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Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Page: 3330

Mr VAN MANEN (FordeChief Government Whip) (13:10): It's a pleasure to stand in this place and speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021, because it gives me an opportunity to talk about many things that this government has done and is doing, and not only across my electorate of Forde; many of the things we are doing benefit every electorate in this country, every segment of our community. I think it is incredibly important for people to remember that this government is actually doing stuff and delivering on its commitments—on what it has talked about doing for the Australian people. That's one of the big differences between this side of the House and those on the other side. We're focused on delivery and on making the lives of ordinary Australians better each and every day. We can see that, firstly, through this pandemic over the past 12 months, with the government's response through JobKeeper, through increased JobSeeker and through other supports it's put in place to ensure that we keep businesses afloat, doors open and, by extension, people employed.

In my electorate of Forde, with the many small to medium businesses across the electorate that I have talked to and met with, I know of their thankfulness for JobKeeper, to ensure that they can keep their doors open and keep people employed, and many of the grant programs that this government has run, like the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, for businesses like Holmwood Highgate. They were successful in obtaining a grant through that fund that allowed them to buy a new state-of-the-art laser cutter for aluminium and steel for the tankers they make for trucks and also, over the past few years, their water and fuel tanker product that they've developed for defence industry and for our defence forces here in Australia. They are also developing an export market in that space.

The consequence of those investments is that they are growing their workforce. They are putting on more apprentices. All of this leads to jobs in our local community. They have partnerships with our local high schools to bring in school based apprenticeships and trainees. That creates jobs and opportunities. Many of these kids come from families that maybe haven't had those opportunities previously. It continues to build and strengthen our economy. This shows up in the unemployment numbers that were released this week. We see now an unemployment rate of approximately 5.5 per cent. Would we all like to see that lower? Absolutely we would. But in January nearly 89,000 jobs were created, all of them full time. Importantly, more than 80 per cent of those jobs went to women, and another 40 per cent went to young people.

For me, representing an electorate that has an average age of 37 or 38, seeing the opportunities created for young people in my community to get jobs is very heartening. I know that many employers across my electorate, because of the confidence that has been generated in our community because of the economic support the government has provided over the past 12 months, are looking to hire. They want to hire people to grow their businesses, because the opportunities continue to present themselves. Prior to Christmas I met with a business that is one of the largest suppliers of library books in Australia and New Zealand. They are continuing to grow their business and to look for new employees, because they can't keep up with the level of activity that they have. In fact, they're now talking about going the next step and moving into new premises. They're looking to build a new building and employ more people.

These incentives the government has created for people to build and grow their businesses are going to grow and drive our economy as we move forward out of the coronavirus pandemic. Part of that is funded by the fact that, to date, this government, through our Economic Recovery Plan, has delivered some $9 billion in tax cuts, landing in the pockets of some 8.8 million Australians. That occurred from July 2020 to February 2021. This has helped boost household balance sheets and has seen consumer confidence rise above prepandemic levels.

As I go around my electorate I see positivity for the future despite the difficulties we've had over the past 12 month with coronavirus. People want to get out and do things and take opportunities—for themselves or in their businesses. We've seen this too with the impact of HomeBuilder. I talk to builders, developers and tradesmen around my electorate. The developers have problems; they can't develop the land quick enough. The builders can't get the blocks of land to build on quick enough; they need to be registered before they can start building the new homes. And the tradesmen that I talk to are flat chat; there's not a single tradesperson that I know around my electorate who hasn't got a book full of work for at least the next six to nine months.

They are very grateful for the fact that that opportunity has arisen. It allows them to have confidence in the future of their businesses. That gives them the incentive to take on apprentices. The 100,000 places in our apprenticeship scheme have been taken up extraordinarily rapidly—to the extent that, as a government, we've now had to expand that scheme out till, I think, the end of September this year to provide the opportunity for businesses to continue to take on those apprenticeship places. That creates the opportunity for the young people in my community to build their skills. That will give them the foundation they need for themselves as they move forward into the future.

I'm focusing on skills and apprenticeships because our apprentices and tradespeople build this country. We need builders, bricklayers, electricians and carpenters to build buildings like the one we're in here today. They build our factories; they build our production lines. They're the people who build the country for the future. And that's why I'm so pleased, with all of the things that we're doing as a government, to see the support and encouragement we're providing for the working class of Australia to move forward, to build and grow their lives and to deliver on the potential they have to make this country an even better place.

I had cause recently to go back and read my first speech, and it's always interesting to do that. One of the things I talked about in my first speech was the cost of living. I've already touched on our tax cuts. There is also the stuff we've done with energy policy. We see the reduction in the wholesale cost of electricity now reflected in retail prices, going directly towards reducing the cost of living for everyday Australians. I'm so pleased to be part of a government that has achieved that. The trajectory we were on when we came to government in 2013 was entirely in the opposite direction. I remember coming into this place in 2010. Not long after, those opposite introduced the carbon tax they said they would never introduce. When we came into government in 2013 we repealed that carbon tax and have worked assiduously ever since to ensure that we reduce electricity prices and cost of living for everyday Australians.

One of the other things I reflected on in my first speech, Mr Deputy Speaker Wallace, was the importance of infrastructure in my electorate of Forde. I've got no doubt infrastructure is a big topic of discussion up in the Deputy Speaker's electorate on the Sunshine Coast as well. In my first speech I mentioned the Mount Lindesay Highway, which is a main corridor in the west of my electorate that runs between Browns Plains down to Beaudesert and also up into Brisbane. I'm very pleased to say that in my time we have delivered one major project at North MacLean, upgrading the Mount Lindesay Highway and building a new service road on what was quite a dangerous piece of the highway, as well as installing new lights—in conjunction with my good friend the member for Wright because that piece of road sits right on our boundary.

I'm pleased to say that we've succeeded in getting the funding for the duplication for the next stretch of the Mount Lindesay Highway from Stoney Camp Road to Chambers Flat Road. That's a $75 million investment of which the Commonwealth government is putting in $37½ million. That will deliver new northbound and southbound bridges across Norris Creek, a range of safety upgrades, and improved fauna connectivity and protection across either side of the highway. But most importantly it will greatly improve the safety on that stretch of road, which, given the new developments further south in Yarrabilba and Flagstone, is an increasingly busy corridor and artery of commerce and travel. So it is tremendous to see these investments being made by this government through our infrastructure investments—some $110 billion over 10 years.

Equally trmendous to see is the work that we're doing on the M1 between the Gateway Motorway and the Logan Motorway. We've already completed the southbound project from the Gateway Motorway to Springwood. We are now working on the northbound upgrade from Springwood to the Gateway Motorway, and that work is well underway. There are already plans for the next part of that from Springwood down to Loganlea Road. It's a $375 million investment by the Commonwealth government in conjunction with the state government, so a total project of $750 million.

In addition to that, there have been investments in upgrading Exit 45 at Ormeau and Exit 49 at Pimpama—a total of nearly $100 million of investment by this government. It's these investments and many others across our community, that were issues 10 years ago, that we're now finally delivering on and achieving.

One of the other great things in my electorate of Forde is the willingness of business in my community and the community more generally to get involved in waste and recycling. We recognise the importance of ensuring that we minimise our waste and, where possible, we recycle and reuse those commodities to ensure that it's not all going to landfill—in the past, it has been exported overseas. Our waste has the tremendous potential for us to reuse scarce, raw, natural materials and to repurpose that for other things.

In the city of Logan its largest wastewater treatment facility has been one of the first in Australia to take human waste and turn it into energy. This facility will also transform sewage sludge into renewable energy and a safe, environmentally friendly product called biochar. We know that biochar is a very important component of our soil carbon strategy, because biochar plays a really important role in improving soils and improving the capacity of soil to retain carbon but also, importantly, improving the quality of soils for water and moisture retention, which, in one of the driest countries on earth, is a critically important outcome.

With many of these things and many other things that I haven't touched on—I've run out of time—we see that this government, each and every day, is focused on delivering for Australians right across this country and, more importantly, delivering for my community of Forde. I'm so pleased to be part of a government where we have a positive story to tell. We're making this country a better country each and every day.