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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15539

Mr DANBY (12:23 PM) —Recently I sent out a community survey to my entire electorate, and some very interesting results were apparent. One of the hundreds of respondents said:

I am particularly concerned about the plight of women who have been bought and sold. This is quite distinct from people-smuggling and asylum seekers. This ubiquitous trade in flesh happens within this country ... Traffickers offer women to brothel owners ... DIMIA bureaucrats do not appear interested and they just deport the women asap so that the traffickers are not charged because of lack of evidence.

This is a matter which I believe the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs should pay far more attention to. I think the practice of just deporting some of these poor women back to places—particularly in Asia—is not the way it should be looked at by the department of immigration. They should be looking particularly at the people who brought them here and who are exploiting them. I particularly commend the shadow minister for immigration for her activities in highlighting this and putting pressure on the government to act. Another respondent said:

Doctors and dentists are more and more pulling faces when shown the Veteran's Affair's Gold Card. I was refused treatment by a dentist in Glenhuntly ... as an 80-year-old returned airman with war injuries, this hurts.

It is disgraceful that veterans who have served Australia are treated in this manner. The Minister for Veterans' Affairs needs to do more about this. I particularly commend the work of Senator Bishop, the Labor spokesman for veterans' affairs, who has been very active in highlighting this.

`HECS fees are too high. The bulk-billing system must be fixed in an equitable way,' said a man from Balaclava. In Melbourne Ports the rate of bulk-billing has dropped by 12 per cent. Copayments in Melbourne Ports are the third highest in Victoria, at $17.80. With the AMA saying that we are going to have to charge non-concession card holders more, I expect people in Melbourne Ports are going to have to pay even more in their copayments. I think that the two-tier system being introduced by the federal government is the kind of inequitable health system that Australians do not support, and I hope that the federal government will pay a political price for it. Another person in the community survey said:

As someone involved in teaching at RMIT I'm concerned about the increasing inaccessibility of tertiary education for those who are not affluent. Health is very much an issue—the ever increasing cuts to bulk-billing make access to doctors less realistic for many people.

Talking about education changes, one of the members of my community in Elwood said that it is `vital to ensure adequate funding for state schools'. Some of the private schools in my electorate have received remarkable increases in funding under this government—one school went from some $4 million to nearly $8 million, a 100 per cent increase. I know that some of the poor parochial schools around there look across their fences and see that one of these schools has rebuilt its fence three times in the last few years. I have seen it too as I drive past it in the electorate. As I said, one school—a category 1 school—has received a 100 per cent increase in federal government funding, from $4 million to $8 million.

Another problem that people in my electorate have identified is with Centrelink. Centrelink have apparently dropped their numbering system at the reception desk so that when people go to use Centrelink's facilities, as is their right, there are now increasingly angry mobs of people who are not being treated in the dignified way you would expect an Australian federal government bureaucracy to treat people who are Australian citizens. This is not adequate, and I have written to the minister to ask why Centrelink have dropped their procedure of having numbering at the reception desk for people who have appointments. They should go back to the old system. It is, frankly, disgraceful that they are treating people in this way.

The last of the many concerns that people in my electorate have is about the Kyoto accord. A male constituent from Caulfield wrote to me—I know we are enjoined not to mention individuals by name—and said, `I regard concern for the environment, particularly global warming, as head and shoulders ahead of other problems.' There are many issues regarding the environment, Medicare and higher education that the Leader of the Opposition outlined in his budget address-in-reply, and they are the concerns of the Australian people. (Time expired)