Thursday, 18 March 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021; Second Reading
It's my job, when I come into this place, to fight for my community. When I go home from Canberra, back to Penrith, St Marys and Emu Plains, people expect that I've been doing my job in fighting for them. That's why, throughout the pandemic, throughout this year, I've been particularly fighting for manufacturing—backing Australian manufacturing and backing local jobs. There are three things that have come out of my lengthy talks with manufacturers, seeing them out in their factories and talking to them as part of my advanced manufacturing taskforce. The top one of these is around IP theft. The more and more I speak to local manufacturers, the more and more they're telling me that this is a significant issue for their business. Here I'm particularly talking about a product being put into the market by an Australian manufacturer and it being ripped off completely by a foreign competitor, and we're seeing this significantly out of China.
There was one local Western Sydney manufacturer who manufactures rail parts—in particular, a safety product. The concern here is that that rail part was ripped off by a Chinese manufacturer, and it wasn't until it became faulty—and the Victorian government, who'd used a contractor out of China, contacted the Australian manufacturer and got them to come down and fix that product—that it was then found that it was not the Australian manufactured product at all; it was a ripped-off product.
Others tell me that, as soon as they put their product on the market online, their products are ripped off. So there is something significant that we have to do to protect our local manufacturers so that they can be successful, particularly if we want them to be successful at competing on quality and value, which is what we are great at in Australia.
There is another part of backing Australian manufacturing, and that comes to the issue of energy. Lots of manufacturers in Western Sydney tell me that bringing down energy costs is really important to them in being successful. When I went out and visited ACO in Emu Plains, they told me about their gas prices coming down, and I was really pleased to hear that. ACO uses gas predominantly to power their plant, manufacturing items for use in the construction industry, and John from ACO noted that recent decreases in their gas costs had improved the efficiency of their business. This is part of a consistent drop in their gas expenses over the last year, going from almost $10,000 per month in early 2020 down to around $7,000 earlier this year. He told me that this is allowing ACO to invest more back into their business. So the more they can invest into their business, the more their business can grow in Emu Plains and the more local jobs they can create.
The third thing I've been doing is very much listening to our local manufacturers. The Advancing Manufacturing Taskforce that I've put together have been really assessing how our national policies are having an impact on the ground, and this comes to our six priority areas. So it was really great to bring the Prime Minister out to Lindsay just the other week. We sat down with around 30 manufacturers at one of our local manufacturers called Plustec, run by a magnificent woman called Tracy who manufactures energy-efficient doors and windows. Manufacturers there were talking to us about the impact of our policies, particularly the instant asset write-off. Tracy used the instant asset write-off to be able to purchase equipment to keep her going during the pandemic, which is fantastic. She also talked about the fact that our policies are enabling her to bring on more trainees. So this is what it's all about: our national policies—things that we're fighting for in this place—having a real impact on the ground, with local businesses, creating local jobs and supporting more people, which I'm really passionate about, into the jobs of the future.
I have a last point on manufacturing: I've also been speaking to manufacturers about how we ensure our kids are educated and trained in the jobs that are coming with advanced manufacturing in Western Sydney with the investment into Western Sydney international airport, with all these great companies wanting to be part of Western Sydney, ensuring that these jobs go to local people. I commuted out of the area for over 10 years. I know how important it is. I know how much people in our community want our young people to live and stay in the area and not have to do that long commute. So it's essential that we're addressing the issues of training and educating our kids in the jobs of the future, and this is something that manufacturers are telling me about all the time.
One of the other things people in the community of Lindsay want me to be doing while I'm here is to be working really hard to ensure that I'm delivering my election commitments, and that's absolutely what I've been doing. In 2019, during the election campaign, I stood alongside the Prime Minister in Western Sydney to announce that we were investing $63½ million into the upgrade of Dunheved Road, an important road in our community for people getting to school and work and home again. When I doorknocked communities around Dunheved Road during the election, they told me that an upgrade to Dunheved Road was well overdue, that there were many accidents on this road and that people were really concerned about safety. We see a number of really severe accidents on that road on an ongoing basis, so I was really pleased that I could deliver that funding, but it wasn't enough. That was only half of the funding required for the full upgrade to Dunheved Road that our community really deserves and really wanted. They told me they wanted the full upgrade. I fought for that full funding. I worked tirelessly with the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and with the minister for urban infrastructure, so much so that they got sick of hearing about Dunheved Road and gave me the money—$127 million—in the federal budget for the full upgrade of Dunheved Road. We couldn't have done this without our community coming together and supporting each other, without you telling me what you need, and without me working really hard in parliament to deliver that. It was very much a community effort. Penrith City Council now has the funding. They're undertaking the planning, and I want to ensure that council now delivers this for our community as fast as possible because that's what the people of Lindsay expect.
Another election commitment of mine related to Penrith Whitewater Stadium. Just this week we announced that Penrith will be hosting the 2025 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships. I was the event director for the 2005 world championships, and I know how passionate people in Penrith are about this sport. We've got Jess Fox, who is a great Olympic champion and world champion in this sport. She is a wonderful talent and a great asset to our community. She was right behind the bid. I was very pleased to provide my support in ensuring that Penrith once again got the world championships, and that will happen on the 25th anniversary of the Olympic Games. I look forward to cheering everyone on at our very own Penrith Whitewater Stadium. The significance of this is that I delivered $2.3 million for important upgrades to this iconic venue as one of my election commitments. So many people do treasure moments from the past and people in the community talk about this venue so often. It's really great that we are able to sustain its significance as a world-class facility in our community.
I really am passionate about healthy, active living. Another election commitment of mine was an investment in the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre. I delivered $1.2 million for vital upgrades to this centre. This centre is used so much by people in our community for activities like basketball and indoor soccer. They've got great staff there, led by Luke Hepburn. Luke told me that he also used JobKeeper during the pandemic, but he told me that it was my election commitment funding and their ability to use that during the pandemic that really kept them going. They were able to do works, and they were able to employ local tradespeople during that time. I visited them again just a couple of weeks ago and saw how fantastic the venue is looking. Kids are back using it now. Really pleasingly, some of those upgrades have meant that it's more accessible to people in our community.
Having these local facilities upgraded and in use is so important to healthy, active living. One of the things that concerns me greatly is that, in Lindsay, we have higher than state average levels of obesity in both our kids and our adults. Ensuring that we can get the best access to recreational facilities is one of the things that helps us to address this very important issue, and so I established in my community the Lindsay Healthy Active Living Network, launched by Minister Greg Hunt, to address these issues around healthy, active living and also to address issues around mental health. I was really pleased that one of my election commitments that particularly addresses mental health—$19 million going to our local PHN—will ensure that we have a local adults mental health hub. It's going to really transform the way that we work with people in our community who are affected by mental health issues. One of the best things about the establishment of this mental health hub is that we're working right across the community with hospitals, with mental health workers—