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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 198

Mrs D’ATH (11:33 AM) —I rise to support the Appropriation (Nation Building and Jobs) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009 and cognate bills, which are before the House today. This Nation Building and Jobs Plan is not just needed; it is demanded. It is demanded by the global economic crisis. It is demanded as a consequence of the crisis facing our national economy right now.

The opposition appear to be in complete denial. We have seen this over many years and it certainly has not changed. In the past they have been climate change deniers, saying that climate change does not exist. From the comments we heard in this chamber yesterday, the Australian people need to seriously question whether those on the opposition benches actually believe that there is a global economic crisis going on right now. Certainly, from the comments that were made yesterday, you would think that this is just a stunt that has been made up by the government to initiate these sorts of packages. It is unbelievable that members, including shadow ministers, would stand up here in this chamber and make the comments that we heard not just yesterday but today. We have just heard the member for Wide Bay, the Leader of the Nationals, talk about these measures just being handouts, saying that they are not about long-term initiatives and that they are not about investment in infrastructure. Clearly the opposition have not turned on a television in the last six months or picked up a newspaper since yesterday and read what this package is about.

I should not need to do this, but I will do it anyway just so the people sitting on the other side of the chamber understand what this is about. Then they can go and tell the 13,000 students in primary schools in my electorate that this is just a cash splash! They can tell them that these are not long-term initiatives for schools. Go and tell Aspley East State School. Go and tell Aspley Special School—a school who received an award of excellence last year for their initiatives. Go and tell Bald Hills State School, Bracken Ridge State School, Clontarf Beach State School, Craigslea State School, Everton Park State School, Hercules Road State School, Humpybong State School, Kippa-Ring State School, McDowall State School, Norris Road State School, Redcliffe Special School, Scarborough State School, Somerset Hills State School, Stafford Heights State School, Queen of Apostles Primary School, Southern Cross Catholic College, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Grace Lutheran Primary School, Mueller College, Northside Christian College, Prince of Peace Lutheran Primary School, St Paul’s Primary School, St Benedict’s Catholic Primary School and Woody Point Special School. Go and tell them that this is just a stunt, that this is not going to improve the education that is provided to these students in the future. They know differently, as do many other people across this country, including a lot of well-recognised organisations who have come out in support of this plan today. Heather Ridout, from the Australian Industry Group, is reported as saying:

The package targets consumer spending, which is absolutely critical to our near-term economic prospects, and boosts capital expenditure—looming as one of the real casualties of the downturn.

We heard from the member for Wide Bay that the initiatives for farmers are worthless and will provide no help, yet David Crombie, from the National Farmers Federation, released a press release only yesterday saying that the government’s $950 tax-free bonus for all drought-affected farmers will reach some 21½ thousand farmers, many needy families and regional economies. Likewise, Mr Crombie stated that the regional infrastructure package—and the member for Wide Bay seems to think that there is no investment in infrastructure by this government—will see a major revamp of country services and will shore up jobs in local communities. We have heard that this government, with this package, is being accused of not investing in important initiatives like road building, national infrastructure or health and nursing homes. I have not heard more hypocritical comments in the last 12 months than what I have heard this morning. When in government for 11 years, the opposition not only ignored health, nursing homes and national infrastructure—especially in Queensland, where, according to them, we do not have any national roads that need repairing or building—but ripped money from the state governments to ensure that they were not able to deliver on previous commitments to the local economy.

We have not heard a lot of alternative propositions put up by the opposition in the last 24 hours, but one solution we have heard is that we should delay the emissions trading scheme. What a surprise it is to hear the Leader of the Nationals suggest that we should delay the emissions trading scheme! We know the confusion in this chamber and in the other chamber about where our colleagues stand on the emissions trading scheme. The solution to the economic crisis is not to ignore climate change; that will not fix the problem. These are issues that we need to deal with and we cannot shelve one problem to deal with the other. They are both important initiatives that affect not just our environment but our economy into the long term and, as has been shown by this Nation Building and Jobs Plan, they can actually work together to grow the economy, to support the economy and to support jobs. We have seen that in some of the initiatives for households, such as providing insulation and an increased rebate for hot water systems. These initiatives are important and need to be done now and in the near future. They not only address climate change but also help to support jobs.

This national package, at the local level, will do a lot for my electorate. Just look at the social housing initiative—not just what it will provide at a social level to the community, which is so needed, but also what it will do to support jobs in the area. By building new units and new houses, you create demand for carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters and trades assistants. If the member for Wide Bay were to say to the people in my community and in every other community around Australia that this is just about throwing money around and will not support jobs, I am sure that those people would disagree. I know that my local schools are going to welcome this initiative. There are many schools which, for many years, have done without halls or state-of-the-art libraries but need shelters and maintenance. There are so many things we can do to support our schools. It is not just up to the state governments to do that. We, as a federal government, also have a responsibility to stand up and acknowledge the worth of our young people. They are our future, and if we do not invest in their education and in the schools and the teachers who support them and their families then this country does not have a future. So that is where we must start and that is what we are doing. I welcome this initiative in relation to the schools, at many levels.

In relation to investment in local government community infrastructure, this package will not only support jobs once again in my local community but also provide necessary community infrastructure and services. The Redcliffe PCYC is one example of an organisation that I will be working closely with. I will lobby the local government to consider the complete refurbishment of the club as a worthwhile project. This is a facility that has more than 3,000 active members—young people who deserve good facilities to keep them active and to help them learn and socialise within the community. The PCYC does a fantastic job but we need to do more to assist it.

I welcome in the gallery today Alan Sparks, the Chief Executive Officer of East Coast Apprenticeships, who is absolutely committed to creating jobs and training opportunities not just locally in Queensland but nationally. Alan spoke with me and representatives of this government this morning about the importance of addressing our skills shortage, about the need for further training and about how we can make these initiatives complement each other when we are talking about building and about maintenance—because, no matter what happens in the jobs market, we still have a skills shortage and we still need to address this problem. That is the point we need to keep making to the opposition: these issues do not just go away, and you cannot put them on the shelf and think that we can come back to this at a time when the economy is looking a bit better. There has never been a more important time to deal with these initiatives. These bills before us this morning are important; they are necessary. This country not only needs the government to act but demands that this government act. I call on the opposition to support these bills.