Protesters claim to be saving democracy, but are biggest threat to it - Speech, House of Representatives
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 14 FEBRUARY 2022
Over recent weeks, far-Right antivax protests have cropped up in Canada, Britain, France and New Zealand. Last week these protests came to Canberra, where our 99 per cent adult vaccination rate makes us the most vaccinated city in the world. These protesters have a right to peacefully protest, but those of us who believe in science also have a right to point out that vaccines save lives and conspiracy theories can kill. Since the Morrison government belatedly began rolling out COVID vaccines in Australia, these free vaccines have protected thousands of Australians from hospitalisation and death. They work. Ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine and vitamin C do not.
These protesters aren't just wrong about the science; they're also a risk to democracy. As Van Badham has pointed out, these groups should be judged not by their relatively small numbers but by the damage they're willing to do. Ironically, the people who claim to be saving democracy are the biggest threat to it.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 14 FEBRUARY 2022
Two words sum up the challenge of aged care: neglect and respect. Neglect is the title of the interim report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which found widespread failures in the aged-care system under the Morrison government. Respect is what aged-care workers have not seen from this government. This government is constantly attacking workers, and never more so than when it comes to aged-care workers. I commend the member for Corangamite for bringing on this critical motion at this vital time.
Here in Canberra Nicole Butler was reported in the Canberra Times as having been unable to visit her mother, a resident at Warrigal Stirling, for nearly a month because of the COVID outbreak.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 10 FEBRUARY 2022
On Christmas Eve last year we saw a familiar pantomime playing out, of the Liberals again vetoing Australian Research Council grants. This sad and tired pantomime played out first under the Howard government, when Brendan Nelson knocked off nearly a dozen ARC grants. It then happened in 2018-19, when Senator Birmingham and the member for Wannon, Dan Tehan, as education ministers, knocked off another eleven Australian Research Council grants. And now we’ve seen the coalition do it a third time, with the decision of the member for Fadden, Stuart Robert, as acting education minister, to block six humanities research projects from receiving funding.
Let’s be clear about what it means to win an Australian Research Council grant. This is a process that involves several rounds of rigorous peer review from internationally determined experts. Those researchers who put their time into preparing for Australian Research Council grants do so often during summer, giving up their holidays in order to prepare documents, knowing that there is probably only a one in five chance that they will make it through that highly competitive process. I’m aware of this; as a former professor at the Australian National University, I was fortunate to win three Australian Research Council grants and to serve as a reviewer for Australian Research Council grants.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 10 FEBRUARY 2022
The shadow Attorney-General referred to the Race Discrimination Commissioner's report Sharing the stories of Australian Muslims. I wanted to take the House to some of the remarks made in the consultations around that report. One participant said:
My aunt wears a hijab, she has been spat on and had her hijab pulled off … she was born in Australia. When my aunt responded, the attacker was surprised that she could speak and defend herself.
Another Muslim woman said:
I don't feel safe while I’m walking down the street. I'm thinking of being spat at or someone might pull my hijab off my head.
The report noted that Muslim women face a 'triple penalty' as women, as members of a racial minority and as members of a religious minority. It highlighted the way in which mosques have been targeted with things such as graffiti, property being destroyed, pig carcasses being left on the grounds and direct attacks on members of the mosque.
We have seen a rise in Islamophobia. The September 11 events led to a shift in attitudes toward Australian Muslims and flow-on attacks on the wider Australian Arab community.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 10 FEBRUARY 2022
Proxy firms advise on issues such as executive pay, director appointments or corporate social responsibility. They've done important work holding firms to account on excessive CEO pay, the use of JobKeeper to pay executive bonuses and Rio Tinto’s destruction of ancient Aboriginal artworks in the Juukan Gorge.
And yet on the Friday before Christmas, the Treasurer rushed out draconian measures that were designed to attack proxy advisors.Read more
THURSDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2022
SUBJECTS: Religious discrimination bill; Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg’s JobKeeper mismanagement.
GRAEME GOODINGS, HOST: The lower house in Canberra last night sat, well, pretty much right through the night to pass the religious discrimination bill. It's been one of the most contentious pieces of legislation to go before Parliament in a long time. Five Liberals crossed the floor agreeing to amendments put forward by the opposition. The government ended up voting against its own bill. The legislation passed with the opposition supported by those dissenting Libs. The bill finally passed about 4.30 this morning. Joining me now the federal Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury, Andrew Leigh. Andrew, you’ve had a big night.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: It’s been an interesting night in the House of Reps, Graeme. It's not often the government loses a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. And something I've never seen before, after losing a vote they then turned around and voted against their own bill. So you had the spectacle of the Prime Minister voting against a bill that his party had introduced. It was the most extraordinary ‘take your bat and ball and go home’ attempt that I've ever seen.
GOODINGS: It has drawn a lot of interest from around the nation. Did the opposition get what they wanted?
LEIGH: Not entirely. So what we would have liked to do is to put an anti-vilification measure in place, which would prohibit religious vilification. I spoke to that around 3am. We also wanted to make sure that there was protection against discrimination for older people receiving in-home care. We weren't able to secure sufficient support for that. But we were able to get support for an amendment which ensured that children in religious schools are protected from discrimination. And that's a very important measure.Read more
WEDNESDAY, 9 FEBRUARY 2022
SUBJECT: Religious Discrimination Bill.
TOM CONNELL, HOST: I did speak to one Labor MP inside this Caucus meeting just before this meeting began. I spoke to Labor’s Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury Andrew Leigh, and began by asking whether or not Labor intended to support the bill, whether he does intend to argue for supporting the bill as it stands.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Well, I’m about to go into the Caucus committee meeting where we’ll be discussing this. So I haven’t yet seen a copy of the revised bill, and certainly want to see what changes have been made by the government. I’ve got to say it’s extraordinary we’re in this place. This was a bill proposed by the Prime Minister back in December 2018. He said he'd do it before the 2019 election. We didn't see the bill in 2020, we didn't see it in early 2021, and then it emerged just in the last parliamentary sittings of last year. We then had a very rushed parliamentary committee process in that 71-day period, which included 12 religious holidays, and a lot of the country was on school holidays during that period. There just hasn't been the time to scrutinise this bill that I think the issue deserves.
CONNELL: So if that means there hasn't been that time, Labor shouldn't support it? Because it's coming to D Day, basically.
LEIGH: We need to take our time to get this right. As my colleague Stephen Jones said yesterday, Australia's a bloody diverse place. We need to ensure that we're getting it right for people of faith who feel that they're at risk of attack. I would like it if this bill had an anti-vilification provision – it doesn't have that. We need to make sure we're getting it right for LGBT+ kids. I spoke in Parliament last night about two of the cases of transgender students in my electorate, of parents whose account is of a child that did okay in their school but who are worried that this bill might make life more difficult for kids who are coming out or who are deciding that they've been born in the wrong gender. We need to ensure that we strike that balance.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 9 FEBRUARY 2022
When Malcolm Turnbull was leader of the Liberal Party he introduced a debt truck, taking aim at what he said was Labor potentially taking government debt to $315 billion. Well, now we have a Liberal government that is taking gross government debt over a trillion dollars. If they were honest about it, they'd be launching their own debt road train. Of course, debt can be justified, as every household with a mortgage knows. But the question is: what do you get for that investment? What's happened here in Australia is that we have intergenerational debt without an intergenerational dividend. The most egregious example of that is the waste that the Liberals allowed to occur through the JobKeeper scheme.
The $89 billion JobKeeper scheme was needed for firms that were struggling. Many firms held onto staff who would otherwise have lost their jobs. But too much JobKeeper was sprayed around as if the recipients were those players in the game where a person's in a booth having to catch as many banknotes as they can in 30 seconds. We've had money going out the door to car dealers and to retailers whose revenues were going through the roof. We've had French, South African and Italian billionaires who've benefited from Australia's JobKeeper scheme. We've had JobKeeper going to the Australian Club, the men's-only club in Sydney that recently voted two to one to continue to exclude women as members. They picked up $2 million in JobKeeper while increasing their surplus.Read more
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 8 FEBRUARY 2022
In 1964 a man called Michael delivered a sermon in Ivanhoe Methodist Church. He was a young, bookish bloke, a runner, who had just returned from Borneo. In the congregation was a woman who was training to be a teacher, Barbara. She had just returned from Papua New Guinea, and so they got chatting. He offered to drive her home. She lived almost within sight of the church and said, 'Yes, a lift home would be lovely.' And so my parents fell in love. I literally wouldn't be standing here today were it not for the Ivanhoe Methodist Church. One of my role models is my grandfather Keith Leigh, a Methodist minister who tragically died in 1970, doing a fundraising run up Mount Wellington in Hobart to raise money for overseas aid.
And one of the things I've loved since becoming a federal member of parliament is engaging with the many faith communities here in the ACT. We've got the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture—the other ACCC, you might say. There's the Sikh temple and Sikh groups who, through Turbans 4 Australia, distributed meals to people under lockdown. It was one of the great examples of the Sikh community's willingness to give back to the community. The Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre, in Florey, has a great following in the local community. Gungahlin Mosque has many parishioners and regularly serves food and welcomes people in. Through its open day, it welcomes Muslims and non-Muslims alike to the mosque. Kippax Uniting Church distribute a huge number of hampers every year, to the extent that I once quipped with them that they're really a large social service organisation with a small faith community attached to the side. The Baha'i community, the Buddhist community, the Canberra Quakers, the Anglicans, the Catholics, the Pentecostals and the evangelicals all help to form a rich tapestry of the Canberra community. They strengthen community through their volunteering and their donations.Read more
MONDAY, 7 FEBRUARY 2022
SUBJECTS: JobKeeper incompetence; Liberal rorting; Government debt.
LIAM BARTLETT, HOST: The really important numbers today are JobKeeper. I want to talk about JobKeeper and WA schools. Now as I promised this morning, I can reveal to you on the morning program that there were in fact 46 private schools that received a total of $115 million in Western Australia. We have crunched the numbers, not one of them have or has suffered a 30 per cent decline in revenue. That was the qualifying criteria for the program. Not one, not one of those 46 schools. $115 million they picked up. In fact 20 schools, 20 of those 46 that got $31 million, increased their revenue in 2020. 20 of the schools dropped between zero to 10 per cent, and some of that was a result of passing on fee cuts. Passing on fee cuts. So some of the wealthy citizens who sent their children to those schools effectively got a taxpayer subsidy. Thanks for coming. Only one school in the entire program lost more than 15 per cent in revenue. And not one of these schools has done anything dodgy. Of course, the rules were so loose they legally qualified on the basis of a temporary downturn or a forecast that never happened, that never played out. And consequently of course, thanks to Josh Frydenberg, they're not required to pay it back. Don't have to pay it back. Legally they can just keep it. Every single one of these elite private schools that got JobKeeper made a profit. 46 schools in WA, $115 million dollars in welfare. Let's put that in context. I mean the amount gifted to 46 private schools who didn't need it would be enough to buy 33 million rapid antigen tests, enough to buy 70 for each school children in Western Australia – for each and every school job in WA. No strings attached to the money, of course. It could have been used to build boat sheds or extend their wellness centres. Who knows? We know it was used to give fee discounts, as I said. Some of the schools involved of course sit on an Aladdin's cave of tens of millions of dollars stashed away in their foundations, but the figures are truly eye watering. I can go through, I've got a huge list here. I won't bore you with all the details. Schools like St. Mark's Anglican Community School, $7.1 million. John Septimus Roe, $6.8 million in JobKeeper. St. Mary's got $6.1 million in JobKeeper. Georgiana Molloy, $3.9 million. Perth College, $3.7 million. Bunbury Cathedral Grammar, $2.8 million. Tranby College, $2.5 million. Court Grammar School, $2.3 million. Frederick Irwin, $1.6 million. St. George's Anglican Grammar School, $1.2 million. St Stephen’s School, $6.3 million. The list goes on. Peter Moyes, $4.9 million. Let's have a summary of some of the really truly elite schools, the schools that are always in the news in that way, right at the top of the totem pole. I've picked out five for you here. Scotch College, Christ Church Grammar, Presbyterian Ladies’ College – PLC - Guildford Grammar and St Hilda's. Five schools whose net assets $447,000,000. Four of those schools have another $120 million stashed away in foundations. So they got plenty of comfort. There's plenty of cushion there. Between those five schools – Scotch, Christchurch, PLC, Guildford and St Hilda's - five schools, between them they got $28.5 million in JobKeeper - even though the income dropped collectively by only $6.1 million, primarily because of fee discounts. So their collective profits between those five schools rose by $30 million. That means they banked the lot. Nice big fat checks from Treasury using my money, your money, and they banked a lot. Five of the most elite schools in Western Australia. Andrew Leigh is the Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities for the ALP. He joins us from Canberra. Andrew, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Liam. Great to be with you.Read more