Monday, 6 February 2023
Julian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Of all the nonsense spouted at the last election, I think it's fair to say the biggest lie was that Labor had no agenda. They tried to label us as a small target, but the first six months of the government have exposed what utter rubbish that was.
We promised the Australian people that, after a wasted decade, we would not waste a day. During our first six months in government, we've passed more than 60 bills in the parliament and delivered an increase in the minimum wage and a pay rise for aged-care workers. We've made child care cheaper, established 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave, convened a jobs and skills summit, established Jobs and Skills Australia, ended the cashless debit card, expanded the Commonwealth seniors health card, established a royal commission into robodebt, delivered the Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee, passed a climate change bill and updated our climate targets, repaired our international relations, established a national anti-corruption commission and passed legislation to get wages moving—the secure jobs, better pay bill.
The government have an enormous agenda in front of us to pursue this year. There's the Energy Price Relief Plan to take the sting out of power bills in the face of global shocks like the war in Ukraine. There's action to strengthen Medicare after nearly a decade of Liberal cuts and neglect. We've got major national security decisions coming, with the Defence Strategic Review, and the nuclear submarines task force and the force posture reports. We're taking action on affordable housing, including delivering the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund. We're cleaning up the shocking mess, the maladministration, in the Department of Home Affairs. There was a backlog of over one million visa and citizen applications when we took office. We're providing permanent protection to genuine refugees who've been in this country for years on TPVs and SHEVs. We're closing unfair loopholes used by dodgy employers that cut people's wages.
We're working on constitutional recognition of the Indigenous peoples of this land and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament. More will be said about that in the weeks and months ahead, in the lead-up to this historic referendum in which all Australians will have their say on this request, this humble request, from Indigenous people via the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
There's a lot more I will talk about shortly, but I want to make some comments on an issue of recent and growing public concern that I've been reflecting on.
Recently, there have been media reports of students in Australia using artificial intelligence to cheat in their exams. AI technology, such as smart software that can write essays and generate answers, is becoming more accessible to students, allowing them to complete assignments and tests without actually understanding the material. This is causing concern, understandable concern, for teachers, who are worried about the impact on the integrity of the education system. By using AI to complete their work, students are effectively bypassing the educational process and gaining an unfair advantage over their peers. This can lead to a lack of critical thinking skills and a decrease in the overall quality of education. Moreover, teachers may not be able to detect if a student has used AI to complete an assignment, making it difficult to identify and address cheating. The use of AI to cheat also raises ethical questions about the responsibility of students to learn and understand the material they're being tested on. It also highlights the need for teachers to adapt their teaching methods and assessment techniques to address the challenges posed by new technologies.
Now, I have to admit I didn't write that. In fact, no human wrote that. The AI large language model ChatGPT wrote that. Last night I simply asked ChatGPT: 'In 90 seconds, please summarise recent media reports about students using artificial intelligence in Australia to cheat, and explain why teachers are worried about this.' I think it did a pretty good job, and it represents a significant step forward towards AGI—artificial general intelligence—which we need to think about.
To be clear, the development and implementation of artificial general intelligence in Australia brings both risks and benefits to the country. On the benefits side, AGI has the potential to revolutionise many industries, including health care, transportation and finance, by increasing efficiency, reducing costs and improving decision-making. AGI could also bring new opportunities and economic growth as companies invest in developing and implementing the technology. However, AGI also brings a range of risks that must be carefully considered and managed. One of the main risks is for potential job loss as machines and algorithms become better at performing tasks that were previously done by humans. There is also a risk that AGI could perpetuate existing biases and discrimination, particularly in decision-making processes such as hiring and lending. AGI raises significant ethical and moral questions such as: who is responsible when a machine or algorithm causes harm or makes a decision that is harmful to society or individuals? There is also a risk that AGI could be used for malicious purposes such as cyberattacks and disinformation campaigns.
It is important for the Australian government and our society to carefully consider the risks and benefits of AGI and take a responsible approach to its development and implementation. This may include investing in training and education programs to prepare workers for the changing job market, as well as regulation and oversight to ensure that AGI is developed and used in a responsible and ethical manner. AGI brings both benefits and risks to Australia, and it is crucial for the government and society to carefully weigh the potential outcomes and take a responsible approach to its development and implementation.
I confess, I did not write that, either. I asked ChatGTP to explain in two minutes the risks to Australia from artificial general intelligence—another pretty good job! I don't think I've breached any standing orders but I am sure I will be told later if I have. I don't think there's a rule that says that members can't write their speeches with ChatGTP. It's certainly not a practice I would recommend or propose to continue in the future, though the opposition may find it useful. They could find good applications for it! What do we stand for? What are our values? Why does the deputy leader think it is okay not to have any policies? See what it has to say on that. Which of our 22 different energy policies should we have stuck with? Is climate change real? Why did we think it was a good idea to dump Malcolm Turnbull? Who let Senator Rennick into our party room? What is wrong with Alan Tudge? I'll stop with the ChatGTP references now because I think I have made my point, but it is a serious point that I am trying to illustrate.
AGI—artificial general intelligence—presents a broader and deeper set of both risks and opportunities to society than any previous technology. Plausible risks include the disruptive, the catastrophic and the existential. It doesn't take long, if you start thinking, to realise the disruptive and catastrophic risks from untamed AGI are real, plausible and easy to imagine. 'Existential', however, is an exceptionally strong word, I know. It sounds and is inherently alarmist. Existential risks are posed by events that would annihilate, or permanently and drastically curtail, the potential of intelligent life on earth. There are specialist scientists and brilliant thinkers who spend their lives studying these risks—things like asteroids, runaway climate change, super volcanoes, nuclear devastation, solar flares or high-mortality pandemics—but artificial general intelligence is increasingly topping their list of worries.
I haven't asked ChatGTP about this, but I spent time over the summer talking with leading researchers and drawing the rest of my remarks from an article by Wim Naude and Otto Barten. AGI has the potential to revolutionise our world in ways we can't yet imagine, but if AGI surpasses human intelligence, it could cause significant harm to humanity if its goals and motivations are not aligned with our own. If humans managed to control AGI before an intelligence explosion, it could transform science, economies, our environment and societies with advances in every conceivable field of human endeavour.
But the risk that increasingly worries people who are far cleverer than me is what they call the 'unlikelihood' that humans will be able to control AGI or that a malevolent actor may harness AGI for mass destruction. Of course, many—optimists, if you like—doubt that these risks will materialise, and they remain optimistic that humans will find a way to manage them. But things are evolving so rapidly. In just the last few weeks we've seen the explosion of articles in the media about ChatGPT, for instance, and there's a new version coming soon, vastly superior. They're evolving so rapidly that, just as the world has finally and belatedly started acting collectively on climate change, we have to get our collective act together on AGI—and urgently so.
Many think the challenges of collective action on AGI across nations is directly comparable to the decades-long efforts on nuclear nonproliferation or action on climate change through international climate agreements. So, we have to start now. While the certainty and timing of the arrival of AGI remain in question, the level of risk it poses—the same arguments we've had about climate change—and the scope of policy development that is needed to manage it warrant immediate attention and action by the government and the parliament: a concerted, serious, urgent policy think, not in the next few years but certainly this term and preferably starting this year.
In every conceivable public policy domain one can foresee astounding benefits accompanied by serious risk. This includes the most serious national security and defence domains. The military applications of AI are well known, and it is widely acknowledged that AGI has the potential to transform warfare as we know it. If AGI surpasses human intelligence it could then pose a threat to our military, potentially rendering our current defensive capabilities obsolete. Defence nerds—chairing the defence committee, I spent a bit of time with them—rightly tell us there's a rapid race across developed militaries across the world to pursue artificial intelligence, given the radically improved command-and-control enhancements it can bring. But, if we lose that battle, an AGI-enabled adversary could conquer Australia or unleash societal-level destruction without being restrained by globally agreed norms.
In foreign affairs, an AGI global diplomat—it's not inconceivable—could actually start resolving international conflicts and see ways through that humans haven't been able to see. But unequal access to AGI between nations inflates international conflict through disinformation and asymmetric political warfare. That's in the risk column. Think about trade: the benefits, the growth in AGI-enabled or enhanced services for export. As with other technologies, if we race to get the technology, particularly in the services sector, we become more competitive and grow our economy through trade. But, conversely, those who lose out in the battle are the non-AGI-enabled industries, defeated by AGI-enabled international competitors.
In employment and workplace relations, in the benefits column we can see new employment opportunities through human-centred AGI—'cobots', human AGI-created goods and services using and harnessing that technology. The worst, most dystopian fears are mass unemployment as more and more of our jobs—areas of society we thought could never be automated—suddenly can be automated and done more cheaply.
In the arts, online we're seeing deepfakes as well as now publicly accessible art sites that can create unbelievable images just through typing in the style of a particular person or object. There is AGI enhancement of artistic creativity and endeavour. But, in the negative column, AGI could replace human artists in the literature, filmmaking, game creation and visual arts domains. Imagine if Netflix and co could lower their costs. Australian content would be the least of our issues.
In health and aged care, AGI can generate cures and treatments for diseases, we could imagine, reducing pressure on health and aged-care services. The Minister for Health and Aged Care is sitting over there. I'm sure he'd appreciate a bit of lowering of the cost. But in the risks column, untamed health care—AGI—could rationally decide that really eliminating the ill and the aged is the best way to achieve its goals. There is a need for ethics in all these decision-making processes.
In infrastructure and transport, you could imagine an AGI road network coordinator improving safety and productivity and the environmental outcomes of road transport—big technology optimising things in ways that are currently beyond us, getting more from our assets. On the risk side: the AGI road network coordinator is hacked, allowing large-scale coordinated takeover of networked autonomous vehicles. These are not fantasy scenarios. These are scenarios we can, let's say, reasonably imagine that our national security agencies and others across the world are plausibly contemplating.
Law and justice: in the benefits column, you could see improved judicial process through coordination and data analysis, improved efficiency of the penal system through tracking and other coordinated constraints. But there's a 'real risk' column and questions: Are the existing legal constraints, which have been designed for humans, ineffective for artificial agents? Who's actually accountable for the actions of an artificial intelligence system, legally? Will we need separate legal personalities just as companies gained centuries ago?
Cybersecurity: AGI could monitor and neutralise cyberthreats at a scale and speed beyond human capability. But in the risk column, again, they could be hacked if they're running critical infrastructure. Home Affairs or domestic security: you can see the benefits from coordinated identification, tracking and disruption of antisocial individuals and groups, and our intelligence agencies and those across the world are looking at this. But you can also see the potential for radical groups to be empowered, if they gain access to this technology, through turbocharged influence campaigns, misinformation, deep fakes and coordinated weapons systems.
Even aside from the almost endless policy nerd analysis that you could do on this, AGI has the potential to change how we as humans relate to each other. What might AGI do for loneliness? What might it do to inequality? Governments will rapidly possess ever-greater artificial intelligence capabilities but citizens may be left behind, leaving populations in many parts of the world far more vulnerable to populist and authoritarian regimes, and manipulation. Unequal adoption of the technology within societies may see large swathes of our citizens left further behind.
I firmly believe that action by governments to grapple with the impact of AGI is now urgent. Nations across the world, in my view, are not yet exhibiting the necessary degree of urgency, and Australia can lead the way. We need to examine serious and fundamentally important questions right across all public policy domains in our society and economy. What are the benefits of AGI? Think this through. What are the risks? How likely is it that we'll achieve AGI at all? When are we likely to achieve AGI, if we do? What risk control efforts are already underway? What public policy thinking have we done here and elsewhere in the world around this? Are those risk controls and efforts sufficient? Why should government get involved in controlling the risks of AGI? What could government do to harness benefits while controlling the risks of AGI?
These kinds of questions and deep dives will require us to consider the full toolkit of government interventions, ranging from research, policy, legislation and regulation as well as direct public investment, grants, co-investment, equity investments for public goods where markets may or are failing to serve the collective interest, whether that's research grants or similar. There are many forms that such a proper examination could take, and it won't be a static point in time thing.
Thinking this through at a societal and governmental level will require ongoing and, possibly, institutionalised reflection. We could consider a white paper, an expert inquiry, a parliamentary inquiry, a commission, like the Climate Change Commission, to institutionalise this topic for the next few years, at least, an international intergovernmental collaboration—that sounds catchy—that Australia leads the way to assemble or some combination of the above. The key message I want to convey is that we have to start now.
I'm old fashioned, as you know, on this side of the House. The Minister for Health and Aged Care is a former minister for climate change, and he's old fashioned too. We on this side of the House believe you should listen to the science.
Keith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Not at all.
Julian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
'Not at all,' says the member for Hinkler—at least a moment of honesty! They don't listen to the science. You did say this morning, actually, that you thought it was pretty dense, which I thought was peak irony. Anyway, we'll keep it nice. Public policy should be informed by evidence, and public-policy makers should listen to the science. That's what we're doing on climate change, like every other sensible, developed country in the world, dragging Australia back from being an outlier, bringing us back into the mainstream of international fora. We have an opportunity to be one of the world's leaders in listening to the science. This stuff is important, it's compelling and it's urgent. I encourage the government, of which I'm a proud member, to acknowledge that this is something we need to think through. No society, no government, has got it right. This is not a criticism. It's a reflection I've made in having a look at the Governor-General's speech—our enormous existing agenda, that which we have delivered already, as I outlined at the start of my remarks, that which we already have in front of us.
But this is big. It's compelling, it's important and it is urgent.
Keith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
It's been a minute since the last election, but I do want to take this opportunity to pass out a few thankyous while I can. As everyone in this place knows, elections are not won by individuals alone; they are won by teams, by volunteers, by supporters and by individuals out there doing hard work for what they believe in, regardless of which side of the parliament you are on.
At the election last year, I have to say they were the most atrocious conditions I have ever witnessed. In my patch, it was freezing cold, blowing 20 to 30 knots and raining. To the day I die, I will never forget Warren Truss, the former deputy prime minister, in a high-vis fluorescent rain coat standing in the rain without an umbrella trying to hand out how-to-vote cards at a school in Hervey Bay. He was in his absolute element. When I went over and said, 'Warren, what are you doing?' He said, 'Well, it has to be done, and this is what I have done for many years.' I think Lyn Truss would have been quite happy to stay in bed that morning. That's what she told me! But it is those types of contributions that make the difference locally for elections.
I, of course, want to thank my family and my wife, Allison, for their ongoing tolerance and forbearance, because they get involved in this too, as every member's family does. To my office staff—to Anne, Stacey, Liz, Paula and Judy—I thank you for what you do every day. They are the forward-facing individuals that see most of the constituents—the 117,000 I have now. I thank my former ministerial staff, Gerard McManus, Kylie Barron and Candice Stower, the former chiefs of staff through the COVID pandemic, which I have to say was a punishing period of work. It is punishing to work in this place as it is, but in the midst of a one in 100 year pandemic, it was quite extraordinary, and their contribution made a real difference to our country and the response and the position we find ourselves in now. I want to thank all of them. I thank Debbie Leis, who had been with me for almost10 years. I lost her after the last election. She has gone on to do other things. What a magnificent contribution she made to my office and across the board. To all of the members and volunteers, I thank them for their support.
To those on the other side who might be getting excited that this is a valedictory, it is not a valedictory. I am very clearly continuing, and I will continue to come to this place as long as my constituents send me. As long as the people of Hinkler send me to this place, I will come. As long as I have the support of the Liberal National Party and the local members, I will be here fighting for them and fighting for the things that matter.
One of those things is Paradise Dam. What an incredible story: a dam that was built to a price, not to a standard, by the Queensland Labor government. It was an extraordinary failure. It is the biggest public infrastructure failure in this country's history. It is extraordinary: the fact it was built to the standard it was built and the decisions that were made by the state. This is now a project which will cost $1.2 billion of taxpayers' money to repair—to make it the same capacity it was when it started.
The impact has been significant on my local region, because, without reliable water supply, you cannot grow tree crops. You can not have high-value horticulture, because you simply cannot make the decisions necessary in the long term knowing that you can keep those products alive. If you can't water your trees, they die and they are lost. Sugarcane is a very different proposition. You can have a disastrous season and you can recover with the support of banks and others. But tree cropping is very different, as is horticulture.
I want to name some constituents who were involved heavily in the fight for Paradise Dam. Jamie Hansen had been incredibly frustrated. He's a good grower, and we're about the same age. We actually went to high school together—sometimes I wonder whether far too many people might have my mobile number! I know Jamie's frustration over the long period of time that it took to get this right. Our local community waited 868 days for the Queensland state Labor government to actually commit to rebuilding the dam. It's really not that difficult. Can you imagine the frustration for people who owe money, who owe their banks, who have mortgages they are committed to, who have planted tree crops looking for a future in the long term for them and their families? The hardship they have been through around this issue is quite extraordinary. It has an impact on property prices. We lost investors. We have very significant farm changeovers. It has been an incredibly difficult period.
To Wayne Baldry; to Bree Grima, head of the Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers; to Dean Akers, a former sweet potato grower now growing other things—these are people who know what hard work means, and they know what happens to their businesses and the people they employ if they cannot rely on their governments to deliver the infrastructure they need. This dam was built to a price, not to a standard, and it failed. I think all governments should recognise and acknowledge what that's meant for my local community and what has now needed to be done to make it reliable, to strengthen it and to use it into the future.
We continue to see challenges with the Paradise Dam. There are all sorts of experts, as you would imagine. We have seen significant problems locally in simply getting answers. It's not that much, if you're a local grower, to ask your government to make a commitment, knowing you have to pay the bank for the next 15, 20 or 30 years based on what you can produce from your hard work and the land that you own. It is not that difficult.
A short history: on 24 September 2019, the Labor state government announced what you would think would be a great thing—free water for everybody. They released 100,000 megalitres of water in the middle of a drought to drop the dam's capacity to 42 per cent so they could do repairs. If you can imagine, that water simply runs down the river. If you can't utilise it, it's no good to you; it's gone, it goes out to sea. It runs straight past my house. A short video of that water running through the weir had over 100,000 views. There was nothing to it; it was just freshwater that should have been stored for use into the future running out to sea.
The state Labor government spent $100 million to lower the height of the dam wall by 5.8 metres, to knock it down. In July 2021, medium priority water allocations were just 22 per cent. Imagine trying to run your household on a 22 per cent allocation of what you expect in terms of water into your home. Thankfully, there was significant rainfall in November 2021. It led to about 20,000 megalitres a day flowing into the sea because it couldn't be stored, because the wall had been knocked down. In February 2022, state Labor finally announced how much it would cost to restore the dam: $1.2 billion. That was a knock-'em-down, drag-'em-out fight to secure $600 million in federal funding. I want to thank Michael McCormack, Barnaby Joyce and the former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, for recognising how important it was that we deliver that infrastructure for the people I represent. They grow hundreds of millions of dollars worth of agriculture. Without reliable water they simply can't do that job. They are helping to feed the nation. It's an important role and one that should always be recognised.
As a former minister for resources and water, I will make a few very brief comments. I want to thank the sector. I want to thank every single individual that works in the resources sector. They were extraordinary over the period of the pandemic. Their response was simply magnificent and we see the results now, in that their contribution to the economy has grown from under $250 billion to a forecast $450 billion this financial year. That's how you pay for roads and schools and hospitals, and it is all thanks to those hardworking men and women out there doing what they had to do and making some very tough decisions, including staying away from their families for months on end. I want to acknowledge them and the contribution they've made. I'm very proud of them. I'm not ashamed of the sector; I think it's a great part of Australia. They certainly help in regional Australia constantly.
The Hinkler Regional Deal, just to give the House and my constituents an update, was first announced in November 2018, and we made a commitment of $172 million on behalf of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, the Queensland state Labor government refused to sign on. They simply wouldn't sign the agreement. We had the two councils sign on to the regional deal. But fortunately state Labor has actually contributed and delivered most of the projects that were there and inside their bailiwick. So, regardless of the fact that they didn't sign on to the piece of paper, those projects have been delivered or are underway.
But there are delays, particularly at the Port of Bundaberg, on a piece of infrastructure known as a multipurpose conveyor. Picture a river port which was designed for the sugar sector. It was designed for sugar sheds, with one delivery point to deliver sugar for an industry which now is nowhere near as big. When I was working in sugar, it was considerable. It was the industry in the local region; it is not that anymore, unfortunately. There is equipment and facilities that can be utilised for other products, but they can't do it unless they can load and unload. To do that, they need a multipurpose conveyor. The years of delays for approval by Queensland state Labor resulted in an estimated almost $8 million blowout in cost, which we then had to secure federally, and we did. I hope that project starts soon, but I'm told that there are even more political problems for it on the horizon. It is just a conveyor. Just build it. It will mean more work. It will mean more opportunities at the local port. It will mean more businesses that take up that opportunity.
The $7 million Fraser Coast Hospice is delivered and operational. While it's a terrible part of life, it is a part of life. I personally know a number of people who have utilised those services for their own end of life, and I congratulate the Fraser Coast Hospice, their board and all of the volunteers for being so committed and so strong to actually get that delivered with a $7 million package from the Commonwealth. The $5 million Hinkler agtech precinct is underway and utilised. The Hervey Bay Airport upgrade of $9 million is complete and being utilised.
In terms of roads, the Boundary Road extension in Hervey Bay that we contributed almost $8 million to is almost complete. It is the missing link in Hervey Bay. It is another cross-city link that will allow, particularly, access to hospitals for ambulances and other emergency services much quicker than other areas. The common user conveyor that I spoke about has ended up at a price of almost $18 million. It should have been $10 million, it should have been built and it should have been complete. The Torbanlea Pialba Road floodproofing, with $24 million from the Commonwealth, is well underway and is almost complete. I drove through that region in the last week. It will make a difference because it provides a floodproof link for the people of Hervey Bay to the Bruce Highway. For those of us that live in Queensland, the Bruce Highway is the lifeblood of the regions. If it is cut, we are isolated; it's that simple. This is a significant contribution and build.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service Aviation Training Facility, with $15 million from the regional deal, has started construction. I'm very pleased to say this has started construction. Can you imagine that we are ready to go for a training facility for the RFDS for their aircraft, COVID strikes and, of course, there is no travel? There is hardly any aircraft movement apart from the Royal Flying Doctor Service. There were some delays, but that is underway. I'm advised that it will contribute to the local economy, with some 1,200-plus bed nights for visitors to utilise at this facility. The simulator will be the only one of its type in Australia for the new aircraft the RFDS is moving into.
The biggest issue for my constituents locally continues to be cost of living. Many of them are not wealthy. They cannot afford increases in power prices, food prices and fuel prices. Many of them are on the age pension. Many of them do rely on social services and parenting payments. All of them are hurting because of the current state of the economy, and the cost of food and electricity in particular. We know that those opposite have an ideological bent towards a particular solution in terms of energy. I'll be up-front: I don't. It's my technical background. I support things that work. The reason that I fight against those proposals is that they simply won't work. You cannot have the entire Australian economy reliant on the weather—because it's reliant on the weather! As someone who has come off the land, I know exactly what it's like to look for rain into the future to try and determine what you do if you get too much rain, too little rain or no rain. The concept that we'd have the entire Australian economy reliant on the weather for its electricity supply is fraught with danger. It is a foolish proposition and it certainly shouldn't go ahead.
The people of my electorate have high expectations, as you would expect, and they expect us to fight for them. No-one sends me to Canberra to sit around nodding my head in furious agreement, and unfortunately there are times where that might upset some colleagues. I remember a former colleague, Mr Laundy, always told me I was outspoken and opinionated, and while he loved it, nobody else did. Unfortunately I think I will continue to do that, because it just tends to be in my nature.
However, there is more to do. If you look at the commitments the coalition made at the last election, the most important in my patch was a commitment of up to $60 million for an evacuation route for the people of Bundaberg North. We've just had the 10-year anniversary of the 2013 flood. Most of the people I speak to, including me, would like to forget that and never see it again. It was a terrible and devastating natural event. It meant the people of North Bundaberg lost access to emergency services. They lost access to the hospital, police and ambulance in a reasonable time. They could get there, but it's a very, very long way around to go back out through Gin Gin to the Bruce Highway, back through Wallaville to come all the way back around. One single investment will give them access, and that is an evacuation route aligned with the existing bridge from Bundaberg North to the Bundaberg CBD, and it is a project that should be delivered.
There will continue to be debate about whether you're better to build a flood levee. In my mind, that is an incredibly difficult engineering technical problem because the banks of the Burnett River are renowned for requiring extensive piering. They are soft, they sink—it's incredibly difficult. I spent a lot of time working for organisations along the riverbank, and they would put in pier after pier after pier trying to find a foundation. The idea that you'd have a pile of dirt nine metres wide and five or eight or nine metres high and not have it sink into the river could be quite challenging. So it's a very, very difficult proposition, and I think it will be incredibly expensive. My view has always been the same: work out what the price is, explain the technical feasibility and get support from the local community, because it will split the city of Bundaberg down the middle. I know that those people in Bundaberg North are much more focused on the ability to save their lives, to evacuate quickly and to have that evacuation route put in place. We will continue to fight for it because it's an important piece of infrastructure.
I would say to the state government: yes, we all know you've got an election coming up. We all know that the state seat of Bundaberg is a very marginal seat. But there are over 10,000 people on the north side who are relying on all of us to deliver for them the opportunity for them to be safer into the future. Whether it's this generation or the next, that is something that simply needs to be built.
For the Port of Bundaberg, I was surprised but quite pleased to see an announcement down at the Bundaberg port. We committed some $6 million five or six years ago for a new port project which will allow for tug access, hard stand and delivery of significant infrastructure to the Bundaberg port. That is another string and another piece of the economy. I was very surprised to see it announced by the local state Labor member, who had absolutely nothing to do with it. They didn't deliver any money and weren't even there when it was first announced. These are the things that happen when there is a change of government, Madam Deputy Speaker, as I am sure you know. We will continue to deliver on the things that matter locally: roads, economic development, new jobs, new opportunities.
I am still incredibly disappointed that we lost a tough but necessary policy in the cashless debit card. It was overwhelmingly supported by the people who live there. More than 60 per cent—in some research, as much as 70 per cent—support it. There are very few policies that come from this place that have that level of support across the entire constituency. They supported it and they knew it was difficult, but it worked. The amount of people who would stop me on the street to thank me because it made a difference for their grandkids, for their kids, for their cousins, for their aunties, for their uncles—it had extensive support, it made a real difference and, unfortunately, that has been lost. We will continue to put forward policy positions like that because they make a difference. What else are we here for if not to make improvements for the people that we represent?
When I came to this place, almost 10 years ago—10 years in September—my sole focus, and it remains, was to build our local economy so that we can lift people out of poverty; so we can give them an opportunity for a job, an opportunity to be trained, an opportunity for them to make their own decisions and an opportunity for them to live their lives in the way that they choose, and to pay their own way. To do that, they have to be employed in well-paid jobs that are in the region. And I'll continue to fight for that, because it matters. The unemployment rate has come down significantly—significantly—but it is still not at the national average. It is still above the national average, including for youth unemployment. So that is what I will continue to deliver on for the people who I represent.
As I said at the commencement: while they continue to send me, I'll keep coming here and I'll continue to fight for them.
Anne Stanley (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
In the spirit of reconciliation, I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. I pay my respects to elders, past and present. I extend respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples here today.
Our First Nations people are at the heart of our national identity, and the identity of First Nations people must be at the heart of our nation. The spirit of reconciliation must not be confined to pleasant words and false promises. It must not be determined by those who do not directly represent First Nations people. It must stem from a source of action—action to reconcile, action to represent and action to recognise. It was Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and a Labor government who poured the stolen soil from the Gurindji people back into the hands of Vincent Lingiari. It was Prime Minister Keating and a Labor government who confronted our national identity when Keating delivered the Redfern address. And it was Kevin Rudd and a Labor government who led the parliament in an apology to our First Nations people. And it will be Anthony Albanese and this Labor government who will implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full: Voice, treaty and truth.
With a draft question suggested, it is now time to listen and make our way towards implementation. In doing so, we progress a referendum to constitutionally enshrine the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament as a matter of priority. For far too long, tragedy has unfolded in First Nations Australians: they die too soon, they are educated far less, incarcerated too often and suffer more preventable disease. It is saddening to me that not much has changed in the 10 years since the apology. It's really time to improve, finally, the lives of First Nations people. These issues are generational and structural, and the only way to remedy the issues is to implement structural change while talking with first Australians. The Uluru Statement from the Heart, constitutional recognition and an Indigenous Voice to parliament will work towards doing this.
Last year's election was a choice, and I want to thank the people of Werriwa for choosing me to be their representative in the federal parliament for a third term. It is an amazing honour to represent an area where I have lived all of my life and where I have raised my children. No campaign is won through the actions of a single person, and that rings true, of course, for my campaign. There were so many people willing to sacrifice their hard-earned time to help re-elect me and a Labor government. I want to acknowledge all the volunteers and branch members who helped out in any way they could. Whether by letterboxing, doorknocking, phone-banking, pre-poll or on election day, your help was vital in our success and you should be as proud as I am humbled of what we achieved together.
I would like to extend a special thank you to my staff, who supported me during the tough campaign: Sharon, Natalina, Liam, Adrian and Raff. I appreciate your support and care for our community. To former staff members Nathan and Christy: thank you for your support over the past three years. I would also like to acknowledge my campaign manager extraordinaire, Loretta Fletcher, who steered the ship so well and whose friendship and support I am always really grateful for. I'd like to thank Ethan, Stella and Daniel for the support that they also gave the campaign.
It would be remiss of me if I did not mention the wonderful elected members of parliament in my part of the world, a group of people who truly care about our community. I acknowledge them for their support: the members for Macarthur, Liverpool, Macquarie Fields, Fairfield and Campbelltown, and also the Liverpool, Campbelltown and Fairfield Labor councillors. I look forward to our continued work together, this time in government, to improve the lives of people we represent.
I also acknowledge the support of my family whose unconditional support, advice, help and love is always appreciated. Larry, Matthew, Christopher, Andrew, Chantell, Siobhan, Kate, Meaghan, Horatio and Kathy and my wider friends and family: I couldn't have done any of this without you and I certainly couldn't have staffed several of the booths.
On Saturday 21 May, there was a culmination of Australia's eligible voters participating in democracy and voting for a change in government for a better future. Over 13 million voters made a choice in this election, many of whom participating for the first time. They expect a lot from this government, and I will work to ensure that they are not disappointed because Australia really did need a change in direction. But democracy is fragile and, with the pursuit of political point scoring comes the danger of misleading voters. Words matter. What you do matters. Once the trust of the system is lost, societies start to disintegrate. It is not okay to make up fanciful or farcical things about policies or opponents.
The lies I observed during this election campaign are something that I have not experienced in 30 years of political activism, and it needs to stop. Basic politeness and truth are necessary. Bullying voters is not okay, telling them untruths is not okay and manipulating images and words is neither cute nor funny. It is also not okay for members of the public or those running for office to continually break rules and abuse the process. Perhaps the most egregious example of this was when a message went out to voters on election day revealing the arrival of an asylum boat, completely ignoring previous policies of that government about on-water matters and other conventions.
I would, however, really like to congratulate the AEC workers across Australia and especially those who handled the election for the seat of Werriwa. They work long and stressful hours in the election period, but they are beyond reproach, ensuring that elections are run fairly. They do not deserve what I saw in terms of the abuse that they got. In future, members of the parliament and those seeking office should think about that.
Thankfully, though, not just the people of Werriwa but Australia as a whole didn't fall for these misleading comments or succumb to widespread misinformation. They voted for a better future. They voted for a better life, because Labor will strengthen Medicare; we have already made child care cheaper; we will build more affordable housing, and we will address the structural issues that cause inequality. People voted for secure, well-paid jobs as Labor creates them in growing industries, offering 465,000 fee-free TAFE places, creating up to 20,000 new university places and closing the gender pay gap. Our government has already delivered fee-free TAFE places, starting from the beginning of this year.
Australians voted for a future made in Australia. Our Labor government will back Australian workers and businesses, invest in our manufacturing capability, diversify our economy and make Australia self-reliant—something that was clearly necessary through the last few years and, sadly, wasn't there. The Albanese government has already introduced much of the legislation needed to enact these promises, and we will continue to work to improve the economy and the fabric for Australians.
The Jobs and Skills Summit held in September last year saw what a government can really do when it talks to its constituents. With delegates from all corners of Australian society, there was a mood for change, with 36 immediate initiatives identified to help spur wages growth and alleviate the skills shortage. Australians voted for action on climate change, and Labor has already legislated for net zero by 2050, with a 43 per cent reduction target by 2030. It will be backed by the creation of over 600,000 jobs, complemented by our Rewiring the Nation plan and the electric car discount and community batteries policies. Australians voted for a national anti-corruption commission, and Labor has already passed legislation in this House for a commission with teeth. With every state having a dedicated corruption commission, it's really an embarrassment that the previous government failed to even table a piece of legislation in the House. Integrity is one of the key issues that voters care about, and action has to be taken.
Australians want to see our oldest citizens afforded proper care and dignity, and our government has already implemented significant numbers of the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety final report, with work continuing to implement more.
They voted to put the humans back into human services, and to protect the NDIS and get it back on track so that it works for people with a disability and, more importantly, works with them. The Albanese government and Minister Shorten have worked to improve the NDIS, streamlining cases before the AAT and improving support to participants.
The Albanese government is also working to ensure that Australians can live in housing they can afford by building up to 30,000 new social and affordable housing over the next five years, Twenty thousand homes will be for some of our most vulnerable members of our society—particularly those fleeing family violence and older Australians at the risk of homelessness—and 10,000 of those homes will be for frontline workers who selflessly worked every day through the global pandemic, keeping us safe.
Australians have been feeling the effects of nine years of neglect. Those most vulnerable who live in social housing have experienced it firsthand. Their houses have been left to fall apart, without repair for years, especially in remote Indigenous communities, which are experiencing some of the worst housing standards in the world. We've committed $200 million to tackle this problem.
The wait for social housing in my part of the world is 20 years, and a decade of New South Wales Liberal government has just made this worse. Several of my constituents have come to my office telling me that their social housing is about to be sold, which is causing even more distress at the possibility of having to leave a community they've lived in for more than 60 years. Unfortunately, the letters telling them that the houses would be sold do not come with a real indication of what happens next for them or how people who have lived in their home for 40 or 60 years are going to be able to make that move. This is something that has got to be rethought for my community.
We know that young people have been acutely affected by the pandemic exacerbating issues that disproportionately affect them, such as mental health, housing and job security. The results of the 2021 census show us that Werriwa is a significantly younger electorate than the rest of Australia and New South Wales and that the median age is 34 compared to New South Wales's average of 39. According to the Salvation Army Social Justice Stocktake, the biggest issues that my constituents care about are mental health and housing affordability—with housing affordability coming a close second. That's why the commitment, at the last election, for a headspace in Edmondson Park, in my electorate, will be something that will be welcomed by young people there. Ultimately, these local and national initiatives mean that the people of Australia no longer need to feel left behind by their government. They no longer have to put up with someone who never takes responsibility and constantly sprouts untruths. The Australian people have a leader and a team to take responsibility for things that matter most to Australians.
The 2021 census showed Werriwa is becoming more diverse, with almost 50,000 of our residents being born overseas and 66 per cent of households using a language other than English at home. But Werriwa is not a static electorate. Our cultural identity constantly shifts, ebbing and flowing as the rich diversity of cultures that is south-west Sydney continues to grow and call our suburbs home. Not only are we a culturally diverse community; we're also a spiritual one compared to the rest of New South and Australia as a whole. I am always honoured to attend observations in Catholic, Anglican, Islamic, Buddhist or Hindu places of worship and schools, and to join observations for Ramadan, Eid, Diwali, Holi and Lunar New Year, Easter, Christmas and the other wonderful celebrations and events. I sincerely thank the members of these congregations for their patience and generosity. By inviting me to share your beliefs and customs, you enrich my understanding of the world as a whole and of our community.
The electors of Werriwa have needed a government that will work for them, with meaningful policies to address GP availability, affordable medicines, housing, climate change and aged care, and a federal ICAC. With our communities in south-west Sydney growing rapidly and with the new developments and the creation of the Western Sydney airport, it is important that there is proper planning and sustainable growth. Jobs from both the construction phase of the airport and ongoing jobs need to be created, to the benefit of the local area. We also need the infrastructure, the road networks and train networks, that will service the airport and make our part of the world continue to work.
I will continue to fight for the residents of Werriwa on the issues that they care about, and I thank them all for supporting my election, and me, again.
David Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I rise today to speak about the wonderful happenings in the Lyne electorate and matters in this wonderful place I'm privileged to stand in. This morning, I moved a motion in favour of recognising the amazing nuclear capability that our nation has through ANSTO and ARPANSA and operating three nuclear power plants. We are a world leader in radio isotope production. In fact, we supply 27 per cent of the world's medical isotopes for diagnosis and treatment. Not many people realise that. We have been irradiating silicon, to make silicon chips for the computer market, for decades. We have a huge slice of that, and the world depends on us to do that work at Lucas Heights; otherwise, there wouldn't be enough chips.
The amazing thing about the Australian nuclear potential is that we have the possibility of the whole box and dice, with new, modern small modular reactors replacing our retiring coal fleet. To put things in perspective, that is quite urgent. We saw what happened to the electricity market when one power station closed one of four units. That was Liddell—but there are three more units to close. By 2030, if any more coal-fired power stations bring their closure plans forward, we could be losing up to 60 per cent of our base-load generating capacity.
We know that, because of the percentage of time that renewable energy generators produce energy, whether they are wind or solar farms, their capacity factors vary from full on. For solar, they're available on average 24 per cent of the time in a really sunny country like Australia, but there are plenty of times when they produce none, like every night and every evening, and at dawn, when there's not enough to generate electricity. And there are weeks and months when there is low wind activity, even in the high-wind areas. That's why the capacity factor, or the percentage of time that renewable wind farms produce energy is, on average, about 30 per cent on land. Offshore, you might get to 35 per cent. They also have a finite life span. These wind turbines and solar panels only operate for so many years. After about 10 years, 15 per cent of wind turbines will have some mechanical problems. They've got a design life of 20-plus years, but, from experience overseas, it turns out that it's much shorter than that. That's why we need to replace base load with base load.
In Australia the transition, which is now enforced by legislation, means that these coal-fired power stations will close, unfortunately, without any adequate replacement. That's why the whole motion I moved was aimed at removing the blanket prohibitions that exist at the federal level—because we're dealing with federal legislation in the ARPANS Act—that prevent ARPANSA licensing a nuclear power plant to produce electricity. The paradox is that we've had three nuclear power plants in this country. The one at Lucas Heights is an open reactor, so it doesn't have a pressure vessel that stores the heat, but it is the same technology. And we're quite comfy with Lucas Heights operating.
Andrew Charlton (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
So it's not actually a power plant.
David Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Yes. The prohibition in the EPBC Act is similar. It's a blanket prohibition on nuclear fuel being made here or in a nuclear reactor. But a nuclear reactor, as I explained this morning, uses less than five per cent enriched uranium rods, which is far less than what is in the reactor at Lucas Heights, which is a high-assay, low-enriched uranium. It's up to 19½ per cent. No-one bats an eyelid down there. But it's between three and 4.9 per cent. There is no way that can irradiate anyone in the region. Inside a pressure vessel, if you happen to be stuck inside one, you might get some radiation. But it's a nuclear kettle; that's all it is. I'm trying to demystify what is in a nuclear reactor. People shouldn't be afraid of it. Unfortunately, we have seen responses that nuclear reactors, particularly the small modular reactors, are something way off in the distant future.
As I mentioned, in Canada, Ontario Power Generation, the public utility that runs the power system and runs 22 nuclear plants in Canada, is well advanced in its plans to build a new 300-megawatt small modular reactor. It's going through its final licensing. It will be built and operating in five years. It's not off in the twenties, forties or fifties, which people on the other side seem obsessed with.
The economics of them is the other issue that they tend to criticise us about. When I was in Canada, the retail price for electricity at the electricity plug in the block of units I was staying in—I thought, 'Let's see how cheap it is in Ontario?' Have you looked at your bill lately, Mr Speaker? You might find that you're paying 35c wholesale before all the margins are added by transmission costs and those things. But it's 6½c Canadian. That's about 8c. That's a retail price at your plug in Canada, because, in Ontario, 65 per cent of their power comes from nuclear power plants. They've also got hydro. They had a green energy act doing all the things that we are doing now. It started in 2008 in Ontario, but by 2008 they'd abandoned it and repealed it because they found their cheap, reliable electricity was becoming more expensive every year. Whilst electricity is cheap when you're getting it from a wind turbine or a solar panel in the paddock or out at the massive solar farm or on your roof, to integrate it into an electricity grid and machines is very expensive, and people don't appreciate that.
The argument that is always put up is that nuclear energy is too expensive. Well, that is an absolute false assumption. Electricity in France is the cheapest in Europe, almost. The only people that get cheaper electricity are up in Sweden, and they're expanding their nuclear capabilities too. They sell into Europe. They are the biggest exporter of electricity in the world. They have 70 per cent of the energy from nuclear. They have never had a nuclear accident, which is the same as Canada. They have been involved in nuclear power plants since the 1950s and have never had an accident.
Three experienced engineers have analysed and estimated the average cost of these new SMRs—and they have lectured on these economics—and it looks to be an overnight cost of 7,200 Australian dollars, if you look at all the published data around the world. That is a far better figure than what is mentioned in the GenCost report, which hasn't even analysed nuclear for two years and won't be until the next GenCost report in two years. But it's quoted as bible.
A standing committee of this house in 2019 interrogated the GenCost report. The member for Fremantle spoke on this, but he omitted that there were many more depositions from people who actually had experience of being involved in power plants who disputed those figures. So we interrogated the CSIRO, which had their name put to that report. They said: 'We didn't actually write the report. We got this company, an engineering firm based in New South Wales and Queensland, to do it.' So we interrogated them, and they hadn't even checked with any vendors or operators of nuclear power plants. They hadn't even done their homework. They relied on one article, put out by the World Nuclear Association, and extrapolated on it. So we contacted the World Nuclear Association, and they didn't have any figures that were remotely like anything proposed in the GenCost report.
Now the GenCost report is written by a different engineering firm. There are other engineering groups that have analysed the GenCost report. A very eminent Canadian trainer and experienced engineer and a group of concerned engineers and scientists have written to AEMO, alerting them to this fact—that their projections are not accurate and are faulty. There is another group that have analysed it—the Energy Policy Institute of Australia. It is a not-for-profit, non-partisan group that analyses all energy policy. They did an economic analysis of the integrated system plan which is based on that GenCost report, and they found it totally inaccurate. The scary thing is that the integrated system plan has relied on the GenCost report in its nonconsideration of nuclear. It's been summarily dismissed.
So it is a question of getting some reliable data on the record about the cost of nuclear. Looking at recent builds in the world, Japan's last build took three years to build a huge—over 1,000 megawatts—plant. When I visited the Emirates in 2013 in my first term in parliament, they were then embarking on building their nuclear power plants. Now they have built four of them in the space of time that I have been here. They're four huge, 1,400-megawatt plants. That's almost as big as Liddell, and they have built four of them. Three of them are commissioned and running now and the fourth one is due to come online this year.
The people at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have analysed the cost of all these builds, and there are three standout large nuclear builds that have been running over time and over budget. They are case studies for how you shouldn't build them. They were built without full plans or full certification. They changed the plans. If you know how long it takes to get regulatory approval, you know it was a very unwise move. But, if you are building with a known plan and a known product, you are fully licensed and you have competent builders with a supply chain, they can build them very quickly.
As I said, the small modular reactors will deliver efficiencies of scale. They are all the latest generation, either generation III or generation III-plus. The old generation were built in the 1950s, generation I, and in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s it was generation II, and then we went into generation III, which were built with passive safety features. So you can walk away and just turn them off and wind them down. Everyone knows the disaster that happened at Chernobyl. Those old Russian designs aren't built anymore. If you used one of them, it would be like buying a new car but getting a 1950s designed car. It was badly managed. They had no safety culture and they used it way beyond expectation. That design had inherent faults in it. That's why there was such a horrible accident.
Fukushima was a horrible accident. We admit that. But it wasn't a nuclear explosion that happened; there was a hydrogen gas explosion inside the plant because the cooling systems that were destroyed by the tsunami were knocked out. Diesel pumps flooded by the tsunami were the reason the heat in the core built up, and there was a meltdown. But, when it gets that hot, the oxygen and other things get separated from the zirconium alloy, and hydrogen is produced. When that meltdown occurred, when the hydrogen gas got exposed to air, it ignited, and that's what caused the explosion in Fukushima.
That was a Generation II plant. Plants built since then have inherent safety features, just like the Volvos that you get now have a lot of passive safety systems, just like your mobile phone is now small and much better and much more capable. Things can get smaller but more efficient, and that's what's happening in the nuclear space. These Generation III+ and the new Generation IV ones that are planned—you've heard of the Natrium reactor that Bill Gates is involved in—are of the next generation. They are incredibly safe.
I will just take this opportunity to mention where we sit in the world of nuclear. I mentioned this morning that we are incredibly well respected. We are part of the International Atomic Energy Agency membership. We sit on all the safety committees. ARPANSA regularly has Australian officers interrogating. In fact, the former head of ARPANSA, who's still finishing up the inquiry into Fukushima, is an Australian. That's how well regarded we are. We are incredibly well regulated. We have a non-proliferation office. We've signed up to all the appropriate international treaties, such that other countries trust us and know that we can regulate this technology very well.
At the moment there is a huge expansion of nuclear activity in the world, almost like a stampede. In the past it's been called a renaissance, but it's actually a stampede. Countries that are existing nuclear giants, like France, like the UK, like America, like Canada, have all announced that they are undergoing massive expansions of their nuclear plants, both large reactors and new small modular reactors. Canada are the most advanced, and they have a very equivalent regulatory structure and phenomenon of legislative similarities. They are very similar to Australia, and they would be a great model for us to follow.
Other countries around the world are getting into nuclear. Sweden has now announced, rather than retreating from nuclear, it's building more, and it's the same with Holland and, as I mentioned, with France, where there are 14 new reactors and where they're building their own small modular reactor.
President Biden has given $6 billion to maintain all the existing nuclear plants in the US, and they've got developments happening across the country as well. In California, the California legislature voted 157 to three to keep the huge nuclear reactor at Diablo Canyon running. The phenomenon they have is that they have a very large penetration of renewables in their grid, and—surprise, surprise!—they have blackouts quite regularly, like South Africa has. They have blackouts regularly. They've let their baseload coal-fired power stations decline. And that's where we're going to end up; we're going to end up like California and South Africa, where they issue notices every day about which city doesn't get electricity, like it used to be in the 1950s and 60s. It is scary.
Other countries around the world are lining up to increase the percentage of their grid to nuclear. That is something that we need to consider very seriously. We have all these coal-fired plants that are going to close because the regulations restrict their free trade and the renewable energy targets and our other legislated climate targets mean they are doomed to fail. So we need to get an adequate replacement. We can do it, but the first cab off the rank is to consider removing the ARPANS Act and the EPBC Act so that our bureaucrats can analyse things, as we have done, and businesses can look at feasibility studies. No-one will come to Australia and do it unless we remove those prohibitions. They will still have to be analysed for safety and environmental outcomes, like any other major development, but I call on this House to have a say and look at how important a civil nuclear industry is when we've got the AUKUS agreement, where we're going to run nuclear subs. We need a civil nuclear industry to support the take-up of nuclear-powered submarines. It's a critical part of infrastructure that isn't even mentioned but is going to be essential for Australia, for us to have nuclear powered subs— (Time expired)
Justine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
IOT (—) (): Following on from the member for Lyne, who, I note, dedicated his entire speaking time to talking about nuclear power—I know he and many of the National Party members do like to spruik nuclear power everywhere—can I make it really clear that my opinion and the opinion of people in my area is that nuclear power is too expensive and far too dangerous. That is a view that has been echoed many, many times right throughout the North Coast of New South Wales. One of the reasons people are such strong opponents is that we do know that it must be based in close proximity to water. So coastal areas, indeed, such as the member's electorate, would be a prime location. I did want to put on the record, given the previous speaker's strong commitment to nuclear power, how much I oppose it, considering how dangerous it is.
Today, for the address-in-reply, I would like to particularly thank the people of Richmond for entrusting me to be their representative here in the federal parliament and, very importantly, for their strong voice for the Albanese Labor government. It is indeed a great honour to represent your community here and one that I take very seriously.
Of course, in the election in May last year, people in my region voted for change, for a new government and a new direction for this country. I would like to acknowledge and thank the Prime Minister for his leadership and commitment to improving the lives of all Australians, no matter where they live. Those of us in regional and rural Australia certainly know what a strong understanding the Prime Minister and the entire government have of the needs of people in regional Australia.
When it comes to my area, the Prime Minister has been to the New South Wales North Coast many, many times over many decades. He certainly understands the people and the issues. He was there on the ground a year ago, particularly, soon after the very devastating floods that we had. Indeed, we are coming up to the first anniversary of the floods that hit the North Coast very hard. There is still a lot of widespread trauma across the region because of the floods. Many people are still looking to get a lot of their premises and residences repaired. As we often say, when it rains, everyone panics across the North Coast because of the extent of that devastation. The Prime Minister was there soon after, on the ground, listening to locals about the impact of the floods. We're talking about the area from the border region right through to Ballina in the southern part of my electorate and, of course, the adjoining area in Page, Lismore, which was severely devastated. The Prime Minister was there listening and talking to people right throughout the region, in my area, in Ballina and in Murwillumbah. Indeed, many others from the Labor team came to hear firsthand about the impact on our community. Since being elected, the Albanese Labor government has delivered much-needed funding to the region to assist with the recovery.
As I said many times during the federal election campaign, only voting Labor will ensure that you get a Labor majority government to deliver on our commitments. It is the only way we can deliver on our agenda to improve people's lives. I really want to acknowledge and thank particularly all the many Labor members and volunteers who worked very hard for my re-election and the election of the Albanese Labor government. I would especially like to acknowledge my incredible, hardworking and dedicated staff.
As I said before, our region has been devastated by the floods, and, as I've said many times to people in my community, I'm here with you every day, every step of the way. It has been a very long year and a very difficult year, but we are a very resilient, very close community and we look out for each other. What I would like to point out is that there is still a lot of widespread concern that the former Morrison government failed to provide the support we needed on the ground at the time, especially by denying us extra disaster payments, which were made to people in areas south of my electorate of Richmond. To this very day I find it absolutely staggering, as do people in my region, that the former Prime Minister, the member for Cook, played politics with people's lives when they had been devastated by floods. You just can't do that. Indeed, we saw a similar tale in New South Wales with the former Deputy Premier of that state, when we were made aware of the rorts that he set up in relation to the bushfire grants. What I say to all of those in the Liberal and National parties is that this is above politics. When people are hit with natural disasters, you need to (1) be on the ground and listen to them and (2) provide the support and services they need, because this impacts people for a long time. At the time when the member for Cook denied us that extra funding, it was a really significant blow to those people who had lost so much.
In terms of the flooding and its impact, we do need to see greater planning from the New South Wales government around emergency management. That was certainly highlighted at the time and in all subsequent inquiries. What was exposed was that the New South Wales government had really nothing in place to provide the immediate support needed, the recovery or the rebuilding. We were left on our own. The community rightly demanded a lot better in terms of that planning and resourcing. This is an issue on which the state government certainly needs to place a greater emphasis.
At the federal election, the people of my area voted for change, for a new government and, of course, for our plans to build a better future for everyone. Since the election, we've hit the ground running and demonstrated the approach to the values that really do shape this government and that we really want to get things done in a determined way to improve people's lives. After that decade of waste, inaction and delay from the previous government, we inherited a whole range of problems that we got to work on immediately. The previous government left us an economy with a trillion dollars in debt, declining productivity, wages going backwards and Medicare in crisis, as well. There are so many issues right across the board. Aged care is in crisis as well. We inherited this from the previous government, because of their inaction. It always does fall to Labor governments to make the big reforms that create lasting prosperity and a better future for everyone as well.
We've really hit the ground running across a whole range of different areas, and here we are now, on the first sitting day of 2023, looking back on all of the commitments we've delivered on since being elected. There have been so many changes that have improved people's lives. One of the most important things in my area is investing in secure local jobs. In the regions, it's vitally important. We've delivered investments in skills and training, including fee-free TAFE in areas of skills shortage. That's really important to support local jobs and protect local regional economies.
Also, of course, we've delivered real action on climate change—an issue that so many people in my area and across the country have been calling out for such a long period of time. Many issues that we're addressing relate to the cost-of-living increases, like cheaper child care. Again, this is another issue that families have desperately called on for so long. Fixing the aged-care crisis is vitally important for our older Australians when they need to access that care. When it comes to health care, we're providing cheaper medicines and working to fix Medicare and all of the problems that we inherited because of the inaction of the previous government. Another really important issue is housing affordability, which we are acting on through a whole range of different measures. This, particularly in regional areas such as mine, is incredibly important.
Another reform that people have called for for a long time is the federal anticorruption commission. Finally we have that underway in this country, because of the Albanese Labor government. Many people have been calling for this for a long time. We are very proud to have been delivering on that, as well as the 10 days of paid domestic violence leave and paid parental leave, which are so incredibly important. Also, advancing the Voice to Parliament is a really important initiative that I hope all members of this House think seriously and deeply about. I hope they embrace that and stand with us to get the Voice to Parliament. It is such an important issue as we move forward.
One of the many things that we have achieved is scrapping the former Morrison government's cruel cashless debit card. We committed to doing that, and we have done that. In doing so, we protected many pensioners from being forced onto that card. We knew the Morrison government's agenda was to force our aged pensioners, particularly, onto the cashless debit card. People elected us to get rid of it, and we have done that. Many of our initiatives, like our Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Act 2022, have been about getting wages moving, helping close the gender pay gap and promoting job security.
On a local level, we are delivering on all of the commitments that I made during the election, and they will mean big improvements for the North Coast. First is the $5 million for the one-stop veteran wellbeing centre in the Tweed Shire. It will be a one-stop shop for veterans and their families to access a range of services, including wellbeing support, advocacy, employment, housing assistance and social connection. It's so important to have this veterans hub. These are people who have sacrificed so much for our nation. They need to have that dedicated space to have that assistance provided. All that work is underway in consultation with our local RSLs to make sure that we have in place the veterans hub they need.
Another election commitment was $1 million for a new pound and rehoming centre at Murwillumbah. This has been desperately needed since the old pound closed in September 2019. This $1 million election commitment comes on top of another $1.76 million in federal funding, a significant amount of federal funding for that new pound. The new pound will have 16 dog pens, 11 cat cages and a brand-new facility that includes a Friends of the Pound shelter, with up to 28 dog and cat pens, two stables and paddocks for farm animals. I'd like to take the opportunity to acknowledge Friends of the Pound, an incredible animal rescue charity that works very closely with the community and the council to ensure these beautiful animals are cared for and rehomed. That's a centre that we will be very pleased to see open.
Another election commitment was $750,000 for a new social enterprise commercial laundry in Bangalow, which will be run by social enterprise organisation White Box Enterprises. This project will provide long-term unemployed locals with an opportunity to build their work experience in Bangalow. Another election commitment was $1.5 million for the Lennox Head village upgrade. Lennox is one of our many special, beautiful coastal villages. This upgrade, which is underway and looks amazing so far, really does complete the Lennox Head village project. I am very pleased to have been delivering on all my election commitments. Also, just after the election, I announced some vital funding for headspace: $2 million for an expansion of headspace Tweed Heads. And, a few months ago, I announced $3.4 million for a new headspace in Ballina, which is desperately needed in that area.
I'm also very honoured to be the Assistant Minister for Social Services and the Assistant Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence. In terms of women's safety, this government has had many achievements since we were elected. First of all, last year we delivered the National Plan to End Violence against Women and their Children. It's a shared vision of all Australian governments to end gender based violence within one generation. It provides the blueprint for the next 10 years to end family, domestic and sexual violence. In our budget in October we announced a $1.7 billion investment to make sure there were more women and children's safety measures to support the plan. That delivered our election commitment of 500 frontline service and community workers. It's an important initiative to have those extra workers throughout the country.
Last year we also announced Australia's first Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner. Micaela Cronin commenced that role in November and is one of only three national domestic violence commissioners worldwide. Micaela Cronin is doing an outstanding job in that role, and that role is central to the oversight of our national plan. Across so many areas, we are delivering so much and delivering on all of those election commitments.
In the remaining time that I have, I would like to talk about the current state government of New South Wales, the Liberal and Nationals state government. The fact is that in New South Wales we need a new government. We have the tired, old Perrottet government that's run out of steam—scandal after scandal. We need to see them gone and we need to see a Minns Labor government elected on 25 March.
Aside from all of the rorts, we've seen many plans they've had that have been so detrimental to the people in my area on the north coast. I did refer earlier to the Perrottet government's lack of planning, when it comes to preparation for natural disasters such as flooding. In fact, they have no plans. When our community was hit by the floods, the state government were nowhere to be seen. Their response was inadequate. People will remember that—and they'll remember that when they go to vote in March.
We've seen another range of measures from the New South Wales Liberals and Nationals that have hurt our community. First and foremost, wages have been cut to public sector workers through the wages cap. This impacts so many frontline workers and means they are getting less in their wages. It's an issue people raise with me every day and it's impacting so many people across the board. When it comes to frontline workers, we've also had a lack of police, nurses and teachers, because the Perrottet government and governments before that have failed to invest. They've failed to invest in these services. They've failed to provide adequate wages and conditions. We have so many of them leaving northern New South Wales. We're on the border. They go to Queensland because they have better wages and conditions for so many of the frontline workers. So, again, we need to have a new government.
We particularly need to have more police and policing resources. I say that as a former police officer. It's an issue that community members raise with me every day, that crime is out of control. I hear it every day. I see it in all of the community Facebook groups, constantly, about the lack of resources. Our police do an incredible job but they have a government in New South Wales that does not support them and does not provide enough resources for them. Police numbers are so incredibly low, within our region, and that's added to it.
They've gone down over the last 10 years. Only a few months ago, we found out that in our district—the Tweed-Byron Police District—there are 181 sworn police. This compares to February 2012 when we had 198 officers. That's how far it's gone down. The New South Wales government tries to hide these figures all the time. The reason they try and hide them is that they keep going down. Our community are calling for more police resources, and they're calling for a new government. They're calling for a Minns Labor government.
These are some of the many issues that highlight why we've been failed by the Perrottet government—not to mention their great big new housing tax as well, which will impact the pensioners in my region. People are particularly terrified of that.
There's also the closure of the schools at Murwillumbah. This is an issue that I have previously raised in this House. In October 2020—without any consultation, without telling anybody—half of the National Party rolled up at Murwillumbah. This included the Tweed Nationals MP, Geoff Provest, and the then leader of the Nats and the education minister. They announced—without talking to anyone—that all four public schools in Murwillumbah were going to close and, instead, they were going to build a mega school.
That was it. They didn't talk to anybody and they've refused to consult with people since then. It's completely insulting to the community. We have concerns about why they're doing that. There are some big land grabs, we think, underway at Wollumbin High. They want to flog that one off, for sure. It's part of their privatisation agenda we see right throughout the state, and we see it time and time again.
This shameful act by the New South Wales Premier and the Tweed Nationals MP, Geoff Provest, must be stopped. The fact is that their government is unfit, unwilling and unable to govern New South Wales with cuts like this. Shutting those four schools not only hurts the children and the community but jobs will be cut there. It is devastating for the whole community.
People have an opportunity to stop this. New South Wales Labor will not allow these schools to be closed at all, and that is a very strong point that's been made by the state member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin. She is a fantastic Labor member—outstanding—and has talked a lot about the fact that these schools will all remain open under Labor. I urge people in Murwillumbah and right throughout the North Coast to make sure they change the government. Get rid of this old, tired Perrottet government and get a fresh new start with Chris Minns and all the incredible agendas he and his team have for improving health, education and frontline services, and ending privatisation.
We particularly need to see, in our region, these schools saved. Who in their right mind shuts four schools and forces everyone into one campus? We're talking about very young children right through to high-school children. The level of trauma this has caused the community is absolutely massive. This has been going since October 2020, and they have refused to come and listen to people. It shows what they think of us and how insulting they are to regional and rural people that they behave this way. The question is: whose school will be next? Where else throughout the New South Wales North Coast will they be shutting schools? Tweed? Kingscliff? Pottsville? All the way down to Byron Bay or further and beyond? It shows how insulting they are.
In fact, the only people that can really provide that assistance for regional and rural Australia are the Labor Party. We've shown at a federal level how committed we are to the people of the regions. We know a Minns Labor government will be equally committed to the people of the regions. It is only Labor that will stand up for the people in regional and rural Australia.
Anne Webster (Mallee, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Development) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
As I reflect on my first speech to parliament in 2019 I remain constantly reminded of the privilege to serve the people of Mallee and represent them in federal parliament. A lot has changed since my maiden speech, both in Mallee and more broadly in Australia, and, indeed, around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic changed us all and changed many aspects of our lives—how society operates and how politics is perceived and operates right around the globe. Thankfully, we have pushed through those challenges and are now on the other side, getting back to business.
Some things, however, do not change. Mallee is a beautiful, diverse, productive and innovative region. It is a great privilege to represent the people of Mallee, from Talbot in the south, Cohuna in the east, Poolaijelo in the west and Mildura in the north. Mallee is over a third of the geographical area of Victoria—83½ thousand square kilometres. From the river country in the north to the mountains in the south and the planes in between, Mallee's varied landscape means produce is incredibly diverse. Incredible productivity comes from prime agricultural and horticultural land. Producers grow stone fruit, grapes, vegetables, wheat, legumes, olives, almonds, dairy, sheep and beef, just to name a few.
Mallee is about not only agriculture but other key industries such as minerals and clean energy systems which contribute to the economy. REMPLAN now estimates Mallee's gross regional product at $9.92 billion, with an annual economic output of more than $14 billion. The people of Mallee are proud of their innovation, with groups such as the Birchip Cropping Group and Mallee Sustainable Farming pioneering farmer driven research to enhance the agricultural industry in our area and beyond.
The people and communities of Mallee are particularly resilient, and thrive when faced with challenge. Travelling around the district, I am filled with pride at the many local enterprises in Mallee. Despite the odds, they are thriving. People are connected, towns are alive and services are operating. To bring a little bit of Mallee to my colleagues here in the House, I invited producers from across Mallee to showcase their fabulous produce in 2022. Magnificent Mallee was supposed to occur in 2020, but COVID prevented it taking place. I'm thrilled to say that over 20 producers were at the showcase, and what a night it was for all concerned. It is an event I am incredibly proud of.
Another example of resilience and innovation in Mallee is the extraordinary development and uptake of digital agriculture, for farmers to engage with and access global markets. Young people continue to return to the family farm precisely because farming has become high tech, and they can reach global markets on their digital devices while sitting in their auto-steered harvesters. When the coalition was in government, I worked hard to help Mallee farmers remain digitally connected. Community is built on communication. If you don't have it, the result is entrenched isolation, and nobody thrives in isolation. When we were in government, we delivered the Regional Connectivity Program and $1.3 billion to improve telecommunications, which included $480 million to upgrade NBN fixed-wireless and satellite networks as well as $811 million to expand regional mobile coverage and address black spots for 8,000 kilometres of roads and adjoining homes and businesses. To improve telecommunication, 1,200 mobile black spot base stations were funded by the coalition, and I will continue to advocate for more connectivity in Mallee.
One of the most significant challenges we face every day in Australia, and certainly in Mallee, is a relatively small population spread over large distances. Roads, rail and bridges are essential for productivity and community life. Getting locals and tourists alike safely home and wherever they need to go is a priority. Our farmers and industry rightfully demand efficient transport systems to access domestic and export markets. Millions of tonnes of product are transported on road and rail each year in Mallee, and both road and rail are in dire need of significant infrastructure expenditure, especially once the floods have dried up.
When in government, we delivered more than $440 million for the Murray Basin Rail Project, $200 million of which I personally fought for and achieved. The completion of the project will connect primary producers in the north-west of Victoria with the ports of Portland, Geelong and Melbourne. The project is expected to improve the productivity and efficiency of freight networks and to improve road safety by moving freight from road to rail. Unfortunately the Victorian government, under Premier Daniel Andrews, has failed to uphold its end of the bargain and complete this project in a timely manner.
More disappointingly, the current federal Labor government has taken $280 million out of our ROSI program in the Mallee. There are five highways that desperately need that infrastructure spend, and it's been ripped out by this government. As someone who regularly travels on Mallee roads throughout my electorate, I know that an efficient regional rail system would bring many social, safety and productivity benefits for everyone. More trains mean fewer B-doubles and B-quads on the road.
I have Australia's mightiest river as my northern border and other rivers, such as the Avoca and the Loddon, in my electorate. Consequently water is a priority issue. Droughts and floods have dire consequences, as we've seen recently in communities in Mallee. Water from the Murray River is the lifeblood of our regions, underpinning agriculture and primary industry sectors which support 220,000 jobs and inject billions into our national economy. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is key to this and critical to the people of Mallee. We need to protect our farming communities by ensuring greater regulation, accountability and transparency. However, the greatest risk we face now is Labor committing to water buybacks. Buybacks are a disaster to regional communities. Making it worse, Labor are not transparent about any of it. Apparently the member for Sydney does not believe it's necessary. This has Mallee farmers more than worried about the potential impacts on them if the cost of licensed water rises. We have always advocated for the people and that any water taken must not impact our communities, undeniably Australia's food bowl. The Murray-Darling Basin Plan must be managed in a way that considers the continent, not parochial corners of it, as Edmund Barton would say.
The cost of living, particularly energy prices, remains another pressing issue for Mallee—indeed, for all Australians. Power prices are going up and up, and the Labor government has no plan to mitigate the impact on mum-and-dad families.
Labor has broken promises to cut power bills by $275, and the average Australian family will be $2,000 worse off in the current situation. The Labor government has committed to reckless renewable energy targets which will further drive up these prices. The Minister for Climate Change and Energy has acknowledged that, since the election last year, 22,000 solar panels will have to be installed every day and 40 wind turbines built every month until 2030. In addition, 28,000 kilometres of poles and wires need to be built to transfer power onto the grid and around the country. The great news is that the first eight kilometres have been approved for Snowy 2.0, so there's only 27,992 kilometres to go.
I am committed to emissions reductions and lowering energy prices while ensuring sustainability and reliability. Consequently I will always advocate for sensible, measured approaches. Under the previous coalition government, we had set a technology road map which meant that targets could legitimately be achieved while ensuring sustainable energy costs and delivery. Indeed, Mallee is perfectly positioned for renewables. In 2019, when I was elected, the capacity of existing grid infrastructure made some promising options unviable. I lobbied the former Minister for Energy, Angus Taylor, and welcomed the announcement of the VNI West interconnector via Kerang, which is in Mallee, to be delivered by 2027.
KerangLink will deliver an extra 1,800 megawatts of capacity during peak demand periods, help lower prices and allow Victoria to export 1,930 megawatts to New South Wales. The project will help maintain system security and reliability while also allowing more renewable energy to be connected to the grid. The project will open the floodgates for private sector investment in what is known as the Murray River Renewable Energy Zone, an area mapped by the Australian Energy Market Operator that encompasses significant renewable resources. In Mallee, there are currently 11 wind farms and 44 solar farms, with another on the way with 390,000 solar panels soon to be installed.
Working with businesses in Mallee has been a big part of my role in my first term—and now my second term—of parliament. Pre COVID, we had almost 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Mallee, many of which are family owned. Back then, they struggled to attract workforce, and the pandemic years created additional challenges, with many businesses just unable to survive. Attracting a workforce remains a significant issue, particularly in the horticulture industry. Without workers, you cannot harvest. Food goes to waste and supply is affected. When supply is affected, prices go up. That is why I fought so hard for an agricultural visa to help growers in Mallee and beyond solve that issue.
The Nationals in government delivered this, with Vietnam signing a memorandum of understanding with the federal government. The ag visa was to be demand driven and would allow skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers from participating countries to come to Australia. It offered a pathway to permanency. The Labor Party scrapped this visa, insulting growers across Australia, who were robbed of a solution to their issues. Thankfully, the memorandum of understanding with Vietnam will be upheld, but my inquiries lead me to understand that there are no Vietnamese workers in the country under the visa as yet. We need to do better. As long as I stand as a member of parliament, I will fight for better.
I was recently honoured to be offered the shadow regional health portfolio, tackling an issue that is of utmost importance not only for the constituents of Mallee but for all who live in regional Australia. In my first speech, I addressed this issue: your health status should not depend on your postcode, but it absolutely does. We need responsive and sustainable health care delivery for the nine million people who call the regions their home. Isolation is a key contributor to poor health outcomes and risks. While isolation might be mitigated by telecommunications and the network of first responders, distance and the lack of workforce are key troubles for regional communities. We need more doctors, nurses, allied health workers and mental health workers. We have reached crisis point, and the current federal and state governments have offered only bandaid solutions. A survey I am running for the people of Mallee, which has been responded to by 2,000 people so far, shows that 30 per cent do not have a regular GP, 40 per cent put off trying to get an appointment because it's just too hard and takes weeks. Many have to wait eight weeks. A third of respondents have had to turn to the hospital ED because they cannot get an appointment with a GP. This is untenable, and results in poorer mortality and morbidity rates in regional areas.
A longer-term solution is training local students in health in our regional centres, such as Mildura, Horsham and Swan Hill. I fought for and achieved an election promise to fund a biomedical wet lab at La Trobe University in partnership with Monash and Melbourne universities in Mildura to help build the workforce into the future. In opposition, I have approached the minister for health and the minister for education to support this vital project. I have invited both ministers to come to Mildura and meet the local universities and the hospitals to further this important scheme. This is a local solution and needs support. This investment in modern, high-tech facilities would mean that La Trobe will be even better placed to ease some of the pressure we currently face in the regional health workforce.
I will continue to fight for Mallee's healthcare system at all levels. A great source of pride was when I was able to deliver funding for the multimillion-dollar radiation therapy bunker in Mildura, with Mildura Health Private Hospital. This centre, which will open in the next few weeks, will mean people will not have to travel to Adelaide, Bendigo or Melbourne for radiotherapy and cancer treatment. I know the added burden that travel and isolation from families means when you are sick. In my maiden speech, I was privileged to have my father in the House. He was suffering from terrible cancer at that time and had to travel for radiation therapy to Melbourne. We lost him not many months later. Cancer is an awful disease and everything must be done in research and services to make this journey easier for those who suffer, but even more so for families in regional communities. The inequity is unacceptable. I am pleased that shortly patients will be able to receive life-saving treatment in Mildura, closer to their families and near their homes.
I remain passionate about injustice and understand the need for holistic approaches to the barriers faced by regional and rural communities. Before I came to parliament, with a small team I founded a not-for-profit organisation, Zoe Support, a holistic, wraparound and place based support to meet the needs of teen mothers and assist them to re-engage in education and employment. Zoe's Support continues to have extraordinary outcomes, impacting two generations and sometimes even three. Homelessness, mental health issues, drug and alcohol use and family violence have been significantly reduced through this essential service. Many young mothers are now educated and employed, and their children regularly attend school. Many are in their own private housing, not public housing, and are managing their affairs.
Over the years, I studied vulnerability in my PhD. I saw it in the mums at Zoe, and it provided great insight into our service model. I understand that the vulnerable are all around us and, in fact, are us: young mothers, Indigenous Australians, refugees, farmers in drought or flood, the unemployed, the aged, the chronically ill, those who live with a disability and returned soldiers, among others. The structural factors of vulnerability are irreversibility, dependency and unpredictability. While these factors are present every day in all of our lives to some extent or another, for the vulnerable they can be overwhelming and paralysing. I will continue to fight for the vulnerable and for my regional and rural communities in Mallee.
In closing, I said when I took office that I was deeply humbled to be given the opportunity to represent the people of Mallee. Now in my fourth year in office, I remain deeply humbled and grateful for the opportunity. I look forward to continuing to fight for Mallee and to contributing to the prosperity and wellbeing of all Australians.
Kristy McBain (Eden-Monaro, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I'm thrilled to rise today as the Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories and, more importantly, as the member for Eden-Monaro. I've been given a portfolio that I am incredibly passionate about, growing up in regional Victoria and then moving to regional New South Wales, where I am also raising my own kids in a beautiful part of the world, the Bega Valley, a stunning spot for anyone who wants to come and visit.
I know how important it is that regional communities aren't left behind. I want to see our regional areas continue to thrive so that our kids have the same opportunities as their counterparts who live in the cities. As a former mayor of the Bega Valley Shire, I am also all too aware of the challenges facing our local government sector, and I look forward to working closely with my local government counterparts on the issues impacting them, financial sustainability chief among them.
Over the last eight months I have dived headfirst into my role as Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories and I have learnt a lot so far; however, there is always more to know and there are always more communities to understand. I have been fortunate enough to travel to a number of rural and regional areas across Australia already, and I am looking forward to exploring more of our vast regions and meeting those people who make our regions so amazing. I have been to Norfolk Island on a couple of different occasions, and I will soon be travelling to Jervis Bay, the Northern Territory and the Indian Ocean Territories. As part of my ministerial role, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with over 170 local councils to hear what is important to them and to give them an opportunity to raise their concerns. I intend to continue doing this, and I am looking forward to as many meetings with councils as possible during my time as minister.
The Albanese government went to the election with an ambitious legislative agenda, and, since that election, the Albanese government has delivered. It has delivered cheaper medicine, which took effect on 1 January, and many people across Eden-Monaro—particularly those on medication, but also a number of our local pharmacists—have highlighted what a major reform this is. Cheaper child care will benefit 1.2 million families from 1 July, and there are many of those in Eden-Monaro. There are 180,000 fee-free TAFE places to help ease the skills shortages and help more Australians train for better jobs—a job that those opposite vacated in their time. Work has now begun on important renewable energy projects that will create jobs, boost communities and make sure Australia has a secure, reliable energy supply. Australians will soon have the opportunity to vote for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament for First Australians, a gracious invitation that has been extended. We have the opportunity to honour the oldest continuing culture in a meaningful way.
Whilst my ministerial portfolio will keep me busy, serving Eden-Monaro remains my highest priority. We have had an incredibly tough couple of years, and our communities deserve a strong local voice in Canberra. I will continue to be just that. I will always advocate for the needs of Eden-Monaro to ensure that we get the best for our region. With an electorate that spans 42,000 square kilometres, I know that there is a lot to deliver for our communities. While I know there is more to do, I was pleased that the Albanese Labor government has committed to delivering much more than the last government did for our region.
We have committed to delivering better health services across the electorate, with $1.1 million going to the respite care centre in Queanbeyan, a much-needed facility championed by the recently passed Yvonne Cuscheri after her experience of having a child with a terminal illness who unfortunately passed away in an aged-care facility, without a dedicated respite facility for people of his own age. There's also $5 million for the veterans' wellbeing centre in Queanbeyan. We know that there is a huge cohort of current and former Defence personnel in our region, and we need to make sure they have access to the services they need, which is why this announcement was so fantastic and much needed. There's $4.7 million for the return of maternity services to Yass District Hospital. With one of the biggest country regions booming, it is high past time that we have those services delivered back to that local hospital.
There's $2 million for the Googong sports and social club, upgrades to Freebody Oval and George Brown Memorial Oval, and fire trail maintenance in the Snowy Valleys. There's $750,000 for an all abilities playground in Murrumbateman. These are all things that are needed to make our communities liveable. There are infrastructure and furniture improvements for preschools and schools across Eden-Monaro. There's $10,000 for the Cooma Lambie Street Preschool, the Cooma North Preschool and the Captain's Flat Community Preschool. There's $20,000 for Eden Public School's landscaping, $80,000 for the Yass High School basketball court, $20,000 for the Brungle Public School playground and $20,000 for Khancoban Public School for desks and chairs. These are all much-needed upgrades going to some of the 120-odd schools across Eden Monaro.
Improving phone connectivity and getting rid of blackspots is a huge priority for us, especially after the number of natural disasters our communities have endured, which is why we have committed a million dollars each for the Snowy Mountains, Monaro and Kings Highways, and $3.5 million for patchy areas along the Princes Highway between Ulladulla and Eden. We know the royal commission into the Black Summer bushfires showed that people were expecting to get information while travelling on these main thoroughfares as they were leaving emergency areas. More needs to be done, and our government will deliver it.
Carwoola, Mystery Bay, Dalmeny and Talbingo will receive $500,000 each to deal with mobile blackspots. These communities have been campaigning for these much-needed upgrades for years now. We're also delivering critical safety upgrades for roads across Eden-Monaro. There's $17.4 million for the Brindabella Road and $65 million for the creation of Dunns Creek Road. In addition to this funding, the key upgrades and improvements that are very much needed, and after listening to local feedback, the government has increased the funding for Brindabella Road by $20 million, bringing our investment to $37.4 million, which will provide much-needed safety upgrades and will improve tourism opportunities in the Tumut region.
I'm incredibly proud to be the member for Eden-Monaro. It is a privilege that I will never take for granted. Every single time I stand up in this parliament, I always have the Eden-Monaro community in front of mind. That being said, I will use the rest of my time to shine a light on some of the incredible things that have been happening across my electorate.
Snowboarding has really taken off in Eden-Monaro, which is home to the Snowy Mountains, as it should be. A huge congratulations to Jindabyne's Josie Baff, who got her first ever snowboard World Cup podium finish in snowboard cross—and it was gold!—and to Dalmeny local Valentino Guseli for a huge effort to win the crystal globe at the 2022-23 FIS Snowboard World Cup in Australia. Incredible work, Josie and Valentino. Thank you for everything you're doing for Eden-Monaro and for making Australia proud.
At this year's Australia Day ceremony in Queanbeyan, it was fantastic to recognise the brilliant season of the Queanbeyan Whites Rugby Union club, the Queanbeyan Tigers AFL Club and the Monaro Panthers Football Club, which were all recognised for their premiership-winning seasons in 2022. And if the Queanbeyan Blues had managed to score a few more, four of the Queanbeyan football codes would have taken the premiership cup. It's Queanbeyan's sports excellence at its finest, and I'm confident to say that there will be even more stellar results in the 2023 season.
I also want to give a shout-out to our very own futsal superstar, Christian Marchetti, from Jerrabomberra. Christian has been selected in the Australian futsal team and will compete in the national futsal championships in Barcelona later this year. All the best to Christian. I'm sure all your hard work and training will pay off, and I look forward to catching up with you on your return. Whilst I'm talking about futsal champions—they abound in our region—I want to say congratulations to Elodie Morrison, Evelyn Knight, Beatrice Morrison and Addison Brummel for representing the ACT and surrounds at the Australian Futsal Championships a few weeks ago.
One of my favourite things to do is to hit the road and visit the wonderful communities that make up Eden-Monaro. Recently, I've held mobile offices in Talbingo, Wyndham, Cooma, Narooma, Yass, Adelong, Bungendore, Cobargo and Queanbeyan. During these catch-ups, I've had the opportunity to hear from communities about the important issues that matter to them, from improving communications connectivity in our regional and remote areas to hearing firsthand experiences of flood-ravaged communities. I'm looking forward to catching up with the Rosewood and Batlow communities in coming weeks, and if you're in the Queanbeyan area, my annual office open day is happening on 13 March. I'd love to see you.
Eden-Monaro is home to so many fantastic festivals and events, and we celebrate what the arts do for our community, which is bring people together and give people a reason to travel to our beautiful part of the world. Last year I had the privilege of attending the melanoma awareness day festival—something that's very close to my heart—and I want to give a shout-out to all those involved. That day was put together after we lost a beautiful community member, Tracey Beasley. Our local community will continue to hold the melanoma awareness day festival, and I look forward to attending again later this year. We also had the inaugural Wanderer Festival at Pambula Beach and the Thaw Festival in Merimbula the following weekend. It was great to see the Numeralla Folk Festival back a few weekends ago after the disruptions of the past few years.
These events not only are a fantastic opportunity for our communities to come together and a fantastic opportunity for visitors to come but they do really show what our communities have to offer, and I am incredibly proud that all of these festivals are mainly run by volunteers. We've seen music performances, artisan workshops, comedy and the Oktoberfest, and I want to thank the organisers of all of these events for their ambitious contributions to our region. I look forward to seeing these and other local events reach new heights in 2023 as our landmark National Cultural Policy starts delivering benefits for Eden-Monaro.
Attending citizenship ceremonies remains one of the highlights of my role as a local member, as it did when I was a local mayor. I'm not surprised Eden-Monaro continues to attract new citizens who have chosen to make our beautiful part of Australia their home. I've been really honoured to attend citizenship ceremonies in Queanbeyan, Cooma and Bega, and I thank the local councils for putting on such memorable ceremonies to welcome our new citizens. Since July last year we've had the pleasure of welcoming over 250 people from around the world. My part of the world certainly is a vibrant, multicultural electorate, and I look forward to the positive impact our newest citizens will have on our communities.
Interest in and understanding of civics and citizenship are values that are fostered from a young age in our schools, which is why I'm always proud to engage with students from across Eden-Monaro. In the last few months alone we've had the privilege of welcoming 15 schools to Parliament House from across the electorate. Whether it's a large school, like Bega High School, or a smaller regional school, like St Joseph's in Adelong, the experience of walking these halls, the halls of our nation's democracy, is something that most students won't forget. Now, more than ever, a respectful dialogue that positions First Nations people as central to our future is paramount, and that's why it was a real honour to meet Lumen Christi Catholic College with the Hon. Linda Burney MP for the unveiling of an amazing piece of First Nations art, done by the school students. Thank you to those students for including us in that experience.
I've been fortunate enough to get out to visit the students of Eden-Monaro in their own schools. A highlight for me, and I hope for the students too, was being involved in Stephanie Alexander's kitchen garden initiative with the Cobargo Primary School. Welcoming Stephanie Alexander to a small community after what had been a pretty terrible experience during the 2019-2020 bushfires was amazing. Seeing how well those kids took to that program, seeing her interaction with the kids in the kitchen and then eating that food was amazing, and I want to thank her for the work that she does with schools across this country. That program is amazing, and I'd ask schools to have a look at whether they could incorporate the kitchen garden initiative into their own schools if they have a chance.
I was even able to revisit my days working as a lawyer, when the year 11 legal studies students of Bega High kindly invited me into their classroom for a chat about what being a lawyer is all about and what a fulfilling career it can be. I'm looking forward to getting out to even more schools in 2023 and I'm excited to bring Parliament House to your classroom.
Last year we saw the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which coincided with her Platinum Jubilee. In my speech commemorating Queen Elizabeth in this place I recounted the many times that she had visited the seat of Eden-Monaro and the many memories of the Queen and her long service to our country held by constituents.
To celebrate her platinum jubilee, the federal government initiated the Planting Trees for the Queen's Jubilee Program. It saw community groups and organisations honour the Queen and her legacy of service and achievements by commemorative tree plantings. Projects took place across Australia, and in my own electorate of Eden-Monaro tree planting projects took place in Queanbeyan, Bookham, Cooma, Bredbo and Bega. I've had the honour of attending the official planting of trees at many of these events. Planting trees to mark the Queen's 70 years of service will leave a lasting reminder of the Queen's service for future generations to enjoy. I extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our community service organisations and volunteers.
I was so proud to learn of Amar Singh's Australia Day Local Hero Award for 2023. Amar is the founder of Turbans 4 Australia. In response to the Black Summer bushfires, during the COVID-19 lockdowns and at any time of need, Turbans 4 Australia have made meals, put together food hampers and delivered truckloads of water, groceries, toiletries, toys and tools to those in need. I'm so proud of the work they have done in Eden-Monaro, and I want to say thank you for taking the time to take our communities into your heart and helping them. It's an award well deserved, Amar.
I'd also like to pay tribute to the many individuals and organisations who work tirelessly to improve our community. A small honour roll might include Orange Sky, who provides washing services in Queanbeyan every Wednesday and Sunday; sleepbus, in Queanbeyan, who this week will celebrate providing 1,000 safe sleeps to our community; Yass Valley SPIN, who, through volunteering at event after event, raised money for local people suffering illness; Monty's Place, in Narooma, who give free meals to the community; Vinnies, Anglicare and Salvos in Queanbeyan—the list could seriously go on and on. These organisations and volunteers do so much across our community. In Eden-Monaro, more than a quarter of our population volunteer in some capacity, whether that's for a service club, for a sporting organisation, for the local P&C. I want to say a big thank you to you. Our small communities, our country communities, don't run unless we have amazing volunteers like yourself doing fantastic work. I want you to know that thank you is never enough, but here in this place I want to say thank you for the work that volunteers do across Eden-Monaro.
Just last week we had the Terry Campese Foundation providing cash vouchers to families to help with back-to-school supplies for local kids. It's an amazing foundation set up to provide youth mentoring services from a lifelong local who wanted to contribute back to youth in his community after his first grade rugby league career was finalised. People like Terry Campese provide not only a role model but a voice for many young people across our region. I wish him all the best in the upcoming New South Wales state election. You've been a champion on the football field, and I know that you'll be a champion for the people of Monaro.
The generosity of community spirit in Eden-Monaro is alive and well, and it never ceases to amaze me how people go out of their way to support those around them. I'm incredibly proud to represent the people of Eden-Monaro, and I hope that I am given the honour to continue representing them for many years to come.
Andrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal National Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
As students right across Fisher embark on a new school year, I want to wish them and their families all the very best for the coming year. It's been a challenging year for them. It's been a challenging few years for us all. It's my hope that in 2023 students will look ahead and aspire to greater things.
I want to pay tribute to the teachers and support staff who do such outstanding work creating vibrant learning spaces for our kids. My wife, Leoni, was a teacher, so I've seen the price that teachers pay to prepare our kids to reach their potential. On behalf of a grateful community, I want to thank teachers across the country, but particularly in Fisher, for the great work that they do and for their dedication.
I think 2023 needs to be a year that we focus on young people, and that's what I want to do in Fisher. I'm the father of four incredibly strong and strong-willed daughters. Each of them has a unique journey, a unique skill set and a unique destiny ahead of them, and I'm exceptionally proud of them. They're at the forefront of my mind when I stand, when I speak and as I serve in this House. Young people like them should be at the core of our decision-making in this place. After all, we're doing more than just leaving individual, personal legacies here. With each bill that becomes law we're building the future for a generation of young Australians, and we should never forget that in this place. With each decision we make we are either helping or hindering young Australians in their pursuit of the great Australian dream. Once upon a time the great Australian dream was confined to the concept of owning your own home, but it's much broader than that now. Yes, the dream is to own one's home, but it's also to raise a family in safe and vibrant communities, to provide the best education for your kids to study, to work, to start and grow their own businesses.
The coalition delivered a plan to help young people, young Australians, to realise the great Australian dream. In government, the coalition took this view, and we delivered a plan to make the Australian dream a reality. We delivered HomeBuilder so that young Australians like Erin in Nirimba could build her own home. We introduced the First Home Super Saver Scheme, the regional home guarantee and the family home guarantee to ensure that young people, regional families and single parents have the same opportunities to own their homes as anyone else does. We introduced JobTrainer and the Job-ready Graduates package to make further education and training more affordable and to skill up our young people for a dynamic digital economy.
Labor's attempts to rewrite history remind me a bit of that scene in Monty Python's Life of Brian where Reg and the gang are complaining about the Romans and Reg says, 'Alright, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?' Apart from the record funding on education, mental health, primary health and prevention, red tape reduction, defence industry, science and innovation, what did the coalition ever do for this country? We delivered a plan to back young Australians, their families and their businesses, to keep them safe, to improve their health and wellbeing and to facilitate their potential.
The coalition believes in stoking Australians' pioneer spirit and supporting those who have a go. Once upon a time, that was a bipartisan ambition. It's true that Labor cannot manage the economy and cannot even keep a promise. Eight months in and we see that things are very, very different. Inflation is at its highest point in 33 years, the highest in a third of a century. From Hawke and Keating to Rudd and Albanese, the old stereotype rings ever true: Labor cannot manage the economy. But it goes deeper than that. Labor now cannot keep a promise. They promised to address the cost of living, yet they have dismally failed. Every day I hear story after story about young Australians who are anxious about their future, such as 24-year-old single mum Georgia from Mooloolaba, who is worried about whether she can afford to continue her full-time carer responsibilities with the cost of fuel and food continually going up. Thirty-year-old entrepreneur Jade from Nirimba, who launched her business last year, is already deciding whether or not she can afford to continue. And 18-year-old UniSC student Sarah couch surfs two nights a week because she cannot afford to drive to and from her classes every day.
These are young Australians with aspirations to break generational inequities, to make a difference and to build a brighter future. Many of them lent Labor their vote at the last election—and Labor is squandering their goodwill. They voted for Labor—who led a fierce marketing campaign about opportunity and equality—and what we have is the worst cost-of-living crisis in three decades. What we have is a greater divide between regional Australia and urban elites than ever before.
Labor promise the world—and then they give you an atlas or, in this case, pretend they never made the promise at all. They promised to cut power bills. Ninety-seven times, they promised to cut them by $275. We have repeated this fact ad nauseam and will continue to do so. Labor don't even acknowledge it. Meanwhile, they are presiding over the most expensive average wholesale electricity price on record. By the government's own admission, electricity prices are set to rise by more than 63 per cent, and gas prices by 40 per cent, over the next two years.
I think about this impact and the impact it will have on my local IGA, my butcher and my local fish-and-chip shop. They'll be forced to reduce service, increase prices, lay off staff or, in the worst case, close up shop. We're seeing it across the country already. I think about how this will affect my daughters and young people like them across the country.
There are students who won't be able to put fuel in the car, who will reconsider visiting a GP or can no longer afford to go to the gym. There are young families who will not be able to afford to pay for their kids' swimming lessons or soccer boots. There are young homeowners who will struggle to eat and pay their bills in the same week, young homeowners who have no-one to bail them out of financial hardship, who will be forced into selling or perhaps bankruptcy. There are young entrepreneurs who might throw their hands in the air and be forced back into another job, giving up on their ambition to realise that great Australian dream of running your own business.
This opposition—we on this bench—will keep the torch to the government's feet on power bills, because that is what Australians expect us to do. We on this side of the House will keep the government to its promises, to its election commitments, because that is what Australians expect us to do and it's what Australians expect this government to do—that is, to live up to their promises.
Labor promised to bring down fuel costs. Instead, they removed the excise freeze and have increased red tape for the small businesses and franchises that make up a large number of servos across my electorate. At the same time, the government are funding climate warrior training programs and thrusting brand new emissions taxes on primary producers and mining companies, increasing the cost of supply even more.
How does that help everyday Australians? Ask the mum or dad who has to drive their kids to soccer on a Saturday morning whether their fuel prices are down under Labor. Ask the young hospitality worker who, after a long shift at work, is forced to pay more for their Uber, thanks to Labor's inaction on fuel prices. Ask the truckie who's lost his job because the company's hit hard times and the farmer who can't get his produce off the property because there aren't enough drivers. How are these things fair to Australians?
The Labor government promised to cut the cost of health care—after nearly a decade of record investment, reform and growth in health care, thanks to the coalition. Labor inherited a health system that was the envy of the world. Now Australians are paying for their false promises and intervention. The government have cut 70 telehealth services, further increasing the healthcare gap between regional Australia and the inner city. They promised urgent care clinics across the country. Not a shovel has hit the ground. They promised 50 of these urgent care clinics—and just a couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister stood up and made this big announcement about expressions of interest for three out of the 50. They promised that 50 would be up and running within their first 12 months of government. What we will see is none in the first 12 months.
Meanwhile, ambulance ramping in my state of Queensland is at an all-time high. Police have stepped up and stepped in to fill the ambulance gap, bringing people to hospital, only to be ramped as well. We've got not only a ramping of ambulances in Queensland hospitals but also a ramping of police officers. At a time where in Queensland there is such an incredible law-and-order crisis, the Queensland state government is, in effect, benching Queensland police officers to do the work that ambulances should be doing. That's what a Labor government looks like, whether it be at state or at a federal level. Despite the federal coalition's record investment into Queensland hospitals, the Palaszczuk Labor government and the Albanese Labor government are squandering the goodwill of Queenslanders in exchange for red carpets and tennis matches. It is costing young Aussies their start-ups, their jobs, their houses and, sadly, in the worst-case scenario, their lives. Food, fuel, GP charges, power bills, mortgage repayments, business costs—while young Australians, their families and their businesses struggle to make ends meet, this Labor government are busy playing politics at the whim and the wallet of their union paymasters.
I wish I wasn't standing here saying all of this. When we were in government, I used to sit here as a member of the government and listen to those opposite whine and whinge and complain incessantly, but things are only getting worse under this government. The Reserve Bank estimates that 800,000 Australian mortgages will be moving off fixed mortgage rates this year. Before tomorrow's RBA decision is made—and the RBA will make its own decision—the annual repayments on a $758,000 mortgage will have climbed by almost $16,000. That's $16,000 extra a year that mum-and-dad Australians are having to find to pay for that mortgage. That's $307.70 a week. All of these things are adding to this cost-of-living crisis for single mums and dads, young families and young aspirational Aussies who have bought their own home and want to be a part of that great Australian dream. These are real people—real young people, real families, real veterans and real retirees. This coalition, when in government, delivered real outcomes for them, and they are all worse off under this Albanese Labor government.
They promised to tackle mental health and wellbeing. Their failure to address the cost of living and their failure to deliver a plan for young Australians extends to Australians' mental health too. While young Australians continue to grapple with the mental health consequences of the global pandemic, natural disasters and growing financial pressures, Labor has slashed Medicare funding for psychologist visits. This was a measure we introduced in government along with our landmark $3 billion National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. When we were in government, we funded a national PTSD centre in my electorate in Bokarina. We funded a headspace in Caloundra. We have provided lifesaving funding for people who live with eating disorders. We were able to deliver on a plan to boost mental health services and outcomes for young people and our most vulnerable throughout this country. Yet, instead of a plan, instead of their promised wellbeing budget, Labor offers cuts, cuts and more cuts. If the LNP cut Medicare funding for psychologist visits, like this Labor government did, the people who reside up in that gallery would be up in arms. They would be screaming on every media outlet about how heartless the coalition is. And what do we hear? Crickets.
Labor's betrayal of young people and the most vulnerable in our community goes largely unreported. Labor turned their backs on first responders until we embarrassed them into reversing their funding cuts to Fortem Australia. They turned their backs on veterans on the Sunshine Coast when we didn't get a veteran wellbeing centre, requiring veterans to drive for hours for specialist care. Two veterans are with me in the chamber right now. When it comes to the mental health of young people and everyday Australians, this Labor government is simply out of touch. The health minister in question time this afternoon talked about the report on the Better Access initiative, trying to justify the Labor government's decision to halve psychologist visits. What he didn't talk about was recommendation 12 in that report, which recommended that the 20 visits remain. Funny that—he just kind of left that little bit of detail out.
While regional Australia struggles with a health and mental health crisis, Labor are cutting, slashing and trashing healthcare mobility. While this country contends with a cost-of-living crisis, this Labor federal government are turning a blind eye. They'd rather redesign the $5 note than put money back into taxpayers' pockets. While families struggle to pay their power bill or put food on the table, Labor are throwing taxpayers' money at consultants, climate warriors and communication exercises. Instead of making it easier for businesses to start, employ and grow, Labor are wreaking havoc on our IR laws to appease their union paymasters. This will cost our young Australians their jobs and rob them of hope for a better future.
Labor promised the world to young, aspirational Australians, and they have given them an atlas. Homeownership, health care and manageable household budgets should not be luxuries to young Australians, yet after nine years of good government the Australian dream is slipping from their grasp. This Labor government have no plan for young Australians. They don't have a plan to back small and family business. They don't have a plan to tackle the cost of living. They don't have a plan to protect and propel Australia forward. Eight months in, and we have a government frantic, fumbling and failing to listen to those who elected them to this place.
I say to the young people of Fisher and to young Australians the country over: the coalition are listening to your voices. We are your voice in opposition, and we strive to be your champions in this place. I encourage you to speak up, reach out and make your voices heard. We are building your future in this place, and it is essential that we play our part to work with you, together, in building a better future for you.
Sharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
It is with great optimism that I stand in this chamber to begin the parliamentary new year with a reflection on the address-in-reply to the Governor-General's speech to this parliament—many months ago now, it is fair to say.
I'd like to offer my congratulations to all members who have been elected in this place and, indeed, the other place. Of course, I celebrate a Labor government victory. I'm very heartened to see the incredible work that Labor has done already. After a wasted decade, we are not wasting a single day. It was Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating who remarked that, when you change the government, you change the country. How right he was. From the moment the Labor government were sworn in, we've been working to clear away the mess and chaos of the previous government. We have hit the ground running. We are restoring security to the national energy grid. We're delivering support to flood affected communities. We're implementing the strongest ever biosecurity measures to protect our agriculture sector from foot-and-mouth disease. We're establishing the Defence Strategic Review to make sure that our Defence Force has the capability to meet our changing national security environment. We're backing a pay rise for workers on a minimum wage. We're lifting our climate change ambition and rebuilding Australia's reputation in the region and in our international relations.
We've also moved to change the way that government functions, making parliament a better place to work for everyone. I had a look at my previous address-in-reply speeches ahead of writing this speech, and, in 2016, I spoke about the serious lack of diversity in the 45th Parliament. Out of 150 members, only 43 were women. In the other place, there were 30 women senators out of a total of 76 senators. That, thankfully, is not the same as what I see here today. I am so heartened that in the 47th Parliament, there are now 58 women—almost 40 per cent in the House of Representatives. In the other place, there are 43 women, which is now 56.6 per cent of the Senate make-up. Our work is not done, and there are parties who still have significant discrepancies in their representation, but it is nonetheless a heartening difference, and I applaud the women who have put their hands up to run for parliament. Like my colleague the member for Dobell who sits at the dispatch box, I am extremely proud to stand in a government party room where we are now the majority. Fifty-two per cent of our party room are women—exceptional women, I might add.
Many of us have come back to this place after an election campaign. This is now my fourth term in the Australian parliament, and I am deeply indebted to the people of Newcastle for returning me to this place and placing in me their trust to be their voice in this place. A majority of Novocastrians clearly understood Labor's plans for Newcastle, and they voted for it. They saw the vision that Labor had especially for carbon-intensive regions and economies, like the one from my hometown of Newcastle and the Hunter region. They understood Labor's plans to use our energy smarts to diversify our economic base and make Newcastle a new energy superpower; rather than burying our heads in the sand on the new energy, like the coalition did previously.
My electorate of Newcastle knows better than most the importance not only of reaching net zero by 2050 but also of diversifying and strengthening our economy with renewable energies. The Labor government's Powering Australia plan will deliver on our commitment to ensure that five out of six new jobs will be in regions like ours. Those are regions that, of course, have always been at the heart of energy production and distribution in this nation. The Newcastle and Hunter region has powered Australia for generations, and, under Labor, we will continue to power Australia into the future.
The people of Newcastle are over the moon to see the back of the climate wars. They know that it's time that we take action and transition our economy, rather than leaving behind thousands of people directly and indirectly employed by fossil fuel industries. That is not the Labor way, and the people of our region have entrusted the Labor government with that transition process. The Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Greenpeace, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the National Farmers Federation and the Clean Energy Council have all said they support our legislation, and they have called for parliament to pass that legislation. I was delighted to see this place and, indeed, the other place commit to those new, more ambitious targets in law when the legislation passed in the House.
Novocastrian people, businesses and industry groups that I meet with are regularly telling me how excited they are about the opportunities before Newcastle and the Hunter now. Newcastle and the Hunter is rapidly becoming a centre for green hydrogen. There are quite a few projects on the horizon. The Albanese Labor government is partnering with the University of Newcastle to invest $16 million to build a new facility to test and invent solutions to a range of global challenges when it comes to the use of hydrogen and many of these new energy industries and technologies. The skills, techniques and technologies developed by this project at the University of Newcastle will enable local industry, including hydrogen investments at the Port of Newcastle, to reach their full potential.
There's been a lot of thinking as to what will be required, what industry is going to need in a skilled workforce and also about places to test, accredit and ensure safety in the use of these new energy technologies. There are also two green hydrogen projects that federal Labor committed to help fund, with $41 million going to each of those two projects. One is with Orica and Origin and another one is based with the Port of Newcastle.
There are huge opportunities for the production and export of green hydrogen. It makes sense for the Port of Newcastle to play a substantial role in Australia's bid to become a significant exporter of renewable energy, especially green hydrogen. With its existing access to global energy supply chains, world-class infrastructure, strong industry partnerships, proximity to existing demand, links to domestic rail and road networks, a local, highly skilled workforce and proximity to renewable energy zones, the Port of Newcastle is well placed to develop a hydrogen hub and to export hydrogen as a tradable energy commodity. I look forward to Labor supporting the port in its significant work to ensure the future of the port and all who work there and rely on it.
The diversification of the world's biggest coal port is important to both the people of Newcastle and our entire region. There is an exciting opportunity for the port to diversify further by building a multipurpose container terminal. A deepwater container terminal is a critically important project for the economic future of Newcastle and the Hunter, and it's one that I strongly support, as do my Labor colleagues in the region.
Labor knows that good infrastructure serves communities. It creates secure, well-paid local jobs and connects our region with the national economy. Labor know it because we have built it. Labor also knows the value and importance of efficient public transport and of increased use of public transport to reduce emissions. However, when taking the train to Sydney adds over an hour to your travel had you done it by car, it's often hard to justify. That's why Labor will invest $500 million to begin work on high-speed rail, with the corridor between Newcastle and Sydney as the first priority. We will start with the fast rail corridor, but we will plan and build on that existing fast rail work to move to high-speed rail. Faster rail will see travel times between Newcastle and Sydney cut to around two hours. Once high-speed rail is up and running, this journey will take only 45 minutes.
I know the people of Newcastle have long waited for this project. Indeed, they would be amongst the first to say, 'We've heard many governments talk about high-speed rail in the past but fail to deliver.' I want to assure people that it was the current Prime Minister of Australia who put forward the proposition for high-speed rail in Australia, when he was the minister for infrastructure, so I assure the people of Newcastle that you have a Prime Minister and a government that are absolutely dedicated to ensuring that this high-speed rail project proceeds. That will make our region in Newcastle a more connected place. It will be giving businesses opportunities for much closer collaboration. It will bring economic benefits to local industries like tourism and hospitality. High-speed rail is a game changer for workers commuting to Sydney and further afield.
Families in Newcastle are also telling me just how hard and more expensive it has become to see a GP than it was last time Labor was in government. Families in Newcastle have been hit with the triple whammy of the area losing its classification as an area of doctor shortage; having the bulk-billing incentive cut; and, when the now opposition were in power, the outrageous attack on the GP Access After Hours service. Labor built Medicare, and the people of Newcastle have entrusted us to again fix this mess. Ten years of undermining universal healthcare systems in this country has come home to roost. It is extremely difficult for people. The primary healthcare system has been at great lengths now to demonstrate just how stretched, how underfunded and how under-resourced it feels. That's what 10 years of active undermining of universal health care has done to this country.
Already Labor has acted on the GP shortage crisis in the Hunter by making it a distribution priority area, a DPA; and providing the whole region with access to the Bonded Medical Program and overseas trained doctors, which has been reinstated. Labor will reverse the $500,000 worth of Liberal cuts to our GP Access After Hours service and restore the service to full capacity. The Department of Health and Aged Care is in discussions with the Hunter, New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network and GP Access After Hours about the implementation of that election commitment. I know that my constituents are greatly looking forward to these services being reinstated in full. We know we had the best service in the country for after-hours GP care, and we want to see that service restored, to be fully reinstated, so that we can continue to deliver best practice, high-quality services to the people of Newcastle.
Labor is also investing $1 million over four years to revitalise the Kaden Centre cancer exercise oncology clinic to ensure that they can keep their doors open. The Kaden Centre delivers custom targeted exercise programs prescribed by allied health professionals to drastically improve the long-term health outcomes for people living with cancer. This is an essential service for people living with cancer and chronic illness. The Kaden Centre has developed a groundbreaking model of care delivery for patients undertaking chemotherapy, involving a personalised exercise program to optimise a patient's fitness prior to the definitive cancer treatment. The program has seen a 50 per cent reduction in major complications, shorter lengths of hospital stays, reduced re-admissions and more patients returning to complete their intended oncology treatment. Under the Albanese Labor government the Kaden Centre will be able to support thousands more cancer patients on their pathway to recovery.
I want to give a big shout-out to all the people who work and volunteer at the Kaden Centre and the extraordinary people who use the centre, who mounted a terrific campaign to ensure the future success of the Kaden Centre in our region. I thank you. At a time when you were challenged by your own illnesses or those of your families, you took time to ensure that our community did not lose a vital service for cancer patients.
Labor also wants every child in every school to get a great education, and this Albanese Labor government will make sure that our children get the help they need to bounce back after COVID. The past two years have been tough on families in Newcastle, as is the case across Australia. Kids have missed out on activities and experience and many have been struggling with their mental wellbeing. It has also meant that P & Cs haven't been able to raise funds to help their schools as they would ordinarily. In Newcastle, Labor is investing more than $130,000 in Newcastle schools, committing to upgrades of playgrounds, air conditioning and an innovative outdoor learning facility in its first term. Labor will deliver $50,000 for upgrades to the outdoor learning space and environment at Heaton Public School. We will be delivering $50,000 for an air-conditioning and ventilation system at Mayfield West Demonstration School and $31,150 for playground upgrades at Belair Public School. Being able to learn and play outdoors is so important for the development of our children. I'm very pleased to be committing funding to improve the outdoor learning facilities at Heaton public and supporting the installation of a dry creek bed and nature play facility at Belair public.
We know that a good education is a ticket to a lifetime of opportunity and that being in a comfortable and enjoyable setting helps foster an environment that is conducive to learning. That's why our Schools Upgrade Fund will help students at Mayfield West with the installation of new ducted air-conditioning and ventilation systems to improve air quality, eliminate germs and cool down the classrooms.
Newcastle also loves its sports. Following COVID, Novocastrians are thrilled to be back out with their local clubs getting active and connecting with family and friends again. The Albanese Labor government are investing in community sports infrastructure in Newcastle because we know it's good for local families and local workers too. We're investing $285,000 to deliver much-needed upgrades to the Wallsend Park irrigation system. That place is home to Wallsend cricket club, Wallsend Football Club and Wallsend RSL Junior Cricket Club, some of the strongest sporting clubs in our region. Wallsend Park has hundreds of people who use that space on a regular basis.
We'll also provide funding of $625,000 for a new grandstand and sporting facilities upgrade for the Newcastle Olympic Football Club at their Darling Street Oval.
These are just some of the really important projects we are funding. We're also ensuring, of course, that women and children fleeing family violence are not being turned away from accommodation support services. We will be investing heavily in that space as well.
Luke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Firstly and most importantly, I'd like to thank the people of Petrie for placing their confidence in me once again. I'm happy to speak on the Governor-General's address-in-reply, and I will continue to do my very best, to the best of my ability, in this 47th Parliament to represent the people of Petrie as their federal MP. After all, that is what we are here to do—represent our electorates—and, being in my fourth term now, I can't thank the people of Petrie enough for putting their trust in me. I'll continue to work hard.
I want to thank my campaign team, the federal divisional council of the Liberal National Party for the Petrie electorate, for the work that they did during the campaign and leading up to the election in May last year. To the executive, all the volunteers, office staff and everyone else: I really want to thank you. My office staff, both my electorate office staff and my ministry staff at the time, did an exceptional job. To my campaign manager, Salome Nel: thank you for stepping up. You'd never done it before and you did a really good job. To the volunteers: whether you had signs up for me in your premises, whether you handed out for me on election day or at pre-poll, or whether you did letterbox drops for me, I very much appreciate it. There were a lot of people who helped, and without volunteers you can't win elections, so I very much want to say a big thankyou to them.
The coalition were in government for three terms, and I think we did achieve a lot. There was a legacy of building stronger communities, with programs like the Green Army, which has been operating in my electorate for five, six or seven years, and we have trees that are five or six metres tall. We put in place the fish in schools program.
The Powering Communities grants program installed solar panels and LED lighting at sporting clubs and not-for-profit clubs to help keep their energy bills down. Every little bit helps in these clubs. We put in a new netball precinct at North Lakes with brand-new netball courts for the North Lakes Blues. That was great because that's one of the fastest-growing communities in my electorate and there was basically no sporting infrastructure there at all.
We provided billions of dollars in road and infrastructure funding from Aspley and Bridgeman Downs all the way up to Deception Bay and Burpengary East. There have been new school halls and scout halls, a new swimming pool, science and environment centres and the very exciting grandstand for the Dolphins. We put some $8 million into Dolphin Stadium, which probably helped the Dolphins win their NRL bid. In a couple of weeks from now, the Dolphins will be the 17th team in the NRL competition as they officially kick off. They had a trial game yesterday.
The coalition government did a lot in Petrie but also right around the country. We also did a lot while I was Assistant Minister for Youth and Employment Services. Some 700,000 jobs were saved through JobKeeper during COVID-19. Over 128,000 young Australians are supported by headspace each year. In March last year more than 1.9 million young Australians were employed, and Australia's rate of youth unemployment dropped down to 8.3 per cent, the first time in decades it has been under 10 per cent. That's the lowest youth unemployment rate since 2008.
One of the coalition government's priorities in employment was jobs fairs. I had the pleasure of doing those right around the country, whether in Queensland, in New South Wales or down in Tassie. I remember attending one out in Alice Springs at the end of 2021. With some of the problems we've seen happening out there, it certainly isn't a case of not enough jobs. There were 600 jobs on offer that day in Alice Springs and we managed to get 350 to 400 people through the jobs fair that day, which was fantastic.
Lower taxes are also a highlight of the coalition government. We not only lowered company tax but also brought in things like lower income taxes and a lot of support for businesses, like the instant asset tax write-off, which basically enabled small, medium and some larger businesses to buy goods and write them off instantly. This really helped drive employment as well. I heard so many stories in my own electorate of where the instant asset tax write-off was utilised and helped bring in more business for companies, which enabled them to employ more people.
Obviously, the company tax cut legislation was a huge achievement of the previous federal coalition government. We legislated to ensure that people won't pay more than 30 per cent in income tax. If they're earning under $200,000, they will pay 30 cents—that's it; it's very fair—and keep 70 cents. For anyone earning between $45,000 and $200,000, the maximum tax rate will be 30 per cent. It's legislated, it's law and it will kick in in about 18 months, which is great news.
We also created the First Home Super Saver Scheme, which was a magnificent scheme. The Labor Party voted against that—every single one of them who was in the parliament at that time. The scheme enables people who are looking to buy their first home, particularly millennials wanting to buy their first home or youths wanting to save in super, to do so. So, this will really benefit anyone who earns more than $45,000 a year. At the moment the tax rate is 32½ per cent, so for every $10,000 that you save in the bank you're going to end up with only $6,750. The coalition government set up the First Home Super Saver Scheme, which enabled people to pay only 15 per cent tax. So, for every $10,000 they save they'll end up with an $8,500 in deposit. We also extended that to enable people to save up to $50,000. So, a young couple could put $100,000 into their super and end up with an $85,000 deposit, as opposed to $67,500 if Labor had had their way and we had not implemented the First Home Super Saver Scheme.
I'd say to all members in this place that it's something we should plug, particularly the member for Cowan, who's nodding her head on the other side of the table. Youths don't know about it enough. A lot of young people don't know about this scheme, and I note that the member for Cowan is now the Minister for Youth. It's really important that young people know about this so that they can put money into their super and pull it back out to buy a house—a very important policy. That's on top of the first home deposit scheme. So, there are some great things that the coalition government did.
As far as my own electorate goes, I'll never apologise for advocating for funding for my area. That's a core responsibility of members: to make sure we get funding for our areas. In Petrie we strengthened the community immensely in the nine years of the coalition government. There was a lot of funding for roads through the Brisbane City Council and the Moreton Bay Regional Council. When you live in a fast-growing area, that's really important. There was also funding for rail. That was a promise by the previous government, but we built it. The coalition government built the Moreton Bay Rail Link and funded it after I was elected in September 2013. All the community halls, not-for-profit groups and sporting clubs were funded through the coalition government, and my electorate is much better for it.
It was disappointing, though, because in the last election I had $25 million worth of commitments for the people of Petrie on different projects, and the Labor candidate had zero—nothing, not one; couldn't match a dollar. That was very disappointing, because traditionally in Petrie there's been bipartisan support, but here the Prime Minister and his ministers couldn't promise a dollar—anything that we matched. These were grassroots community projects that needed funding—issues like the Suttons Beach pavilion in Margate, an older building. That beach was the first settlement, apart from Indigenous settlement, in Queensland. It was the first European settlement in Queensland. The Suttons Beach pavilion has been there for a long time. It needs repair; it's got concrete cancer. Our commitment, under a coalition government, was $5 million to repair or rebuild that project. The Labor candidate was aware of it, but the Albanese government did not decide to make that an election promise. Not only did they decide not to make it an election promise, but I've since written to the Prime Minister and they've written back to that group saying they will not fund it. That is important funding that the Petrie electorate will now miss out on under a Labor government federally and a Labor government in Queensland.
There are other projects as well, like the Dolphins high-performance centre in Redcliffe, which would help not just the Dolphins players but also the Queensland Cup players as well as students from Redcliffe State High School and other local athletes who would be able to train there. Some $15 million was promised by the coalition government. From Labor: zero; nothing. A new baseball clubhouse for the Padres baseball team and female change rooms for the Tigers AFL and for the Aspley Hornets, which is one of the biggest junior AFL clubs in the country, were all projects that the coalition government committed to in 2022, and the Labor Party couldn't stump up a dollar. When it comes to the 2025 election and the Prime Minister and his ministers want to come up into Queensland, I'll be reminding those groups that they couldn't stump up a dollar. It would have been built by now if the coalition had been re-elected. I'm still waiting to hear from the Prime Minister on a number of those projects, as I said, but there was nothing in last year's budget in October—zero for the people of Petrie. That is disappointing. I think the Labor Party need to do a lot better.
As a federal MP for the area, in my fourth term, I'll continue to advocate for these projects and to work with local people. As I say, and I said it in my maiden speech, life is about relationships. That's all you take with you when you're gone. Those relationships are really important—getting out, chatting to people and talking to people on the ground—and having this community infrastructure is also really important for my community, for people to meet, socialise and keep fit together. That's where governments can help.
Before every election I sit down with my wife, Louise, and my sons for an open and honest conversation about the challenge ahead, and whether I should run—every time. I never take my seat for granted. I always put it forward and take it one term at a time and work extremely hard. Election campaigns can be tough at times, with mistruths thrown around. Personally—I can only speak for myself—I always try to speak truth, to let people know, to be honest and straight up. If they ask me what my opinion is on this, I let them know. Every time it's the same conclusion, I'll run again.
This is the best country in the world, Australia. We should be proud of this country. I'd done plenty of overseas travel before I was in this place, and I always love to come back home. So it does stump me that some members, including in this place and in some political parties, seem to hate everything about our country. They want to change everything. They're ashamed to stand in front of the Australian national flag. That is dangerous; it really is. I and other members of the opposition, and indeed the government should, talk about the great country that we live in, particularly with our youth, because it's easy for them to hear negatives. But they have a strong future. We do live in a great country. There is a positive future for them ahead, even with issues like climate change, which the government ran hard on and the Greens ran hard on. I went to a school in my electorate and spoke to a young girl who was only in Year 6. She was showing me her artwork. It was a picture of a place on fire, and she said, 'This is climate change.' I was trying to explain to her that the previous government was doing a lot and had reduced emissions and so forth, but because it is a political contest, it didn't matter what we did. We could say we were doing the zero emissions, which we did do. The other side always want to up us, right? It doesn't matter what we say. Labor will go one better and the Greens will go one better than Labor, but the result of that is that some of our youth are really scared. The reality is that they do have a strong future, that Australia is acting, that we're pulling our weight and that in a global community we're doing a lot more than many other countries. It's something that the Labor Party should think about too, now that they've been elected and have got the legislation through. How are you going to respond to young people now? Are you going to tell them that things are okay and that we're doing alright? I still hear hysteria from the Greens every time they come in here, but it's not helping our youth. It's contributing to mental health issues.
I want to ensure that all Australians—our young people and our older people—have happiness and success in their lives. That's really important. That's what I'll continue to do—try and talk to people in my electorate and let them know that we have a positive future and that I'm here to help as their MP. I'm here to represent them well and speak in this place, not just in the House but with my coalition colleagues, and do the very best I can.
With any job, there are always highs and lows. But when I head out into the community, talking to the students at schools, the volunteers at sports carnivals or the workers in businesses, or having a cuppa with the residents at a retirement or aged-care home, it reminds me why I do this job. That's what I love about the job—the on-the-ground work, the communication out there. That's particularly what I do well.
The best of Australia lives in those people—their stories, their challenges, their victories, weaved together to continue to shape the Australian story. The latest census shows nearly 30 per cent of our citizens were born overseas. With some of their parents as well, almost half of all Australians are born overseas. At some point they decided Australia was the country for them. They are now proud Australians. They embrace the values and traditions of this country and work to interpret and fit into the culture, and inevitably go on to enrich it.
One of my favourite responsibilities as the member for Petrie is to attend citizenship ceremonies, which is really important. At the time I read the scripts from previous ministers like the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Peter Dutton MP, and the previous minister, Minister Hawke. But with the change of government there was a new script written by the current minister for immigration. A lot of it is really good, but, as the shadow minister for defence industry and shadow minister for defence personnel, I was disappointed that some of the references to veterans and acknowledgement, sacrifices made in past wars and the defence of Australia and its values have been completely wiped from the citizenship script. I read the new script on Australia Day, and it's gone. I will write to the new immigration minister and ask him to put something back in that, because I think it was really important—particularly with our veterans on both sides of the House, including the shadow assistant minister for defence here at the table.
I've got a son in the Army, at the Australian Defence Force Academy, who wants to serve. He's in his third year. He joined up because he loves the country. I taught him it's an honour to serve your country, whether you do it through politics, like people in this place, or whether you do it through the ADF. It's an honour and we should be giving back to people. In my role as shadow minister for defence personnel, I'm excited about having a son in defence personnel, and I will doing my best to get out there to encourage people to join the ADF. I think that is bipartisan, that the new Albanese government—they're not that new now; they've been there for nine months—and the opposition both want to see a strong Defence Force. We want to see more people join. We have committed to 18½ thousand more people in the ADF by 2040. I will certainly do my best to encourage people to join, and I hope that all members will as well.
Our defence personnel serve proudly under the Australian flag—particularly the Army, who have the Australian national flag as their flag. Many people have fought and died for that flag. They're buried under it; it's put on their coffins. It's part of their uniform. They present arms to it. It's a powerful symbol of unity. (Time expired)
Anne Aly (Cowan, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Despite it being almost seven o'clock on a Monday, I am super delighted to be back here in parliament, as I know those opposite are and I know those on this side are as well. Let me say welcome back to everybody here for the first week of parliament sitting. It's almost like being back at school, isn't it? I'm particularly excited for the year ahead and for the year that has been, where we've been able to deliver on the government's commitments made during the election campaign.
The member for Petrie spoke about that absolute honour and that dedication to representing your electorate. I'm also honoured, as I know most people here are, to be representing my electorate. I'm particularly honoured to be representing the electorate of Cowan. It is such a diverse and vibrant community full of such caring and hardworking people who put their unique talents to use to really help one another and lift each other up. It's something that I see every day as a local member.
I'm also very proud to be part of the Albanese government, a government that is delivering for the people of Cowan and for the broader Australian community through a range of initiatives. Through my ministerial portfolios of early education and care and youth I'm really proud and excited by the future and by the change that we can deliver for families, for early childhood educators, for children and for young people in Cowan and right across Australia in electorates like Dobell and Petrie.
Let me start with last Thursday, because that's what I can recall, given that it was only a few days ago now. Last Thursday, I joined with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health in the suburb of Morley in the electorate of Cowan. I know the member for Moore knows the suburb of Morley well, he being one of my neighbours in Western Australia. We were there—the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health along with my state colleague the Western Australian Minister for Health and member for Morley, Amber-Jade Sanderson MLA—to announce the opening of expressions of interest for urgent care clinics, including one in the north-eastern community of Morley.
These urgent care clinics will take this growing pressure off our hospital emergency departments. We know that a lot of people show up at the emergency department of a hospital for things that can be treated outside of the emergency department. A broken arm, a broken foot or ankle, a cut of some sort—they can be treated outside of emergency departments, but right now, our hospitals and our emergency departments are under this incredible pressure from the number of people who present there because they have nowhere else to go. When I visited this centre in Morley, I said to them: 'Where do Morley residents go? Where do people from Morley and the surrounding suburbs go when they have to present at emergency?' Many of them travel what is roughly around 30 kilometres to go to Fiona Stanley Hospital, which is in the southern suburbs of Perth. So I'm very excited about potentially having an urgent care clinic in Morley taking that pressure off our emergency departments.
Like many parents in this place, I've done that midnight run to the hospital with a child. In the case of my son, who had chronic asthma, that midnight run was often with him turning blue and having to be put on a nebulizer. So I know what it's going to mean for parents, carers and older citizens in the Cowan community that they will be able to access these urgent care clinics that will be open right up till 10 pm, rather than have to go to the emergency department and sometimes have to wait up to eight hours before they're triaged. So I'm really proud of the Albanese government for recognising, first, that there is an issue here but also for recognising that there is a fix, a solution, and that solution is through the funding of bulk-billing urgent care clinics.
On a fairly regular basis I have what we call 'Meet your members'. Other members here might call them 'open offices'. We do them in the park, and I have sometimes up to 40 residents come and have a chat with me.
Yes, they can get pretty big! Most recently, I had one gentleman come to one of my Meet your members sessions who was a self-funded retiree. I was really happy to be able to tell him that the Albanese government had frozen the social security deeming rates at their current level until 30 June 2024, and he was really happy to get that information too.
It's great to be here, as I said at the beginning of my contribution. It's even greater when you can go into your electorate and have a conversation with someone who you have changed and had an impact on becaus e of the actions that happen in this place. We're three hours ahead of Perth and four hours away on an aeroplane, but it reminds you that what we do in this place matters for real; it matters to the everyday lives of Australians.
I'm also looking forward t o the Albanese government's investment of more than $1.2 million into Cowan to improve community and road safety as part of the $100 million Black Spot Program. I say this with hope and sadness. Under this program, the intersection of Girrawheen Avenue and Marangaroo Drive in Girrawheen will be upgraded to improve the location's safety. I have driven through that intersection many, many times. It's not too far from where I live, actually. I have to say that it's well beyond time that this intersection was given the attention to make it safe for residents and people driving on those roads.
The investment, along with around $700,000 from the City of Wanneroo, is really due to the tireless efforts and advocacy of people like Linda Femia. Linda is a constituent of Cowan. She has been campaigning for the intersection to be redeveloped after her son, Nicholas, aged just 21, was tragically killed at that intersection. From 1 January 2015 to 31 December 2020, there have been a shocking 50 crashes at that intersection. That number tragically includes the fatal crash in which Nicholas passed. I am proud to have worked with the City of Wanneroo to support Linda's efforts to increase local safety for the Cowan community. I look forward to the day when we don't count the number of crashes or the number of fatalities in Girrawheen.
The Albanese government is delivering for constituents in Cowan. We're investing $2 million to help Greenwood College build new facilities for its swimming pool. I visited Greenwood College, and t he change rooms for the swimming pool are literally almost a kilometre away—you get changed, and then you get exercise while you go to exercise. So I'm really proud to be able to say that we've committed money to help them build new change facilities for t heir swimming pool. This means they'll be able to run more summer swimming programs and also extend the use of the pool to local community groups. That will have a huge impact throughout Cowan.
We're also giving $1.6 million for the construction of a Vietnamese cultural and community centre in Girrawheen. The member for Moore and I attended the Tet festival in Girrawheen this weekend. It was great to see that construction has begun and they've really started working towards that cultural centre. The Vietnamese community in my electorate, the electorate of the member for Moore and, indeed, the member for Pearce's electorate is just such a wonderful asset to our community. They are hardworking and dedicated. They have such empathy and compassion and do such great community work. I know that the member for Moore and the member for Pearce would join me in congratulating the Vietnamese community in the Perth northern suburbs for their hard work and ability to secure, finally, a cultural building for them.
There's $750,000 for the Noranda Sporting Complex women's change rooms. That will be great. Let me tell you that I visited those change rooms, and it's not a nice place to get changed if you're a woman or a girl playing sports there. There's also $750,000 for Lightning Park in Noranda to upgrade the undercover facilities so that families can go and watch their children play sports and support the players comfortably. This is all testimony to the fact that the Albanese government is working hard for the people of Cowan, and I'm in such a privileged position to be able to deliver those initiatives for the people of Cowan. I look forward to seeing the Cowan community thrive even more than it already is, through these initiatives but also through the passion, the hard work, the dedication and the commitment to community of all the people in Cowan.
I want to also talk a little bit about my Early Childhood Education portfolio and my Youth portfolio while I can. I've visited many early learning centres and I must say that one of the best things about being the Minister for Early Childhood Education is babies, because I love babies and I'm waiting on grandchildren. I know I have to say that in every single speech, and hopefully the message will get through to my sons eventually! Just on a side note, I've had my two nieces get married and my stepdaughter is engaged to be married next year, so the race is on for all the children to see who's going to give me a grandchild first.
It's such a wonderful thing to visit children and watch them play and watch them learn through play. It really does inspire you and give you hope. For me, it really energises me. I could be dead tired and have had a 14-hour day, but I'll walk into an early learning centre and suddenly I'm ready to play and sing and dance with those little ones. The other privilege of these visits is talking to early childhood educators, who have demonstrated to me an unlimited amount of passion, dedication and commitment to the wellbeing of future generations of young Australians. I cannot speak highly enough in commending early childhood educators and early childhood teachers on the work that they do in helping to raise and educating the next generations of Australians. As a matter of fact, when I was at Morley Medical Practice I met a mother, Ainslie, and her adorable six-month-old, Loki. We started chatting and she said to me that Loki was born quite small and had a bit of a developmental delay but that he had started crawling at such a young age. As I spoke to Ainslie, she said that much of that credit was due to the fact that he attended an early childhood learning centre for three days a week, and that his educators at the early learning centre were just incredible with him. She could not speak more highly of Loki's early childhood educators and teachers and the benefit that he was getting from being in an early learning centre. I want to see every child in Australia have that opportunity and that benefit, and I want to make sure that no child born into any form of disadvantage should carry that disadvantage through their lives.
Finally, in the short time that I have left, I want to speak about what the Albanese government is doing in the Youth portfolio, because it doesn't often get a run and I'd like to put on record our commitment to young people. We made a commitment in the election campaign to re-establish the office for youth and develop a youth engagement strategy. We have delivered on that commitment, as we have delivered on so many other commitments to Australians. In the Youth portfolio we're investing $10½ million to ensure that young people are able to meaningfully engage on policies and programs that impact on them. That funding has already re-established the federal office for youth—which was abolished under the previous government—which will harmonise youth policy across government.
We've established our youth steering committee of 15 diverse and fabulous young Australians to support the development of our youth engagement model. When people say that young people are disengaged and take this deficit model towards the youth of Australia, let me tell you that, when we put our expression of interest out for a 15-person youth steering committee, we had over 1,200 applications from right across Australia—from rural and regional youth, from youth with lived experience of mental health issues, from youth who are carers and from young people who were refugees. From right across the breadth and depth of Australia, 1,200 young people put up their hands and said, 'We want to be part of the youth steering committee. We want to help the government. We want to have a say in the policies, procedures and legislation that impact on us. We want you to hear us.' And, indeed, we have heard them and we are listening to them.
Work is underway now to establish five cross-portfolio youth advisory groups that will work directly with the government and government agencies on policy and program development, as well as on our youth engagement strategy. In 2023, those advisory groups are in the areas of a First Nations youth advisory group; a youth advisory group for mental health and wellbeing—these are issues that young people said are important to them and where they wanted to have an advisory group—a youth advisory group for the promotion of science, technology, engineering and maths; a youth advisory group for climate change and conference of the parties; and a youth advisory group for safe and supported young people. These youth advisory groups mean that young people will be involved in the decisions that affect their lives and their futures, as they should be.
I have been incredibly impressed by the young people whom I have met, and let me tell you, Deputy Speaker Buchholz, young people have such an infinite amount of ingenuity, intelligence, wisdom—yes, wisdom—and energy, and we need to harness that. Instead of continually taking a deficit model or looking at youth in a negative way, let's start engaging with youth in a positive way. Let's recognise the positive things that young people have and the positive things that young people can contribute and let's encourage them down that positive pathway.
I used to run a youth not-for-profit before I entered this place, and when people asked me, 'What is it that you do with young people who are vulnerable to violence and radicalisation?' the answer was very simple, because it's not rocket science at all. If you give young people options, if you give them choice, if you give them a positive pathway and encourage them down that positive pathway, you can make a difference to their lives, and they can make a difference to other people's lives, and that's what I see young people doing every day. They are choosing a positive option, taking the positive pathway and making a difference to lives.
So it has indeed been an extraordinarily busy eight months for the Albanese government; I think we all feel that. But we all feel that, and we all feel that because we do not want to waste a day in delivering change for the Australian community. We've passed landmark legislation that's making a genuine difference to people's lives. When you go out there and you talk to your constituents, you can see it. At the 2022 election we said we'd deliver for Australia. We said we'd deliver a range of things, and I'm proud to stand here at this dispatch box and say that the Albanese Labor government is doing just that.
Ian Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I refer to His Excellency's speech on opening day, in which he said:
Major challenges—new and old—are before us.
In confronting these challenges, this parliament must seek to match the resolve and resilience of the people in whose name you serve.
The world has undergone momentous changes since that day, with the sad passing of our beloved sovereign and head of state, the late Queen Elizabeth II.
I thank the people of Moore for electing me as their representative for a fourth term to continue advocating for better facilities, improved services and economic development for our local community and the northern suburbs of Perth. I also thank the amazing team of Liberal Party members and supporters who volunteered during my campaign for their dedicated efforts. You ran a strong grassroots campaign focusing heavily on local issues. As a result, I was fortunate enough to be able to withstand the massive electoral swing that swept through Western Australia. Moore is now the only wholly metropolitan seat held by the Liberal Party in Western Australia. The result can only be attributed to the strong support I received from my campaign team in running an effective local campaign addressing local issues and maintaining a strong visible presence on the ground. The Liberal Party must never take the seat of Moore for granted. It is regrettable that the same individuals who were responsible for the loss of Moore by the Liberal Party in 1996 are actively working to undermine me. But with the strong support of the good people of Moore, I will defeat them.
Our local community has been resolute and resilient in the face of the global pandemic, which has affected the health and livelihoods of all people around the world. Many of my constituents have lost time, been separated from their families, because of border closures and restrictions and also incurred financial losses during the crisis. Our government sprang to action with economic measures such as the JobKeeper program, health measures such as the national vaccination scheme, and extensive restrictions designed to limit the transmission of the virus. From a personal perspective, I spent a total of seven weeks in quarantine in addition to the time I spent in Canberra. So, I apologise to my constituents for not being as visible as I would normally be.
In hindsight, the government erred on the side of caution in following the medical advice to keep our population safe. I thank my colleagues for the honour of electing me as the Second Deputy Speaker of the House on opening day. I will strive to fulfil my duties to the best of my ability. It was a special occasion to be sworn for the fourth time on the same Bible my grandmother, Sybil Goodenough, gave to me 39 years ago, on 20 January 1983, before I migrated to Australia as a child with my parents, which I have treasured all these years in remembrance of her. Australia is a land of opportunity where everyone can achieve their full potential through personal effort, hard work, talent and endeavour. Life is full of challenges and obstacles. Each of us must overcome our challenges with resilience and persistence.
At the heart of the Moore electorate is the regional city of Joondalup, which serves as the central business district of Perth's northern suburbs. My focus is on raising the profile of Joondalup to attract private sector investment, to further develop the city centre and expand the local economy, to provide greater amenity for my constituents. I am also working actively to secure federal funding grants to grow our community facilities. By adopting a regional approach to advocacy and development I will support initiatives such as the new hospital in Yanchep and an aquatic centre in Alkimos, as these projects will help take the pressure off Joondalup Hospital and HBF Arena Joondalup, which are currently overstretched, servicing the rapidly growing population located to the north from the coastal suburbs of Pearce.
Moore is home to many families, tradespersons, professionals, small-business owners and self-funded retirees, whose priorities include secure employment locally, housing affordability, ability to meet the rising costs of living, and financial security in retirement. Our community needs a government that is focused on prudent economic management, on keeping inflation under control and interest rates affordable, and on adopting policies to increase productivity. My constituents value their access to a quality education, health care and a safe neighbourhood. The people of Moore are also concerned about a range of environmental issues, such as reducing carbon emissions, minimising pollution, promoting recycling and conserving our local wetlands and coastal bushland.
However, the people in my electorate also value economic development, as they rely on construction, mining, services and industry for their livelihoods. The challenge of balancing the household budget and having enough money to pay the bills is a constant challenge. They know the value of a dollar and how to make ends meet.
Environmental measures must be cost-effective and not tokenistic. The electorate is now ready for a mature, informed debate on lifting the moratorium on nuclear energy, paving the way for lower-cost, reliable baseload power with zero emissions, utilising new technologies such as small-scale modular reactors.
A renewed focus on economic development is the key to turning around our economy. It is concerning to learn of large-scale mining, oil and gas projects being blocked by environmentalists and the Greens, for those actions are detrimental to the prosperity of ordinary Australians.
I am often asked by critics about what action I have taken on climate change. The answer is quite substantial. I have a track record of working closely with industry organisations such as the LNG Marine Fuels Institute, BE&R Consulting and the Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel to advocate for lower emissions in the shipping industry, on a large scale, in Australian ports.
Globally, shipping accounts for almost three per cent of emissions. This will rise to 10 per cent by 2050, which is the equivalent of the emissions of Japan, which is the world's sixth largest emitter. For example, one large Newcastlemax class iron ore bulk carrier emits as much pollution as 50,000 cars. These ships also emit large quantities of sulphur and nitrous oxides, which adversely impact local populations.
To achieve the target of net zero by 2050 in ports, emissions reduction is required through low to zero carbon fuels for ships and zero carbon shore power. A key solution is changes to legislation that encourage the use of cleaner fuels and shore power. This can be achieved through the implementation of emission control areas around major Australian ports.
In terms of fuel for shipping, the cleanest readily available option today is liquefied natural gas. Global industry groups such as the Society for Gases as a Marine Fuel have identified this as a key fuel to span the transition from heavy fuel oils to green ammonia and hydrogen. Ports around the world are building liquefied natural gas refuelling capability now and preparing for a transition to greener fuels by selecting, where possible, cross-compatible equipment. It is expected that the required volumes of green fuels needed to decarbonise shipping will become available by around 2040.
Ships moored in port account for 90 per cent of emissions in a large port. Green port initiatives include the use of green grid electricity to power land-based machinery, hydrogen-powered forklifts with more efficient electric lighting and electric harbour vessels.
The electors of Moore are looking forward to the future, where our regional city has the potential to grow into a vibrant metropolis, with access to a wider range of professional services, amenities and advanced technology, supporting highly skilled jobs for our suburban population. This can only occur by securing funding and investment. It is the role of the federal government to develop policy to promote innovative development and the necessary funding support to deliver this vision. It is necessary to advocate for the development of an innovation precinct in Joondalup for new and emerging technology and industries, such as, but not limited to, robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, data science, space, health and med tech, defence, cybersecurity and critical infrastructure. The City of Joondalup is to be commended for its commitment to becoming an urban centre for artificial intelligence and robotics. I am regularly briefed by Mayor Albert Jacob, chief executive officer James Pearson, and manager of economic development advocacy Luke Wilcox about strategies to attract advanced industries to our city centre.
This leads me to inform the House of the launch of the Australian Automation and Robotics Precinct in Neerabup last year, which is being developed as an industry-leading research, development and testing ground for automation, remote operations and robotics. Road and infrastructure works are currently underway in the precinct's initial 51-hectare site, with the common-user facility building scheduled to open in 2023. Development of the AARP is set to create at least 70 construction jobs, with up to 5,000 ongoing jobs in the field of robotics, automation and remote operations expected to be generated after completion. When fully complete, the precinct will form one of the largest test facilities of its kind in the world. This innovation precinct will foster a collaborative ecosystem, driving transformation across the mining, resources, energy, oil and gas, space and defence sectors, serving to transform and futureproof our regional economy whilst creating skilled local jobs for the future.
Cybersecurity has dominated the national debate in recent times, with the Optus and Medibank data breaches attracting media attention. With the soaring costs of cybercrime threatening Australian and global businesses, the cybersecurity industry is set to spark the next jobs boom in Australia. The City of Joondalup's role in the fight against cybercrime deserves recognition. Joondalup is home to the $138 million Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre and the Western Australian AustCyber Innovation Hub, which aim to grow the Australian cybersecurity ecosystem, export Australia's cybersecurity to the world and make Australia the leading centre for cybereducation.
By focusing on the needs of my local community since 2013, I have established a track record of delivering major projects for the benefit of the people in my electorate. The extension and widening of the Mitchell Freeway, at a cost of $291 million, has improved the connection of our suburbs to Perth and to employment centres. To alleviate long waiting lines and ambulance ramping at Joondalup hospital, federal funding of $158 million towards the $256 million expansion was delivered, which is under construction. More than $100 million in federal funding was invested in major road upgrades, including traffic bridges over Wanneroo Road at Joondalup Drive and Ocean Reef Road, to connect our suburbs to economic activity centres of employment and to improve east-west access, and in numerous community projects.
Locally, I'm committed to securing continued access to world-class health care for local residents, as many of my constituents have to travel long distances to access medical treatment at Royal Perth Hospital or Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital. Through investment we can ensure that a wider variety of allied health and professional services, including better aged care, is delivered in our community. We will seek to attract and retain the best researchers and academics to our local educational institutions and expand higher education and training opportunities within our innovative Joondalup Learning Precinct. To achieve this I will continue advocating for the necessary infrastructure and policy development, including improved roads, community facilities and telecommunications to connect more, both physically and digitally, to other metropolitan activity centres.
I commit to advocating for the connection of Whitfords Avenue to a realigned Gnangara Road, as this will make the daily commute for 8,000 more residents safer and more direct, fostering economic development in the Wangara industrial area, which is located in the neighbouring electorate of Pearce. During the election campaign I secured a federal funding commitment of $20 million for this project and I must now work with the Albanese government to match this funding. Similarly, the grade separation of the Reid Highway at the extremely busy Erindale Road intersection with a free-flowing traffic bridge will connect the residential population in the coastal suburbs of Moore to the economic activity hubs of Balcatta, Malaga, Perth Airport and beyond via the Tonkin Highway and NorthLink. For thousands of FIFO workers commuting to Perth Airport regularly, this will be a huge advantage. The federal budget contained $2.5 million towards the design of the project. Further federal funding in the order of $100 million is required to deliver the project, and I will be campaigning hard to secure this commitment.
Federal funding of $1.5 million was committed for the relocation of the Ocean Reef war memorial to a new permanent location by the previous government. As impending construction works will mean that the arch built to commemorate the centenary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli will need to be dismantled, on behalf of the Joondalup City sub-branch of the Returned Services League I urgently seek a bipartisan commitment from the Albanese government to fund the shortfall in funding. I have written to my fellow Western Australian counterpart, the member for Burt, the Minister for Veterans' Affairs, to seek his assistance. Our community needs the memorial to be restored at the earliest possible opportunity so that generations of Australians can gather on Anzac and remembrance days to commemorate the service of our veterans.
Other local projects for which I will continue to advocate a federal funding contribution from the new Albanese government include: $180,000 for a synthetic green at the Sorrento Bowling Club; a $3 million clubhouse redevelopment at the North Shore Community Hub; and the redevelopment of Heathridge Park.
The West Perth Football Club, based at HBF Arena Joondalup, is the oldest WAFL club, with 130 years of history. Club president Neale Fong and CEO Joe McCarthy have contacted me to express concern that the existing lighting facilities are inadequate and in need of a major upgrade. The current tower lights and infrastructure at the ground are 28 years old and require replacement. The club has obtained a quote putting the total cost of the lighting upgrade at $1.2 million. The West Perth Football Club has obtained an initial commitment of a 10 per cent contribution from the AFL and is seeking federal funding in the order of $1 million to complete the project. Upgraded lighting would allow the club to play night football, with capacity in future for televised night AFL.
In summary, there is much more work to be done in this term of parliament to attract private sector investment to develop our regional city, as well as securing more federal funding to build community facilities for the Moore community. I will continue my focus on economic development to deliver for the people of Moore.
Scott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
Before I call the most honourable member for Adelaide, I draw your attention to the time. If you don't get through your speech, you will, at the next available time, be in continuation.
Steve Georganas (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Link to this | Hansard source
I am so immensely proud to be part of the Albanese Labor government in this 47th Parliament and to represent the seat of Adelaide. This parliament is one of the most diverse parliaments in the history of our federation. For someone like me, who has been a long-term defender of multiculturalism and has long fought for greater diversity, this makes me extremely proud. It also makes me proud to be part of this Labor government, a government that will govern for all Australians. We will do this in the spirit of unity and togetherness, which is in stark contrast to the combative nature of the previous government.
We have wasted no time in implementing the priorities that the Australian people told us they want. In May 2022 Australians voted for change. They voted for a Labor government to build a better, fairer and cleaner future. In the months since the election we have dedicated ourselves to delivering just that. We've already legislated to fix the previous government's mess of the aged-care sector. We've legislated to deliver a cleaner and greener future and to tackle climate change. This was one of the core campaign commitments in the lead-up to the 2022 election. People told us that they wanted a cleaner environment and a greener future, and for us to tackle climate change, and that's what we're doing.
We are also delivering cheaper medicines and reforming Medicare to ensure it is sustainable and appropriate for future generations. We have legislated 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave. We have repealed the cashless debit card and expanded access to the Commonwealth seniors health card. We are delivering A Future Made in Australia with Jobs and Skills Australia, and we've finally delivered a National Anti-Corruption Commission. That was long overdue, and it was something that people told me quite clearly they wanted, not only in my electorate but all over Australia. We've delivered cheaper child care for Australian families.
But the list does not stop there. We're currently in the process of debating legislation to deliver even more, including secure jobs and better pay, and safer and more secure workplaces for Australian women. We are also continuing to implement a very important part of our parliamentary work, the Uluru Statement from the Heart, in full, with a referendum this year that will enshrine a First Nations Voice to Parliament in the Constitution. We've wasted no time, and it's only the start. Australians wanted change, and this Albanese Labor government will deliver. We made a promise during the election campaign to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full. We are committed to Australia reconciling with our past, telling and knowing the truth about history, and placing a First Nations voice at the heart of our democratic process. Voice, truth and treaty, and Closing the Gap: we can only do this by working together.
The Prime Minister said it all at the Garma festival when he said:
We approach these tasks and the work of constitutional change, with humility and with hope.
Humility: because over 200 years of broken promises and betrayals, failures and false starts demand nothing less.
Humility because—so many times—the gap between the words and deeds of governments has been as wide as this great continent.
But also hope.
… … …
I believe there is room in Australian hearts, for the Statement from the Heart.
I can only concur with these words and add my personal commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart and achieving true reconciliation. For too long, First Nations people have had to endure a lack of voice, and this must change.
We've also seen a decade of inaction on climate change. Actually, I'll take that back. It wasn't just inaction from the previous government; it was complete denial. We are making acting on climate change a priority for the government and an opportunity for Australia. We recently passed our Climate Change Bill, a historic moment, and we'll embrace the transition to clean energy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process.
Under our Powering Australia plan we expect to create more than 600,000 job opportunities, with five out of every six in regional Australia. The plan will disburse $76 billion worth of investment and help families and businesses save hundreds of dollars a year on their bills, but it's also a plan to bring people together and move the country forward around a collective desire to take fairer and stronger action on climate change, and it will accelerate our efforts towards net zero emissions by 2050.
Our Rewiring the Nation plan will modernise the Australian grid, getting us up to 82 per cent renewable energy in our electricity system by 2030. Our National Electric Vehicle Strategy will increase access to affordable electric and hydrogen vehicles, and the National Battery Strategy will use our talented people and our international advantage in raw materials to not just supply minerals but build a domestic industry. These steps will ensure Australia will once again become a world leader on climate change. We've already delivered on child care. Australians are doing it tough, and we've seen the cost of living and a whole range of other things, worldwide, going up, but we're helping by making child care more affordable. The rising cost of child care is putting a lot of pressure on families and is continuing to drag on economic participation and productivity. To honour a key election commitment, we will reduce childcare costs for more than a million families.