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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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.


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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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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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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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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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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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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