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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5389

Mr FORREST (Mallee) (16:35): There can be no more important issue for my constituents than their health. They have been inundated with filthy water, composed of biota, filth and animal waste. In urban areas they have had raw sewage flooding their gardens and going all through their homes, particularly in Mildura, Red Cliffs, Irymple, Charlton and Donald. They have had to contend with arbovirus, with so much water now lying across north-west Victoria now and with mosquitoes. And they have had a plague of locusts. Biblical stuff is happening. So they read with great concern that this budget closes so many of their Medicare access facilities. I would like to read them into the record. These are famous towns in the Mallee. Medicare offices are to be closed at Goroke, Hopetoun, Murrayville, Woomelang, Manangatang and Murtoa. Those are all isolated communities. Then there is Merbein, a satellite city in Sunraysia; Ultima; Kaniva; Beulah; Sea Lake; the home of my youth, Red Cliffs, another satellite city of Sunraysia, which was inundated in March; Rainbow; Nhill; Wycheproof; Leitchville; Robinvale; Cohuna; Warracknabeal; Edenhope; St Arnaud; and Birchip. There are only three Medicare access points left intact that members of the now opposition worked so hard during the Howard-Fischer-Anderson years to get into those isolated rural communities. To see them all close now is sending a terrible signal to my constituency, which is extremely worried about its health. On top of that, there is a threat of closure to healthcare facilities, particularly aged-care facilities, and, in the case of Charlton, which I have already mentioned, the loss of their hospital as well.

I mentioned at the start of my remarks on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-12, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2011-12 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2011-12 how startling it has been to witness the ideological positions of members of the government and members of the opposition as we speak on these bills. The government seems to shy away from the responsibility of telling their constituents how all this is to be paid for. It is fine to talk, as they have, of huge amounts, record amounts, of capital being spent in their constituencies, but it is members of the opposition, of the conservative parties, asking the questions about how this record amount of money borrowed—it is not like it has grown on a tree; it is borrowed from international locations around the world—is to be paid back, how it is to be sustained, how the interest that services an enormous amount of payments is to be met; that just gets wasted.

This is not being explained by government members but it is a high priority for my constituents. They remind me that, when the opposition were in government until the end of 2007, as individual constituents and taxpayers they had money in the bank. It was money put away for a rainy day. It was money put away for the flood or the critical circumstances, or even a cyclone, because these things happen. They happen at the small business level, at the micro level, and they happen at the national level as well. So I am speaking to the amendment that Mr Robb has moved, bringing to attention the responsibility of increasing the Bankcard to an unprecedented level of $250 billion. A billion dollars is a one with nine noughts. You have to say it slowly and emphasise the 'b'—one billion. We are now talking as a nation about extending our credit card from $200 billion to $250 billion. My constituents, who are predominantly from small business and primary industry backgrounds, know what a crippling level of debt can do to a business. They are worried how that is going to extend to the nation. I am disappointed that government members are not being responsible and reminding their own constituents how this 'unprecedented level'—that is what they say—of capital to be spent on roads and infrastructure and on interest payments to people around the world are going to deplete government revenue. I rest my case by saying that this budget has let my constituents down badly.