Private Members' Business - Workforce Participation of People with a Disability

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (11.32 am)—First of all, I thank the member for Pearce for bringing this motion before the House. I will add my comments to those of others here that it is encouraging to see the level of interest and competition to speak on the member’s motion, and it reflects the fact that there are many of us in this House who are well aware of the importance of this issue. I should also acknowledge that the member for Pearce was the minister for this area for a period in the late nineties, and I acknowledge her contribution on this important issue during that time as well. Not surprisingly, I do not entirely agree with the member’s characterisation of this government’s approach to the area. I think it has been given an unprecedented level of significance and priority both by the current government and in our previous term from 2007. In particular, I think that it is important to recognise that there is the National Disability Strategy in place from 2010 to 2020. I just want to take a few moments to put some of the significance of that strategy on the record before I take the opportunity to talk about some important local initiatives in my area around this. I should indicate that the National Disability Strategy is intended to establish a high-level policy framework, and the idea of that is to give coherence and guidance to government activity across both mainstream and disability-specific areas of public policy. I think some of the issues that have been raised by other members in their contributions around issues such as transport indicate why it is important that such a national strategy crosses not only the disability-specific areas of public policy but, more broadly, all areas. It is also designed to drive improved performance in those mainstream services in delivering outcomes for people with a disability. Continue reading

Statement - Infrasturcture and Communications Committee

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10.40 am)—I wish to make a statement on the committee’s inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network. I want to take the opportunity, with my deputy chairperson, the member for Hinkler, to bring the House up to date on the progress of the inquiry currently underway by the Infrastructure and Communications Committee into the role and potential utilisation of the National Broadband Network. This was a referral made to the committee on 6 November last year by Minister Albanese, with a target for a report by the middle of this year, which we are aiming to achieve by August of this year. The important thing is that committee has been asked to look at a very broad range of areas in which the National Broadband Network can be utilised in order to provide new transformative ways of delivering services across a number of government areas, including health, education and local government. We have already had a few submissions from local councils and regional divisions of local councils joining together and giving evidence—these are up on the website—about the sorts of improvements in delivery of their own services that they are looking to utilise the National Broadband Network to deliver. Also, we will look at broader agenda items such as environmental sustainability and regional growth and development. Continue reading

Taxation Laws Amendment and Income Tax Rates (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bills

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12.21 pm)—I rise today to support the Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011 and the Income Tax Rates Amendment (Temporary Flood Reconstruction Levy) Bill 2011. I imagine everybody in this House was both shocked and awed, as I was, by the events that occurred over the New Year period and in particular the devastating impact that those floods had on the people of Queensland. There would be very few of us who did not feel our hearts go out to the people in those very traumatic and extraordinary circumstances. Certainly it took those in my own area of the Illawarra back to the floods that we experienced in 1998, when there was significant damage to property but not the loss of life that we sadly saw in the Queensland circumstances. These particular circumstances, of course, confront the government with a decision on how it will undertake its responsibilities in responding to those flood circumstances and, more importantly, assist with the reconstruction effort. That is why we have these bills before us today. Clearly the bills are intended to impose a temporary flood recovery levy on Australian and foreign resident individual taxpayers. It is a progressive form of taxation. It applies to those with taxable incomes of $50,001 or more in the 2011-12 income year only. The levy will be applied at the rate of 0.5 per cent of taxable income for those earning between $50,001 and $100,000 in 2011-12. Of course, being a progressive tax, it will then apply at a rate of one per cent for those earning a taxable income of $100,001 or more in 2011-12. Continue reading

Illawarra Ethnic Communities Council

Ms Bird to move: That this House:(1)   notes that the Illawarra» «Ethnic» «Communities» «Council (IECC) celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2011; (2)   congratulates the Chairman, Mr Ken Habak for his many years of leadership of the IECC, and past and present members of the IECC for their service; (3)   acknowledges the extensive community services provided by the IECC to the Illawarra migrant community over the last 35 years; (4)   commends the Federal Government’s multicultural policy; and (5)   recognises that the Illawarra community is made up of diverse cultures, and lives in harmony with understanding and tolerance.

Appropriation Bills

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (11.30 am)—I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2010-2011 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2010-2011. I should indicate that Appropriation Bill (No. 3) involves a total appropriation of $1.36 billion and this flows from the changes to the estimate of program expenditures, the timing of payments, forecast increases in program take-ups, and some reclassifications and policy decisions that have been taken by the government since the last budget. Appropriation Bill (No. 4) has a total appropriation of $1.02 billion for numerous departments. I want to take this opportunity in the debate to address a number of specific issues within that range of policy areas and also address some of the local implications for my electorate. I would like first to address the component that addresses the fair entitlements guarantee to protect employee entitlements when employers enter liquidation. I would indicate that Illawarra workers have been victims over many years now of losing their legal entitlements when companies go broke, starting with the very famous example of Parish meats at Yallah quite a while ago. Continue reading

Question Without Notice - Skills

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (3.24 pm)—My question is to the Minister for Trade. Why is developing the skills of the Australian workforce an important economic reform in boosting the competitiveness of Australian exporters? Dr EMERSON (Rankin—Minister for Trade)—I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. She represents a great industrial area of Australia —a high-skill area—and that is very important to Australia’s economic future. That reminds us that 30 years ago, in the very early 1980s, Australia had a big choice to make: would it continue as an economy behind high tariff walls, protected, to sell products onto a fragmented, small market or would it create an open, competitive economy—open up our trade and open up our business so that we could take on the rest of the world as exporters and win? That choice was made by the Hawke Labor government. The Hawke government decided that it would fashion an open, competitive economy. Continue reading

Private Members' Business - National Broadband Development

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (11.54 am)—I rise to support the motion put to the House today by the member for Greenway. Her contribution and that of the member for Throsby encapsulated the reason that we, at least on this side of the House, are so adamantly enthusiastic about the National Broadband Network and why it was so resoundingly endorsed by so many people at the last election. We represent outer metropolitan, regional and rural communities who know only too well the failure of the market to deliver what is becoming an increasingly important piece of infrastructure for modern living, and that is fast, accessible and affordable broadband. I am quite surprised that more members on the other side have not reflected that their offices, like mine, are consistently dealing with people contacting them to complain that, because of old pair-gain systems and outdated copper technology that has not been upgraded, their access to broadband is severely limiting the capacity of their family to operate. What I particularly hear from people is the effect it has on their children because of the importance of broadband as a study tool, not only at school but, obviously, also at TAFE and university. Many universities now have a huge access requirement. Students often have to download lecture documents and discussion papers that are large and take up quite a bit of capacity and time to access. That is an important reason for requiring broadband access. Continue reading