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Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Page: 4165

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (Dobell) (17:52): It always amazes me when someone gets up and says, 'Let's cut the spin,' and then spends 15 minutes spinning around like a top. It is almost unbelievable that you could give a speech about the economy and history of the Rudd and Gillard governments and not actually mention that a global financial crisis happened somewhere in there. We just heard a contribution that went for 15 minutes and did not mention that there had been a global financial crisis. Come on! You want to talk about spin, you want to talk about economic credibility, let us get a little bit real. The previous member tried to talk about global comparisons. Give us one where Australia does not look far superior to every other country in the world in terms of economic growth, unemployment, inflation, productivity, debt and deficit. What measure are you on? You want to have an argument on spin and you want to have an argument on economics—well, argue the economics. Do not argue the spin. Really, what a pathetic contribution we have just heard.

In my contribution on these appropriation bills, I am going to be critical of the government in relation to some of their management over the past six years, but they are going to be real criticisms; they are not going to made-up ones. I am not going to be in fairy land. I am not going to pretend things did not happen. I am not going to not talk about what happened around the world in terms of the global financial crisis. If you want to have some credibility in economics, you have to talk about what occurred and what the situation was in Australia. I think this most recent budget was perhaps the Treasurer's most honest budget and, taken in isolation, a very good budget. The problem for the government in terms of where they are with their messaging is not that they have not responded to the global financial crisis but that they have tried to do too much.

If we could just imagine for a second—and I know this might cause shivers for the Deputy Speaker—that it had been John Howard who was the Prime Minister for the last term, what we probably would have seen would have been no spending on any social and important issues such as education, the NDIS, health and those sorts of things. That is an approach that he could have taken and it might well have seen us get closer to a budget surplus. Alternatively, you could set out a program of social reform, a program of trying to address issues that are important to Australians. Either of those approaches is possible and you could debate their merits.

My criticism of the government was that they tried to do both, and clearly that has not worked. That is where I do agree with the previous speaker about the issues in relation to going on about a surplus for year after year when clearly the program that this government was on was about improving people's lives through a range of social measures. They should have said for the last number of years: 'Look, these are the things that we want to do and it is going to take us longer to get back to a surplus. But, compared to the rest of the world, look how well we're going.' I think if they had taken that approach they would have taken the Australian community with them. That is my major criticism of the government in terms of the way in which they have dealt with these issues. Yes, there has been spin from the government, but not nearly as much spin as we saw from the previous speaker in his contribution, because you have to look at what the issues are. There were two alternative approaches, but you could not do them both—and this government tried.

I want to talk about some of the local initiatives that were in this budget and in previous budgets, since the previous speaker has set the scene of putting this budget, quite rightly, in the context of previous budgets. Most importantly for the people of the Central Coast, where I live, and the seat that I represent was the commitment to fixing the missing road link between the F3 and the M2, where 21 sets of traffic lights create a logjam as more than 45,000 commuters from the Central Coast travel down to Sydney and back every day. This is called the missing link because it is something that governments should have done years and years ago. This budget has finally got there, and the government should be commended for that, as should the state government for agreeing to pay its share for this vital piece of road infrastructure. But the budget went further in terms of roads for my electorate: to widening the F3 pretty much from Tuggerah right up to Doyalson. We have three lanes for most of it, but the significant part of the F3 that goes through my electorate is two lanes each way, again causing the very difficult commute that 45,000 people from the Central Coast do every day to be that much more difficult. So these are really important, real commitments that happened in this budget, because spending time at home with your family is what it is about for most people, not sitting in traffic jams on freeways because the infrastructure money has not been spent. Those are concerns for everyone.

Can I say with some pride that that is the second missing link that I have been responsible for in terms of fixing things in my electorate. The first, and I think the most significant, was a missing pipeline link in our water system. The Central Coast almost ran out of water just a few years ago—we had less than 10 per cent water. We were able to secure over $80 million to build a pipeline to help harvest the water from the catchment area and take it up to the storage dam. We have just celebrated our dam having more than 50 per cent water for the first time in 30 years. This would not have occurred without vital infrastructure being paid for and delivered on the Central Coast for the first time, and I will come back to the importance of water in my contribution.

In looking at the budget over a period of time I did a comparison between the previous six years in my electorate and the six years that will be up later this year. You can characterise it in a number of ways. We have gone from flagpoles to libraries. We have gone from cutting health budgets to super GP clinics and our own area health service for the Central Coast, something we have been after for years. We have gone from drought to drought-proofing. We have gone from the infamous rort of money for Tumby Creek to significant millions of dollars in terms of an environmental program to help fix up Tuggerah Lakes. We are in the process of going from copper wire to fibre with the NBN. These are stark differences between what happened when there was a coalition member in the seat that I occupy and what we have been able to achieve in the last six years. These are things that make a difference to people's lives, and that is what budgets are primarily about—they are about making sure there are resources going to the right places.

I want to briefly go back to the issue of our water supply because it is being threatened at the moment by mining interests. We have a catchment area in the Wyong valleys through which this pipeline goes and we have a proposal for a mine. For the last two or three state and federal elections, the major parties have come along and said, 'There will be no mine; we are going to stop the mine,' and then, as soon as the election has ended, the mine has been back on the table. The reason that we have a real issue with this is that even the miners themselves are estimating that there will be more water lost in a day through this mine than the average rainfall for the area. The experts have said that it will take 200 years, if it will happen at all, for the aquifers to be refilled to supply the water for the Central Coast if this mine goes ahead. Significantly, in relation to government investment, we have a pipeline that has drought-proofed the Central Coast that could drop by over a metre with subsidence and crack, meaning all that important drought-proofing that has taken place in relation to infrastructure investment in the Central Coast would be for nought. It is an issue. It is the No. 1 issue on the Central Coast and it is something that we need to continue to fight for.

I also wanted to say a few things about the coalition's candidate in the next election. The Liberal Party have made an interesting choice of candidate. The Central Coast candidate's husband ran in the last election, and, like her husband, this candidate was also not preselected by the Liberal Party rank and file—someone else won the preselection. Apparently, on the Central Coast, if anyone other than a McNamara wins the preselection you have to kick them out and put a McNamara in. So for two elections in a row we are going to have a McNamara.

One of the really interesting things about the current candidate is that two years ago she wanted to join the Labor Party, surprisingly. So we have a candidate who actually did not want to be in the Liberal Party--she wanted to be in the Labor Party—and whose husband ran as the Liberal Party candidate last time. She has decided that she will have a shot at it anyway. You look at what she stands for, and she does not really stand for terribly much, so probably the label did not mean that much to her.

Her main supporter on the Central Coast is the current mayor, Mayor Eaton. It is very interesting to look at his policies because the current candidate has wrapped herself around this mayor. This is the mayor who came up with a terrific idea—they should get rid of green bins! Who really wants to recycle? It is bit of a cost for council so we should get rid of green bins! He opposed the super GP clinic that I was able to secure for the electorate. He opposed it vehemently, as did the last Liberal candidate for Dobell—'Oops! that is the present candidate's husband. Again, those are the sorts of policies they are looking at. He actually supports a mine under the catchment area even though the council does not support it. The Liberal Party candidate cannot bring herself to say, 'The issues for the community are more important than what my mayor instructs me to say as a Liberal Party candidate.' He wants to transform the Central Coast into a Chinese theme park. That will be a great success—we can see Chinese tourists flooding over to look at imitations of what they have in their own country. We are sure that will be a remarkable success.

The crowning moment for the mayor and now his Liberal Party partner was a much more novel idea than mine—I was able to secure $20 million to help fix up Tuggerah Lakes. Their idea was to drain the lakes, cement them up and have them catch water to help us with our drought problems. Some of the policies this mayor has and this Liberal candidate has tied herself to are quite crazy.

The government has, in the last six years, really got its messages wrong about what it wants to do. But it cannot say it is going to deliver surpluses when it embarks on a different social program. It can say: 'We're going to have a social program and we're not going back into surplus,' but they cannot say both. That is the great shame and the great story that the Treasurer is going to have to live with. In relation to my electorate, The choice and the difference for infrastructure, investment and quality of life that investment has made over the last six years compared to the previous six years—when the coalition was in government and had a coalition member in the seat of Dobell—is so stark that no one on the Central Coast wants to go back to those days, when we missed out on vital infrastructure that changes people's lives.

People on the Central Coast appreciate that we have been able to secure more money and investment in infrastructure in six years than the previous years that this seat has been in existence. That is something that everyone on the Central Coast can be proud of. As the member for Dobell, I am certainly very proud of that record over the last six years. (Time expired)