House debates

Wednesday, 22 August 2018


Paterson Electorate

7:39 pm

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

During the past few days of this parliamentary sitting week the people of Australia could be forgiven for thinking that the business of running this country has been forgotten, for thinking that those entrusted to govern believed their positions and egos were more important than their policies, for thinking that the core business of this parliament, serving the people of Australia, had been eclipsed by the sideshow we have all borne witness to—and I believe the bastardry continues this very night. I rise this evening to make sure my constituents in Paterson know that they are not forgotten. They remain my first priority. I am here in Canberra and I gear every day towards making our beautiful region—the Hunter and Port Stephens—an even better place to live, work, play and raise a family. And this will be the case as long as I sit in this parliament.

I am here to call out this government's new botched childcare plan which disadvantages so many children and their parents in my electorate and completely abandons any pretence that we should be engaged in early childhood education. I am here because I want to support the workers, the businesses, the entrepreneurs and the industries in my electorate as they embrace innovation. I am here to continue to lobby for better NBN services and mobile phone services. I am here to fight for pathways from education to a worthwhile and meaningful career. People entering the workforce is what I care about. I am here to call for more apprenticeships and VET funding and incentives towards lifelong learning.

I want my constituents to know what I stand for. But, most importantly, I want them to know that I stand for them. I want them to know that I'm working to redress the ridiculous aged-care crisis. Right now, there are more than 100,000 Australians in limbo, waiting. This is an issue that cuts to the core of almost every Australian family at some time. Our old Australians deserve better.

I want my big-hearted constituents who have worked tirelessly in support of our drought-stricken farmers to know that my heart beats for those affected and, more than that, that I have spoken up in this place on many occasions about the need for a coordinated whole-of-government response to the situation and that I have called out the former agriculture minister, the member for New England, who sat on his hands and did nothing for five years and now bleats on about how we should be helping those poor farmers.

I want workers to know that the cuts to their penalty rates were absolutely despicable, and I will strive with my colleagues to reverse this situation. I want people who face financial challenges to know that I understand how difficult it can be to make ends meet and hear how debilitating the energy bills are at the moment and know that something must be done. I too want everyone to be able to put on the heater in winter and put on the air conditioner, if they've got it, in summer. I will continue to call on this government to reveal some energy policy that attracts investment in renewables, and I will fight for projects to be built in our electorate.

I want investment to flow to the regions, not just the big cities, and I want the hardworking people who pay their taxes to know that I really oppose the idea of giving billions of dollars to big businesses and banks. Well, it seems like the government decided they opposed that today; they have flip-flopped on that as well.

Suffice it to say that, in my role as the elected member for Paterson, there are times when issues keep me up at night. One such issue is the PFAS shame. I am here to continue to shame this government, who have done nothing meaningful to support my constituents at Saltash, Williamtown and Fullerton Cove whose lives have been devastated by the chemical PFAS. I am here to say to the Prime Minister, whether it be Mr Turnbull, Mr Dutton, Mr Morrison or whoever: come to Williamtown. The New South Wales Liberal Council meeting is on this very weekend at Port Stephens in my electorate. Gladys Berejiklian, the state Premier, will be there. Tradition says that the federal leader should attend as well. Whomever that may be, Prime Minister, when the VIP lands at Williamtown on Saturday do not detour past the people of Williamtown. Have the gumption to face them and explain why you have done nothing to help them get through what is one of the worst experiences anyone living in modern Australia could go through—having their land and, indeed, their body contaminated by toxic firefighting foam. Stand up and be a true leader, Prime Minister. Come to Williamtown.


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