“A change in the air in western Sydney”

Daily Telegraph, 16 July 2013

“I’m so glad Kevin Rudd is back, now I don’t have to vote for Tony Abbott.”

That’s what a bloke told me at Yagoona railway station the other day. That’s the difference Kevin Rudd has made. A lot of people in western Sydney thought they didn’t have a choice, now they do.

That’s the big change I have noticed. People don’t like Tony Abbott, but felt like they didn’t have a choice. Now they do.

It’s an important choice. This year’s election will determine how much most people will get when they retire. It will also determine how good an education our children get.

If Kevin Rudd is elected, someone who is 30 years old, on $50,000 a year, will retire with an extra $108,000. If Abbott wins, they will probably get nothing.

If Kevin Rudd is elected all our schools will get extra funding. If Abbott is elected they get nothing.

This election will affect every one of us – but it will have a bigger effect in western Sydney that probably anywhere else.

When governments get things right western Sydney really benefits. When they get things wrong, it is often western Sydney that bears the brunt of it.

Consider this:

In 2004 John Howard promised to keep interest rates low. Australians went out in droves and bought houses and got mortgages. Then interest rates went up 10 times and by 2008 10,000 families a year were having their homes repossessed.

Nowhere did this happen more than in western Sydney. My electorate became the mortgage stress capital of Australia – 60 families a month lost their homes. Today it’s about one a month. That’s the difference big cuts in interest rates under this government have made.

When Australia went into recession for the last time more than 20 years ago unemployment hit 10 per cent. In western Sydney it was more than 15 per cent. Now just imagine what would have happened in western Sydney if Labor had not been there when the global financial crisis hit. A generation of workers lost, massive unemployment and all the problems that brings – including more crime.

Now think about the future.

I am the first person in my family to finish school and go to university. Our education system has given me all the opportunities I have had in life.

Education has always been important – but it is about to get a lot more important.

The days of going to school until Year 10 and getting a job are disappearing. Most of the jobs that will be created in the next 10 years will require a HSC and a TAFE certificate or a university degree.

In many parts of western Sydney school retention rates are lower than the national average. We have to change that – or they will become more disadvantaged.

That’s why the debate we are having about education right now is so important. Schools in western Sydney are massively underfunded. We need more specialist teachers and resources.

If Kevin Rudd wins the next election this will happen – and it will change people’s lives. If Tony Abbott wins he will cut funding for our schools and the disadvantage that exists in many parts of western Sydney will only get worse.

That’s the difference between Labor and Liberal. Labor invests in education. The Liberals never do. Labor also builds things – like Medicare and DisabilityCare. The Liberals never do.

Both parties talk about the importance of a strong economy, but Labor also talks about fairness.That is what is at stake at the next election. The people of western Sydney are smart, they know that. That’s why they are glad they don’t have to vote for Tony Abbott any more.

Jason Clare is Home Affairs Minister and MP for Blaxland in western Sydney