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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 5100

Mr CHEESEMAN (4:03 PM) —I take this opportunity to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 and cognate bills. I will start my speech today by talking about the efforts undertaken by the Rudd government to avoid the global financial crisis. The stimulus packages that we have put in place as a government have helped create some 225,000 jobs right around Australia. Australia is now recognised as one of the best-performing economies in the Western world and this will give the government the opportunity to build a modern tax and retirement income system, invest in renewable energy at a historic level and deliver health and hospital reforms.

This budget is responsible, with every dollar of new spending being offset over the forward estimates. This will allow the budget to return to surplus within three years. That is a tremendous achievement. This government’s stimulus allowed the Australian economy to continue to grow by 1.4 per cent while the other advanced economies were contracting by some three per cent. Australia’s unemployment was, as you might recall, forecast last year to peak at 8½ per cent but, because of the decisive action taken by this government, it peaked at 5.8 per cent.

This cannot just stop now. The events that have taken place over the last month or two in Greece are a great example of the risks that still affect many economies around the world. That is why the Rudd government have delivered this budget that will bring the Australian economy back to surplus quicker than we expected. Through the Rudd government’s budget announcements and the opposition’s reply we now have a very clear choice in 2010. On the one hand we have people with vision who will support people in regional Australia and, of course, support the people in my area of Greater Geelong and, of course, the people with that vision are the Rudd government. On the other hand we have the opposition who in this regard I believe are clueless particularly in the way they have responded to the economic crisis and to Wayne Swan’s third budget. The Rudd government have built a budget that will secure a great future, which is a clear commitment to the people within my seat in the Greater Geelong area and to people in regional Australia right throughout the nation. We have clear social commitments and we have clear industry development and job commitments.

If Tony Abbott were elected with his current policies we would see region after region devastated by inaction. For many years Geelong was referred to as a ‘Sleepy Hollow’. Under Tony Abbott’s current budget policies and if he were elected our region would be hit extremely hard. I have been involved in politics, like many other people in this place, for many years and I have never ever seen an opposition leader respond to a budget the way he has responded. His reply budget is the worst budget you could possibly imagine for regional Victoria and, of course, it is the worst opposition reply budget for country Victoria, for country Australia and for all regions.

As the local representative of Corangamite I have always tried to be positive in this place. The 2010 budget continues Labor’s strong commitment to modernise the region’s health, road and rail infrastructure and provides real help to small business and working families. Workers are getting their third tax cut in a row. The Rudd Labor government have, of course, delivered three budgets and each one has delivered tax cuts. The tax cuts in this year’s budget will see a worker who is earning, say, $50,000 a year pay some $1,750 less in income tax in the coming financial year.

Under the changes in this budget all workers will receive, with our tax reform processes, an increase to their superannuation from nine per cent to 12 per cent, which I think is really where we need to be as a society. That initiative continues Labor’s strong commitment to superannuation for working families. As you would recall, it is Labor that has continued to build superannuation for Australians. The coalition continue to do everything they can to get in the way of average Australian families securing a decent income for their retirement. On top of that we have continued to build on Labor’s very substantial reforms in the pension system. And that, I know, is something very dear to many people across this nation.

As well there are some 14,658 small businesses across Corangamite—including sole traders, partnerships and incorporated small businesses—that will be able to receive substantial tax cuts when they purchase assets up to $5,000 because of the reform agenda that this government has. Small business will also be able to get a company tax cut with the measures, actions and policies of this government.

The Rudd government’s budget bills are terrific for local families and will help my region of Greater Geelong keep its economy strong. The federal budget has also maintained the momentum of investment in the region’s infrastructure, including the allocation of some $37 million for rail upgrades to the port of Geelong and on the Melbourne to Adelaide rail line, helping important parts of our economy throughout south-west Victoria, particularly our farming communities. Further to that, an $11 million federal contribution has been made to continue the work required to duplicate the Princes Highway. This has been added to the $110 million Victorian contribution. That was a very significant election announcement that we made in 2010.

We are also investing some $4.4 million in the G21 region with the Roads to Recovery program. There is a $2.2 million contribution this financial year to Geelong Ring Road stage 4B, which is the seamless connection between the Geelong Ring Road and Princes Highway West. We are continuing the investments to modernise our schools across the region. The federal government’s investments are modernising our road and rail infrastructure. Projects, such as the Geelong Ring Road, the Princes Highway duplication and the port of Geelong have all continued to benefit from the Rudd government.

Greater Geelong is also perfectly positioned to take advantage of our major new national health initiatives. The $523 million national investment in training and support for Australian nurses is perfect for Deakin University’s nurse training program and for our reputation for the highest quality nurse training facilities anywhere across this nation. Our medical school will benefit from increased GP training funds to train the nation’s future doctors. Similarly, I believe our region can do very well out of the $467 million allocated to modernise electronic health and hospital records, with Geelong Hospital and Barwon Health seen as a model for the rest of the nation. Our region will be able to pitch for funds to further develop our systems, which I believe will lead the rest of Australia.

In short, this budget continues the transformation of our region that has been happening under the Rudd government. We are now miles away from the days of the Howard government when our region always got nothing and languished for many years. We are now one of the best performing regional economies, thanks to the efforts of the Rudd government to support these changes. Our unemployment levels have been consistently below the state and national averages—averaging some five per cent. Under this budget and the previous Rudd government budget we have gone from a regional economy that had often been the victim to a regional economy that is an exemplar. I am very proud of the Rudd government’s budget and our record investment in this region. I have worked very hard with our communities to deliver this.

I would now like to turn to the opposition’s budget reply. This was one of the most extraordinary events that I have witnessed anywhere. If it were ever implemented, it would be a calamity for my region and many regions like mine. We see a list of things that would not happen in my region if that went ahead. Based on the opposition’s budget reply and the shadow spokesman on finance’s hit list, our region would be hit very hard. My region has worked very hard to secure funds for the Geelong Ring Road, but that project would be terminated. The Princes Highway duplication would stop. Both of these projects are central to our economic development across broader Geelong.

The building of trades training schools around the region would be abandoned, with $12 million worth of investment being lost to our region. There would be no future new GP superclinics built across our region, damaging the opportunity for our people to be able to access health care.

Ford, of course, is a mainstay of our regional economy and has been so for many years. It has been announced that Ford will receive up to $43 million under the Green Car Innovation Fund to build more fuel efficient cars. That would be axed. Non-investment into broadband infrastructure would deny our region perhaps up to $32 million to help strengthen broadband. Over $8 million of industry facilitation funding for renewable energy would also be lost to an industry that has enormous potential across western Victoria. We could also reasonably expect investments in e-health which would help support our region to be cut or abandoned.

Industry has been very important for our region and will continue to be so. That is why the Rudd government is taking decisive action to help support industry in our region. There is a whole raft of other things that would not go ahead if there were a future coalition government. Tax for small business would not go down; in fact, it would go up. Some $5 million in school upgrades would be lost. This would not be good for my region.

The immediate impact would be, perhaps, somewhere in the vicinity of $250 million if an Abbott government were elected. The impact would see the loss of hundreds of jobs almost immediately; but even more importantly, the long-term impacts would be far greater to our region. Private sector investment lost to the renewable energy sector, Ford and many other programs would be an absolute catastrophe for our region. The long-term impact would be the loss of millions of dollars of future investment across our region—perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars.

The combined axing of the Renewable Energy Fund and other programs would be devastating to our region. As we speak, there is some $4 billion of private sector investment pending in the renewable energy sector across our region. With the announcement made by the Victorian Liberals, many of these investments would not go ahead. It is clear that the Abbott razor gang which looked at these issues did not have an eye for regional Australian or the Greater Geelong area. The Rudd government continues to build on the very substantial investments that we have made to our region. Our economy is strong, but continues to need support from the Rudd government to ensure that we can continue to modernise.

One of the very substantial announcements that has recently been made within my region is on the need to create and build an additional hospital in southern Geelong. Under our healthcare reform, if it is a state priority of course, the federal government’s health and hospital reform will play a substantial role in supporting our community’s need for an additional hospital. Under the Rudd government, we will continue to build our health and hospital services and our education services across our region. What we do know is that under an Abbott government our region will be gutted. I commend the bills to the House.