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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3239

Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (16:03): I rise to speak on this matter of public importance, the government's bad choices and wrong priorities evident in the lead-up to the May budget. Government members may well want Labor MPs to get out of the way, but I can assure you that the people of Newcastle did not vote for the Liberal candidate at the last election and they certainly do not what their voice to be silent in this House.

Last year, when I was campaigning for the then federal election, knocking on the doors of thousands of homes, making those calls and meeting people at street stalls and out at community events, a number of issues certainly did get raised with me. What were the priorities for the people of Newcastle? Some of those were matters that went to issues of jobs and job security, education funding and access, the need for a high-speed National Broadband Network and the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. But, of the thousands of conversations I had at that time, not once was I approached with a question about where I might have stood on the issue of knights and dames. Indeed, the only Knights that we Novocastrians care about are those that run out into the Hunter Stadium on a weekend. Not once was I asked about what I thought about the need to rewrite the free speech laws in Australia or whether we should cut protections against bigotry. Not once was I asked about whether I believed a hyphen should have been removed from the word 'e-mail' to unleash the burdens for small business, or whether it was wise to deregulate the charity sector and remove the charity regulator. Neither was I asked whether it would be necessarily a good idea to have a new tax every time we went to visit our GP. And I certainly was not asked whether it was going to be a good idea to sell off Medicare Private to the highest bidder, as was just announced by the Minister for Finance. These are not the priorities of Novocastrians, and I am sure that at least those of us on this side of the House agree that they are not the priorities of the Australian community at large.

But, as evident through their actions this week, these are the twisted priorities of the Prime Minister and his government. This is a government that claims to have a vision for Australia, but we struggle to find that vision. It is a vision that is focused backwards, looking back in time for inspiration, bereft of ideas for our future. I would like to take this opportunity to remind the government of some of those priority issues that Australians are in fact talking about.

Firstly, there is the issue of education. Some of my colleagues have raised this before. Before the election, we were apparently on a unity ticket when it came to better funding for our local schools. This was a government that promised, as we all remember, 'no surprises, no excuses'. But no amount of spin can hide the fact that the present government's commitment to the Gonski funding agreements that they went to the Australian public with before the election completely collapsed post election. On 2 August, the now Prime Minister, who indeed promised that no school would be worse off under his government, said:

We will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into. We will match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure than no school is worse off. We think that money is important.

His assurances were confirmed by the now education minister, 19 days later:

Every single school in Australia will receive, dollar for dollar, the same federal funding over the next four years whether there is a Liberal or Labor Government after September 7.

But we now know that they have changed the rules, meaning state governments can cut school funding, just like Colin Barnett has done in Western Australia. We now get commitments like this from the Prime Minister in December:

We are going to keep the promise that we made, not the promise that some people thought we made or the promise that some people might have liked us to make. We are going to keep the promise that we actually made.

Clear as mud, but that was confirmation of their pre-election promise.

The other important issue for the people of Newcastle is of course jobs. This government stands by, watching jobs get lost, every day— (Time expired)