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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Page: 2578

Mr BIDGOOD (10:42 AM) —I rise to speak in support of the Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2008-2009 and Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2008-2009. I endorse entirely the comments of the member for Brisbane, Arch Bevis. I think they were very well put indeed. I would like to point out that in yesterday’s Daily Mercury from the seat of Dawson it said on the front page ‘Six million boost for kids’ jobs hopes’. This is good news for the people of Dawson. This good news is only made possible by the decisions of the Rudd Labor government on trade training centres. Each secondary school had the opportunity to get up to $1.5 million.

What happened in our region? Five schools got together and pooled their resources and now that centre is going to work with the Central Queensland University Mackay campus. We are going to have a $6 million trade training centre working in conjunction with the university and enabling our kids in our region. Mackay is a major service city to the Bowen Basin mines. Some of the things that were said yesterday about this complex indicated the widespread support at all levels. The principal, the head of campus, Trevor Davison, said, ‘The new Mackay trade centre will allow university students to do their full four-year engineering degree without leaving Mackay.’ That is looking after students in regional and rural communities. That is what this government is about: empowering kids through education all across Australia regardless of political representation. Every single school across the nation is going to benefit from these packages.

Trevor Davison went on to say: ‘We could offer third- and fourth-year engineering in Mackay. That is what I am aiming for.’ He said it would also offer opportunities for students to attend the centre through years 11 and 12 and then complete their apprenticeships or go on to degrees and be picked up by employers without needing to study elsewhere. This is keeping local kids in local regions and skilling them up to grow the economy not only locally but also nationally—and adding to the bottom line for this nation when those kids then take on full-time work within the mining service sector and the greater region of the seat of Dawson, which stretches from Mackay up into Proserpine, the Whitsundays, Bowen and Townsville. This is indeed very good news.

How could anybody vote against training up the kids in rural and regional Australia? But the other side of politics did and that is shameful. This government is determined to equip our kids with the skills they need for their futures and for the future of this nation. It will add to the bottom line of this nation and the future prosperity of this nation.

I would also like to pass on some comments from the schools that have pooled their funding together, as part of the Kevin Rudd education revolution, to build a multimillion dollar complex. Some of the comments are from Matt O’Hanlon of Mackay State High School. The principal there said that the centre would improve the level of skills being delivered in our region and kids would get a greater opportunity to take away higher skills—

Mr Hawker —Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek to intervene.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr PD Secker)—Is the member for Dawson willing to give way?

Mr BIDGOOD —No, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am talking about the benefits of packages like this. These bills enable these things to happen. We have a political determination to improve the skills base of every student across this nation because the investment we make now is like planting a seed which, in 10, 15, 20 or 25 years time, will build the foundations of this nation. It will make us a great, prosperous nation exporting skills and products across the world and engaging competitively on the global stage.

The global economy is going through the most difficult period in living memory, and this requires extraordinary actions for extraordinary times. When governments fail to take early action confidence falls. That is why this is indeed so important. Not only would failure to act early and decisively be an economic failure; it would be a failure of leadership and a failure to learn the lessons of the past.

The Rudd government will continue to do whatever is necessary to help protect Australian households and businesses from the worst effects of the global crisis. The nation-building package complements measures taken by the government over the past several months to help support growth and protect Australian jobs. The total appropriation being sought this year through Appropriation Bill (No. 5) is $384 million. This proposed appropriation will meet the funding requirements of a number of measures announced in the December 2008 nation-building package, including implementation costs; recently announced changes to employment and apprenticeship programs; and changes in the estimated program expenditures due to variations in the timing of payments, forecast increases in program take-up and other policy decisions taken by the government since additional estimates. It also includes funding for initiatives agreed with the minor parties during the debate on the National Building and Jobs Plan.

There will be $34 million of additional funding for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to support 241 childcare centres until 31 March 2009. That will once again look after the kids of our nation, who are our future. We are investing in our people.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations will receive $70 million for the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme, which covers capped unpaid wages, annual and long service leave, capped payments in lieu of notice and capped redundancy pay. This is an estimates variation, as GEERS is a demand-driven program and the current economic climate has seen an increase in demand for this program. The department will also receive $46.5 million for infrastructure and training places.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has $43 million for new apprenticeships and apprenticeship centres. This is a parameter update, as the program is demand driven and funds allocated for this program are expected to be exhausted prior to the end of the year.

The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations also needs $38.9 million to help trade apprentices find new employers. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has $36.8 million to provide redundant workers with earlier access to employment programs. The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has $11.1 million to expand emergency relief, and Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2008-2009 provides additional funding to agencies for expenses in relation to grants to the states under section 96 of the Constitution, for payments to the territories and local government authorities and for non-operating purposes such as equity injections and loans.

The total additional appropriation being sought in Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2008-2009 is $1.83 billion. The amounts proposed are required to implement elements of the December nation-building package and the nation-building and jobs agreements with minor parties. The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has, for an equity injection to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, $1,189 million. This injection will fund 17 projects to improve the reliability and competitiveness of the nation’s rail freight network. This was announced on 12 December 2008 as part of the $4.7 billion nation-building package. Although the full amount of appropriation required is in 2008-09, amounts will be paid to the ARTC on an agreed schedule and over 2008-09 through to 2010-11.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has $392 million for AusLink. This is part of the 12 December announcement to bring forward $711 million in spending to build better roads and to increase investment in the highly successful Black Spot Program. I recently had the honour of having the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government in Mackay. Along with the minister, the Mayor of the Mackay Regional Council, Col Meng, and the state minister Warren Pitt, I was able to turn the first sod on stage 1 of the $50 million project for the duplication of the Bruce Highway south of Mackay from a two-lane to a four-lane highway, which is a crucial junction of four kilometres which links with the major mining industrial complex that services the Bowen Basin. This investment is critical to the supply of goods, services and facilities from the area known as Paget in South Mackay out to the Bowen Basin mines—a major service route. And this money will deliver for the industries and the people in Dawson. This is a crucial investment which is going to add once again to the bottom line of this nation in efficiency and transport infrastructure. I am pleased to report that this project will create 96 jobs locally, invest in key infrastructure, which will last for decades, and boost the local economy for the common good of the nation’s productivity.

The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, through nation-building and jobs agreements with minor parties, will receive $250 million to accelerate additional water purchases and associated structural adjustment. The stimulus packages that we are bringing through in the Rudd Labor government are historic, truly nation building and truly employ the people and the human resources in our nation.

It is good and pleasing to know that we are going to provide 21st century libraries in our schools to give students the best education in the world. We will be able to compete on a level playing field with Europe, the United States of America and Asia. There will be multipurpose halls, which can be opened to the community, adding value to every community across this nation and employing local tradespeople to build those facilities. There will be classroom upgrades for primary schools. We are looking at 500 new science labs or language centres for secondary schools. Principals cannot believe that this government has finally said ‘yes’ to education, where previous governments have only given it lip-service and not delivered. We are the party who are delivering on our promises. We are making real investments in our children and in our future, not for short-term political gain but for long-term investment in our human capital and human resource.

There will be funding of between $50,000 and $200,000 for every school for minor maintenance and school building upgrades—for things like painting, plumbing, electrics, pathways, shadecloth and basic seating in playgrounds. These are the sorts of things P&Fs would have held many barbeques and many raffles for to raise money. This government has said there is value in this. We have stepped up to the mark and we have made an investment and given these schools a hand up, not a handout. We are investing for the long term not the short term. It will last for decades. This is good news for our people and good news for the future of our students.

We are bringing forward up to $110 million to fund the Trade Training Centres in Schools Program. I showed the Committee yesterday’s Daily Mercury earlier—this paper loves good news stories. The editor said: ‘This is great. This is fantastic. What good news it is for our people.’ The heading is ‘$6 million for kids’ jobs hopes’. Mr Deputy Speaker Secker, I seek leave to table this newspaper article.

Leave granted.

Mr BIDGOOD —This is evidence of positive stimulus not only in financial terms and in infrastructure terms but also in the psychology of people—of lifting people up in hard times. We do not want to see unemployment. We are the Labor Party. We believe in helping the labourers. We believe in helping the workers because workers have families, workers have homes, workers have communities. We are here for those people who are doing it tough at the bottom end of society, those who need a hand up. And that is what we are doing with these packages. We are stimulating every local community through the Investing in Our Schools Program and through Building the Education Revolution.

I am so pleased that 2.2 million homes across this nation will receive insulation. We are going to reduce the amount of carbon between now and 2020—49 million tonnes of carbon will not go into the atmosphere once this program is implemented. That is the equivalent of one million cars being taken off the road. This fulfils our Kyoto agreement obligations. This is good news for the environment and good news for every home across the nation, and it helps working families reduce their energy bills. That is good news! Everyday working people like these policies because they directly touch every home across the nation. This initiative will not only insulate homes but also protect the environment and save families money in energy bills. These are good investments that provide good stimulation. I think it is incredible that the other side of politics cannot see the benefits. All we hear from them is criticism and carping—so sad when there are so many benefits in these measures. It truly is a nation-building program and a jobs building program.

There is business. The Labor Party believes in supporting small business. I myself spent something like 14 years in small business, so I understand how hard it can be to run a small business. My accountant, Wayne James, said to me: ‘James, when you get down to Canberra, you tell Kevin from me that that incentive’—the 30 per cent tax deduction for eligible assets costing $1,000 or more and acquired between 13 December 2008 and 30 June 2009—‘is one of the best initiatives ever implemented by a government to help small business.’ He said, ‘I have only one request of the Prime Minister: can he extend it beyond 30 June?’ I said, ‘I’ll let him know.’ So there you are, Mr Prime Minister, I am sure you will hear this or someone will report it to you; that is what my accountant in Mackay is saying.

This is fantastic for small business, and people are picking it up and using it. It really is good news for small business, not just for big business. Having worked in small business myself and having grown a couple of businesses I can say that we need government to give a helping hand, because it truly is dynamic economy at the grassroots level. There is the 20 per cent discount on pay-as-you-go tax investment, payable by 2 March 2009. There is also the $4 billion Australian Business Investment Partnership to support the commercial property sector, and thousands of small businesses, independent contractors and tradespeople will be looked after by this bill. This bill is fantastic. How could anybody vote against it? Look at the benefits. I commend this bill to the House.