Appropriation Bill Speech

August 01, 2019

Listening to the member for New England, it is very clear to me that he shares my view this is a government with very little vision. It needs more vision than it has, not just for New England but also for my electorate of Macquarie. It's been so clear in the week since the election that this government is visionless, directionless and very, very tired. It's all well and good to give an area attention in the few weeks leading up to an election, but it's what comes after that counts. It's the vision that you have for the area and how you deliver that vision that really matters. That comes from the conversations that you have with the people on the ground who make our local towns and villages tick: the people who work in our hospitals and our aged care facilities and who teach in our schools; the people who run small businesses and work in small businesses; the people who do the school run and fill up their cars with petrol at the local petrol station; the ones who scan your groceries as you go through the check-out or do the dishes in your local restaurant or drive the school bus or deliver your pizza on a Friday night.

What is really so obvious to me, as we stand here at the end of our first major sitting fortnight, is that the Morrison government's plan for these people is non-existent. They have a plan to attack the Labor Party, but a plan to attack the Labor Party for the next three years doesn't pay for the groceries or cover the electricity bill. A plan to attack Labor for the next three years doesn't make the commute to work any shorter or lower your childcare fees or give you a job. Attacking the opposition isn't being in government. I don't think this government has worked that out yet, after six long years.

My community has an absolute right to vote for who they want to represent them, but they also have a right to expect that a federal government, whatever federal government is elected, will support them to provide them with the services that they need, no matter who the local member is. So how about some vision for the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains? I've got a few ideas where you could start. Let's start with infrastructure projects that need doing in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury, which, quite frankly, could have been done any time in the last six years. Project idea No. 1: the Hawkesbury Heights bike and walking path. This is a crucial piece of human infrastructure because it's helping humans have a better life. It's about being able to walk or ride from Hawkesbury Heights to connect with Winmalee, where the shopping centre is and the schools are. Right now it is a major thoroughfare and people take their lives into their hands even when they walk on the side of this busy road. We want to give mums a safe place to walk with their prams. We want to give kids a safe place to ride with their bikes to school or after school. We want to give older people a safe place to get some exercise. The opportunity to do this was really evident after the 2013 bushfires, when that natural disaster had done a lot of the work of clearing the pathway. But of course there was a missed opportunity. This government missed an opportunity, as Liberals do. We committed $400,000 in the last election, as did state Labor. The government hasn't matched that, but the government could.

Project idea No. 2: safety upgrades to the notorious stretch of Great Western Highway at Faulconbridge. We made a $15 million commitment in the campaign that, had we won government, we would have delivered on this piece of really crucial Great Western Highway road. The government didn't bother matching it, yet this is a really busy stretch of road that anyone who uses it can see is a disaster waiting to happen. Cyclists in particular have been campaigners for this stretch of road to be upgraded because they do take their life in their hands every time they ride up or down that stretch. So there's another idea.

Project idea No. 3: Blaxland commuter car park. I heard the minister talking about a station car park upgrade in the neighbouring seat of Lindsay today. That's nice, and we welcome that, but one of the reasons mountains people drive down to Emu Plains station is that the parking is hopeless at Blaxland. How about upgrading Blaxland car park? We committed $2 million towards this project. It's a quick infrastructure project that would improve the quality of life for people in that area, not just the people who park there but the residents who now face extra cars through their streets because the car park is overflowing by about 7.30 in the morning.

Project idea No. 4: let's build a third crossing of the Hawkesbury River, but let's do it properly—and how about we do it now? What we know through Senate estimates is that while this was an announcement, a $200 million commitment, that was made by both sides of politics in this election, there were a couple of key differences that are now beginning to emerge. One of them—one of the really big ones—is that the funding under the Liberals will trickle out over the next few years. Our funding commitment was to do it now and get it done. We will see only $5 million towards this bridge in the 2020-21 financial year, and there is only $30 million of an at least $200 million project in the forward estimates. That takes us to around 2022-23. That's—what?—four years away, and we're only seeing about $35 million of that funding. That tells me that we're not building a bridge, that there will be no bridge built in four years time. In fact, the extra roughly $165 million or $170 million is pushed out into the never-never. We don't actually know when this bridge is going to be built. Anyone with a baby now who's hoping that they're going to see an improvement in traffic by the time their kid starts school is going to be sadly disappointed. Anyone who's got a teenager in high school and is hoping that one day it won't be such a huge effort to negotiate the traffic as they take their child to and from school or across the bridge to sport also is going to be sadly disappointed. Their child's going to have their own licence by the time we get anywhere near to seeing this bridge. That is not good enough. It should be brought forward. The other troubling thing about this project is that the New South Wales government is calling it the Richmond bridge duplication. That's hardly a third crossing. But I welcome any Commonwealth expenditure to improve roads and bridges in my electorate. All the upgrades to the intersections and approaches to Richmond bridge in recent years were funded by the Commonwealth, actually, from allocations first made by Labor in 2011, which we announced in 2010. That's $20 million of work. That will actually be more than the investment this government makes over the next few years.

Those are a few roads projects that would significantly improve the quality of life. If this government had a vision for the people of the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains they would grab those projects and throw themselves into getting them done fast.
This government could also have a vision for our athletes and our sports people. Yes, there's the Knapsack Park commitment we shared. I am looking forward to working with council on getting the best result for the soccer and cricket and other users of that oval, but Warrimoo Oval also needs upgrades. A $50,000 investment would make a huge difference to that football focused sporting community, as would Wilberforce's Woodlands Park lighting upgrade for that family based soccer community. All those things would show some sort of commitment to the people of Macquarie that this government really does care.

The other way that we could show that this government cares about the future of the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury would be by investing in education. How can you have a vision for the future of a well-educated population ready to face the challenges ahead without starting with early childhood education? Our Hawkesbury Community Outreach Services mobile playgroup would have been a great place to start with an upgrade of their van to travel.

One of the things that's become clear in the weeks since the election is that this government has no vision for providing services to the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury. They have no vision for providing health services. And not only do they have no vision but they have no interest. Hawkesbury Hospital has had no federal government investment in the last six years, no capital investment. Labor committed$2.5 million to assist with upgrades. This hospital could do with a whole range of things, including upgrading its emergency department. The population around the hospital and the number of people who come to the hospital are growing, and the state government has failed to get any construction under way to meet that growing need. So guess who bears the brunt of it? Hawkesbury Hospital. While $2.5 million could make a difference, there's not a cent committed by those opposite. If they wanted to have a vision for the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury, that would be one place to start.

The next place to go would be Nepean Hospital. While outside of the electorate of Macquarie, many people who live in my electorate work at that hospital and it is our largest major centre. Labor committed to a world-leading cancer centre at Nepean Hospital, had we won government. That's a vision for what our community needs, particularly as the whole population of the west grows. That's something else this government could adopt and we would be thrilled to work with them on that, and I'd be very happy to work with the member for Lindsay in pursuing that.

The other thing our community needs is MRI. There is not a single MRI machine in my entire electorate—4,000 square kilometres and not one. There's one in Calare, the neighbouring electorate, that the people in my community sometimes access, miles and miles away, or they have to go to Penrith. More than that, I had an email from one of my Kurrajong residents who told me she has to travel a long way from home to get to it. Some people have to go to the North Shore or eastern suburbs of Sydney to get an MRI in the time they need it. We made a commitment that, if Labor won government, we would put an MRI in the public hospital at Katoomba and that would be a start.

There is also a need for an MRI machine in the Hawkesbury. There is no MRI between Penrith, Rouse Hill and Lithgow. It's a huge expanse. And all that's happening at a time when this government gives a lucrative MRI licence to a clinic in Adelaide operated by the vice-president of the South Australian Liberal Party, in spite of one being within five kilometres of that clinic. Maybe that's what we did wrong in the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury.

Health is not being served by this government. There is no vision for it. Mental health is another area where there is scant attention paid. The Morrison government committed to a satellite headspace service to look after young people with mental health needs in Katoomba. That is going to barely scratch the surface. Our commitment was for a full-service headspace—that's one with wrap-around services. They are so important for young people when they have an early diagnosis of mental illness or when they have a general feeling of being mentally unwell. This is where we can actually make a significant difference, so to see the commitment for a satellite service is incredibly disappointing for our community. And what's more, there was not a single mention of the Hawkesbury, a huge expanse of area with an unmet need and an unrecognised need in official terms for youth mental health. But we know on the ground that the needs are really high, so Labor's commitment was $5.5 million. If this government came along in a bipartisan way to work on that $5.5 million, we could make a significant difference for young people.

As well as mental health services and hospital services, there's another area where this government has no vision—that is, services to help women who have managed to escape from domestic violence. Labor's commitment was for a $1.2 million capital investment to buy a property. People who've worked in this sector in the Hawkesbury for up to 30 years have said to me this is something that's been missing in all those 30 years. They need a home that could be short- and medium-term accommodation for a couple of families, to give them a chance to be able to re-establish their life back in the Hawkesbury rather than a have to leave and move to Penrith or move to other parts of Western Sydney, simply because there is no accommodation available for women and their children in these circumstances. People actually want to be able to re-establish back where their network is. They may have to temporarily leave but they want to come home and they should be able to come home, back to their family, back to their friends, and back to their support networks. These are the sorts of things this government could do, if it really wanted to invest in the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains. I know it's really easy to say, 'Well, you didn't win the election and you made lots of commitments.' That's true, but it isn't actually about me. People in my community are entitled to vote for the person they want to represent them, but every single government has a responsibility to deliver the services that people need in the areas where they live. I'm happy to work with this government to see if there is something we can do on a bipartisan basis, though, frankly, I have little hope for that. It's been six years of Liberals, six years of neglect, six years in which the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury have seen very little.