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Monday, 24 May 2010
Page: 3759

Ms JACKSON (7:43 PM) —I am pleased to be able to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 and cognate bills tonight. I would like to commence by congratulating the Treasurer on this budget, which I believe will further strengthen and secure our economy. It is clear that, with responsible management, the government will halve peak debt and get the budget back in the black in three years, which is three years early. As I said, this is a responsible budget. It helps families and it helps to secure future growth. I think that it is appropriate to credit our ministers for the way in which they took decisive action to keep the economy strong and protect jobs during the global financial crisis. Now we see that same decisive action in place, bringing our economy back into surplus.

I wanted to talk tonight about some of the issues in these appropriation bills that are specific to Western Australia and to my own seat of Hasluck. In particular I note the substantial contribution in the budget towards national health and hospitals reform, something that I think is long overdue in this country. It is a very significant package of measures to ensure that there is national funding and local management of our national health and hospital system. To that extent, I urge the Western Australian government and the Premier in particular to continue to be involved in discussions with the Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, and the Prime Minister to try and ensure that Western Australia’s health system also receives the benefit of the national health and hospitals reform.

I feel this very personally in my electorate because in the last budget the federal government made a substantial commitment, $180.1 million, towards the new Midland Health Campus in my electorate, a replacement hospital for the Swan Districts Hospital which is already operating beyond capacity. It was identified in the Reid review, a local review, that this hospital was urgently required. That review was undertaken in 2007, and initially commitments were made, including by the current Western Australian state Liberal government, that construction of the new Midland Health Campus would be completed by November 2013. I am sad to say that, as I speak, following the Western Australian budget last week, there is little money from the state government committed in the forward estimates towards the project, and we have been advised that the earliest the hospital might be completed is mid-2015 and more likely mid-2016. So we have a substantial area in my electorate in Perth which has already been found by appropriate experts to be desperately in need of new and upgraded health facilities; but, sadly, that project has now been further delayed by some three years. I take this opportunity to urge the Western Australian government to get real on the question of health and hospital funding and also to stop ignoring the health needs of my community, particularly in the Swan region.

While I am on health, can I congratulate the federal government on its decision to increase funding for GP superclinics and perhaps put the minister on notice of my intention to seek funding for the southern end of my electorate. The City of Gosnells is an area where there is a substantial amount of unmet need in terms of GP services, and I know that the establishment of a GP superclinic in that part of my electorate would be gratefully received. I can assure my constituents that I will be knocking on the minister’s door with that very proposal.

I also congratulate the government on the new national men’s health strategy. I was incredibly pleased to see this strategy released. Can I say how pleased I was with the additional funding that was announced as part of that policy for the funding of the Australian Men’s Shed Association. As I talk on this point, I am grateful to Eddy from the Kalamunda Men’s Shed, who has brought it to my attention. It is something that has been gratefully received in that area and I can only commend the minister for these wonderful initiatives. In the area of social networking and support for men, particularly in retirement, the Men’s Shed has been an outstanding success. I look forward to joining with the members of the Kalamunda Men’s Shed in July to celebrate their first year of operation.

I also acknowledge the Richmond Fellowship in my electorate of Hasluck, which received a boost of some $1.29 million to help local families with mental illnesses and particularly to continue their intensive one-on-one support services in the Midland-Guildford area of my electorate. This funding was part of the extensions to the Personal Helpers and Mentors Program. I know the Richmond Fellowship of WA provide a very good service and I am delighted that they have been the recipients of that additional funding.

In the area of education, I was pleased last week to meet with a number of my local P&C associations. I was keen to get their feedback on their Building the Education Revolution funding and on other education reforms, including the establishment of the My School website. I have to say that, generally speaking, the funding and the reforms have been greeted with much applause by parents and in many cases they are enjoying new facilities and buildings in their schools. I would note, given the comments of the member for Canning—about the small surplus that the Western Australian state government have managed to achieve in their budget—that as part of their funding announcements for education capital works they skilfully included some $425 million of Commonwealth funding that they currently hold for final BER projects. I would urge the state government to hurry up and ensure that those final rounds of project funds are released so that those schools that receive funding in the second and third rounds can proceed with their projects.

I also congratulate the government on the boost to skills training in my electorate and throughout the whole of Australia. It is particularly relevant in a state like mine where there has been significant skills shortage in the recent past. The impact of the almost $80 million that they have invested to extend the Apprentice Kickstart initiative will be to triple the commencement bonus for employers of traditional trade apprentices. It means that in my electorate we will see a substantial number of new apprentices. We are hoping to see some 306 local apprentices get a start this coming year. I look forward to that. I can say that, from the last round, we saw some 235 apprentices commence in Hasluck and I am pleased to see this additional funding going in that direction.

Today in question time some members may have heard me ask a question of the Minister for Housing regarding the rollout of housing programs in my state of Western Australia. I could not resist raising them again because the government’s programs have been an outstanding success in my state. Minister Plibersek should be congratulated for the management and rollout of those projects. In Western Australia alone some 28,800 first home buyers received the benefit of the first home owner boost. In addition, something like 170 new homes have been contributed to in my electorate, 20 homes built in the first two rounds of the National Rental Affordability Scheme in places like Gosnells and Midland and 53 homes built through the new stimulus package. Right now there are some 47 sites right across Western Australia with more than 1,100 new homes for Western Australians under way. In my seat alone, we have seen some 243 new rental homes. I was delighted when the minister met with me in Hasluck to visit the site of a project for 16 new affordable housing units for seniors in the city of Gosnells. We were hosted by Gold Style Homes Pty Ltd, a local building company that had been successful in picking up that particular contract. I look forward to the minister visiting again when those new units are available for seniors to move in to. The city of Gosnells has also received over $1 million from the Housing Affordability Fund and 100 homebuyers will receive a discount of around $11,000 each on their homes. That is, as the minister indicated, a massive investment in housing in Western Australia and I thank her very much for that.

I also acknowledge the increases that have been proposed in the budget to the Local Sporting Champions program. I am very pleased to see an almost doubling of the number of grants to individuals and teams available in my electorate. This has been a valuable initiative. I am sure, Mr Deputy Speaker Sidebottom, you would be familiar with this: the number of requests for funding assistance far outweighs the funding that is available. We all try to do our best to support our local sporting champions. I was also very pleased with how the Australian Sporting Commission’s program has been going in my electorate—the Active After-school Communities program. I was very pleased to visit the Southern River Hockey Club during the last school holidays to participate in their local program, and to see literally a hundred kids of varying ages between five and 12 running around the hockey field was a great thing. While I am on my local sporting clubs, I could not possibly let the time go by without referring to the Gosnells footy club centenary. I hope to be a very active participant in their celebrations this year. I say to all involved with the club: congratulations on your hard work and I hope the centenary celebrations go well. Go Gozzy Hawks for this year’s football competition.

In the time I have left I would like to touch on infrastructure programs within my electorate. I am pleased to say that finally we have seen the funding approved for the upgrade of the Great Eastern Highway-Roe Highway interchange. This is an amazingly busy interchange of two very important highways—the Great Eastern Highway being the main arterial road to everything east and Roe Highway joins the Great Northern Highway being the major arterial road to the north. This is one of the busiest intersections in Western Australia with 168,000 vehicle movements. The upgrade of this intersection is well overdue. I am pleased to see that money has finally been set aside in both state and federal government budgets to ensure that this project proceeds. Having said that, I reassure those businesses in the Midvale industrial area that I have not forgotten or overlooked your concerns about access to the industrial area and I can assure you that we are certainly lobbying both state and local governments—the Shire of Mundaring—to see if we cannot overcome those issues.

On road funding, I note there has been an increase in the allocation to local councils for Roads to Recovery and for the Black Spot Program. I place on the record that I will be knocking on the door of the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, Mr Albanese, to say that I hope some of these funds get spent on Kalamunda Road, which is in urgent need of an upgrade. It is often overlooked, despite its proximity to Perth airport and its proximity to the brickworks that were established on Perth airport land by the previous government. Traffic continues to be a major issue in that area and I hope that funding will be directed towards that particular problem.

I am delighted and can inform the House that construction has started on the Kalamunda Community Cultural Centre. It is a project that was funded under the Regional Community Local Infrastructure Program and work also continues on the Swan Regional Riverside Park, also a beneficiary of that particular program.

It is important to acknowledge that the budget also included the third round of tax cuts that were promised by the Rudd government on its election. I am pleased that will tackle, at least in part, some of the pressure households are feeling with cost of living adjustments. I was most concerned—and I have previously raised this in the parliament—that Western Australians were being slugged on household fees and charges following last year’s budget and I am sad to say that again this year the Liberal state government have chosen to slug households. Electricity went up by around 23 to 25 per cent last year and is going up by a further 17 per cent this year, which is some $194 for each household. Water is up by 17 per cent, an additional $122.50. Public transport has been put up. Car licence fees have been put up. The emergency services levy has been put up. The price of gas has been put up. A conservative figure—and I say ‘conservative’ because this is what the Liberal state government itself estimates—for the impact on most households is around $367.60 per year. I make the point that, in contrast, Colin Barnett seems to have been incredibly passionate in defending big miners in the state of Western Australia. As an article in the West comments: ‘If only he had shown the same passion for protecting Western Australian families.’ To be fair to the West, I think that is a quote of the opposition leader, Eric Ripper. But I am grateful to see those tax cuts included in this year’s budget and I am sure that will make a difference to some households.

While we are talking about tax cuts, it is appropriate to acknowledge the improvements for small business. The company tax cut is for both big and large business but, in addition to that, there is the tax break for small business where sole traders, partnerships and incorporated small businesses will be able to instantly deduct the cost of assets valued at up to $5,000 in the year of their purchase. I think this is a terrific initiative. It will mean less red tape as they will no longer need to apply different depreciation schedules to assets. Every one of the 7,245 small businesses in Hasluck will get a tax break under the Rudd government’s proposal.

Time will not permit me today to talk at length about the resource super profits tax, but I could not possibly let the comments of the member for Canning pass without making some comment in reply. The package as a whole that has been put forward by the Rudd government will be judged ultimately by Western Australians on its merits and not on the basis of claims that have been made by some in their fear campaigns. The package as a whole includes refundable tax credits for royalties paid, staged reductions in company tax and the resource exploration rebate, which will benefit small to medium explorers and mining companies. I acknowledge that companies take into account a range of matters in determining where they make their investments. Tax is one part of an investment decision. So is, for example, political stability and good economic circumstances—measures on which I believe Australia leads the world. And, notwithstanding these proposed tax changes, Western Australia remains a very attractive place for capital investment.

As people have said, profit based taxes are not new in the Australian context and we already have a similar tax that applies to the petroleum resources industry—a tax that I acknowledge has a different impact level, but one that at 40 per cent has not seen a downturn in that industry. On the contrary, some of the biggest projects in Australian history have commenced under that regime, which has been in place for 20 years. It is also fair to say that not all Western Australians had an equal share in the last mining boom. I am pleased to see the benefits of this new taxing regime will actually see significant investment in infrastructure in Western Australia—infrastructure necessary to support the resource industry. (Time expired)