Australian Citizenship Amendment (Special Residents Requirements) Bill 2013 - Second Reading

Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (13:12): I thank members for their contributions—the member for Hindmarsh and other members who have participated in the second reading debate on this bill. I remind the House that the Australian Citizenship Amendment (Special Residence Requirements) Bill 2013 amends the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 to give the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship a discretion to provide a pathway to citizenship to a very small number of people in very exceptional circumstances where it would be of benefit to Australia for them to be Australian citizens and to represent Australia in their field of expertise, be that medicine, research, the performing arts or sport. The bill builds upon the existing special residence requirements in sections 22A and 22B of the act. It allows the minister to substitute alternative residence requirements on a case by case basis for certain people who need to become an Australian citizen to engage in an activity of benefit to Australia, or for people whose work requires them to regularly travel outside of Australia. These categories of people are defined by a legislative instrument made under section 22C of the act. The bill maintains the integrity of the citizenship program by requiring the minister to be satisfied that the applicant meets all the other requirements for citizenship by conferral, including their age, their identity, that they are of good character and, where relevant, that they have passed the citizenship test. Continue reading

Questions Without Notice - Vocational Education and Training

Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (14:41): My question is to the Minister for Higher Education and Skills. How is the government working to make sure that thousands of trainees, apprentices, students and workers have the skills and training they need to get better jobs and build a stronger economy? Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:41): I thank the member for Makin for his question. I have had the great opportunity over many years to have conversations with the member for Makin about how important education and training is in his electorate and I am well aware of the understanding that he has about how significant it is for the people of Makin. In fact, only recently I was able to visit the University of South Australia with the member for Makin. We were there to announce additional funding for the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, which is a tremendous organisation. They are going to be providing 750 Indigenous students across South Australia with mentors. The member for Makin and I were able to join their initial session and to see the great program roll out. I know the member for Makin will be continuing to stay in contact with those students, who were very enthusiastic about the opportunity. Continue reading

Student Identifiers Bill 2013 - Second reading

Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (11:31): I move: That this bill be now read a second time. Introduction The Australian government is committed to improving the transparency and responsiveness of the vocational education and training sector. More Australians than ever are entering training to expand their knowledge base, improve their skills or get a better job. Australia's continued prosperity will depend in large part on the skills and knowledge of our people. The Australian economy relies on a strong, highly skilled workforce, and this government is committed to taking the steps required to ensure that all Australians have the skills we need to drive economic growth. As bodies like the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency have noted, the diversity and flexibility of training on offer is one of the strengths of Australia's national training system, along with its capacity to satisfy many different needs at different points in people's lives. Continue reading

Constituency Statements - Cunningham Electorate: Health

19 March 2013 Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (16:10): I want to report to the House on two important community health initiatives that occurred in my electorate in recent weeks. First of all, on Thursday, 7 March, I was very pleased to join with 17 other Illawarra political leaders at an event organised by Wollongong's Young Citizen of the Year, Jessica Sparks, who has an organisation called Sparking Life. Jess created Sparking Life, which is dedicated to increasing organ and tissue donation in Australia. She was the recipient of a double-lung transplant over three years ago, and I have known Jess for those intervening years. She is a great advocate for the importance of organ donation.The event was a culmination of DonateLife Week, which happens around the nation. Seventeen of us came together from all political parties. There were me and the member for Throsby, Stephen Jones; state members Ryan Park, Noreen Hay, Anna Watson and Gareth Ward; Wollongong Lord Mayor, Gordon Bradbery; and Shellharbour Mayor, Marianne Saliba—just to give a taste of the coverage that was at that event. We all came together to hold up signs of commitment, a pledge, to talk to our families about the importance of organ donationso that, in those tragic circumstances where decisions have to be made, the conversations have already been had. Continue reading

Private Members Business - Superannuation

18 March 2013 Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (18:50): I take the opportunity this evening to express my support for the intent of the private member's motion which has been moved by my colleague the member for Throsby about self-managed superannuation. I want to start by acknowledging the point that was made by a member in point (1)(d) of his motion, which is that this House notes: … the severe hardship caused to investors in Trio Capital, which collapsed as a result of fraudulent activity and which was the largest superannuation fraud in Australian history, with around $176 million lost or missing. A significant number of the victims of this fraud, as the member for Throsby indicated, live in my electorate. Some of them have personally come to see me or have written to me about the devastating financial and very often emotional toll that this has had on them and their families. Without exception these people had dedicated significant effort and resources over their working life to saving for a secure and quality retirement. Their concerns were only to provide for themselves in their retirement age, to not be a burden to their families or communities but to continue the independence that had been a feature of their working life and which they aspired to continue in their retirement. Continue reading

Australian Education Bill 2012

13 March 2013 Ms BIRD ( Cunningham — Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills ) ( 11:17 ): It is my great pleasure to stand to support the Australian Education Bill 2012, which is before the House today. Having spent a lifetime working in the education sector—as, indeed, you have, Acting Speaker Grierson, coming from a similar background to mine—I see this as a once in a lifetime opportunity to address the issue of ongoing school funding in this nation. So I particularly endorse the bill before the House. A core Labor value is giving every Australian student the chance for a world-class education. Like many in this place, I was the first in my family to go to university. We well understand the importance of making sure that each child has the capacity to reach their full potential and to achieve their goals in life. Every child should have this chance, no matter where they live, what their family background is or where they come from. Continue reading

Matters of Public Importance - Migration

13 March 2013 Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (16:00): It is a great pleasure to speak on this today. I have to say it is probably slightly misnamed as a matter of public importance; I think it would probably be more accurately described as a matter of public fearmongering. It regularly appears whenever the opposition are obviously struggling and casting around for something to talk on in this place—'We will just get the old fearmongering-on-border-protection out, pop it on the stove, give it another boil-up and see how well we can do.' But we have discovered an addition to the black hole of the financials on that side of the House with the acknowledgement of the shadow minister that this will be another amount that they are adding to the cost. I am just wondering if the shadow Treasurer is waiting outside that door to have a little chat with him about making that commitment. It was an interesting disclosure, that that is another cost to be added to that black hole. Continue reading

Ministerial Statements - Closing the Gap

12 March 2013 Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (20:41): I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak in this debate in response to the Prime Minister's report to the parliament on the Closing the Gap report for 2012. The annual report to parliament has occurred each year since Prime Minister Rudd offered the official apology to the stolen generation on behalf of the nation in 2007. I was very pleased, as I am sure many of us were, to have been able to be present in the chamber on this very significant and moving occasion. At the time I said: … there is so much that was stolen because of these policies and it is so important that we reach out. We do … through to an ongoing commitment to make sure that Aboriginal people's opportunities in our country are improved. Continue reading

Australian Capital Territory (Self-Government) Amendment Bill 2013

12 March 2013 Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (17:40): It is my pleasure to sum up this debate, and I would like to thank all the members for their contribution. I do feel a bit like the town crier of birthday felicitations as I spoke earlier in the chamber to wish Wollongong headspace a happy fifth birthday and I have great pleasure in summing this bill up and wishing Canberra a happy 100th birthday today, so it is a great day to be speaking in the chamber. I also acknowledge the two speakers before me, the members for Stirling and Fraser, and I am sure in the great tradition of bipartisan reaching across the aisles they will, in a particularly positive manner, resolve the contentious issue of the member for Stirling as an ANU illustrious alumni in his assessment and make the member for Fraser's list in the future. I am sure they will resolve that matter. Continue reading

Appropriation Bill (No.3) 2012-2013, Appropriation Bill (No.4) 2012-2013 - Second Reading

13 February 2013 Ms BIRD (Cunningham—Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills) (11:29): I am taking the opportunity of this debate on Appropriation Bill (No.3) 2012-2013 and Appropriation Bill (No.4) 2012-2013 before the parliament today to give an update on developments in my own area. Like the previous speaker, the member for Dunkley, most members like to talk about important projects and issues in their electorates. After the budget, I always take the opportunity to report on the initiatives offered to my local area. I can report to the chamber that, since the election of the Labor government in 2007, those budgets have delivered far more and far more effectively, and have been far more welcomed than the budgets of the previous 11 years of the Howard government. In our region, there are some significant challenges and I believe our government have the correct programs and the correct vision for our region and for the nation. I would like to outline some of the programs that were rolled out in the second half of last year in my region. Continue reading