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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4452

Senator CAROL BROWN (7:00 PM) —In this place last week, we heard some extraordinary remarks from Senator Bushby. It would seem that once again Senator Bushby has resorted to political grandstanding in a disappointing attempt to score cheap political points. Senator Bushby’s claim that Tasmania has suffered from neglect from the federal Labor government is beyond belief.

Let us start where all good public policy begins and that is with a strong economy. Only the Labor government advocated appropriate public policy to shield the Australian economy from the worst effects of the global recession. Need I remind Senator Bushby that he was part of an opposition that, in the face of the greatest financial crisis in 75 years, advocated a wait-and-see approach. That’s right: Senator Bushby and his colleagues wanted to sit on their hands and do nothing. By doing nothing, they would have plunged the Australian economy into recession, because that is exactly what a do-nothing approach would have achieved. Doing nothing would have abandoned workers at a time when they most needed support.

Let us contrast this with what we on this side of the chamber did. We acted quickly and decisively to implement a range of short-, medium- and long-term stimulus measures to protect the Australian economy from the worst effects of the global recession. The stimulus measures have helped support thousands of Australian jobs in these difficult economic times.

It was Labor that acted to protect the interests of Tasmanian workers, and the actions taken by the Labor government seem to have been vindicated, with the Australian economy being one of the best performing economies in the advanced world. We were one of only three advanced economies not to fall into recession as the global financial crisis struck around the world, sending the rest of the world into deep recession. Our unemployment remains relatively low, recently falling from seasonally adjusted 5.4 per cent in April to 5.2 per cent in May—more good news highlighting the strength of the Australian economy.

The Building the Education Revolution also supported local businesses and provided Australian schools with new and upgraded classrooms, libraries, and school halls. This was a $15 billion investment in Australian schools which delivered 24,000 projects in 9,500 schools around Australia. In Tasmania alone, under the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program, my home state received $360 million to fund 296 projects in 227 Tasmanian primary schools. It was, after all, those opposite, under the leadership of Mr Abbott, who want to axe that program, which has enormous benefits for schools and school communities. I doubt that Senator Bushby would have been seen in our home state of Tasmania fronting up to local schools and telling them they could not have their new library, their new school hall or their new classrooms. But those opposite do not plan to stop there. We know that the Liberal Party and Mr Abbott now want to axe trade training centres. To axe training centres would be unacceptable. It would deprive young people of the opportunity to gain vital hands-on skills and would be a blow to their chances of securing full-time employment. But do not take my word for it. A letter to the editor of the Huon Valley News on 16 June, headed ‘Trades training centre’ stated in part:

For Federal Liberal candidate Jane Howlett to refer to the proposed $6.4m Huon Valley Trade Training Centre as, ‘attaching a relatively small technical section at the back of a secondary school’ it shows just how out of touch Tony Abbott’s party is.

It also shows how out of touch Jane Howlett is with her electorate and with the Huon Valley.

The purpose-built Huon Valley Trade Training Centre will provide training opportunities for years 9-12 students in a range of industries … It will be a state-of-the-art industry standard facility.

The biggest bonus for those students is that the training will be locally-based, and placements will be with local employers.

The retention hurdle of distance and city-based training will be removed.

Our young people will remain in our Valley and add value to our community.

The letter goes on to say:

Tasmania continues to face a skills shortage in industries vital to the state’s future.

Huon Valley students have traditionally faced educational challenges of retention and, more importantly, stickability at Years 11/12.

The Trade Training Centre is vital for addressing these issues as an innovative and locally based solution.

Any party which wants to abandon this program now is not only short-sighted, and out of touch, but is selling short the future of our young people.

That letter was from Mr Steve Harrison from Dover, the local community. Whilst that is disappointing, this decision by those opposite is not unexpected; after all, it was those opposite who presided over the greatest skills shortage in Australia’s history. Whilst those opposite are busy announcing funding cuts to education and health, the Labor government is getting on with its long-term reform agenda. In Tasmania, we are benefiting significantly from this reform agenda. The National Broadband Network, NBN, stands to give Tasmanian homes, schools and workplaces enormous benefits by rolling out fibre-to-the-node cutting-edge broadband technology. The NBN will connect 90 per cent of Australians to broadband with speeds of up to 100 megabits per second. In my home state of Tasmania, a number of rollouts have already been announced, and recently the government announced stage 3 of the NBN rollout in Tasmania. The $100 million Tasmanian stage 3 rollout will connect 90,000 premises in Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie. This is on top of the already announced stage 1 and 2 rollouts in Tasmania, where the residents of Smithton, Scottsdale, Midway Point, Sorell, Deloraine, George Town, St Helens, Triabunna, Kingston Beach and South Hobart will be the first in the state to benefit from increased broadband speeds with the fibre-to-premises rollout. And, I am pleased to say, the first towns stand to be switched on to the NBN very soon.

Needless to say, those opposite, after presiding over a decade of failed broadband plans, now want to axe the NBN. We know that Senator Bushby’s state Liberal Party colleagues are supporting the NBN and the federal Liberal Party candidate for the electorate of Franklin, Ms Jane Howlett, was supporting the NBN only a matter of months ago as a state Liberal Party candidate, so who knows where she stands on the NBN now? Ms Howlett has enough problems convincing the Franklin electorate that she is a local and not a blow-in from Lyons. Her problems are made worse by the fact that she sits on both sides of the fence when it comes to the NBN.

Tasmania also stands to reap the rewards from the Labor government’s historic health agreement with the state. In Tasmania, we stand to receive an additional $340 million of funding from the historic agreement. This will provide an additional 500 elective surgery procedures a year, around 126 GP training places over 10 years and capital injections to cut emergency department waiting times. Again, it is no surprise that the Liberal Party opposes these key health reforms. This is what we would expect from an opposition that has no alternative health policy and whose leader, Mr Abbott, was the former health minister who ripped $1 billion from the health budget and capped GP training places.

In fact, in the electorate of Franklin, where Senator Bushby’s office is located, they stand to benefit greatly from the Labor government’s reform agenda, due to the hard work of the federal Labor member for Franklin, Ms Julie Collins MP. Ms Collins has worked tirelessly for the people of Franklin. The Labor government has invested $5.5 million to improve GP services, with the construction of the Clarence GP superclinic, a $721,000 investment for rural and regional health initiatives across Franklin and a $351,000 investment to train aged-care workers across Franklin.

But the funding for Franklin from the Labor government does not stop there. Ms Collins has helped secure more than $70 million for Franklin’s schools under the Building the Education Revolution program. Some of the projects are: $3 million to upgrade existing classrooms, teacher support spaces, gymnasium and amenities at Huonville primary school; $1.2 million to construct a new multipurpose hall at Montagu Bay Primary School; and $2 million for Illawarra Primary School to construct new classrooms. Senator Bushby is happy to come into this place and support the axing of the BER program, but is Senator Bushby really going to turn up at Huonville primary, at Illawarra primary and at Montagu Bay primary and tell them they cannot have their new classrooms and facilities?

Senator Bushby reached new levels with his claims regarding the Kingston bypass. Senator Bushby has always played politics over the construction of the Kingston bypass. Senator Bushby has consistently criticised this project. All he has done is mount a fear campaign in the local community, when he should have been supporting local residents who have wanted this bypass built for decades. Senator Bushby and his Liberal colleagues had 12 years to build the Kingston bypass but they did nothing. It has taken state and federal Labor governments to work together to get this bypass underway. In just 2½ years Ms Collins has delivered significant investment from the Labor government for the electorate of Franklin. She is a terrific local member who works tirelessly for the people of Franklin. Mr President, Senator Bushby’s political grandstanding and attempts to score cheap political points are exactly what you would expect from an opposition that lacks alternative policies and is more interested in cutting health and education funding.