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Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Page: 4392

Mrs ELLIOT (RichmondParliamentary Secretary for Trade) (20:21): I am very pleased to be speaking on these appropriation bills because this year's federal budget is a strong nation-building budget that continues to build upon this government's commitment to deliver for all Australians. It is a budget that supports a strong economy for all Australians and it is getting us back to surplus on time and as planned. It is a budget that invests in training, gets more Australians in jobs and drives opportunities for all Australians. Whilst many countries around the world are still dealing with the impact of the GFC, Australia's economy is strong and unemployment is low.

This budget builds upon the previous Labor government budgets, when the government took decisive and immediate policy action to protect jobs from the impacts of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression. The centrepiece of this response, the $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan, helped support jobs and invested in future long-term economic growth. The fact is that we would not be in this position if it were not for the very decisive actions of the Labor government during the crisis—actions that saved Australia from the recession during the GFC. The $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan was designed to provide a boost to the economy at a time when the global economic outlook was rapidly deteriorating, as well as investing in Australia's future.

The plan made critical investments in rural, regional and urban infrastructure and made Australia one of the only advanced economies in the world to avoid economic recession. These actions had a major impact on jobs and infrastructure development in my electorate of Richmond. In fact, the Building the Education Revolution has delivered more than $115 million for over 200 projects in 90 local schools. In total for Richmond, the Gillard government has provided more than $133 million through this economic stimulus plan for 464 projects to support jobs and improve local infrastructure. This has made a massive difference to the north coast in keeping people in jobs and providing really important infrastructure right across the area. The fact is that more than 750,000 Australians are in jobs today than when the government took office, in stark contrast to the 30 million jobs that were lost across the globe during the aftermath of the GFC.

In fact the 2011-12 budget further builds on Australia's strong economic record, with a continued focus on jobs, skills and training, and with investments in health, education, infrastructure, roads and regional development. The budget recognises that training our bigger workforce is vital for the strength of our economy and the living standards within our community. I am very pleased that this budget includes new measures to help with the cost-of-living pressures, particularly for Australians on low incomes and families with kids at school. We are making very important changes to the family payments system to make them fairer, to make them simpler and of course to ensure long-term sustainability of the family payments system. This will have a major impact upon many families in Richmond, particularly increasing by up to $4,200 the annual rate of family tax benefit A. (Quorum formed)

I am pleased to continue to tell you about the great initiatives delivered by this government in this budget. There is so much to go through. I have mentioned family tax benefit A, under which payments will be increasing by up to $4,200 to help parents keep their teenagers in school or vocational training. That is vitally important. We are also extending the education tax refund and giving parents a choice to have their childcare rebate paid fortnightly, which will cut down on upfront costs. This budget also has a lot of focus on education and training. We know that investing in our productive capacity must include strengthening our skills base and education system. The budget recognises that. It will drive opportunities by these investments. The Australian government are providing an additional $1.2 billion to the Australian Apprenticeship Incentives Program to develop a more skilled Australian workforce.

This budget builds on the government's commitment to ensure all schools provide a quality education. It has delivered $876 million for initiatives that will help ensure that our kids continue to have access to a world-class education system. Those measures include providing $200 million in funding for the More Support for Students with Disabilities initiative, which will benefit students, teachers and their families through many new services. More schools will now have access to chaplains under the $222 million boost to the popular National School Chaplaincy Program. This is in addition to the 2,700 chaplains already operating in our schools. In fact, in the electorate of Richmond 14 schools already employ chaplains, who play a vital role in supporting our children. Another great initiative is the Teach Next program, which has received $18 million over four years to help create postgraduate training pathways for teachers, specifically targeting maths and science. This all builds on the Labor government's many commitments to improving our education system. As I mentioned, in my electorate the BER has delivered more than $115 million for over 200 projects in 90 schools, and I have seen firsthand the great impact this has upon our kids in terms of their being able to access 21st century education systems. We have taken this action because we are committed to providing every student with a world-class education.

The budget builds upon our support for seniors. In previous budgets, we have delivered pension increases for our seniors, and what a vital difference that makes to older Australians right across the country. This budget includes a new work bonus for pensioners, so they can now keep more of their pension whilst working part time. There is $30 million to help mature age workers formalise their trade skills, and there is continuing support for Broadband for Seniors, which is vitally important.

Rural and regional Australia is critical to the Australian economy, generating 60 per cent of our export income and driving Australia's resource and agricultural industries. This budget continues to provide record investment in rural and regional areas. Because we have such a strong commitment, we are delivering over $4.3 billion in new investments. We have further funding to Regional Development Australia to increase the great role they play. And the budget provides a further $20.3 million to strengthen our Regional Development Australia network over the next four years, in addition to our previous funding for RDAs.

I would also like to touch on the issue of roads funding. This government's actions to improve the Pacific Highway have greatly improved the lives of people on the North Coast. The vision of a better, safer and fully duplicated Pacific Highway is much closer to becoming a reality, with the Gillard government prepared to increase our investment in this road by $1 billion as part of this budget. This is vitally important. Our funding for the Pacific Highway needs to be matched by the New South Wales government. It is vitally important they liaise with us and match that funding to make sure we have a shared commitment to completing that highway.

The additional funding contained in the budget brings the total federal investment in the Pacific Highway under the Gillard government to a record $4.1 billion over seven years. This is compared to the former Howard government's record of just $1.3 billion over 12 years. When I look at my electorate, I can see firsthand the difference this has made, particularly the upgrade and realignment of the road at Banora Point, the Sexton Hill upgrade. The federal contribution is $347 million. That is due to be completed in 2012, and it will make a huge difference to be the local community.

Also, work will be starting on the duplication of the road between Tintenbar and Ewingsdale during the coming financial year. The federal contribution is $566 million. This will make a major difference to the North Coast, and it shows how committed the Labor government is to improving the Pacific Highway. As I say, we need to have that funding matched by the New South Wales government.

We are also making significant investments in health. (Quorum formed)

That is the second time the opposition have tried to shut me down while I have been speaking about what we have delivered in this budget—what we have delivered for regional Australia, what we have delivered for education, what we have delivered for health, what we have delivered for roads, what we have delivered right across this country and the difference it is making to families, to seniors and to all areas across Australia. Twice they did not want to hear it. They did not want to hear about the improvements that we are making in people's lives with our massive investments in all these vital areas. They are not interested, and twice they have tried to shut it down.

The fact is that this budget and previous Labor budgets have made a real difference and had a positive impact on the lives of Australians, and this budget builds upon that by providing economic security for all Australians across all areas. It is disgraceful, particularly when I was talking about regional development, that they tried to shut me down. They do not understand regions. They do not understand what is important. It is the Labor government that is investing in our regions, in infrastructure and roads, and providing for them. (Time expired.)