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Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Page: 4659

Mr LYONS (Bass) (10:06): Our strong economy is boosting incomes and creating jobs. But with unemployment heading down to 4.5 per cent, capacity constraints are emerging from some groups and they are at risk of being left behind. From budget measures it is easy to see what the Labor Party stands for. That Gillard Labor government is a government that is assisting those Australians who have been left behind, untouched by the dignity of work. We are reaching out to disadvantaged and marginalised groups who risk missing out on the benefits of a strong economy.

Australia emerged strong from the global financial crisis as a result of our financial management. In this budget, we had to make some tough decisions to bring the budget back into surplus in 2012-13 despite the impact of recent natural disasters that have devastated families, cities and towns. The human tragedies are foremost in our minds, but there are economic consequences as well. The high Australian dollar hurts tourism and manufacturing industries, especially small businesses. This, unfortunately, is a consequence of a strong economy and unemployment of 4.5 per cent. Australia's economy is in transition. We often hear the phrase 'patchwork economy'.

Labor is working hard to address the chronic skills shortages and waiting lists caused by ineffective Liberal governance. For 11 long years our health system was neglected and strangled by the Liberals in government. Labor will spend $1.8 billion over six years on refurbishing or rebuilding new country hospitals, clinics and health facilities all over the country. In cities and in rural and regional Australia, Australians are benefiting from our health reforms. There will be improved health services in every state and territory of Australia.

In my electorate of Bass, the Launceston General Hospital is currently undergoing a $110 million upgrade, partly funded by the Gillard Labor government. This has facilitated the creation of hundreds of jobs and has seen a real boost to the Tasmanian economy. Partnered with the BER projects, the Tasmanian community has greatly benefited from the infrastructure projects initiated by the federal Labor government.

Labor is about jobs. Labor is delivering the largest expansion in rural health care in several decades, repairing the neglect of the Howard years. We will rebuild and deliver new hospitals, cancer centres and dental clinics in every state and territory. Labor is investing $10 billion over 10 years to build new and better services for regional and country Australia, neglected by the National Party and the city-based Liberals. The 2011-12 Labor federal budget includes an extra $500 million for regional universities and training institutions; $28 million for aerodrome safety construction works in remote and Indigenous townships; an extra 16,000 skilled migration places to help fix labour shortages, including mining and agriculture; and $60 million for digital technology projects in regional towns.

There is a clear difference between the Australian Labor Party and the National-Liberal coalition. Labor are delivering $10 billion over 10 years for regional Australia; building the National Broadband Network; increasing regional university funding by $500 million—lifting regional enrolments by 10 per cent since 2009; delivering major road and rail projects in the eastern seaboard and Western Australia to connect our regions, promote export industries and create country jobs; providing 3,000 nursing locum positions so that rural nurses can take time off for study and to advance their careers; and, providing $222 million for the Royal Flying Doctor Service to replace older aircraft and improve basic buildings. The Liberals by comparison should be ashamed. In 2010 their policy was to cut $1.8 billion from rural and regional road, rail and port projects and abandon the NBN. They doubled out-of-pocket expenses for country families needing health care during the Howard government. We now know that the Abbott-led Liberal Party cannot be trusted to deliver sensible budgets.

On 14 May this year, the Australian commented, 'Abbott and his shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey portrayed an almost comic lack of seriousness in their budget response this week.' Yet this man thinks he is capable of leading Australia. But how can the Australian people trust the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, when he was a senior minister in the Howard government that introduced the most antifamily legislation in our nation's history—Work Choices—and gutted health care.

The government are also determined to support families. I was pleased to see that the budget included new measures to help provide for the cost of living pressures, particularly for low-income families with kids at school. Three thousand nine hundred local families in the electorate of Bass could be eligible for $4,200 per child for children aged between 16 and 19 years. The Leader of the Opposition and the Liberals are too big a risk for Australian families.

These are the right policies for the right time. We support the Australian promise that if you work hard you will not be left behind. The Australian Labor government was right to step in and support the economy during the world downturn. It is now right to step back and make room for the private sector to step up to the mark. I commend these bills to the House.