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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 743

Mr PERRETT (4:49 PM) —I am pleased to speak in support of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2009-2010. In just over two years, the Rudd government has already delivered a massive program of reform, but there is more to be done. Through this parliament, we have abolished Work Choices and, in doing so, restored fairness to Australian workplaces and provided greater security and peace of mind to millions of working families, especially to younger workers, working mothers and workers from our culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Through this parliament, we have delivered $47 billion in tax cuts, making all working families better off; we have already delivered nearly 300,000 new computers for schools; we have all but finalised, finally, a single national school curriculum; and we are delivering new trades training centres and language labs in our high schools and new halls and libraries in our primary schools as part of our education revolution.

In the electorate of Moreton alone, total funding through Building the Education Revolution is $77,975,011. I will take you on a bit of a quick walk through some of the things taking place in Moreton. The National School Pride program is supporting 38 schools and 85 projects with total program funding of $6,005,006. It is providing things like classrooms for students with disabilities. We have upgraded communication equipment. We have shade sails, ICT upgrades to classrooms, music rooms and interactive whiteboards. We have resurfaced basketball and tennis courts. We have ICT integration that brings wireless expansion and we have covered walkways, to name just a few.

Then we look at Primary Schools for the 21st Century, with 30 schools and 49 projects and with total program funding of $68,050,005. It is supporting schools such as Christ the King School at Graceville, which has constructed a covered learning area and a library for $2 million. Coopers Plains has done slightly better, getting a new multipurpose hall and resource centre for $2,000,001. Eight Mile Plains has a classroom and resource centre for $2 million again. Graceville State School has $3 million. MacGregor State School has a resource centre and multipurpose hall for $3 million. Moorooka State School has a multipurpose hall and resource centre for $2½ million. Our Lady of Lourdes School in Sunnybank has multipurpose spaces for $1,641,000 and a hall for $1,359,000. Robertson State School has a multipurpose hall and library for $3 million. Runcorn Heights State School has a new multipurpose hall and resource centre for $3 million. Runcorn State School at Sunnybank has a multipurpose hall and resource centre for $3 million. Salisbury State School has a new resource centre and multipurpose hall for $2 million. Sherwood State School has a multipurpose hall and resource centre for $3 million. Southside Christian College has six primary craft rooms for $2 million. St Brendan’s Primary School in Moorooka has $2 million for a library and a hall. St Elizabeth’s School in Tarragindi has multipurpose spaces for $2½ million. St Pius X Catholic School in Salisbury has a new hall, stair and covered areas for $2 million. St Sebastian’s Primary School in Yeronga has a library and classrooms for $2 million. Stretton State College has a new library for $1 million and a multipurpose hall for $2 million. Sunnybank Hills State School has classrooms to the value of $3 million. Sunnybank State School has a new multipurpose hall and new resource centre for $2½ million. Warrigal Road State School at Eight Mile Plains has classrooms and a multipurpose hall for $3 million. Wellers Hill State School has a multipurpose hall and resource centre for $3 million. Yeronga State School has a multipurpose hall and resource centre for $3 million.

If we move on to the science and language centres, three schools received funding of $3,920,000. Milperra State High’s project ‘Equitable access for newly arrived students of immigrant and refugee backgrounds’ is receiving nearly $1½ million; Nyanda State High, down the road from me at Salisbury, is receiving a science and technology centre worth $1.2 million; and Yeronga State High is receiving a language learning centre worth $1.3 million. That is a quick walk through some of the projects that are taking place as part of the education revolution—not just flagpoles but significant building improvements and significant changes to the future for our students and our nation’s future.

We are helping restore the health of the Murray-Darling, we are investing record funds in solar and wind power and we are training more nurses and more GPs. We are cleaning up after the mess that Tony Abbott made when he was the Minister for Health and Ageing, when he ripped a billion dollars out of the health system. We are investing in cancer research. We are delivering the biggest infrastructure program in the nation’s history. We are building new roads, new highways, new railways and new ports. We are building a national broadband network and we are delivering on hospitals and schools, as I walked you through in my electorate of Moreton. But there are 149 other electorates that also have schools that have building sites.

Mr Wood —Not in my electorate.

Mr PERRETT —I think that, if the member opposite is suggesting that he has no building sites in his schools, he is misleading the chamber. Every electorate, under the education revolution, is benefiting from the economic stimulus package. The Rudd, Gillard and Swan leadership team has steered the country through the toughest global economic conditions experienced for three generations—since the Great Depression.

These reforms, these major achievements, would not have happened if the Rudd government had not been elected. All of these reforms, measures and productivity gains strike at the very heart of what we are about as a government, and they reflect the sort of country we want Australia to be. Do we want to be a country that decided that tackling climate change was just too hard? Do we want to be the nation that squibs it? No, we do not. Do we want our ports, roads and internet to be crippled by bottlenecks or do we want to have the kind of infrastructure we need to drive productivity, innovation and employment? Do we want our kids to have a mediocre education, where they have got a new flagpole but not much else? Or do we want to deliver an education revolution in this country that will ensure that all of our kids are the smartest, the most innovative and the drivers of change into the future? That is what I hope for my two young boys. My older boy, Stanley, will be the age that I am now in 2050, when I will be nudging four score and seven. Hopefully by then my working life will be coming to an end and maybe I will be turning to my children for support. We need to make sure that all of our children are given as many opportunities as possible.

Do we want to be a country that is consumed by political division, or do we want to work together to tackle common challenges? As a nation, Australia is now at a fork in the road. We need to decide now the kind of country we are to be. When we look at research, like the Intergenerational report released by the Treasurer last week, we need to consider the implications for the Australians of today and the Australians of tomorrow. As a government, we will not respond by burying our heads in the sand or by going for the glib, quick political line. Kevin Rudd knows how to make the tough decisions that can shore up our nation’s future. The Rudd government knows how to grasp the nettle. Consider our response to the global financial crisis—a response which the latest employment figures tell us has supported 200,000 jobs and numerous small businesses. When I visit the small business owners in my electorate of Moreton, I am proud that I can look them in the eye and know that the Rudd government did what it could to help protect their businesses and to help them protect the jobs of their employees. It is all part of the Rudd government’s agenda, which includes two stimulus packages, our infrastructure rollout and our education revolution. These programs were not just about protecting our economy and jobs throughout the duration of the financial crisis. They are targeted measures to boost Australia’s long-term productivity and secure our economy—not just up until election night but for the sake of future generations. Take the education revolution, for example. I listed the example of Moreton, but I am sure that every MP in the House would be able to list many initiatives in their schools and in their communities.

The aims of the education revolution are twofold. They are, firstly, to provide quality education now and, secondly, to provide greater productivity for the long term. On this side, we believe that no student should be denied access to quality education—no matter where they live; no matter what their parents do for a quid; no matter their age, race or religion; no matter what sign is above the school gate; and no matter which federal MP represents them in this place. It does not matter. They all deserve quality teaching and quality resources, and the education revolution will achieve this. Those opposite gave flagpoles; we are giving flagships. They put plaques under their flagpoles; we are putting up libraries. We are putting up language centres. We are putting up resource centres. We are putting up classrooms. The Rudd and Gillard education revolution will ensure that, in the years to come, we have an educated and skilled workforce primed to take part in the new jobs and the new challenges of the future. These young people will be the ones driving productivity as our community ages. Isn’t it great to have a community where people are talking about education? Since the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, launched the My School website, many people are talking about education and what it means for the future of Australia. My youngest son, Leo, will be celebrating his 40th birthday in the year 2050, so I have a strong vested interest in this revolution being successful.

Consider our infrastructure agenda: jobs in the short term but productivity gains in the long term. The global financial crisis meant that there was an economic imperative behind the infrastructure agenda. It was about keeping people off the unemployment queues. Nevertheless, all of this infrastructure—the roads, the rail, the ports and the broadband internet communications—allow Australian businesses to get on with what they do best, which is making money, employing workers and paying taxes. The greater efficiencies in our transport and freight network are crucial to improving productivity. Productivity is not a four-letter word and the bottlenecks of years gone by do not improve our standard of living.

Last month I joined the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Minister Albanese, and other south side MPs Bernie Ripoll and Karen Struthers to fix the final sleeper on the goods rail line to Acacia Ridge in my electorate. I did an okay job, but thankfully another 120 workers had been there before me and laid the other 105,000 concrete sleepers. I was happy to play a very small part in laying that last sleeper. The $55.8 million line upgrade was delivered as part of our economic stimulus plan. It replaced old wooden sleepers with new concrete sleepers and installed new lines and new signals. This new 101-kilometre line ensures greater track capacity and allows more freight to be transported by rail. The project also created 120 jobs.

The project also delivered on an aspiration dating back as far as Federation for a national rail network connecting all mainland states. I think it was actually a COAG initiative from the early 1920s, where the Premiers and the Prime Minister of the day would have gone to the meeting by boat, horse and buggy, and train. Six separate state-based arrangements have been done away with today and we now have one set of common rules, operating standards and access regulations in place. It only took about 90 years to get it right, but the Rudd government was able to deliver. As we move to a nationwide standard-gauge rail network, freight operators can now access 11,000 kilometres of track, extending all the way from Acacia Ridge in Brisbane to Melbourne in the south and Kalgoorlie in the west. This is the kind of productivity boost our infrastructure investments are delivering all around the country—more jobs in the short term but also productivity gains in the long term.

Now let us look at the productivity record of the Howard and Costello government. Let us look at the productivity cycles in Australia since 1992, after the Hawke and Keating governments did all the heavy lifting and the workers of Australia made many compromises in the eighties and early nineties, which any economics student would recognise. Let us look at the productivity cycles. Productivity has gone down significantly from the mid-nineties, when it was at 3.3 per cent, to the late nineties—the start of the noughties—when it was 2.2 per cent. If we look at the cycle leading up to when we took government, it was at 1.1 per cent. In fact, when we took government, productivity, the major indication of a successful economy, was at nought, zero, nada, nothing—a sure sign of one of the laziest governments when it comes to reforming Australia’s history.

Putting aside climate change, one of our core challenges is to address our core economic problem for the future—not just in this, the second decade of the 21st century, but for the 21st century at large. What is it? Obviously, if we look at productivity, the core challenge is the ageing of our population. Consider this simple statistic: the share of our population over the age of 65 will increase from 12 or 13 per cent of our total population today to nearly 25 per cent of our population in 2050—from one in seven of our number to one in four of our number. So, as I have said, when my son Leo is celebrating his 40th birthday, more than one in four people will be over 65—including his dad, hopefully. Our overall population will rise. It will be a bigger Australia. But the ageing of the population will rise even faster. Forty years ago, in 1970, there were 7.5 people in the workforce for every one person over the age of 65. Today, there are about 5.5 workforce participants for every person over 65. By 2050 that number will drop to 2.7 people in the workforce for every person over 65. This is the core challenge, and it is a scary challenge.

Two things flow from this population dynamic. The first is that, because we are going to have a much larger number of older Australians, older Australians will command more services in health and hospitals, in aged care and also in retirement income. On average, hospital expenditure on people aged 65 to 74 is currently double that of people aged 55 to 64. For our oldest Australians—those aged 85 and over—spending increases to almost five times that spent on people aged 55 to 65.

Last week Treasurer Wayne Swan released the Intergenerational report entitled Australia to 2050: future challenges. Treasury analysis contained in the report points to the fact that over the next 40 years real health spending on those aged 65 and older is expected to increase around seven fold. Real health spending on those aged 85 and over is expected to increase 12 fold. That is why it is ridiculous to have a leader of the opposition who ripped a billion dollars out of the health system standing up and saying we now need to have a talk about health. This is the product of the increasing age of Australians overall and, secondly, the fact that, with innovations in pharmaceuticals and medical technologies and the rest, the cost of treating each individual aged Australian will rise as well. That is our first problem. Obviously there are not too many drug companies out there that are charities.

The second problem is of course that the proportion of Australians in the workforce generating the tax revenue to support these services will become less. In 1970 Australian government spending on health equated to 1.2 per cent of gross domestic product. Now, Australian government health spending equates to four per cent of GDP, and the Intergenerational report projects that it will rise to 7.1 per cent in 2050. In dollar terms that is an increase of over $200 billion by 2050 and equates to an increase in real terms in average Australian government health spending per person from about two grand today to about seven grand in 2050. This is why we need major health reform.

What are our options when faced with rising health costs on the one hand and the number of Australians working declining proportionally on the other hand, in turn generating less economic activity and less taxation revenue? Obviously you have to improve productivity, which is why the Rudd government has committed to those innovations in education, broadband, infrastructure and the like. I wish those opposite would get on board and embrace in this House what they embrace out there in their electorates.

The bills before the House provide additional funding for the successful Home Insulation Program and the Solar Homes and Communities Plan. The Rudd government is continuing to invest in quality projects delivering quality outcomes for all Australians, not just for now but for the future, and I am proud to commend the bills to the House.