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Monday, 27 May 2013
Page: 3871

Mr PERRETT ( Moreton Government Whip ) ( 16:14 ): I rise today to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2013-2014 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014. The bills are to appropriate money out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the ordinary annual services of the government and for related purposes. I do so in the context of Deputy Prime Minister Swan having delivered a budget that is committed to making our nation stronger, smarter and fairer. I do so in the context of being a proud member of the Australian Labor Party, someone who is passionate about looking after older people, especially those living on fixed incomes, Australians living with disability and the families and carers that support them, and students who take the time to put themselves through higher education or training. As you know, Deputy Speaker, education is the great equaliser in Australia. If funded appropriately, it provides great opportunities for the nation, not just in the short-term but in the next 50, 60 and 70 years as we compete with the rest of the part of the world that we are located in, which is Asia.

Unlike much of the world, Australia's economy has been resilient, but I know that for many small businesses and families it has not been easy. I know that people in retail are not being swamped by shoppers pulling their wallets out. I have over 19,000 small businesses in my electorate. I know that they have been doing it a bit tough. Some of that can be traced back to the global financial crisis, some can be traced to the vagaries of an internet shopping world, with internet shopping being on the increase, and some of it obviously can be traced back to a Queensland that has seen 14,000 jobs cut, with the people in the jobs that service these employees suffering accordingly. There has been one good thing about seeing Premier Newman's cuts in Queensland: it has given us a glimpse of what austerity can do to families, to homes, to small businesses and to a state's economy. It certainly has given us a taste of what would happen if the Liberal and National Party were successful on 14 September.

As I said, I know that not everyone in my community is having an easy time at the moment. Many modern families, working mums and dads, are finding it hard to juggle working and caring for children, managing cost-of-living pressures, and supporting ageing parents. These are tough challenges for people. It has just been announced that electricity bills under the Queensland state government are likely to go up by nearly 20 per cent in the next financial year—another cost for families in Moreton to bear.

As a member of the Labor Party I am always particularly focused on jobs, on employment. We know the benefits that come with having somebody in the household working. I was here during the global financial crisis when we voted to secure jobs because of the advice we had from Treasury about what would happen if we did not. What would the Australian community would look like if you cut 200,000 jobs? There would be 200,000 homes where the worker was on unemployment benefits. Not only would that be a big cost to the economy but there would be the social consequences flowing from that. Having grown up in a single-parent household, with my mum being a nurse, I know how horrified many Queenslanders must have been when they thought their front-line jobs were safe only to find their jobs cut by Campbell Newman. Imagine that multiplied. Imagine what we would have seen if 200,000 people extra had been on unemployment benefits.

Jobs are always the federal Labor government's No. 1 priority. We are working hard to support families in coping with these cost-of-living pressures. Obviously as a government under Prime Minister Gillard we have a strong plan to strengthen the economy, to grow those jobs beyond the mining industry. Whilst the mining industry is very significant and is expanding—and there is still a pipeline of infrastructure either about to hit production or about to be assembled—the reality is there are lots of other opportunities for us in this part of the world, particularly in terms of some of those strong Queensland opportunities like tourism and the service industry, and things like education.

Throughout the GFC, the Labor government focused on keeping people in jobs. We spent a lot of money creating new apprenticeships and making sure that economic growth was maintained. In the time that I have been a member of parliament, we have delivered over 900,000 jobs—at a time when nearly 30 million jobs have been lost throughout the world. We have unemployment at 5.6 per cent. Compare that to the 500 million people located in Europe, where unemployment is at 11.9 per cent. There are a few horror stories scattered throughout there. In places like Spain you have got nearly 25 per cent unemployment and some areas have 50 per cent youth unemployment. Imagine the social dislocation that comes with every second young person having no hope and having no job.

Australia has AAA status for the first time ever. We are one of only eight countries in the world to have the status. This status was confirmed again by the rating agencies after Deputy Prime Minister Swan delivered his budget night speech. I know there is fear and misinformation being peddled by those opposite—this relentless jeremiah about debt, doom and gloom. We have the ridiculous situation where the Leader of the Opposition is comparing Australia to Cyprus. We are a million miles from there and we have had the independent rating agencies confirm this.

We are now the 12th biggest economy in the world—up from the 15th biggest economy at the time the Labor Party took office in November 2007. Our economy has grown more than six times faster than those great powerhouse nations like Germany and the United States. This is what we need to be compared with.

I am proud of the Australian Labor Party's achievements and, more importantly, our focus on the future. Look at some of the projects and policies we are rolling out. We have signed the DisabilityCare agreement, which will surely go down in history in the next 30, 40 or 50 years as one of the greatest achievements of any modern government. I was proud to be at Autism Queensland in Sunnybank when the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland signed the DisabilityCare agreement that locks in funding for over 2,000 people living in Moreton with a disability. It is a great comfort for them. They will have control over their lives and have support for their families and carers. It will provide certainty for all Australians in the event—horrible as it is to contemplate—that they or their loved ones acquire a disability. They will receive the care and support they need. This policy will kick off in only 34 days time.

Let us look at education, which is something I am particularly passionate about, having been an English teacher for 11 years. In my time here in this parliament—just in the 42nd and 43rd parliaments—we have doubled the investment in school education at a time when the Premier of Queensland in one year in office cut funding to every single school in Queensland. Every state school received a cut and then obviously, as anyone who understands school funding knows, that flowed on to non-government schools. That is a policy to compare and consider on 14 September. This Labor government has invested in education and the LNP government has slashed.

We have upgraded facilities at every single school in Moreton. Sure, it was an economic policy, but Prime Minister Rudd at the time knew that every principal, P&C president and P&F president had a list of jobs that needed to be done and those jobs benefited the tradespeople around those schools. All 9,200 schools throughout Australia received that immediate boost and then the bigger projects were rolled out, such as the libraries, the school halls et cetera.

We have provided more information to parents through the MySchool website. Having been a teacher and having worked for a teachers union, I know how tough this has been for some teachers. They are very professional people. Now we accept it as part of the communication process. It is accepted by all in the community and is one of the most accessed websites going.

We are delivering the skills and training required for the jobs of the future through our $3 billion jobs and skills package. I am proud to say, as someone who only got a break in life because I could go to teachers college, we now have an additional 150,000 students attending university. Who are these people? They are people like me who grew up in rural and remote areas, people with English as a second language or Indigenous people. So we are creating opportunities rather than just catering for the privileged.

Let us look at some of the other great achievements. We have raised the superannuation guarantee from nine per cent to 12 per cent, boosting the retirement savings of 8.4 million Australians. This is something that I am sad to say the Leader of the Opposition has committed to cutting. History will condemn him, whereas history has judged kindly those great leaders like Hawke and Keating who took the time to implement superannuation changes so that all Australians benefit from having managed funds. We are now seen as the Switzerland of the south in terms of having an ability to manage money. It will be a great job opportunity for children in 10, 20 and 30 years time as we move into Asia, India, China and Indonesia to show the great skills we have.

One of our proudest achievements—the one you know is good because those opposite condemn it the most—is our emissions trading scheme. It would have been nice to bring it in on 2 December 2009 but unfortunately the Greens voted with the Nationals at the time and put the kibosh on it. But we do now have a price on pollution at a time when the planet more than ever needs to do it. I notice under the Keeling Curve we went past the 400 parts per million, which should be putting out an alarm bell across the planet. At least we have taken a step, but those opposite have committed to rescinding our scheme and coming up with this hair-brain scheme that will put $1,300 per household extra cost onto it. And it will not work. Their policy seems to be geared towards the low-hanging fruit—and the reality is the low-hanging fruit has already been plucked by the Labor Party's policy.

We have an affordable paid parental scheme already in place, with over 2,000 local families in Moreton benefiting from Australia's paid parental scheme, proudly delivered by Jenny Macklin and the federal Labor government. It is an affordable, responsible scheme, not one that will give people struggling on $300-, $400- or $500,000 a year—paid by the taxes of cleaners and the like—excessive contribution. It does not make sense. We have already had it flagged by some of those opposite. They have planned to not only increase costs, such as the increase in the GST, but also roll out austerity. I am terrified of that. In my local electorate they have made a commitment to not fund public infrastructure, particularly that great policy initiative of the Cross River Rail.

I look forward to fighting, in the lead-up to 14 September, to achieve such initiatives as a new rail crossing at Coopers Plains at the Orange Grove Road intersection. It is a rail crossing that was articulated by Gary Hardgrave back in March 1996 in his first speech, yet he did nothing about it in his 12 years as a member of parliament. I will endeavour to have funding obtained for that. I am also looking at what I call a dragon crossing in my electorate at Sunnybank, between two supermarkets, to make it both an iconic piece of architecture and disability-friendly, and so will put some lifts in for people to cross the very busy main road. I am looking to bringing back koalas to Toohey Forest, working with Darryl Jones and the Griffith University, to look at the feasibility to ensure that the Toohey Forest area can support a koala population, even if it is a support population.

I am committed to getting some money for the local men's shed at Sunnybank, working with the Sunnybank RSL who do great work, looking to upgrade the Acacia Ridge sporting precinct and fund some of the renovations at the Yeronga community centre, install some CCTVs at one of the nightclub areas in Sunnybank Hills and fund some of the necessary renovations at the Oxley Senior Citizens hall, the Sunnybank Special School, the Acacia Ridge community centre and the Kyabra Community Association.

I am proud to be part of the Labor Party because I know that elections are important turning points for the nation. They expose some of the reasons we decide to join a political party in the first place. I know what Labor values are about. They are about supporting families, they are about giving people opportunities and they are about investing in education and providing a disability care program. I am proud of these initiatives. (Time expired)