EVIDENCE AMENDMENT BILL 2008

I rise in support of the Evidence Amendment Bill 2008, which, as you have heard from the member for Blair, is concerned with amendments to the rules of evidence. The rules of evidence applied in Australia regulate the conduct of disputes in courts and tribunals. They determine the evidence which is admitted and the shape of both the form of proceedings and how courts and tribunals go about deciding disputes. The rules of evidence are a very important part of our system of justice.

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Mental Health Services

It is extraordinary to hear from the member for Sturt anything about mental health given the very low priority given to that area of government policy by the former government, represented by the fact that the former Minister for Health and Ageing was not prepared to take up ministerial responsibility for mental health but, rather, delegated it to the member for Sturt in his junior capacity as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing.

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DENTAL BENEFITS BILL 2008

I am pleased to have the endorsement of the member for O’Connor that the coalition parties’ policies did not provide him with much to say! It was interesting to hear this from him. He said that there had been too much attention paid to money and not enough to outcomes. Well might he say that; for the policies of the previous government in relation to dental care there was—particularly in relation to the Commonwealth dental care program—no outcome, because the primary decision made by the former government immediately on coming to office in 1996 was to scrap the Commonwealth dental program. Well might the member for O’Connor say that not enough attention was paid to outcomes—by the previous government. This government, as part of its commitments to the Australian people made at the last election, said it would take seriously the dental crisis that the country is experiencing. This government is acting, and that is what we see in the legislation before the House. Notably, this legislation will create the Medicare Teen Dental Plan, and that is part of delivering on the commitments made at the last election by our party.

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NATIONAL HEALTH AMENDMENT (PHARMACEUTICAL AND OTHER BENEFITS—COST RECOVERY) BILL 2008

I rise in support of the National Health Amendment (Pharmaceutical and Other Benefits—Cost Recovery) Bill 2008. This bill amends the National Health Act 1953 and provides authority for the Commonwealth to recover costs for the listing of medicines, vaccines and other products or services on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the designation of vaccines to the National Immunisation Program. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is very important to the people of Australia. Along with Medicare and public hospitals, it forms a cornerstone of our public health system. We should recall that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme itself was one of the great social reforms of the Chifley government when it was established in 1948.

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International Men’s Health Week

International Men’s Health Week, to be held from 9 to 15 June 2008, is a week of activities designed to raise awareness of men’s health and related issues. Men and boys face specific health concerns relating to anatomical and biological differences and also to differences in lifestyle and culture which are far too often overlooked. International Men’s Health Week is an important opportunity to encourage men to attend regular check-ups with their doctors and other health services.

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Death Penalty

I want to speak tonight on constitutional change, but, before I do, I want to add my voice to that of the member for Werriwa in relation to capital punishment. I have a very sharp memory of attending a vigil in Melbourne with hundreds of others at the time of the hanging of Van Tuong Nguyen, an Australian in Singapore’s Changi Prison, on 2 December 2005. He was hanged despite calls from the former Prime Minister, from my party—then in opposition—from this parliament, from every state parliament and from tens of thousands of Australians. The very first thing we need to do is to pursue through diplomatic efforts the banishing of the mandatory death penalty. It is the first step in getting rid of the death penalty everywhere. Courts everywhere must have the discretion to impose appropriate penalties, which means that judges must have the choice of leniency.

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Isaacs Electorate: Manufacturing

It is important to recognise the efforts of manufacturers in my electorate of Isaacs, in the south-east of Melbourne. It is fitting to do so this week, which is National Manufacturing Week. It has become all too common to downplay the important role that manufacturing continues to play in the Australian economy. Manufacturing exports were worth over $87.1 billion last year and the sector was responsible for almost 40 per cent of business expenditure on research and development. A strong manufacturing sector is critical to the current and future prosperity of our nation. All of this is particularly true for the south-east of Melbourne, which is the manufacturing hub of Victoria and a key manufacturing centre for the country.

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Condolences for the Hon. John Norman Button

John Button was a very important figure in Victorian Labor politics and indeed on the national stage. It is a mark of John Button’s stature that the tributes to him flowed from leaders and former leaders of all major political parties and from people of all walks of life. All acknowledged his role in reforming the Australian economy. All acknowledged his commitment to the Australian manufacturing industry. Many of the tributes recounted his achievements through his life—and we have heard during the debate on this condolence motion that kind of acknowledgement.

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APPROPRIATION BILL 2008-2009

The Commonwealth budget is an opportunity for a government to lay out a path forward for our nation. It is an opportunity for the government to address the challenges that our nation faces now and in the future. This budget demonstrates to the Australian people that this is a government which will fulfil its commitments on education and skills, its commitments on climate change and the environment, its commitments on infrastructure and its commitments on health. It is a budget which does so in a fiscally responsible manner. The budget has delivered a surplus of 1.8 per cent of GDP. Together with the Prime Minister’s five-point plan to tackle inflation, this budget demonstrates that Labor is the party of fiscal responsibility and economic reform. It is a budget in the Labor tradition, which delivers for the people of our Isaacs electorate. It delivers for working people, for seniors, for pensioners and for those doing it tough.

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EXPORT MARKET DEVELOPMENT GRANTS AMENDMENT BILL 2008

I rise to speak in support of the Export Market Development Grants Amendment Bill 2008. This bill forms an important part of the Rudd government’s commitment to a whole-of-government approach to supporting Australian companies in the global economy. This commitment stems from deeper values held by the Australian Labor Party and from its view of Australia and what our nation can be. The Labor Party believes in a prosperous, fair Australia supported by an open, outward-looking economy—an economy where Australian companies that want to invest overseas and export their goods and services are not held back but are instead encouraged and supported.

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