benefit of comparatively lower wage rates.
Australian seafarer jobs would be adversely affected as Australian operators re-flag from the Australian General Register.
Ship are likely to replace Australian seafarers (paid under EA rates) with foreign seafarers (paid under ITF rates).
That is why I urge my fellow crossbench senators to vote down this legislation on the second reading vote. This legislation is beyond saving with amendments. It does not deserve to be allowed through to the committee stage. It is worthwhile to note what the overall state of shipping is like in the world at the moment, and what the big players and countries are doing. Examination of the big world picture will show again just how negligent and irresponsible our government is with its management and protection of our maritime and shipping industries.
I will quote from a very interesting article examining different forms of world shipping in a recent Economist magazine article on 31 October. The article, under the title 'The big-box game', opens by stating:
Since the financial crisis, the tide of recovery has not lifted all boats equally. Demand for oil tankers has boomed: a combination of weak spot prices, driven by the assumption that supply and demand for crude will eventually rebalance, has encouraged traders to hire tankers to store oil at sea and cash in on the price gap.
Meanwhile, bulk carriers - which carry such things as iron and coal, has been hit by massive over capacity, as Chinese demand for such commodities has collapsed.
Until the start of this year, container shipping business - which carriers around 60% by value of all seaborne trade in goods - looked more like that for oil tankers.
And the article continues:
But since, the industry has been rattled by renewed weakness in freight rates, prompted by a fall in the volume of seaborne trade.
The cost of sending a container from Shanghai to Europe for instance has almost halved since March, according to the Chinese city's shipping exchange.
And the absence of the usual pre-Christmas pick-up is worrying both analysis and investors, according to Rhul Kapor of Drewry.
The article goes on to paint a picture where the big players in world shipping, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, are investing hundreds of billions in building new and bigger container ships, which will depress freight rates and profitability even further in a corrupt world shipping market which is falling. They have described this business strategy of building bigger and bigger ships as a 'flight to scale'. The predicted winners from the flight to scale will be the world's largest three lines: Maersk, Mediterranean Shipping Company and CMA CGM.
The losers in this highly competitive economic environment will be maritime workers and future generations in counties whose governments fail to protect their national shipping industry and national job security. China knows the importance of a state owned and controlled shipping industry. The shipping article in the Economist from 31 October illustrates that point, stating :
China's two biggest lines China Shipping Group and Cosco, were losing money before the current downturn started. They have recently swung back into profit, but only thanks to generous state aid to help them scrap old vessels.
The government regards it as vital to have a merchant fleet, so it will not let the two go to the wall. But it plans to merge them to save money, and to stamp out corruption at Cosco which, according to internal documents leaked this week, is another reason for its poor performance.
As you begin to study the world shipping market, it becomes apparent very quickly that it is not as the Liberal and National parties would have you believe: a free market governed by fair and free market forces. The world shipping market is highly subsidised, regulated, protected, monopolized and, in some cases, as we have heard, corrupted. America realises that fact and has strongly regulated with the Jones Act to protect their ship building industry and the jobs of maritime workers. And China realises that fact and uses her fat wallet to protect the Communist Party's interests and to cover-up the massive corruption and inefficiencies caused by the Communist Party bureaucrats.
But Australia refuses to acknowledge the world shipping game is rigged and wants to play by the rules, when quite clearly there are no rules. It is like a lawn bowler accidently hopping in the ring with a cage fighter. Australia is an island nation. Tasmania, my home state, is an island state in an island nation. If we destroy the maritime skills of our merchant marine and destroy our shipping capacity, and this legislation will surely do that, then we undermine and attack Australia's national security.
Why would any politician in their right mind degrade our ability to provide our families, business and industry with fuel and keep vital trade links open, especially in times of war and conflict, which we are now experiencing? Unfortunately, at this time in world history, we do not have to look far to see serious threats to Australia's national sovereignty. Firstly, we are at war with Islamic State and preparing for their next slaughter of innocents, in God's name.
Secondly, China has threatened the lives of Australian and American sailors participating in freedom of navigation exercises in international waters. Thirdly, according to Royal Commissioner Hayden in a secret interim report, he has discovered 'a grave threat to the power and authority of the Australian state'. This is not a time when we should pass laws which weaken Australia's national security; indeed, the opposite should occur.
The Australian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers, AIMPE, the registered organisation which represents qualified marine engineer officers throughout Australia says this about the government's legislation:
Firstly, AIMPE submits that the 2012 legislation, the Coastal Trading (Revitalising Australian Shipping) Act 2012 has failed in its objective to revitalise Australian shipping. The 2012 package has not revitalised Australian flag shipping. Australian flag shipping has continued to decline since 2012.
Secondly, the impact of the proposed Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 would be adverse for the few remaining Australian companies engaged in the shipping sector and adverse for the employment opportunities for Australian Marine Engineer Officers, Deck Officers and other Australian seafarers.
The most significant consequence of the enactment of the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 would be to remove any priority for Australian flag ship operators over foreign flag ship operators.
Thirdly, because foreign shipping operators are effectively free from the payment of corporate income tax and because foreign seafarers are very often exempt from the payment of income tax, allowing foreign shipping to participate in the coastal shipping sector would place Australian shipping operators at an enormous disadvantage.
Australian shipping companies pay Australian company tax and employ Australian seafarers who pay Australian personal income tax.
Fourthly, the measures in the Bill which appear to favour the retention of a token presence of Australian Deck and Engineer Officers would be easily avoided by ship operators.
Fifthly, less frequent reporting requirements would reduce the transparency of the sector and provide Parliament with diminished insight into an industry which is generally 'out of sight, out of mind'.
For these reasons AIMPE urges Senators on the Committee to recommend that the Bill be rejected and that new legislation be drafted to require all commercial vessels consistently operating in Australian waters to be registered in Australia and comply with all Australian laws.
The Maritime Union's opposition to the Shipping Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 is strong and detailed. In correspondence to me, the MUA states in relation to Schedule 1:
The MUA's principal concern with the proposed amendments to the CT Act contained in the SLA Bill is that they are specifically designed to eliminate any role for Australian ships in the Australian coastal trade.
The Bill removes support for Australian shipping as an Object, and it removes the right of an Australian ship to contest for coastal cargoes. It eliminates fair competition which the CT Act was designed to achieve.
The MUA submission and critique is comprehensive and measured, and I will not have time to speak to all its listed concerns. However, this is an important point: a major omission from the bill is that it does not seek to amend the Tax Laws Amendment (Shipping Reform) Act 2012—which amends the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997—to address a major flaw in the 2012 tax laws amendment act that has meant the Australian shipping tax laws remain inferior to foreign registries like Singapore, which has been the major reason why no ships are registered on the AISR and so few shipowners have taken advantage of the tax incentives. A solution for that problem has been put forward. It says: Two reforms are required, introduction of deemed franking credits in respect of dividends to resident shareholders—(Time expired). Debate interrupted.
I rise firstly to express my sincere condolences to the people of France and to the innocent victims of the latest Islamic terrorist attacks. France has a special place in the story of the fight for democracy, liberty and freedom, and Australia has a special relationship with France and the French values of democracy, liberty and freedom. Forty-five of Australia's 100 Victoria Cross winners were awarded our nation's ultimate symbol of bravery while fighting in France during World War I against a totalitarian regime.
Many media have asked me if I stand by my comments about the Grand Mufti of Australia—and I stand by them 100 per cent. He has failed to unconditionally condemn the ISIS terrorists, their actions and their law — sharia law — and until he does that, he is not to be trusted. I am sick of Australia's Islamic leaders making excuses, playing the victim and having two bob each way between the terrorists and the home side every time there is another terrorist atrocity.
In the wake of the Paris slaughter, now is the time for all Islamic leaders to state their unequivocal opposition to sharia—or to the terrorists' law—and to pledge allegiance to Australia's democratic Constitution and laws. Support for sharia law is a clear sign of Islamic radicalisation. I am very angry and disappointed with the Grand Mufti's behaviour. I have written to him in the past about sharia law, and he has refused to reply. He has run from my questions. He is a coward.
I would also like to deal with the statement that many have made: that Islam is the religion of peace. This is a factually incorrect statement. To prove my argument, I will not use a religious book, but a book by respected British academic John Keegan. Sir John Desmond Patrick Keegan OBE FRSL was a British military historian, lecturer, writer and journalist. He wrote 25 military history books including A History of Warfare, which was described by the UK Sunday Telegraph as 'magnificent'. The book also won the Duff Cooper prize. In other words, it is an impeccable historical source. On page 33, where John Keegan writes about the differences between Christianity and Islam, he says:
Muhammad, unlike Christ, was a man of violence; he bore arms, was wounded in battle and preached holy war, jihad, against those who defied the will of God, as revealed to him.
In this factual statement he can clearly find the challenge that modern Islam faces. The founder of their religion was a great warrior who was wounded in battle and, if other historical texts are to be believed, killed many people in the course of converting people to his religion. He was not like the founders of our world's two other great religions, Christ and Buddha, who lived their lives always as pacifists, not as warriors.
All Islamic leaders must do a better job of explaining to their young men and women why they must become pacifists and not kill in the cause of converting people and other cultures to their religion. I am not trying to make the case that atrocities, war and great slaughter have not been committed in the name of Christianity; I am saying that Christ himself would never have ordered the crusades, the slaughter or the killing of any human, because he lived his life as a pacifist and turned to the other cheek in response to any insult or attack, and he forgave.
People who said they acted in Christ's name and then ordered and committed slaughter, wars and killings quite clearly ignored the life example set by Christ and perverted his teachings. The founder of Christianity, just like the founder of Buddhism, set an impossible standard for all to follow. Their life examples sometimes keep the inner psychopath of their followers in check. The life examples of Christ and Buddha certainly mean on judgement day that the bar has been set high and entry to heaven is not automatic even if you have killed in the name of God. The great challenge for Islamic preachers and politicians who insist on saying the Islamic religion is a religion of peace is to reconcile their statements with undisputed historical fact.
I would like to correct the record. A Murdoch reporter again misrepresented my position on troop deployments in Iraq. I do not support sending troops to Iraq. In fact, I believe that our Australian troops should return from Iraq. With only 3,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, we have no hope of winning any war against ISIS. America and the rest of the world would have to put at least 100,000-plus troops on the ground to stop the advancement of Islamic State and have air and sea support.
If, as Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings suggests, the role of Australian troops is upgraded from advise and assist to advise, assist and accompany, it is a recipe for bloody disaster. Therefore, the Jacqui Lambie Network supports the return to Australia of ADF personnel currently deployed in Iraq. This will save Australia approximately $4-plus billion over the forward estimates.
Another reason we should not be sending our Australian Defence Force members overseas is because successive Australian governments have betrayed our veterans and have not been prepared to properly look after them when they return home injured. The Department of Veterans' Affairs is a brutal, ignorant, arrogant and dysfunctional government department whose behaviour and decision making needs to be scrutinised by a royal commission.
We have no choice. Our veterans deserve a chance to put their hands on the bible, tell the truth and tell how public servants, doctors and lawyers working for the DVA have ruined their lives and, in some cases, contributed to their suicides. The Australian public will be shocked when they learn of the scale of the deliberate cover-up of mistakes, misconduct and abuse of office by employees, managers and other professionals associated with the Department of Veterans' Affairs. The Australian public will be sickened when they hear about the Vietnam veteran who was compelled to set himself on fire after a DVA stuff-up. They will demand justice for the digger who shot himself in a Department of Veterans' Affairs office.
I am fed up with this government's persistent refusals to establish a royal commission into the dysfunction of the Department of Veterans' Affairs and Defence abuse, so I am now going to use parliamentary privilege and I am going to name names of those associated with the Department of Veterans' Affairs who are accused of failing to do their jobs and properly look after our sick veterans. I will do continue to name and shame those who are abusing their office and failing our injured veterans from now on and well into the future.
As part of my name-and-shame campaign, I bring to the Senate the story of veteran Jordan Woodruff, who served nine months in Afghanistan and has been denied a SRDP classification, which is the equivalent of a total and permanent injury classification, or TPI, by the Department of Veterans' Affairs. He was denied the best medical care Australia can offer by being denied a gold card by the Department of Veterans' Affairs. He was denied by the Army recognition of an in-field promotion.
He was denied a four-year service medal because he was discharged at three years and eight months because of his injuries. He was most likely denied by the Army a bravery award. Jordan is most likely the victim of an abuse of office by the Department of Veterans' Affairs employee ..., and wrongfully denied his rightful entitlements because ..., according to notes from a recorded telephone conversation by Jordan's advocate, will contest any assessment from Jordan's psychiatrist, Dr Michael Likely, a leading medical practitioner in Townsville.
It seems that the Department of Veterans' Affairs employee ..., for no good, apparent reason, makes a habit of contesting assessments by Dr Michael Likely. The Department of Veterans' Affairs worker ... is also adversely mentioned in correspondence from the Peacekeeper and Peacemaker Veterans Association, where he is described as:
Probably the most disliked and complained about delegate in the state, his attitude and manner are aggressive and dismissive.
He has stated that he will reject any claim by veterans who have Dr Mike Likely as a treating psychiatrist. This is unacceptable as Dr Likely is a well-respected veterans' psychiatrist in Townsville and it is not the delegate's place to suggest that a claim's outcome is influenced by who the treating specialist is. Here is what Dr Likely says about Jordan and what the DVA employee ... does not like and uses his authority to contest: 12 March 2015 Mr Woodruff is my patient. I am treating him for PTSD.
He contracted this condition as a result of his service in Afghanistan in 2009.
Mr Woodruff continues to exhibit a full-blown syndromal declaration of PTSD despite intensive treatment.
It is my unequivocal opinion that by virtue of his PTSD alone, that Mr Woodruff should be considered to be totally and permanently incapacitated from undertaking any form of remunerative employment.
I am deeply concerned if the decision not to grant him an SRDP is not expedited, there will be a profound and severe and potentially life-threatening decompensation in his condition.
North Ward Clinic
I am sure you agree that Jordan has been to hell and back after hearing his story. These are the words he has written to me:
My name is Jordan Woodruff. I am a 26-year-old Ex-Serviceman and Returned Veteran. I have by my side, Kimberly who is my wife and defacto partner.
I enlisted into the Army March 2007. After Approx one year of training in the RAR — Royal Australian Regiment — I was deployed with Bravo Company (7RAR) … on Operation Slipper in Afghanistan. In September 2008, for 9 months ending in July 2009. We operated in platoon strength groups, which consisted of 3 Sections and a platoon command group.
My section—12 Charlie was made up of ten soldiers. One driver, one crew commander, one corporal and one section 2IC and ten privates, including myself as the section medic. In the nine months my section had endured 5 firefights, 3 suicide bombers and also had been involved in direct and indirect IED's on numerous occasions.
I was also forced to shoot dead a suspected suicide bomber which was later confirmed.
During one particular firefight with the enemy, which involved close quarter fighting, several members of our section including our section 2IC became unfit for duties, which were stress, related. During this firefight I was field promoted by my CO commanding officer — and RSM — regimental sergeant major — who informed me that this was the first field promotion since Vietnam. I was only 19 years of age at the time.
Because of my age, this has haunted me to this day, but very proud as to what I was able to achieve in helping and assisting my mates in the field under very trying conditions whilst under fire and returning fire, with great accuracy.
In our whole deployment, our company had seen 36 firefights, 20 Australians injured with a total of 6 Australian Soldiers KIA — killed in action.
On returning to Australia, I completed my Subject Two for Corporal, and was ready to take over as our section 2IC, and from my reporting history I was reported on very well. However; from the time I finished this course, my adjustment problems and my psychological health quickly deteriorated, and so I spiraled out of control.
In the months prior to my discharge, with my adjustment problems, I experienced flash backs, sleep deprivation and major anxiety. This lead me to almost decapitating my Defacto partner having very physically moving dreams in which I also attempted to strangle my partner — because of his PTSD.
I also began to use alcohol and binge drink with also self-medicating with substance abuse. (marijuana)
I openly approached my CSM about my problems, which began a process to be treated for a range of psychological issues.
After not being able to resolve these issues I was advised by my CSM and OC — officer in command — that I was now a liability and had no choice but to be discharged from the Army and Being separated from my family (Mates).
Even though I was treated for PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder and Adjustment Disorder, I was discharged from the Army (Admin) and not medically as not being psychologically suited to remain in the ADF.
I firmly believe that I should have been medically discharged for my psychological conditions. I feel really let down by my parent unit (7RAR) by not looking after me properly!
I eventually moved to Townsville, my home town to where I thought I could get help from family and friends.
As I have always had good work ethics, I started my own business as a roller door technician.
This was a reasonably successful venture, but due to my anger management issues, my business was suffering from stress related reasons.
On the 30th August 2014 I experienced a psychotic event after having a heated argument with Kimberly, I was locked out of the house. To get my car keys out of the house, I punched a plate glass window, almost severing my right arm.
If not for my neighbors, I certainly came close to dying from loss of blood. I was rushed to Hospital, were a micro surgeon was flown from Melbourne to Townsville to try and save my arm.
I suffered severe nerve and tendon damage to my right arm and now have lost the use of this arm.
As of the 1st Jan 2015, I closed my business due to my psychiatric conditions and the loss of use of my right arm (writing hand)
My treating psychiatrist believes that this injury is a direct result of my now accepted conditions for PTSD, Major Depressive Disorder, Injury's received from munitions detonations (RPG & Grenade) and Alcohol Misuse Disorder, which are War related conditions.
I have recently been advised by my Advocate that although my accepted conditions, DVA have accepted liability, but under my recent permanent impairment assessment has been rejected by my DVA — Department of Veterans' Affairs — Case Manager and Delegate, ... The Delegate has rejected my treating psychiatrist, Dr Mike Likely recent PI Assessment as me as not being stable?
Dr Likely had resubmitted another Medical Report which was subsequently not used, even though Dr Likely states, "that because of PTSD alone, renders me totally and permanently incapacitated and will not be able to undertake any form of remunerative employment for up to 10 hours per week"
My Advocate (Chris Dawson) also goes on to say that from a record of conversation with Mr Williams, "we will contend any diagnosis or medical report from Dr Likely" by us (DVA).
Does this person think he is medical trained GP or Psychiatrist? By from what Dr Likely stated that with intensive psycho treatment, we should see some improvement for a better life. Thus Mr. William's thinks that I am not stable for any of my mental conditions.
Dr Likely is a well-respected veterans' psychiatrist in Townsville and it is not the delegates place to suggest that a claims outcome is influenced, despite by who the treating specialist is.
My incapacity payments cease in 3 weeks' time, which means I have very little to live on with no prospects of ever being able to work again.
I am very proud to have served my country and what I was able to achieve. All I wanted in the beginning was to have my field promotion recognized, as this haunts me to this day.
What do you see as a solution to this issue?
As I feel very let down by Defence and my parent unit (7RAR) as I was field promoted in a very hostile and close quarter battle as a 19year old soldier, I feel very strongly that this type of promotion being the first since Vietnam, surely there are provisions by Defence to have my service and promotion recognized.
My Advocate who has intimate knowledge of my defence history and from incident reports, he believes that we should go one step further and approach defence for not only to have my field promotion recognized, but to also have a medallic bravery award be investigated and awarded.
Although my Advocate has commenced a DVA investigation and an Official Complaint into the actions of the DVA delegate in dealing with my claim, Senator We feel that with your assistance along with Rod Thompson, we can finally get a decision from DVA that is fair and reasonable.
So I will tell you: I am calling on this government to treat fairly and with respect veterans like Jordan. I am going to be honest this evening: I have another over 4½ years up here, and I have 400 of these so far sitting on my desk in Tasmania. I have warned you about this for the last 18 months. This is the first delegate's name, and I have a great many of them sitting on my desk. I am going to start naming and shaming. I have spoken to the PM about this. He is ignoring my pleas. I have asked and I have begged for an automatic gold card to be given to our diggers — still no response.
These men and women have served their country. They deserve respect, and we have to give something back in return. So I am letting you know on behalf of them that they have had enough. I have had enough. It is going downhill from here on with you people over there unless you are prepared to change. I am coming, and I am coming at full bore, I can assure you right now, and I will not stop. I will not stop until these veteran suicides stop. You are going to assist me with that because you owe these men and women. Enough is enough.
Today is Remembrance Day, and I would like to pay tribute to all Australians who have served and sacrificed to ensure that we live in a beautiful and free democratic country. In relation to Tasmanian war casualties, Parliamentary Library research shows that 27 Tasmanians were killed in the South African Boer War. In World War I, 2,432 Tasmanians were killed. In World War II, over 1,100 Tasmanians were killed. In the Korean War, 22 Tasmanians were killed. In the Indonesian Confrontation, two Tasmanians were killed. In the Vietnam War, 17 Tasmanians lost their lives. According to biographies provided on the Department of Defence website, of the Australian Defence Forces' 41 casualties who died in the war in Afghanistan, two personnel are identified as having been born in Tasmania—Corporal Richard Atkinson and, of course, Corporal Cameron Baird VC MG, from my home town of Burnie.
As well as reflecting on the casualties of our states and nation, this is a day when we reflect on the sacrifice made worldwide by all who believe democracy, basic human rights, freedoms and liberties are values worth dying for. I am reminded that going into World War I there were only seven free democratic countries in the world—England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, America and Italy—who were prepared to shed blood in a worldwide fight against absolute sin. Then, again, in World War II there were only six democratic countries who were prepared to take on the dark forces of totalitarianism in a life-and-death battle. You will recall Italy had turned fascist between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II. Today, Freedom House says that in 2014, out of 195 countries in the world, 88 countries, or 45 per cent, were free; 59 countries, or 30 per cent, were partially free; and 48 countries, or 25 per cent, were not free.
It is at this point that I am reminded of the brutal lesson that each generation must learn—and pray it is learned from books, films, the internet or stories of the old warriors—that freedom is not free. History proves that freedom is a delicate flower that demands nourishment from a terrible fertiliser made from the blood and bones of those patriots who love basic democratic human rights and liberties so much that they are prepared to give their own lives in the protection of those values and political systems.
Today I will table a private member's bill which I am convinced will help reduce the suicide, self-harm and homelessness rates of the people that we paid tribute to: servicemen and servicewomen of Australia's armed forces. I ask all senators to seriously consider my private member's bill, which simply expands the range of service personnel who officially qualify free of charge for the health Gold card, which is the best medical treatment that Australia can provide.
An undeniable and unprecedented veterans' suicide and homelessness crisis grips Australia today. This crisis was created because of poor management of Australia's military resources and Defence personnel by successive governments. These governments compounded their error by attempting to cover up the true nature and scale of our veterans' suicide and homelessness crisis. The Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 that I will table in the Senate today will properly address our nation's shameful veterans' suicide and homelessness crisis. By guaranteeing with this legislation automatic free access to the best possible medical treatment in Australia for the men and women of our ADF and Federal Police who have served their country in war or war-like operations, this parliament will stop the harmful—and all too often deadly—bureaucratic fight our veterans are forced to undertake so that they can obtain a health Gold card.
As described in this legislation's explanatory notes, the purpose of the Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 is to amend the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 so that all veterans, including peacekeepers and peacemakers or former members of the Australian Defence Force, who have served in war or war-like operations and for related purposes are provided with medical and psychological treatment free of charge as a right of service. They will be provided with the best medical treatment Australia has to offer—that is, health Gold card benefits. At present, there are three categories of repatriation, depending on service and medical needs: (1) the Orange card, which is for pharmaceutical benefits only; (2) the White card, which is for specific conditions; and (3) the Gold card, which is for all clinical health needs.
While repatriation efforts have improved in recent decades, there are still many people who have served Australia whose medical and psychological needs are not addressed, as witnessed by high rates of self-harm and homelessness. The Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 is an important first step in ensuring a more effective transition between national service and civilian life. The Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 broadens the terms of reference of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to ensure everyone who served in war or war-like operations receives vital, necessary and timely medical and psychological treatment, whether or not the condition or injury was caused by war or was contracted during war or war-like operations.
This legislation is a direct result of events that transpired at a meeting of veterans that was organised by Dr Raymond Huntley at Burpengary, Queensland, on Wednesday, 21 May 2014. At the gathering of veterans—consisting of former ADF members, mainly from the Army, who had served in Vietnam and younger veterans who had recently served in Middle East conflicts—Dr Huntley asked all the health Gold card holders to stand. About a dozen people stood. Dr Huntley then asked those who had obtained their Gold card in two years or less to sit. Two veterans sat. Though this process of gradually increasing the number of years it took to obtain a Gold card, questioning and then asking veterans to sit, it became very clear very quickly that most veterans had to wait about five years before they received a health Gold card. Two veterans had to wait over 10 years to access the medical benefits that the coverage of a health Gold card gives.
After Dr Huntley had finished that exercise—which in reality was for my benefit and that of two other Liberal politicians at the time—a former digger who had served in the Middle East spoke to the group. He had a tragic story, like many others. He said a number of his comrades that he had served with in war in the Middle East had taken their own lives. He said that one of the main reasons that had pushed his veteran friends to that terrible decision to kill themselves was the psychological harm that occurred to his mates while they fought the government to obtain a Gold card. The Middle East veteran said that many of his friends would have preferred to fight the Taliban rather than fight the bureaucrats that decided whether our diggers received the best possible medical care that Australia can provide to her wounded warriors.
Then from the floor of the meeting this younger veteran suggested that many lives could be saved if the Australian government automatically gave a health Gold card to all veterans who had served in war or war-like conditions. From that moment, my office has worked hard to present this legislation to the parliament in the unshakable belief that it will lessen the risk of further harm and will help stop our veterans from taking their own lives.
Just over a year ago this government, under the cover of the media generated by the Melbourne Cup, tried to get away with an announcement which effectively meant, taking into account inflation and the CPI, that all members of our Defence Force were to suffer a pay cut. I am happy to say that the Prime Minister responsible for that sneaky, low act has paid the price for his betrayal of members of our Australian Defence Force. Tony Abbott is no longer leader of Australia, and I am convinced that one of the reasons he is no longer in that privileged position is the disgusting, appalling and hypocritical manner in which he treated members of our Australian Defence Force. He was a politician who, by his own behaviour when it came to Defence pay, was shown to live off the Anzac legend and not up to it. I hope Prime Minister Turnbull learns the lessons and grants our ADF the fair pay rise of an extra one per cent that your predecessor so heartlessly denied the men and women of our Australian armed services.
In relation to the Tasmanian Victoria Cross recipients: as identified in the Parliamentary Library research paper 'Index of Victoria Cross recipients by electorate', there are 15 out of the 100 Victoria Cross recipients with a connection to Tasmania. These connections include being born in Tasmania, residing in Tasmania upon enlistment, and having Tasmania as the place of death or burial.
To all those men and women who have served and are currently serving our country, I sincerely thank you.
An unprecedented veterans' suicide and homelessness crisis grips Australia today.
This crisis was created because of poor management of Australia's military resources and defence personnel - by successive governments.
These governments compounded their error by attempting to cover up the true nature and scale of our veterans' suicide and homelessness crisis.
The Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 I present to the Senate today will properly address our nation's shameful veterans' suicide and homelessness crisis.
By guaranteeing with this legislation, automatic free access to the best possible medical treatment in Australia, for the men and women of our ADF and Federal Police, who have served their country in war or war-like operations this Parliament will stop the harmful and all too often - deadly, bureaucratic fight our veterans are forced to undertake so they can obtain a health Gold Card.
As described in this Legislation's Explanatory Memorandum:
1. The purpose of the Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 is to amend the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 (Cth) so that all veterans, including peacekeepers and peacemakers or former members of Australia's Defence Force, who have served in war or war-like operations, (and for related purposes) are provided medical and psychological treatment free-of-charge - as a right of service - the best medical treatment Australia has to offer i.e. Health Gold Card benefits.
2. At present, there are three categories of repatriation, depending on service and medical needs:
1. Orange Card (pharmaceutical only);
2. White Card (specific conditions); and a
3. Gold Card (all clinical health needs).
3. While repatriation efforts have improved in recent decades, as witnessed by high rates of self-harm and homelessness - there are still many people who have served Australia whose medical and psychological needs are not addressed.
4. The Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 is an important first step in ensuring a more effective transition between national service and civilian life.
5. The Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 broadens the terms of reference of the Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986 to ensure everyone who served in war or war-like operations receive vital, necessary and timely medical and psychological treatment - whether or not the condition or injury was caused by war or contracted during war or war-like operations.
This legislation is a direct result of events that transpired at a meeting of veterans that was organised Dr Raymond Huntley at Burpengary, Queensland on Wednesday the 21st of May 2014.
At the gathering of veterans - consisting of former ADF members mainly from the Army, who had served in Vietnam and younger veterans who had recently served in Middle East conflicts - Dr Huntley asked all the Health Gold Card holders to stand.
About a dozen people stood. Dr Huntley then asked those who had obtained their gold cards in two years or less to sit. Two veterans sat.
Through this process of gradually increasing the number of years it takes to obtain Gold Cards, questioning, and then asking veterans to sit - it became clear very quickly, that most veterans had to wait about five years before they received a health gold card.
Two veterans had to wait over ten years to access the medical benefits that the coverage of a Health Gold card gives. After Dr Huntley had finished that exercise - which in reality was for the benefit of myself and two other Liberal politicians, a former digger who had served in the Middle East spoke to the group.
He had a tragic story. He said a number of his comrades that he'd served with in war in the Middle East had taken their own lives. And one of the main reasons, he said - which had pushed his veteran friends to take that terrible decision to kill themselves - was the psychological harm that occurred to his mates while they fought the Government to obtain a Gold Card.
He said words that must hurt some public servants who are very dedicated to their jobs and take pride in their work - but nonetheless must be spoken in the debate.
The Middle East veteran said that many of his friends would have preferred to fight the Taliban, rather than fight the bureaucrats who decided whether our Diggers received the best possible medical care that Australia can provide to her wounded warriors.
Then from the floor of the meeting this younger veteran suggested that many lives could be saved - if the Australian government automatically gave a Health Gold Card to all veterans who have served in war or war-like conditions.
By making access to a Gold Card a tick and flick exercise - or a simple bureaucratic process, for those members of the ADF who had served in a war or war-like conditions - it will allow vulnerable and often damaged people to bypass a traumatic and further damaging administrative process and immediately receive the medical care they need to get well.
This was the light bulb moment for my team and I. And from that moment my office has worked hard to present this legislation to the parliament, in the unshakable belief that it will lessen the risk of further harm and help stop our veterans from taking their own lives.
From that day, Wednesday of May 2014 - my team and I have had thousands of conversations with veterans of all conflicts, which confirm the observations of that young veteran who had served in the Middle East.
Some veterans reacted in a hostile manner when I said that we should make it much easier for all veterans who have served in war or war-like conditions to access the speedy and quality medical treatment guaranteed by a Gold Card.
They had a mindset which strangely supported the hard and convoluted bureaucratic process in place though the Department of Veterans' Affairs for their clients to access the benefits of a Gold Card.
To those few individuals, a Gold Card became a status symbol, which gave holders, a greater sense of self-esteem and self-worth.
When it was pointed out to these rare individuals that it was the bureaucratic fight for a Health Gold Card that was significantly contributing to the suicides of our veterans - then most doubters of this new policy accepted the obvious truth of the matter - and became supporters.
The passage of this legislation, which enables the automatic issuing of a health Gold Card entitling free treatment, is an effective early intervention action, which will save hundreds of Australian lives, billions of dollars and a million heartaches.
It will take steps to repair the wound that Australia inflicts on the hearts and minds of those who are prepared to take great risks and sacrifice all.
When our warriors come home hurt under the current system - their country, instead of welcoming them with warm handshakes, hugs, kisses and the recognition of being special citizens - turns its back on our wounded heroes and makes them fight to access proper medical care.
A major cause of Australia's obscene veterans' suicide rate (apart from systemic under-resourcing and over-commitment to international operations) is the unnecessary psychological damage caused during our veterans' bureaucratic fight for Gold Card guaranteed medical treatment.
Gold Card Cost
When the issue of cost is raised - the saying that comes immediately to mind is: if we can't afford to properly care for our wounded veterans when they come back from war-like and war service - then we shouldn't send them in the first place.
Australia has a moral as well as a legal duty to give our veterans access to the best medical care our country can offer.
And under the current broken DVA system we - the politicians who make the decision to send our sons and daughters into harm's way, have failed to live up to the example those young people have set.
Veterans' Suicide Rate
Today we have a Prime Minister, Minister for Defence and Minister for Veterans' Affairs who cannot tell the people of Australia how many of the 70,000 contemporary cohort of veterans, have taken their own lives - or are forced to live rough among our homeless.
Our veterans' suicide rate - intentionally kept secret by all major political parties and senior military commanders to protect their reputations, is a national disgrace and shame.
A major cause of Australia's obscene veterans' suicide rate (apart from systemic under-resourcing and over-commitment to international operations) is the unnecessary psychological damage caused during our veterans' bureaucratic fight for Gold Card guaranteed medical treatment.
JLN believes that when properly considered, the automatic grant of Health Gold Cards to Australia's veterans will be cost neutral after the extremely high expense of doctors, lawyers and suicides are removed from the assessment process - and taken into account.
I close my speech as I opened. An unprecedented veterans' suicide and homelessness crisis grips Australia today.
This crisis was created because of poor management of Australia's military resources and defence personnel - by successive governments.
These governments compounded their error by attempting to cover up the true nature and scale of our veterans' suicide and homelessness crisis.
The Veterans' Entitlements Amendment (Expanded Gold Card Access) Bill 2015 I present to the Senate today will properly address our nation's shameful veterans' suicide and homelessness crisis.
Indeed Mr President - this Bill is the first legislative step to solving these terrible problems and I urge all Senators to support this Bill.
I rise to bring to the attention of the Senate a letter requesting tax reform that I have sent to the Prime Minister on behalf of Australia's craft distillery industry. In Tasmania alone, there are at least 14 distilleries, among more than 50 Australia wide, which produce some of the finest whiskies and gins in the world. Tonight, while I advocate for tax changes which will benefit all Australian craft distillers, in particular I invite all who hear this message to visit Tasmania so that they can eat, drink and be goddamn bloody merry. Due to time constraints, I will read an edited extract of my letter to the Prime Minister, which says:
Dear Prime Minister
I am writing to seek your support for policy reforms that would benefit Australia's burgeoning craft distillery industry - which already has a strong presence in Tasmania and looks to continue to grow.
Through my discussions with local distillers, it has become clear that the existing taxation and industry assistance arrangements - need serious reform to support our distilling industry and remove discriminatory barriers.
The reform proposals I outline below do not seek preferential treatment for local distillers but, rather, seek to mitigate some of the discrimination against the industry to encourage investment and growth in the industry.
The distilling industry in Australia is subject to a taxation system that actively discriminates against it relative to other beverage alcohol producers both in terms of rates and compliance requirements. This discrimination is then exacerbated by the fact that other sectors of the alcohol industry receive various forms of assistance that the distilling industry does not.
The Government's very own tax reform discussion paper "Re:think" highlights perfectly the tax discrimination against spirits.
Alcohol tax on a Standard Drink of spirits is $1.01 — that is double the tax on full-strength packaged beer ($0.45) and more than three times the tax for a $15 bottle of wine ($0.28).
This discrimination puts distillers at a significant disadvantage and acts as a barrier to investment in the distilling industry.
The need for alcohol tax to be part of any serious tax reform package was highlighted by the Henry Tax Review, which recommended a single volumetric rate for all alcohol beverages.
Under the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET) rebate, all Australian winemakers regardless of size can sell $1.7 million worth of wine without paying any alcohol tax. In effect, they can put that wine into the market alcohol tax free.
The brewery refund scheme provides eligible independent breweries with a beer excise refund up to a maximum of $30,000 per financial year. This is available to all breweries.
In contrast, distillers receive no such assistance in any form.
The Government's ongoing Tax White Paper process offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring good public policy to the forefront of developing a new alcohol tax system. Indeed, any tax reform package that does not include reforming alcohol tax would not be real reform. These reform proposals have the support of our distilling industry.
In talking to distillers in Tasmania, it has become clear to me that the massive discrimination against spirits in terms of tax paid is a significant barrier to Australia's distilling industry and discourages innovation and investment.
I believe that any tax reform package put forward by the Government must end the discrimination against the spirits industry. I seek your support to transition all alcohol beverages to a simple, fairer system through a single volumetric tax rate, as recommended by the Henry Tax Review.
A single, fair rate would allow Australia's distilling industry to grow and compete on a level playing field and end the discrimination and complexity of the current arrangements. This is good policy that supports innovation and investment and removes the single largest barrier to our emerging distilling industry.
The discrimination here is obvious and also requires immediate attention. The Government's WET rebate discussion paper states that the clear intent of the WET rebate is to benefit small wine producers in rural and regional Australia.
The category 'small wine producers' should be interchangeable with 'small distillers'. I propose that the WET Rebate (as well as the brewery refund scheme) be replaced with an alcohol industry wide producers' rebate. I thank you in advance for the due consideration that these reform proposals will be given.
I rise to contribute to the debate on the two bills before the Senate which give a green light to an unfair trade deal between China and Australia—the Customs Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation) Bill 2015 and the Customs Tariff Amendment (China-Australia Free Trade Agreement Implementation) Bill 2015—and to indicate the JLN's strong opposition to this legislation. Before I explain the detail of my opposition to the bills before the Senate I think it is important to state an obvious fact that both Labor and Liberal party members choose to ignore. As these bills are being debated in this place, trouble on a grand scale is brewing in the South China Sea because of the expansionist, aggressive and bullying behaviour of the Communist government of China—the people we are entering this so-called free trade deal with. And no amount of name calling—like 'xenophobe' and 'racist'—from those Liberal-Nationals members opposite, in order to stop free debate and cover up the considerable faults of the legislation, will stop me from speaking the truth in this place today.
A news report from respected media source Reuters on 31 October this year leads with the headline 'China naval chief says minor incident could spark war in South China Sea'. The article goes on to say:
China's naval commander told his U.S. counterpart that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts" in the disputed waterway, the Chinese navy said on Friday.
Everyone in the chamber knows that China's behaviour is appalling. China is behaving like an international bully in the South China Sea. But no-one in this parliament has the courage to tell the truth. China's military right now, following orders from its President, is threatening the free movement of peaceful civilian aircraft in international airspace and shipping on international waters. And the Labor, Nationals and Liberal parties of Australia, who have all taken big political donations from people closely linked to the government of China, are prepared to reward this bad behaviour with a deal that favours a government that many respected commentators say is turning into a dictatorship.
Shame, shame, shame is all I can say when I think of this year's approaching Remembrance Day, when we will all stop and pay our respects to those brave souls who died fighting for our human rights and our freedoms against anti-democratic, anti-human-rights governments similar to the ones we are now proposing to enter into a lopsided deal with. If China was not armed with 300 nuclear warheads fitted to sophisticated missiles and did not have one of the largest conventional armies, navies and air forces, I do not think the world would allow the Chinese communist regime to get away with the military threat they have now made to world peace and a third of the world's commercial shipping.
In a speech at a defence forum at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in California this Saturday the US defence secretary, Ash Carter, said:
How China behaves will be the true test of its commitment to peace and security. This is why nations across the region are watching China's actions in areas like the maritime domain and cyberspace.
China has reclaimed more land than any other country in the entire history of the region.
The United States is deeply concerned about the extent of land reclamation and the prospect of further militarization there, which could lead to a greater risk of miscalculation or conflict.
The United States is responding to China's moves by putting its best and newest assets in the Asia-Pacific and investing in space, cyber, missile defence, and electronic warfare.
So, while the US government at the highest levels rings the freedom bell in the most strident fashion, there sits the Labor, Liberal and Nationals parties of Australia, deaf and dumb, with their heads buried in a very, very dark place and their hands held out to the rich businessmen with strong links to the Chinese government while they agree to do a deal that sells Australia's children's sovereignty, our workers' job security and our national security under the guise of a free trade deal.
It is just wrong and misleading to tell the Australian people that it is only the US that runs the risk of losing the lives of its military. A senior communist Chinese military officer recently warned the Turnbull government that the possibility of military confrontation 'could not be excluded' should we support our American allies in freedom of navigation exercises through vital international trade routes. Australia's relationship with China is nearing a crisis despite the misleading statements made to me in the Senate by our government's bureaucrats. Today Australian sailors and American marines run the risk of being killed by Chinese ships, bombs and missiles because we want to keep international waters free and our skies open. And today our Prime Minister and Liberal, Nationals and Labor politicians pretend that our trade relationship with China is our trade deals with our other democratic international trading partners, which is absolutely ridiculous. The bottom line is that Australia is about to sign a free trade deal with a world superpower that has just warned that it may attack members of our Australian Defence Force. I repeat today what I have been saying publicly: at the very least we should delay signing any deal with China until a guarantee is given that our sailors will be safe while they are acting peacefully in international waters.
My political network and candidates will always oppose and fight this dangerous and unfair China trade deal. Unlike the Labor, Liberal and National parties, the JLN has not and will never receive millions of dollars in funding from people linked to the Chinese government. Speaking of politicians who enjoy the financial generosity of people strongly linked to the Chinese government, Hansard shows that the trade minister, Andrew Robb, said in the second reading speech on 16 September:
The free trade agreement with China has secured the overwhelming support of Australian business and industry. Daily, for months now, we have seen reports of industry and other organisations, all of whom studied this agreement and feel it is a fundamental part of the future prosperity and growth of this economy. The group so isolated those who are against this. We have seen Bob Hawke and all the luminaries of the Labor Party, including the current leaders at state and territory level and former major industry and trade ministers Simon Crean, former ACTU President, and Martin Ferguson, see the merit of this agreement.
My reply to Minister Robb is: before you use the commendations of former Labor members of parliament as glowing endorsements of your legislation and deal, at least have the honesty to admit that in recent years the AEC electoral figures show that the Labor Party accepted almost $2 million in political donations from businessmen closely linked to the Chinese government—about the same amount as the Liberal Party and the Nationals. If Minister Robb is going to use quotes from luminaries of the Labor Party to justify this unfair deal, he should make sure they disclose any private deals and income that is associated or linked, once again, to the Chinese state-owned companies. Their independence may raise eyebrows once their close political business links with Chinese state-owned entities are fully explored and vetted.
During my speech I have been critical of the way this government is so eager to pretend that a private company from mainland China is just like a private company from other free trade partners, like America, Japan, South Korea and so forth. Comparing a private company from South Korea to a private company from China is absolutely ridiculous. It is deliberately deceptive. It is a deliberate strategy to talk down the very real risks of entering a deal with communist China.
Most members of this parliament will acknowledge that The Economist magazine is one the world's most credible sources of well-researched economic, social and political information. The 12 to 18 September issue of The Economist, in a special report on business in China 'Back to business' has some very interesting things to say about the difference between private and public firms in China. Page 4 of The Economist's report reads:
The distinction between China's state-owned and private firms is not always as clear-cut as it might seem. A company's formal status can be misleading … And the Communist Party is everywhere: article 19 of China's company law states that a party cell must be set up in every firm above a certain size, public or private.
On page 5 the report reads:
"There are no genuinely private companies in China," declares a veteran adviser to multinational companies.
In one sense he is right. The state and the party are omnipresent and their role is enshrined in the law. Another noteworthy comment on page 5 reads:
To find out whether a given local firm is likely to behave like a state champion or a market-minded entity, you need to ask three questions. First, how strategic is its industry? Peter Williamson of Cambridge University's Judge Business School argues that the government will always meddle with firms in industries it sees as strategic, even if they are multinationals.
I wish we had Australian governments who naturally placed importance on strategic industries. That way we would have never lost our car manufacturing industry. Nor would we have lost our ability to refine petrol and come close to losing our steelmaking ability and Australian shipbuilding industry and our maritime skills.
Come to think of it, perhaps, if we want, we should outsource our government to China. If we are prepared to allow our mine and construction workers to be replaced by Chinese tradespeople, why not politicians? Australia would then have a hope of re-establishing a car industry and strengthening our ability to refine petrol, make steel and build and sail ships. While we are at it, perhaps we can get China to look after our defence as well. On paper it would be much cheaper. Of course, for those reading Hansard, who did not have the benefit of hearing the ironic tone in my voice, I said the last comments with my tongue placed firmly in my cheek.
The second question to ask, to find out whether a Chinese firm is likely to behave like a state champion or a market-minded entity, is: who decides on pay, promotion and the hiring? The Economist states that for big state-owned enterprises like Sinopec, an oil giant, the Communist Party organisation department deals with senior executives.
The third question, to find out whether a Chinese firm is likely to behave like a state champion or a market-minded entity, concerns the forms of relationship between the company and the Communist Party. The Economist notes:
Some business leaders proudly don the red hat. Wang Jianlin, the billionaire boss of Dalian Wanda, a vast private-sector conglomerate, was born an elite "princeling" and cunningly cultivates connections.
More comments from The Economist magazine, which prove Liberal, Labor and National party politicians are very silly to peddle the mistruth that Chinese private sector entities are the same as western countries' private sector entities, can be found on page 15 of their special report. It states:
A World Bank report published in June said that in China "the state has interfered extensively and directly in allocating resources through administrative and price controls, guarantees, credit guidelines, pervasive ownership of financial institutions and regulatory policies. These interventions have no parallel in modern market economies." The report quickly disappeared from the bank's website, to be replaced later by a more anodyne version.
Before I close, it is important to mention the proposed Chinese state-owned mine at Breeza, on the Liverpool Plains in New South Wales. The Shenhua mine at Breeza is a living example of why senators should vote against the bill. The mine itself was borne out of corruption from both Chinese and Australian sources. It is the wrong mine in the wrong place. It is a crime site, not a mine site. Under the provisions of these bills it will become very easy to employ Chinese workers instead of Australians once this legislation is passed. With regard to the international movement of natural persons ChAFTA's labour market testing provisions are set up to fail Australian workers and favour the importation of Chinese workers to Australia. If we cannot trust China to provide us with truthful financial figures about their economy how can we trust them to self-regulate and honestly test Australia's labour markets when it comes to hiring workers for their own projects?
In summary, the following are seven good reasons why I and every JLN candidate across Australia—including Rob Waterman, in Tasmania; Hugh Dolan, in Victoria; and Bob Davis, in Queensland—will oppose this legislation and unfair trade deal with China:
1. The Liberals and the Nationals have run a $10 million taxpayer-funded panda-hugging campaign on their deal with China. Trade growth and jobs will still happen without the Liberals' deal. A better, renegotiated deal with China is still possible.
2. China is a security threat to Australia, America and all our western allies. It is a proven bully, thief, liar and human rights abuser. Why rush into a deal—done in secret—with a bully, thief, liar and human rights abuser?
3. Investor State Dispute Settlement in any trade deal fundamentally undermines Australia's sovereignty and our parliament's ability to make laws in the national interest.
4. A trade deal should never open the door for Australian workers and tradesmen to be replaced by foreign workers. Let's be honest: no matter how you look at it, this deal opens the bloody door!
5. It does not make sense to put all our eggs in one risky and unstable economic basket.
6. Chinese political donations to the Liberal, National and Labor parties have most likely influenced ChAFTA terms and conditions in China's favour.
7. The Chinese government has lent dangerous amounts of money to different Australian governments. Has this dangerous Chinese debt influenced the current trade deal and other Australian government behaviour?
New research shows China holds a potentially dangerous amount of Australian government debt. By one estimate it could be as much as 20 per cent. The world's second largest economy has begun to liquidate some of its US$3.7 trillion worth of foreign reserves, and that includes Australian government debt. There are fears that this could lead to higher borrowing costs.
On behalf of the people of Tasmania, and in the national interest, I strongly oppose these bills.