That this House:
- notes the importance of investing in local communities to assist them in meeting future challenges and seizing future opportunities;
- acknowledges that the Regional Development Australia Fund (RDAF) Round 5 and 5b commitments, which were announced and budgeted for by the former government, were an opportunity for regional communities to address their challenges of growth whilst also providing economic activity and job creation;
- recognises that the withdrawal of these funding commitments will adversely affect every local council across Australia that was relying on the RDAF Round 5 and 5b funding; and
- calls on the government to immediately reinstate the funding as previously promised and budgeted for, thereby enabling communities to continue with certainty the projects they so desperately need.
Last week on 11 March, my office was contacted by several Tarneit residents concerned after reading the local paper. They were ringing to convey their dismay that the planned library would not receive the $1.05 million promised by the federal government. I was surprised to learn in the same article that the responsible minister had confirmed to a local journalist that the funds would not be delivered as budgeted. On the same day, my office received a letter addressed to me from the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, the member for Wide Bay. It was in response to a letter I had written requesting confirmation of federal government funding for the new Tarneit library. It was dated 28 February, but it seems it took a full nine days for the post to get to Werribee from Canberra.
The letter was in response to a letter I had sent to both the member for Wide Bay and the member for Mayo on 31 October last year. I, like the residents of Tarneit, learned of the decision from the local paper because the member for Wide Bay, the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the National Party, took a full four months to respond to my letter. In those four months, another 500 houses have been built in the growth suburb of Tarneit. In those four months, the population of Tarneit has grown by another 790 people. In those four months, a school year has gone and a new one begun, with more and more students needing access to books. The local students at Tarneit college are doubly disadvantaged because their school has no library either. The need for the Abbott government to honour the commitment to fund Tarneit library becomes more urgent every day.
The infrastructure minister, however, has decided to cut government funding for the Tarneit library. He explained the funding cuts in these terms: 'The government has announced that it does not propose to fund projects announced by the former government. These projects were election promises and naturally do not bind the incoming government.' This is simply not true. The funding was approved and budgeted for before the election campaign had begun. I note the minister recommends 'another two funds the government has set up' and suggests that they may be a source of future funding for the Tarneit library project. In short, he is suggesting that the city of Wyndham reapply for the same money for the same project. Correct me if I am wrong, Deputy Speaker, but is this not coming from the same government that proudly assert they are here to cut red tape? How is reapplying for the same grant a second time cutting red tape?
Tarneit is one of the fastest-growing communities in Melbourne—a suburb of Wyndham, the third-fastest-growing local government area in the country. In Tarneit there are more than 9,990 households, 5,700 residents from non-English speaking backgrounds and 7,500 people currently attending an educational institution. Tarneit's population grew between 2007 and 2012 by 15,000 people, a staggering 295 per cent increase. Tarneit needs vital services and infrastructure yesterday. All the research says that kids who are read to have better literacy outcomes. This is incontestable and the reason that libraries are so important in a growing community. Last week I spoke to a council officer who told me that the neighbouring Point Cook library run a zero-to-two book session for 17 babies and that just last week 50 children were present with their parents for a session. That is one clear example of the demand and oversubscription in Lalor. As you can see, this library has already had huge support from the community and in turn the library supports the community.
The city of Wyndham has done its part. It is time the federal government honoured its part of this bargain. Providing services such as a public library is precisely what government is for. It could not be more clear: this community desperately needs this library. A community member only last Friday said to me: 'We need this library, Joanne. My children are spending 45 minutes on a bus just to get to the closest library and then 45 minutes home again.' If you are serious about cutting red tape, do not make the city of Wyndham reapply for funding that has already been granted and budgeted for. Do not make them write yet another submission. Do not make them collate yet more data. The growth pattern in Lalor is clear. The Tarneit library is clearly a priority for local council. The need is incontestable and the positive outcomes all but guaranteed. I would strongly urge the federal government to support this library, to fund the $1.05 million as promised before the election.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mrs Griggs ): Is the motion seconded?
Mr Perrett: I second the motion.