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Tuesday, 10 March 1998
Page: 906


Mr MARTIN (10:30 PM) —There are three quick issues that I want to raise tonight in the time that I have before me. The first is to draw the attention of honourable members to the 6 March edition of Inside Canberra , in particular the central parts of that document at pages 2 and 3, where there is an excellent insight provided into some of the problems confronting small business at the moment, particularly in respect of the imminent imposition, if this government gets its way, of a GST.

It says that there are big holes in the retail tenancy laws that have been proposed by this government in response to the Bruce Reid report on issues affecting retail tenants, and that in Victoria the minister has seen fit not to wait for what she believes is going to be a never-ending story when it comes to retail tenancy legislation at a national level and has decided to put her own in place.

All honourable members should turn their attention to this publication, Inside Canberra. It does provide an excellent overview of the concerns of small business and mirrors what I have been saying and the information which I have been picking up as I have gotten around and listened to genuine small businesses—and not been caught down on Webb Dock, trying to sort out the problems there, as the Minister for Workplace Relations and Small Business (Mr Reith) obviously is attempting to do, with very little success.

The second issue that I want to touch on is to lend my support, as I am sure the honourable member for Hughes (Mrs Vale) will, to the proposal for a super train to link Sydney with Canberra, but via Wollongong. It is a proposal for a Maglev super train which has been advanced by Transrapid Consortium Australia. What is of great concern to me is that it is one of three proposals being advanced to link Sydney and Canberra with this new super train technology which potentially will provide enormous economic benefit for the people of the Illawarra. It was recently announced that the high speed train, if suc cessful, which of course would link Sydney with Wollongong in 24 minutes at more than 400 kilometres per hour, would use the product of BHP Port Kembla steel production in its manufacture. That, of course, would give a tremendous fillip to an industry which at the present moment is experiencing resignations at the very highest levels of the company and has concerns over its future in terms of the viability of steelmaking, and it would be of great support to the Illawarra.

I want to lend my support as the local member representing Wollongong here in the national parliament, along with my friend the member for Throsby (Mr Hollis) and the member for Hughes (Mrs Vale)—and would hope that the Howard government lends its support as well—to this particular proposal out of the three that are being advanced. It would be a tremendous boon for the Illawarra. The job creation potential would be extraordinary and the end product, of course, would be of great benefit not only to local residents but to people from New South Wales and overseas.

The third and final issue is to bring to the attention of the House an absolutely disgraceful situation involving one of my constituents. In a letter I have received from a Mrs S.M. Jones of 2 Neville Avenue, Russell Vale, she writes:

My husband and I are both pensioners. I am writing to ask if you can assist my husband in any way possible to obtain his new dentures. He has been waiting for over a year. His teeth, at the moment, are glued together with Super Glue, which makes his mouth very sore and he has difficulty in eating.

I think most members in this place would be absolutely disgusted that, because of cutbacks in the Commonwealth dental health program imposed by the Howard government in its mean-spirited approach to looking after the elderly in this country, we would have a circumstance like my constituent, Mr Jones, having to put up with having his teeth superglued in his mouth so that he could just eat. Because, in typical fashion, the government has passed the buck to the state government to try and pick up the costs associated with this, we find that the department of health cannot put him on the waiting list and it is probably going to be at least another 12 months before he makes the priority list.

What sort of compassion is that by a government that purports to look after the elderly? It is a disgrace. I am asking the Minister for Health and Family Services (Dr Wooldridge) to look sympathetically at this particular case. I will be writing to him. It is the sort of thing that shows the mean-spiritedness not only of the minister, but certainly also of the Prime Minister (Mr Howard) and his government in terms of health care, aged care and aged policy. We need to see some compassion in this case. We need to see some compassion in the dental health system generally. It is about time that this minister, instead of kicking to death his state colleagues for health, as he has done today, put some money back into the system. (Time expired)