In the News

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


There is clear disappointment among many residents in the Hills Shire about changing the name of the Orange Blossom Festival, said the Federal Member for Mitchell, Alex Hawke.


“The name Orange Blossom Festival reflects an ongoing tradition that stretches back some 40- 50 years and reflects the importance of the citrus industry to our past.  It remains an important part of our identity today and an ongoing link with our agricultural history,” Mr Hawke said.


“Growing up in the Hills, the Orange Blossom Festival was something which was always an important occasion on our local calendar.


“Whether it be the street parades, the garden competition, the Crestwood Fair or the other festivals, these events form an important cultural exchange for local communities.


“The Orange Blossom Festival means a lot to long time locals and many who grew up in the Hills can still remember the open spaces and agricultural areas that covered the entire district.


“Many locals have served on boards, helped organise events, and spent countless hours ensuring the success of events each year.


“At best, the new name ‘Hills Fest’ is underwhelming,” Mr Hawke said.


“Hills Fest is a name without meaning and does not impress. I believe it is a term that will take a long time to receive recognition and support.


“Can you imagine other areas abandoning their identities? For example the Ryde Council dropping the name Granny Smith Festival, held each year in Eastwood in favour of Eastwood Fest?


“There must not be a rush to move away from names and traditions which are important to many in our community. I fear this name change is more to do with modern marketing-speak than accurately reflecting community sentiment.


“In the Hills District we have a distinct, unique name that reflects our Shire’s past and it is the ‘Orange Blossom Festival’.


“I urge Council to reconsider this re-branding decision, recognise the importance of this festival to our past, and retain the name Orange Blossom Festival,” Mr Hawke said.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

 21 June 2010


Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (8:02 PM) —It gives me great pleasure to rise tonight to speak on this very important motion before the House. The North West Rail Link represents perhaps the greatest single failing of any government policy, state or federal, in the last 50 years. When you examine what the New South Wales government has done about the north-west rail line over time, you see that it is the greatest breach of trust between a government and Australian voters that you could possibly imagine.


On 29 November 1998, three months prior to a state election, the New South Wales government promised $29 million for a link from Epping Station to Castle Hill. Since then, the government has re-announced the north-west rail line five times. On 9 June 2005, Bob Carr announced an $8 billion, 15-year Metropolitan Rail Extension Program. This announcement included the North West Rail Link, a new passenger line from Cheltenham to Rouse Hill via Castle Hill, with long-term plans to extend to the Vineyard and Richmond lines. On 20 November 2006, the government re-announced the completion of the north-west rail line by 2017—just seven short years away. The first stage, Epping to Hills Centre, would be completed by 2015—it would already almost be complete—and Hills Centre by 2017. Then the government announced the line in June 2007 with an extension from Rouse Hill to Vineyard Station on the Richmond line. Then the New South Wales state government abandoned all plans to build a north-west rail line.


Why do we need a rail line in north-west Sydney? Why is it a vital component of the social, environmental and economic infrastructure that north-west Sydney desperately needs? It is because the electorate of Mitchell has the highest rate of cars per household of any federal electorate in this country, because there are no available public transport options. You drive, and every adult in your household needs to have a car.


It is not just my electorate. Across the road there are similar difficulties in approaching employment, getting to the city or travelling across Sydney because of a failure of government to plan. We understand that governments can only do their best given the circumstances at the time they are put in, but the New South Wales state government has been in place for 16 years. It has been promised over six or seven times. The rail line has been cancelled, re-announced, cancelled, re-announced, cancelled, re-announced. This is the greatest single breach between a government and an electorate in Australian history. This is holding back the economic development of north-west Sydney. It is placing excessive financial burdens on residents, rate payers and people who have to travel by expensive motorways to and from their place of employment.


I quote some examples of people in my electorate going to work every day. This is based on a 48-week working year. Our motorists travelling to the city are now paying $16.90 a day, $84.50 a week, $338 a month, $4,056 a year just to go to work. I am a fan of tollways and motorways, building infrastructure through public-private partnerships—private motorways that will increase our capacity to get things done in Sydney. However, when you look at the litany of failure of the New South Wales government in these ventures, you see that they are giving public-private infrastructure partnerships a bad name in Sydney. We are losing investment in Sydney because of the failures of the Cross City Tunnel, the Lane Cove ventures and all of the things that are happening with the RTA shutting roads and receiving a payment from a company to force people to use a motorway—something that I think all members here would regard as unethical.


In the shadow of the Penrith by-election, we can see that people in New South Wales have woken up to what is happening in north-west Sydney. It is emblematic of a city that is in disarray because of failures of government planning. I note that the member for Parramatta is here. I know that she would be extremely upset at the New South Wales government for breaching its promise to build a Parramatta-Epping rail link. Growing up in Carlingford, I can record my own absolute dismay at the residents in Carlingford not having a line that goes from Parramatta to Epping. But this is about the north-west rail link. It has been talked about throughout the last 15 years. There is a vital need in Sydney for heavy rail lines in the north-west and south-west of Sydney—particularly the north-west—to meet the growth that government has allowed. Government has allowed massive expansion in the north-west of Sydney. It has encouraged it. It has taxed people for the privilege of living there. Special infrastructure levies have been paid. The money has been collected by government, but the state government of New South Wales has abrogated its responsibility. This federal government needs to allocate any money that it gave to New South Wales for a north-west rail line.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

 21 June 2010


Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (7:37 PM) —It is a great pleasure to rise tonight in support of a motion that supports freedom of religion as a universal human right. Of course, it is a universal human right, one that is supported by Australia and one that we ought to support in other countries and seek to ensure is implemented in those countries. The subject of this motion tonight is the Coptic Egyptian community. The Coptic Egyptian community in Australia has made a great contribution to Australia since its arrival in the 1960s. We are very fortunate to have wonderful communities in Sydney in particular. I want to make mention of many of the contributions of the Sydney Coptic community to life in Sydney, in particular the St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox College, at Wattle Grove; the St Bishoy Coptic Orthodox College, at Mount Druitt; and all of the churches and dioceses in Sydney and Australia.


The Coptic Orthodox community in Australia is served by two Coptic Orthodox dioceses with over 50 parishes, two monasteries, two theological colleges and five schools. It is a very successful community. It is a community that is flourishing. It is a community that is law abiding and peaceful and has sought to make the most of the great opportunity that Australia represents—freedom, tolerance and our democratic way. It is estimated there are about 70,000 Copts in Australia.


This motion is so important because we ought to stand by all those communities who are being persecuted all around the world, all those minorities who face oppression and intolerance from either governments or other groups within their societies but particularly governments, because a government can be our best friend or it can be our worst enemy. When the state seeks to interfere in those things that it ought not to interfere in, particularly freedom of religion or the choices we may seek to make, it oversteps the mark in a way that produces intolerance, hatred and other forms of persecution. It is well documented that there are many examples in Egypt. The Coptic religion is an ancient religion which broke away from the traditional Roman Catholic Church but is now regarded as an Eastern Orthodox Church. However, in Egypt there have been many, many examples of persecution which involve death, serious mistreatment of families and some graphic examples which I will not relate today.


However, I do want to mention that in recent times there has been a substantial increase in the violence against Coptic Egyptians in Egypt, and the Coptic community has suffered greatly. There have been several notable examples that the Coptic Egyptian community has raised with me in person when they have seen me in my office in Sydney. These were the subject of some great rallies in Sydney in recent times. We saw many thousands of people rally in support of a number of people who have been persecuted by the Egyptian government, including a notable court case where two young Islamic men were acquitted of the murder of a Coptic Egyptian person who was horribly dismembered. These rallies were very important to show our support. They received support from the media, including broadcasters in Sydney such as Alan Jones, who particularly sought to highlight the role of the Egyptian Coptic community in Australia and the treatment they had received. It is particularly important that the motion:


(2)   calls upon the Egyptian government to guarantee that Coptic Christians and members of other religious communities and minorities enjoy the full range of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Egypt has been regarded in the Middle East as a moderate voice of peace and good influence in many ways. However, it does have work to do in relation to its treatment of its Christian community. Often governments have to think about how they can protect minorities within their society from elements which seek to encourage persecution and harm. The member for Melbourne Ports clearly outlined that there is discrimination in Egypt at all levels, particularly from a governmental perspective. Equal rights under the law oblige a society to allow people to choose their own religion freely and to practise it. This motion is so worthy of our support because we are a free and tolerant democratic society that allows freedom of religion to our citizens. It is a great blessing that we do so in our country today and it is something that we should seek to promote and foster in Egypt. We particularly need to stand up for the Coptic Egyptian Christians in Egypt.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


The removal of Kevin Rudd from the Prime Ministership has changed the public face of the Government, but is unlikely to change its direction, said the Federal Member for Mitchell, Alex Hawke.


“All Australians want and expect a responsible Government. We want our leaders to succeed and do what is in the national interest,” Mr Hawke said.


“But the elevation of Julia Gillard seems to be motivated by Labor Party fears for its electoral prospects rather a genuine desire to change or atone for failures under Kevin Rudd’s Prime Ministership.


“We cannot forget that Julia Gillard was Deputy Prime Minister to Kevin Rudd, they were both instrumental in producing failed policies such as the Home Insulation Program, and the Green Loans scheme.


“We cannot forget that Julia Gillard was integral to the decision making of the Rudd Government’s spending— which has seen billions of dollars of debt run-up for future generations to repay.


“And we cannot forget that Julia Gillard, in her direct portfolio responsibility, was responsible for the $16 billion Building the Education Revolution, where potentially billions of taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted.”


Mr Hawke said that concerns about the industrial relations stance of Prime Minister Gillard had already been expressed to him by local residents and small business owners.


“Under the Labor Government the influence of trade unions in the workplace has increased,” Mr Hawke said.


“Ms Gillard’s track record and support for trade unions is of concern to many small business owners in our local community.


“The decision by the Federal Labor Party to dump Mr Rudd in favour of Ms Gillard was based on electoral prospects rather than a genuine desire to change course from the Government’s high debt and high spending ways.


“We cannot forget that Julia Gillard was integral to all the decisions, programs, and policies made since the Labor Government came to office in 2007,” Mr Hawke said.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


Federal Parliament this week debated a motion on the future of a North West rail link. The debate followed the news that money previously provided to the New South Wales for a study into the West Metro was returned by the New South Wales Government.


“It is vital to keep this important missing piece of infrastructure in the spotlight,” Mr Hawke said. “We must keep pressure on all levels of Government to achieve real solutions for our local community.”


“While the Federal Government has committed funding for rail in other parts of Australia, New South Wales has been ignored.


“The Federal Government has previously been able to come up with $91 million for the New South Wales Government’s West Metro—money which was returned when New South Wales Government did not go ahead with this project—yet we struggle to get a single dollar to start work on desperately needed services in the North West.”


Mr Hawke said inadequate transport infrastructure was inhibiting the economic prosperity of North West Sydney, and the lack of a North West railway contributed to the Mitchell Electorate having the highest incidence of car ownership in the nation.


“The New South Wales Government’s repeated failure to commence construction of a North West railway is leading to more cars being funnelled onto local roads—roads that are already heavily congested.


“While I am encouraged that the New South Wales Coalition intends to construct a North West railway should they be elected in March next year, I had hoped that the Federal Government would announce funding in some form in the May Budget, but it seems that the Government continues to ignore our local community’s needs.”


Mr Hawke said it was galling that we continue to have our urgent transport needs either delayed or not met while of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds have been wasted or misspent on projects such as the Home Insulation program or the Building the Education Revolution.


“The Federal Government has squandered billions of dollars—imagine what could have been achieved in our local community? There is a simple message for the Federal Government—stop wasting money and start injecting funds into communities such as ours.


“I will continue to work for a North West rail link, I will continue to stand up for better infrastructure for the North West Sydney community,” Mr Hawke said.