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Monday, 5 June 1995
Page: 1071

Mr GRIFFIN (6.21 p.m.) —I would like to take this opportunity to relate to the House a number of events that have occurred recently in my electorate. I recently represented the Minister for Human Services and Health (Dr Lawrence) at the opening of the refurbishment of the Cranbourne Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service office. The CRS assists people with injury or a disability to gain and keep paid employment and to live more independently in the Australian community. Injury and illness isolate a large number of Australians from the work force and the community. This represents a major cost to individuals, industry and the community as a whole, and there are real cost benefits for everyone when effective rehabilitation achieves vocational outcomes and facilitates independent participation in the community for its clients.

  The CRS clearly represents a continued federal government commitment to provide to people with a disability the same opportunities as any other member of Australian society. The CRS is the longest established and largest rehabilitation provider in Australia, with 33 sites in Victoria and more than 170 nationally, offering a service to customers on a local, statewide or national basis as well as establishing a reputation as a leader in the delivery of community based rehabilitation services.

  It is a cost-efficient and effective Commonwealth government organisation which has maintained a high rate of employment outcomes from vocational programs, with nearly 60 per cent of people completing these programs achieving full-time or part-time employment. A study by Anutech in 1994 of the CRS calculated that, for every $1 of taxpayers' money spent on the CRS, it saved the Australian economy $9.

  The refurbishment of the Cranbourne CRS site and the subsequent formation of the South Gippsland CRS region, incorporating the CRS presence at Wonthaggi, recognise the community based aspect of CRS service provision and respond to the needs of the local community in the Cranbourne area, one of the strongest growth areas of Melbourne. Since the establishment of the CRS site in Cranbourne some three years ago, strong links have been established and maintained with a range of local community agencies in the Cranbourne area. Local employers are also increasingly realising the benefits of using CRS services and a number of businesses in the region are now customers of the Cranbourne CRS unit.

  Another event of significance that occurred recently in the local area was the opening of the extension of the electrified rail line from Dandenong through to Cranbourne. This was the first extension of the electrified lines in metropolitan Melbourne for some 20 years since the Pakenham line was opened. It represented over $27 million of federal government funds through the better cities program and led to the development of new stations at Lyndhurst, Merinda Park and Cranbourne.

  It was great to see the Prime Minister (Mr Keating) in the electorate at the opening of the Dandenong station, but there have been a number of problems surrounding the development of this project and the actions of the state government on this issue. The state government, which has had responsibility for none of the funding provided for this project, even though it is a joint program, was in a situation whereby it slavishly and strategically attempted to dominate the publicity and to take the credit for what occurred on this occasion. Free tickets were issued to thousands of residents in the Cranbourne area. On the admission of the Victorian Minister for Public Transport, Alan Brown, this was the first time this had ever occurred. I am sure that you, Mr Deputy Speaker Reid, wish that the state government would do something like this in the area of Bendigo.

  There was a sausage sizzle and a range of other activities on the day. There was a caravan on site staffed by PTC staff on the day and for a couple of weeks after. This is interesting because it is going to be an unstaffed station, but for the first couple of weeks I guess it is better than nothing. The stations are state of the art except for one thing—they do not have toilets. The stations are quite a walk from any toilets in the local area that could be used by people using the stations. But, despite all that, the service is proving to be a success.

  It was urgently needed and required. It is very pleasing to be part of a federal government that was able to fund it when the state government was not prepared to do it. Two state ministers and five backbenchers attended. There was extensive media coverage of the activities of the state members under the circumstances, and some recognition of the federal government's role but not particularly from the state members involved.

  Another initiative has been the development of the Department of Social Security office and the Cranbourne CES office—both things I sought to have instigated prior to my election and subsequently followed through after my election. The CES office is now in full operation and is servicing the needs of constituents in the area. The Department of Social Security office is due to be completed and be operational within the next month. This will help provide Cranbourne with much needed services in order to build its identity and its role as a major centre within the south-eastern growth corridor.

  On the subject of unemployment—an issue which is of concern to all members of the House—I think we have to get it into perspective. The figures which relate to the south-eastern area of Melbourne are very important in getting it into perspective. I was elected in March 1993, and I have the figures for the March 1993 quarter and for the most recent quarter released by the Department of Employment, Education and Training, which is the December 1994 quarter, as they relate to significant elements of my electorate. I would like to read some of the figures into Hansard of the improvement that has occurred over that time.

  The unemployment figure for Cranbourne in the March 1993 quarter was 3,383 people, which was 8.2 per cent of the work force, and in the December 1994 quarter it was 3,008, which was 6.4 per cent of the work force—a drop of 375 people or 1.8 per cent. But over that time the labour force within Cranbourne had increased by 7,500 to 8,000 individuals. So there has been a major improvement in employment in the area. The figure for Dandenong in the December 1994 quarter was 12.4 per cent, down from 14.9 per cent in the March 1993 quarter—a drop of 818 people unemployed, which is 2.5 per cent. The figure for Springvale is down from 13.7 per cent to 12.1 per cent—a drop of 738 people on unemployment benefits.

  For the rural components of my electorate, there was a major drop of 4.3 per cent in the Bass shire area, 2.3 per cent in Phillip Island and a whopping 6.8 per cent in Wonthaggi. When you add it all up, you are talking about 2,213 fewer people being unemployed in that area—a drop of 13.4 per cent in the number of unemployed over that period.

  So it is a major effort. It is evidence that the government's priorities are working in an area that is depressed both rurally and in the outer industrial area of Melbourne. It is evidence that the government's policies are working and are continuing to work. It is something that the House should note. We should have more recognition from both sides of the House that we are getting it right, and we will continue to get it right in the lead-up to the next election.