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Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Page: 2805


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (Werriwa) (16:01): Many previous speakers in the debate on this MPI on the government's commitment to deep cuts have detailed the national picture: a 6.3 per cent unemployment rate, meaning that 770,000 Australians are without employment; a youth unemployment rate of 14.4 per cent; and the collapse of business confidence. The unemployment figure I cited is the worst since 2002, when the current Prime Minister was concentrated on employment as the minister responsible.

I will talk today on a more regional basis. Some of these issues affect some areas of Sydney more than others. When he made he made his infamous statement that poor people do not drive cars, it might have been a credible position for the member for North Sydney, privileged with taxpayer subsidised public transport and living very close to the Sydney CBD. But for people in south-west Sydney, distant from employment and with a great dependence on cars to get to work every day, it is a very different scenario. The budget cuts by the government are having a far greater impact on my region. In Claymore the previous federal government was working with the state government of New South Wales to bring social mix into housing so we did not have reservations of government sponsored housing. We have a situation where the $50 million cut over four years in the hospital agreement means that at Campbelltown 400 patients use the after hours GP service. Its potential closure will lead to mass stress on the hospital. Physicians who have resigned are not replaced. We have a significant number of doctors acting in their position. In the growth areas of Sydney, every day of the week I and my two colleagues over there, the member for Macarthur and the member for Hughes, see new housing developments going on. It is quite clear that funding is not keeping pace with the expanding population. It is all right to talk about Liverpool Hospital being the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere—

Mr Matheson interjecting

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON: The member for Macarthur interjects. The only competition in the Campbelltown state seat at the New South Wales election is who is more pro the Labor candidate. I think he is more pro the Labor candidate for Campbelltown than I am! There have been cuts to preventive health programs. That will affect conditions such as diabetes. Surveys show that in the Macarthur region and south-west Sydney people suffer from that more seriously. A $60 million mental health unit promised by the previous government has been scrapped. The members for Macarthur and Hughes know that it is far more vital to have that unit in our region than elsewhere. Organisations such as Beautiful Minds, Macarthur Disability Services and Autism Australia lead their fields in this country, because there is a need.

Only one trade training centre has been established in the electorate; 12 have been scrapped. This is an area where, historically, the number of people going to TAFE colleges—

Mr Matheson: Two.

Mr LAURIE FERGUSON: Two, is it? So it is two, and 12 have been scrapped. You are on the ball there: 12 have been scrapped. TAFE education has been more crucial in this region than in other parts of Sydney. The state government changes increasing the cost of courses and reducing the hours of instruction have been accompanied by a massive cut by the federal government of $1.5 billion in vocational education and training throughout the country. That is having a very real impact in suburbs such as Holsworthy, Liverpool, Macquarie Fields and Ingleburn. I hope people recognise that for the upcoming state election.

The government wants to deregulate university fees. This is another area where location is crucial. The University of Western Sydney, because it has some social conscience, because of the nature of its creation, has agreed to hold fees. It will never be able to compete with the other universities in Sydney when attracting students. The status of that university will decrease very substantially because of the changes the government is trying to make.

Whether it is a cut to legal aid, the Medicare Locals or the trade training centres or whether it is pensioners being hit by a new way of assessing increases to their pension, the government say, 'Well, you know, it's not mean to accomplish a decrease in their pension.' Of course it is! That is their whole budgetary proposal. So when they say that they will go into a surplus, we know that what is being put in the so-called backburner for a while—deregulation of the universities; a commensurate, massive increase in student debt and the amount of money they will have to pay to go to university; and the cuts in health. The Minister for Health is still talking about the need for a cost signal so that poor people will not go to the doctor's too often. We know that the Prime Minister has refused, basically, to say how he is going to accomplish his surplus, throwing back to the opposition that somehow we have to write a budget for him. (Time expired)