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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 335


Ms REA (9:40 PM) —I rise this evening to also support the package of legislation, the Appropriation (Nation Building and Jobs) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009 and cognate bills, that has been put before the parliament this evening, outlining the government’s $42 billion package to stimulate the economy and to protect individuals and households against what is an unfolding economic crisis. There is no doubt that this economic crisis is the greatest crisis that we as a globe have faced since the Great Depression. The causes, as we know, are very much out of our control, but it is the role of the government and the government’s task to buffer the Australian people against the impacts that are coming our way. It is paramount that the government does all that it can to support jobs and protect the livelihoods of all Australians in this current economic crisis.

I am very proud to support this legislation, because I believe the government’s decision to stimulate the economy through building infrastructure and increasing the spending power of those most in need will generate a greater spread of economic activity and will therefore create a much stronger buffer against what we are facing. It simply makes sense to support the community by providing essential infrastructure, by supporting jobs, by supporting industry and by also giving households an amount of money contained in this package to increase spending and stimulate economic activity.

I am particularly proud of the $14.7 billion that is contained within this legislation for schools across our country. I believe that the decision to inject funds into this very important public infrastructure is a masterstroke. It is a masterstroke because it provides much-needed funds to stimulate activity to create and support jobs, to support our construction industry and to support our school communities whilst at the same time building infrastructure that will provide for this nation the skilled workforce we need to enhance and embrace the emerging knowledge based economy. It will support our educational facilities, it will give our kids a future and, in so doing, it will also create the sorts of jobs and economic activity that in the short term will buffer us, as I have already said.

It will enhance our kids educational experiences because it targets those facilities in our schools that are most needed—the multipurpose facility, the science library—the things that many schools which are just struggling to keep up with basic maintenance and infrastructure would dearly love to have to give our kids an even greater educational experience and more skills and to stand them in good stead for the future, and that is exactly what this measure will do. And, of course, at the same time, it will provide much-needed business and employment not only for those tradesmen and contractors out there who will be building this infrastructure but also for their families as well.

In my electorate of Bonner and across the country there are now many school principals who are wiping their brows after learning of the $200,000 for maintenance. We all know that managing a school from day to day poses many different and complex challenges, but often having the money to be able to do some of that basic maintenance and to fix little things straightaway makes everybody’s day so much easier. I am sure that that measure will be embraced.

Of course, this is not just a grand package of words that we have put before this parliament; this is real dollars that will be translated into building infrastructure for our local communities. I am particularly pleased that the 48 schools in my electorate of Bonner will be a part of this funding package and will benefit from it. Gumdale and Wakerley, in the central part of Bonner, are two suburbs that I think really reflect what will be good about this package and what has been so neglected over the last 10 years. They are two of the fastest growing suburbs in Brisbane, particularly the area of Wakerley. Thousands of new families have moved in there over the last few years—young families, first home buyers and the whole cross section of our Australian community. There is a state school that is almost bursting at the seams because of such quick population growth. The suburbs, although some estates within them are only 12 months to two years old, have no broadband access. Public transport is appalling and the roads are congested. Of course, because they are such new suburbs, there is simply no community infrastructure. We are not talking about a particularly disadvantaged or impoverished area; we are talking about a suburb in the middle ring suburbs of Brisbane with ordinary working families going about their business.

The P&C at the state school have been asking for years for a community hall, a facility where their kids can get out of the hot Queensland sun and the rain that we have enjoyed over the last few weeks and which will also provide indoor sporting activities and rooms and storage areas that can be used by the community at large. They have raised $250,000 on their own, and I was pleased in the election campaign that the Labor leader, now Prime Minister, committed $500,000 towards that community facility. I believe that with this new package we should be able not just to contribute that money but to significantly assist the state school in building a community facility for the suburb of Gumdale, a real benefit and a standing testament to the fact that this government is prepared to support essential community infrastructure.

The social housing package is yet another masterstroke—$6 billion that not only goes to support the construction industry, those employed in that industry, their families and the ongoing benefits that arise from the dollars spent to support that industry but also goes to the heart of any compassionate government: that is, providing that basic essential, a home, for someone who does not have one. The fact that there are 100,000 homeless people in this country is a shame. The fact that we are bringing forward a funding package that will build 20,000 new homes is something that we should all be celebrating. As a former local councillor, I say that the money allocated for community infrastructure, for roads and for black spots is something that is long overdue. I know that in my electorate of Bonner there are many areas that have been neglected and that need the support of a strong government putting in money for infrastructure. I very much welcome the funding that has been put forward in this package.

For all those reasons, it astounds me that the opposition have chosen to oppose this package—housing for homelessness, primary school children getting the educational facilities they need and secondary schools building on the important skills they require through science labs and state-of-the-art libraries. But I guess it should not really surprise us, because this package is actually incomprehensible to them. It is incomprehensible because it demonstrates—and this is something that many people who have supported social democracy for many, many years would know—that government is a force for good in a capitalist economy and is not a barrier to enterprise but, in fact, can be a tool that supports private enterprise by investing in infrastructure, by promoting economic activity and by ensuring that private enterprise economic activity is not an end in itself but the basis for building a society in which everybody benefits. That is why this package is so important to addressing the current economic crisis that we have. It is so important because it addresses the need for stimulation now and acknowledges the role that government can play in building the economy of the future by providing the skilled workforce and the infrastructure that we need. It demonstrates that government can work in partnership with private enterprise and that simply letting the market rip brings us all into a very devastating situation where many, many people miss out. The opposition do not get it; they do not get that part of the package, and that is why they never did it themselves. Their only solution is an outdated, discredited idea that simply bringing in tax cuts will work. It will not.

In conclusion, I would like to say to the opposition leader in response to his speech this morning, when he talked about staring into the eyes of children, that I think he should stare into the eyes of those children whose father comes home when he is made redundant, whose mother comes home sacked, whose school is badly in need of repair and who do not have the skills, equipment and infrastructure to get the education they need to get us out of this economic crisis. The opposition need to stare into the eyes of the children today and say that they were not prepared to support a package introduced by the government that would not only stimulate our economy, address the economic crisis and give people the spending power they need but also build the future that those children should benefit from. All I can say is: thank goodness that it is a Rudd Labor government that is managing at this time, because I dare not think what would be happening to us if the opposition were still in power.