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Thursday, 16 February 2012
Page: 1702


Mr CRAIG THOMSON (Dobell) (11:17): I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012 and to recall for parliament's benefit the great infrastructure programs that have been undertaken around Australia, but today I particularly want to talk about those that have happened in my electorate. In fact, it is quite remarkable to look at the history of the Central Coast, in that more has been spent on infrastructure in Dobell in the last four years than in the entire time the seat has existed. We have had a remarkable injection of much-needed infrastructure. One of the things people always used to say on the Central Coast was, 'We always miss out.' We are an area that is between Newcastle and Sydney and we always seem to miss out on infrastructure.

This Labor government has made sure that the people of Dobell, some of the poorest people in the state of New South Wales, are not missing out any more. This government has provided some vital infrastructure—some of it very essential and basic infrastructure. As an election promise that I was able to secure back in 2007, it is only this year that a pipeline has been completed which pumps water from Mardi Dam out of the Wyong River up to the big storage dam, Mangrove dam. In itself, this may not sound exciting, but the Central Coast was down to 13 per cent of its water supply. That was all we had left. We were very close to running out of water. This vital infrastructure means that the Central Coast is now drought-proof. In fact, the dam levels are already up to 40 per cent and that is because this pipeline allows the water management authority to harvest the overflows when there is a lot of rain and have that pumped up. This Labor government has ensured that water will not run out. People of the Central Coast are for the first time experiencing a lessening of their water restrictions—something we have lived with for so long that I do not think it is particularly changing people's habits, but it is a great credit that this has actually occurred. One of the other incredible investments that this government has made in my electorate is the $20 million commitment to Tuggerah Lakes. In fact, this was the first large investment made under Caring for our Country. Minister Garrett was at that time responsible for that announcement. Tuggerah Lakes has been described as the jewel in the crown of the Central Coast. But development has occurred around them and the lakes are not in the pristine condition that they were. This government, the only federal government to ever do this, stepped up to the plate and said that the environment of this once pristine lake system needs to be preserved. It is a lake system where professional fishermen still go out on their boats and fish. It is a lake system, though, that was in danger of becoming much less than what it should be. This $20 million that is being spent over five years has contributed greatly to the renewal of those lakes, helping to bring them back to a pristine condition.

At this point, it is worth acknowledging the great work that Wyong Council has done in delivering the services to improve the lake. You will not hear this terribly often, but they came in under budget. They delivered the work with a saving of over $2 million. But this government, because of our commitment to the environment and to the Central Coast, reinvested that $2 million back into the lake system to make further improvements.

One of the things I am very proud of is the commitment of this government to improving the health system on the Central Coast. We have seen some structural changes to ensure that an area health service that once went from the harbour bridge to the end of my electorate has been redefined to cover just the Central Coast. Decisions in this area on what is best in relation to public health are made by those people living there and they are directing the dollars to where they are needed.

One of the other things this government did was bring in GP superclinics. We have one at Warnervale, although it is not yet completed. It should be open in June. Having said that, it opened as an interim clinic almost immediately, and close to 1,500 patients go there each month, clearly showing the need for this particular service. While the permanent home is just some months away, the temporary home opened and was immediately used. That is another thing that is helping to assist in making sure Wyong Hospital, which has the fourth busiest emergency department in New South Wales, has a little less pressure on it, as busy families can now go to an after-hours GP superclinic. This is what governments should be doing: making sure that people who need assistance get access to that. In areas like mine, where there are new suburbs and new developments, often this vital infrastructure is one of the things that planners seem to get to well after the community has been established. That we have put these GP superclinics not just in my electorate but throughout electorates is something that this government and those on this side of the parliament should be immensely proud of.

Surf clubs and surf lifesaving are big parts of life on the Central Coast. We have 15 surf clubs on the Central Coast, six of them in my electorate. Soldiers Beach Surf Life Saving Club was the surf club that pioneered the rubber duckies and was instrumental in spreading that particular lifesaving device throughout the country. But, unfortunately, we have seen over the years a lack of investment in these vital pieces of infrastructure that help make sure that surf lifesavers, both professional and voluntary, can do the job that we want them to do—that is, to make sure that people are safe on the beaches.

Because of this government, this year we have been able to open up two brand new surf clubs—one at Soldiers Beach and one at Shelly's Beach. They are state-of-the-art surf lifesaving clubs, paid for entirely by this government, providing these vital homes for these two very important surf clubs for the Central Coast. It has had an immediate effect in relation to the membership of the surf lifesaving clubs that have been built. Both of these clubs this year are boasting increases in their membership of over 30 per cent. That means there are more surf lifesavers there to be on rosters, to make sure that people are swimming between the flags, being safe and being able to be looked after properly.

Another important thing that this government has done—and I am not going to go into the great efforts that we put into the stimulus package to make sure that people were employed—has been to focus on jobs. We were the first government that actually invested in business enterprise centres, the first federal government to put money into them. In my electorate, over 90 per cent of businesses are small businesses and a lot of them are mum-and-dad businesses. The Business Enterprise Centre at the Central Coast has played an enormous role. One particular story I would like to bring to the House's attention is the enormous success that a business, A Dozen Roses, has become. This was set up by a couple who migrated from Zimbabwe in very difficult circumstances. They basically came just with the clothes that they had on their backs, because of the circumstances there. They decided that they wanted to grow roses in Australia. Not surprisingly, when they were looking for the best place to grow roses, they picked the Central Coast because it is such a great place to do anything. So they came here and got the services of the BEC, and now they have three retail shops, they sell wholesale throughout Australia and are a booming success. The story of Merle and Tony Mann is a story that we should all acknowledge. But it is important—and they always acknowledge the help that they got from the BEC and that this government, in funding the BEC, made that possible. The three Central Coast MPs are very keen, and are lobbying hard, to make sure that that funding continues for BECs, because of the vital role that they play. We will be leaving no stone unturned to convince the minister that this is a worthwhile investment.

These are some of the great achievements and infrastructure developments that have happened in my electorate. If one were to listen to the opposition they would think that we had done nothing, we have wasted money and we have put up taxes.

Wyatt Roy interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order! The member will be heard in silence.

Mr CRAIG THOMSON: The member for Longman can be given some slack, because he is too young to remember a whole range of things, so I thought it was important to spend what little time I have left to actually educate the coalition on this.

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The chair has asked for order!

Mr CRAIG THOMSON: This is courtesy of Steve Koukoulas, a well-respected economist, who has made a number of points that are worth repeating here. For example, what years were the highest years of taxation as a ratio to GDP? Of course, it was 2004-05 and 2005-06. The government then was the coalition. The percentage of tax to GDP was 24.2 per cent. In terms of big taxing governments, how many years since 1982-83 has the tax-to-GDP ratio been above 23.5 per cent? Seven times. And guess which government was in place in those seven times. All seven occasions in the history of Australia, since Federation, when the tax-to-GDP ratio has been above 23½ per cent, have been under coalition governments. So we can see quite clearly that the big-taxing governments have been coalition governments rather than Labor governments. Between 1971 and the end of the forward estimates there are only five years where spending has fallen in real terms. And guess what? In all five years where spending has been reduced it has been under a Labor government. How many times has that happened under the coalition? Never. There has never been a reduction in real spending under the coalition.

How many times has the tax-to-GDP ratio been below 21 per cent? Since 1982 it has been under 21 per cent on six occasions. How many times for the coalition? Zero. How many for Labor? Six—all six occasions. A myth keeps getting peddled about which governments have been high taxing and which have been low taxing. The facts speak for themselves. Coalition governments have always been high-taxing governments. Labor governments, including this government, have cut government spending so that they can make sure the economy is in the best shape it can be.

We also hear about the pressure put on interest rates. It is worth remembering that interest rates at the moment are 4.25 per cent. I will not be so cruel as to say what they were when we came to government. I will be more generous than that and talk about the average interest rates under the previous coalition government. The average was 5.43 per cent, or more than 120 basis points higher. Not only have we provided great infrastructure for the people of Dobell and the people of Australia but we have done it in a fiscally responsible way, in the great way the Labor Party has always managed the economy.