BUILDING THE COUNTRY PACKAGE
Motion Accorded Priority
Mr FRANK TERENZINI
(Maitland) [3.47 p.m.]: I move:
That this House:
(1) congratulates the Government for supporting country jobs through the new $85 million Building the Country package;
(2) notes that more than 40 community halls across country New South Wales have received grants for upgrades as part of the package, providing jobs for local tradespeople; and
(3) calls on The Nationals to stop in-fighting with the Liberal Party and back Country Labor's support of rural and regional communities.
I am thankful for the opportunity once again to inform the House about the Rees Government's most recent commitment to the people of rural and regional New South Wales. Last Friday the Minister for Rural Affairs, the Hon. Tony Kelly, MLC, announced the successful applications for the first round of funding under the Community Halls Renewal Fund. I am pleased to say that 43 community halls throughout the State soon will commence refurbishment and renovations, thanks to the Rees Government's investment in this program. The Country Halls Renewal Fund is a vital component of the Government's $85 million Building the Country package in rural New South Wales. It is good to see the Federal Government and New South Wales Government working together—as would be expected—to look after rural and regional New South Wales. We are actively seeking out businesses across the State to assist them to invest and expand.
Over the past few years the New South Wales Government has shown a commitment to rural and regional New South Wales, with the creation of 7,600 jobs, the investment of $1.24 billion and the commencement of 455 projects. The progress in rural and regional New South Wales shows our level of commitment. The $85 million Building the Country package will top that up with a five-year program focused directly on country towns such as Maitland and those that the member for Murray-Darling and the member for Barwon represent. They will benefit from this, but do they appreciate it? I do not think so. These programs represent $52 million for local infrastructure funds, $11.6 million for community broadband, $9 million for country libraries, $2.5 million for renewed country halls, $9 million for a water innovation fund, $450,000 for a community awareness fund and $450,000 for small chambers of commerce.
One would expect members who represent country New South Wales—whether they are from the Liberal Party, The Nationals or any other political party—to support this package and show their constituents how they are committed to their electorates. But they do not. We have instead the usual ongoing decay between the Liberals and The Nationals. The people of New South Wales should not think that that decay started only recently; it began just after the last State election. I refer to a newspaper article that reflects the situation today as much as it did on Tuesday 27 March 2007. The article is headed, "We've had a gutful of Libs: Nats". It was written after the election when The Nationals knew they faced 16 years in opposition—and deservedly so.
Mr Gerard Martin:
Twenty coming up.
Mr FRANK TERENZINI:
It is coming up 20. After 16 years in opposition The Nationals had had a gutful. The following is the lead-in to the article that appeared in the Daily Telegraph
on 27 March 2007. It states:
Nationals Leader Andrew Stoner has threatened mutiny by pulling his party out of the Coalition unless the Liberals end their internal warfare.
What has changed? Absolutely nothing—except it has got a little worse. That was no light-hearted quote from the Leader of The Nationals; it is pretty serious stuff. He went on:
The Coalition is not a government. We are separate parties and we [The Nationals] will decide what is in the best interests of country NSW.
Those opposite expect the people of New South Wales to take them on board and vote them in at the next election. What a farce! What a joke that is! The people of New South Wales deserve to see all that is going on behind the scenes with the Liberal-Nationals Coalition. There is the most intense bickering and infighting that one could imagine. The member for Murray-Darling is laughing as if that is a joke. It is no joke.
Mr Gerard Martin:
Mr FRANK TERENZINI:
I have just been told that the member for Murray-Darling is a joke, and that is probably the case. But this is no joke. We are now approaching the time when parties start to consider preselections for the next State election, and I bet we will see the same thing this time as happened in the run-up to the last State election: there will be bickering and open warfare between the Coalition parties. We must ensure that the people of New South Wales know exactly what the Liberal Party and The Nationals are up to. The way they are carrying on is an absolute joke. Nothing has changed since their last spat.
Mr John Williams:
Point of order: We are wondering when the community halls will be built so that we can hold our preselection meetings in them.
Order! There is no point of order.
Mr FRANK TERENZINI:
Is that not typical? Opposition members do not even bother to read the motion. Have they read paragraph (3) of the motion? I do not think so. They probably pay as much attention to debates in Parliament as they do to issues in their electorates—none whatsoever. They are interested only in scoring cheap and nasty political points. If Opposition members were genuinely interested in country New South Wales they would make a significant contribution to this State as best they could. In times of difficulty people look to the Opposition for guidance as much as they look to the Government, but I can see that nothing has changed whatsoever—we have the same good old-fashioned bickering between the two Coalition parties.
The Nationals are desperate. They know the writing is on the wall, they know that things are getting tough and they know that they will have to come up with some policies before the next election. That is the biggest challenge facing the Coalition: coming up with some policies and ideas instead of just whingeing, carping and whining. I look forward to hearing the contributions to this debate from the member for Murray-Darling and the member for Barwon. I want to hear some ideas and some policies. I want to hear what they have to offer.
Mr Frank Terenzini:
Mr KEVIN HUMPHRIES (Barwon) [3.54 p.m.]: We had the clock on the member for Maitland and he spoke for 45 seconds on an announcement that was made previously by Minister Costa. There was not one mention of a single job.
There was! You didn't even listen.
Mr KEVIN HUMPHRIES:
The member did not name them. We had six minutes and 15 seconds of utter claptrap. I move the following amendment to the motion:
That the motion be amended by leaving out all the words after "That" with a view to inserting instead:
(1) condemns the Government for its failure to acknowledge the contribution country people make to the New South Wales economy; and
(2) calls on the Labor Party to acknowledge that they are no longer relevant to the people of country New South Wales."
We heard earlier today that the Government thinks that $85 million over five years will be the panacea and the silver bullet that will save rural New South Wales. The Federal Government announced $750 million in priority funding, including roads funding. But if we slipped down to the shires conference today or cast our minds back to last year we would wonder where all the water and sewerage funding went. Today it was revealed that we are going to lose $160 million from regional road funding in the State budget. If you people are so confident about your position and your standing in rural New South Wales, go to the polls. You are gutless. You will not go because you know you will be out tomorrow. We will give you a tip: Do not go out and buy a new suit because you will not need it.
Mr Frank Terenzini: Point of order: Members should direct their comments through the Chair, and I ask that the member for Barwon do so.
Order! I uphold the point of order. The member for Barwon will direct his comments through the Chair.
Mr KEVIN HUMPHRIES:
We found out today that $160 million will be wiped off the rural and regional roads budget. The problem the Labor Party has—and I refuse to acknowledge Country Labor; it should do everybody a favour and remove the word "Country" from its title—is that the Roads and Traffic Authority has classified rural and regional roads as a disaster. If members opposite want to read about that in the budget papers they should let me know and I will send them around. The Government is not backfilling any positions in the bureaucracy in rural areas—a decision that led to the disaster in health.
Mr Gerard Martin:
We're not going to sack 50,000.
Mr KEVIN HUMPHRIES:
I acknowledge the member for Bathurst, who last year on ABC radio said, " I do not think we have got a problem with Bathurst hospital. I do not think there is a problem with health." Then a couple of months later he said, "We do not want to become part of the Greater Western Area Health Service; we want to defect to the city". He knows the system is broken and the Government is not paying $65 million worth of bills. If it were not for The Nationals, who stand up for the people of rural New South Wales, those bills would never, ever be paid. In fact, members of the bureaucracy and the Labor Party rang me to say, "Member for Barwon, will you stop coordinating all those public demonstrations in western New South Wales about health". I asked, "Why?" They said, "Because we cannot attract staff". But everyone knows that if the Government paid its bills it would get people there—whether doctors, nurses, or the small business operators who service our rural communities.
The Government has let them down, and Labor members have the hide to look down their noses and tell us that $85 million over five years is going to fix the problem. They are a joke. The Government cannot even pay its bills. Forget about the jobs not being filled, the bureaucracy needs to be worried about those clowns opposite and the fact that they cannot even pay their bills. People who work for the Government throughout New South Wales—not just in rural areas—want some sort of commitment that it will pay their wages. That is what they are worried about.
Mr Gerard Martin:
You are going to sack half of them.
Mr KEVIN HUMPHRIES:
We are not going to sack them, mate. The Government is not even backfilling positions. To claim today that 7,600 jobs have been created in rural New South Wales on the back of 42 new community halls is pathetic. That is symptomatic of this Government. Under its management it would take 7,600 people to build 42 halls! That is how incompetent it is. Members opposite should not look down their nose at country people. They are no longer relevant in this House, let alone in western New South Wales. We have talked about the $160 million that will be wiped off our regional roads budget in the next two weeks. Country New South Wales has lost 25 air services in the past 10 years. Members opposite are aware of some of the critical air transport issues confronting remote parts of the State. They have dropped the ball and they need to do something about that situation.
Mr Frank Sartor:
What are you going to do about it?
Mr KEVIN HUMPHRIES:
Frank is back! How many fingers am I holding up, Frank? Today the Premier apologised for the Labor Government's effort with regard to the Livestock Health and Pest Authority. He apologised for the performance of a Labor Minister and the fact that Country Labor got it wrong. Country Labor members go on about the fantastic job they have done with rural lands protection boards. They certainly did a job on them! Workers lost their jobs, offices were closed and the Minister was panned by the Premier. And they say that we have problems!
We have a creative and dynamic team. All I see opposite is a rabble. As the member for Murrumbidgee said, fancy sending the Minister for Finance overseas to represent New South Wales. This Government is an embarrassment. If members opposite want to get serious they should go to the polls. The people have made their assessment of this Government and it is poor. One need only look at the quality of the candidates they preselect. The Labor Party does not even run candidates in half of the electorates. They are an embarrassment. One candidate did not even live in the electorate for which he was preselected. Members of Country Labor are a disgrace to the people of country New South Wales and they are no longer relevant.
Mr GERARD MARTIN
(Bathurst) [4.02 p.m.]: I will depart from what I was going to say to address the comments made by the member for Barwon. His friends call him "Mirrors" because he is always looking in mirrors and he believes his own publicity. On three or four occasions this bloke has put out press releases pre-empting events that have not happened. I will give the member a lesson in mathematics: $85 million has been allocated to this budget and the country halls component is only $2.5 million. The great bulk of the $85 million will be spent on job creating projects around the State. I know of a number of proposals that have been submitted from my electorate that will create dozens of jobs in local towns if they meet the criteria. There is $2.5 million for the halls projects, $11 million for the broadband project and $7 million for country libraries. That means there is about $60 million left. It is no wonder that the member is having trouble with his ethanol plants. He never answered the questions about that. Where did the money go? The member will not be smiling if we do an investigation of that situation.
This is a very serious attempt by the Government to implement programs quickly to create jobs, including in country communities. The country communities that are getting hall upgrades to the value of $50,000 are not whingeing like members opposite. They are saying, "Thank you very much." Members opposite are preening in the mirror in preparation for getting their names on plaques. They have done no work, but they want some of the credit. They want to bask in the reflected glory of the Rees Government. They are not happy to do any of the work, but they are happy to take the credit.
The broadband package will help those communities that will not meet the criteria set down by Telstra and the other telecommunications providers. This program is a demonstration of this Government's working with isolated communities to provide high-speed broadband services. People in those areas will be able to tap into international markets and get good information. Everything in this package is aimed at creating jobs. We have heard that it will create 6,000 or 7,000 jobs, but it will probably be more than that. Members opposite do not know how to add up. The $2.5 million is a long way from the $85 million. They would spend $2.5 million on mirrors and crack the lot of them. The member for Barwon is not known as the spiv of The Nationals or Old Mirrors for nothing. [Time expired.
Mr JOHN WILLIAMS (Murray-Darling) [4.05 p.m.]: It gives me great pleasure to highlight the shortcomings of Country Labor. During private members' statements today I heard the member for Myall Lakes talk about a hall application lodged by one of the shires in his electorate that was knocked back. If the Government keeps knocking back applications at the rate it is we will save that $17 million and carry it forward. I doubt that that money will ever be spent. It is like everything else this Government does: all spin and no substance. I draw the attention of the House to the difference between the Coalition and the Government. The Western Australia Government has recognised that it has a role in regional Western Australia, just as we have a role in regional New South Wales. The Western Australian Government has implemented a fuel card for pensioners. That card recognises the difference between the city and the country and the fact that there is no public transport out in the country.
Country people in Western Australia will be compensated for that and the higher fuel prices that are compounded by the distances they must travel. The Western Australian fuel card acknowledges the difference between people who live in the city and people who live in the country. That is the sort of policy that a Coalition government would implement. The Nationals will be working with the Liberal Party and we will introduce that sort of differentiation. Country Labor has never had the ability to differentiate. Country members opposite have put "country" in front of "Labor", but they are simply stooges. They are the wooden soldiers of the Labor Party. They come into this place with speeches that they have been told to make. They fill in a couple of hours in the House and read out whatever they are handed. The speechwriters try to put a bit of a spin on it for the country to give them some legitimacy.
A Liberal-Nationals Coalition has that legitimacy because its members work well together. The Nationals do the job for regional New South Wales. That is what The Nationals' Brendan Grills did in Western Australia with the $500 per annum fuel card. There is no red tape involved and the card is renewed every year for four years. That is the sort of thing that happens when someone is working for regional New South Wales, which Country Labor members are not. The allocation of $17 million spread over New South Wales will not produce very many jobs.
Mr KERRY HICKEY
(Cessnock) [4.08 p.m.]: The contributions of the member for Barwon and the member for Murray-Darling have enlightened me about why people should not vote for The Nationals. The Liberals and The Nationals have been working well together since the 2007 election. So much so, that the Leader of The Nationals told the Daily Telegraph
, "We have had a gutful of the Liberals." That is how closely they are working together. It would be in the best interests of our constituents if they were to pull out. The member for Barwon wants to talk about grey hair. He talks about everybody else's problems and preens himself in the mirror every day. Everybody calls him "The Spiv". It is sad that he will not even acknowledge Country Labor members—the people who are doing all the work in his electorate. While he is swanning around Sydney, Labor Party members are up north telling him how to fix things. It is sad that he will not acknowledge who does all the work. The member for Barwon also said that the Leader of The Nationals represents the bush. Today during question time he asked questions about the M4, the M5 and the M2.
Mr John Williams: Point of order: I remind the member for Cessnock that the Leader of The Nationals is also the shadow Minister for Roads.
Order! There is no point of order.
Mr KERRY HICKEY: The Leader of The Nationals talks in this House about the M4, the M5, the M2 and other issues. He does not talk about roads in rural areas. He does not talk about the Hunter Highway—the Hunter Expressway, as it is now. I have seen that road expand from the Kurri Kurri corridor to the F3 link road and now the Hunter Expressway. Country Labor is fighting for these stretches of road while members of The Nationals are too busy swanning around this place and trying to talk down the Liberals in a big way. The member for Murray-Darling talked about spin and no substance. I thought his three-minute contribution was spin and no substance. He says The Nationals work with the Liberals. Remember that the Leader of The Nationals said, "We've had a gutful of the Libs." What is Charlie Lynn doing to build that Coalition? What is Alby Shultz doing about the Coalition he is trying to build?
Mr FRANK TERENZINI (Maitland) [4.11 p.m.], in reply: What a great debate this has been. The member for Murray-Darling talked about how he works together with the Liberals—there were all these pyrotechnics coming from the member. What was the central point of his contribution and that of the member for Barwon: that they work together with the Liberals. The member for Murray-Darling may not know this but I have just been advised that Alby Shultz, the Liberal member who always comes down unintentionally on this side of the House, has had to be torn off his colleagues, ripped apart from his colleagues, in the fight he has been having because of the Liberals' decision not to run a candidate against The Nationals in Monaro. Is that the sign of a Coalition that is working together?
Alby Shultz and his mates almost came to blows because the Liberals have decided not to run a candidate against The Nationals. The people in the public gallery and in New South Wales will be shaking their heads. If Coalition members are working together why do they come almost to blows on a decision on who to run in a seat? Members opposite have the gall to tell us how well they are working together, yet behind the scenes in the party room—I would love to be a fly on the wall in the party room with these guys—they are coming to blows and having to tear each other off each other all over a preselection battle. What a joke.
The member for Ryde has a nice smile on his face. He is still under MP warranty. He should do more listening before he says something. He should go back to the workshop for a couple of adjustments while he is still under warranty. The guys who have been here longer should know better than to make fools of themselves by trying to convince the people of New South Wiles that these two parties are working together. Nothing has changed since 2007. They were fighting then, they have been fighting for the past two years and they are fighting now. They are fighting at both the State and Federal levels. I was absolutely right in what I said in my initial contribution. All the members opposite can do is what they are doing now, making light of the situation, trying to cover it over. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Alby Shultz keeps letting the cat out of the bag. Members opposite do not like him because he says what is really going on. Opposition members are a joke.
The House divided.
Question—That the words stand—put.
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R. W. Turner
Mr J. D. Williams
Mr R. C. Williams
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Order! Debate on the motion accorded priority having concluded, the House will now proceed to Government business.