INVESTING IN THE ILLAWARRA FOR THE FUTURE

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. Continue reading

REAL WAGE CUT IS IN MORRISON BUDGET!

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. Continue reading

BACKSLAPPING AND BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS – NO REFORM AGENDA

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. Continue reading

URGENT ACTION NEEDED ON OUT OF POCKET HEALTH COSTS

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. Continue reading

IMPORTANCE OF COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT

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. Continue reading

LOCAL CONCERNS ABOUT THE END OF JOBKEEPER

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. Continue reading

BRITTANY HIGGINS

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. Continue reading

GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO BITE THE BULLET ON HOME CARE – FIX IT NOW

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. Continue reading

CUTS TO PUBLIC SERVICE MEAN LONGER WAIT TIMES FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED HELP MOST

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (17:58): The second issue I want to raise in the grievance debate on behalf of constituents is that if you do have to interact with government agencies these days across support payments, whether that's older people on pensions, whether it's people who become unemployed, whether it's people relying on disability payments—there's a wide range of payments that we make—if you have to engage with a government department, I'm getting—and I can only assume most officers are—more and more frustration from people about how long it's taking to get their matters dealt with. We've seen waiting times increase year after year. I'm regularly getting people contacting me who are waiting for their age pension to be processed. This was something that never happened when I was first elected. I'm not being party political—under the Howard government I didn't see much of that sort of thing being raised. But it happens now quite regularly, and it has been for a while. Continue reading

IR CHANGES, STAGNANT WAGES, UNEMPLOYMENT AND INCREASING COSTS MAKE IT HARDER FOR FAMILIES STARTING OUT

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (17:54): In this grievance debate, where we get the opportunity to raise issues of ongoing frustration to our local constituents, I have a number of issues I'd like to put before the chamber tonight. The first is a more general problem, which has been developing since the election of the Abbott government. It's the fact that people in our communities are seeing an ongoing stagnation of their wages, an ongoing level of unemployment and underemployment, and an ongoing level of increasing cost of living. This is putting pressure on individuals, on young couples trying to make a start in life, and on families in general. Continue reading