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Thursday, 24 May 2012
Page: 5602


Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (11:18): Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I congratulate you on your elevation to the chair. This is the first time I have spoken when you have been in the chair and I know that you will be a fine Deputy Speaker.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Thank you.

Ms HALL: I rise to support the budget that was brought down on 8 May. I would like to congratulate the Treasurer on the fine work that he has done in putting together a budget that I am proud to take to my electorate. This is a budget that delivers to Australian families and a budget that delivers to older Australians. It is a budget that will see Australia go into surplus by the end of this year. It is a budget that really hones in on the issues that are of greatest importance to the people that I represent in this parliament. It is a budget that delivers on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and that is something that is very close to my heart, as I worked for 12 years in the area of disability before coming to this place. I know how important it is for people with a disability to have the opportunity to maximise their quality of life and to be able to have opportunities that they are currently denied. I know how important it is for their families and their carers to have certainty about what is going to happen to their child when they are no longer able to care for them. I know how important it is for them to see that their child is respected and offered opportunities that other children are offered. Quite often in the past they have been denied these opportunities. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is creating a new era, an era where people with disabilities will have the opportunity to maximise their independence and to live as long as they possibly can in a situation where, maybe, they can live independently in the community, looking at their options for employment and ensuring that into the future they will have choices and opportunities that they have been denied. I really encourage the opposition to support those particular changes and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The other area that I think was particularly impressive was dental health. For a long time Australians have been denied the opportunity to have the dental health care that they need. In this House earlier this week, we debated a motion—or a bill, I think—that was put forward by the shadow health minister. I was extremely disappointed that in the overall scheme of things he brought a bill to this parliament that actually is about 37 dentists and not about providing dental health care to Australians. The chronic dental health program that is in place at the moment has benefited some people, but there are a lot of people who do not have a chronic dental health issue who are denied access to this scheme. Whilst a millionaire can get access to the chronic dental health scheme, somebody on Newstart or a pensioner who relies on their pension and enjoys reasonably good health is denied any access to dental health care. So the major commitment in this budget to dental health is something that will benefit that people I represent in this place. It means $515 million in funding which will address the immediate dental healthcare needs. All those people who have been languishing on the dental health waiting list will have a chance now to be seen a lot quicker. I checked what the current waiting time is in my electorate. People are waiting months. People come to me in my office and have told me that they have been waiting for over 12 months to get the dental care that they need. I think that is very unfair. This is addressing that issue. This is putting in place a program and funds that will address an area of real need.

There will $346 million over three years—it is going to blitz this dental health waiting list—and $78 million to help dentists relocate to regional and remote areas. While it might be a problem getting dental health care if you are on a low income in an area like mine, after 12 or 18 months you can access it. But, in some areas, you have absolutely no chance of ever being able to get that dental health assistance. I know when the Howard government was in power and the Leader of the Opposition was the health minister, we were advised that the Commonwealth's contribution to dental health was made through private health insurance. Private health insurance is something that not everybody can afford, and it is those people who cannot afford private health insurance that are the ones languishing on the dental health waiting list. These changes are going to be welcomed by everyone I represent in this parliament.

The money that has been put into the national health reform is something that has also made a big difference within my electorate. There have been big, big changes, and now with the local hospital networks it has really improved the functioning of the health system.

I was a member of the Committee on Health and Ageing in the parliament when the Blame game report was brought down. When that report was brought down it showed how it was a very convoluted system and how it needed to be reformed. The previous government did nothing about it. The Rudd and Gillard governments have embraced it and have undertaken reforms that are benefiting all Australians.

One area of health that received extra funding was the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. In the first week of June it is the National Bowel Cancer Week. During that week I will be holding a forum within my electorate. A wife of a friend of mine died of bowel cancer earlier this year. If she had had a bowel cancer screening test she would still be with us here today. She had had bowel cancer for five years by the time it was finally discovered and she was being treated for something else at the time. Also at that forum will be somebody from the Cancer Council, obviously, speaking and somebody who has survived bowel cancer.

This money over four years to expand the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program is welcomed by everyone. I was pleased to hear the minister say that in the future she is going to expand it even further. My local Rotary Club is currently gearing up to undertake its bowel screening campaign in the community, where they will go out there and get as many people to have the bowel cancer screening test. It is a really, really important initiative in this budget.

Members of the opposition have been scathing in their criticism of the schoolkids bonus. I would like to share with the opposition the fact that in my electorate it was welcomed. The parents who heard comments made by the opposition that they were going to go and waste that money on gambling and alcohol and drugs were absolutely horrified. These are parents who are buying school uniforms and books for their kids, supporting their kids in their education, and they are being accused by the opposition of going to waste this money. It is absolutely horrific that any opposition in this parliament could come out and be so disparaging of Australian families. I think they stand condemned by their actions in relation to that and I am sure the Australian people will let them know loud and clear just how important this bonus is to them in providing education for their children. The other area that I was particularly pleased with in the budget was the Living Longer, Living Better aged-care reforms. It is a massive reform to the aged-care sector. It is about delivering better access to aged-care services. It is about addressing the critical shortage in aged care. It is about allowing older people to stay in their homes for a lot longer. It is about giving support to carers. It is about addressing the national dementia epidemic. I might add here that, as you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker, the health and ageing committee is now conducting an inquiry into dementia, and I think that we will really become aware of just how important this need is.

This is a new approach to aged care. I moved a private member's motion in this House on Monday and I was absolutely horrified to hear speaker after speaker on the opposition side saying that they did not support this package, that they did not support massive reforms to the aged-care sector that would deliver great outcomes to older people in the community. They were at odds with the pensioners and senior citizens at Lake Munmorah Senior Citizens. When I attended their meeting and explained to them how the system would work, they were really very, very excited about it and they were pleased to hear that they would not be forced to sell their family home. It is a great initiative.

I was a little bit disappointed in the budget in relation to foreign aid. I would have liked us to have kept the previous goal, but the Treasurer has assured us that it is only moving the time frame out by a year. But I would have liked to have seen us uphold our former commitment in relation to foreign aid. In the area of Newstart I think that there was room to provide a little bit more support for people who are on Newstart. But, overwhelmingly, I see that this is a budget that will benefit the people I represent in this parliament.

It is a budget that has delivered many things to the people of the Shortland electorate, particularly through the programs that have been funded through this budget—for example, the Energy Efficiency Scheme that has delivered in excess of $353,000 to the Lake Macquarie Business Enterprise Centre. They are welcome initiatives that are going to benefit the people I represent in this parliament. (Time expired)