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


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (13:21): I'm pleased to support this motion before the Chamber today. For context, the motion discusses the importance of understanding the impacts of the COVID pandemic on young people and calls on the government to take an holistic national strategy around dealing with that, but I'll make the point here that for many young people there were already issues that were playing out significantly for them that they were talking to members of parliament and attempting to get messages to government about pre-pandemic. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (16:06): Aged care has quite rightly been the priority of this parliament both this week and last week. I know that the experiences of our older Australians during this pandemic are front and centre in the minds of many members in this place. In the time available to me today I want to really press the government to do much more and be much more effective in the home-care side of aged-care services as well. We know that, if people are supported to stay in their own home longer, they feel more settled, have happier lives and are able to have some dignity in their life. I acknowledge the great work done by so many of our residential care providers, but home care is an important option. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (16:48): GLOBAL MOTOR NEURONE DISEASE AWARENESS DAY I'm wearing this blue flower as Sunday is Global Motor Neurone Disease Awareness Day. Motor neurone disease affects more than 350,000 people across the world, and 2,100 Australians are currently living with it. One of those is the Wollongong man I've spoken about many times in this place, Professor Justin Yerbury. Justin works at the Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute and the University of Wollongong School of Chemistry and Molecular Bioscience. While living with MND, he has spent the last decade trying to understand the underlying causes of MND, along with his colleagues—and I particularly acknowledge Dr Luke McAlary and Senior Research Assistant Natalie Farrawell.   Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (12:47): Can I indicate at the outset that I support the amendment moved by Labor and also that I don't oppose the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Amendment (Governance and Other Matters) Bill 2020 that is before us today, just as Labor doesn't oppose it. As has been outlined by many speakers, the bill's intention is to amend the governance structures of ASQA, the Australian Skills and Quality Authority, and also to enhance its information sharing with the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research. These are both commendable intentions in and of themselves. The bill seeks to do this with two key amendments. The first one revises ASQA's governance structures, replacing the chief commissioner, chief executive officer and two commissioners with a single independent statutory office holder—a CEO. Secondly, the bill establishes the National Vocational Education and Training Regulator Advisory Council, which I'll just refer to as the advisory council, which is intended to provide ASQA with access to expert advice regarding the functions of the regulator. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (10:36): One of the great challenges that we've all faced during the pandemic has been providing mental health and wellbeing services for people in our communities. Many of us are conscious of the direct health issues that people were challenged with—and I have spoken before on thanking our doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals for the work they did. Obviously, during such a time, for people who suffer from, for example, anxiety and depression, these issues would have been exacerbated by the circumstances that we were in and the social isolation. People who would normally be out and about and accessing their support networks—I'm thinking of the frail, the elderly and people with a disability—weren't able to do so, and the pressure that puts on people can significantly affect their mental health and wellbeing. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (10:35): I want to start my contribution today by echoing the words of the Speaker at the start of parliament and acknowledge the First Peoples of this nation. I extend that to the people of the Dharawal nation in my region. On our TVs and across social media, the words 'I can't breathe' and the video footage of an African American man held down on the street by a police officer, calling out for his mother and saying he can't breathe, have reverberated around the world. In our country, it brought back memories of David Dungay Junior, from the Kempsey area, who was three weeks away from release from Long Bay prison and was subject to restraint that caused him to cry out, 12 times, 'I can't breathe.' Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (18:22): I want to take the opportunity at the beginning of my contribution to this debate to acknowledge that it is important that we have bills before this House with the best interests of small business in mind. My area, like I'm sure those of every member in this place, is profoundly reliant on our small business operators for the employment base in my community. Recognising that, in the current context, as other speakers have said, small businesses have been at the forefront of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to acknowledge that that is certainly the case for small businesses in my area. Many small businesses have had to close because, due to the nature of their business, they were not able to continue. Some have had to massively adjust the way they participate in the local economy in order to comply with the health requirements. It was a huge stress and pressure on many businesses across a whole lot of sectors—and many of them are family businesses. In our area, there have been some amazing initiatives to support our local small businesses, as well as some amazing actions by our local small businesses to support others in the community who are struggling. I want to take a few minutes to give a bit of an acknowledgement about that in the context of this debate about small businesses. Firstly, I want to give a shout out to Toria Hope Kota, a community member who had the great idea of creating a Facebook page which she called Illawarra Menus. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (17:03): I'm pleased to be able to respond to the statement provided to the House by the Minister for Health and the shadow health minister when we last met during what has been an extraordinary challenge for all of us through this pandemic situation. I'll just update the House with the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District numbers released this morning. There have been a total of 117 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region. Currently, thank heavens, none are hospitalised. One hundred and fifteen have recovered, and the total number of people tested is 25,152. I commend all of our health services, from the health minister and the shadow health minister, who made statements, right through to all of the authorities and the service providers that have been involved in that outcome. There is no doubt that a number of months ago we were all very concerned that we would see very different numbers to those, not only in my own region but across the country, as we saw the impacts that this pandemic was having in other countries evolving internationally. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (13:48): Parliament needs to resume a more regular meeting pattern. All members need to be able to bring to the attention of this parliament, as we face an unprecedented national challenge from the pandemic, the concerns and feedback of our local electorates and constituents. Even this week's sitting provides extremely limited opportunities for this to be done. In my electorate, I wish to record feedback, in a constructive way, on issues with people who miss out on the JobKeeper scheme and on the need to understand the pressures on casual and other irregular workers, such as those in the entertainment industry. There are also serious issues in the childcare sector and for our universities. I will try to raise these in the limited opportunities we are provided. Continue reading