From the Desk
It gives me great pleasure to speak on the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers, Offences and Other Measures) Bill 2015. The coalition government made a commitment to ensuring a safe and secure Australia because security is the highest priority of any government. This bill delivers on the coalition government's commitment to tackle crime and make our communities safer. By providing our law enforcement agencies with the tools and powers they need to do their job, and by ensuring Commonwealth laws are robust and effective, this bill reflects this coalition government's efforts to target criminals and reduce the heavy cost of crime for all Australians.
Tonight I wish to pay homage to the passing of a car. Indeed, the car I mourn passes further into folklore when it ceases production in December this year. To confuse matters even further, it is not a car, and other descriptors like 'utility vehicle' or 'automobile' fail to do this most beautiful of creatures justice. Of course I am mourning, in that most platonic of relationships—between man and woman and the Land Rover Defender—the sad end of the Land Rover Defender's production.
Few organisations generate debate and polarise the national conversation as much as the ABC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Sadly this conversation has increasingly become about the ABC itself—its machinations, its vacillations, its inclinations—rather than the stories of Australian life that should hold centre stage. I have said before, much to the dismay of my colleagues, that I love the ABC. It is a platonic love. I love Gardening Australia on a Saturday night at 6.30. I love Grand Designs and Kevin McCloud. And I have started to become a little bit obsessed by Inspector George Gently. As someone who grew up in rural and regional Queensland, I am a friend of the ABC—and the best friend you can ever have is someone who will be an honest friend and who will speak a hard truth when they see a problem.
I also rise to speak on this matter of public importance. I will fully defend the professionalism and the impartiality of Dyson Heydon AC, QC. The senator opposite said that the royal commission had significant problems. I think the significant problems that have been identified are those affecting the union movement and corrupt union bosses across Australia. The issue that the Labor Party has with Justice Heydon is not any allegations about impartiality; it is the corruption and the badness that has been taking place in the union movement over a number of years. The royal commission has done vital work to uncover questionable dealings by union bosses. Criminal charges have been recommended against at least three of the most senior officials of the militant construction union the CFMEU. No less than four people have been arrested in association with the dealings of the CFMEU thanks to the work of the royal commission. A series of unions have been implicated in secret slush fund scandals that have finally come to light. We should not forget that the Leader of the Opposition, a secretary of the Australian Workers Union, traded away the penalty rates of low-paid workers, had his union receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in unexplained payments and failed to disclose over $40,000 donated to his political campaign by a company with which his union was dealing. Of course, he remembered this hours and days before his own appearance before the royal commission.
Halfway across the world, an ancient civilisation finds itself teetering at the edge of the abyss. Through lax spending and an engorged government sector, Greece has racked up €320 billion in debt, a staggering 177 per cent of its domestic product. Unemployment stands at 26 per cent. Families struggle to make ends meet, and the country faces total financial ruin. Economic Armageddon awaits the Greeks. The economic crisis in Greece is a warning to all nations about the perils of high, prolonged, unaccountable government spending. Big government is the enemy of economic liberty. Big government spending is the enemy of personal liberty. Big government debt is the enemy of national liberty.
It gives me great pleasure to rise this morning to speak on the Freedom of Information Amendment (Requests and Reasons) Bill 2015. This bill amends the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to require government agencies and ministers to publish the exact wording of freedom of information requests.
Today I wish to argue the case for urgent and widespread tax reform, but, to begin with, I want to pay tribute to one of Australia's greatest athletes, Ron Clarke, AO, MBE, who, sadly, passed away today. In his stellar career, Ron Clarke set an astonishing 17 middle- and long-distance world records. He was chosen to light the flame at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and won a bronze medal at the 1964 Tokyo games in the 10,000 metres. He was the fastest man alive for a decade and also won long-distance medals at the Perth, Kingston and Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. I understand that the great Czech runner Emil Zatopek had great admiration for Ron. In 1968, he invited Ron Clarke to Czechoslovakia and, as a parting gift, gave him Emil's 1952 Olympic 10,000 metres gold medal with the following words: 'Not out of friendship but because you deserve it'. Ron was mayor of the Gold Coast from 2004 to 2012 and is an iconic figure in Australian support. To his wife, Helen, and their family, I extend my deepest sympathies, which I am sure will be shared by all senators.
As I speak, Her Majesty the Queen is leaving a meadow within sight of Windsor Castle at a place called Runnymede. From ancient times, through the Middle Ages and to the modern era, whenever people have been oppressed by conquerors, rulers and unjust governments, they have fought to live free from the undue interference of the state. However, there is one act that has done more to advance the cause of democracy, freedom and liberty throughout the world than any other.