Priorities in Cunningham

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (18:43): I start in my contribution to this cognate debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2016-2017 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2016-2017 by commending my colleague the member for Macarthur. The issue of housing affordability is a very significant one, and it is no different in my electorate. The Wollongong area has seen a significant increase in the cost of housing and, flowing from that, the cost of rental accommodation. That has put great pressure on young people in particular trying to get into reliable permanent housing. Very sadly, many young people in my area are now expressing to me the view that they will never own their own home. I think that is a very sad state of affairs. The member is right: we have not seen any real action or determination by this government to address this matter. Simply buck-passing it off to this states as state issues is not sufficient. Simply buck-passing it off to parents saying, 'You should dip into your life savings to help you kids onto the housing ladder,' does not reflect the reality that many parents are not in a position to do that. So the member's contribution, I think, was very important to this debate.

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Thereapeutic Goods Amendment Bill 2016 - Fast Access to Life Saving Drugs

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (12:39): I rise today to speak on this important bill, the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2016 Measures No. 1) Bill 2016. As did my colleague the member for Makin, I indicate my support for this bill, with a number of reservations. Firstly, I would like to touch on aspects of the bill and what reservations I hold. Secondly, I would like to talk about some important examples where this is a significant local issue in my electorate.

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Matters of Public Importance - Education Funding

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (16:04): It is interesting to hear those opposite as they twist and turn and try to change the facts on what has happened in the school funding debate. The member for Boothby, for example, is putting forward an argument that she is quite happy that the schools in her electorate will be getting $25 million less than they would have been if her government had kept the promise that they made to people in the election. Indeed, in South Australia there were posters up at polling booths: 'We will match dollar for dollar what Labor has committed on schools.' The reality is a significant decrease in the funding in her electorate. It is the same story in my own electorate and in electorates all across the country. Our schools across the Illawarra and Southern Highlands will lose $59 million in the next few years alone.

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Private Members' Business - Workplace Relations

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (17:18): I rise to support the motion moved by the member for Lyons which is before the House today. Recently I have spoken in the House about issues of generational unfairness which are increasingly impacting on young Australians. This government have continued to attack young Australians from all angles—letting housing affordability get out of control, watching the youth unemployment rates skyrocket and attempting to slash income support for those under 25 at the same time as the cost of living continues to rise. Their sustained attacks—and we have incurred more today—on penalty rates are just another stark example of their unfair attacks on young Australians.

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Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals making it harder for young people

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (16:49): The young people of today have every right to be angry. They should be angry that they have a federal government and a Prime Minister who are completely out of touch with their lives and unconcerned about the challenges that they are facing. My generation, our generation, should not be saying to the generation following us, 'You will not be better off than your parents.' We must not accept a passing-on of a lower standard of living to the next generation.

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STATEMENT: Centrelink Robo-Debt Debacle

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (16:38): I would like to take the opportunity to report to the House an initiative that has had a significant impact on many, not just in my electorate but across the country, and that is the government's cruel, unfair and unnecessary Centrelink robo-debt disaster. I have been contacted by a large number of my constituents who have been very unfairly subjected to threatening letters from the government demanding they immediately repay a debt that they often do not actually have. These are not people who have been rorting the system, as the government has attempted to accuse them of; they are people who went to Centrelink for help in a time of need—as they are, and should be, entitled to do—and they reported their earnings when they were asked to do so. The stress that this has caused to many people in my electorate is severe. For many, the task of having to prove their income and earnings from upwards of six years ago has been very difficult. Even those who are able to obtain records are forced onto repayment systems while a review occurs.

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Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee Report

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:02): It is a pleasure to be able to speak on the report before the chamber by the Infrastructure, Transport and Cities Committee, Harnessing value, delivering infrastructure: inquiry into the role of transport connectivity in stimulating development and economic activity. I would like to start by indicating that I came onto the committee as the deputy chair for this report in this parliament, and so I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the work of the previous committee and all of those who contributed through submissions and attendance at inquiry hearings, as well as the secretariat. This report makes some very important recommendations, and I want to deal specifically with three of them in my contribution today.

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Domestic and Family Violence

I appreciate the opportunity to make a few comments in this debate today. It is the case that a year ago, almost exactly to the day, I was standing in this same place talking about White Ribbon Day. On that occasion, I was reflecting on 40 years previously—that is, 1975—which was International Women's Year—and the events that I remember happening when I was much younger woman than I am now, such as when my mum and a group of women in our local community decided to establish a women's refuge in the area. Great work was done by the public school mother's group, who were the driving force behind that. They were supported by the local council, a group of nuns from Warrawong, local unions and some businesses who provided equipment and paint and so forth. They established the first women's refuge in our area. I am fairly sure that those women then, and my young self at the time, would have hoped that 41 years later-if they could have imagined that I would end up in this place representing the community—it would not be an issue that we had to keep talking about. But we do, and that is why I want to again say how important this issue is, and we can hope that in another 40 years, our successors in this place will not have to have these conversations. Each and every one of us are working towards making that future a reality, in whatever way we can with whatever power we have.

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MPI - Youth Unemployment

Across this country in communities like mine, and in communities like the member for Cowper's local area, youth unemployment is an extremely significant and important issue to families, to communities and, I would hope, to members of this place. If the member for Cowper thinks that banging the drum again, carrying on about trade unions and criticising the opposition are going to cut it with people who are seriously concerned about youth unemployment, he is very, very wrong.

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MPI - Inequality

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (16:07): I have to say that the MPI raised by the Leader of the Opposition is a really pertinent issue to be addressing at the end of this week—rising inequality in our communities and of the potential for division that can come from a society where people are missing out on the opportunities that we have, for many generations, seen as a birthright in Australia.

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