Motion to Take Note of Answers - Prime Minister Visit to Western Sydney

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

(15:05): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (Senator Conroy) to a question without notice asked by Senator Payne today relating to western Sydney and the Prime Minister.

It seems to me that small things apparently can amuse small minds, judging by the reaction of those opposite to the question I asked at the start of question time today. But they are not small things to the people at the Penrith Whitewater Stadium in the electorate of Lindsay. The fact that they are prepared to go on the record in their annual report, tabled in Penrith council in the second week of February, and say that they have seen a 15 per cent rise in their energy costs as a result of the carbon tax, as reported in the Penrith Press on 15 February and in the Western Weekender on 14 February, shows this is very serious for them. This is an international world-class facility that now finds itself in a position where it will probably have to buy a diesel generator to operate during parts of the day because of these increased costs and other increased costs for electricity as well. It is the facility that produced Olympic silver medallist Jessica Fox. It is not a laughing matter. The fact that those opposite and other members of this government continue to treat the people of Western Sydney, the people who are actually in their forgotten heartland, with contempt is the problem that this government has.

The headlines in relation to the Prime Minister's upcoming sojourn in Western Sydney are even more fascinating. We have: 'Oh west, where goes thy vote?' 'The west puts up a Do Not Disturb Sign to Prime Minister Julia Gillard'. And in an alliterative effort by the Australian Financial Review: 'Gillard's futile foray out west'. These are the sorts of observations which even the Canberra press gallery are making, and heaven only knows what the local Western Sydney papers will make of it, too. But my personal favourite is the small cartoon on the front page of today's Australian. It is not quite clear enough for me to see who drew it, but it has a very helpful gentleman at the front desk of the Rooty Hill RSL Novotel saying, 'Can we help you with your baggage?' And around her are polls, boats, mining tax, ICAC, Kevin, more polls, the surplus or not, more polls, and the Prime Minister saying in response, 'That's the general idea.'

The people of Western Sydney will not be helping the Prime Minister with her baggage. A one-week visit is much like one swallow in a summer; it does not make a commitment to Western Sydney. Perhaps a little doorknocking would not go astray while she is there. Perhaps our candidate in Chifley, Isabelle White, could take some of her energy and enthusiasm to the streets with the Prime Minister, and she could meet some of the real people of Rooty Hill.

While I am on the question of the Rooty Hill RSL, it would seem to me that the Prime Minister is really not helped by her colleagues—colleagues like Minister Mark Butler, who thinks it is a joke to talk about one of the largest facilities in Western Sydney, like the Rooty Hill RSL, in the way that he did on Adelaide radio today. I will tell you where the joke lies, Mr Deputy President: it lies with Minister Butler. The Rooty Hill RSL does things like those outlined in the St Mary's Vietnam Veterans' Outpost website and newsletter—and I want to quote it. It was in 2010 but it is a pretty good quote:

We recently received our CDSE grant from Rooty Hill RSL Club which could not have come at a better time as we also received acknowledgement from DVA regarding our BEST Funding. Unfortunately with the Government in "Claw Back Mode" to pay for the insulation and schools improvement program our Grant has been slashed by several thousand dollars …

The activities of this extremely worthy organisation, the St Mary's Vietnam Veterans' Outpost, is supported by the Rooty Hill RSL, about which Minister Mark Butler thinks it is appropriate to say it is 'a bit too "Benny Hill" '. Was that a play on words as well? Was that a play on Sydney's history and the naming of Rooty Hill by Governor Sir Philip Gidley King, who named it after a place on Norfolk Island, where he had also lived? Or is that a joke as well? The people of Western Sydney are strong and proud. It is where I work and it is where I live. They are people who are sick and tired of this government, of their increased living costs, of their broken promises and of the lack of attention to the infrastructure that they need to go about their daily lives and not unreasonably to live and work and play where they live. The Rooty Hill RSL answers those questions. (Time expired)


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