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Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Page: 4663

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (10:26): I rise in support of the government's Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2011-2012 and cognate bills. It is a pleasure to speak on these bills and, in turn, the budget because it is, as we said, a great Labor budget, particularly for residents in McEwen. In my view, the 2011-12 federal budget can be characterised by its focus on supporting and providing opportunities for all Australians, no matter where they choose to live. This budget will create jobs and spread the opportunities of the mining boom. It will deliver better hospitals and health care and make investments in our education system, support families with cost-of-living pressures and invest in Australia's regions—the heart of our nation.

This budget demonstrates how the Gillard Labor government is investing directly in Australian families, because we know that by supporting Australian families and providing them with opportunities we are strengthening the Australian economy and Australia's future. This budget supports families in McEwen and it continues to support the recovery and rebuilding efforts in my community following the Black Saturday fires.

Last week I was joined by the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, to confirm that the government would deliver $2.25 million to build the Black Saturday memorial stadium in Wandong. This stadium will continue to boost morale and investment in the local region after the fires, which devastated our community. The new stadium will be in a place where locals can come together to enjoy themselves, to socialise, to play sport and to hold large gatherings. It will also include a sprung timber playing surface, competition standard lighting, a portable stage, seating, change rooms, storage facilities, car parking and landscaping.

Not only will this stadium be a much needed asset to the local community but also it will ensure that in years to come our community's history will never be forgotten. About 100 local people will be employed to build the new stadium and about 40 permanent jobs—local jobs—will be created once the stadium is built. Therefore, this budget is proof that this government is directly investing in my community to help strengthen our economy and to get us back in the black by 2012-13. I am pleased to be delivering on this important election commitment to the people of Wandong and pleased that it is the Gillard Labor government that is continuing to support the rebuilding efforts in my community.

The budget has also delivered a huge injection of funds—$10 million—to the Kilmore and District Hospital as we continue to deliver on our national health reform agenda. The funding will go towards expanding the Kilmore and District Hospital and ensure that my community has the best health services and facilities around. This fantastic budget allocation will fund the redevelopment of the theatre suite with day procedures and a recovery unit, the expansion and enhancement of the acute inpatient facility to provide expanded acute care services and increase the number of acute care beds from 30 to 60, and the construction of a new outpatient facility to deliver comprehensive, integrated primary health care. Not only will this funding go to improving and strengthening our local healthcare system; it will also provide opportunities for training and development and will stimulate our local economy by creating more jobs for more local people. Finding room in this very responsible budget for local projects has been challenging, but the $10 million provided to the Kilmore District Hospital shows what a high priority our community's health care is for the Gillard Labor government. In addition to the funding to expand and upgrade the Kilmore hospital, the Wallan community will benefit from an extra $2.6 million in funding for the construction of a new primary health centre to be integrated into the Wallan GP superclinic. This is the GP superclinic that the Liberals said that they would not build. Again, this is further evidence that health is still not a priority for any Abbott-led Liberals. The project is part of our ongoing commitment to improve regional health services and it will ensure that regional Australians can go and see a doctor close to home. The new integrated primary health care centre in Wallan will promote better health care in the community, and as I said it builds on the $3.5 million that the Gillard government has already committed and already delivered to the Wallan GP superclinic.

This new health centre will also provide a strong training and research element. There will be a health resources hub, clinical education and training facilities using modern things like telemedicine and teleconferencing, and a dedicated research area. What this means is that we have the opportunity to have our best and brightest who are training in the medical research area and in the medical field work close to home and keep our communities growing by making sure that our young families stay there and deliver for the future. Funding for this project is going to include consulting rooms and a health resources hub, with a focus on children and adolescent health services; clinical education and training facilities; office space for clinical placement coordination; and a dedicated research area with full network capabilities and connections to universities. It is a growing partnership between Mitchell Community Health Services, the Gillard government and all those that are involved in our healthcare professional networks like universities, GP associations and the specialists that we need to provide us with services locally in our community.

McEwen has a high rate of tradesmen and apprentices, which is why I am thrilled that our government and our budget is investing in an apprenticeship system that works for more Australians and in long-term reform to drive productivity. As a qualified tradesman myself I have always believed in the need to support apprentices and drive first-class training through things like the trade apprentices income bonus. Over 3,172 apprentices in McEwen will benefit from the following investments. They will benefit directly from the $100 million to be invested in a national apprenticeship mentoring program to support apprentices finishing their training. They will benefit directly from the $100 million to develop new apprenticeship models that deliver high-quality skills quickly. This is part of our commitment to end the skills gap shortage. The skills shortage that we had is a legacy of 12 years of underinvestment by the Liberals when they were in power. There is a $281 million support package for additional tax-free payments to encourage apprentices in critical trades to complete their qualifications.

As I mentioned earlier, this budget is about jobs, jobs, jobs. It is about creating jobs, it is about skilling Australians for jobs and it is about ensuring Australians stay in jobs. In McEwen, unfortunately we have 1,212 very long term unemployed people who have been without work for two years or more. To help these people prepare for and to find work, the Gillard Labor government has provided an additional $2.7 million over 2012-15 to support local employment services in McEwen and to provide the long-term unemployed with the training and work experience they require to be able to get them into long-term employment. It is Labor who is taking action to ensure all Australians are skilled, trained and ready for work. We have already created over 700,000 jobs. That is in stark contrast to the 200,000 jobs that would have been lost had the Liberal Party had their way. Mental health has been a headline of this budget and it is something I am proud we are doing. Recently the Victorian adolescent health and wellbeing survey was released in Mitchell Shire in my electorate. The findings stated that mental health was a real issue, with 7.9 psychiatric hospitalisations per 1,000 adolescents during 2009-10. Almost 80 per cent of Mitchell adolescents felt, however, they could access mental health support services if they needed to. I have no doubt that this budget's focus on mental health and early prevention will assist in decreasing psychiatric hospitalisations and ensure that all Australians can access mental health services, with the Gillard government's budget making a huge investment in a more integrated mental health care system. We are serious about mental health reform and I am proud to be part of a government that has appointed Australia's first federal mental health minister. It just shows the commitment we have to ensuring that we help all Australians who are suffering from mental health problems, something that we know is a huge priority that needs to be addressed. That is why this budget invests $2.2 billion into the government's national mental health reform package, to support our communities and provide a total of 90 Headspace clinics as well as early detection to support young people who struggle with mental health. The government's mental health reform package is not only good news for my community but for all Australians no matter where we choose to live.

I was proud to be part of this budget, a Labor budget. It is a Labor budget because it supports Australian families, invests in education, invests in training, invests in skills to boost jobs and invests in our economy. It is a Labor budget because it increases health services, infrastructure, education and jobs. It is a Labor budget, importantly, because it supports all Australians no matter where they choose to live, whether they live in the suburban growth corridors of Moondah and Craigieburn in my electorate or in regional areas like Kilmore and Seymour.

What would constitute a Liberal budget? A Liberal Party budget based on what we have seen from those opposite would slash funding to schools, would axe the National Broadband Network and in turn abandon regional Australia, leaving them without the critical infrastructure they require for work, businesses, e-health and education. A Liberal budget would cut jobs, about 200,000 Australian jobs directly. The member for North Sydney, during what he terms his budget reply, said at the National Press Club that the global financial crisis was just a hiccup. What an insult to all the Australians who lost their jobs or had their hours cut through one of the biggest economic downturns the world has seen. The member for North Sydney should apologise to families across the country, particularly those in my electorate of McEwen, for comparing their job losses, their financial hardship, their loss of income, to a hiccup. Just because he may not have been affected, he should not assume that all Australian families were not. His remarks are just further proof that the Liberal Party does not understand the needs and concerns of everyday Australian families. The Liberals have not forgotten Australians, they just do not care to remember them.

I would like to ask the member for North Sydney how he and the Liberal Party would have cured the economy during this so-called hiccup. Would they have told Australians to stand upside down on their heads, hold their breath, have a glass of water? I know the people in my electorate who have been affected by the GFC do not view this as a hiccup. It is outrageous that the Liberal Party shadow Treasurer does not take the struggles of ordinary families seriously. Would the member for North Sydney call 20 per cent unemployment in countries like Ireland and Spain a hiccup? Maybe the member for North Sydney views it as a hiccup because of the swift action taken by this government to make sure we did not end up like countries like Spain and Ireland, to ensure that Australians stayed in work and our economy was stimulated. Unlike the Liberal Party, we took the GFC seriously. We took action, which is why we are fortunate to have a steady 4.9 per cent unemployment rate—the lowest among most developed nations. We took immediate action to create over 700,000 jobs, because we did not view the GFC as a hiccup. This is in contrast to the 200,000 jobs that would have been lost had the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Treasurer had their way.

Unlike those opposite, this Labor government will get us back into surplus in 2012-13, because we have a plan and a vision for this country. That is why I commend these bills to the House so strongly.