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like mine, are consistently dealing with people contacting them to complain that, because of old pair-gain systems and outdated copper technology that has not been upgraded, their access to broadband is severely limiting the capacity of their family to operate.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