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Monday, 25 May 2009
Page: 4138


Mr NEUMANN (7:59 PM) —The government has taken the steps necessary in the circumstances as this country faces the greatest economic challenge we have faced since the Great Depression. It is important to look historically at what Labor governments do and how they respond in the circumstances because it seems that it is our legacy to be elected at times of great confrontation. Whether it is war or economic difficulties, it is Labor governments that come to the fore.

Labor governments look after those who are less well-off but they also meet the challenges they confront and at the same time invest in infrastructure, in jobs, in schools and in hospitals to not just ameliorate the economic circumstances of the country and of the people of the country but also invest for the future and for the great recovery that we all hope and anticipate will take place in the future. We know that has happened before and we know that the Rudd Labor government will attack the problem and work hard every day to overcome the challenges that it faces, because Labor governments have always done that—like Curtin’s and Chifley’s. We saw Whitlam, for example, internationalise the economy in many ways. We got rid of Black Jack McEwen protectionism; Whitlam reduced tariffs by 25 per cent. The other side of the House simply did not have the wit or the will to bring in something that would help Australian business like the Trade Practices Act. It was Whitlam who did that.

Labor governments have not just assisted the profitability of business but also helped people in the economy. The Hawke and Keating governments internationalised the economy. They floated the dollar, opened up the banking system, built superannuation, had the prices and incomes accord and laid the groundwork for the prosperity that the Howard government inherited. That is the reality of political life in this country and in the history of Labor governments. And now the Rudd Labor government, which is facing the greatest global economic crisis that the world has seen since the Great Depression, takes up that challenge.

We are now also dealing with the consequences of the inaction, inertia and indolence of the Howard years. There are the structural deficits that they created. We saw a lack of investment in infrastructure, which we see manifested in terms of ports, rail and roads. What is the legacy of the Howard government? What did they do when they got in? They gave us a public health system that was deinvested by $1 billion. They wrecked public housing in this country. They destroyed the Commonwealth Dental Scheme. What is their legacy? They imposed another tax on the Australian public—the GST—which they said they would never do. And their great reform was Work Choices. That is the legacy of the Howard government. We hear so much nonsense from those opposite about this economic nirvana they had. We hear about this new Jerusalem under John Howard that we are now destroying and sending off to Hades or hell. That is simply not true. It is historical revisionism by those sitting on the opposition benches.

The truth is that with the stimulus packages the government has acted in a way that will cushion the impact of the global recession upon the Australian people. But at the same time we have invested nationally in hospitals, in roads, in rail, in infrastructure and in the greatest modernisation of our school system we have ever seen—$14.7 billion. We see it in our electorates every day. In the experience of every politician in this House, there would not be a day that goes by on which he or she does not see the consequences and the advantages of this to the children, the teachers and the communities of their electorates. But the opposition voted against every single one of the measures that would put community infrastructure and the school modernisation funding into their local constituencies. Those opposite may have, but we on this side of the House are proud to say that we supported it. The budget bills—the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2009-2010 and cognate bills—provide so much in terms of the national response to the global financial crisis.

Locally in my electorate as well we have experienced tough times in the past. My electorate is Ipswich and the rural areas outside. When the Depression hit us back in the 1920s and the recession hit us in the 1990s we in Ipswich in the rural areas suffered because so much of our industry was manufacturing and coal based. The truth is that locally we are seeing benefits from the Rudd Labor government and certainly, by these appropriations bills, we will see in my electorate of Blair the manifestation of the Rudd Labor government’s commitment to nation building. The failure of those opposite is most manifest in my electorate of Blair in the lack of critical infrastructure for 12 long years—the failure of the coalition to invest in the national road system in the electorate and in neighbouring electorates, such as Moreton and Oxley.

The Rudd Labor government has invested $884 million in my electorate in a nation-building program that will support thousands of jobs. It involves a road that those opposite might like to hear about called the Ipswich Motorway. My predecessor and those opposite opposed the upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway. Currently we are seeing investment by the Rudd Labor government in this vital infrastructure as part of our national highway system. We are seeing thousands of people benefit locally with jobs and we are seeing millions of dollars thereby being injected into the local Ipswich economy.

For a long time we campaigned vigorously to get the ear of the federal government and Mr Howard, the then Prime Minister, to convince them to invest in this infrastructure for the health, safety and economic development of the local economy and for the people in the Ipswich and West Moreton region and in the south-west of Brisbane. But it fell on deaf ears. They did not bother to do so, even when they were receiving billions of dollars at the height of the mining boom. When it came to the motorway, those opposite showed that they were the party of the past; they were not the party of the future. It is the Rudd Labor government that is investing to improve the economy of Ipswich and to finally connect Ipswich in the way it should be with Brisbane and the rest of South-East Queensland. Those opposite failed to grasp the necessity of this infrastructure and why it was absolutely necessary in the circumstances.

The Rudd Labor government is investing in my electorate in many ways. Not only have we seen something in the order of $30 million put into local schools with announcements in round 1 and round 2 of the School Pride and the schools for the 21st century funding as part of the Building the Education Revolution funding, but we are also seeing an amazing amount of money being put into the Ipswich economy. We saw, for example, $10 million in funding granted by the Rudd Labor government to bring down the costs of new homes in the Walloon area, west of Ipswich city. It is an area just outside the RAAF base at Amberley. We are seeing a huge amount of money being put in there which will enable people who move into that area to purchase lots for $10,000 less than they would otherwise be able to. It will open up the whole area. In fact, a former National Party candidate and now a councillor in division 10, David Pahlke, said publicly that he thought this was best thing to happen in that western part of Ipswich during his tenure in the Ipswich City Council—in his lifetime, almost. That is part of the investment of the Rudd Labor government to the Ipswich area, which also includes $60 million as part of the $1.1 billion redevelopment of the RAAF base in Amberley. This will build it into a super base, bringing the Super Hornets to the super base, creating infrastructure, creating jobs and putting millions of dollars back into the Ipswich economy. We are building 133 defence houses as part of our nation-building and jobs strategy in the Ipswich area. That means local tradesmen—plumbers, electricians—working locally, bringing money into the economy, supporting local jobs, supporting local families and supporting local infrastructure. That is the manifestation of the Rudd government’s commitment to the Ipswich area.

Ipswich is a fast-growing area according to the ABS data. It has grown over four per cent in the past 12 months and it is the fastest growing area in Queensland according to the statistics that have been released. The Rudd government is committed not only to school infrastructure, or roads; it is also committed to giving our children the chance in life that they deserve. We have seen close to $2 million worth of computers, the tools of the 21st century, being allocated to high schools in the area—and let me tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, as I have gone around the schools in my electorate I have seen that that money is well spent. It allows children—whether they live in Boonah or Brisbane, Kalbar or Kingaroy, or Riverview or Redcliffe—the same chance in life to access the information that they need to get their talents, skills and abilities to prosper so that they can earn an income.

That is good for business. It is not just good for social equity and social capital; it is good for business. It makes businesses more profitable when they have better trained and educated workers. I know because for 20 years, before I was elected to this House, I was the senior partner in a business law firm and I ran a business. I built it up to a multi-million-dollar operation, so I know what it is like to run a business. I know what it is like to have to deal with staff and all of the challenges—paying the rent, looking after the payroll, dealing with employees and meeting commitments. I know what it is like in these circumstances and, if we can help businesses, that is good. If we can make sure our young people are trained as well as they possibly can be, that will improve productivity and improve small business.

Just last Saturday I was speaking to the manager of a local car dealership in my area, James Sturges of Ross Llewelyn Motors, at the Ipswich Arts Foundation’s 10-year celebration of the art gallery in Ipswich. A wonderful place, the Ipswich Art Gallery; it is the most visited regional art gallery in the country. James was telling me that the 30 per cent tax deductibility for small business was a godsend to his business; they had sold more cars recently than they had done previously. He was commending the government mightily for the work that they have done, not just with the 30 per cent but with the 50 per cent tax deductibility.

In the many mobile offices I run, and the country shows and the shopping centres I visit around the Blair electorate, I have run across many young people who have taken advantage of the first home owners scheme increases that we have brought in as part of our stimulus packages, which are a part of this budget as well. There have been 59,000 people who have taken up that challenge. I remember a young couple who came to me at Brassall Shopping Centre. They were so excited and they wanted me to witness their signatures on their applications. They were absolutely thrilled at the prospect that for the first time in their lives they could purchase a home in North Ipswich. Their son was also very excited because he liked the yard that they were purchasing. They were absolutely beside themselves with delight.

The investment in community infrastructure is just so important, and that is opposed by those opposite. They opposed this part of the stimulus package, as well as all of the others. I have seen in my local area, as part of the $800 million Community Infrastructure Program—the largest ever federal investment in local infrastructure across Australia—$661,000 given to the Lockyer Valley Regional Council, $921,000 given to the Ipswich City Council and $667,000 given to the Scenic Rim Regional Council. That is a total of $2.249 million. With that money, Ipswich City Council has done a lot of things: it has done some work on the Ipswich civic centre, the Canning Street footpath, and the Phillip Street kerbing and channelling, and a number of other areas were also attended to. The regional council in the Lockyer Valley spent an enormous amount of money on a lot of projects right across the Lockyer Valley—from Murphy’s Creek to Laidley and to Lake Apex in Gatton, right across the area.

I just want to focus on one part of that, and that is the money that was given, which was opposed by those opposite, as part of our Community Infrastructure Program. As I said, we gave the Scenic Rim Regional Council $667,000, and they used it wisely. The council put aside $480,000 of that money towards the Scenic Rim health and hydrotherapy complex. The local people raised an equivalent amount and the council correctly put it aside for that purpose. Just last Sunday, a week ago, I was out there turning the sod on the hydrotherapy complex at Elizabeth Terrace. It was a great day. This was a project that my predecessor, the previous member for Forde, refused to fund during her tenure representing the area. I was there with a shovel, making sure my left foot was on the shovel. Putting his right foot on the shovel was the local mayor, John Brent. He is very well known in the local area and a prominent member of the National Party. Also present was Sel Pfeffer, a prominent member of the Liberal Party. Present at the same time was Aidan McLindon, the new Liberal National Party member for Beaudesert.

Here we have it: a number of prominent Liberal members, National Party members and LNP members—whatever they call themselves in Queensland in this day and age. They seem to change their name and they are not quite sure what they are. I still call them the old National Party, because those of us who grew up under Joh Bjelke-Petersen still do so. But here they were with us as we turned the sod on a project that the coalition refused to fund and which was being carried out as part of our stimulus package. Here was a prominent member of the National Party, a prominent member of the Liberal Party and the new LNP member for Beaudesert praising the Rudd Labor government by their attendance, and in some cases by their words, for having the commitment to the Scenic Rim area to fund this wonderful project. It seems a bit odd to have these prominent local National Party, Liberal Party and LNP identities present at the time when their comrades, their brethren, their fellow party members opposite, are voting against the very stimulus package that they are there supporting, saying how wonderful it is for the local area of Boonah. There is a great degree of inconsistency there in all the circumstances.

But the funding is not just in those community infrastructure programs. There are other amounts of money that we have poured into the local economy, particularly in areas like Ipswich, where we have seen $600,000 put towards the refurbishment of the Ipswich basketball stadium. There is also $575,000 for the George Alder Tennis Centre and $10 million for the Ipswich CBD redevelopment. Ipswich received almost nothing under the Howard coalition government. It was totally forgotten. The Mayor of Ipswich, Paul Pisasale, has frequently said that he has not seen so much money in his time on the council and that he warmly welcomes the commitment of the Rudd Labor government to the people of Ipswich.

We have also invested $5.1 million in road projects in the local area, but the coalition refused to do it—even for the Warrego Highway, which you will know all about, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, because it goes into your electorate. The LNP member for Lockyer has constantly been going on about the Warrego Highway, but it is the Rudd Labor government that recently committed $8 million and another $2 million for fixing up the Warrego Highway. Did they do anything about it during their time in office? The coalition failed miserably when it came to road infrastructure in my local area. They simply forgot about it. They simply forgot about Ipswich and the rural areas outside. That is the legacy of the Howard government.

The contribution and the legacy of the Rudd Labor government to Ipswich and the rural areas outside is the commitment to infrastructure, to schools, to roads and to business, because that is what Labor governments do. They commit themselves to nation building in times of adversity and they commit themselves to helping those in need, helping their fellow Australians, cushioning the impact of economic difficulties upon their lives and supporting Ipswich and the rural areas outside. I am proud to be part of a government that is committed to Ipswich and the rural areas outside. I commend the bills to the House.