From the Desk
Today I wish to talk about a recent trip to the Middle East, but more importantly I wish to revisit the issue of an Australian Defence Force covenant. The memory of the Gallipoli landings 100 years ago and the ongoing commemorations of the Anzac spirit have brought the valour and service of the Australian Defence Force to the forefront of our national consciousness. The Australian Defence Force is a contribution, like no other, by brave men and women charged with defending the freedom and liberties that Australians enjoy and take for granted, be that at home or much further abroad. I have spoken previously in this place about the establishment of an Australian Defence Force covenant to recognise and to support the contribution that Defence Force personnel and their families make to our nation.
Tonight I want to talk about two Bruces— one briefly and one in more detail. The first is Bruce McIver, the President of the Liberal-National Party, who announced this week that he was stepping down as our president, and his last state executive meeting will be in Longreach on 25 September. On behalf of LNP senators I thank Bruce for his many years of work for our great party, and at a later time I will say more about his work for the cause of freedom and liberty in Queensland.
It gives me great pleasure to rise this evening to speak on the Banking Laws Amendment (Unclaimed Money) Bill 2015. This is a very important bill for the savers and the taxpayers of Australia. Under the previous Labor government, over $550 million was raided from 156,000 accounts after Bill Shorten, the then responsible minister, reduced this inactive period for bank accounts from seven years to three years. Effectively, it was the greatest period of bank robbery since Ned Kelly was fandangling around the Victorian bush. This is a good bill because it is on the side of Australian taxpayers and Australian savers. No government should be taking the savings of Australians after such a small period as three years. Returning it to seven years is, I think, an appropriate balance for the taxpayers and savers of Australia.
It gives me great pleasure to rise this evening to talk on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (No. 2) Bill 2015. This bill will introduce three measures into the Social Services portfolio. In the first measure the bill will amend the social security law to streamline the current income management program under a two-year continuation. Income management and the BasicsCard will continue for two additional years to maintain support for existing income management participants. The income management element of the Cape York Welfare Reform will also continue for two additional years to June 2017 in line with the rest of the income management streamlining measures.
I rise to speak on the Migration Amendment (Maintaining the Good Order of Immigration Detention Facilities) Bill 2015. Protecting our borders and stopping the despicable people-smuggling trade was a key pledge of the coalition government in order to keep Australia safe and secure. We on this side of the chamber are very proud to support strong border security measures. As I said earlier this week, the highest priority of any government is security of the country, and the bill adds to these measures. But before going into the details it is worth highlighting the contrast between the coalition on this side and Labor and the Greens on the other side.
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.
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.
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.
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.