Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:27): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline the importance of delivering a fiscally responsible budget and how Australia compares internationally? How is this approach being received and what is the government's response? Mr SWAN (Lilley—Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:27): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question because we are seeing the quickest return to surplus on record and that is occurring well ahead of comparable countries. Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada will not even have halved their deficits of a share of GDP by 2013. In 2013, the major advanced economies will still be in collective deficit of around five per cent of GDP and of course Australia will be back in the black. As I was saying before, we are doing that because we have put in place the essential savings—$22 billion worth of savings, two-thirds of those spending cuts. We are seeing the fastest fiscal consolidation on record. I have seen some of the statements from those opposite but there has also been a number of statements from the market economists and the rating agencies. This is what the credit rating agency Standard & Poors said: The deficits and additional borrowings do not alter the sound profile of Australia's public finances which remain among the strongest of its peer group. Continue reading
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (3.23 pm)—I have been following the debate in the House today on this legislation and the amendments with great interest. I want to put on the record that I was quite astounded and moved to participate today by the contribution of the member for Tangney. That was an astounding contribution to the debate. I do not think that it progressed the case of those opposite at all. The interesting thing about the progress of the debate about the rollout of fast and ubiquitous broadband in this nation over many years now is the increasingly smaller circle that those opposite have debated themselves into. There is no doubt that this nation needs to take the next step to fast and ubiquitous broadband to increase our productivity and our participation and also provide social benefits of inclusion and equity. Mr McCormack—This could be a speech on the carbon tax. Ms BIRD—I would have thought that that would have been a fairly uncontested statement, but obviously those opposite cannot even agree with that. They cannot even agree that fast broadband being rolled out across the nation is an important step for the economic and social development of the nation. I must say that I am quite astounded that there would be an argument with that statement. Continue reading
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (1.28 pm)—I rise in support of the Schools Assistance Amendment (Financial Assistance) Bill 2011. Mr Pyne interjecting— Ms BIRD—I was so moved by the intense and wonderful contributions of my colleagues on this side that I have come to add my contribution to this particular debate. I thank the shadow minister for being so keen to hear me that he has acknowledged my presence in the debate. There is an important process underway instituted by this government to review the most appropriate mechanism for schools funding. Within the context of that broader consultation that is currently underway with a view to having a report through by late this year, this bill provides ongoing certainty around funding. It will amend the Schools Assistance Act 2008 with the intention of extending the existing funding arrangements, which include the indexation arrangements until the end of 2013 and the grants for capital expenditure until the end of 2014. This is intended to ensure funding certainty for the Catholic and independent schools sectors through the process of the broader review. Continue reading
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (1.58 pm)—I take the opportunity today on behalf of myself and the member for Throsby to put on the record of the House the passing of Mr John Henry Parsons. John was a local gentleman—and I say that in the fullest meaning of the word—who ran the family business H Parson’s Funeral Directors in Wollongong, a long-established and wellknown local business. I knew John from an early funeral I attended in my role as the local member and, as with so many old Illawarra families, he said to me, ‘I am sure we are related,’ and I subsequently discovered we were. His funeral is today and, sadly, the member for Throsby and I are not able to join the family, but we extend our deep condolences to them. He will be sadly missed by many in our region. He was, of course, somebody who many of us knew in the saddest of circumstances, but his smile, kindness and generosity to families in difficult circumstances will long be remembered. He was the beloved husband of Margaret; the loved, adored and cherished father and father-in-law of Julianne and David, Mark and Lisa, Alan and Michelle, Menita and Mark and Alison and Stewart, and much loved ‘Pa’ of his 15 grandchildren. The whole region wishes the family our deepest condolences.
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10.15 am)—On behalf of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications I wish to make a statement updating the House on the committee’s current work and inquiries. In my capacity of Chair of the House Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, and in accordance with standing order 39(a), it is my intention to provide the House with a further update on the current activities of the committee. Members may recall that, on 28 February, I provided some information to the House on the committee’s work, in particular, at that point in time, the committee’s inquiry into the role and potential of the National Broadband Network. I will come back and give some further update on that particular inquiry shortly. However, I also want to provide to the House some information on further inquiries that the committee is currently working on. On 3 March, after a request from Minister Albanese, the committee agreed to inquire into the ratio of cabin crews to passengers on Australian aircraft. The minister invited the committee to report on this matter by the middle of the year. By way of background, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority is currently considering a regulatory proposal that addresses the assignment of cabin crew members to aircraft that require carriage of cabin crew. Under the current arrangements, operators of Australian domestic aircraft carrying more than 15 but not more than 216 passengers are required to carry at least one cabin crew member for each 36 passengers or part thereof—that is, a ratio of one to 36. Continue reading
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (4.31 pm)—I rise to speak on the matter of public importance before the House. Mr Truss—The coalminers will be pleased! Ms BIRD—With great pleasure I do so. As I come from five generations of coalminers I have great pleasure in supporting the government in its actions to introduce a price for carbon into our economy. It may well interest those opposite that the previous member for Throsby, Jennie George, the current member for Throsby, Stephen Jones, and I worked closely with our community through the various issues in terms of pricing carbon, and we were returned with increased majorities at the last election, you will be very pleased to know! Opposition members interjecting— Ms BIRD—I say to those opposite that they might want to settle down a little bit. Perhaps they are interested in generating their own levels of carbon with the heat and light they are creating in this debate but the words in today’s Illawarra Mercury from Mr Andy Gillespie, the AWU organiser in the area, should be heard well by those opposite. He says. The scaremongering over the effects of a carbon price should stop. Continue reading
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
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
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
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.