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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4469

Mrs GASH (Gilmore) (16:15): This will be my last comment in the annual ritual of commenting on the budget. As that dawned on me, it brought to mind the circumstances of my first response back in 1996. I do not intend this to be my valedictory speech but, as I contemplate leaving parliament for a new life, I have come to realise that truly nothing is new under the sun.

In 1996 the coalition came to government with the economic legacy left to us by our predecessors, a $96 billion budget hole with an annual service payment of something like $11 billion that could otherwise have been spent on supporting the Australian community. It took us 10 years to pay off the debt and we did not have a mining boom to fund us. Instead we took a more disciplined approach in delivering the goods, and left the legacy of a $20 billion surplus.

I am a strong advocate of the teaching of history in our classrooms. Not only are there some great stories to be found—inspirational ones and great models of how to do and not do things in society—but there are lessons for the future. I do not know who it was that said, 'If you want to know about the future, look to the past,' but how true that is. If history was more widely followed in the community it would reveal the predisposition of Labor to the spending of other people's money. I am not suggesting everything they spent their money on was either excessive, frivolous or just plain nuts. They have done some good things, but the Australian community has paid a premium price. The example that springs to mind is the excessive costs of Labor's so-called education revolution, where expensive school halls were built, sometimes when the schools did not even need them. The associated debacle of the school computers program—where is it now? There are still schools in our electorate waiting. But not to worry—if they need maintenance, it is actually cheaper to throw them away.

Today it is almost superfluous to continue commenting on the waste and extravagances foisted on the Australian people by this government. It has been done to death. The commentary is starting to dry up and people just want this government to go. When they do go—hopefully on 14 September—history will have repeated itself. If the coalition takes over government they will do so collared with another Labor generated debt hanging around the necks that will hobble the nation of years. In fact, the debt will be about double that inherited in 1996, with its associated liabilities.

I have had this conversation before and could as easily have cut and pasted my comments from the Hansard of the nineties. Truly, nothing is new under the sun. To quote Paul Kelly's opening remark in The Australian today: '…the need for Australia to revise post-election its assistance to the car industry is merely a small example of the huge public policy transformation that will be demanded as the resources boom fades.' He goes on to ask: 'How will Australia manage the decline of the boom that has so effortlessly boosted national income?'

A good question—but this present government, whose latest budget reflects a continued addiction to spending and chasing shadows at our expense, is devoid of an answer. I just wish more Australians read history. Labor has just delivered a massive budget deficit for the fifth year in a row. Labor promised over 500 times to bring the budget into surplus. This last six months alone, each time they reiterated their promise to bring the budget into surplus, it was reported within days that the deficit was growing—one billion, seven billion, 17 billion and now finally 19 billion in the red, a figure almost directly the opposite of the surplus we left them in 2007. While they finally conceded that could not make it after all, after hundreds of promises saying otherwise, their very dubious forecast of their ability to bring us back into the black has to be taken with a grain of salt. They just cannot seem to get anything right.

This is a government Australia cannot afford. Labor's budget delivers more debt, continuing deficits, higher taxes, broken promises waiting to happen, continuing uncertainty and rising unemployment. To the Australian public—the Australian taxpayer—this is a classic case of deja vu. While I have relieved myself of the experience of having to relive history by not standing at the federal election due on 14 September, I will be throwing my energies behind supporting the Liberal candidate in Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis.

Ann Sudmalis will make an informed, honest representative for Gilmore. In just this year alone she has attended more than 200 community events, held almost 100 village visits and personally knocked on hundreds of doors. Previously, for four years she served in the municipality of Kiama as a councillor. She knows and understands the damage the policies of this government will bring to Gilmore. We have all had a taste of them. Take their disastrous border protection policy, which saw a rise in the average of three asylum seeker boats arriving in Australian waters during the Howard government years to three per day under this government.

Unemployment is rising and Gilmore under this government. Our candidate can see that this government is making it harder for single parents, is making it harder for small businesses and is making it harder for a self-funded retirees. A coalition government will scrap the carbon tax, while simultaneously delivering tax cuts and increases to welfare. There is no money for the Princes Highway, yet Julia Gillard's candidate running for Gilmore thinks the Princes Highway is great. He is out of touch as much as the government he supports. Regional Development Australia is not delivering, not by its panel members but through the lack of recognition for regional Australia by this government and the absence of realistic support for any of our necessary projects. As a result, there has been little funding for infrastructure in Gilmore. The only time a government minister has visited Gilmore is during an election campaign and then it has been their B team. That shows just how interested they are in Gilmore: they are not.

Under the former coalition government Gilmore did very well on just about every level. It was not perfect but it was a lot better than what this Labor government have done. Ann Sudmalis is committed to turning this neglect around and I want to help her do it. Our candidate will have a difficult task ahead of her but I am confident she will be committed and a persistent advocate for the people of Gilmore. More than once she has been knocked down and has come back up again. I cannot think of a more worthy candidate to take over from me. While I might have chosen to leave this parliament, there is still a lot to be done and now even more so after six years of 'hard Labor'. Our candidate will pursue the vital job creation projects with the same energy and tenacity that I hope I have shown in my 17 years.

This is a budget without credibility. It is a budget which was discarded by the Australian public almost immediately after its introduction and no-one takes it seriously. No-one believes Labor's promises anymore. No-one believes anything they say, given their extensive track record of broken promises, mismanagement, incompetence, inefficiencies and looking after the trade union heavies. There can be no doubt that Labor has been in it for itself and not for the people they were elected to represent. The resources boom is just about over and Labor has no policies to deal with the money suddenly drying up. It leaves Gilmore with no job creation projects but with a general unemployment rate of 12 per cent and a youth unemployment rate of 28 per cent. So what has been achieved in six years of Labor government? They have been very good at spending other people's money but most projects have been ill thought out and have failed.

Any candidate for the seat of Gilmore needs to first have the necessary life experiences, education and abilities, as well as understanding the needs and aspirations of its residents, to earn the honour of representing them in this high office. They also need integrity and the ability to share common values and, most of all, they need to be in touch. I will be doing all I can to make sure that that happens. Once again I would like to paraphrase Paul Kelly from the same article:

The public will be shocked because it lives under the delusion that things are already tough when in fact much tougher times are coming.

When the tougher times arrive, the people of Gilmore will need a tough advocate fighting their fights. Gilmore does not need a seat warmer who will toe the line; Gilmore will need someone who is not afraid to challenge the status quo. The next member must fight for the small things like small equipment grants and small community grants. It is not all about big ticket items—black spots, contrary to Labor's candidate asserting that the Princes Highway is of world standard. There are many potentially deadly places along the highway. We still need upgrades to medical services. We need more support than the homeless, better services and a coordinated response rather than the current ad hoc process. We need a dental scheme. Why Labor cut the Chronic Disease Dental Scheme, a Howard government initiative, is beyond the understanding of just about everyone.

Any candidate who is really serious about being Gilmore's representative needs to have comprehensive plans for local tourism. They need to be thoroughly across the subject and totally committed to it. It is our premium industry, with the best prospects for business development and real jobs growth. Sporting facilities desperately need further upgrades. Our farmers, small businesses and manufacturers all need the assistance long neglected by this government.

The long-term future of the Shoalhaven hinges on a third river crossing. Even the Greens are talking about it, yet I wonder when the time comes will they allow it to happen? How many green frogs and orchids will be rolled out as an excuse to oppose change? The New South Wales coalition government has committed funds to study the project, but such is the rapid growth of the area's needs that this project needs to be accelerated, and that can only be done with federal government support. Main Road 92 was a long-term dream and has opened further avenues for economic growth for Gilmore. We now need the funding to complete the final stages.

We have soaring youth unemployment, as I said, and we need to encourage the continued development of the University of Wollongong facilities in the Shoalhaven. I well remember those early days of trying to get Wollongong university to establish our own campus here. We got that, and then a medical school to train our local doctors, and then a nursing school. Kiama, Shoalhaven and Shellharbour enjoy a long and significant heritage. Much of our region was the first to be colonised outside of Sydney after the landing of the First Fleet. Funding is needed to preserve this heritage and our visible history for future generations.

CCTV cameras is also a major issue. I am sure most members would be familiar with Shoalhaven City Council's troubles and how this has cemented the community's demand for CCTV. It is an issue with national implications. Any candidate for Gilmore must see the value of CCTV and the need to improve other crime prevention initiatives, such as providing better street lighting. The Greens oppose this. They would like to see the crims being given an even break, or so it seems, yet they want CCTV cameras in national parks and other reserves to see how animals are treated. Never mind us humans!

We need to complete the Dunn Lewis Centre in Ulladulla. To be fair, I recognise the funding to complete stage 1 was actually given by this government. It is a modern facility with lots of unrealised potential that will add value for the community in general and for the youth of the Milton-Ulladulla area in particular. Gilmore is essentially a coastal community, with the majority of its population living 20 kilometres from the coast. Our best natural asset is Jervis Bay, a perfect, protected harbour, yet there are next to no realistic boating facilities between Sydney and Eden. The Shoalhaven has significant mental health issues, yet has not been provided with the range of services that are needed. We must have a permanent Headspace presence in Ulladulla.

Gilmore is not a wealthy community. It has many small towns and villages which all require individual attention. It is an ageing community, yet a community with a growing youth demographic that has to be recognised as having its own particular needs and wants. A cursory study of the census will reveal that. The paucity of employment opportunities means that some young people have to move out of the area, away from their families, for a realistic chance at life. Is that fair? No, it is not. So to those who would seek to limit opportunity by opposing realistic growth opportunities I say: stop being so selfish. Stop being so self-absorbed and intolerant of the needs of others, to the point where you pathologically refuse to see the forest for the trees. And, yes, I direct that comment to the Greens and their supporters. The world is growing, yet they prefer to live in perpetual denial. It is a fairyland stuff.

This budget rightly deserves to be dismissed. It is no more than an exercise in Labor saving the furniture. This is a budget about Labor saving Labor seats. It is not a budget for Australia's future, nor for the wellbeing of the people of Gilmore.