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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 47

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL (3:22 PM) —I also wish to speak on the motion to take note of the answers to the questions asked by Senator O'Brien during question time, and particularly to deal with the issue of the Marine Discovery Centre at Bondi Beach. I also, like Senator Barnett, looked at the DOTARS web site to see what this program was.

Senator Barnett —Your colleagues didn't.

Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL —The title of the program, Senator Barnett, is Regional Partnerships. The state is New South Wales and the location is Bondi. I have to admit that I was a little surprised, given that I live 10 minutes away from Bondi. It is a great privilege to get up and speak on this issue as a constituent of the seat of Wentworth and to learn, through this debate, that I am part of regional Australia. The minister, Senator Ian Campbell, in his response—and Senator Hill in his response to an unrelated question—asked why we are attacking regional Australia. They said: `This is about jobs in regional Australia. Why does the Labor Party single out the bush for particular attention?'

I am a great supporter of the bush. I think the people in regional and rural Australia are great people. They are great battlers and they deserve all the help they can get. They get very little in real terms from this government, and they have got very little in real terms from this government since 1996. But, when it comes to electioneering and being able to target seats that potentially may change hands in an election, this government becomes very focused on what its programs are intended to do. That is why you have a mix of programs entitled Regional Partnerships being used to fund projects in seats in metropolitan Australia that are determined to be marginal or under threat.

Wentworth is about as metropolitan as you can get. It would have the highest number of millionaires in this country within its boundaries. It would have the most expensive real estate in this country within its boundaries. It is hardly a seat that you would say is suffering from disadvantage and despair. I walk around it every week. I happen to enjoy living in Wentworth. I happen to particularly enjoy Bondi. I can tell you about all the best coffee shops and the best lattes in the country—not in regional Australia, in the country. The Zoo Bar in Bondi Junction is one, and Centennial Bites down at Clovelly is another one. They were all visited by their local member, canvassing for votes, during the last election. I can name them one after another—the Gelato Bar in Campbell Parade, the Thai Flora Restaurant in Hall Street—there is a multitude of them. People in Wentworth will not starve or go short of a decent cup of coffee. The current member has probably bought coffee for every person who lives in the seat of Wentworth. During the last election campaign he was seen constantly wandering in and out the coffee shops of Wentworth canvassing votes for himself. To suggest that the people of Wentworth or Bondi need to soak up $220,000 worth of a program that I presume was initially designed to assist the people of regional Australia is an absolute absurdity.

I am sure that the people at the Marine Discovery Centre in Bondi are very grateful for the $220,000, and I am sure they do a very good job in travelling around the schools of the area to promote knowledge about marine life. Most of the kids in the area spend their life at Bondi Beach anyway; they go and experience the marine life first-hand. They are out on their surfboards from early in the morning until late at night at Bondi, Bronte, Coogee—all the beaches around that eastern suburbs area. It is obvious that this was an election ploy to transfer these moneys into those electorates that the government thought were vulnerable. It had nothing at all to do with promoting partnerships in regional Australia or assisting to build jobs in regional Australia. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.