Matter of Public Importance - Carbon Pricing

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:24): I rise to participate in this matter of public importance debate in this House on manufacturing and its future. I am joined in the House by my colleague the member for Throsby. Members of the House would be aware that we took the opportunity in this chamber to put on the record the events that happened in our region yesterday with the BlueScope Steel announcement and our direct and real concern for the families that have been affected by that decision. We are determined to stand with them in providing the support that the government is able to provide to them and more broadly in providing support to BlueScope as a continuing steel manufacturer in our region. We will continue the work that we have already begun on providing opportunities for support and expansion of the manufacturing sector in our region. It is important and a good opportunity to take those comments made yesterday further in addressing this particular debate before the House today. It is a sad pity and in many ways a fairly disgraceful pity that those opposite are seeking to use what is a difficult time for those families in our region and for our region as a whole as a political point-scoring exercise around the carbon tax issue when it has been made quite clear on numerous occasions by BlueScope Steel executives that the carbon tax had no impact on the outcome that was announced yesterday. The executives made that point at the time when we announced the Clean Energy Future package. Continue reading

Question Without Notice - Carbon Pricing

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:09): My question is to the.Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. Why is it important to access the least cost abatement.and link with international carbon markets as part of.the government's plan to transform the economy to a.clean energy future? How has this been received? the government's response?. Mr COMBET (Charlton—Minister for Climate.Change and Energy Efficiency) (15:10): I thank.the member for Cunningham for her question. As.we know, climate change is a global problem, problem, and any solution to climate.change is going to have to involve coordination.and cooperation within the international community. There is, after all, only one atmosphere and a.reduction in pollution anywhere in the world has.the same environmental benefit. The most practical.way that nations can cooperate to tackle climate.change is through the development of carbon markets, because through countries can take advantage of the lowest.cost pollution cuts that are available. That is what the.government's carbon price mechanism will achieve. Continue reading

Steel Industry

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (22:05): Earlier today BlueScope Steel announced to the Australian Stock Exchange that its board had approved a major restructure of its steel-producing operations at Port Kembla and Western Port. Eight hundred jobs will be lost at Port Kembla and a further 200 will be lost at Western Port. Steel production at the Port Kembla works, which is located within my electorate of Cunningham, will be halved to 2.6 million tonnes. A number of other divisions will be closed down. The No. 6 blast furnace will be mothballed. The decision by BlueScope Steel's board this morning is from a commercial decision-making process. The company's statement to the ASX indicates quite clearly that the company is experiencing 'structural change in the global steel industry' and an 'unprecedented combination of economic challenges' including 'a record high Australian dollar, high raw material costs, low prices for steel' and 'low domestic steel demand' in the wake of the global financial crisis. Continue reading

Question Without Notice - Manufacturing

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:36): My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline for the House the important measures that have been announced to support steel manufacturing in Australia? Honourable members interjecting — The SPEAKER: Order! The Treasurer will resume his seat. The question has been asked. The Treasurer has the call. He will be heard in silence. Mr SWAN (Lilley—Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer) (14:36): I thank the member for Cunningham for that very important question, and I know she will be working very hard with locals who have been affected by this decision which has been announced today, because this House does understand, I believe, just how significant an announcement this is and what a blow it is to affected workers, their families and their communities. There is no question that this government is committed to a very strong manufacturing sector for our country, and a critical part of a strong manufacturing sector is, of course, a strong steel industry. The steel industry faces a number of challenges: rising input prices, excess global supply, weak domestic demand and, of course, a higher dollar. A higher dollar certainly delivers cheaper prices to many consumers, but it also means that more of our manufacturers are under pressure. Sadly, we are seeing the consequences of that today. Continue reading

Question Without Notice - Family Payments and Support

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (1 5:02): My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Minister, how is the government supporting Australian families into the future? What risks exist to the system of family payments and how is the government addressing these? Ms MACKLIN (Jagajaga—Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) (15:02): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. This government is serious about supporting families and has delivered a number of improvements over the last four years to make sure that Australian families are getting more support. We understand just how important it is for families, as they sit down every fortnight to balance their family budgets, that they have some certainty about what is going to happen into the future. One thing that families can be sure about is that this government will deliver next year around $20 billion combined through the family tax benefit, the baby bonus and paid parental leave. Families can also be certain that they will receive a number of improvements that this government has put in place. This government has put in place the 50 per cent childcare rebate; paid parental leave; the education tax refund; and, very importantly for families with older teenagers, from 1 January next year a higher rate of family tax benefit part A for those families with teenagers aged 16 to 19 in full-time secondary study. Continue reading

Question Without Notice - Workplace Relations

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:38): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations. How has the Fair Work Act facilitated workplace bargaining since 2009? What are the challenges to, as well as other options for, improving bargaining for Australian businesses and employees? Mr CREAN (Hotham—Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government and Minister for the Arts) (14:39): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. She, as did everyone on this side of the House, knew how important it was to fight Work Choices and replace it with Fair Work Australia. I am asked what the impact has been of this important change which we have made since coming to office and I can say this: it has been fantastic for jobs. Some 740,000 jobs have been created since we came to office— Mrs Bronwyn Bishop interjecting— The SPEAKER: The member for Mackellar is warned! Continue reading

National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Home Loans and Credit Cards) Bill 2011

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (12:43): I rise to support the National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Home Loans and Credit Cards) Bill 2011. The purpose of the bill is to amend the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009, which includes the National Credit Code, and it continues this government's commitment to effective credit reform— in particular, our Fairer, Simpler Banking policy. The bill delivers on the government's election commitment to take actions to provide greater protections for Australians in their use of credit cards and most importantly to ensure they are not being charged excessive fees for this usage. I seek to speak in this debate because I am acutely conscious of the increasing role of credit in modern life. When I was in my young married days we had a home loan and store cards, and it was not long before credit cards were added to that. Now, many people also have credit on things like mobile phones, and the extension of credit throughout their lives has continued. On top of that, there is far more comprehensive calculation of and shared information about people's credit histories, so it has an even more far-reaching impact on their lives. It is critically important that as a national government we are actively engaged in this area. Continue reading

Australian Institute for Innovation Materials

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:28): I visited the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials facility on 9 June with Parliamentary Secretary Justine Elliot and member for Throsby Stephen Jones. The University of Wollongong, which is the facility that runs AIIM, is a recognised world leader in multifunctional materials research, and I had the opportunity to find out more about the groundbreaking research being led by Professor Gordon Wallace and Professor Dou. The research groups housed at the AIIM— the ARC Centre for Excellence for Electromaterials Science and the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials—together have more than 200 researchers and postgraduate students working to tackle some of the biggest global challenges. This includes energy technology that is developing new methods of energy generation, transportation and storage, including battery technologies that will be of considerable importance to the future of electric vehicles, and building on the breakthrough research they have done. Secondly, there is health and medical bionics to advance muscle and nerve regeneration and cochlear implants and to develop wearable bionics to assist with injury prevention and rehabilitation, as well as advances in medical devices such as improved MRI systems. Continue reading

Cunningham Electorate Health Services

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:03): I want to report to the House today on an important announcement made in my electorate last Wednesday by me, the member for Throsby and Mr David Farmer, the General Manager of Wollongong City Council. This was an announcement around the Healthy Communities Initiative. It is a particularly important one in terms of the government's agenda on preventative health measures. The Commonwealth government announced that we will be providing $703,000 to Wollongong City Council. This funding was for a range of programs that the council was running in order to put in place health and lifestyle programs for local residents, particularly those who are least likely to be targeted by the general run-of-the-mill type of delivery—that is, those that are delivered through fee-for-service or where people actually buy particular diet or exercise programs. Many people miss out on that sort of access and these programs are particularly targeted at those who are the most at risk and the least likely to seek out such programs. Continue reading

Festa della Repubblica

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:5 4): I want to take the opportunity to note that today, 2 June, is Italy's national republic day—Festa della Repubblica. On behalf of the government, I feel it is important to extend our heartfelt congratulations to Italy and all Italians, who are celebrating this year the 150th anniversary of the country's unification. I am aware that the Prime Minister has put out a statement celebrating this anniversary also. Nearly one million Australians have Italian ancestry and have contributed to our society over many generations. Currently, we have around 200,000 Australian residents who were born in Italy and at least 30,000 Australians are today living in Italy. Our two countries have a friendly, robust and collaborative relationship with each other and we enjoy many mutual benefits from our warm and longstanding friendship. Italian culture, language and heritage is widespread across Australian communities, including my own. This has enabled us to share rich social, cultural and economic links with Italy. Today, for example, trade between our two nations is worth nearly $6 billion a year. As the largest migrant population in my electorate of Cunningham, Italo-Australians have had significant involvement in the economy and the culture of Wollongong and the Illawarra more broadly. The Italian Social Welfare Organisation of Wollongong have played a excellent local role in this development. Continue reading