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

GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO SUPPORT JOBS AND BUSINESSES IN THE ILLAWARRA

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:00): I've only got a short time to address the House this morning, so I want to take the opportunity to make a call to the government to consider very carefully its response to the COVID pandemic in many regional areas, such as mine. Obviously, in my area, a lot of industry sectors have been affected by the impacts of the COVID response—a response we all, quite rightly, support—and there are a lot of businesses and workers in my area who have been relying on JobKeeper. I particularly think of industry sectors that are very important in my region—our university and the tourism and hospitality sectors. I'm very critical—and I've made this point many times—that the university sector was left out of the JobKeeper program. I think that was a very short-sighted decision. This was also the case for many in the entertainment industry. We have local performances and festivals, and many local artists, who are very important in our local community, obviously were not able to work for much of that period of time but were excluded from JobKeeper. So I still maintain that, in the way that JobKeeper was implemented by the government—after being extraordinarily reluctant to even introduce it, even though the Prime Minister now touts it as one of the most amazing responses to COVID—there were sectors that missed out and they're still struggling. Continue reading

ALL AUSTRALIANS DESERVE A RETIREMENT OF DIGNITY AND QUALITY

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (4:15):  I thank the member for Whitlam for putting this very important matter of public importance on superannuation and retirement incomes before the chamber. I acknowledge the previous speaker, the member for Chisholm, has indicated that she believes her government will always put improving the retirement income of Australians first. I look forward to her crossing the floor when the government attempts to freeze the superannuation increase that's coming up—an increase that will clearly improve the retirement incomes of Australians. I was pleased to hear her make that commitment, and I look forward to her following through on that. Continue reading

FROM RUBBISH TO RESOURCE: BUILDING A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (11:57):  by leave—I thank the House and add my words to my esteemed chair colleague in commending this report to all members of the House, but also to the broader public who may have an interest in the challenges and opportunities posed by managing the various streams of waste in our communities and across the nation. It was a challenge for the committee in interrogating the evidence presented to the inquiry over the last year as the necessary restrictions imposed by coronavirus severely curtailed the normal round of public hearings and inspections that we would have had. Having recognised this, I would like to sincerely thank the many witnesses who persevered with the committee through video and audio hearings and all those who provided written submissions for our consideration. Continue reading

QUESTION WITHOUT NOTICE: MINISTER FAILS TO ANSWER ON ROBODEBT

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:50):  My question is to the Minister for Government Services. Can the minister confirm the Administrative Appeals Tribunal first determined that robodebt was illegal in March 2017, and on at least 75 other occasions, but the government persisted with its illegal scheme right up until December 2019? Continue reading

ILLAWARRA BUSINESSES IN 2020: A YEAR OF HARDSHIP, INNOVATION, ACHIEVEMENT AND COMPASSION

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (19:28): A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a function that I regularly go to in my electorate, the Illawarra Business Chamber's annual business awards. For so many businesses in my electorate, as in all of my colleagues' electorates, I'm sure, it's been a really tough year. This was an opportunity to particularly acknowledge a range of businesses who, even in the toughest of times, have been able to really make significant achievements in their businesses. The Illawarra Business Chamber has a very rigorous process to determine the winners of the categories. A panel with very esteemed local people goes through a whole process of application and interview to decide who the winners are. Continue reading

NAIDOC WEEK

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (10:50):  I want to start my contribution today by acknowledging the First Nations people of this country and, in particular, the original owners and custodians of the land on which this parliament meets and the original owners and ongoing custodians of the land that encompasses my electorate, around Wollongong. They are owed our acknowledgement and respect, in particular because this is NAIDOC Week. In my electorate, there are many, many people and organisations taking the opportunity to acknowledge and pay respect to our First Nations people. Of course, NAIDOC Week is normally earlier in the year but, due to the COVID pandemic, we have seen it moved to this week. Continue reading

A BUDGET OF EXTRAORDINARY DEBT BUT MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

Ms Bird (Cunningham) (18:26): I have on very many occasions spoken in the appropriation debate each year in which a budget has been brought down and I have been the representative of the electorate for Cunningham. But I will say that it has been an extraordinary year, and we have, as a result of the extraordinary events that our nation has faced, a later budget than we would normally have. We of course have been through the terrifying and devastating fires, the damaging floods and now the coronavirus pandemic, which is something that none of us, I think, could have envisaged at this time last year. It's something that we have, as a community, as a nation and as a parliament, had to deal with. Continue reading