QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE: MINISTER FAILS TO ANSWER ON ROBODEBT

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:50):  My question is to the Minister for Government Services. Can the minister confirm the Administrative Appeals Tribunal first determined that robodebt was illegal in March 2017, and on at least 75 other occasions, but the government persisted with its illegal scheme right up until December 2019? Continue reading

ILLAWARRA BUSINESSES IN 2020: A YEAR OF HARDSHIP, INNOVATION, ACHIEVEMENT AND COMPASSION

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (19:28): A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a function that I regularly go to in my electorate, the Illawarra Business Chamber's annual business awards. For so many businesses in my electorate, as in all of my colleagues' electorates, I'm sure, it's been a really tough year. This was an opportunity to particularly acknowledge a range of businesses who, even in the toughest of times, have been able to really make significant achievements in their businesses. The Illawarra Business Chamber has a very rigorous process to determine the winners of the categories. A panel with very esteemed local people goes through a whole process of application and interview to decide who the winners are. Continue reading

NAIDOC WEEK

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (10:50):  I want to start my contribution today by acknowledging the First Nations people of this country and, in particular, the original owners and custodians of the land on which this parliament meets and the original owners and ongoing custodians of the land that encompasses my electorate, around Wollongong. They are owed our acknowledgement and respect, in particular because this is NAIDOC Week. In my electorate, there are many, many people and organisations taking the opportunity to acknowledge and pay respect to our First Nations people. Of course, NAIDOC Week is normally earlier in the year but, due to the COVID pandemic, we have seen it moved to this week. Continue reading

A BUDGET OF EXTRAORDINARY DEBT BUT MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (18:26): I have on very many occasions spoken in the appropriation debate each year in which a budget has been brought down and I have been the representative of the electorate for Cunningham. But I will say that it has been an extraordinary year, and we have, as a result of the extraordinary events that our nation has faced, a later budget than we would normally have. We of course have been through the terrifying and devastating fires, the damaging floods and now the coronavirus pandemic, which is something that none of us, I think, could have envisaged at this time last year. It's something that we have, as a community, as a nation and as a parliament, had to deal with. Continue reading

YOUNG PEOPLE NEED A GOVERNMENT WHO LISTENS TO THEM

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (13:21): I'm pleased to support this motion before the Chamber today. For context, the motion discusses the importance of understanding the impacts of the COVID pandemic on young people and calls on the government to take an holistic national strategy around dealing with that, but I'll make the point here that for many young people there were already issues that were playing out significantly for them that they were talking to members of parliament and attempting to get messages to government about pre-pandemic. Continue reading

MORRISON GOVERNMENT MUST DO BETTER ON AGED CARE

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (16:06): Aged care has quite rightly been the priority of this parliament both this week and last week. I know that the experiences of our older Australians during this pandemic are front and centre in the minds of many members in this place. In the time available to me today I want to really press the government to do much more and be much more effective in the home-care side of aged-care services as well. We know that, if people are supported to stay in their own home longer, they feel more settled, have happier lives and are able to have some dignity in their life. I acknowledge the great work done by so many of our residential care providers, but home care is an important option. Continue reading

GLOBAL MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE AWARENESS DAY - QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY HONOURS

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (16:48): GLOBAL MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE AWARENESS DAY I'm wearing this blue flower as Sunday is Global Motor Neurone Disease Awareness Day. Motor neurone disease affects more than 350,000 people across the world, and 2,100 Australians are currently living with it. One of those is the Wollongong man I've spoken about many times in this place, Professor Justin Yerbury. Justin works at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute and the University of Wollongong School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience. While living with MND, he has spent the last decade trying to understand the underlying causes of MND, along with his colleagues—and I particularly acknowledge Dr Luke McAlary and Senior Research Assistant Natalie Farrawell.   Continue reading

VOCATIONAL EDUCATION BILL

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (12:47): Can I indicate at the outset that I support the amendment moved by Labor and also that I don't oppose the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020 that is before us today, just as Labor doesn't oppose it. As has been outlined by many speakers, the bill's intention is to amend the governance structures of ASQA, the Australian Skills and Quality Authority, and also to enhance its information sharing with the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research. These are both commendable intentions in and of themselves. The bill seeks to do this with two key amendments. The first one revises ASQA's governance structures, replacing the chief commissioner, chief executive officer and two commissioners with a single independent statutory office holder—a CEO. Secondly, the bill establishes the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Advisory Council, which I'll just refer to as the advisory council, which is intended to provide ASQA with access to expert advice regarding the functions of the regulator. Continue reading

MENTAL HEALTH DURING COVID PANDEMIC

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (10:36): One of the great challenges that we've all faced during the pandemic has been providing mental health and wellbeing services for people in our communities. Many of us are conscious of the direct health issues that people were challenged with—and I have spoken before on thanking our doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals for the work they did. Obviously, during such a time, for people who suffer from, for example, anxiety and depression, these issues would have been exacerbated by the circumstances that we were in and the social isolation. People who would normally be out and about and accessing their support networks—I'm thinking of the frail, the elderly and people with a disability—weren't able to do so, and the pressure that puts on people can significantly affect their mental health and wellbeing. Continue reading

ACTION NEEDED FOR FIRST AUSTRALIANS

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (10:35): I want to start my contribution today by echoing the words of the Speaker at the start of parliament and acknowledge the First Peoples of this nation. I extend that to the people of the Dharawal nation in my region. On our TVs and across social media, the words 'I can't breathe' and the video footage of an African American man held down on the street by a police officer, calling out for his mother and saying he can't breathe, have reverberated around the world. In our country, it brought back memories of David Dungay Junior, from the Kempsey area, who was three weeks away from release from Long Bay prison and was subject to restraint that caused him to cry out, 12 times, 'I can't breathe.' Continue reading