Monthly Archives: February 2015

Bush Matters – “Green, mean, fighting machine”

20 February 2015

You don’t have to be in parliament for long to see the lengths the Greens will go to push their corrupted view of the planet.

On each morning that parliament sits, the Greens gather in a boardroom to discuss their political attack strategy for the day.

Then, throughout any sitting day, as each speaking opportunity arrives in the chamber, the Greens senators take turns calling for the end of live exports, coal mining, uranium exploration, budget reforms and whatever else happens to be the news of the day.

This negativity on steroids continues hour after hour.

It never matters that the consequences of ending coal mining or live exports would be disastrous for our nation’s economy and that tens of thousands of Australians would end up being unemployed as a result of their contaminated ideology.

The Greens do not have to provide a positive alternative. They do not need to be realistic. The Greens don’t have to be practical either because the party will never form government.

They will never have to make hard choices. And they know and understand this all too well.

Last week I had another run in with the Greens over the kangaroo industry. I (successfully) put a motion before the Senate to recognise the ability of Australia to expand our kangaroo meat and hide industry.

The motion serves the purpose of putting a spotlight on the industry during a sitting week, and Senators can speak on the topic in the chamber, if they wish.

Needless to say, the Greens did not approve of this motion and the Greens’ spokesman on animal welfare issues, Senator Lee Rhiannon, voiced her opposition in a media release last week.

In what can only be described as a truly mind boggling claim, Senator Rhiannon professed to have data that categorically proves kangaroo numbers are in decline and are an ‘at risk’ species.

“The major parties should learn the facts about the commercial kangaroo industry and about kangaroo reproductive biology and ecology before perpetuating the myths of abundance and super-fecundity,” she wrote.

These claims are not new. Consider her comments to the Senate in February 2014:

“The commercial shooting industry continues to empty local landscapes of kangaroos in what has been described as the world’s largest commercial slaughter of land based wildlife,” she told the parliament.

“Often landowners mop up what the commercial shooters fail to kill. But it seems that the idea that macropods—various kangaroo species—might be in trouble is one that simply does not register.”

Senator Rhiannon then utilises a regular tool of the Greens, which is to claim that there is somehow, something untoward going on inside the government because it is lobbying for improved market access for an industry the environmental movement has deemed as wrong.

She claims: “There is growing concern about how the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia shapes government kangaroo policy, with trade, foreign affairs and environment ministers actively going overseas to promote this market. That is work that, clearly, a lot of public money goes into.”

Pushing these conspiracy theories is generally popular among the Greens’ support base, who seem only too willing to angrily express themselves in letters and emails, which have littered my inbox in the days following my kangaroo motion.

But while the Greens are quick to attack government relations with industry groups, it rarely discusses its own links with the strong network of environmental activist groups, which peddle misinformation and abuse.

There are quite a number of these organisations in the kangaroo space. Some are not even Australian.

For example, Vegetarians International Voice for Animals is based out of Bristol in the United Kingdom.

It has successfully pressured David Beckham to stop wearing boots made from kangaroo hides and continues to launch campaigns against manufacturers, such as ADIDAS.

The Australian Society for Kangaroos, based just outside of Melbourne at Castlemaine, repeats the Greens’ claims that kangaroos are “Victims of the World’s Largest Wildlife Massacre.”

In fact, for $20 (plus $5 postage) you can purchase a t-shirt from the group that reads “World’s Worst Wildlife Massacre: Since 2001, kangaroos have declined by 55%”

It is in this almost hysterical environment that we must push for our side of the story to be told.

But I have not given up hope. I believe a bit of real world experience for Senator Rhiannon is all that is needed to change her mind.

And so I’ve challenged her to drive between Winton and Longreach at midnight so she can experience the sights and sounds of a plague of kangaroos. I made the offer a few days ago and it still awaits a reply.

We could even print matching t-shirts for the drive, “I survived the World’s Worst Wildlife Massacre.”

 

The Greens would have us standing naked and cold in a virgin forest eating wild berries

13 February 2015

Queensland Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan has challenged Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon to drive between Longreach and Winton at night and then decide whether kangaroos are endangered.

Senator O’Sullivan said statements made today by the Greens that claimed kangaroos were in decline and were an ‘at risk’  species only further illustrated the environmental movement’s disconnect from the everyday reality for people in rural Australia.

He said grazing pressure from kangaroos was taking up to half of the pastures on some drought-stricken properties across Western Queensland.

Senator O’Sullivan said ridiculous comments from the Greens about kangaroos facing extinction proved its party members never left their air-conditioned, inner-city offices to investigate rural issues for themselves.

“Senator Rhiannon embarrasses herself by sharing conspiracy theories about kangaroo numbers being in terminal decline,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“She only has to drive between Winton and Longreach at night to see the plagues of roos.

“Unfortunately Senator Rhiannon won’t be able to see the thousands of roos littering the roadside when she flies home this weekend from Canberra to her home in inner-city Sydney.

“And, anyway, she also wouldn’t know what to do if she found herself in the bush if there wasn’t a pristine walking track with coloured markers leading the way.

“After the Greens have saved the kangaroos from extinction maybe they can save feral dogs or cane toads by taking them to the capital cities to find happy homes.”

Senator O’Sullivan said he had spent his first year in parliament driving to every corner of Queensland talking to constituents about the current drought.

“I have been driving the rural roads across my state for my whole life. I have seen how the land changes and the impacts of drought and flood and fire,” he said.

“Like pretty much all rural people, I don’t need to read an academic study to know what the reality is.”

Despite this, Senator O’Sullivan pointed to available data that clearly showed the number of kangaroos (Red/ Eastern Grey/ Wallaroo) in Queensland had more than doubled from about 12 million to more than 25 million over the past decade.

“The kangaroo meat and hide industry is an important program for the government to progress – it will create jobs and build wealth in rural and regional areas – something the Greens’ policies seem to want to stop,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“The Greens are just economic vandals who are hell-bent on destroying every industry in rural and regional Australia.

“Their economic strategy would end in us all standing naked and cold in a virgin forest eating wild berries.”

Senator O’Sullivan speaks on the children in detention report

12 February 2015

“The integrity of this report remains in question for some due to the fact that it took some 15 months, almost self-evidently waiting for a change of government, to conduct an inquiry well after the peak problem that is said to have motivated the report had diminished by almost 50 per cent. My point in speaking tonight is to urge anybody who is going to give consideration to this report to approach it very cautiously, because I believe that the genesis was flawed and that therefore impacts on the integrity of the document.”

The Human Rights Commission report on children in detention

12 February 2015

Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (18:31): I rise to speak on the Australian

Human Rights Commission report The forgotten children: national inquiry into children in immigration

detention, which was tabled here in the Senate earlier this week. I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

 

I want to be very careful with the language that I use. It is a matter of public record that there is for some

a challenge to the integrity of this report when having regard to the genesis of the report—the genesis of

the idea to hold the inquiry—and indeed the decision-making journey that occurred under the architectural

guidance of the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission. In the limited time available it may

be best to say that during estimates hearings last September, from memory, the President of the Australian

Human Rights Commission was examined in relation to the evolution of the decision-making process that led

to the commissioning of the inquiry and consequently this report. The kindest possible description that could be

provided regarding her performance before the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee was that it was a

very untidy passage of evidence and a very untidy performance when examined on some of the facts.

Essentially, the difficulties arose when the president of the commission was eventually either unable or unwilling

to confirm the evolution of dates and the decision-making process that led to the calling of the inquiry. Initially,

on her own evidence, she indicated that the intent to conduct the inquiry was firmed up in late 2012. She had

taken up her position with the commission in June of that year. Certainly on a number of occasions, whilst her

evidence moved around somewhat, she then indicated that in the early part of 2013 it was firm in her mind the

inquiry had to be commissioned and—again using her own words—by June the commission itself had made a

decision to conduct the inquiry.

 

However, of course, as we know, the inquiry was not announced until into the new government in 2014. The

disturbing fact was that the president indicated, on the evidence available from the Hansard, that she had spoken

with a number of Labor ministers during the caretaker period, which is most improper. But there will be an

opportunity in a week and a bit from today for the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission to

clear up all these issues, to be able to tidy up that evidence. It will give everyone an opportunity to form a firmer

view of the details relating to the evolution

 

In the meantime I say that the integrity of this report remains in question for some due to the fact that it took some

15 months, almost self-evidently waiting for a change of government, to conduct an inquiry well after the peak

problem that is said to have motivated the report had diminished by almost 50 per cent. My point in speaking

tonight is to urge anybody who is going to give consideration to this report to approach it very cautiously, because

I believe that the genesis was flawed and that therefore impacts on the integrity of the document. I seek leave

to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted.

Raising awareness of Domestic Violence

12 February 2015

Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (19:01): I have made a decision that,

amongst all the other things that are important to me as a senator, and, in the hierarchy of importance, I want to

raise awareness of, promote debate on and stimulate consideration of solutions to what is a very, very serious

problem in our nation, and that is domestic violence. It is one of those subjects that I think is of concern to every

member of parliament—here in the federal parliament, here in the federal Senate, as well as in state governments

—and to people in organisations everywhere that are involved, either directly or indirectly, in the delivery of

services that try to create a safer environment for women, children, the aged and the disabled, who are four

cohorts of Australians who are seriously vulnerable to this cultural scourge on our nation.

 

Australians one and all would cringe at the thought that we are a nation where, annually, almost 30,000 women

need to make an application to a court because they are fearful. All other avenues to resolve their domestic

situation exhausted, they turn to the court system to afford them protection from whatever threat it is that they

consider is at the heart of their issue. Of those domestic violence orders—26½ thousand, in fact, to be accurate

—that are issued, almost 12,000 of them, or 44 per cent, are breached. Those breaches require contact between

a person ordered by the courts to stay away from the applicant and the applicant, and of course most of these

orders are for women and most of the offenders who breach the orders are men.

We lose a woman almost each week in this country—36 a year. In my own home state, there have been three

domestic violence deaths this year alone, just in Queensland, and all on the Gold Coast. There have been three

violent domestic related events where women have died, on the Gold Coast alone, in the month of January and

this part of February.

 

We now have the shame of stating that domestic violence is the leading cause of illness and preventable death

for women aged between 15 and 44. The largest, the leading, cause of illness and preventable death for women

aged between 15 and 44 is not cardiovascular; it is not to do with smoking; it is not to do with cancers; it is not

to do with obesity; it is to do with domestic violence.

Yet I observe—and I do not make this a criticism; it is simply an observation—that we spend more time in this

place and in the other place, and in governments generally, talking about other matters of importance to our

community—for example, terrorism. That is significantly important; it is important for our nation to feel safe.

In fact, we have invested $1.5 billion here in the last couple of sittings, last year—as we should—to support the

military effort, in protecting women and children in the Middle East.

 

Half a billion dollars has been invested in upgrading and resourcing our security services and their partners in

this country to make us feel safe. And we have had tragedies. We lost two people to terrorism. That seemed to

be an event confined to an individual, but nonetheless no-one is going to split hairs over the incident where we

tragically lost two Australians. But in the same year in which we lost two people to terrorism—and that remains

rare, and I hope it remains rare for the rest of our natural lives—we did not invest $1.5 billion in measures that

might in some way mitigate and neutralise the impact of this insidious domestic violence in Australia.

The statistics, as alarming as they already are, need to be put into context: there have been credible peer-reviewed

studies that suggest that almost 80 per cent of women who have had an event that constitutes an assault or an

act of domestic violence did not report it to the authorities. So, as we draw upon these statistics and try and

make sense of them, we do so with the knowledge that the problem is much worse than it appears—much worse

than it appears.

 

In my own experience and from the research that my office has assisted me in compiling, it would appear that,

in most instances where a woman or a child is killed in an act of domestic violence, the event was potentially

foreseeable and, in some instances, it would have been graded as a probability. Yet our society, right across

Australia, does not seem to have the ability to curb this terrible affliction. In fact, we do not even regard the

perpetrators as suffering from a psychotic condition. It does not have its own grade of psychosis. It does not

discriminate in respect of perpetrators. This is not something that can be traditionally sheeted home to the lowsocioeconomic

end of things. Some of the people who commit these offences work in the community as doctors,

dentists and carers of others. But when they get home, in the privacy of their own home, they inflict psychological,

sexual and physical harm and damage to their partners, to their parents, to their children—the strong over the

weak.

 

I have said it before, I will say it again and I intend to increase my tempo. As we consider everything we consider

in this place—and this will not be applicable to everything, but we need to put it to the test—such as legislation

or adjustments to social supports, we need to consider if any element of it needs to be looked at through the

prism of trying to reduce domestic violence, and increasing and resourcing the protection of women, children

and other vulnerable cohorts within our society. We all have to start talking about it because, in my mind, it is

one of the most serious priorities for our nation. What are we if we are not a nation of people who can protect

the vulnerable? What are we if we are not a nation of people who respect the relationships we have with those

who are meant to be our nearest and dearest, our loved ones, and afford them protection in our own homes? We

have to concentrate on this in everything we do. Thank you.

Trip highlights telecommunications problems

10 February 2015

Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandNationals Whip in the Senate) (20:19): My contribution tonight relates to the third in a trilogy of speeches that I have made in this place concerning the fulfilment of a promise that I made when I was appointed as a senator for the state of Queensland, in that I promised to visit every community in my state, where practicable, on a listening tour to determine exactly what was on their minds with respect to their ideals for their communities right across my state.

I have now completed that task—although I must admit that, when I was battling 600 or 700 kilometres of unsealed road between Birdsville and Quilpie, I for a moment thought that perhaps I should have just promised to go to every second community in the state. Nonetheless, I have now, with the exception of one of two areas in the peninsula in the far remote north, visited every community.

The challenges for these communities are remarkably consistent, particularly when we get into the more rural and remote areas of my state. There are facts and figures that show that almost 33 per cent of the GDP of my state comes from an area that we would politically be familiar with as the divisions of Kennedy and Maranoa and a portion of Capricornia, where there are only 240,000 residents. Remembering that my state’s population is 4.4 million, 240,000 residents are responsible for 33 per cent of GDP.

I listened with great interest to the previous speaker, Senator Milne. She is in the stratosphere somewhere, on her own, as she starts to attack the contributions made by the mining and resource sector. Communities that are in the area that I have described, west of the Great Divide and in the Bowen Basin, are suffering now on so many fronts; and, if we were to follow the script provided, no-one would live west of the Great Divide. Many of these communities suffer from a lack of essential services. I think progressive governments—and I call upon my own government to pay acute attention to this—have in many respects failed these communities.

Some might remember that, in my maiden speech, I made the point that there has been a reduction in community services throughout these communities over the last four or five decades; but it is now getting into a critical phase because of, I think, our failure to keep these townships up-to-date with communications technologies. Many of them have difficulties with their fixed lines. They have either no internet service, an inadequate and intermittent internet service or one that is simply too expensive for them to access. Mums and dads in the central-west who use the internet as a platform for education and for their own social interactions pay sometimes 400 per cent more for the same volume of service that we have come to expect in the more populated areas.

On top of this—and it is been canvassed in this place many times—is the potential impact that will occur if we do not continue to underpin the Australia Post services that are so important to so many of these communities. In the community of Bedourie, the local shire has had to purchase the local post office. I am advised by them that they subsidise it for about $100,000 a year out of the rates receipt for that district. Imagine that. Imagine us going out in the more populated areas, in the cities, to tell ratepayers that they now have to pay for basic community service obligations such as the operation of their post office and their postal services. Indeed, three of the shires out there were putting $5 million into trying to come up with a solution to do with the delivery of their fixed line service.

These things are horrific. This is in communities that are paying four and five times as much for freight as one would pay in the city for the delivery of goods for retail. Of course, this is passed on to very small communities. It is very difficult for these additional and very large cost imposts to be amortised across these much smaller communities. Consequently, the cost of living is much greater for many of our Queensland communities west of the Great Divide—and I assume the situation is the same in western New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, the Territory and certainly a very large part of Western Australia. These communities are made up of not many people. They do not have the voting voice or the power that you have in some of the more concentrated federal divisions politically; they are potentially without voice as a percentage of whole. Not only do they have these massive cost-of-living imposts because of freight and the cost of goods and services; they also have to pay additionally for the failure of progressive governments to deliver to them the very basic community service obligations.

For most Australians, if you want to visit your accountant you can probably do it on the way to work. But some of these people have to travel thousands upon thousands of kilometres to visit these professional services where they are delivered. They get the most basic of medical or dental services. I say we need to start focusing on their needs not only on the basis that they are simply entitled—as, in my view, they are—and not only on the basis that governments both state and federal need to subsidise the delivery of these services. The fact is that, if you are not persuaded in terms of the community service obligations, you should be persuaded by the economic argument. Those 240,000 people deliver up over a third of the GDP of my state. Their contribution is about $212,000 a head whereas if you were to amortise the contribution of some of the major populated areas, it is down to as low as $5,000 per head.

These things have massive impacts on their ability to conduct their business and on the delivery of education and health services—not to mention the social engagement that you and I take for granted when we either send or receive an email or communicate with our family across the internet. These are people who sometimes can go almost a week without having the capacity to communicate with their young children who are away at boarding school. Mind you—and I send this out to mums and dads everywhere—children are in some cases starting boarding school as early as grade 1 because there is simply no alternative delivery of education that can be done on a reliable basis.

My message has been the same right through my three speeches, and it will remain; it is one of central mantras that I bring with me to this place. We need to all pay attention to making sure that we provide these Australians with a much better level of service—not exactly the same as what we have, because that is not possible; we understand that and they understand that—even if it is at an additional cost to our government. And, most certainly, we need to pay attention to providing our basic service obligations, particularly in communications, health and education.

Bush Matters Op-Ed – “Green tape debacle is back”

6 February 2015

While the final results are still being calculated and the negotiations among the elected parties are still in motion, it would be remiss of me, as a Queensland Senator, to not spend some time in this column discussing my state’s election outcome.

Firstly, it must be said that no one – not even the most devout Labor supporter – could have anticipated the major swing to the ALP at the weekend that has placed that party within grasp of government.

With the possible scenario that Labor could form government in Queensland in the coming days; we must now turn our focus to how this shift could impact on our agriculture sector and the ambitions to double output by 2040.

As you might imagine, I do not believe the prognosis would be bright.

While Labor has remained light on detail regarding its agriculture strategy, the actual announcements made during the campaign indicate there is a very real possibility that a government led by current Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk would allow the agriculture policy pendulum to once again swing too far towards extreme green politics.

Firstly, we have Ms Palaszczuk’s pledge to introduce another unnecessary level of bureaucracy in the form of a new animal welfare advisory board consisting of technical, community and industry representatives to advise on issues associated with the development and promotion of codes of practice for the humane treatment of production animals.

This policy takes its inspiration from Federal Labor’s Animal Welfare Strategy Advisory Committee, which was shut down early last year by Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce because its oversight and policy development role could be easily absorbed back into the Federal Department of Agriculture, saving the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Secondly, there is Ms Palaszczuk’s pledge, delivered during her campaign launch address to a packed room of party faithful in Brisbane, “to reintroduce Labor’s nation-leading tree clearing laws.”

To use a popular phrase from another Labor leader – former Prime Minister Paul Keating – that comment became a shiver just looking for a spine to run up.

It quickly found its target across the backs of farmers in every corner of the state.

Within hours of her declaration, phone calls and emails were being circulated across the bush as people warned each other of what Ms Palaszczuk had proclaimed.

Queensland Country Life even dedicated several pages of its next edition to Ms Palaszczuk’s pledge.

The consensus is clear across rural Queensland – Labor is barking up the wrong tree if it believes re-introducing this legislation will do anything but undermine agriculture’s ability to contribute to the state economy.

Whoever finally takes government will still have to develop a plan to tackle the $80 billion debt strangling Queensland.

The new government will also still be forced to tackle the $450,000 the state disburses in interest payments every hour to its creditors.

Now is not the time to be jeopardising farmers’ profitability by tinkering with the workable and popular vegetation management reforms of the LNP government.

Despite this, if history tells us anything, agriculture under a Labor government would be highly likely to lose its place as one of the four pillars of the state economy (as it had been under the LNP) and would instead return to being a junior ministry position (as it languished for almost two decades of previous Labor government rule).

While I have high doubts any Labor State government would truly serve the interests of rural industry, I believe lessons have been learnt by farming bodies and landholders since the time when the Beattie government enforced its tree clearing legislation on Queensland farmers.

I believe the policy and scientific justification for a common-sense approach that includes self-accessible codes has strengthened significantly in recent years.

The LNP government has provided a valuable template for how a common sense policy approach can be successfully developed that trusts farmers to be responsible custodians over their land.

There have been various case studies undertaken in recent years to prove grazing land lost to invasive vegetation, or thickened woodlands, can be responsibly brought back into useful production for grazing or cropping and the efficient control of pest weeds.

Simply put, there is also a need for a profitable rural sector, especially following the mining downturn. Labor cannot ignore this fact.

Perhaps one of the lasting legacies of this LNP government will be arming rural industry with considerably strengthened scientific and policy arguments to combat extreme green ideologues.

And Ms Palaszczuk should not underestimate the resolve of rural people and their elected representatives to use this arsenal to stop any plans to bring back the draconian tree police from the days of Beattie and Bligh.