Wednesday, 30 March 2022
My community on the Central Coast of New South Wales has been overlooked by this government for years. Whether it's our health, jobs or local roads, this government has left the northern end of the Central Coast behind. Under this government we've seen the GP crisis on the coast go from bad to worse. We have one of the worst roads backlogs in the state. We have thousands of young people held back from gaining the skills and training they need for a good job and a steady career. This has all happened on the Morrison government's watch. Now, after almost a decade in power and on the eve of an election, this government is spruiking spending in my community, promising big-ticket road and rail projects for our region. It's no surprise locals have had a hard time believing them. They have made promises like this before and have not followed through.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you don't need to read the NRMA report to know the Central Coast has one of the worst roads backlogs in New South Wales. In fact, the last major roads project on the Central Coast was the M1 upgrade, which started when Anthony Albanese was the minister for infrastructure. We have been calling for more investment for years, but this government hasn't listened. Then, just last week, the government announced funding to upgrade the road through Wyong, my hometown, a project my community and I have been fighting for for years. This week they have announced spending for the Central Coast Highway and fast rail. While this investment is welcome, it's long overdue. Why has the government waited until the eve of an election? The coast should be a priority when it comes to infrastructure funding, not an afterthought right before an election.
This government has also failed our community when it comes to their health care. I am a pharmacist and I worked at the local hospital for almost 10 years. There is a severe GP shortage on the coast, and this crisis has only gone from bad to worse under the Morrison government. I was told this week, alarmingly, that 31 doctors have left our community in the Wyong-Gorokan catchment, leading to countless practices being forced to close their books or shut. While I welcome the government's plan to make parts of the coast a priority for GPs, I am frustrated that they have completely overlooked other parts of our region and haven't addressed the widespread systemic problems.
There are so many people in my community struggling to see a GP, waiting weeks for routine appointments. One of my constituents from Hamlyn Terrace recently told me that her GP practice now has been reduced to two doctors on the books. One of those doctors is now on annual leave, and the other was recently forced to isolate due to COVID. This meant patients only had access to telehealth appointments for an entire week. My constituent told me: 'Like a lot of elderly people, I find it hard to hear on the telephone and don't do telehealth calls because the doctor ends up shouting down the phone. It's very frustrating. I won't see a doctor now until my GP comes back, and then I'll have to have my flu and pneumonia vaccines.' People in my community or anywhere in Australia shouldn't have to delay or skip important vaccinations or health check-ups. They should be able to book an appointment and get the health care they need, especially older Australians. This government has ignored the plight of my community, and it's only harder to see a GP for people living on the coast. Either the government doesn't see health care as a priority for regional Australians, or they just don't get it.
This government has also overlooked the Central Coast when it comes to jobs and training. I grew up on the coast; I went to high school in Tuggerah. After almost a decade in power, this government has cut $3 billion from vocational education and training in this country. Because of these cuts, and we have seen it, there are now 231 fewer apprentices on the coast than there were eight years ago. That's a drop of close to 10 per cent; 231 people—particularly young people—who don't have the chance to get the skills and training they need for a good job and a steady career. How can the government be serious about creating jobs on the coast when they are taking opportunities away from young people to find secure work? In a recent example, they completely excluded the north end of the coast in their Commonwealth Scholarships Program for young Australians. While young people living in Gosford, just south of my community, are eligible for $13,000 scholarships to help them take up an apprenticeship, people in my community have been left out altogether. How can the government claim now that they want to deliver for the Central Coast, particularly for young people? They have had close to a decade to deliver, but what we have heard is empty promises.
My community is fed up with being overlooked. Under this Prime Minister, Australia is now $1 trillion in debt, and what have they seen? What have we got to show for it? A GP crisis, a massive backlog of roads and thousands of coasties who can't find a secure work. Instead of planning for the future, this budget is focused on short-term fixes and patch jobs. Nothing in this budget makes up for almost a decade of being overlooked by this government. Coasties deserve better.