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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4125

Mr HAYES (7:01 PM) —What a difference a year makes. This time last year the government spoke of the need to build a buffer, effectively, to protect ourselves from international turbulence. This year we have actually seen a downturn in the economic position worldwide—the worst in our lifetime at least. My grandparents can relate it back to what it was like in the 1930s, and that is the direct comparison we are now making. In the last 75 years, these are the worst world economic figures, and we have to grapple with them in terms of cushioning our economy from the effects of the worldwide recession.

Events have unfolded with astounding speed—as I said, within 12 months—and Australia, like every advanced economy, is in the midst of this recession. We know the global recession brings adversity, but what we are trying to do is carefully position ourselves to create an opportunity, repositioning our economy so that we can best cushion ourselves against the worst effects of this international recession, and you can see that in this year’s budget.

This year’s budget has been carefully crafted to stimulate the economy to support jobs now, which is absolutely crucial, while at the same time investing in the long-term future of this country by funding the long-term savings necessary for fiscal sustainability and ensuring Australia’s net debt remains the lowest of any major advanced economy in the world. These are clear strategies that have been embarked upon in this budget. They are, quite frankly, central to the economic position: building jobs now by investing in the economic wellbeing of this country to position it for the future.

It is for this reason that I rise today to speak in support of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2009-2010 and cognate bills that are required to implement the Rudd government budget. The measures in this budget build on the early and decisive action taken by this government to deal with the extent of the global recession, as that became clear. Mr Deputy Speaker, I invite you to contrast that with the position that was taken by those on the other side. Granted, it was the former Treasury spokesperson for the opposition who said this, but do not forget her words at that stage; she said we should not do anything pre-emptive, that we should ‘wait and see’ what happens. I wonder what people listening to this debate now would think if the Australian government’s response to the world’s worst economic position in 75 years had been: ‘Let’s wait and see what happens to the good people of Australia.’ That is what we were being invited to do.

It does not take much to realise that we are a government of decision. We decided that we would meet these challenges head-on and move to address them now by investing in Australia’s future, not by doing the things that the coalition government had done during its 11½ years in office. Unlike them, we are not stripping $1 billion out of education and ripping money out of the hospital system and paying for the future that way. We are, clearly, building for the future now, notwithstanding the economic times we find ourselves in.

This budget supports jobs now and delivers the investment needed to strengthen our economy in the medium term and into the long term by making those hard choices. In making those hard choices, we are carefully charting our way back to a surplus. This budget is the third stage of the economic stimulus plan, which, as we know, is helping to cushion our local communities against the world’s worst recession in living memory. Before I talk in detail about the impact of the recession and of this budget on my local community, I would like to spend a couple of minutes talking about a forum I hosted a couple of weeks ago.

Entitled Keep South-West Sydney Working, the forum was an initiative designed to get small businesses and local businesses, various service providers and not-for-profit organisations to come together and listen to the initiatives the Rudd government had developed, and work out how they could participate in the government’s $42 billion strategy. It was encouraging to see more than 220 local business members and people from not-for-profit organisations turn up on the day, and it is very interesting to see how they have responded. My office has been inundated with calls from local tradespeople, asking how they can participate in the Building the Education Revolution—how they can show their interest in that to become contractors working on the local schools—or be part of the $16 million that is being spent in my local area to upgrade housing commission stock under the social housing initiative. These people are indicating their interest—and by the way, Mr Deputy Speaker, they are all locally based trade groups. They are all local tradies who are out there and now participating.

The Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy, Dr Craig Emerson, was also a guest speaker on this day, which was very good. He was able to take the various initiatives that this government had introduced over the course of the last 12 months and, clearly, through the budget, show how they would actually benefit businesses not only now but also in the future. Through planning their investments up to December next year and by investing in their businesses they would in return be not only growing their businesses but also employing people.

This seminar was quite significant. It was not something that was sponsored just by me. It was also sponsored by the Ingleburn, Liverpool and Campbelltown chambers of commerce, the Macarthur Regional Organisation of Councils, the Macarthur Business Enterprise Centre, the Camden Council, the Campbelltown City Council and the Liverpool City Council. All these groups thought highly of an initiative that could actually help focus people on the values of the stimulus plan and they were all single-minded about how we get people in jobs and how we keep them working.

It was a very successful forum. From inquiries just through my own office, I know there are many local tradespeople out there expressing their interest in the Department of Education and Training and in becoming part of Building the Education Revolution. They are interested in becoming part of the maintenance and building program of social housing in the south-west of Sydney.

As I said from the outset, this is a budget about nation building and also building for recovery. The Rudd government’s budget is framed with these challenges in mind, including a historic $22 billion investment in the nation’s infrastructure including ports, roads and rail to support jobs now and laying the foundations for a stronger, more prosperous and more efficient economy for the future. Included in that is $52 million to continue the widening of the F5 Freeway—the Hume Highway, as we know it. You only have to drive along the F5 between Ingleburn and Campbelltown to see the amount of construction work that is now taking place there. This work commenced as an important step in meeting a key election commitment made by the Rudd government to the hardworking families to the south-west of Sydney. It will make a huge difference to all those who rely on this very busy road corridor. It is the main link between Melbourne and Sydney so it has a significant commercial value as well as supporting the growing population of the south-west of Sydney.

I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate George Kypreos and his company, Nace Civil Engineering, a local company in my electorate that won the $140 million project to widen the freeway. It is a vital piece of infrastructure and it is good to see a local company win that tender. Going with that is the creation of many hundreds of local contracting jobs, which this particular piece of infrastructure now supports.

I am very pleased to be able to inform the House of the commencement of another election commitment made to the people of Campbelltown: the $8 billion upgrade to the Campbelltown Sports Stadium. The stadium is an iconic feature in the south-west of Sydney and in particular my community in Campbelltown. It caters for many sports including rugby league, soccer and rugby union, and our commitment has gone a long way towards helping transform the stadium and the adjoining facilities into one of the premier sporting precincts in Western Sydney.

During the construction phase of this $8 million project, the local council reliably tell me that this is now going to be supporting over 200 jobs in my local area. I am proud to be part of the Labor team that has recognised the importance of investing in the local community and investing in this infrastructure. It is in stark contrast to the Howard government that flatly refused all requests to upgrade this stadium. The Howard government’s representatives refused; they thought the money would be better spent elsewhere. It is a bit hard to believe that but that is now just a matter of fact which is recorded for posterity in all local newspapers.

We are also continuing to invest in building a world-class health system, which includes an increase of $20 billion to rebuild our hospitals. As I said earlier, in contrast to the former government, who decided to take $1 billion out of health, we are committing $20 billion to rebuilding our health system. Whilst I do not have a hospital in my electorate, I nevertheless have two large hospitals just outside adjoining my boundaries. For this reason I was thrilled to hear that through the budget we have delivered $46.9 million to Ingham Health Research Institute, a multifaceted research facility linked to the Liverpool City hospital. The Ingham Health Research Institute will focus on health service research, population health research, clinical trials and research, and biomedical research. This investment is a strong show of faith that this government has in the health system of the south-west of Sydney and, because this facility is linked to our universities, this is an investment of some note in the research capability that we have in the south-west of Sydney.

The Rudd Labor government will invest $1.2 million to fix three very dangerous intersections in my electorate, which have seen crashes occurring over many years. They have been treated as part of the Black Spot Program. It is a serious investment in making safer roads for our local motorists and their families. These programs will make a real difference to our local roads. The projects are at Canterbury Road, Glenfield; Collins Promenade, Minto; and Narellan Road, Blairmount.

I would also like to spend a little time talking about the six-month extension to the first home owners boost, which will have a phase-out period starting on 1 October of this year. That was great news in my electorate.

Data from the New South Wales Office of State Revenue shows that there have been more grants under this scheme for first home buyers in Liverpool, within my electorate, than in any other suburb in New South Wales. People have the confidence, under this grant, to make that major decision in their life to actually go and acquire that first home—to invest in themselves and invest in their families. This is taking place in the outer metropolitan areas of Sydney and, as I say, we see with some pride that Liverpool has the largest number of grants and new starts. In fact, the Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek, last week came and visited my electorate. She came to Ingleburn to see firsthand how the new home grants have helped many aspiring first home buyers around my electorate in the south-west of Sydney and how this is supporting building and construction in the area.

It is interesting to note that, for every dollar that you invest in first home construction, there is an effective investment of about $1.90, I understand from the officials concerned, in your local community. When you consider the people who survey your block of land and are involved in the design and building of your house and everything that goes into it—the production of the white goods, the purchase of the furniture and all of those things—this is a significant net boost to the local economy.

The families that we visited talked to us. One family was explaining to the minister how, before this, they had rented for the last six or seven years and they had seen their rents go up, with nothing they could do. This was the first opportunity they had to get into the market. They relied on the first home owners boost and, in turn, they are now well positioned to be a part of a growing community in the south-west of Sydney.

More than $2 million in Roads to Recovery funding will be provided to Camden, Campbelltown and Liverpool city councils to assist them in maintaining and upgrading their local roads. Again, the bulk of the contractors will be locally employed. There is more than $7.4 million for Campbelltown, Camden and Liverpool city councils, under the Community Infrastructure Program. That includes a $2.1 million redevelopment of Coronation Park Netball Complex—something that they have wanted to do for years but could never afford. There is $2 million to accelerate the upgrade of the Whitlam Aquatic and Leisure Centre in Liverpool—again, something that was high on the ‘desired’ list of the local community, but something that the local councils could not afford without this Community Infrastructure Program.

The government recognises the necessity of supporting small business during this global recession, and this budget has moved further in that direction. We acknowledge that small business is the job generator—not only for now, but also into the future. Under this budget, we have now increased the highly successful tax break increase from its 30 per cent, which was announced in the stimulus package, to 50 per cent as indicated in the budget. That will benefit the almost 10,000 small businesses that are registered in Werriwa.

This is what I said earlier. This is now inviting them, with our assistance, to invest in themselves, back themselves, grow their businesses, employ people and position themselves more successfully for our recovery program. This is growing small business. All the representatives of small business that I have spoken to, including the Macarthur Business Enterprise Centre, are as one on this particular point. It has been a significantly desired initiative, and certainly one well-received by the business community generally.

We are building on our education revolution—on our $5.7 billion investment over four years to deliver reforms across the higher education and innovation sectors, including $9.9 million for the Macarthur Building Skills Centre for the TAFE NSW South Western Sydney Institute at Ingleburn. The Macarthur Building Skills Centre is expected to help fill the emerging labour market needs in such areas as toolmaking and machining and to support southwest Sydney’s economic growth generally.

Significantly, the National School Pride program, one of three elements of the government’s $14.7 billion Building the Education Revolution, will deliver $9 million to 57 secondary and primary schools in my electorate of Werriwa. It will provide for more than 150 projects, including the refurbishment of classrooms, playing fields, installation of solar panels and the improvement of disability access.

I am also pleased to advise that four of my local primary schools in stage 1 of the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program are now participating in $7 million of new infrastructure projects in those schools. The remaining primary schools will all be able to benefit in receiving up to $3 million as they move to install either their meeting facilities or new COLAs et cetera. This in turn has a significant effect on our local business community and our construction industry. We see it now.

In the time that I have available, I want to say that I know that Australia has been one of only two countries in the OECD, along with the United States, which did not have a comprehensive paid maternity leave scheme. Historically, this government has now delivered on a paid maternity scheme in support of Australian families— (Time expired)