Standing up for Canberra

Matter of Public Importance on Australia's Future and Governance 2012

When I saw today that the matter of public importance was 'the failure of the government to provide a plan for a stronger Australia' I laughed out loud. It implies that those opposite have a plan for Australia. That would mean that they had policy, because if you have a plan you have to have a policy. We have seen all this year, and particularly in the last week, just one big policy vacuum. If those opposite are not terrifying the bejesus out of Australians, particularly those in Whyalla, they are trawling for dirt. They are completely devoid of policy and I find this MPI completely laughable.

Contrast that vacuum with what this government has done for the country so far and its strong record in strengthening the Australian economy, strengthening education, strengthening health, strengthening the environment, strengthening infrastructure and strengthening social housing, and making Australia a better and fairer society as a result. The OECD has just released its economic outlook and yet again it highlights the resilience of the Australian economy. While the rest of the world is beset with high unemployment and low growth, our economic plan has seen this country thrive in the face of a very challenging global environment. First we had the IMF saying, and now the OECD agreeing, that our economy will outperform every single major advanced economy and the OECD as a whole over the next two years. As the world watches our economic plans with envy, the forecasts are for growth of 3.7 per cent this year, three per cent in 2013 and 3.2 per cent in 2014. These forecasts are completely consistent with our mid-year economic and fiscal outlook.

That is just one element of our achievement. There are also our plans for productivity, for the nation's education system and for the nation's growth, and that growth is best represented in the Asian century white paper that we recently released. It outlines our vision for what we see as our role in Asia and maximising opportunities for all Australians to benefit from the opportunities that exist in an Asian century. Those opportunities mean that we need to become more Asia literate, that students need to gain not just an Asian language but also an understanding of what Asia is all about. I know from my time in India that understanding Hindi was just one part of understanding what India was all about. It was being immersed in the culture and completely understanding it, and living and breathing it every day, that gave me the chance to gain a greater appreciation of India.

So, we have that strong economic record. In addition, we have an incredibly strong track record on education. We have doubled the investment in education since we have been in government and the historic education bill that was released this week, the first of its kind to look at schools funding in 40 years, will take us that next step. We will do that through national plans and a range of other measures, and I am very much looking forward to hearing about the negotiations on that with the states and territories and Catholic and independent schools over the course of 2013. As I said, to date we have made record investment in education, and record investment in apprenticeships. We have record numbers of apprentices coming on line. The trades and vocational area has been an area of neglect for many years and it is only Labor that has taken this on to address the significant skills shortage we have in many trade sectors in this country.

We have a well-recognised and world-class record on the environment. We have introduced the carbon price, and we had a very difficult first six months of this year doing that but we did it. That was a major achievement for the environment. In addition, we have the MurrayDarling Basin Plan, and the states have been grappling with this issue for the last 110 years, since Federation. Now, finally, a historic plan has been achieved.

We have a strong track record on health. We have funding for more doctors and nurses, more beds, and particularly important for my own electorate are the GP superclinics. We have made historic investment in infrastructure to build productivity, historic investment in social housing and a strong record on fairness, particularly with the introduction of the NDIS legislation this morning and the Indigenous bills this week.

I want to turn to Canberra because the government has a strong track record not only in terms of the nation but also in terms of investing in Canberra. One of my great loves is education, and I will highlight a few of the investments we have made since Labor has been in power. Under the Building the Education Revolution program, Richardson Primary School has received $2.1 million; St Francis of Assisi, $3.1 million; St Thomas the Apostle, $2.4 million; Galilee School, which looks after high risk kids—I am going to their graduation in the next week or so—$346,00; the Woden School, $1.1 million; Malkara School, $945,000; Canberra Montessori School, $942,000; Canberra Girls Grammar School, $3.2 million; the Islamic School of Canberra, $55,000; and Yarralumla Primary School, $2.2 million. They are just some of the investments we have made right across Canberra in education. We have also made an investment of $5.7 million for a trade training centre for a number of the Catholic schools around Canberra, and also $8.1 million for a trade training centre in the college system in Tuggeranong.

In addition to that we have made significant investment in infrastructure—$18.5 million to upgrade and duplicate the Monaro Highway—finally, after 40 years, patient Canberrans and New South Welshmen now have a completely duplicated Monaro Highway. We are providing $144 million for the Majura Parkway, again a historic project, finally linking the north and south of Canberra. There is $409,000 for black spots, with $3.6 million having gone towards fixing black spots across Canberra since 2007, and $20 million to help the ACT government maintain and upgrade local roads. That is in addition to our significant investment in funding for our cultural institutions—for the War Memorial, for the National Portrait Gallery, for Parliament House walk, and for our fantastic centenary next year; which I am very much looking forward to. We also have the National Arboretum and the lights at Manuka oval. The list is endless.

Before I close, I want to acknowledge some of the people that have helped me during the year to implement Labor's agenda to make both Australia and Canberra a stronger and a better place. I particularly want to thank my staff. I would like to thank my electorate office staff: Eva Cawthorne, Julie Burns and Jim Mallett—thank you for managing what is about the largest electorate in Australia by population. I would particularly like to thank Tom and Jack, Eva's children, who are incredibly patient with their mum, who often has to work long hours. I would also like to thank those who work for me during the year—that is, Celia Mallett, Marc Emerson and Claire Johnston. I would also like to thank John Hannoush, who works in my Parliament House office on all of my committee work, and also my wonderful media adviser, Simon Tatz.

There are a number of volunteers I would like to thank too, and also people who have worked in a part-time capacity: Caitlin Delbridge, Jeeven Nadanakumar, Edward Burns, Alice Wade, Anna Langdon, Sandy Thomas, Katie Gilette, Brendan Morrison, Stephanie Jones and her carer Karen, Rob Travellion, Natalie Shephard and Sue Robinson. I would also like to thank the sub-branches: Canberra South, Telopea, North Woden, South Woden, Curtin, Tuggeranong, Lanyon, Western Creek and also the new Brindabella daytime branch, which has provided me tremendous support throughout the year. A number of the members have also volunteered on my mobile offices throughout the year. Also I would like to thank my past FEC team committee and the new FEC team. This is a complete nonsense of a motion. As I said, I laughed out loud when I read it. If you have a plan then you need policy, and that is completely devoid in the opposition.

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