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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13422

Ms RYAN (LalorOpposition Whip) (17:43): I rise tonight to speak on behalf of the electorate of Lalor, my community. It could be said that, if lightning is going to strike, it will strike in Lalor. It is a microcosm of Australian society. Every decision of government in this place has an impact in my community. The community, of course, is diverse and growing. It is a place of opportunity where young families come and join thousands of other young families to raise their children, attend our local schools and build a better life. That brings with it challenges and opportunities. Tonight, I would like to talk about some of the challenges and opportunities my community faces. Most of these are by virtue of geography—25 kilometres from Melbourne's CBD and 20 kilometres from Victoria's second city, Geelong. It was, of course, going to be a place of intense, fast paced growth, and it has been for some time. As a result, we face significant challenges around infrastructure, congestion, child care, schools, university access, water and health. The fact is that we are a young community with young families who have high demands for services. In a suburb like Werribee, the average income is $52,000 a year; yet it is communities like mine that this government has decided to target.

To put it bluntly, I am tired of seeing my electorate in the top 10 when it comes to those impacted by the cuts of this government—from the $267 million in cuts to the Medicare safety net to the legislation in the chamber now around cuts to family tax benefits. In the community, we have 60,000 families and, of those 60,000 families, 21,000 will be impacted by the FTB cuts. That means that, on the ground, there will be a direct impact on our local economy. That is just one of the challenges being brought about by this government in this month of parliamentary sitting.

But we face many other challenges. We face a challenge in building and maintaining a cohesive society. It is a place of breadth. People come from other suburbs in Melbourne to buy their first home. People come from all over the world. I am often heard saying in the electorate that we learn so much about the world when we share our stories and our history with one another on the ground. On the weekend, I attended a citizenship ceremony. We generally have four a month, with 120 new citizens at each session. On Saturday, I attended one such session and there were people from India, France, Bangladesh, Colombia, Brazil, Germany, China, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia, all becoming Australian citizens in my community and all thrilled to be taking that pledge, having made that decision to seek citizenship and make the commitment on that day. This makes our community one of extraordinary opportunity. There is an extraordinary opportunity for us to learn from one another and build what Australia is so proud of—that multicultural, cohesive society. In Lalor, this place of opportunity, that happens every day. Families arrive; families find networks; families dig in, buy that home and send their children to school.

One of the things about this community is that it is incredibly resilient. It is a place where people get on with things. People get on with raising their children, but sometimes they do that to their detriment. I remember sitting in a school as an assistant principal when the drought broke in Victoria. The drought breaking was great news across Victoria. It was not such good news for many schools in the western suburbs of Melbourne, which found themselves having not had enough maintenance or having design flaws. The school I was in had a flat roof and downpipes inside the walls. The drought broke and children were sitting in classrooms with the rain coming straight in on their heads. I will never forget the regional director coming out to see me and saying, 'Joanne, what do the children do when it starts raining inside the classroom?' I said, 'They pick up the chairs and tables and move out of the line of the water.' She said, 'That is the problem: sometimes we are too resilient, sometimes we put up with too much.' There is a fine line in my community and getting that line right is critical for the future of this community. We need foresight. We need clever thinking. We need to know when to demand. We need to get that balance between demanding what we deserve and our fair share and appearing to be negative about our own community. The people of Lalor have done that. They do it every day.

I will give you an example of some of the other challenges. We have our beautiful new stadium in Lalor. Thousands of kids are playing sport, and if I think about the schools and the joys of living in a community like this, I think about sport and I think about the thousands of kids out playing sport every weekend in Lalor. There are 11 junior football clubs in the WRFL with their home in the city of Wyndham—many of them with multiple teams in every age group. It is a fantastic thing to hear those whistles all over the community on Saturdays and Sundays as the kids run out onto the ground. How do we ensure the quality coaching for numbers like these? How do we ensure that our new communities are embraced and invited when clubs are bursting at the seams? How do we ensure that girls are encouraged to play AFL football in that kind of environment? The answer is that families work hard. They work hard through the week and then they work hard to create those communities and make sure that their kids are involved on the ground in the things that they need.

There are 80 babies a week born in the city of Wyndham. I want you to stop and think about what that means for sport, what that means for schools and what that means for early childhood education. It means a constant demand for new schools. It means a balance between determining whether a community will get a new school that is desperately needed and whether that other bucket of money that will maintain existing schools will also be accessed for our community. I have been on my feet before to explain that in our schools we can have up to 12 classes of preps—an extraordinary number. How do you make sure the quality is on the ground in those classrooms? Just like the football teams, just like the basketball teams, just like the netball teams—these are some of our challenges.

We have other challenges. We have challenges around employment—challenges around casualisation and third party labour hire arrangements. What impact with the digital disruption have in a community like ours, and how do we plan to meet those challenges? How do we turn micro businesses into small businesses? How do we grow our own micro economy? How do we ensure that we get the digital infrastructure we need to make sure that this digital disruption does not completely derail our community and that we are able to grow our economy with it? The answers are in quality representation and inclusive consultation. The answers are in strategic planning.

In education circles, we have a saying that we need to get off the dance floor sometimes and onto the balcony to get a strategic view. I would suggest that what Lalor needs most is a federal government prepared to get off that dance floor and to get onto that balcony; a federal government that understands these challenges and considers them when they write policy—from water policy to taxation policy, from infrastructure policy to education policy. My community needs a government at the federal level that is prepared to look at all of the learnings around city development, at all of the learnings around how we build community and at all of the learnings in terms of what we are going to need when we approach this digital disruption. So far this federal government has failed in these areas, and it makes meeting the challenges more difficult. They have failed to take into consideration the things that my community needs. Every decision they make has an impact directly on this community—this community of young families where people are accessing the supports to raise those families.

Fortunately, we do have some things on our side. We have cohesion. We have optimism. We have people learning to work together and learning to mount the arguments to demand the respect to ensure that the strategic planning happens. I commend my community to the House.