Thursday, 24 November 2011
Matters of Public Importance
Deputy Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment to your office. It is great to be able to make a contribution to this important debate—a debate that gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the direction in which this government has taken the nation over the last four years. It is a very proud record of achievement.
We hear those on the other side reflect upon various matters, but there are a number of really important issues that you never hear them talk about. You do not hear them talk about jobs. In fact, when the global financial crisis was about to descend upon us, I remember the then Leader of the Opposition, the member for Wentworth, came into this place one day and he said, 'Its all about jobs, jobs, jobs.' I think that was the last time I heard anyone from that side come in here and place any emphasis on jobs. But there is a good reason that they do not want to talk about jobs, and that is that they supported policies that would attack jobs. They opposed policies that would create jobs.
During the global financial crisis we generated 700,000 jobs in this country. In fact, in the life of this government we have generated 750,000 jobs. As we generated those 700,000 jobs at a time when the rest of the world was confronting the economic contagion, we saw that right around the globe 30 million jobs were being lost. Here in Australia we created 700,000; around the world 30 million jobs were being lost. You will not hear those on the other side reflect upon that remarkable achievement.
As a government, we do not take all the credit. We worked with the Australian community and with the business community in order to ensure that we were able to generate jobs when that was the key priority. And it continues to be a key priority of this government—to save businesses and to keep people in work. We know that the moment you lose your job, the ability to rebuild your life at some future stage, if and when you re-enter the workforce, is a much more challenging prospect than staying in work. We kept people in work, and we did that through a stimulus package that delivered major infrastructure investments in this country.
As I travel around my electorate and around the country I see what we have achieved. I see the massive improvement in our schools, in public housing and in local community infrastructure delivered by our councils. I have seen the capital equipment that our businesses have invested in through the business investment allowance—and now we want to give them the opportunity to keep investing in capital, with the instant asset write-off for small business.
We have seen the improvements in health care that this government has delivered over the last four years. We came into office at a time when the former government had neglected public services. They failed to invest in our hospitals, by simply saying, 'This is a matter for the states.' Remember the blame game? Well, we have tackled it. We have worked with state governments to deliver a compact that is increasing funding for health and hospitals, like the Nepean hospital in my electorate, which has received a massive investment of over $100 million—$17 million on a new clinical school.
In the entire term of the Howard government, the 11 years, the most they ever put in was about $2 million or $3 million—across the entire period. We have invested over $100 million in this important hospital in the outer western Sydney region. We have made vital investments in hospitals all around our country. This is because we believe that our central, core, objective is about managing the economy for working families. It is about managing this economy but ensuring that the benefits of a strong economy are distributed across the community, so that working Australians and working families in electorates like mine and those of all members in this place are able to share in the bounty of this prosperous country. And we are a prosperous country. Do not let those on the other side tell us that is not the case.
When it comes to the cost of living, which is a big issue—and an issue that has been a great challenge for governments throughout the course of history—our government has delivered a lot to ease the burden of the rising cost of living. We have delivered tax cuts in the order of $47 billion. We increased the childcare tax rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. We introduced an education tax refund, allowing families to invest in those important goods that their children need in order to support their education and for those families to get a rebate from the government. We have delivered a historic increase in the pension—for the first time in the history of the pension a government has increased it above and beyond the rate of the CPI.
We introduced a paid parental leave scheme. Remember what it was like—it was like pulling teeth—when those opposite were in government. People around this country campaigned to give working parents the opportunity to have some financial relief when they take that first step to have a family and those opposite fought tooth and nail to deny people that opportunity. 'Over my dead body' was one of the things that the former Prime Minister said when they were in government. We have delivered it. We have delivered the first national paid parental leave scheme—and aren't parents right across this country thankful for it!
We have doubled the investment in our schools, and now when I go to schools in my electorate I see the entire school has been remade; it has been made over—a once-in-a-generation opportunity to remake our schools, and we did it. Every time you go to one of these openings you trip over the coalition MPs, who want to get into the photo opportunity ahead of the rest of us. They voted against it, but they want to be there, up on the dais, celebrating the great achievement. It is an achievement that not only got us through the global financial crisis but delivered the investments our country was crying out for, so that, regardless of where you live in this country, you saw the benefits of that investment in the education revolution. You are seeing the benefits in health care. Our health reforms are designed to ensure that, regardless of where you live in this country, you will be given a quality standard of health care.
But we have an eye to the future because, like all Labor governments, we are focused on not only delivering for today but preparing our country for the future. That is why we are investing in the National Broadband Network. There are those on the other side who criticise this initiative. There were plenty of people who criticised the building of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and there were plenty of people who criticised the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme, but today we look back and we celebrate the vision of the people who implemented those projects. We enjoy the benefits and we celebrate those benefits. Future generations will look back at what this government is doing with the National Broadband Network and they will thank us and they will herald the long-term vision of this government.
In the entire time I have been involved in politics—and I was involved in local government for many years—one of the principal laments of people in the community has been that governments are too short term. Often they are short term because it is hard to be long term, but this government aspires to a future of prosperity for the nation by delivering long-term programs like the National Broadband Network and pricing carbon so that we can begin the process of creating a clean energy transformation to wean ourselves off fossil fuels. We all know that at some point in the future our nation will have to wean itself off fossil fuels, but our government is doing something about it. We are ensuring that future generations will be able to share in the prosperity that we enjoy today. In fact, they will benefit from the clean energy jobs that will be created in this country today and tomorrow. We want to make sure that no-one is left behind, and that is why we want our national disability insurance scheme. Something talked about for generations will be delivered. We are laying the foundations, but it will be delivered.
And, of course, we repealed Work Choices—the greatest assault upon the decency of the Australian people that we have witnessed. They put it in; we repealed it. We continue to ensure that working Australians have access to fair arrangements in their workplaces so that they have some rights; they have a framework that allows them to go to work knowing that they have some protection from being summarily dismissed without any recourse. They know that they can bargain with other workers in a context where they will never have equal bargaining power with their employer but they might have a fair go. These are the things that Labor governments deliver, and I am proud to be a part of a government that has been delivering these things over the last four years. We will continue to do that. The challenges that this country faces in the future are just as great, but we believe and have sufficient hope in the Australian people. We know we have the capacity to take those challenges on in the future, and that is what we will do. (Time expired)