Pages tagged "Speeches"

  • The Hon. Julia Gillard

    I rise tonight to pay tribute to the Hon. Julia Gillard. This week marks four years since Julia Gillard was sworn into office as Prime Minister, on 24 June 2010. So, yesterday, I paused to remember what that day meant to me, to my community and to this country. Julia Gillard represented Lalor in this place for 15 years. It is indeed an honour to follow her in representing our community. Back in 2010, Australia had its first female Prime Minister. We had done what so few countries had done. At the time I was proud, as an ALP member, as a resident of Lalor and as an Australian, that we had done this great thing.

    I had the privilege as a principal to see an audience of young adults and adolescents listen to Julia speak at my then school, Galvin Park Secondary College, in Julia's, now my, electorate. It was an extraordinary experience for those young people, the teachers and invited community members. I watched that day the faces of the young people as she spoke about the power of education and the impact her school life had had on her life opportunities.

    She also spoke of visiting a school in the US with Barack Obama on a then recent trip. Together they had made an unscheduled visit to a classroom. She spoke of watching the faces of young Afro-Americans as they looked into the face of their President and saw 'like'—saw themselves reflected there. As she spoke I watched the same thing. I watched young people, seeing someone from a background like theirs—their local member—speaking to them about her journey to the Prime Ministership and what she wanted to achieve as a Labor Prime Minister. I saw girls looking into the face of a woman who was their Prime Minister. I later spoke to students about that experience. They were lined up outside my office to share their excitement and their thoughts and to thank me for having arranged it. It was interesting. The themes were not about gender; they were about possibility and opportunity and the value of hard work. Students further committed or recommitted to their studies that day in my office. They had been inspired to believe in themselves and in the power of education.

    Tomorrow also marks a year to the day since Julia ceased being our Prime Minister. And this too is worth some reflection. She gave a very dignified farewell speech that night. I particularly remember these words:

    … I have prevailed to ensure that this country is made stronger and smarter and fairer …
    And I remember her message to the caucus:

    … don’t lack the guts, don’t lack the fortitude, don’t lack the resilience …
    She was speaking about the Labor agenda and the then upcoming election, but I think it is fair to say that that message was taken on and that that is what our caucus, led by our leader, Bill Shorten, is now doing. I am proud to be part of a caucus that is continually on its feet here and out in our communities at home, speaking up for the people most affected by the decisions of this government. For my part, I was shocked when reading the budget and deeply concerned when I saw the analysis of the impact on women. So I got on my feet and highlighted that, and I did so again in the consideration in detail, inspired by Julia Gillard.

    In terms of the shades of grey and the sophisticated way Julia suggested we need to look at gender issues in this country, Bill Shorten and the f ederal Labor Party are modelling and leading in this too. This week we have yet another Labor woman promoted to the shadow ministry. Amanda Rishworth joins Tanya Plibersek, Jenny Macklin, Penny Wong, Catherine King, Sharon Bird, Kate Ellis, Michelle Rowland, Julie Collins, Claire Moore and Jan McLucas. When I look across the chamber every day, I am reminded that Labor governs for all Australians. And, when I hear our members and senators on their feet defending the legacy of Labor governments across our history, defending the less privileged, defending the hardworking, defending the policies that strove to make Australia a more equitable country, I hear our Labor values of fairness, opportunity and compassion reflected in our caucus.

    There is a disappointment, however, for me today—particularly for young adults, including those who listened to Julia at Galvin Park a few years ago— that our current government demonstrates its values of exclusion and division both by the membership of its ministry and, particularly, through its cruel and unfair budget.

  • Budget Impact on Lalor Families

    I rise today to highlight the inconsistencies of our Prime Minister and those opposite and how they will devastate Australian families, especially in my electorate of Lalor. I want to look at it in simple terms. Tony Abbott promised no new taxes, but now Australians will be slugged with a petrol tax. He promised no cuts to health, but now Australians will be hit with a $7 GP tax and he has cut billions from health. He promised to help families with the real cost of raising children, but now he has stripped $7.5 billion in family payments, cutting $6,000 from some families' budgets.

    Twenty years ago I was a single mum raising three kids and working part time with the family benefits tax supplement. What would it have meant to my budget? I was a taxpayer paying income tax and GST, but under these conditions I would not have made the mortgage payment. My children and I would have lost our home.

    This will hurt Australians—not just families but small business, big business, everyone—because what those opposite fail to understand is the basic economics that taking money away from families equals less spending ability and less money in our local economy.

    While Tony Abbott considers what it actually means to make a promise, whether it be 'core' or in writing, ordinary Australians will be left pondering how this budget of broken promises will impact on them. Despite saying this government would not leave anyone behind, the Prime Minister has forgotten low- and middle-income families. Labor always fights for fairness, and I will fight for my community.

  • Werribee Mercy Hospital

    As previously raised by me in this place, our community of Lalor is well served by our Werribee Mercy Hospital. This hospital has a proud history of servicing the community and has worked hard to develop master plans for the future provision of services. Labor is proud to have worked with the hospital in recent years to secure much-needed funding, particularly capital funding. Labor did so knowing these facilities were part of a well-thought-out master plan, designed to ensure that over time the hospital continues its excellent service to the area.

    But I am sad to report that some of the recently opened new services funded under Labor are now under threat of being compromised. In 2011, Labor allocated around $30 million for the new subacute and rehab centre, the Catherine McAuley Centre, which opened in February this year—a centre that was obviously needed, as every bed has been occupied, every day, since the first week of operation. This centre has proven a great boon for the hospital. When I met with the hospital executive recently, they explained that this facility has improved patient outcomes, with less patients requiring readmittance after discharge; it has delivered better rehabilitation outcomes; and it has also enabled acute beds to be utilised more effectively. This is good news as the outcome is increased health provision for our community. It is good news because patients are requiring less readmission after discharge, an aim of the centre.

    Hospital facilities need to be built; that is the first step. Then of course they need to be staffed. Labor put in place a national agreement to provide operational funding in the interim until the new National Health Agreements were due to commence. These arrangements have been ignored by this government. This year's budget has put those health agreements at risk and the government's own budget papers show health funding has been cut. The budget paper also shows $200 million in savings has been found by ceasing the National Partnership Agreement on Improving Hospital Services on 1 July 2015. This agreement was designed to improve access to public hospital services, including elective surgery, emergency department services and subacute care. It was due to run until June 2017. Based on charts in the budget and evidence to the Senate from the Health Department, it appears that over 10 years the Commonwealth would be contributing $50 billion less to hospitals than if it kept Labor's funding arrangements in place. This $50 billion less across 10 years means $5 billion a year as an average.

    This has put a cloud over health provision in our area, and indeed across Australia. The Werribee Mercy was built 20 years ago to service a population of a projected 90,000 residents. We now have a population of 200,000 residents. As a community we are very much still in an expansion mode. Remember that Wyndham is the fastest growing area in Victoria, if not Australia. This government was basically silent on health initiatives in the lead-up to last year's election—no new ideas, no detailed planning for the future. In the budget delivered just six months after winning office, all we have seen from this government is cuts to health funding. For the Mercy group, cuts in the order of $30 million over the forward estimates are expected. So the hospital is now facing the need to make decisions. How will they cut the cloth to fit with less money? The only way I can see to do so is to cut services. What is the logical service that could be targeted: the new subacute and rehabilitation centre.

    Labor has a proud history of providing for expansion in Lalor, having also funded a new GP Superclinic, a Headspace centre and an $11 million clinical teaching and research facility. This clinical teaching and research facility is allowing for medical staff to be trained in the west of Melbourne for the first time. It is a great initiative not just for the research capacity it brings but once doctors and nurses have worked in our region they are more likely to stay, assisting with the long-term medical staff shortage pressure we have experienced over time.

    As a Labor member I am rightly proud that we funded much-needed health services for my local area. In a region with 92 per cent bulk-billing rates, the community relies on a well-resourced public system. The sad thing is Labor proudly invests and then the coalition government proudly cuts. We have heard the Prime Minister and the health minister stand by their budget, despite key stakeholders like the AMA denouncing it. We have heard them time and time again say their cruel budget is necessary, when this rationale is predicated on a false budget emergency.

    Not only does this budget cut hospital operational funds; the savings this government appears determined to achieve hit at every level of the system. The government is introducing cuts to preventative health programs, imposing barriers to accessing primary care through additional out-of-pocket expenses, increasing the costs of medicines, freezing rebates for specialist services, cutting public dental services and, of course, cutting billions of dollars from the hospital system. These are not sensible savings. They are not savings that are reinvested back into strengthening Medicare or providing better access to services.

    I will say again: the Werribee Mercy Hospital serves our community well, but in a growing community the current arrangements are inadequate. We need government to invest in health provision for the hardworking community members of Lalor. The Mercy has identified an immediate need for six additional operating rooms, 56 new acute care beds, eight critical care beds, 29 mental health beds, 10 maternity beds and 10 neonatal cots. The provision of these would allow for a great health service in our area. An area that is rapidly expanding needs these critical services. We need our hospital to build the economies of scale to deliver efficient and necessary health care.

    Other areas in Victoria have recently received funding for expansion. I am not suggesting facilities there are not required. It is just that Lalor also needs its fair share. Bendigo, with a population of just over 100,000, has received $630 million for a new hospital. Ballarat, with a population just under 100,000, recently received $46.5 million to expand services in the hospital. Geelong, with a population of around 250,000, is in line for a second hospital. I congratulate these services for securing funding, but I think Wyndham, with a population of 200,000, deserves better.

    Werribee Mercy's catchment is now the largest in Victoria without a major hospital located in the area. The Mercy does not have a supporting tertiary hospital that it can transfer patients to in a timely manner. With no tertiary level hospital in the Wyndham region, the average distance to the six closest hospitals with an intensive care unit is around 35 kilometres. The Mercy provides 40.6 per cent of Wyndham residents with health care. The other 59.4 per cent need to go out of the area for their hospital care. The Mercy currently serves only 48 per cent of birthing women in Wyndham, where 80 babies a week are born. At times, it needs to provide level 5 hospital care for newborns when it is only equipped to operate as level 2.

    The new financial year is just over a week away. This will not be the last time I lobby for additional health resources for our community. But with only eight days to resolve the immediate issue of recurrent funding for the brand new $30 million Catherine McAuley rehabilitation centre, I call on the health minister, Peter Dutton, and the Victorian health minister, David Davis, to come together and resolve this issue. They need to ensure the Catherine McAuley rehabilitation centre can be staffed appropriately and continue to meet its intended outcomes. The demand is clear; the facility is built. What we need is a government willing to fund its continued use.

  • Trade Support Loans Bill 2014

    As many in the House know, before I joined this place I was a school principal. I am also the mother of three sons, two of whom have been apprentices. As a teacher and principal, I worked with students and my own children to plan and secure work placements that would build their skills and give them the best chance at securing a trial for an apprenticeship.

    This meant writing to or ringing local tradespeople, sometimes up to 40 plumbing companies. I worked to enrol students in VET and TAFE courses to pursue training, work placements and certification to boost their chances of securing an apprenticeship. As a year-level and senior-years co-ordinator, I was responsible for cohorts of students' pathways and work-experience engagements, trade tasters and work-ready programs. I saw the pride in the young students I taught when they secured an apprenticeship. As a mother I shared, in a much more personal way, the excitement and promise an apprenticeship creates. An apprenticeship was their pathway to the future, a secure qualification that set them up.

    I know too, first-hand, that being an apprentice is hard. The minimal trainee wage is hard to live on. Most continue to be supported by their families whilst an apprentice. The families in Lalor work hard, often for a modest wage, but they are mostly happy to support their children in this way, where they can. In addition to receiving a training wage, apprentices often have other financial pressures placed upon them. They made need to contribute to the cost of their TAFE courses, incur travel costs and purchase tools.

    The Tools For Your Trade program went some way to addressing the monetary pressures faced by apprentices. No-one really likes lending their tools! Small businesses found it difficult to ensure the apprentices had the right tools to make a useful contribution. Tools that are for general use are often not cared for like tools you may own yourself. That is why this program was so valuable. I know from my own home the excitement this program created—the message it sent to young people that their work, their commitment to their trade, was valued by the community, that the community had a vested interest in their success and completion.

    A young carpenter, mechanic, landscaper, electrician and pastry cook, to name a few, all rely on specialist tools to do their work. The Tools For Your Trade program meant that apprentices could purchase tools whilst training. These tools enabled them to become more productive employees and also to value and care for their tools. We know there is a skills shortage in Australia and that is why we must ensure a vibrant and active apprenticeship system is in place.

    It is not easy to take on a young trainee in a small business. It places an administrative responsibility on the business, and not every apprentice ends up being a good fit for an employer. Over the years there have been lots of programs to support businesses and apprentices to make the skilling pathway easier. We have seen, in recent years, an over-reliance on the 457 visa to fill skill shortages. Surely this reliance could be reduced if we ensured our young people were skilled in the employment areas we need. Programs like Tools For Your Trade went some way to assist.

    While there is some merit in having the training costs picked up through a HECS style loan, why does this have to come at the cost of the Tools For Your Trade program? As a school principal and mother, I saw the pride in securing an apprenticeship. I also saw students return to school after six or so months when apprenticeships did not work out. I remember one young student who suffered terrible bullying in the workplace. This all came to a head after he was shot in the shoulder with a nail gun. A terrible situation, you will agree.

    Sometimes these young apprentices need support. The Australian Apprenticeships Mentoring Program was one such support program. It largely focused on the first year of an apprenticeship, the time when most dropouts occur. The Australian Apprenticeships website proudly lists the benefits of this program and provides a list of successful case studies, showing how a mentor program assists the business and apprentice to work through issues. There is, however, one very sad line on the program website. In a section titled, 'Who can apply for funding?', it states:

    The Australian Apprenticeships Mentoring Program is now closed to new applications. No further projects will be funded under this Program.
    It is a similar scenario with the Australian Apprenticeships Access Program and the Apprentice to Business Owner program, also now scrapped. These are further examples of this government's lack of real support for training. You can make noises about the young needing to learn or earn, but if there are no jobs and no training support, I am not sure how this can happen.

    Those opposite cite low wages as the main reason for non-completion and, in its place, want to put debt. I am not sure this will convince apprentices that they are earning more. And how will that debt be recouped? What will happen if an apprentice fails to complete their traineeship? Hopefully, from my experience, they will return to school. The trade support program means many will have accumulated a debt for a part-skill they are unlikely to use. They will end up leaving school with a debt already hanging over their heads.

    There is another group that has the potential to leave school with a debt. Some young Australians are actually lucky enough to commence their pathway to work through a school based apprenticeship. The trade support loans mean that someone as young as 16 may get saddled with a loan before they have even left the school gate. Why am I concerned with the young acquiring these debts? There is no provision in the legislation for them to have a parent or an adult with them when they sign up for the debt. This cannot happen at a bank or credit union, so why should these young people be put at risk without some form of protection? And with the government considering outsourcing the debt management to private providers, who knows how many may get caught up with a $20,000 loan and be left in the hands of private debt collectors, not all of whom are known to have compassion as part of their remit.

    There is also confusion within the government about the loan scheme, with government ministers showing confusion recently about the implementation. When asked about the scheme in question time on 2 June 2014, Minister Macfarlane said:

    There is no doubt that the loans are interest free. It gives me an opportunity to highlight the great regard and delight from industry in relation to the trade support loans. The loans, as the shadow minister knows, are indexed annually with CPI.
    He mentioned two loan interest measures in the same sentence. The department's website and the budget papers make it clear that loans will be indexed. I quote from Budget Paper No.2:

    Trade Support Loans will be provided at concessional interest rates and capped at $8,000 in the first year of the apprenticeship, $6,000 in the second, $4,000 in the third and $2,000 in the fourth.
    Loans will be indexed by the Consumer Price Index and repaid on an income-contingent basis through the taxation system, similar to the way HELP loans are repaid.

    This is not the only example of the government not being across the detail of budget initiatives. If they are not across the detail, how can we have faith in their ability to deliver the program? Some apprentices who drop out may never return to training and study, leaving them to a working life, most probably on a low income, with this trade debt always there. Some will never achieve a wage that allows them to repay the debt.

    There is another aspect of these trade loans that not many have mentioned: they are only available to those apprentices who are training for a skill on the National Skills Needs List. As discussed earlier, we do have a skills shortage in Australia. Most skills on the national needs list are weighted to the traditional male dominated industries—building, mining, telecommunications and the like. There is some call for hospitality and hairdressing, but with the list so heavily weighted to the male dominated industries, our young female trainees will not have access to the trade loan scheme. I also note that the skills list changes over time. So it is very difficult for careers guidance counsellors and schools to help prepare students for what will be supported and what will not.

    The government has already ceased the fee exemptions for childcare trainees. They have taken childcare support away from the mainly young mums wanting to return to study, and now young women are effectively being blocked from accessing this initiative, as poorly designed as it is.

    Last week, I met with the National Growth Areas Alliance, a group of councils that represent the high-growth communities across Australia. They drew to my attention the 2014-15 State of the Regions reportfrom the Australian Local Government Association. This report should sound the alarm to Minister Macfarlane about investing in skills and workforce development, particularly for young people in regional areas. The report identified the areas with the highest youth unemployment rate. It highlighted that youth unemployment is a persistent problem, particularly in regions in transition.

    It is more important than ever that the federal government supports our young people on their pathways to employment. We know that the trade loans scheme was an election promise, but we did not know that it would result in the minister decimating support to apprentices by taking the axe to other programs such as the Tools for your Trade payments program, the Australian Apprenticeships Access Program, the Australian Apprenticeships Mentoring Program and the Apprentice to Business Owner Program. I know, from my own experience, how excited young people get in the first and second years of their apprenticeship about the potential for them to become small business owners. I know that that program, and the support given to those young people to make that transition, was critical in them continuing in their trade beyond their apprenticeship.

    This government also axed the Youth Connections program which helped to give vulnerable young people a second chance to obtain training and employment. I have seen firsthand the success of this program on some of the most vulnerable in our community. Combined, despite the loan scheme, these cuts to programs are just not fair. On top of that, the Liberal state governments are implementing savage cuts to TAFE which have resulted in fees rising, courses being cut and the closure of TAFE campuses.

    The Abbott government is insisting that young people need to earn or learn, yet they are ripping away all the programs to support our young people into apprenticeships, employment and education. I suggest that the minister needs to look at supporting our young people on their pathways to employment instead of axing the mentoring and access programs that support them.

  • Melbourne International Horse Trials

    One of the great attributes we have in my electorate of Lalor is

    Werribee Park and its surrounds, home to the Werribee Open Range Zoo and the National Equestrian Centre Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Melbourne International Horse Trials held at the centre.

    I was thrilled to present the winning trophy to Shane Rose, winner of the three-star event on his beautiful horse Shanghai Joe. Sonja Johnson came in closely behind on Belfast Mojito. The riders and their horses displayed incredible skill, strength and precision to complete the strenuous courses and jumps events.

    It was great to see many local families enjoying the three-day event which held various competitions in cross-country, dressage and showjumping. The program was a fantastic opportunity for Lalor residents to see our country's Olympians perform.

    The event attracts riders from across the world and some of Australia's most successful equestrienne talents were competing, including members of the Beijing Olympics silver medallist team and medallists from the World Equestrian Games.

    Previously known as the Melbourne International Three-Day Event, the Melbourne International Horse Trials is the oldest event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

    I thank my hosts, Doug and Michael, for their generous hospitality. Doug and Michael hope to make this an annual event at the fantastic equestrian facilities at our own Werribee Park, and I look forward to enjoying many more events in future.

  • Anzac Centenary

    I rise today to note the bipartisan support for the centennial Anzac commemoration announced by the honourable Julia Gillard on the centenary of Anzac 24 April 2012. The Australian government's Anzac Centenary Local Grants program is assisting and encouraging communities across Australia to undertake their own Anzac centenary projects that commemorate the service and sacrifice of Australian servicemen and service-women in the First World War.

    I want to take a moment to thank the independent panel members in Lalor who have assessed and made recommendations on 10 projects from the community: the honourable Tim Pallas state member for Tarneit; Ms Margaret Campbell, a respected local historian and author; and Ms Judith Gilbert, a longtime history teacher and now secretary of the B24 Liberator restoration in Werribee. Only one has at this time received approval and it is creating much excitement. This was promptly submitted by the Little River Historical Society on the day the applications opened. It is for a World War I nurse memorial for Sister Catherine Kit McNaughton and Sister Sarah Sadie McIntosh. They were cousins, both born and raised in Little River. The memorial is to honour the role and the contribution made by local serving women during the Great War. It will be unveiled to coincide with the centenary of the departure of Sister McNaughton from Station Pier in Port Melbourne to her wartime duties on 17 July 1915.

    Kit McNaughton's story will also be shared with the broader Australian public this year through Screen Australia's miniseries The Other Anzacs, launched at Parliament House last week, and the ABC documentary series, The War That Made Us, which will be launched at Parliament House tomorrow evening. On behalf of my community, I would like to thank Dr Janet Butler for her curiosity about the nurses from our region and her pursuit of family history for her research. Through that research, she found the diaries kept by Kit during her war service and wrote Kitty's War:The Remarkable Wartime Experiences of Kit McNaughton, published in 2013. Janet was awarded the New South Wales Premier's History Award for 2013 for this work.

    I and many from my community attended the launch of Janet's book in 2013 at the shrine in Melbourne. This event brought together people from all over Australia, many of whom were descendants of nurses and servicemen who knew Kit from the war. Janet's research took her all over the country, talking to families about their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and great-aunts. From the diaries of Kit McNaughton, Janet traced many of the nurses who served with her and heard their stories. Through letters and diaries and stories, Janet was able to trace not just their service but their relationships and their lives after the war. Janet's work has informed the ABC documentary to be launched as part of a series tomorrow night. I also acknowledge the work of Clare Wright, our most recent recipient of the Stella Award, for her work on the documentary.

    It is important to note the belated acknowledgment of the nurses of the Great War by our country. Kit McNaughton's service was mentioned in dispatches by Winston Churchill. After the war, she was awarded the Royal Red Cross First Class, a British award presented by the then Prince of Wales—who became King Edward VII—on his visit to Australia in 1920.

    However, she did not receive an Australia award. In fact, she had to fight for a part-veterans pension in the later years of her life when the trials of her service tolled heavily on her health. Sadie, who never married, had to apply to the Edith Cavell fund for financial assistance in 1950. Therefore, I think it is fitting that modern Australia now looks back and acknowledges the sacrifices made by our serving nurses, the way their service changed the way they saw themselves and others and, in time, the way Australia saw itself. I look forward to Kit and Sadie having a permanent memorial in the town they grew up in, and in the region they returned to, where Kit married and raised her family. I would also note that Kit McNaughton is my grandmother.

  • Budget - Consideration in Detail

    Thank you for giving me the call, Madam Deputy Speaker. I need to ask which you prefer to be called: Deputy Speaker or Madam Deputy Speaker?

    The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Andrews ): I am happy with either, but thank you.

    Ms RYAN: Good. I just want everyone to note that it is worth asking a woman what she wants occasionally, because I want to talk today about the Office for Women and the adverse impacts this budget has on women. I am glad to be here and I am glad to hear that list of advisory bodies and experts that those opposite think they do not need to listen to anymore. One of the things I want to talk about is the notion that, if you cannot slash an advisory body or get rid of an expert, then you can always just ignore it, like we are ignoring the Office for Women.

    Tony Abbott's budget of broken promises makes savage cuts to pensions. We have been there. We know the list of cuts is long: hospitals, family payments, superannuation, education and services. All of these cuts will have a deep impact on women. For example, a single parent on the parenting payment, the majority of whom are women, will have their budgets hit by more than $3,400 a year. Industry Super Australia has stated:

    The repeal of the LISC—
    the low income super contribution—

    will be particularly damaging to the retirement savings of women who constitute an estimated two-thirds of those eligible. Staggeringly, the abolition of the LISC will negatively impact on the retirement savings of almost one in two women.
    In the aftermath of the budget, we have seen an unprecedented and dishonest attack on Australia's carers, the majority of whom are women. There are no changes to carers as a result of the budget, the Prime Minister said in question time on 16 June. This is wrong. The budget cuts the carers payment, with indexation to be reduced to CPI. This will impact on carers, the majority of whom are women. And, with women accounting for 60 per cent of GP visits, the GP tax will have a deep impact on their access to health care. As the costs mount for families, tough decisions will be made on seeking help for those families.

    I went to the website of the Office for Women and I found there that the Office for Women exists:

    … to ensure a whole-of-government approach is given to providing better economic and social outcomes for women.
    That is what the website says. Then I went to the 'Economic Empowerment and Opportunity' part of the site, and it said:

    The Australian Government is working to improve women's economic empowerment.
    … … …
    Women's economic empowerment is central to a strong economy and region. For example, closing the workforce participation gap between women and men could boost gross domestic product by up to 13%.
    During Senate estimates, on 27 May, it was confirmed that the Office for Women, in your department of PM&C, provided advice on all relevant measures leading up to the budget. Ms McDevitt said:

    For all the budget measures, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet provides advice, and, since the Office for Women is located within the department, the Office for Women has provided advice on relevant measures leading up to the budget, which could include consulting with other agencies and providing internal advice that would feed into the whole-of-department advice on budget measures.
    My question in this area is: why was advice from the Prime Minister's own department ignored in the formulation of the budget? It has been the practice, for over 30 years, for federal governments to produce a women's budget statement as one element of the official budget papers. We heard a few minutes ago lots of statements, pointing the finger across the chamber about previous budgets—not the budget of 2014, which is the budget we are all here to talk about. That has been in place for 30 years in the official budget papers, but in 2014 it is not included.

    My question is, given the PM is the Minister for Women and the Office for Women is in PM&C, who made the decision to cut this statement? Was the Office for Women consulted on this specific decision? Given the impact on women of this budget, why was this decision made? And I will go further, with another question. To me, as a woman, it is really concerning that this government has a mirror looking backwards. I am looking forward to doing my ironing again. I wonder if you can answer that.

  • Local Mobile Offices and the Budget

    Like many in this place, I hold regular mobile offices and street corner meetings. As a new member of parliament, I find these are a great way to understand what the community is thinking and what actions we might undertake to assist. Last Thursday I attended, with other Lalor locals, a very interesting street meeting on the corner of Spring and Bourke Streets in central Melbourne. Estimates were that around 30,000 concerned residents turned up. On Friday I held a mobile office with state shadow transport minister, Jill Hennessy, in Point Cook, and it was the same—lots of people with lots of concerns about the budget. What were the concerns that were raised? The deeply unfair nature of this year's federal budget—cuts to pensions, cuts to health, cuts to education, cuts to universities, cuts to training, cuts to family payments, the introduction of the GP and health co-payments, increases to the fuel tax, unfair conditions for the young unemployed, increased university costs and higher interest repayment rates. Thirty thousand Victorians gave a very clear message last Thursday, that this budget is unfair, with the most vulnerable doing the heavy lifting.

    The Abbott government want to re-create Australian society. They seem to want us to be a country of haves and have-nots. They want to break the social contract that this great nation is built on, the egalitarian dream. The Treasurer went to great lengths recently to explain that working Australians contribute one month's income to welfare recipients. I am keen, as were many people who spoke to me last Thursday and Friday, to see the comparison with how much the taxpayer contributes to negative gearing, superannuation concessions for the wealthy, family trusts and other juicy items in the gamut of things our taxes go to support. Minister Pyne is similarly taking every opportunity to paint a picture of the poor taxpayer contributing to higher education as an unfair burden, when in fact we all know, and Australians know, that these funds will be recouped by the taxpayer through higher tax contributions from graduates if and when they earn the big bucks that Minister Pyne assures us they will. As a former teacher, and with a nurse for a niece, I know that some university educated people certainly will not be earning those big bucks.

    Most Australians I speak to—those I spoke to last Thursday, those I spoke to on Friday, those I spoke to on Saturday at the football in my electorate—are happy to see taxes paid being utilised on education and health services and assisting those who require additional assistance, because they understand that social mobility and equity are essential for a productive economy and a fair society. Certainly that was the message I heard loud and clear last week in my electorate.

  • Asset Recycling Fund Bill 2014

    I rise tonight to speak on the Asset Recycling Bill 2014 and related bill. Governments everywhere are exploring the possibilities that asset recycling may deliver. In a high-growth electorate such as mine and having met with the National Growth Areas Alliance this morning, I am acutely aware that the provision of infrastructure is vital.

    During the time of the previous Labor government, Lalor and many other growth corridor electorates did benefit from infrastructure investment. In Lalor, specifically, funding was provided through local councils for community centres, libraries and local road project There were also capital investments into TAFE and university. The rollout of the NBN commenced, and our local hospital received funds to expand facilities. All of these investments were much needed in our high-growth area. Locally, we benefited from major infrastructure investment. The federal government contributed $3.2 billion for the regional rail link, set to increase rail access for both business and passengers—a project that will deliver economic benefits to Victoria. This project, currently underway, is being delivered ahead of time and on budget. Those working on this project should be rightly proud of that achievement. And why is this project being delivered in this cost-effective and timely way? Because of Labor's initiatives during its term in government—that is why.

    When Labor came to power in 2007, it inherited an infrastructure mess; it was more than an infrastructure mess really—it was an infrastructure disaster. The current infrastructure minister was there during the Howard days, so he will not find it difficult to remember the Regional Partnerships Programme rort scandals. We on this side well remember the millions of taxpayer dollars wasted on projects in regional areas—projects that had dubious merit. The word profligate has been thrown around this chamber much in recent days by those opposite; in error, I might say. But here we have a clear history. So what are some of the memories of the coalition government's infrastructure disaster? Projects like the cheese factory in Wangaratta which was awarded $22,000 in government assistance—despite the fact that it had shut its doors. That one comes to mind, as does funding provided to an ethanol plant in Gunnedah: taxpayer funding was provided, but it actually produced no ethanol. The minister must also remember the $600,000 federal government grant given to struggling Queensland company Beaudesert Rail—against the advice of corporate administrators, and in breach of the program's own criteria. These examples are not a ringing endorsement of the coalition's capacity to handle infrastructure. Back in 2005, the Business Council of Australia acknowledged how cracked the Howard government's infrastructure funding system was, and called for a massive overhaul. As part of their Infrastructure Action Plan for Future Prosperity, the council reported:

    …that the current state of Australia’s most fundamental infrastructure - supporting all elements of the transport network, energy and water supplies, and the basic facilities to support growing and spreading urban communities - is in urgent need of reform, repair and expansion.
    They went on:

    We are at the crossroads in terms of infrastructure development as a result of poor institutional arrangements and policy choices. Changes are required to alleviate current capacity constraints, and provide additional capacity to support high growth in the years ahead.
    Let me repeat that, Deputy Speaker: 'as a result of poor institutional arrangements and policy choices'; 'changes are required'. This was after, or during, the years that the coalition were in charge of this country. And so, as is always the way, it was Labor who acted on the failures of that system. It was Labor who were determined to create an infrastructure funding system where government could make decisions based not on lobbying but on hard evidence about a project's worth; about a project's value to the community—and not on the basis of an electoral strategy. It was Labor who announced that, if elected to government, we would create a statutory body to create a balanced and strategic blueprint for future funding, and that is what we did with the Infrastructure Australia Act in 2008.

    Infrastructure Australia was created to enact evidence based decision-making; to deal with policy and regulatory matters; to drive reform on legal, tax, planning and infrastructure finance; to evaluate the business cases of projects and project financing options, including private-public partnerships; and to review the adequacy of Australia's infrastructure, identify the gaps, and prioritise the nation's projects. Its first task was to undertake a nationwide audit of Australia's infrastructure, and then to form a priority list for the future. Only infrastructure projects which met a minimum rate of return—determined through rigorous cost-benefit analysis and review—were recommended. With Infrastructure Australia, Labor showed leadership by investing in nationally significant projects and by ensuring lasting reforms. Let us not forget that it was under a Labor government that infrastructure spending grew from $132 to $225 per Australian. It was under Labor that Australia rose to No. 2 in the OECD rankings by the scale of the investment made in fixed capital. And it was under Labor that the total annual investment in our nation's roads, railways, ports, energy generators, water supply facilities and telecommunication networks hit a record $58.5 billion in 2011-12, equivalent to 4 per cent of GDP. We on this side of the House invested, not to gain cheap political points but because, after years of inaction under the Howard government, it was what this country needed. Key to all of this was Infrastructure Australia, because their informed, evidence-based analysis and advice ensured that we were investing in the infrastructure that would drive national growth and productivity. But informed, evidence-based analysis is not what the current government is about.

    Along with some of my colleagues, I met this morning with representatives of the National Growth Areas Alliance, an alliance of local councils that serve the high-growth communities around Australia. This alliance, which understands infrastructure needs and which has put considerable time and effort into preparing reports for government, has received no feedback on its submissions. I repeat, this alliance has provided government with valuable information and it has received no feedback. What does this tell us about our current government? It tells us that the coalition government seems intent on making decisions that have no basis in well-developed planning, and that they are not intending to listen to groups from across this country. Take, for example, my home state of Victoria: in the recent federal budget, over $3 billion was allocated for the second stage of the East West Link. One billion of this will flow into Victoria's coffers in just a couple of weeks. In a recent senate estimates hearing, it was revealed that this project has no business plan. You heard correctly—no business plan. The project has not been examined by Infrastructure Australia. It was also revealed that the estimated cost-benefit ratio was lower than the proposed upgrade for the Western Ring Road, a project that was not funded; indeed, a project to which some current funding is now being redirected. There are no detailed plans for the east-west project and no details about the land or houses that will need to be compulsorily acquired, and no information about the road's final alignment. There is no detail about where this tunnel will come up; no detail about when it will see the light of day. There are no details about whether the road will be tolled.

    The state government provides hollow words about the benefit to the people in the west of Melbourne, but those who live and work locally are having trouble making any kind of accurate analysis due to the lack of detail. This project is years away from being shovel-ready, but this federal government has seen fit to allocate $l billion to the Victorian government. Something about this does not feel right. The chat around town is that the federal government made these funds available due to its nonsensical rule about not funding rail infrastructure. The original Metro rail link, a project that was planned and researched over many years, with a strong endorsement from Infrastructure Australia, has now been junked in favour of the current Metro light plan. Transport is a big issue in my electorate. In fact, Wyndham City Council is running a campaign to 'get Wyndham moving', because people in my electorate are commuting to work for two or more hours a day, whether it be by road or rail. To fund a project that there is no detail for and to plainly ignore the Metro rail link project, which has been endorsed by experts, is a slap in the face for my community.

    So back to the asset recycling bill. Asset recycling can have merit in certain circumstances. I suggest that merit can be determined through careful and detailed planning and deep consultation with the community. This bill, however, does not seem to have those checks and balances at its core. This bill also has the potential to dilute the historically high level of federal commitment to infrastructure funding, a level achieved under Labor. At the recent meeting between Joe Hockey and the state and territory Treasurers, it was reported that Victoria left the meeting 'very disappointed'. The Victorian Treasurer, Michael O'Brien, pointed out that this asset recycling plan has very little benefit for Victoria, as the state has very few assets left to sell. Victoria sold off many of its key assets during the Kennett years of the 1990s. Michael O'Brien indicated he was disappointed the state would receive no credit for the hard decisions of the past. Apparently, the federal Treasurer made it very clear he was not prepared to look backwards.

    Last year The Melbourne Review ran an article discussing the benefits of privatising the Port of Melbourne. It makes the case for asset recycling in a positive way, but it also provides this caveat:

    Victoria's competitiveness and wealth are inextricably tied to the health of our infrastructure ... With considered investment in projects that are genuinely economically sound, the process of commercialising Victoria's public assets would enhance our state's growth immensely.
    There are three words that stand out in that statement: 'genuinely economically sound.' This government wants to be known for its infrastructure. Many a time we have heard the Prime Minister say that he will be the Prime Minister for infrastructure, as if saying it will make it happen. If that is so, and if this government wants to be remembered for successful infrastructure projects, then this government needs to heed advice such as that given out by The Melbourne Review last year.

    The asset recycling program appears to offer very little for Victoria. It appears that, as this government refuses to look backwards at the asset sales that have occurred in Victoria, Victoria will miss out on infrastructure spending under this bill. I also have some very real doubts about the way this government is interacting with Infrastructure Australia, and whether they are taking into account the evidence-based information that they are being given in the decisions they are making. Nothing I have heard in this chamber gives me confidence that this bill will ensure good service and good infrastructure for Victoria, or good service or good infrastructure for growth corridors nationally. In particular, I have very little faith that this bill will deliver for my community in Lalor.

  • Netball Australia Grand Final

    I stand here today proudly wearing my Victorian navy blue and my Vixens' scarf. There is much excitement about a rugby league match happening tonight, but the real state-on-state action will happen in Melbourne on Sunday. Melbourne Vixens, led by the great Bianca Chatfield, will face off against Queensland Firebirds, led by Laura Geitz, in the ANZ Championship netball grand final. I wish both teams all the best in what will be a great display of Aussie netball. Members might like to note that the Australian clubs have dispensed with the clubs from across the ditch to create this Aussie final. I wish both teams all the best, but will be giving my considerable verbal support to the Vixens to bring home the trophy and the Victorian bragging rights. I cannot think of a better way for our Aussie captain Laura Geitz and vice captain Bianca Chatfield to prepare for the Commonwealth Games, where they will join forces to fend off those Kiwis. Go Vixens!