Question Without Notice - Broadband

Ms BIRD ( Cunningham ) ( 14:18 ): My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister outline the next steps in providing high-speed broadband to all Australians through the National Broadband Network?Ms GILLARD ( Lalor — Prime Minister ) ( 14:18 ): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. In this parliament she represents a community which knows what it is like to undergo structural change, a community that is working together understand ing that there are some job losses in steelmaking which they need to confront but a community which is fighting back and making sure it has a plan for its economic future . Making steel will be part of that economic future but I know her community is looking forward to the benefits that the National Broadband Net work can and will bring to businesses in her electorate, increasing their productivity. T hat is because people in her electorate and people right around the country get the commonsense proposition that we as a nation cannot compete if we are using yesterday's technology. We have a great resources sector, but imagine if it were t rying to compete in the world using picks and shovels instead of forefront technology. Imagine if manufacturing were using hand tools instead of robotics in the forefront of technology. Of course they would not be able to compete . Continue reading

Telecommunications Universal Service Management Bills 2011

I rise to support the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency Bill 2011, the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Universal Service Reform) Bill 2011and the Telecommunications (Industry Levy) Bill 2011. The principle behind this legislation is universal service obligation. I will discuss how that sits within the current context of the rollout of the National Broadband Network and I will then come to the detail of the bills. The concept of universal service obligation has a long history—it goes back several hundred years, to some of the early postal services. Its history has been both market driven and, in more recent times, legislatively based. Obviously in the early days of new technology a particular provider in a market will be the only provider or one of only a few providers, and the history of the postal services is that some providers said that the defining characteristic of their operations was that for a single price they could deliver mail across a particular geographical area—across a country or across a state and so forth—for the same price. They were driving a market that was geographically wide, where there was no advantage from living in one of the population bases, in a big city—they were able to expand their market by providing services to people in more remote areas. Continue reading

Speech - Adjournment - Mr Neil Preston OAM

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (21:04): I acknowledge a very important local leader in our community who is retiring. Unfortunately, I will not be able to make his retirement function, but I have taken the opportunity to put a message through to him for that event. His name is Neil Preston. Neil is the manager of the Greenacres Disability Services in the Wollongong area and is very, very well known to many in our community and indeed to many in this place as a fierce and constant advocate for those with a disability. Only the other week, I and the member for Throsby hosted Senator Jan McLucas, as the parliamentary secretary for disabilities, into the area on a surprise visit to Neil at work to present him with a certificate of appreciation for his years of public service and advocacy in the disability sector. Senator McLucas acknowledged in that presentation and on the certificate that was given to Neil that he was an agitator and an advocate of the first order. It is certainly something that many in our community are going to miss, in terms of the tremendous work Neil has done, not only in running a very important disability service in our community but for his determination to make work in the disability sector a valued, remunerated and important component of the lives of the people with a disability that he was working with. Whilst Neil talks about retirement, I am sure that that retirement will involve ongoing advocacy and engagement on an issue that has been very dear to his heart for 16 years and to which he has been such a tremendous asset. Continue reading

Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011 - Speech

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (13:45): I would indicate to the member who preceded me that, as a descendant of five generations of coalminers, with many of my family still in the industry, and coming from an electorate that does have coalmines, I absolutely support the range of bills before the House today. I am, in fact, very pleased to speak in support of the Minerals Resource Rent Tax Bill 2011. This bill has very simple objectives. Its first objective is to tax the above-normal profits from mining the ore and coal that belong to the people of Australia. Its second objective is to return the revenue raised by this tax to the people of Australia. The MRRT will fund a comprehensive policy package which reforms the taxation system, invests in infrastructure and increases the retirement incomes of Australians. It will cut the company tax rate for all companies to 29 per cent by 1 July 2013. It will provide an immediate new tax break for up to 2.7 million small businesses across Australia from 1 July 2012. It will simplify the tax affairs of 6.4 million Australians, with a $500 standard deduction from 1 July 2010 and a further $1,000 from 1 July 2013. It will reward Australians who save money, with a 50 per cent discount on up to $500 of interest income from 1 July 2012, increasing up to $1,000 of interest income from 1 July 2013. It will boost the superannuation incomes of 8.4 million Australians, with the first increase from 1 July 2013, and expand the superannuation concessions to 3.5 million low-income earners and about 275,000 over 50s from 1 July 2012. Crucially, it will invest in our regions through the Regional Infrastructure Fund and the Regional Development Australia Fund. Continue reading

Speech - Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Universal Service Reform) Bill 2011

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:49): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, I seek leave to make a statement on the inquiry into the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency Bill 2011, the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Universal Service Reform) Bill 2011 and the Telecommunications (Industry Levy) Bill 2011, in discharge of the committee's requirement to provide an advisory report on the bills, and to present a copy of my statement. Leave granted. Ms BIRD: The committee has endorsed the contents of this statement. On 2 November 2011, the following bills were introduced into the House: the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency Bill 2011, the Telecommunications Legislation Amendment (Universal Service Reform) Bill 2011 and the Telecommunications (Industry Levy) Bill 2011. The TUSMA Bill forms part of a package of legislation to achieve continuity of key telecommunications safeguards in the transition to the National Broadband Network. On 3 November 2011, the bills were referred by the Selection Committee to the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications for inquiry. On the same date, the bills were referred to by the Selection of Bills Committee to the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications. The deadline for submissions to that committee is 2 December 2011 and the reporting date has been set for 27 February 2012. Continue reading

Private Members' Business - Meals on Wheels

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (20:41): I also want to take the opportunity tonight to participate in this important matter before the House moved by the member for Shortland, recognising the work that Meals on Wheels does in our communities and indeed has done for a very long time. As the member for Paterson said, all communities would be well aware of the Meals on Wheels services. They have a long, well-established reputation and are greatly valued. In fact, before being elected to this place, I got a job working in Sydney. I had been doing some volunteer work over the years, mainly, I have to say, for organisations associated with my children, and I was a bit disappointed that, having to commute to Sydney, it would be difficult to continue some sort of community volunteerism and involvement. I was working in a job where I had a flex day a month and it was drawn to my attention that Meals on Wheels might be a good option because you can actually commit to doing it just the one day a month if that is all you have available. I thought it was a great idea to get out at lunchtime on my day at home and go round and do that. It was an hour or 1½ hours once a month. So I enlisted as a volunteer with Meals on Wheels for a couple of years before I was elected to this place. It was a service that I had been aware of and had valued as a general member of the community. But once you actually do it you get a whole new appreciation for how significant and important it is, and the motion by the member for Shortland reflects that. It is about providing nutritious food to people who are frail, elderly or isolated and unable to access the family connections and so forth that some of us would take for granted to provide that sort of support regularly, or indeed they may have just decided to be a bit more independent and to find ways to provide for themselves without putting that pressure on their families. There are a whole range of reasons for which people choose to use that service. Continue reading

Question Without Notice - Mining

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:39): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism. Will the minister update the House on the strong performance of the resources sector and why the government is making sure the government is making sure the benefits are shared by other sectors of the community? Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Batman—Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (14:40): I thank the member for Cunningham for the question. In doing so, I remind the House that this week we must finally determine whether we as a community are prepared to support a tax that the mining industry now supports. In doing so, this House has an opportunity to share the benefits of the resources boom that Australia is currently experiencing. The coalition, in their determination to vote down this tax, have to face up to the fact that they are voting against taxation relief for small business. I must say that that is very important to a broad section of small businesses in the Australian community. They must also face up to the fact that they are voting against the opportunity for small business to have an automatic capital write-off of $6,500. As Minister for Tourism, I remind the House that that is exceptionally important to the almost 280,000 enterprises in the tourism sector. It is also about making sure that where we are experiencing the pressures of the resources boom in the key petroleum areas, we have the capacity to invest in infrastructure and, in doing so, to ensure Australia's opportunity to grasp every available increase with respect to export opportunities. Continue reading

Speech - Cabin Crew Ratios on Australian Aircraft

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:31): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, I present the committee's report entitled Finding the right balance: cabin crew ratios on Australian aircraft, incorporating a dissenting report together with the minutes of proceedings. Ms BIRD: I acknowledge my deputy chair in the chamber as we present the report. On 2 March 2011, the committee resolved to inquire into the ratio of cabin crew members on aircraft following a request from the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport. In particular, we were asked to inquire into and report on: the current aviation safety regulatory system for aircraft operators in relation to the application of the cabin crew to passenger ratio, including current exemption provisions; the role of cabin crew in managing both passenger safety and security; the factors that determine the cabin crew to passenger ratio; domestic and international practice in respect of the cabin crew to passenger ratio; and finally measures to enhance aviation safety that may be considered in future requirements on aircraft operators for a safety risk management plan covering the cabin crew to passenger ratio. Continue reading

Question Without Notice - Mining

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:35): My question is to the Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism. Minister, how is the government ensuring the benefits of the mining boom are spread throughout the Australian economy? Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Batman—Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (14:36): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. She, more than most members in this House, understands the importance of the mining boom and also appreciates, due to the diverse nature of the South Coast of New South Wales, the impact it is having on other sections of her local community. The member for Cunningham is very supportive of the fact that, at the moment, mining industry companies in Australia are actually making record profits. The message she has received from the Australian community, which was under the pump because of the impact of the resources sector on the broader community, is that the rest of the community actually needs a helping hand. That is what the debate on the mining tax is about. It is about how we spread the benefit of this boom to the broader Australian community. That is not about stifling investment. Continue reading

Speech - Treaties Committee Report

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:43): On behalf of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties, I present the committee's report entitled Report 121: treaty tabled on 16 August 2011, incorporating a dissenting report. I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report. Leave granted. Ms BIRD: This report contains the committee's view on the agreement between the government of Australia and the government of the United States of America relating to the operation of, and access to, an Australian naval communications station at North West Cape in Western Australia done at Washington on 16 July 2008, which was tabled on 16 August 2011. The proposed agreement is intended to replace the agreement between the government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the government of the United States of America relating to the establishment of the United States naval communications station in Australia done at Canberra on 9 May 1963. The 1963 agreement provided for the establishment, maintenance and operation by the United States of a naval communications station in Australia. This agreement was terminated in May 1999 and since then an interim arrangement applied until a new treaty was concluded. The proposed new agreement will remain in force for an initial period of 25 years and, unless terminated, shall continue for subsequent periods of five years. Continue reading