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Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Page: 237

Mr CRAIG THOMSON (6:41 PM) —I rise to make my contribution as a member returned from a non-capital-city seat, a regional seat. I want to start by thanking the people of Dobell, who returned me with an increased majority. They were listening to the government and looking at the work that the government has done over the last three years. People on the Central Coast made a judgment, not only returning me with an increased majority but, to my great pleasure, electing a new member for Robertson with an increased majority as well. In these two seats in the very fast-growing regional area of the Central Coast, the government’s record convinced people on the ground that the Gillard government would be the best government to represent them to make sure that their interests were best looked after.

The reason for this was quite simple. If you start to look at the things that really matter for people, first and foremost, always, are jobs. In my electorate and on the Central Coast generally, jobs are always a difficult issue. We tend to have higher unemployment than the national average; currently it is just a tick over six per cent. We have difficulties with youth unemployment and teenage unemployment. Youth unemployment is a little over 13 per cent. Teenage unemployment is as high as 32 per cent, coming down from 42 per cent. Of course, when people were looking at the policies and the records of the parties, they looked at what this government had done for the people of the Central Coast through the global financial crisis. The area has higher than normal unemployment and also a great deal of hidden unemployment. As the member for Robertson pointed out in her maiden speech, over 40,000 people commute from the Central Coast to either Sydney or Newcastle. People would prefer to work on the Central Coast, but there are no jobs there. The people of the Central Coast realised that jobs were a crucial issue upon which they would base their decision about who would be the best party to govern. One of the reasons that we got such a good result on the Central Coast is that jobs were, first and foremost, front and centre of the position that our government took in relation to the global financial crisis.

If you were going to design a stimulus package to keep jobs on the Central Coast, you would design it in exactly the same way that the stimulus package of ours was designed. You would make sure that you boosted retail. The biggest employer on the Central Coast is retail. The cash handouts made sure that shops did not shut and that people were not turned out of their jobs in the retail area. This area is most vulnerable when there are downturns in the economy. This area has the largest proportion of jobs on the Central Coast, and we could have potentially seen thousands of people losing their employment.

The second biggest area of occupational employment on the Central Coast is tradies. Building the Education Revolution meant that tradies were employed at schools—there are 106 schools on the Central Coast—and local people worked on those jobs. Building the Education Revolution made sure that local people were employed, that they were able to take home a pay cheque and that their families were looked after because they were kept in jobs. Ninety-eight per cent of the people who worked on those 106 schools were living on the Central Coast. In fact, we had people who used to commute to Sydney but who ended up with jobs on the Central Coast through Building the Education Revolution.

The Labor government’s policies for this term and the previous term are about a lot more than just stimulus packages and getting through the global financial crisis. Issues such as health played a major role in people deciding which way they were going to vote on the Central Coast. Of course, there were some pretty stark choices. The Labor government is investing over $28 million in a regional cancer centre—the first cancer centre to provide treatments on the Central Coast. Before this time, people had to travel either down to Sydney or up to Newcastle to get proper treatment. This area had been neglected for years. During the 12 years of the coalition government, they did nothing for people on the Central Coast who were suffering from cancer. The Labor government got in there, pulled its sleeves up and made sure that it put investment into these services so that people would be looked after. I have spoken to many people who either are cancer survivors or have lost relatives to cancer. They said to me: ‘Look, to travel down to Sydney for cancer treatment when you are as sick as I was, or as sick as my family member was, we just did not do it. We chose not to go.’ Their health was compromised because these services were not available on the Central Coast. But this government has made sure that they are now being provided.

The Central Coast has the fourth and fifth busiest emergency departments in New South Wales. Wyong Hospital has the fourth busiest emergency department and Gosford Hospital has the fifth busiest emergency department. An important issue for everyone living in the area is that they have proper access to these hospitals—that these hospitals are not blocked up. Wyong Hospital had one of the highest incidences of people turning up to the emergency department who should be seeing a GP because we simply did not have enough GPs or enough after-hours services on the Central Coast. So what did this government do at the 2007 election? We promised a GP superclinic. In the term of the last government we got the temporary GP superclinic service up and running at Warnervale, right near the hospital. It ensures that people are able to get after-hours access to GP services.

A super GP centre is about much more than just GPs. A centre will be built—it has been approved by the council and the land is being purchased—and will employ over 100 staff. It will make sure that people who live in the growth areas of Hamlyn Terrace, Warnervale and Woongarrah—where a lot of young families live—and who have not been able to see a doctor will be able to see a doctor; they will not have to queue up for hours at a public hospital.

One of the problems with a busy regional public hospital such as Wyong Hospital is making sure that you can attract staff, and one of the key issues in attracting staff is having them trained at the hospitals so that they understand the area in which they will be working. When they see how beautiful the Central Coast is, they will naturally want to live and work there. This government promised and delivered over $5 million to ensure that doctors and health professionals from the University of Newcastle were trained at Wyong Hospital, making it a true teaching hospital by enabling health professionals and doctors to do their training there. This will mean that some of the workforce shortages that naturally occur in areas outside the capital cities will be overcome as people who are working at the hospital and living in the area will decide to stay and make their future life there.

Another key area of reform in health was making sure that we had local health networks. One of the big bugbears for everyone on the Central Coast is that we have an area health service that includes northern Sydney as well as the Central Coast. It was my campaign to make sure that we put forward a Central Coast area health service and that the network operated for the Central Coast rather than for the Central Coast and northern Sydney. Over 300,000 people live on the Central Coast. It is big enough to have its own health facilities. It needs to have its own health facilities so that it can focus its resources on where they are needed locally. I am happy to say that the New South Wales government acceded to our request and today announced the Central Coast Area Health Service. That is a great win for the people of the Central Coast. It also means that under the Labor government’s reforms to funding health services and the introduction of casemix funding, new growth areas with very busy hospitals like Wyong Hospital and Gosford Hospital will see major benefits. Funding will not be based on some historic model; it will be based on the actual work that is done at the hospital. That is good news for everyone who lives on the Central Coast and who requires those services to make sure that they can live the sort of life that people often do in the city.

I want to go back to education though because that was a major issue that made people choose to vote for the Labor Party on the Central Coast. It was not just about the jobs, even though that was an incredibly important issue. It was also about building the social infrastructure that these schools have been crying out for over many years. At every school opening that I went to, at every building that was being opened—whether they were classrooms, libraries or school halls—the school principal—be it of a private school, a Catholic school or a government school—would start off by saying, ‘We always had these buildings on our wish list but we never thought we would see them being built.’ They always started off by saying how effective this was going to be in being able to deliver increased education services to the kids on the Central Coast. They could see the direct correlation between the capital investment in the schools and the delivery of the education services to the kids on the Central Coast. That in itself is something worth noting, making a great distinction between ourselves on this side of the House and those on the other side of the House. Putting aside the issue and importance of the jobs, just building this infrastructure in schools is going to pay dividends for many, many generations.

The education policies of this side of the House were far more than that. It was about making sure that there were different streams at the schools, making sure that we had trade training at schools. I have visited Wadalba Community School, which has kindergarten through to year 12. They have set up because of the trade training centre that is being built there as part of a consortium with four other schools. They now have three streams of education that people can choose and mix between at that school. It is important with areas like the Central Coast that we look at these different pathways, the different ways in which kids can be taught, because schools on the Central Coast have retention rates of only around 40 per cent, so 60 per cent of kids are dropping out.

That goes back to the point I made at the start of my contribution about youth unemployment and teenage unemployment. When you have teenage unemployment at 32 per cent and youth unemployment at 13 per cent, it is not good enough to say, ‘We are just going to keep on going the same way.’ It is not good enough to say, ‘We will build a few flag poles and put them into the schools and that will mean kids will be able to get jobs.’ You need to change the way in which education is delivered. That is what this government has been doing and is going to continue to do. That is one of the things that the people in my electorate and in the electorate of Robertson clearly identified as being a major distinction between our side of politics and those who sit opposite.

The people on the Central Coast saw that we acted decisively in terms of the economy and the global financial crisis. They saw that we had a plan for the future that included making sure that money was spent locally, that jobs were kept locally, that we were going to stimulate growth. With some irony we heard the member for Paterson talking about our policies pushing up interest rates. Interest rates are still 2½ per cent lower than what they were when the coalition was last in government. The people of the Central Coast understand that you need to have good and progressive economic managers to manage the economy to make sure that their interests are looked after. Compare the way in which this government has managed the global financial crisis with the bumbling efforts in terms of the economy that we have seen from the other side, who cannot seem to add up their money. After the election we found the massive $11 billion black hole in their funding promises. Compare that to the responsible position taken by this government to make sure that we are securing jobs and also that we are going ahead with our important social programs, both in health and education.

Locally we also made sure that in terms of jobs we invested in our surf clubs. Surf-lifesaving on the Central Coast is part of the fabric of the Central Coast. It has a great history. Surf clubs like Soldier’s Beach were pioneers in many of the techniques of surf-lifesaving. One of the problems that we had on the Central Coast was that many of our surf clubs were falling down. It is important to make sure that people who go to the beach, be they locals or tourists, have surf-lifesavers there with the facilities to make sure they can protect them when they are swimming. This government invested $5 million. It created local jobs on the Central Coast, in looking at rebuilding Shelly Beach surf-lifesaving club and Soldier’s Beach surf-lifesaving club.

We also have committed $2.7 million to a jobs incubator at Wyong. This is to look at trying to tackle both youth unemployment and another way to tackle the sorts of unemployment problems that we have on the Central Coast. A series of workshops will be set up where people can to try to translate businesses that work at home into businesses that employ people on the Central Coast, because small business is the heart and soul of employment there. That is why this government has made many commitments to small business, including funding the BEC for the first time on the Central Coast. It has done a fantastic job promoting small business.

Of course, the NBN was a major issue on the Central Coast. I would just like to quote Edgar Adams who writes for the Central Coast Business Journal. He can hardly be described as a left-winger at all. He wrote in his recent editorial that there is no question that here on the Central Coast, and across the nation, the lack of policies and the ignorance of the difference between fibre optic and wireless communication cost the coalition this election. He understands there is a major difference. Obviously, given his contribution, the Leader of the National Party does not understand that, but I can say that the people of the Central Coast certainly understood that.

The environmental promises that we have made and delivered on include $20 million for the Tuggerah Lakes, making sure that we have secured the water supply of the Central Coast by building a pipeline with over $80 million of federal government money, which will be in place by June of next year, and the strong stance that I have taken in terms of opposing a coalmine to be built on the Central Coast. I have committed to making sure that I do everything I possibly can to stop that coalmine, which is not in the interests of people on the Central Coast. They were some of the major issues in my area that saw a swing in the seats of Robertson and Dobell to the Labor Party.

Of course that swing did not come about just because of the candidate. Quite clearly there was a lot of help on the ground from people who assisted me throughout that campaign. I would like to place on record my thanks to Isobel and Bernie Lowe, Pat and Owen Llewellyn, David Sykes, Peter Cooley, Daniel Parish and Daniel Jaggers. I particularly thank those last two for driving a bus around the electorate. I thank Peter, Alice and Stella Wilson, who had their photo plastered all over a bus. It is pretty hard when you are an ambulance officer and a primary school teacher and you have yourself and your young daughter plastered over a bus driving around the electorate. I would really like to thank them.

I would also like to thank all the staff in my office: Sue Mueller, Emma Harding, Neil Rose, David Gardiner, Luke McDermott, Cheryl Greenwald, and Matt Burke for the time that he was there. I thank Kayla Murnane and Sam Dastyari from the party’s head office, Senator Steve Hutchins for his support, and my parents. Of course I would like to thank my partner, Zoe Arnold, the most and my little baby, Matilda, who had to put up with a lot during the election. I would also like to thank my partner’s mother, Sara Bestry, and her son Lachie, who worked as well. I am out of time and I seek leave to table a list of other people I would like to thank in relation to their support throughout the election.

Leave granted.