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Monday, 16 June 2003
Page: 16533

Mrs MOYLAN (7:07 PM) —It is a great pleasure to be able to rise tonight to make some points about the budget, particularly in relation to my electorate. I think it is always a great challenge for governments of any persuasion to balance the budget, not just in terms of dollars and cents but also in terms of the wide variety of interests in the many communities throughout Australia. There are many demands on governments and on the public in that respect, but I do think that the government—and the Treasurer, in particular—is to be highly commended for being able to yet again bring in a balanced budget, which is very important in terms of the economic security of all men and women and their families in this country. At the same time, I think it balanced some very important needs socially and addressed some of the international issues that have become pressing in this day and age. It is very much a balancing act as to how you best cover the needs of a very diverse community—communities, in fact. It is not one homogenous group, but many communities and many differing needs in many parts of the country.

Certainly in an electorate like mine of Pearce, we have probably a microcosm of the communities in Western Australia, ranging from coastal areas where environment is a key issue to inland farming and agricultural districts where clearly the issues of drought in some parts—fortunately not in a large area of my electorate but on the edges of my electorate and other parts of Western Australia—have become a key issue, as has how we best help farming people through the hardship to be able to farm again when times are better and the seasons are better. It includes small businesses striving to make their contribution to the community both in terms of looking after their own economic needs and their families' financial requirements and also contributing to the national economic effort. Those businesses are looking to grow and expand. So I think this budget has done extremely well in balancing the many important issues as they relate to the electorate of Pearce.

In terms of balancing budgets these days and meeting the requirements, it has been made particularly difficult by the particular conditions we are faced with internationally. The economies of many countries have not fared well. We have come through what I think have been some very difficult times in particularly good shape. I can remember when I first became the member for Pearce and being made shadow minister for small business that I toured the country extensively talking to small business people about what they felt the government's singular most important role was in terms of their good health in the long term. Almost universally, businesses said that government should get on with the business of governing and ensure a smooth economic condition in which businesses can operate with some certainty. I think that one of the main achievements of the government, and of this Treasurer in particular, is that businesses have been able to operate in an environment of greater certainty, with low inflation, low interest rates and a pretty good outcome in terms of our growing businesses and our growing export opportunities.

The government has achieved what businesspeople want, and that is balancing the budget, trying to do away with the high levels of debt to ensure that we have a much smoother economy with less peaks and troughs, which make it extremely difficult for businesses including farmers to properly manage their enterprises and certainly make it very difficult for them to do any long-term forecasting in terms of the growth of their businesses. We have to recognise that we are also operating in an increasingly global environment. They used to say a few years ago that if America sneezes Australia catches a cold, and I do not think that really has changed considerably. So we do have to be mindful of what is happening in the international arena and make sure that the Australian community is protected somewhat from some of the worst economic outfalls that have affected other countries, particularly during the Asian meltdown.

My electorate of Pearce, as I said, is a broad community, a community of broad interests, and I have a very large area of rural property in my electorate. I think one of the big concerns of the rural community has been rural health. I met a couple of years ago with the doctors of the wheat belt division of general practice and they raised a few issues with me then. It really is very good to see that the government not only have addressed many of the problems confronting people delivering rural health but also continue to make funds available to keep up that momentum of ensuring health outcomes in the rural sector. Over the past five years there has been an 11.4 per cent increase in the number of general practitioners in rural Australia, and certainly in the electorate of Pearce we have seen the benefit of increased numbers of general practitioners operating in the country towns where a few years ago there was a critical shortage.

Although there are some areas that are still having a little difficulty in retaining the services of GPs, the continuation of the Rural Retention Program incentive payments, which is costing $47.3 million over the next four years, will provide great encouragement for doctors to move to or establish their practice in these regions. In quite regularly visiting some of the country towns in my electorate, I can see that the problem seems to be well and truly under control.

The government has also recommitted to providing primary health care services to rural and regional communities through ongoing funding to the Regional Health Services Program, with $46.2 million being provided over the next four years. When my electorate was quite badly affected by drought a couple of years ago, I mentioned to the Prime Minister and our ministers that one of the things for which we needed funding in Pearce was mental health services. That funding has been made available. I received a report the other day from the Central Wheatbelt Division of General Practitioners—particularly from the person in control of delivering the new mental health services program. They have done remarkable things with the funding that has been provided to them. I am very pleased to see that funding will continue for rural retention programs and also additional health services programs in rural areas, because it is being put to good use and it is providing important backup services in the area of rural medicine.

The commitment to rural women is continuing in this budget, with $8.9 million provided over four years to provide female general practitioners through the rural women's GP service. This program has been enormously successful, with over 19,000 consultations in over 104 rural and remote communities since its inception. For the electorate of Pearce, the continuation of the rural health program is enormously welcome.

Education is a very important issue in my electorate. There has been a lot of criticism about changes to the funding of university places. When I first came into parliament a lot of parents, a lot of students and a lot of schools raised with me the difficulty in finding apprenticeship places and traineeships for young people coming out of school. While we have an obligation to ensure that the people with the ability have the opportunity to go on to university and contribute to the professions, we also have an obligation not to forget the many young people who perhaps have other kinds of talents that need equal attention and that need to be developed to provide us with a skilled work force, to continue to maintain our place economically and to be able to continue to compete in the growing export market and the domestic market.

I have been very pleased to see the government continue to commit funds for traineeships and apprenticeships, which have grown tremendously under the Howard government. Those opportunities have been very welcome in the electorate of Pearce. It was only a few months ago that the automotive training industry came to me and asked me to make a representation to our minister to continue to fund some pilot programs in Western Australia to help young people get into the automotive industry. The average car these days has very sophisticated computer systems on board, and motor mechanics and technicians have to be pretty skilled in that area. There are young people with those particular abilities who ought to have an opportunity to develop those skills and contribute to our industries and to our economy.

The government has attempted to ensure that there is an education system that provides a place for all young people—not for just one group of people who, in the past, seem to have been tagged as an elite group. We need to make sure that all young people have an opportunity to do the best they can with the enormous talents that so many of them have. The Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon. Brendan Nelson, responded to the request from the automotive training industry in Western Australia, and I think there are now five or six pilot programs under way—including one up in Geraldton, which is not in my electorate, and one in the Swan electorate, which borders my electorate and caters for many young people within the Pearce electorate. It is very pleasing to see funding for these kinds of programs which provide opportunities for our young people.

It is very welcome news that Curtin University of Technology in Northam will be eligible for consideration in the 2004 allocation of additional loading. The Curtin University of Technology in Northam plays an important role in offering opportunities to students in the eastern region. We do not have a lot of universities. It has been a sore point in WA that university campuses seem to be located south and north of the city, with very little funding having gone east. So any opportunity to expand opportunities for young people in the eastern corridor of Western Australia, particularly up into the wheat belt, is appreciated and very welcome.

The other issues that have been very much at the forefront of people's minds recently are the condition of roads and traffic issues. Through the electorate of Pearce run two major highways. One is the Great Eastern Highway, which runs from the eastern seaboard to the city, through to the wharves at Fremantle and to Perth airport. It is used by an increasing number of trucks carrying heavy loads—some of them B-doubles and some carrying triple loads. Those trucks come through a lot of built-up areas along the Great Eastern Highway, particularly through the area approaching Stoneville and the turn-off to the airport. People have become increasingly worried.

The government has been extremely responsive to many representations that I have made on behalf of citizens to fix difficult spots on the Great Eastern Highway, through the reinstated black spot funding program; and in the Pearce electorate the government will spend another $45 million in this coming year on the national black spot program. We in the Pearce electorate hope that we will get considerable benefit from that. There are a number of projects throughout my electorate—not just on the Great Eastern Highway but in other areas—which will address areas that do pose particular safety problems. It is a sad fact that in recent days we have had two deaths on the Great Eastern Highway. It is too early to say exactly what caused those deaths, but good road conditions can help to prevent serious accidents which can cause death. So we welcome the government's commitment to continue to make our roads safer—particularly in the Pearce electorate. The other major road in my electorate is the road that heads up north, again carrying trucks with very heavy loads, servicing the Pilbara and the mining and pastoral region.

One of the greatest things about this budget is that the Treasurer has continued to build on the tax cuts. It is great that so many people benefited from the 2000 budget. I think 80 per cent of people now pay no more than 30 per cent tax—30c in the dollar. That was welcomed by many families in the Pearce electorate.

It is good to see that in this budget the Treasurer has announced further tax cuts to families of $10.7 billion—again very welcome. But what distresses me is the policy of the WA government, who are now the major beneficiaries of the GST but who, in three successive budgets, have stolen those tax cuts from our taxpayers in Western Australia by hiking the state taxes. For example, in the 2001 Labor government budget the essential services of water, sewerage and drainage went up by 3.5 per cent, affecting many pensioners and people on low-paid incomes. Water rates went up by 2.9 per cent in the 2002 budget and this year went up by 3.3 per cent. It is just outrageous that, as quickly as we alleviate the burden of tax from Australian families, the state governments start piling it on.

In addition to that, stamp duty on conveyances in Western Australia has gone up this year. The state government has put this up in the 2003-04 budget by 15 per cent. I know this is having a devastating effect on many young families and young people buying their homes. In relation to conveyances on general insurance policies, as if we have not had enough problems with insurance and people trying to get insurance, the state government has hiked the stamp duty from eight to 10 per cent this year and I think there have been increases in some insurances in past years, some that have affected farmers. Motor vehicle registrations and licences went up five per cent in 2001. And so it continues. There is a huge list of increases: for example parking levies in the city have gone up $30, from $150 to $180. That had gone up previously as well. So these increases go on and on. If you want to register a birth or marriage, it has gone up $5 to $35 and a change of name has gone up from $25 to $120. There is a huge raft of additional taxes on the people. As quickly as we try to alleviate the burden of taxation on our families, the state government in Western Australia in particular is loading up the rates and taxes and charges on families, making it extremely difficult for the poorest in our community. I welcome the federal government's budget. It is of great benefit to the electors of Pearce. (Time expired)