28 February 2014
A waste of time
Watching question time has become a total waste of time. The questions are so banal, the repetition mind-numbing, the rudeness unbecoming, the procedure unwieldy, and the partisanship of the Speaker a joke.
So I thought we should give the Opposition a few ideas of questions we would like asked. Here are a few that come to mind. Feel free to add to them.
You say your Paid Parental Leave scheme is fully funded by a 1.5% levy on big business but as you are reducing company tax by 1.5% that, in effect, means that these businesses will not pay any more and all other businesses will pay less. How do you propose to come up with $5.5 billion a year from less revenue?
Your party has a policy of not providing assistance to business for factory refurbishment. How then can you justify gifting the biggest polluting companies $3 billion to refurbish their factories so they can lower their power bills?
You have warned us that Medicare is becoming unaffordable. Experts agree that preventative health is a crucial factor in lowering costs. Why then have you disbanded the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, established to lead the national fight against obesity, alcohol abuse and tobacco use? Why did you take down the healthy eating website? Why are you defunding Medicare Locals?
Aside from the $9.5 billion you have allocated for offshore processing, could you tell us the full cost of Operation Sovereign Borders? How much comes out of our Defence budget and how much is spent on airfares, administration, and related costs? What is happening to the 12 $200,000 life rafts that are used once and then left abandoned on Indonesian islands?
Your policy is to axe the carbon and mining taxes. Can you name one business that has cited these taxes as the reason for their closure? As the level of foreign investment has been increasing since these taxes were introduced (increased by $147.5 billion to reach $2,167.7 billion at 31 December 2012) how can you justify saying they are a disincentive to investment?
You have stated that we have a budget emergency and must move towards surplus. Are you aware that the largest economy in the world, the US, has only run surpluses 12 times in the last 75 years and have a current budget deficit of 4.1% of GDP compared to our 3%? The UK has not had a surplus in over a decade and has a deficit of 6.1% of GDP. The second largest economy, China, has only had one modest surplus in the last 25 years and they are running on a deficit of 1.5%. Are you aware of the recently released paper from the IMF that says debt is not an impediment to growth?
Has the UN contacted you regarding the atrocities on Manus Island in flagrant breach of International Law, and our disregard for the International Law Court ruling that settlements in the Occupied territories are illegal, and our aiding and abetting of human rights abuses in Sri Lanka? What are you offering Cambodia to take refugees?
In your TPP free trade agreement there are several proposals with the potential to impact significantly on Australia's Pharmaceuticals Benefits Scheme including a requirement that patents be available for new uses of existing drugs, effectively allowing 'evergreening' of existing patents; compensation to companies for delays in the grant or extension of patents; and measures to ensure data exclusivity to allow companies to prevent competitors, specifically manufacturers of generic medicines, from using past clinical safety and efficacy data to support approval of new products. Do you agree with Intellectual property law expert Matthew Rimmer who said the draft was 'very prescriptive' and strongly reflected US trade objectives and multinational corporate interests with little focus on the rights and interests of consumers, let alone broader community interests?
At a Senate Committee hearing in January, then head of Infrastructure Australia, Michael Deegan, expressed concern about proposed legislation that will give the Government control over what projects the body assesses and whether their assessments will be publicly released. He felt it may undermine their independence and transparency and he was also disturbed and disappointed that Infrastructure Australia were not consulted in the drafting of the legislation. Two weeks later, Mr Deegan stood down. Was he sacked for giving the government advice? Does this mean the end of public transport funding? Does the government feel it is better informed to decide on infrastructure priorities? Why won't assessments be released to the public?
The Productivity Commission estimates there around 160,000 Australians with significant gambling problems, another 350,000 who are vulnerable to problem gambling, and that 41 per cent of poker machine revenue in Australia is drawn from problem gamblers. Why have you moved to dismantle the poker machine reform legislation? Why have you disbanded the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission when 81% of respondents in the sector wanted the Commission kept? Why are you suggesting welfare spending must be reined in while announcing an amnesty for offshore tax evasion?
You vowed to wage a 'mighty battle' in cabinet to convince your colleagues to sign off on a $7 billion bailout of 'distressed' farm loans and avert a complete and utter financial meltdown. You have instead announced a Government funding package worth $320 million. As drought is predicted to increase in frequency and intensity due to climate change, what plans do you have for future relief?
In 2003, Tony Warren, Telstra's group manager, regulatory strategy, told a Senate committee: I think it is right to suggest that ADSL is an interim technology. It is probably the last sweating, if you like, of the old copper network assets. In copper years, if you like, we are at a sort of transition, we are at five minutes to midnight. A few minutes later his boss, Bill Scales, said: It could be 10 or even 15 years, just to get some context into that.
A strategic review found the rollout of the Coalition NBN plan would cost $12bn more to complete and take four years longer than promised by the Coalition before the election. Does this mean that we will reach midnight before the NBN is complete?
It has taken the best part of six years to draw up most of the current national curriculum which has just been implemeted, a process that has included 26,000 submissions and state/territory involvement all the way. Will the two men you have appointed to rewrite the curriculum with a more knowledge-based, Judeo-Christian, conservative capitalist slant be reading these expert submissions or is this central control from Canberra?
Who is your second in command? If a story on the ABC makes you too cross to function for two weeks then we better know who to contact in case of war.
Can we expect more raids on lawyers and media outlets by the AFP using spurious warrants? Are the anti-association laws going to be extended? Does this fit in with the plan to use the military for civil matters like immigration control?
Will the small business owners who were unaware of your unadvertised change to the instant asset write-off still be able to claim for the capital expenditure they undertook assuming they would be able to claim on it?
Can you explain why you want to close down the Clean Energy Finance Corporation who is making us a profit of about $200 million a year whilst co-investing with private enterprise in clean energy initiatives? Will the companies who moved towards clean energy practices receive compensation when you remove the carbon tax? How do you respond to the warning that companies like Qantas will face taxes overseas if we do not comply with energy reduction targets?
What is the rationale behind cutting Indigenous legal aid and funding to many early intervention groups? Do you realise how much it costs to incarcerate a person? As these were funded by the proceeds of crime through the National Crime Prevention Agency, does this mean that you are now profiting from the proceeds of crime?
Around Australia, our university engineering faculties and research centres are developing the key future-oriented technical skills that may provide the high-end manufacturing more suitable for this country, in areas like hydro, biomass, geothermal, solar and wind technologies.
In its 2013 World Energy Outlook, the IEA predicted that renewables were on track to become the second-largest source of electricity by 2015, and approach coal as the primary source by 2035, with continued growth of hydropower and bioenergy, plus rapid expansion of wind and solar PV.
Australia needs to build a more innovative industry and manufacturing base for the future, including creating more jobs in nanotechnology and biotechnology. It's in Australia's interests not to be left behind in the growth industries of the future, and those include renewable energy.
Why are you considering scrapping the renewable energy target which will deter investment in these industries of the future?
Is calling you Madame Speaker considered sexist?