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Monday, 8 February 2010
Page: 752


Ms HALL (5:25 PM) —Before I turn to the substance of my contribution to this debate, I have to say this. The member for La Trobe may be very disappointed about the money that is being spent in his schools; he may not talk to his school communities and be able to organise for the projects that the schools wish to have funded. But I can say that in the Shortland electorate of New South Wales it is not so. I heard the member for Oxley say that he was not having those sorts of problems—he has none of those problems; I have none of those problems. So I would have to put it to the House that maybe the member for La Trobe should try representing his electorate just a little better.

I found very interesting his suggestion that every school should have a bunker. I am wondering whether he thinks those bunkers should be funded instead of classrooms, school halls and gymnasiums. I am wondering whether or not he feels that that is the kind of investment that needs to be made in schools. From my point of view, bunkers definitely come second to having the appropriate infrastructure that all schools can use so that kids can go to school and have a good classroom to learn in with state-of-the-art technology or, if the technology is not there, the facility for that to be put in at a later date, because those buildings are up to a standard where the newest technology—smart boards et cetera—can be placed in most classrooms.

The member for La Trobe also said, I think, that the Rudd government is ‘spending, spending, spending’. Just for his edification, the Howard government was very involved in ‘spending, spending, spending’—but it was ‘spending, spending, spending’ in Liberal and National Party held electorates. What a difference an election makes! Prior to the last election, the Shortland electorate got the leftovers from the table. The Shortland electorate was one of those electorates which the previous government chose to ignore. It chose to ignore the needs of the people who lived in that electorate. It chose to ignore the needs of people in the electorate with the 11th highest number of people over the age of 65. The median income in electorate of Shortland is much lower than the median income in other electorates. So I find it very disappointing that members of the opposition can come into this parliament and complain about money being spent on schools or on roads, or about money being given to local councils, and this happening on an equitable, across-the-board basis as opposed to something like the Regional Partnerships scheme—a scheme which was very popular with the previous government. Under that scheme, money was invested in pet projects in National Party and marginal Liberal electorates. Now, for the first time since I have been a member of this House, the people of Shortland know that they are being treated equitably. They are not being treated as second-class citizens. And that is happening through this budget process.

One area that I would particularly like to concentrate on is the money that is being directed towards local government. As I have already mentioned, local government was very much the poor relative and it is only since the Rudd Labor government has been elected that federal government has embraced local government and recognised it as a third arm of government and given it responsibility for identifying the local infrastructure that is needed in local government areas, and then funding those projects. Lake Macquarie council, which is in the Shortland electorate, has benefited considerably from the money that has been given to local councils. This is something that did not happen under the previous government.

I would like to talk about a couple of these projects. The Rudd government has given $9,715,199 to Wyong Shire Council for local infrastructure and services. That is an enormous amount of money that was not being delivered before and is providing for libraries, schools, sportsgrounds, community centres and waste, sewerage and other services. I would like to talk more about a couple of the projects that actually fall within the Shortland electorate. One of these concerns the Mannering Park walkway, being the construction of a shared pathway between Waverly Road and Griffith Street. It allows the community and visitors to appreciate the lake and move within the catchment area along the designated pathway. Lake Macquarie is the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere. Mannering Park is on the foreshore of Lake Macquarie and this is a stunning walkway. It is available to be accessed by people with disabilities. It is a beautiful pathway. Residents are out there in the morning walking and, in addition to that, it is also a tourist attraction. It really is about engendering healthy activities within the community.

The other walkway that was funded under the federal government program was the Buff Point cycleway extension. Once again it is along the foreshore of a lake. This time it is Budgewoi Lake. It allows the community and visitors to appreciate the beautiful lake foreshore. If you are in the area, Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas, it is something that you should visit because it is a stunning investment in a local area that is providing infrastructure and engendering a healthy lifestyle. I know that you, as Chair of the Standing Committee on Health and Ageing, are very aware of the importance of exercise. When you are in an environment like the environment that such walkways and cycleways create in the Wyong Shire part of the Shortland electorate, I am sure that you would be very supportive of them. Just as we are investing in Wyong Shire, we are also investing over $14 million in the Lake Macquarie council area, funding the same type of infrastructure: libraries, sportsgrounds, pools, community centres, waste, sewerage and other services that are so vital to the people of Lake Macquarie.

Neither the Mayor of Lake Macquarie nor the Mayor of the Wyong Shire Council are Labor Party members. In fact, the Mayor of Lake Macquarie is an independent member of the New South Wales parliament and defeated a Labor Party person, so he cannot be described in any way as being partisan. I know from speaking to him that he is appreciative of the money and the investment that the federal government has made in Lake Macquarie. He has gone out of his way to say this to me, and I know that he is very, very supportive of all the programs. Likewise, the Mayor of the Wyong Shire has expressed his appreciation of the money that is being invested there and knows how important it is for the area.

One of the unique program projects being funded through the federal program is the extension of the Red Bluff shared pathway in Eleebana. It includes the provision of decking material, handrails and balustrades. It will feature lighting, public art and interpretive signage. It will go across the water, and it will be a unique pathway. It will join up to the rest of the pathway that has already been built around the foreshore of Lake Macquarie. It will take the pathway a stage further, around quite a difficult area. It is something that the council would not have been able to complete had it not received the funding from the federal government. It will be unique, it will be special and it will be something that creates, once again, the opportunity for families and visitors to the area to get out and enjoy the environments of the biggest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere.

One other walkway that I did wish to mention is the final stage of the Fernleigh track. The minister announced funding for that at the end of last year. He has announced that there will be $2 million given for stages four and five of the Fernleigh track, which will lead to the completion of an almost 20-kilometre continuous bikeway/walkway going from Newcastle right out to Belmont. Funds for the construction of the pathway come from the National Bike Path Project, and I believe the track is the largest project to be funded under that scheme. It was funded because it was a unique pathway, because it creates a transport corridor and because it is providing a tourist attraction in the area. It goes through a number of different environments. It also demonstrates that, for once, electorates like Shortland are receiving funding from the federal government, and that funding is based on the need for and the uniqueness of projects, not whether or not they are in a marginal seat.

I also want to acknowledge the funding that has come to the Shortland electorate through the stimulus package and the Building the Education Revolution program. I hear members of the opposition complain about the funding. I have had a lot of communication with schools, and the schools in my electorate are not complaining about the federal government giving money; they are ecstatic. One comment I have had from a principal is that this is the single biggest investment in education that he has seen in his lifetime. He believes that the funding through Primary Schools for the 21st Century will make an enormous difference to the students that attend the school he is principal of.

I must say that I have received universal support for the project across private, independent and Catholic schools and public schools within Shortland electorate. There have been projects such as the refurbishment of student drop-off and pick-up areas. There has been the refurbishment of a number of schools under the National School Pride Program. Schools have become centres of economic activity. You drive past a school and you see that building is taking place and work is taking place. Immediately after the project came into being, you could see that the schools were having facelifts. There was painting taking place. All of a sudden a situation existed where schools were being transformed.

There have been a number of studies looking at the learning environment that students are in, and these studies have shown that, if students are in cramped, poorly furnished and poorly equipped learning centres in schools, their educational outcomes are inferior to those of students who are in a learning environment that is well maintained and that has the equipment that they need. This is what the education revolution is about. It is about ensuring that all schools are well furnished and are good learning centres.

Places like the Belmont Christian College received $2.5 million for the construction of a library. Belmont North Public School received $850,000 for a classroom facility upgrade, and I refer the House to the previous statement by the member for La Trobe. Belmont Public School received a new COLA and new classroom facilities. Blacksmiths received a new hall and Budgewoi, new classroom facilities. Caves Beach received a new special programs room and a COLA. Charlestown received a new hall, a COLA, a classroom facility upgrade and a new library. It really shows the kinds of projects that have been approved. Charlestown South received new classroom facilities and an upgrade of classrooms; Dudley, a hall and COLA; Eleebana, classroom facilities; Floraville, classroom facilities; and Gateshead, a classroom facilities upgrade. For all the schools within Shortland electorate there have been projects that relate to classroom upgrades, halls or COLAs. And who benefits? The students benefit.

The final issue I would like to raise relates to the Belmont Medicare office. I am very pleased to say that the Belmont Medicare office was opened on 14 December—


Mr Irons —Is that in WA?


Ms HALL —The Belmont Medicare office in New South Wales, in the electorate of Shortland. It has been well received by the people of the area. It is situated in the Belmont Central shopping centre and it was opened early, in fact. It has been of great benefit to the people of the area. As I mentioned earlier, Shortland is an older electorate, and prior to the Howard government closing the previous Belmont Medicare office in 1997 it was one of the busiest offices in the area. The people of the area want me to place on record their thanks to the government for reopening that office, and they are very pleased also that there are some Centrelink services now available there as well. This is the Rudd government listening to the people of Shortland electorate and delivering—delivering the Medicare office that the Howard government removed and also delivering to schools and making sure that local government has the funds to put in place the proper infrastructure that is needed for the 21st century.