Monday, 22 February 2010
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010; Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2009-2010
Debate resumed from 11 February, on motion by Dr Emerson:
That this bill be now read a second time.
On the last occasion of the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010 and the cognate bill I referred to the confusion of the shadow finance spokesperson regarding millions, trillions and billions, but it has not stopped there. He has thought out loud that he might vote with the government with regard to private health insurance. But I am more concerned about the recent comments he made regarding foreign aid, where he criticised the government for allocating money towards offsetting global food prices, basically using the usual pathetic line: ‘Look after people at home.’
As Damien Kingsbury noted in the Age, the biggest food and health problem in this country is overeating. Unfortunately, Senator Joyce’s comments were not too timely. They came soon after events in Haiti and in the context of recent events in the Sudan, which culminated over the last year in the forced movement of 350,000 people and massive international appeals by Oxfam, which led to the British government, as part of its aid program, in the past month allocating $70 million in an aid package. Most of that money, $58 million, is to be used by UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency water, sanitation, health care and shelter in the Sudan. The comments also came at a time when figures came out of India and the United States regarding the major contribution from the food sector to current inflationary pressures. For whatever reason, whether it is because of the way in which crops are now being used for biofuel, whether it is because of the purchase by India, China and other countries of huge tracts of land in Africa and other parts of the world that are too impoverished for their own food production or whether it is because of the ascent in fuel prices, they are major factors in food price movements and of course combined will, in a massive way, hurt people in the underdeveloped world, through malnutrition and the general standard of living. So his comments attacking assistance to avoid massive food price increases were very untimely, very inhumane but, unfortunately, typical of some loud thinking that the opposition leader had to slap down a few days later. It might actually be the thought within the opposition, but, of course, the Leader of the Opposition had to publicly move against him.
Regarding the budget and appropriations, I want to turn to another subject. In an otherwise impressive contribution, the member for Bradfield used part of his maiden speech in this parliament to put up an image of huge attacks on local government in northern Sydney and, more particularly, in his electorate. He said that the state government essentially was moving to bring in draconian legislation and that the increased controls over local government planning in Sydney were the worst thing since the reign of terror after the French Revolution or Nazi Germany. The state government in New South Wales is doing something about public housing; it is overdue and extremely necessary. The reality is that the federal government has put significant requirements upon the New South Wales government with regard to social housing. I note that in NCOSS News some of the restrictions that have been placed on the state government with regard to public housing—and, I should say, very necessary public housing—include the fact that 75 per cent of the projects must be completed by December, at least 50 per cent of the new dwellings are to be provided to homeless Australians or those at risk of such and a significant proportion of new housing is to be transferred to community housing providers. That overall program of $1.76 billion is, as I said, very necessary.
In Sydney we are seeing a wider problem—that is, the western, the south-western and the far western suburbs of Sydney are being asked to carry the full burden of density increases in our state. Some councils are cooperative with community responsibility, cooperative with the needs of the city in the long term, cooperative with the growing population of the city, while other councils, usually in very leafy suburbs, usually in suburbs with high-income workers, are essentially saying to the rest of the city, ‘Get stuffed.’ I, for one, strongly support the intervention by the federal government to ensure some equity in this matter. State opposition members in New South Wales are conducting a relentless campaign against public housing throughout the city. I live in an area that, in the 1960s, was essentially made up of public housing. Obviously, the nature of the tenants at that stage was very different from what it is today. We spent so much money on public housing at that stage that people who were low-income workers actually got into commission houses. But these days it is basically people on social welfare, people with very clear problems, single parents, disabled people and people with addictions. We have seen a campaign by opposition members in New South Wales of denigration, of attack, of marginalisation in opposing public housing ventures.
The reality is that, whilst it is easy to go to people in a street or a suburb and say, ‘Your house price is going to be repressed by these people living near you,’ if we are really talking about responsibility and countering social problems the worst thing that we can do is say that in large parts of Sydney there cannot be public housing, that it is not allowed, and basically push people into huge reservoirs that feed off each other’s social problems and poverty. That is the solution that the opposition are basically moving towards. They use the simplistic and materialistic pressure, which people will often find very appealing, of saying, ‘We won’t have higher densities of housing. Auburn, Granville, Parramatta, Penrith, Campbelltown and Liverpool should be basically forced to take 15- or 20-storey high buildings whilst these other councils, particularly in the northern suburbs, basically don’t pull their weight.’
However, the truth is that the measures are not as draconian as they speculate. In reality, whilst the chief executive of Housing New South Wales will have the ultimate say in these projects, local councils will have to be consulted as to immediate neighbours and be provided with the designs of these projects within 21 days. What we are seeing here is a very unfortunate campaign. It is against the public interest. It is a recipe, as I say, for reservations of poverty. It is a recipe for social problems. It is a recipe for increased incarceration of people from these areas. Basically, the opposition position is totally irresponsible.
This afternoon I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010 and cognate bill, and I am forced to speak on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill 2010 that the government brought before the House without notice. The manager of government business came into the House and guillotined a very important debate for both sides of the House. I have to speak in this place for those people who have no voice. I want to use this opportunity of the debate on the appropriation bills to talk about the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme Bill as it was brought forward by the Labor government. The member for Gippsland and I are wondering right now where it has gone since we were here last. Where has it gone? Has it gone to the Senate? Will it disappear into the ether or is it really going to come forward again in the upper house?
It was last year that my inbox, along with the inboxes of many of my coalition colleagues, was literally inundated with thousands and thousands of emails calling on me, as the member for Maranoa, and many of us in the opposition to stand up to the Labor government in relation to their plan to put a new tax on everything. That was meant to be the solution to carbon pollution and emissions as they saw it. As they saw it, that would help reduce the temperature of the planet. But it was nothing more, as the Australian public rightly knew, than a great big new tax. It would have hit families and households. It would have hit family budgets. Of course, we all know that it would have done very little, if anything, for the global environment. We told the Australian people the truth: it was a tax that would be imposed by the government, managed by an international finance and trading system and would have little significance in reducing carbon emissions.
Our Prime Minister, the people’s prime minister, who was elected at the last federal election, planned before parliament rose at the end of last year to ram through this Labor legislation so that he could take it to Copenhagen. He was so desperate to have this piece of paper in his hand to wave around when he arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark. He was going to be a world leader and he was going to negotiate for the world to follow him and the model that he had got through the Australian parliament and which would now be law.
But thankfully the coalition and the crossbench senators prevented the Prime Minister from doing just that. And of course we all know what the outcome of Copenhagen was: pretty much nothing. It was a great big talkfest costing millions and millions of dollars of Australian taxpayers’ money. Were we surprised on this side of the House? No, we were not, because we had a Prime Minister and a Labor government that would not listen to the voice of the people or to rational debate.
The Prime Minister was also hell-bent on impressing the President of the United States. He really gave no consideration to Australian families or Australian businesses. He was far more interested in impressing the global leaders and the President of the United States and in stepping onto the world stage. He was not worried about families out there struggling with a mortgage and high grocery prices. He wanted to be on the global stage with a piece of legislation that had passed—thankfully, it did not pass—both houses and had become law. He was willing to sacrifice jobs and he was also willing to allow families to be hit with an increase of up to 25 per cent in household electricity bills.
The Prime Minister was willing for mining jobs in Central Queensland to be lost, because that is the net effect of what would have happened. He was also willing for dairy farmers in the southern downs in my electorate of Maranoa to be hit with the extra costs—and these are figures by ABARE; they are not figures by the coalition or another independent think tank. As the member for Gippsland would also be aware, if the ETS had passed it would have hit dairy farmers, based on ABARE figures, with an additional $9,000 cost per dairy farmer.
And with no compensation and no capacity for the dairy farmer to pass it on because they are at the end of the line. They are at the primary stage of production. Dairy farmers, like so many farmers in Australia, buy everything retail and sell everything wholesale. So this would have been just another impost on the costs of production. Of course, the ETS was just another way for this government to raise revenue to compensate for its mismanagement of our economy.
What I find most concerning is that we have a Prime Minister who gazes across the seas for clues on how to govern our nation. He does not look inward across our nation. He does not take his cue from the people he is meant to lead—the Australian people. It is no wonder that Australians are angry and that we are seeing that anger being reflected in the polls. We have a Prime Minister who was voted into government by the people who thought that he would have had their best interests at heart, yet he is still prepared to sacrifice 126,000 jobs in regional Australia for his giant new tax, a tax which would have done very little for the environment here in Australia or around the world. That was the net result: 126,000 jobs lost in regional Australia—in seats like Gippsland, Riverina, Farrer, Indi, Murray and my own electorate of Maranoa. And these were figures from Treasury! They were the sorts of numbers of jobs that would have been lost. Of course, as the member for Gippsland knows, with every job there is a family. There is a family to feed. There are children. But that would have been the net number of jobs, based on figures from Treasury, that regional Australia alone would have lost as a result of this great big new tax.
We can talk a lot about the impact on businesses but I just want to focus a little longer on households and how they would have been worse off. Households would have been worse off because there was not going to be compensation for every household for the increased costs of living, for the increased cost of electricity—which was well documented, I might say, by the government—that would have affected every household. Some would have received some compensation, but what about the aged-care facilities, as the member for Gippsland would know? Would they have been compensated for the increased cost of living that would have been an impost on the aged-care facilities which care for some of the most vulnerable in our community and which do a magnificent job? Their costs would have risen without an offset in compensation and without an increased payment for their recurrent funding.
There are some 900,000 small businesses in Australia. There has never been any mention of how small businesses would be compensated. Small businesses, not multinational businesses, are the engine room of our economy. We all have small businesses in our electorates. They are in the suburbs, in the cities and out in the country. There is no compensation for small businesses to pay for the increased cost of electricity for everything they produce.
The Prime Minister himself has admitted that in the first two years of the ETS there would be a 19 per cent increase in the cost of electricity. Some 19,000 jobs would be lost in the mining industry alone in the next 10 years and 45,000 jobs would be lost in the energy-intensive industries. Queensland, with its coal industry, is an energy state. In my electorate of Maranoa we have the Surat Basin. To the north, the electorates of Flynn, Capricornia and Dawson would all be affected by the emissions trading scheme put forward by the Labor government. Thankfully, the scheme has been defeated in the upper house—twice. Unfortunately, in the lower house the opposition cannot muster the numbers or get those on the other side with any courage to come across and vote with the opposition. The member for Flynn, a representee from the Labor Party, has a large proportion of the Bowen Basin in his seat and jobs that are dependent on the coal industry. And what about the member for Dawson? Where has he been? Dawson has a coal export terminal with a massive number of jobs. Often the workers who live there fly in and out to jobs west of Mackay. It is the same in Gladstone, Emerald, Blackwater Bluff, Tjuringa, Capella, Tieri and Middlemount. All those towns are very much dependent on the viability of the coal industry.
But where is the member for Dawson? Where is the member for Capricornia? Where is the member for Flynn? Do they have the courage to come across to our side of the House and say: ‘Prime Minister, we think we’ve got this wrong. We’d better vote for the people we represent in this place. We want to represent the working families who’d be affected by the ETS.’ No, they blindly follow the Prime Minister. I know that at the next federal election, which is coming up sometime this year, those working families will be able to make judgments on those from the other side of the House who do not have the courage to stand up for the jobs and families that will be affected if the Senate ever passes this flawed legislation, which is nothing more than the introduction of a great big new tax on everything.
As I said earlier, the ETS would not only cost jobs; it would also cost families. Labor’s ETS would cost Australian families something like $120 billion over the next 10 years. I spoke a moment ago about compensation, but it would have been dependent on the government legislating to bring forward that compensation. We have seen how this government sometimes handles those issues when it comes to the delivery of a promise being converted into legislation and law. Families have no guarantee that they are going to be compensated adequately. They are relying on a Prime Minister and a government which says one thing prior to an election but delivers something else after the election.
Mr Deputy Speaker Schultz, I, like you, represent a regional seat. I know that the emissions trading scheme proposed by this Labor government would have had a huge and negative impact on my electorate of Maranoa. I have almost the entire Surat coal basin in my electorate. Xstrata are proposing new coal mines for the Wandoan area, which is almost in my electorate, and within the next three to four years they plan, obviously if a coalition government—which will not bring in the great big new tax that the Labor Party is proposing—is elected to export 30 million tonnes of coal from their Wandoan coal leases. Then there is coal seam methane gas. British Gas, Arrow Energy, Queensland Gas Co., Origin Energy and Santos are all energy companies that are tapping into the coal seam to extract the coal seam methane gas and they will be sending that to Gladstone to convert into liquefied natural gas for export to markets overseas.
When they are competing for the same market with countries which do not have the threat of a great big new tax overhanging their production and the cost structures of their industries, we have to ask ourselves whether this will ever be a viable proposition. Something like 15,000 jobs are going to be generated by the coal seam methane industry in Maranoa during both the construction phase and the ongoing production of LNG out of Gladstone. Gladstone is of course in the seat of Flynn. More jobs have been put at risk by the member for Flynn. He did not have the courage to come to this side of the House and stick up for the potential jobs that would have delivered wealth to Gladstone and the working families who live there.
There is also the Galilee Basin, which is east of Barcaldine and out near Jericho and is in fact a larger resource than the Surat coal basin. Two major companies are looking at the development of that—Gina Rinehart, from Western Australia, with one lease and Clive Palmer with his leases. Once again, there are more jobs, but jobs will be at risk if there is a great big new tax impacting on the coal industry and the viability of those leases, which are some 500 kilometres from the port at Mackay. When you have to carry coal that distance every kilometre adds another cost and you have to compete with other countries that do not have that huge transport component. These mines, and these jobs, may never be developed if this government is ever able to pass this flawed legislation and introduce a great big new tax that would impact on the viability of potential mines like those in the Galilee Basin or the Surat coal basin.
But this is not just about local jobs; it is about wealth for the nation. When people have jobs they pay income tax, so the Commonwealth also benefits and the economy grows. But, as we know, this government really has no idea about managing the economy let alone an understanding of how their great big new tax would impact on the mining sector and on my electorate of Maranoa. Maranoa is not only a huge agriculturally based economy but a growing base for the production of energy from coal and for the production of alternative and renewable energy. Right out in the west of my electorate is the Cooper Basin, a huge resource in a very remote part of Australia. It feeds into the Moomba oil and gas fields, which pump gas into Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Mount Isa. Not once did we hear any concern from the Labor Party about those resources, which are so essential to driving the energy needs of our major capital cities, and the costs that would be imposed on the production of the gas and oil wells in the outback of my electorate.
But thankfully there is the opposition—the Liberal and National parties and the crossbench senators as well. We have given the people of Australia a very clear choice. We have a direct action plan that will put a carrot out there to encourage energy companies to put in technology that will reduce their carbon emissions. But we do not have a stick and we do not have a great big new tax. One of those energy companies in my electorate is the Tarong Power Station. Already they are looking at how they can utilise algal research—new technology that would be able to capture carbon at the point of burning it and convert it, through synthesis and other processes, into algal oil and protein meal. So companies are looking for ways to deal with carbon, but what we have is a great carrot to encourage companies or businesses to apply for money in a competitive process to allow them to reduce their carbon footprint. That would become a credit in terms of carbon accounting here in Australia. The company will invest in the new technologies. They will have a carrot in the form of some grant money from the Commonwealth government.
The alternative is quite clear. We heard from the Labor Party throughout last year and again when we were denied the opportunity to speak in the House. The Leader of the House used the guillotine and denied opposition members their right to speak when the bill was before the House of Representatives. Our direct action plan is something that I believe all Australians understand. It is simple. It is not a great big tax. It is a carrot. It is encouraging new technology and it will not hurt families. It will be good for Australia and I put to the Main Committee this afternoon that this is an alternative to Labor’s great big new tax. (Time expired)
It is always a pleasure to follow the member for Maranoa. I rise today to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2009-2010 and to congratulate the government on its ongoing commitment to assuring Australia’s immediate economic wellbeing while at the same time building for our country’s domestic and international future. That is very important. While I respect the fact that the honourable member for Maranoa has a view about the government, the reality is that people in the electorate—and no doubt in his electorate, as in my electorate—are very concerned about the economic stability and the economic future of this country, because an economic future that is bleak or that runs the risk of going the way that a lot of other economies in the Western world appear to be going would be detrimental to the daily lives of all Australians, in particular my constituents and, I am sure, the member’s constituents as well. That is why I am very pleased to be speaking to appropriation bills Nos 3 and 4.
As I have said, we are all aware that the recent period of global economic meltdown has affected all major economies. Despite the instability and uncertainty, whichever way you want to cut it the reality is that Australia has come out of this period in a very strong position. That cannot be denied under any circumstances. However, while we are in a strong position, we are not in the clear yet. That is also a truth. The people in my electorate are relieved that their jobs and their homes have weathered the economic storm that has brought near disaster to countries around the world.
We will all be aware of the great difficulties that my place of birth, Greece, finds itself in. I think most of us are reading on a daily basis of the trouble that the Greek economy is in, and not only the Greek economy but also other economies in Europe—the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Irish and the Italian. We almost have to hold our collective breath knowing that, if something is not done to assist those economies, further financial problems are afoot. Not only would that affect the Europeans but it could have an impact on the rest of the world. I think that my constituents see that and are relieved that the Australian economy has managed to pull through in relatively good stead, and of course that has an immediate impact on their daily lives.
This round of appropriations that I am speaking to today continues that trend of sensible, confident and far-sighted financial management that this government has put in place, and that is probably the best way to describe it. Our attitude and our management of the economy have been sensible, confident and very far-sighted. These bills seek to appropriate authority from the parliament for additional expenditure of money from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in order to meet requirements that have arisen since the last budget. The total additional appropriation being sought through these bills is over $2 billion. Today I want to take the time to focus on a number of elements of this round of appropriations that I feel deserve praise because they have an immediate impact not only on the country nationally but also on my electorate.
I recognise and welcome the fact that this round will be directed towards our important nation-building agenda and will continue the practical measures that this government has committed to in order to ensure we can all take practical action to reduce our collective and individual impact on the environment. Importantly for my electorate of Calwell, in speaking to this round of appropriations I am afforded the opportunity to recognise how the national agenda has very real and very positive local outcomes. My electorate is located, as I have said many times before, in Melbourne’s north and has a substantial manufacturing sector. Many of the people of Calwell are from low-income households and are extremely vulnerable to the uncertainties of the market. Of course I watched with concern, as they did, as a number of factories and businesses closed in the face of the global financial crisis.
As the threat of a global financial crisis reared, we all watched trade exposed companies who had to turn long-term employees out off their jobs. While the Rudd government stemmed that tide with its economic stimulus package, the impact of the slowdown on some of our trading partners is still being felt, and I referred to some of those at the beginning of my speech. That is why I want to welcome the $40 million in additional funding for the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme, or the GEERS program, as it is known. As a government we have responsibility at a national level to do the best we can to help businesses and companies grow, but sometimes the best endeavours of local industry may succumb to international commercial pressures. Government has a responsibility to support vulnerable workers when this situation arises. In appropriating this funding for GEERS, the Rudd government is displaying its capacity to balance macroeconomic management with compassion and consideration for working Australians.
I also welcome the $45.2 million appropriation to fund the government’s response to the H1N1 influenza virus. Calwell, I am proud to say, is home to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, Australia’s leading biopharmaceutical company. CSL is the only commercial manufacturer of influenza vaccines in the Southern Hemisphere and has been contracted by the government, as we all know, to supply 21 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine. CSL employs over 1,600 people across its Broadmeadows and Parkville sites. CSL is one of the companies that is keeping Australia at the international forefront of research and development. This appropriation is complemented by $26 million to purchase the H1N1 influenza vaccine and support the associated clinical trials.
As Chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation, I am particularly aware of the necessity for the government to remain focused on research, development and innovation. This is important for the development of our innovation capacity, but it is also important because Australia’s medical research sector leads the way in important medical research. And, of course, that important medical research that we led the way in also leads in the end to life-saving treatments and vaccines. The H1N1 vaccine is very much a case where Australia is at the forefront of its development. As proof of how highly regarded Australia is internationally for its scientific and medical advances, I can give an example from when I was in Greece last July while that country was coming to terms with the first of its swine flu cases. Like a lot of other countries it was not prepared for the onslaught of swine flu or H1N1.
I was interested because, in the few days I was there, it was in fact to Australia that the Greek media and even the Greek politicians continuously referred when talking about the development of a vaccine. It makes you stop and realise just how highly regarded we are. Not only are we highly regarded internationally but we are also relied upon, and of course we want to be able to develop that capacity. We are proud of that, we want to develop it and we want to be out there at the cutting edge where we have been on many occasions. In order to do that, governments have to be serious about funding and providing money for research and development. This government does that and it does it as part of a central theme of its agenda as a government.
Speaking on the H1N1 virus—because I have spoken to a lot of my constituents, as I am sure a lot of other members have also—I want to take the opportunity to raise some concerns about the general public’s attitude towards the H1N1 virus and in particular their attitude toward the vaccine. As I said, I do not have the figures for how many people have been vaccinated, but I get the feeling just from talking to people that not as many as we would have expected have actually taken up the opportunity to get themselves vaccinated. In speaking to many of my constituents, I get the sense there is a bit of complacency around. A lot of people feel that the virus is not as deadly as was initially thought. So I want to take this opportunity to remind the House that vaccination generally, let alone the H1N1 vaccination, is a significant factor in protecting our community from viruses that have a history of killing people. Medical and scientific research has benefited our community. In Australia in particular, our medical and scientific integrity is second to none. We should be proud of our doctors and scientists and we have every reason to be confident in their work. So I want to say to people out there who might feel a little apprehensive about it that being vaccinated in Australia is as good as they are ever going to get anywhere in terms of the confidence we can have in our medical and scientific research.
That is why I want to support the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon. Nicola Roxon, and support her call for a vaccination against the pandemic flu. It is important to remember that those amongst us who are most vulnerable need to be vaccinated and the most vulnerable are children. In the case of H1N1, the vulnerable are also the elderly, pregnant women and people who are in contact with the general public on a day-to-day basis. Receiving the backing of the Australian Medical Association, the minister’s call serves to demonstrate that the government is willing to show leadership on an issue no less important than the health and wellbeing of all Australians. This is a government that is not willing to take the risk of Australians dying unnecessarily of infectious diseases as a result of not having made the vaccine available. This is a government which has taken all necessary steps by way of prevention to ensure that we are spared the pressures of a pandemic flu on our public health system.
Australians have to be aware that the precautionary measures taken by the government reflect the reality of the pandemic flu. With 37,196 cases verified and 5,000 people hospitalised, the Australian newspaper reported last month that Westmead Hospital in New South Wales had to cancel elective surgery for several weeks in response to the H1N1 virus. It is important to note that one-third of all people in intensive care with the virus were from at-risk groups. It is really incumbent upon all of us not to be complacent about this issue and to not assume there is nothing to worry about.
Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2009-10 proposes an additional appropriation of $12 million for the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. This amount will go towards the establishment of a local government reform fund to help councils manage their infrastructure and to plan for their future needs. It will also provide funding under the Regional And Local Community Infrastructure Program to support investment in community infrastructure for very important things such as libraries, community centres, sportsgrounds and environmental infrastructure.
I would like to report that in December last year—in fact, on 16 December—I was very, very pleased to officiate on behalf of the minister for infrastructure in the sod turning for the Craigieburn Library and Learning Centre in my electorate. I cannot overstate the value of this facility to my community. I have spoken before about the dynamic role played in my community by the existing Hume Global Learning Centre based in Broadmeadows; in fact, this is Broadmeadows’s first ever library. So we are very proud of it, but we are proud of it because it is an extraordinary state-of-the-art facility. The new facility in Craigieburn, just up the road from Broadmeadows—a high-growth corridor with lots of young families, where infrastructure is struggling to keep up with the number of people moving into the electorate and into Craigieburn—will extend the valuable cultural, educational and social networks of the Hume Global Learning Centre to that growth corridor.
Facilities such as these in my electorate, including the learning centre, community sporting facilities, parks and halls, have been supported all over the nation through the government’s Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Fund. I cannot overstate the value of that fund to the broader community at a local level. It is these small and not-so-small projects that make a genuine difference to the lives of local residents. All you have to do is ask a community that has outgrown a cramped and outdated library, as is the case in Craigieburn. Quaint as the old library might be, as nostalgic as we all were over more or less waving it goodbye, you cannot understand the stress that is placed on a community by cramped and outdated facilities. We also cannot underestimate the impact of old netball courts or the lack of available netball courts for young women who love to play netball. Netball is a very popular sport amongst young women, certainly in my electorate. In Craigieburn, which is very much a sporting community, netball and other sports are very popular. Of course, in order to play them effectively, you have to have the right facilities.
So the federal government is supporting local government in providing these basic but vital facilities through its nation building. I am very pleased that my electorate is a recipient of this kind of support. Community infrastructure, we all know, is very much reliant on strong and vibrant local government that works effectively in partnership with the federal government, as is the case now. This is a very important appropriation for my community.
Last Wednesday—unfortunately, I was here, so I could not attend—marked the official opening of the Broadmeadows Primary School and early years centre, and the Hume Central Secondary College in my electorate, in Broadmeadows. Both schools were opened by the Premier of Victoria, John Brumby, and the Minister for Education, Bronwyn Pike. Today I would like to note the great achievement represented by these schools. They are fantastic new buildings that are a real credit to the innovative thinking and sheer hard work of the school community—the students, teachers and parents and of course, most of all, the school community leaders. I appreciate the enormous amount of work and foresight that was put into the planning and design of the new school as well as the complex processes of consultation and negotiation. This was all a result of a significant state government investment in local schools of about $30 million, which is complemented by the federal government’s $142 million investment in Building the Education Revolution in my electorate.
So a significant amount of money has gone into Calwell, into building our schools, and in this case the beneficiaries have been many of our public primary and secondary schools. I know that in my electorate over the next five years a transformation of our entire school system will take place, and that can only be to the benefit of the young people who study there.
The federal government has also invested over $142 million in my electorate, with over $125 million of that money spent on 116 projects in 58 schools as part of Building the Education Revolution. The federal government has been pleased to work with schools within my electorate through projects such as the Smarter Schools National Partnerships initiative and the National School Pride Program. These appropriation bills and the overall government stimulus package have provided significant money to my electorate. We can now look forward to a future in which the local education sector will be strengthened, in particular in our local public schools, which, of course, is crucial to the future hopes and aspirations of our local young people. We can also look to a future where our local jobs are secured through the government’s industry packages and where the everyday lives of my constituents continue to be strongly supported by the Rudd Labor government acting in the national interest at a very local level.
I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2009-2010. I also welcome this opportunity to address the parliament through this Main Committee regarding my concerns about the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme legislation which passed through the House two weeks ago and is now before the Senate. On that occasion I was unable to join in the debate because the debate was gagged. I do welcome this opportunity to express my concerns and share them with my constituents. That legislation was entitled the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, and as the debate was gagged before I was able to speak, this opportunity is important to me and my constituents because not only will it impose a higher tax on the people and the families of Australia, particularly the families in my electorate of Hughes, but also because I am very concerned that the very basis of this legislation—the global climate model managed by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology—has now been shown to be structurally unsound.
I spoke on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation late last year and I refer my constituents and other interested persons to my speech on 28 October, which is located on my website, www.dannavale.com, In that speech I said that this legislation was a fraud upon the people of Australia and that I was utterly opposed to it. Since then this legislation has also been seen for what it really is: it is a contrived piece of wedge politics by a self-serving, morally bankrupt Rudd Labor government. The people of Australia have shown that they are sick of such selfish, political manoeuvring, and on their behalf I invite the Rudd Labor government to get serious instead of tricky spin politics. Specifically, it is high time that the Rudd government began to deal with the hard evidence-based scientific facts that are already before them. I specifically refer to two very important peer reviewed scientific research papers that provide clear and irrefutable evidence that the global climate model jointly managed by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology is structurally unsound.
These Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills are actually grounded on this global climate model. Again, I take the time to point out that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and its associated bills—or the very title of these bills—should cause alarm amongst educated Australians because they will know that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but it is a vital fertiliser. I was amused the other week to hear the member for Rankin expose an unusual ignorance about this important life-giving compound. He expressed his amusement at my description of carbon dioxide as a potent fertiliser and, up to now, a free fertiliser at that. The horticulturists of Australia will read his disparaging comments with their own collective bemusement as they pump life-giving carbon dioxide into their greenhouses to promote vigorous plant growth to provide food for their fellow Australians. Carbon itself is the building block of everything that lives on our planet; indeed, nothing lives without it. Yet the Rudd Labor government continues to try to deceive the people of Australia by maintaining the unscientific claim that life-giving carbon is a pollutant.
Carbon forms the backbone of biology for all life on earth.
A doubling of the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere will take around a century and, as well as causing a free 20 to 50 percent increase in food production depending on the crop type and local conditions, it will also lead to an anthropological greening of the planet earth by promoting more vigorous growth of vegetation in natural landscapes.
However, the title of the emissions trading scheme legislation is only the first thing that concerns me about this legislation. More importantly, I also hold very real concerns about the scientific premise upon which these bills are based. This House, the scientific community and the people of Australia should be made aware that the global climate model from our scientists at the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology, upon which Garnaut relied to produce his report to the government, has since been shown to be structurally unsound and its conclusions are therefore seriously flawed.
As I have foreshadowed earlier, I have two peer reviewed scientific research papers that provide clear and apparently irrefutable evidence that the global climate model jointly managed by the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology is structurally unsound. The lead authors were Garth Paltridge and Frank Wentz respectively. Both these papers state explicitly in plain English that their real world observations flatly contradict two key speculative underlying theories on which the joint CSIRO-Bureau of Meteorology global climate model is based. The pre-eminence of observations over theories is a cornerstone of science. Accordingly, these now disproved theories should already have been expunged from the joint CSIRO-Bureau of Meteorology global climate model.
What I do not have today, pursuant to my request in my letter of 14 December to Senator the Hon. Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, is two written, testable hard science rebuttals to these two research papers by Paltridge and Wentz. In my letter of 14 December, I concluded by saying
Since the cited papers explicitly contradict key underlying theories on which the joint. CSIRO/BoM GCM is based, I expect the rebuttals will be to hand and anticipate receiving copies early in the New Year and well before the CPRS Bills are reintroduced.
Unless and until the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology provide two written, testable hard science rebuttals to these two research papers, their joint global climate model is structurally unsound and its forecasts are exaggerated and misleading. In consequence, the recommendations in the Garnaut report are rubbish recommendations based on disproved science and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme is an unmitigated disaster for Australia.
The Rudd government has shown its utter disregard for the wellbeing of ordinary Australians by proceeding with the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills without first holding the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology to account and insisting that they either provide these two rebuttals or fix their global climate model and provide updated forecasts. The CPRS will impose great hardship and extra costs on my constituents and on the people of Australia. The Rudd government has clearly put the second term ambitions of the Labor Party first and the welfare of the people of Australia a distant second. Unsubstantiated and half-baked disparagement of these two empirical discoveries appears to be sufficient for the Rudd government, but it is not acceptable for the Abbott opposition, nor for the people of Australia, nor for the wider scientific community.
For members of the scientific community—and for all those who are interested—the two empirical discoveries are reported in the following peer reviewed scientific research papers. Paltridge et al were published in the Journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology, volume 98, Nos 3 to 4, pages 351 to 359, February 2009, and were published online on 26 February 2009. The title of their research paper is ‘Trends in middle- and upper-level tropospheric humidity from NCEP reanalysis data’ by Garth Paltridge, Albert Arking and Michael Pook, February 2009. Wentz et al were published in the journal Science, Volume 317, pages 233 to 235, 13 July 2007, and were published online on 31 May 2007. The title of their research paper is ‘How much more rain will global warming bring?’ by Frank J Wentz, Lucrezia Ricciardulli, Kyle Hilburn and Carl Mears, May 2007.
Once the joint CSIRO-Bureau of Meteorology global climate model is made compliant with the empirical discoveries reported in these two papers, it will forecast an increase in global temperature of 0.2 degrees Celsius to 0.5 degrees Celsius for a doubling of CO2. Compliance with just one of these empirical discoveries, even without the other, will lead to a forecast of under one degree Celsius. A doubling of CO2 in isolation—that is, without any consequential changes in the atmosphere—will cause a temperature increase of around 0.8 degrees Celsius.
The major global climate models, including the joint CSIRO-Bureau of Meteorology global climate model, use now-disproved speculative theories about consequential changes in the atmosphere to provide massive positive feedback, which amplifies the 0.8 degrees Celsius by factors of four to over eight, and so predict temperature increases of three degrees Celsius to over six degrees Celsius for a doubling of CO2.
In particular, the major global climate models are based on two speculative theories: first, that the amount of water vapour in the upper troposphere increases as CO2 and temperature increases, whereas Paltridge discovered that, in the real world, the amount of water vapour in the upper troposphere decreases; and, second, that evaporation increases by about 1.7 per cent per one degree Celsius increase in temperature, whereas Wentz discovered that, in the real world, evaporation increases by around seven per cent per one degree Celsius increase in temperature.
Evaporation is extremely important in keeping the earth cool. Oceans cover around 71 per cent of the earth’s surface and provide around 86 per cent of the evaporative cooling. If there were no evaporative cooling and we had to rely almost entirely on greenhouse gas affected by radiative cooling, the average global temperature, instead of being around 15 degrees Celsius, would be around 67 degrees Celsius. So if you want to warm up the virtual world on your computer screen, this is very easily accomplished. All you have to do is follow the example set by the CSIRO and constrain virtual evaporation.
I do not have—and very few members in this place have—any background in science, and for this reason we are understandably cautious. However, we must not allow ourselves to be intimidated. Those of us in government must make every effort possible to ensure that the advice presented by a group of scientists does not mislead the people of Australia. In this instance, the science speaks clearly and eloquently and makes plain to all of us the fact that the joint CSIRO-Bureau of Meteorology global climate model is structurally flawed.
I will now read an extract from the research paper by Garth Paltridge and his colleagues. ‘Water vapor feedback in climate models is positive mainly because of their roughly constant relative humidity (that is, increasing specific humidity) in the mid-to-upper troposphere as the planet warms. Negative trends in specific humidity as found in the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, or NCEP, data would imply that long-term water vapor feedback is negative―that it would reduce rather than amplify the response of the climate system to external forcing such as that from increasing atmospheric CO2.’
I have asked that the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology provide a written, testable, hard-science rebuttal to this empirical discovery made by Garth Paltridge and his colleagues, but so far they have failed to do so. Garth Paltridge and his colleagues published their empirical discovery in February 2009. An ethical scientific organisation would be expected to have made its computer-created virtual world—that is, its global climate model—compliant with this discovery about what happens in the real world well before the end of 2009.
I will now read an extract from the research paper by Frank Wentz and his colleagues.
Climate models and satellite observations both indicate the total amount of water in the atmosphere will increase substantially due to global warming at a rate of 7% K–1
seven per cent per one degree kelvin.
However, the climate models predict global precipitation will increase at a much slower rate of 1-3% K–1. A recent analysis of satellite observations does not support this prediction of a muted response of precipitation to global warming. Rather, the observations suggest that precipitation and total atmospheric water have increased at about the same rate over the last two decades.
For the information of members, a degree kelvin is equal to a degree Celsius, and global evaporation must equal global precipitation over time scales longer than a month.
Again, I have asked the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology to provide written, testable, hard-science rebuttals to this empirical discovery by Frank Wentz and his colleagues. But, again, they have failed, so far, to do so. Frank Wentz and his colleagues published their empirical discovery in May 2007. An ethical scientific organisation would be expected to have made its computer-created virtual world—that is, its global climate model—compliant with this discovery about what happens in the real world well before the end of 2007. Since returning from his abortive trip to Copenhagen, Prime Minister Rudd seems to have become, silently, almost a closet climate sceptic. Prime Minister Rudd must put the welfare of the people of Australia ahead of Labor’s now-faltering ambitions for a second term and admit that, but for the intervention of the coalition, his disgraceful government would have enthusiastically and triumphantly led the people of Australia into an unmitigated disaster in Copenhagen.
The government has grounded its emissions trading legislation on the global model managed by a team of scientists at the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology. This was made clear when, on 2 February this year, the Prime Minister felt the need to hide behind the scientists when he said:
We accept what the Bureau of Meteorology in Australia has said. We accept also what the Australian Chief Scientist has said.
The Prime Minister and his entire government can no longer hide behind the scientists. It was not a scientist but the Rudd government that decided to introduce the CPRS bills without first insisting on the rebuttals to the Paltridge and Wentz empirical discoveries. With that decision, the Rudd government stepped into the open and exposed its politically driven determination to proceed with the CPRS no matter what the science says or how clearly it says it. That decision was made by the Prime Minister, and he will be rightly held accountable to the people of Australia. Truth is the daughter of time.
The Australian recently reported what Australia’s Chief Scientist, Professor Penny Sackett, said as follows:
Professor Sackett said climate change was a scientific reality but there was a need for absolute openness and rigour in the presentation of evidence, including recognition of which aspects of climate change science were imprecise and required further research.
I could not agree more. But a climate change of 0.2 degrees to 0.5 degrees Celsius is vastly different from the three degrees to over six degrees being forecast by the structurally unsound global climate models of the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology.
So where is the response from the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology to the empirical evidence now presented by the Paltridge and Wentz papers? Where is the ‘absolute openness’, I ask Professor Sackett? Where is the ‘rigour’? How long do we have to wait—or does the deafening silence mean that the usual ethical practice of two of our leading and respected scientific organisations has been compromised by their political masters? If this is so, the scientific community as a whole will be devalued by such a manifest lack of professional ethics, and the people of Australia will be defrauded, just as I have suggested. Sadly, unless and until the scientists of the CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology produce testable, hard-science rebuttals to these two scientific papers, the respect and the high regard with which these two prestigious organisations have been held in the past within the world’s scientific community will be seriously constrained.
I cannot and do not accept this dishonest legislation presented by the emissions trading bills. I do not support the immoral massive tax that it will impose upon the people of Australia on just about everything on the pretence of helping our environment. I do not support that legislation because it will do absolutely nothing for our environment. It has no mechanisms to do so. I do not support this legislation because it was based on science that has now been shown to be unsound and seriously flawed and, as such, that legislation will present a monumental fraud upon the people of Australia, and I will have no part in it.
I rise tonight in support of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2009-2010. I would like to talk about some of the economic activity that is happening in my electorate of Franklin. Of course, I am referring here primarily to the economic stimulus package and the money that is coming into my electorate. I was at a school, at a breakfast club, last week and, after the breakfast club, one of the school association members was so excited about the works going on at the school that she wanted to show me the latest update and she took me around the school and showed me the works that were underway there.
It is the same for every single primary school in my electorate that I visit. The school community, the parents, the children and the teachers are all saying that this investment in our schools is long overdue and that it is needed. But, more than that, when I talk to the contractors and work men and women on site at these schools they all say that the stimulus package supported jobs during the global financial crisis and they are all saying that it is helping the Tasmanian economy.
I have been going along to some of the projects. I went to a stimulus housing project just last week where there were six units on one site in one of the suburbs in my electorate. The contractor there told me that there were 20 jobs involved in building just those six units. We are getting at least 23 social housing units built in my electorate. It is a very significant investment in my electorate. We are expecting 23 social housing units in stage 1 and 88 in stage 2, with over $22 million being invested in Franklin’s social housing through the economic stimulus package.
We are seeing improvements around the schools from the National School Pride Program. There are many schools that have already completed some of those maintenance works. We also have defence housing. We have quite a few black spots in my electorate and as you drive down through the south of the electorate through Kingston and Huonville, as I did last week, you come across the projects and you can see the vast improvements that are being made to our roads as you go through.
We also have the community infrastructure projects. It was my great delight just last night, with the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government and the captain of the Australian cricket team, Ricky Ponting, to turn on the lights at Bellerive Oval which are being funded by our community infrastructure program through the economic stimulus package. These lights would not have happened without this federal government stimulus package. The state government is also funding half of the lights. The four towers are 56 metres high. People may have watched on TV the spectacle at Bellerive last night. It was indeed a great game. I certainly enjoyed the spectacle, and the lights added to the event. Not only that but they have also secured for Hobart and for Tasmanians future international matches which may not have happened had the lights not been installed. Not only were there 50 local jobs involved in erecting the light towers at Bellerive Oval but there are ongoing jobs with the economy from those games continuing to be played at Bellerive in cricket seasons to come. It was a great delight. I would like to congratulate the Tasmanian Cricket Association, the Australian cricket captain, Ricky Ponting, the state government and the federal minister for coming down and participating in that great event last night. It was certainly a great day for the punters at Bellerive Oval. It was a sold-out match. It was sold out two days beforehand. It was great to see that.
Also through our economic stimulus plan we have received $6.4 million for a trade training centre—which was an election commitment—in the Huon Valley in my electorate. It will be built at Huonville. Again, I was talking to local residents just last week and some of them were as yet unaware that the trade training centre was going to be built and they were absolutely thrilled that locals will be able to progress past year 10 in their local community. It has been a great project in my electorate.
We also have some election commitments that are being delivered on this week. I was very pleased to turn the sod on two election commitments in my electorate. One of those was the Kingston bypass, which Minister Albanese, the state minister and I turned a sod on just last evening. The Kingston bypass is a $41.5 million project, $15 million of which is coming from the federal government and the remainder from the state government. We are expecting that the Kingston bypass will be finished towards the end of 2012. We had a lot of locals at that announcement yesterday. In particular, I would like to mention the Kingston Bypass Action Group, who have been active in the local community and have been talking about this project in the community for some time. But it has only come to fruition since the Rudd Labor government delivered on their election commitment. There had been 12 years of talk and inaction by the Liberal Party and it was great to be there to see the state government, the local council and the Rudd government working together to actually deliver on this election commitment. I know the residents of Kingston, Blackmans Bay and the channel area are going to be really thrilled that this work is underway. I look forward to its completion towards the end of 2012 or early 2013. I think it will be 2.2 kilometres, but they have to build bridges, underpasses and overpasses, so it is quite a short time frame for such a project.
Early last week it was my privilege to also turn the sod on the GP superclinic which is being built in conjunction with the state government’s integrated care centre at Clarence in my electorate, just near my office in fact. The Parliamentary Secretary for Health, the member for Port Adelaide, came down to my electorate and I would like to thank him for doing that sod turning with me and the state minister for health. We are in the process of talking to local residents to make them aware that the GP superclinic is underway. We have certainly done a lot of consultation on the GP superclinic. The state minister and I conducted a community consultation. The state government has also been in many discussions with professionals and clinicians in relation to the services that will be at the GP superclinic and the integrated care centre. It is $5.5 million from the Rudd government for the superclinic and some $12 million from the state government for the integrated care centre, which will be co-located on site. So it is an $18 million investment in the local community, taking health services out to the local community so that the local residents in the area can come and access their health needs very close by indeed.
Just before Christmas I was at the opening of a local community centre. This was delivering on an election commitment, involving some $156,000 for the redevelopment of the community centre at Dennes Point. That redevelopment was made in conjunction with local council—again, the Kingborough council—and building is now complete. We have seen a lot of new services delivered to the local community of Dennes Point on Bruny Island in my electorate, which is certainly one of the beautiful places of the world. At Dennes Point the community centre now has an art gallery, a restaurant—and I understand that is up and running now; local residents have been emailing me little updates about what is happening at the centre—and I certainly look forward to returning there at some point to see all of that activity underway.
I have also delivered on the $10,000 promised for our local Rokeby Cricket Club. I went to see some of their practices over the summer at the Rokeby High School. They were practising in their new nets and it was fantastic to see. I am also in some discussions about the Huon Valley water scheme, which was another election commitment, with our new southern regional water board. I hope to be talking to them next week in relation to the Huon Valley water scheme. Work is underway already on the $10.5 million stage 1 of the south-east Tasmania recycled water scheme, which is another election commitment that I have delivered on in the electorate of Franklin.
As can be seen, the theme here is that the Rudd government has made election commitments in the electorate of Franklin. We have delivered on all of those. We have our trade training centre coming. We have our economic stimulus happening. What we have is a huge investment, unseen before in the electorate of Franklin, that is being relished by the local community and is employing local residents. Without this investment we would be in a much direr situation when it comes to employment in the electorate. I have been calling on the Liberal Party, who are saying that the economic stimulus package should be wound back, to say exactly which projects in the electorate of Franklin they intend to scrap. The Leader of the Opposition, the member for Warringah, has been quite vocal in saying that he thinks the NBN is a waste of money. So I hope for the sake of the residents of Tasmania the NBN is not going to be scrapped should the Liberal Party actually win the next federal election.
There are a whole range of activities going on in southern Tasmania and in my electorate, and we have seen even the state Liberal opposition leader say that he supports the economic stimulus package and that he is at odds with his federal colleagues over it. In fact, he has been on the record writing to support projects that are being funded under the economic stimulus package. It is quite interesting that all the local senators in southern Tasmania are silent in relation to the economic stimulus package. They are not saying which projects will be wound back. They are not saying which projects they will pull. They are not talking about scrapping the NBN. In fact, all you get from them is silence because they are too afraid to tell the people of Franklin what they will actually do should they win the next federal election. But what I have done is delivered on our election commitments. I am delivering on the economic stimulus package in the electorate of Franklin. The Rudd government is employing local Tasmanians because of these projects and I know that the residents in my electorate are very pleased that these election commitments are being delivered on and that the economic stimulus package is reaching the residents of Franklin.
I rise in support of the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2009-2010. I was elected to the parliament as the member for Chisholm in 1998—and it is a bit scary that this year marks 12 years in this place. During my nine years in opposition, many meritorious projects in my electorate were continually denied funding. There was not one funding announcement by the Howard government in my electorate. Indeed, the coalition did not even announce many projects they would fund under their own candidates. So it is an absolute joy to be part of a government when something is finally happening in my electorate—and I am still skipping around in a state of exuberance when I get to go to things that have been announced and are happening in my electorate. I have always found this situation a bit odd, because I thought the Liberal Party would consider Chisholm to be a marginal seat and would want to take it back at some stage. But I have had nine years in the wilderness and things are now finally happening—and it is a terrific place to be.
In my electorate, projects are underway and funding has been committed to a number of key infrastructure, educational and environmental initiatives. These projects are worth highlighting as they reflect the Rudd government’s unprecedented commitment to local communities across Australia. The appropriation bills before the House include funding for the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, which was set up by this government to support investment in community infrastructure such as libraries, community centres, sports grounds and environmental infrastructure. The Rudd government is taking a refreshing approach to infrastructure investment after the coalition’s failure in this area during its 11 years in power.
The whole concept of community infrastructure is of significance and importance to suburban electorates such as my seat of Chisholm, which incorporates many of Melbourne’s eastern and south-eastern suburbs. I have often said in this place that the suburbs are ignored. The people who live in the suburbs often disappear off the map, because they are not a regional area or a region in crisis. But they are where the majority of Australians choose to live. They are where most of our community activity happens. I think it is a bit sad that the suburbs are denigrated and ignored, but I am very proud to represent a purely suburban electorate and the people who live there. I think the suburbs are great. As I said, they are where most Australians choose to live. And quality community infrastructure is of vital importance because of that. Most of my electorate do not want to have to travel into town or to other suburbs to do their activities on the weekend, so having vital community infrastructure where they live is important.
The community infrastructure program has allowed local government to get on with the job of addressing their infrastructure backlogs and delivering quality facilities to their communities. The $800 million invested as part of the program equates to the largest one-off commitment to local infrastructure in Australian history. It reflects the Rudd government’s steadfast commitment to improving community facilities across Australia. My electorate encompasses two fantastic local government bodies: the City of Monash and the City of Whitehorse. I would like to congratulate Charlotte Baines, who has recently been elected as Mayor of the City of Monash, and Bill Pemberton, who has been elected as Mayor of the City of Whitehorse. Both Monash and Whitehorse have benefited from the government’s community infrastructure funding—sharing in the $800 million announced last year—and both councils are very forward-thinking in their own projects and in funding them. I commend them for their ongoing support of infrastructure and their local communities.
Whitehorse council has received $2.5 million from the Rudd government to develop Wembley Park Sports Precinct. The project is well underway. It is not far from my house, and I drive past the new developments. We are very much looking forward to having a new soccer pavilion, along with the refurbishment of an existing grandstand and change room. Soccer, world football, is a sport that has increasing participation in this area. The soccer club had outgrown its rooms and there were no facilities for women, whose involvement is growing and growing. These facilities will make a huge difference to the club. There has been a steady increase in membership at the club, which is associated with the facilities. The project has been welcomed by the Whitehorse sporting community. It will provide improved facilities for Whitehorse and the eastern suburbs more generally.
Whitehorse has also received funding for several smaller scale projects. Last year, I had the pleasure of joining representatives from the Whitehorse City Council at the opening of the Victoria Rose sensory play space in Box Hill. This is an absolutely delightful project. The government provided $35,000 for this project, which is aimed at children aged between three and 10 years and caters for those with developmental delays and disabilities. I want to commend Biala, the fantastic organisation which is next to this play space and had a great deal to do with it. Like many of our organisations, it developed through the support of individuals who saw that children with developmental delays and disability need their own specific play areas and play based education where they and their families can come and feel that they are getting the one-on-one care that they need. The rose garden that has been built will be of terrific benefit to them and to the wider community.
The Box Hill community also welcomed $154,000 in funding for the refurbishment of the historic Box Hill town hall, which included money for replacing the roof, redecorating and exterior painting. I hope that somewhere along the line we might be able to get some money for the redevelopment of the Box Hill aquatic centre that the Whitehorse City Council has just announced. I commend the council for taking the step of redeveloping the pool. Water spaces are very difficult and costly to replace. The aquatic centre is getting to the age where the debate was about whether to close it or maintain it. The council has made the tough and expensive decision to maintain and support the facility, and I want to commend them for that. I have long been an advocate for ensuring that the centre is open to all. I will declare that I am a member of the centre and was in the pool just yesterday afternoon. It is a great pool, on Surrey Drive, but it is getting a bit old and tired. As my child was madly getting her stroke ready for her swim meet on Friday and we were going through the painstaking exercise of making sure her dive was not too deep for the start of the race, we were appreciating the facility but hoping it will improve. I commend Whitehorse City Council for that. We will see if I can get some additional funding at a federal level.
Meanwhile, Monash City Council has also been awarded funding for a number of projects that will be of immense benefit to my constituents. Four million dollars is going towards the new Batesford Reserve youth and community hub, which will co-locate community service providers in a new purpose-built facility. The project will deliver a centralised and supportive youth facility and will contain a number of community service providers to cater for high-needs residents of the community. A number of neighbourhood house programs as well as education and training programs and community health services will be co-located in the facility. This is a project that Monash council has been working towards for a number of years, and it is only now, with the financial support of the Rudd government, that this dream is being realised. I had the absolute pleasure of being at the first turning of the sod at the opening of the redevelopment last week. I am still sporting the ink on my hands from the hand prints I have dedicated to an artwork, a ‘house of hands’. I would like to commend the artist for his great vision and work but I really do want to know how to get off the ink. This is an exciting project which will support the Ashwood community and surrounding suburbs. I also want to commend the numerous community groups which are a vital part of this project.
Just recently I attended the opening of the new Oakleigh pool and recreation centre, to which the Rudd government contributed $200,000. This federal funding was used to upgrade facilities at the recreation centre, including off-street parking, landscaping and walking paths. I would again like to commend both Monash council and the Victorian government for their efforts in redeveloping the Oakleigh pool. It has been transformed into a fantastic facility that will serve the community for a long time to come. Projects like this highlight the importance of community infrastructure. I would also like to commend the community campaigners who made sure that the pool stayed open. It was through their actions that Oakleigh still has its historic outdoor pool and diving platform. If you want to have a good weekend get on down to Oakleigh and jump off the 10-metre diving board. It was through community action that the pool is now being maintained, and we are very grateful for that.
Monash council is also involved in a project being managed by the neighbouring Boroondara Council, the Gardiner’s Creek Trail project, to which the government has committed $2.5 million. This project will link several of Melbourne’s inner eastern suburbs through a continuous shared pathway between Box Hill South and the Main Yarra Trail in Hawthorn. The funding will see the construction of about 1.5 kilometres of a new three-metre wide path, which will be used by both pedestrians and cyclists. I am proud that the government is building these important community infrastructure projects in Chisholm. This bike path will enable cyclists to go under Warrigal Road.
1.8:09:49 For people who know Melbourne, Warrigal Road is incredibly busy and nowadays cyclists have to stop at one part of a bike track, get off, cross a very busy road and go on. As I have watched my child do it with her father on occasion, I am looking forward very much to her having an underpath to ride on, and people will literally be able to ride from the outer suburbs all the way into town on this great bike path.
Each project has helped to support jobs during this time of economic uncertainty. More importantly, each project is a high value investment in the future of my electorate supporting the local community for many years to come. The Batesford Reserve facility will create 71 new local jobs, and that is a terrific thing for our community.
This unprecedented funding for local projects was of course a key component of the Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan, a package that has effectively steered Australia away from recession and kept unemployment at low levels. This is a point worth emphasising: Australia is the only major advanced economy not to enter into recession. We have the lowest debt and deficit and one of the world’s lowest unemployment rates. These statistics highlight the strength of the Australian economy and clearly indicate the government’s stimulus plan has worked. The stimulus has cushioned Australia from the worst effects of the global recession, facilitated economic growth and, in doing so, has made our economy the envy of the Western world.
A key component of the economic stimulus plan has been our unprecedented investment in education infrastructure. The Building the Education Revolution program is the largest school modernisation program in Australia’s history and is benefiting every school across the country, including those schools in my electorate of Chisholm. The government is investing over $82 million upgrading facilities across Chisholm’s 46 schools. Given the age of the electorate, many of these schools are getting to their groaning use-by-date and need much updating and improvement, and it has come at a great time for many of these schools.
I have received an overwhelmingly positive response from school communities about this project: teachers, parents and principals are all ecstatic about the government pumping millions of dollars into the schools to ensure teachers and students are teaching and learning in modern facilities. It is gratifying to be part of a government that places education at the top of its agenda and is delivering real improvements to school communities across Australia, particularly into primary schools that often go unrecognised and unrewarded. Despite what the opposition might suggest, the BER project is money well spent, is money that is going towards improving our education facilities and is undoubtedly a good thing.
Recently I visited one of my local schools Kingswood College to inspect the exciting new works that are taking place there. Kingswood has used its National School Pride money for landscaping and beautification works through its central courtyard area while construction of a new multipurpose hall is well underway through the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program.
Kingswood is also benefiting from a trade training centre with close to a million dollars in funding allowing the school to upgrade existing hospitality facilities to industry standards. Kingswood College works in conjunction with the William Angliss catering college to deliver a very high standard of hospitality and catering training. This is a terrific benefit not just to the school but to the wider community who will be able to use these facilities after hours and on weekends. This will allow students to train in a simulated workplace and help equip them with the skills they need to effectively and competitively participate in the hospitality industry. Kingswood is just one example of how this government’s focus on education is leading to improved facilities and outcomes in our schools.
Last week I also had the pleasure of visiting St Mary Magdalen’s school in Chadstone, a small Catholic community that struggles to make ends meet. Again, the ageing infrastructure of the building needed some help, so it was an absolute delight to go there the other day with Senator Mark Arbib and find on site four apprentices being trained and utilised on this facility; four kids who are going to go on and have great careers because they were given the opportunity on this building site. It is amazing that four tradies, four apprentices, were at the one site, and it was a wonderful day to be there.
The education revolution goes beyond investing in infrastructure in our primary and secondary schools: importantly, for my electorate, which is home to several high-quality universities and TAFEs, it extends to reforming the higher education sector, including increased investment in infrastructure. The government has committed $5.4 billion over four years to higher education and innovative reform. This massive injection of funds will help achieve the aim of increasing by 40 per cent the numbers of 25- to 34-year-olds to hold bachelor level qualifications or above by 2025.
The government recently announced that Monash University, with its Clayton campus in my electorate, will receive over $111 million in research grants aimed at driving excellence, collaboration and diversity—vital elements for Australian prosperity. This is in addition to the massive $2.8 million investment being delivered in higher education infrastructure across Australia; $89.9 million is going to Monash University to construct the New Horizons centre which will see the Clayton innovation precinct as the most significant technology innovative hub in the Southern Hemisphere.
Last week, which was rather busy, I was at Monash University and had the absolute pleasure of meeting Professor Elizabeth Blackburn, Australia’s Nobel laureate, who was recognised last year for her work in biomedicine. We were opening the new biomedical facility at Monash. Again, we had contributed to the funding of this phenomenal new centre where 500 scientific researchers are going to be housed together in the facility. The collaboration was just amazing. I was a little daunted at being one of the speakers amongst so many medical scientists and PhDs—my little Arts with honours from Monash seemed to pale into insignificance in the room I was in. But, again, it is a phenomenal achievement. There is great work happening within my electorate.
Deakin University with its Burwood campus residing in my electorate has been awarded $20.2 million in research grants which will encourage its brightest students to continue to higher education. Under the Howard government we saw funding ripped away from the higher education sector. The Rudd government, on the other hand, is committed to supporting higher education research and I am delighted this funding is being delivered to my electorate.
The two TAFES that reside in Chisholm—the Chadstone campus of GippsTAFE, and Box Hill TAFE—are also undergoing dramatic improvements. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister both visited my electorate last year to announce over $16 million in funding for GippsTAFE. This is unprecedented. The GippsTAFE looked like it came out of the ark. My dad, who trained there, said he did not think it had changed since he did his electrical apprenticeship. This funding will allow GippsTAFE’s Chadstone campus to develop state-of-the-art training facilities to supply training and services for the energy and telecommunications industries. The new facility will have untold benefits for students at the centre as well as for the relevant industries in Victoria.
Box Hill TAFE has received funding for numerous projects, all of which will lead to improved outcomes from what is considered one of Australia’s pre-eminent TAFE institutions. Perhaps the most significant project is the $2.7 million green skills hub, which will support the provision of training courses in the sustainables sector. This project will incorporate several green focused initiatives and training facilities for the development of students’ green trade skills. This project not only reflects the government’s commitment to investing in the higher education sector; it is also an apt example of our focus on reskilling Australians for a more sustainable and greener economy.
The government understands that climate change poses an immense threat to Australia’s way of life. Investing in green skills now is an important step in preparing Australia for the inevitable shift to a sustainable green economy. Projects such as this green skills hub are important to this transition. However, the government also understands that an emissions trading scheme is the only way of making the shift to a sustainable economy in a manner that will serve Australia’s long-term interests. Chisholm is one of the most highly educated electorates in the country and my constituents want real action on climate change. Without doubt the No. 1 issue that comes through in my electorate is people wanting direct action now on climate change. They know too well that the opposition’s climate change policy is a short-term political fix, a climate con job designed purely to get the coalition to the election. The government, on the other hand, has Australia’s long-term economic and environmental future in mind. So a project such as the green skills hub is most welcome and will have environmental benefit. Ultimately there must be a cap on carbon pollution to combat climate change, and the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme does just that.
I have spoken today about a number of projects taking place in my electorate—projects that are investing in community infrastructure, delivering for our schools and higher education institutions and having a positive impact on the environment. What these projects are also doing is helping to keep our economy strong by investing in the infrastructure we need for the future. These projects are being delivered by a forward-thinking government committed to policies that are in Australia’s long-term interests. Before I conclude I want to thank the member for Lyons for assisting me by swapping his spot. I do appreciate that. The joys of combining speaking and being in the chair sometimes cause a bit of difficulty so I do want to say thank you. I commend the bills to the House.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is always a pleasure to be in the Main Committee when you are in the chair. In the two appropriation bills we are debating there is funding for the Local Government Reform Fund of $12.5 million—$0.5 million in Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010 and $12 million in Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2009-2010. The previously noted figure of $165 million in appropriation bill No. 4 included amounts that have been previously appropriated under various mechanisms including appropriation bill No. 1 and the new federal financial framework appropriation arrangements.
The total of $167 million dollars includes amounts which have been previously provided and the details are as follows: $114.9 million has been reclassified from administrated expenses in Appropriation Act (No. 1) to make payments direct to local government for the East Kimberley Development Package; $18.3 million has been reclassified from payments which were to be made under the Federal Financial Relations Act 2009 to direct payments to local government for various Nation Building Program Roads to Recovery projects; and $10 million, which was unspent last financial year due to delays in the negotiations of funding arrangements, is proposed for the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program, which is a great program. These additional appropriations are fully offset by savings against the original appropriations and estimates and thus will not lead to additional expenditure.
Once again, the government has proved itself to be responsive to local needs. Through the stimulus package, it has enabled many local communities to achieve goals that they could only dream about during the period of the last government. Some of the programs funded in my electorate have allowed country communities to upgrade small facilities so they can be used again properly after they struggled to find funds to put on a new roof or to put up a kitchen to make morning teas for a pensioner group. The upgrade of a walking path from one council facility to another allows the bringing together and mixing of social groups, and a health benefit of course. They may only be small items in the scheme of things but to many it gives a lot of pleasure, a chance to assimilate and a chance to involve themselves more in the communities in which they live.
One that I was prepared particularly pleased about was the sound shell that has been built in New Norfolk, the gateway to the Derwent Valley. I was invited to open this during Australia Day. A part of the opening ceremony was a concert provided by the Derwent Valley Concert Band. The band shows what a community can do. It was born in the New Norfolk High school and became a community band as many of the young players left school and had nowhere else to play. I would say it was because of the local dedication of Layton Hodgetts, OAM, who used to teach music at New Norfolk High, that the band existed at all. Although he has been recognised as a Tasmanian Local Hero of the Year in 2009, nothing can really acknowledge the amazing work and dedication of this man whose life’s work has been to ensure his community has an outlet for their talent.
The Derwent Valley Concert Band Inc has been in existence since 1993 and is based in the beautiful town of New Norfolk, 30 kilometres from Hobart and nesting on the banks of the Derwent River. The band was established because of the perceived need for a local band to cater for musicians of all ages in the New Norfolk community and the wider Derwent Valley. Since the inauguration concert in October 1993 at New Norfolk, the Derwent Valley Concert Band has grown into a very active and versatile community band. At present it has over 50 regular players whose ages range from 15 to over 70. The Derwent Valley Concert Band now consists of the senior band, the development band, the stage band and the marching band with rehearsals held every Wednesday at the band’s room in New Norfolk in a friendly and congenial atmosphere.
The DVCB has an extensive repertoire and performs regularly in the local and surrounding communities at a wide range of celebrations and ceremonies, such as Australia Day, Government House open day, Kempton Festival, Derwent Valley festival, the Taste of Ogilvie, the Anzac Day march and service, the Hobart Christmas Pageant and the Derwent Valley Carols by Candlelight. The DVCB also performs major public concerts each year in both Hobart and New Norfolk, often joined by other bands from the Hobart area. The band presents on average more than 20 performances each year, including competing in the state band championships.
The Derwent Valley Concert Band is one of Australia’s most highly acclaimed, widely travelled and successful community bands. It was the winner of the state band championships in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2009. It was also the winner of the open B grade concert band section at the Australian National Band Championships in 2000. The band has travelled to Japan, Canada, Austria, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Denmark and China. That included playing at the wedding of Princess Mary in Denmark. They are all remarkable achievements for this band from a small town in the middle of Tasmania.
The council sought the building of this soundshell really as a thankyou to the band so they have a good public area from which to continue their amazing story. It will allow many other activities to be planned in the beautiful Tynwald Park in which it sits. It is one small addition to a community that is making the most of its talents.
Another community which has benefited from the infrastructure package is that of Kentish Council, not far from your seat, Mr Deputy Speaker Sidebottom. This was funding for a well-loved building that badly needed renovation. The council’s funding went into removing asbestos from internal walls, the kitchen and toilet; upgrading in line with fire regulations; sanding and sealing the floor; upgrading the kitchen and lining out the old storeroom, which has a roller door, to separate the youth drop-in room and the kitchen so both can be used independently of each other; replacing backboards and hoops; and building a disabled toilet. This will make the old Green Hall a useable building again—although we might have to change the name to the Blue Hall, because the cladding is blue. But that could be a problem because it is well known in the community as the Green Hall—something for the council to consider in the future. I think the whole renovation came to $150,000, which was amazing considering the asbestos removal was quite difficult and had to be carefully done, then replaced and sealed. Once again, a community has breathed new life into an almost dead asset and now has great plans to make use of it. In the process, a number of jobs were created, and those people are now working on other community developed projects. Those dollars are going round in the community, as they should.
There is also the funding for schools, which is allowing many old country schools to renew a hall, re-equip a classroom, upgrade a sports field or a playground—a program that not only is doing great work for these small schools but also brings local contractors into the schools to see where their children are being taught and makes them more a part of the school community. In some way the latter is proving to be a greater asset to the schools than the work they came to do. I have always been keen to develop the social capital of a community, as that is the way you can develop innovative ideas.
I was particularly pleased to see that my old school at Cressy had put in for and received funds for the kindergarten upgrade as well as a complete redevelopment of the school hall and gym. This hall has been the centre of many community events, including the annual trout festival, the trout expo. They are also in receipt of funds to develop their science laboratory. When the Deputy Prime Minister visited last year she took time to visit this school and hear of the proposed developments. Both she and I were very impressed with the plans and the whole feeling of the school.
Cressy District High School is a farm school in Cressy, which is a small town of around 650 people that is 35 kilometres south of Launceston. It has classes from kindergarten to grade 10 and also a birth to four-year program. Approximately 360 students attend the school, with 185 in the secondary sector and 175 in the primary area. Cressy District High School is truly a community school. They have numerous partnerships with the community and their students benefit from belonging to a well-ordered, purposeful community. Close cooperation between parents and teachers is encouraged because they recognise that home and school share a common purpose—the academic progress and the personal development of each individual child.
They provide some significant programs like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, the No Dole Program of the Beacon Foundation, the Flexible Farm Program, the Individualised Learning Program, Esk Band, the Buddies mentoring program, sheep and cattle judging teams, the traineeship and apprenticeship pathways program, and the Active After-school Communities program. Their vision is for students to grow to become unique individuals of integrity, able to make sound and positive judgments and decisions about their future. In their school community strong values exist around personalised learning, a sense of community, appreciating individual uniqueness, positive relationships and a commitment to improvement. The school’s motto is: reach upward.
This school has a proud history, having been established in 1863. It has been in continual use since then. Its fortunes have been mixed, but today it is seen as one of Tasmania’s top country schools. It fared well in the literacy and numeracy tests, which is a great credit to its principal, Annette Hollingsworth, and her team.
So the general infrastructure package has been of enormous benefit and has assisted in stimulating the economy in country areas because of the way the funding has been delivered. The Prime Minister announced 14 months ago the $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan to cushion the economy from the worst effects of the global recession. The plan was developed as the global financial crisis took hold and the full extent became clear to government. The plan built on the earlier Australian government Economic Security Strategy and nation-building packages. At that time, world policy makers were confronted with a crisis that threatened to engulf the global economy. Without intervention by government it is estimated that the economy would have contracted. The unemployment rate was predicted to rise to 8¼ per cent, meaning hundreds of thousands of Australians were at risk of losing their jobs, creating a vicious downward spiral in our economy.
The plan was a bold and decisive strategy to arrest the downturn in the economy, cushion Australia from the global recession and build lasting infrastructure for Australia’s future. It brought federal, state and local governments together, along with the businesses, unions and community organisations, in a common effort to protect Australian jobs, businesses and communities.
Today the implementation of the plan is well advanced and its results are visible to all. Australia is now the third fastest growing economy of the 33 International Monetary Fund advanced economies. We are one of the three economies not to fall into a technical recession and we also have the lowest level of government debt, approximately 10 per cent of GDP. This compares with an average of about 93 per cent of gross domestic product for major advanced economies.
The difference between what Australia was facing and what we have achieved is stark. Without stimulus, the economy would have contracted in each of the past four quarters, shrinking by two per cent over the past year and plunging Australia into recession. Unemployment is expected to peak at around 1½ per cent lower than in the absence of the stimulus and we know that it has now fallen to 5.3 per cent. Treasury estimates that overall the government stimulus will support around 200,000 jobs.
Through Australians working together, and with financial stimulus working hand in hand with monetary policy, the Australian economy has been able to weather the storm of the global recession. Only a few weeks ago I read from the latest economic figures that the economy is better off by $7 billion, so the government’s approach has been vindicated, despite all the opposition’s ranting about the government’s ‘big spend’ and voting against the stimulus package when it was before the parliament.
Out in country areas, particularly in places like Tasmania where small towns have often been forgotten in the past, this strategy has delivered, through councils and through local community groups and through schools, and everybody has been able to take part in developing the economy, creating new jobs and allowing youngsters who have just left school to stay in their regions. Every time I see a new house being built in one of my country towns I know that this government is working and doing the right thing. I have seen the stimulus working. To me, this means new thinking, helping the communities help themselves, getting them to think beyond their boundaries and applying the can-do attitude. Somebody has bothered to look outside the city limits and has said, ‘You are valuable to our economy too.’
Government intervention into the economy allows this thinking to happen. The old conservative attitude of ‘let the market run its course’ gets into the ‘survival of the fittest’ mode and people are then competing for small amounts of nothing and squabbling over the outcomes. To allow everybody an amount of money to help them develop their communities means that those who want to will make it go much further. But it will not leave out those who are not as adventurous. I want to keep on going and helping those communities that are not as innovative to be more so and to do more, while encouraging the go-ahead ones to seize all their opportunities and create all the jobs, to build all those houses and to grow their schools and their communities. Under this government we have those opportunities, and I hope we still have them after this year. That is what I will be fighting for at the next election, to show communities what real government is about, not what we went through for 12 years.