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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 12026

Ms HALL (4:49 PM) —Given that we only have 10 minutes and there are to be two speakers, my contribution to this debate will be very brief.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—The honourable member should know that there is no limit, according to the standing orders.

Ms HALL —Mr Deputy Speaker, please. These bills will be returned to the House a bit before five o’clock, so I will make my contribution very quickly. The Nation-building Funds Bill 2008 and related bills signal a new era in relationships between the Commonwealth and the states. The legislation also signals a new era in providing much needed funds and infrastructure for the people of Australia. The legislation is about partnerships and will lead to stopping the blame game and creating an environment where Australians can obtain the education that they need. The education fund was established in the 2008 budget. Australians’ health needs will be looked after through the health fund, which was established in the 2008 budget. Also, the infrastructure fund will provide much needed infrastructure in Australia.

This legislation is of vital importance, and it shows the difference between the Howard government’s approach to education and health and the Rudd government’s approach. The Howard government allowed skills shortages to develop in Australia. It did not address the educational needs of Australians and did not put Australia in a position to encompass the jobs and the intellectual needs of the world that we live in today. That is totally different from what the Rudd government is doing. You only had to go to the COAG meeting at the weekend to observe the difference. There has been an enormous injection of funds into the states for health, housing and education. There will be a $6.4 billion investment in health and hospital funding, and that is included in the national healthcare agreement. That is very different from the previous government’s approach. It ripped money out of our hospitals instead of investing in them and then blamed the states for the fact that hospitals were struggling to meet the needs of the people that visited them. This is all about ending the blame game and rebuilding our hospitals.

There are partnerships between local government and the federal government, with $300 million given to councils throughout Australia the week before last. That showed a recognition of local government. COAG negotiations at the weekend showed a very mature approach to the relationships between the states and the Commonwealth. The government will be delivering much needed infrastructure here in Australia.

The previous Howard government allowed bottlenecks to develop around our ports. It did not address the needs of all Australians in all electorates. Rather, it pork-barrelled into National Party electorates. If I remember correctly, just before the election it announced 32 projects under the Regional Partnerships program in 28 coalition electorates. That is far different from the very transparent approach set out in this legislation. This legislation will ensure that infrastructure, education and health funds are established and can operate to benefit all Australians.

From what I have listened to of this debate, the contributions from members on the other side have been very myopic in their approach. Those members have tried to find problems with this legislation, which will benefit not just a few Australians but all Australians. This legislation will ensure that 133,000 jobs are created within Australia and will make sure that Australia is in a position to meet the needs of the future. The Rudd government has stepped up to the mark with its economic security package, which millions of Australians will benefit from next week when payments start going into their bank accounts. People are able to recognise that there is a financial crisis on and that we need a visionary government, a government that is prepared to train doctors, a government that is prepared to invest in education and a government that will govern for all Australians. I commend the legislation to the House.