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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1741


Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (10:43): I congratulate the member for Capricornia on her first speech. Being here is a very special honour. Despite the politics of the place, we should never lose sight of the honour that we collectively have to represent our local communities in the federal parliament. I welcome the member for Capricornia. Mr Deputy Speaker, welcome back and congratulations on your elevation to high office, and may I also extend my regards to your mother.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Vasta ): Thank you—I will pass that on.

Mr HAYES: It is a great honour to speak in the address-in-reply debate. It is a traditional time when new and re-elected members can make wide-ranging speeches. I would like to use this opportunity primarily to thank the people of Fowler who once again have placed their trust in me to represent them in this place. I am truly humbled by the support of the individuals and organisations that make up the great electorate of Fowler, and I reiterate that I regard it as a great privilege to represent them in the federal Parliament of Australia. I came to Fowler in 2010, and, as you are aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, I previously served in the seat of Werriwa. Being new to an electorate that I was not totally familiar with, I had the opportunity to start from scratch, familiarising myself with the issues and complexities that go with an electorate as diverse as Fowler. As most members in this place are aware, Fowler is the most multicultural electorate in the whole of Australia. This electorate is certainly characterised by the colour, the diversity and the vibrancy that this brings to day-to-day life. They are things that I find truly worthwhile, and it is certainly of value to celebrate them.

However, on socioeconomic rankings, Fowler is not a rich electorate. Given the level of disadvantage, there are many challenges to improving the lives of people and families in my electorate. In the lead-up to the previous election, when I first came to Fowler, I made a commitment to represent people diligently and with determination. I also went on to identify a number of issues that I would personally commit to, and I happily committed to be judged on the way I respond to those issues. I would like to recap on those. Together with the local community and, particularly, with the former Labor government, I am proud of what we have been able to achieve. These are matters that we should take some pride in. I would like to canvass the personal commitments I made as an incoming new member into the seat of Fowler.

The first thing I promised was to be as accessible as possible to the local community, to individuals and to organisations, and to actively pursue their interests. I would like to think that the overwhelming support that I received from my community at the last election was a reflection of how I work and how I relate to the local community. The second matter I personally committed to was to bring more employment opportunities to Fowler, particularly for young people. Youth unemployment is problematic across the nation, but in Fowler it is particularly alarming when we are reaching an unemployment rate of about 30-odd per cent in some parts. This is why I sought to bring the job and skills expos to my area. On two occasions now I have held job and skills expos in Liverpool, in the middle of south-west Sydney. Earlier this year we attracted over 5,000 local job seekers. More than 370 people were directly linked to employment on that very day, and many others were able to file applications and gain employment in the weeks following.

Giving a person a job, as we all appreciate in this place, is providing someone with a future. But giving a young person an opportunity is certainly giving them the best start to their adult lives. Providing young people with the education and the skills necessary to gain employment is critical for safeguarding their future. I am very proud of the part that the former Labor government played in investing in education, skills and training. The previous Labor government's commitment to education is certainly well documented. In Fowler, $108 million of federal funding went to 115 projects benefiting 46 schools in my electorate. During my first term as the member for Fowler, the Labor government delivered a new trade training centre at the Bonnyrigg High School, which now delivers quality hospitality qualifications. We also invested $673,000 for the establishment of the new Miller Trade Training Centre at the Miller Technical High School, which will deliver education in engineering. We have also moved ahead with construction of the trade training site at the Liverpool Boys High School.

Previously, the Labor government also laid the important foundations and set approvals in process for further trade training centres across my electorate in Ashcroft High School, Cabramatta High School, Canley Vale High School; a joint centre for the Good Samaritan College, Freeman Catholic College and Mary Mackillop College; and one at James Busby High School as well as Thomas Hassall Anglican College. The Labor government put a lot into investing in the kids, not just into those pursuing academic education but also into those who want to go on to pursue vocational education training. That is something that is of critical importance to the area I represent, which wants to break the culture of unemployment.

It is going to be a question now of whether this new government—the Abbott government—will honour the same commitment to education and technical education. We will fight very hard to maintain the commitment to education because it is a commitment not simply to kids and to families; it is a commitment to this nation's future.

When it comes to education, this week alone speaks volumes. We have seen the debacle of a backflip with pike when it comes to education funding. We have seen the whole concept of Gonski being thrown around the chamber like it is just another colloquial term, without appreciating the underpinning values of what that Gonski review means for kids for the future.

The third issue I wanted to touch upon, which is one I certainly can personally relate to, is the issue of domestic violence occurring in our community. I promised, when I first went to Fowler, that I would continue to raise awareness for the fight against this most appalling blight on our society. In last week's sitting, as you will recall, Mr Deputy Speaker, I moved a motion in this place drawing further attention to White Ribbon Day, which was on 25 November. It is absolutely inexcusable that, in a modern, thriving society such as ours, we still face the staggering statistic that one in three women will become a victim of violence in their lifetime, and one in five will be a victim of sexual violence. The majority of this violence, regrettably, occurs at home. The other staggering statistic, and one that really should resonate with everybody, is that the reality is that one woman dies each week in this country as a consequence of domestic violence.

This has got to stop. We who occupy positions of community leadership in this country must make it a priority to commit to stop domestic violence. I strongly urge all men, not only in my electorate but across the nation, to take the oath and swear never to commit, never to excuse and never to remain silent when it comes to violence against women.

It is an unfortunate fact that this style of violence is widespread, but it particularly impacts on areas of disadvantage and some of the culturally diverse communities as well. Often there is a lack of understanding of domestic violence as well as a lack of knowledge across some of the communities regarding the legal rights of victims and the ability to report to police and also trust in police to prosecute these issues. These are things that must be addressed within our communities. I think that within our sphere of influence we have a positive role to play in that.

I will also continue to work to support local organisations like the Bonnie Women's Refuge; Sistas for Sistas, a local Aboriginal organisation addressing violence against women in their community; and also our migrant resource centres; together with our police, who make a sterling effort, particularly when it comes to violence. One of the things that I know from our local police is that, in areas such as Green Valley, Liverpool and Cabramatta, more than 50 per cent of the police work in those communities is associated with domestic violence, and the vast majority of that is violence against women. There is certainly a story to be told about that, but anyone in authority, in a position of leadership, should be moving to draw attention to this blight on our society.

When I became the member for Fowler, given my background and probably a little bit of what I have just said, I also committed to work very closely with and support the work of our police, who do such a brave and commendable job in protecting our community. As you are aware, Mr Deputy Speaker, I have had a long track record of working with police, apart from representing many police officers for many, many years prior to coming to this place and also being the son of a New South Wales police officer. I have great respect for the work that they do for the safety of our communities, at times putting their own lives at risk. They make a huge change for the better of our communities. They are brave men and women with a special type of courage who wear the police uniform. They cop a lot of criticism, but I think we should always stop to acknowledge the good work that they do. Fortunately, very few of us will ever experience the dangers that they are prepared to face on a daily basis to protect our communities.

In relation to the issue of community safety and law enforcement, this government has not got off to a great start, particularly when we look at issues of community safety in my own communities of Cabramatta and around Fairfield. I know that the shadow minister at the table, the member for McMahon, will probably resonate with this. Fairfield City Council, together with the Cabramatta Chamber of Commerce, were successful recently in being awarded a $300,000 grant to facilitate the monitoring of CCTV cameras in Cabramatta, Canley Vale and Canley Heights. The former Labor government allocated this funding through the National Crime Prevention Fund. This is a fund which effectively takes money from criminal assets and puts it into community safety projects, so this is a very, very good thing to do. I am assured by the police, including the Cabramatta Local Area Command, that the presence of CCTV cameras and live monitoring would greatly facilitate their job—which is already pretty tough as it is—of suppressing crime in our area.

By way of background: Cabramatta 14 to 15 years ago was the heroin capital of Australia. It was the firearms exchange for the nation. It was only through intensive policing, community engagement and the deployment of emerging technologies at that stage, such as monitored CCTV, that the crime rate in this area plummeted. When that plummeted, community safety obviously went up. Pride in the area went up, and it became an area where people enjoyed being able to socialise and enjoyed being able to live. The police did a fantastic job on our behalf because the community backed them.

Simply taking this money away and depriving the police now of monitored CCTV in this area once again invites the re-emergence of street crime and other antisocial behaviour. We in this place never should put ourselves forward as being law enforcement experts. We should take advice from those on the ground, and their advice when it came to this particular issue was overwhelming. I ask the minister to reconsider the position when it comes to looking at the allocation of funds from the National Crime Prevention Fund to projects of community safety such as what was proposed for the streets of Cabramatta.

Finally, in 2010, when I became the member for Fowler, I committed to dedicate much of my time to supporting organisations that look after the disadvantaged in my community, including the homeless, the elderly and, in particular, those living with disabilities. These organisations play a vital part in our community, particularly in communities of need, such as mine. My electorate is overrepresented, regrettably, with people who live with disabilities. It is a fact that over half the families in New South Wales that live with autism live within a 20-kilometre radius of the Liverpool CBD.

Over the past three years I have conducted a number of disability forums in Fowler to identify and address issues in my community from those living with or caring for and supporting people with disabilities. These forums were designed to bring people with disabilities, carers and service providers together to create a strong local network for supporting disability. The forums also gave people an opportunity to provide their views on the direction for our nation should take on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The NDIS—and I think everyone in this place realises this—will benefit all members of our communities who live with disabilities, and this is one of the most vital reforms to come through the former Labor government.

I now intend to put much of my energy into what we need to do to hold this government to account and to shine light on the inconsistencies between the promises that were made before the election and what is being delivered, because this is not the government that people thought they were electing. Since the election on 7 September 2013, Mr Abbott has gone about putting almost a brick wall around this government to avoid public scrutiny. Far from the claim of being a 'measured, steady and purposeful government that says what it means and does what it says', this government instead has stumbled on every vital issue of public policy so far. It is not the government he promised it was going to be. While in opposition they railed against debt and during the election they campaigned against a supposed 'budget emergency', but we now see they are making an agreement with the Greens for unlimited supply of debt which will deprive this place of having any view about debt ceilings in the future. If debt was the issue for them, how can more debt now be the answer? They simply want to avoid scrutiny. That is probably why they did it.

When you look at the other major turn arounds, the other biggest issue in the lead up to the last election was border protection. Gone now is the rhetoric of 'we are going to turn the boats around'; gone is the 'we are going to buy the boats'; and gone is the 'we are going to pay for Indonesian informants' on the movement of boats. The only thing that occurs now is a media blackout. The truth of the matter is that we learn more from the Jakarta Post than we learn from the minister in this parliament. I should have thought that is something that should concern every member who wants open disclosure about border protection, but apparently not.

On the issue of school funding we have seen a lot occur this week—

Ms O'Dwyer interjecting

Mr HAYES: No member opposite can possibly want to interject on this, because they must have been stunned by the double backflip with pike on school funding. How is it that we can now sign cheques to states and say there are no strings attached? They are not even committing state or territory governments to matching funding on a two-for-one basis. The strings have gone. This is not a government that wants to be held to account. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Vasta ): Before I call the honourable member for Dobell, I remind the House that this is the honourable member's first speech and I ask the House to extend her the usual courtesies. I have much pleasure in calling the member for Dobell.