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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

MPI - Economy

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:45): Thank you, Deputy Speaker—and can I just say, on your behalf: that was an outrageous list of accusations that the member just made against you, Deputy Speaker. I am sure you did not do any of those things whatsoever, so I am very happy to defend your reputation in this place from those accusations. Continue reading

VET Student Loans Bill 2016

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (11:16): It is a pleasure to be able to continue to speak on the VET Student Loans Bill 2016 today and, in particular, to support the amendment put forward by the shadow minister for TAFE and vocational education, the member for Adelaide. This cognate debate addresses some very significant and important issues around the VET FEE-HELP scheme. As the shadow minister has rightly indicated in the amendment that she put forward, there is an absolute need, given the history leading up to this point, to have a look at the decisions the government have made so far and what has happened on their watch with this scheme, and to allow that understanding to feed into how we respond to this bill. Continue reading

Light it red for dyslexia

Ms BIRD(Cunningham) (11:10): It is a real honour to speak in this debate, and I particularly want to commend the member for Wakefield for putting it on the agenda of this place. I also want to acknowledge the excellent contribution by the member for Forde—some very insightful comments there as well. Continue reading

Labor's commitment to the Illawarra

I am very pleased to have the opportunity in the chamber today, under the broad discussion of the appropriation bills, to canvass some of the issues in my local area that have occurred during the election campaign and since then. Continue reading

Mental Health Week

  I want to take the opportunity, as this sitting week comes to an end, to reflect on some of the important conversations and events that occurred as we went through Mental Health Week this week. Many of us in here are aware that we commenced with World Mental Health Day, on Monday, and many of us started wearing our badges. I participated in the campaign to make a personal pledge on mental wellbeing, as I know many of my colleagues did. I was pleased to sign that campaign website and make my personal pledge, which was to give back to my local community through something both fun and meaningful. There was a great range of options for people to consider signing up to. That is still operating, and I would encourage people who are interested in supporting it to go onto the website, make their own pledge and be part of a very important initiative. Continue reading