Page 3630 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 25 August 2009

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and courage to introduce voluntary student unionism. For decades this holy grail for university students was beyond reach. However, it was the personal influence of people like the then Minister for Education, Science and Training that made the achievement possible.

Dr Nelson took a broad view to the education portfolio that included an investment in the future of our country by supporting vocational education, including training, the trades and skill development for people of all ages. Years of Labor elitism had eroded the significance of the trades and tradespeople. The Howard government instilled confidence in this vital sector and the growth in our economy over the years of that government was tangible proof of that change in philosophy.

Dr Nelson was a politician that never lost contact with the grassroots of the community or his party. In spite of being a senior member of cabinet, Dr Nelson remained very active in his community and would regularly be seen at events in the electorate, hosting meetings and other local member duties. Dr Nelson was an avid supporter of youth engagement in politics, in particular the Young Liberal Movement of Australia and the Australian Liberal Students Federation. Dr Nelson was a champion of our constitution, including defence of our stable and democratic system of government.

His achievements as defence minister are significant and diverse. He oversaw a considerable investment in our defence force and continued peacekeeping and security operations in our region and beyond. He also successfully engaged with industry and further developed the longstanding partnership of the government, industry and community in securing our nation. The period for which he oversaw the defence department was a particularly challenging time for defence force recruitment, and Dr Nelson’s personal commitment to the defence force recruitment program has helped ensure the army, the navy and the air force are better placed going into the future.

The image of Dr Nelson that many will remember during his time as a federal member would be of him on his motorbike, participating in a ride supporting one charity or another. Charity work has always featured prominently in his life, and I should think that this prominence will increase post retirement from parliament. I commend Dr Nelson for his service to Australia and wish him every success in his career beyond parliament.

China—human rights

MS BRESNAN (Brindabella) (5.18): I would like to speak today on human rights abuses that continue in the People’s Republic of China. These abuses have been reported most recently in the Amnesty International report of 2009, which documents the state of human rights during 2008. In discussing freedom of religion, the report notes that people who practise a religion outside the officially sanctioned channels, including Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and others, faced harassment and persecution. Falun Gong practitioners were among those treated most harshly by the government. In the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics, thousands were reported to have been arrested with hundreds imprisoned or assigned to re-education through labour camps and other forms of detention.

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