Thursday, 3 June 2010
Child Support and Family Assistance Legislation Amendment (Budget and Other Measures) Bill 2010
To be or not to be a federal politician: that is the question. Why? Because it is the road less travelled as a career path. There are very few people who can truly relate to the experience. In fact, when I came to Canberra for the very first time in my life in November 2007 as the elected member for Dawson, I was told that I was the 1,020th federal member of parliament to be elected in 107 years of Federation. I recognise the honour and the privilege that was bestowed upon me by the 45,000 people who voted for me in that historic Rudd Labor election win, with a swing of 16.9 per cent and a two-party preferred vote swing of 13.2 per cent. Labor won the seat of Dawson for the first time in 32 years. I consider it to be the greatest political honour and achievement in my life. This would not have been possible without the dedication of the rank-and-file membership of an active volunteer base of the Australian Labor Party and union movement in the seat of Dawson.
So what is it that inspires a man or a woman to aspire to this office, where so many are called but so few are chosen by the people? For me, it was the passionate conviction in my heart for social and political change in our society and workplaces to improve the lot of everyday working people. All politicians are driven people. They are focused, determined and single-minded, and some, dare I say it, are ruthlessly ambitious. Their souls burn with conviction.
What drives me is the passion to fight injustice wherever that occurs, whether it is in the workplace or the home. It may be the worker who is being victimised because they are speaking out for better workplace health and safety, or asking for better wages and conditions. That is why I am so proud to be part of this historic Rudd Labor government that said it would scrap Work Choices, and we fulfilled and delivered that promise to the people of Australia. The good news for the workers of Australia is that this Rudd Labor government has saved you from unfair dismissal laws; this Labor government has saved your long service leave from being scrapped; this Labor government has saved your sick pay from being abolished. We can say with proud conviction that this Labor government has delivered to you, everyday working Australians.
The global financial crisis revealed corruption and bad trading activities overseas which resulted in global capitalism being put into crisis and in meltdown around the world. This, in turn, had a knock-on effect in this country. Thankfully, the people had a Labor government who had as its priority the protection of everyday jobs for people. We were engaged in an economic stimulus package, and that would not have happened under a conservative Liberal-National Party government. They would have let the anarchy of the free market rip and shred over 200,000 jobs. They would have explained it away as merely a market correction. This government has a totally different view. We intervened when capitalism went into crisis, and we stepped in to save those jobs from being lost. I believe in grassroots democracy, and that for me means being on the street meeting people outside newsagents, video stores, post offices, fish and chip shops and in the marketplace. During the election campaign it meant getting up at 5 am every day, being out at 6 am and standing outside the local newsagent, 7 am standing at a busy intersection greeting the early morning traffic and then, at 8 am, I would fulfil my duty as a single parent doing fifty-fifty child care, and take my kids to school.
I am proud to say I totally kept my commitment to my children during the whole electoral campaign, from April 2006 through to November 2007, as well as during the past 2½ years as a member of this parliament. It is not easy being a member of parliament and a single parent. I know there are a small number of people on both sides of this House who really know what it is like. Two of my three children are in the gallery today—Zoe, who is nine, and my son, Jade, who is eleven. Jazmin, who is 14, could not make it today as she has had exams this week. My children are the most important people in my life, and I will always love and be proud of them. I love their straightforward and ruthless honesty. Being a member of parliament also puts a huge strain on relationships, partnerships, family life and personal time. Political life has caused a rollercoaster of emotions for my partner Davina, and I want to thank her for her love through all the highs and lows over the last four years.
I want to thank Brendan Greenhill and Lee Webster, a great couple who housed me at Curtin in their spare room. These good friends of mine I knew in Bowen before they moved to Canberra just before the election. They have truly given me a home away from home; a real brother and sister who looked after me with wonderful hospitality. Another good friend and brother who has been there through all the rough and tumble of this job is the member for Blair, Shayne Neumann—you are a good man, and I will deeply miss your company and our long political, religious and social conversations. There was never a dull moment!
I would love to name all 34 of my Labor colleagues in the class of 2007—but time is of the essence! So I wish to have the whips list of new Labor members’ names and photos included in this speech. Perhaps I will table that. I am proud to be with you in history as helping to form the Rudd Labor government. Each and every one of you has so much potential, talent and vision to serve the Australian people. Thank you for all your friendship and support.
I want to acknowledge the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and the full cabinet and ministers in their commitment to grassroots democracy demonstrated by bringing the federal cabinet to Mackay in June 2008. That was a historic first for the city. Also I want to acknowledge the three other visits in this term of government by the Prime Minister as well as his three visits during the election campaign. The people of Dawson know you take the contribution of the region and its value to the bottom line of the nation’s wealth very seriously, compared with the previous Prime Minister who visited only once in 11 years. I can say with confidence to the Prime Minister that your sacrifice of time has borne fruit and it is widely appreciated in the community that this government has delivered for the people of Dawson.
Funding for Dawson includes, for example: roads $350 million, including $50 million for the southern approach to Mackay and $95 million for the port access road in South Townsville; health, $6.1 million for brand new training facilities for dental care at the base hospital in Mackay and a new clinical training facility at the Mater Hospital; and education, 2,022 computers for secondary schools across Dawson, $121,247,926 for the Building the Education Revolution, with 278 individual projects across Dawson, and $9,376,617 for trade training centres. In May 2010 the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard—who I think has done a fantastic job—visited the nearly completed TTC for the Mackay Christian College-Carlisle Christian College-Whitsunday Anglican cluster. There is also a state cluster made up of Mackay North, Mackay High, Mirani High, Pioneer High and Sarina High. This project is in danger if the Liberal-National Party form the next government. There is no guarantee for that cluster. For training and TAFE, there is $2,645,000 for the Mackay TAFE Training Infrastructure Investment for Tomorrow program, and $2,630,994 for Better TAFE Facilities Program projects in Bowen, the Burdekin Cannonvale and Mackay
There was funding for community infrastructure: $4.9 million for Mackay Regional Council, Whitsunday Regional Council and Burdekin Shire Council; there was $742,727 under the National Bike Path Project for the Whitsunday Regional Council. Under Caring for our Country there was the Reef Rescue package worth $15,106,424 in 2008-09 and 2009-10. That is delivering for the people of Dawson. There was the Better Regions program. There is more! There was $8.8 million for the Mackay Stadium; $4 million for the Bluewater Lagoon; the Australian Mining Innovation Centre based in Mackay is worth $14 million. For social housing, there was $24,496,692 for 82 new housing units and 281 units to undergo repairs and maintenance.
I am proud to be a part of this government’s increases in pension payments—the best in 100 years. These increases, following on from 2009, mean that total pension payments for those on the maximum rate, including base rate and pensions supplement, is $701.10 a fortnight for singles and $1,057 a fortnight for couples, combined. This represents an increase of around $100 per fortnight for singles and around $74 a fortnight for couples, combined, in pension payments as a result of the government’s increases and indexation in 2009. Wayne Swan, the Treasurer, has done a fantastic job in delivering for the pensioners across the whole nation.
To all my electoral staff, I say thank you for all your work during very difficult times, particularly during the Mackay floods in February 2008. We had only just moved into our federal office in December 2007 and then were completely flooded out. We moved into my house and operated from a spare lounge room for three months. Then we moved to The Dome Shopping Centre in Mackay’s CBD before finding permanent accommodation in November 2008. It was an incredibly disruptive and stressful first year. No-one should underestimate the problems it caused on many different fronts. I still have all the same staff. None of us had worked in a federal office before, and I can tell you that we are now all older, wiser and greyer. I put on record thanks to government services based in Brisbane for all their help in re-establishing offices we could work from. I also thank all parliamentary staff in this building and thank the Comcar drivers for their professionalism in helping MPs do their job. I thank Roger Price, the Chief Government Whip, for his wisdom and advice over the last 2½ years and all the executive for their support.
I, James Bidgood, federal member for Dawson, can stand here today with my hand on my heart and truly say I made a promise to deliver for the people of Dawson. The Rudd Labor government and I have delivered over $600 million to the people of Dawson in 2½ years—more than was delivered in the previous 2½ years of the conservative Liberal-National Party government. The only way for this to continue is for the people of Dawson to vote Labor in the upcoming election. I totally endorse Mayor Mike Brunker of the Whitsunday Regional Council who is the new Labor candidate for the seat of Dawson. I am proud to have established a Labor legacy in the seat of Dawson, and long may it remain a Labor seat into the future. I have passionately served with all of my heart, soul, body and mind. I have given 110 per cent, and I thank the people of Dawson for the honour of serving them.