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Monday, 1 December 2008
Page: 12076


Ms BURKE (8:40 PM) —Tonight in the grievance debate I also want to talk about infrastructure. But I want to talk about it from a federal perspective and praise the current Rudd government, which has rightly placed infrastructure and nation building high on its reform agenda. One failure of the previous government was that it did not invest in nationally significant infrastructure programs. This is a big issue within my electorate of Chisholm. The Rudd government has proven in its first 12 months of office that it is committed to implementing its long-term vision to improve local and national infrastructure across Australia and it is serious about bringing national leadership and new thinking to planning, financing and building our economic infrastructure.

I welcome the government’s recent announcements concerning the Regional and Local Community Infrastructure Program. This $300 million commitment will boost local economic development and support jobs in communities across the country. This announcement will allow local governments to get on with the job of addressing their infrastructure backlogs and delivering quality facilities to communities. I want to commend all of those people who participated in local government elections across Victoria at the weekend and wish all those newly elected councillors well. Going into local government is something that I do not think I ever could have done. It all seems a bit too hard, to be quite honest. The two main councils in my electorate of Chisholm are Whitehorse and Monash, and they have received grants of $554,000 and $570,000 respectively under the community infrastructure program. The councillors have welcomed this, and I look forward to working with them on many infrastructure programs in my neck of the woods.

Chisholm is an electorate which is technically defined as ‘inner metropolitan’. When my parents bought there it was the absolute boondocks, but now it is inner metropolitan. It is scary that that has happened in the short 42 years since my parents moved out there. From Box Hill North down one end of my electorate to the north and Oakleigh and Clayton in the south and from Glen Waverley and Mount Waverley in the east to Burwood and Chadstone in the west, it is the ‘burbs’, and I am proud to represent them. It is an obvious reality that suburban electorates such as Chisholm, which surround capital cities, are where the majority of Australians actually choose to live. It is therefore imperative that these communities have access to an acceptable standard of infrastructure. I would contend that under the previous government suburban Australia missed out. We were continually overlooked with regard to infrastructure but we face as many infrastructure challenges, and they are compounded by the fact that suburbia is where the majority of people actually reside.

There are a number of major projects in my electorate that I want to speak of tonight. The first, and I have spoken about this previously in this House—and I hope I will not have to continue, but I probably will for a long time—is the Huntingdale-Rowville train line. We desperately need an extension of the Huntingdale-Rowville train line. Currently, the train line stops at Huntingdale and everybody has to get off the train and onto a bus. Why this is so important to me is that the majority of people getting off at Huntingdale are students going to the Clayton campus of Monash University. There are 20,000 students at the Clayton campus, and in excess of 3,000 people work there. As an ex-student of Monash—a terrific institution in my electorate and one I am very proud of—it is just ridiculous that the main thoroughfare from the city out to the suburbs ends and then you have to get a bus. It is too far to walk. I have done it on several occasions, unfortunately, and I know it is way too far to walk.

Beyond the university campus, which would be greatly enhanced by this train line, are the growing eastern suburbs out to Rowville. There are many more people living out in that neck of the woods and there is no appropriate transport. We need a heavy rail line. This would greatly reduce the number of cars on the roads, and that would bring down greenhouse gases. It would greatly assist the students, many of whom are international students living in the inner city and travelling by train. It is a great impost on them. You literally can wait for three or four buses before you can get on one, after you have been on a train, to finally get to university.

The Monash University Student Association and the Eastern Transport Coalition have been campaigning about the project for many years, lobbying both state and federal governments to commit funding. The Clayton campus at Monash has 20,000 students and 3,000 staff, and this would greatly alleviate the problem of access to the campus. If you have not been there, the Clayton campus at Monash is in the middle of nowhere, so to get there most people end up driving, and the cost of a parking permit on the campus has gone through the roof. What ends up happening is that a lot of students just do not come to their lectures and really miss out, so we need to have this bottleneck addressed. I have been inundated with postcards and emails in respect of this train line, and I really think that we need to address this problem sooner rather than later.

The other issue is a bit closer to home and a bit more localised, and that is the Aqualink pool at Box Hill. We have had great discussions about pools within our communities. At the other end of my electorate, at Monash, two great pools were threatened with closure, and the community got together and said, ‘No, we actually need our suburban local pools.’ Two of them had been funded previously by returned servicemen, and again they were a great testament to our local community. They had been there for a long time. The community outrage has saved those two pools, and we are now seeing those rebuilt. But at the other end of the electorate, at Box Hill, the only outdoor pool in that area looks as if it might be up for the chop, and this is a great tragedy to people in the suburbs. Not everybody has a pool in their backyard in the suburbs—even in my neck of the woods, where there are some fairly well-to-do homes—and we need somewhere where community groups can go, where kids can go and where people can enjoy it.

More importantly, it is the hub where the majority of people in my electorate learn to swim. Certainly my children started their swimming lessons at Aqualink. The Surrey Park Swimming School is a terrific organisation that commits to teaching local kids and also runs a fantastic program that has turned out some great Olympic champions. Because of the lack of a terrific 50-metre pool facility in our area—we have a 25-metre pool, and whilst it is terrific it is not meeting the needs of the area—the club is spending an exponential amount of money bussing kids to and from pools for squad and having to hire other places. We go around the world trying to get a school pool and another community pool there, and we are competing with other clubs. It is certainly holding the club and the area back.

I think this is a great infrastructure development that would greatly benefit my community across the board. We do not need to talk about the benefits to fitness and exercise from having great community access. I will show my true colours: I am a card-carrying member of Aqualink Box Hill and regularly use the gym and the pool there when I am not in Canberra. I am quite a regular, and most people know me because I go very red when I exercise and everybody is worried that I am going to have a heart attack; it is just that I go very red. So I want to testify greatly to the value of this facility, but it needs some extra money to get it on its way and to protect outdoor water access for the community. We would be greatly distressed if this went. The pool is on the site of what is known as the old Surrey Dive, which has been going for a century. The old Surrey Dive was literally a big rock pit where the old quarry was. We do not need to have those standards anymore, but we still need a pool in the suburbs that is accessible to all people.

The other big issue in my neck of the woods is Box Hill Hospital. Box Hill Hospital is a terrific institution, but like a lot of the things within the suburbs it has been there for the last 50-plus years and it is showing its age. This is a hospital with enormous throughput, and not just from my area. The hospital accommodates people from as far away as Tasmania. Certainly people from the member opposite’s electorate come down from McMillan to go to Box Hill Hospital because the infrastructure and the facilities are there. But it is ageing, and we desperately need an upgrade. The state government has committed to rebuilding the whole hospital. It will be a very expensive project, but it is one that needs to be done. It will greatly improve health services across the eastern suburbs and more importantly, as I say, across all of Victoria. A stronger health service in Victoria will improve outcomes for everybody. I represent a great multicultural electorate in the eastern suburbs, and the hospital has adapted very well to multilingual facilities, particularly in obstetrics. It is wonderful that somebody who is fluent only in Chinese can give birth and not feel terrified or scared, because the facilities are there and the doctors and nurses there can speak in their language.

These suburban infrastructure projects need priority. They need attention as much as regional and remote ones do. The people in my electorate have been suffering for lack of attention for a long time and, if we can improve access to community transport and to community health centres, we will be improving the lives of everybody. And that will take a cost burden off the government because we will be reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We will be making the health outcomes of individuals better. We will be reducing obesity. So it is a win-win for all, and I am calling upon the state and federal governments to get together. I know I will be talking about these continually because we need to do more to ensure that the lives of everybody in Australia, no matter where you choose to live, are looked after. And, yes, we are better off because we have access to these things, but, if they degrade to the point where they are no longer serviceable, then we all lose. (Time expired)


The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr AJ Schultz)—Order! Before I call the member for McMillan, can I remind all members they have an obligation to address their remarks through the chair.