Monday, January 31, 2011



I greatly admire the stand taken by the Pakistani film star Veena Malik, who is reported in ‘The Australian’ today to have called for women to be freed from conservative dress and the horror of honour killing.

Ms Malik said Pakistan’s culture of fear had intensified since this month’s murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer. The Governor was shamefully murdered after expressing his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy law.  

The Governor was right. There needs to be a proper separation between religion and politics, between Church and State, and laws against so-called “blasphemy” are a blatant attack on the right of free speech and tolerance of different religious convictions.  They should be got rid of, in Pakistan and anywhere else they exist.

Ms Malik pledged to fight for women’s rights.  “Why aren’t men being beaten? Have you ever heard they’ve thrown acid in a guy’s face here in Pakistan?”

Ms Malik said “We should emphasise education and improving the literacy rate, but we’re still stuck in “Look at her, she’s not wearing shalwar kameez (traditional dress), she’s wearing jeans.”

“If a woman is cool with wearing a burka, she should wear a burka. If a woman, being a Muslim, wants to wear jeans, then she should wear jeans.  That’s your right.”

Monday 31 January, 2011
Member for Wills

Friday, January 28, 2011

Australia Day Speech: Speaking out against Violence Against Women

In November last year I was one of the Male Parliamentarians for the Elimination of Violence against Women who took the White Ribbon Pledge – not to commit, not to condone and not to stay silent about violence against women.  One of the things we committed to was to raise awareness of the issue within our electorates, and I want to do something about discharging that obligation today.
A core part of Australian citizenship is respect for Australian law and the Australian legal system. And a core part of the Australian legal system is that violence against women, sometimes referred to as domestic violence or family violence, is never acceptable.
Domestic violence is an abuse of power perpetrated mainly, but not only, by men against women either during a relationship or after separation.  It can take many forms – physical violence, coercive sex, emotional abuse, such as blaming the woman for all the problems in a relationship, or constantly undermining their self-esteem and self-worth, forbidding or physically preventing the victim from going out and meeting people – in effect imprisonment. It can take the form of using religious teachings or cultural tradition as an excuse for violence.
In Australia religious teachings and cultural traditions are not more important than the right of women to equal treatment with men, not more important than the right of all of us to be free of violence or the fear of it, nor are they more important than Australian law.  And practices such as so-called ‘honour’ killings, dowry murder, trafficking in women and girls, female genital mutilation, and forced marriages are all breaches of Australian law and are not allowed in this country.
Unfortunately surveys suggest that our laws against domestic violence are often broken. In the last 12 months one in 20 women (5%) have experienced physical violence, that is assault, attempted assault, or the threat of assault. 
Over 50% of Australian women report experiencing at least one incident of physical violence or sexual violence by a man during their lifetime.
Sadly, much of this violence is perpetrated on women by men who they know. Among women physically assaulted in the last 12 months, the most frequent category of perpetrators was current or previous male partners.  The second most frequent category was male family members or friends.  The most common location for physical assaults to occur for women is in their own home.
I hope you will agree with me that this is unacceptable and has to change. Being a good Australian man or woman means building safe and healthy relationships – partnerships, involving joint decision making and shared responsibilities.  It means economic equality, emotional honesty, respect.  It means supporting your partner’s goals and valuing their opinions.
Member for Wills

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Kelvin Thomson response to Herald Sun Article on Power Costs

Kelvin Thomson response to Herald Sun Article on Power Costs

The Executive Director of the Energy Retailers Association, Mr Cameron O'Reilly, is out of touch with everyday working and fixed income Australians if he thinks electricity price rises in the order of 20.3% for a kilowatt-hour are justifiable. Melbourne and Brisbane suffered the highest inflation of the capital cities last year, as a result of rises like this. Over the past 10 years electricity prices have almost doubled across Australia’s eight capital cities, with Melbourne’s prices having risen by over 50% in real terms – 52%. 
Mr O’Reilly must explain why consumers are being asked to fork out more money for a basic necessity?
I think it’s high time pensioners and other household electricity consumers got some relief from ever rising electricity prices. I think regulatory authorities should limit electricity price rises for household consumers to the percentage amount by which pensions rise.  This would give pensioners and fixed-income earners some badly needed respite.
Kelvin Thomson MP
Federal member for Wills
Thursday 27th January 2011



The claim by Chris Richardson of Access Economics that we need more skilled migrants in order to cope with the flood damage is insulting and ridiculous.

1.    We were able to build the roads, bridges, schools etc that have been damaged by the floods. To suggest we have lost the skills needed to rebuild this infrastructure is insulting.  If it has any substance, it suggests that relying on skilled migration is dumbing Australia down.

2.    Numerous studies show that new arrivals come with a big infrastructure requirement. They bring their families with them, and all require houses, roads, schools, hospitals etc and many require English-language and other forms of assistance.  One academic has found that population growth of 2% in a community doubles the infrastructure task of that community.  In the years ahead the building industry will have its work cut out for it in rebuilding flood hit towns and communities.  Nationally we’ve just had a flood come through the house.  This is a time for replacing the carpets and the furniture and getting the power back on, not putting on an extension.

3.    Mr Richardson’s argument that the recovery effort will drive demand for jobs, leading to price rises and then to higher interest rates, ignores the impact of higher population growth on prices and interest rates.  Population growth is driving electricity price rises, gas price rises, water price rises, housing price rises, food price rices and higher grocery bills.  These price rises put upward pressure on interest rates.  Why is Mr Richardson concerned about inflation caused by workers getting higher wages but not concerned about inflation caused by population growth?

4.    Mr Richardson’s Access Economics Report says that the unemployment rate is set to drop to 4% this year. This is a good thing, and we should welcome it, not try to undermine it through labour immigration.  Prime Minister Gillard said last year she wanted Australia to become a high participation economy, where everyone who has the capacity to work has the opportunity to work.   She is absolutely right, but labour migration to Australia only undermines that goal.

5.    Mr Richardson claims that “migration numbers have been falling away very fast.  It’s been happening for a while now but the acceleration there is a concern”.  But the official Departmental figures show that Net Overseas Migration was 100,000 in 2004,
 123,800 in 2005,
 146,800 in 2006,
 177,600 in 2007,
 213,500 in 2008 and
 285,300 in 2008-09. 

So our net migration nearly trebled in six years.  The Department of Immigration and Citizenship official report described the skilled migration for 2008-09 of 114,777 places as “the largest outcome on record”.  Mr Richardson needs to produce evidence to support his claim.

6.    The claim that a lack of skills will hold back the reconstruction task flies in the face of facts that:       
·         The Master Electricians Australia CEO has stated that Queensland has enough electrical contractors to handle the work and he opposes interstate electricians fixing Queensland homes
·         Some builders have put their business on hold while they fix their homes; one said “it’s too hard to take on clients….when you don’t know if you’ve got a house to live in.”
·         Trying to do everything at once risks running the economy in such a way that the Reserve Bank  steps into slow things down by raising interest rates – the very thing Mr Richardson says he doesn’t want to see happen.

Member for Wills
Thur 27 January, 2010

Monday, January 24, 2011



The Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey of 325 cities around the world comparing the ratio of house prices to median yearly household income, has ranked Melbourne at No 321 and Sydney at No 324! Only overcrowded Hong Kong ranks worse.

The median Melbourne house price was $565,000 and the median household income was $63,100, so the ratio of house price to income was 9. Sydney was worse at 9.6, and Hong Kong had a house/price income ratio of 11.4.

These figures show just how much rapid population growth has damaged housing affordability in our large cities. Australia used to be a country where everyone could aspire to a home of their own. Sadly that is no longer the case. Our high migration high population growth path is killing off our children’s chances of owning their own home.

Kelvin Thomson MP
Federal Member for Wills
Monday 24th January 2011



It is noteworthy that a survey of more than 4000 Australians from Australia’s eight capital cities surveyed by the Property Council preferred living in Adelaide and Canberra to living in Australia’s bigger capitals – Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. It is also noteworthy that Australia’s largest city – Sydney – was rated by residents as the worst.

Adelaide and Canberra rated better than the big cities on issues such as roads and traffic congestion, environmental sustainability, and access to affordable housing.   This shows yet again that bigger is not better – people would be happier and better served if our capital cities stopped growing, and they are certainly not being well served by the rapid growth rate we have at the moment.

Member for Wills
Monday 24th January, 2011



I have written to both the Victorian Planning Minister and Shadow Minister for Planning about the problem of land speculation – property developers purchasing parcels of land, getting zoning and planning approvals, then not actually building anything, but rather reselling the sites at higher prices without having to contribute anything to  the land or community.

As Moreland Council CEO Peter Brown has pointed out, this behaviour has a circular effect, with the next developer requesting even more storeys or dwellings as a means of recouping their high purchase costs. The City of Moreland has a number of key sites where this has been going on – the former Tip Top site in Brunswick, the old Coburg High School site, Pentridge and the former Kodak site in North Coburg.  In September last year the Kodak site was sold to new developers for $79 million after being bought for $40 million in 2006. All the developers have done is to profit from the increased land value which is a consequence of the infrastructure and community facilities which everyone else’s work and taxes and rates have built up.  In the process they have made housing less affordable.

One solution that has been raised to address this issue is to make planning permits for redevelopment sites non-transferable.  I believe this could help encourage developers thinking of purchasing key land parcels to actually develop the land, rather than engaging in  speculation.  I have asked both Victorian Planning Minister and the Shadow Planning Minister to investigate this issue.

Member for Wills
Monday 24th January, 2011

Friday, January 21, 2011



Today I met with the Victorian National Parks Association about the issue of cattle grazing in the Alpine National Park. Following the meeting I have written to Environment Minister Tony Burke urging him to investigate, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC), the Victorian Government’s re-introduction of cattle to the National Park.

I share the VNPA’s concerns about the environmental impact of cattle in this sensitive area. I am further concerned that the State Government seems to be somewhat duplicitous in its handling of this issue, claiming to some people that it is only conducting a trial and to others that it is implementing an election commitment. ‘Scientific grazing’ sounds as dodgy as the Japanese Government’s ‘Scientific whaling’.

The use of cattle grazing to reduce fire risk in Alpine environments is not supported by science. After the 2003 fire, a study of the fire by Dr Dick Williams, Dr Ross Bradstock and Dr Henrik Wahren, published by 2006, found “no statistically significant difference between grazed and ungrazed areas in the proportion of points burnt”, and concluded that “The use of livestock grazing in Australian alpine environments as a fire abatement practice is not justified on scientific grounds”. Grazing was not recommended as a strategy by the Victorian Royal Commission into the Black Saturday Bushfires.

After the 2003 fires the Howard Government gave the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) an extra $3 million for research. The National Party MP Peter McGauran, claimed at the time (Press Release 8/9/2004) that “ The Bushfire CRC research will provide a clear indication to the State Government that grazing for fuel reduction needs to begin immediately to avoid another bushfire season like last year”. No evidence to support the theory that ‘alpine grazing reduces blazing’  ever emerged from this research.

Furthermore, if further research is warranted (doubtful) there is land outside the Alpine National Park which could be used for this purpose. On the other hand, there is a wealth of evidence over 60 years from the CSIRO, university and other scientists that cattle grazing damages fragile alpine environments. Cattle damage soils, spread weeds, trample moss beds and watercourses, and threaten rare native flora and fauna.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) was enacted to ensure that matters which have real potential to impact on the environment are considered at a national level. There are a number of endangered species and communities listed under the EPBC which could be affected by the introduction of cattle. These include the Alpine Tree Frog, Spotted Tree Frog, and a dozen species of EPBC listed flora. The VNPA believes, and I agree, that this is a matter which requires investigation under the Act.

Member for Wills

Thursday, January 20, 2011



Following my expressing concern about reports in The Economic Times that Australia would be conducting a promotional campaign to attract skilled workers from cities in northern India, Australia’s High Commission has said the newspaper report was wrong, confusing a cultural promotion with immigration issues.  The Immigration Department says that it is not planning to hold ‘skilled migration expos’ in 2011-2012.
I hope my raising the matter has helped clarify this erroneous reporting, which also appeared in the Australian Financial Review.

I will continue to raise the need to reduce the level of our labour force migration program, which I believe is too high to be consistent with our humanitarian obligations to developing countries, our obligation to train young Australians and lift our workforce participation rate, and our obligation to focus on repairing our flood-damaged infrastructure rather than building new infrastructure to accommodate population increase.


Reports about India’s endeavours to persuade Australia to export uranium to it constantly gloss over the fact that India refuses to sign the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has developed an arsenal of nuclear weapons, which the treaty does not allow it to do.

In 2009 I chaired an extensive inquiry by Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties into nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, and one thing I learned from that experience is that the friction between the nuclear haves and the nuclear have nots is alive and well. Throughout the history of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty the nuclear haves have stressed non-proliferation – that is, making sure no other country gets nuclear weapons - and the nuclear have-nots have stressed disarmament – that is, obliging the nuclear armed countries to get rid of their bombs.

The non-aligned countries – essentially nuclear have nots – are extremely frustrated by the lack of progress on disarmament. Too often this difference of approach has led to international stalemate.  Clearly we need to have action on both fronts – disarmament and non-proliferation.

Given the precarious state of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)  there needs to be some carrot and stick – rewards for countries that observe it, and penalties for countries that don’t.

For Australia to export uranium to India would deal a crippling blow to an already fragile Treaty, and send a message to countries right around the world that we don’t take the NPT seriously.

Why would any rising nation – Brazil, Indonesia etc – stay away from developing nuclear weapons if countries  that develop nuclear weapons, in breach of the NPT, enjoy the same rights as countries which sign the NPT and abide by its provisions?

We cannot make decisions about nuclear issues in a vacuum. The United States and Russia developed nuclear weapons as a defensive strategy during the Cold War. Because they had nuclear weapons China, which at various times during the nuclear age has had poor relations with both America and Russia, developed nuclear weapons as well.  Because China had nuclear weapons, India felt threatened and developed nuclear weapons. Pakistan felt threatened and developed nuclear weapons. And the strength of religious fundamentalist terrorist groups in Pakistan has created an ever present and alarming risk that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of non-state actors – terrorists groups who have no respect for human life and will take no notice of ‘deterrence’ and ‘mutually assured destruction’ in the way governments might reasonably be expected to.

We must do all that we can to try to break every link in this dangerous nuclear chain.  This means supporting international efforts towards non-proliferation and disarmament, including the NPT. Exporting uranium to any country which is not prepared to be part of the NPT would be a step in precisely the wrong direction.

Member for Wills

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Australia Running Promotional Campaigns to Try to Attract Migrants

Yesterday I wrote to Prime Minister Julia Gillard expressing concern about a report in The Economic Times,  that Australia intends to ‘target’ Chandigarh, Punjab and other cities in northern India with a promotional campaign in 2012 looking to attract skilled migrants.

I told the Prime Minister I do not want the number of skilled migrants to increase, and do not support Australia running promotional campaigns to try to attract migrants.
I cannot see how running promotional campaigns to attract skilled migrants is consistent with the Prime Minister’s pre-election statements that she does not believe in a ‘Big Australia’ and that ‘we need to stop and take a breath’.  I also think this pre-empts the Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia being developed by Population Minister Tony Burke.

I have three objections to the idea of recruiting our workforce from other countries. First, there is nothing humanitarian whatsoever about it. Workers with real skills in developing countries are more valuable where they are, and we should not try to strip these countries of their best and brightest for our own advantage.  Surely it is more humanitarian for us to have a more compassionate approach to those in refugee camps who are pleading for us to allow them to come here, than to poach and ‘target’ people who otherwise have shown no desire to live in Australia.

Secondly, our high skilled migration program comes at the expense of skilling and training young Australians. Broadmeadows, just to the north of my electorate, has unemployment in excess of 15%.  These people are entitled to our attention.  Our disability pension numbers continue to rise. The Prime Minister said last December that “we’ll need to decide that we seriously want to be a high participation economy….where everyone who has the capacity to work has the opportunity to work.”   “And we’ll need to decide we are seriously prepared to change the policies which stop that happening now.”  She is absolutely right, and a key policy which stops that happening, and which we need to decide we are seriously prepared to change, is the high skilled migration policy.

Third, the extent of the recent floods means we will have our work cut out rebuilding and repairing damaged infrastructure.  This is no time to be trying to be trying to meet the additional infrastructure requirements of a rapidly increasing population.

Numerous studies show that new arrivals come with a big infrastructure requirement – they bring their families with them, and all require houses, roads, schools, hospitals etc., and many require English-language and other forms of assistance.  One academic has found that population growth of 2% in a community doubles the infrastructure task of that community.  In the years ahead the building industry will have its work cut out for it in rebuilding flood hit towns and communities.  Nationally we’ve just had a flood come through the house. This is a time for replacing the carpets and the furniture and getting the power back on, not putting on an extension.
I do not support the increase in the skilled migration program under the Howard Government from 24,000 in the mid-90s to over 100,000 by the time of the change of government.  I believe the program should be returned to around 25,000 per annum.

I have asked the Prime Minister how many ‘promotional campaigns’ the Government is planning to run in 2011 and 2012 in relation to skilled migration, and what their expected cost is.

I have also suggested putting on hold plans for such programs until the Sustainable Population Strategy has been completed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Martin Luther King Jnr Day

Monday January 17 was Martin Luther King Junior Day. America celebrates his towering contribution to his country with a national holiday, and the rest of the world pauses to reflect on his legacy.

As we do so, it is worth remembering that Martin Luther King Junior grasped with great clarity that one of the key driving causes of global poverty and misery is overpopulation.

In 1966 he said, “There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is solvable by means we have discovered and with resources we possess. What is lacking is not sufficient  knowledge of the solution but universal consciousness of the gravity of the problem and education of billions who are its victims.”

His words are even more appropriate today than they were back in 1966. We are heading down a road by which in future more people will starve, not less, more people will die from water-borne diseases, and more people will die in wars caused by conflict over access to scarce resources.

Can we, as a part our acknowledgment of Martin Luther King’s Junior’s monumental life, resolve to do what we can to promote that universal consciousness of the problem” of which he spoke so eloquently?

Monday, January 17, 2011



On behalf of the electorate and people of Wills I extend my deepest sympathy to the victims of floods both here in Australia, and other nations around the world, and their families.

Queensland has suffered great loss of life and loss of life’s endeavours and prospects. We have been all astonished by the power of the floods and the scale of the havoc they have wrought, and moved by the personal tragedy and resilience of their victims.

We have seen hundreds, perhaps over a thousand lives lost in Brazil, devastation on a scale rivalling that in Pakistan last year, reminding us that floods around the world are getting worse.

In Victoria towns which I visited only recently are now underwater, and New South Wales and Tasmania have also been hit. Farmers and businesses face an uncertain future. Homeowners have lost everything they have built up over a lifetime.

There will need to be consideration of the causes and consequences of such fearsome phenomena- of the role of climate change, of planning where we live and where we don’t, of the role of insurance. But let us first support the victims using our own particular talents, and remember the words of John Donne:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as  if a promontory were; as well as any manner of thy friends or thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Kelvin Thomson, Federal Member for Wills.