Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12:44): [by video link] I appreciate the opportunity to speak in this adjournment debate. As my colleagues would be aware, I'm in Wollongong and we're part of the New South Wales lockdown area. I want to report to the House and make some comments about the feedback on the experiences of my constituents at this time. It is the case that in Wollongong we have a very small number of cases being announced daily. This is a situation where people in so many local government areas and electorates across Greater Sydney are watching those daily numbers, watching the lists of exposure sites as they're released, and checking where they've been, with all the hypervigilance that people have at this time. This is putting a lot of stress on my community. I have to say that there are so many people across the community who, each and every day, make me proud to represent them: community groups, church groups, volunteer groups, those organising meals. Our local ABC Illawarra, each morning, talks to a local community group doing things to support the less fortunate in our community each and every day. It's great to hear about what they're doing. As always, the volunteer groups that are part of our community are impacted by people's need to stay at home, and that is affecting the volunteering capacity.Read more
The security and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is devastating for the people of Afghanistan, for Australian-Afghan communities, for the Afghan staff that supported our military and diplomatic operations for over 20 years – and for our veterans.
And for the women and girls of Afghanistan who now face the prospect of a cruel and brutal regime.
Many Australians - including veterans - are horrified to see the Taliban surge across the country.
Labor is deeply concerned about the stability of Afghanistan and we urge the Morrison Government to work with international partners to help support efforts towards a negotiated settlement and a permanent ceasefire.
Labor will use all avenues to ensure the Morrison Government continues to support the people of Afghanistan, including through Australia’s humanitarian assistance program.
Labor understands that this is a deeply distressing time for Australians of Afghan descent, and Afghan visa holders in Australia who are fearful for the safety of their loved ones.
Kabul attack -
Labor condemns in the strongest terms the attack at Kabul airport.
This was a despicable act against Afghans seeking security and those who were helping them. We note Islamic State Khorasan Province has claimed responsibility.
We grieve with the people of Afghanistan today. We grieve with our US allies - their work has saved many thousands of people.
US forces have played a crucial role in the evacuation operation, ensuring safe passage for around 4,000 Australians and visa holders, alongside our ADF. We thank them for their bravery and sacrifice.
Labor is greatly relieved that all Australian personnel are safe.
We remain gravely concerned for Australian citizens and visa holders who remain in Afghanistan and can no longer safely travel to Kabul airport.
We will be seeking updates from the Morrison Government on what this means for the operation going forward.
On assistance for those in Afghanistan –
The government has updated the Smart Traveller advice to advise that Australian evacuation flights from Kabul have ceased, and all Australian Government personnel have left Kabul. There's an ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack. Explosions have occurred in the vicinity of the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Those in Kabul are advised not to travel to the airport. If they are in the area, they should move to a safe location.
Everyone seeking assistance in Afghanistan should register with Smartraveller and monitor for updates at https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/asia/afghanistan.
On evacuations for defence interpreters and local staff –
The Afghan civilians who worked alongside Australian soldiers and diplomats, who wore Australian uniforms and who kept our people safe now face increasing threats to their lives and the lives of their families, because of the assistance they provided our nation.
We have a moral obligation to help the people who have helped Australia – and we have a national security obligation to make clear to the world if you help Australia, we will help you.
It’s an important message of respect for our veterans that we are standing by the people who stood by them.
Our major allies understand the urgency and are ramping up evacuations - including to third countries while processing takes place.
Labor has been calling on the Morrison-Joyce Government to fast-track this process for months. Mr Morrison should have been working with Coalition partners and arranging evacuations months ago.
In 2008, in similar circumstances when Iraqis were being given visas to Australia, there was a bipartisan effort to send a team of government officials overseas to assist them to complete their applications.
This is also a distressing time for many veterans, many of whom are concerned about leaving their mates behind.
All visa processing must be subject to integrity and national security checks, but this should not be an excuse for inaction.
Labor will continue to advocate for some decency and fairness in Australia’s response.
On humanitarian/partner visas and processing times -
We understand this is a heartbreaking time for the Australian-Afghan community. Labor and all Australians stand with you.
We have been calling for the Morrison-Joyce Government to develop a plan to urgently fast-track visas and evacuations for the immediate family members of Australians who are in Afghanistan, along with those who supported Australian operations.
Thousands of husbands, wives, partners and children of Australians have been waiting for years for partner and family visas, and others must now be eligible for refugee and humanitarian visas.
There are thousands unused places in the existing humanitarian visa program and the government should ensure any applications are processed as quickly as possible.
No one should be involuntarily deported to Afghanistan if they don’t want to go back.
All visa processing must be subject to integrity and national security checks, but this should not be an excuse for inaction.
Support for Veterans –
We call on the Morrison-Joyce Government to be proactive in reaching out to those veterans who fought in Afghanistan and to the families who have lost loved ones.
Many veterans are horrified to see the Taliban surge across the country.
We know that mental health issues among the veteran community are a serious concern, and more needs to be done now to ensure these issues aren’t exacerbated further.
Many veterans have said this issue is exacerbating their existing trauma because they see it as leaving their mates behind.
Support is available for current and ex-serving defence personnel, and their families through Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling by phone on 1800 011 046 (international +61 8 8241 4546) or via www.OpenArms.gov.au
On closure of the Australian Embassy in Afghanistan –
Labor noted the decision of the Government to temporarily close Australia’s embassy in Afghanistan as a result of the deteriorating security situation.
We were disappointed that after 20 years of successive Australian military, diplomatic and development engagement in Afghanistan, there was no bipartisan consultation on this important decision.
The Prime Minister said on 15 April that Australia will continue to support the stability and development of Afghanistan through our bilateral partnership, ‘including our diplomatic presence, development cooperation program, and continued people-to-people links’ and that Australia remained committed to helping Afghanistan preserve the gains of the past 20 years, particularly for women and girls.
The Morrison Government should explain how it will now meet these commitments.
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12:52): [by video link] In the time left to me, I just want to make some points about the second reading amendment moved by the Labor shadow minister and the need to deliver better health outcomes, particularly during the COVID pandemic. I just want to talk to the House for a few minutes about the fact that, when I have conversations with local health practitioners in all different roles, I'm so conscious of the enormous stress they are under at this point in time. As my colleague the member for Macarthur said yesterday, they don't describe themselves as heroes; they just get on and do the job that they love doing. But we should all remember the enormous strain and pressure that they are under. I know they seek to look after their own on mental health and wellbeing and their colleagues' mental health and wellbeing, but I think it is important, as a community, that we give them that support too.Read more
Sharon Bird published ORGAN DONATION - JESSICA SPARKS AND KEITH CALDWELL in Speeches 2021-08-14 08:21:33 +1000
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12:44): [by video link] This is my first opportunity to participate in the virtual parliament, so I want to extend my thanks to the staff of the parliament who've made this possible. I couldn't miss the opportunity to speak on the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority Amendment (Governance and Other Measures) Bill 2021. As has been indicated by previous speakers, it is a fairly technical bill, about the roles of the board and the CEO of the Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority, in effect going back to those roles that were established at the time the federal Labor government created the authority. So I'm certainly happy to support the bill. But, in the context of the bill, I want to talk about why it is such an important issue and why I feel very passionate and take every opportunity I can to support a more effective national organ donation scheme.Read more
People who enter the NDIS before the age of 65 have a choice to either stay in the scheme once they turn 65 or enter the aged care system.
When the NDIS was created in 2013, it was designed for those aged 65 and younger, to complement aged care for over 65’s, and ensure a cohesive safety net to give people with disability of all ages and their families and carers the support they need.
When the NDIS was being set up, the aged care system offered much greater support, so the NDIS filled the gap for people with disability under 65 years.
But, after eight years of the Coalition’s neglect of aged care, the NDIS– even though it has its problems – is now superior when compared with aged care packages.
People with disability may require additional support and care as they age, and it is important the aged care system is responsive to the needs of all older Australians.
There is a real problem for people over 65 living with a disability, and the answer is better support.
Labor believes people should get the care they need no matter how old they are.
Right now, the Morrison Government wants to privatise and run down the NDIS, just as it has done to our aged care sector for the past decade.
The Morrison Government is in the process of dismantling the scheme with razor gangs, radical cuts and mandatory assessments designed to keep people living with a disability from using the scheme and its vital supports.
A Labor Government is the only government which can fix the NDIS and aged care safety nets to ensure that Australians with a disability get the care they need.
Older Australians and people with disability and their families deserve better.
Sharon Bird published INVESTING IN THE ILLAWARRA FOR THE FUTURE in Speeches 2021-06-16 16:11:57 +1000
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:18): This week, of course, we've seen the G7 meeting take place. The leading nations of the world that met reaffirmed their commitment to net zero by 2050—except, of course, Australia. We see reports today in the media about surveys of the Australian population saying that the majority of the population also supports us committing to net zero by 2050. This is a really important context in the challenges that our nation faces. For a region like mine, which has a long history of mining and manufacturing, this is particularly important. We will, of course, continue to have a role to play in those industries, but it is important to acknowledge that, as regions like mine face the international challenges of transitioning the economy, we need to be looking at and supporting new energy and manufacturing opportunities.Read more
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (18:29): I thank the member for Corangamite for bringing this motion before the parliament. I think it is really important that we talk about the fact that the budget so recently announced included this exposure of a cut to real wages over the coming forward estimates, the four years that the budget covers. You would've missed it if you were waiting for an explanation or even an admission of that by the Treasurer when he did his budget night speech. Unsurprisingly, there wasn't an attempt by the Treasurer to draw significant attention to the fact that the budget showed that, effectively, people across our communities over the next four years are going to actually see a cut to their real wages—that is, the different between wage increases and the cost of living increases.Read more
Sharon Bird published BACKSLAPPING AND BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS – NO REFORM AGENDA in Speeches 2021-05-25 17:22:57 +1000
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:30): I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 and other bills. I want to firstly talk about a bit of overall context and then go to some very specific issues around the budget, the challenges facing the nation and how they are playing out in my own electorate. There are two great challenges facing the nation and have been for 18 months now. One, of course, has been the COVID pandemic and, along with that, the health response required of the nation—of governments, of the population, of businesses—as we dealt with the global pandemic. There is also the economic challenge, and the budget that was unveiled by the government the last time we were here should be an opportunity to address the economic challenges that we face and to set a forward plan for how we come out of what was a hit to our economy—there is no doubt about it—and build a stronger future for families and communities.Read more
Sharon Bird published URGENT ACTION NEEDED ON OUT OF POCKET HEALTH COSTS in Speeches 2021-05-18 11:05:30 +1000
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (18:33): Deputy Speaker Irons, I notice your raised eyebrows. That may be because you have observed that I'm not actually a government speaker, who would normally take this slot in this debate. I have risen to my feet to make a contribution because it is a critically important issue. I commend my colleague for putting this before the chamber for debate. I campaigned with Dr Freelander when he was first elected, and I can tell you there was hardly anybody who came up who didn't know him, because of his amazing contribution in his previous life to the medical field and particularly young people.Read more
An Albanese Labor Government will create the Housing Australia Future Fund to build social and affordable housing now and into the future in places like the Illawarra.
This will create jobs and change lives.Read more
Sharon Bird published SPENDING UP, WAGES DOWN IN MORRISON’S BUDGET in Media Releases 2021-05-12 15:38:31 +1000
Sharon Bird published LABOR’S NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION FUND WILL HELP US BRING MANUFACTURING BACK TO ILLAWARRA in Media Releases 2021-04-30 16:15:33 +1000
Anthony Albanese and Labor’s commitment to a National Reconstruction Fund would help create secure jobs for Australian workers in the Illawarra after 8 years of policy drift under consecutive Liberal Prime Ministers.
Sharon Bird, the Member for Cunningham, and Stephen Jones, the Member for Whitlam, visited local specialised steel manufacturer Bisalloy Steel to discuss the benefits of Labor’s National Reconstruction Fund for local businesses in the Illawarra.Read more
Sharon Bird published MORRISON IS ENDING JOBKEEPER AND ENDING THOUSANDS OF LIVELIHOODS in Media Releases 2021-03-26 15:04:13 +1100
Scott Morrison has turned out the lights at thousands of small business owners and taken an axe to thousands of workers’ livelihoods by ending Job Keeper.
He wouldn’t listen to warnings from economists, business leaders, unions and his own public servants that 200,000 people will hit the job queue all at once.
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:13): One of the great challenges before the nation at the moment is to get the maximum rollout of the COVID vaccine, and it's something I think we all are absolutely dedicated to seeing happen across our communities. In light of my deep commitment to ensuring my community are well covered by the vaccine rollout, I want to put a few things on the record today.Read more
Sharon Bird published LOCAL CONCERNS ABOUT THE END OF JOBKEEPER in Speeches 2021-03-22 18:29:12 +1100
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:42): At the end of this week, we will see the cessation of the JobKeeper supplement to support local businesses that have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic impacts that has had. I want to report to the House, on behalf of many of my local businesses and local workers, my great frustration about the effect that this is going to have in our local area.Read more
Australian steel workers need a plan for their future, and Labor is listening.Read more
Australia is the world’s biggest iron ore exporter, and Labor recognises more of it should be used right here at home.
Sharon Bird published TOURISM PACKAGE LEAVES LOCAL BUSINESSES UP IN THE AIR in Media Releases 2021-03-11 13:02:46 +1100
After months of indecision the Morrison Government has announced its tourism support package.
It is driven by politics not economics. The benefits are geared towards marginal Government electorates.
It won’t support jobs and businesses in the Illawarra, Southern Highlands, Shoalhaven and the Eurobodalla.Read more
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:50): I rise in this, the last debate that will occur in this House this week, as we debate the adjournment of the House, as we do at the end of each day—of course, this being the last day of this sitting week. I reflect on the fact that I've taken the opportunity to participate in debates in this place on behalf of my constituency, around issues such as wage stagnation, the rising cost of living and the difficulties getting access to government services that are taking longer and longer over various government departments. I've spoken on aged care and my frustration for local residents in accessing things like home-care packages. But I have to say that this week, as I've participated in debates in this place, my mind has constantly and consistently gone to an interview I saw with a young woman on TV, where she was brave enough to recount the horrifying experience that had happened to her in this place.Read more
Sharon Bird published GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO BITE THE BULLET ON HOME CARE – FIX IT NOW in Speeches 2021-02-18 09:21:45 +1100
Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (18:02): The final point I want to make as a grievance on behalf of my constituents is about the aged-care sector. I have spoken about this before. In my office, we took a bit of time off over Christmas and New Year, as I'm sure everyone did.
The first phone message that my office replied to when we came back was from a gentleman who couldn't get his aged-care package. He needed his home-care package and hadn't been able to get it. This is an ongoing and consistent issue. I'm sure it's not just in Labor or Independent offices; I'm sure it's across the country. If an older person is assessed as needing help to maintain themselves in their home, one would think that, once that box is ticked, it would come pretty quickly.Read more