Last week I welcomed the announcement that the Hunter electorate will receive a communication infrastructure upgrade. Three new mobile base stations will be located at Jerrys Plains, Laguna and Stanhope and twenty eight of our ninety nine nominated mobile black spots in the electorate will be addressed by handheld or external antenna coverage.

I was disappointed that I wasn’t successful in securing upgrades for Bellbird, Abernethy, Kearsley, Pokolbin and Quorrobolong but I’ll continue to fight for further investment in communication infrastructure for Hunter residents.  

Last Thursday Labor announced that we will guarantee funding for TAFE. This announcement is part of Labor’s plan to make skills and training a national priority. This will mean quality vocational education in the Hunter electorate, and more kids getting the opportunities and the skills they need for the jobs of the future.

As our economy changes, the need for a highly-skilled workforce will be even greater.

TAFE also provides access to critical courses that no other provider delivers, especially for apprentices. I know that the community here in the Cessnock Local Government Area supports the teachers, staff and students at Cessnock and Kurri Kurri campuses.

TAFE plays a vital role in training local school-leavers, apprentices, mature aged workers and women looking to retrain to re-enter the workforce.

That’s why Labor is backing TAFE. That’s why I’m backing TAFE.

The Abbott Government have already cut $2 billion from TAFE and vocational education – including a massive $1 billion cut to support for apprentices. And this is just the beginning. Tony Abbott’s Federation Green Paper proposes the Commonwealth completely abandon its role in funding vocational education and training.

Labor commits to working with the states and territories to continue to refine the contestability of VET funding so that we get the balance right.

In addition to the TAFE funding guarantee, Labor will work with Premiers and Chief Ministers on a comprehensive National Priority Plan which properly defines and supports TAFE and places it at the centre of our vocational education and training sector.

I am backing TAFE and training because I believe that every member in our community – young or old – has an equal right to share in the jobs and opportunities of the future.

According to the Federation Green Paper prepared by the Prime Minister’s own Department, Tony Abbott wants to cut all Commonwealth funding for public hospitals.

This is yet another attempt to wreck Medicare, wreck universal access to health care and it is yet another attack on our local community.

Families in the Hunter electorate who are already struggling to make ends meet cannot afford Tony Abbott’s attempt to make them pay more and more for their health care.

Asked five times in Parliament last week to distance himself from the proposal to cut $18 billion from public hospitals every year, Mr Abbott instead proudly backed the proposal as a “mature discussion”.

There is nothing remotely “mature” about destroying Australia’s public hospital system and ending the right of the people to universal healthcare.

After cutting more than $60 billion from health in last year’s Budget, Mr Abbott’s remarks reveal that was just a secret plan to abandon public hospitals.
This would mean fewer nurses, fewer operations, longer waiting lists and the collapse of universal access to public hospitals, with access to healthcare rationed to those few families able to afford private care.

It will lead to a blow out in emergency department waiting times and elective surgery waiting times, putting the lives of Hunter residents at risk and decimating our local public hospitals.

A complete withdrawal of the Commonwealth will devastate public hospitals and leave Australia with a two-tiered US-style health system.

I am always keen to assist with issues or questions relating to Federal Government departments or put you in contact with someone who can, so please ring, write, visit the website or call in.

Why not go the extra step by following me on my Facebook page “Joel Fitzgibbon” or on Twitter and type in the search bar “fitzhunter”. Or by regularly checking my website at www.joelfitzgibbon.com or you can even sign up to my E-Newsletter.

To contact the office, phone 1300 301 753, visit www.joelfitzgibbon.com or by post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.

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