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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4094

Mr WYATT (Hasluck) (18:04): I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Gillard government's Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012 and cognate bills proposed by the Labor government as part of the 2011-12 federal budget. I would like to start by talking about the bedrock of this country—the family. The coalition supports smaller government in Australia, government which trusts its people with the ability to manage their own affairs, choose where they want to live and work and where to send their children to school.

The coalition supports choice and allowing the economic and social flexibility for Australian families to better their own situation through hard work, commitment and a fair go. Sadly, these are opportunities and visions not shared by the Gillard government with its bureaucratic and centralised approach to governance. Families must be given support by the government to grow and not be suffocated through higher taxes. Australian families are forgotten by this wasteful and reckless spending. Families in Hasluck know that, since Labor was elected, electricity prices are up 51 per cent, gas prices are up 30 per cent, water prices are up 46 per cent, education costs have risen 24 per cent, health costs have risen 20 per cent, rent costs have risen 21 per cent and grocery prices are up 14 per cent.

A $26 a tonne carbon tax will add 25 per cent more to electricity bills and 6.5 cents a litre more to fuel bills, which are already skyrocketing. But who knows what the final price on carbon will be? The real power behind the government, the Greens, are touting figures of $40 and $50 a tonne and as late as last week Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens signalled the price should be $100 a tonne.

The Australian public and business sector needs consistency and is not getting it. The family tax benefit freeze on indexation will also hit Hasluck families hard. A family with two children and a stay-at-home parent stand to lose up to $147 worth of benefits, while a family with both parents working will be $116 worse off. Families struggling to make ends meet on an income of $45,000 will also be hit. To quote directly from the Australiannewspaper on Thursday, 12 May:

Unlike the changes to family tax benefit thresholds, this savings measure will hit even the lowest-income families.

This short-sighted measure encapsulates the pain Hasluck families will have to suffer due to the poor fiscal management of the Gillard government. In only four budgets, federal Labor has turned a $20 billion surplus into a $50 billion deficit and $70 billion in net assets into $107 billion of debt. This government is still borrowing $135 million every single day.

Hasluck is in desperate need of infrastructure, health and social projects to make its economy more productive and its streets safer and to give its people better access to health services. Just one day of borrowing by this reckless government would alleviate many of these issues. For example, the Perth to Darwin Highway in the north of Hasluck has been identified by all of the area's state politicians and infrastructure experts as being of critical need to the state's transport infrastructure. Heavy haulage transport taking machinery and goods to the north, which is fuelling our resources boom, is being woefully neglected by this government. Trucks are forced to operate within a curfew; gigantic mining trucks being transported up north are fighting for space on a rural road with holiday-makers trying to visit the Swan Valley. It is a serious accident waiting to happen. Family cars trying to turn off at a winery have road trains bearing down on them. Visitor numbers are suffering.

Instead of putting $10 million towards a tourism campaign to boost this area, Labor gave $10 million to trade unions to 'provide tailored information and education resources to their membership'. The Gillard government's budget relies almost exclusively on the mining industry, yet has done nothing to improve logistical routes for it in the south of the state. Stage 1 of this project is desperately needed and Labor is fully aware of this situation. Three days of Labor borrowing, over $400 million, is all that is needed to make stage 1 a reality, a reality that would have a massive impact on business and tourism and could save lives unnecessarily at risk from this treacherous section of road.

Other issues of infrastructure are the need for an improved Roe Highway and Berkshire Road interchange. Heavy haulage barrels down the Roe Highway before it gets to the area of the planned Perth to Darwin Highway. The Shire of Kalamunda is so frustrated that it is taking the step of writing to ministers for action. Once again, this is not a new problem. Shire President Don McKechnie calls it a 'dangerous intersection' that cannot be funded under the black spot program due to the cost. The WA Department of Main Roads put the funds needed to start work at roughly $11 million. Just two hours of Labor's borrowing would fix this terrible intersection—just two hours. Think about that for a minute. I ask those opposite to try and explain this situation honestly to the Australian taxpayer and to the people of my electorate. They deserve better.

It is not just roads either; Hasluck is in desperate need of parks and recreation facilities. The three local governments—the City of Gosnells, the City of Swan and the Shire of Kalamunda—have all expressed to me their urgent need for funding towards their projects. The local playgrounds at parks throughout Hasluck need an urgent upgrade. I was shocked to discover during the election campaign several parks which regularly had needles, bottles and smashed glass hidden in the sand. Residents have taken it upon themselves to keep these parks clean, but there is so much more to be done. For example, the community of Wattle Grove needs funding for parks and open space. The Shire of Kalamunda has impressive plans for the area but lacks the funding to see it realised in the next financial year. The residents of Hasluck should not have to put up with a lack of recreation facilities for themselves and their families, and the government needs to take action in this key area.

I am disappointed. Nearly all of the commitments I made to the electorate before the election will go unfulfilled in this budget. Labor has not put any money into the solar towns program for Forrestfield, which a coalition government would have put $300,000 towards. I am disappointed that the Kalamunda Districts Rugby Union Club renovation and expansion will not get the $1 million to make it a reality. I am equally disappointed that the Machinery Preservation Club will not receive the $450,000 needed for new premises and funds for its national rally. I am, however, pleased to see $1.2 million for the road link between Elmore Way and Kalamunda Road in High Wycombe, which would have received this same amount if the coalition were in government, under a commitment I made prior to the election. Likewise, the Gateway WA project will also receive needed funding to alleviate traffic and issues of accessibility.

The Gillard government is spending well over $1 billion of the people's money next year to house and treat asylum seekers that have flooded to this country under Labor's failed border protection policy. In the electorate of Hasluck, we have asylum seekers being housed in a local caravan park. The cost of all this alternative housing is adding up and this is reflected in the budget. A solution to this issue needs to be urgently found, and a deal with Malaysia will not fix the government's problems.

Let me turn to education, an area close to my heart and one that I have considerable experience in. Our young people are in desperate need of federal leadership on this issue and are sadly neglected by the Labor government. Schools across this great nation are forced to go cap in hand to P&Cs to find funds for the most basic of services. Labor's budget shows it is going horribly wrong in this portfolio and lurching from one crisis to the next.

The budget reveals a blow-out to the Computers in Schools program, with the total cost now coming to $2.4 billion. Think about that sum of money for a moment. Two point four billion dollars is $110 per person in Australia. When you break that figure down further, into the number of working Australians, it is well in excess of $200 per person across this country. Originally, $1 billion was set aside to give every year 9 to year 12 student a computer at school, and the government has still only delivered just over 400,000 of the proposed one million computers. Just last year, only 1,476 of the required 5,902 computers were delivered in Hasluck. That means that 4,426 year 9 to year 12 students in my electorate are missing out.

Couple this with the government's freezing of the trades training centres for every school until 2015-16, according to this budget. Hasluck relies on trade training centres to offer its young people an alternative pathway to university and to ensure we maintain the domestic capacity to produce skilled workers. But this government is screaming for more skilled people in this country to keep our economy strong and then does this. Mr Christopher Pyne, the shadow minister for education, said:

I didn't think the rollout of this program could possibly go any slower. After three-and-a-half years only 70 trade training centres are operational out of a promised 2,650 and now a freeze will mean further delays. Remember, this policy was the centrepiece of the education programs announced by Labor in 2007. The so-called education revolution was going to build a trades training centre for every high school.

These are damning words for a poorly managed portfolio under the Gillard government.

Hasluck is in desperate need of more training and skilling opportunities not only for students but also for those who wish to reskill themselves to enter the workforce. I have met a number of constituents who have hit unnecessary barriers to accessing training opportunities. We should be funding real and achievable programs to utilise our entire population to provide the workforce for the future.

Then there is the class war policy of penalising students who pay their HECS debts upfront. Upfront repayment bonuses will be slashed from 20 per cent to 10 per cent and the early repayment bonus from 10 per cent to five per cent. This is a short-sighted policy and penalises families who have worked hard to put their children into higher education and wish to enjoy a benefit from paying tuition fees earlier. These are not necessarily rich parents. I have met many mothers and fathers in Hasluck who believe that one of the most important things they can do is to provide their children with a good education and they work hard to do this. It sends the wrong message to Australia that, if you work hard and try not to get into debt, there is no reward. Hasluck families will once again be hurt by the ill-advised change to the HECS regime.

I turn my attention to health, one of the most important responsibilities for government. Aside from the bungled administration of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the growing list of medications not put on the PBS by Labor leaving families at risk, there is an issue with growing bureaucracy and waste. Dental reform is missing from this budget and it is an area of severe neglect on the part of the government. I come to dental rebates, which are missing from this budget, and this is a serious concern for the country as a whole. Dental health is a relatively inexpensive problem to treat initially but one that costs hundreds of millions of dollars in the long term. Poor dental health leads to heart disease and other complications. A few thousand spent on a patient with bad teeth can save hundreds of thousands of dollars that would be needed to manage this patient long term with cardiologists, nurses and a hospital bed, not to mention the social exclusion this person suffers as a result of the impact that this has on the family.

The decision to move the reform back to the 2012-13 budget is a typically short-term, headline-grabbing, poll driven, political decision-making stunt by the government. In Gosnells, there is a severe shortage of GPs to treat the growing population of young families and new Australians. If you want an indication of what things are really like for GPs, speak to Don Prendergast, at the Swan Medical Group, who has lived and worked in the area for many years. People such as Don are on the front line and stress the importance of early access to good primary health care in order to prevent future complications from arising.

Access to primary health care should be universal to all my constituents but, unfortunately, this is not the case. Too often, I hear families rationing and sharing medication because they cannot get to see their GP who bulk bills or they cannot afford the $65 consultation fee to get a script off those GPs who refuse to bulk bill. This is a disgrace. The long-term effects are devastating and we should be providing as much support as we can. Whilst the funding has been allocated to mental health, which is long overdue and greatly needed in the industry, the government has failed family members who act as carers. There is a significant number of constituents in Hasluck who care for a relative. They are dedicated people who are sons, daughters, parents, friends, cousins or grandparents and who do outstanding work in our community, yet there is little place to support them.

The government measures for the seat of Hasluck do not fully address the extent of need that is required. I hope that in future years, as we approach future budgets, my advocacy and the arguments that I will put forward will become a focus of the work that I undertake in the fight to gain their share of the federal budget for the programs that are needed. It is important, as I said in my maiden speech, that ministers are there for all Australians, that in the allocation of resources for infrastructure programs and services all families in this country be considered equally in the context of need and also in the context of economic development and opportunities that in life need to be afforded to them by government.