From the Desk
It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill 2014. I think the bill probably is well-intentioned, but I do not think it is a bill that I can support or that my party would support. To bring a blanket ban in on the inclusion of ISDS clauses in free trade agreements would be wrong and would certainly limit the ability of the government to negotiate the best possible deals for Australia and Australian exporters, so the government is considering the inclusion of ISDS clauses in free trade agreements on a case-by-case basis.
Like many in the Senate I am a great believer in freedom. In Australia we are fortunate to have constitutional government and strong democratic institutions to uphold and protect our freedom. Sadly, in today's troubled world, there are peoples who cannot boast of such things.
This MPI is not a story of cuts; it is a story of Labor's record on debt, tax and deficits. It is a horrible history of Labor mismanagement and horrid economic planning. So, mums and dads watching at home, send your children out of the room now, because you are about to hear some figures and I do not want you swearing in front of your children, and neither do I want your children realising the full extent of the debt they are going to inherit from Labor and what that means in terms of the work they are going to have to do to pay off Labor's debt. I do not want the toddlers and teenagers of Australia having nightmares because of Labor's debt and all the work they are going to have to do.
I want to talk about the vexing issue of red and green tape. Before I do that, however, I will digress for a little bit. Today is a sad day for the Liberal-National Party in Queensland. Over the past few weeks, we have seen some longstanding Liberal-National Party members of parliament announce their retirement. In a future debate, I will talk more about their achievements, but tonight I thank Rosemary Menkens, first elected in 2004; Ted Malone, first elected in 1994; Vaughan Johnson, first elected in 1989; and Howard Hobbs, first elected in 1986, for their service to Queensland and their local communities. I hope their retirements are long and that they understand that we will never forget their work over their many years. They all leave big shoes to fill.
I rise to speak about an important issue. It is an issue that I flagged in my first speech to this chamber some three months ago and one that I would like to reiterate here tonight. That is, the need for an Australian Defence covenant. The Australian Defence Force is an institution like no other. It is an institution built upon and maintained by honour, courage, integrity and mateship. It is an institution that serves as the backbone of our society and embodies the fair go egalitarian attitude that makes Australia the place it is today. John Key believes New Zealand to be the best little country in the world. I think Australia is the best middle country in the world.
I was really interested in what happened here earlier this afternoon. I am very new to this place and some of the old hands who are here have said they have never seen anything like it—like the shambles that took place with Labor, the cataclysmic destruction of Labor's position. Sitting on this side of the chamber, looking across at Labor senators, I wondered what the collective noun would be for 'stunned mullets'. I know what it is: it is the Senate Labor caucus. They had no idea what was going on. I shall remember today for a long time. I also hear that Senator Wong's leadership is under attack, that Senator Conroy, who got 98 per cent of the vote for his pre-selection—a very North Korean vote and I congratulate him, I would love to get 98 per cent for my re-preselection hopefully in a few years time. I shudder to think what has happened to the two per cent who did not vote for Senator Conroy. My friends in the gallery understand that Senator Conroy is walking the corridors, doing numbers to rid Labor of Senator Wong. I am not here to talk about the Labor shambles this afternoon.
While the world and those who believe in freedom and democracy mourn the political murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a state planned judicial assassination of another freedom fighter and opposition leader is underway in the Indian Ocean. Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected leader of the Maldives, has been arrested on trumped-up charges, denied legal representation and assaulted by police and faces an unfair trial that will ultimately end in the denial of his presidential ambitions.