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Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Page: 862

Ms KING (Ballarat) (21:19): I want to raise a number of issues that are affecting my regional community in Victoria at the moment. This month alone the government has presided over basically the end of the automotive industry in this country and a reduction in postal services for regional Victoria and it is softening up the electorate for the introduction of cuts to health. It is expecting Australians to pay for health services, including those who can least afford it.

The news in my own electorate that Toyota would cease its automotive manufacturing operations in Australia is devastating for the workers at Toyota and those employed throughout the car component supply chains. The end of Australia's automotive industry will have a lasting impact on our economy and in particular on the economies of Victoria and South Australia. This impact flows to regional Victoria, with local businesses in my own electorate making metal pressings and assemblies, disk brake pads, seatbelts, exhausts and automotive electrical harnesses. Work provided by the automotive industry underpins the operation of these businesses in other sectors.

Unless the government does the right thing by the workers it has betrayed and delivers a structural adjustment package to support the transition to these new jobs that the Prime Minister talks about, then investment in important skills that support regional economies like Ballarat will be lost. It is incredibly important that any structural adjustment package not just focus on metropolitan Melbourne or on Geelong but actually look at all the regions that have car componentry.

When the Prime Minister says that he is seeking to roll out shovel-ready infrastructure across Victoria, he should start his search with the Ballarat freight hub. I am concerned when they talk about infrastructure that they are talking about projects that were already funded by Labor and are projects that exist in metropolitan Melbourne. The freight hub is a major job-creating infrastructure project in my electorate and it is a critical part of the Ballarat West employment zone. When complete it will deliver a projected 9,000 new jobs and $5 billion in economic output each year in my community. Labor committed $9.1 million in the May budget towards stage 1, and I acknowledge the great work of the previous speaker, the member for Grayndler, who was the then Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, on helping to make that into a reality. Unfortunately, it is one of the projects under the Nation-Building Fund that the Abbott government have cut. I implore them: if you are serious about assisting job creation in regional Victoria, particularly those towns deeply affected by the collapse of the car industry, then you need to fund this project.

There are further opportunities for local investment as well. While these are smaller projects, they are certainly equally important when it comes to jobs in the building sector and the construction sector and for the long-term health and wellbeing of these communities. There was over $800,000 for an all-inclusive play space in Victoria Park in Ballarat, $7 million for an aquatic centre in the growing community of Bacchus Marsh and $1.25 million for the multipurpose centre at Victoria Park in Daylesford. The government reversed these payments to community infrastructure; they cut these programs in my community that were funded by Labor as part of the Regional Development Australia Fund. But the government have an opportunity, if they reverse their decisions, to give our communities the economic shot in the arm they so desperately need.

I want to talk briefly about another couple of issues that have also been important. Last week the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education visited Ballarat to open the newly named Federation University and to officially see the new science and engineering building and our great new sporting facility. Labor provided $39.9 million for this facility, an incredibly important piece of infrastructure for teaching and learning in our communities. Again, without a pipeline of investment in those sorts of projects in our education institutes in regional communities, there will be substantial job losses and opportunity losses in those communities.

Briefly, in the short time I have left, I want to talk about Australia Post's decision to walk away from its commitment of sending mail directly from its distribution centre in Ballarat. There are many other regional communities that that affects. Ten full-time jobs across regional Victoria will be lost as a result of this decision. And walking away from the next day postal service delivery is, frankly, a shameful thing for Australia Post to do. I have called on the Minister for Communications to ask Australia Post to reverse this decision. Ballarat is an hour and a half from Melbourne. We are not remote. It should not mean that mail we want to send to Daylesford or to Drummond leaves Ballarat, goes to Melbourne for sorting and then comes all the way back up the highway to go to those communities. We deserve better in regional Victoria.