From the Desk
As I was saying in the whip's office before I came into the chamber, this is a budget that will let you sleep at night, whereas Labor's budget will keep you awake at night in pure terror in terms of what they will do to Australia's economy. This is a budget that should relax Australians in knowing that there are adults in charge of the Australian economy, that there are adults in charge of the Australian government and that we are going to get the economy back on track.
It gives me great pleasure to rise this evening to speak on the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (Exit Arrangements) Bill 2015. By way of background for those listening and for those reading this later, Commonwealth authorities—for example, the ACT government—and entities including an agency or a parliamentary department are premium payers under the Comcare scheme. Licensees and some Commonwealth authorities who hold a licence self-insure and, accordingly, do not pay premiums to Comcare. Comcare is responsible for paying liabilities associated with injuries sustained by employees of premium payers from Comcare-retained funds under section 90C of the act. Comcare-retained funds should be adequate to meet current and prospective liabilities from year to year. The amendments made by the bill will clarify this intention as well as ensure mechanisms are in place to support Comcare to manage its liabilities in Comcare-retained funds.
A few weeks ago I went on another of my road trips, listening to the people of Queensland. I drove up, leaving the rain of the Sunshine Coast, to the dryness of the north and west. I went up to Emerald, Winton, Abbotsford Station, Hughenden and Charters Towers and then across the coast to Ingham, Cardwell, Tully, Innisfail and Edmonton, before ending up at Rocky Creek, which is on the tablelands, near Atherton. While on this road trip, everything from the drought to red tape, yellow crazy ants, infrastructure, cattle prices and abattoirs, better roads, motor sports, sugar marketing, the impact of Panama Tropical Race 4 on the banana industry and aged care was raised. Later in my remarks I will speak further about the drought and the good work being undertaken by the federal government to help not just those on the land but those in the small communities who are afflicted by this terrible natural disaster. Later tonight I hope to talk about the $600 million banana industry and the challenges facing the north with Panama Tropical Race 4.
I am very happy to rise to speak on this and explain why the budget this year is such a fair budget. I do not accept the premise that last year's budget was unfair. This is a very good budget for Australia. It is a very good budget for those who want to have a go. I think that that is to be applauded.
Today I rise to speak on matters that concern the links between the New South Wales CFMEU and controversial businessman George Alex, and between Mr Alex and two Islamic State terrorists. George Alex is a controversial Sydney businessman and an undischarged bankrupt. Known for his connections with the criminal underworld, he recently pleaded guilty to making threats to kill a woman and her family over a business debt. He is being investigated by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.
I rise to support the condolence motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Abetz. I rise to speak about a Prime Minister of whom I have no direct memory of his service in this parliament or even remembering him on television. To me Malcolm Fraser is as historically distant as Menzies or Lyons, but no less significant.
It is no secret that I am a firm believer in the fundamental liberal principles of small government, of free markets and of individual liberty and personal responsibility, but people of my ilk are often berated by those on the left—the Greens and Labor—for being cold, uncaring and unfeeling. This character assessment follows a flawed logic: that a belief in less government involvement in people's lives is necessarily incompatible with having a generous heart.
It gives me pleasure to speak on the Migration Amendment (Protection and Other Measures) Bill 2014. The coalition went to the last election with a promise to build a safe and secure Australia. A key part of this—
It gives me great pleasure to stand up here tonight to talk to the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014 and support this very important piece of government legislation, particularly as this bill, like many of the actions that this government is undertaking, delivers on key aspects of our election policy, in particular in relation to industrial relations reform. This particular bill does not go any further than what we took to the people at the last federal election, back in 2013. Indeed, on union workplace access, individual flexibility arrangements and the removal of the ability to strike first and talk later, we are actually delivering on specific policy promises made by the Labor Party prior to the 2007 election but which Labor deliberately broke. So we are delivering on Labor's policies before 2007 and our policies before 2013, which is a fun fact for people at home.
Earlier today during senators' statements I talked about my trip a few weeks ago up into Western and Northern Queensland, and I foreshadowed that I would be talking about bananas later today. I now wish to address the very important issue of the banana industry in Queensland. Bananas are Australia's No. 1-selling supermarket product, with annual farm gate production of over $600 million. About 95 per cent of the bananas produced in Australia come from the coastal strip between Babinda and Cardwell and across the Atherton Tablelands, in particular around Tully and Innisfail. Many businesses and communities in this district rely on the banana industry directly and indirectly for income and for their jobs. That is why Panama tropical race 4 represents a very serious threat to the livelihoods of hundreds of banana growers across North Queensland and also a threat to the communities of North and Far North Queensland.