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Monday, 30 May 2011
Page: 5175

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (16:13): I take this opportunity today to speak on the very important Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012 and related bills. This is a vital budget for this nation and it is certainly a Labor budget, a budget that focuses on the key elements and key challenges that this nation faces, both in terms of building a modern economy and also making sure that every Australian has the opportunity to participate in a workplace and to earn a respectable wage. I believe this budget is not only very much a Labor budget but also a very fair budget, a budget that is very smart and of course does recognise the very important challenges our nation faces and will build employment opportunities as the private sector returns to this economy following the global financial crisis.

The budget talks about an economy that has near full employment. In my electorate of Corangamite and also in the broader Geelong area there is almost full employment at the moment. Many of the communities that are still suffering from unemployment have in fact had multigenerational unemployment, and I believe this budget provides opportunities for those particular parts of the Geelong community to engage in the workplace.

It is fair to say that our economy is the envy of the rest of the world. Many parts of the OECD still have an unemployment rate that is close to 10 per cent. Of course our own unemployment rate is just a tick under five per cent. This budget is the right budget for this particular point in Australia's evolution. It provides for record investment in many parts of our economy, particularly the nation-building parts of our economy—rail, road and our telecommunications system. The National Broadband Network will be critical, particularly for rural and regional Australia. The regions will be given a playing field level with that of metropolitan Australia, something that has certainly not been the case with broadband. Being a regional member of the House of Representatives, I am very pleased and proud that the National Broadband Network will open up our economy and put us on a level playing field.

This budget provides $1.8 billion for critical infrastructure upgrades to our public hospitals and health services, particularly for the regions. In Geelong we were very pleased to receive the announcement of $26 million for a regional cancer centre, which will not only service the broader Geelong region but will provide very important cancer outreach services to the Western District of Victoria, an area that has suffered from high rates of cancer. This fantastic initiative was put forward by the Geelong Hospital, and I was very pleased to be with the minister, Nicola Roxon, in Geelong to make the announcement that we would invest in that very important area.

This budget also delivers in terms of our transport infrastructure in Corangamite and for the whole of the western side of the state. Particularly, we are working in partnership with the state government to deliver the Regional Rail Link, an important piece of Victorian infrastructure that this government is committed to, which will assist western Victorians with access to Melbourne via public transport. Importantly, locally this budget continues to deliver the necessary funding for the Geelong Ring Road, which is a very important road in the Geelong region, and also provides funding for the continued duplication of the Princes Highway. The Princes Highway is arguably the most important piece of economic infrastructure in the Geelong region. Again, we are delivering the necessary money to duplicate it not only to make the road safer but also, importantly, to open up the western side of Victoria and to provide a very much safer transport passage and greater access for primary producers and others in western Victoria to get their product to the port of Geelong, the Port of Melbourne, Avalon Airport and Tullamarine Airport. I think that says a lot about this government and the priorities that we have set. We very much believe in putting in place the nation-building infrastructure that we do of course require.

Importantly, this budget also continues the process of implementing our historic higher education reforms. I have spoken on education in almost every single session of parliament since we came to office in 2007. We certainly have great ambition for Australia's education system, whether it be our universities or our schools. I must say I am a very proud member who has contributed to a lot of the debates that have taken place in this place on education. This budget continues to deliver with respect to that. Again, some $500 million is available for regional priorities. Again, this particular government is very keen to ensure that our regions do not miss out. Labor has had a very proud and longstanding history with respect to Australia's regions. Importantly, this budget again prioritises funding for our regions.

This budget also provides some $916 million for regional infrastructure projects that will be undertaken by our regional development bodies. They will be prioritised by those bodies. We have made available funding for those regions for the very projects that they require and that they consider as priorities. It is part of a $1 billion program that this government has committed to over the next five years.

I do want to make the point that in every budget, except for this last one, Labor have been in a position to be able to deliver tax cuts. We were not in a position to be able to do that with this budget. I know that the Treasurer has had to make some very tough decisions to enable us to bring the budget back to surplus. We will of course continue to work hard to do that. In terms of reducing the Commonwealth spend as a proportion of the economy, I think this budget is the single biggest step back that the Commonwealth has ever made. It is important that we do that, because we have a very substantial pipeline of private sector funding, particularly in association with the mining industry, that will be coming through in the next few years. It is important that the Commonwealth step back from the economy to enable that investment to come through. If we do not make those tough decisions and the Commonwealth does not reduce its spending—which is what we are doing—then of course that will have inflationary consequences in the Australian economy and will push up the cost of living and a whole raft of other things. We have delivered what I believe to be a very substantial budget.

I particularly want to make the point that, for many generations, my seat of Corangamite was considered a backwater by the Liberal Party. They owned the seat—that was their belief—for some 73-odd years and nothing much ever happened. There was no funding, no election commitments and no campaigning. None of that took place. We worked hard and we were able to win the seat in 2007 and again in 2010. That really was on the back of a lot of hard work and getting the right mixture of projects in the seat to open up the economy and to provide opportunities for young people from my part of the world to go to university, not only to the major metropolitan universities but also locally. We have worked hard with Deakin University to put in a lot of additional money to enable it to grow as an institution. I certainly look forward to continuing to work with the university to grow that institution, which has very much embraced Geelong and assisted the great transition that has taken place across the Geelong community. It is an innovative university and one that is very comfortable working with the federal government's innovation agenda. I look forward to continuing to work closely with it and the various ministers to ensure that it is able to grow and provide opportunities for young people.

It is also important to recognise that every single primary school in my seat has had a construction project either finish or be underway—building new classrooms, new libraries, new sports stadiums and the like to help educate young people. When I get around to talk to those school communities—the parents, the teachers and the students—they are all singularly excited by the Commonwealth government's massive investment in Victorian schools. It was pointed out to me that Building the Education Revolution was like the equivalent of 10 years of normal state government capital—a massive investment to help stimulate the economy but also, importantly, to provide modern educational spaces which teachers could use. We have also put money into the new GP superclinic. We continue to work with Deakin University and the innovation centre. We continue to invest in the duplication of the Princes Highway and in the Geelong Ring Road.

This budget, as I said earlier, is a budget for its time. It is a tough budget. We have had to make some difficult and challenging decisions. But I think it will set up our economy to take full advantage of the mining boom. I commend the bill to the House.