House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Grievance Debate

Stimulus Package

8:40 pm

Photo of Arch BevisArch Bevis (Brisbane, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to take the opportunity in this debate to place on the record my appreciation for the efforts of the Rudd Labor government in its achievements in the last two years that have had a real and direct benefit to the people of Brisbane and in my electorate. Throughout the nation we have seen a massive program of investment in our schools, particularly our primary schools. I think it has been the largest single investment in primary school education in living memory, and it is long overdue. Primary education was always the poor cousin when it came to educational resourcing. That has been a problem for many, many decades. Within my electorate, as within other electorates around the country, virtually every primary school now has a project. Many of them are well advanced and all of them are under way.

At Windsor State School work is well advanced on three new classrooms and on a new assembly hall. The new assembly hall at Petrie Terrace State School is virtually finished and nearly ready to open. I know that, for a lot of these schools, the local parents, communities and teachers involved have actually spent many, many years in the planning of these activities, hoping that one day they would be able to raise the funds, but always the targets seemed to move further away from them. I am reminded of the situation at Newmarket State School where, not just for years but for decades, the goal of the parent body had been to build a good quality assembly hall. Although they had been toiling away in their efforts for that over decades, it was not until this government was elected that they found the financial support and can now embark upon that project.

Other schools like New Farm State School, which is a very small geographical site in an inner city area, has a very limited capacity in the normal way, yet they have managed to get a purpose built facility. Like a number of schools in my electorate, because this government understood that it was important for local schools, parents and teachers to be involved in the decision making, they actually have a purpose designed facility that acknowledges the unique nature of the site, which is going to provide a wonderful resource for the school and for the community for many, many years to come. As with a number of these projects involving assembly halls they will involve a lot of community groups in the use of those facilities. It is a pity although a fact that the opposition voted against the funding of all of these buildings, I think from memory, on five separate occasions. It is even more alarming when you consider that this funding was part of a stimulus package adopted by the Rudd government to combat the global financial crisis.

When you look at the comments of the Leader of the Opposition of less than two weeks ago in this parliament you can understand how some on the other side got it so wrong. Less than two weeks ago the Leader of the Opposition said that, instead of adopting the policies that have seen Australia as the only advanced economy escape the recession, we should have adopted the approach that New Zealand had taken. That is an interesting example to look at because, in New Zealand, they went into recession for five successive quarters. Even now their economy is between two and a half and three per cent smaller than it was before the global financial crisis began.

It may have escaped the Leader of the Opposition’s attention here in Australia but New Zealand actually went into serious decline during the global financial crisis because of a range of factors. The amazing thing about this is that the comparison with Australia has not escaped the consideration of the Prime Minister of New Zealand. The Prime Minister of New Zealand has actually acknowledged the fact that Australia has done exceedingly well and recently said that he hoped that they would be able to catch up to Australia economically by 2025. Yet here we have the Australian Leader of the Opposition, the person who would be Prime Minister of Australia, arguing that we should have followed the prescriptions that led to that outcome in New Zealand.

The development of educational facilities in Brisbane as part of the Rudd government’s program has not been limited to primary schools. I have had the pleasure of visiting the Aviation High School at Hendra, which is about to officially open its new trades training centre—one of a number of trades training centres that the government has funded. That is a unique facility, as the name suggests. It is a school that is tailored to the aviation industry. It works very closely with the aviation industry in the development of programs across a wide range of skill sets that are needed within that industry. They now have a state-of-the-art trades training centre courtesy of this federal government’s commitments.

A number of important infrastructure programs that have been part of the government’s stimulus package also deal with the social agenda and needs of Australians in less well-off positions. I refer particularly to the investment this government is making in social housing, some of which was part of that stimulus package. At the end of last year I visited the construction site at Newstead where 95 new apartments are being built by the Brisbane Housing Company. The Rudd government is providing $6.2 million towards this project and it is going to substantially boost affordable housing in an inner city area that greatly needs that assistance. I am happy to say I was there along with the Minister for Housing Tanya Plibersek and the Treasurer Wayne Swan, and local state member Grace Grace. There is a commitment from the Queensland Labor government as well to these projects.

I have also had the pleasure of visiting the Defence Housing estates that have been built as part of the ongoing activity but, also, as part of the stimulus package. There are some 101 new defence dwellings as part of the new stimulus package that are being built in and around Brisbane. In fact, they were amongst the very first new projects that were up and running after the stimulus package was announced. I do not think anyone in this parliament would object to or deny the importance of providing quality housing for our defence families. Yet, amazingly, as I have said in this parliament on a number of occasions, whilst those opposite say they support these measures they actually voted against them. It will be interesting later this year in fact to have a look at some of the electorate newsletters of those who sit on the opposition benches to see how many want to claim credit for the local school building that has opened and which they voted against, or the defence housing project that they voted against but which, nonetheless, is going ahead.

Just last Friday, I also had the pleasure of attending the launch of an Australia-wide rollout of a program to assist young children, teachers and parents to navigate the internet in safety. The program is called ThinkUKnow and it was launched by the Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor and also by the Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus. By pure coincidence, and I have to confess it is pure coincidence—I would like to claim credit for it but I cannot—the launch took place at Ithaca Creek State School in my electorate, which is important not simply because it is in my electorate but it happens to be my old primary school. So I am a regular visitor to the school, as you might imagine. The parents there were really excited to know that their school was the first school to be involved in this national rollout that is intended to make sure that at home and at school children have a better understanding of things to be cautious of, aware of, on the internet, to avoid the potential dangers of threats that are out there. As police commissioner Tony Negus reminded us, in the last year alone the AFP charged more than 100 Australians for use of the internet in improper ways targeting young children. That was just the AFP jurisdiction; it does not take account of all of the states. This is a problem and the government has adopted a number of strategies to deal with it, but I am particularly pleased that this educative program is rolling out with the cooperation and strong support of the private sector, in particular, Microsoft and Microsoft MSN.

The people of Brisbane have also benefited through the support that this government has provided to welfare groups. The Red Hill Paddington Community Centre—now known as Communify—received $1.2 million to assist in the provision of services for mental health. That is an important area too often neglected. Just last week, the Open Doors Youth Service in Fortitude Valley received $230,900 for their program to help combat binge drinking. Binge drinking, sadly, is an issue throughout Australia and I am very pleased that the Open Doors Youth Service has received funding to enable them to address that with local clubs and communities, particularly in the Fortitude Valley and surrounding suburbs. This is but a very brief account of a number of initiatives that this government has taken in the last two years and the real benefit it has provided to the people of Brisbane.