Senator's Statement


 

Senator SESELJA(Australian Capital Territory) (13:46): Madam Acting Deputy President, can I say that I was in a committee meeting and that is why I was coming a little bit later, although I was told that I was to be on at quarter to two, so I imagined that someone had finished early. I think there was a little bit of pettiness from Senator Bilyk, as I was about two foot away—

 

Senator Bilyk interjecting

 

Senator SESELJA:Senator Bilyk has been in a bit of funny space today. Perhaps some usual courtesies could be applied in this place. We often apply courtesies to one another.

 

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator O'Neill): Senator Seselja, you have the call to make a senator's statement.

Senator SESELJA:Madam Acting Deputy President, I do and, in making a senator's statement, I am pretty sure I can speak about matters of anything, including courtesy from Senator Bilyk or a lack of.

 

Senator Bilyk interjecting

 

Senator SESELJA:It is difficult—I cannot actually hear Senator Bilyk. If she could interject a little bit louder! She seems a little bit agitated. I am not quite sure what is causing that agitation. But I would like to put on record a couple of important community issues. For the past six months I have been working with Mr James Davidson and Mr Dave Mills of the RSL ACT branch to update the Victoria Cross Memorial Park on Glossop Street in Campbell, here in the ACT. The memorial currently lists the names of Australia's Victoria Cross recipients, up to the time of the Vietnam War, and soon the memorial's plaque will be updated to include details of the most recent recipients of our nation's highest medal for bravery.

 

After working with the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the RSL, funding for the update was approved under the new Saluting Their Service grant program. The government recently established this program to assist community groups to recognise and remember the efforts of Australian service personnel and I am very pleased to see its early success in the ACT. This plaque came from the community. The community came to me and said, 'We've got this Victoria Cross Memorial Park, but we've had some amazing individuals who have received the Victoria Cross in recent times and we think it is time we updated it to actually recognise that.' I think it is a great initiative from the local community, working here with the RSL.

 

Another important project that recently received a grant under the same program is a plaque commemorating World War I enlistees from the Belconnen region, organised by Mr Mac Weller, President of the Belconnen RSL Sub-Branch, and their members. Towns and cities all across Australia recognise the bravery and sacrifice of people from their local area in World War I through a range of commemorative efforts, including plaques and memorials. The plaque's installation in Ellen Clark Park, in Weetangera, will give proper recognition to the sacrifices made by members of the local community who fought for their country and their region. Ellen Clark Park has been chosen as the location for the plaque because of its special significance as the site of the first Weetangera school, which was attended by 11 of the World War I enlistees.

 

It is because of the brave sacrifices made by our past and present defence personnel that we enjoy the freedoms and values that we have in Australia today. In the Centenary of Anzac it is great to see so many local projects going ahead that honour Australia's proud military history, and these commemorative efforts are a credit to local communities here in the ACT.

 

Can I say to all of the staff and students at Weetangera school who hosted it, because of poor weather, that it was a fantastic event. A number of the students who welcomed us were just such great representatives of Weetangera school. A young boy called Jack was one of the friendliest young students I have ever met and he gave all of us such a wonderful welcome. He and the other students who welcomed us are a real credit to Weetangera school.

 

I would also like to talk about an event we had at Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Restaurant. That brought together a number of representatives of local businesses, farmers in the region, small businesses from Canberra and our region, and tradesmen as well. The coalition government has been working to ensure that Australia is open for business and certainly we are looking to do that right around the country.

 

Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Restaurant hosted this breakfast, where we welcomed the Prime Minister; Bruce Billson, the small business minister; and my colleague from over the border Angus Taylor. And thank you to Rowan Brennan and John Russell from the farmhouse restaurant for hosting the event. It is an outstanding venue. It is winning tourism awards right around the country. I note that many Canberrans are enjoying the wonderful place it is.

 

We heard from some of those local businesses. We heard about how our small business asset write-off policy has made it much more affordable for businesses to upgrade and expand their operations, and how our efforts in securing free trade agreements have opened up new markets and opportunities for businesses like Bottles of Australia. We had Anton and Rosemary Pemmer there. They are a local business, doing great things in Canberra. We do not have a lot of manufacturing in Canberra, but their business is sending water bottles right around the world. It is fantastic.

 

We heard how scrapping the burden of the carbon tax has reduced the everyday operating costs of their businesses. We had other businesses, including printers, accountants, hairdressers, builders, electricians, farmers, electronic retail outlets and manufacturers, as I said. Certainly, cutting red tape and lowering tax pressures on small business means that businesses can grow, innovate and expand, and of course that creates jobs and boosts our economy.

 

I thank all of those small business owners and representatives who came along and shared their experiences. We also heard some of our people in the construction industry raising concerns about ongoing issues around standover tactics in the construction industry in the ACT, some of which is playing out at the royal commission. I have been really heartened by how many small , medium and large businesses in Canberra, or people associated with the construction industry, have spoken out against that kind of behaviour. Certainly, we heard about more of it at the business meeting that we had.

 

Also last Friday I was joined by local sporting groups and many enthusiastic members of the public at Bowen Place, where I was pleased to officially open the new underpass for pedestrians and cyclists. The underpass is a significant safety improvement for the thousands of cyclists, runners and walkers who use the path every year. The popular scenic path around Lake Burley Griffin is a great asset to Canberra and with this upgrade you can now do the bridge-to-bridge lap of the lake without crossing any major roads.

 

It is a real boost to the amenity of the area, and we can expect to see more people getting out, exercising and enjoying the lake in safety. I would like to acknowledge the work of the National Capital Authority, architects and builders—in particular lahznimmo architects and Spackman Mossop and Michaels, as well as Woden Contractors—for managing the project and for delivering the upgrade under budget. I would also like to thank the National Gallery of Australia for the donation of the sculpture featured at the viewing platform overlooking the Carillion.

 

This is a great addition to the lake area. It is not only great in terms of the amenity it is also quite beautiful. I know that many people will be looking to take advantage of it. Many Canberrans and also many tourists will enjoy what is a really beautiful part of our national capital.

 

I was told this morning by my staff that Senator Gallagher raised the issue of the Bowen Place opening and some other openings, criticising me for cutting the ribbons when some of these things had been committed to by the former government. I am disappointed for Senator Gallagher that she did not cut the ribbon, but perhaps if she were to come along to these events in future I would be very pleased to have her as part of it. Hopefully, she can get over these little things. There are much bigger issues in politics to worry about other than who cuts the ribbon. I would just pass that on to Senator Gallagher: she is always welcome at these events, whether they have been committed to by our government or by the former government. Everyone is welcome. They should come along and enjoy what I think is a fantastic thing for Canberra.

 

I will just raise the issue of R U OK? Day briefly. It is tomorrow. R U OK? Day is a really important mental health and suicide prevention initiative. I was pleased to be at the front of Parliament House this morning for a launch with health minister, Sussan Ley, and Brendan Maher and many others from R U OK? and also Nicole Lawder and Megan Fitzharris from the ACT assembly.

 

R U OK? Day is a really important thing. It is about having that conversation and asking whether colleagues, friends or loved ones are doing okay and listening to the answer. These conversations actually do change lives; they save lives. I would just say to all Australians that tomorrow is R U OK? Day: look out for your colleagues, look out for your workmates and look out for your friends. Ask them how they are doing, listen to their answer and see if there are things you or other people can do to help. (Time expired)