GREAT BARRIER REEF MARINE PARK AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2008

Australia has recognised a duty to ensure the conservation, protection and transmission to future generations of its cultural and natural heritage. Australia has recognised this duty by becoming party to the United Nations Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. If we are complacent in the management of our places of natural beauty and ignore the effects of climate change, we will be unable to pass the Great Barrier Reef on to our children, and that would be a great tragedy. The Great Barrier Reef is a place of remarkable ecological variety and astounding natural beauty. With 2,900 individual reefs, 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc, it is one of the most significant natural habitats for in situ conservation of biological diversity on the planet. The reef is also home to threatened species of outstanding value from the point of view of science and conservation. It provides a breeding and spawning ground for unique coral reef associated species, including 43,000 square kilometres of seagrass meadows, which are vital to the future survival of the dugong.

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Human Rights

I wish to speak on the importance of human rights and the Rudd Labor government’s commitment to the protection of human rights since it was elected in November 2007. We should recall that this year is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the pre-eminent international human rights instrument which fostered the development of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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Gilad Shalit

A year ago, I spoke from the steps of the Melbourne GPO to a rally of 300 people. The rally was called to mark the first anniversary of the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier, and to give public voice to calls for his release as well as the release of two other Israeli soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who are still being held by Hezbollah after being kidnapped on 12 July 2006 from near the Lebanese border. I am deeply saddened that today, one year later, I am speaking again on this anniversary. Yesterday marked two years since Gilad Shalit was kidnapped near Gaza as part of an attack on Israel for which Hamas’s military wing, Izz al-Din al-Qassam, claimed responsibility. The raid also resulted in the deaths of two of Gilad Shalit’s fellow defence force members. Since that time, Gilad Shalit has been held by Izz al-Din al-Qassam, the military wing of Hamas, with no contact with the outside world.

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STATUTE LAW REVISION BILL 2008

Despite the overtly uncontroversial nature of this legislation, the Statute Law Revision Bill 2008 does make important changes to ensure effective and accessible laws for the Australian public. Like all statute law revision legislation, it amends minor and technical errors in acts, it amends and removes errors within existing acts and it updates acts to remove descriptions of defunct and completed programs.

 

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MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE

The member for McMillan has just suggested that Darren McCubbin has no right to be in this place. Those were his words. He said he had ‘no right to be in this place’. It is an outrageous slur on a well-known Gippsland community leader, who is the current Wellington Shire mayor and who has lived more than half his life in Sale, to suggest that he has no right to be in this place. I hope that comment of the member for McMillan is widely reported in Gippsland, because it is not members of the Liberal Party who decide who sits in this place; it is the people of the seat of Gippsland.

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PROTECTION OF THE SEA LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL 2008

The Protection of the Sea Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 establishes a supplementary fund to provide additional compensation to victims of oil spills. These amendments give effect to the 2003 protocol to the International Convention on the Establishment of an International Fund for Compensation for Oil Pollution Damage. The amendments reflect article 2(2) of the protocol, giving the supplementary fund legal personality in Australia, and article 7, which gives Australian courts jurisdiction to entertain an action against the supplementary fund for compensation. The importance of these amendments lies in their embrace of a multilateral framework for the protection of our seas. They provide certainty to the shipping and oil industries and ensure that our fragile marine environments are provided for in the event of a spill. They continue the strong Labor tradition, from Evatt through to Gareth Evans, of engaging with the United Nations on issues of international significance, such as in this case a consistent approach to compensation in the aftermath of an environmental disaster.

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Urban Planning

I congratulate the member for Oxley for moving this motion on urban planning. I am deeply interested in the future of our cities and I am pleased to be able to contribute to debate on this topic. Questions about the appropriate role of government are central to any discussion about our cities. My view is that government must be involved in and must lead with the planning of our cities. In 1965 Gough Whitlam rightly said, ‘Urban planning necessarily means public planning.’ Governments do not merely have a role to play in urban planning; they have a duty to actively plan for the future of our cities. This extends to the federal government as well as to state and local governments.

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JUDICIARY AMENDMENT BILL 2008

I rise in support of the Judiciary Amendment Bill 2008, which is an amendment to the Judiciary Act 1903, a very important act of this parliament which regulates aspects of the judicial system of the Commonwealth and, among other things, regulates the manner in which state courts exercise federal jurisdiction. In simple terms, these amendments alter section 79 of the Judiciary Act and restore to the states the protection of limitation periods in state laws which put a time limit on suing state governments to recover taxes paid under a law later found to be invalid. These limitation periods are generally quite tight. In Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia, there is a 12-month limitation period from the date of payment of the tax, and South Australia imposes a six-month restriction, as do the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory governments.

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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Report

Reforming the Constitution: a roundtable discussion is the first report of the committee for this parliament. Despite dramatic change and growth in Australia as a nation over the last 100 years, Australia’s Constitution remains very much as it was originally drafted. Over that time there have been 44 referenda to amend the Australian Constitution, of which only eight have been successful. It is now over 30 years since there was a successful referendum to amend the Constitution. This is the longest period since Federation without even minor reform to the Constitution. In addition, the present decade may be the first since Federation during which there is no referendum held.

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MILITARY MEMORIALS OF NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE BILL 2008

I rise today to support the Military Memorials of National Significance Bill 2008. This bill serves two purposes: it enables the recognition of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat as a memorial of national significance and it provides us with a mechanism for recognising other memorials as nationally significant. This bill, as other speakers have commented, is the fulfilment of an election commitment to the Australian ex-prisoners of war community. During a visit to Ballarat on 27 June 2007 the Prime Minister, the then opposition leader, committed to the recognition of the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial as a nationally significant war memorial.