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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 3876


Mr WINDSOR (New England) (15:56): It is with pleasure that I rise to speak on the member for Lyne's MPI before the House today. It raises the issues of a federation—the role of the states and the role of the Commonwealth and the way in which our system has evolved over the years in terms of conflict between the various political persuasions which arises from time to time. Thankfully, that does not occur all the time. The instance that has been mentioned today is in relation to the specific funding of the Pacific Highway. I am very hopeful—particularly with the announcement the other night of $2 billion for mental health, which I thought was a very good announcement at the federal level—that the states and the Commonwealth will actually try and cross some of the philosophical boundaries and create a better circumstance for all Australians, irrespective of their political persuasions, and I ask members of this chamber for their support.

I am disappointed that the member for Berowra is having his afternoon sleep now. He was in here a moment ago making some suggestions about the Pennant Hills Road, demanding that another city road be fixed, another city road be upgraded—another city road on this continual spin in our major cities where we just create more roads and more congestion so we can create more roads so we can have more congestion, and the lifestyle impacts of that occur. I do not apologise for participating with the member for Lyne and other independent members in attempting to negotiate—and successfully, I think—a better deal for people who live in country areas, because we have seen a continual contradiction in this country. We have a lot of people living in major city areas and a lot of problems in those areas, and the politics of the day tends to feed the problem rather than address the solution. In some of the road upgrades that are being talked about and in other infrastructure upgrades—the National Broadband Network and other things like that—we may well see a change in thinking from this centralised feedlot arrangement that both sides of the political persuasion have concentrated on over many years.

I congratulate the minister for transport, Anthony Albanese, and I also congratulate Simon Crean, the regional development minister, for the way in which they have been thinking through some of the issues to some lasting results. I have seen a number of areas in which historically the states and the Commonwealth have worked well together. The multipurpose services, or MPSs, as they are known—inappropriately, in my view—have been an extraordinary success. They recognised a problem of escalating health costs in the smaller communities. They recognised a problem of aged care services and acute care services in the smaller communities. Rather than have the convoluted dogfight that develops from time to time, what they actually did then—and this was across Labor and Liberal, which I applaud—was recognise that the aged care services are appropriately funded at the federal level and the acute care services at the state level. They co-located and co-funded, and it has been a brilliant piece of public policy that I think everybody agrees with. People of different persuasions at both levels have been able to work together for the betterment of their people. A lot of country people are very appreciative of that MPS structure. So it can be done.

But we have seen this buck-passing of money—large sums announced at one level of government and then the other level will not match it—played out with the F3. I am sure the member for Hunter would recognise that. The F3 Branxton bypass is an issue where that has been carried out for some years.

Recently in the budget we saw another positive development, with the New South Wales government, under Barry O'Farrell, and the federal government, under Julia Gillard, working together. There was an announcement in the budget of $120 million for the Tamworth Base Hospital, not just for acute care services but, very importantly, to allow the medical school that is based in Armidale and works in conjunction with the University of Newcastle to develop a teaching hospital of some magnitude. Some of that money is to go specifically towards creating doctors and allied services for other regional communities. That $120 million from the Commonwealth was joined with $100 million from the New South Wales government.

There was another interesting partnership last year, prior to the hung parliament, where $42 million went towards a cancer care clinic, which will also be co-located in Tamworth Base Hospital. I think $31 million of that was Commonwealth money and $11 million was state money. On top of that, there was $10 million from the state government for new maternity facilities and another $20 million for accommodation and training aids for the medical school component of that hospital. So there will be something like $292 million invested, not just in that particular community but in the teaching of medical students and other professionals, with both levels of government working quite effectively together. Some politics is played from time to time, but thankfully that has been overlooked on this occasion and we see the benefits of both sides working together.

Another issue that I think the state parliaments, this parliament and people of various political persuasions in this parliament need to take on board, in terms of the various states that they represent, is to try and find a lasting solution to the Murray-Darling issue. I chair a committee on which there are Liberal, National and Labor members as well as myself as an Independent. I congratulate those people for what they have done in working through what was quite an inflammatory environment. Some would remember that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority released a guide document which inflamed the community. But I congratulate the members of the committee, from different political persuasions, for actually concentrating on the issue and trying to arrive at a lasting solution to what has been a lasting problem. Within months, we should have some recommendations that will go before the parliament.

I would also raise the issue that the states of different political persuasions among the five jurisdictions that originally signed the John Howard document to address this issue have an obligation to work with the Commonwealth to achieve a positive outcome. I know Barry O'Farrell well. In my last hung parliament, which was in the early nineties, Barry O'Farrell was one of the messenger boys who used to deliver messages from ministers to ask whether I would support this or that in a tight parliament. The other person with whom I have maintained a close relationship is Joe Hockey—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): The member for North Sydney.

Mr WINDSOR: Well, he was not the member for North Sydney then, but he is the member for North Sydney now. He worked in that particular parliament as well. I congratulate Barry O'Farrell on his ascension to the office of Premier. In my view, he will be a safe pair of hands for New South Wales. But I urge him not to get involved in the political machinations of the Commonwealth parliament but to take advantage of the particular parliament that we have—as I think he will—and try and work together with it where possible. Obviously there will be some differences, but where possible we should work together for the betterment of all the people that we represent, in his case people in the state of New South Wales.

I also would like to thank the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, who will be visiting the New England area tomorrow—and I think he might be on some parts of the North Coast as well—for announcing in the budget that there will be a sum of money for the New England Highway, to do the planning and construction work for Bolivia Hill, which is the last of the dangerous hills on the New England Highway in my part of the world, and to put in place some planning and structural work for a bypass of Tenterfield, the birthplace of our Federation, which probably takes my little contribution in a full circle. Tenterfield is the birthplace of our Federation—although that might be disputed by some southern communities—and the highway there is quite dangerous, with a very narrow street and a hill on both sides. That part of the New England Highway is an accident waiting to happen.

I conclude by saying that, if members of all political persuasions and the various states work together, I think we can achieve a lot more for our communities. (Time expired)

Mr Baldwin: Mr Deputy Speaker—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): I call the honourable member for Hunter. The reason I do so is that there is a tradition in this place that the debate alternates between the non-government side and the government side. While this matter of public importance debate has been put forward by an Independent who might be supporting the government, he is not an Independent in coalition with the government, so technically he is part of the non-government side of the parliament. On that basis, I call the honourable member for Hunter, the Chief Government Whip.