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- Start of Business
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH
- WORLD YOUTH DAY
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
Mr Brian Burke
(Nelson, Dr Brendan, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Ripoll, Bernie, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
Mr Brian Burke
(Nelson, Dr Brendan, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Burke, Anna, MP, Elliot, Justine, MP)
(Turnbull, Malcolm, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Turnour, Jim, MP, Bowen, Chris, MP)
Newcastle Electorate: Roads
(Truss, Warren, MP, Albanese, Anthony, MP)
(Vamvakinou, Maria, MP, Smith, Stephen, MP)
Investing in Australia
(Robb, Andrew, MP, Smith, Stephen, MP)
(Grierson, Sharon, MP, Crean, Simon, MP)
(Bishop, Julie, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Trevor, Chris, MP, Ferguson, Martin, MP)
Days and Hours of Meeting
(Scott, Bruce, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
(Bradbury, David, MP, O’Connor, Brendan, MP)
Vocational Education and Training
(Smith, Anthony, MP, Rudd, Kevin, MP)
Bombing of Darwin: Anniversary
(Hale, Damian, MP, Griffin, Alan, MP)
- Mr Brian Burke
- FUEL PRICES
- QUESTIONS TO THE SPEAKER
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- SPEAKER’S PANEL
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH
- Paradise Point Bowls Club
- National Primary Industry Centre for Science Education
- Cowan Electorate: Blackmore Primary School
- Shortland Electorate: Homelessness
- Local Grants Scheme
- Ballarat Electorate: Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial
- Start of Business
APOLOGY TO AUSTRALIA’S INDIGENOUS PEOPLES
- Ruddock, Philip, MP
- Thomson, Kelvin, MP
- Truss, Warren, MP
- Plibersek, Tanya, MP
- Stone, Dr Sharman, MP
- Hayes, Chris, MP
- Slipper, Peter, MP
- Gibbons, Steve, MP
- Hunt, Gregory, MP
- Ferguson, Martin, MP
- Keenan, Michael, MP
- Combet, Greg, MP
- Ciobo, Steven, MP
- Melham, Daryl, MP
- Scott, Bruce, MP
- Albanese, Anthony, MP
- Hull, Kay, MP
- George, Jennie, MP
- Morrison, Scott, MP
- Grierson, Sharon, MP
- Pyne, Chris, MP
Monday, 18 February 2008
Mr BROADBENT (1:16 PM) —On hearing the speeches from the members for Bass and Petrie—as they throw themselves into each other’s arms—we should never forget what an honour it is to be in this House as members representing the communities that sent us here. I note that both members spoke about the influence of teachers on their life’s activity, their work, their families and their having arrived in this place. For me it brings back memories of teachers—who have had an influence at one time or another on all of us in this place. Obviously, the member for Bass and the member for Petrie were very proud of the teachers in their respective high schools.
I was recently trying to complete two outdoor chairs that I have been building at Phillip Island, and I remembered Brian Jones, my woodwork teacher in forms 1 and 2 at Koo Wee Rup. Because I was struggling to get the chairs made in the way I wanted them made, I was thinking, ‘Where’s Brian Jones when you need him?’ Brian, I do not know whether you are still out there today teaching woodwork somewhere and looking after incapable students like me, but I send you my best regards—as the members for Bass and Petrie did for their teachers.
I enjoyed the member for Petrie’s address and the inspirational enthusiasm that comes from a new member of parliament. I also noted her list of requests for the government as to what she intends to achieve in this place. I wish her all the best in her inspired enthusiasm and I hope that she will achieve for her community a lot of the aims she has set before the parliament today. As a member who came here in 1990, came back in 1996, went out in 1998 and came back in 2004, I have heard many new addresses—and I remember back to my own first address, which I will get to in a minute.
I want to say how important the role of teachers in our community is. I raise this today in response to the two maiden addresses because teachers change students lives. In my own electorate of McMillan, on a weekly or daily basis I see the inspiration that students in my schools get from the teachers who are investing in their lives. That is all I want to say. They do a great job and we should never forget just how important they are to the life of our country, the lives of our families and the activity they bring.
Sadly, there are more people on the other side of the House than on this side of the House. That means some people decided how they would vote before the election. Some thought the government of the day was not listening, others were concerned about our IR changes—that was reflected across the nation—and others just thought it was time for change.
The member for Petrie said the simplest things come from the heart. I missed the next little bit, but I think she was talking about her kids. There are those in my electorate who have talked to me since the election and have said there was not enough heart. It is great to have a very strong economy, as the member for Brand talked about in his maiden address. It is great to have policies on the environment but it is very hard to be green if you are broke. That is why a strong economy is extremely important.
I want to say something to the people who are listening to this broadcast today. They are listening to the first speeches and to what I have to say. They are all over the country. They are in trucks and they are in sheds. Some are in schools today. Some are ladies at home who are listening to what is going on as they go about their daily activity looking after the kids—and I will come to that in a moment. Some are sitting in the gallery, interested in what is happening in the democratic centre of this nation. But they are all listening. I want to say to them that I recognise that you have had a say. As member for McMillan and as a part of the previous government, I recognise that you have spoken and that you decided to change the government.
When I was in Leongatha on Australia Day, I was talking about how democracy can work at a local level, going up to state level, and how it can work at a federal level given the input of the people that are there. But I could feel people wanting to say to me, ‘Yes, but, Russell, your mob’s just been thrown out acrimoniously.’ I said to the gathering—and there were a lot of people in Leongatha: ‘Yes, the system works. Yes, the people have spoken. Yes, my people were thrown out. However, in my view the system worked without a shot being fired in anger.’ Ours is a great and safe democratic nation. One of the reasons so many people want to come to this nation, to live here and be a part of it, is its stability of government. In any newspaper you pick up you can see instability right across the world, but not here, whatever the criticisms of what we do—and there are many. We should never forget in the prosperous times those people who fall through the cracks and are missing out. I believe, given my endeavours in this House, we have always looked at those people who have fallen through the cracks, those who just do not fit and might need a little bit more help, and at how government can address providing that help.
I come to where we are today. We are in opposition. I have a voice, and I intend to use that voice strongly on behalf of not only the people of McMillan but people right across this nation, from Launceston to Lang Lang and from my beloved Geraldton—of course, it is not part of my electorate but it is a place of great favour to me—right across to the suburbs of Brisbane. I have to mention here the former member for Petrie, Teresa Gambaro. A friend of mine, she was a great servant of this parliament and of the people of Australia while she was the member for Petrie. There is absolutely no doubt about that; that is my experience of her. I sat with her, during the last parliament, in our party room and I know from my conversations with her that the seat of Petrie was never far from her mind. Even when she had the added responsibilities given to her by the Prime Minister, the former member for Petrie never took her eye off the welfare of the people of her electorate. She was an electorate server. She cared deeply for her area.
I say today to the former member for Petrie: remember that when the swing is on, the swing is on. Someone once said to me—and this was on the second time that I was defeated: ‘Russell, don’t take this personally. I didn’t vote against you. It wasn’t personal. It was just about your government. It was just about the times.’ I said: ‘Well, I have personally lost my job. My staff have personally lost their jobs. I do take it personally.’ Anybody here who does not think they take their job seriously and personally should not be in this place. It is a place all about your personal relationship with the people of Australia, in particular the people of your electorate.
So all those are important issues that you have to deal with in change—and I have referred to the mighty change that there will be. It will involve changes that this government wants to implement and that we, as an opposition, will have to look closely at. If those changes are IR changes, we will need to be diligent in our approach to make sure that the changes that the new government will make will not wind back the clock so far as to damage the strong economy that Australia has today, one that has been bequeathed to the government.
We made some promises during the election campaign. One of the most important ones that Labor committed to as well is for a new Trucks In Action pavilion through the Regional Partnerships scheme. I was at Trucks In Action at the weekend, having been invited by Robbie Radford, the Lardner Park events chairman. It was exceptionally well run by Mark Cockerell and his team. I had the great experience at the time of meeting Max Luff and his wife, Max being the founder and chairman of the Border Express transport firm, and hearing his story of how he changed his life at 50, went into business and made a great success of the business that was there. I mentioned trucks before. I mentioned someone who might be in a truck listening to this speech today. I was in awe of the way the Trucks In Action people go about their business and of the sorts of equipment that we have in this country. It reminds me, given all the activity in my electorate of McMillan, that nothing would be moved without trucks and without the expertise of their drivers, the controllers, the dispatchers and all the people that are involved in the trucking industry. So I am pleased to have them gather in my electorate at Lardner Park—and this involves no personal claim by me as it is all done by the people behind Trucks In Action, a great show and a national event. I recognise the industry today. I recognise Stuart St Clair’s organisational body and I recognise that there are truck drivers—and their families—out there doing it hard and doing the hours, that there will be changes that the government will be making to transport regulations and that the drivers will have to learn to deal with those and all the difficulties. It was good to hear that there are success stories in the trucking industry, as there are in lots of other businesses. I wish Trucks In Action and Max Luff in particular all the best.
What was the election campaign about? What people talked to me about were petrol prices, groceries and interest rates. Going back, I am known as a workplace flexibility advocate. I cannot walk away from what I have said about that before, what I have said about that in the past, because I believe it is best for business. I believe the legislation that was put in place created a whole lot of jobs—some 300,000 jobs—right along the south-east seaboard of Australia. This has a lot to do with the unfair dismissal laws rather than the generality of the IR laws, but they are very important and we must keep tabs on this government as to what it intends to do with the IR laws. That is not on the table yet. I look forward to that being on the table and to being able to understand that. Today we have an unemployment level of 4.1 per cent, a figure that has never been dreamed of and never been thought possible during the time that I have been in this House. This parliament thought it could only ever get to five or six per cent, as the lowest, yet here it is at 4.1 per cent.
I come from a time back in the early nineties when I know that we had 22 per cent unemployment amongst young people and we had up to 16 per cent unemployment in the general population. Our interest rates today are hovering around eight per cent but have in the past been up to 22 per cent for small businesses—they had a tough time—and up to 18 per cent for householders, and inflation was around three per cent. I can remember inflation doubling and tripling in one year into double figures.
So I hope that in its efforts as a new government, and because there was so much emphasis on Work Choices, the government does not stretch that elastic band too far and that it actually has regard for the people on the lowest level in our society, the unskilled. Whilst it may introduce laws that will protect the skilled and the unionists, it must have regard for people who are unskilled. I would expect new members of this House in particular, without naming anybody, to have regard for this when those on the government side are framing those new laws. We as a community have to look after the unskilled and the less able. They might not quite have the skills—and for no reason other than their life and the shoes that they have walked in. They may be as bright as anybody else, but the shoes that they have walked in have not allowed them to have the skills that others might have. I think we have brought 170,000 skilled workers into this country just to fill the gaps, and I know the government today is looking at other ways to change the 457 visa so that it will become more acceptable to the community and allow more people in to fill those skills gaps. Accept that, in a strong economy, you are going to have gaps. But I would plead with the government to make sure that in its approach to its legislation the least able, the unskilled and the lowest paid are not further cut out of the employment section. That is very important.
Where are we today? I received an email today from someone who I would say would be a typical lady with kids. I will call her Dianne to get right away from her name. She says that she is a constituent of mine and that she writes to me through much frustration and angst regarding the current childcare policies in place with council run family day schemes which she finds incredibly unfair to working families who choose this style of child care mostly because they cannot afford the private sector. In my electorate, quite often the private sector does not even exist in certain areas. She says that she has four children and that they have progressively been part of the family day care system for the past 11 years. She goes on to say:
I find myself currently dumbfounded at the situation I find myself in.
I will not say where she is from or where she is going. She tells me:
With a family of six to feed, clothe and educate, a mortgage, interest rates continually rising, petrol costs going through the roof, and the day to day cost of living more than doubling in the past 10 years (although wages have NOT), and myself only recently returning to work after three years of having no income, we now find ourselves in a fair degree of financial hardship (as are millions of other low income families).
This lady is typical of ladies not just in my electorate but in your electorate, Madam Deputy Speaker Burke, and in every electorate across the nation. She continues:
I returned to work, not because I wanted to, as I would rather have continued looking after my two youngest children until they reached school age, but because if I didn’t find a job we were risking the roof over our heads and the food on our table. Apparently however, trying to do the right thing to make things easier, such as returning to work, may not necessarily be the right thing to do after all.
Firstly, we immediately find the costs of childcare and petrol to get to and from work, almost outweigh any financial benefit I receive from working—no real encouragement to stay in employment, is it?
It is that encouragement to stay in employment that we have got to look at. She goes on at quite some length here in her letter and she says:
Unfortunately, because my husband and myself both work we do not meet the criteria for so much as a health care card or any assistance in any way, shape or form to help meet these costs. On top of this, another interest rate rise this week (plus the extra one OUR lender put on last week as well) and another one on the way means I need to find even MORE money each month to keep us afloat. Where is it supposed to come from? How poor do you have to be to qualify as ‘poor’?
She finishes by saying:
This may just be the thing that will give me no choice but to stop working again and go back to being paid to stay home, becoming a burden on the taxpayer again and taking advantage of all the benefits available.
There are lots of issues that we need to look at in that group of people who are on the edge. They are on the edge even though they are working. We have got to find ways to encourage families like that. The benefits we give them now are important. There is no doubt that we have got to look at establishing ourselves as a parliament that addresses the issue of mums like this who want to work. They want the socialisation of work and they want the opportunity to work, but particularly in country areas we have found that matching work opportunities with childcare arrangements is very difficult. Even the Welfare to Work program can be very difficult, and I am talking to the Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor, at the moment about how we are going to get the appropriate flexibility into child care in rural Australia. The women in rural Australia know what it is like to try to milk a shed full of cows at the same time as they have got babies and kids in the home.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to address the House today. There are many issues that the new government will face. I hope, like the members for Bass and Petrie, that the whole-of-government approach reflects the same enthusiastic energy and inspiration as those two members. In his address the member for Brand talked about family, a strong economy and the importance of those things to him in his participation in this place. We need to drive our strong economy with the emphasis on those who are least able to look after themselves being protected by our investment in our communities.
The SPEAKER —Order! Before I call the honourable member for Port Adelaide, I remind the House that this is his first speech. I ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesies.