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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5418

Ms LIVERMORE (Capricornia) (18:44): The member for Wannon also said that the Leader of the Opposition's speech was the best budget reply speech that the new parliament had ever heard. Seeing as it was the first and only that the new parliament had ever heard, I guess it does not have to stack up against much—and just as well because it certainly did not rate for those of us on this side of the house who are more interested—

Mr Tehan: I was not talking about the new paradigm, I was talking about our new parliament.

Ms LIVERMORE: Oh, I see. Well, it still does not rate on the scale of opposition leaders' budget reply speeches. I think it is probably just one more sign of the sorts of things that we saw in the Financial Review's analysis today of the steadily and consistently shrinking total of the opposition's savings measures that they keep referring to in terms of trying to establish their economic credibility. Just like their little tally of supposed savings, that economic credibility continues to shrink every day.

I want to talk about what is in the budget for my electorate because there were some significant initiatives and programs in the budget and of course I welcome those on behalf of the people of Capricornia. The first one is the investments that this government is continuing to make in health in my electorate, particularly in this instance in the city of Rockhampton. This Labor government has a very strong track record in making huge investments in the health services for the people of Central Queensland. The very first budget in 2008 provided $75 million for a major extension and redevelopment of the Rockhampton Base Hospital which is the hub, the major health care provider of the highest levels of care to people in Central Queensland—the hospital that people rely on to power the bulk of their health care. That was in the 2008 budget. Work is proceeding on that and is nearing completion. Following up on that was another announcement last year. In 2010 we found that we were successful in obtaining $67 million for a regional cancer centre for the Rockhampton Base Hospital. When the announcement was made in about April last year, it was one of the most satisfying days of my career to be able to bring that to the people of Rockhampton. Work is proceeding on that, and when it is completed I think it will take the capacity for cancer care in Rockhampton from five chemotherapy chairs up to 16. It will also provide for certain aspects of radiation treatment, which is something that is desperately needed in Rockhampton to avoid people who are diagnosed with cancer having to leave their home, their family, their loved ones and all of their support mechanisms behind and travel down to Brisbane. This has been the case for far too long in Rockhampton.

This year, I am pleased to say, the health minister was back in Rockhampton to announce that the Mater hospital, one of the private hospitals in Rockhampton, was successful under the Health and Hospitals Fund Regional Priority Round. I think it was in the order of $6 million for two terrific projects. One is to build three new operating theatres at the Mater hospital. Money will also be there to completely fit out two of those operating theatres with equipment, and the third one will remain as a shell until demand reaches the point where it needs to be fully commissioned. Mater hospital was also successful in obtaining funding for patient accommodation. This has been a long-term goal, a long-term project, of the Mater hospital.

Again, because Rockhampton is such a service hub for Central Queensland, people from a very large radius of Central and Western Queensland rely on the hospitals in Rockhampton to provide them with high levels of treatment. Over the years, that has traditionally meant people having to travel in to stay with relatives or in private accommodation. It is great that the Mater hospital will now be able to realise its dream of providing accommodation on site for people receiving treatment at the hospital and their family members. That goes together with some units that have been completed by the Cancer Council in Rockhampton, so we really are starting to fill a very big gap that has been there for people coming to seek health treatment in Rockhampton for some years now. It is great for those country people who can now be a bit more comfortable and have one less thing to worry about when they have to be in Rockhampton for health treatment.

I will talk about one infrastructure project for which funding has also been made available in the budget. That is the Yeppen roundabout, which is at the southern entrance of Rockhampton. Anyone who was watching the flood footage in January this year, when Rocky was one of the first cities in Queensland to experience flooding, would be very familiar with the Yeppen roundabout, which was basically sitting under all of that water when they were showing the statue of the bull at the entrance to Rockhampton, surrounded by water. That is the Yeppen roundabout. It has been a real problem for some years now. There is great congestion for people driving to Rockhampton from Gracemere, a nearby town which houses a lot people who work in Rockhampton. Those people have had to put with an awful lot of congestion—I am sure nothing like the people living in the member for Oxley's community, but very bad by Central Queensland standards. We now have money in this budget to undertake a major upgrade of that roundabout, which is going to relieve a lot of those problems. Upgrading a roundabout does not sound like a big deal, but I have to tell you that for those people coming from Gracemere every morning and sitting in bumper to bumper traffic it will mean a great deal. It shows that this government has been listening to their concerns and needs.

A very significant thing that was in this budget for Rockhampton was the announcement that it will be one of the 10 communities that will receive special and intensive assistance under the place based initiatives that were announced in the budget. I have been on this campaign for some time. I have spoken about it previously. Rockhampton is in a situation in which we have great opportunities surrounding us, whether they are in the industry and economic activity coming out of Gladstone or whether they are in the Bowen Basin to our west. And there is the perennial mainstay of Rockhampton, which is our beef industry, represented by the two large meatworks that operate in Rockhampton. So opportunities exist and are growing within our region. At the same time, there is a proportion of people in Rockhampton who these opportunities are passing by. An entrenched level of social disadvantage is emerging in Rockhampton that I have wanted to act on for some years now.

Income management was introduced into the Northern Territory as part of the intervention. We legislated a couple of years ago to apply the Racial Discrimination Act to that legislation, meaning that income management measures would be applied more generally to the population. Since that time I have been lobbying hard for an introduction of income management into Rockhampton ahead of the rest of Australia, which it will be rolled out to eventually. I am pleased to say that that is now happening. It is based on the model that has been operating in Perth for some time. It will mean specifically that families who have come to the attention of child welfare authorities, people who have been assessed as being vulnerable and perhaps able to benefit from income management by Centrelink social workers and other people who may volunteer to be part of that program, will from 1 July next year be subject to income management. That will mean that part of their Centrelink payment will be quarantined and only able to be spent on the essentials—food, rent, pharmaceuticals; those sorts of things.

I have long seen this as something very tangible that the government can do in terms of trying to turn around some of this social disadvantage. What I was not expecting—and this was great to see as part of the package—were all of the support measures that are coming with this. There is going to be a significant investment in the city of Rockhampton to try to act on and break down this entrenched disadvantage. We will give people the incentive through income management and also the opportunities that they need through training, personal support, better education, access to child care—all of those things that we need to incorporate in a whole-of-community response to try to match the opportunities that are there for employment in our region with a group of people who to date have not had the ability to take part in that. It has been well received to date. I have been very keen to make sure that the people who will be subject to some of these measures understand that it is not all stick, that there is carrot in this package as well. Yes, there will be greater obligations placed on people who are receiving Centrelink payments, but there will certainly be plenty of assistance, support and opportunities provided through this package of measures at the same time. I will be working with the community organisations in Rockhampton to really make this work. It is a great opportunity for us to turn around a group in our community that has missed out for too long.

One of the things that I know will be of great interest to not-for-profit groups working in this sector is the Local Solutions Fund. Twenty-five million dollars is available to be shared amongst the 10 regions across Australia that are part of these place based initiatives, pulling together groups within the community that work with disadvantaged people or have experience in breaking down disadvantage and helping vulnerable people in our communities to come up with ideas for how we can best meet those needs and tailor the solutions to our local circumstances.

In that respect it was a very noteworthy and significant budget for Rockhampton and for Central Queensland more broadly. It is what we are becoming used to under the Labor government. Year in, year out, we have been receiving investment in our core services—whether it be in health, education or training—and this year it has been taken to a new level with this very targeted package, which is addressing some of the social issues in our city. I commend the budget to the House.