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Wednesday, 20 March 2013
Page: 2295

Senator MARK BISHOP (Western Australia) (21:18): Acknowledging that Easter is approaching, this is our last parliamentary sitting week until May. As such, I would like to briefly reflect on the achievements of the Rudd and Gillard governments and, in doing so, as a senator for Western Australia, acknowledging the impact these achievements have had in that state.

Significant changes have taken place, particularly in helping Australians with everyday living costs. On this side of the chamber, we are very proud of our achievements. We have gone out of our way to help Australian pensioners. Since September 2009, we have given 300,000 Western Australian pensioners a pay rise of up to $182 per fortnight, allowing them to live their lives with increased dignity. This week, I am pleased to say, they received a further cost-of-living increase.

We are increasing Australians' retirement savings through an increase in superannuation from nine per cent up to 12 per cent. Of course, this increase over time will have a major set of implications. An average 30-year-old on full-time wages will receive an extra $108,000 in retirement savings.

Unlike the rest of the world, we have avoided recession. We have maintained our AAA credit rating. We are one of only seven countries in the world to do so—something never achieved under the opposition.

Twenty-eight million people have been added to unemployment queues worldwide. In Australia, by comparison, we have created jobs, the latest figure disclosing 920,000 extra jobs since we came to government.

We have bullet-proofed the Australian economy and kept it well out of recession, and this during the worst economic downtown since the Great Depression. That is in contrast to the Japanese economy, which shrank around 1½ per cent in the last four or five years, the European set of economies, which shrank around two per cent, and the United States economy, which grew by just above 2¼ per cent. Australia's economy in that same period grew by a massive 13 per cent. I think that is a figure well worth repeating, so let me say this again: Australia's economy, despite the global financial crisis, has grown around 13 per cent under Labor—something that, on this side of the chamber, we are greatly proud of.

Our fiscal discipline and management has put downward pressure on interest rates. Interest rates are now just three per cent, compared to 6¾ per cent when the Howard government left office, saving families on an average $300,000 mortgage around $5,000 a year.

From July last year, we have given working families a tax cut. They get more money in their fortnightly or monthly pay cheques.

Across the country, more than 230,000 new parents are benefiting from up to 18 weeks leave. When the child starts school, parents receive a schoolkids bonus of $410 and up to $820 a year per child. There is a further boost to family payments, with eligible families with teenagers aged between 16 and 19 receiving over $4,000 per teenager.

This is very welcome news for families right across Australia. There are 900,000 Australian families, over 65,000 of them in Western Australia, benefiting from Labor lifting the childcare rebate.

In Labor, we are helping low-income Australians. A new $210 Supplementary Allowance for singles and $350 for couples will assist with essential living costs. We are investing a further $4.6 billion in dental care, assisting low-income families. That now makes it easier for almost 3½ million kids to see their dentist.

We have doubled investment in school education, upgrading facilities at every school right across the Commonwealth, with over $100 million of new school infrastructure in my duty electorate of Swan alone.

We have built science blocks, state-of-the-art training centres and purpose-built kindergartens and pre-primary classrooms. Through the My School website we have provided more information for parents than ever before.

We are delivering the skills and training required for the jobs of the future. We have invested $3 billion through our Jobs and Skills package. We are rolling out the National Broadband Network, bringing affordable, high-speed broadband to all Australians and Australian businesses, no matter where they are. We are very excited that residents in the Perth area of Victoria Park will be among the first in Western Australia to switch on. Very soon, they will have access to some of the world's highest speeds of broadband. It promises better education, better healthcare and better access for Australian homes and businesses.

Federal Labor have invested a record amount in infrastructure. We have invested $3.7 billion in Western Australian projects through the Nation Building Program. Under Labor, federal infrastructure spending in the state has nearly doubled, from $154 to $261 per person.

We are transforming and revitalising the state by sinking Perth's railway line through the city centre. We are widening the city's major access road, the Kwinana Freeway. We are transforming the state's busiest and most important transport hub: $686 million is being invested in a project known as the Gateway project. We are upgrading regional highways in Bunbury, Port Hedland and state-wide. Millions more are being invested in dangerous black-spot funding; that will save lives.

I am acknowledging these achievements as part of the work of a government of which I, for one, am very proud to be a member.