Media Statement – Senator Anning First Speech

As a Senator, a National and a proud Australian, I condemn the views expressed by Senator Fraser Anning on Tuesday.

Ours is a truly multicultural nation, one built by generations of hard-working migrants who sought a better future for their children. From the first Indigenous settlers who set foot upon this land tens of thousands of years ago, to the relatively recent arrival of the First Fleet and the subsequent boom in exploring the opportunities, this land held for those who were willing to give it a go.

We come from explorers, from convicts, from miners and farmers and entrepreneurs, all of whom came in search of something more. Australia would not be the great nation it is without the work of Chinese migrants during the gold rush; the Italian and Greek migrants after the Second World War who helped build the great Snowy Hydro Scheme; the “ten pound Poms” who came from dirty cities to wide open plains; the Vietnamese and Lebanese refugees… The list goes on and on. Sadly, there have always been those who disparage the newest arrivals, who point out what’s different instead of what we have in common, and that is this: The desire to work hard for a brighter future for our children.

Senator Anning said he wanted to fix immigration by reducing ethnocultural diversity”. Well I say this to Senator Anning, and those who believe Australia isn’t big enough to make room for people willing to have a go: Yes, our cities are overflowing, but our regions are not. Perhaps the Senator could better spend his efforts in encouraging hard-working migrants to move to the regions, where they will be able to make a great contribution to a great nation. Perhaps the Senator should cast his gaze not to the past and the days of the White Australia Policy, but to the future and the growth that we can achieve as a nation if we embrace those who want to work hard and have a go.

That is the Australia I’m proud to be part of, one that rewards an honest day’s work with an honest day’s pay, one that allows the aspirational migrants to give their families a better life than they may of otherwise had.

Grants for organisations in Tasmania to get seniors online

Nationals Senator for Tasmania Steve Martin has called on community organisations in the State to join the Be Connected Network and be eligible to apply for a share of up to $20 million in funding to help get seniors online.

Senator Martin said the Coalition Government is providing grants to local organisations to deliver free digital skills training to people over 50 as part of the Be Connected program.

Community organisations that join the network can apply for a range of grants, including:

·         an Activation Grant of $2,000

·         a Get Online Week 2018 Event Grant of $1,500

·         a Building Digital Skills Grant of up to $15,000, depending on how many people they have registered on the Be Connected website.

“By joining the Be Connected Network, organisations help seniors in Tasmania to maintain their independence and keep connected with family and friends,” Senator Martin said. “Participants in the program get free, personalised face-to-face coaching and access to interactive tutorials and resources.

“Local organisations including Mason Care Tasmania and Rosebery Community House are already delivering the program in Tasmania, but more are needed.

“I encourage organisations in Tasmania to join the network of local partners and offer digital skills and social support to seniors in our community.”

More than 1,500 organisations have already joined the Be Connected Network across Australia, including libraries, community centres, clubs and aged care facilities.

To find out more information about Be Connected or to join the network, go to www.beconnected.esafety.gov.au or call 1300 795 897.

Nationals in Government delivering for regional communities

Tasmanian Senator Steve Martin says regional communities are benefiting from the Nationals in Government. The 2018 Budget included almost a billion dollars towards major projects in Tasmania, many of them in the regions.

“There’s $400 million towards a package of targeted works, including the Bass Highway corridor, under the Roads of Strategic Importance (ROSI) initiative,” Senator Martin said. “There’s also a further $59.8 million to deliver the second tranche of the Freight Rail Revitalisation program - tranche one is well underway and is already delivering benefits to our mining, processing, forestry and manufacturing sectors. A further $456 million has been committed to projects beyond 2021-22.”

Ensuring regional people get their fair share, giving them a voice in Parliament, including keeping communities safe and improving road networks, is a key part of what the Nationals are all about. Senator Martin said the Nationals in Government had made a $400 million investment in the $500 million Midland Highway Upgrade as part of that commitment.

“By continuing to improve road safety, reduce travel times for drivers, better connect communities and boost the State’s economic growth – including supporting major industries such as tourism and agriculture – we are directly addressing safety concerns on one of the most important road corridors in Tasmania,” he said. “The Midland Highway Upgrade will significantly reduce the likelihood of single vehicle, loss-of-control and head-on crashes, which currently make up 70 per cent of all crashes on the highway. It’s critical that regional Tasmanians have someone representing their interests at both a State and Federal level, advocating for what’s important to us and delivering the funding to make those promises a reality.”

The National Party is Australia’s only dedicated voice committed to working for the interests of people outside the major cities. For 99 years, the Party’s grassroots membership has had a say on the policies that inform Government decisions, ensuring farmers, small businesses and families have a seat at the table.

Statement on education Bill

Today I crossed the floor to vote against the Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment (Student Loan Sustainability) Bill 2018, an action I have always said I would undertake.

Some would say that I have crossed the floor against my Party, but I see it as staying true to my word and I would like to thank my National Party colleagues for understanding that this is my stance. From day one they have known my views on this Bill and they have supported my independence on this topic, which is close to my heart. 

This is what makes The Nationals a great Party: We respect the vast array of attitudes and opinions held by an equally diverse and switched-on regional Australia. As such, members can vote with their conscience; we are not held hostage by faceless power-brokers who demand our loyalty, unlike those in the Labor Party.

My opposition to this Bill was outlined in a statement released in March. It is my concern that any reduction to the HECS-HELP repayment threshold would, in effect, be a disincentive to students, especially those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Students are one of Australia’s most precious resources and we should invest in them. I recognise the Government’s intent is to make a sustainable system, but I would not change my position on this Bill, which I opposed for all Tasmanians – for all Australians – with my head and my heart. I strongly support maximising the opportunity for students, especially those from my home state of Tasmania.

There are those in the Labor Party who thought they may have got some political mileage out me changing my tune, but I am proud of being in a Party that leads the way in supporting rural and regional students to get an education.

The Nationals have systematically removed barriers for rural and regional students. Education is absolutely critical to ensuring our rural and regional children grow up with every opportunity they could hope for, and as a National I will continue to advocate for those opportunities.

But as a National, I also believe it is my responsibility to stand up and give voice to those rural and regional communities – particularly those in Tasmania – when legislation could serve to take away those opportunities as well.

Power of people makes Senate ride worthwhile

The Slim Dusty tune Looking Forward Looking Back is an apt one to have stuck in my head as I write this piece to mark the six-month milestone of my time in the Senate.

What a fun, humbling, eventful and relatively successful ride it has been since I was sworn in to the Senate on 12 February 2018.

While it feels like my First Speech was given an age ago, Slim Dusty’s lines of I’ve come a long way down the track, Got a long way left to go ring true as I look back on the ride to date and into the future with Australians expected to go to the polls next year.

The one constant of the ride – whether it be looking forward or looking back – that has made it worth the while has been the people. Not just the people “dear to me”. Not just those I’ve met “down the track”. It has been all of the people I have and will represent in the Senate as I strive to make their lives better through the important decisions made in Canberra.

The impact of those decisions hit home recently when Joan called Brian Carlton’s Tasmania Talks radio program and explained how the announcement of the ex-HMAS Darwin coming to Tassie to be a dive wreck brought her to tears.

It was the personal pain and strength to tell her story about how her son, Leading Seaman Cameron Gurr, who was lost overboard from HMAS Darwin and how the decommissioned ship would be a fitting tribute to her son brought home how decisions impact people in powerful and profound ways.

Yes, reports about the ex-HMAS Darwin had focused on the economic, health, tourism, and recreational value to Tasmania. But it was people power, and Joan’s story, that will sit with me about a decision that had been almost four years in the making.

Looking back, the impact on people of the $47.5 million in funding I have personally secured for Tasmania since being sworn in to the Senate has been overwhelmingly positive.

Lives of Tasmanians will benefit from the announcements made for the Cradle Mountain Masterplan, the Cradle Coast Coastal Pathway, a fruit fly bio-security campaign, better netball courts for George Town, an agricultural export package, the Devonport Living City funding, upgraded Royal Flying Doctors Service programs, more mobile phone towers, and, of course, ex-HMAS Darwin.

The lives of Tasmanians are also benefitting from the personally inspired campaigns I’m pushing, including the #GrabATassie one encouraging shoppers to buy local produce, and the #PuttingTassieBackOnTheMap crusade to always put Tasmania front and centre of any decisions made by our leaders.

It is about making better outcomes for all Tasmanians, including the often forgotten ones in our regions, that keeps me striving for more equity when it comes to cheaper airfares to the Mainland, keeping exports rolling with an improved Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme, and looking after farmers facing hardship with more funding of the Farm Household Allowance.

That’s why I have continued to push for better education outcomes through my charity work with Toast for Kids and Books for Babies. That’s why I’m encouraging other politicians, no matter their political colours, to donate a coat for Enormity Inc. to reach the 100,000 mark to help keep more homeless Australians warmer in the winter months.

That’s why I’m supporting the Save Our Churches campaign as the Anglican Church plans to sell scores of properties in Tasmania. That’s why I want Tassie to be the home of a Qantas Group Pilot Academy. That’s why I want AFL and AFLW teams based in Tasmania by 2023.

In the rough and tumble of politics, compliments don’t come along often but it was encouraging when a fellow politician said at a recent announcement that for someone who had only been in Parliament for “30 seconds” that many others were “jealous” of my achievements. The compliment made me smile and has inspired me to achieve even more for the Tasmanian people.

Looking forward, I realise there is still a lot of hard work to do to make the lives of Tasmanians even better and I hope to make even more politicians jealous of my achievements to come.

It is with the full weight of the National Party of Australia behind me that I know I can achieve even better outcomes for Tasmania. It is the Nationals that fully understand that people in regional areas can be the forgotten ones. It is the Nationals who best stand for rural communities. It is the Nationals that were the best fit for me as I strive for a better Tasmania.

It is the Nationals, through the Coalition Government alliance, that are delivering life-changing NDIS plans to more Tasmanians, giving greater access to sports programs for our kids through Sporting Schools, and working with communities through grants for volunteers.  

Joining the Nationals made me realise that I couldn’t do it alone. It is taking a team effort to get things done for Tasmania. That’s why I especially want to thank my family, the electorate team, the Nationals Leader and Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, my fellow Nationals, and the many people I meet when I travel around Tasmania for making all of the hard work worth it.

It’s said that people make a place, and it’s Tasmanians that make this State one that the rest of the world envies. Thank you to all of the people who have made the journey of looking forward, looking back a worthwhile trip.

I’m under no illusions that I face a tough battle when it comes to earning another stint in the Senate. But I am a fighter. I love to prove doubters wrong when they say I can’t do something. That’s why my motto in life is “never give up”.

In the words of Slim Dusty, “I’ll be learning forward, to see what’s coming”.

 

Drought Relief Access Permit scheme gives relief to farmers

Nationals Senator for Tasmania Steve Martin has welcomed the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s (NHVR) move to waiver access fees for trucks operating to and from drought-hit properties.

The move follows hard-hit farmers gaining extra relief when a Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES) extension was gained thanks a new ministerial direction and the Coalition Government announcing an extra $190 million for Farm Household Allowance (FHA) payments.

Senator Martin said the Drought Relief Access Permit scheme, which begins on Monday 13 August, will allow trucks carrying big loads of hay and other feed to save on the cost of transporting drought-relief fodder to farmers.

“The Drought Relief Access Permit scheme will save operators $73 per permit and support farmers moving stock or produce to and from drought-affected properties,” Senator Martin said.

“The much-needed exemption will apply for the transport of fodder freight, water cartage, stock or restocking freight and emergency water infrastructure to drought-declared areas.

Senator Martin said the TFES extension and the NHVR scheme would make it more cost-effective for hay and other feed to be transported across Bass Strait to drought-hit Mainland properties.

Information about the Drought Relief Access Permit scheme can be found at www.nhvr.gov.au/files/201808-0882-drought-relief-access-permit-payment-exemption.pdf

Tas Freight Equalisation Scheme relief for drought-hit farmers

Tasmanians donating produce to drought-stricken farmers have had their goodwill supported by the Australian Government through extension of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme (TFES) to lower transportation costs of donated fodder.

Nationals Senator for Tasmania Steve Martin said he was proud that Tasmanians were making such contributions to the drought effort and was pleased the TFES extension will make it more cost-effective for hay and other feed to be transported to drought-hit properties on the Mainland.

Senator Martin said this change to TFES followed on from the Liberals and Nationals’ Government announcement this week of an additional $190 million in drought support measures to help producers and farming communities during tough times.

That assistance included expanding the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) scheme to provide two lump sum supplementary payments worth up to $12,000 for eligible households and relaxing its eligibility criteria to help farming families meet everyday living costs.

“The extension of the Tasmanian Freight Equalisation Scheme to exempt donated fodder moving to the Mainland will be welcome relief for generous Tasmanians donating hay and other feed to drought-hit farmers,” Senator Martin said.

“The TFES inclusion of donated fodder will continue until 30 June 2019 and demonstrates the Federal Liberals and Nationals’ Government is backing those Tasmanians who are pitching in to help out our farmers who are doing it tough on the Mainland.  The amendment is a win for Tasmanians donating as it makes it cheaper to get the produce across Bass Strait, and it is a win for Mainland farmers as it makes it possible for Tasmanians to deliver more feed to them.”

The Government will prioritise claims arising from this extension of TFES. Senator Martin was instrumental in lobbying the Federal Government earlier this year to secure the future of the TFES beyond 2019. More information about the TFES can be found on Department of Human Resources website at www.humanservices.gov.au

Call for investigation into Tasmanian airfare inequities

Nationals Senator for Tasmania Steve Martin has called for public submissions to be reopened for the Senate Inquiry into The operation, regulation and funding of air route service delivery to rural, regional and remote communities.

Senator Martin wants a public hearing to be held in Devonport in regards to regional airline routes and for a probe into airfare ticket inequities between destinations in the State. Senator Martin has written to the Deputy Chair of the Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, Senator Barry O’Sullivan, requesting that submissions to The operation, regulation and funding of air route service delivery to rural, regional and remote communities be reopened and heard from Tasmanians about inequities.

Senator Martin wants the committee to hold a public hearing in Devonport to hear directly from local businesses, organisations and people about differences in airfare prices to Tasmanian destinations.

“Tasmanian voices need to be heard by the Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport as to why there are huge differences in the prices of airfares to Tasmania relative to Mainland routes, and even differences in comparable destinations namely Launceston and Devonport, ” Senator Martin said today. “From my investigations, it seems people living on the North West Coast of Tasmania are paying more to fly between the State and Mainland destinations compared to those flying in and out of Launceston.

“To support my request for a public hearing in Devonport, a snapshot of flights on QantasLink between Devonport and Launceston to Melbourne from August to October found price inequalities. Launceston was clearly the cheaper destination compared to Devonport. The North West Coast of Tasmania is a region that is recognised as a low social economic area, and the cost of travel via their local regional airports is inequitable and unacceptable.”

Senator Martin said the committee needs to investigate as to why airfare inequities between Tasmanian routes exist and what impact it has on regional opportunities, the economy, and the social and health sectors.

(Note, the attached spreadsheet highlights the differences in airfares for the period between August 7 and October 17)  

Spreadsheet

 

Senator Martin secures deal for ex-HMAS Darwin scuttling in Tasmania

Nationals Senator for Tasmania Steve Martin has secured the deal for ex-HMAS Darwin to be scuttled off the East Coast of Tasmania in what will be a major boost for tourism in the region.

Senator Martin said the scuttling of ex-HMAS Darwin would be the culmination of about four years of him fighting alongside the Break O’Day Council and Mayor Mick Tucker for a decommissioned navy ship to be used as a dive wreck off the coast of Tasmania resulting in millions of dollars being injected into the economy by attracting thousands of divers to the wreck each year.

The Senator said he would be lobbying the State Government to provide funding for ex-HMAS Darwin to be stripped at a Tasmanian port to create even more jobs and economic activity before the scuttling possibly at Skeleton Bay, near Binalong Bay.

“The campaign to get a decommissioned Royal Australian Navy ship scuttled off the coast of Tasmania started in 2015 when ex-HMAS Tobruk was first touted as a possible vessel to be used as a dive wreck to attract tourists from far and wide,” said Senator Martin as he made the announcement at Sydney’s Garden Island with the Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Marise Payne.

“We may have lost the battle for ex-HMAS Tobruk with Queensland acquiring it, but it is pleasing to know that Tasmania has won the war with the acquisition of ex-HMAS Darwin. It will be an honour for Tasmanians to call the State the final resting place for HMAS Darwin.

“It is expected that by the fourth year of its operations as a dive wreck that ex-HMAS Darwin will in that 12 months bring 7000 tourists to the East Coat of Tasmania and inject about $4 million into the local economy.

“Previous economic forecasts show that the scuttling ex-HMAS Darwin will have positive, long-term social, economic, recreational and health benefits for Tasmania and especially the East Coast that boasts pure white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, and majestic coastal reserves.

“Tasmanians will take honour in recognising the service of the Adelaide Class frigate and all whom have sailed on ex-HMAS Darwin – about 5000 men and women – to serve our country with distinction for more than three decades.

“For 33 years, ex-HMAS Darwin served our nation with distinction highlighted by being awarded battle honours three times for successful maritime security operations. Ex-HMAS Darwin will continue to serve Tasmania for many more decades to come. Like the ex-HMAS Darwin’s motto of ‘Resurgent’, the icon of the navy will live on.

“Also fittingly and to add to the Tasmanian connection, ex-HMAS Darwin was decommissioned to make way for the Hobart class guided missile destroyers.”

Senator Martin said ex-HMAS Darwin was commissioned in 1984, had visited more than 50 countries, and had undertaken operations in East Timor, the Solomon Islands and in the Middle East.

“Tasmania will now be a worthy home and final resting place for the mighty ex-HMAS Darwin that will continue to serve the State with distinction for many decades to come,” Senator Martin said.

Minister Payne said she was pleased that ex-HMAS Darwin would call Tasmania home after sailing more than 1 million nautical miles during its 33 years of service.

“The Government is pleased to be able to offer ex-HMAS Darwin to the Tasmanian Government for use as a dive wreck, particularly given the significant tourism and economic benefits that will flow from the decision,” Minister Payne said.

“My Tasmanian Coalition Senate colleagues, led by Senator Steve Martin, have played an important part in demonstrating the benefits of sending ex-HMAS Darwin to Tasmania one last time.”

It is expected that ex-HMAS Darwin will be scuttled off the East Coast of Tasmania in 2019.

Grants open for Tasmanian volunteer organisations

Nationals Senator for Tasmania Steve Martin has called on Tasmanian community organisations to apply for a share of up to $20 million in funding to support the efforts of their volunteers.

Senator Martin said applications for the Volunteer Grants round were now open.

“Grants of between $1,000 and $5,000 will help community organisations in Tasmania buy equipment such as laptops, pay fuel costs, train volunteers and improve their fundraising,” Senator Martin said.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of our community and by continuing to help each other and work together, we are strengthening communities and building a stronger and safer State.

“Sixty seven Tasmanian community organisations were among the 2,690 groups nationally who benefited from the Volunteer Grants in 2016.

“I encourage all not-for-profit organisations in Tasmania to apply for the Volunteer Grants to help make the work of our volunteers easier, safer and more enjoyable.”

For more information or to apply, visit the Australian Government’s GrantConnect website at www.grants.gov.au

Applications close Tuesday 18 September 2018.