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Thursday, 30 May 2013
Page: 4648

Ms HALL (Shortland) (10:20): I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014 and cognate bills—what I think is a very responsible budget. Unlike the previous speaker, I will refer to facts and highlight my contribution to this debate based on sound data. I will not be making ad hoc statements that cannot be confirmed. I will not be accusing members on the other side of things that are totally irrelevant to the debate. Rather, I will be concentrating on what this budget delivers to Australia.

When I say it is a responsible budget, I mean it is a budget for our time. It is a budget that offsets all spending with savings. It is a budget that is not about throwing money at any particular group within the community. It is not a pre-election budget where there is a war chest and every person in Australia is being given some sort of bonus. Rather, it is a responsible budget that is designed to maintain our economy.

When we look at the performance of the Australian economy the one thing that is a standout is the fact that we have a gold-plated AAA rating, where every rating agency had given Australia a AAA rating. This is virtually unheard of. When we talk about the handling of the economy by the current government, it cannot be questioned in any way. Look at the way Australia performed during the global financial crisis; we performed better than any other developed country. The facts are on the table. Prior to the global financial crisis Australia had the 15th largest economy in the world; it now has the 12th largest economy in the world. This shows constant growth and that Australia is performing exceptionally well. Real GDP growth of 2¾ per cent has been predicted for 2014 and 2015, which will continue this strong performance of our economy. By mid-2015 our economy will be 22 per cent bigger than it was before the global financial crisis. These are great figures, great predictions, and every bit of data is backed up by the Treasury. This is not just ad hoc; the Treasury is not shooting off at the mouth as other people have. Rather, it is talking about delivering to Australia one of the strongest economies in the world.

The expenditure in the budget that I find particularly important is the spending on the NDIS. I have been a long-time supporter of the NDIS. My motivation for becoming a member of parliament was to see that people with disabilities could have greater opportunities—they could access employment and many of the things that other people in our society can access. I worked in disability for many years and I could see the barriers that existed for people to be able to just enjoy the basics of life—the things that every other person can enjoy. What the NDIS will do is deliver opportunities to people with disabilities in Australia. I have worked with people over the years who have been unable to get a wheelchair, to access employment and to even get a driver's licence. The NDIS will improve their opportunities to achieve these goals. Maybe not everyone can get a driver's licence but there are people with a disability who could get their driver's licence but have been denied the opportunity because they need extra assistance, and now that will be provided to them through the NDIS.

I am particularly pleased about the fact that the NDIS has been funded in this budget, because one of the trials is in the Hunter. This will mean that people with a disability whom I represent will be able to access the special assistance that will be delivered through the NDIS. In addition, it will be great for parents and carers. I am sure that every member of this House has been approached by a parent of a child with a disability who has expressed their great fear about what was going to happen when they were no longer here. With the NDIS, that will disappear. Funding will be there. The person with a disability can have the expectation that they will be cared for, that they will have opportunities and that they will have a life which is a full life. The NDIS, I believe, is watershed, groundbreaking legislation that really shows Australia as an inclusive society, a caring society. The increase in the Medicare levy has been well received within my electorate. Other funding measures have been detailed in the budget papers that were presented.

Another issue which I would like to touch on is how education and the investment it also has the ability to change the face of Australia. Currently, we have slipped in ranking as far as the education we provide to our young people. Without education and good educational achievement there will be impacts on every aspect of our global economic performance. If you do not have the basics, if you do not get a good education when you are young, you will not have the basics to get the skills and the training that are needed for the jobs that will be available in this 21st century. Education is the key to success in life and, without education and without our being an educated country, we will not achieve our potential.

This budget is investing $9.8 billion in new school funding.

Whilst I have been critical of the O'Farrell government, I would like to congratulate Barry O'Farrell on signing the agreement with the Commonwealth. You have heard it! I am congratulating Barry O'Farrell. He has put the benefit of the people of New South Wales ahead of playing party politics. He knows that this will deliver to the students of New South Wales, it will deliver jobs to New South Wales and it will deliver to the New South Wales economy long into the future. He knows that the investment in school funding is imperative, and he knows that the New South Wales schools have been starved of funding under the current model and therefore he has signed and embraced the funding and investment in school education. So, yes, I congratulate Barry O'Farrell.

I would like to quickly touch on the NBN. There has been agreement to roll that out into the majority of Shortland electorate, and that is something that I know my constituents really value. They want to have fibre to the home; they do not want to have fibre to the node and then copper to the home. They do not want to be in a situation where they are relying on obsolete technology to connect their homes. We all know that there are a lot of problems with copper: we all know that it will deliver a second-class NBN, or second-class broadband connection. The people of Shortland electorate do not want that. They want the NBN. The only complaint that I get is, 'Why can't we have today?' People want it, and they want it as soon as possible. The majority of Shortland electorate stands to benefit from the NBN.

What is this budget about? What is the government about? It is about supporting jobs and growth; it is about investing in schools and classrooms, to make us a smarter country; and it is about being fairer. As I mentioned, fairness is about making sure that each and every child can benefit from a quality education, and fairness is about ensuring that people with disability do not continue to be treated as second-class citizens.

Shortland electorate is an older electorate, and by 'older electorate' I mean it is an electorate that is probably the 10th oldest in the country when 'oldest' is calculated according to people over the age of 65. People in the electorate will stand to benefit enormously from the aged-care reforms. Those mean more packages; more help in their homes—being able to stay in their homes longer; they will not have to sell their homes; and it means there will be quality aged-care available for them, and the certainty of knowing that as they continue to age.

There is more money to the councils; more has been delivered to Black Spot funding; the Paid Parental Leave scheme has been accessed by a number of families within the electorate; and the 'dads and partner pay'. That is in stark contrast to the very elitist paid parental leave that is being floated by the opposition. That is a scheme that will benefit those who are already in a very strong position at the expense of those who struggle and really look to the government for support.

That is the way with superannuation and that is the way with so many things. When it comes to looking after the whole of society there is only one choice, and that is this government: the Labor Party. We can deliver to the people of Australia a fair society, a society where there is a high degree of equality and were each and every person is valued.

I will quickly touch on the fact that, if the opposition are in government after September, the schoolkids bonus will go. The schoolkids bonus benefits so many people within the Shortland electorate, and families contact me regularly asking about when the next instalment is going to be—and, yes, there will be another instalment on 1 July, and families in Shortland will benefit once again.

This budget is about fairness. It is a responsible budget that will continue to deliver to the people of Australia and to the people of Shortland.