I rise to speak on these appropriation bills. The south-west of Western Australia, the area I represent, in my view is the best region in the best state in the best country in the world. Those of us who are lucky enough to live there are always grateful that we have that opportunity.
South-west people are also quite generous and they want to share the experience of the south-west with the rest of the nation and the rest of the world. We from the south-west want you to come and experience what is so amazing about our region.
Come and see the sun going down over the ocean while you dine on fresh WA seafood and a glass of fine Margaret River or Geographe region wine. It is a wonderful experience. Visit our iconic forests: the majestic karri forests in the south and the jarrah forests further north.
Perhaps you would rather surf at Smiths Beach at Yallingup or visit the dolphins in Koombana Bay in Bunbury. That is a simple snapshot of what the south-west has to offer.
We also have a lot to offer economically to not only the rest of the state but the nation. The south-west is also the engine room of the state of Western Australia, providing the state’s energy and much of the industry which underpins the region’s $15 billion economy.
It is a mining region that produces $2 billion a year in minerals—a number that will soon grow with the additional coal exports that are planned. It is an agricultural region, with a turnover of over $600 million a year in some of the best quality food, mainly milk, vegetable and beef production.
It is some of the best quality and most efficiently produced food in the world. I take this opportunity to recognise the agricultural sector and the agricultural exports as the reason we stayed out of technical recession.
We also have, as members here would know, one of the world’s premium wine-producing regions.
We would like to see everyone visit this jewel in the Australian crown. I also want to see investment in the south-west for local communities and for visitors so that they can enjoy what we have to offer.
We do need a truly regional airport in the south-west, one that has the capacity to take direct flights from interstate and overseas so that tourists and locals for domestic purposes can come and go from the region effectively.
Until there is a larger airport in the south-west with a greater capacity, tourists and those travelling domestically will have to continue to fly to Perth and then drive down to the south-west area.
When you look at getting from Perth to the south-west, the completion of the Bunbury Outer Ring Road is an essential and urgent piece of infrastructure.
The Bunbury Outer Ring Road and port access road are being delivered. I attended the opening of stage 1 of the port access road in 2002.
Stage 2 of that road and stage 1 of the Bunbury Outer Ring Road have both state and federal funding committed—budgeted at a cost of $170 million. Work started on this stage of the project with a ground-breaking ceremony that I attended in February 2012 and it is expected to be completed by midyear.
The remaining stage of the Bunbury Outer Ring Road is estimated to cost over $260 million, but as yet these funds have not been committed. So we have a major road project that is two-thirds done but is not connected and will not be connected at either end. This is desperately needed.
I call on the Labor government to finish the job on the Bunbury Outer Ring Road as soon as possible. In the longer term dual lanes from Perth to Margaret River are essential. It is certainly part of my long-term transport vision for the south-west.
It will make the trip safer and it will make the trip more efficient for visitors and locals alike.
When visitors do get to the south-west I want them to be able to experience the great variety that it has to offer.
This will mainly come through the myriad innovative and very hardworking small business owners, those who run chocolate or cheese factories or the vineyards you might visit.
It will also be provided by the restaurateurs, who are also small business operators, as are your dive charter operator and your joy-flight pilot. All these people are waiting to provide you with the experience of a lifetime. I hope they will still be there when you get there.
I hope that the new taxes applied by the Gillard government, like the carbon tax, have not put them out of business. The impact on regional Australia is very underestimated by this government. This tax impact means that you really should go sooner rather than later.
And we will see further increases. In 2014, for a start, the carbon tax will increase by a further five per cent on 1 July. Virtually everything that we eat, drink, use, consume or build with comes on the back of a truck.
In 2014—and here is the rub if you live and work in regional areas or if you want to attract people to regional areas—road freight operators will lose 6.858c a litre off their diesel fuel rebate to pay for the carbon tax.
So the cost to transport every single thing in rural and regional Australia will go up, and it will be those same small businesses and also the consumers that will have to wear that. On top of the recent 2.4c a litre rise in the diesel fuel excise, this will mean higher costs and greater impacts in all regional areas, including our South-West tourism operators. It does have a direct effect; if you are in small business every cent counts.
When you get to the South-West, like thousands of others from the east, you may decide that you do not want to leave. If you stay, I really do want you to be able to access all of the services and facilities you need.
One of the things I want to see achieved is the provision of higher education in the cape region of the South-West.
This is something I started working on back in 2010 with a very good cross-section of stakeholders, and our work continues. Our Capes Region Higher Education Taskforce members recently met with the first universities to respond to our document calling for expressions of interest sent out across the country late last November.
With me at the two meetings in Perth, Thursday a week or so ago, were task force members Deputy Mayor Tom Tuffin, Jon Berry from the City of Busselton, and Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Ray McMillan.
We met representatives from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Canberra. It was really encouraging already to be having those types of face-to-face meetings with people who want to learn more about the capes region and the great potential for tertiary education opportunities.
I know this is still very much early days in those discussions for the overall project, but our task force continues to work with stakeholders to develop a long-term strategy for tertiary education lifetime learning opportunities in capes region.
But, with continuous population growth, the task force believes it needs to act now. We need to act now to deliver the best future in education outcomes.
There are 1,000 people a week coming into Western Australia, and this really needs to be considered by the government.
There are 1,000 people a week and yet we see constant attacks on the economy of Western Australia.
If you are one of those 1,000 and you decide to stay, I hope that we will soon be able to provide more lifetime learning opportunities in the region.
Naturally, when you come to the South-West, we want you not only to feel safe but to be safe. As you explore our beautiful coastline we want you to take care along those winding roads and through our forests. For those of you who cannot make the trip, I am going to bring the South-West back to Canberra again.
On 18 June, I am bringing the South-West Sensations Showcase to parliament. Each one of you has received a save-the-date card and an invitation.
You may well remember the 2011 showcase which gave you a great taste of the real South-West. It is coming back to parliament, and I invite you all to see, taste and hear what the region has to offer.
As good as the South-West is, there are issues that need to be addressed there. It is the third-fastest growing region in Australia.
The government must be held to account over its funding for aged care. The government’s changes to aged-care funding under the Living Longer, Living Better program, which came into effect on 1 July last year, was a reprehensible act that has cut the heart out of small regional aged-care service providers.
When the Labor government spruiked their plan as the panacea for our aged-care system, they deliberately failed to tell the Australian people that this program is in fact an attempt to claw back $750 million from the aged-care sector over the next 2½ years.
The practical real result, as opposed to the misrepresentations of the government, is that residential aged-care providers will get less funding for new patients than they got for patients last year.
Aged-care providers right throughout the nation—and particularly the smaller the ones in rural and regional Australia—which are overlooked and forgotten by this government are affected very directly by this decision.
A very frail, elderly Australian entering aged care in the current year brings with them federal funding of around $56 to $63 a day less than did a resident admitted in the last financial year.
Given the average turnover rate in aged-care facilities of around 50 per cent per annum, by the end of the current financial year half of the residents will be supported at this new lower rate.
This is an attack on small regional aged-care operators and it is another slap in the face for regional communities by the Labor government, as is the attack on private health, the 61,000 plus people with private health cover in my electorate.
I want to raise the issue of cybersafety. As the internet expands and develops with faster speed and greater reach that threat is growing, particularly for our young people. This is why the need to educate Australians on how to protect themselves and their families is a priority.
I believe it is a national problem that needs a national coordinated solution. Everything that I have seen and done to date tells me that education is the key. Cybersafety has to be part of the school curriculum so at least the generations that follow will know better how to protect themselves.
I have conducted cybersafety presentations in primary and high schools and in the community right across the length and breadth of my electorate for the past three years because I recognised very early on the risk and the threat to our great young people. I want them to be protected.
Some of the most disturbing issues that I have dealt with when I go and talk to these young people is the amount of friends that eight- to 10-year-olds have on social websites and what they are exposed to by that contact.
Some of the issues that I raise with them are the threats that they face perhaps from something as simple as geotagging or the exposure that they allow themselves through leaving their Bluetooth on.
The internet is a fabulous tool but I want to be sure that the online experiences of these young people are safe and that they are enjoying themselves and are learning and that they are using this great resource for the best purpose. But they are at risk.
One thing that these young people often do not understand—as I hear when I meet and talk with them—is that what they put on the internet is actually there forever. Some have the view that, if they simply press the delete button on their computer, content is deleted.
It is not. You sent it on the internet. The challenge is from bullying and we have young people at great risk from bullying. It is 24 hours a day, seven days a week for some young people and it is not just the quiet and vulnerable who are affected.
It can be our most talented sportspersons, it can be our most academic or popular persons. No-one is excluded from this form of bullying. It brings great distress to young people, but they do not realise the risks that they are exposing themselves to.
My talking about the fake profiles that people generate, the case studies I deal with and the fact that I have had great support from the Australian Federal Police, the Western Australian police and our local police in presenting to these schools and community groups, leads to an awakening for some.
That is why I believe that this is a national problem that needs a national solution through the national curriculum. So I will keep working on that outcome for this problem that is facing our young people in this nation.