Cost of living, traffic congestion, local amenity: speech in the appropriations debate

By Terri Butler MP

03 March 2020

As I said earlier today, and I just want to make the point again, traffic and traffic congestion are a significant problem in my electorate. I want to call on the government to actually put some serious money on the table for the Cavendish Road level crossing outside the Coorparoo train station. As you know, Deputy Speaker McVeigh, we have a situation where there have been so many different funds that have been rorted by this government, and one is the Urban Congestion Fund. Eighty-three per cent of the money in that fund went to Liberal held or Liberal targeted seats—none to my seat. But the people of Coorparoo deserve to have their congestion busted, just as much as anyone does.

As I said to the member for Bonner before, and I see him again in the chamber, just because you drive from Bonner to Griffith, when you cross the electorate boundary that doesn't mean that the traffic congestion magically disappears. So I call on the federal government to match Labor's election commitment that we put on the table— $107 million to get rid of that level crossing. Of course, Patrick Condren, the Labor candidate for Lord Mayor of Brisbane and Matthew Campbell, our excellent Labor candidate for Coorparoo Ward, have put on the table $410 million across Brisbane, but including for that level crossing removal at Cavendish Road. So all we need is for the Liberals to get onboard and to start caring about Coorparoo and come up with the funding. I call on both the federal government and the Liberal city council administration to actually put some money forward for that traffic congestion in Coorparoo. It doesn't just affect my electorate, of course. It affects people coming in from Bowman and Bonner, people who use Old Cleveland Road in the morning and evening peaks.

There are so many issues of importance to my electorate, but you can't go past the damage that has been wrought by this government on the Australian economy and the real-world impacts that is having in my electorate. If you go to Oxford Street, if you go to Stones Corner, you see empty shops. You see situations where small businesses have been driven out of the area because the fact is the economy is really flagging under this government. This government, in its seventh year, has never had a plan for the Australian economy. We have seen situations where, of course, wages growth has been absolutely smashed under this government, where private debt has increased and where public debt had increased. We had the situation just today when the Reserve Bank of Australia cut interest rates to a historic low. It's a historic low for interest rates and it's a historic low for the Liberal Party's economic credibility.

I think Australians know what that means. It means we're in a situation where the Reserve Bank is desperately trying to stimulate the economy, where the government is doing nothing about getting economic growth happening, where the Reserve Bank is down to half a per cent with the cash rate, and, let's face it, we're getting to the point where monetary policy is going to run out of puff. We're heading towards the zero lower bound. This is serious, and this government needs to take some serious action to do something about it. Don't just stand around pointing the finger at everyone else you can think of—whether it's state government or whether it's business. The government needs to show national leadership, because businesses, including the businesses in my electorate, need it.

Consumption is not going to lift while wages are falling through the floor. Consumption is not going to improve while households are unable to actually make ends meet. Of course, people aren't going to buy the extra coffee, the extra newspaper or the extra dress for the Friday night party. They're not going to go and buy the extra restaurant meal while wages growth is so pathetic in this country. All of the small businesses in my electorate are struggling hard. The business organisations are working so hard to try to revitalise shopping strips, to try to encourage people to come out and to try to make sure that they do well, but they need the national government to lead and stop leaving all the heavy lifting to the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Another issue of great importance to my constituents is access to health care, and that includes access to private health care. As you know, Acting Deputy Speaker, premiums have been going up and up and up and this government seems incapable of tackling the difficulties that people have with affording private health care, because they just don't have a plan.

It's the same for education. So many of the people who live in my electorate are deeply concerned about what's happening with education in this country. They're concerned about schools not having the money that they need. We have got so many great schools in Griffith, an amazing diversity of schools—big, small, independent, Catholic, state—like, of course, most electorates. They're all worried because they want to see a better education for the kids of the future, and, I might say, this extends to post-secondary as well. Being an electorate that hosts some university students—Griffith University has campuses in my electorate, and the TRI has research through the universities—people in my area are very concerned about what's happening to university funding. They're also extremely worried about what's happening with vocational education in this country. There's been a great reduction in the amount of apprenticeships. There's been billions of dollars of funding cut from vocational education under the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. In fact, very few of the schools in my electorate were able to get in before the government cut the Trade Training Centres. There are very few of those around. It's a crisis in education, and people in my electorate are deeply concerned about it.

This all comes down to the cost of living. The cost of living remains a crucial issue for people on the south side of Brisbane. They want to see a government that will actually tackle the fact that prices keep going up at the same time as services seem to get worse and worse.

The other issue that's of key concern to people in my electorate is overdevelopment and bad development. We've a council election on at the moment. I know our wonderful Labor candidates are out there talking about what really matters to the way we live. We've got a really special way of life on the south side. It's a wonderful place to live. We need to keep it that way, and that's going to require infrastructure to keep up. It's going to require green space to keep up. It's going to require making sure that access to education and health care continues to improve for our communities. It also means making sure that when the Commonwealth can have an influence on development issues that we make sure it's a good influence. We've had the sale of the Bulimba Barracks. The sale has very recently settled, with formal information going out only this week. Our community fought tooth and nail to make sure that when the barracks were sold there was a master plan on the site. My colleagues the Hon. Di Farmer MP, a minister in the Palaszczuk Labor government and the local member; Councillor Kara Cook, who is the local councillor; and her predecessor, Councillor Shayne Sutton, have all stood very strongly and very firmly for making sure that that redevelopment, once it occurs following the settlement, is done in a way that meets community expectations and meets community needs. As I say, we have a special way of life, and we are determined to keep it that way.

There's also an issue, a problem actually, in the Greenslopes area. The Commonwealth owns a property at Greenslopes. It's an old Red Cross hall. It is a great property, but it's falling apart. There's been security fencing and shade cloth around it for years. What's most concerning is that the building is decrepit and there are big signs everywhere saying, 'Danger Asbestos'. I don't want my community to have to be worried about what happens if there's a storm or if there's a tree that falls on the building. This property needs to be fixed. The local members—Joe Kelly, the state member, and of course, Matthew Campbell, the council candidate—and I have been calling for this to be fixed for almost three years now. We have been calling on the Commonwealth, which still owns the property, to actually do something about remediating it, because it is getting to a point where people are concerned. They're concerned about the danger from the asbestos, the lack of amenity, the eyesore that's sitting there and the waste of what could otherwise be a very useful community asset. So we are calling on the government to remediate the property and make sure it is available for community use once again.

We're also greatly concerned about the issues that are happening around youth arts funding in my electorate. We've got Backbone Youth Arts, one of the last youth arts organisations in Queensland, and the Commonwealth has just cut the funding to Backbone Youth Arts. It's an absolute disgrace. This is an organisation where 80 per cent of the young people who go through it end up in employment. It needs to be saved.