Ms Bird (Cunningham) (15:38): I wanted to speak on my great colleague's MPI today and focus on early childhood, but I can't let some of the claims that the minister's made on vocational education, in particular apprenticeships, go unanswered, because he made them the other day as well in consideration in detail when I spoke at length on what's happened in the vocational education sector. The Minster for Education fails to identify that the changes that the Labor government made were not to apprenticeships; they were to traineeships. And they were because the fast-food industry was enrolling every young person they employed as a trainee, which is not the intention of the scheme—and I'm sure the minister and those opposite would have looked very closely at that themselves if they'd been in government and the scheme was being used in that way at that time. Continue reading


Ms Bird (Cunningham) (18:05): I have to say, it may or may not have been the member for Lindsay's intention, but her speech perfectly encapsulates why this side of the House has put this motion forward. It's because my colleagues in south-western Sydney, like those of us in the Illawarra, would like to see a fraction of the investment that the member for Lindsay's just spoken about. What's even more of a failure for this government in this space is that the areas of south-west Sydney and the Illawarra are actually going to be (a) massively impacted by the development at the Western Sydney Airport and the aerotropolis, and (b) capable of providing many of the strategic solutions to some of the problems that will be generated by such a major piece of infrastructure. For example, members have talked about some of the road and rail links in south-western Sydney. In my seat, we have a major port. Those opposite seem to have forgotten that they're going to have to have access for goods and products, not just people, in and out of a major development of the Western Sydney Airport. And if they think they're going to be able to access the inner-Sydney port consistently over that time frame, they're kidding themselves. There is a major port, the Port of Kembla, ready, willing and able to take on some of that task. There's no consideration being given by this government to our regions and the way in which we can be part of that story. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (18:29): I thank my colleagues for the opportunity to jump in on this debate. Hopefully, I can cover what I want to talk about in five minutes. The minister made his opening statement in this portfolio area with a focus on the skills component of the portfolio, and I acknowledge some of the initiatives that he talked about that are part of these appropriation bills that we're looking at. But I want to say to the minister that this is a very small drop in the ocean, given the massive cuts that have been made to this sector over six years, three prime ministers and—to be quite honest, I've lost count of how many ministers have had responsibility. I want to briefly talk about what they are and lead into my questions for the minister. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (13:39): This is Donate for Life Week, which encourages Australians to register as organ donors. My very good friend Jessica Sparks inspired me to register, and I want to share her words in the hope that it will inspire others to go online and register. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (17:08): I'm very keen to use this opportunity in the grievance debate to put some serious grievances on behalf of my own electorate on the record in this place. In particular, I want to talk firstly about some serious issues we have around the need for investment in transport infrastructure, and then, more broadly, some of the areas around education and community where we need some support from the government to achieve objectives. First of all, with the significance of transport infrastructure, I hope many of my colleagues in this place would know that Wollongong is the third largest city in New South Wales. We have extensive connections into the Sydney CBD and suburbs, and also across to Western Sydney. We have a significant port with capacity for development, and, I would argue, capacity to be an important link to the new Aerotropolis that's planned, and also to the task that the port of Sydney itself has to deal with. These things are real opportunities not only for economic development in the Wollongong region but also for the jobs that would flow from that. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:00): My question is to the Prime Minister: Could the Prime Minister live on the Newstart rate of $40 a day? Mr MORRISON (Cook – Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service) (14:00): I thank the member for her question. For all of those who are on Newstart or many of the other welfare payments that are provided to them by the taxpayer, those payments are certainly modest. Those payments are indexed every six months, along with every other welfare payment. The Australian public provides that support. But the most important support that is provided by this government is to ensure that people can get off welfare and into work. This government has set records both for youth unemployment and getting people into jobs, people right across the spectrum—older Australians, younger Australians, female Australians—getting them into work. Because the best form of welfare— Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:10): This is the sixth sitting day since the election. When you consider that one of the days was filled by the normal procedures that happen with a new parliament, it's only five sitting days. I sit here and reflect on what would have happened if there had been a different election outcome. Of course, we respect the outcome, but I think we would have a front bench of ministers doing a whole lot of work—for example, in the education sector. There would have been a whole lot of work on rolling out legislation and commitments on childcare services, early childhood education opportunities, rebuilding the financing around school education, and significant major reform in the post-secondary education sector. There would have been a health minister looking at rolling out our pensioner dental plan and initiatives such as the cancer reform. But we didn't win the election; those on the other side did. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:54): Saturday, a week ago, there was a great event organised in Wollongong by one of our tremendous local organisations, Circus WOW. With Gabrielle Quigley and Libby Bloxham, Circus WOW organised locally a flash mob dance to Kate Bush's very popular 1970s song 'Wuthering Heights'. The Most Wuthering Heights Day Ever event is held in cities around the world, with people coming together for good purpose to flash mob dance to Kate Bush's song. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:48): Thank you. Like many in this House, I get around to lots of activities that young people are engaged in in our communities, and they continually inspire me and, indeed, recharge my batteries when I go along and see some of these activities. Things like the Tournament of Minds, where hundreds of local students from schools all across the region participate in problem-solving activities, come to my mind. The Lego robotics competitions are a great example of science and technology providing an opportunity for young people to engage in some great activities. In particular in the last week, we have had NAIDOC celebrations, with many young people involved in those activities. They're very inspiring, and there are so many wonderful young people in our communities. Continue reading