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- Start of Business
- NATIONAL BROADBAND NETWORK FINANCIAL TRANSPARENCY BILL 2010
- SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (STUDENT SERVICES AND AMENITIES) BILL 2010
- Second Reading
- Third Reading
- CRIMINAL CODE AMENDMENT (CLUSTER MUNITIONS PROHIBITION) BILL 2010
- FAMILIES, HOUSING, COMMUNITY SERVICES AND INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS AND OTHER LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (BUDGET AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2010
STATEMENTS BY MEMBERS
- Tasmanian Government: Hawthorn Football Club
- Pacific Highway
- Greenway Electorate: Wentworthville Swimming Pool
- Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
- Woden Valley Festival
- Swan Electorate: Mr Tony Manuli
- United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
- Swan Electorate: Mr Tony Manuli
- Gilmore Electorate: Electricity Prices
- Hindmarsh Electorate: Westfield West Lakes Shopping Centre
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Abbott, Tony, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Smyth, Laura, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Turnbull, Malcolm, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Cheeseman, Darren, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Tehan, Dan, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(Rowland, Michelle, MP, Roxon, Nicola, MP)
(O’Dowd, Ken, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
(O’Neill, Deborah, MP, Swan, Wayne, MP)
(Hartsuyker, Luke, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
(Hall, Jill, MP, Roxon, Nicola, MP)
(Abbott, Tony, MP, Gillard, Julia, MP)
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- AUDITOR-GENERAL’S REPORTS
- QUESTION TIME: ALLOCATION OF THE CALL
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- Child Care
- Same-sex Marriage
- Canberra Electorate: Greek Community
- McPherson Electorate: Palm Beach Post Office
- Victoria State Election
- Riverina Electorate: Citrus Industry
- Start of Business
- Maranoa Electorate: Mr Lyle Morton
- Mr John Hurley
- McPherson Electorate: Surfboard Industry
- Chifley Electorate
- Macarthur Electorate: Wollondilly Community Men’s Shed
- World Diabetes Day
- Renewable Energy
World Diabetes Day
- Flinders Electorate: Ms Amanda Drennan
- Oxley Electorate: Trade Training Centre
- CRIMINAL CODE AMENDMENT (CLUSTER MUNITIONS PROHIBITION) BILL 2010
- GOVERNOR-GENERAL’S SPEECH
- QUESTIONS IN WRITING
Thursday, 18 November 2010
Mr SYMON (11:36 AM) —It is my pleasure to speak to the address-in-reply and it is definitely a privilege to be back here to be able to do this. I certainly thank the constituents of Deakin for placing their trust in me.
The seat of Deakin was created back in 1937 but, since that time, it has been won by a Labor candidate at only three elections: 1983, 2007 and now, 2010. It is one of those frustrating seats for someone from my side of politics. It has always been marginal, but only just, on the other side. I have watched many years go by with very close results, and it is a very humbling experience for me to be elected twice to the seat from a party that has held it only once before.
As the first Labor member to be re-elected in Deakin, I look forward to the trend of seats being won by Labor in eastern Melbourne and being returned at the next election. I think it is a good sign that that can happen in that part of Melbourne. It is also very encouraging to see that the seat of La Trobe, my neighbouring seat, has also started off in that direction. That is also a great result. I place on record my thanks to the electors of Deakin for placing their trust in me for the second time as I continue to deliver on the local promises and commitments made during the last parliament and through this year’s election campaign.
In my first address-in-reply in 2008, I spoke about the precarious nature of employment and the lack of security of workers’ entitlements in the construction industry in particular. I noted at the time that the Howard government’s GEERS scheme did not fully protect a worker who had suffered through the devastating experience of losing their job, their last week’s or fortnight’s pay, their redundancy and notice payments and all their accrued leave—all on the same day when they arrive at work and find a padlock on the gate. It is still far too easy for dodgy employers to place a company in the hands of administrators or receivers and walk away from the corporate mess with their employees’ money in their pocket. Invariably in this situation it is not only the employees who lose out but also the creditors, contractors and a long list of people who all get burnt in this situation.
Although I spoke about it in my last address-in-reply speech because I had seen it in my previous line of employment, I have also seen it in my current line of employment. I have had local businesses do exactly that and workers have been thrown out of work with absolutely no money and no notice. They are very frustrating and ugly situations, and the more that can be done to prevent those things happening in the future the better. One of the things that we are doing in the current Gillard government is responding to one of the flaws in GEERS—that is, the present cap on redundancy payments. Currently the cap is set at 16 weeks, but the flaw with that is that it does not matter how long a worker has been at a company. Therefore, someone who may have worked at a company for six or seven years may be entitled to the same amount under this scheme as an employee who has worked there for their entire life—let us say 30 or 40 years. That does not bear much of a reflection on any industrial agreement or arrangement. The change that is being proposed is particularly good.
From 1 January 2011 workers’ redundancy payments through GEERS will be based upon their length of service, up to a maximum of four weeks for every year of service. This comes in advance of the legislation to be introduced that will enable the Fair Entitlements Guarantee, as committed to by Labor at the last election. That will provide more certainty to workers and their families who, through no fault of their own, end up on what can be a financial scrapheap. The Fair Entitlements Guarantee is a great step forward for all working people, but especially targeted for those most at risk. It does not apply to directors or excluded employees of companies under the Corporations Act, but it does apply to the portion of income up to $108,300 per annum. The Fair Entitlements Guarantee will, through legislation, protect up to three months unpaid wages and unpaid deductions from those wages like salary sacrifice payments to super—the employees own money—and unpaid annual leave, unpaid long service leave and up to five weeks payable in lieu of notice. Importantly, it is a legislated outcome, whereas GEERS is an administrative order and can be changed. A legislated outcome is something that employees will be able to count on.
In my first speech, I also spoke about other potential solutions to resolve the problems with security of entitlements issues for employees. One of those I have always been particularly interested in are the portable leave schemes—portable long-service leave, portable redundancy schemes. They work in some industries—the building and construction industry and to some degree in contract cleaning. They provide workers, who would otherwise not get those entitlements, a way to actually qualify. It provides, in what may well be a transient industry, a path to long service. There are not many people in the building and construction industry who could stand up and say, ‘I have worked for one employer for 10 years.’ That is not how the industry works. Most people are employed on a job-to-job basis. Very much the same can happen in contract cleaning and other similar transient industries. If there is an example to be made of those sorts of schemes, and I think it should, that is one way to relieve part of the burden of what becomes the taxpayers’ burden when a company goes under, because it is the government that funds these payouts through GEERS or through the Fair Entitlements Guarantee when it is introduced. So there is a way around some of it and that is to actually get those payments done at the time and recorded, but be held centrally and not be held on an employer’s books where they can be treated as a tradeable commodity—maybe against a loan to the company, for instance.
Because these schemes are portable and operate across Australia, if someone does not work for a while or they leave the industry and then come back later, in many cases that service is there waiting for them. These schemes have now been operating for over 25 years and many tens of thousands of employees, hundreds and thousands, have actually benefited, and I think other industries should certainly look at this example. In terms of portable long-service leave, it is also something that governments can look at because these are long-term liabilities that are not always at the front of an employee’s mind; it is not something you would generally see on a weekly wage packet.
Without a doubt the issue of most concern when I campaigned for election back in 2007 was Work Choices. Foisted upon an unsuspecting public by John Howard and the Liberal Party, this repugnant legislation stripped away working people’s rights and entitlements with no recompense or opportunity to change the outcome. As a member of the Labor government in the 42nd Parliament I was especially proud at the commencement of the Fair Work Act, an act that delivered fairness back to workplaces right across Australia. But it must be remembered that every single member of the Liberal and National parties tried to vote down the Fair Work Bill when it was progressing through this place. They wanted to keep Work Choices. It was their creation and they wanted it to remain in place to continue the rip-off of Australian working people.
In 2007 I promised that if I were elected Labor would fix the Springvale Road level crossing in the suburb of Nunawading, which is geographically right in the centre of my electorate. This involved a commitment of $80 million of federal funding and a commitment to work with the Victorian state Labor government to make the project happen. There is a bit of a history to this project. It had been promised by the Liberals for many years. But it had not happened. We saw plenty of stunts—TV cameras and visits—but no work. That is the problem, because, whilst there was no work going on, the daily traffic jams continued at what was Melbourne’s No. 1 red-spot intersection as identified by the RACV. In fact it got worse, because there is more traffic on our roads and we have more trains on our rail lines.
The Liberals made promises prior to 2007, but, rather than trying to work with the state government, they spent most of their time blaming the state government, and there ended up being a lot of finger pointing and arguing. But there was no result. By working with the state Labor government, the Springvale Road grade separation is now complete. The Commonwealth put in $80 million; the state government put in $60 million. Work started in July 2009. It was done differently to previous grade separations. A lot of work was done on weekends and a lot of work was done out of hours. Many times the road crossing would be closed for a few days so work could continue around the clock. So what would have taken 18 months only a few years ago in this case took six months. Although it was inconvenient at times—when you have a six-lane road like Springvale Road closed for a few days and trains not running—the payoff was not having to put up with that interruption for 18 months. So, by January 11, trains ran under Springvale Road in Nunawading for the first time ever. Every since the rail line went out there in 1882, there has always been a level crossing. However, I suspect the traffic was not that dense in 1882.
Above ground only last year there were 218 trains a day and 50,000 vehicles using the crossing, all competing for the same little patch of ground. The boom gates would come down, the cars would stop and the trains would bank up and that would go on all day. You could have traffic jams on a Sunday banked up for a kilometre or more. But if you go there now it is free-flowing traffic. If someone who did not know the area were driving by, they may not even notice there was a railway there—except they might notice the brand new Nunawading station. Architecturally designed, a very different cutting-edge design, it has really changed the character of Nunawading. Nunawading had developed along the highway in recent years, but down towards the railway was looking quite rundown. It has really opened up the area and I expect there will be a great deal of complementary development that will improve the suburb greatly and make it better all around for everyone.
At a recent count, Nunawading station was used by around 3,000 people a day, and I am sure that will increase because of the facilities it has. It has closed-circuit TV monitoring all day and all night long, it is fully staffed from first train to last, it has remote controlled bike lockers and it has good undercover access and car parking. Those are the sorts of things we need as local infrastructure if people are going to be attracted away from cars to use public transport. It is a great example and I hope we can commit to more like that in the future. They are not cheap but they certainly make a difference to not only those in the local electorate but also the tens of thousands of people a day who pass through intersections such as that.
I now turn to some of the other local commitments given in 2007 and delivered in the last term of government. There was funding for the Croydon Memorial Pool and the Croydon leisure centre. A total of $600,000 was delivered not only to save millions of litres of water but also to retain the outdoor Croydon Memorial Pool as a continuing operation. That is greatly valued by the local community. There were huge protests when the council decided to shut it down a few years ago. It is one of the few full-size outdoor pools left in Melbourne and people keenly wait for it to open each summer. Lots of kids go there and have a great time. In 2007 we committed $150,000 to fund an upgrade to the Keystone Hall in Croydon at the Little Athletics track. With the assistance of Maroondah City Council, which invested a similar amount, we now have a wonderfully light, safe and modern facility for various community groups that use the hall and, of course, Little Athletics participants.
Another local commitment was $500,000 to fund the building of a pavilion at Glen Park football oval in Bayswater North. This project is also now complete. It has allowed the Glen Park community centre to fully utilise their existing buildings, which have been refurbished by the council. The council piggybacked on our funding and topped it up, and that was great. The East Ringwood Junior Football Club now does not have to share their change rooms with the community centre, which was not easy when there was lots of mud in there on a weekend and people tried to do art classes on Monday morning. It has certainly solved that problem and made it a much better place for everyone. There is no more hosing out or cleaning of mud before the start of each week. The junior football club now has rooms to store gear. They do not have to pack everything away in a container on the other side of the ground at the end of each weekend.
In 2007 we also committed to a $200,000 upgrade of Bedford Park Central Ringwood Community Centre. It now has a brand-new space in what was an old dungeon, if I may call it that. It was a condemned area downstairs that had been an old boxing ring. It had no emergency access or natural light. It is now a great usable area for all the community. The main hall at the centre was repainted and the floor was sanded and varnished. This project was also assisted by funding from the Maroondah City Council. In the suburb of Nunawading we committed $150,000 to upgrade the gymnasium at Walker Park. This has been delivered and the gymnastics club is now able to use the new equipment and enjoy the improved safety facilities that were so badly needed. It is very pleasing to be able to stand in this place today and report that every local commitment of 2007 has been delivered to the community of Deakin in full.
I now turn to local infrastructure that was committed to in 2009, with the GFC. There is a large amount of infrastructure happening in Deakin. Some of it is finished and some of it is still going. It will continue for quite a while. The Ringwood soccer and multipurpose sports pavilion was funded with a $2.9 million grant under the RLCIP and is nearing completion. Again, there was money from Maroondah City Council and the state government, so we get even more value out of the project. When complete, the pavilion will have a terraced seating area under cover, changing rooms that cater for males and females, unlike the old facility, along with disabled access. It will have a boxing gym, club rooms and office space for regional sporting associations. In addition, the ground has been upgraded from grass to an all-weather artificial surface, and it will be lit so it can be used at night. Last year the ground was green and lumpy and the year before it was as black as a piece of asphalt, but it was supposed to be grass. It was not what you would call a friendly playing surface. The car park has also been upgraded so that buses can now bring kids in and there is more space for spectators to park.
I cannot talk about infrastructure in Deakin without talking about the various Building the Education Revolution projects. The National School Pride program provided grants to every school in the electorate to undertake upgrades of school ovals, to undertake maintenance works and to buy electronic whiteboards. All of these things were valuable and well used, and really popular locally. Then came the continuing part of the program, the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program. Many schools have already got their new facilities; many are now opened; some are due to be opened but are already in use, and that is great; and we still have some under construction. The important part is that BER is providing not only infrastructure for our local schools but also great local employment.
There are examples in particular with some of these schools that I well remember—Burwood East Primary School being one of them. I present school awards each year—the Deakin Student Award—and in 2008 at the school assembly, where we had to be outside because they had nowhere inside, it rained on all of us. It was an assembly—it was an awards presentation—so we sat there and got wet. The school will not have to do that anymore because they now have a hall where students can have their assembly and do those sorts of things rain, hail or shine.
I would like to take my remaining time to thank all of the volunteers who helped in my campaign for the seat of Deakin, for the countless early mornings, late nights and weekends, helping out with the myriad of tasks that some people do not see and with the tasks that people do see. No-one can do all of those jobs by themself. In particular, I thank my electoral office staff who worked beyond the call of duty. Thank you to Fergus Vial, Dimity Paul, Greg Curtin, Cal Viney, Barb Godfrey and Clint Quealy. I would also like to thank just a few volunteers: Ray Jackson, Greg Napper, Ian and Kathryn Holmes-Elliot, Steve Grimant, and Trevor and Lea Chambers to name a few. I also must thank my lovely and very understanding wife, Cheryl, and my understanding children, Jessica and Angie, who put up with me not being there for so much of their time. I try to make it up. I know it is always going to be remiss of me. (Time expired)