Media Releases

New ABC social media guidelines long overdue

Liberal Senator for Tasmania, Eric Abetz, has welcomed today’s announcement of new social media guidelines for staff, saying they will hopefully result in far fewer taxpayers’ money being lost to pay for the ABC’s legal costs for defamation brought against them.   

Today, the ABC’s Managing Director, David Anderson, said in a staff email: “As you may be aware, recently there have been a few high-profile defamation cases where public figures have chosen to sue over personal social media posts. What is separately created and posted on personal social media accounts is editorially and legally the responsibility of the owner of the accounts.”

The fact reference had to be made to defamation cases rather than inappropriateness of such activity highlighting gross bias, indicates the ABC still has a long way to go in changing its culture.

Senator Abetz, who has on numerous occasions questioned the ABC’s social media guidelines at Senate Estimates and asked questions on notice on the matter, said, “The new social media guidelines are welcomed but it is a shame that it appears they came into being as a result of social media posts incurring defamation lawsuits against the ABC’s staff rather than action being taken on its own accord.”

“It appears the ABC only wants its staff to be accountable when they start wasting taxpayers’ money on legal bills that run into the millions of dollars. “The ABC cries poor but if it had implemented these guidelines a long time ago then it might have been able to save some of the $26.3 million it spent on legal costs over the past four years.”     

“Hopefully, taxpayers can rest a little easier knowing that their hard-earned money may no longer go toward legal fees.”

Last month, it was reported in the media that the ABC said it did not have any documents that would breakdown the legal costs to reveal how much it paid out in defamation claims or out-of-court settlements and claimed confidentiality over some of that information.

Australian Magnitsky legislation a win for human rights

 A long-time advocate for Magnitsky legislation, Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz has welcomed the Government’s decision to introduce legislation designed to enable the imposition of targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against the perpetrators of egregious acts of international concern.

Magnitsky legislation refers to governmental sanctions against foreign individuals who have committed human rights abuses or been involved in significant corruption, named after Sergei Magnitsky.

“Despots and human rights abusers should never have been allowed to funnel their ill-gotten gains into the freedom-loving countries of the world, which is why I have been a long-time advocate for this type of legislation,” said Senator Abetz.

“Having called on the Government to introduce these types of measures, I was then an active participant on the joint parliamentary committees charged with investigating this matter.”

“Reform often takes time to achieve and I am pleased that the Government is entirely on board to deliver what will also be a boost to those whom despots and dictators oppress, knowing that we are serious about restricting their ill-gotten gains and opportunities.  

Senator Abetz is Chair of the Senate’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and is a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade that was tasked with the inquiry into possible Magnitsky-styled sanctions.  

Blanket domestic Covid passports a threat to freedom

Government and corporate plans for ‘freedom incentives’, ‘vaccine passports’ and the power for employers to force employees to divulge their personal medical information is a dangerous precedent that potentially threatens the freedom of Australia’s citizens and will create second class citizens based on their health status. 

Doctor-patient confidentiality, together with the long-established legal right of medical privacy, should not be casually discarded by public health orders without well-considered Parliamentary debate and public scrutiny.        

The Government is rightly rolling out the vaccination process as quickly as possible and vaccination should be rolled out under the legal requirement of informed consent. The Australian Immunisation Handbook clearly states that for consent to be legally valid, “It must be given voluntarily in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation”. 

Therefore, it is difficult to see how informed consent can apply if people’s fundamental human freedoms to which citizens are entitled as of right are taken away by the force of government authorities, which are only restored for those vaccinated. Such actions may well be classified as undue pressure or manipulation, if not outright coercion.   

Liberal Senator for Tasmania, Eric Abetz, said: “I encourage everyone to consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible, however once 100 per cent of the population has had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, lockdowns and all restrictions should be a thing of the past and vaccine passports should not be a blunt instrument to force people to be vaccinated by locking them out of society.” 

“Denied or limited access to government and private businesses' goods and services should not be based on one’s medical status and the idea of a domestic ‘vaccine passport’ is a dangerous one that can create a class of citizens.” 

“The question then becomes, and which no-one seems willing to discuss, is how far do the authorities go to restrict these freedoms? How many vaccinations and booster shots or other medical procedures will be required on a person’s vaccine passport to allow them to participate as full citizens? This is a slippery slope. Once the genie is out of the bottle, there will be no turning back and freedom will be seriously compromised”.  

“The proposed restrictions on freedoms leaves questions from precedent to freedom to privacy and the situation for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.” 

“I may not think it a wise choice to refuse vaccination, but I support people’s innate right and freedom to decide medical procedures for themselves. What we need is a considered approach which takes full account of personal freedom and medical privacy. I join with Premiers Palaszczuk and Berejiklian, who said, “There should be free movement within Australia, vaccine or no vaccine”. (20/05/2021)

For the record, I am awaiting my second jab.” 

TasTAFE to help cyber security with $1.4m Fed Gov grant

TasTAFE’s Cyber Innovation Training Hub has secured a $1.49 million grant to help lift the nation’s cyber security capabilities as part of the Liberal Government’s $8 million investment in innovative projects designed to improve the skills and availability of cyber security professionals.

TasTAFE’s Cyber Innovation Training Hub in Hobart is one of eight successful projects under Round One of the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund to help build cyber security expertise as well as create job-ready professionals through traineeships, work experience and student activities.

The Training Hub will offer virtual and face-to-face training with a strong focus on industry experience and needs.

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz said the Liberal Government understands the critical need to strengthen the nation’s cyber capability as demonstrated in the $1.67 billion investment as part of the Cyber Security Strategy 2020.

“It’s great to see this kind of innovation in Tasmania, not only helping build industry capability but also the skills of local cyber security professionals and those looking to take up a cyber career,” Senator Abetz said.

“We know that it is vital for industry, education providers and governments to work together if we are to support and grow our critical cyber security workforce.”

“These projects not only build industry capability to support our Australian businesses in the digital economy, they also will help inspire the next generation to consider a cyber security career.”

Senator Abetz said the successful projects will strengthen cyber security training and career pathway considering the cyber security workforce was expected to grow by approximately 7000 over the next three years.

“We recognise the importance of partnering with industry to grow cyber capability - that’s why we’ve committed an additional investment of more than $43 million to the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund in the Budget.”

“I encourage professionals and students to take part in the project to grow their cyber security knowledge and expertise to help protect our digital economy and keep Australians safe online.”

The Liberal Government is investing more than $70 million as part of the Cyber Security Skills Partnership Innovation Fund, including an additional $43.8 million in the 2021-22 Budget. Round two of the Innovation Fund opens later this year.

For more information on the projects, visit www.business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/cyber-security-skills-partnership-innovation-fund/grant-recipients.

More information on the Fund can be found at https://business.gov.au/grants-and-programs/cyber-security-skills-partnership-innovation-fund.

Vaccine compensation plan welcomed but more detail needed

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, who over a month ago advocated for a compensation scheme for people adversely impacted by COVID vaccines, has welcomed Minister Hunt’s proposal for such a scheme.

“Having written to the Prime Minister on the 2nd of June seeking a compensation scheme, I’m delighted the government has seen the appropriateness of the suggestion,” said Senator Abetz.

“The change of heart is welcome. It will provide confidence to the community, knowing that if they do what the government is requesting (and many do so with reluctance), they will be assisted in the event of an adverse reaction.”

“It seemed poor public policy to indemnify professionals with their own insurance policies while leaving people suffering physical and financial consequences to fend for themselves.”

“However, it appears that those who receive their jabs at vaccination hubs may not receive compensation and this must be urgently addressed. Anyone who receives the jab and has an adverse reaction must be compensated no matter if it is from a GP or at a vaccination hub. I call on the government to include those vaccinated at hubs to be included in the compensation scheme.”

Applications now open to help strengthen supply chains

Businesses in Tasmania are encouraged to apply for a grant to help strengthen Australia’s supply chain capabilities and access to critical products in times of crisis.

Applications have now been opened for manufacturers under the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative – a key part of the Liberal Government’s $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy. 

Matched grants of between $50,000 and $2 million are on offer for businesses that can help address supply chain vulnerabilities across medicines and agricultural production chemicals –which were identified as sectors of focus in the Sovereign Manufacturing Capability Plan.

Eric Abetz, Liberal Senator for Tasmania, said projects could include scaling up existing manufacturing and workforce skills capability or increasing supply chain transparency through technology. 

“COVID-19 has taught us that we need to be able to have access to critical products in times of crisis and that’s why we’re investing in projects to strengthen our supply chain resilience,” Senator Abetz said.

“The Liberal Government has already worked side-by-side with industry, offering significant investment to scale up Australia’s ability to make PPE locally when we needed it most. Now we want to drive the same success for medicines and agricultural production chemicals.”

Senator Abetz said businesses with project ideas are encouraged to apply for funding. 

“The Liberal Government is working to not only strengthen our ability to access critical products for the health and wellbeing of all Australians but also to grow our manufacturing sector and create new jobs.”

“This initiative is a key way businesses in Tasmania can be part of important efforts to shore up the nation’s supply chains and I strongly encourage them to apply for a grant.”

Investing in manufacturing projects to support our resilience through the $107.2 million Supply Chain Resilience Initiative is part of a range of measures the Liberal Government is delivering to bolster Australia’s supply chain resilience. 

This includes the establishment of the Office of Supply Chain Resilience to provide ongoing capacity to monitor vulnerabilities and coordinate whole-of-government efforts to boost supply chain resilience. It also consists of the Liberal Government’s ongoing commitment to open trade and open markets, which drive our resilience by making our own economy more competitive and able to handle change. 

To find out more or apply for a grant under the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative, visit business.gov.au/scri 

To read more in the Sovereign Manufacturing Capability Plan, visit industry.gov.au/smcp   

Extra 30,000 places to support first home buyers

First home buyers and single parents with children in Tasmania will be eligible to apply for 30,000 additional places under the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, the New Home Guarantee program, and the Family Home Guarantee from 1 July 2021. 

Since the introduction of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme and New Home Guarantee, 30,000 Australians have been able to enter the housing market.

As announced in the 2021-22 Budget, the Liberal Government will establish the Family Home Guarantee to support single parents with dependants. Starting 1 July 2021, 10,000 guarantees will be made available to eligible single parent families to build a new home or purchase an existing home with a deposit of as little as 2 per cent.

“We’re giving first home buyers and single parents with children in Tasmania the opportunity to enter the housing market and buy their very own home,” said Senator Abetz, Liberal Senator for Tasmania.

“By supporting single parents and their children, the Liberal Government is helping more people in Tasmania achieve the security and dignity that home ownership provides.”

“With the 30,000 new places available from 1 July, now is the time for potential applicants to contact a participating bank or mortgage provider and get their applications underway.”

“The First Home Loan Deposit Scheme has been a landmark success of the Liberal Government since its commencement in 2020. 30,000 first home buyers have been supported into home ownership through First Home Loan Deposit Scheme and New Home Guarantee already.”

“We know how difficult it can be to buy a new home or re-enter the housing market, and that saving a deposit is the hardest part of getting into home ownership. That’s why the Liberal Government has established the new Family Home Guarantee, which recognises the challenge of saving for a deposit is that much more difficult when you are a single parent with children.”

The New Home Guarantee commenced on 6 October 2020 as a temporary expansion of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme. It will provide an additional 10,000 places for first home buyers seeking to build a new home or purchase a newly built dwelling with a deposit of 5 per cent and a construction commencement timeframe of 12 months.

Bob Brown’s High Court loss a win for forestry communities

The High Court has rejected a bid to appeal a Federal Court decision that the Regional Forest Agreement in Tasmania meets the definition of Federal environment law.

Now that this case has been lost, the Bob Brown Foundation must withdraw its protesters from Tasmania’s West Coast where they have invaded a working forest area to protest the Rosebery mine’s storage facility.

The High Court rejection confirms the Full Federal Court ruling and clarifies the relationship between the EPBC Act and the RFA.

Eric Abetz, Liberal Senator for Tasmania, welcomed the news stating that many Tasmanian businesses, forest workers and their families faced an uncertain future if the legal case had been successful.

“This decision confirms the previous Full Court decision in February that the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement meets the requirement of both its Act and that of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act,” Senator Abetz said.

Senator Abetz has previously criticised Bob Brown and his “eco- charity” for taking similar legal action, which is often referred to as “lawfare” and is a well-documented campaign tactic of the green movement.

“Bob Brown and his foundation have yet again failed in their attempt to deny jobs and sustainability of regional communities in the harnessing of a truly renewable resource. 

People are unwittingly donating to a foundation which is splashing around its funds on doomed legal processes for cheap publicity stunts.”

“Yet again, Bob Brown has got it wrong, very wrong, and the High Court has said so. As is their want, the extreme Greens never admit they are wrong and simply ramp up their rhetoric in the face of being comprehensively proven wrong.”

“This ruling should provide certainty for our hardworking forestry communities and their families.”

It also demonstrates that the special status of environmental lobby groups to take legal action is something that should be removed under the EPBC Act and brings into question the use of tax-deductible charity donations to fund legal action,” Senator Abetz concluded. 

15 MP's sign letter demanding action on Port of Newcastle

Fifteen parliamentarians have signed and sent a joint letter to the Treasurer and the Prime Minister requesting action on the monopolised Port of Newcastle (PoN), which is 50 per cent owned by Belt and Road Initiative actor China Merchants Port Holdings.

The parliamentarians are highly concerned about proposed regulatory changes to the National Access Regime foreshadowed in the 2021-22 Federal Budget and how it could give the Chinese Communist Party CCP a strategic geopolitical advantage over the export of Australian coal.

The Budget appears to retrospectively eliminate previous arbitration determinations relating to the port. In addition, the ACCC has no oversight on the port and its monopoly status. ACCC Chair Rod Sims has described the Port of Newcastle as "a monopolist without constraint.”[1]

Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz, co-signatory of the letter, said the Budget measures, the 50 per cent foreign ownership, the monopoly status and the lack of regulatory oversight of the port is deeply concerning and a serious issue that must be addressed.

“The Port of Newcastle is an important strategic national economic asset as coal exports that go through it represent around 40 per cent of Australia’s national coal export volumes and the port has used its monopoly position in relation to Hunter coal exporters, creating uncertainty that threatens jobs and the global competitiveness of coal exports through the port,” said Senator Abetz.

“In 2020, China imposed steep restrictions on Australian coal imports and ongoing price increases at the Port of Newcastle will impact the global competitiveness of Australian coal exports and Australia’s capacity to export coal to other countries.”

“The 50 per cent lease of an important infrastructure asset to a company backed by Belt and Road Initiative actor for another 91 years and its monopoly position needs urgent assessment as is currently being undertaken with the Port of Darwin.”

“We the signatories call on the government to declare the Port of Newcastle a monopoly under the National Access Regime, establish arbitration mechanisms between coal producers and the port and provide assurance that any regulatory changes in relation to arbitration determinations will not be retrospective.”

The Infrastructure Fund and China Merchants Port Holdings Company (CMPort), each own 50 per cent of PoN. The PoN has 91 years of management rights and land lease left following its lease in 2014.

The parent of CMPort, China Merchants Group Limited, is a huge multinational state-owned corporation of the People's Republic of China. The company and its subsidiaries are key actors in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. CMPort proudly described itself in its 2019 annual report as “a crucial vehicle for China Merchants Group to implement the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative promoted by China and the ‘Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area’ strategy.”

China Merchants Group Limited also boasts that it is guided by “Xi Jinping thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era.”

The port is the only gateway port for Hunter Valley coalfields which produces high-quality thermal coal, and it handles approximately 40 per cent of Australia’s export volume of coal. The port currently handles 4,400 ship movements and 164 million tonnes of cargo annually.

 


[1] ACCC perspectives on transport issues, Australasian Transport Research Forum, 30 September 2019

About Eric

Eric Abetz has been a Liberal Senator for Tasmania since 1994 and has served in a range of Leadership, Ministerial and Shadow Ministerial roles.

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Contact

136 Davey Street
Hobart  TAS  7001

(03) 6224 3707

Senator.Abetz@aph.gov.au

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