Investing in Canberra - Grievance Debate 2012
Since becoming the member for Canberra, I have occasionally heard mutterings from some sections of the media who think the ACT would be better off if our two federal seats were what they call 'marginal'. They complain that only marginal electorates are given a fair go, that so-called safe seats are forgotten and left to waste as their marginal neighbours swell under the weight of new roads, new health services and new community facilities. They jokingly say the ACT needs marginal seats, believing that the two major parties jostling over an electorate is the only way to get investment.
But the grass is always greener on the other side. As the member for Canberra, I find it quite unbelievable to suggest the ACT does not get its fair share of investment simply because our seats are not classified as marginal. In fact, I think it is somewhat insulting to voters in the ACT as well who I know are very politically active and sensitive to the way our government functions and makes investments. In fact, as we know, we have the most highly educated population in the country here in the ACT. Whenever I go out and talk to constituents through community forums or through mobile offices I always joke to members of the team and say that I am talking about the policies to people who probably helped us write them. They are an incredibly intelligent group of people and they have a very astute awareness of how politics works and are very politically active.
Like every other member in this place, I work hard to deliver for my constituents, the people of my electorate, in Canberra. I do my best to ensure that their voices are heard on a federal level and often at a local level as well. I make constant representations to ministers on their behalf and I push hard for greater investment in our community, from education to infrastructure.
Tonight I want to outline some of the ways that Labor have been investing in Canberra since we came into power in 2007, because the ACT has benefited from a number of major investment projects and programs. Just last week local community organisation Marymead in Narrabundah in my electorate received a $197,000 grant to complete an evaluation of its Circle of Security program where it works with infants, young children and families at risk of abuse and neglect.
Investment in ACT roads has skyrocketed under Labor, with $144 million invested in the Majura Parkway project, a project that will benefit the entire ACT and region. The Majura Parkway will seamlessly connect the Federal Highway to the Monaro Highway and will ensure that both sides of the ACT are linked from north to the south for the first time ever. It will help relieve traffic congestion and provide better access to the Majura Valley. It will enable the better movement of traffic from the north side to the south side of Canberra on the other side and it will provide other benefits like better fuel consumption and the reduction of greenhouse gases into our environment.
As well as the Majura Parkway project there is the Monaro Highway upgrade, due to be completed in early August 2012. Labor has invested $18.5 million in the Monaro Highway upgrade, which will improve traffic safety, congestion and travel times around Canberra and ensure continuous duplication of that highway for the first time in 40 years. There are also upgrades to dangerous black spots. In fact, the Canberra electorate has received $3.6 million to fix 25 black spots around the electorate since Labor was elected in 2007.
When it comes to health, Labor is making some very important investments here in Canberra. There is the $29.7 million invested by Labor to build a new regional cancer centre at Canberra Hospital. This cancer centre will expand the services currently provided by the Canberra Hospital and provide them to the region as well. It will improve treatment in the ACT by drawing together and integrating cancer services, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, haematology, immunology, research and teaching programs, within a single five-storey building on the Canberra Hospital campus. The recent budget committed $1.3 million for a chair in plastic cranio facial surgery and the extension of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, which Labor has invested $49.3 million towards and which will benefit the over-50s in our communities—more than 10 per cent of the population in my electorate of Canberra. There is the GP superclinic, a $15 million commitment that is well underway which will provide multidisciplinary healthcare by teams of health professionals from hub sites in north Gungahlin and Belconnen and from an existing spoke site in Tuggeranong, in Calwell.
Turning now to education; the capital region is one of the most highly educated regions in Australia, as I have said, and benefits from world-class educational facilities. Investing in education is fundamental to Labor's DNA, and the ACT gets its fair share of education federal funding. Some of our most recent educational investments here in Canberra include $131 million for 136 Building the Education Revolution projects in Canberra, benefitting 67 schools. This includes 17 new libraries, 23 multipurpose halls, and 29 covered outdoor learning areas, among other investments. Every school, every parent and every student I have spoken to loves the BER program here in Canberra. They love the investment, and they love what it has done for their school. Many of the schools have had their P&C fund—raised through lamington drives, chocolate drives and sausage sizzles—freed up and now they can spend it on other projects such as gardens and other facilities.
As part of Labor's $2.4 billion Digital Education Revolution, 8,500 computers have also been installed in 23 schools. Twenty-two schools in the Canberra electorate are benefitting from the National School Chaplaincy Program and the Student Welfare Program.
Labor's Trade Training Centres are helping more and more students make the shift from school to work. Here in Canberra we have invested $5.7 million in the Canberra Region Pathways Trade Training Centre at St Mary Mackillop College, St Clare's College and two other schools on the north side, and $8.1 million in the Tuggeranong Sustainable Living Trade Training Centre.
And as we head to toward the Centenary of Canberra celebrations next year, Labor is investing in our nation's capital and our national institutions. In the recent budget there was $11.9 million for the National Capital Authority to ensure it can play its role in the lead-up to the centenary in 2013. Due to this vital funding, the NCA can be better placed to prepare and review heritage management plans, conservation and maintenance programs, restoration, and interpretation. This will position the NCA to fulfil its asset management responsibilities such as civil infrastructure maintenance on roads, paths, street lights and bridges.
In the budget Labor also committed $39.3 million in supplementary funding for our national collecting institutions so they can continue their important work as the custodians of some of Australia's most important artefacts and artworks. This is in addition to $83.5 million to fund a program of initiatives to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the Anzac Centenary. There is $20 million for the National Arboretum, $42 million for the Constitution Avenue upgrade and $2.5 million to install better lighting at Manuka Oval.
These are just some of the more recent investments being made in my electorate of Canberra and more widely throughout the capital region. To those who think Labor has neglected the ACT due to the relative perceived safety of its seats, I suggest that you consider the alternative, because, rather than promise to invest in our nation's capital, those opposite propose to slash services and cut jobs instead. They have no vision for Canberra other than to use our hardworking public servants to fill their $70 billion black hole. Their plan is to cut 12,000 jobs— that we know about—with many more also facing the chop. We are getting mixed messages on this. Every time I meet with someone from the coalition there are another 5,000 jobs cut. I go back to what the member for North Sydney said in May this year in an interview. The question was: 'So you'll cut 20,000?' Answer: 'We will cut the Public Service'. Question: 'By 20,000?' Answer: 'We've already said that'. When we look at what the coalition propose for Canberra, it is not pretty. I ask Canberrans to think back to 1996 when jobs were lost, shops closed, businesses closed, house prices plummeted and people left town. There is a stark contrast between Labor and the coalition when it comes to Canberra. Labor will always support our Public Service. We will always invest in health. We will always invest in infrastructure. We will always invest in education. We have done so already. Our record speaks for itself. Labor is the best thing for Canberra.