House debates

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Grievance Debate

Shortland Electorate

6:28 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to provide the House with an update on the state of Shortland as we come to the end of 2018. This year has been quite momentous nationally, and it's been a busy one locally. I want to start by saying to the people of Shortland that it has again been an immense privilege to represent you in our nation's parliament. It's the fifth year I have served as the member for our region, first as the member for Charlton and then as the member for Shortland. It is a privilege that I never take for granted. I'm immensely grateful for the trust the people of Shortland have placed in me.

Before I draw the attention of the House to some of the highlights of 2018 in Shortland, I do want to reflect on events at a national level, particularly in recent months. It's beyond disappointing that we are now onto our third Liberal Prime Minister in five years. The Liberals and Nationals have clearly not learnt the lessons of the past—that is, when Australians elect a government, unless there are some extraordinary circumstances, they expect the person who is the leader of that government to serve a full three-year term. If they do not understand the most basic lesson in Australian politics, they wouldn't have committed regicide again just a few months ago. The assassination of Malcolm Turnbull demonstrates with devastating clarity that the Liberal Party haven't learnt that lesson and that they care more about their internal opinions than serving the public. It's no wonder that Australians are so cynical about politics and politicians, given recent events.

I will begin my review of 2018 in Shortland at the end of the year. Last week saw me hosting the Shortland Volunteer Awards. This is always one of the highlights of my job as a local member, recognising the selflessness and service of those in my electorate, who are anything but ordinary and who really do make an extraordinary difference in the life of our community. I want to congratulate all those who were recognised: Rhonda Domanit, Roxanna Krueger, John Cornish, Garry Stewart, Donald Roach, James Cameron, Therese Goodwin, Lachlan Steffner, Lara Wilbow, Zachery Renshaw, Kylee Peters, Samantha Peters, Michael Buckland, Steven Dunn, Robyn Roberts, Linda Clee, Christopher Hartley, Max Holmes, Ray Hinton, Elizabeth Horwitz, Mary Steenson and Montana Shoesmith. Thank you for your service to the Shortland community.

I also congratulate the following groups who received volunteer awards: Sailability, the Swansea Belmont Surf Life Saving Club, the Cardiff District Men's Shed, the Rotary Club of Belmont and Swansea Meals on Wheels. Thank you for your service too.

I particularly want to acknowledge the 2018 Shortland Volunteer of the Year, Graham Burge. Graham is president of the Swansea Belmont Surf Life Saving Club, and he's a well-deserving recipient of this award. As president, Graham is obviously involved in all aspects of the club and over the past two years has been integral in organising the New South Wales Surf Life Saving state titles at Blacksmiths Beach, in which 4,000 competitors participate. Shortland has the best beaches in Australia. Our surf lifesaving clubs are such a fantastic part of our community, so I'm very pleased to be able to honour Graham and the club's contribution to Shortland.

Another highlight of the year as MP is the competition I hold for primary school students throughout Shortland to design the Shortland Christmas card. Firstly, thank you to all the boys and girls who took part in the competition. With almost 400 entries, picking the winner was a tough choice. A big congratulations, however, to the winner of the competition, Isabella Bliss, from Valentine Public School, and also to Abby Smith of Charlestown South Public and Lacey Joyce from St Pat's at Swansea, who were highly commended for their efforts.

The winning entry was a great Christmas card. It depicted Rudolph piloting a sailboat on Lake Macquarie for some water-skiing reindeer. It had a great pun, which I really enjoyed, of 'Ski you later' in the caption. As a fan of great puns, this really ticked all the boxes, and the artwork, a beautiful sunset on Lake Macquarie—the most beautiful lake in our country—was a great effort. A great part of my job is meeting and talking with primary school students about parliament and my role as MP. From what I see, our country's future is bright and safe in the hands of the next generation.

A fantastic initiative of the Australian Sports Commission is a Local Sporting Champions program, which all members are pleased to support.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Proceedings suspended from 18:33 to 18:46

As I was saying, a fantastic initiative of the Australian Sports Commission is the Local Sporting Champions program, which all members are pleased to support. It has been a privilege to meet young people excelling at sports such as netball, basketball, fencing and even petanque. There are too many recipients to name here for the past year, but all of them can be very proud of their achievements and I wish them all well in their future endeavours.

Members of parliament also have an opportunity to be involved in the Stronger Communities Program. I congratulate the following organisations who have been successful so far in obtaining grants in the latest round for Shortland: the Belmont Neighbourhood Centre, for installing solar panels; the Caves Beach Surf Life Saving Club, for acoustic panelling in their club hall; Charlestown Junior Cricket Club, for installing professional nets; Macquarie Hills Community Preschool, for furniture; Marine Rescue Lake Macquarie, for a storage shed for their jet ski at their Pelican base; and, finally, Redhead Surf Lifesaving Club, for replacing club kitchen equipment.

I was pleased to recently visit Camp Breakaway, who were successful in obtaining a grant of $11,800 to upgrade their activity lodge, particularly the safety railings, windows and doors. Camp Breakaway is a very special place. It gives an opportunity for parents of children with a disability to enjoy a supported holiday with their child. It's always great to see these community groups doing great things in Shortland and improving the ways in which everyone can participate in our community.

On another note entirely, when looking back at 2018 all of us will be aware of the shocking revelations that have come out of the banking royal commission—the royal commission that the Liberals and Nationals did everything in their power to prevent in order to protect their mates at the big end of town. A brave fighter for justice in this is my constituent, Michelle Matheson. I've spoken about Michelle previously in this place but I again place on the record my thanks for her campaigning for the royal commission and for keeping me up to date with her struggle.

In the last sitting period I spoke on the national apology following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. I reiterate that the region I represent was and continues to be terribly scarred by the abuse that it suffered at the hands of institutions. I again pay tribute to the Newcastle Herald and Joanne McCarthy, whose work was fundamentally important in establishing the royal commission.

It has been a big year across Shortland. As always it was good to attend the GOATS Family Festival at San Remo, which was organised by the Epicentre. I congratulate Jillian Hogan and her team on a fantastic day. Lake Macquarie City Council's Living Smart Festival attracted tens of thousands of people to Speers Point, and it was pleasing to see the people I represent and especially their children interested in the environment, climate change and how we act locally to ensure a sustainable future.

I have continued to host a series of mobile offices across the electorate for constituents who may have difficulty attending my office. I always find these great opportunities to hear directly from constituents about the issues that are important to them and how I can assist. Over 40,000 people in Shortland are over the age of 60. Throughout this year I have met with men's sheds, held three seniors expos and had lunch with the Belmont Hospital's pink ladies, who this year celebrated 70 years of volunteering and fundraising. I thank them all for their invaluable contributions to the electorate.

I had the great honour of continuing the annual ovarian cancer morning tea event, which my comrade and predecessor Jill Hall started. This year we raised over $5,000 for the Cancer Council. I thank all the attendees for making it a great day.

My office continues to have constituents experiencing delays from an understaffed Centrelink. However, the most disturbing development during 2018 has been the dramatic increase in the number of inquiries my office has received regarding the NDIS. This is an issue I have raised in the House on more than one occasion. All of us in this place are committed to this scheme. I am frustrated that so many of my constituents are not experiencing the choice and control that they were promised. That was the intent of the scheme. I will continue to work with the agency and my constituents to get a better outcome in 2019.

Finally, it is my fervent wish that 2019 will see the election of a Labor government and that, as a country, we can finally close the chapter on almost six years of deadlock and drift under the coalition. I said in my first speech as the member for Shortland that my priorities for the electorate are Labor's priorities for Australia—jobs, schools and hospitals. It is this platform that I and my party will seek a mandate for in the coming years. I am glad, for example, that we have already committed $20 million to Shortland schools as part of our broader schools package. We will fight on Medicare, access to universal health care, taking action on climate change and dealing with the very necessary energy transition. I very much hope to be Shortland's voice in a future Labor government. On behalf of the people of Shortland, I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy and safe new year.