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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1364


Ms KATE ELLIS (Adelaide) (17:12): I begin my contribution to this address-in-reply debate by thanking the very good people of Adelaide for returning me to this place once more, and I put on the record my gratitude for their support and for the faith they have placed in me. Of course that is something that none of us should take lightly, and we know that it is our job to work each and every day to make sure we repay their faith in us. Whilst this address-in-reply debate is an opportunity for the government to outline what they seek to achieve over the course of this parliament, it is also an opportunity for each and every one of us to outline our priorities and the key issues we will be seeking to pursue. My absolute No. 1 priority is to stand up strongly for the people of Adelaide. For almost 10 years now I have come to this place and tried to make sure that I represent honestly and forcefully their views and their opinions, and I look forward to continuing to do that over the course of the next three years.

Before talking about some of the issues and some of the views that the people of Adelaide have asked that I bring forward to this place, I would like to thank a few people for assisting me to be here. Of course there is the Adelaide community. I have now run in four federal election campaigns, and never before have I seen the kind of support from local community members that we saw during the course of the last campaign. It was remarkable to have people who had not come through the ranks of the Labor Party or any political party, but who were working out in the community, ringing the office and saying they wanted to help. We had people dropping off supplies to feed our volunteers. One remarkable community member, having heard me on radio, knew that I was unwell and the next day they brought a get-well pack, which included honey and lemon and all sorts of remedies, to get me through.

Ms Collins: Did it work?

Ms KATE ELLIS: I am here, Julie, so it must have been highly effective. To all of these people, I say thank you. I would also like to thank my amazing staff, who worked day and night throughout the campaign, as they do throughout the term to ensure that we can carry on in this role. One of the consequences that is sadly inevitable in moving from government to opposition is that you do downsize those staff considerably, but we have a saying, 'Once a member of team Ellis, always member of team Ellis.' I know that they will always be there and I will always show my gratitude for having the absolute best staff members, best campaign committee members and best support that anyone could ask for. To all of them, I say thank you.

Now the job is to make sure that we stand up strongly for the people of Adelaide. Sadly, there is already evidence that there is going to be much to stand up against. I am really proud that we have managed to deliver record levels of investment and results to the Adelaide community over the last few years, but we have seen in the early stages of this Abbott government that they are a North Shore Sydney government who have never shown any interest whatsoever in South Australia or, particularly, in fighting for South Australian jobs. Already, just months in, we have seen the Holden closure and the thousands of local families who will be affected by that.

I will also place on the record today my thoughts for the Qantas workers who were delivered the incredibly bad news of 5,000 job cuts just last week. I know that many of those Qantas workers are residents of the seat of Adelaide. I have visited and spoken to them about their concerns about a lack of job security. I would like to say that I will absolutely use this parliament to ensure that we pursue a plan to get them back to work and to turn around the statistics which we have now seen showing that, since this government was elected, there has been one job lost every three minutes. That is unacceptable to my local community and it is unacceptable for our nation.

We have seen an emphasis by the Prime Minister, by the Treasurer and by others on Sydney, particularly North Shore Sydney. It is my job to make sure that South Australia is not overlooked. It is my job to make sure that the residents of Adelaide are not overlooked, and there are many key issues which are at stake. At the last election we already saw a number of issues to which we pledged funds for the Adelaide community which have so far not been matched and honoured by the government. I talk about things like the Women & Children's Hospital Foundation's funding for a feasibility study to look into increasing their research capacity, something that I would think that every South Australian should stand up and fight for and support.

Also in the local community there are things like new lighting and upgrades to the club facilities at the Broadview Football Club. This is a club that has gone through hard times. This is a club that has worked through those hard times and has massively expanded to see that the Broadview Football Club is now offering sport, entertainment and a community hub, and it has huge numbers of junior players coming through. We want to make sure that we are not turning away people who are engaging in a healthy pursuit on the weekends because the facilities are not there to support them. It is shameful that the incoming health and sports minister has said that they will not be matching just $120,000 for the Broadview Football Club.

One of the areas of my electorate for which I have a particular soft spot is Kilburn. The good people of Kilburn have worked long and hard and have too often have been overlooked by governments of all persuasions at all levels. These are people who have worked hard, have largely have come through public housing, have too much pollution in their area and have a lack of community facilities. Yet, when Kilburn Primary School was closed down several years ago, I launched a campaign to ensure that that space would be used for the local community, that there would not be more heavy industry moving into the area and that we would have a place where the community could come together. I was so incredibly proud to be able to announce $1 million in funding to build a sporting complex at the Kilburn Primary School site. It would be the new home of the West Adelaide Football Club, but, perhaps more importantly, it would also be open to community use.

Kilburn is one of the areas in the community that I represent where the demographics have changed hugely. They have an ever-growing Afghan community, who are pretty handy on the soccer field, I have to say, but are looking for a place to train and to play. There are also members of the Sudanese community moving into the area who are very keen to ensure that there is some place provided for sporting facilities and a facility where people can meet one another and come together as a community regardless of their background. Sadly, the Abbott government have failed to match this commitment too.

The situation of the Victoria Park grandstand is perhaps the most shocking. An area has been redeveloped around Victoria Park so that it can host a number of different community and sporting events. We pledged $62,000 for disability access at that grandstand. That is something that I would expect every member of this parliament would support, but, shockingly, $62,000 has now been ripped off of them so that this disability access will not be able to go ahead and so that these community events will not be able to be attended by all members of our community. It is on issues like these and so many more that it will be my role to stand up for the Adelaide community.

One issue that I particularly want to touch on, noting the minister who is at the table today—Minister Briggs—is the issue of the South Road upgrade. The assistant minister may know that this is a particular pet project. It is a big project. It is an incredibly important project for both Adelaide and South Australia. It is a project that was estimated to cost $896 million to upgrade South Road between Torrens Road and the River Torrens. It is a project which the former Labor federal government struck a deal with the state government on a fifty-fifty funding commitment so that this project could commence. This project did actually commence. There have been properties that have already been acquired. There was work that had already commenced. There is a site office that is up and running that had conducted community consultations. There was actually work happening on the ground to ensure that this became a very long overdue reality.

Even this year alone, it is an issue that I can say I have heard about at countless street corner meetings—that the residents are absolutely furious. Not only has this project now been brought to a stop but the residents in the local area actually received a flyer in their letterboxes during the election campaign saying, 'If you vote for the Liberal Party we will upgrade South Road to the western suburbs.' This was to the very residents who had fought for the Torrens to Torrens upgrade—not just for years but for decades—only to then learn that indeed the progress on that project would be stopped.

But I am hoping that there will soon be good news on this front. This is where I look towards the assistant minister. I was delighted on the weekend when I read The Weekend Australian—which does not always bring me delight, I should say! But I was particularly delighted to read this article, 'Tony Abbott eyes $5 billion for new road funding'. I note that the assistant minister said:

Infrastructure is already a major commitment of the federal government and I think you’ll see an even greater commitment, because there is a great need to lift our national productivity.

Now, I do not always agree with the assistant minister sitting at the table—

Mr Briggs: You never do!

Ms KATE ELLIS: But on this particular occasion, I say to him that if he wants to prove the point that this is not a government that is only focused on North Shore Sydney, that this is not a government that has absolutely and totally overlooked South Australia, then there is no reason why this funding, which is apparently on its way, will not ensure that the Torrens to Torrens road upgrade of South Road gets back underway and that we see this project delivered for the community that I am so proud to represent.

We know that the economic case stacks up. We know that there is far more policy rationale for doing this than the Darlington upgrade, which politics has persuaded the government to prioritise instead. We know that it is long overdue and we know that it will not just benefit South Road; it will not just benefit those who are using it as a corridor—the trucks and the like—but it will actually benefit the whole area. All the studies have shown that it will decrease massively the amount of traffic which is utilising Churchill Road and a number of other areas.

So whether it is on fighting for the South Road upgrade or whether it is on fighting for the funding which the Abbott government has already stripped away from the Adelaide community, I am delighted to be here to fight for those residents and to make sure that we continue to see real results.

Of course, I have been given a task on top of just looking after the people of Adelaide, and that is to serve as Labor's shadow minister for education and early childhood. They are two areas that I am deeply passionate about; in fact, the area of education was the very area which inspired me to look towards politics, knowing that education has the power to transform individual lives more than any other area of investment. It is a job that I take on with quite a sense of responsibility because I am incredibly proud of the huge amount of progress that we made in the education area under the Rudd and Gillard governments.

This was an area that was transformed. We saw new policies come into place: a national curriculum, which had been talked about for so long, finally became a reality; we could shine a light on school performance through national testing and making results available through accountability at a school level; and, importantly, we undertook the biggest review of the Australian school education system in over 40 years, under the panel led by David Gonski. Throughout that process, we had those opposite saying: 'There is no problem. There is no equity issue in Australian schools. There is nothing to see here; the funding model is not broken.' But, of course, the Australian public knew better. The Australian public sees the overwhelming evidence that there is far too big a gap between those schools which are high performing and those schools which are struggling, that this is a gap which is increasing.

There is far too big a gap between the performance of a student who is enrolled at a metropolitan school and one who happens to live in country Australia. There are far too many huge equity gaps in the Australian education system, and the Australian public know that, because whether you are a student, a teacher or a parent you see each and every day what is happening in our school system.

We saw on almost the eve of the election those opposite finally recognising that this was a critically important issue to the Australian public. So what did they do? They had a total reversal of policy, where they came out and declared that they had seen the light—they, too, agreed that we needed to see these school reforms. And in what has already been shown to be absolutely the biggest fraud committed on the Australian public, we now see that that was just not the case. They stood up—and not just on one occasion but time and time again—like the now Prime Minister, talking about how he was on a 'unity ticket' with Labor when it came to school funding, and the now education minister, saying:

You can vote Liberal or Labor and you'll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school.

He said, 'Well, we've said that we will adopt the new school funding model from 1 January next year for the next four years. So, it yes, we've accepted that there is a new school funding model.' The Prime Minister also said:

So, we will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into. We will match the offers that Labor has made.

The minister also said, 'Funding will be the same under the coalition as under the Labor Party.'

What is truly shameful from this government is that they stood at polling booths around Australia saying this. They had posters, 'Your school will receive the same amount of funding under Liberal or Labor.' But we already know that that is absolutely not true, and it was a sham that they tried to pull on the Australian public. It is our job on this side of the House to say: 'We will not give up on these reforms. We know that our school system is too important to let those opposite just throw away all of the progress that has been made.' But what we will also do is to point out, each and every day, to those who still come in here crying about broken promises on carbon tax, that every pamphlet they sent out to their communities and every sign in a polling booth about school funding has been shown to be utterly false in the most disgusting attempt to trick the Australian public that I think we have probably ever seen.

We now know that there is a huge difference in the amount of funding that schools will get under this government. What we were talking about under Labor's Gonski reforms would see $14.65 billion in additional funding flowing to Australian schools. Under the model put forward by those opposite, that figure is just $2.8 billion. Worse than that, those opposite, who claimed that there would be 'no difference in the amount of funding that your school would get', have then come in and said, 'Actually, we're going to throw away all of the conditions that were placed on state governments.' Even though our reforms had finally changed a system that saw too many state governments cutting funding to schools, not keeping up with indexation and not making co-contributions for additional federal funds, those opposite have come in and said, 'Yes, we'll send out a no-strings-attached blank cheque to the state governments but we will do absolutely nothing to stop them from cutting from their school education budgets the same amount in additional money that they're getting—or, indeed, more.' The government have said that they will do nothing to require state governments to put in co-contributions for the dollars in federal funding that they have received, which shows that there is absolutely no way that any member of the government, any of those opposite, can repeat the promises that they made at polling booths on election day. We have seen it from the Prime Minister. We have seen it from the education minister. They can no longer say, 'Your school will receive the same amount of funding under us,' as the school would have under the Labor Party, because they know that it was a sham the entire time.

We also heard that there would be no cuts to education, yet we have seen $1 billion stripped from the trade-training centres program—because, at a time when we are losing jobs, at a time when we are seeing youth unemployment, those opposite think it is a smart idea to cut the very programs that were put in place to skill young Australians. And now there are alarm bells ringing about the Youth Connections program, a program that was put in place to help young Australians who are at risk of being disengaged and falling out of our education or employment systems to stay engaged. There are huge question marks about whether those opposite are just going to cut another program.

I say to all members of this House: it is our responsibility to fight against the youth unemployment figures that we are seeing in this nation. Now, I do not claim that there is one silver bullet that is going to turn that around—and those opposite are being dishonest if they claim that there is—but I do say that you do not keep a single young person in employment by cutting the programs that are already in place to try and support them. There is absolutely no rationale for that. On this cut and on a range of other cuts, I am proud to be here in the parliament representing the very good voters of Adelaide, and I pledge to work my hardest each and every day to do just that.