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Tuesday, 26 February 1985
Page: 224

Mr PRICE(5.48) —Mr Speaker, I offer you my congratulations on your re-election to your high office. I wish also to be associated with congratulations to the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child) on her election as Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Committees. I also thank you, Mr Speaker, and the Chairman of Committees, for the kindness and courtesy shown to me as a new member on the Government side. Indeed, that courtesy was shown to all new members on both Government and Opposition sides. I trust that I should not be disorderly if I say how pleased I was, as were a large number of Government members, to see a lady Serjeant-at-Arms at the opening of this Parliament. I am sure that many young women in my electorate will be inspired to aspire to positions which might otherwise be seen as male preserves.

I stand before my peers as the third member for Chifley. I thank my predecessors, John Armitage and the honourable member for Greenway (Mr Gorman), for the way in which they administered the electorate. I record my appreciation for the tremendous public support I received on election day and subsequently. It was a ringing endorsement of the Hawke Government's policies as they affect western Sydney in general and Chifley in particular. I pay a special tribute to my wife, Robyn, and my children, Michelle, Stephanie, Benjamin and Courtney, who have endured much and have never wavered in their support and encouragement. It is as much a win for my family as it is for me.

Victory in Chifley on 1 December largely reflected the tremendous dedication and commitment of the members of the Australian Labor Party who worked tirelessly throughout what was one of the longest campaigns on record. Organisationally, it was difficult for the Party to reform the Federal Electorate Council, hold a quick-fire preselection and then organise and raise funds for the campaign. However, the Party responded magnificently. I thank my friend and campaign director, Richard Amery, the State member for Riverstone and his Deputy, John Aqualina, the State member for Blacktown, the President of the FEC, Keith Squire, his executive and council, the seven branch campaign directors and all the branch members.

When one mentions individuals one can run the risk of offending those one omits. If I were properly to acknowledge those I would like to, or who merit it, I would run out of time. However, I mention two people. The first is Tony Johnston, the former State member for Riverstone-I was privileged to be his first campaign director some 13 years ago-and president of the State Electorate Council. I was pleased to be close to him and am indebted for the experience I gained. The other person is Alderman Sylvia Whilesmith, who has always been a very loyal and dedicated supporter and now is establishing her very own high credentials as the first ALP women alderman on Blacktown City Council and Chairperson of our Community Services Committee.

The seat of Chifley is situated in the western suburbs of Sydney, generally west of Parramatta and east of Penrith. It is the heartland of Labor's western stronghold. The heart of my electorate is Mount Druitt, where I am proud to say I live and where I have insisted on opening my electorate office. The people of Bidwill, Blackett, Dharruk, Emerton, Hebersham, Lethbridge Park, Shalvey, Shane Park, Tregear, Whalan and Willmot have a special place in my heart. They are not only part of Chifley electorate but form the fifth ward of Blacktown City Council. These good people are the ones who thrust me into public life some three years ago in a council by-election with 76 per cent of the vote. At the 1983 council elections I was returned from the No. 3 position on the ALP ticket by some 54 votes. Honourable members perhaps can appreciate my keen interest in seeking out those 54 voters. The other suburbs of my electorate are: Blacktown, Prospect, Doonside, Rooty Hill, Minchinbury, Colyton, St Clair and North St Marys. The electorate of Chifley is cosmopolitan and multicultural and is distinguished by the large number of young people and significant numbers of senior citizens. Its distinctive feature is the number of people who have moved or are moving into the electorate.

This is the centenary year of two great Australian Prime Ministers, two great Australians and two great leaders of the Australian Labor Party. I refer, of course, to John Curtin and Ben Chifley. I should like to say a little about Joseph Benedict Chifley. I cannot, of course, claim to have known him. Indeed, at the time of Ben Chifley assuming the prime ministership, I was taking a more substantial form than a gleam in my mother's eye. However, as a young man I read Chifley's biography by Crisp and was deeply impressed by the example provided by Chifley. In this centenary year I fondly hope that some of my younger constituents will similarly be inspired.

In October 1941, Labor assumed office under John Curtin and Chifley became Treasurer. Without a doubt he was Australia's greatest Treasurer, although I suspect that Chifley would demur to Scullin and Theodore. His achievements as Treasurer include the introduction of widow's pensions and unemployment, sickness and hospital benefits. Perhaps his greatest contribution as Treasurer was to marshal the financial resources of Australia to maximise Australia's contribution to the war effort at a time when the conservative parties, the precursors of the Liberal and National parties, had so badly betrayed the trust and faith placed in them.

Chifley was also Minister for Post-war Reconstruction. He became Prime Minister on 13 July 1945, retaining the portfolio of Treasury as well. He led his party to victory in the 1946 election. The achievements of his Government include the beginning of the mass migration scheme and the establishment of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority, Trans-Australia Airlines, the Stevedoring Industry Board and the Joint Coal Board, the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, the nationalisation of Qantas Airways Ltd and overseas telecommunications, and support for Indonesian independence from the Dutch. If I have one misgiving, perhaps those like me who remember 11 November 1975 would rather not have seen proportional voting introduced for the Senate. I congratulate my colleague, the honourable member for Calare (Mr Simmons) and the Bathurst City Council on the centenary celebrations they have organised. I sincerely hope that Blacktown and Penrith councils will be able to organise celebrations on a lesser scale.

Until recently, I was proud to be Deputy Mayor of the great city of Blacktown comprising some 200,000 people. I was very proud that Blacktown was the first council in New South Wales to introduce a system for the payment of rates in seven equal instalments. In its first year of operation the system secured a 50 per cent adoption rate, which is proof of its enormous popularity. With great respect, I suggest that the underlying assumptions behind the introduction of the scheme are applicable equally to State and Federal authorities.

I was pleased to be involved in the establishment of the greening of the City of Blacktown committee. I commend the work of that committee and the success it has achieved. Specifically, I mention one project, the Nurragingy Reserve. Indeed, I would be very proud to say that this was my idea. Unfortunately, it was not, However, I can say that I became a very enthusiastic advocate of the project, which captured my imagination. This area of approximately 90 hectares is to be developed as a bicentennial project from funds supplied by Blacktown City Council and both Federal and State governments. The reserve will include 13 individual picnic areas where families can enjoy barbecues and outings, three group picnic areas which can be reserved for the exclusive use of clubs and organisations, natural bushland and an urban forest, artificial lakes, gardens, walking trails, bicycle trails, carparks, public conveniences and maintenance yards. Some $2,182,028 has been allocated to the project with over $1.5m being provided under the Federal Government's community employment program. Some 166 persons have obtained employment on the project.

This Government, Blacktown City Council, the people of Chifley and those who are working on the project can be assured that we are providing a wonderful social asset which will be enjoyed by generations of Australians. I trust that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Willis) and Blacktown Council will provide an appropriate opening function. The Blacktown City Council, in consultation with the Dharruk Aboriginal Land Council, Blacktown Historical Committee and the Blacktown Bicentenary Committee have officially named the area Nurragingy Reserve after one of Blacktown's best known historical figures. Nurragingy was a member of the local Aboriginal Dharruk tribe and was one of the first Aborigines to receive a land grant in his own right from the colonial government in approximately 1819.

I believe it is appropriate that I should briefly mention the infamous record of the previous Liberal-National Party Government and the record of the first Hawke Labor Government. The Fraser Government was conceived in blood-the blood of the former leader of the Opposition, Sir Billy Snedden-and delivered in a dark cloud of deceit and duplicity which rent asunder long-standing conventions. Whilst continually blaming the Whitlam Government, Fraser and his Liberal-National Party Government presided over an unprecedented period of confrontation, when Australian was pitted against Australian, an unprecedented period of economic stagnation and mismanagement. The rewards went to the privileged few and the brunt was borne by the many, particularly the disadvantaged in our society. Nothing became Malcolm Fraser nor humanised him more than the news of his humiliating defeat. The nation rejoiced.

Bob Hawke had promised national reconstruction and reconciliation. I sincerely believe that if one had taken a poll of Federal parliamentary members of the ALP at the time they would not have predicted the outstanding success achieved on the economic front in a short 21 months in office. Confrontation and division were replaced by consensus. This Hawke Government has consulted widely. It not only governs with the support of the trade union movement but also with that of the business community. The results have been dramatic. Double-digit inflation has been halved. A negative growth economy has been replaced by one of the fastest growing economies of the free world. Banking is being deregulated. The Government is poised to embark on reform of the taxation system. This taxation mess largely has been the legacy of successive Liberal-National Party governments in 30 of the previous 35 years. It is the ordinary men and women of Australia, through the pay-as-you-earn system, who carry an unfair burden of taxation because they do not have the opportunity to minimise their taxation. This reform will be achieved without increasing the overall incidence of taxation. I welcome it and regret that former Liberal-National Party governments continually spoke up about reform but never did anything about it.

We are privileged in Chifley to have many young Australians. I am deeply committed to the concept of equality of opportunity for them and for all Australians. We have many fine schools and facilities in Chifley. However, I do not necessarily believe that this guarantees equality of education. I am dissatisfied with the low participation rates of our students in the last two years of high school. I do not presently have the answers, but I believe the role of teachers is not merely to possess expert knowledge but to have the real ability to reach out to students, to communicate that knowledge and to instil an interest, enthusiasm and understanding for the subject. Teaching is an interesting area. It is the only area where the inputs-the students rather than the teachers-are blamed for the outputs. Nevertheless, I recognise that there are many dedicated teachers in Chifley and I look forward to meeting them and discussing solutions. I am determined to achieve results. It was a pity that the State Government's proposals for a senior high school at Whalan were torpedoed. The John Paul II High School stands as a shining example of what can be achieved in the west.

Equality of opportunity for employment is a major issue within the electorate of Chifley. I take pride in this Government's distinguished record of economic management and job creation, but I am far from satisfied. Unemployment and rising interest rates with their effect on mortgage repayments tear at the social fabric of our community. It is the unemployed who are the victims, not the villains. I have many people in my electorate who are desperately seeking work. I seek jobs, jobs and more jobs for my electorate. I believe that the Federal, State and local governments have an historic opportunity to transform the western suburbs into the industrial heartland of Sydney. I hope to be at the forefront of seizing that opportunity. The Minister for Industry, Commerce and Technology (Senator Button) has, for the first time, sought to heed the numerous reports on manufacturing industry and has started to rationalise and restructure industry. Once again we had the situation, particularly in the 1960s and late 1970s, where the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Party of Australia in government did absolutely nothing, providing years of wasted opportunity. I have confidence in Australian invention,innovation and the skills of our work force. I believe that government direction and assistance is required to provide growth and more jobs for manufacturing industries. I suspect that neither serendipity nor market forces will generate the growth that we need. We need not only to cut out jobs but also to create them. I look forward to making an input into the Caucus infrastructure committee.

I am an optimist, but even the most optimistic prediction still leaves us a long way short of full employment-indeed, we are unlikely to return to it for some time. It has been rightly said that the accord is central to the Government's management of the economy. In many ways the accord represents what the trade union movement is prepared to forgo for itself for the greater opportunities of the unemployed. I welcome that sacrifice and commitment. However, as a society we must realistically face up the issue of long term unemployment. As I said before, the unemployed are the victims, not the villains. I hope that the Government has the opportunity to review the unemployment benefit with a view to further increasing it. As a society, we need to rethink our attitudes to work. I do not think that the traditional view of a job being 35 or 40 hours a week will survive.

I should like to thank the senior citizens clubs of Mount Druitt, Rooty Hill, Doonside and Blacktown. I was thrilled to be invited to their functions and I appreciated the warmth of their hospitality and friendship. It was, nevertheless, quite disgusting during the election campaign to witness the distress and trauma that these good people suffered as a result of the scare tactics adopted by the Opposition parties when discussing the assets test. These are the people in our community who should be esteemed and supported rather than preyed upon.

I am pleased to have been associated with the Mount Druitt Hospital from its inception and have been pleased to serve as Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors with His Lordship Bishop Murphy as Chairman. From the outset we have sought to treat the whole person and instil a team approach to the delivery of services. Our most important committee of the board is on patient care review.

I must say that I abhor the current doctors' dispute and was stunned that the Opposition should come out in support of the rebel specialists. What this dispute is all about is: Firstly, money; secondly, who should control the hospital system, be it doctor or state; and, thirdly, whether Medicare patients should have an equality of access to the best medical treatment. I could give many examples, but I shall give only one of where a doctor in surgery halted proceedings on the patient-a child-to ring up the parents from the operating theatre to determine whether the child was privately insured or a Medicare patient.

I am concerned that there are many people in our community who need medical attention but because of the dispute they are not getting it. There are children whose fractures will never be properly set; there are others waiting for the onslaught of another attack, with attendant pain and suffering, so that they may be classified as emergency cases. I regret that the ladies of Our Lady of Consolation Nursing Home and Doonside Nursing Home are being shuffled from one hospital to another. I cannot rule out the possibility that some may have died in the process. The attitude of these rebel specialists is callous and totally indifferent to individual dignity and needs. The whole community condemns them and their advocates, the Liberal Party.

Mr Speaker, I sincerely look forward to the next three years and the opportunity to speak out on behalf of my constituents. I sincerely hope that I will live up to the trust and responsibility placed upon me. I thank the House.

Mr SPEAKER —Before I call the honourable member for Hinkler, I remind the House that this is the honourable member's maiden speech and I ask the House to extend to him the usual courtesy.