Senate debates

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Statements by Senators

Member for Robertson

1:29 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Those who are listening and those who are watching might not be completely aware of the process of the Senate. They perhaps do not understand the nature of duty electorates, which I understand the Liberal Party call 'patrons' because they patronise the different electorates. But in the Labor Party we see it as our duty to stand up for our electorates while we are in opposition and where there are members of the government that we are going to critique.

I want to take the opportunity in my remarks today to critique the member for my home duty electorate, the electorate in which I live. As there are revelations of ongoing breaking of promises, there is a decline for this government in popular polling as people come to understand what a disappointment the government is and how far from the rhetoric of its promises the reality of its delivery is. To get a sense of how deeply broken the bond is between the people of Robertson and this government, we have to cast right back to the 2013 election. The then new candidate for Robertson—Lucy Wicks, fresh from being parachuted in by Tony Abbott—made a handful of election promises to the people of Robertson, which she detailed in a document from August 2013 called Lucy Wicks and the Liberals: securing jobs and growing business for the Central Coast. Within that document Ms Wicks listed a number of promises that have still not seen the light of day. We are talking three years, another election, two prime ministers later and we have still not seen the delivery of critical promises that she made. I will tell you what she is doing about it: she is not getting the job done; she is chasing media to excuse her failures.

The reality is there is a litany of broken promises. Let me just go to the first one, which was trumpeted as 'revitalising Gosford city' by relocating a Commonwealth agency to Gosford CBD. What a debacle that has turned into. The site that Ms Wicks and Mr Morrison announced was none other than the old Gosford school site, which was slated to become an area for a recreational precinct—a community and arts precinct. Ms Wicks instead decided that they should put a grey bunker and an Australian Taxation Office on that site with views of Brisbane Water. It is one of the most beautiful spots that you could visit on the Central Coast. I encourage anybody who is here visiting in the parliament today, if you have not been to the Central Coast go to Gosford. This is a promise she has not delivered, and the only good thing about the failure to deliver this one is that it is the wrong site. These jobs for Gosford are absolutely welcomed by Labor. We believe in it. We are committed to that. But this is a government that has failed to deliver, because it has failed to listen to the community, it has failed to do proper decision-making and it put this on the wrong site.

In addition to the insult of ignoring the community and trying to impose a building on the community that the community does not want, we now have the prospect of a whole laneway that is interrupting our local greenspace. We will have to call it 'Lucy's Lane' as it absolutely cuts the community precinct from the natural flow down to Brisbane Water. Anybody local, anybody other than the member for Robertson, knows that Dane Drive is an interruption to that space. We do not need another road, but that is exactly what this member wants to deliver while she fails to deliver on some other very important promises.

Her commitment to the missing link, the F3-M2 link, now called the M1—the road has even changed its name in the time since this promise was made—was in black and white in that document. It said it would be underway by mid-2014. Well, it did not happen. It did not get underway until 2015 and, with those delays and the delays that we are seeing of major infrastructure under the guidance of this government—and I use that word quite loosely—we are now seeing a three-year blowout in the delivery of the product, that very important project which would assist with road congestion and mean less travel time for families on the Central Coast. And remember, there are 40,000 vehicles and commuters that leave the Central Coast every single day to commute to Sydney. This is a massive project and the three-year delay has had a significant impact on the community.

Ms Wicks also indicated that she was going to invest in skills with a $2.7 million skills package. While it has been spent in Dobell, there are some serious questions about $2.5 million and $2.7 million: we cannot quite get to the bottom of where this money is and who has got it. There are concerns about the delivery of that project, but, while that was delivered in the northern end, Ms Wicks, down in the southern end, has been supporting a government that has tried to push through this parliament legislation to create $100,000 degrees, making a degree completely out of reach for ordinary people on the Central Coast.

The other very important broken promise, which impacts the people of the suburb of Kariong every day of the week, is the promise that Lucy Wicks made in 2013 to fix Langford Drive. Well, here we are, coming up to Christmas 2016, and still no sight of Langford Drive. It is a wonderful promise that has, in its failure to be delivered, had a terrible impact on the community, and not just because of the inconvenience for traffic trying to get in and out of that vital link road but also because of the trust that the community had that this project should be done. It was a $675,000 commitment. It simply did not happen. They have not owned up to all these broken promises, including $7 million for a Kibbleplex project that was supposed to create a university presence, a regional library and a teleworking hub in the middle of Gosford. There was $7 million committed, but the money still has not arrived. It has taken so long to deliver it that the building that it was supposed to go into has been sold off to a private developer, and the money is still not accounted for.

This week in an article in the Central Coast Express Advocate it said Ms Wicks is apparently wringing her hands and calling on the local council to explain why they have not delivered these things that she committed. I have had multiple conversations with Mr Reynolds, an administrator who has been appointed to amalgamate councils—forcefully pushed on us by Mr Baird, the New South Wales Liberal Premier—and Mr Reynolds has been, in my view, attempting to do his job to the very best of his capacity. In fact, there has been a degree of transparency since he has arrived, which was not always evident with the previous administration. Nonetheless, I have asked Mr Reynolds, and his assistant Mr Noble, on a number of occasions to clarify where is the federal funding that they had been promised. They cannot get a straight answer out of the government. The money—$7 million—has not arrived. That was the one big commitment of 2013: the renewal of the middle of Gosford. The funding still has not arrived and the council does not know where it is. Yet, what we have got is the member for Robertson blaming the council for her failure to deliver that project and that money.

One of the concerns I have that is very significant for ordinary working people on the Central Coast is their fear about unemployment. When Ms Wicks came she repeated the jobs and growth mantra that we heard over and over again in the last campaign. The reality on the ground is that her promise of 'We'll make it easier for Central Coast businesses to employ new people and expand' is absolutely wrong. The unemployment rate on the Central Coast has reached 5.9 per cent, which is above the state and national average, and youth unemployment is at 15.8 per cent. So her promise to create jobs, her constant touting of the hundreds of jobs she is creating with all of these projects that are still on paper and not delivered, has been proven for what it is: there is a great gap between reality and truth. She simply does not seem to be able to own up to the fact that she has not delivered the things that she promised in 2013, at the first election she stood for, let alone the additional commitments in 2016.

What I am concerned about is the hot potato politics of a federal representative deliberately offloading responsibility for her own commitments. This is grossly negligent of the needs of our community. It demonstrates a severe lack of leadership. The Central Coast deserves representation that listens to the community, is truthful with the community, delivers on the commitments that it makes to the community and does not seek to blame others when there is a failure on its part. Central Coast residents deserve a better standard than this. Unfortunately, the truth is that this litany of broken promises by the member for Robertson is not a surprise; it is a signature of the Abbott-Turnbull government.