Speech on the G20 (Safety and Security) Complementary Bill 2014

14 May 2014

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (11:49): I rise today to speak on the G20 (Safety and Security) Complementary Bill 2014. As honourable members are aware, the bill clarifies the powers of police officers and appointed persons to ensure safety and security at the Brisbane Airport during the G20 meeting. Of course, the powers of the Queensland Police Service during the event have been determined under Queensland's legislation, but the Commonwealth legislation is required because of the airport, which is a Commonwealth jurisdiction.

I have spoken in this place previously about how important it is that the G20 meeting is being held in Brisbane this year. Engagement with the global economy via the G20 is one of the proudest legacies of the former Labor government. I want to pay tribute to Prime Minister Gillard in particular, to former Treasurer Swan and to former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for the way they conducted our global engagement in the economy, particularly for winning the rights to host the meeting that the whole world will be watching. It is such a crucial meeting. It was by working with the world's 20 largest economies that Australia was able to stare down the worst of the global recession and make it out the other side with three AAA credit ratings in tow. The G20 not only sets the agenda for the biggest economies on earth; it also provides leadership in addressing economic issues that matter to all countries, whether they are members of the G20 or nonmembers.

Attracting the G20 to Brisbane was a key achievement of the former government. For Brisbane, the opportunity to host the world's most important economic forum is a testament to the evolution of Brisbane and the entire south-east corner of Queensland, including my home city of Logan City, into the cosmopolitan metropolises that they are today. It is probably not since the Commonwealth Games in 1982 that Brisbane has hosted an event attracting so much of the world's attention. With this event come substantial opportunities for local residents and for local businesses of all sizes. If you walk through the Brisbane CBD at the moment, you will see plenty of signs of preparation for the G20 leaders meeting in November. Expansion of several major Brisbane hotels is currently underway as the city prepares itself for the influx of approximately 7,000 foreign leaders, staff and media representatives. This has provided Brisbane with employment opportunities and it has provided businesses with opportunities for growth. When the G20 and associated media come to Brisbane in November, so will the chance to show off to the world the fruits of our labour and planning over the last few years.

The G20 also brings substantial volunteering opportunities for Queenslanders. I want to give a big rap to a local man in my electorate, Wayne Ernst. He is a friend of mine from Woodridge, right in the middle of my electorate. He came into the office a couple of weeks ago asking for help with an application to volunteer at the G20 in Brisbane. Wayne is a great fellow. He has a disability but he has got many years of experience as a truck driver, and he was really enthusiastic about getting involved to give back to his community. In the office, we helped Wayne put together a resume and an application to volunteer at the G20 as a transport assistant. The last I heard of it, Wayne has secured an interview with Volunteering Queensland for the G20. Everyone in our office really hopes he gets the opportunity to help out. They would not have a better volunteer. The G20 is a great chance for volunteers to get involved, so I would sincerely encourage interested Brisbanites and Logan City-ites to help out.

Australia has a huge opportunity this year to set the economic agenda for the international community. I have written and spoken in the past about the need to put multilateral trade on the agenda of the G20 and to build on the progress that has happened bilaterally so that we get some proper progress multilaterally as well. The G20 could be used as a chance to take advantage of this progress in other parts of the trade agenda and to sustain the momentum generated by the Trade Facilitation Agreement, which was concluded in Bali in December last year. At the G20 in November, Australia could make a big mark on developing this work program and progressing the critically important elements of Doha.

But it is not just in trade that Australia can make a mark on the world's economic agenda. I have spoken in the past about the need for Australia to formulate a response to the trends of rapid technological advance, globalisation of the workforce and the rise of intergenerational disadvantage. I think there is a big opportunity at the G20 in Brisbane to deal with some of these big issues that are impacting on our economy, and not just the day-to-day or year-to-year aspects of budgeting or the growth agenda.

The 2014 G20 agenda, as announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs in December last year, needs to be tempered in the light of these modern economic realities, these big new pressures in the global economy. The foreign minister singled out infrastructure and tax avoidance as two particular focus areas for the G20. I believe that this theme needs to be developed further into the notion of inclusive growth—not just growth but what type of growth we want in the 20 biggest economies and beyond so that, as economies grow, they grow together.

On infrastructure, we need to find ways for the world to prioritise productive and inclusive infrastructure so as to achieve economic growth. That includes things like state of the art broadband. We cannot just get into a situation of building old-world infrastructure and not paying attention to the new-world infrastructure that we need—things like the technological advances that the NBN would provide in Australia. The same goes for public transport. We need to make sure that we do not drop the ball on public transport. It was disappointing last night to see in the budget that the government does not seem to care about public transport. Right around the world, the biggest economies need to make sure that we are easing congestion by building public transport infrastructure.

The last area is tax evasion. We do need to make sure that companies around the world are not profit shifting in a way that enables them to avoid tax. We certainly have that issue here in Australia, and it is important that all countries work together so that we get a robust regime, so that profit shifting is minimised and so that companies pay tax in the country where they are making the money.

I have a lot of confidence in Australia's ability to put on a big event like G20 in Brisbane and have it go successfully. A lot of my confidence comes from knowing that the officials working on this in Treasury, the Prime Minister's department and DFAT are some of the best public servants we have. They have a lot of experience with the G20 in particular, and I know they will work very hard to make Australia proud of all the arrangements for this meeting.

There is a real need to get the policy environment right to ensure the safety and security of all the participants at the G20 this year, and that is part of what this legislation is about. With a large number of prominent world leaders in attendance, there is a need for police to be given some extra powers during the course of the event. The Queensland act performs most of this role, as I said before, and we are now talking largely about the arrangements at Brisbane Airport. It is important when drafting this kind of legislation to make sure we draw the correct line between ensuring the safety of our visitors and maintaining the civil liberties of our citizens. It is likely that there will be some inconvenience for people living and working in the Brisbane area. I am certain that any steps that can be taken to minimise this inconvenience will be taken by the organisers, and the benefits to the local area will far outweigh these temporary annoyances and inconveniences.

This legislation also includes a sunset clause, which means that the additional police powers cease on the day after the conclusion of the G20 conference.    Because of this, it is likely that we will see this legislation set for repeal on the first repeal day after the G20. Let us hope the government does not count this in their red tape bonfire next autumn.

In conclusion, the opposition will be supporting the passage of this legislation through the parliament as we want to ensure a safe and successful G20 in Brisbane this November. I think all sides of the parliament have an interest in seeing the G20 delivered successfully, and I am sure that whatever work needs to be done in a bipartisan way between all sides of politics will get done. We will happily work with the government to make sure this meeting is delivered successfully. There is a lot at stake, there is a lot to gain and it is a big opportunity for Australia and for Brisbane, and we want it to go well. I commend this bill to the House and I look forward to the big event, the leaders meeting, in November this year.

Also available on the Hansard.