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Monday, 3 March 2014
Page: 1384


Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (18:38): I found myself quite absorbed when I was listening to the contribution by the member for Solomon. If I were to take at face value what she was saying and to believe what she was saying, I would also have to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden because it sounded as though we were having a digression into Pollyanna's world, a world the member for Solomon would like to see existing rather than the world that does exist.

Here in Australia we have a government which was elected without a plan, one which has no vision and no policies. The Abbott government was elected on a platform that was driven by a plan to undo rather than to do, to move back rather than to move forward, with a negative agenda driven by ideologues who have their vision of what the world should be and are trying to socially engineer our country, Australia, to put in place that social engineering—cutting welfare for the most marginal Australians while giving $75,000 to wealthy women when they have babies.

In the first two months alone, the Abbott government targeted school payments, small businesses, the environment, community safety and public programs. The schoolkids bonus was their first target, then vehicle depreciation for small business and the Climate Change Commission, an organisation the Prime Minister and those on the other side sought to ignore and to demonise rather than to listen to. Crime prevention grants that were funded in the last budget and set to go were abandoned. The NBN rollout is definitely under question and has been put on hold by those on the other side of this House. We really do not know what their plan is for a national broadband network. Each day it changes. It is a moving feast. Every time the minister has a new idea, a thought bubble, he throws it out there and then the next day it changes again. We are really not too sure what is happening with the NBN. Student debts could increase and I am worried about disability services being on the chopping block. And Centrelink services are being cut back.

This is what I find so amusing about the member for Solomon's contribution to the debate. One of the first acts of the Abbott government was to increase our credit limit to $500 billion—hardly the act of a fiscally responsible and frugal government. Add to that, that the debt level has increased and our budget deficit has blown out; yet it is put to us that those on the other side of this parliament have the answers. I would argue that the answers they have are bad answers—answers that are not delivering to the Australian people.

While the member for Solomon may have had a significant amount of money given to sporting groups in her electorate, with promises made prior to the election and every little community group being given a little bit of money, in Shortland electorate, unfortunately, the government has clawed back money allocated under the previous budget to a fantastic project in Shortland electorate, the Gulgul Barang Youth Support Centre. The Abbott government has refused to honour a funding commitment to build the Gulgul Barang Youth Support Centre at San Remo. The Darkinjung Aboriginal Land Council donated the land and the former Labor government committed $2.7 million to build the centre in an area where it is starved of resources. Federal minister Warren Truss has refused to honour that commitment. It could have been a major boost for that region and a significant support for young people in the northern part of the Wyong Shire. I am really devastated that this project will not proceed. It was such a worthwhile project. It was to be a partnership between the Darkinjung people, the San Remo Neighbourhood Centre and a plethora of community groups that had come together. The local schools, the local employment agencies, the social inclusion program that was operating in the area—each and every one of those groups had contributed to this proposal.

Now those on the other side of the House, led by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer and of course in this particular case by Minister Truss, have decided that people who are deprived of resources—people who really need this so that they have a chance in life, so that they have the tools to actually find the jobs and become involved in every aspect of our society—are being denied that opportunity. Instead of adopting an enabling approach and putting in place a Gulgul Barang centre, what this government decided to do was introduce a punitive approach.

It is planning—if we are to believe the reports in the media—to make cuts to people receiving Newstart if they are not prepared to travel 90 kilometres a day. I might add that except for the few jobs in the local area on the northern part of the Central Coast people in my electorate have to either travel to Newcastle for work or travel to Sydney, which comes into that 90 kilometres.

One area where people in my electorate could find work previously was at the Bluetongue Brewery. Carlton United has put on the record that it is closing that brewery. The member for Dobell said there are support services in place for those workers. Yes, that always happens when a business closes and a number of workers are made redundant. But what does not happen is more jobs. They are jobs that have been lost to the Central Coast just as we have lost 63,000 jobs throughout Australia since the Abbott government came to power. Holden and Toyota are gone from Geelong. At Qantas, 5,000 jobs will be gone, as will 1,000 jobs at Rio Tinto in the Northern Territory—all these jobs have gone under the watch of the Abbott government, which is supposedly there to turn the economy around and make Australia a better place. I would argue very strongly that the only thing the Abbott government has done is create a situation where a number of Australians are living in financial hardship and with very little hope of getting a job. This situation is going to be overlaid by punitive requirements, which the Minister for Human Services has signalled, for those people who are victims—I reiterate, victims—of this government's policies. They will be punished by receiving lower payments under Newstart and by being forced to travel long distances to seek work.

A lot of noise has been made in the area of the disability support pension. The requirements to obtain that payment were tightened significantly under the previous government. A number of people who previously would have received the disability support pension and who have very little chance of finding work are now unable to access that payment. What this government is intending to do is make it a lot worse for those people. What happens to a person that physically cannot work, like the woman who came to visit me the other week who had been a machinist for 25 years? She could not use her hands. She had extreme pain in her arms and neck. She had an MRI that showed she had problems with the discs from the top of her spine to the bottom of her spine yet she was being denied access to the disability support pension. Is this the sort of society we want to live in, a society where on one hand you have very wealthy women receiving large payments for having babies—I have heard it said, the 'right' sort of women having babies—and on the other hand people who have worked hard and contributed to Australia and to our economy over a number of years being denied access to any sort of reasonable safety net payment? Those people who have worked hard and tried so hard, made enormous contributions to Australia, are now being targeted by what, I would have to say, is a very uncaring government. It makes me very sad that I represent people who look to government for leadership, look to government to be able to deliver to them, and all we are hearing from those on the other side of this House are statements justifying what they have done and the fact that they are going to cut, cut, cut. And the most vulnerable people in our society are going to be affected more than others.

Recently I was advised that the Medicare office at Charleston, which is the major shopping centre in the Lake Macquarie Newcastle area, is going to be co-located with the Centrelink office as a cost-cutting exercise. Let's not pretend it is not a cost-cutting exercise. The Centrelink office is already overworked. People who visit there are waiting very long periods of time. There are long queues. If you add to that queues of people attending the Medicare office then you are going to have even longer queues and an environment that will create anxiety among those people. Add to that the fact that the Medicare office, if it is co-located with the Centrelink office, will be in a place that has very poor parking and is hard for people to access. It is on a very busy road.

All I can say is that under this government it has been a series of cuts that are going to impact negatively on the people I represent in this parliament. Nineteen thousand people in Shorten electorate who would have received $500 a year from the government for their superannuation will now miss out. Businesses will no longer be eligible for a tax write-off because this government has reneged on the instant tax write-off for business assets costing less than $6,000 that was introduced by the previous government.

The crime prevention funds that were allocated out of the previous budget to groups in the Shortland electorate have been ripped back, clawed back, by this government—funds that were going to the Lake Macquarie PCYC and funds that were going to improve safety in Lake Haven.

This is a government, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott has flagged, that wants to curb growth in education and health spending. This is a government that is set to introduce a GP tax on people attending doctors. This is a very uncaring government. This is a government that is getting rid of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, while it goes ahead with paying money to people who earn a high income and are having babies. This government stands condemned for its actions—for curbing spending for those people in Australia who need it the most.