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Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Page: 1250


Mr HAYES (Fowler) (17:01): I too wish to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012. I rise in support of the appropriation bills before the House. These bills are important as they ensure funding in a number of significant areas, including, as the member for Goldstein has indicated, the clean energy future—and particularly, which he did not happen to indicate, and most importantly, the level of household assistance. I am sure that members in his electorate, as in mine, are very keen to see the development of that.

One thing my colleagues have not raised is anything associated with the global financial crisis. They are three words that seem to be relegated to history, but the fact is that the global financial crisis tested the strength of some of the largest economies around the globe. The effects are still reverberating throughout the US, Great Britain, Japan and most European states. Australia came through the global financial crisis relatively unscathed with comparatively low unemployment of 5.2 per cent, and new jobs are being created. In fact, over that period, in the vicinity of up to 700 jobs have been created alone. This did not occur by chance but through the response of the federal Labor government to stimulate the economy and generate jobs. Even the Leader of the Opposition—and regrettably he is not here—in addressing commentators in London, compared the most developed countries and said that our economic circumstances are enviable.

I know you would not get that by listening to the last speech, but we are getting on with the job. We are building better schools. We have doubled our spend on education. My electorate alone had $108 million spent on school development, which those opposite would ridicule as being just another school hall program. But let me tell you that science blocks and language laboratories are the things that are going to be important for advancing young people and equipping them with skills for the future, and that is what we were doing. We are certainly tackling the issue of the challenge of climate change, introducing for the very first time paid paternity leave, and delivering the first pension rise in 12 years. I am not sure what they were doing on the other side when they were in government but the Howard-Costello government were certainly not looking after pensioners.

I now turn to mining tax. I know this was fought tooth and nail by those on the other side. It is true that we did support and implement a minerals rent resource tax in the midst of a mining boom to spread the value of it across the whole economy—to fund tax cuts to small business, to increase superannuation from nine per cent to 12 per cent and to increase the level of spending which was neglected by the former government on roads, bridges and other vital pieces of infrastructure. We are getting on with the job. In respect of all those matters, all those responses to the global financial crisis, just look at the record. Go back to the history books of a couple of years ago and find out how many of those initiatives were supported by the other side of politics. You would not have to go too far because it is almost a big, fat zero. As you will be aware, since the last election I have been the member for Fowler. It is the most multicultural electorate in the whole country. It is also the second most disadvantaged electorate, according to the ABS. It is ranked second lowest in terms of socioeconomic disadvantage in this country. In other words, there are a number of challenges there. When I was first elected one of the publications in the area put to me: 'What are your priorities? Don't give us your party line. Don't give us a flowery speech. We just want to know your personal priorities. You're somebody who is coming into this electorate anew. We want to see what you stand for. Nominate five things you think are a priority for you personally.'

I will just take the House through what I nominated as those five things. I said to the people concerned that I am happy to be judged on those. The first is availability. I gave a commitment to make my electorate office more available. Ever since coming to the parliament, first as the member for Werriwa, I have had an open-door policy when it comes to dealing with constituents. In my move to Fowler we commissioned a number of pieces of research to find out, quite frankly, whereabouts the most people were affected and would need the assistance of a federal member. As a consequence, we moved the office into the middle of Cabramatta itself. The vast majority of Cabramatta is Vietnamese. That in itself caused me to do a number of other things, including engaging Vietnamese speakers on staff.

Not only have I had the opportunity, since moving there, to engage Vietnamese speakers; I have also employed a Chinese speaker on staff. We take very seriously our responsibility to constituents. We do not simply go through an interpretive service but try to show real service and get involved. We are not simply the conduit for problem solving but actually try to be a part of resolving problems directly on behalf of the constituents. I am very fortunate to have retained the services of a graduate who speaks Serbian, another important community in my electorate. It is important for me not only to have access to those language skills but also, as someone new to this electorate, to have a very clear understanding of traditions and culture. I am indebted to those young people. They are very hardworking. Judging by the increased numbers of people who are now presenting at my office, I am sure most of the community feel the same way.

I also continue my practice of conducting a mobile office on Saturday mornings, as do most members. That has proven to be an invaluable opportunity to get out and see people and to have my finger on the pulse of the electorate. I am very fortunate that five of the 40 people who have been selected to be appointed as People of Australia Ambassadors are from my electorate. Again, this probably reflects the fact that it is a multicultural electorate. I congratulate people such as Jenny Tew, Ricci Bartels, Carmen Lazar, Dr Tien Nguyen OAM and Samir Yousif on their appointments. These people will make a great contribution, and I intend to work very hard with them as we mutually go about our business of looking after the community and making sure that there is a real voice for positive multiculturalism, particularly in my electorate in Western Sydney.

The second issue I raised as being a priority for me personally is disability. For many years now I have had a commitment to the disabled, those who are disadvantaged and the elderly. I continue that commitment in this electorate. I find that my electorate now is over represented with people with disabilities. It is certainly not the water we drink; it is more the fact that the home prices are lower. Families who live with a child with a disability know that the cost of raising a child with a disability is very expensive. Comprises need to be made and housing is one of them. We are over represented with disabilities, particularly with autism. Within a radius of almost 25 kilometres of Liverpool CBD there is about 52 per cent of all families who live with autism in New South Wales, which is the very reason we were successful in attracting one of the six nationally funded autism learning centres in Liverpool.

Dealing with families with autism is not a matter of trying to work out whether their problem comes under the federal government, or our Constitution or somewhere else. If parents have a child with autism or with any disability my view—and it has always been my view—is that we should be working pretty hard. They have a hard enough job themselves. We do not need to be pointing them to other people and referring them to state or local governments. We should actually get in and do what we can to assist them. Most members here know that people do not read the Constitution and work out who is responsible. When you are living with a disability, you just need help, and I think that is what we should be there to do.

Last year I held a forum for people with disabilities. One of the big things that came out of that was the absolute need for a national disability insurance scheme. I am very happy that the government is progressing with that. It is going to be huge and it will make monumental progress in respect to disabilities and is something that I am personally proud of, and the House should be proud of it. It is going to make a huge difference in the lives of the families as their kids grow up and move into adulthood.

Another issue I raised as a priority was the level of employment. There are many things in my electorate that I am very proud of and multiculturalism is certainly one of them. One of the things I am far less proud of is the level of youth unemployment in the south-west of Sydney. Last year I moved a private member's motion that drew attention to the alarming level of youth unemployment rates in my electorate. The national rate of youth unemployment for persons 15 to 19 looking for full-time work is 24.2 per cent. In my electorate it is 33.5 per cent. That is certainly a major concern. Young people should have the opportunity to be at school studying or be in employment. Having that proportion of people in that age group looking for jobs presents the community with very significant problems. There are a number of things that we are doing—one of them is a job forum and we are also working very closely with the principals of the high schools in my electorate.

Another matter that I list as a personal priority is the level of domestic violence. I am alarmed at the level of violence that does occur throughout the community, but particularly when it comes to domestic violence it is something that causes me great concern. I am a White Ribbon Day ambassador. Each year on 25 November we have White Ribbon Day and are reminded of the statistics that one in three women in our country is likely to experience physical violence and one in five will experience sexual violence. As a father, as a grandfather, I find that thoroughly reprehensible. The tragic thing is that there is very strong evidence that the cycle is repetitive. Fifty per cent of young women who have grown up in an abusive household are likely to take an abuser as a partner. Sixty per cent of young men who grow up in abusive households are likely to become abusers themselves.

We need to take a very solid stand on this. Last year I engaged a young women, Zara Maxwell Smith, from the Australian National University to write a report about domestic violence in my electorate. She drew upon issues of the levels of multiculturalism, some of the issues associated with that and how we should better direct some of our funding, particularly through the migrant resource centres. We need to actually communicate to people that violence against women is completely unacceptable in this country. We should be encouraging people to report such violence but, more importantly, we should be saying to the perpetrators and potential perpetrators that this is just unacceptable in Australian culture. That leads me on to the final thing that I list as a personal priority. It probably comes as no surprise to members of the House that it is in respect of police and policing. As you know, I have had a long involvement in law enforcement, not only as the son of a police officer but through my involvement with police associations in the country for many years. I have nothing but admiration for the work that the police do in protecting our community. I know a lot of it is quite thankless, but what they do is essential. I am committed to working as closely as I can with my local area commanders in Liverpool, Fairfield, Green Valley and Cabramatta to ensure that, at least when it comes to issues of law enforcement, we do not play politics and we put the community first. Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to discuss these matters.

One final thing I would like to submit—and it probably applies to other areas—is that we should be doing all that we can in respect of law enforcement, particularly in relation to drug related crime. One of the things that are proving a very significant deterrent and moving crime on is the provision of strategically located closed-circuit television. That is an area where I would like to see government becoming more involved in assisting in those developments. (Time expired)