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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5421


Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (18:57): I rise today to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012 and cognate bills on the significant impact of the Gillard Labor-Greens alliance government's budget on the electorate of Macquarie. Despite all the talk from Labor in the lead-up to the budget, this was not a budget tough on the government; but it is tough on families. There is little which helps ordinary Australians deal with the rising cost of living, cuts to family benefits, changes to fringe benefits tax and the introduction of two big new taxes. This budget will hurt 2 million families nationwide and 19,800 families, as at the last census, in the electorate of Macquarie.

Labor persists in trying to pretend a family earning a total income of $150,000 is rich. The coalition knows families are struggling under Labor's fast rising living costs. Labor should come clean and admit that families earning $40,000, $50,000 or $90,000 are also slugged by this budget. Family tax benefit part A payments will drop significantly as a result of the freeze. A family with one parent earning $65,000 and one earning $40,000 will lose around $850 in 2012-13 if they have two children under 13. It is an even bigger loss, around $900 a year, if they have three children under 13. The same results apply to any family with two children and a total family income between $102,000 and $112,000 a year, regardless of whether there are one or two wage-earners. They also apply to any family with three children and an income between $105,000 and $123,000 a year. Every recipient of any income will lose out from the freezing of the family tax benefit part A supplement. Labor has already been at those receiving part B, having frozen the $150,000 threshold in 2009 and continuing that for another two years in this budget. Over two years, more than 19,000 Australian families will completely lose family tax benefit part B as a result of this freezing alone as their wage increases push their income past the $150,000 threshold. These families have indeed been forgotten by this government, leaving them to pay for this government's wasteful spending.

The Prime Minister was right when she said that this is a traditional Labor budget—another big deficit, more borrowing and debt and more taxes. This picture could have been very different, with a coalition government having the courage to make savings where necessary. This budget is based on a lie. The carbon tax revenue and expenditure have not been included in this budget. A price on carbon will destroy jobs and increase the cost of virtually everything. A $26 a tonne carbon price would push up petrol by 6.5c a litre, gas by up to 10c in the first year and groceries by five per cent. The coalition's direct plan represents a more cost-effective policy which would tackle climate change without pushing up prices for electricity, petrol and food.

This government has spent the $22 billion surplus left to it by the previous coalition government. Australia has gone from a $20 billion surplus to a $49 billion deficit in four years. Last year's midyear budget estimates predicted net debt would peak at $94 billion. On budget night it was revealed that the figure is now $107 billion. This government continues to borrow $135 million a day, and the interest on Labor's debt will be a staggering $7 billion a year. They have saddled this nation with a bill of $18 million a day in interest on this debt while ordinary Australians struggle to make ends meet.

In Macquarie these interest payments could have been used to deliver projects totalling $18 million, including the Greater Western Sydney conservation corridor, the Blaxland and Glenbrook solar towns project, the reconstruction of a section of Freemans Reach Road in Wilberforce, the University of Western Sydney Hawkesbury-Nepean algae project and numerous solar schools and Green Army projects. In terms of infrastructure this government has done little to assist the people of the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains.

This government has allocated $2 million that is not allocated in the forward estimates until 2014-15, another empty promise that may never eventuate. Heavy peak traffic on Grose Vale Road, Terrace Road and Bells Line of Road leading down towards the M7 causes significant congestion around the Richmond bridge. It takes sometimes more than an hour for people, once they reach North Richmond, to cross the bridge to Richmond on the way to work, and the same can happen in the evening.

A study into adding a contraflow lane in peak periods on Richmond bridge does not address the larger traffic issues leading on and off the bridge, particularly the pressure on the major roads of Bells Line of Road and Richmond Road. It does not address making the intersection of Old Kurrajong Road near the bridge safer; nor does it address the issue of the set of lights and the pressure at those lights leading from Terrace Road or from Grose Vale Road.

These are the actions of a desperate government trying to look like they are delivering, making a promise. The money for that study is needed now. In fact, the RTA most recently conducted an audit of the intersections and the roads leading onto the bridge. They have come up with some solutions which could alleviate in the immediate short term. I would suggest that the government spend the money doing that.

I raise the issue of funding for the Black Spot Program. At the recent 2010 federal election the coalition reaffirmed its support for this program. The program is highly successful in funding low-cost but high-value road safety improvements where there is a history of fatal crashes or a road safety audit recommendation. In the 11 years between 1996 and 2007 the coalition invested $486.8 million to address these black spots. The Bureau of Transport Economics estimated that over the same period the Black Spot Program saved at least 130 lives and prevented 6,000 serious accidents by upgrading 4,200 dangerous sites on local and state roads.

In Macquarie this program was vital to upgrading many rural roads—for example, Drummond Street at Windsor and a roundabout at Pitt Town and Boundary roads following a fatality. I am working with local communities to address black spots on local roads: the roundabout at Boundary Road, which has been resolved, and Old Pitt Town Road, where there have been fatalities. I call on Labor to deliver more funding to this program, particularly in the seat of Macquarie so the people of the electorate of Macquarie can drive safely on the roads. This government's inaction on freight to rail is a disgrace. Freight to rail is an area which has been largely ignored by Labor. I support an integrated road-rail policy that moves more freight to rail and improves the safety of local roads and highways. The national transport commissioner will not deliver any policy until 2013-14. I call on the government to explain to the people of the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury why it is taking so long to alleviate the pressure on our roads and improve the safety of our highways.

The Bells Line of Road through the Hawkesbury and the Great Western Highway through the Blue Mountains are particular examples of why action is required on freight to rail sooner rather than later. Heavy vehicles are using these roads which are not designed to take the volume of heavy vehicle traffic that we see today. The Great Western Highway upgrade has been occurring since 1998 and, while significant progress has been made, there needs to be more. Over the same period there have been no fewer than 13 studies on the Bells Line of Road. Thirteen studies in 13 years is excessive, provides no clear direction and is a great challenge to be overcome.

The RTA crash statistics for Bells Line of Road sadly record that from 2000 to 2002 there were five fatalities and 135 injuries. Many in my electorate know that that means the loss or serious injury of someone they love—a family member, a friend—and all of us in this House know that more than one person is impacted when a serious accident, fatality or injury occurs. The statistics highlight that there are 17 black spots on the Bells Line of Road. These statistics show why action is needed. Many action groups in the villages and towns along the Great Western Highway in the Blue Mountains believe that the roads are degrading rapidly because of the continual use of heavy vehicles, creating a serious threat to safety on these roads. The inaction of this government on practical solutions highlights how little they understand the needs of residents and road users, ordinary Australians like those I represent.

These are just some of the areas in which the Labor government has failed. You only need to look at the impact on small business to see that this is a government that is out of touch and that lacks empathy. Small business is the engine room of local economies and the nation. This budget does little for or largely ignores small business. In Macquarie there are 4,514 small businesses, providing products and services in our diverse local economy. Most importantly, small business provides opportunities—including IT, tourism, hospitality, retail and community services. The Australian Bureau of Statistics from June 2006 estimated there were 1,646,344 small business operators nationwide.

Small business forms the backbone of the nation, providing support to the local economy; yet this government continues to treat small business owners with contempt. I work closely with small businesses and chambers of commerce, and businesspeople tell me that increased regulation, increased taxes and the cutting of benefits do not help small business flourish. The Labor government has introduced 220 new regulations on small business for every one regulation it repealed. How can small businesses grow when they are drowning in red tape? There is a small business in Windsor that after 30 years is contemplating putting off staff or closing down completely because of the increased burden this government has placed upon small business.

The coalition is committed to cutting Labor's red tape, which is strangling small business across the Hawkesbury and the Blue Mountains. We have committed to removing one regulation for every new one placed on small business. The coalition is committed to relieving burdensome regulation from small business. Labor offers small business no relief. For examples of this, look no further than the entrepreneur's tax offset and the proposed carbon tax. The abolition of the entrepreneur's tax offset provides a disincentive for business growth, with some commentators suggesting that the $5,000 motor vehicle deduction sends the wrong signal to small business owners starting out in business. Furthermore, this government has done little to address the impact of the cost of the carbon tax on business cost and more importantly the increase to the cost of living on small business customers.

When looking at health, this budget continues to disappoint. The government announced a package of measures in this budget for funding mental health. Despite the headline figure of $2.2 billion, this budget commitment represents new funding of $1.5 billion over four years and only $47 million spent in the 2011-12 financial year. The reforms closely mirror the coalition's re-election plan for mental health proposed last year and while they will go some way to making improvements, we all know that a lot more is required. However, the government's proposals have been underfunded and ultimately will not achieve the same positive outcomes the coalition's policies would have. This government has been criticised by the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Psychological Society, two peak bodies in this field, for not investing enough in mental health. This budget cuts $580.5 million in funding from GP mental health services providing referrals of patients to psychologists. How will members of my local community already under stress be able to access these services if they are made more expensive? The coalition has consistently led the way on the mental health funding with the announcement in 2006 of a $1.9 billion investment. The coalition recognises the importance of mental health to the ongoing health of our nation, our communities and our families.

Many in my electorate have asked me why the government is wasting so much money. This call comes from ordinary Australians forgotten by this government. Grandparents are concerned how this great big new tax will impact upon them and their ability to pay their electricity bills. This government has done little to help families in this budget. As I have said before in this House, what does the Treasurer have against ordinary working families? A typical tradesman who lives in Windsor in my electorate earns around $78,000 a year. His wife works part time as a nurse. They have two children under the age of five. Under changes in this budget, this working family will pay a flood tax of $150, will receive less family benefits and will be hit with a fringe benefits tax on the work ute. They will likely face interest rates higher than the seven to eight per cent currently charged on the mortgage later this year and then get hit with a carbon tax. For the first time in eight years they will see no tax cuts. How does the freeze in indexation of family tax benefits A and B help this family? (Time expired)