House of Representatives Speech- Governor General's Speech Address-in-Reply 2010

It gives me great pleasure to speak to the address-in-reply. I was going to speak about the re-election, about the results in Isaacs and, indeed, about the Labor results in Victoria. I am very pleased to be returning to this place for the second term of a Labor federal government. I congratulate my colleagues old and new. I look forward to working with our Prime Minister to deliver the progressive agenda we have for Australia.

It gives me great pleasure to speak to the address-in-reply. I was going to speak about the re-election, about the results in Isaacs and, indeed, about the Labor results in Victoria. I am very pleased to be returning to this place for the second term of a Labor federal government. I congratulate my colleagues old and new. I look forward to working with our Prime Minister to deliver the progressive agenda we have for Australia.

There were mixed results around the country in the election just past, but Victoria saw a strong preference expressed by the people for the return of a Labor government. I am particularly pleased to welcome to this place my new Victorian colleagues—the member for La Trobe, Laura Smyth; and the member for McEwen, Rob Mitchell, whose long wait to join us in this place is finally over. We did think the new member for McEwen was going to join us a little earlier, at the end of the last election.

In Isaacs, there was a swing to Labor of 3.33 per cent. I sincerely thank our local community for again trusting me as their representative in the Australian parliament. It is a privilege to serve in this place and Isaacs is a unique and wonderful electorate to work in and to represent. I want to thank my family. One does not often get the opportunity to thank one’s family. In particular, I thank my wife, Deborah; my children, Joe, Tom and Laura; my father, George; and my mother, Phyllis. Without the love, the support and the inspiration that my family provide me on a daily basis, it would be impossible for me to do this job. I cannot thank them enough.

I want to thank also the dedicated staff who have worked tirelessly in my office in Melbourne and also in my office in Canberra over the last three years—Tim Lisle-Williams, Monica Bladier, Brett Collet, Julie Coventry, David Barda, Paul Haseloff, Youhorn Chea, Claudette Macdonald, Laura John, Alex Fawke and Salazar Youhorn. In case anyone thinks I have had excessive churn in my office, I have the great good fortune to have a number of permanent part-time employees, and others have worked as volunteers but on a very long-term basis, which is the reason for the large number of people who work in my electorate office. I would also thank those who have worked in the Parliament House office here in Canberra, particularly Desmond Ko, James MacGibbon and Elouise Fowler.

I had hundreds of volunteers throughout the first term, but obviously more particularly in the campaign just past, despite the cold and rain of a winter campaign in Victoria—indeed, I would hope never again to fight a campaign in August. There have been very few August elections in the history of Australia and there is a very good reason for that, as we have just found out. In the cold and rain I had hundreds of volunteers handing out with me at train stations in the morning, assisting at street stalls, doorknocking with me and handing out on election day. It would be remiss not to mention at least some of these volunteers: Duncan Wallace, Tom Daley, Nola van Klaveren, Jackie McInroy, Nola Baker, Melanie Blewett, Roz Blades, Pinar Yesil, Jim Memeti, Kevin Gaynor, Trish McMullin, Russell Cole, Noel Pullen, Wendy Phillips, Cam Macdonald, Tony Falkingham, Alex Hicks, my sister Michelle Ball, and, in particular, Graham Malcolm, whose work in setting up my campaign office in Edithvale and running all over the electorate was invaluable.

I also thank my state parliamentary colleagues for the assistance they have given me over my first term in this place and also through the last election: Jenny Lindell, Janice Munt, Tim Holding, Jude Perera, John Pandazopoulos and, from the upper house, Adem Somyurek. I wish all of them the very best in the Victorian election coming up on 27 November.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone whom I have not directly named who assisted me either on the campaign or throughout my first term—whether it was handing out pamphlets, coming to mobile offices, handing out how-to-vote cards or simply informing me of some important local issue or giving me some wise words of advice, which I very much appreciate whenever they are offered.

One of the great joys of the job as a local member is to see how investment in the local community makes a meaningful difference for schools, for sporting clubs, for community centres, for business and for welfare organisations. In Isaacs a lot of the improvements to local community infrastructure came through the stimulus packages, which helped stave off the recession that threatened Australia during the global financial crisis, helped keep unemployment below six per cent and gave communities like mine in Isaacs a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure.

Our Labor federal government invested more than $100 million in local schools throughout my electorate thanks to the Building the Education Revolution program. It has been fantastic to see the finished results at schools throughout my electorate. Resurrection School in Keysborough has literally been transformed with innovative new buildings. The school serves a lower socioeconomic community in the very much newly-arrived immigrant suburb of Keysborough, and part of the community also comes from Springvale South. That community is now served by a school which has truly wonderful new buildings.

I could mention Carrum Downs Primary School or St Joachim’s Primary School, both of which have multipurpose centres that are going to be valuable assets to serve the whole of the Carrum Downs community. I could also mention an independent school in my electorate that did what so many independent schools were able to do with the funds that were provided through the Building the Education Revolution program: they added the funds provided by the government to funds they had raised and built a building. Mentone Girls’ Grammar School was able to bring forward by some five years the completion of an early learning centre, because it was in round 1 of the Building the Education Revolution program, and it is a truly excellent addition to that school. Of course, these are only the buildings that are finished; there are many more that are partially constructed and will be completed over the course of the rest of this year and into the first part of next year.

I would have to say that one of the most disappointing aspects of the election campaign was the opposition’s misleading attacks on the Labor government’s spending in schools. My experience with school communities and principals, when it comes to the BER program, has been overwhelmingly positive. I can say that several times during the campaign, and before the campaign, I invited the opposition leader to my electorate to speak to local school communities like the Noble Park Primary School who were funded under the third round of the program.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 5.29 pm to 5.42 pm

Mr DREYFUS —Noble Park Primary School is an example of a school funded under the third round of the BER program. They were worried about losing their funding and much needed infrastructure if the coalition won the election. The opposition leader never showed up in response to the invitation that I gave him to visit my electorate and, indeed, he persisted with the promise to cut funding to schools whose projects were in the third round. Happily, the Labor government has been re-elected. Happily, the opposition leader remains in opposition. He is completely out of touch with local school communities and their needs. He is out of touch with the employment opportunities that were created by the BER program, and these are opportunities which have helped keep our unemployment rate at extraordinary lows, even through the global financial crisis. When I visited BER project sites, a theme that I heard over and over again from people working on the sites, from their managers and from tradespeople working on the projects was that they would not be in those jobs and working on those projects had it not been for the BER program. There is an old saying: crisis creates opportunity. The Labor government grasped the opportunity which was provided by the global financial crisis to improve local communities with new projects and upgrades to existing infrastructure.

There is a buzz around Noble Park in my electorate after one of its major landmarks, the Noble Park Swim Centre, with its iconic water slide, was given nearly $7.3 million under the government’s community infrastructure plan to completely redevelop the pool into a community hub. I have been working very closely with the City of Greater Dandenong on this project and cannot wait until it is complete. I am very pleased to hear that the Victorian state government has just agreed to also contribute to the project so that an indoor warm-water pool can be built for community use. It will make what was already a very good project a truly excellent project.

The $3.3 million Kingston Heath Soccer Complex is already up and running in Cheltenham. That is another community infrastructure plan project. That soccer facility will help local soccer clubs like the Bentleigh Greens enjoy superb new surfaces and modern facilities. It was a great pleasure to open that facility with the member for Hotham a few months ago. There is no doubt that the venue will be a boon to the game in the south-east of Melbourne.

The construction of the Tatterson Park playground was also funded by our federal government and the City of Greater Dandenong. It will assist young families in the new estates in Keysborough in my electorate with a safer environment for their children to play in. Another major part of the stimulus program that manifested in my electorate was the unprecedented social housing funding, which will mean better access to quality public housing in Chelsea Heights, Noble Park and Dandenong. I was fortunate to have the then minister for housing, the member for Sydney, visit the area on two occasions to see directly the benefits for our local community from the significant investments that have been made in social housing.

In my first term as federal member, the Queen Elizabeth Centre in Noble Park has received two rounds of funding. I recently visited the Queen Elizabeth Centre to see how local migrant families are benefiting from programs designed to improve their English and social skills while giving their young children social interaction through play. The $19.4 million Frankston Trade Training Centre will serve 13 schools in Isaacs and Dunkley when it is completed on the site of the Chisholm Institute in Frankston. This will be a great boost to the local area, which, on a national scale, suffers well below average high school retention rates. Why the opposition would want to scrap this training centre is a complete mystery to me. It is vital that those of our high school students who are more suited to trades training or who wish to undergo trades training have that opportunity rather than being forced onto the dole queue.

Other federal government funding has supported manufacturing companies in my electorate, such as Cleanteq Ltd and Frontline Australasia in Dandenong South. Cleanteq produces new filtering processes, and Frontline does cutting-edge work in the development of cold spray titanium technology. Both of them, like many other manufacturing companies in south-east Melbourne, are demonstrating the strength of research and the depth of manufacturing industry that exists in Melbourne.

The first term of our government was defined by the global financial crisis and our necessary, immediate and decisive response to it. Australia has a fantastic economic story to tell. It is a story which is the envy of the world’s other advanced economies. Within a week of the global financial crisis, the Labor government responded with the first of two fiscal packages and a government guarantee for our banks that provided effective and early confidence in the banking and retail sectors. While it is the case that the global recovery is remaining patchy across the world, with some 30 million more workers unemployed than three years ago, Australia is leading the way with around 5.1 per cent unemployment, a budget that will be in surplus in 2012-13 and a peak government net debt of only six per cent of GDP in 2011-12. That is an unemployment rate of around half that of the US and Europe—and, just as a comparison, the collective net debt of major advanced economies is expected to hit around 90 per cent of their GDPs in 2015.

The miracle economy, if I can call it that, is no accident. Our government acted quickly, strongly and decisively to come out of the financial crisis in better shape than any other advanced economy. As a direct consequence of that, Australia has emerged from the worst global financial crisis since the Depression, with low unemployment and a buoyant economy. It is worth noting, yet again, the OECD Economic Survey report of Australia released this week. It was glowing in its assessment of not only the current state of the Australian economy and the conduct of the Reserve Bank during the global financial crisis but also the policies that were put in place and that are continuing to be put in place by our government.

I am honoured to have been appointed to the roles of Cabinet Secretary and Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. I am very much looking forward in this term to assisting the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the member for Charlton, in putting a price on carbon, improving the nation’s energy efficiency and increasing our use of renewable energy. We will be working on establishing a price on carbon for Australia. It is one of my biggest disappointments in my first term in parliament that the parliament failed to pass the legislation that would have created the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, an emissions trading scheme. On three occasions this measure, which would have put a price on carbon for our country and reduced carbon emissions, was blocked in the Senate by the coalition and, I need to add, the Greens.

The state of this parliament—the make-up of this 43rd Parliament—is one which holds no fears for me, and nor should it for anyone who wishes to see stable or progressive government in this country. In the past 21 years, every state and territory has experienced a minority government, most of them serving a full term. Certainly the Victorian experience of the Bracks government from 1999 to 2002—which was the first term of the current Labor government that is still in office and is, I hope, going to be re-elected on 27 November—shows that minority government can, far from being unstable or an environment in which governments cannot get things done, be stable government. Indeed, it shows that there are exciting opportunities through the need to build consensus to produce real reforms. I am looking forward to building consensus in this parliament on issues like climate change, the economy and health reform. I have already enjoyed working with our parliamentary colleagues—the Independents in our House and the lone Green member of the House—on a range of matters, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to pass legislation that will improve our society and Australia’s place in the world.

Coming back after an election in which our side has lost several members is a powerful reminder that no seat can be taken for granted. Some excellent Labor members lost their seats at this election, and I would like to acknowledge Sharryn Jackson, Damian Hale, Jim Turnour, Brett Raguse, Arch Bevis, Jon Sullivan, Chris Trevor, Kerry Rea and Maxine McKew for their service in this place. I pay tribute in particular to the service of the former member for Brisbane, Arch Bevis, including his excellent chairing of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which I had the privilege to serve on with him in the last parliament. I would also like to thank four members who retired at the end of the last term: Lindsay Tanner, Jennie George, Duncan Kerr and Bob Debus. I greatly appreciated their advice and comradeship during my first term, and this place will be worse off for their departure. I wish them all the best in their post-political lives.

I would like to conclude by welcoming all new members to this place, but in particular those I have mentioned, my new Labor colleagues the member for McEwen and the member for La Trobe. In addition I welcome my Labor colleagues the member for Canberra, the member for Fraser, the member for Throsby, the member for Chifley, the member for Robertson, the member for Greenway and the member for Bass. I trust that all of those new members will enjoy their first terms in this parliament and find it as rewarding as I found my first term in this parliament, which was the last term. I look forward to working with all of you, the new members, in making the case for fairness, compassion and Labor’s progressive reform agenda.