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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 381


Ms CAMPBELL (1:10 AM) — I rise to speak in support of the Appropriation (Nation Building and Jobs) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009 and cognate bills. This government faces stark choices in its response to what is an unprecedented global financial crisis. The Rudd government has responded in a way which gives Australia, and indeed the people in the electorate of Bass, hope that one day this crisis will have passed and in its wake will be a stronger, more confident and infinitely improved nation. The Rudd government’s $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan makes a virtue out of necessity.

More than 9½ thousand schools across the country, 56 of them in Bass, will share in $14.7 billion to build new or to upgrade existing buildings. In Bass, we have 36 government schools, 13 non-government schools and seven Catholic schools. Each and every one stands to benefit. So too the many people who will be employed as a result. It is impossible to put a price on the value of education, and our students deserve to learn in environments which are conducive to striving for excellence. I am fortunate in this job in that I am able to visit schools across Northern Tasmania and see firsthand some of the amazing endeavours of both educators and students. I am proud to be part of a government which is committed to an education revolution. In fact, so committed is this government that just last month the schools across Bass shared in more than $1.7 million granted through the Rudd government’s computers in schools program. It is part of an education revolution.

The Rudd government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan builds on that revolution. It acknowledges that not every school, be it state, private, independent or Catholic, has the basic building blocks necessary to provide an adequate learning environment. That is something which I have seen firsthand. As I said, I am fortunate in that I have spent time in many of the schools in Bass, one of which is Flinders Island District High School. In July last year, I was given a tour of the school by a passionate and committed Gary Sykes. Gary spoke with enthusiasm and determination about the endeavours of his amazing students. We saw artwork, projects and sporting achievements. What I also saw was substandard learning spaces. That is by no means a commentary on Flinders Island District High School. The education which its educators provide is beyond question and their efforts are reflected in the students. But some of the school’s facilities are better suited to the 1950s than the 21st century—and, believe me, this is not an isolated case. This is why this massive investment in education infrastructure is so vital. It will boost employment and improve the quality of facilities such as science laboratories, gymnasiums and libraries.

I note that when the Prime Minister announced this stimulus package he made special mention of language laboratories and improving the environment in which our young people learn languages other than English. This is fundamental to our nation’s future and it is something which I have heard loud and clear from my electorate of Bass. Last year I took the opportunity of hosting a local 2020 summit. It was the only local summit of its kind in Tasmania, and one of the ideas which was generated and then fed into the Australian 2020 Summit here in Canberra was a greater emphasis on languages other than English in our schools.

I am hopeful that, when the dust has settled from this global economic crisis we will have, through the endeavours of this government, a greatly improved nation. I am hopeful that there will indeed be a silver lining to what is an enormous cloud. This is not to make light of the fate which awaits the hundreds of thousands of Australians who face unemployment through a situation not of this country’s or indeed this government’s making. Make no mistake about it: those opposite may choose to criticise and they may seem to capitalise politically on this situation, but as a government we have chosen action over rhetoric, nation building over politics and decisive measures over sitting back and watching helplessly as our economy falters and our communities suffer.

In my electorate 7,790 families will receive the back-to-school bonus. I know from my discussions with parents and with educators how valuable that assistance will be as children head back to school next week. And 1,465 people on youth allowance and 3,116 people on Newstart allowance will receive the training and learning bonus. That is $950 to support study costs. It has been said numerous times in this House over the last 24 hours, but I believe it can be said again: this government has taken decisive action to protect the future of Australian workers—$42 billion, 90,000 jobs and an unprecedented response to the increasingly severe global recession.

We have faced much criticism from those opposite about the state of the budget. It needs to be remembered, however, that the global recession has wiped $115 billion off government revenue and has imposed a deficit on the budget. But, in the face of the most serious global recession since the Great Depression, we make no apology for choosing to support Australian jobs. We are laying the groundwork for a stronger, better nation when the global financial crisis has passed. That is something which has been acknowledged in Tasmania by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, by the education union, by the building industry and by the Tasmanian government.

Across Bass and, indeed, across my home state, there is a high proportion of workers on incomes which make them eligible for up to $950 through the cash payment. Around 21 farmers will be eligible for the hardship payment. I would say in response to the member for Parkes that those 21 farmers are actually very grateful. He might like to look at Hansard, the media releases and the words that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has spoken in the last 24 hours. This is practical assistance for communities and a much-needed stimulus for the nation.

This national plan is about building a better country. It is about better roads, better schools and a cleaner, greener climate. But, more than that, it is about people. This government brought into office a commitment to act on homelessness. For too long it was an issue which was put in the too-hard basket—but no more. Twenty thousand new social dwelling homes will be built and urgent maintenance carried out on a further 2,500. There are people who spend nights on the street in Launceston, Scottsdale, George Town and right across Bass, Tasmania and the country. There are too many people who sleep rough every night and too many people who rely on the tireless generosity of organisations like Launceston City Mission.

This package is about roads, black spots, boom gates, community infrastructure, boosting economic growth by a half to three-quarters of a per cent of GDP and it is about bracing the economy against the onslaught of a global recession, but it is also fundamentally about people. The government is acting to reduce the number of people who will lose their jobs. We are acting to ease the financial pressure under which families and workers are struggling. We are acting in the face of economic adversity, and all those opposite can do is oppose—not because they are acting in the interests of the nation but because they are seeking to make political mileage out of a situation which should really be above politics. To that end, I commend the government’s $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan to the House.