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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 568

Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (15:23): I thank the House for the opportunity to make some remarks in the address-in-reply. It is always an honour to be elected to this parliament. To be re-elected for the sixth time is a huge honour for me. Being elected for the first time in 1998, I recall really well my campaign, all of the volunteers around me, the Labor Party and my supporters, and my clear intention to work really hard to be a good representative for my community and to fairly and honestly represent their views as best as possible in the parliament. I had only one intention, to do the very best job I could, and hoped, if I did that, they, my electorate, might give me a second chance to be re-elected for another term in 2001. Obviously, it now being 2014, having been re-elected in 2013 is a huge privilege.

All election campaigns are hard fought on all sides. Everybody who runs in an election wants to represent their community for a variety of reasons. People have different motivations, different goals, different objectives, different philosophies and different views about what their collective community needs most or prioritises. For me it would be no different. I am very close to my community—I like to think I am anyway—and certainly to all its great variety of cultures and languages. It is an enormously diverse community from Vietnamese people in one area to Pacific people in another, to Indigenous people through my home town of Inala, where I grew up, right through to lots of old European families, to a whole variety in the western corridor where over 100 different languages are spoken. I feel very proud to be a representative for that community.

Election day itself was unusual, to say the least. For all the doom and gloom there were many good things on the day. The opportunity a community gets to cast its judgment not just on the government and who leads the country but also on who leads them in the parliament at a local level is something we should all take note of.

Like all elections, there were national issues, perhaps even international, but certainly many local issues. In my electorate of Oxley in the western corridor of Brisbane and in Ipswich, my constituents were very concerned about what an Abbott government might mean for them—not in a positive way. Having already experienced a Campbell Newman government at a state level they were very concerned. Some were very frightened about where they might end up, what sort of cuts they might get. The mood and the talk were about what they might lose, not about what they might gain.

Locally people told me they knew Labor had worked very hard and yes there was a price to be paid by us—I am the first to acknowledge it—for a range of issues in the previous parliament. But my electorate were very convinced that Labor, under any circumstances, could still deliver for them a better outcome. Whether that revolved around infrastructure delivery—the Ipswich Motorway, local roads, the work we had done in schools in Building the Education Revolution—and not just providing infrastructure but a different sense about the way every child going to school would get a hand-up, not a handout, and a positive change in the way education would be delivered.

I am sure it is the case for all members in this place: I have not yet been to a school where they did not want the school hall, they did not want the classroom, they did not want the science lab or they did not want the extra investment. If someone here in this place could say, 'I've found a school that rejects the investment of cash, that rejects a new school hall or a classroom,' please come forward and let me know. I am yet to come across one anywhere, let alone in my electorate. It was money well spent.

I want to remind people that it was a two-pronged thing we had to do. Coming out of a global financial crisis a good government needs to respond. We wanted not just to protect jobs and the economy to make sure that families still had an ability to pay their mortgage but to invest in schools at the same time. Those legacy infrastructure projects will be with us for the next 30 years. Every time you go to a meeting at a school—whether it is an induction of leaders, which we would have seen in the last few weeks—you turn up in a school hall that Labor built. I have gained enormous pleasure and pride from going to some of my oldest schools, which are a little bit run-down in some parts because no-one had spent any money—state or federal—for 30, 40 or even more years. To see the one shining example of an investment in that school community as something Labor did filled me with a lot of pride. Yes, true, at the same time, we did not quite get all the kudos that we possibly could have, but sometimes you do things because they are right not just because you are going to get thanked for it afterwards.

There were a lot of other projects in the electorate, but there was one thing for me that was very personal and very important. When you do a good thing in your community, when you stick with people and you work with people from different communities regardless of where they line up politically, they do remember that you did something really good for them. Different people in different communities have said to me, 'We don't forget our friends and we won't forget when you stood up for us.' That is probably a lesson that all members in this place could ponder.

I am enormously proud of my office—it is not just me; I am but one person—all of my staff and all of our volunteers—the people who lend a hand, help, do things in the community, turn up to events, make things happen and assist things to happen, all of those things that we do over a long period of time that mean something and are valued. For me, after so many years in parliament, they are the things that I look back on and say: 'They're the things that are worthwhile. They're the things worth doing, regardless of the politics and regardless of the way that people vote.'

My electorate is in a growing and developing part of Queensland in the western corridor. Not only is there a lot of infrastructure to be built; there is a lot of development to go on. People are building lives and families are growing. Not only do they need schools; they need places for recreation, parks and amenity. While traditionally that has been the purview of local government and others, there is a case to be made for the federal government to be involved, and Labor did get involved. In government, we added value to a whole range of communities with a small bit of funding. For example, in Robelle Domain at Springfield Lakes a small bit of funding facilitated a much larger project going ahead. Those are the sorts of things that I am very proud that Labor did. That is the case also with black-spot intersection upgrades. I was the Queensland chair of the committee. By announcing it here today, I am sure I will be removed as chair when somebody discovers that a Labor member still chairs that committee and perhaps I should be replaced by a Liberal member. We will see how long it is before someone twigs—and I am sure that will be in the next two minutes.

There is the work we did on the National Broadband Network. Forget about the claptrap you hear in this place about the politics of it all. Everywhere that actually got it delivered and got connected, you have never seen happier people. They really understand it. Retirees and pensioners I visited who had their home connected had the ability to talk to their family. They can be a part of the bigger world through that giant portal, that huge window, and that gives them the opportunity to communicate with the rest of the world. Some of our older people are the most skilled at getting on the internet. They have a little more spare time in their retirement and they can see what is happening in the world. And there are small businesses, home businesses and micro businesses who can benefit. I have never seen such a rush of people knocking my door down saying, 'When are we getting the NBN?'

It is a big program and you cannot roll out an eight-year program in eight weeks, but it is worthwhile. Again, it is the sort of heavy lifting that Labor governments do and that I am proud that we did as a government. For most governments, that heavy lifting is just too hard and you cannot think that far ahead—eight years and somebody might criticise us for not getting it all done in eight weeks. The reality is we started it and, no matter what this new government does, it will continue. It might look a bit different, but it is the work we did, the heavy lifting, in terms of the National Broadband Network which will guarantee that people around Australia are connected and schools and health and medical services are connected and connected to the rest of the world. It will guarantee small business an opportunity to do the things that they have to do in the modern world. The modern world was last century, by the way, just in case the mob on the other side are not quite sure about where the modern world sits.

There is another piece of work that I am enormously proud of that I think delivered in spades. We committed an amount of funding to the Brisbane Lions of the Australian Football League to relocate their headquarters and field in Brisbane to Springfield Lakes. This was an enormous move for the Lions. It came with a lot of infrastructure and a lot of jobs. We did that a few days, as I understand it, if not a week, before caretaker mode commenced. That funding would have guaranteed that that organisation and football would thrive in the western corridor. My understanding today is that that funding has been withdrawn. I know this will create enormous disappointment across my community and also for all the fans of football. This sort of issue should be above politics. The infrastructure delivery on this project was beyond reproach. It was value for money. What has happened is really disappointing.

I have mentioned a whole range of my communities, but I want to single out the Vietnamese community in my electorate and give special thanks to Phuong and Duc. I will not go into a heap of other names, otherwise I will be here for a long time. But I do make special mention of those two people for being such good, honest, hard workers in their own community let alone in supporting me and my efforts to represent them in this parliament. I also want to thank Tin, who is our Vietnamese-speaking volunteer who comes in to help Vietnamese constituents with their issues and provides for free an invaluable service. I also mention members of the Pacific Islander community who are genuine, hardworking people who have created a new life in Australia, most of whom have New Zealand citizenship and came here over many years by a variety of means. They came here to seek new opportunities not unlike others who come to Australia and not unlike all of us at some point in time. People come here because they want a bigger and better opportunity for their families and I am really proud of the fact that they do that. There are a number of issues that I was working on in the previous parliament and in government to make sure that they get a fair opportunity at educating their kids and that they get the same sorts of benefits that Australians might get, even though there are some conditions around their residency in Australia because they are not full Australian citizens. But I think there is lot that this parliament could look at to make their lives a bit better, particularly for their kids, who aspire to a higher education level and who could contribute so much to our community.

Oxley is smack in the middle of the western corridor, between the two great cities of Brisbane and Ipswich. It is one of the fastest growing corridors in the country. People go there because it is a great place to live. It is where I call home. It is thriving with new opportunities, new jobs and innovators. There is so much potential that it is bubbling to the surface. But you need to support that through assistance from government to do the things that developers cannot do. A developer cannot build a railway line but a state government can, and it can invest in people and in communities. A federal government can invest in massive infrastructure for nationally significant parks, so that in 50 years time people will say, 'The people who thought this up must have been real forward thinkers.'

They are the people of today. Sometimes you have to do that. It is a bit like building the Story Bridge in Brisbane. When it was built back in the twenties, no-one could have imagined in those horse-and-cart days that you would need eight or 10 lanes. They must have been saying, 'You're overcooking it and spending too much.' But we look back at that today and say, 'If only they could have added two lanes it would have been good.'

There is a good argument to be made for supporting and developing infill areas like Richlands or Inala, Goodna and Ipswich right through to Springfield and the centenary suburbs in my electorate, which thrive in western Brisbane. Our schools are booming. We have record achievements at some schools, even those in the most difficult areas. Glenala State High many years ago was probably regarded as one of the worst schools in the country. It had a high number of Pacific Islander and Indigenous communities. Through the persistence of a number of school leaders and principals, it is now an example of a school that has achieved some of the best results I have seen. It now has a 95-plus per cent retention rate for year 12, and 84 per cent of year 12 students get an OP of between one and 15. These incredible results are because people believe in that school, believe in the kids, believe in the community. It is not just about infrastructure and money; it is about leadership. At every opportunity I say a huge thank you and congratulations to Glenala State High for the incredible work done to produce some of the best kids in the region.

But it is not all good news. There is some bad news, unfortunately, particularly for small businesses in my area and right across the country. When Labor was in government—some of you might find this a bit difficult—we were the best friend of business and the best friend of small business. We invested some real money in supporting small businesses not only through the global financial crisis but in aspects of building businesses and starting businesses. National business name registration was a big step into the modern world, taking seven disparate databases across the country—some just on paper—and putting them all on the internet. It used to cost $1,000 to register your business; now it is something like $70, and you can register businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We also invested a huge amount of money in the instant asset tax write-off, not only in assets but also in direct investment through pooled depreciation. All up, the direct investment that we made in business and small business was close to $5 billion. That is a lot of money, but you would spend a lot of money on small businesses if you believed in them. The first thing the Abbott government did when it came to power was take all of that money away, through a whole variety of measures—the instant asset tax write-off and the direct assistance. There is more to come, but that is a $5 billion hit to small business. Small businesses are not yet feeling this hit, but they are twigging on to the fact that all the assistance is going. The Abbott government has defunded bodies that used to assist—like helplines and websites—and were really well used. Small business uses the facilities we provided including tax incentives and direct cash incentives. Where small businesses invested, we invested with small businesses. We were there for small business. This government says it is the best friend of small business. We will see when the money is on the table who really is the best friend of small business.

There is a lot to be said about all the things that have changed since this new government came to power five and a bit months ago. I was particularly close to the Future of Financial Advice reforms during a difficult period with the global financial crisis, the Storm collapse, Trio and lots of mums and dads who had worked their whole lives to save for independence in retirement losing it all. Something had to be done, and we stepped up and did it. It took a lot of years, consultation and work, but we came up with a really good model, the FoFA reforms. This government has taken those reforms and said it will make some technical amendments and minor changes. Nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is the changes being made will rip out the guts of FoFA and leave nothing—no best interest, no transparency, no disclosure, the reintroduction of bank commissions and fees. Over a period we will see some clear winners, and those clear winners will not be consumers. Consumer protection will be gone and consumers will be paying enormous fees, having lost all the protections Labor put in place.

In the remaining time, I turn to jobs and the important work that Labor did in supporting jobs, not just through the global financial crisis. We were there when a million jobs were created during the worst global recession. We did better than any other global economy. Although the Abbott government said governments never create jobs, they have promised to create a million jobs in five years. The ticker is ticking, but unfortunately for them it is heading south really quickly. They goaded Toyota and Holden to go. They are not interested in jobs and a plan for saving jobs. In fact, they are doing everything they can to say they will not participate in a jobs plan. They might have some arguments about industry welfare, so let us hear those and have a debate about them. We are asking: where is your plan to create jobs? Do you have a jobs creation plan? What have you planned for communities in Geelong, South Australia, and other places hit by closures? We understand the problem with the high Australian dollar and the difficulties in manufacturing, but it is wrong to shut the door and leave workers, families and communities with no hope.

It always comes down to who you stand up for and how you will be counted. When we were in government, Labor took difficult decisions. We always stood up for communities, people and families, whatever the cost. The government needs to support the country and the national interest. When it comes to a choice, this coalition government is prepared to cut people loose. This means that Australia, for the first time in more than a decade, has an unemployment rate of six per cent. That is not good enough. (Time expired)