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Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Page: 4342

Ms NEAL (8:09 PM) —I rise in the House today to inform members about the significant achievements brought to the residents of my electorate of Robertson by the sound and decisive economic management of the Rudd Labor government. It is a proactive budget which acts decisively to protect Australia from the worst fallout from the global economic crisis. It is a budget of vision and of hope. It is a nation-building budget of optimism which builds our infrastructure and protects 220,000 Australian jobs.

This budget shares the heroic optimism of the $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy of October 2008 and the $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan of February 2009. These measures together have delivered great benefit to Australia and to my electorate of Robertson. The government has also provided funds that have brought substantial investments in community infrastructure and that have had a direct, immediate and positive impact on the household budgets of Robertson and on the wider economy of the Central Coast. Today I would like to make members aware of the measurable nature of this positive impact in my electorate.

In the lead-up to the federal election that brought the Rudd Labor government to power in November 2007, we made a range of commitments to the electors of Robertson. I am delighted to report that the Rudd Labor government has delivered in full on all of these election commitments. All of these commitments are major infrastructure projects that are now making the Central Coast a better place to live, work and raise our children. The Rudd Labor government has indeed proved to be the architect of hope for regional communities like those on the Central Coast. A major election commitment that I have been pleased to deliver to the people of Robertson was an $81 million investment in a water pipeline from Mardi Dam to Mangrove Creek Dam. This missing link pipeline will ensure future water security for the people of the Central Coast. A sum of $840 million is being invested in creating a dedicated freight rail track between Sydney and Newcastle. This will separate freight from passenger traffic, taking significant freight traffic off the vital F3 freeway, and improve travel for the tens of thousands of commuters who travel to Sydney every day to work. An amount of $7 million was allocated to make available an additional 400 car parking spaces in the Gosford CBD for those same commuters. An amount of $150 million was provided for preliminary planning work for a vital road link between the F3 freeway and the M7 motorway in Sydney, and $900,000 was provided to build a multipurpose community sporting facility at Erina High School that can be used for students and community groups, who can share much needed support and recreational facilities. The Rudd Labor government has also provided $680,000 to Gosford City Council to install 24 CCTV cameras in three important shopping centres at Umina Beach, Woy Woy and Ettalong Beach. The rollout of these cameras has already begun and when completed they will make the three CBDs on the peninsula safer and more friendly places to work, live and shop in.

The improvement of community services and the provision of new and upgraded infrastructure have been among the highest priorities for me and the people of Robertson. All these election commitments have been delivered in full. Despite the downturn in the global economy, the Rudd Labor government has reasserted its commitment to invest in the practical infrastructure projects that Australian communities need to keep their economies strong. Projects such as these are a down payment on a prosperous economy for the Central Coast, providing the community with the capacity to grow again when times improve. The delivery of infrastructure projects of great significance has continued over the year and a half since the election. In September of 2008 the government allocated $4.5 million to assist Gosford City Council upgrade the quality of drinking water at Woy Woy and on the peninsula. This provided a practical solution to what has been a serious problem for peninsula residents for many years.

The state of roads is also a crucial factor for the safety of motorists and pedestrians all around Australia. Through the Roads to Recovery program and the government’s Black Spot Program, local authorities are funded to redress some of the backlog of roadworks that are urgently needed in many areas. In 2008 Gosford City Council received $1.58 million in Roads to Recovery grants, an increase of more than $500,000 on what was provided when the former Liberal Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads was the incumbent member for Robertson. In March 2009 the Rudd government allocated a record $5.4 million in Roads to Recovery funding over five years to Gosford City Council. This unprecedented level of funding for roads in Robertson helps maintain and upgrade our local roads, but it also supports local jobs and businesses during the current global recession. The funding under this program is untied so that councils can spend the money on local road priorities identified by members of the local community actually using the roads in question. Black Spot Program funding for this year in Robertson has helped remediate conditions at four serious accident sites on the Central Coast, with funding of more than $900,000.

The Rudd government’s $800 million Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program has brought many significant improvements to thousands of local communities across Australia. The program provided $1.345 million to Gosford City Council for nine groups of projects in Robertson in March 2009. These were all practical but very necessary on-the-ground projects that would have been left in the too-hard basket or the unfunded basket by the local authorities without a substantial injection of federal funds. They included upgrades to scores of community facilities, including sportsground lighting upgrades, playground refurbishments, disabled access at community halls and centres, and oval and park upgrades. These initiatives greatly improve social infrastructure in the Gosford City Council area, which has essentially the same boundaries as my electorate. They also boost local jobs, providing a stimulus to the local economy and adding to national productivity in the long term.

The Community Infrastructure Program also included $500 for strategic projects that were shovel-ready but which could not have proceeded without additional funds. Gosford City Council was provided with more than $3 million to build the world-class Peninsula Recreation Precinct at Umina Beach. This precinct will include the renovation of tennis courts and the associated clubhouses; upgrades to the skate park and BMX track, including safety and visibility upgrades; upgrades to the sports oval, much used by the local Umina soccer, cricket, Rugby Union and Rugby League clubs; construction of a new super-playground, including playground equipment, lighting and a large shade cloth; recreational infrastructure such as park furniture, barbecue and picnic facilities, new pathways and cycleways, and fitness equipment for all ages and abilities; and renovations to the Umina Eagles clubhouse.

Projects such as these are vitally important to local communities like those on the peninsula, which has shown a growth rate and population increase for many years that has far outstripped the provision of community infrastructure. This community-building initiative will address a real demand on the rapidly growing Central Coast for better sporting facilities, parks and playgrounds. It is facilities such as these that help keep our young children and families active and healthy. The delivery of better infrastructure and community facilities to the people of the coast was a strong election commitment of mine. I will keep on fighting for funds to make the coast a healthier and more pleasant place to bring up children.

I am pleased the Rudd Labor government is willing to accept this challenge through innovative initiatives such as the Community Infrastructure Program, but perhaps the biggest commitment from the government is the revolution now taking place in schools across Australia. One of the major components of the $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan, itself the largest one-off investment in infrastructure in Australia’s history, is the Building the Education Revolution program, or BER. This is a broad-ranging initiative of historic proportions that is transforming schools and bringing them into the 21st century. The various components of BER have all made great contributions to schools in Robertson. More than 2,960 computers have been provided to 17 secondary schools in Robertson from the government’s $1.9 billion National Secondary School Computer Fund. This amounts to an allocation of more than $2.96 million for local schools in my area alone. It will allow a computer-to-student ratio of one to two in our secondary schools for years 9 to 12. For example, the two campuses of Brisbane Water Secondary College will receive 439 computers between them. This program will help our local students get access to the tools for tomorrow’s digital learning landscape.

In March 2009, St Joseph’s Catholic College and St Edward’s Christian Brothers College received more than $1.4 million to establish the East Gosford Industry Training Pathways Project. This is part of the Labor government’s $2.5 billion Trade Training Centres in Schools Program. The schools built metals and engineering workshops, construction workshops, new commercial cookery rooms, art rooms and new administration areas. They now offer certificate II and III courses, greatly enhancing local students’ access to quality accredited trades training and helping to address areas of skill shortage in Australia’s economy and also in areas of the Central Coast economy. The federal government has also integrated $10 million from the Australian technical colleges initiative into trade training in our local schools. This will provide greater access to trade courses for children still at school who might otherwise have left school before completing their higher school certificate.

Other components of the Building the Education Revolution program are now having even greater impacts on our local schools. In two rounds of the National School Pride program, 43 Robertson primary and secondary schools received between $50,000 and $200,000 each to undertake vital infrastructure improvements and refurbishment works. This represents a direct investment of $6.8 million in the schools of the Central Coast. This program will help support many local jobs as tradespeople and local businesses help transform the physical environment of our schools. The National School Pride program will help improve the quality of education for our students. It will also provide a massive boost for the local economy.

The $12.4 billion Primary Schools for the 21st Century Program is helping primary schools in Robertson with major infrastructure improvements such as libraries, multi-purpose halls and new classrooms. In round 1 of this program, two schools in Robertson received a total of $2.85 million to refurbish administration areas and classrooms and to build a primary information resource centre. I am looking forward immensely to round 2, when the rest of about 40 schools in Robertson can begin to rebuild and refurbish. Building the Education Revolution has so far delivered a great deal to the schools of Robertson. Taken together, the four major programs—computers in schools, trade training in schools, National School Pride and Primary Schools for the 21st Century—have delivered more than $14 million directly to the schools in my electorate. This is a massive investment just for my area. When this is multiplied across all the electorates in Australia—including those of the coalition members opposite me, who may or may not support the provisions for their electorates—you can begin to gauge the scale of this historic undertaking.

The Building the Education Revolution initiative is a $14.7 billion program, a program of immense proportions. The greatest proportion of the stimulus funding provided over the past 1½ years has gone into nation-building infrastructure programs that will transform the Australian economy in the long term. It will be clear from what I have said tonight that a transformation has been underway in my electorate of Robertson as well. The impressive list of funding achievements that I have outlined here is a testament to the soundness of the economic management of the Rudd Labor government in these extremely difficult times. The government has taken timely and decisive action to lessen the impacts of the global recession. It has taken action to save and preserve jobs, and it has also charted a way forward to recovery. We have seen the positive impact of those measures in my electorate of Robertson and we are seeing similar positive results across Australia.