Regional Jobs and Services

In recent months I have spent some time with local people in towns all over regional New South Wales—towns like Broken Hill, the Central Coast, Orange, Goulburn, Wollongong, Singleton, Tuncurry and Queanbeyan. In all of these areas, just like in my own electorate of Maitland, there is a growing dissatisfaction with the lack of regard by the Government for people in regional Australia.

People are sick of the privatisation of their hospitals. They are angry at seeing their State taxes going to pay for infrastructure in Sydney when they have no public transport and terrible roads. They are desperate to stop the violence against women and children in their communities, when they are experiencing domestic violence rates sometimes 2½ times the rate across the rest of the State. When I went to Orange the other week I was expecting to be wowed by the fact that this area has had the Safety Action Meetings [SAMs] and the It Stops Here Safer Pathways rolled out in that community. I was expecting to see a best-practice model of how we deal in this State with issues of domestic violence. I was saddened, shocked and devastated to see that that community does not even have a functioning refuge for women escaping domestic violence.

Mr Stephen Bromhead: Point of order: under the Standing Orders, private members' statements are to be about a member's own electorate, not other electorates.

TEMPORARY SPEAKER ( Ms Anna Watson ): The member is being relevant to her electorate and relevant to her shadow ministry. The member for Myall Lakes will resume his seat. There is no point of order.

Ms JENNY AITCHISON: In my own electorate and across New South Wales people are outraged by the centralisation of government departments and services, the closure of regional offices, and the reduction of hours at Service NSW offices, which is taking jobs out of their communities. In my electorate, at places like Port Stephens, the community is having to build its own refuge, because there is nothing available for people there. That refuge will serve women from Maitland, who will be going there to escape domestic violence. People are very concerned about this.

I am concerned about the greyhound bans. There has been a backflip but to date there has been no repeal of the ban. Hairdressers in my electorate are very concerned. The Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation told them that they would no longer be required to have the qualifications that are essential to the health and safety of workers and hairdressing clients in every town and village across this State. That is impacting on the community that I represent in Maitland.

And what about commercial fishers? There are people in my community who are commercial fishers. Today we saw the tabling of 10,000 signatures on a petition about the reforms in this area. I spoke to the Deputy Premier about this last weekend as we shared some time at a polling booth in Orange. I told the Deputy Premier that it was time that he, as Minister for Small Business, turned his attention to the fishing industry, and that it was time to halt the crazy process which has been going on for so long and causing such angst in the fishing community. So how has he responded? Niall Blair is now the Deputy Leader of the Nationals. Let us just hope the Deputy Premier uses their new close relationship to work with him to pause the process for commercial fishers.

I am extremely concerned about issues in my community. Schools in my electorate are underresourced to the tune of nearly $14 million in maintenance backlogs, most of them in the Hunter. The education Minister has promised $330 million in maintenance funding over the next two years, but he has only committed to spending 2.6 per cent of that on maintenance for schools. One school in my electorate has no access to good-quality sewerage; it has a septic tank that leaks, and that is causing sickness amongst students and teachers in that school. That is appalling but the Minister will not meet with me which is why I am so concerned about how this Government is dealing with regional areas like mine. Students are studying in a substandard environment. In the past five years that school reached capacity but the Government has done nothing to increase capacity. I am not the only member in this place representing rural and regional Australia. Many of those members sit opposite but their communities are feeling let down by them. I look forward to more messages from regional Australia.

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