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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6111


Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (11:04): I can only assume from the speech that the member for Chisholm just made that she hasn't spent much time in her office lately, because I can tell you that any member of parliament who has actually been in their office lately will have noticed the extraordinary increase in the number of people who are coming into our offices for assistance with basic essential services like Centrelink, aged care, child care and the NDIS. They're coming in in far greater numbers because this government, in spite of its plan to give $80 billion handouts to big business and multinationals, or perhaps because of it, has been cutting essential services across the board. Any member of parliament who actually takes notice of the people who are coming into their office will know that.

People are coming into my office in greater numbers over issues that we haven't had to deal with before, every single day. It's because, I think, families are more vulnerable at the moment than they've been for a long time. They're struggling with flat wages growth, massive hikes in their electricity bills and increasing costs for education and health bills, and stable housing, of course, is out of reach for many. So, when something goes wrong, they're more vulnerable than we've seen them ever before.

We on this side are deeply concerned about the extremely long periods that many are waiting for even simple claims like the age pension to be processed. I have two couples in my electorate who have worked all their lives who are facing homelessness at the moment because of delays in processing their claims for the pension. Disability support pension is particularly bad. On youth allowance, a person in my electorate has been phoning my office every day. They lodged their Newstart application and waited two months and, while there was no response, their application was put on hold and closed automatically. For two months they've been waiting for Newstart without any response. Centrelink is in crisis, and the Turnbull coalition government are doing nothing about it. In fact they're making it worse.

The number of people who are calling my office about the NDIS has skyrocketed. We're handling five or six a day. There are parents who are caring for a child suffering with ASD. The situation is time critical because he requires an intensive ASD-specific early intervention before age five. He turns four in August. The paediatrician recommended two years of 15 to 25 hours per week before age five. NDIS funded 1½ hours per week, even though level 5 was recommended.

I've had representatives of people who are amputees telling me of a two-year-old who'd been waiting six months for a prosthetic limb—at the age of two! It is incredibly important that a two-year-old moves. That's what two-year-olds do.

I've had a sole parent, a mum, of a profoundly disabled teenager. His father was the carer. His father died. They reviewed the assistance and cut it. They cut it after his carer died.

Another family in my electorate whose child has an intellectual disability applied for an NDIS plan including services for speech therapy, occupational therapy and speech assistance software. The letter said that they had been approved for $22,000, but the digital copy stated a different amount altogether. We had to sort that out. My office had to sort that out. Calls like this come in every single day.

The government has cut funding from TAFE and universities, which are also essential services. The government cut $2.2 billion from universities and $98 million from Western Sydney University alone. Believe me: it's an essential service.

Labor will uncap university places and will ensure that 200,000 more Australians get a university education. We'll also ensure proper funding for TAFE, also an essential service. The last budget saw another $270 million in cuts to TAFE. The government has cut 120,000 apprenticeships out of the system. Since September 2013, Parramatta's lost 1,123. That's 46 per cent. Then there's the investment in making sure our kids have a better future. Labor will invest $100 million in a rebuilding TAFE fund to renovate campuses and workshops and will waive up-front fees for 100,000 TAFE courses.

Child care is an essential service. Under this government's childcare package, 279,000 families will be worse off, and families who stand to be worse off are families in the lowest income cohort. That is families who have an income of less than $65,000. In Parramatta, that means that 2,698 families will be worse off—and child care is an essential service.

NBN is an essential service. I won't even go into the people who've been waiting for that in my electorate. Health is an essential service, yet we've seen a $12 million cut from Westmead. Essential services? You've got to be kidding. You've got to be kidding! If only this motion were legitimate, I might have something better to say.