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Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Page: 4379

Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (19:22): I rise to speak in support of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012 and other related bills. The passing of these bills will see the federal Labor government delivering on its commitment to the Australian people to strengthen the economy and invest in our most valuable asset, our human capital. That is why the Treasurer, the Hon. Wayne Swan, delivered a budget for 2011-12 with a sharp focus on skills and education. With the unemployment rate forecast to fall to 4.5 per cent by mid-2013 and a recognised skills shortage in many sectors across the country, we as a society need to do more to deliver a skilled workforce. It is Labor governments that pride themselves on investing in skills and training. This federal Labor government continues that investment and fulfils its ongoing commitment in building the productive workforce our economy needs.

Through the budget the government is making that investment by implementing a new approach to training, one that puts industry at the heart of the $558 million National Workforce Development Fund, which will deliver 130,000 new training places over four years. The government will fund a national mentoring program to help 40,000 apprentices finish training. This $101 million investment will better meet the needs of industries and regions. The government will invest in more flexible training models so that apprentices can accelerate through their training at a pace which recognises their own ability to acquire the right skills. The government continues to invest in language, literacy and numeracy programs through this budget to ensure that potential workers have the essential skills for a job.

In recent times much more effort has been put in by governments, including the federal Labor government, to reinvest in apprenticeships and to promote a trade as a worthwhile career path. What we must now do, as well as continue our investment in new apprentices, is ensure that we get people, those individuals who commenced an apprenticeship but for whatever reason left that apprenticeship before it was completed, back into training. That is why the Gillard Labor government is investing $281 million in a support package for additional tax-free payments to encourage apprentices in critical trades to complete their qualifications. I have spoken much about significant investment in training and the funding allocation at a national level. Importantly though, what does this mean for my electorate? The great news is 1,750 apprentices in the electorate of Petrie may benefit from these investments.

I welcome these announcements by the Treasurer. I personally am a great supporter of education and training. By providing people with the skills needed by industries, we can better match the demand and supply of our workforce and provide greater opportunities for individuals. That is why it is essential to also ensure we are focusing on the need to invest in participation. In the 2011-12 budget, the Treasurer announced funding to get the very long-term unemployed into work. The Gillard Labor government will invest $233 million in new support programs and 35,000 targeted wage subsidies—encouraging employers to hire those who have not worked for more than two years. What this means for the 1,362 very long-term unemployed people in the electorate of Petrie is local support through local employment services to provide these 1,362 people with training and work experience. There will also be additional funds provided to grant a wage subsidy to support employers who give the very long-term unemployed a job. Getting people out of the cycle of long-term unemployment requires a multipronged approach to get real outcomes. That is why the government is tackling this issue from both the individual perspective and the business perspective.

It is not just the long-term unemployed who are being assisted through this budget. We will cut effective tax rates for 50,000 single parents by up to 20c in the dollar, invest $80 million in their skills, and transition more parents with high-school kids onto job search payments. We will remove incentives for young people to leave study for the dole queue by extending the earn or learn requirements to 21-year-olds and create new pathways to full-time employment for early school leavers.

I, like many members in this House, have areas of my electorate with a higher than average number of teenage parents. I watch these young parents do their best to provide for themselves and their young family. It is important that we as a Labor government address entrenched disadvantage by introducing participation plans for teen parents, with new requirements for jobless families and extended income management, and developing new place based programs to support local and regional employment.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out the terrific work being done by the Deception Bay Flexible Learning Centre through their parenting support. This centre allows young parents to bring their child to school while giving those parents the opportunity to continue gaining their educational qualifications. I also acknowledge the great work of the Deception Bay Community Youth Program. That also has a young mums program and is also doing work with young dads. The young mothers that I recently had the opportunity to meet showed incredible strength and were inspirational in their willingness to meet the adversities that life has thrown at them. These young ladies are all now working to help other young people realise the importance of making the right choices and the challenges that can be faced by being a parent at a young age.

As I have already stated many times in this House and throughout my community, my personal commitment is to education and training. I am extremely proud to be part of the Gillard Labor government, which is equally passionate and committed to investing in education and training. That is why it was of no surprise that the 2011-12 budget brought down by this Labor government would continue further investments in education. The Treasurer announced in this budget that $425 million will be provided to reward top-performing teachers. This will mean around one in 10 teachers will receive a bonus—about $8,100 for those with the most experience and around $5,400 for a teacher in the first few years of their career. The first bonuses will be based on performance in the 2013 school year and paid in early 2014. The Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard, when visiting the Turner Primary School in Canberra recently, said:

… this reward for our top teachers is another plank in the Gillard Governments’ commitment to ensure every child gets the best possible education no matter what their background or where they live.

She went on to say:

… nobody would deny that our teachers are vital to ensuring that our kids get a great start and that while few are in teaching for the money most people in our community would agree we should reward our best teachers.

I could not agree more with these statements.

Importantly, the method of assessing a teacher's performance, the Australian Teacher Performance Management Principles and Procedures, will be fair and equitable. Additional funding will be provided also to create new pathways into a teaching career through the Teach Next initiative.

Another funding commitment that I know is welcomed warmly in my electorate is the extended and expanded funding for the National School Chaplaincy program. Currently, 22 of the 36 schools in my electorate have school chaplains. It was a pleasure to have the Minister for School Education and Early Childhood, the Hon. Peter Garrett, at Bracken Ridge State School in the electorate of Petrie last Friday. We had the opportunity there to look around the school's facilities, including the new refurbished library and resource centre, and to view the amazing new multipurpose hall. We also had the pleasure of speaking with Rachael Bhatnagar, who is the school chaplain. I acknowledge the important work that Rachael and all of the other chaplains perform through the schools in Petrie.

It is not just investment in education and training that the government continues to deliver on. In the important areas of hospitals and health services, the government continues to make major investments. In the 2011-12 budget, the government has committed to over $3 billion in new initiatives over the forward estimates. This commitment includes $2.2 billion over five years to deliver on our commitment to make mental health a national priority and to take the first steps towards reform. The government is also investing $740 million over five years to give Australians affordable access to medicines and technologies. This includes $613 million for the latest medicines and immunisations and $104 million to expand access to magnetic resonance imaging services.

The government is also tackling the long-term challenges in dental health by introducing a voluntary dental internship year targeted at the public dental system. These commitments—and I have only mentioned a few—build on the government's national health reform, which has seen record investment in health since Labor came into government federally.

Last but not least, the federal government through the 2011-12 budget has continued to show its commitment to strengthen the Australian economy by investing in infrastructure across this country. Petrie has benefited from this investment, with the federal government announcing commitments in road and rail. Just last week the federal Treasurer and member for Lilley, the Hon. Wayne Swan, and I met with representatives from the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads to get an update on the progress of the Gateway North upgrade. The Gillard Labor government is investing some $125 million in this project. This is an example of real funding getting real outcomes, with work commencing in 2012 to widen the road from two lanes into three on the northbound lane between Sandgate Road and the Deagon Deviation. This area is being targeted because during the afternoon peak hours traffic is affected all the way back to Nudgee. This section of the gateway is expected to be completed in 2013.

Another significant announcement in this budget for the people of Petrie is the decision to bring forward by three years funding for the Moreton Bay rail link. The Treasurer in the 2011-12 budget announced $133 million was being brought forward. This funding will allow the ramping up of preconstruction activities, including reallocation of public utilities as well as early works on road bridges. It will also open up the possibility that we will be able to go to the market earlier in search of a preferred builder. This highlights our determination to turn this rail line, first proposed more than a century ago, into a reality. I welcome this announcement to bring forward funding for the Moreton Bay rail link. This is another important step forward for this project and is a clear demonstration of the federal government's commitment to deliver the Moreton Bay rail link for our local communities.

It is also the first time in the history of the federal parliament that a federal budget has been handed down with funding being allocated for this important project. Many past members may have spoken about the need for a rail line from Petrie to Kippa-Ring, but it is this government, a Labor government, that not only committed to partnering with the state government and Moreton Bay Regional Council but, within less than 12 months from making that commitment, actually allocated government funds in the budget. We have waited over 100 years to see this happen, and I am certainly proud to be part of a Labor government that is making it a reality.

I have, in the time that has been allocated, spoken on just a few of the important initiatives that have been announced in this year's budget. It must be noted that it is this Labor government that has been able to hand down a budget that delivers investment in skills, participation in employment as well as education and health and continues to invest in infrastructure. The government is able to do this and ensure that we are on track to get the budget back to surplus by 2012-13.

What is the alternative to Labor's budget and commitment to get back into the black by 2012-13? Based on the Leader of the Opposition's budget response and responses by the shadow Treasurer, there is none. The opposition has no plan to get the budget back into surplus, no plans to invest in skills, training, education, health and infrastructure. The few glimpses of policy that have been released should concern the Australian public because the opposition is just ripping programs up and taking funding away. The negative approach of the Leader of the Opposition and the party that he leads is detrimental to our economy and our nation. Labor's budget is a strong budget based on sound fiscal policy that invests in our country's future and strengthens our economy. That is why I am pleased to commend these bills to the House.