Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1693

Mrs SUDMALIS (Gilmore) (18:42): I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2014-2015 and cognate bills. I am taking this opportunity to talk about issues that range from bridges to berries. Some would say that is a strange theme, but I assure members that it does make sense. The last 16 months have been extraordinary for a first time member of parliament. Initially, the thought of working with all sides of parliament for the overall better positioning of Australia was inspiring. It was not long before I realised that there is a great deal of point-scoring and a lot of rhetoric from those who wish to be in government and are in a constant state of debt denial. It is unbelievable to see them in action, posturing and complaining about so-called cuts in expenditure. We have made changes to stop spending imaginary dollars from the previous government's imaginary surplus which they were never going to achieve

The people of Gilmore get it. They know there is a problem with national debt. They know we have to work hard to get rid of the billion dollar a month interest payments. And, finally, they know that I am working hard to get as much as possible allocated to Gilmore to improve job prospects and community amenity and keep the national debt contained. The people of Gilmore know the process is slow and steady, with gradual improvements over time.

Let us start with the idea of bridges. There is really only one bridge that is of great importance to the residents of Gilmore, the third river crossing at Nowra. The NSW government dedicated $1.6 million towards the project. This money was to determine the best location for the new bridge after tests and extensive community consultation. The next $10 million was my election commitment, and I can say that this money has been delivered to Roads and Maritime Services for the design, engineering, structural planning and roads integration, with possible land acquisition and environmental studies. This is a necessary stage of the process and only after this is complete will we have an accurate estimate of construction costs.

I have been meeting with advisers and the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development on a regular basis to continue lobbying for this project. The bridge is so important and I will continually be reminding the minister of the need for this infrastructure. The residents of Gilmore, the businesses of the South Coast and the thousands of visitors to the area know how important this bridge is for economic growth, urban growth, tourism and local convenience. I will proudly continue to lobby to fulfil this project. I will work with my state colleagues to garner as much funding as possible for the Princes Highway, through joint projects. That includes the recently announced $2.95 million from the federal government, in conjunction with $3.1 million from the New South Wales state Liberal government and $300,000 from the Shoalhaven City Council for the Flinders Road and Princes Highway interchange and an upgrade for the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme.

We committed to an additional $5 million dollars for roadworks in Gilmore to improve safety and fix roads that assist our residents. Part of this allocation was for a section of Turpentine Road to be completed. Since then, an additional $824,000 has been allocated from the federal Black Spot Programme funding. The council has now added funds so the whole of Turpentine Road will be sealed. This is a tremendous outcome for our region; not to mention, there is also the almost $2.5 million for further road black spots in Gilmore. Add this to the Roads to Recovery funding and there is almost another $6.5 million for roads in the three council areas: Shoalhaven, Kiama and Shellharbour.

You might wonder why I am so passionate about roads in Gilmore. It is an electorate of almost 5,000 square kilometres. I travel from north to south visiting the different villages. You guessed it: I drive almost 50,000 kilometres each year. Of course, apart from my own use of the roads, our whole community depends on road transport for its very survival. Residents of Gilmore have to drive for appointments, for shopping, to get the children to school and to get to the beach. The distances are not just a couple of blocks; sometimes, it is around 10 kilometres to the nearest shopping centre and it is just not the general store.

More importantly, the hidden small manufacturers and small businesses depend on the roads to get their materials to their place of production and get their finished product to the transit hubs. You have often heard me speak of the time in my life when I was a fudge manufacturer. Once a month for almost 17 years, I would drive from Kiama to Moruya and sometimes to Bega to deliver hundreds of kilos of fudge. Even for a business as unlikely as a fudge manufacturer on the South Coast, the importance of our local roads is hugely significant.

Road infrastructure is critical to our regional businesses, for every delay is a lost opportunity. I well remember the time in the early 90s when the Princes Highway was cut by floodwaters. The large freight trucks could not pass through, so my family would load up our delivery van and use an alternate route to get our one tonne weekly delivery of fudge to Queensland. In our later years of operation, we were sending pallet loads and sending 20 to 30 tonnes a day. However, I digress. This is purely to show why I am passionate about improving roads in Gilmore; the roads are our economic and tourist arteries. They cannot, under any circumstances, be traffic blocks for economic growth and opportunity for industry and tourism.

This brings me to the new proposed alignment of the bridge. The decision has been made for it to be on the western side of the existing bridges. I admit, I was a bit surprised by this decision; but when I looked at the aerial photos, the alignment was completely logical. Talking about aerial shots, HMAS Albatross is the base of helicopter excellence. In October last year, the $700 million dollar helicopter aircrew training system—HATS—was confirmed and it is to be invested in our base. I cannot describe how proud I was to be present for the signing of that agreement. In fact, every time I visit HMAS Albatross and HMAS Creswell I feel a great sense of community pride. Perhaps it could be because I recently found out that my great-great-grandfather joined the Navy in 1916.

However, I do not believe that is just why. The local TS Shoalhaven cadets, the helicopter pilots, the entire workforce on the bases, captains and Commodore Vince Di Pietro are such great examples of our uniformed and non-uniformed community leaders working in the Defence industry. I am just completely proud of them all, as well as being convinced that the investment by my government is well-placed and well-deserved. This is not the only investment that has been made on our base. We have the Romeo helicopter program and it is absolutely brilliant. This is a further investment of just over $3 billion dollars. The funding will allow the Navy to acquire a total of 24 Romeo helicopters. Each and every one of them is to be based at HMAS Albatross. The first one arrived just a few months ago. We are so thrilled. Defence is already one of the Shoalhaven's largest employers, with over 2,000 local residents employed by Defence or a Defence-associated industry. With all of this local investment, it is clear that Defence is very pleased to call our region home.

I would like to speak for a moment about the significance grants for the Anzac Centenary. Gilmore has 12 really special projects that were funded. I would like to thank committee members Bob O'Grady, Barry Young, Kim Kearney, Allan Hurrell, Fred Dawson, Stanley Berriman, Don Handley, Barry Edwards and especially Rick Meehan and Clyde Poulton for their extensive work behind the scenes, with timely advice and the preparation of the submissions. It is outstanding.

The grants have been allocated to villages that reflect the diversity of Gilmore. Warilla RSL Sub-Branch have an adopt-a-digger program for local schools, as well as funds for a great service recognising World War I at the Shellharbour Village War Memorial. Shell Cove Public School will be installing a commemorative plaque on a large rock structure in their school grounds. Kiama Municipal Council has some extra funds to go towards the restoration and stabilisation of their leaning memorial arch. Gerringong RSL Sub-Branch will be installing a new flagpole and plaque in Gerringong's park at the site of the lone pine tree, which was planted some years ago in addition to starting a new dawn service. I commend the tireless efforts of Bill Popple and Garry Hingle on this project.

The Shoalhaven Anzac Centenary Committee will also be holding a very special commemorative dinner. Clyde Poulton of the Vietnam Veterans, Peacekeepers and Peacemakers Association will also be coordinating a re-enactment of the Waratah march—including a steam train—from Nowra to Sydney, working with local schools, veterans and businesses. Nowra RSL Sub-Branch will also be publishing a centenary edition of that same march. Shoalhaven City Council should also be congratulated, along with the work of Margaret Simoes and Tania Morandini. They have developed an exhibition entitled In Memory, honouring the Aboriginal servicemen and servicewomen of the South Coast. Huskisson RSL sub-Branch will be constructing a remembrance court in Voyager Memorial Park to honour the service men and women lost in World War I. Sussex Inlet RSL sub-Branch will be rejuvenating their World War I memorial to place a lasting legacy for the tight knit community. Milton-Ulladulla RSL sub-Branch are also building an ANZAC memorial to commemorate the centenary of Gallipoli, and, last but not least—because this one was a good one—at Ulladulla High School the history teacher is harmonising the energy of students, the local show society, the men's shed, and the Lake Tabourie Museum to set up a new display space that will change each year to commemorate the four years of World War I. We are also hoping to have a poppy colouring-in competition for our primary schools, a short story or poem contribution, and a red poppy drive so the whole region is covered in poppies. It is an impressive range of local endeavour, with talents and ideas being unlocked by the local distribution of almost $125,000 in centenary commemorative grants from our government.

I have taken this opportunity to cover a vast range of achievements and projects that have been delivered by the coalition government. This is only the beginning, and we have many challenges to meet. There are still problems that need community feedback and prioritisation. There are national issues that need resolutions and pathways to move this country forward.

We have employment issues. As I spoke of earlier last week, I am greatly saddened by the closure of our iconic paper mill in the Shoalhaven. Gilmore really does not need another increase in local unemployment, and the affected families will have a huge task adjusting to such a change. It will be very difficult. I have organised a number of avenues to help, but the preferred action, of course, would have been to keep the mill in production. The owners have had to make a very difficult decision. Over the past few days, I have also met with the Minister for Industry, the Hon. Ian Macfarlane, the Minister for Social Services, Senator the Hon. Marise Payne, as well as our Prime Minister, the Hon. Tony Abbott, to discuss further opportunities for the government in any avenue that we can help.

I began this presentation with the concept of bridges and berries, and I chose this theme because the issues I have put forward have direct relevance to everyone living in Gilmore. We actually do have some small-scale berry producers in the region, but they only sell fresh berries, not frozen ones. And that is one of the issues that is being discussed by many families in Gilmore, and, in fact, in many regions across Australia. The concern about hygienic food, labelling and Australian production will be a pond-rippling issue for quite some time. Local Gilmore families want to support Australian growers and suppliers, but the current labelling requirements actually make it fairly difficult.

Last week I attended a briefing on this. Labelling has been an issue of national significance—would you believe—since 2002. There have been inquiries and recommendations through all different levels and colours of government, yet there has not been a universally accepted or applied change for our labelling requirements. It crosses several portfolios, so that is part of the complications. Once again, my experiences in fudge manufacturing give me some insight into packaging and labelling. It can be done, and it does not have to be expensive. Australians want Australian made products, but there is so much confusion over the terminology that buyers have really no idea what they are buying. Often a business will use a twist of phrase to encourage the buyer to think that something is Australian, and yet, some industries believe that 90 per cent content requirement is too high a bar to set as the benchmark, and that a 50 per cent transformation—something like a product being crumbed and packed in Australia—allows it to have the label 'Made in Australia'.

There is even support for the view that if 50 percent of the cost of the product is packed here, then it can have 'Made in Australia'. I mean, seriously, this really is an inappropriate application. There really does need to be an overhaul. We need to be consistent. It needs to be readable and understandable to help our mums and dads.

The current concern about frozen berries is actually not a new industry issue. There have been similar issues arising from imported products in the past. The berry issue actually brings to light the need for a packaging review to ultimately help our mums and dads buy products for their families. There are multilayer portfolio responsibilities for labelling, and the Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane, is determined to draw together this expertise as well as garner information from the community to help resolve this very important issue.

It is actually time we built the bridges between manufacturers, growers and consumers, whether it be for berries or any other Australian product. So, the theme of bridges to berries is not really that bizarre. It is the task of a community leader to draw together opinions and views and to advocate for community expectation and community need. That is our job. That is why we are here, and that is what we are supposed to be doing: getting on with the job of doing the things we need to do for our community.