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Wednesday, 11 November 1998
Page: 158

Ms GAMBARO (5:46 PM) —I rise this afternoon to speak on a number of issues that will be of great significance to the people of the Petrie electorate over the next three years. But, before I do, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about the alleged parlous state of Australian politics.

There has been a tendency over the last few years for commentators to decry the mood of the Australian electorate. According to the pundits, the electorate has never been more distrustful of politicians and the political system. Some politicians, most notably the Leader of the Opposition, have agreed with this assessment—but somewhat cynically, I would say. As part of the Keating Labor government whose attitude to the electorate was characterised by nothing but contempt for ordinary Australians, the Leader of the Opposition's journey back to the future and his views that people are sick of politicians constantly having a go at each other is a bit rich. You only have to go back as far as yesterday's proceedings to see that if any politician in this country is prepared to kick their opponent at any opportunity then it is the member for Brand.

The Leader of the Opposition said on numerous occasions during the recent election campaign that Australian politics needs reinvention. How cynical! If any political party is responsible for the mood of the electorate, then it is the Australian Labor Party.

Mr Melham —Come on, Teresa, you don't believe that!

Ms GAMBARO —I learned very early in my term that the Labor Party is the master of deception.

Mr Leo McLeay —You work for the Prince of Darkness.

Ms GAMBARO —If any political party is the king of saying one thing and doing another, it is the Australian Labor Party. We no longer have the self-proclaimed Placido Domingo of Australian politics, but we do have the Siegfried and Roy of Australian politics—the Leader and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mossfield) —Order! I ask members on my left to give the speaker some courtesy, please, and listen to her in silence. We will not have any interjections, thank you.

Ms GAMBARO —Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. If the member for Banks could just let me continue I would be happy to do so. They are masters of deception and cynical manipulators of public debate in this country. The member for Banks knows that. The Labor leadership team would do anything to get to the treasury bench. They clearly showed in the last election that they would even put the future of the nation at risk for their own political fortunes. They did that in the 1998 election campaign, and we all know that. Their deceptive and negative campaign—it was one of the most negative campaigns that I have ever seen—clearly proved that. It offered absolutely nothing for Australia's future.

The Leader of the Opposition's behaviour during the election campaign was proof of the fact that his claimed sensitivity to the electorate, his proclaimed conversion to the need for a reinvention of politics, was nothing more than base political expediency. It was nothing more than a cheap stunt. It was nothing more than the kind of behaviour that is at the heart of the electorate's alleged disenchantment with politics. His comments yesterday after the election of the Speaker only emphasise his cynical attitude towards the electorate and his lack of decorum. Labor and the Leader of the Opposition say one thing and do entirely another. They tried to take the high moral ground on One Nation and then they courted One Nation preferences at the recent election. Such blatant dishonesty must be exposed.

Is it any wonder that people think the wheels are falling off the political system? But out there in the real world, the world of ordinary Australians, the mood is very different. The election that determined the make-up of this 39th Parliament was a victory for honest politics. It was a victory for responsible government. The Howard government went to the Australian people with a bold plan to fix Australia's problems and put a responsible government in. Fixing Australia's decaying taxation system is the only way that future generations of Australians will enjoy the same standard of living that we all enjoy here today.

Even the former Labor member for Petrie and Labor minister the Hon. Gary Johns agreed with the Howard tax plan. It is amazing the difference in perspective that emerges after departure from political life, as what he said clearly shows. It is worth quoting the Hon. Gary Johns again for the benefit of the members who sit opposite me. On ABC Radio's PM program on 20 August 1998, Mr Johns said he was `coming down firmly on the side of the Howard government's tax package because it's the sort of package that Labor will have to introduce'. Why is that the case? In his words, it is because `any honest, decent government would'.

An honest, decent government has introduced it. The Australian public supported an honest decent government by re-electing the Howard government on 3 October with a mandate to implement tax reform. We were up-front about the plan from day one. We had the political courage and the conviction to take a very complicated tax reform package to the electorate. Labor knew that we would do that, and we knew that Labor would campaign in the way that they did. We knew that they would revert to the style so typical of them in the past. But Australians rejected that. They showed renewed faith in the political process by putting their trust in the Howard team. I thank Australians for that, particularly the electors of the electorate of Petrie. I am sure that the Labor Party will also thank Australians in years to come when they know that they have a reformed tax system which cost them nothing politically.

On many occasions throughout the campaign, I met with mothers in front of schools. They were very receptive to the positive information about the Howard tax plan. They were also angry at the behaviour of the Australian Labor Party. They felt that Labor's negativity and its unwillingness to face up to the challenges that we know this country faces were totally irresponsible. They were also keen to find out the way in which the current taxation system taxes every aspect of their child's education with a 22 per cent wholesale tax.

There is a lesson in this for the member for Jagajaga. The Prime Minister was ahead of the Leader of the Opposition by 25 per cent on economic management. The Prime Minister led the Leader of the Opposition by some 18 per cent on who had credibility when it came to keeping home interest rates low. Courage and conviction have never been strong points of the Labor Party. Labor claims to have eaten humble pie over the last few years, but the humble pie has not even settled in the pits of their stomachs yet.

Let me remind the Labor members who believe the ALP is back from the political wilderness just how poorly they did in the state of Queensland. You could not get any worse than the 1996 result, where they were reduced to two members out of 26. Given the difficulty the government faced in selling its tax package, you would have thought that the Labor Party would have reclaimed over half the seats in Queensland—in fact it did not.

Mr Adams —What's your margin?

Ms GAMBARO —I'm here, aren't I? Let me reiterate the Labor record in Queensland, because it is really worth highlighting. They were able to pick up over a quarter—seven seats out of 27 seats. The Beazley team picked up five seats in Queensland. To my mind, this is an indication that Queenslanders do not believe the rhetoric of the Leader of the Opposition anymore. In fact, it says that most Queenslanders think the Labor Party has a long way to go.

On 3 October, Australians voted for a plan that would secure their future. The first Howard government put in place an economic environment that has made things matter to ordinary Australians. Home interest rates are the lowest in almost 30 years. One of the best things a government can do for average Australians is to help them turn their dreams into reality. The second Howard government has built on this. It will put in place a tax system that removes the burden on PAYE income tax payers. It will encourage saving and overtime, and it will catch the tax cheats in the black economy.

The people of the Petrie electorate will also have a federal representative who will work hard to ensure that the electorate receives the attention it so rightly deserves. My top priority in my second term as the member for Petrie will be to improve the opportunities for young people in the electorate: opportunities for jobs, for training, for self-expression and, most important of all, the opportunity to have a fulfilling and rewarding life.

I often see young people in the electorate who seem very directionless. More often than not, they are young men. When I speak to these young people, the thing that comes through in the conversation is that many young people suffer from a lack of self-worth and from feelings of alienation. That is, indeed, a tragedy. I am sure that all members present would agree that it is a scourge plaguing our young people, especially the country's young men at the moment.

Youth suicide is a plague that demands our immediate attention. Youth suicide can affect anyone. It can be the dux of the school or it can be the 26-year-old father of two small children who recently died. It is an issue that affects many people in Petrie. I was shocked recently when I attended a forum with people who had had personal experience in some way—through family, friends or a mate—and had been tragically affected by this particular case of suicide.

Perhaps the best way to address this issue is to provide hope and belief that there is a future worth living for. Perhaps we can go back as far as school. Like many of the members of the House, I have had the good fortune to attend a number of school ceremonies recently. The overwhelming factor when I see young people collecting their academic and sporting prizes is the high proportion of young women to men. I would go so far as to say that in my electorate 70 per cent of young women to young men collect the awards.

We need to go back and look at why young men are not achieving in the school environ ment and give them more opportunities for self-development and self-esteem. This is clearly an area that is lacking in our schools. Jobs are an important part of what happens to young people when they leave school. We have to give young people a voice. We have to let them know that we, as the community at large, value their opinions and beliefs. We have to make them feel valued and included. That is a priority in my term.

Young people have been demonised in recent times by some parts of the media. In doing so, those sections of the media have played to and heightened the anxieties of another important part of the community—older people. A constituent once commented to me about why older people in Redcliffe avoid using the automatic teller machine. It is not necessarily because they fear technology: it is because they fear teenagers in tracksuits and baseball caps. More often than not, that fear is totally unfounded. In fact, the young man in the baseball cap could be a straight-A student, a future Rhodes scholar, or even a future prime minister.

By helping young people, we may be helping other members of our community. If young people have direction to work, and have a secure belief in themselves, I believe that this will help change the mood of the community and hopefully allay the sorts of anxieties that are held by older members of the community.

The government's Work for the Dole scheme and the Green Corps program are the kinds of programs that give young people the direction they need. In fact, I was really proud to have the first Green Corps program in Australia launched in my electorate of Petrie. I am proud to say that there was a marked difference in the participants in that program from when they started to when they graduated. Their self-development, their confidence and their ability to look into the future were just amazing.

I am proud to have been part of a government that reformed welfare allowances for young people so that they stay in training and in school and they go to university longer. Programs such as the School-to-Work program that operates in the Petrie electorate are also an invaluable way of helping young people make the transition from education to work. A number of schools are involved, including Nashville High. They take part in some excellent programs that will help those pupils in future development along their career paths.

Older people are also a large part of the Petrie electorate. Petrie has a high percentage of the population over 55, and a lot of them are veterans of the world wars, the Korean and the Vietnam Wars and other military actions such as the Malaysian emergency. It is rather appropriate, therefore, that I outline my intention to work hard to maintain services for the older people in the Petrie electorate on Armistice Day 1998. In the last term, I fought hard to not only retain but improve services for older people in my electorate.

One example that springs to mind is the cardiac rehabilitation unit at Redcliffe Hospital. The cardiac rehabilitation unit provided a very valuable service to people on the Redcliffe Peninsula and was funded through the federal government by the division of general practice. It closed, however, last year due to a change of policy direction on a lower level in the electorate, not through federal funding by any means. I fought hard to maintain that particular division of general practice and also was able to secure extra funds from the federal Minister for Health and Family Services to keep it running. It is still operating, but I want to emphasise the particular services it provides for the people of Petrie and the level of service that they have come to expect. Heart and cardiac disease are increasing, not decreasing. The unit provides a vital service for people recovering from heart attacks. The last thing people needed to be told was that their service was going to close—that would only cause them more stress. I was really glad to be able to stand up and fight on behalf of 2½ thousand people on the Redcliffe Peninsula.

In this term, I will continue to focus on promoting the cause of older Australians. I will fight for more respite funding for the electorate. I will continue to ensure that older people have a choice about where they live and how they choose to live. To that end, community home care funding is crucial and will enable people to have that choice. I have received home care funding in the previous term and I will continue to fight for that particular funding because I know that it makes a tremendous amount of difference in the Petrie electorate. I know that on the occasion that I have had the good fortune to go up to the Blue Nurses I was able to see that particular home care funding being put to good use. That is excellent, and the quality of people's lives is much enhanced. As a member of the Howard government team, I will ensure that older people of the Petrie electorate have a voice in Canberra.

Roads and transport is another area that is important to this electorate. The Petrie electorate stretches from Stafford in the south to Deception Bay in the north. You can literally travel the entire length of the electorate on two roads, taking only one left turn along the whole way. Nevertheless, the road is a major arterial road and you are bound to encounter traffic problems. It was incredibly rewarding for me to have the Prime Minister visit the electorate during the recent election and announce that some $25 million would be provided to extend the Bruce Highway near Dohles Rocks Road to four lanes. That has been a bottleneck for many years. I recently had the privilege to talk with a group of young schoolchildren, and I spoke to them about roads and transport systems as part of what the federal government provided. One of the things they highlighted to me was being stuck with mum and dad in the traffic on the way back from the wonderful north coast at the Dohles Rock exit. There can be delays sometimes for up to an hour there. I am sure that this will go a very long way to easing congestion that so many of the people of Petrie experience on their way to Brisbane from Redcliffe or on their way back home from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane's northern suburbs. This stretch of road is in fact so notorious that the school kids had no problem at all remembering it. I know that the improvement will be very much welcomed in my electorate.

It will also ease the burden that will be felt when the Mango Hill development gets fully under way. My electorate is going through some huge growth in the next 20 years and the Mango Hill area will have an additional 30,000 residents. It is important that there be an excellent road transport corridor which will assist those people in their day-to-day life.

The electorate of Petrie also encompasses two distinct areas: the northern suburbs of Brisbane, which have the problems that any large city would have; and the Redcliffe Peninsula, which shares the problems that I believe are experienced in regional Australia. It is important that each area of the electorate receives specialised attention. In the northern end, I am pleased to be—along with the member for Longman—part of the Area Consultative Committee, or ACC. It encompasses the Kilcoy and the Caboolture Shire Councils and the Redcliffe City Council. I am very pleased this afternoon to have in the gallery two councillors who are here today at the local government conference, Councillor Rita Smith and Councillor Doug Smith. I would like to welcome them. I appreciate their coming to the gallery to see me today.

It is important that we continue to address these problems and to make sure that economic development and local jobs get top priority in the electorate. By that we will encourage local businesses to export and we will encourage them to be as productive as they can. I was very fortunate to organise a number of meetings on export opportunities for the people of Redcliffe. It is a very diverse electorate. We have a huge seafood industry, as well as a very large medical technology exporting area. We have Aboriginal art that is being exported around the world and we also have Australian souvenirs. As a result of my organising a round table recently, a number of the exporters who came along were able to get some very valuable trade advice, as well as forming strategic alliances. (Time expired)