Media Releases

Scrapping Antarctic runway a huge disappointment

The decision to not proceed with the Antarctic runway is a huge disappointment, according to Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz.

As it appears this is a final decision – and a retrograde decision at that, the task is to ensure that the funding predicated for the runway is made fully available for other Antarctic capabilities.

Tasmania’s world-renowned reputation as the gateway to the Antarctic will be questioned, as will our commitment, unless there is a strong unequivocal announcement of the preservation of the funding and the new focus of investment.

The overwhelming strategic and capability support the runway would have provided has been regrettably lost.  So, we now need to invest in other strategic and capability support infrastructure to ensure the international community cannot doubt our commitment to Antarctica.

At a time when China and Russia are rapidly expanding their footprints on the ice continent it is absolutely essential that we don’t loosen our foothold.

Hobart has been a highly regarded partner in Antarctic capacity building and we cannot let this reputation slip.

Abetz abstains on mandatory vaccine bill

The people of Tasmania are entitled to know why I abstained on a Bill purporting to outlaw mandating COVID vaccination.

The Bill, which is a slightly amended version of a Bill introduced into the House of Representatives, is right in principle but clumsy and unlawful in that it is unconstitutional.

My view has always been that as soon as everyone who wants to be vaccinated has had a reasonable opportunity to be vaccinated, we should open up.

If vaccination works, then we who are vaccinated have nothing to fear from the unvaccinated.

For the record, I’m vaccinated and encourage people to be vaccinated.  Also, for the record, I respect those who hold an alternate point of view.  That’s how a civil liberal democratic society operates.

As a representative who has consistently opposed vaccine passports and mandating vaccinations, I am overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Bill.  We are seeing good nurses, teachers, doctors, defence personnel and aged care workers being thrown out of work in circumstances where the loss of jobs and services to the public is highly disproportionate to the actual risk, at a time when we already have a shortage of personnel in these areas.

The thought of a two-tiered society – the vaxxed and the unvaxxed - is to split and divide our community which is to weaken it.

My view has consistently been that we should educate, not discriminate.  We should convince, not coerce.

The Bill before the Senate would seek to over-ride the States and stop funding to them if they mandate in any circumstance.  Its constitutionality is highly questionable and the consequences highly disruptive.  It would see the GST arrangements ripped up.

It stands to reason that if today the Federal Government is clothed with the power to override the States on vaccine mandates, it would also have the power to impose such mandates on the States.

This is a two-edged sword.

We cannot stop living because we are scared of dying.  The lockdowns and restrictions can’t and shouldn’t continue from general health, mental health and economic perspectives.

We need to learn to live with COVID.  Vaccine passports have failed elsewhere and they will fail here while costing huge sums to administer while restricting freedoms.

Tasmanians can be assured I will continue to support their vaccination choices on the basis of the standard set by the Australian Immunisation Handbook, which declares valid legal consent is required and that means no “undue influence, manipulation or coercion”.

The threat of job loss is clearly “undue influence” if not outright “coercion”.

The legislation, while well-motivated and intentioned, was not of a standard to attract my vote.

Given that my vote was not going to determine the success or otherwise of the Bill, I took the unusual step of abstaining.

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.

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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