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Monday, 23 May 2011
Page: 4097


Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (18:19): It is a pleasure for me to be able to speak on Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2011-2012 and the other appropriation bills. The budget is all about responsibility, it is about opportunity, it is about getting the economic fundamentals and the balance right and it is about getting Australia back on its feet as a result of Australia having suffered a significant set of circumstances. I remind the opposition that we had a global financial crisis, a crisis that was the most severe that this country has faced for 75 years. This government took the hard decisions—and the correct decisions—to ensure that the way we structured the economy and the budgets kept people in jobs, that we kept the economy going, that we kept business working and that that would progressively over a period of time keep the Australian economy ahead of comparative economies in the OECD and the rest of the world.

To that effect, today our economy is the envy of almost every other comparative economy in the world. These countries acknowledge the good work that this government did during that crisis and where we sit today. I hear members across the chamber bleating on and complaining about debt and how it is the end of the world. You would think that we were living in a vacuum, that somehow we were isolated from all the things that took place right around the world and that Australia never had this greatest financial event in 75 years or that we have had some of the greatest natural disasters that this country has seen, in some cases, for generations. You would think we were living in a vacuum.

Those opposite talk about debt and what that debt costs per day. Name me anybody who has created wealth in this country who has not borrowed. Name me one. Name me one country in the world that has not created wealth and jobs by not borrowing. The fact is that if you do not borrow, if you do not do it right and if you do not do it at the right time, you leave the economy weak and struggling. This government did not do that. We did what was necessary to ensure that people would remain in jobs, that the economy would stay strong, and that people were looked after on the way through—vulnerable people, people who need government assistance, people on pensions and people who need the government to support them at their time of need—and that is exactly what we have done. That is exactly what this budget is about. It is a responsible budget that goes through a set of measures that will get us back in the black—as has been said many times—to ensure that this economy will be exactly where it ought to be, and that is to provide for ordinary people, for businesspeople and for the economy. It is also about ensuring that there is a fair distribution as to what is commonly referred to as the two-speed economy. But we in this place should all acknowledge that it is a multispeed economy. In different parts of different states the economy runs at different speeds. The only way we can make sure that everybody has an opportunity to take part in that economy is to provide a budget that does exactly that—and that is what we have done. It is just a simplistic boneheaded argument from the opposition that budgets are all about one thing—a magical surplus. This is where they stick the spare money under the mattresses in their bedrooms; they do not spend it on the people who need it. What sort of economic logic is that? This is the sort of argument you get from the members opposite. They talk about infrastructure and about how the interest bill from one day's deficit could pay for a particular road. They do not have a lot to speak about on infrastructure. They were in government for those long 12 years and rivers of gold flowed into Canberra no matter what they did. There was a reason they had surpluses—which, by the way, they never predicted; they always had an unexpected surplus. Why didn't they spend those surpluses then on the roads in Western Australia, Queensland and other parts of the country that needed to be repaired? It is not as if those roads have changed since then.

The only government that has spent any significant amount of funds on infrastructure in this country is the Labor Party—Labor governments. Labor has been the only government over generations to take the tough decisions. If there is anyone who could be blamed for today's deficit, it would be the opposition for not having spent the money in the first place when it was available, when the rivers of gold ran into Canberra, on the necessary infrastructure to keep the economy strong. Now we hear those opposite complaining that 'poor old Western Australia doesn't have enough roads; it has goat tracks and potholes'. Where were you when you were in government for 12 years, when there was an abundance of surpluses? You could have spent the money, but you preferred to stash it under your bed, to hang on to it for a rainy day—which would never have eventuated under the Howard government—and expected everything to be rosy. What about all the poor people who missed out? What about the jobs you didn't create? What about the boom times that could have been even bigger and the money, if properly spent, that would have meant that today we would not have to invest money in infrastructure, because that would have already been done?

I do not hear too much coming back from the other side about road, rail and ports—all the things we had to do from day one when we were elected in 2007. That is the reality. That is the track record of this government when it comes to budgets and spending. This is reflected in a whole range of other areas, including skills investment—investment in people. We are about making sure that when there is a boom we take the profits from that boom and spend it in the right areas. But we are also about making the right people pay. When we start talking about mining and a boom—the boom gets bigger and bigger in the resources sector—we should make sure that those who are benefiting from that boom provide a greater share of the benefits to the Australian people. We can then spend more on infrastructure and so do more with that economic boom.

But I do not recall that being part of the ideology, of the agenda or of any budgets when the Howard government was in power. What we have done in this budget is focus very squarely on the things that build on the resources boom and that build for a future when we will not have a resources boom. That is the reality. There might be a further 20 years of a so-called resources boom but that boom for Australia might vary. It might graduate up and down depending on the Australian dollar or on the prices of resources. So we need to start making some very serious economic decisions today. If we are going to have a skills shortage, we need to invest in skills training so that Australians can get those jobs. We will not need to have more 457 visas in place to import skills when we have Australians in those skilled jobs.

This is when we need to spend it and this is when we are spending it. We have done this in really difficult economic times. No-one was expecting the massive tragedy, the devastation, that we saw in the Queensland floods and with Cyclone Yasi in the north of that state, the fires in Western Australia or other disasters that occurred right across the country. We are squarely focused on what needs to happen. Trades apprentice income bonuses are about making sure that we support apprentices in the right areas of the economy. We know that employers want to put apprentices on, but they need a helping hand and so we are doing that for them. We also want to make sure that apprentices stay in an apprenticeship, that they follow it through—and so we are making sure of that. In my electorate alone there are 3,336 apprentices who will benefit from this investment. Thousands of young people will be given the skills and the opportunity through this government's budget and through this program.

When it comes to training, we are going to invest $550 million in a new workforce development fund that puts industry at the heart of the training system. We have to work with industry—something that the opposition might find a little bit unusual. We have to work with all stakeholders in industry and with the workers in industry to make sure that we do this right. We will deliver 130,000 new training places over four years. That will help to balance out the boom-and-bust days that we experience from time to time in this economy. In terms of incentives for employment, in the electorate of Oxley there are about 1,419 very long-term unemployed people who have not had work for two years or more. We have very specific programs to break that cycle of unemployment because that is where we need to make investments. If we can break that cycle we can break the generational unemployment cycle. We actually provide something for people. We also provide something for the economy and something beyond what just one simple budget can do. Better skills is something that I am really proud of. We have invested in a whole range of areas. We have invested in bricks and mortar with the Building the Education Revolution—halls, libraries and science labs—and we have also invested in people, in skills. We have invested in teachers and in getting the national curriculum right. In taking those big leaps forward, those big steps, we want to make sure that education is front and centre in everything that this government does.

I heard something about dental care. I remember that there were masses of opportunities for dental care in those 12 years of the Howard government that never materialised. The Howard government always talked about it but, when the rivers of gold were running into Canberra, there was no dental care for those most in need of it. Under this government, we will continue to break down this problem and give people the assistance they need—an extra $53 million to establish a voluntary dental internship year, an extra 150 internship places and money to go into dental care, particularly for pensioners. We want to support more families. In Oxley in particular, 5,700 local families will be eligible for an extra $4,200 per child between the ages of 16 and 19 because of a significant change to the family tax benefit. We are investing in people who need it and we are investing in the right areas of the economy. We are getting the balance right in a very tough budget and economic year to make sure that those who get the assistance are those who need it the most.

We are not stopping there. We are also helping small business and manufacturing. We are doing more to lower the company tax rate than any other government has done in this country. Building on top of the $5,000 for asset write-offs, there is an immediate deduction in the 2012-13 budget for purchased motor vehicles. This will provide some $350 million in further cash flow to benefit small business.

In digital assistance we are providing $31.8 million over three years to provide eligible pension recipients across Queensland with professional assistance to convert their televisions from analog to digital. We are also co-locating a number of one-stop shops for Australians who are seeking access to Australian government services. This is often a complaint, so we are going to co-locate these. In my electorate it will be at the Mt Ommaney shopping centre. Disability services are getting an enormous injection with an additional $1.6 million being spent on people with disabilities in the electorate of Oxley. There are also the much heralded and very necessary mental health programs that we are putting forward.

This has been a good budget. It is a tough budget, but it is a fair budget that gets the balance right and will get us back in the black.