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Thursday, 4 July 2019
Page: 332


Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (13:15): I will start by saying what a privilege it is to be able to, once again, be in this House as the re-elected member for Fowler. I'd like to take the opportunity of thanking the people of my community, who once again placed their trust in me to be their representative in the federal parliament. As the member for Fowler—and I've held that position now for the last nine years—I can reassure the community I certainly do not, and will not, ever take for granted the great honour that they have given me. It's a privilege to be representing, in my case, one of the most diverse communities in the whole of Australia. It's certainly rich in spirit and acceptance and it's a very, very kind and compassionate community. Fowler is certainly one of the most successful examples of multiculturalism that you will find in Australia.

I take the opportunity to thank all those who helped me during the course of the election campaign. I apologise to them that we couldn't deliver a Labor victory on 18 May, as I think they did need a Labor government to protect and advance their aspirations. But I say to all those branch members who selflessly gave of their time, to our local community organisations and to the various volunteers who all turned up and made tireless efforts, whether it be prepoll or on election day or simply seeing me to give advice, I really appreciate everything that you've been able to do for me in helping me to secure Fowler, once again, as a Labor seat.

As part of my campaign, I certainly had the pleasure of engaging with various organisations and cultural groups throughout the community, including those of very linguistically diverse backgrounds. All members of parliament have the opportunity to go and visit all aspects of our constituents' endeavours. As I indicated, mine is the most multicultural community and I'm frequently invited to the various cultural and religious events throughout the community. I found it amazing that many in those groups volunteered their time to come out and support me in the political processes of our democratic society and support my election. It is their support, for almost a decade, that has helped me to, quite frankly, stay in touch with the real needs of the local community. So, as the re-elected member for Fowler, I pledge to remain accessible to all constituents. I know it's trite to say, but, regardless of whether they voted for me or not, I know my principal job as the federal member for Fowler is to look after the people of my community and the people in need. So I remain committed to ensuring that has the utmost priority in my community.

I want to just talk a little about priorities. One of the highest priorities I certainly have is trying to secure employment opportunities in our local region. It is absolutely diabolically important, particularly in a community like mine, which, as I've expressed, is very diverse but, regrettably, is certainly not a wealthy community. We need to have the opportunity of employment prospects to sustain not only the community but the local economic environment as well.

This is particularly the case with the development of the Western Sydney Airport, the new Badgerys Creek airport, which is being constructed just outside my electorate and which is expected to maximise employment opportunities and create more than 28,000 jobs by 2031. This is something that I think all of us in Western Sydney are particularly excited about. There is no doubt that this will be of economic benefit to the country—New South Wales in particular—but I've made a point of saying that it cannot be at the expense of our local community. I know a lot of work's going into configuration of flight paths and all that to prevent unnecessary disruption to our local communities, but it's also important that, as this airport's being constructed on the basis of being a piece of economic infrastructure that will be of benefit to the state of New South Wales and to the nation generally, we do not overlook our local community in all that.

What I mean by that is that I think there's got to be some degree of prioritisation given to local employment opportunities flowing from the construction of the Badgerys Creek airport to local residents. It is important when I say that we're not a wealthy community. As a matter of fact, the average household income—not the average income but the average household income—in my community is just a little bit over $60,000. So a piece of infrastructure like this could be very significantly life-changing for families and communities in and around my electorate of Fowler.

Unfortunately, what follows from that is that Western Sydney was also found to be currently the epicentre of rental stress. We've all heard about the issues in Sydney and Melbourne with housing prices, and I know there's some fluctuation of that now, but what is not fluctuating is the issue of rental stress, particularly in my community. As a matter of fact, Fowler is rated No. 1 in the nation for being affected by rental stress. These statistics, such as they are, caused me to reaffirm my commitment to ensuring that the vast number of job opportunities expected to be created in and about the airport are targeting residents of communities such as mine with the aim of ultimately easing pressure not only on families but also on their household expenditures. I also remain committed to ensuring that local businesses are also considered, if not prioritised, in many of the activities in and about the construction of this airport, because that will ensure further underpinning of the local economy of the areas that we have the honour of representing in Western Sydney.

I also remain committed to helping those in my community who continue to experience issues with Centrelink. I know this probably affects every member of this House, but we are experiencing issues with Centrelink, particularly those constituents that are trapped in very complex situations. Unfortunately, this is an issue which arises most frequently—certainly in my electorate office. There is no doubt Centrelink has been a crucial part of supporting those who find themselves in tough circumstances or in places where they need support for themselves and their families. As I said a little earlier, whilst being a very diverse electorate, mine is certainly not a wealthy electorate. We have significant pockets of disadvantage. When individuals and families try to access support from Centrelink, issues often arise, with many of these issues stemming from the lack of communication between individuals, Centrelink offices and, without putting too fine a point on it, the policy settings of the department. In many cases, Centrelink seems to apply its policy guidelines strictly, in a manner which does not give proper consideration for the nuances and complexities involved in the circumstances that individuals find themselves in. This government's ongoing attack on Centrelink—particularly with staffing—has had enormous pressure on Centrelink's ability to meet and address the issues of many of my constituents who find themselves in critical need.

This is particularly evident for those constituents who have to apply for disability support pensions. They are constituents who are clearly able to provide medical advice of their disabilities but, nevertheless, have not necessarily been placed in a too-hard box but are being considered, primarily, as fit and able. One of these is a woman named Mrs Anna Gutteres, who has visited my office on many occasions. She is the mother of a son with a severe disability. What she says to me is that there's just a general lack of understanding within Centrelink with regard to the complexity of her son's case. For a woman who has to bring up her son with the range of difficulties he has, it just seems to me that we need to show her a little bit more compassion and certainly show more sensitivity for cases like this. In fairness, many of these cases would be complex, but, with the amount of cutback that has been occurring within Centrelink, it prevents it having the time and, I suppose, the ability to take a holistic approach in addressing these matters. But this is certainly an issue which is front and centre within my community.

In a similar vein—and I'm sure I'm not alone in this either—my electorate seems to be very much overrepresented by people and families that live with disabilities. I know the minister would have received letters, as would probably most of us here in parliament, over the last period complaining about the ability of the NDIA to satisfy the needs of families living with disabilities. Regrettably, as I say, my electorate is overrepresented by families with disabilities. Partly that's because of the housing prices in my community being less than elsewhere in Sydney. Within a 20-kilometre radius of the Liverpool CBD is 51 per cent of all families in New South Wales that live with autism, which is an extraordinary figure. But, again, it more than relates to the fact that housing in Western Sydney is a little cheaper than elsewhere. The point of all that is that, regrettably, somewhere around 80 per cent of those families living with autism are single-parent families. As people may appreciate, very few relationships successfully survive bringing up children on the autism spectrum.

These are issues that must be addressed. They must certainly not simply be put to the side and treated as just another public servant job or simply something that the government's got to do. We have the honour of being elected to this parliament, and I would have thought that one of the primary aspects of us coming here is to make a difference for the better in our respective communities. When it comes to issues of disability, we need to actually have a greater focus on people in need. I don't know the experience of other members, but it's always been my experience that people that come to me who live in families with disabilities don't want a lecture on politics. They don't want a lecture on who's done what. They don't want to be told if it's a state or federal issue. They simply want help. I think it has to be about the way we run our support for those families that live with disabilities. Our ambition should be to holistically look after these people, not simply treat them as another number and make them go through the rigours of what is occurring, regrettably, at the moment, in the processing of the NDIS.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at a later hour.