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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9563


Mr BILLSON (8:30 PM) —I feel like a bit of a sooky la la today as I have got so many grievances that I am not sure that 10 minutes will be enough.


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms JA Saffin)—I can assure you 10 minutes is all you will have.


Mr BILLSON —I hope those few seconds did not come off my time, Madam Deputy Speaker! I want to pick up where the member for Kingston’s contribution left off. I commend her and her colleagues and, in fact, members on both sides of the House for looking at the insidious impact of gambling. I am always flabbergasted that poker machines, in which I find I have no interest as they offer no entertainment whatsoever, seem to be the single focus of this. What about interactive gambling? What about this area under direct federal jurisdiction where we are seeing little baby steps of new technology being introduced, bringing the curse of being able to lose your shirt without even having to put one on. Yes, you can lose your shirt without putting one on by gambling at home, with all the sights and sounds of race day coming and booming at you through your high-definition plasma television, while you are banging away at your betting investment, able to EFT or ring in for more credit. So where is the conversation about that? There is nothing. We had Prime Minister Rudd and the Labor government talking about a war on gambling. What they were talking about is a little skirmish over to one side, being the most supervised and observed part of gambling that you have ever seen, while there is this enormous internecine gambling problem brewing with interactive gambling and this government will not lift a finger. There is something very strange and very perverse about that.

I grieve for the people in families who are raised on a diet of interactive gambling at home without the brakes that you see on betting in gaming venues, without the limit on transactions that you see with poker machines, without the supervised use that you see in gaming venues, without someone observing whether you are tired and without someone making sure that you are not intoxicated. All of these supervisions and safeguards are there with poker machines, and today we have been talking about more—and I commend people for that. But what about interactive gambling? It is out of sight and out of mind, bringing havoc to households right across Australia through what I think is an overreach against the current legislation by some gaming providers. We will get to the point where we are like the United States, where one of the biggest problems on university campuses is interactive gambling, a form of entertainment where people are geed on by friends and colleagues making them go that bit further than they actually can. How about a bit of action from the Rudd government, in its war on gambling, on a war that is on its own home turf and is directly the responsibility of the Commonwealth? We do not hear too much about that.

Grievance No. 2 relates to the impact on, the stealth over and the destruction of Work for the Dole that is being overseen by this federal Labor government. We know they begrudgingly came to the last election saying they would keep Work for the Dole. Well, they have not killed it outright but they are starving it. In communities such as mine, you see the smaller Work for the Dole providers who have understood that there is a balance between the development of skills, workplace know-how, improving the kit bag of people seeking work and benefits for the local community. That mutuality of benefit was what the program was about. Now those small providers are being starved out. They are being pushed to the wall by what can only be described as a grotesque underfunding of Work for the Dole places.

Mornington Peninsula Youth Enterprises is a wonderful organisation headed by the citizen of the year down our way, Russell Ardley, with a very dedicated band of people. At the moment, if they continue to participate in the delivery of Work for the Dole programs they will go broke. The allocation of funding is $750 per participant. That is supposed to cover 26 weeks of activity. There is now a new requirement that there needs to be one supervisor for every four participants. For that one supervisor, funded at $22.50 plus on-costs, $6.90 an hour is what is received. That is a significant loss by any measure in any proportion from anyone’s perspective. What is unique though is that enterprises like Mornington Peninsula Youth Enterprises are trying to engage with the community, as they have always done, to reach out to other not-for-profit groups to try to deal with this incredible funding shortfall. Other Work for the Dole providers seem to be moving away from the original model of skill development, workplace know-how and engagement in the workforce, so that people present an enhanced curriculum vitae to prospective employers and a community benefit is delivered. We have seen it at football clubs. We have seen it in revegetation programs. We have seen it in community newsletters. We have seen it in skill development, in support for the ageing and in mosaic projects right across our city.

It is a great program that has delivered benefits but there are no resources for this under the current construct of this contract. People who take this new funding offer—and respect the one supervisor for every four employees—will go broke very fast. They are trying to set up trade based training schemes but we have seen reports in the paper about how difficult it is to get access to higher level training funding support and this has been commented on in the media recently.

So what you are seeing is a death by stealth of Work for the Dole. You are seeing community organisations committed to delivering outcomes for participants, and the community starved of the resources to be able to do that. The only ones who can then operate on this basis are the larger organisations offering, effectively, a work placement. Now there is nothing wrong with work placement but call it what it is. Let us make it clear that it is not designed to deliver a mutual benefit for the participant and the community—it is about placing a job seeker in a work place. This can have positive outcomes but let us not call it something it is not—it is not Work for the Dole. That is not the way this program was designed. This also highlights how the Rudd Labor government is not that interested in Work for the Dole. They are trying to keep it because they know it is popular in the community—and then reorientate it so that it does not actually behave or perform in the way that it did. They then starve it by a lack of funding, so it is ‘death by atrophy’ not by a blanket removal of that program.

Another area of grievance is an opportunity potentially being missed and that relates to the stimulus program that the federal Labor government has put in place and the process through which applications are made for regional and local community infrastructure projects. I was encouraged by the first funding round seeing Frankston City Council picking up on a program I called for, which was to make use of the savings generated by the Howard government over its years to save water for the years to come. Some of that funding went towards a water recycling scheme.

What I am encouraging our community to do—and, if the federal Labor government is interested, there are further opportunities of this kind around the Mornington area—is come together, with the support of the Mornington Peninsula Shire working in partnership with South East Water and Racing Victoria, to move forward the Mornington-Tyabb Road recycling scheme. This program was one that I had secured funding for under the previous government but, because of the take-or-pay contract that was being enforced by South East Water at the time, it was not worth their while using recycled water. If it rained and there was no need for recycled water they still had to pay for it. If there was a prevailing wind from the south-east that may have pushed some of the spray that was being used to irrigate the track onto neighbouring properties, they could not use it—and they would be billed for it anyway.

That recurrent funding burden outweighed the entire benefit of funding the capital works upfront through what was then a water grant program by the Howard government. It seems we have made some progress there by involving the Dallas Brooks Reserve and the council’s Civic Reserve as part of that outlook but now that that infrastructure is reaching into Mornington why don’t we take it further? Why don’t we extend that waste water recycling system and head north so we can pick-up Mornington Park Primary School, Padua College, Mornington Secondary College, Mornington Country Golf Club and the winegrowing and agriculture businesses in that area?

Whilst I declare a pecuniary interest of being an honorary member of Mornington Country Golf Club, I am pleased to say that it is a golf club that has been harvesting its own water for generations. As that water harvesting opportunity is being limited, they are looking at needing to bring water onto the property. Using potable water would be a shame—a crying shame—when so close is the recycled water out of the south-eastern treatment plant that would be perfectly suitable for that activity.

The golf club is prepared to pay its way, to partner with broader community users such as the school communities that I touched on: Mornington Secondary College, with its ambition of hosting athletics at a more senior level, the activities of the local primary school, and also the winegrowing, equine and agriculture activities—properties like Morning Star and others in that immediate vicinity. These could all participate in a collaborative scheme that would see benefits delivered not only to the local economy but—more broadly—for the sustainability of economic activity, agriculture, leisure and the broader economy in the Mornington area. So I encourage people to have a look at that opportunity.

In the minute that is available to me, a further grievance relates to that stimulus funding. I am optimistic that my meeting with Minister Gillard on Thursday can deal with the crying shame that Langwarrin Primary School has been told they have to demolish a building simply to build another one in its place and not pursue the master plan the school had developed and end up with portable loos as a permanent feature of their site. So be it—a description of a primary school for the 21st century. Hopefully, we can overcome those problems and actually save some money on the way through.

A similar example is flowing out of Mornington Park Primary School. They are being told they have to demolish certain buildings to build new classrooms and a library, but along the way they are going to lose their general purpose room, an art room, a current library, a sports store area, their music room, a demountable canteen and the work they have done in creating a life skills program and funding some of the equipment that makes those rooms function through enterprise and fundraising by the parents. Surely we can work collaboratively to get a better outcome for those local communities, to save some money for the taxpayer and actually deliver benefits that school communities are looking for, not being fitted up with projects not of the schools’ choosing. (Time expired)