Thursday 14th February 2008
Peninsula and a failure to manage the site with the respect it deserves, particularly at the state level. The time has come to truly respect and rehabilitate our nation’s birthplace at Kurnell.
Australia is a prosperous country. Our prosperity has produced significant dividends—in particular, jobs for millions of Australians. The reason we have working families in Australia is because they have jobs. They have jobs today because of the strong economic management of the Howard government that provided an environment for business to grow and prosper. After 11½ years of the Howard government the Australian economy is the strongest it has ever been—no ifs, no buts. I would like to honour today the member for Higgins, the Hon. Peter Costello, for his leadership of our economy over this time. He is our finest Treasurer ever and that position is in no present threat.
Yet the storm clouds are gathering. We must cast our eyes forward and embrace a new round of economic reforms. Of particular significance is the need to reform our Federation. However, we must proceed carefully. The realignment of our Federation, particularly in priority areas such as water, taxation and infrastructure, must be about delivering a better system of governance for our population and our economy. It should not be done to cover for the inability of state governments to do their jobs, especially in health and education. There is a remedy to the incompetence of state governments that requires no constitutional change—vote them out, especially in New South Wales. We must also give attention to local government and give them a direct voice in how our nation is governed. They should be given a clear and mandated role in service delivery and the means to do their job. Commonwealth, state and local government should operate like a three-legged stool, each supporting the other. At present it is more like a three-legged dog.
We are a prosperous people, but this prosperity is not solely for our own benefit; it comes with a responsibility to invest back into our communities. Our communities are held together by the selfless service of volunteers. We must work to value their service and encourage more of our community to join the volunteer ranks and assist local organisations engage and retain today’s volunteers, particularly from younger generations. We must also appreciate that our not-for-profit sector has the potential to play a far greater role in the delivery of community services than is currently recognised. As global citizens, we must also recognise that our freedom will always be diminished by the denial of those same freedoms elsewhere, whether in Australia or overseas.
Social entrepreneurs, such as David Bussau, our Senior Australian of the Year, have shown the way forward. Our attention in this area cannot be limited only to areas of strategic self-interest. It must be pursued as the responsibility of our common humanity. In Africa, 6,500 people die every day from preventable and treatable diseases. Over just six weeks that is more than the 250,000 people estimated to have tragically died following the tsunami tragedy that evoked such a compassionate and generous response from Australians—and I commend them for that. Africa, though, is a humanitarian tragedy on an unimaginable scale. It is a true moral crisis that eclipses all others. The African tragedy is driven by war, poverty, disease, famine, corruption, injustice and an evil that is robbing generations of Africans, our fellow human beings, of their future. Paul Hewson, better known as Bono, said:
There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames.
... when the history books are written, our age will be remembered ... what we did—or did not do—to put the fire out ...
We must engage as individuals and communities to confront these issues—not just as governments. We have all heard the call to make poverty history. Let us do this by first making poverty our own personal business.
The Howard government increased annual spending on foreign aid to $3.2 billion. The new government has committed to continue to increase this investment and I commend it on doing so. However, we still must go further. If we doubt the need, let us note that in 2007 the total world budget for global aid accounted for only one-third of basic global needs in areas such as education, general health, HIV-AIDS, water treatment and sanitation. This leaves a sizeable gap. The need is not diminishing, nor can our support. It is the Australian thing to do.
In conclusion, it says in the Book of Joel, ‘Your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.’ Let us have in this place the vision of young men and women that realises the dreams of generations past—the dreaming of Dharawal elders of ancient times, the dreams of Cook and his era of discovery and enlightenment and my grandparents’ generation who fought wars, survived the Great Depression and gave birth to our great Liberal Party with the dream of a brighter day for those who came after them. May God bless and guide us all in this place as we serve those who have had the good grace to send us here on their behalf.
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