Thursday, 2 March 2017
Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan—Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) (12:00): This address-in-reply gives me the opportunity to reflect on real issues for real Australians. Let me first talk about our Defence Force and our troops in all three services. Our behalf of my constituents, I thank you. I am in awe of your contribution, your bravery and your courage. We expect so much from you, and you deliver in spades. I am burdened by our responsibility to you all, but particularly to those who have given their lives for our country, to those who have been injured and to those who still suffer today the pain and torment that comes with your careers. Our obligation to you is our ongoing care and support, whatever it takes.
In my maiden speech, I spoke about the rules of engagement. I said at the time:
If this nation fails to cloak our soldiers with the full protection of the law when they go into battle, we fail them all. The rules of engagement must be crystal clear and our support strong. If we put Australian troops into the heat of battle and expect them to take enormous risks on our behalf, we cannot expect them to be split-second lawyers as well.
Rules of engagement govern the actions of troops in battle. They must be clear and easily understood. Can I say that I am delighted to see the clarification of those rules brought down by the Turnbull government in recent times.
I am honoured to have Gallipoli Barracks, the home of the 7th Brigade, in my electorate and I am in constant communication with them. My father was a World War II fighter pilot in the Middle East then a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft III. My great-grandfather was a former Minister for Defence and my son is a serving soldier. I have lived and understood the needs and worries of Defence families and I take the opportunity to thank them for their contribution, because a soldier's role is a role that falls, inevitably, on the shoulders of their loved ones as well. Our obligation is also to reach out to those families and to support them. They often bear the brunt of post-deployment issues, and we must stand with them in very difficult and traumatic times.
Our dependence upon our Defence Force is absolute in these challenging times. Our debt to them is immeasurable. Partisan politics do not, and can not, play a role in our response to their valour, their courage and their needs, and to those of their families. In this, we are one.
Across Australia, we are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges and, I might say, the benefits, of ageing. With baby boomers in their 60s and 70s, we are seeing a greater need for health and social interventions: needs that invariably place greater demands on our budgets, but an obligation that is our responsibility to those who preceded us. Importantly, we should acknowledge the enormous resource that older Australians provide. The 'on the scrap heap at 60' approach to ageing is, in today's world, simply wrongheaded. Older Australians can, and do, make an enormous contribution to our nation as they grow older. Born of years of experience, knowledge does not evaporate at 65, 70 or 75 years of age. Senior Australians remain an under-utilised resource and have a great role to play in our future. The balancing of youthful self-confidence and enthusiasm with sound practical experience is a key part of Australia's future. As longevity increases with better health and medical innovation, we must acknowledge that older Australians can continue to make an ongoing contribution to our future. Not all wisdom resides with the young, despite their protestations. I am honoured and humbled to stand in this parliament as a standard-bearer and constant supporter of older Australians.
Their contribution is a continuing one, and their wisdom an essential part of modern Australia.
Given my past experience with cities and communications, I am pleased to see that we are making progress in dealing with mobile black spots in our cities. It is extraordinary that in this day and age there can be suburbs of a capital city without fixed phones and/or mobile communications, yet that has been the case in many parts of the Ryan electorate. After community consultation and representations, I am pleased that the coalition government has announced four new mobile phone towers to help combat black spots in the suburbs of Mount Crosby, Karana Downs, Upper Brookfield and Kholo. Announced as part of the $220 million Mobile Black Spot Program, communication tower infrastructure, like the proposed towers in Mount Crosby and Karana Downs, will provide major benefits to the communities previously plagued by poor mobile phone reception.
I want to place on record what an honour it is to be the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services. This is an area where we do come close to a bipartisan approach to policy development and implementation. Since being appointed to this role shortly before the last election, I have sought out stakeholders and state government ministers to ensure our common goals can be achieved. I have made a point of reaching out to those who have concerns and to hear firsthand their feedback. I am fortunate to be part of a government with a Prime Minister and a Minister for Social Services who are both absolutely committed to providing effective support for those with disability, and with an absolute commitment to fully funding the NDIS. This is an area where I and the government do not seek to score political points. The outcomes are too important for that. I have sought to deal with my colleagues in this parliament and in the states on a bipartisan basis. The issues with disabilities confront all legislators, and our objective must be to achieve, where possible, the hopes and dreams of those with disability through cooperation and goodwill. The disabled are entitled to see the best of politics, and we, as members of this place, are obligated to provide just that.
The National Disability Insurance Scheme, NDIS, presents a challenge for us all. Though it was formed with the best of intentions, we must manage capacity, expectations and funding. All three have to be addressed. We have faced difficulties recently and we have been open and transparent in our response. The minister committed additional resources so that these matters were resolved as soon as possible. The implementation and full rollout of the NDIS is underway. There will be ongoing challenges, not least in funding such a momentous scheme, but I am confident that we are on track and will deliver on behalf of those most in need. While the NDIS only applies to the 460,000 people with permanent and significant disability, we must continue to work with our state and territory colleagues to ensure that the other 4.2 million Australians living with disability also receive appropriate support and services.
Some six years ago I gave my maiden speech in the address-in-reply to the 2010 parliament. What a different place it was then! The minority Gillard government had just come to power and, with no majority in this place, it depended on the votes of two independents. Today in this parliament the Turnbull government holds a slim but clear majority. It has seven more seats than the Australian Labor Party, 42 per cent of the primary vote, compared to Labor's 35 per cent, and it secured a majority of the two-party preferred vote. It is appropriate to note, without any sense of hubris, that on every test the coalition won the election and the Australian Labor Party lost. That is not to say that the majority is not slim. That is not to say that the Senate representation does not reflect the concerns of many Australian voters. As a government, we must respect those voters who did not support us, just as we respect those Australians who did support us. The hard facts are that the Australian people have voted. They have elected a coalition government with a mandate but they have also given us a Senate that requires crossbench support for most legislation. Those are the facts. Common sense dictates that negotiation with the crossbench is, and will remain, part of our political environment. As a government, we must work with the Senate that the voters have given us and, through that interaction, do the best we can for our nation. It is as simple and as difficult as that.
Importantly, however, the people of Australia have given us a mandate to deliver on the policies that we took to the election. The Leader of the Opposition does not publicly hold that view. He claims the right to be a wrecker in this place. We have seen the vile antics of the CFMEU in a video filmed by a victim. Let us not forget that this is the very union that owns the Leader of the Opposition. The interests of Australians are being washed down the drain simply because Mr Shorten is beholden to militant union bosses. His objective is to prevent good government, but prevent it he will not. His objective is to frustrate and prevent government from governing.
The tragedy is that the Leader of the Opposition is driven by a blind obsession with winning regardless of the cost to our nation and to his own integrity. His deliberate untruths about Medicare in the election campaign set a new benchmark in dishonesty. As we observe the Leader of the Opposition in this place, it becomes clear that he will say anything, regardless of the facts, in his politics of relentless negativity. His comments are often the direct opposite of what he has said in the past. One only needs to consider his flip-flop acrobatics when he says one thing yet does another. He refuses to let truth or any sense of integrity get in the way of his political objectives. Quite frankly, that saddens me. It saddens me because I thought he was better than that. It is all very well to rewrite history.
Opposition members interjecting—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Irons): Order! The previous members have been heard in silence. I ask you to give the same opportunity to the assistant minister.
Mrs PRENTICE: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is all very well to rewrite history, ignoring his own past actions, including his actions in the betrayal of some of Australia's lowest paid workers. Let me say this: the Australian people will see through his fictitious and fabricated politics, and he will be judged by what he has done.
The coalition is restoring integrity in this parliament. The coalition is getting our country back on track after the disappointment of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. The coalition is delivering on our commitment to jobs and growth. I am honoured to represent the people of Ryan in this place, honoured to serve as Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, and proud to be an Australian.