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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 755


Mr RANDALL (5:45 PM) —I rise to speak on these appropriation bills and welcome the opportunity to discuss government spending more broadly and mention some important issues and projects pertinent to Canning. Firstly, I would like to note Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2009-2010 as it relates to funding for community infrastructure. It is not surprising that in an election year this bill authorises further funding for community infrastructure—more cash splashed by a government that does it so well. Don’t get me wrong; I encourage the government to invest in infrastructure in Canning, but they seem to be reluctant to invest in many projects. One can only assume that the strategic project funding being authorised in Appropriation Bill (No. 4) will be part of the type of election pork-barrelling strategy that they so hypocritically accused the Howard government of in 2007. We know that $21 billion of borrowed money from the stimulus package funding still remains unspent and the Prime Minister wants to keep spending it despite it accumulating huge interest for all Australians.

I find it rather strange that we have the Reserve Bank of Australia wanting to cool the economy by raising interest rates—they did not do it last week, but I will bet with anyone in this place that they will raise them next month—and yet we still see the federal government stimulating the economy. On the one hand, the Reserve Bank is dampening the economy; on the other hand the federal government is still stimulating the economy, with borrowed money. As I said, even the Reserve Bank is backing off, yet the government continues to pour in more and more money, placing increasing pressure on the Australian families and first home buyers, who are staring down the barrel of further interest rate rises. Every rise in interest rates of one-quarter of one per cent adds $55 a month to the average mortgage. That is a lot of money for families already running tight budgets. We hear that some first home buyers already want to hand back their homes because interest rates are rising.

We heard the Prime Minister chastise the opposition last week for suggesting that the stimulus spending should be wound back. He said: ‘Should the coalition stop the stimulus spending, we would have to get up and tell the 5,000 schools whose projects haven’t started yet that they wouldn’t get them at all.’ Talk about hypocrisy—how quickly those opposite forget. Let me remind the Prime Minister that that is exactly what the Labor Party did when it took government in 2007. When it knocked off approved Regional Partnerships projects, it told community groups, local councils and sporting clubs in Canning and across Australia that they could not build their ovals, their halls and their gardens. We should not expect any more from the Prime Minister, whose government has been rife with backflips and hypocrisy to date.

Speaking with Canning residents as I move throughout the electorate, the issues that concern people most are common. They worry about debt and managing their mortgages. They are concerned about crime on the streets, they cannot access decent broadband and many have been disadvantaged by the changes to Centrelink rules. After more than two years in government, Mr Rudd has delivered nothing but symbolic gestures. The Prime Minister seduced the Australian public into voting for him and now they are starting to feel somewhat betrayed. Australians are really starting to ask themselves about what this man has promised and what he has really done for them. The answer is: not much at all. The government has held review after review on everything from groceries to whales. One billion dollars has been wasted on consultancy fees and $200 million was spent on the pink batts fiasco—you hear about them being hidden in bushes on the edge of highways rather than being put in houses. Millions of dollars was spent in transporting and accommodating Mr Rudd and his entourage of 60-odd to the failed Copenhagen summit. Thirty million dollars was thrown away on the first National Broadband Network plan and, after more than two years, not one new broadband service has been delivered. The reality is that the Labor Party’s plan is just impossible to deliver.

Labor has sunk this country into unprecedented levels of debt and continues to spend the borrowed money, largely from China. I understand something like $2 billion a month is borrowed from China. Is it any wonder it is from China? I understand from media reports the other day that the Chinese have something like $215 trillion in reserves, so they are the ones with cash. The government has lost control over Australia’s finances, spending, as someone else said in this place, like drunken sailors and losing track of the bill—or simply not caring. Debt has exploded to $120 billion at this stage and, as I say, it is heading towards one-third of a trillion dollars if you listen to the forward estimates—a huge burden for future generations. History repeats itself. Labor governments simply cannot balance the books. It took us 10 years to pay off their last account and it will be a coalition government that puts this country back into surplus.

Aside from maxing out this nation’s credit card, what has Mr Rudd achieved this year? Well, he has written a children’s book! That is another fine example of his focus-group approach to leading this country. I understand he does not get out of bed in the morning until he gets the report from the focus group from the night before! For the master of spin the gloss is wearing off and the public are starting to look for substance. The Australian public elects leaders to make the tough decisions. Janet Albrechtsen was right on the mark when she commented:

... the old adage of no pain, no gain does not apply under Rudd. On the contrary, he relies on no pain, all gain: inflict no pain on voters to continue the political gain for Rudd.

She went on to say:

... the problem with Rudd’s rule is it means that he is fast becoming a Prime Minister who lacks the spine to make tough decisions ... Rudd risks leaving a legacy of having done as little as possible for as long as possible.

With an election in the wings, the unions will be out in force again, manning the booths and everything else that they do to look after their mates in this place. They are back in business. One is being investigated for attempting to impose no ticket, no start 1980s bullying tactics on building sites throughout Australia. In fact, you see what is happening in the Pilbara at the moment. The absolute star of the income of this country has now got demarcation disputes. They are picketing at the gates. There is a two-kilometre long queue of vehicles trying to get into their work site on the Pluto project. This is because they do not want to have moteling. What is ‘moteling’? It means you actually go into single-men’s quarters and when you have done your fly in, fly out term, somebody else comes in. If you think that is all very hard, I was a young teacher in the Pilbara back in the seventies. Can I tell you that I slept in those single-men’s quarters and I was happy to do so. Those were the people in the dongas that built the Pilbara that we know now. They are the people who helped the productivity of this country. But we have got the old union jack boots in charge. We saw Joe McDonald up there with Kevin Reynolds helping man the gates.

That is what this country has got to face under the Labor Party’s new workplace relations rules. We know that illegal strike action has risen under this Labor regime. Minister Gillard lacks the will and the way to get the unions under control. Around 1,500 illegally went on strike, as I said, at Pluto. We cannot be held to ransom over these sleeping arrangements. In fact, this is bizarre. I was in the north-west myself when 21 ships were ‘swinging on the pick’, as they call it, off Dampier, because they were not getting cream biscuits for morning tea. We cannot afford a repeat of Labor’s previous record. Between 1985 and 1996 the average days lost to strike was 44.4 working days per 1,000 employees. Under the coalition this got down to 2.3 days.

Delivering better roads, community facilities, schools and health services to Canning is a priority. It is great to see that many of the worthy projects that I have fought for are becoming a reality as we speak. The Port Bouvard Surf Sports and Lifesaving Club clubrooms are well underway and should be open in the next month or so. The Mandurah Entrance Road that the former state government refused to build—a Labor government, by the way—as part of the Forrest Highway is still under construction and will provide a much-needed direct link to Mandurah. The Pinjarra pool, which had $1 million worth of Regional Partnerships funding ripped away, is now under construction, albeit without any federal government investment and no hydrotherapy pool attached to it, as planned.

I will continue to fight for the train to Byford, the Pinjarra bypass and the Tonkin highway extension. We need to bring Mandurah’s bridges up to date, improve sewerage throughout the Peel region, and reopen a fully functioning intensive care unit—or, as it is called, high dependency unit—at the Armadale-Kelmscott Memorial Hospital as a health priority. Almost 5,000 patients were transferred from this hospital between July 2007 and 2009—hundreds because they required higher level of care.

There is a state-of-the-art emergency department there but, because of the previous Labor government’s deliberate inaction, patients in need of high-level care are being shipped out of the door to places like Fremantle Hospital while 10 high-dependency beds gather dust in the Armadale hospital. These facilities are vital because all over Canning rapid growth is evident. It is underpinned by Western Australia’s strong economy, job opportunities and the prospect of a second mining boom. Local governments are under increasing financial pressure to keep up and they need the support and investment. With the population of, for example, Serpentine Jarrahdale Shire expected to double to almost 27,000 people by 2016, infrastructure needs to be put in place now to accommodate that almost seven per cent growth rate.

One of the crucial projects is the Tonkin Highway extension. More than 17,000 vehicles travel daily between Armadale and Byford on the South West Highway, and this number will continue to climb as developments in Byford, Hilbert and Wungong take shape. The highway extension, in conjunction with the train extension, which I will mention shortly, is needed to alleviate congestion to keep Byford streets safer. I have written to the transport minister, Simon O’Brien, in Western Australia urging the Barnett government to fast-track planning, costing and preliminary work for the extension and to allocate all-important funding. Ideally, it makes sense to extend the highway to Mundijong, but a viable alternative is to extend the Tonkin Highway from Thomas Road to the South West Highway via Orton Road, which would provide immediate relief for the Byford community.

The extension of the Armadale train to Byford is now long overdue. State Labor’s 2001 election platform promised the electrification of the passenger rail network from Armadale to Byford by 2008, but it was forgotten during the years that they spent in government. The train would provide commuters living in the Serpentine Jarrahdale Shire with public transport to work in Perth and students with transport options to schools in the outer metropolitan suburbs. While upgrades to the Australind tracks would be vital, much of the infrastructure is already in place to make this a reality.

Building new infrastructure and improving existing facilities in the south of Canning is time critical. Completion of the Forrest Highway has opened up the corridor for dramatic growth. The Shire of Murray alone is expecting to exceed their forecast of up to six per cent growth. Newmont’s Boddington goldmine, which opened last week, will employ around 1,000 people, with many moving their families to the region and putting pressure on Boddington’s township. All this means improving the existing road network and building bypasses to keep the heavy-haulage vehicles out of the towns. In conjunction, this frequent and reliable public transport between regional centres throughout the Peel region is essential, particularly between Pinjarra and Mandurah.

Improving environmental outcomes remains important. Canning is home to world acclaimed and heritage listed wetlands and waterways, but the federal government’s funding cuts to the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council have affected environmental management of these waterways throughout the region. Combining this with essentially dismantling the Green Corps program is not a great look for a party that claims to have some care about the environment.

One of the other major concerns and barbecue stoppers in my electorate is one that the Rudd government simply chooses to ignore: the mounting number of asylum seekers arriving on almost a daily basis at Christmas Island. Just as soon as the government granted visas for some asylum seekers, there were more at the doorstep. There is a constant stream, so it is little wonder that the budget for offshore processing at Christmas Island has blown out by $130 million. Nearly 300 people arrived last week alone. Ten boats have arrived this year and there are no answers about where they are being housed. Australian people deserve to know whether the government intends to start bringing asylum seekers straight to the mainland. This is policy failure by the Rudd government.

My constituents want to know why the government has no objection to the fact that Centrelink benefits paid to refugees has increased by 40 per cent to an estimated $628 million under its watch. A strong migration system to deter illegal arrivals is the answer. Unless the government gets a grip on the shoreline, welfare payments will continue to skyrocket. In the last financial year, 52,469 refugee visa holders received Centrelink benefits, including the age pension, disability support pension, Austudy, Newstart and youth allowance, and more than $20 million was paid to refugees in, believe it or not, baby bonuses. All this while there are grandparents in my electorate who are raising their grandchildren without the government benefits that foster parents receive. There are war widows unable to access pensions and families with severely disabled children having their carer payments cut off.

I would like to take this opportunity to mention a small win in what has been a huge fight for many mum-and-dad franchisees in and around Australia, including in my electorate. As many of my colleagues know, for the last few years I have been representing aggrieved franchisees. A celebrated case involved Lenard’s, which is based in Brisbane but has franchises throughout Australia. Many who lost everything have decided to walk away from fighting the franchisors, hoping only for a chance to start again. Who can blame them?

One couple, Peter and Dianne Roguska, have been fighting their battle for nearly three years, eventually winding up in the Federal Magistrates Court. I was delighted to hear from the Roguskas last week with the good news that finally a verdict had been delivered in their favour from the courts. They have now relocated to the Kimberley for teaching positions after the furniture franchise, Woodstock, that they had bought failed after only 18 months. They had to fund the case themselves and go to court to get their successful outcome. They are to be congratulated for hanging on when it must have seemed futile and legal fees were mounting up. They are in the Kimberley teaching because they ran out of money and could no longer pay their legal bills. They have had to go to the outback and teach to get the funds to start again. They won this case with no help from the regulator, the ACCC. I only hope that the changes to the franchising system that have been announced will bring about some real, not merely superficial, change for the franchising sector and hold rogue franchisors accountable.

I have listed many issues here that are very important to the constituents in my electorate generally. These are the issues that I have been, and will be, pursuing. I intend, with some vigour, to make sure that we deliver on them this year. I thank the chamber.