Thursday, 24 October 2019
Governor General's Speech
Although it's been a few months now since the federal election, I want to take this terrific opportunity to put on the record my enormous debt of gratitude to my local community, who have placed their faith in me to represent them. Western Sydney is the part of Australia that I grew up in. I take very seriously the obligation I have to make sure that I continually push, hector, badger, struggle and champion local interests in any way I can. I note the presence here of my colleague the member for Werriwa. We believe strongly, as Western Sydney residents, that for too long the voices of the people that we love have been overlooked.
Sydney is a city of two halves, where a lot of the decision-making tends to happen in the eastern part of the Sydney. People can say, 'That sounds like you've got a bit of a chip on your shoulder,' but, for most people in Western Sydney, that's the lived reality. When we get elected to these positions, we recognise the importance of using our time well and making sure that we do things that we believe will make the quality of living better for people. I was elected in a seat named after one of our prime ministers, Ben Chifley, who came from a very modest background and, through the power of education and reinvention, in many respects, made it to the position of Treasurer and then Prime Minister. This is a journey that a lot of people in our part of Western Sydney would aspire to. It was a great honour to be elected to this place in the last election and to have that faith placed in me. It is massively humbling.
I want to recognise a number of people who helped along the way. I'd like to thank them first, because I don't want to risk running out of time as I ramble on about all the other things that I want to use this opportunity to speak about. I'd rather put them first and foremost and extend to them my gratitude for everything that they've done. There are a whole stack of people: Kathie Collins, Ian and Shirley Watt, Bill Archer, Jon Roseworn, Sophie Young, Joelina Kane, Erlinda Sepp, Erlinda Armstrong, Balraj Sangha, Lucas Cayanan, Mapasua Aupa'au, Geoff and Cherie Harrison, Derek Margerison, Richard Amery, Jim Kelly, Lyn Muir, Warren Bunting, Sandra Carter, Colleen Rasack and Steve Sagud, just to name a few. I know there's always a danger, when you start naming people, that you miss people. If you didn't hear your name on that list but you helped out, just know how hugely grateful and indebted I am for your assistance.
I want to reflect on the contributions of the people who've worked with me within the electorate office: Brad and Norma Bunting, Mel Ibric, Emma Jovanovski and Ryan Mahon. Helping me with my shadow ministerial responsibilities was Natasha Bolsin. I thank all of them for what they did during the course of the last term. Also, to those who are with me now into this term: I want them to know that I was massively impressed with what they do to assist, what they do to help constituents and what they do in terms of championing policy and helping me craft messages and policy on issues that we all care about. Thank you so much for that. And I say to people who through the course of last term moved on to bigger and better things: Rosanna Maccarone and Elisha Pearce, I don't forget your contributions. Thank you very much for what you did in particular.
When I look at the types of things that I'm focussed on, not just in the last few terms but also in this term, the biggest thing in my part of Western Sydney in the seat of Chifley is making sure that the people in our area have accessible and affordable health care. It means the world to them across Western Sydney, but especially in our part. One stat that stands out, for example, is that 60 per cent of the general population take out private health insurance. In some suburbs that I represent—they could be Bidwill, Shalvey or Dharruk—that figure might be under 30 per cent, so half that. That means that access to a public healthcare system is a big deal. Being able to get help at the time you need it is huge.
It's very important that I put some of these stats on the record, because they demonstrate that the investment in healthcare infrastructure and the quality of local health networks are absolute priorities for people living in Chifley. Residents in Chifley have amongst the lowest life expectancies in the country. This is nuts! This should not happen. In this day and age, that's just incredible—ranking 138 out of 151 seats in terms of life expectancy. Part of that is that we smoke too much—too many ciggies! I understand that people don't mind having a puff, but the reality of the rates of lung cancer and the take-up of smoking in our part of the world mean that that puff takes you on a pathway to poorer health outcomes. These are things we have to tackle. And at eight per cent, our diabetes rate is more than 50 per cent higher than the national average. I already mentioned the ciggies: we have the highest rate of smoking in the country at just over 30 per cent.
The reliance on supporting our local area through a GP who bulk-bills is crucial. Basically, we have 99 per cent more GP visits in Chifley bulk-billed, which means a strong Medicare system which strongly delivers for people in need in our neck of the woods. Out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, for example, are a big issue, because they're rising under this government. In just the 2017-18 financial year there was a 17 per cent leap in the costs of out-of-pocket hospital expenses for people whose wages aren't increasing and who might not be getting the hours they need. Or they might be pensioners or someone with limited income, and that lifting of out-of-pocket expenses is massive. It has a huge impact on people. I don't ever want to have the situation where people feel they are taking shortcuts with their health because they think they can't afford it out of their household budget.
Since the Liberals took office, those out-of-pocket costs for specialist appointments, for instance, have jumped by nearly 40 per cent—40 per cent! These are the types of pressures that people are put under and that it's important to raise and tackle. They're certainly things I'll be focused on in the coming term. In Chifley, on average, it costs someone maybe $33 out of their pocket to see a doctor and roughly $88 to see a specialist. For some people, particularly in some of those areas where the median weekly wage is well below the national number, this is a big deal.
The government is delaying the addition onto the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme of more than 80 drugs that have been recommended to them. This also has an impact in terms of out-of-pocket expenses for health care. As I said a few moments ago, these are the types of things that I definitely want to focus on longer term through the course of this parliamentary term.
Public patients waiting for joint replacements in central Sydney wait for three months—so three months in one part of the city. In Western Sydney they're waiting for 14 months, over a year for joint replacements. Breast surgical services are expected to be cut from Mount Druitt Hospital, and in the last week we've had suggestions that Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospital would see a cut in elective surgery because of a broader ambition by the New South Wales Department of Health to cut $250 million out of its budget. If the federal government are not doing the right thing by funding health care, and are not honouring commitments that were made to state and territory governments in years passed, that puts pressure on state governments. Then state governments cut, and that has an impact on communities like the ones that we live in. Again, this has a big impact on people's quality of life. Elective surgery, in many instances, is not just something frivolous or something that people pursue for the heck of it—it does have an impact on the way that people enjoy living. And, if we're not getting the funding levels right, it impacts that way. People are living a lower quality of life and enduring pain in a situation that can be easily fixed. I give full credit to the state member for Mount Druitt, Edmond Atalla, my colleague, for pursuing this matter in the last few weeks about elective surgery cuts, because it has put pressure on the New South Wales government. While not absolving the New South Wales government—they've got to take their share of responsibility—I am very focused on the level of healthcare funding coming out of the federal government, which contributes to this type of situation. Because, again, patients waiting for hip and knee replacements and surgeries concerning gall bladder, liver, stomach, appendix and breasts would bear a huge burden from those cuts. As I said, the stuff that was being planned would have seen a further 400 surgery sessions over the next 12 months cut at Mount Druitt Hospital alone, and that's only been reversed because of local community outrage.
The other thing that I certainly will be focused on through the course of this term are issues that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the Chifley electorate, which has one of the biggest urban populations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the country. Seeing what we can do to ensure that we improve life expectancy and the quality of life for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is also certainly a big priority.
The other issue in our area is infrastructure. If you look, for example, at a recent survey by the Australian Automobile Association, they reckon that road and traffic congestion is a problem for nearly 80 per cent of Chifley residents, in my part of Western Sydney. So getting somewhere on the roads is difficult, and 80 per cent say they experience congestion. If you try to drive from Mount Druitt to Parramatta, it's one of the biggest traffic bottlenecks in the country, and we're seeing very little work between federal and state governments to actually fix that. Then you might think: 'I'm not getting in the car in Western Sydney. I'm not going to risk going on the M4 and being stuck in traffic, and I'm certainly not going to pay 9,000 bucks a year in tolls going from Chifley into the city using the M7 and M2 everyday'. That's what they've estimated it costs—based on toll costs—if you were to use tollways from our part of Western Sydney to the city and back, just for your working week. If you don't want to do that, you could go and catch a train. If you catch the train, three out of five days you'll be late home, because the T1 Western Line is one of the worst performing rail lines in New South Wales. We often hear the coalition say, 'We want people to be able to get home in time to enjoy their families,' but they've got this sitting right at their feet.
The New South Wales state government is doing very little to fix this. They harp on about the Sydney Metro West—yes, okay, I absolutely get that that will help people living between Parramatta and the CBD—but they're packed like sardines on those trains from Parramatta through to Blacktown through to Seven Hills, where the member for Greenway, who's here in the chamber, is. We've seen it ourselves, standing on those rail lines. I understand the South West Rail Link doesn't fare much better, member for Werriwa. They're packed like sardines into that. It doesn't matter what happens on Sydney Metro West, because people are still going to be having those long trips where they're uncomfortable and where they're running late as a result of the privilege of being on those trains.
Previous Labor governments at the state level have championed things like the western expressway, which were designed to de-congest those rail lines. That is stuff that we should be seeing. I'm sick of seeing the urban infrastructure minister get up in the parliament and say that their idea of congestion-busting is to fund another roundabout. The job of federal governments, working with state governments, should be to make sure that they use the power of their greater funding levels to work in with state governments on things that matter.
Another thing that gets talked about a lot is the New South Wales government's plan to connect Badgerys Creek airport and St Marys railway station. While a lot of people understand that you want to have public transport links to airports, if you haven't fixed the congestion on the Western Sydney rail line by the time you put that metro in, you'll be forcing people to cop an intolerable travel situation. You've already got trains on the Western Line running late, and then you'll be feeding more people up from the airport onto that rail line. Something has got to give, and I am certainly committed to championing that matter and making sure that we get better public transport options and good quality transport infrastructure. When you get to a railway station you should not have to walk ages to get there. As the member for Greenway said, you shouldn't have to pay for an Uber to get from where you parked your car to a railway station. You should be able to park close to the railway station and that station should be modern and should have, for example, things that don't prevent older Australians or people with a disability from using that station. For instance, in Doonside I had to go to the extent of lodging a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, using disability discrimination law at the federal level, against the New South Wales state government, because for more than 10 years they've ignored the needs of Doonside residents in getting their own railway station. We'll be lodging that action in the coming weeks. That's the type of stuff where you can make a difference with federal funding. We're just not seeing it happen, however.
There are 150,000 people moving into north-west Sydney. You can see what's happening now on Richmond and Windsor roads, as they are starting to get congested—after they have been expanded. We need to see investment in a road network parallel to the M7—and that is the M9, the orbital. The New South Wales Liberal government have just played politics. They have said that they won't build that roadway, because they don't want to upset their own constituencies. But the reality is that if we don't build the M9 roadway we are going to have massive congestion in north-western Sydney. North-western Sydney is continually overlooked on infrastructure investment, I might add. We do need to see a greater focus on that. For example, both sides of politics at the state level have committed to the building of a new hospital in north-west Sydney, around Rouse Hill. Without sounding ungrateful, we're going to need more than just a hospital to make people's lives more comfortable in that part of Western Sydney.
We've heard the government go on about Badgerys Creek airport and that investment. They say it in the context of congestion busting. I'm sure a lot of people in south-west Sydney would love to catch a plane from Badgerys Creek airport to the CBD. That is not congestion busting. The money that they've put to upgrade the roads around that airport should not be labelled as a Western Sydney infrastructure project, because it's basically the stuff that needs to happen if you're putting that airport in. There are a lot of other roads in Western Sydney where congestion is an issue—for example, between Mt Druitt and Parramatta on the M4. They need to find ways to fix that up. Mind you, when they do go on about WestConnex at the federal level, they conveniently overlook the fact that when Labor was in office last time we said we would extend funding for the construction of WestConnex provided that it actually linked up to Sydney airport and that a toll did not go on it, that a toll not be reintroduced on the M4. The New South Wales Libs have reimposed a toll on the M4—after the people had paid for that roadway—to help fund WestConnex. So it's no surprise that, as a result, we've got congestion now as people try to get off the newly tolled parts of the M4 and do the rat run through Parramatta using Parramatta Road. We've got to do better.
On education, another big thing, we have 63 schools in the Chifley electorate. We took to the election a commitment to provide an additional $24 million to Chifley schools on the basis of schools in need, looking at the makeup of those schools and considering what local students required. We wanted to see better, targeted funding in there. As I've said previously, I've seen an improvement in results in our neck of the woods. For example, I have remarked about how at Crawford Public School they have said that the maths results of students who were falling behind improved when additional teachers were put in place to help those students catch up to the rest of the pack, as it were. We should definitely see more and targeted support for schools in need.
We need also to ensure, longer term, that young people in our neck of the woods have got the skills that will hold them in good stead in the years to come. That's why I've supported in my area the establishment of a tech skills hub based at Doonside Technology High School with the Colebee Learning Community. There are about 5,000 students and, through the work of Google, Australian Schools Plus and me, we'll will ensure that kids get to see and learn about AI, robotics and the types of things that will become more commonplace in workplaces in the future.
The other week we had an Amazon Web Services team up with Eagle RAPS at Doonside to make sure that young people in Doonside get that level of support as well. This is critical in the longer term and certainly another area where I'll continually focus to make sure that kids in western Sydney aren't left behind. We need to see more investment in skills, not because they necessarily want to go into tech but, as most of us know, you have to be able to navigate your way around the sorts of equipment that you're using—your mobile phone, your iPad, your desktop, your laptop or whatever—to get the most in your workplace. We should be thinking longer term about what will put young people in the best position to get ahead in years to come.
While these are just a few issues, I always take the opportunity in parliament to speak up for our local communities on various issues. These are not the sum total of the issues I'll fight for, but I hope that people do realise that when I commit to something as a local MP I'll see it through and make sure I stand up for the people I care about. (Time expired)
While the member for Chifley is here, may I make some gracious comments congratulating him on his address-in-reply. It's no coincidence that much of what the member for Chifley focused on I actually said in this chamber yesterday, and today, when I speak, I will focus on infrastructure and echo many of his sentiments. We share a common border, but also a number of common life experiences, representing people in Western Sydney and in north-west Sydney who are undergoing a time of great change not only in terms of population growth but also in the diversity of the areas we represent. We represent some people who are doing it very tough, and they have done it tough intergenerationally, just as the member for Werriwa would know. It is certainly the mission of Labor to ensure that those people in our community are given every chance to succeed.
When you look at it on paper, both the member for Chifley and I probably shouldn't have succeeded. We are first-generation Australians and the first in our families to go to university. To make it here to represent the local area that we grew up in is an absolute privilege, which is why I think I can safely say, on his behalf as well, we are both so committed to doing everything we can to improve those three words 'quality of life' for the people whom we represent. I congratulate the member for Chifley on his re-election, and my very good friend the member for Werriwa on her re-election as well.
I've had the privilege of serving my community in this place since 2010, and I'm very lucky to belong to a community of kind, decent, hardworking people who just want the very best for themselves and their families and, as I said, their quality of life to be sustained. They don't often ask for much. Sometimes they ask for nothing at all, other than acknowledgement. I spoke here the other day about the sandwich generation, those people around my age, many of whom are women, who are looking after elderly parents often with degenerative diseases, and raising their own children. Their issues are complex. As I said, they're not often asking for much, but they are asking for recognition. At a macro level, the question, 'What can government do to help them?' should be the same on everyone's lips in this place.
I want to thank everyone who supported me and reassure the people of Greenway that I will fight my very best each and every day that I'm a member here to represent their interests and to often stand up for them and take positions that might be unpopular with others but would be the right decisions to make. I want to particularly thank all those community groups, all those people from very diverse backgrounds. I was so lucky on election night when I thanked the people in that room at the Blacktown RSL. I looked around and I saw a microcosm of Australia, people from all walks of life, so many different nationalities, and people whom I knew from sporting groups to mothers' groups. I want to thank each and every one of them for helping me not only during the election campaign but over the previous three years. I do want to single out, because I don't get to do it very often, my family. As the member for Werriwa would know, it is impossible to do this job without the support of your family. In my case, having daughters aged seven and two, I am so lucky to have a husband who has supported me in everything that I've done. They say sometimes it's a great lottery to see what kind of family you get. Well, I hit the jackpot. I married into a family who have supported me in everything I've done. I want to particular thank my in-laws Sue and Sam Chaaya; my brothers-in-law, Charlie and George; my sisters-in-law, Myrna and Sandra; my beautiful daughters, Octavia and Aurelia, who have to cope with me being away in Canberra—and for my shadow ministerial duties—and who didn't get to see very much of me over the election campaign. For both of them the only life they've ever known is their mum being a member of parliament. I lastly want to single out my husband, Michael, who is a partner in a national law firm, and holds the fort day in, day out. He does it without a single word of complaint. So, thank you, Michael, for everything that you've done to support me in my chosen profession.
I look forward to spending the rest of this term standing up for the people of Greenway and fighting for their interests. And it's in this vein that I turn my attention to the issues of infrastructure, both what we commonly call hard and soft infrastructure. That is probably the number one issue, as I'm sure it is also for the member for Werriwa, when you represent a growth area of—south-west Sydney in her case. Those of us in this place who represent outer metro electorates are very familiar with the exponential growth occurring in our capital cities. In my own electorate of Greenway the paddocks around Riverstone and Schofields, and a relatively new suburb like The Ponds—I remember from as recently as 2010—have been replaced with thousands upon thousands of brand new homes. Areas where on the map it was simply paddocks. And now with the new streets that have gone in it is completely unrecognisable, and that's a great thing. It's a great thing that people can move into these beautiful new areas. It's an even better thing, however, when that is accompanied by world-class infrastructure. Be it the case of communications services, we hear a lot about the need for mobile services in rural and regional areas to be improved, which is indeed very valid. Even in outer metropolitan Sydney, I have constituents who are continually are telling me, 'I can't even get mobile coverage in my own home.' So it is a tremendous challenge to keep up with that—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 10:58 to 11:11
Local infrastructure links communities. It provides the conditions for people to connect and grow. But in two areas of my electorate it is failing. Riverstone is one such example of failing local infrastructure. Riverstone is located at the very heart of the north-west Sydney growth centre. Over the past decade the rate of development in this region has far outstripped investment in local infrastructure. Roads designed to cater for light residential traffic are now inadequately servicing a growing population. During business hours, Riverstone often grinds to a halt. Heavy industrial vehicles are forced to roll through the main street, and streets are regularly banked up around it when the level crossing on the Richmond line is closed. Ask any Riverstone local and they'll tell you that, as the population increases, it is only going to get worse. Congestion comes with serious damage to local roads, pollution and a decrease in the quality of life of local residents as they struggle to navigate their own suburb.
Addressing this issue has been a long-time focus of the Riverstone, Schofields and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I want to congratulate the chamber on the excellent job it is doing in lobbying to unlock Riverstone's full potential. That is the key word here: 'potential'. Riverstone is so well located. It has such a high degree of entrepreneurialism. In the main street, so many new enterprises have opened—everything from fantastic cafes to local cake shops and bread shops. There is also the quality of service that you enjoy in that suburb. I'm so pleased to see that the IGA has been revamped in the Riverstone Village shopping centre. I will happily go there from my home in Riverstone. If I'm up in that end of the electorate, I'll particularly go there because it has some of the cheapest petrol in the area, and I'll also use the opportunity to do my shopping. But I can understand why residents are so concerned about this, when the main street grinds to a halt when the train goes past because they still have a level crossing with boom gates, which stops the street and all the traffic around it.
I want to acknowledge the chamber president, in particular, Sue Lawrence, and vice-president, Warren Kirby, for their continued advocacy, but also all the members and all the businesses who have got on board, particularly in the last couple of years, as they have really looked at change management and at the way in which they are lobbying to get effective outcomes for not only businesses but residents as a whole. They do that with great sincerity and enthusiasm.
Throughout their consultation process, the chamber has helped to identify a potential congestion solution which would not only reduce industrial traffic through Riverstone's town centre but do so at minimal cost. The Riverstone West precinct is the perfect location for a spine road linking Bandon Road in the north and Garfield Road West in the south. It would allow industrial traffic from the business centre in Riverstone's north to bypass the Garfield Road level crossing, which I just mentioned, and flow smoothly out to Windsor Road and the rest of metro Sydney.
This is an extraordinary opportunity for the federal government to engage in community and business renewal in one of Sydney's fastest-growing areas, an area where the housing completion rate has increased from 15 per cent per year in 2011 to 40 dwellings per week. The unemployment rate in Riverstone is approximately 7.2 per cent, significantly higher than the 3.9 per cent statewide figure reported in January this year. Taking advantage of its prime location as the gateway to the Hawkesbury and neighbour to growing housing estates, Riverstone could become a business hub in north-west Sydney, a vision that can only be realised by creating the local conditions for businesses to thrive.
I recently wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister, in his capacity as the minister for infrastructure, to highlight the need for such investment in Riverstone. Whilst there remains a traffic solution for Garfield Road by 2036, the concept is not yet defined and there is no funding for delivery. In contrast, this alternative road that I mentioned could be delivered by 2021. We have a great opportunity here and now to engage in proactive community building to improve the quality of life for these residents, so I call on the federal Liberal government to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to infrastructure spending and prioritise upgrading roads in high-growth areas across west and north-west Sydney.
I also want to speak about other infrastructure concerns with public transport, and I would note the opening of the Metro Northwest. The member for Chifley, who spoke before me, mentioned some other state projects that are making a difference in some areas, but in other areas the government are still failing. That's not to say that the Metro Northwest project has been without criticism, or that the New South Wales Liberals haven't assumed a self-styled level of infallibility despite growing community concerns about how the project is affecting different parts of our society.
Since my first term in this place I have helped to coordinate a sustained community campaign to increase parking supply at local train stations in the north-west, especially at Schofields and Quakers Hill. Countless doors have been knocked on, petitions sent and letters written demanding that the New South Wales Liberal government take meaningful action to address the situation. And it is a dangerous situation at that. I have spoken many times about Schofields station in this place. If a commuter arrives at Schofields station after 7 am then in some cases they are forced to park several kilometres away and trek on unsteady terrain, often with no footpath, just to catch the train to get to work. It's even more dangerous at night given the lack of lighting along this area. This highlights that building transport networks isn't enough in itself. People actually have to be able to access public transport, which is why commuter parking is so important.
Scores of local residents continue to be rightly frustrated at the sheer lack of parking available, not only at Schofields and Quakers Hill stations but now at Metro Northwest stations. I've been contacted by scores of residents who, when trying to use the metro service, have been forced to pay the daily rate for parking at the nearby shopping centres. Others have told me they have simply given up and are opting to drive instead, which defeats the whole purpose of having public transport.
How the New South Wales Liberals, having seen the impact that exponential population growth can have on existing parking infrastructure at places like Schofields, can deliver a transport project without sufficient parking solutions is utterly astounding. To add insult to injury—wait for this one, Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas—the New South Wales Liberals have also cut local bus services in my electorate on the basis that the metro line is now open. Not only is this despite the fact there was insufficient public transport in the first place, but it was barely keeping up with demand.
Following the opening of the Metro Northwest, a number of existing bus routes were changed or cut altogether. Where local residents could previously catch a single bus from places like Rouse Hill and Kellyville Ridge into the Sydney CBD, commuters are now being told to instead board the metro, change at Chatswood for a heavy line train and then, in some instances, catch a bus when they finally reach the CBD. There has been widespread outrage about the changes, but unsurprisingly it is falling on deaf ears. Local Liberal state members have batted away criticism, with one describing the issue as 'relatively contained to a couple of routes'. The same Liberal member also maintained that the number of constituents who had complained about the bus changes were 'in the teens'. In response to that member, I would refer to some of the 10,400 north-west Sydney residents who have signed the change.org petition to reverse the bus cuts, many of which come from the shared parts of our electorates.
I recently wrote to the New South Wales Minister for Transport to raise my concerns about these changes. Unsurprisingly, the buck was passed to his parliamentary secretary. Well, she might as well change her title to 'parliamentary secretary for condescending travel advice' because all she offered by way of resolution was as follows: 'I am advised that customers north of Bella Vista have several options for travel to the CBD. They can access Sydney metro services from Rouse Hill or Kellyville stations and transfer to a Sydney train service at Chatswood or Epping. And, further, those who access route 607 express can now access bus routes 665 and 735 to Kellyville metro station.' I hate to break this to the parliamentary secretary, but Greenway residents already know they can get the metro and change multiple times. That's not the point. These bus services were convenient and they were working, and that is why these people are angry. New public transport options are supposed to improve the liveability of the local area, not mark it harder for local commuters. And the coalition in this place and Macquarie Street like to talk a lot about congestion-busting. I can confidently say that a great way to bust congestion is to have public transport that people can actually use.
The final point on the north-west metro relates to its safety. When the New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads announced that services on the metro would be driverless, there was a genuine concern for commuter safety, and that concern was rightly articulated by the rail, tram and bus union, but the concern was ignored by the New South Wales government simply because it was made by another party. And those concerns were right. There has been widespread reporting of metro doors closing on unsuspecting commuters. There have been reports of parents being separated from their prams as the doors close, and their children are taken without their parents to the next station. I can speak from personal experience. I recently caught the metro with my elderly father, who is 88 years old and has a walking stick; a companion; and my 2-year-old in her pram. And we decided, because he had a specialist's appointment coming up in Chatswood, we would see if he could use public transport to get to this appointment. So I told him, 'Park at my place. Park at Glenwood in the morning, and we'll go in my car to the nearest and park there.' We went to the nearest station, Bella Vista, at 9.00 am. There was not a single park. We went to Kellyville station further down the line. There was not a single park. So I said, 'Well, we'll go to Tallawong station.' We drove out to Tallawong station near Schofields. There was not a single parking spot. By this time, I could have driven to Chatswood, but I said, 'I will not be defeated.' So we parked at Rouse Hill Town Centre, paid for parking and caught the metro in. On our way home, in the time given—I can't go through all the details—we were getting on board. We weren't dallying and weren't being delayed or anything. We got on board and, unsuspectingly, just as I boarded the train with the pram and was helping Dad, who had his walking stick, the doors literally closed on us. I was there, having to force the doors open while my elderly father tried to steady himself while another commuter pulled my child's pram off me. Somehow we managed to be okay, but you can see a situation here where there are clearly safety issues that need to be addressed.
I call on the New South Wales Liberal government to look soberly at this model that they have adopted and also to understand those very important issues of accessibility. Infrastructure shouldn't just be an abstract buzzword thrown around in this place. It's important for communities like mine, which are growing so rapidly, and it needs serious investment to improve the quality of life for local residents. Without meaningful and decisive action, this situation is only going to get worse, and that is one of the key things that I will be fighting for over this term in this parliament.
In my contribution on the address-in-reply, I'd like to initially focus on the election and say how honoured I am to have been re-elected as the federal member for Richmond. I'd like to start by thanking the people of Richmond for the incredible privilege of representing them, advocating for them and being their voice in this parliament. The electorate of Richmond is made up of remarkable individuals and vibrant communities, from Tweed Heads right through to Ballina. I'm a proud member of the Australian Labor Party and I want to thank all our local members and supporters for their continued faith in me. Also, to my wonderful, loyal staff—Reece, Inge, Kylie, Jurgen, Marie, David, Rani, Jack, Peter and Max—thank you.
In my election campaign locally, I promised to keep working hard to make the North Coast an even better place to live, and I'm determined to keep doing just that. Every day, I continue to fight for our local community, and I remain committed to fighting for better services and outcomes right across the North Coast and for the people of regional Australia, who have been forgotten by the government. I'll detail some of the election commitments later in my contribution—ones that I want the government to fund in my region.
My focus is very much on job creation in our area. We need further investment in infrastructure, we need greater training and education avenues and we need to keep our regional economy strong and viable so that there are increasing employment opportunities. In terms of the election, I've said this many times to the people of the North Coast: my door is always open, and my assistance is always there. In terms of the parliament and the broader community, Labor will continue to hold the government to account, and we'll also continue to define what we stand for and our values.
Since the election, amongst my community on the North Coast there has been a prevailing feeling that the only agenda the government have is a harsh and cruel one. The government are defined by the people they're against and the Australians whom they impact detrimentally by their actions. This will be the legacy of the government, as well as their lack of action on important matters. They're not fixing the NDIS. They're not fixing the NBN. They're not reversing their cuts to pensions. They're not reversing their cuts to the ABC and SBS. They're not properly investing in our schools, TAFEs and universities. They're not properly investing in our health and hospital services. They have no plan to effectively act on climate change. They have no plan for regional jobs and no plan to sustain and grow regional economies. Yet what we do have from the government is a continued attack on workers by pushing for cuts to penalty rates and workers' conditions.
As large parts of Australia suffer the worst drought on record, the Morrison government's inaction has caused distress in so many communities who are facing severe water crisis. We're so concerned by the reports of towns locally and nationally facing the possibility of running out of water and the loss and suffering they are experiencing now. After six years of inaction on water security, the Morrison Liberal-National government continues to waste time, when communities are desperate; they are running out of water. When it comes to rural and regional towns and their water, the government are so out of touch. We urgently need a practical plan to cope with the drought crisis, because our regional communities are hurting. The government need to act now. It is that urgent.
Also, the Morrison government have a very shameful economic record. The fact is: the economy has floundered for years under the Liberals and Nationals, and the government have no plan to fix it. Their record is defined by slow growth, stagnant wages, weaker productivity, higher unemployment and underemployment, surging net debt and higher household debt. Australians are very worried about their wages, their job security and their cost of living. Again, the government are doing nothing. They have no plan to meet the economic challenges facing our nation and no agenda to build a bigger and stronger Australia.
There are many people in my community who experience so many issues with so many services, particularly Centrelink. The stories from families and pensioners are becoming far too common. The ongoing erosion of Centrelink resources has put enormous pressure on its ability to meet and address the issues of many of my constituents who find themselves in critical need. This is particularly evident for those locals who have to apply for either age pensions or disability support pensions, with massive, unacceptable delays occurring. Of course, the same is said for the NDIS, where there are unnecessary and huge, unacceptable delays, which are often putting people's lives and wellbeing at risk. Under the government, we've seen a lack of funding for the NDIS and a lack of planning. We've seen the staffing caps. What they need to be doing is fixing that and delivering for the people who desperately need the NDIS to work properly.
Also one of the issues of greatest concern on the New South Wales North Coast is the lack of home care, particularly with the ageing population that we have. There are a distressing number of older Australians waiting for the care they need, and the list in my region just grows longer each year. Of course, as a nation we should judge ourselves by how we treat our elderly, yet the Liberals and Nationals have done nothing but cut aged-care funding, and there is no plan to reverse those cuts. The fact is that as of June 2019 there were still 120,000 older Australians languishing, waiting for a home care package, and this included more than the 72,000 older Australians on the waiting list with no home care package at all. Shamefully, many people are dying, waiting for their home care package. This is truly unacceptable.
We also have the Morrison government ignoring the calls from many people to increase Newstart. Again I call on them to act. There is an urgent need to raise the rate of Newstart. The fact is that in my region we have a massive housing affordability and homelessness crisis, and people receiving Centrelink benefits are the hardest hit. Families and individuals without secure full-time employment who rely on some sort of Centrelink allowance to survive are really doing it tough; they are struggling. With a quarter of Newstart recipients aged 55 or over, many locals who've worked all their lives are now living in poverty and struggling to find affordable accommodation. The government needs to act and urgently look at raising the rate of Newstart.
The government has also failed to deliver on the NBN for Australians. In particular, those Australians living in regional areas have been hit really hard. Constituents tell me constantly that they're frustrated because they can't get any decent internet access. There are very slow speeds and there's lots of buffering. The NBN is critical infrastructure for Australia's future for so many different reasons. One particular area in my electorate, Cabarita Beach and Hastings Point, can't even get connected to the NBN, and delays have been ongoing. Time and time again residents have been told the service will be rolled out, only to be told of another delay, another excuse. One particular constituent has been in contact with my office since 2015. He was told his NBN connection was due in mid-2018. Then it was early 2019, then mid-2019, then late 2019. Now, after more delays, we find that residents and businesses of Cabarita Beach and Hastings Point have been told to expect connection in March 2020. That is clearly unacceptable. For this constituent, who is a small business operator, these delays will have serious financial impacts and will put at real risk his ability to keep trading. This is an unacceptable situation and I've made representations to the minister. This situation must be fixed. The mismanagement of the Liberals and Nationals continues to impede the rollout of this very vital service. Put simply, locals in my area are suffering due to the faults, the slow speeds, the down time and the poor service. It is that bad that in 2017 alone complaints about the NBN increased by over 200 per cent.
I remain staunchly committed to advocating for better regional services, and I believe that the North Coast deserves its fair share from Canberra. That's why I'll continue to fight for the commitments I campaign for, especially for important infrastructure projects. In fact, major infrastructure projects are important enablers of regional economies, and they also deliver many jobs during the construction phase. Indeed, we all know the Reserve Bank governor has called on the government to invest in infrastructure to lift employment and wages and to drive economic growth, and that applies especially to our regional areas. The government must start investing very quickly in infrastructure projects.
In terms of the Labor election commitments in Richmond, first and foremost, the Kirkwood Road and Kennedy Drive interchanges are two of the most strategically important infrastructure projects which would ease congestion, reduce travel times and meet the growing needs of our region. They are, in fact, game changers. These two road projects will not only create jobs and economic activity; they will, of course, lift productivity over the longer term. They have so many benefits. We made a commitment that a Labor government would invest $52.2 million to progress work on the Kirkwood Road interchange and the Kennedy Drive interchange. Our region has, indeed, benefited from a number of major projects that were funded by the former Labor government, yet at the recent federal election only Labor committed to fund these two projects in full. They were completely ignored by the National Party. I call on the government to invest in these important projects. They are vitally important for our future growth.
I also remain committed to fighting for funding for the regional Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport and its much-needed runway upgrade. I was very proud that during the election campaign Labor committed to investing $10 million in this important project. Funding of the project will enable the widening and strengthening of the runway, which is a crucial part of the Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport's capacity to accommodate future, larger domestic aircraft. We have a growing region; we have to have this runway upgraded. It is very vital and critical to our region's thriving tourism industry. The airport is ranked in the top 10 regional airports nationally. It is owned and operated by the Ballina Shire Council. There is ample scope for greater investment now, particularly across rural and regional Australia. I urge the government to invest in economies and in projects like the ones I've mentioned: Kirkwood Road and Kennedy Drive, and the vital upgrade to the Ballina Byron regional airport.
In terms of the other election commitments that Labor made, I will also continue to fight for funding for Wedgetail Retreat, which specialises in palliative care in a purpose-built facility and for the MurwillumbahCommunity Centre's food HUB at the Red Cross centre. Again, I call on the government to match those investments and invest in these important projects
I'd also like to take this opportunity to hold this government to account on the promise they made during the election campaign, namely a new cancer treatment centre in Tweed Heads. Regional communities deserve access of the very best cancer care, and I shall continue to call on them to honour their promise to invest in this very important facility. This is very important, because we do know that the Nationals have a history of saying one thing and then doing something after the election. I'll continue to hold this government to account on this very important election commitment. It's vital that we all do all that we can to address the difficulties that patients face in regional communities, because we know that in the regions they experience poorer health outcomes than in the cities, and patients often have to travel greater distances to access the vital treatment they need. A new facility, a radiation facility in Tweed Heads, would assist in bridging the gap when it comes to cancer care and the outcomes of patients. I urge the government to honour that commitment. I will keep holding them to account, because we do need to have that cancer facility in our region.
We see, right across the board, when it comes to health services some really startling and remarkable moves by this government in their continuing to undermine Medicare, which is devastating for the regions as well. There are currently record high out-of-pocket costs and record high waiting lists to access health care. Under this Prime Minister out-of-pocket GP costs have increased from $36.45 to a record high of $39.55. Out-of-pocket specialist costs have increased from $80.20 to a record high of $91.50. Under this Prime Minister private hospital out-of-pocket costs have increased from $308.75 to a record high of $314.50. Under this government private health insurance premiums have risen around 2.8 per cent. And, again under this government, waiting times have increased to mean one in four people have not been seen on time in emergency departments or are waiting for elective surgeries. This is not good enough. We need to see much more investment in our health and hospital services.
Another big issue that many people in my community have, which they've raised with me many times, is about the government's dangerous plans to develop a nuclear power industry within this country. We are seeing intensifying pressure from the Liberals and Nationals, at all levels of government, pushing this very toxic agenda. It's one that I have raised in the past and will continue to raise. It's so important for my community. I stand firmly with the community in firm opposition to nuclear power. We, all of us in the New South Wales North Coast, have major objections to nuclear energy, particularly because the impact on coastal communities would be devastating. Nuclear power is dangerous, expensive and consumes vast amounts of precious water, which is why we're concerned about the government expanding on it when we have coastal communities like mine. Here we have a time when Australia faces increased water security threats, and yet we have this government pushing hard with its agenda for nuclear power. Again, we see it at all levels of government in New South Wales. We see it at federal, state and local. They need to stop. Our community will fight them against this every day. Nuclear power is just too toxic.
I'd also like to mention, of course, some of the harsh impacts of our state Liberal-National government as well, which really impacts our region. One of those is the need for more police. Under this state Liberal-National government we've seen massive cuts to our police numbers. In my community they blame the Nationals and the state member for Tweed, who's cut those numbers. We're just not keeping pace in terms of the fact we're one of the fastest growing regions. We need to give our police the resources and numbers so they can do their job effectively. But the fact is, under the Nationals locals are hurting and they're putting police officers unnecessarily in harm's way because we don't have enough police on the ground. As a former police officer myself, I understand the importance of having appropriate numbers of police on the beat in our communities to ensure that locals remain safe. I've launched a community petition for more police because locals tell me their neighbourhoods and streets are being targeted by criminals who see New South Wales as a soft touch and are even coming over the border from Queensland to commit their crimes in New South Wales. But I've seen firsthand the pressure our police are under, and crime is out of control in our region. Our police are combating ongoing violence, break-and-enters and increasing ice use across the North Coast, and we consistently see in our local media reports of crime being out of control. And so I will continue to stand up for our community and continue to advocate for more police across our region. It is vitally important.
I again want to take this opportunity to commend our local police for the remarkable work they do. I know how hard they work. They're under very difficult circumstances with the lack of resources that they do have there. I'd like to thank the Labor leader, Jodi McKay, and also the New South Wales shadow minister for the North Coast, who recently came to Tweed to launch this very important community police petition. It's an issue that we will keep talking about.
Another big issue that has recently been raised in my community is a betrayal by the Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest, who has backflipped on an election commitment he made about having free parking at the new Tweed Valley Hospital. In the election campaign he promised locals free parking with no time limits for patients, visitors and staff. We have read in the past few weeks that that was just an absolute lie and he's now backflipped on that. We now know there will be paid parking there. It really is a complete betrayal of locals, and many people are deeply concerned about it. Of course, many patients and their families and also staff feel totally betrayed. They were told there would be free parking there, and, of course, we now find out that it's going to be paid parking. That will also have a massive impact on the surrounding areas in Cudgen and Kingscliff, which, of course, will just be inundated with cars. So again I call on Geoff Provest and the Liberal-National government to honour their election commitment for free parking at that hospital. It's vitally important and distressing so many people within our region.
I'll always hold Liberal-National governments to account, whether it be at federal or state levels. We do have so many concerns locally, so many broken promises, so many cuts to services. It is right across the board and deeply distressing our community. And, speaking of our community, I would like to add, as I'm summing up, what an incredible, remarkable and diverse region we have on the New South Wales North Coast. We're very fortunate to have such active, committed and diverse community groups, sporting clubs, and organisations right across the region. I'd like to mention the Richmond Community Grants Hub in my electorate, which was established—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 11:42 to 11:53
In closing, what I would like to say is what a wonderful community we have on the far north coast of New South Wales. It is a remarkable and diverse area, and we're very fortunate to have such wonderful, committed, active and diverse community groups, individuals, sporting clubs and organisations. They are truly remarkable, and they all have a very deep commitment to our area and to improving it.
I'd really like to mention a program in my electorate which I recently established. The Richmond Community Grants Hub was established in response to the very growing demand from the community for more information about available funding opportunities. I'm pleased to say that so many groups have signed up so far, and they're able to receive information about different funding opportunities that may be available to them. It's just wonderful working with these community groups and helping them to potentially secure some of that funding as well. It has been a huge success, and I encourage any other groups that might like to get involved to please sign up to my Richmond Community Grants Hub so that we can keep you informed of any potential grant opportunities that do arise. I really look forward to working with those groups to secure future grant funding so that together we can make the area an even better place to live. The New South Wales North Coast is truly the best place in Australia to live.
It is an absolute honour to represent your community here in our federal parliament, and I again thank the people of Richmond for re-electing me as their member. It is indeed a privilege and an honour that I take very seriously. My door is always open to them and I'm always available here to help them. I will keep being their strong voice in Canberra.
I've spoken before in this chamber about how proud I am to have the Australian Islamic Centre in Newport in my electorate. It's an architectural landmark, a place of worship and a community hub for thousands of people in Melbourne's west. It was in a similar place of worship in Christchurch in a country so much like our own that 51 men, women and children were massacred by an Australian terrorist earlier this year. The member for Maribyrnong and I visited the Newport mosque immediately after this atrocity and spent hours with community members, united in mourning and in fear.
The fact that one of our own could commit such an act has been a cause for much reflection. His vile acts do not reflect our values as Australians. In particular, they do not reflect the values of Melbourne's west, my community. Despite that, this atrocity should be a wake-up call that forces us to confront some hard truths. Firstly, we must confront the reality that radical right-wing extremism is growing around the world. White nationalist extremists were responsible for at least 50 murders in the US in 2018, a 26 per cent increase on the previous year. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the situation may be even worse in Europe, where attacks by right-wing groups increased by 43 per cent between 2016 and 2017.
I've previously spoken in this chamber about the fact that white nationalists have murdered politicians in recent times in the United Kingdom, Germany and Poland. If the Christchurch attacker weren't evidence enough, ASIO recognised in its 2019 annual report that the threat from extreme right-wing terrorism in Australia has increased in recent years and will remain 'an enduring threat'. We must also confront the fact that these attacks are connected by a global ideology. They aren't random, unconnected tragedies. These right-wing terrorists are part of an online community that uses the internet to spread their ideology and to radicalise the marginalised and vulnerable. Atrocities like Christchurch turbocharge the power of their message in these networks. That's why the Christchurch terrorist posted his manifesto online before the attack and it's why it was suffused with symbolic call-backs to the atrocities of previous white nationalist terrorists. It's also why a series of subsequent terrorists, inspired by the Christchurch atrocity, have used similar codes and symbols in the online content that they have produced before and after their attacks.
The growing nature of the threat of right-wing extremist terrorism and the way that this ideology and these attacks perpetuate themselves online mean that we need to take action if we want to ensure that an atrocity like Christchurch never happens again. We need to act to stop an Australian from ever again committing an atrocity like the Christchurch attack. The best way of doing this is through the Christchurch Call to Action. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's Christchurch Call was a compact between governments and technology companies that included commitments for action by both groups to break the online radicalisation engine that led to the Christchurch terrorist attack.
I'm pleased to say that, since the signing of the Christchurch Call, online service providers have finally begun to act and implement their commitments. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a consortium of tech companies that includes Facebook, YouTube and Google, released a nine-point plan that members will implement to address the abuse of technology to spread terrorist content. Facebook banned white nationalist content from its platforms, imposed new restrictions on the use of Facebook Live and expanded the use of automated techniques to identify and remove terrorist content. And the web-hosting company Cloudflare finally ceased providing hosting services to the 8chan website that had become ground zero for white nationalist radicalisation and the celebration of these terrorist attacks.
These are welcome developments, but there's still more work to do. For example, recent reporting from VICE News has shown how these white nationalists have moved their activities to more tolerant social media platforms. Analysis of 150 public-facing far-right channels on the Telegram Messenger service found that more than two-thirds of these channels were created in the first eight months of 2019. Not only do white nationalists have a much more robust presence on smaller online platforms like Telegram than they did two years ago, their channels have grown more sophisticated, violent and terroristic over time. These smaller platforms should follow the lead of the GIFCT and take responsibility for breaking the radicalisation engine and shutting down channels like this.
Governments, too, need to act to implement the Christchurch Call. Shamefully, despite our special responsibility as the nation that produced the Christchurch terrorist, the Australian government's implementation of the Christchurch Call has been piecemeal and slow. The Morrison government has loudly trumpeted its new laws to establish a content-blocking framework for crisis events, and this is welcome. Seeking to stop the sharing of footage of terrorist attacks is certainly welcome. This is absolutely a part of the online radicalisation process that we've seen playing out in recent times, but it's just one part of the problem. Indeed, the very first commitment in the Christchurch Call commits governments to:
Counter the drivers of terrorism and violent extremism by strengthening the resilience and inclusiveness of our societies to enable them to resist terrorist and violent extremist ideologies, including through education, building media literacy to help counter distorted terrorist and violent extremist narratives, and the fight against inequality.
This is a much broader task than stopping the sharing of footage of the terrorist attacks themselves. But since the Christchurch attack, the Morrison government has not provided any additional funding to community based, countering violent extremism programs. Indeed, it's not clear whether any of the very small amount of Commonwealth funding that is currently being spent on CVE in Australia is tailored to the threat of right-wing radicalisation, is tailored towards the vulnerable and marginalised individuals in our community who may be beguiled by the messages of these white nationalists. Where is the Commonwealth funding for programs like that developed by the NGO All Together Now, the community action for preventing extremism project, formerly known as Exit White Power, which aims to break the radicalisation engine by planting seeds of doubt in the minds of young people who may be attracted to white nationalism and white supremacy. Where are the new nationwide anti-racism and anti-religious bigotry programs in response to the increased threat we see in the wake of the Christchurch attacks?
The second commitment of the Christchurch call commits government to:
Ensure effective enforcement of applicable laws that prohibit the production or dissemination of terrorist and violent extremist content, in a manner consistent with the rule of law and international human rights law, including freedom of expression.
This commitment isn't about searching for a technology silver bullet to break the radicalisation engine. It's about providing extra law enforcement resources for the old-fashioned policing necessary to infiltrate white nationalist terrorist networks, who are increasingly using encrypted communications like Telegram, and breaking them up from the inside. We saw a very good example of this just this month with the FBI's arrest of Jarrett Smith, a far-right extremist who was allegedly using the Telegram platform to discuss the bombing of a US news outlet. Again, this doesn't just seem to be a resourcing priority for the Morrison government. We haven't seen the additional funds being allocated to Australian law enforcement agencies in order to tackle what we know is a proliferation of these extremist views online.
There's a stark contrast with Australia's approach and other nation's response to the growing threat of white nationalism after the Christchurch attacks. The US Department of Homeland Security has formally recognised white nationalism as a serious national security threat and unveiled a new counterterrorism strategy to combat it. The US Congress has held seven hearings on radical right-wing extremism since April. In the UK, extreme right-wing terrorist threats are being included in official threat-level warnings alongside the Islamist threat. Canada has funded research into far Right extremism, to better understand the threat and to learn how to combat it in the context of that country. In New Zealand, the government has invested in its Department of Internal Affairs, to double not only its investigative work but also its preventative programs. Further reforms are yet to come from the New Zealand royal commission into the attack. I believe that there will be lessons for Australia—about the activities of the murderer in Australia on the online white supremacist forums in this country—coming from the evidence heard by the royal commission in New Zealand.
In Australia, though, not only have we failed to follow through on our commitments under the Christchurch Call; the Department of Home Affairs doesn't seem to even officially recognise white nationalism as a serious national security threat. As my colleague the member for Chifley has noted, in its annual report ASIO discusses the international threats of Islamist terrorism from Europe, Asia and the Middle East, but there's no mention of the threat of US or European based far Right extremists and the attacks that they could pursue in Australia.
Last month, former FBI agent Ali Soufan gave evidence to the US Congress that 17,000 people, including US white nationalists, had travelled to Ukraine in recent years to gain paramilitary skills in the conflict there before returning home. Are Australians doing the same? How many? How do we know? Who's monitoring them? There is much more that we need to be doing in this space to address this threat.
I welcome the first steps taken by the Morrison government to tackle online radical right-wing extremism, and the content-blocking regime for terrorist acts that has been implemented, but, if we want to prevent another Christchurch, another terrorist atrocity committed in the name of white nationalism by an Australian, we need to do better. We need to start taking the need for a holistic response to the threat of networked white nationalism seriously.
Earlier this month, hospitals in Victoria were subjected to a targeted ransomware attack by cybercriminals. A ransomware attack is a kind of cyberattack in which hackers hold a target's IT systems hostage until a specific demand—typically the transfer of money in the form of bitcoin—is met. The costs of these attacks, measured in the costs of remediating compromised IT systems and the costs of having these IT systems offline, is enormous and growing. In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware worm had worldwide costs of between $4 billion and $8 billion. Since then, the aggregate dollar value of ransoms paid as a result of these attacks has more than doubled, from around $5 billion in payments in 2017 to around $11.5 billion in 2019. This is no small risk.
Luckily the Victorian hospitals ransomware attack seen this month was relatively low impact, shutting down booking systems across multiple hospitals and delaying dozens of surgeries across the state. Unfortunately for Australia, though, this is very likely just the beginning. The United States has been subject to a tidal wave of targeted ransomware attacks this year, targeting, in the first instance, hospitals and then quickly moving on to schools and local governments. At least 170 local and state governments in the United States have been subject to ransomware attacks, including 45 law enforcement offices. This year alone, over 500 schools in the US have been subject to ransomware attacks.
These attacks are enormously disruptive and costly. Louisiana was forced to declare a statewide emergency in response to ransomware attacks on its school districts. In Baltimore city, a ransomware attack cost the city $10 million in lost revenue and in remediation costs for its IT systems. It's only a matter of time before Australian schools and local governments join our hospitals on the ransomware radar of these international crime syndicates. The Victorian hospitals attack is an early warning that government needs to fundamentally rethink its approach to helping these organisations to protect their systems and our citizens' information.
The Morrison government's approach to cybersecurity to date has been too top-heavy in this respect. It's reasonably good at sharing details of cybersecurity threats with large, sophisticated private sector entities who are already focused on the importance of cybersecurity, but the mechanisms that it uses to reach the disengaged are less effective. The Morrison government currently lacks a mechanism for communicating an imminent widespread threat like that posed by the current wave of targeted ransomware attacks.
To meaningfully communicate the current targeted ransomware threat, we need to start thinking about cybersecurity as though it were a public health issue. This means identifying at-risk communities and developing tailored harm-minimisation interventions. During the height of the HIV epidemic, public health practitioners in Australia identified at-risk communities—communities like intravenous drug users, sex workers and gay men—and provided tailored interventions to these groups. These interventions were designed to minimise the potential for harm in these groups—for example, by setting up needle exchanges and creating targeted, culturally appropriate sexual health awareness programs and by distributing free condoms. Australia's response to the HIV epidemic is widely considered to be a textbook example of responding to a public health crisis. We need to do the equivalent today in cybersecurity.
We need to recognise that Australia's 9,500 schools, 700 public hospitals and 537 local governments are at-risk groups during the current wave of targeted ransomware attacks and we need to design tailored risk minimisation interventions in order to get the message out to them and to help them to protect themselves—interventions like lifting awareness and implementation of basic security postures, like the Australian Signals Directorate's Essential Eight risk mitigation measures. In the specific instance of these ransomware attacks, it also means ensuring that these groups have back-up systems in place that are effectively partitioned from a ransomware attack on an organisation's core IT systems. It means ensuring that these at-risk communities, these at-risk organisations, have war-gamed out what their response would be if they were to be subject to a ransomware attack, that they've thought this through, that they know how to respond to an incident and get back on their feet quickly. This takes preparation. The time to act is now.
We know that this threat is imminent. We've seen it playing out in the United States over the preceding months. If the Morrison government fails to act to get the word out on this issue now, then the consequences of these attacks in Australia for our nation will be on its head.
Like many of my colleagues on both sides of the House, I'd like to start by acknowledging the extreme gratitude and honour I feel to once again be elected to this place and to once again represent the people of Oxley in the community that I proudly call home. I'm grateful to the 95,043 people who voted at either prepoll, by post or on election day and the further 30,000 people who live in our community, be they new arrivals to our great country or permanent residents.
Today I recommit my pledge to serve the people of Oxley, to be your representative in the federal parliament and to do my very best to represent you and your families to the best of my ability. But whether you voted for me or not doesn't matter. It's what is great about our democracy. As soon as the hard campaigning was over and the people had their say back on 18 May, all 151 members and all 76 senators got on with the job of making Australia the best it can be for its people and our future.
But, whilst it is indeed the voters who decide who represents them, it is the team behind each of the election candidates who deserve a great deal of thanks, and I'm lucky to have one of the best teams anywhere in Australia, who have been with me through thick and thin, some for more than a decade, when I was first elected as a representative of the Richlands Ward in the Brisbane City Council, now proudly represented by local councillor Charles Strunk.
I want to make special mention of some of the amazing people who have helped me and supported me on this journey. Thanks go to my FEC chairman and former councillor Les Bryant, my magnificent campaign director Mrs Margie Nightingale and some of the hardest working volunteers you will ever meet: Cathy Bidgood, Nayda Hernandez, Phuong Nguyen, Tuan Le, Mai Linh Do, Penelope Webster, Daniel Robinson, Rachel Hoppe, Nino Lilac, Lucy Bordin, Barry MacIntosh, Don Fraser, Bruce Leslie, Tony Cook, Neil and Judy Bennett, Fran Bell, Rose Newell, and our amazing local state MPs in the division of Oxley. I proudly serve alongside five state MPs, magnificent members of the Palaszczuk government Jess Pugh, the member for Mount Ommaney; Mrs Charis Mullen, the hardworking and capable member for Jordan; Minister Leeanne Enoch, the member for Algester; Jo-Ann Miller, the member for Bundamba; and, of course, my great friend and supporter the Premier of Queensland, Anastacia Palaszczuk, the state member for Inala. To all of our local branches, my staff in my electorate office—Karen Bell, Jen, Ros, Michele, Brent, Riley, Coen and Michael—they all played crucial roles in supporting me not just during the election campaign but of course with the work that I do in serving the people of Oxley. I'm very privileged to be supported by a number of unions in the state of Queensland. In particular, I want to acknowledge my own union, the Australian Workers Union, led by state secretary Steve Baker; the SDA; Gary O'Halloran from the Plumbers Union; Peter Biagini from the TWU; Neil Henderson from the ASU; and local resident and supporter Bill Marklew from the CPSU.
Everyone who comes to this place relies on a team, through their family, through their support networks and, of course, through the communities that they represent. I thank each and every one of those members of my community who have supported me to enable the work that I do for the people of Oxley.
The work that they do in enabling me to serve here is of course worth fighting for. The Australian Labor Party is Australia's oldest political party. Our passion for fairness at work, health care for everyone and access to quality education, no matter a person's circumstances, add up to a firm belief that we should all have the same opportunities in life. These are the values that underpin everything we do. In the Labor Party we believe that government has a responsibility to keep the nation safe, to invest in all our people's potential, to reverse disadvantage and to care for the most vulnerable among us. Our greatest achievements have always come from helping this great country to fulfil its potential whilst at the same time ensuring we leave no-one behind.
Once upon a time in this country when you got sick you almost went broke, until Labor, and one of my predecessors as member for Oxley, the great Bill Hayden, created Medicare. There was a time when people worked hard all their lives only to retire poor, until Labor created universal superannuation, which was opposed by those opposite. Not so long ago, there was a time when hundreds of thousands of Australians with disability and their carers had to scrape to get by, until Labor built the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We stand for workers finding secure jobs in safe workplaces for decent pay. On that note I'd like to acknowledge in particular the Australian mining and resources industry. For more than 100 years, the mining and resources sector has been the backbone of the Australian economy and workforce, powering our nation into the 21st century and, with it, one of the best standards of living of anywhere in the world. Whilst there have been many scaremongering calls to see the end of mining coming from some corners in our community, I for one remain buoyed and optimistic about the role mining and resources have played in the story of Australia, particularly in Queensland, to date and will play into the future.
Over 300,000 Queensland jobs are supported by resources. In 2017-18 alone, mining and resources contributed $5.2 billion in wages for Queensland workers, $4.3 billion in royalties to pay for our schools, hospitals and roads and a total of $69.9 billion to the Queensland economy. That's $1 in every $5 of the Queensland economy and one in eight jobs provided thanks to mining and resources. It's not hard to see why mining is so important to Queensland. On top of this, the mining and resources sector has a supply chain of over 14,000 Queensland businesses and assists with more than 1,200 community organisations.
Last year Australian resource exports set a new record of $248 billion, which also included a record $66 billion in exports of coal, making it Australia's most valuable single export. Australia has also recently become the world's single largest gas exporter, ahead of Qatar, with earnings expected to increase by more than 60 per cent, from $31 billion in 2017-18 to $50 billion in 2018-19.
Because the demand for the critical commodities of the future is booming, Australian mining is well placed to take advantage. We are in the top five holders of 14 out of the 35 of these critical commodities that will power the economies of the future. We produce 10 of the 16 commodities needed for the manufacture of solar panels. We hold the largest reserves of lithium, and we mine every commodity required to build smartphones and the battery and storage technology of the future. These numbers prove the worth that mining and resources have to the Australian economy and to the Australian people. Without them, we would not be able to build the roads and bridges we drive on. We would not be able to make the important investments in health and education and would not be able to employ the 1.1 million Australians who have a job in the mining, equipment, technological and services sectors.
But we must not take these figures for granted. We must ensure that Canberra and governments of all persuasions back our resources sector and regional communities to support the economy, support jobs and support our councils that are doing it tough.
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 12:20 to 12 : 32