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Thursday, 19 June 2008
Page: 2889

Senator SHERRY (Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law) (5:26 PM) —I move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 5) 2007-2008

There are two Supplementary Additional Estimates Bills: Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2007-2008, and Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2007-2008. I shall introduce the latter Bill shortly.

These Bills seek authority for supplementary appropriation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the current financial year, to pay for important initiatives agreed by the Government since the Additional Estimates 2007-2008.

The total appropriation being sought through the Supplementary Additional Estimates Bills is approximately $1.1 billion, with $626.5 million being sought in Bill 5.

I now outline the major items provided for in the bill.

The Government will provide an additional $500 million in 2007-08 to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to distribute among Australian universities for capital investment in five priority areas. These areas include IT communications in research and teaching, laboratories, libraries and places to study, teaching spaces and investing in critical student amenities. The measure will begin to address past capital under investment in these priority areas.

An additional $112.3 million will be provided to the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts to fund a variety of water initiatives reflecting the Government’s recognition that urgent action is needed to tackle the water crisis. The initiatives, all of which deliver on the Government’s election commitments, include:

  • an additional $81.0 million in 2007-08 as part of a bring forward of $400 million of funding from 2011-12 under the Water for the Future Package, to accelerate investment in water saving infrastructure and to purchase water entitlements from willing sellers;
  • an additional $35 million brought forward from 2011-12 under the Water for the Future package, to make an initial contribution to the Harvey Water Piping Project in Western Australia. The project involves upgrading irrigation supply infrastructure to reduce seepage and evaporation, with the water saved to be piped to Perth; and
  • $10 million, as part of the five year funding package of $254.8 million to work with government and local water authorities to minimise water loss, invest in more efficient water infrastructure, refurbish older pipes and water systems, and fund practical projects to save water. This initiative will help address some of Australia’s worst water leaks and losses and reduce the impact of the drought and climate change on Australia’s towns and cities.
  • These funding increases are partially offset by savings in other programs.

The balance of the amount in Appropriation Bill (No. 5) relate to estimates variations and other minor measures.

I commend the bill to the Senate.

APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 6) 2007-2008

Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2007-2008 requests additional funding for agencies to meet:

  • expenses in relation to grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution and for payments to the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory and local government authorities; and
  • capital requirements in the form of departmental equity injections.

Total additional appropriation of around $501.9 million is proposed in Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2007-2008.

The principal factors contributing to the additional requirement since the 2007-2008 Additional Estimates include $501.7 million in additional payments to the States, Territories and local government authorities, to fund a range of important measures.

$100 million will be provided to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, as part of a $1.2 billion funding package over five years, to implement the Digital Education Revolution in partnership with State and Territory governments. This initiative delivers on an election commitment and includes:

  • the establishment of a National Secondary School Computer Fund to provide grants of up to $1.0 million to eligible secondary schools to assist them in providing new or upgraded information and communications technology to students in Years 9 to 12;
  • contributions towards the provision of high speed fibre-to-the-premises broadband connections to schools and to provide support to ensure the effective deployment and installation of computers and ICT equipment purchased under the Fund; and
  • funding for collaborative work between the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments and non-government school system and industry to develop a unified technical framework and to fund administration costs of Block Grant Authorities which will manage funding for non-government schools.

The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs will receive an additional $100 million to provide to State and Territory governments under the Commonwealth State Territory Disability Agreement. This funding will increase the availability of supported accommodation for people with a disability where their carers are ageing. The funding will allow the States and Territories to establish, build or purchase new facilities with the capacity to care for more people with disabilities. These facilities will provide older carers with respite and the ability to plan for the transition of their children with a disability from the family home to other accommodation arrangements. This funding increase is partially offset by savings in other programs.

The Government will provide an additional $182.4 million in 2007-08 to the Department of Health and Ageing to fund a range of initiatives including:

  • $100 million, as part of a $389.5 million funding program over five years to provide grants and recurrent funding to support and upgrade a range of healthcare facilities to improve patient treatment and outcomes; and
  • $75 million as part of a $600 million program over four years to reduce waiting lists for elective surgery in public hospitals in each State and Territory. This funding includes amounts to conduct an immediate national blitz to help clear the backlog of people who have been waiting longer than the clinically recommended time for elective surgery.

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government will receive an additional $75 million in 2007-08 for the development of feasibility and planning studies for projects to address urban congestion. The studies will involve the planning, design and the development of business cases, including cost/benefit analysis and identifying possible State-specific improvements to public transport. The studies will be undertaken by the respective State Governments, commencing in 2007-08.

An additional $80 million is proposed for the Department of the Treasury to make an initial payment to the Western Australian Government as compensation for the loss of its share of offshore petroleum royalty revenue as a result of the imposition of crude oil excise on condensate. The appropriation amount is less than $80 million because of savings in other programs.

The balance of the amount in Appropriation Bill (No. 6) relates to another minor measure.

I commend the bill to the Senate.