Pages tagged "Speeches"

  • Committee for Wyndham

    I rise today to recognise a group in my electorate that has recently celebrated its 16th anniversary. The Committee for Wyndham is an incorporated, civic membership based group that works diligently for the betterment of the Wyndham and western Melbourne as a whole. In particular, I acknowledge the loyal and dedicated Peter Hudson and John Nicol, who have been with the committee since its inception, along with the long-serving Jan Goates. Today, led by Chris Potaris, the committee is dedicating itself to addressing the challenges that a region with rapid growth faces. Working with the local Wyndham council and state and federal governments, this group aims to ensure growth, jobs and sustainability in Wyndham are assured.

    Last week I attended a function to which the committee had invited the Hon. Steve Bracks to speak. Steve highlighted the need for groups like the Committee for Wyndham to drive investment in our region and to ensure our skills and jobs are not lost and that we embrace opportunities that lie ahead of us. That is exactly what the committee for Wyndham does.

    I congratulate the committee for its work over these 16 years and for some of the achievements that we have seen that are due to its hard work. I know that many in the community go to the Committee for Wyndham when they have issues so they feel need addressing, particularly issues around industry and jobs.

  • Pink Stumps Day

    I rise today to acknowledge the many groups that support the McGrath Foundation through Pink Stumps Day. Pink Stumps Day is the biggest community based fundraiser for the McGrath Foundation and happens annually on 22 February. In particular, I recognise the Werribee Cricket Club, which recently held a function to raise funds for the foundation—last Saturday, in fact. I would like to acknowledge Chris Burton, who organised the Pink Stumps Ladies Day High Tea Cricket Day, with guest speakers, raffles and the opportunity to come together as a community. The afternoon was a great success, raising much-needed funds. I was fortunate enough to be invited to address the audience at the Werribee Cricket Club, and it was wonderful to see over 120 beautifully pink-clad women and men from my electorate supporting such a worthy cause.

    And it is a worthy cause, because every family has come into contact with people that they know and love that get that dreaded diagnosis of breast cancer. When local groups like the Werribee Cricket Club and the Laverton Cricket Club, which also has a Pink Stumps Day event, take the time to organise a fundraising event, it encourages the community to become involved. It promotes the good work of the McGrath Foundation and it brings people together. We were fortunate too to hear from and meet a breast care worker who is employed by the McGrath Foundation through the Geelong Hospital. I congratulate both the Werribee and Laverton cricket clubs on their great work in supporting the Pink Stumps Day initiative.

  • Education Funding Motion

    I move:

    That this House:
    (1) notes:

    (a) the importance of investing in education and ensuring that Australia remains competitive by providing quality education to all Australian children regardless of their postcode; and

    (b) with concern that the gap between the most well off and disadvantaged students in Australia is on average 2.5 years, which is a much wider gap than the OECD average;

    (2) acknowledges that the:

    (a) well respected and qualified 'Gonski panel' identified six loadings and the importance of school reform as the key to improvement; and

    (b) New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Tasmanian and Australian Capital Territory governments along with the national Catholic and independent school authorities signed up to this funding model;

    (3) recognises that under the new four year funding arrangements for education, that it is impossible for the Government to guarantee that no school across Australia will be worse off; and

    (4) calls on the Government not to return to the inequitable Socioeconomic Status scheme funding model of the past, but to commit to its promise of honouring the education funding agreements already entered into and provide equity by making it a truly national system.

    There has been much said about our performance as a nation in the international measures of education in recent years. I have not heard one voice suggest that there is not a need for improvement. In fact, I would argue that no matter what our performance—be it low or high—there will always be room for improvement, because the education of our young people must continually improve to keep pace with the demands of modern life and to ensure that Australia can compete in a global economy.

    It was to this end that the Labor government set about building a national system; a system to measure our performance and the resources going into our schools; a system that provided transparency and clear measures so that we as a nation could monitor our progress. The Labor government understood that national improvement requires national effort, a national plan, and national resourcing. The national Better Schools Plan, or Gonski as it is colloquially known, was designed to deliver just that, and it is needed—not least because each state and territory does things very differently; from curriculum to starting age, funding levels, and even centralisation and autonomy. But rather than doing as they promised, this government and this education minister have created division after diversion, to avoid getting started on the real work. On the same day that the minister made his announcement about the dismantling of ACARA, the body established to work with each state and territory system to make a national plan possible, he began a new curriculum war—the first of many distractions. And for what? So that, after years of an exhaustive consultation process, we can start again with a two-person expert review? His second distraction was about independent schools. The minister talks about independent schools with such relish, as though they are a new idea. He claims they are the cure-all for student outcome improvements. But the minister refuses to acknowledge Victoria, where autonomy and local decision-making have been happening in state schools for a long time and where, clearly, autonomy in and of itself does not improve student outcomes state-wide. And finally, in the latest announcement—that is, once again, a rehash designed to distract and divert—the minister talks about teacher training.

    The Gonski plan incorporated the required changes in teacher training. The states that signed up to Gonski have already started on this work. Labor's Gonski reforms provide the necessary funding for, and make sure that states pursue, the following improvements: better admissions; tough literacy and numeracy standards; more practical experience in the classroom; professional standards for teachers at every stage of their career; and to continue to improve teacher education programs in partnership with the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency, universities and employers. If these things are already happening, why is the government wasting money on a review? Because they are stalling. They are stalling because the minister does not want to commit to needs-based funding. He refuses to even talk about it. We have only had reference to the SES model being a good system, signalling to many a return to the Howard years—a far cry from what the Gonski panel recommended. This, despite Victoria having had a model for many years, Western Australia having already conducted a review, and New South Wales embracing the same. This is the fundamental recommendation of the Gonski report. It goes to the heart of addressing the inequity in education that is holding our performance back. The minister needs to give us at least what he said he would give us—a unity ticket on equitable education. He needs to put the planks for national school improvement back in place; to deliver the full six years of better schools funding; and to let the schools and teachers get on with the job. The new mantra for this government is, 'get out of our way'. I say to them: there must be something standing behind you, because all you are doing is moving backwards.

    I commend the motion to the House.

    The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Goodenough ): Is there a seconder for the motion? I call the member for Fisher.

  • Regional Development Australia Fund

    I am pleased to rise in support of the member for Throsby's motion. I do this as the representative of one of Australia's fastest-growing municipalities: the city of Wyndham, a region that in recent times has grown by more than 12,000 residents every year. This equates to around 230 people arriving a week, or 32 every day. It seems that at every turn a new suburb has appeared, expanded and filled. We truly are the epitome of a growth corridor. With this growth comes great things: new innovation and ideas, increasing diversity, and a vibrant and ever-shifting cultural identity. We celebrate this dynamism, but with growth comes needs as well. We need more health services, we need more and better schools, we need improved roads and we desperately need local infrastructure.

    So when in June last year it was announced that the city of Wyndham would receive its share of $150 million in Regional Development Australia funding I was thrilled. I was thrilled as a local resident and thrilled as a member of the Wyndham community. Because back then that is exactly what I was: a concerned resident, a mother and a principal. I certainly was not the member for Lalor, because that is how long ago this funding was announced—well before I was the member for Lalor, well before the election and well before those opposite came to government and made this heartless cut. So for them to maintain—insist—that this funding was simply an election promise that does not need to be honoured is just plain untrue.

    I note that the member for Wide Bay and the member for McMillan have also claimed that the money for these projects simply does not exist. But, as my colleagues have pointed out, this funding was promised and budgeted for months and months ago. So maybe the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development should have a closer look at the budget papers, as well as his conscience. If he did, he would see what is at stake here: parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, medical centres, memorials, multipurpose halls and even something as simple and as necessary as a ramp to improve access for those with mobility issues.

    Regional Development Australia Fund round 5 was essentially about supporting infrastructure that makes our communities better places to be. Locally, for my electorate, that

    would have meant funding for the construction of the Tarneit Community Learning Centre Library. It would have meant federal government assistance for a library designed to meet the needs of our rapidly- growing region and the very new community of Tarneit. It would have meant the city of Wyndham could continue to demonstrate to every family the value of literacy. And it would have meant a place where people could come together, particularly some of our more isolated residents. But, because of the callous and heartless attitude of the Abbott government, funding for this project has been cut, without consultation and without question.

    Maybe there is hope. After all, the member for New England and Deputy Leader of the National Party did say that projects of merit would be funded. But maybe the member for New England thinks that a library for the people of Tarneit has no merit. What about the people of Guyra's new roundabout in the member's own electorate, a footpath in Gunnedah or the new playground in Tamworth? All of these projects were to receive funding under Regional Development Australia Fund round 5. But now, who knows? Now we have nothing—no clarity, no commitment and no community funding. It will, however, be interesting to see whether the government's opposition to the RDAF extends to when it is ribbon-cutting time for round 3 and 4 projects. Will they be there for the photo opportunity when the Geelong Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases Research Hub opens? Will they be there when my community's recreation centre redevelopment is finished? Only time will tell.

    If the government want to be fair dinkum, they will not just turn up to cut ribbons and get their photo taken; they will also turn up and help communities in need, communities such as those of the member for Newcastle, the member for Throsby and my own. I call on the Abbott government to reinstate round 5 funding. I commend this motion to the House.

  • Bill Shorten's Address to the Melbourne Press Club

    I have had people ask what Labor's plan for jobs and industry is – our leader Bill Shorten outlined it in this fantastic speech.

    - Joanne






    On Tuesday, I travelled to Point Henry to meet with employees and employers at Alcoa.

    It’s a trip I’ve made many times.

    As I looked out the car window, I started thinking about all the workplaces I used to visit in the Geelong region.

    • Avalon
    • Gatic
    • BHP Wire
    • Geelong Cement
    • Blue Circle
    • Kinnears
    • The Wool Scourers
    • Winchester
    • Cheetham Salts

    All of them proud landmarks in Geelong’s manufacturing landscape.

    All of them now closed.

    In this time of change, on the one hand we need to move past the view that industry assistance should be motivated by a romantic attachment to manufacturing.

    And on the other we must reject the idea that manufacturing somehow doesn’t matter anymore or is doomed. 

    Labor knows manufacturing has a future.

    We also know that neither nostalgia nor fatalism is equal to the task of 21st Century economic reform.

    Sometimes in the current debate on job losses and factory closures, we can fall into the trap of just referring to numbers in a column.

    We need to remember these are real people and real communities for whom each closure is a devastating loss.

    In the last five months, in Geelong, in Broadmeadows, in Gove and in Port Melbourne, I’ve met thousands of Australians facing the swift, sharp consequences of the economic change we are undergoing.

    Australians don’t think the world owes them a living.

    Australians are not looking for a hand-out.

    But they are worried about what is happening.

    Australians want to see a plan for their future, and for the Australia of 2020 and 2030. 

    The Australian people understand there’s no such thing as a job for life anymore, but several careers with constant learning and re-training.

    Australians know that what matters is to have a diversified economy – one which includes advanced manufacturing.

    An economy that is set up to benefit from the next wave of technological change.

    One which promises to return manufacturing to our cities and to nurture a new generation of  Australians enthusiastic about making things - whether that means computer games and robots or cars and houses.

    Today I want to talk about what we have to do to help Australian employees, Australian industry and the Australian economy adapt and prosper in this time of change.

    What Australia needs to do to meet the challenges of this decade - and the policies we need to guarantee our national prosperity beyond the next three years.

    I am determined that Labor will be the party with positive ideas for the future. 

    Because we need new ideas in health.

    New ideas in education.

    New ideas for our economy.

    I know when he was Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott used his political Ouija board to channel Randolph Churchill:

    ‘Oppose everything, propose nothing and turf the government out’.

    The Abbott model worked once - I firmly believe it will never work again.

    I prefer to take my inspiration from the New Year’s resolution of John Curtin when he was elected Opposition Leader.

     ‘to act and think helpfully’, and not play ‘faultfinder’

    Throughout my working life, from when I was a lawyer, a union representative, a superannuation fund director, the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and a Minister - I have always been a consensus-builder and a believer in the power of negotiation.

    I know that there is always more than one side to an argument. 

    And no-one has a monopoly on good ideas.

    And that will be my approach as Labor Leader.

    It’s why Labor has reached out to cooperate with the Government on drought assistance for our farmers.

    It’s why we’ve avoided opportunistic point-scoring on the deterioration of the Australia-Indonesia relationship.

    It’s why we support the Government’s new Closing the Gap target on school attendance, and have offered three new targets of our own. 

    Under my leadership, Labor will be a constructive, alternative government that offers genuine policy choices, not simply empty criticism and three word slogans.

    Our policies will be driven by Labor values, and supported by hard evidence and the best science. 

    I think this combination of principle and logic is evident in some of the reforms of the last six years.

    For example:

    We created the National Disability Insurance Scheme to empower a marginalised group of people with impairments, their carers and their loved ones.

    The National Disability Insurance Scheme will deliver a productivity boost to the nation ­­- and save money in the long run. 

    We resisted the call for harsh austerity measures and steered Australia through the Global Financial Crisis with a focus on keeping people in work and supporting growth with nation-building infrastructure investment.

    We negotiated a fairer funding agreement for schools because we believe every child deserves the same opportunity for a great education and the best possible start in life.

    We also know that a country’s education system is the decisive factor in its economic prosperity down the track.

    Our objective is to deliver the best outcome for everyone– not to score political points or slavishly follow a hardline ideology.

    People laud the Hawke-Keating generation, as a time when Labor took hard decisions that delivered long-term dividends.

    These reforms to markets, regulation, trade and enterprise bargaining freed up the Australian economy.

    Twenty years on, my generation needs to commit to real reform. In particular, a new national commitment to science and innovation.

    This will mean making difficult decisions in order to set our nation up for the future. 

    We believe that government assistance for industries should be the exception, not the rule. 

    Provided only to industries that are willing to adapt to change and embrace innovation.

    We believe government has a moral obligation to keep people in work.

    But our view is not just based on our values.

    The evidence is clear.

    When government assists an industry in transition, the benefits are shared throughout the economy.

    If we leave companies to wither, or seek to accelerate their demise– we are putting Australian jobs, skills, innovation and technology at risk of permanent and severe damage.

    As I mentioned earlier, there is a misconception that manufacturing is an unprofitable sector that offers only
    ‘low-tech’ jobs. 

    This is wrong.

    In 2013, 21 of Australia’s 100 most profitable companies were in manufacturing – the highest representation of any one industry.

    And there is no such thing as a low technology industry.

    There are only industries that have invested in remaining at the cutting edge- and those that have not.

    Some commentators have argued that the closure of Holden, and now Toyota, is proof of national economic progress. 

    Not true.

    In fact, the death of the Australian auto industry is a major backward step – a dangerous deindustrialisation.

    Not only do we lose the valuable skills and highly specialised workers.

    We lose an entire range of manufacturing capabilities.

    Capabilities that could have underpinned more advanced and sophisticated forms of manufacturing.

    The capability to manufacture fine instruments and gauges for the aerospace industry.

    The capability to produce electrical systems for our navy's weapon systems.

    All of those capabilities, all of that potential, all of that opportunity, will be lost to our nation – unless we act decisively.

    Because with the right plan and policy settings, Australia can capitalise on this time of transition and change.

    We can seize the opportunity to reimagine our manufacturing sector – and look after the thousands of Australians and hundreds of businesses that rely upon it.

    But there has been no plan from the Abbott Government.

    No evidence of a determination to seize the moment.

    It is easy for Joe Hockey to lecture on the need for ‘heavy lifting’ – but the Abbott Government has to do more than demand this of others.

    It needs to set the example – and lead the way. 

    In times of economic transition, a government’s first priority should be to keep people in work.

    Because a fulfilling job brings dignity, self-confidence and independence.

    Unemployment guarantees only misery.  

    As Labor leader, I will speak out about job losses and support for existing jobs.

    As Labor leader, I shall focus on new jobs too.

    The Small-Medium Enterprises, the High Tech, the Start Ups, be it in health, in agriculture, in defence or financial and education services.

    I believe we need to shift from a policy of ‘managed decline’ to one that focuses on development, innovation and transition.

    In the immediate context of the car industry, the Government needs to assist the component suppliers – the plastic, glass and metal manufacturers – to adjust their operations and find new markets for their products.

    A success story is the Palm Products factory in Moorabbin, a business that originally produced high-quality car instrument lenses, brake parts and small mouldings for Ford vehicles.

    Following Ford’s announced closure, Palm Products has reinvented itself as a producer of high-quality unbreakable drink and tableware– with export markets in Europe, the Middle East and North America.

    The long lead time for the closure of Holden and Toyota gives their highly skilled workers time to plan their futures.

    I believe government should support re-training.

    People who suddenly find themselves unemployed often experience a massive loss of confidence and a loss of identity.

    The longer their unemployment lasts, the greater their deterioration in work readiness.

    Yet these are highly skilled problem solvers and team players.

    I was genuinely surprised by the cold-blooded heartlessness the government displayed when pushed on their plans for jobs in the future.

    And I am troubled that there has been no sense of urgency– no evidence of a passion for the jobs of the future.

    It’s confusing.

    Because on the one hand, the Government portrays the demise of the automotive industry as inevitable– long foreseen and unstoppable.

    And yet, their reaction to the one-two punch of Holden and Toyota’s closure and their statement of ‘shock’ at the Alcoa announcement suggests that they have been caught entirely by surprise.

    There has been no plan for structural assistance, no retraining options forthcoming, nothing but Orwellian doublespeak of the ‘liberation’ of unemployment queues.

    To me, the Government’s gravest failing is not its lack of empathy, though that is confronting.

    It is its lack of understanding, its lack of imagination, its lack of authenticity. 

    Its only impulse is to take Australians down a path of learned helplessness from a government that offers no ideas or effort.

    The death of the car industry is a tragedy, but it can also be a defining moment for Australia.

    A call to arms for politics, employees, business and community. 

    A chance to move past the old, constricting clichés of ‘picking winners’ and ‘corporate welfare’.

    A time when Government, investors and business turn their energies to supporting a new generation of research, development and innovation.

    A wave of Australian discovery and invention in areas like genomics, quantum computing, bionics and nanotechnology that can underpin a new era of national prosperity.

    I believe we need to make science and innovation a first order national priority.

    Not an enclave in the Department of Industry, without a Minister for Science.

    But central to all our policies. And our prosperity.

    We need an innovation-led growth plan.

    -       A plan that helps innovators commercialise their ideas.

    -       A plan that will ensure Australians benefit from all the amazing advances in health and medical research without bankrupting the country

    -       A plan that gets Australian kids interested in science and inspires the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs

    -       A plan that draws on scientific and technical applications to improve public and private sector work practices

    This is something about which I am passionate, to the extent that I took responsibility for the Shadow Science portfolio myself.

    And I know Our Shadow Minister for Industry, Kim Carr, is passionate about science too.

    Smaller countries, with less national wealth, like Korea, Taiwan, Israel and Finland are all ahead of us on investment in research and development.

    I believe Australia’s level of investment in research and development needs to significantly increase.

    By 2030, global spending on research and development will increase by 250 per cent.

    Driven by big investments from countries in our region – in China and India as well as emerging economic powers like Brazil.

    Labor believes that making science and innovation a national policy and political priority is nothing less than an investment in Australian brainpower.

    It will not be easy at a time of slowing growth and downgraded revenue - but there are no shortcuts. 

    Industries that invest in research and development are investing in their capacity for reinvention.

    Compared to businesses that don’t innovate, innovative Australian businesses are 78 per cent more likely to report increases in productivity over the previous year.

    Yet only around 25 per cent of Australian businesses collaborate on innovation.

    So if Australia produces some of the finest research in the world – which we do - why don’t we have more collaboration between industries and the research sector?

    Make no mistake, the science race, the race for the jobs of the future, is a race to the top – and it has begun.

    If Australia is not careful we will be stuck on the blocks.

    We do not have three or six years to waste.

    At this very moment, too many Australian schoolchildren are being taught science by hardworking but underqualified teachers.

    And there are too few Australians going on to study science - and mathematics - in our universities.

    Our nation is at a crossroads: Australia can either get smarter or get poorer – we can choose to compete or give up.

    And as with industry policy, success will not depend on government alone.

    I do believe government can play an important role in covering investor risk, helping to create a climate of confidence and risk-taking that will encourage entrepreneurs to pursue the breakthroughs that will define this century.

    As a passionate disciple of science and innovation – and a believer in Australian creativity and ingenuity ­–I want us to value ‘start-ups’. 

    And the hardest task for a start-up, or small firm is to raise the capital for initial research and development.

    People in industry call it the ‘valley of death’.

    Strategic government investment can bridge this valley – and I believe the benefits will be remarkable.

    An innovation-led growth plan must support all budding industries, whether they have a focus on agriculture, or defence or the automotive industry, financial services or health and education services.

    And if we are serious about turning Australian genius into wealth for our nation, why don’t we equip PhD students with the skills they need to commercialise their research?

    Additional skills such as entrepreneurship, intellectual property management, project management and financial literacy?

    So they can aspire to be business leaders, as well as professors.

    This is a complex argument, and undoubtedly tougher to outline than ‘no free rides’ or ‘some jobs start, some jobs finish’. 

    But I believe the Australian people will embrace this debate, and that substance can triumph over slogans.

    My work on the National Disability Insurance Scheme has given me confidence that Australians will give good ideas a fair hearing. 

    I think the Australian people know that this is a time for serious national debates about where Australia will be in 2020 and 2030. 

    That’s why my focus isn’t on Tony Abbott – it’s on the policy ideas of the future. 

    That’s why I want to start a conversation about an Australian economy with science, mathematics, technology and engineering at its core.

    Mastering this moment of economic transition will require a national effort - one that must begin with government leadership.

    Shoulder-shrugging fatalism about the death of industries is no prescription for our kid and grandkids.

    Our world is changing quickly.

    We can rage against the dying of the light.

    Or we can reignite the light on the hill and embrace the opportunities that change offers.

    Under my leadership, Labor is focused on fighting for Australian jobs – and driving innovation to create new jobs.

    We will insist on a deeper, richer, political narrative about the importance of science.

    We will fight for a prosperous and fair Australia, one with high-wage, high-skill jobs in profitable and globally competitive businesses.

    Jobs that allow all Australians to provide for their family, fulfil their potential, and live a long and happy life full of meaning.

    Fighting for jobs is Labor’s reason for being – it always has been.

    And it will be our priority in the year ahead. 

  • Statement on Manufacturing Job Losses

    Just like Labor members speaking before me today, I have an electorate that depends upon manufacturing. More Wyndham residents work in manufacturing than in any other industry: 10.6 per cent of local people work as machine operators and drivers, which is almost double the national average and represents more than 10,000 workers. 15 per cent work in related industries as tradespeople and technicians, constituting another 15,000 local residents. So Monday's announcement regarding Toyota was a heavy blow for my community, not just for those working directly for Toyota but for those in components industries and those working for related small businesses. What the government do not seem to understand is that the economy is akin to an ecosystem and when you rip huge holes in it the shockwaves spread.

    This will spread across our community: to the contracted technicians and cleaners who depend upon work from Toyota; to those who work in the laundries that service the Toyota plant; even to those who work in the local cafe where Toyota employees stop for their morning coffee. The list goes on and on and extends deep into the families and communities of my electorate and into Melbourne's west as a whole. This will hurt husbands, wives, partners and children, neighbours and friends. Many will already be facing financial stress, struggling to meet mortgage or rent payments and pay for groceries. This is yet another burden to bear.

     I know that this is a sentiment being felt around the country, by Holden workers in Elizabeth, by those with Rio Tinto in Nhulunbuy, by SPC employees in Shepparton. The Australian manufacturing industry is hurting and Australian workers are hurting. Yet we have a government that simply does not seem to care, a government so irresponsible they fail to intervene time and time again, even when it will cost hundreds of thousands their livelihood. This back-to-the-future government will take us back to a country that only exports raw materials, like we did last century. This government that cares so little for Australian workers is willing to break promise after promise. I draw your attention to the statement the Prime Minister made on 28 November 2012:

    … I am committing a future coalition government to creating one million new jobs within five years and two million new jobs over the next decade.
    But then, yesterday or the day before, Mr Abbott said in this very chamber, 'Governments do not create jobs,' and he has no plan for manufacturing jobs. So which is it, Prime Minister? Is this your solemn promise?

    If you think it could not get any worse, Mr Deputy Speaker, you would be wrong. Not only have they broken yet another solemn promise to workers; they are now blaming them and demonising them when they lose their jobs. It is easy to swan around parliament in the air conditioning and plush surrounds while at the same time complaining that manufacturing workers have it too easy. Their attitude seems to be: 'They earn too much. They ask too much.' Really? Is a worker who wants fair wages and conditions asking too much?

    Would the Prime Minister be willing to look Toyota workers, Holden workers and SPC workers in the eye this week and tell them they earn too much? Of course he would not, because bullies are really cowards. Instead of bullying Australian workers, maybe the Abbott government should examine its conscience. What kind of government attacks people who have just lost their jobs and spreads misinformation about the conditions of workers so as to mitigate their own responsibility? The answer is just across the chamber.

    The Prime Minister must ask himself these questions and more. Who is he really governing for? If it is not for hardworking Australians, if it is not small businesses and if it is not for Australian industries, then who? A government that believes in a fair, just and more prosperous Australia with opportunity for all would not be doing this. It just would not. We see the starkest contrast between the Liberal and Labor parties. We support workers; they do not. We support the manufacturing industry; they do not. We believe in Australian jobs, and it is clear that they do not. I call on the Abbott government to step up. To support these workers. To just plain care. I call on the government to commit to securing jobs and training for those affected by their irresponsible and callous decision making, because these workers need opportunities, not to join the unemployment queue.


  • Housing and Homelessness in Lalor

    I rise to discuss an issue I have spoken about a number of times in this chamber—that is, housing stress and homelessness. I do this because it is an issue that is not going away and that is profound in its impact.

    As I have mentioned before, my local community is particularly affected by this issue. With the recent Toyota announcement, the so-called 'end of the age of entitlement' and the Abbott government's cuts to social services, it can only get worse. We already have the highest rate of tenancy eviction in the state, with 684 homes ripped apart between 2010 and 2013. But this figure does not include those who are homeless or those who are desperately waiting for public housing, those who are relying on the support of family, friends and neighbours to ensure a roof over their heads or those who have to choose between paying the rent or for the groceries. This is not only happening in Lalor, it is happening everywhere.

    The Productivity Commission's recent report on government services provided some revealing statistics on this issue. For example, 244,176 people received support from homelessness services agencies in 2012-13. As always, it is affecting those who are already the most marginalised in our communities: young people, Indigenous people, those facing situations of domestic or family violence. While that figure shows that more than 244,000 people are at risk of homelessness, that figure also means that 244,000 are accessing the support they need.

    These housing services can make all the difference. For example, 93 per cent of people accessing homelessness services had achieved some or all of their case management goals at the end of their support period. Of the clients who needed assistance with obtaining independent housing, 61.2 per cent were successful. This was up from 58 per cent in 2011-12. With integrated employment and training support, as well as a guaranteed bed at the end of the day, an additional 4½ per cent were employed full time, and an additional 8.1 per cent part time. While that may not sound like much, the lives of these people have been profoundly transformed.

    These changes, these profound transformations, are the result of good Labor government policy that undertook significant reforms in housing. That established the National Rental Affordability Scheme and delivered record investment in social housing. That established the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness in 2009, a $1.1 billion partnership between state, territory and federal governments to support more than 180 initiatives providing support services for people who would otherwise have been homeless. It was Labor who extended this partnership agreement in 2013 and invested an additional $159 million to ensure service delivery was maintained and a long-term solution to homelessness was reached. We also established the Prime Minister's Council on Homelessness to provide advice to the government on progress and emerging issues affecting homelessness and housing support. Labor took the time to understand the needs of the most vulnerable and took action.

    But what did Prime Minister Abbott do as one of his first acts? He axed the council, just as he axed the National Housing Supply Council, the SchoolKids Bonus and the Low Income Support Bonus. He abandoned the council, just as he abandoned our automotive industry and just as he abandoned Australian jobs. I could go on forever because, after all, this government do not care about the vulnerable. Instead they have decided to turn their backs on the hundreds of thousands of Australians who need housing support and add to the potential numbers of those who may face critical mortgage or rent stress due to unemployment. But this is not a luxury they can afford; the clock is ticking.

    The government needs to affirm its commitment to addressing this issue as part of COAG, because while Labor's changes have improved the lives of many, the work is not yet done. The Productivity Commission reported that across Australia clients with unmet needs accounted for 22.1 per cent of demand. In my home state of Victoria, this was over 30 per cent. I know from speaking to local community housing agencies that within my community more is always needed. They are passionately committed to doing what they can for the people who need it most. But they cannot do it alone.

    I call on the Abbott government to step up on housing stress and homelessness, to open their eyes and ears to the most vulnerable Australians and to commit to continuing Labor's proud legacy of reform in this area.

  • Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment Bill 2013

    The Australian Labor Party has always known the importance of a sustainable private health insurance sector, and the indexation of the private health insurance rebate is an important part of keeping this sector sustainable. It is often said that one's health is one's wealth. If this is true, it is fair to say that a nation's wealth is the health of its people. No party understands this better than Labor. Time and time again Labor has come to the defence of our nation's health system. Time and time again we have rebuilt it after the conservatives have recklessly slashed budgets and relentlessly sought to tear down Medicare. Time and time again, it has been Labor that has had the courage to tackle the threats to our nation's health by listening to health professionals and formulating sound health policy.

    But Labor also understands that this comes at a cost. Health expenses count for 19 per cent of Australian government expenditure. We must always be looking at ways to make savings and strive for efficiency, but not at the cost of the health of our citizens. The indexation of the private health insurance rebate is expected to raise about $700 million in savings over the forward estimates. This is money that can be reinvested into the health system, a system that the Prime Minister himself commended as being 'in pretty good shape' after the stellar work done by the previous Labor government, work led by former health ministers Nicola Roxon and our Deputy Leader, Tanya Plibersek. This bill will not affect the amount of money saved on the private health insurance rebate, and it maintains the integrity of the former Labor government's intent. This bill aims to change the way private health insurers make the calculation to apply and administer it.

    I was a school principal in my previous life. I therefore understand paperwork and the burden of administration. I also understand the time and effort required when implementing new systems. As a principal, I was privy to the amount of work involved when new processes were introduced, and I know firsthand how much of my staff's time was taken up with administration. So I am sympathetic to the health insurers and their wish for the quick and efficient implementation of this legislation, and I support this bill and its aim. But I would like to highlight that the rights of policy holders should not be diluted or lessened by health insurers' understandable aim to reduce their administrative burden as a result of this amendment.

    When the Labor government introduced this change in May last year, there was a debate centred around whether the indexation of the rebate should be calculated at the product level as implemented, at industry level, or at the individual insurer level. The Department of Health and Ageing was concerned that proposing the indexation at industry level, as this bill does, would put smaller insurers at a competitive disadvantage. We on this side of the House, and I assume many of those opposite, value the importance of not only a competitive private health insurance market but one that offers a diversity of choice. This is why I share the concern held by the Department of Health and Ageing and those raised by the member for Ballarat earlier that this amendment may put smaller insurers at a competitive disadvantage. At the core of Labor's proposed implementation model was an aim to create greater competition and transparency for consumers. It is now up to the government to show how this bill will do just that. It is now up to the government to reassure the smaller insurers that they will not be at a competitive disadvantage. It is now up to the government to reassure that private health insurance consumers will not suffer through lack of choice, and that they will not suffer the adverse effects of being at the mercy of an uncompetitive market.

    As I said earlier, Labor is and has been committed to there being a sustainable private health insurance sector, so it stands to reason that we support measures that enhance competition. But we go further—we stand up for consumers too. This is what separates us from those opposite. While the coalition consistently sides with big business, Labor advocates for consumers and stands up to a government that cares little for the rights and needs of the average Australian. Labor is the only party that can see the value of, and advocate for, a competitive marketplace that enhances the health and wellbeing of its population and not just the health and wellbeing of big business.

    Like many in this place, I am a student of history and I think that examining the past reveals much. So let us take a look at this government's record when it comes to private health insurance so far. This is the government that has approved the biggest increase to private health insurance premiums in almost a decade. This is the government that tried to sneak through these changes, making it more expensive for every Australian with a private health insurance policy, just two days before Christmas. This is the government that says it wants the private health insurance industry to have a greater involvement in the delivery of health care, but, really, they are seeking to destroy Australia's system of universal health care by creating a two-tier health system. This is the government that, the public are hearing, intends to sell Medibank Private while failing to demonstrate in any way how it will improve competition or help Australian consumers—not a single argument as to why we should sell an asset like Medibank Private.

    Despite the constant criticism from the coalition when in opposition, the number of people with private health insurance was at its highest rate in Australia's history under a Labor government. Unlike so many of the Abbott government's assertions, this can be backed up by statistics and data. The most recent data from the Private Health Insurance Administration Council shows that over 105,000 more people took out private health insurance between June and September last year. Compared to the same time in 2012, more than 255,000 Australians had private health insurance cover. In percentage terms, this represents the highest rate of insurance cover ever, with 47 per cent of Australians having hospital cover and 55 per cent having general cover.

    It was under the former Labor government that a means-tested rebate for private health insurance was introduced. This meant more money available to invest in our health system, more money to fund much needed and lifesaving medicines, and more money to build important health infrastructure like the network of regional integrated cancer centres. Labor did this because the health of every single Australian has always been our priority. We see this in our proud history in wider health reform. We are, after all, the party of Medicare, the party of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and the party of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Under a Labor government, Australians had greater access to more doctors and more nurses, as well as a record number of GPs and health professionals being trained. It was a Labor government that ensured that seeing a dentist became as easy as seeing a doctor for 3.4 million Australian kids, that pensioners and low-income earners gained access to improved dental services and that our young people gained access to a dedicated and committed mental health service in headspace. It is always Labor that cares about the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community. It was under Labor that bulk-billing became easier and more accessible.

    I see Labor's commitment to health demonstrated in my electorate every day. I see it in the tailored and integrated health care provided by our South Western Melbourne Medicare Local. I see it at the Werribee Mercy Hospital, which received $28 million in funding to build a 30-bed sub-acute service and a community rehabilitation centre. I see our commitment to health care when I visit the soon-to-be-opened Wyndham Vale GP superclinic. And I know I will see it when our local headspace opens, providing much needed mental health services to our young people. I see Labor's commitment to health every day, because we believe that every Australian, young or old, wealthy or not, deserves great health care.

    But imagine if this free and fair system did not exist: if we had a government that did not recognise how important funding health infrastructure and services was; if, instead of having equitable access, seeing a GP depended on how much money you had in your pocket, not how much your need was; if concessions to business and industry were more important than the health and wellbeing of the Australian population. We do not have to imagine too hard, unfortunately, because under this government it could become reality.

    In contrast to Labor, Mr Abbott was the health minister that cut $1 billion from our hospitals and health services. It is his party that has failed to commit to Medicare Locals and that failed to see just how important services like Medicare Locals are to communities like mine. This is also the party that opposed the introduction of GP superclinics, and the party that refuses to acknowledge existing care shortages and see the benefit of holistic health services like the Wyndham Vale GP superclinic. It is also this party that seeks to impose a tax upon the sick—in other words, a tax upon the most vulnerable in our community. Because, despite their promises to the contrary, this is not a party that cares about the health of every Australian. Instead, it is Labor that stands for universal access to health care so the most vulnerable Australians can access the highest quality care available. And it is Labor that supports a sustainable private health insurance sector.

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  • Petition: Mobile Homes Goods and Services Tax

    I present a petition on a goods and services tax on mobile homes, which has been approved by the Standing Committee on Petitions.

    The petition read as follows—

    To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

    This petition of Certain citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House:

    • The current draft ruling of the Australia Taxation Office which proposes that a Goods and Services Tax be applied to Moveable Homes will adversely affect over 100,000 Australians.
    • We therefore ask the House to reconsider the draft ruling and ensure that a Goods and Service Tax not be applied to Moveable Homes.

    from 53 citizens

    Petition received.

    Ms RYAN: Last week I raised the concerns of some of my constituents regarding the Australian Taxation Office's proposal to increase the GST on mobile home parks. Upon returning to my electorate of Lalor last Friday I met with two gentlemen regarding this issue. Both of these gentlemen live in a retirement village in Lalor with demountable homes. That means that they will be worse off if the draft proposal is adopted. Both gentlemen raised their issues about the negative effect looming, especially for single women, their neighbours. They understand that the majority of single women living in their village have little if any superannuation, a consequence perhaps of their generation. This is the same across the whole of Australia. They are worried that the added costs of the GST on mobile home parks will hurt those who are already living close to the breadline.

    These gentlemen have been very active in highlighting the injustice of this proposed change to the GST. I am advised that they have raised the issue with the Victorian consumer affairs commissioner, and engaged with other concerned people in local retirement villages as well as with constituents in other states who will suffer under the proposed changes. They also requested that I table their petition to the House regarding this issue. I acknowledge that, yet again, I am proud of the Lalor community because this, again, highlights that they will stand up and fight for what is fair.