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Thursday, 12 March 2009
Page: 2587

Mr NEUMANN (11:23 AM) —I rise to speak in support of Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2008-2009 and Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2008-2009. The total appropriation sought by these particular bills adds up to $2.14 billion, about 2.6 per cent of the total annual appropriation. These bills are in line with and support our Nation Building and Jobs Plan, which has had such a great impact in my electorate of Blair in South-East Queensland and will continue to do so in the future. It is important to note how these things announced at a national level impact locally, because all politics is local, as former House of Representative Speaker Tip O’Neil said. He was a very famous Democratic politician who knew a lot about local people, local campaigning and delivering locally for his seat in Massachusetts.

I want to talk about the impact of this type of legislation and the kind of funding that we are bringing to my electorate. These bills, which will deliver a lot of money nationally and which will have a great impact locally, will be warmly received by the constituents of Blair in South-East Queensland. Both bills put money aside for roads, rail, employment, redundancy packages, schemes to assist those workers who have lost their jobs, literacy and numeracy programs, language programs, apprenticeships and the like. These bills are in the great Labor tradition of nation building and assisting those who are disadvantaged and those who are struggling.

In my electorate of Blair, where manufacturing and agriculture are so important, these appropriation bills will help enormously. My electorate is a large electorate—5,300 square kilometres—in South-East Queensland. Commuting from one part of the electorate to another is a challenge for my constituents, particularly as many work in rural areas and commute to Ipswich or on to Brisbane to gain employment. Rail infrastructure is important and roads are critical.

We are talking about money being delivered into the local area. Underpinning this sort of legislation is money. This is about what impact this will have on people’s lives. We are talking about delivering money to assist local roads in my constituency. I am pleased to say that, through the AusLink process and through money delivered by the Rudd Labor government, we are fixing important intersections which remained in states of dilapidation under the previous Howard government, posing safety risks to constituents in Blair. For example, the Haigslea-Amberley intersection, which connects the Warrego Highway to the RAAF base at Amberley, was for too long left unattended. I am pleased to say that the people of Ipswich and areas west can see the construction underway at the moment. We are talking about delivering money in terms of roads and that is the perfect example of how the Rudd Labor government is fixing up an intersection in my area to help local people.

In addition, we can see the construction taking place on the road between Ipswich and Brisbane as part of the AusLink process. There is the upgrade to the Ipswich Motorway, which was for so long inexplicably and inexcusably opposed by the Liberal National Party. It is extraordinary that it has taken so long and a change of government for that road to be worked on. I am pleased to say that by the middle of this year the Dinmore to Goodna section will be under construction. We will see by the middle of this year the Goodna to Wacol section completed, and by the end of 2010 the Wacol to Darra section will be finally completed. You can see it taking place. It is one of the biggest road projects in South-East Queensland. It is a massive construction and it makes a big difference to the lives of the tens of thousands of people who commute every day from Ipswich and the rural areas to Brisbane for the purpose of employment. This sort of funding makes a big impact. It will also make a big impact in respect of national highways like the Warrego Highway and the Cunningham Highway. They are important links for the rural areas outside of Ipswich and west of Ipswich through to Brisbane. This sort of funding makes a big impact.

I also think it will make a big impact in terms of employment. The Queensland Times, which is the only daily newspaper in my electorate, has reported recently and accurately that more than 3,000 people in Ipswich are receiving unemployment benefits, 400 more than in February 2009. Certainly, important employment agencies in Ipswich, such as Top Office, Apprenticeships Queensland and others, as well as organisations like the Salvation Army’s Employment Plus, have reported the effects of the global financial crisis on local workers. I was recently in Ipswich and met people in the meat industry. They are of course seeing the results of the global financial crisis on the meat industry. We are seeing that also in manufacturing. We have a number of big manufacturing plants locally in Ipswich. Employees in those plants are also reporting that they are concerned about their job security as a result of what is going on.

Providing assistance in practical ways, and that is what these bills do, is important for local people. I am pleased to see that we have provided easier access for redundant workers to gain the kind of assistance they need to retrain or receive a $550 jobseeker account credit, which will allow workers who lose their jobs in my electorate to gain access to new employment services and assistance in finding alternative employment. They also gain a degree of respect and understanding of their future. The Rudd Labor government are putting $3.9 billion into a new employment service scheme from 1 July 2009. We are providing 701,000 productivity places, which will be delivered over five years. This is extremely important in electorates like Blair. The assistance in terms of trade training centres is also an important part of the Nation Building and Jobs Plan that the Rudd Labor government are undertaking. For example, in Ipswich we are delivering the Ipswich Trade Training Centre. Nearly $3 million has been set aside for St Edmund’s College and also the two grammar schools, Ipswich Girls Grammar and Ipswich Boys Grammar, so that young people can get training in the areas of the wet trades, carpentry and the like. There was the recent announcement of a trade training centre in the Lockyer district—$1.5 million to Lockyer District High. That will also make a big impact in the area of engineering, automotive and mechanical trades. These are important and practical measures the Rudd Labor government are undertaking to help local people in the Lockyer Valley as well as in Ipswich.

I am pleased to say that the people of my electorate have warmly welcomed the nation building and jobs package, which is supported by these two pieces of legislation that are before the House today. Certainly in the mobile offices that I run—last Saturday in Gatton, the Saturday before in Boonah and before that, for four Saturday mornings, in various shopping centres in Ipswich—people have constantly been coming up to me and saying how pleased they are to see a government that cares and a government that is investing in infrastructure, in schools and in the economy. I will illustrate just how important this package is to my electorate. There are 12,553 families who will receive the back-to-school bonus to help their kids return to school; 119 farmers who are struggling in my electorate will receive a hardship payment, so 119 families will benefit accordingly; and 3,870 students and people looking for work will receive a training and learning bonus to support their study costs. What a practical way to help people in the electorate of Blair.

In addition, as part of this package and through these appropriation bills, we see money set aside for housing. The Rudd Labor government is making a big impact locally in my constituency. There will be 133 new defence homes built in Ipswich. All bar seven of them will be built in the suburbs around where I live on the south side of Ipswich. This is a $36.3 million investment in local construction. The flow-on effects in increased employment and the local economy will be immense. Members of the Royal Australian Air Force based at Amberley will benefit enormously from this construction. We are seeing high-quality and appropriate housing in good suburbs in Ipswich being provided for local defence families. The Rudd government has demonstrated its commitment to the long-term future of the Australian economy by providing $252 million over the next two years for the construction of 802 new homes for ADF members and their families. This is important as part of our Nation Building and Jobs Plan. It is specifically mentioned that the appropriations under this legislation provide money for housing.

One of the things that is really puzzling to me is how those opposite cannot see that the allocations for community infrastructure are so important for local communities. In my area there are three mayors. Two of them are not from my side of politics. They are good men who work hard for the local community. Steve Jones is the Mayor of the Lockyer Valley Regional Council and John Brent is Mayor of the Scenic Rim Regional Council. Paul Pisasale, the Mayor of Ipswich City Council, is a member of the Labor Party. I have spoken to all three of them and to many councillors in the various councils. The vast majority of the councillors in my electorate are not paid-up members of the Australian Labor Party, but from the discussions I have had with them—and I have spoken to many of them—they are very much in favour of the appropriations that we are seeing locally in Ipswich and the rural areas of my electorate. Mayor John Brent, who I am sure would be known to you, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, is a very prominent member of the National Party in Queensland and has, I think, been a member of the inner sanctum of the party in Queensland. So I think it is interesting that he was saying how fantastic this package is for community infrastructure in the area of the Scenic Rim. I know that the Lockyer Valley Regional Council has applied for funding under our package, and I warmly support their applications. They have applied for funding for the Lake Apex redevelopment and the walking and cycling track at Lake Dyer. So we are seeing a lot of interest from local councils for the money we are allocating in our nation building and jobs package. Ipswich City Council has made an application for funding as well.

I think the issue that has attracted the interest in my local area—what has been most warmly received—is the assistance given to schools, and that allies with the funding arrangements we are talking about here. There will be funding for computers in schools. We are talking about important money which will help local infrastructure. There will be funding for trade training centres, which will help local employment. The funding for science laboratories and language-learning centres will help local employment. There will be funding for multipurpose halls and libraries. There will be school pride funding that will help in the refurbishment of local school communities. I attended the Kentville P&C meeting the other night. It is in a rural part of my electorate, and there were about 16 people there. They were very much in favour of the package that we have handed down and of the kind of funding that supports the package in these two bills, because our schools really do need renewing and we really do need schools which will be cathedrals of learning for the 21st century. So many schools, particularly state schools, are old and dilapidated and need assistance. We believe it is important that we give our children every chance in life in the circumstances. I have been speaking to all the school principals in my area. They are concerned about their students—their children. They are worried about what the future holds for their students and their students’ job prospects. They have said how much they favour funding for employment services, redundancy and assistance.

I think that in the electorate of Blair we will see a lot more local employment driven by this package than elsewhere. Sadly, in Ipswich and the rural areas outside, when there has been recession in the past those areas have been hit hardest. Working people, working families, working-class battlers—meatworkers, cleaners, shop assistants, process workers and factory hands—are the people who make up and have built Ipswich and the rural areas outside. They are the people who labour on farms, who work in horticulture. They are the ones who have built the wealth and have provided so much for the economic viability and prosperity that South-East Queensland has enjoyed for so long. Providing assistance to them in times of need through appropriations like these bills will make a big difference.

I recently spoke to one of the principals in my electorate. I will not mention his name, because he might find himself in a bit of trouble. He was saying how much he has been convinced by the Rudd Labor government. He has not always been a Labor voter. He told me quite clearly that in the past he voted for ‘the other side of politics’, but he said that the Prime Minister had won him over because of the investments in infrastructure, schooling and roads. I think that has been the impression of the Australian public in general in relation to this.

At this time of great international anxiety, when we are facing a tremendous international challenge, when so many of our trading partners are in recession, when we have seen America lose 651,000 people to unemployment in the last month, when we have seen unemployment rising in our country and we expect more unemployment, when we expect more people to suffer the kinds of social problems that arise with unemployment, it is so important to provide help with entitlements and redundancy and get rid of pernicious, evil legislation like Work Choices which will impact on people’s lives locally by making it easier to sack workers and strip away entitlements.

I agree with the member for Dobell: it is time that the coalition finally, at this time of crisis, adopted a more national approach—an approach that looks at how we can together bring forward Australia’s prosperity; how we can together ride through the global storm that is hitting us at the moment. Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, you are a Queenslander and I know that you have seen in the agricultural industry the travails of the farmers. I know the farmers in my electorate are really doing it tough. I think it is important that we provide for them in this time of need. I think we should do what we can to help them because they do not enjoy the benefits of those who live in the cities. They have all kinds of problems with the tyranny of distance. The schools that their kids go to are small and lack the kinds of facilities that big schools have. We need to do everything we can to help them in that regard.

I have small country schools in my electorate where there are eight children attending the school—or 10 children or 30 children. I have 63 local primary schools, many of them in the rural parts of my area, particularly in the Lockyer Valley. Helping those little country schools is important because it gives those kids a chance. I want to commend the government for this package. Not only is it economically responsible and prudent but also it helps in terms of social equity and nation building. It helps those kids to have a chance in life in transport, education and community infrastructure. I commend these bills to the House.