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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4069


Mr HAYES (FowlerGovernment Whip) (16:21): I am proud to stand here today in support of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2011-2012 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012. This budget reflects Labor's values. It maintains a strong economy so we can provide services to all Australians, particularly to those who need them. I am talking about families who are struggling with the rising cost of living, the unemployed seeking to get back into the workforce, the disabled in our community and the young generations who I see working pretty hard at school and who are taking advantage of training and higher education opportunities.

The Treasurer made it pretty clear in the lead-up to the budget, and as a consequence of the budget, that this budget steers us onto the path of bringing us back into surplus by 2012-13. I think that is a pretty remarkable objective and one that is being realised in this budget. It is remarkable because on this government's watch there has been a global financial crisis of proportions not seen in 70 years and there have been a number of devastating natural disasters. These have all required the government to act decisively for the benefit of Australians as well as to protect our economy. That makes Australia one of the strongest economies in the Western world, especially when you consider that our terms of trade now are the strongest they have been in 140 years and national government debt is among the lowest in the world. Australia's national debt is down to 7.2 per cent of GDP, as opposed to that of the United States, which is 72 per cent of GDP, and that of Great Britain, which is 75 per cent of GDP.

That brings me to what is probably one of the most important issues in this country: unemployment. Unemployment in this country is nearly half that of other industrialised nations. Our unemployment rate presently is 4.9 per cent, compared to nine per cent in the United States and 7.8 per cent in the UK. Those are the facts and they are the boundaries within which this budget has been constructed. The budget will create another 500,000 new jobs. That is on top of the 700,000 jobs that we have created since 2007. It is important that in this debate we get the facts right. Whilst we talk about these numbers and try to be positive about this country, we are met with sloganeering from those opposite. It has started already, and we are going to hear it time and time again.

Last Friday I visited Hoxton Industries in my electorate. They employ over 150 people, all of them people with disabilities. They are the beneficiaries of $1 million under a program aiding the employment of disabled people. I greatly enjoy visiting Hoxton Industries because it is a place where the effects of this Gillard budget really can be seen. It is a fact that without this funding these jobs would not be there. I am proud to be part of a government that gives priority to providing employment opportunities for disabled people.

On my visit I was struck, quite frankly, by just how important it is to have a job. It is more than just the job; it is the sense of being part of a community, the sense of having fulfilment. Really, it is the sense of family. I also enjoy my visits there because I get to meet a lot of the mums and dads of the employees. The mums and dads are about 80 years old, and their kids are in their 30s, 40s and 50s. This is something we do as a community. Nicole Bruce, a friend of mine, is the General Manager of Hoxton Industries and she often speaks to me about this and how this must always be family focused.

Visits such as these remind me that the economy is much more than a set of numbers and that the government's role goes beyond balancing the fiscal spreadsheet. It is about helping people by providing opportunities through strong health and education systems, training programs and support for the disabled and ageing. The central tenet of this government is to keep unemployment low.

Satisfying employment is unashamedly the centre of community wellbeing and is one of the core values of Labor. Contrast this with the attitude of the opposition, who think this year's budget is another opportunity for hollow sloganeering backed up by an incredible lack of detail. Throughout budget week—it was not all that long ago, so we can all remember it—the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, were out there at every opportunity giving a sound bite about how they would bring the budget back to surplus one full year before the Labor government. That they were doing so is a matter of fact. If you cannot remember it, you can get the Hansard and check that is what they said. It reminds me of an old saying that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That was the whole issue: they went for the sound bite, saying they would bring the budget back to surplus one full year ahead of Labor, but they failed to give any indication of what programs they might cut. Sometimes we got a little bit of insight, such as when we saw the Liberal Party infighting about which programs might be sliced. Sometimes, in all that confusion, the Leader of the Opposition actually indicated they might even increase some programs. But when it all got too desperate for them to say how they would bring the budget back to surplus, they reverted to form. They said, 'Stop the boats!' They went straight back to the immigration debate as a way of diverting people's attention from their lack of detail on what they would do if they had the opportunity to control this budget. That was the contribution of the alternative Prime Minister and the alternative government: absolute, dead-bottom zero.

There are not many things I have ever agreed with Peter Costello about, but one thing he is right on the money about is that the Leader of the Opposition has no interest in economics. We saw that less than two weeks ago in his response to the budget. The budget debate is an important time for our nation because it talks about the future. That is exactly what the Gillard government has been delivering over the course of this week and that is why I support these appropriation bills: they are addressing our future in a balanced way. They are setting the path to a balanced budget whilst providing for those in need.

I will speak a little bit about my electorate of Fowler. In the last election I moved from the seat of Werriwa and had the honour of taking on the seat of Fowler. Whilst the community of Fowler is not all that far away from Werriwa, it has a number of significant differences. My electorate of Fowler is the most multicultural electorate in the whole country, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Being in the electorate of Fowler has enabled me to work very closely with community groups on their issues and to help them deliver a stronger community. When I was elected I made five key commitments to things that I believed could make a real difference to the community. I will take a little bit of time and update the House in relation to them.

Firstly, I made a commitment that I would work to ensure I would be available to the community and that I would run an office dedicated to servicing the needs of both individuals and the community alike. Central to our jobs as members of parliament is to make ourselves as available as we possibly can. I have sought to do that in the new community of Fowler by, in addition to my electorate office, having three outreach offices. One is in Cabramatta, one is in Green Valley and one is in Miller. Those offices are held each week and people know they can come to the office and see me with or without an appointment. Sometimes it is difficult to get to my office because of lack of public transport and, unfortunately for a lot of people, lack of time. What I have pledged to do is make myself available to the community when they need me and make sure I am there in their times of need. I am very indebted to the various groups that operate in my electorate. They do a fantastic job. They have shown great generosity in welcoming me as their new local member and I look forward to working closely with them into the future to deliver a stronger community in Fowler.

Secondly, I work with organisations that support the disadvantaged, the homeless, the disabled and the aged to assist them in their vital role. It was always one of my strong focuses when I was the member for Werriwa, and it is something I bring with me to Fowler. A little earlier I mentioned my experience with Hoxton Industries where I visited, again, last week. This coming Friday I will be holding a disabilities forum in my electorate with a view to formulating a discussion paper to present to the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers. I am looking forward to hearing from all persons working in the disability sector or, more importantly, from those who are disabled as to what we, as a government, can do to help make their lives a little easier. I would like particularly to thank Lucy Reggio and Grace Fava for their assistance in the preparation of this event. I know they do sterling work in our community and provide wonderful opportunities for our children. They give those with a disability not only hope but a real sense of inclusion in our community.

Through government I hope to create more local employment opportunities, particularly for the young. Regrettably, one of the things I did inherit when moving to Fowler was one of the highest youth unemployment records in the country. We all have an interest in doing something about giving young people opportunities, particularly those between 15 and 24 years of age. Giving a person a job is giving a person a future. There is a saying that you can give a person a fish to eat or you can teach them how to fish, which will sustain them. This is something we are working very hard on locally. We know that giving young people a start and access to employment is giving young people a future. That is something that I will stay very focused on. I am proud of the fact that, in the budget, provision was made to help young people get into a job through training and through the greater provision of education. That is something that is certainly absolutely essential in my electorate of Fowler.

Another commitment I made was to bring greater awareness to the issue of domestic violence and the impact it is having on our community. There is absolutely no excuse for domestic violence and much work needs to be done in this area. The primary aim of our efforts is to protect the victims and protect our children from domestic violence. Of course, it is not a pretty picture in the south-west of Sydney. I sponsored a detailed report on domestic violence in Western Sydney, which I commissioned through the ANU graduate program, and it was tabled last week. Domestic violence is something I want to be engaging my electorate on and ensuring that people understand that domestic violence is out there, that it needs to be spoken about and discussed, and that people need to take responsibility for it. I am calling on all men to get up and take the pledge that we will not stay tolerant, accepting or silent in respect of domestic violence. This is something I certainly want to be focused on in my electorate.

Lastly, when I was elected, I said I would give whatever support I possibly could to the police in my region, who do valuable work in protecting our community. I have had a long commitment to working with the police. In the main I have been their advocate on various issues in state and territory police jurisdictions as well as the Australian Federal Police. I try to give the police in my electorate all the assistance I can because they do a fantastic job, sometimes under very, very difficult circumstances. I acknowledge that the police are a particular class of person; it takes a very special person to put on a police uniform and go out there day after day and do what is necessary to look after the community. I know, Madam Deputy Speaker D'Ath, you know that because your husband, George, is a policeman in Queensland and does a sterling job up there. (Time expired)