Questions Without Notice: Building and Construction

My question without notice is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Abetz. Can Senator Abetz confirm for the chamber that he has stated in this place that:

(a) the construction sector is dominated by the CFMEU and the outlaw bikie gangs with which they associate;

(b) there is a sinister veil of silence from witnesses and victims because they fear retribution and reprisal from speaking out against the intimidation that we so often see in this industry, most commonly on the part of the CFMEU; and 

(c) the courts have said time and time again that the CFMEU continues to ignore the law, despite the imposition of penalties. And could the senator say who was worse in his opinion, the CFMEU or the BLF?

Read Senator Eric Abetz's answer at the link: QWN Building and Construction Industry

Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2015

I rise to briefly contribute on the Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2015.

In Australia we have legislation which allows people in psychiatric confinement to receive income support payments after they have been charged with a serious offence.

These Australians with severe mental health illnesses receive this payment because they have not been convicted of any crime and, as Australian citizens, like all of us they have the right to a presumption of innocence until proven guilty and therefore the same access to income support payments that other Australians with mental health illnesses have.

As the Parliamentary Library study on this legislation states: This can happen when they are found unfit to stand trial because of mental impairment or are found not guilty because of mental impairment. People in this group are referred to as forensic patients.

Read more at the link: Social Services Legislation Amendment Bill

Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2015, Customs Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2015, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Special Account Bill 2015, Fuel Indexation (Road Funding) Bill 2015

I rise to register my strong opposition to the package of four bills including the Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2014 and affecting fuel excise.

The Bills Digest describes this bill, the Excise Tariff Amendment (Fuel Indexation) Bill 2014, and the three associated bills as providing 'for the reintroduction of biannual indexation by the consumer price index of excise and excise equivalent customs duty for all fuels except aviation fuel, crude oil and condensate'.

If this bill passes the Senate, Tasmanian motorists will pay more for their fuel. For that simple reason, I cannot support this legislation.

At a time when the average price of fuel in Launceston, Hobart, Devonport, Ulverstone, Burnie et cetera is 10c to 15c a litre dearer than on the Australian mainland, this government and its Tasmanian members want to guarantee that it costs more to fill up the car. This is lunacy.

This means there will be less money in the family budget to pay for food, electricity, insurance, rates, rent and school fees. So I cannot support this unfair measure—not at a time when oil companies are making massive profits, when the watchdog, the ACCC, has turned into a watch poodle; and when Tasmanian families, the sick and the unemployed are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

Many people already pay for fuel on credit cards. They are not putting luxury items on credit; they are forced to put essentials on credit cards.


Read the rest of the speech at the link: Excise Tariff & Customs Tariff 24-06-15

Asylum Seekers

I support the Greens' motion to refer a matter, relating to the alleged bribery of people smugglers by Australian government officers, to a Senate committee.

I have my differences with the Greens' policy on climate change but I give credit where credit is due. This is an important motion, which I support.

There is a grave allegation that the Prime Minister of Australia and his government have authorised a $30,000 cash payment to Indonesian people smugglers.

This issue is not about stopping the boats; this issue is about whether a crime has been committed by the Australian Prime Minister and his Liberal cabinet colleagues.

Has the leader of our nation committed a crime by authorising and ordering cash payments to international criminals?

I want to know and so do many Australians. The only way this question can be answered is to examine all the documents associated with this incident

Labor 2013-14 Budget Savings (Measures No. 1) Bill 2014

I rise to briefly contribute to and oppose this proposed legislation before the Senate, the Labor 2013-14 Budget Savings (Measures No. 1) Bill 2014. The technical description of the bill's purpose is: The purpose of the Labor 2013-14 Budget Savings (Measures No. 1) Bill 2014 (the Bill) is to amend the Clean Energy (Income Tax Rates Amendments) Act 2011 and the Clean Energy (Tax Laws Amendments) Act 2011 so that both Acts have their future operative provisions repealed.

Both Acts have provisions already in operation and these would not be repealed. However, the simple explanation is this: if this bill passes, we will be taking money away from low-income earners—the Australian battlers—and I can assure you, Mr Acting Deputy President, they are already battling. I am not going to be a part of that—no way. I am very disappointed with Labor; I cannot believe Labor is being a part of this.

With everything that they stand for—the battler, the blue-collar worker—I just cannot believe that they are supporting this legislation. There are better ways to raise revenue and to address this issue of budget repair.


Read the rest of the speech at the link: Speech - Labor 2013-14 Budget Savings (Measure No.1) Bill 2014 - 17-6-15

Defence Legislation (Enhancement of Military Justice) Bill 2015

I rise to speak on the Defence Legislation (Enhancement of Military Justice) Bill 2015. As you may be aware, I served in the Australian Army as a military police officer and worked within the Australian military justice system. I am aware of its good parts and its failings. I am happy to support this legislation because I believe overall it will improve the system of military justice. However, I maintain that in order to truly reform Australia's military justice system, which has failed tens of thousands of victims of abuse since at least the 1960s, a royal commission into defence abuse must be established. The perpetrators of abuse must be held to account, and the victims must have a chance to tell their stories and receive justice. Importantly, those who covered up and turned a blind eye to crimes must all be held to account for their dereliction of duty. The lessons that we will learn during this painful but necessary royal commission process will ensure that, eventually, the best soldiers in the world will have the best military justice system in the world. There are some specific concerns I have received from the Defence community in relation to this legislation, which I will speak to shortly.

Read the rest of the speech at the link: speech - Defence Legislation (Enhancement of Military Justice) Bill 2015 - 18-6-15

Disallowance of Instrument

I rise to support the disallowance motion, because I support Australians working in Australian jobs. I rise to support the disallowance motion because, unlike the Liberals and Nationals in this place, I want to protect every Australian worker's job. By supporting this disallowance motion, senators have a choice to send a clear message to the Liberals and Nationals in this place, that we will not put up with their sneaky and sly attack on the wages and conditions of Australians.

The intent of the change to the regulations, introduced by Assistant Minister Cash, is to reduce the current income threshold under the Migration Act, from $250,000 to $180,000. This will make it easier for employers to hire overseas workers rather than Australian professionals. The regulation effectively provides a ceiling above which compliance with many of the significant requirements of the migration regulations is waived. The threshold, when initially introduced in 2008, was set at $180,000. Then, in 2013, it was raised to $250,000. Above this level of income, sponsors of visa applicants are not required to comply with the conditions which otherwise apply to visa applicants.

Read more at the link: Disallowance of Instrument Speech 16-06-2015


Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Bill 2014, Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014

On Monday, 24 November, I rose to oppose the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme Bill 2014 and the Business Services Wage Assessment Tool Payment Scheme (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2014. The Senate defeated the government's legislation by one vote. By one vote, more than 10,000 Australian workers with intellectual disabilities had their court-recognised entitlements for back pay protected. Seven months later, this government has now brought back to the Senate essentially the same bill with the same intent: namely, to steal about half of the 40 per cent of the back pay owed to 10,000 Australian workers with intellectual disabilities. Which prompts the question to Prime Minister Abbott and the Liberal and National Party members of this place: what have you got against 10,000 workers with intellectual disabilities?

Read more of the speech at the link: Business Services Wage Assessment Tool 15-06-15

Adjournment: Asylum Seekers

It has become apparent that we have a Prime Minister and cabinet ministers who think that they are above the law. By his own disclosures, the Australian Prime Minister could be a party to people trafficking, because he authorised payment of $30,000 to people smugglers—international criminals—to take asylum seekers to Indonesia. There is the possibility that, because we have a Prime Minister and cabinet ministers who think they are above the law and refuse to answer questions in parliament, it may take a change of government and a royal commission for Mr Abbott and his Liberal Party friends to explain under oath to a judge why we should not view those who have assisted murderers, rapists and human rights abusers as criminals.

Read the rest of the speech at the link: Adjournment - Asylum Seekers - 16-6-15

Matters of Public Importance: Education Funding

I rise to participate in the matter of public importance discussion titled 'The Abbott government's plan to abolish universal access to free public education'. I congratulate Senator Moore for raising this matter. Despite the education minister rejecting the proposal in the government discussion paper to make wealthy parents pay to send their children to public school, it is clear that this option floated in the federal government discussion paper, which considers a radical overhaul of the nation's education system, is on Minister Pyne's and Prime Minister Abbott's list of things to do. This plan to make wealthy parents pay to send their children to public school's is just another attack on a fundamental Australian social right, namely, an attack on access to free public education. It goes hand in hand with the ideological political attack the Liberals have carried out on universal access to public health care and access that young people have to higher education.

Read the rest of the speech at the link: MPI - Education Funding 22-06-15