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Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Page: 3992

Mr NEUMANN (5:45 PM) —Managing the Australian economy, which is one of the largest economies in the world, is a challenge for any government of any persuasion at the best of times. When faced with the challenge of a global recession the Rudd government acted quickly, decisively and with definition to support the Australian economy by making it more resilient, by preparing it for the future and by making it stronger. As well the government were all the time helping Australian families, our young people and our seniors. We have acted immediately to stimulate the economy in a Keynesian way when those opposite would do nothing. They would disinvest in the economy.

We supported 200,000 Australian jobs through investing in people in retail, in the construction industry and in the service industry, and they have jobs now. If those opposite sat on this side of the chamber, those people would be out of a job. That would be the consequence of the inaction, inactivity and negligence of those opposite disinvesting in infrastructure and of the policies or nonpolicies they would undertake if they sat on the Treasury benches. We have invested in the economy and in vital infrastructure to build capacity to improve productivity. We have invested in skills and training, in health and hospitals and in roads, rail and renewables.

We are protecting the jobs of Australians. Our Nation Building and Jobs Plan is the envy of the world. The truth is that we have faster growth, the lowest debt to GDP ratio and the second lowest unemployment rate in the OECD world. We delivered, for a third year in a row, tax cuts to working families with increased pensions. We looked after carers, supported those on disability support pensions and cared for the poor, the weak and the oppressed. Those opposite, during nearly 12 years on the Treasury benches, engaged in class warfare against those people.

We supported small businesses. We helped out in the community in terms of infrastructure in local government, which is a vital player in the Australian economy. We have reduced red tape and we have given small business advice, assistance and mentoring through business enterprise centres across the country. We are spending $37 billion in land transport and infrastructure across the years until 2013-14. The Nation Building Program is a success. The Roads to Recovery has supplied record amounts of money, as has the Black Spot Program. We can see that in my community. If those opposite were on this side they would not be doing it.

We heard from the Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy in question time today in answer to a question that I put to him in relation to candidates. There are candidates for the coalition under the title ‘the LNP’ in Queensland. The LNP is considering a council candidate in Ryan and I am about to face a councillor in Blair. The LNP has endorsed councillors in Wright and Dawson. They all voted for the nation-building and stimulus package in their councils and in their communities. Now it seems that they are coming to this chamber with aspiration in their hearts to support a party that opposes the nation-building and stimulus package in communities across the country. These are the very communities they purport to represent in the federal electorates they are standing for under the LNP in Queensland. They come here and say: ‘Oh, I must have forgotten. Political amnesia. I didn’t vote for that and didn’t support that in my council.’ They are purporting to represent a party, the LNP, that opposes the very projects which they voted for, which they managed and in which they cooperated with the Rudd government to deliver in their communities.

There are many of these councillors across Queensland, across South-East Queensland where I live and across the country. The Rudd government’s initiatives in South-East Queensland, where one in seven Australians live, are vital for the fastest growing region in the country. The coalition has a record of neglect when it comes to South-East Queensland. Look at the most vital community infrastructure that we have had in South-East Queensland—roads. Inexplicably the coalition opposed the upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway, which is so important to the people in Toowoomba, Brisbane, the Lockyer Valley, the Somerset region and the Scenic Rim. They opposed it and we are delivering it. It is vital community infrastructure and part of the $37 billion that we are delivering in this budget in relation to roads.

We had record amounts of money put into Roads to Recovery across the region. In this budget there was $1.3 million funding for the Ipswich City Council in Roads to Recovery. The Lockyer Valley had $646,000, the Scenic Rim Regional Council had $791,000 and the Somerset Regional Council had $653,000. There were record amounts of money for local roads in Ipswich and the West Morton region. The coalition gave nothing like that sort of assistance to local councils. And there were vital community infrastructure projects. The Black Spot funding is a record amount of money. The financial assistance grants to those councils was a massive increase in funding to them. All of the money goes towards supporting local jobs. In fact in the financial assistance grants that we have seen here there was a record $2 billion for 2010-11 to local councils in the Ipswich and West Morton area and across the country for basic services, parks and for upgrading local amenities and facilities. It was $578 million more than last year. We are cooperating with local councils to deliver these projects, support jobs and improve amenities and infrastructure. That is really important. In my region under the better regions plan committed to in the last election there was $575,000 for the George Alder Tennis Centre and $600,000 for the Ipswich basketball stadium upgrade. These are premier sporting facilities in South-East Queensland. There was also $2 million for the Ipswich CBD redevelopment.

The coalition could not give a stuff about Ipswich. For all the time that they were in government, they could not have cared less about Ipswich. We never got the money. They neglected Ipswich. They failed to upgrade the Ipswich Motorway. In fact, my predecessor was inexplicably opposed to the upgrade of the Ipswich Motorway. On 27 October 2009, we saw the leader of the most irrelevant party in this place, the National Party, come out and say that he would stop the construction of the Ipswich Motorway. It is inexplicable when the project will support 10,000 jobs in South-East Queensland, in places like Dinmore and Goodna. The project will generate 10,000 jobs, and the coalition oppose it. They shed crocodile tears when it comes to jobs, infrastructure and assistance to working families. That is what it is about: crocodile tears. They vote one way here and then go back to their electorates and vote another way. The coalition get their candidates to vote one way in their electorates, but when they come here they support a party with another view. That is rank political inconsistency from those opposite.

We are used to it in Queensland because we had to endure the ‘blessings’ of the National Party for so many years. They are absolute experts when it comes to regional rorts, as we have seen. But when it comes to vital community infrastructure, they forget about it. What about the black spot funding? We have seen the state LNP member for Lockyer shed crocodile tears over the Warrego Highway. The previous government reduced the funding for the Warrego Highway; we increased it. It is very important to note that the $3 million black spot funding in the appropriation bills will go towards improving the Warrego Highway. We have put $1.9 million towards the upgrade of the Haigslea-Amberley Road Intersection. The previous government did nothing like that. We have put in $10 million to resurface the road from Tivoli to Blacksoil. What did the coalition do when they were in government for 12 years? We saw none of that money put into the Ipswich and West Moreton corridor.

The coalition purported to represent the farmers in the Lockyer Valley, the Scenic Rim and Somerset regions, yet they did nothing to the Warrego Highway—except cut back its funding. The black spot funding for the Cunningham Highway went to fixing up roads for places like Kalbar and Boonah. The sides of the roads were breaking; there were no barriers on the side of the road. For years the coalition neglected that situation; they did nothing about it. The farmers in the Scenic Rim constantly complained about the Cunningham Highway, and so we have money in this budget for black spot funding to help the farmers in regional and rural areas. There is of course no federal member yet for the new seat of Wright. I hope that Andrew Ramsay will come to this place as the Labor candidate for that electorate. If he comes here, he will vote for vital community infrastructure in that area, whereas his opponent will not. That is the reality.

The member for Fadden talked about GP superclinics. I have one opening in my electorate, at the University of Queensland, in Ipswich, in August and the member for Fadden is welcome to attend. The editorial of the Queensland Times—the only daily newspaper in my electorate—told the coalition to get its hands off the GP superclinics. The coalition want to get rid of GP superclinics. Recently I was up in the Somerset region doing a mobile office—I have done 140 of them since the last election—and at the Esk Show I talked to people about the possibility of them applying for funding. We cannot guarantee that they will get a GP superclinic, but people want more medical facilities up in the Somerset region. I can tell you that the coalition will not give them a GP superclinic. They will not get one at Springfield or anywhere else because the coalition will close them down. I will tell you another thing, Madam Deputy Speaker, it is likely that they will starve the GP superclinics of funds because they are opposed to them.

While I was at Esk recently, I also attended the council chambers for Somerset Region Business Alliance. Bob Whalley, a prominent LNP member, is the president of the alliance. He talked about how the Somerset Regional Council was going to cooperate with the Rudd government, how important the National Broadband Network was for the Somerset region and how vital it was for the dozens and dozens of small business operators there. Guess who will be the candidate opposing me at the next election? The deputy mayor of the Somerset region, a bloke who voted for the Fernvale Sports Centre but will come here to represent a party that will oppose the $2.1 million that the government is putting into the Fernvale Sports Centre and the Esk rail trail and Esk skate park. These projects are being funded by the Rudd government under the Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan. The candidate was not there at that meeting. But I said to Bob, ‘Listen, mate, your side is blocking this stuff.’ That was before the catastrophe last week when we saw the three stooges giving their budget in-reply speech and their Press Club fiasco. I said to Bob Whalley and other people at the Somerset Regional Business Alliance: ‘If you vote for the coalition, you won’t get a national broadband up here at Somerset or other regional rural areas. But, if you vote for Labor, you’ll get it.’ The situation is that the coalition will oppose it and gut it.

The coalition say that they are for regional and rural Australia but they voted against the road funding. They say that they are in favour of regional and rural Australia but they voted against the education funding under the BER. Under the BER, we are putting $21 million into vital community infrastructure for 18 schools in the Somerset region. This will include trade training centres, schools libraries and community halls. The schools love the BER. I have been to all the schools in the area, and they love it. The coalition oppose the BER. I wonder which one of those projects they will cut back. It is the same situation with the trade training centres in Ipswich. We have another one opening soon at St Edmund’s Boys College and the two grammar schools—Ipswich Grammar School and Ipswich Girls’ Grammar School. This is $3 million for the trade training centre. They are getting one in the Lockyer Valley, at the Lockyer District High. However, no other schools will get a training centre if the coalition gets in. We will have to see what happens then.

That is it what the coalition are all about. They are about opposing education. I went to a lot of these schools. The computer in schools program is being rolled out to high schools across the region. The schools really like what we are doing there—but the coalition will get rid of that policy. It will get rid of that funding. The schools will not get computers. How does the coalition think that schools will communicate with the world? Don’t they want IT? Don’t they want the latest computers in places like Boonah, Kalbar, Ipswich, Esk and Fernvale? They do not want that. However, we will deliver those things to those areas—and we are delivering them. I can see it happening across my electorate—that is the truth. The coalition oppose all of that. They are opposed to the national secondary schools computer program—$2.1 billion over six years. They are opposed to the BER funding. They are against those programs.

But that is not the experience on the ground when you talk to school principals in my area—not just those in the state school system but in the other school systems. I was recently speaking at the Lutheran state convention, which was held in Ipswich. Neil Schiller, who is the principal of Bethany Lutheran School, talked to me about how wonderful the BER funding was for their particular school. It brought forward the timeframe for their school redevelopment project from 10 years to five years. It is a lovely private primary school in Ipswich with a great reputation. That is the situation locally. Sitting in the audience at the Lutheran convention was my putative opponent. But I will tell you what, if he gets in here, he will vote against that funding for the school which he was visiting during that convention. That is the reality of political life, the inconsistency.

I believe that whether you live in Ipswich, Melbourne, Sydney or Canberra, as a kid you should have the same opportunities in life. Education is the key to development. It is about not just financial security but opportunity for our young people. Those opposite do not seem to really believe that education is important. They think that it is something that you should be allowed to do if you can afford to. We support parents choosing whichever school they want, so we will support the wonderful private schools in my electorate as well as the state schools in my electorate.

There is one thing in this budget that I think is very important. The Howard government had this stupid idea of only allowing legal aid for Commonwealth matters. We have in large part addressed the inequities in legal aid. When I was practicing as a litigation lawyer in Brisbane and across Ipswich and various other areas, people who could not get legal aid were disadvantaged in court. This budget provides an additional $154 million for legal assistance services. I am pleased to say that I lobbied very hard for that. I thank the Attorney-General and the Treasurer for that funding. There were a number of people in our caucus—people like the member for Isaacs and the member for Fremantle—who have been advocating for this for quite some time. That is an important change.

I have spoken to a number of lawyers, barristers and solicitors, in Brisbane recently about that funding. They are thrilled that the Rudd government has taken steps to redress the injustice and inequity that was perpetrated and perpetuated by the Howard government on litigants. If you were poor, disadvantaged, had troubles with the English language or were Indigenous, you were at the mercy of the Howard government’s pernicious policies on legal aid. That was the case, but we have redressed that issue in this budget, and I am very pleased that we have done so.

We have also made a big impact when it comes to defence housing in this budget. Soon I will open another 20 houses in Raceview. We have opened dozens and dozens up in Flinders View where I live. There is nation-building stimulus funding in this budget for those things. We want to help our defence personnel. It is extremely important to do so. What we have done in that regard is vital, because supporting our defence personnel, their families and their children is crucial for retention and recruitment. They play an important role in the Ipswich community. The RAAF base at Amberley is a superbase. It is getting bigger. It is worth billions of dollars to the Ipswich community every year. We honour our defence personnel. They are valued members of our community and their families are as well.

There are two other aspects to this budget which I want to mention very briefly and applaud the government on. The first is the $55 million package for former F111 fuel tank maintenance workers. I thank the member for Brisbane for his inquiry and I thank the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, who has worked with the people affected. The previous government’s performance in this regard was atrocious; absolutely woeful. We have committed $55 million to bring some degree of justice to these people and to improve their care. The change we have made will mean that 2,400 extra personnel, including the pick-and-patch workers, will receive assistance. Over 3,000 more personnel will be covered for any of the 31 conditions identified by the study of health outcomes in aircraft maintenance personnel.

I also thank the government for in large part adopting the recommendations of the Clarke review of veterans’ entitlements, particular those in relation to people who suffered terribly due to the British nuclear testing. I thank the government for the $24.2 million over five years to provide disability pensions and assistance for those people who suffered due to the nuclear tests. I thank the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs for changing the designation of those people. I thank him for the compassion and the empathy he has shown to those people, who suffered badly. I commend these appropriation bills to the House, because they will make a big difference in my electorate of Blair.