Question Without Notice - Workplace Relations

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:38): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations. How has the Fair Work Act facilitated workplace bargaining since 2009? What are the challenges to, as well as other options for, improving bargaining for Australian businesses and employees? Mr CREAN (Hotham—Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (14:39): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. She, as did everyone on this side of the House, knew how important it was to fight Work Choices and replace it with Fair Work Australia. I am asked what the impact has been of this important change which we have made since coming to office and I can say this: it has been fantastic for jobs. Some 740,000 jobs have been created since we came to office— Mrs Bronwyn Bishop interjecting— The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar is warned! Continue reading

National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Home Loans and Credit Cards) Bill 2011

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12:43): I rise to support the National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Home Loans and Credit Cards) Bill 2011. The purpose of the bill is to amend the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009, which includes the National Credit Code, and it continues this government's commitment to effective credit reform— in particular, our Fairer, Simpler Banking policy. The bill delivers on the government's election commitment to take actions to provide greater protections for Australians in their use of credit cards and most importantly to ensure they are not being charged excessive fees for this usage. I seek to speak in this debate because I am acutely conscious of the increasing role of credit in modern life. When I was in my young married days we had a home loan and store cards, and it was not long before credit cards were added to that. Now, many people also have credit on things like mobile phones, and the extension of credit throughout their lives has continued. On top of that, there is far more comprehensive calculation of and shared information about people's credit histories, so it has an even more far-reaching impact on their lives. It is critically important that as a national government we are actively engaged in this area. Continue reading

Australian Institute for Innovation Materials

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:28): I visited the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials facility on 9 June with Parliamentary Secretary Justine Elliot and member for Throsby Stephen Jones. The University of Wollongong, which is the facility that runs AIIM, is a recognised world leader in multifunctional materials research, and I had the opportunity to find out more about the groundbreaking research being led by Professor Gordon Wallace and Professor Dou. The research groups housed at the AIIM— the ARC Centre for Excellence for Electromaterials Science and the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials—together have more than 200 researchers and postgraduate students working to tackle some of the biggest global challenges. This includes energy technology that is developing new methods of energy generation, transportation and storage, including battery technologies that will be of considerable importance to the future of electric vehicles, and building on the breakthrough research they have done. Secondly, there is health and medical bionics to advance muscle and nerve regeneration and cochlear implants and to develop wearable bionics to assist with injury prevention and rehabilitation, as well as advances in medical devices such as improved MRI systems. Continue reading

Cunningham Electorate Health Services

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:03): I want to report to the House today on an important announcement made in my electorate last Wednesday by me, the member for Throsby and Mr David Farmer, the General Manager of Wollongong City Council. This was an announcement around the Healthy Communities Initiative. It is a particularly important one in terms of the government's agenda on preventative health measures. The Commonwealth government announced that we will be providing $703,000 to Wollongong City Council. This funding was for a range of programs that the council was running in order to put in place health and lifestyle programs for local residents, particularly those who are least likely to be targeted by the general run-of-the-mill type of delivery—that is, those that are delivered through fee-for-service or where people actually buy particular diet or exercise programs. Many people miss out on that sort of access and these programs are particularly targeted at those who are the most at risk and the least likely to seek out such programs. Continue reading

Festa della Repubblica

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:5 4): I want to take the opportunity to note that today, 2 June, is Italy's national republic day—Festa della Repubblica. On behalf of the government, I feel it is important to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Italy and all Italians, who are celebrating this year the 150th anniversary of the country's unification. I am aware that the Prime Minister has put out a statement celebrating this anniversary also. Nearly one million Australians have Italian ancestry and have contributed to our society over many generations. Currently, we have around 200,000 Australian residents who were born in Italy and at least 30,000 Australians are today living in Italy. Our two countries have a friendly, robust and collaborative relationship with each other and we enjoy many mutual benefits from our warm and longstanding friendship. Italian culture, language and heritage is widespread across Australian communities, including my own. This has enabled us to share rich social, cultural and economic links with Italy. Today, for example, trade between our two nations is worth nearly $6 billion a year. As the largest migrant population in my electorate of Cunningham, Italo-Australians have had significant involvement in the economy and the culture of Wollongong and the Illawarra more broadly. The Italian Social Welfare Organisation of Wollongong have played a excellent local role in this development. Continue reading

Constituency Statement - Cunningham Electorate - Schools

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:25): I want to report to the House about a visit to my electorate on 13 May, a couple of weeks ago now, by Minister Garrett to two local schools. It was an opportunity to talk more broadly in the local area about the very important education initiatives that were in the budget. I have addressed those in the budget debate so I will not go directly to those. I want to take this opportunity to thank the schools that welcomed us into their facilities and showed us some of the work that their students were doing. We, firstly, went to Mount Ousley Public School and we were welcomed by Principal Peter Holmes and the school captains Layne Ireland and Joshua Brown. Peter is a local principal who has had a great commitment to introducing technology into the classrooms. I first met him when he was at Otford Public School in my electorate and he was running a program where the parents and fundraising in the school provided laptops for all the students. He had introduced the same thing at Mount Ousley Public School so we visited their year 6 class to see their one-to-one laptop program. Continue reading

Appropriation Bill (No 1) 2011-2012

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (18 : 43): It is a pleasure to follow the member for Kooyong. Perhaps he would like to take his philosophy of the market being the best option, apply it to consideration of the carbon debates in this place and reconsider the direct action policy of his leader as the most appropriate way to address the climate change challenge. I look forward to the reassessment, as I understand some of his colleagues would probably be keen to get in behind him on that. So I anticipate that with great pleasure. Continue reading

Banking

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (19 : 55): I very much enjoy the opportunity to contribute to adjournment debates and as much enjoy listening to them. I have been enlightened today by the member for Indi, who suddenly discovered anti-dumping issues in the manufacturing section. She is obviously very worried about them, and I look forward to going back to look at all the speeches and motions she moved on that issue when the coalition were in government. I am also going to go back and check all the statements made by the member for Tangney about TPI pension indexation. Given that he does swim against the tide a bit, I give him credit for acknowledging that he may have been swimming against his own government at the time. But I will go and check to see how often he raised both issues when the coalition were in government. Continue reading

Question Without Notice - Tobacco Products

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:11): My question is to the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing. As the minister responsible for medical research, why is evidence based policy-making important, and is the minister aware of any additional evidence to support the government's decision to move forward with the plain packaging of tobacco products? Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide—Minister for Mental Health and Ageing) (15:12): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. I spoke yesterday about 12 different research studies covering the issues of branding, design and the promotion of tobacco packaging. Today I want to bring the attention of the House to a review of the evidence released yesterday by the Cancer Council. The review pulls together the findings from 24 targeted studies over two decades and demonstrates very clearly that the look and the feel of tobacco packaging is a very powerful marketing tool, particularly for the recruitment of new smokers. Recruiting young Australians to smoking is important to big tobacco. If you want to make a profit in the tobacco business, you need new customers and you need them regularly. The shadow minister said on Sky yesterday: I just don't have the evidence one way or the other. ... I've asked the Government to produce the evidence. Continue reading

Education and Employment Committee

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (20:15): I want to take the opportunity to welcome the report School libraries and teacher librarians in 21 st century Australia produced by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment given that I was the chair of the former House Standing Committee on Education and Training, which originally commenced the inquiry in the previous parliament. I was very pleased that post the election the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth asked the new committee to continue with the work of the previous committee and to produce this report. I commend the chair, Amanda Rishworth, the member for Kingston, for the work that has been done and all members of the committee in following up and producing this final report. I do so in particular because the issue was originally brought to my attention as a result of an online petition that had been running amongst teacher librarians. They were particularly concerned about the fact that in the digital age, for some reason— I think we gathered a lot of evidence that is reflected in this report about why this was happening—people were coming to the view that teacher librarians were not necessary in schools, where in fact quite the opposite could well be argued to be true. With the depth, complexity and breadth of information available to young people today, they need an experienced navigator more than ever to assist them in assessing the source, the legitimacy and the value of information that they are accessing, in particular, online. It was something that, particularly as a former teacher, caught my attention. We sought a reference from the minister, the current Prime Minister, and undertook to do a study into the matter. Continue reading