From the Desk
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.
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.
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.
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.