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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 2984


Mr JENKINS (Scullin) (15:16): Given that I have been given plenty of advice, as one of the few members of the government who has been sitting here through this, I thought I might share with those opposite what I will be doing during the break. We just need to get a bit of balance. What I would like to say is that in a perverse way some of the comments have been very helpful for current actions that will take place at 4.30 in this place.

I will be talking about the job creation of this government. I will be asking people to consider whether they have actually heard anything from the opposition that would give them any confidence that this would continue. I will be reminding the people of my electorate that we have a strong economy, no matter what those opposite say. We have an economy that is the envy of the world. It was very instructive that in a major debate like we saw today the Leader of the Opposition would actually get around to stating that he understood the pressures of global and international circumstances that were on the Australian economy at the moment. Because his actions until today have been as if nothing really happened: the global financial crisis turning into a global economic crisis did not happen; and the sort of things that we confront as an economy are not happening.

But when I am out enjoying my leave of absence from this place, and taking my duties as a local member seriously, I will be asking the people of Scullin to think about interest rates and the way they have been contained under this government, despite those opposite who ran around like Henny Penny, saying the sky will fall in and that interest rates will go up. Let us have a look at the record. Let us consider that on an average mortgage there is a saving of something like $5,000 a year compared with the interest rates paid when those opposite were last in power. During the break I will remind them of the tax cuts that have been delivered by this government. I will remind them of the help for families and the Schoolkids Bonus—1.3 million families and $410 a year for a primary school child and $820 a year for a high school child. I will remind those in my electorate who are part of the 230,000 families Australia wide who are benefiting from up to 18 weeks leave under Labor's paid parental leave scheme. I will be reminding them to contrast that with the policy the opposition will go to the election with, which is that this should be a different scheme actually funded by a new tax.

I will be reminding the pensioners in Scullin of the increases that have been achieved during these difficult economic times. I will be reminding them of those who receive a $210 supplementary allowance for singles and $350 for couples to help them with essential living costs, because when this government instituted its price on carbon it understood that the effect on people would be dependent upon their means, and that they needed assistance.

Contrast that to when the imposition of the GST occurred. I remind honourable members, and I will be reminding my constituents during the break, that in the case of the GST those opposite did not go down the road that had been exemplified by the New Zealand Labour government when they instituted a GST VAT tax. They instituted and made sure that the compensation package was real and continuing.

I will go to the people in South Morang, who are already users of the NBN. I will talk to the likes of the person who has actually moved from Balwyn North to South Morang on the basis that he would be hooked up to the network of the NBN and he could then create a successful at-home business, because those are the things that an NBN can create. On that, I will use the break to remind people that sometimes vision and the national interest go beyond the business case, because, if we look at the way this country and other Western democracies have developed, if everything had been decided on a strict business-case basis without factoring in the public good, a lot of things that are important would not have happened.

I will proudly go to those improvements in the health services that have occurred under the governments led firstly by Kevin Rudd and now by Julia Gillard. We will open the South Morang GP Super Clinic. As a person who represents a safe Labor seat, I simply say to people that this government has ensured that when it has put out things that are provided under our programs they have been on the basis of need. I get a little disturbed when the suggestion is made—perhaps because the opposition knows that that was what motivated them—that these things are to do with pork-barrelling.

And let us not underestimate the difficulties of the federation. I would invite honourable members opposite to use the break to do that—to think of the way in which they can have influence on their colleagues in state and territory governments that are governed by coalition parties, and to really think about how difficult it is for a Commonwealth government under our Constitution and our federation to ensure that, when we have a national program, it is instituted and put in place.

I will proudly talk about the way in which we have looked at neglected sectors of the community, such as those who need mental health services. I will say that we have committed the $2.2 billion for the mental health package so that we can deliver additional services and have a greater focus not only on the treatment but also, importantly, on prevention and early intervention.

I will also ensure that people absolutely understand what an historic step it has been to get the NDIS legislation through the parliament—to have a concept such as disability care that people can look at. Regrettably, in retrospect, I did not enter the debate on the NDIS legislation. But if I had I would have said, and I will use the time that we have as leave of absence to remind people, that, yes, it is only a first step—and that was about the only argument I heard from those opposite that I could have some agreement with—but it is an important first step.

May I also use this debate to remind people—because I do remind people, when I speak to them about these important steps as I will be during the leave of absence—that this was a long time coming. On this occasion I want to pay absolute tribute to the former leader of the parliamentary Labor Party Kim Beazley, because it was back during the dark days of opposition, when it was a hard slog—and I think that those opposite just want to assume that it is not a hard slog—that Kim Beazley decided, after listening to those who had come forward on behalf of the disabled of Australia, and said that it was time that we redressed and tackled the difficulties that they were confronted with. Kim Beazley appointed a shadow minister for disabilities, and so we had a person of the ilk of Annette Ellis, who was that person, going around and talking to groups.

So often the glimmer of a positive policy takes a long time to become a shining light. The work that was done during the years of opposition led to the way in which, during the first period of government, under Minister Shorten, we saw that we could bring things that had been suggested by the Productivity Commission study to fruition. We saw in this parliament yesterday the legislation that will enable us to go forward, to build on this idea, and to ensure that we have the states and territories going forward with us on this so that it can come to fruition.

Whilst I talked about some of the criticism that came from the opposition during the debate on the NDIS legislation, I am pleased that they are committed to the idea of disability care and that they are committed to ensuring that they will be involved in continuing the work. I hope that during the break they are able to prevail upon their colleagues who find themselves in decision-making positions in coalition-led state and territory governments to react positively.

So I am happy to enter this debate. Perhaps it is because it is the last time I will need this type of leave of absence in the run-up before a budget session, but I welcome the debate. I welcome the debate because it shows that, no matter what happens around this place, the opposition continues to be in a negative vein because, for all the problems that they want to talk about here, I rarely hear solutions. And, based on their track record when in government on many of the things that confront us, not only do I not see a suggestion that they know the solutions; I am concerned that they do not have an understanding and they do not really know the questions that should be asked. I support the motion that was moved by the Leader of the House, and wish everybody a fruitful break.