Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:15): I take great pleasure in commending this report to members of the parliament; to the government; as the esteemed chair of the committee said, to the departments that have contributed to it but also, we would hope, will work with the government to respond to the report; and, in particular, to all of those various organisations and individuals across the country who, through the period of time, took the time and effort to put submissions in and raise their issues. I won't canvass again some of the key issues that the chair of the committee, the member for Bennelong, has just addressed, other than to say I think the report brings together a very in-depth, well-considered proposition for the government to look at ways in which, at a federal level, we can go beyond the national planning of infrastructure—which is something that we believe is critically important—and take into consideration a national plan of settlement as well so that, across our great country, we can actually get better, more effective and more committed to looking at population growth and its disparity across the nation. Some places—including, clearly, our two major capital cities Sydney and Melbourne—are struggling under the pressure of that, while other places have potential that's being unrealised. Bringing those two things together—population settlement, whether it's internal movement or new arrivals, and infrastructure planning—in a way that fosters the opportunities across the nation is a really solid proposition, and there are a number of recommendations in this report that go to that issue. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:29): On 26 August, on a Sunday afternoon, I had the great joy to attend Tournament of Minds in the Hope Theatre at the University of Wollongong in my electorate. I thank the university for their support of this great program. Tournament of Minds is a problem-solving, challenge based program for primary and secondary students. It's designed to foster creative, collaborative and critical thinking. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (11:13): I'm very pleased to rise today to support the Fair Work Amendment (Restoring Penalty Rates) Bill 2018. This private member's bill was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition quite some time ago now, but it remains increasingly evident how important this bill actually is. We were faced with the decision by the Fair Work Commission to cut penalty rates for some of the lowest-paid workers across our communities. In response to that, Labor called on the government in a bipartisan way to legislate to protect penalty rates so that the Fair Work Commission had guidance from the parliament about not cutting the penalty rates of workers, particularly unilaterally. We're all aware that there's a better-overall test and sometimes a negotiated outcome is reached where someone gets the offset of an improvement in a benefit for a change in penalty rates. That's a process that legitimately goes on in bargaining. This was not that. This was a unilateral cut to an entitlement that so many workers needed to make ends meet. The government was incapable of coming to an agreement that we should do something about it, so we persevere with this private member's bill. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:43): There's much enthusiasm on this side of the House to participate in this debate. As a teacher by training, I think for many, many decades there's been a fundamental and profound understanding by anybody who works in the teaching profession—and I suspect by many parents, and the previous speaker acknowledged his new insight into education as a new parent. But there is a fundamental truth in all education, and that is: the earlier you invest, the better the return you get on that investment. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:43): Young people across this nation must look at this government and think, 'What did we ever do to you?' This government is trading off the future of young people time and time again across significant portfolio areas, making it more and more difficult for them, and it comes into this place with a bill like the one before us, which adds to that burden. Young people in my community—and, I'm sure, the communities of many of my colleagues across the board—are facing challenges in getting, firstly, into postsecondary education opportunities. We know the impacts of the freeze on higher education funding and what that will do to universities and the offerings that they can make to students. We know that that will put pressure on them to decrease the opportunity to get a university qualification if that's where your interests and your ability lie. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (17:02): I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this private member's bill brought forward by the member for Farrer, the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018, and to acknowledge that this is not a partisan debate. In fact, there are people from both sides of the House who support this bill. I understand why. In my area, I have had over 1,600 individual constituents email me with their great distress and concern about what is happening in this industry. I'm sure many of my colleagues around the chamber have had similar levels of contact. In fact, I've never seen that level of engagement on any issue during the time that I've been here. In total, I have had over 4,800 emails on this subject, so some people have emailed me on more than one occasion, generally speaking first when they've seen a round of reports in the media, and images that have caused them distress, and then again when they see that repeated. I think that's what's taken its toll on people's patience with this particular aspect of the industry. I want to acknowledge each and every one of those individuals, many of whom took the time to write quite extensive personal comments in their emails about why they felt that this live sheep long-haul export trade, particularly in the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere, has to stop. I don't know that anybody could have seen the vision that was reported, including, I know, many in the farming industry, without feeling it was a completely unacceptable reflection of what we as a modern nation should see as an acceptable part of the industry sector. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (11:11): I am very, very pleased to second this motion by my colleague on the aged-care crisis. I want to talk to the Chamber about three ways in which it is having a very real effect on older people in my electorate at this very moment. The first aspect is obviously the issue around home care packages. I've had a lot of families contacting me in great distress because their elderly relatives have been assessed as needing a high-level care package, and they have been waiting months, some up to a year, to get that service. Imagine what that means in reality for those families. They have an elderly family member, living at home, who they are trying to support, and, at the same time, the elderly family member has been assessed as needing a package that they can't get. What that means is: those families are stepping in, trying to provide that support to their elderly relative, often when they're managing their own work, life, children and so forth. I've had people in tears because it's really awful and they feel terrible complaining about having to support their elderly relative, but the pressures on their family are enormous. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (10:42): Across my region, since the government was elected, we have lost 2,353 apprentices. I'm sure members of this chamber appreciate that an apprenticeship, the opportunity to train in a traditional trade, is a really important, worthwhile pathway for young people to employment and to a good career. Many of us would know that many of those trades—plumbing, construction, hairdressing and so forth—set young people up very well for a great future. So it is very, very concerning to see this level of loss of apprenticeships across the years since the government was elected. It is perhaps not surprising, given that the government has cut significantly out of the vocational education and training budget. Indeed, another $270 million was cut in the most recent budget. Continue reading


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (13:50): Today is National TAFE Day. TAFE is a great national asset, and it has been for decades and for generations of Australians. It is our vocational education public provider, and we know so well that the words 'public provider' leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those opposite—as, for example, the ABC knows only too well. TAFE needs to remain a national asset—there for young Australians, there for restructured workers, there for regional and rural communities, there to ensure that people have a future in an ever-changing world—and it has had nothing but attacks from those opposite. They can barely bring themselves to say the word 'TAFE', to be honest with you, unless they're cutting funding from it—$3 billion since they came to government. TAFE must be sustainable. Continue reading