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Thursday, 19 June 2014
Page: 6747

Ms MacTIERNAN (Perth) (15:32): I am more than happy at some point to have an opportunity to talk about my attitude to the mining tax and why in fact it has not impacted negatively. It may have impacted negatively on the Labor Party, but it has not impacted negatively on the mining industry in Western Australia.

What we want to talk about today are all the surprises for rural Western Australia, for all of rural Australia, that were contained in the budget. Mr Abbott promised over and over again that his government would be a government of no surprises. People would know exactly what was going to confront them. But rural Australia had a lot of very nasty surprises. The member for Hunter spoke about the very nasty surprise of the fuel tax indexation. But I want to talk a bit about the financial assistance grants, the FAGs, and how over $900 million in cuts to these grants has disproportionately affected rural Australia and indeed remote rural Australia. If we look at the analysis of the regions that are most affected, we see that the very small rural and remote shires rely on the FAGs for around 36 per cent of their income; small rural and remote shires for 22 per cent; and the others between 20 per cent and 36 per cent. So the small rural shires are the ones that are going to be disproportionately affected.

Just the other day I ran into the shire president of Morawa. She explained that, this year alone, her council is going to have to increase its rates by four per cent just to cover the reduction in the financial assistance grants. There are many more shires that are far more affected. In Halls Creek, Wiluna, Carnarvon, Derby and East Kimberley shires, in the member for Durack's electorate, FAGs represent in excess of 20 per cent of their budget. They will have to hit the residents with an increase. Yilgarn, Leonora and Laverton shires, in the member for O'Connor's electorate, all have a heavy reliance on FAGs. So this is going to have a major impact.

I also want to talk about the impact this is going to have on the Aboriginal communities across Australia, specifically the health services in the Western Australian Aboriginal communities. From recent hearings of the Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia, it is becoming very clear that the condition of our Aboriginal communities is a major constraint on development in northern Australia. We are very clear, as report after report has been, that progress cannot be made in northern Australia unless we close the gap. What is happening here? Over $500 million is coming out of Aboriginal services.

On top of that, the GP co-payment is just going to compound the problem for Aboriginal health services in Beagle Bay, Kalgoorlie, Derby, Broome, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Halls Creek, Fitzroy Crossing and Kununurra. There is absolutely no way that these Aboriginal controlled community health services can charge the co-payment. They bulk-bill the vast majority of their services. If they waive the co-payment they will receive $5 less per visit in government rebates. That cut will directly result in them having to reduce a whole raft of services. So the co-payment alone is creating a great problem. (Time expired)