Senate debates

Wednesday, 3 February 2010



6:51 pm

Photo of Annette HurleyAnnette Hurley (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Rudd government’s economic stimulus package has been an overwhelming success, helping to keep our nation out of recession and contributing to keeping more than 100,000 workers off the unemployment queue. The $42 billion Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan has been underway for a year and has assisted the Australian economy to weather the global financial crisis. The Australian economy is now emerging as an international case study for its economic management during the crisis. Yet, despite the support of Treasury, the Reserve Bank, the IMF, employer and employee representative organisations, and the international community through the G20, the opposition have continued to oppose the government’s effective stimulus rollout. Furthermore, they continue to denigrate the valuable infrastructure, education and community work being undertaken as a result of the economic stimulus. Most recently, the shadow finance minister described the building of new school halls as a ‘squandering of money’. That Senator Joyce believes that investing in education facilities for our children amounts to squandering money is, for me, impossible to comprehend and shows a lack of understanding of what is happening in the community. I am certain that many parents and community organisations who often share the use of these facilities feel the same.

Over the Christmas break, I was fortunate enough to witness first hand the economic and community benefits of stimulus projects in regional South Australia and I take this opportunity to share some of those experiences. In early December last year, I attended the opening of the refurbished Port Pirie swimming pool. Port Pirie is located on the eastern shore of the Spencer Gulf and was South Australia’s first provincial city. It has a thriving industrial and commercial centre, large market gardens and a major fishing industry. As part of the economic stimulus package, the government dedicated $1 billion to a regional and local infrastructure program and it was this program that provided $625,000 towards the $1 million upgrade for the local swimming pool in Port Pirie. I launched the project to coincide with the local swimming club exhibition time trials and a free open day for children and families.

The original pool in Port Pirie was built more than 40 years ago and had major problems associated with leaking and with rusted pipes. This work has improved the maintenance of the pool, the overall look of the project and the usability of the pool. It has enabled the local swimming club to look forward to hosting regional events at the pool. Indeed, it was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the people in the swimming club. I had the opportunity to speak to a lot of the members of the swimming club and the town generally. The project employed five people during construction and provided a short-term economic boost to the local community when it was needed most. The pool is a wonderful facility for health and recreation for families in that community.

Later in December, I went to the Maitland Lutheran School to open its multipurpose hall and gymnasium, done through the Building the Education Revolution. Building the Education Revolution is a key component of the nation building plan. Through the BER, we have invested $16.2 billion in schools right around the country on major infrastructure and refurbishment projects in primary schools and new or refurbished science and language centres in secondary schools. This is a plan both to support jobs and to stimulate economies. When I visited the Maitland Lutheran School to open their new multipurpose hall, I saw a clear example of the success of this project.

Maitland lies in the heart of the Yorke Peninsula, approximately 170 kilometres west of Adelaide, and is the centre of rich farming land. The limestone soils are ideal for the growing of barley and wheat and the town serves a local population of just over 1,000 residents. The Maitland Lutheran School received $75,000 under the national school pride element and $850,000 under the Primary Schools for the 21st Century element of the BER.

The local principal, teachers, parents and tradespeople worked together to deliver this important project, the first to be delivered under the BER around Australia. I was very proud to take part in this opportunity to recognise the work undertaken by the school. The rapid delivery required great cooperation between the architect, the school and the government and worked so well because the opening of this wonderful facility coincided with the end-of-year school presentations. The multipurpose hall will double as a gymnasium. Building it employed approximately 40 people and was a worthy testament to the success of the government’s stimulus package and the enthusiasm of the school community.

In January, I went to Ardrossan. The town hall in Ardrossan had kitchen facilities which had aged to the point where it was extremely difficult for organisations to cater for community events. The town hall is nearly 100 years old. The District Council of Yorke Peninsula received $30,000 from the government’s $1 billion Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. Ardrossan is located about 490 kilometres north-west of Adelaide, also on the Yorke Peninsula, and services a population of approximately 7,500 permanent residents. During holidays it can double in size. It is a beautiful tourist town right on the coast and serves as a regional centre for many other small tourist towns along the coast.

It is particularly important in tourist areas that the local community has a vibrant, strong, permanent community. The chair of the progress association, in his speech, talked about the family ceremonies that are held in that town hall—the weddings, the anniversaries, the birthdays, the major events of the community. Now this kitchen is upgraded, it will service those functions so much better. The District Council of Yorke Peninsula also benefited from funding for a disabled access and bathroom upgrades for the Minlaton Guide Hall and from $125,000 for essential footpath access upgrades.

Later, I went to the Tumby Bay council area and the newly upgraded Port Neill foreshore playground area. This benefited from a contribution of $100,000 from the economic stimulus. For a community that services a population of 2,658 people, incorporating the districts of Ungarra, Lipson, Port Neill and Tumby Bay, this financial assistance is invaluable. All of those councils and the school involved told me that the direct injection of funds was very important to them—particularly for the councils, as it freed up their budget to do other important works and provided money that they could use for leverage. There had been work undertaken by volunteers in progress associations, particularly in Ardrossan and Port Neill. With the support of the community, they were able to use that money, leverage it up, to provide facilities that the community had been looking for for some time. It is clear from going out to those communities and talking to people that the stimulus package has achieved its desired impact of creating jobs, sparking investment and achieving long-term benefits for communities in rural and regional South Australia. I can only encourage members opposite to get out and have a look at the excellent work that has been done as a result of that package.