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Tuesday, 6 June 2000
Page: 17136

Mrs MOYLAN (8:34 PM) —I cannot let the comments of the member for Dobell go without challenge. The shadow minister, the member for Dobell, has made a number of comments tonight about the government's advertising campaign. It is really important to get this in perspective, and I will address that and also some of the issues on education in relation to the appropriation bills.

The issue on the advertising budget for the new GST system is important to address in the context of what the member for Dobell has said. Of the $422 million that has been budgeted for the education of the public on the new tax system, $200 million has been directed in assistance to organisations in the community who have the responsibility to ensure that their members fully understand the compliance requirements of the new tax system. So the many representative organisations in the community such as churches, charitable institutions, industry organisations, small business organisations and agricultural and horticultural organisations have been given this assistance—that is, $200 million of the $422 million budget—in order to assist their membership with compliance with the new tax. The way the member for Dobell was portraying it is not appropriate. He has not told the whole story here.

Some $30 million of the budget will be used to implement the policy of introducing an ABN and also introducing a PAYG system, which I am pretty sure the Labor Party did support. (Quorum formed) The members over that side, particularly the member for Dobell, who made the accusations about the budget for the implementation of the new tax system, have left the House. They do not like to hear the truth, so of course the next best thing is to keep me quiet for a while and hope to get me off track. But I simply will not be put off track on this issue because the fact is that part of that budget, as I said, will go to fund the implementation of the ABN for the new tax system and the PAYG system, which Labor has also supported.

The budget allocation for advertising the new tax system is reasonable when you think that this is the biggest tax change this country has ever seen and that it is vitally important to all Australians in terms of producing a tax system that is fair and equitable, particularly to families and to small businesses in Australia. So to have done what Labor did—bury their head in the sand and pretend that they can keep patching up the old broken tax system and just go on—is simply not acceptable. The fact is that advertising the tax changes has bipartisan support because we know that Labor will not repeal the GST if they get into office. They have made that abundantly clear. They will completely support this system from 1 July. What they want us to do, in effect, is make the hard decisions and do all the hard work and then they are going to take advantage of it. That is what they want. So they are going to try to cause maximum trouble. I think the Australian taxpayers, by and large, see through this. They understand that this is a big change, that it is in the interests of the country and its people and that it has to be properly implemented, and you cannot implement such a change without appropriate campaigns to inform the public of those changes.

In terms of the criticisms of the budget for education and also the advertising budget for the new tax system being used more efficiently to provide teachers and so on, that is just a nonsense. The fact is that this change in the tax system will provide the states of Australia $24 billion annually in perpetuity. That is going to go on as a result of this—no more coming to the Commonwealth for money each year cap in hand, not knowing perhaps where they are going in their future budgets. They will have greater certainty. They will have a much bigger pool of money to draw from and that will mean there will be much more money for the states to employ teachers, police and all those other services that are so vitally important to the community. I think they need to rethink this campaign of attacking the advertising budget for the new tax change because I am sure the Australian people will not be that easily conned by Labor.

One of the greatest challenges for the coalition in government was to address the growing concerns of the community at the level of debt being amassed by the Labor government in the previous 13 years of their administration. They got us into a terrible mess and, as any householder in this country knows, the clock starts to tick when expenditure continues to escalate well beyond their income and earning capacity. Most people need to make use of some credit. But if we are to convince the average citizen out there of the need to save and keep credit within a reasonable percentage of their income earning capacity, then surely government has a responsibility to lead by example and to make sure that we are living within our means, not just ratcheting up debt on the old credit card like Labor were doing. To continue to amass debt at the rate we were under Labor may have put all Australians at considerable risk for the future. Certainly that was true on the back of the Asian downturn when Australia was able to hold its own, remain strong and demonstrate a consistent growth of above four per cent for 11 quarters. That was an amazing achievement by the coalition government when it first came into office given the level of debt that we inherited from Labor at that time.

The downward spiral of record unemployment has been stemmed since the coalition took office, with 650,000 more Australians in jobs than there were four years ago. Unemployment, at seven per cent, is now at the lowest level it has been for 10 years and we expect it to fall even further. Instead of our continuing to amass debt at an alarming rate, debt has been retired through sound economic management and, for the fourth year in a row, the government has produced a surplus in its budget. The cash surplus this year is $2.8 billion.

These were all issues seriously weighing on the minds of many of my constituents, wondering what kind of future they had to look forward to under Labor and how long they and their families would have to continue to suffer `the recession we had to have'—according to the then Labor Prime Minister, Paul Keating. Today they can rest easy in the knowledge that, since coming to government, this government will have by next June paid back $50 billion of the debt that Labor ran up. Unemployment of course is forecast to fall even lower to 6.25 per cent.

During the Keating government years, taxpayers were contributing to interest repayments alone on Commonwealth debt of $9 billion. That is $9 billion that could have been going to education and better health services or could have been going to ensure a far more comfortable life for people in the suburbs, the country towns and the rural centres of Australia. That was what was happening under a Labor administration. Today, with the rapid retirement debt program under this government, that bill has been reduced significantly, saving taxpayers $3 billion per annum.

For my electorate of Pearce this means that more money will be spent on roads, health, education and the environment, amongst other things. These are all areas that have improved in the Pearce electorate from last year's budget, and the electorate will be a major beneficiary of this year's budget. Pearce is currently the fourth largest electorate in Western Australia and under the redistribution it is likely to become the third largest. It will go from 14,500 square kilometres to about 26,000 square kilometres. A large proportion of that is taken up with broadacre wheat and sheep farming and intensive farming, including horticulture, viticulture and fishing.

The infrastructure requirements are great. They include the crossroads of the main arterial roads carrying traffic from the northern pastoral and mining districts and carrying the traffic from the eastern seaboard. Infrastructure is of critical importance to the safe, effective and fast transport of produce to market. The electorate is a major supplier of domestic produce, as well as badly needed exports. Since being elected to office, I have lobbied state and federal ministers very hard to ensure that those serious deficiencies in the road system were addressed. This has resulted in badly needed funding to carry out repairs and maintenance to dangerous sections of the Great Eastern Highway, and the construction of the Northam bypass is currently going ahead.

This year's budget has provided almost $8 million for roadworks on the Greenmount Hill section of the Great Eastern Highway between the Roe Highway and Scott Street and a further $8 million between Sawyers Valley and the Lakes—again on the main arterial road from the eastern seaboard. In all, a total of $48 million will be spent in the coming years to build 50 kilometres of dual carriage highway between Perth and Northam, resulting in a much safer highway. Black spot funding has been allocated to fix the intersection of Burgoyne and Chidlow streets in Northam. Of course, given the changes to the main road in Northam, we will now need to put in a bid to improve conditions in the main street, which has taken a hammering from the high volume of heavy transport that currently travels through the main street in the town.

Bridge upgrading is an urgent priority in Clackline, and we will continue to work with the local community to get this work completed. With funding from this budget, investigations are under way to improve the safety of the Great Northern Highway through the Swan Valley. Proposals are in place to direct heavy traffic away from the town centres of Bullsbrook, Muchea and Bindoon and to improve safety on the 75-kilometre stretch of road that has recorded 250 crashes and 10 fatalities over the last five years. In addition, Pearce will share in the $62 million allocated to local government in Western Australia for roadworks.

With an increase in funding for health, we will share in improvements to the delivery of health care, particularly in rural centres, with an additional $562 million allocated for country health budgets. I am already supporting the community in its bid for funding from this year's budget for projects to provide medical facilities, aged care places and medical professionals to supplement existing services or to provide services where none currently exist.

Education has always been a priority in the Pearce electorate. I was pleased to participate recently in the opening of the $1 million extension to the CY O'Connor TAFE in Northam which provides important choices in higher education for students from the wheat belt area around Northam. Muresk, the agricultural campus of Curtin University, just outside Northam in my electorate, opened a new school of piggery, and it is a very high-tech facility. This will continue to ensure that the industry has the benefit of the most advanced technology and advice to improve its prospects for future domestic supplies of pork and export opportunities. This was funded in a joint effort between the Commonwealth and the industry association.

Many of the schools in Pearce have received funding from the Commonwealth and will continue to share in the funding from this budget. Sometimes the community does not realise that, although the states often decide the priorities, most of the funding comes from the Commonwealth, and our school community has benefited from that. The criticisms about the education budget are not all that well founded. One of the things that this government has managed to do, unlike Labor, is to give young people choices about their education. I have seen a lot of money go into education. There is nothing wrong with universities—they play a very vital part in our community and it is important that we encourage young people with the ability to seek higher education—but not every young person wants to, or needs to, go to university in order to make a major contribution to their community.

What we have not had in the past is an opportunity for young people to make choices about their education. We saw great deficiencies in the apprenticeship program under Labor, and great deficiencies in other programs that direct young people into different streams of education, such as TAFE. Education plays a very important role. We have programs operating in one of our high schools, Swan View High School, put together by some devoted teachers and university professors who worked together. Those young people who have the ability will move on to higher research, probably, at the university; but others will provide more practical skills which will be gained through the TAFE system. One of the things that our minister and our government in particular have been able to do is ensure a choice of education for young people in particular. That is enormously important if we want to have the strength to compete in a global economy and to be able to have young people who are skilled and highly educated. All of them together make an immense contribution.

The government has also committed in general $1.5 billion to the Natural Heritage Trust Australia-wide, which is the largest financial commitment to environment action by any Australian federal government in the history of this country. My electorate has been the beneficiary there as well. Under the natural heritage project we have seen money being directed to people who have knowledge, skill and a long-term history of the environmental problems. Because it is being administered through local organisations, they have been able to stretch that budget by pulling together local volunteers; and it has been very effective in bringing communities together to work for a common cause, to protect our natural heritage, the environment. That funding is going to continue with this year's budget of $361.3 million; and I would hope that Pearce will become the beneficiary, once again, of some of that funding.

A New Tax System recognises also the cost of raising a family, and directs maximum tax cuts to families with children and those earning less than $70,000 per annum. Twelve billion dollars in personal income tax cuts will be a substantial boost to these families. In addition, two million Australian families will benefit from family allowances costing $2.4 billion per annum. This government has really done two things: it has recognised both our economic and our social responsibility and it has carefully crafted a budget that is managed to ensure surplus instead of deficit, to help ensure that all Australians have a very sound future ahead of them.

As we mark the Centenary of Federation, the contribution of veterans to our nation will not be forgotten, and funding has been allocated for a commemorative program for our service men and women in this country. Full repatriation benefits to around 2,600 veterans for their service during the Malayan Emergency and other South-East Asian conflicts during the period from 1955 to 1975 have been provided. Of course, we are recognising the Vietnam veterans in a very significant way with a budget of $32 million.

As I have said, in this budget we have seen the government take a very responsible position to build on the strengths of previous budgets under our administration to ensure a strong economic future. In doing so, we have taken into account both the economic imperatives and the necessity to address some of the more pressing social issues that challenge our communities today.