Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (17:08): I'm very keen to use this opportunity in the grievance debate to put some serious grievances on behalf of my own electorate on the record in this place. In particular, I want to talk firstly about some serious issues we have around the need for investment in transport infrastructure, and then, more broadly, some of the areas around education and community where we need some support from the government to achieve objectives. First of all, with the significance of transport infrastructure, I hope many of my colleagues in this place would know that Wollongong is the third largest city in New South Wales. We have extensive connections into the Sydney CBD and suburbs, and also across to Western Sydney. We have a significant port with capacity for development, and, I would argue, capacity to be an important link to the new Aerotropolis that's planned, and also to the task that the port of Sydney itself has to deal with. These things are real opportunities not only for economic development in the Wollongong region but also for the jobs that would flow from that. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:00): My question is to the Prime Minister: Could the Prime Minister live on the Newstart rate of $40 a day? Mr MORRISON (Cook – Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service) (14:00): I thank the member for her question. For all of those who are on Newstart or many of the other welfare payments that are provided to them by the taxpayer, those payments are certainly modest. Those payments are indexed every six months, along with every other welfare payment. The Australian public provides that support. But the most important support that is provided by this government is to ensure that people can get off welfare and into work. This government has set records both for youth unemployment and getting people into jobs, people right across the spectrum—older Australians, younger Australians, female Australians—getting them into work. Because the best form of welfare— Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:10): This is the sixth sitting day since the election. When you consider that one of the days was filled by the normal procedures that happen with a new parliament, it's only five sitting days. I sit here and reflect on what would have happened if there had been a different election outcome. Of course, we respect the outcome, but I think we would have a front bench of ministers doing a whole lot of work—for example, in the education sector. There would have been a whole lot of work on rolling out legislation and commitments on childcare services, early childhood education opportunities, rebuilding the financing around school education, and significant major reform in the post-secondary education sector. There would have been a health minister looking at rolling out our pensioner dental plan and initiatives such as the cancer reform. But we didn't win the election; those on the other side did. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:54): Saturday, a week ago, there was a great event organised in Wollongong by one of our tremendous local organisations, Circus WOW. With Gabrielle Quigley and Libby Bloxham, Circus WOW organised locally a flash mob dance to Kate Bush's very popular 1970s song 'Wuthering Heights'. The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever event is held in cities around the world, with people coming together for good purpose to flash mob dance to Kate Bush's song. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:48): Thank you. Like many in this House, I get around to lots of activities that young people are engaged in in our communities, and they continually inspire me and, indeed, recharge my batteries when I go along and see some of these activities. Things like the Tournament of Minds, where hundreds of local students from schools all across the region participate in problem-solving activities, come to my mind. The Lego robotics competitions are a great example of science and technology providing an opportunity for young people to engage in some great activities. In particular in the last week, we have had NAIDOC celebrations, with many young people involved in those activities. They're very inspiring, and there are so many wonderful young people in our communities. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (19:09): As always, I jump at the opportunity to speak in this place on education. I thank my colleague the member for Moreton for bringing this motion before the House. It's a very well established principle, in terms of growth and development and the flow-on effects, and the opportunities that that has for jobs, that there are two significant issues that a country needs to get right. One is investment in education at all levels and the other is infrastructure. At the end of the day, as many of those opposite have said on many occasions, it's not the government that creates jobs but it is the government that creates the environment in which the opportunity to create jobs occurs. For these two aspects of government responsibility, I would have to say that education has been an abysmal failure for this government. Almost seven years in government and I could not tell you—and I very much doubt anybody could tell you publicly—what the education agenda is of this government or of any of the variations that have preceded it. There is never an articulated view of what the future of our education system should be. There is never prosecution of a case of the contribution of education to economic growth and development, and its ability to ensure equality within that so that all people get an opportunity to share in it. At most, what we get is: some of the old diehards here will get up in a debate like this, rattle off a shopping list of things and say, 'The government's putting more money into this and putting more money into that.' Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:59): I join so many in this place, across both sides of the chamber, in paying my respects to the memory of the Hon. Robert James Lee Hawke AC and acknowledge the tremendous outpouring of both grief and joy that we experienced at the Sydney Opera House at his memorial service. In many ways, Bob Hawke's political life, and particularly his prime ministership and his time leading this country, reflects so many of the significant moments in my own life. Indeed, the 1983 election, when he was elected, was my first federal election to vote in. I'd just missed the 1980 election by a month. I'm sure my vote would have made a huge difference to Labor's cause at the 1980 election! However, I was very pleased that my first election, being the '83 election, saw the Hawke government take federal power and, more importantly, bring in a really important agenda that was about taking our nation to its potential. I think that was reflected not only in the economic, the international and the social areas but also in a really important conversation we had as a nation about what our future was. To be able to do that requires the leadership that so many people in this place have expressed, and trust, because they know that the leader understands them and that he epitomises their hopes. I think that's very much what Bob Hawke did. It was the case that so many of those changes were not easy. Looking back, it is easy to say that it was obvious and that they were the sorts of reforms that needed to happen, but at the same time they were not easy reforms, both within our own party and movement and within the national debate. It was certainly the case for me, at that point still a university student and newly married. It was tremendous to see a Labor government take that federal election. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (12:47): I start my contribution to the debate on this bill by taking the opportunity, like the member before me, to acknowledge the veterans who live in my own community. We are obviously out at all sorts of events and occasions where we meet people in our community who are veterans of both military and peacekeeping activities—far fewer, obviously, from very early conflicts, but particularly ranging from Vietnam veterans to veterans of current, modern-day conflicts. We see them and their families out and about in our communities all the time. I think it is a significant and important thing, where we can, to take the opportunity to thank them for their service, both the service personnel and the families that support them. In that spirit, I want to indicate my support for the bill before the parliament today, the Australian Veterans' Recognition (Putting Veterans and their Families First) Bill 2019. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (10:13): I want to take the opportunity today to talk about a very important issue in my local area. Yesterday, as many of my colleagues would know, was World Autism Awareness Day. It's a day when, normally, I'm able to be in the electorate and participate in some really important activities to show how our community value the people with autism in our community, including making sure they get the support, education and opportunities that they are entitled to, and to extend that appreciation and support to their families. There's a great program in which we light up the lighthouse on the headland in Wollongong in blue. That certainly happened, and I extend my congratulations to everybody involved in that project. It's a great visual reminder of the importance of people with autism. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (13:02): by leave—I just want to take this opportunity, recognising, as the chair has just outlined, that this may be the last opportunity in this parliament for us to talk about the fabulous work of the committee that we've been chairing and that I've been deputy chair of over this parliament. I would encourage people to look at this report. It's a significant body of work, which was turned around in a reasonably short period of time, I have to say. Continue reading