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Tuesday, 1 June 2010
Page: 4864

Ms COLLINS (6:07 PM) —I rise this evening in support of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2010-2011 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011. What we do know about this budget is that it shows the responsible economic management of this government. We will be halving the peak debt and getting the budget back into the black in three years, which is three years early. We have been talking about our early and decisive action in light of the global financial crisis, which has put us in this position where we are able to get the budget back in the black in three years. Our budget also includes the following really important initiatives: new investments in health and hospitals; new investments in skills, training and infrastructure; the Renewable Energy Future Fund to help tackle climate change; tax cuts and less red tape for small business; better superannuation; tax breaks on interest and a boost to national savings; a standard deduction to make tax time easier for working families; a third round of tax cuts for low-income earners, families and seniors; more money to protect our troops and our borders; as well as returning the budget to surplus three years ahead of schedule.

These tax cuts are really important and the superannuation changes are important. We need to not lose sight of the impact the tax breaks we have delivered for the third year in a row—on time every time—are having on ordinary working men and women, seniors and low-income earners in our electorates. We committed to them in the 2007 election and I certainly know that people in my electorate are looking forward to getting their tax cuts on 1 July. We also have our tax cut of two per cent for small businesses, which is what we need, we believe, to allow small businesses to thrive and create more employment opportunities for people in our local communities. The superannuation guarantee, which 8.4 million workers are expected to benefit from—that is, 90 per cent of all full-time workers—will increase the nine per cent to 12 per cent over time. That will increase Australia’s superannuation savings by over $85 billion in 10 years. That is a very significant boost to retirement savings for Australian working families. We have all heard the example of someone aged 30 who will have an extra $100,000 on retirement due to these changes in superannuation.

I want to talk particularly about health because health has certainly been a big issue in my home state of Tasmania. This budget has the government investing around $7.3 billion over five years to create the National Health and Hospitals Network, which is going to provide $417 million for improved after-hours access to GP and primary care services, supported by Medicare Locals; and $355 million to deliver 23 new GP superclinics. I was fortunate enough to get a GP superclinic in my electorate in the first round. Just last Saturday the tenderer for the construction phase of that GP superclinic was announced. It is being built in conjunction with the state government as an integrated care centre. It will mean over $18 million in new, better facilities in the local community near my electorate office, and I know that the local community is very pleased about that investment. That $355 million will also go towards upgrading around 425 GP and primary healthcare clinics across the country. There will be a competitive bid process for existing GP services to upgrade their facilities and technology.

This budget includes a $523 million investment to train and support Australia’s nurses. We all know the vital role that nurses play in our health and hospital system. From travelling around and visiting hospitals that service my electorate and talking to nurses, I know that they are very pleased about this. We all know that the ANF, the Australian Nursing Federation, is very pleased with this investment and has said that it is long overdue.

The budget also includes $467 million to modernise our health and hospital system through personally controlled individual electronic health records for every Australian from 1 July 2012. We have heard that this commitment will be scrapped should the coalition get elected to government. It is really important that this particular measure is not scrapped. We have heard GPs and medical professionals around the country saying that it will save money and improve efficiency in our health system. How can people say that cutting this out of the budget is going to save money when it will improve efficiency and improve savings into the future? I really think it shows short-sightedness and a lack of understanding of our health system to think that cutting this money out is going to be beneficial to the health system.

Medicare Locals is about allowing people access to after-hours GP services. As a parent of small children, I know that children can often require medical attention after hours. When you have to go to the local hospital after hours, you can wait for quite some time. It is really important that families and older people, who may have minor injuries or ailments, are able to access a GP after hours.

We are investing heavily in health. We are investing in more GP training places, more junior doctors and more specialists. This will take some time to come on board but it shows that we are looking at the whole health system as an integrated system. We are looking at funding the infrastructure now. We are looking at funding the nurses, the doctors and the specialists that are required to fix the system after 12 years of neglect. When Tony Abbott was health minister, he ripped a billion dollars out of the health system. We have heard that, in his alternative budget, he intends to cut $800 million out of what we have committed to health. As I said before, that shows a complete lack of understanding of the health system and how it works.

This government is also investing in skills and training, with a $661 million investment to increase our skills base in our workforce and ensure that the training system is responsive to the needs of our local communities. Under Skills for Recovery there will be 39,000 training places. There will also be an extension of the Kickstart initiative. I was pleased to see in my electorate a large increase in the number of apprentices under the Apprentice Kickstart program. I am certainly talking to small businesses and local communities in my electorate about that extension, and I know that some of those businesses are keen to put on apprentices under the extension. Under A Training System for the Future, $242 million will be provided over four years to work with the states to deliver the national entitlement to a training place for young people under the age of 25. That will be a very important initiative to ensure our younger Australians are able to find training places and improve their work skills into the future.

We have seen a lot of commitment from this government. I talked earlier about small business and the small-business tax break. But we are doing more for small business. Sole traders, partnerships and incorporated small businesses will be able to instantly deduct the cost of assets valued at up to $5,000. For example, a restaurant or a cafe that purchases something new at a cost of $4,000 can get an immediate tax deduction of that $4,000 rather than the usual $600 in the first year and so on. We saw how quickly small businesses took up the small-business tax rebate during the global financial crisis and the government’s initiatives there, so I am sure small businesses will also be keen to take up this tax break. We have also talked about cutting the company tax rate.

When those opposite talk about the budget and about the deficit, they seem to have forgotten that the global financial crisis ever happened. It is like they are in a cocoon and nobody mentions it. Last year in this place I spoke on the budget bills and even then they tried to pretend that the global financial crisis had not occurred. We all know that it actually did occur and we all know that Europe is still in trouble when it comes to issues of sovereign debt. We know that Australia has outperformed most of the other OECD countries. In fact, the OECD just last week revised Australia’s growth forecast and expects our GDP to grow by 3.2 per cent in 2010 and by up to 3.6 per cent in 2011. Australia is one of the strongest economies of all the OECD countries, and it is something that those opposite need to accept is due to our stimulus package and our early and decisive action in the face of the global financial crisis.

The OECD also expects Australia’s unemployment rate to fall to 4.8 per cent by the end of 2011. To me it is good news that Australia’s unemployment rate will fall. To me it is good news that the stimulus package saved 200,000 Australians from being unemployed. But those opposite seem to have forgotten that this happened. They seem to be unhappy with the fact that our stimulus packages were successful and what we did with the economy. Australia has one of the lowest levels of net debt. I would like to table a graph—

Mr Hawke —Which government delivered that?

Ms COLLINS —It was our government, the Rudd Labor government that delivered that.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Ms S Bird)—Are you seeking leave to table that?

Ms COLLINS —I seek leave to table that graph?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Is leave granted?

Leave not granted.

Ms COLLINS —Okay, I will keep going. I also have a graph that shows the financial position of the Australian economy compared to other economies in terms of the percentage of GDP. I seek leave to table that graph.

Leave granted.

Ms COLLINS —Thank you. That stimulus package certainly worked. As I go around my electorate and talk to small and large businesses and to contractors that are building the social housing in my electorate, they are all saying that the stimulus funding was really important in helping them keep their workers on and in providing ongoing work for them. We need to continue to roll out this stimulus to its completion. The stimulus was designed to peak and then to taper off and that is what it is doing. It is working well in local communities.

I want to touch on some of the things that are happening in my electorate that are in this budget and also some which were funded through the stimulus. It is quite an extensive list. The Kingston bypass is underway in my electorate. Major construction is underway now as we speak. I know that the local community and the Kingston bypass action group are really pleased to see that construction, after 12 years of inaction from those on the other side. It was promised by the Howard government late in the 2007 election and was also committed to by Labor. But it is the Rudd Labor government that have actually gotten on with building this bypass. Those opposite kept promising but we are the ones actually delivering on the ground. I think that is really an important distinction.

We have the Huon Valley regional water scheme, which we hope to be launching in just a few weeks. We have the South East Tasmania Recycled Water Scheme, which is well and truly underway. We have my GP superclinic, which I talked about earlier. We have our green TEA environmental audit program, which has been successful. It was a pilot program for a year and they are looking at extending that now and making it self-sustaining—that is a fantastic program. We have the redevelopment of the Dennes Point community centre, the Cygnet gymnasium, the Kingborough Lions United Soccer Club, the installation of some nets at the Rokeby Cricket Club and the Port Huon Sports Centre, which I visited just recently to see how the $10,000 worth of sports equipment is being used. They all received funds. We have, obviously, the community infrastructure program, which is supporting a lot of smaller community local government sporting facilities and recreational facilities.

Just a few weeks ago I opened the Lymington Walkway at Cygnet in my electorate. We have some defence housing, some social housing and of course the Building the Education Revolution projects in my electorate. I have already been to quite a few openings, and we have some coming up. One which I am particularly looking forward to in just a few weeks is at my children’s school, where they have had an extension to their GP room and library. My son is actually being educated in one of the new classrooms, and I can certainly tell you that the parents at that school do not believe it has been a waste of money at all and are very pleased with their new facilities.

As you can see, there has been a lot of investment and activity in local communities in my electorate of Franklin, as there has been in other electorates around the country. Certainly we have had our fair share of these projects and they are really going down well with the local businesses. The construction industry in my electorate has been doing a great job of delivering these projects on the ground.

One of the things that I am hearing from local businesses is that they are concerned about the economic unrest in Europe and about what might happen should the stimulus funding be withdrawn. They are also concerned about what might happen should an Abbott government get elected. One of the things that they are particularly concerned about in Tasmania is the national broadband rollout. Minister Conroy was in Tasmania today at Midway Point with an announcement in relation to the National Broadband Network rollout. We have people in Tasmania who are extraordinarily concerned that the National Broadband Network rollout will be ceased under an Abbott government. The local community in the 10 suburbs in my electorate that are expecting to get the rollout in stage 3 of the project in Tasmania are very concerned indeed about the National Broadband Network rollout.

The rollout is currently supporting quite a few jobs in Tasmania, and in the next few years it is expected to support thousands more. It is really critical for the Tasmanian economy in terms of jobs now, and obviously in terms of technology and jobs for the future it is really important for Tasmania. I know that Tasmanian businesses, schools, hospitals and mums and dads are concerned about whether or not the National Broadband Network will reach them under an Abbott government, should they get in. It is causing a great lot of concern in my local community.

We also have great unrest in my local community about Abbott’s proposed cuts to the trade training centres. My local community in Huonville and the Huon Valley is down for a round 2 trade training centre of $6.5 million. I talked to people in my local community and to the principal of the school last week and they are very concerned about their trade training centre. They are very concerned that those opposite do not understand how important the trade training centre is to their local community, and they are particularly concerned because this trade training centre was going to incorporate aquaculture. In Tasmania at present there are no students training in aquaculture. In my electorate we have two of the largest aquaculture businesses in Tasmania with Huon Aquaculture and Tassal, who are two very large salmon producers and salmon growers. To not have local young people in the community train in this trade is quite a significant impediment to future workforce needs of those large companies.

I think it is short sighted of those opposite to say that they are going to cut the trade training centres. I would particularly ask them to reconsider cutting the trade training centre in the Huon Valley. I know that the Huon Valley community are very concerned about their trade training centre and they have asked me what they can do about it. I am looking into that to see what we can do for the Huon Valley community to ensure that their trade training centre will be built no matter what, because that is what they are after and that is what they deserve.

I put a lot of time and effort into supporting this application, talking to the local community and talking to the schools in that community about why this trade training centre was needed. I know that the state government also did a lot of work putting together the submission for this trade training centre facility. It is much needed by the local community.

I also want to talk briefly about the computers in schools rollout. In schools that I have visited in my electorate, the computers in schools program has been very well received, although some schools are yet to receive their full complement. They are saying: ‘What will happen? Won’t we get our computers? The schools next to us have all their computers. Won’t we get our fair share of computers?’ I think that those opposite need to revisit their desire to cut this program. It is very popular in schools. The students want those computers and they need them to deal with current technologies and to keep up with what is happening in society. Having access to that type of technology is really important for some of these students.

We heard in the House just yesterday from Minister Gillard about the importance of computers to some students in particular who require them to be able to produce work. I think it is really important and those opposite are completely underestimating the value of the computers in schools program. We also heard about the cuts to the Productivity Places Programs. The cuts just go on and on. They want to cut the Renewable Energy Future Fund and Green Start. They want to cancel the smarter schools teacher quality program. I talked about the GP superclinics and e-health. There is just so much that they want to cut, and it is all because they want to support the mining companies rather than wanting to support Australians getting a fairer share of superprofits from mining companies. I think we really should be explaining to all Australians why they deserve their fairer share. I think that those opposite are again underestimating Australians and their views on whether or not mining companies can afford to contribute more to Australian society and whether it is fairer that they should. I think we need to start having a truthful debate from those opposite about what is actually going on here. These campaigns, particularly some of the comments from the other side, are not completely honest. (Time expired)