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Wednesday, 12 February 2014
Page: 264

Ms ROWLAND (Greenway) (17:43): It is a great pleasure to be able to rise in this place in the Address in Reply as the re-elected member for Greenway. I am very humbled, honoured and grateful to the voters of Greenway for choosing to re-elect me to occupy this very esteemed place in our nation's parliament. I am also very honoured to be representing not only my constituents but also a wide variety of interest groups in my respective shadow portfolio responsibilities. They reflect ongoing interests that I have had for many years, and I will continue to prosecute very important issues and those portfolios in this term.

In my first speech I touched on a number of issues, and it is quite startling how some of those are very relevant to the context of some of the debates we have been having in the last few days. I talked about the fact that we live in a globalised economy with a mobile labour market. When you see what is happening in an economy in transition in Australia in terms of manufacturing and when you see what is happening in terms of the need to invest in infrastructure, particularly in broadband infrastructure, these things become very relevant. I also spent a lot of time discussing the issue of diversity of people and place that make up the great electorate of Greenway. Further to that, I want to mention in these short remarks some of the challenges that are facing residents in Greenway and also across Australia.

I gave an undertaking to work hard for the full term for the residents of Greenway, and I hope that it was recognised that I did that to the best of my ability. I will draw on my first speech, which I used as my compass over the first term. Some of the things that I mentioned were that I committed to being a passionate advocate for the best educational infrastructure and resources for all our schools. Education is an area that remains paramount as a policy objective and a key policy area for the people of Greenway. As Greenway is such a young electorate—in fact, one of the youngest electorates in Australia—there is a special responsibility to ensure investments in education.

That is why, over the first term that I served here, I really had a focus on making sure not only that we had the right capital infrastructure but that I supported sound policy for reforming education so that we really did have a needs based model. So I was very prepared to debate and advocate on these issues in the wake of the Gonski recommendations. Equally, when, prior to its endorsement of those Gonski recommendations, the New South Wales government pulled funding from education, that was an enormous issue for people in my electorate—for a state government to go back on its promises of making education paramount.

I talked about the transformational power of education, and that remains as true as ever. I also talked about the importance of Labor's National Broadband Network and its transformational power in how we communicate and work and the enhancement of living standards. I will touch on this later on, but I want to mention something in particular because I think it is very relevant to quote this. I said:

In 10 or 20 years our children will look back on the current debate about the NBN and will be shocked by the short-sightedness of some of the views expressed about the NBN today, particularly the commentary that is fixated on the download path: the false assumption that the NBN is merely a matter of faster emails or web-surfing. The reality is the NBN is not about the download. It is all about the upload.

And that, I believe, is a point that remains absent from the current policy debate which is occurring in this parliament.

Finally, I mentioned the importance of health and the disparity which unfortunately exists: the prevalence of preventable diseases in Western Sydney and some of the survival rates from terminal illnesses. I made a particular commitment to address the disparity between geographic outcomes.

I would like to turn first to looking at some of the things that we, along with the community—and this was very much a first term based on not only listening to but responding to the needs of the community in Greenway—were able to achieve. We were able to achieve great things together that really did make positive differences to people's lives. There was the rollout of the National Broadband Network in Riverstone and Blacktown, which I will go into more detail about. There were upgrades to every local school in the area, valued at over $118 million. Some schools in my electorate, including the public school down the road from where I grew up, had not had any capital investment for 50 years—50 years!—until the Building the Education Revolution program.

We secured over $50 million for a new clinical school and additional beds at Blacktown hospital; a $15 million GP superclinic in Blacktown to take pressure off our hospitals' emergency departments; and a $1.28 million refurbishment of Blacktown TAFE. We had primary healthcare infrastructure grants for many GP services, one of which I would like to discuss; a quarter of a million dollars for an upgrade at the International Peace Park for Seven Hills junior rugby league; new playgrounds at local parks as part of the community infrastructure program; an upgrade of the Riverstone museum; $400,000 for emergency relief services, including the Riverstone Neighbourhood Centre; $5.8 million for the Western Sydney Institute GreenSkills Hub at the Nirimba Education Precinct; and a $50,000 upgrade for the Riverstone Girl Guides hall. While it might sound like a drop in the bucket in the big scheme of things, I cannot tell you how pleased that group was and how pleased that local community was to be getting an upgrade to that hall. And there was the installation of a new $20,000 long-jump pit at Morgan Power Reserve for the Kings Langley Little Athletics. Again, sometimes it is those things which may seem monetarily small which make such an enormous difference to organisations and to people's lives.

I would like to touch on the issue of health in Greenway. As I said, residents and policymakers in western and north-western Sydney, because we have such a fast-growing and young population and at the same time we are all living longer, are confronted with a range of complex and unique health related challenges. It is these challenges that require concerted effort from governments at the state and federal levels to properly address them. Since 2010 I have fought hard to improve health services in the electorate of Greenway. I am very pleased with the investments that we have been able to make, including the ones that I have mentioned.

I want to talk in particular about some of the primary care infrastructure grants, including half a million dollars which was granted to the Bridgeview Medical Practice, in the suburb of Toongabbie. This grant helped Bridgeview expand the services they offer to the Toongabbie community and allowed them to construct six new consulting rooms, a mini auditorium and a resource centre. The practice was also able to provide additional hours of operations each week. I am very pleased to announce that, late last year, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners announced Bridgeview Medical Practice as the worthy recipient of the 2013 New South Wales General Practice of the Year Award. This is a tremendous achievement and I want to congratulate the whole team at Bridgeview Medical Practice. It highlights how funding in this place can play an active role in improving primary care in our communities. As well as this, the Western Sydney Medicare Local, WentWest, has been a success story in our region and an excellent example of how we can work together to tackle preventative health issues and keep people out of hospitals. The funding included half a million dollars to WentWest to roll out the Western Sydney Diabetes Prevention Program—a crucial piece of investment for Western Sydney.

One of the great achievements has been the bulk-billing rates in Western Sydney. In Greenway alone 97 per cent of GP visits are now bulk-billed compared to 87 per cent bulk-billed nationally. It is no wonder that residents are so concerned about any proposal to have a $6 tax on GP visits when we have people who rely so much on bulk-billing in the electorate of Greenway.

I want to turn to the issue of the National Broadband Network. As I mentioned, the inability to access real high-speed, quality broadband services was a huge area of complaint from residents. As this is a growth area, there have been a number of residents who complain that they are unable to access broadband which they consider sufficiently fast. But I even have whole suburbs where people literally need to wait for people to move out before a port becomes available in their local exchange. I want to use the example of the suburb of Riverstone, which was the site of the first Sydney metro rollout. It really is a microcosm of how our local economies are changing. Riverstone used to be a purely rural area, then changing to industrial and now becoming something of a technological hub as it expands.

I cite the example of a local business which has been able to capitalise on the availability of the NBN. I am looking at an article from the Blacktown Sun where it says that the Good Egg Studio in Riverstone has welcomed a technology boost from the National Broadband Network. The Good Egg Studio specifically moved to Riverstone. It offers a 12 by 17 metre studio for photographers and videographers to produce high-tech film for brochures, advertisements and possibly even movies. The co-owner, Warren Kirby, is a photographer and multimedia specialist. He said that the future availability of the NBN—and now he has actually got it, so he is able to utilise it—was the motivating factor for the decision to locate to Riverstone. He went on to say how it would save their clients hundreds of thousands of dollars in time and effort. I think that this demonstrates how powerful the NBN can be not only in a transformational economy but also for small businesses to assist them to grow.

I think it would be remiss of me not to mention some of the misnomers that continue to be perpetuated thanks to the Minister for Communications. Firstly, the minister claims that there is no need for a fibre to the premises NBN rollout in Blacktown because Blacktown is already serviced by existing Optus and Telstra HFC infrastructure, and that speeds of 100 megabits per second are already available to end users from services currently provided over that infrastructure. That is a complete nonsense. The reality is that the end user services provided over cable technology are heavily user dependent, so the more users at any given time the slower the speeds available. You can read Optus's own submissions on this point. Its HFC infrastructure is not dimensioned for a significant number of users. Also, though claims are made of 100 megabits per second already being available under existing infrastructure, such speeds are not available to all end users. That is why service providers are required to use terminology of 'speeds up to'. We have already had a broken promise which we are all aware of from this government where it gave an undertaking to have a minimum 25 megabits per second to all residents by 2016. Within only a few months the government has decidedly walked away from that commitment.

In the limited time available to me I want to touch on two further things. The first is the diversity of our local community. In particular I want to mention the growing, vibrant subcontinent populations that make up the electorate of Greenway. I was fortunate to be involved in the ministerial consultative committee on subcontinent issues which then minister Bowen initiated. This was an excellent project. Although I thought there would be some typical needs that would be raised by the local subcontinent communities, it was interesting to note that their primary concern was issues of unemployment and underemployment. It was a case of some of the most overqualified people in often some of the most menial positions, which is an issue which has been looked at by various governments but one which we can no longer sustain. We really need as a country to address it in the long term and start doing it properly now.

Finally, I want to thank a couple of people. Most of all I want to thank my little girl Octavia, who has come home from child care today. She has had her bath and she is watching. For poor Octavia all she ever knew from conception to birth and the first bit of her life was mummy trying to get re-elected. Mummy did it, and thank you so much for your support. You and your dad were absolute troopers. I think no-one could realise how hard my family worked and the amount of sacrifice that they made for me to be in parliament, in my first term in particular. I want to especially thank my in-laws, who were absolutely amazing, especially my sister-in-law Sandra, who looks after Octavia when I am not around, and my fantastic mother-in-law and father-in-law Sue and Sam Chaaya. People will not understand the logistics that they had to go through, especially when I was breastfeeding, for Octavia to be in Canberra. They would load up a car on a Saturday afternoon, bring it down to Canberra, unpack everything that goes with having a small baby, look after her all week while I was in here, and then do the reverse when it was time to go home. I cannot begin to explain the logistics that went into it, but I can try to express my untold gratitude to my in-laws, especially, for everything they did for me.

Also, the fact is that Michael, my husband, is a very senior partner in a law firm. For someone to have to put their life on hold to support their partner's career is something you can only say thank you for and something you can only hope that they can continue to do. There were nights when I would get home and Michael had been looking after Octavia for most of the day, and then I would get up during the night to do a feed and he would be up at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning doing his work. So, he was literally doing two or three different roles—wife, worker, husband—driving the whole bus, as I like to say.

I want to also thank all the Labor Party branch members in my area who assisted, including all those wonderful people who came out of nowhere, whom I had never met and who volunteered their time. And when I say 'during the campaign', this was three years of effort; this was not a couple of weeks of campaigning. It was three years of solid effort, because, let's face it: I had had a baby and I was in a hung parliament in the most marginal Labor seat in New South Wales in one of the most contentious periods in Australian politics. I do not know anyone in this chamber who put money on me to come back here, but, if they did, I am pleased for their wealth!

There are too many branch members for me to name, and I will be forgiven for singling out one person. I did highlight in my first speech my tremendous thanks to my campaign director, Brian Thomas, a retired professional truck driver who was the driving force in my first campaign. Brian, unfortunately, died on Remembrance Day in 2012, and it was terrible for me to hear the news. I want to thank his widow, Judy, who made herself so available for the campaign and, I think, did the job of two people.

I want to also thank my parliamentary colleagues from the Labor Party for all their support over the first term, particularly those MPs who came to this place and also had small children. They were always willing to give me a hand and help out. Because it was such an effort to make it back here by the good grace of the people of Greenway, I want to reassure you of how determined I am to continue to work hard and make a difference and that my priorities will continue to be the things that are important to you, including health and education, issues of innovation in a changing economy, jobs and job insecurity, and the importance of recognising and making sure we respond appropriately to diversity in our community.

In conclusion, I want to reassure the people of Greenway that I will continue to be a strong local advocate for everyone in our community. I recognise what an important obligation it is to represent one of the youngest and fastest-growing areas of Australia. I am completely up to that task, and I look forward to continuing it with gusto. I made a commitment that I would be absolutely accessible in the first term of my tenure here—that I would not be someone you would see just at election time. I would like to reiterate that for my second term, and I thank the people of Greenway, again, for putting their trust in me.