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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1913


Ms GAMBARO (Brisbane) (16:45): I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012. These pieces of legislation give us a change to again highlight the massive waste and the irresponsible misuse of government expenditure by this Labor government. Underlying this is a complete lack of respect for taxpayers' money. Tax revenue is not government money; it is money given to the government by the taxpayers on trust. The men and women of Australia who work hard and pay their fair share of taxes have the right to expect that it will be spent on their behalf in a very responsible way. That is why it is such a shame that we continue to see their funds being abused by the Gillard government.

We know that, since the election of the Rudd government in 2007, approximately $4 billion of expenditure has been wasted by Labor. The trend, unfortunately, continues. The very latest example is the set-top box scheme. This scheme, whilst currently incomplete, is running at approximately $700 per set-top box. That is roughly what was originally estimated. It is many times the amount for which they can be purchased at a retail level. We heard the revelations from Senate estimates that the NBN Co. has used the services of UMR Research, the Labor Party pollsters, to do polling. In an article by Lauren Wilson in the Australian on 15 February 2012, we see that the NBN Co. has spent $35 million on legal fees. That is an enormous amount of money. And yet this massive white elephant has only rolled out active broadband to approximately 4,000 customers.

Then we move to the rebranding of the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. This little exercise has blown out by five times the original $42,000 that was budgeted for. You would never, ever get away with this in the private sector. It demonstrates that those opposite have no appreciation for a dollar, because hardly any of them have ever been involved in the management of a business. That rebranding followed the $31.5 million that was spent on government advertising trying to sell another white elephant, the carbon tax, to the Australian people. This was subsequently criticised by the Auditor-General.

Then we come to the most outrageous of them all: the massive blow-out in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's budget. Across the entire immigration portfolio, and not including last year's blow-out, the increase for the four years to 2014-15 is $759 million. This is $559 million more than, or almost three times, the $197 million the Treasurer and Minister Bowen told taxpayers the bill would be for immigration when they released the MYEFO for the period last November. In just two months the government appears to have blown out their estimates by almost $560 million. The blow-out revealed in these estimates takes the total budget blow-out from Labor's border protection failures over the three years since the 2009-10 budget to a massive $3.9 billion. And all of this is because of the fateful winding back of the Howard government's border protection measures. In direct contrast to the failed Labor policies, the coalition has a plan to stop the boats and therefore save money by reintroducing temporary protection visas and also restarting the processing of illegal maritime arrivals at Nauru. The shame of all this is that, because of the shameful waste and misappropriation, there are now so many worthwhile projects that will not be funded. I want to talk about some of these local projects that I have been made aware of recently and that I have been happy to support. I spoke in the House recently about the Mental Illness Fellowship of Queensland, which is in my electorate and is trying to get assistance to fund the redevelopment of a new headquarters in Herston. This organisation provides a tremendous service to people across Queensland that suffer from some form of mental health illness. Its new building will be a headquarters, providing mental health support and services. Given that this issue is so important in our community, I really do urge the approval of the application.

There is another current grant application that has recently come to the attention of our office. It is by the Kelvin Grove State College. This fine institution is one of the area's oldest established secondary colleges and enjoys a fine reputation in the local community. The college accommodates approximately 1,800 students from prep to year 12 and offers a number of signature sport excellence programs. The purpose of their particular grant was for a rebuilding of their current tennis facilities. I understand Kelvin Grove's courts had not had a major refurbishment for over 25 years. This project will enable the college and the wider community to have access to four international-standard tennis courts which can be used both day and night on seven days a week. As the college is home to the Queensland Tennis School of Excellence, this refurbishment is absolutely necessary for a standard suitable for elite players.

I also bring to the attention of the House, and express my support for, an application from the Sisters of the Good Samaritan Foundation for funding to assist with the marketing expenses of an important community educational program. The Good Sams foundation, as they are known, provide a wide range of essential community and welfare services in Brisbane. Their key role at the moment is to provide supported accommodation for women and children escaping domestic violence. The foundation plans to run a domestic violence awareness workshop, called Breaking the Silence, in a selected number of Brisbane schools and in the general community. This program will address an urgent and genuine need to promote a very difficult topic which is quite sensitive. The aim is to increase awareness and understanding of the many forms of domestic violence and to offer resources in such a way that the victim can remained unidentified and yet benefit from the courses provided within a session. Hopefully, through awareness we will reduce the number of future victims. The Good Sams foundation would like to supplement the workshop with printed brochures and marketing tools such as a banner and data projection for PowerPoint presentation. These items will be an ongoing resource to attendees and the foundation.

Now I turn to Telecross, another very worthwhile initiative with a program of enormous benefit to the community. It is a program on which I have been working with the Red Cross for a couple of years. The proposal is to set up a system whereby a staff member or a volunteer is scheduled to ring every day an elderly person or a disabled person or an older person who is socially isolated in our community and ensure that they are okay. This is a wonderful idea and I am very supportive of it because there are many people living alone in their homes who do not have too much external contact. Say they fall or have an incident: many elderly people are often found in their homes many weeks or months later. This is a wonderful prevention program because it ensures that a phone call is only a short while away. The program has many community aspects and it involves volunteers. A large number of organisations, including the Pharmacy Guild of Australia, have indicated in the past that they will support the program. It is a low-cost service that will cover the whole of Australia. I estimate its cost at about $9 million and it will save us from the terrible scourge, and the terrible reports that we see, of elderly people being discovered in their homes many months or weeks after an adverse event. No society should go through that. We owe our elderly people our support.

Recently I was at the Kitchener Road Childcare Centre. This is an occasional day care centre and this Gillard government has ripped $12.6 million out of occasional care funding. Occasional care funding gives mums a break if they need to go to a doctor, or if they need to have an operation. They do not want long day care funding, they just want a day here or there that will help them, a day where they can have a dentist appointment or do some occasional study. This is such a worthwhile program, and the Kitchener Road Childcare Centre has been going for over 40 years. It was a very solemn meeting that I attended. Some 60 parents showed up. They have already increased fees. They do not have the option of fundraising. They have looked at different ways to apply for government funding. They do not have the money to convert the centre into a long day care centre. They have funding available until 30 June this year, and after that their future is pretty uncertain. That centre needs $40,000 a year—a very small amount but it impacts on the lives of many families, parents and children. It is worthwhile programs like that that had money ripped out. Many families are being hurt. Then you look at the millions and millions of dollars that are wasted on programs like the pink batts program. That very small amount of money is providing so much community support. Programs like Kitchener Road Childcare Centre are so important to the local community and yet we see other programs where millions are wasted.

The government continues on its misguided and incoherent policies, leading to mismanagement. You just keep reading about it and seeing it. As a federal member of parliament I constantly see these examples of incompetence. The budget deficit is now at $37 billion and rising. Each day it continues to grow. I have a little widget on my website reminding my constituents every day of the levels of debt that continue to rise under this Gillard government. The carbon tax and the recent private health rebate cuts will come into force on 1 July and they will further add to the cost of living for businesses and families in the electorate of Brisbane. But this government stumbles along blindly, too focused on itself and not on the real issues that face everyday Australian families. It prefers instead to wind the clock back 30 years and play that class warfare card and the politics of envy. This 1970s type attitude has no place in modern Australia. This country desperately needs an election to give the Australian people a say on who they want to lead this country through the difficult challenges ahead. I call on this government and I call on the Independents to do the right thing and allow an election to be held so that the people of Australia can decide what direction they want to go in.