Core Skills Framework launched to address adult literacy

More than 210,000 workers and job seekers will be directly assisted by the Gillard Government’s foundation skills programs over the next four years. Releasing the revised Australian Core Skills Framework (ACSF) today, Parliamentary Secretary for Skills, Sharon Bird MP, said that improving literacy and numeracy skills from the lowest to middle level, as identified by the ABS Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey scale, can increase a person’s chance of getting a job by five to 15 percentage points, and increase their hourly wage rate by about 25 to 30 per cent. “The Australian Government is committed to building the foundation skills of the workforce to give every Australian the chance to share in the benefits of Australia’s strong national economy," Ms Bird said. “In our last two budgets we have invested an additional $297.8 million over four years in programs to improve the foundation skills of the Australian workforce. “The $115 million 2010 Foundation Skills Package and the $182.8 million 2011 Building Australia’s Future Workforce package will expand program delivery to assist more than 72,000 workers and 140,000 job-seekers over the next four years. “Giving more Australians the skills they need to join the workforce will help drive productivity. “Improved literacy and numeracy skills will not only benefit the individual, but also the economy, as more people get the opportunity to share the benefits of our strong economy.” The ACSF is a tool to support and improve Australian adults’ language, literacy and numeracy skills. It is part of the Government’s $784 million investment to give employees the foundation skills required to meet the challenges facing a 21st century workforce. Further information about the ACSF can be found at:

Sixth pension increase on the way on Tuesday

The Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, said today that pensioners will receive their sixth pension increase on Tuesday morning further boosting their incomes. “I am proud that a Commonwealth Labor Government introduced historic pension reforms in 2009 and a fairer indexation system will see pensioners benefit for the sixth time. “Single pensioners on the maximum rate will receive an extra $6.70 per fortnight and pensioner couples on the maximum rate will receive $10 per fortnight combined. “Since 2009, the Commonwealth Labor Government has increased the maximum rate of pension by about $154 per fortnight for a single and about $156 per fortnight for a couple combined. “Following this latest increase, the total pension payment for pensioners on the maximum rate, including the base rate and pension supplement, are $755.50 per fortnight for singles and $1139 per fortnight for couples combined. “In May this year, the Government will also increase payments to pensioners and eligible self-funded retirees as part of the Clean Energy Future Package. “Pensioners will receive an increase of about $338 per year and pensioner couples will receive an increase of about $510 per year combined”, Ms Bird said. She said that the Liberal-National Party had voted against the increase in pension payments. “The Liberal-National Party led by Tony Abbott have indicated that they will scrap these increased payments and take them back off pensioners leaving many pensioners at least $300 a year worse off.”

Abbott says NO to tax cuts for 42,500 Illawarra small businesses

Up to 42,100 Illawarra small businesses will be left high a dry because the Liberal-National Party intends to block a tax cut for small business, Federal Labor Illawarra MP’s, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, said today. “The Commonwealth Labor Government has locked in a tax cut for small business and a new $6500 instant asset write-off. “These initiatives will help up to 42,100 small businesses in the Illawarra share in the mining investment boom and provide real opportunities to expand. “I just can’t believe that the Liberal-National Party, which is supposed to look after small business, is standing in the way of up to 42,100 small businesses in the Illawarra region benefiting from a tax cut and an increased instant asset write-off”, Ms Bird said. Stephen Jones said, “Not only is Tony Abbott standing in the way of a tax cut for small business, he is denying low income earners a boost in superannuation. “The Commonwealth Labor Government wants to boost superannuation from 9% to 12%. “This will, for instance, increase the average retirement earnings of a 30-year old worker by an extra $108,000. “Tony Abbott is a threat to the long-term retirement incomes of up to 121,800 low-income young Australian workers in the Illawarra.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills appointment

 am honoured and privileged to be appointed the Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills by the Prime Minister. This is an exciting challenge for me and I am humbled that the Prime Minister has expressed confidence in my ability. The Gillard Labor Government has a huge agenda for higher education and skills. I look forward to working more closely with the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans. I have a long-standing personal and professional interest in education, training and skills. Prior to entering the House of Representatives in October 2004, I was a high school teacher and TAFE teacher. During the Parliamentary term 2007-10, I served as the Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Training. I am looking forward to strongly continuing to serve the people of Cunningham and the Illawarra region in my new role as Parliamentary Secretary for Higher Education and Skills.

Labor Leadership

The Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, said today that she will support the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, in the ballot for the Labor leadership on Monday. “The Prime Minister has always had, and continues to receive, my total support. “For the good of the Government and the community we represent, the leadership issue must be resolved on Monday”, she said.

1,000 new GP registrars start work in local communities

A record number of medical school graduates have this year begun their vocational training to become GPs under a $150 million Gillard Government program. Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said 1,000 former students had taken up places in 2012 to work as GP registrars in hospitals and doctor surgeries in urban and rural areas across the country. “GPs are the front line of our health system, providing professional medical care to millions of Australians every year,” said Ms Plibersek. “To assist GPs get the training they need and to ensure local communities are served by as many doctors as possible, the Gillard Government is continuing to increase vocational training places.” The GPs are being trained under the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program, which has been greatly expanded as part of a government commitment to boost doctor numbers. The number of registrar places were increased to 700 in 2010, 900 in 2011 and 1,000 this year. The number of training places will increase to 1,100 in 2013 and 1,200 in 2014. “When Tony Abbott was health minister he capped the number of GP training places at just 600 a year which lead to a critical shortage of doctors.” Continue reading

Gonski schools funding review report welcomed

Federal Illawarra Labor MPs, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones today welcomed the release of the report of the Review of Funding for Schooling and urged local schools and parents to provide feed back on its findings and recommendations. “The Gonski report is the first comprehensive review of funding for schools since 1973. “The report finds that we need to fund our schools in a way that is fair and transparent ensuring every single child gets access to a world-class education. “The Commonwealth Government needs to work with State Governments, principals, teachers, education unions and parents on the next stage in the development of a new funding model for our schools”, Ms Bird said. Stephen Jones said, “This report is important to all of us whether we be teachers, principals and parents. “It charts a way forward to ensure that all schools are funded fairly and all students are able to take advantage of a great education. “It’s the first time in 40 years since school funding has been looked at in a comprehensive way, and I am very pleased that this Commonwealth Labor Government commissioned this report.” Ms Bird and Mr Jones urged all interested in the schools funding debate to read the full report and details of the next steps in the consultation process. The Gonski Report can be accessed at

Wollongong Human Services staff to help in flood recovery

Minister for Human Services Brendan O’Connor, Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Member for Throsby Stephen Jones have today thanked Wollongong staff from the Federal Department of Human Services for assisting with the recovery effort from the devastating floods in New South Wales and Queensland. Mr O’Connor said a dedicated team of 15 staff has been working since Monday 6 February to process paper-based claims for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment. “While improvements in processing mean the majority of claims can now be finalised almost immediately, the Wollongong processing team has been tasked with assessing many of the online and paper-based claims for the New South Wales floods, including the more complex claims requiring additional information,” Mr O’Connor said. Ms Bird said the Wollongong processing teams are highly experienced in emergency assistance claims. “Around 12 months ago, these staff were processing claims for the Queensland,New South Wales and Victorian floods, supporting Australians affected by some of the worst flooding we’ve seen in recent times,” Ms Bird said. Continue reading

$845,000 to provide more respite services for carers in Wollongong

Five local Wollongong care services will share in extended funding of $845,000 providing a guarantee of more respite services for carers in the Cunningham electorate, Federal Member for Cunningham, Sharon Bird, announced today. “This is welcome news for carers in my electorate and means the local service providers can plan respite needs in advance because this funding provides certainty for the next two years. “Carers do a tremendous job and it can be physically and emotionally demanding. “Carers need the opportunity to take time out from their caring responsibilities to work, relax, catch up with friends, and do other things we sometimes take for granted. “Carers also need to be reassured that when they take time out for themselves that their loved one is being looked after. “I am pleased that the Commonwealth Government is extending funding for two years to ensure local service providers in my electorate are able to ensure respite services continue”, Ms Bird said. Respite Service Provider Funding amount 2011-12 to June 2014 Greek Welfare Centre $182,444 IRT (Illawarra Retirement Trust) $236,892 Indochinese Respite Service $105,538 Interchange Illawarra Inc $98,741 Uniting Church of Australia $221,344 The extension of Commonwealth Government funding has been provided under the National Respite for Carers Program (NRCP).

NBN boost for Wollongong and Dapto - new roll-out site added

The roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) to Wollongong and Dapto will be boosted by a further 8100 premises and a new roll-out site of 8200 at Corrimal will be added, Federal Labor MPs, Sharon Bird and Stephen Jones, announced today. “This is a fantastic announcement and turbo charges Stephen and my determination to ensure that the NBN is available as quickly as possible to every suburb in our electorates. “I am extremely pleased that in addition to the 5600 premises that are to be connected to the NBN in Wollongong, a further 2800 homes and businesses will also be part of this initial connection. “I am also delighted that 8200 homes and businesses in Corrimal – a new early rollout site - will also be connected to the NBN”, Ms Bird said. Mr Jones said, “I am really happy that Dapto in my electorate will benefit from an additional connection of 5300 homes and businesses. Continue reading