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Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Page: 5410

Mr MURPHY (Reid) (16:14): I rise to support Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2012-13. The 2012-13 budget will deliver much-needed cost-of-living relief to thousands of households in my electorate of Reid. This budget is all about making sure all Australians share in the benefits of the mining boom and a strong economy, not just the fortunate few. The budget will spread the benefits of the mining boom to help everyday Australians with cost-of-living increases.

In my electorate of Reid, the budget will deliver a new cash payment to 6,850 families with kids in school. Parents will receive $410 for each child in primary school and $820 for each child in high school as part of the new schoolkids bonus. The budget will increase family payments by up to $600 for more than 10,000 families in my electorate. Starting in July next year, this extra support will be made to families currently receiving family tax benefit part A payments. The budget will provide extra money to help pay the bills to 11,000 young people—single parents and the unemployed—currently receiving allowances in my electorate of Reid. Singles will receive a $210 lump sum payment, while couples will receive $350.

We are also returning the budget to surplus on time as promised. Returning to surplus gives the Reserve Bank maximum flexibility to cut interest rates again. Interest rates are now lower than at any time under the Howard government and a family on a $300,000 mortgage is now paying around $3,000 a year less in repayments. The federal Labor government is also delivering reforms which promote a stronger community and a fairer society. These are big reforms such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, a great new investment in dental health and the fantastic aged-care package.

In relation to the schoolkids bonus, I take this opportunity to expose the opposition's real intentions on this matter—that is, the opposition has confirmed that they will oppose the government's new schoolkids bonus. What does this mean? It means an Abbott government would take away the new schoolkids bonus from the 6,850 families of the 12,050 schoolchildren in my electorate of Reid. An Abbott government would also take away the automatic cash payment of $410 for each child in primary school and $820 for each child in high school. This would amount to more than $7 million being taken from my electorate.

The government's new schoolkids bonus replaces the education tax refund. Under the education tax refund scheme, some 5,150 families in my electorate failed to get the full amount, including 1,100 families who made no ETR claim at all for the 2010-11 tax year. Our new payment will ensure that families are getting every cent they deserve upfront—when they need it. It makes it easier for families because there is no paperwork and no need to keep receipts, just a twice-yearly cash payment for every child at school. The opposition would like to deny families this money to pay for the cost of essentials, such as school books and uniforms, because they seem to think families cannot be trusted to spend this extra money on their kids.

I will now look in some detail at what this budget does to help small businesses, because there are about 22,000 in my electorate. Small businesses have approached me for more information. It is no accident that most small business operators voted Labor in 2007 because they had suffered from years of neglect under the Howard government, which favoured the big end of town—as the opposition still do. The budget will help small business to invest by allowing companies to carry back tax losses to get a refund against tax paid in the previous year, providing a tax benefit of up to $300,000 per year. From 1 July this year, the budget will deliver tax breaks for small business, such as increasing the instant asset write-off threshold to $6,500. The government will provide $8.3 million over four years to establish an Australian Small Business Commissioner to provide advocacy for and representation of small business interests and concerns to the Australian government. Funding will also be provided for a national information and referral service to allow small business owners to get access to information and advice and referral to external services such as dispute resolution. This measure will also extend to 2015-16 the existing Small Business Support Line, which provides advice to small businesses on issues such as obtaining finance, cash flow management, retail leasing, personal stress and hardship counselling, and promotion and marketing.

The government will provide $27.5 billion over four years to continue the Small Business Advisory Services program and make it an ongoing program. The SBAS program will help small business to improve sustainability, productivity and growth through providing access to low-cost business advisory services and activities to enhance business management skills. Grants will be provided through a competitive merit based process to third-party service organisations to provide small businesses with access to general face-to-face business advisory services including information and referral services. The government's Small Business Advisory Committee will be expanded to strengthen its work on cutting red tape for small business.

Australia's 2.7 million small businesses will be given a direct voice to the Australian government through the appointment today of the first national Small Business Commissioner. Labor understands how vital the small business sector is to the Australian economy, employing almost five million Australians and making up a third of the economy. The small business sector has been calling for better advocacy, advice and information at the federal level, and our government has taken notice. This new commissioner will provide small businesses with a voice to highlight their issues to the Australian government. The commissioner will also provide a one-stop shop for small business services and information. Furthermore, the commissioner will ensure the interests of small business remain at the forefront of government policy-making.

Australia's more than two million small businesses are made up of hardworking men and women who are putting in long hours to build better futures for their families. By acting as a one-stop shop for small business people the commission will be representing their concerns and interests directly to the government. Small-business owners will have access to information and advice, which I have alluded to, and have access to external services such as a dispute resolution service. The commission will also work with the minister for small business to ensure government agencies take into account the needs of small businesses, including ways in which we can better manage the regulation of small business. The commissioner will report directly to the minister, who will liaise directly with cabinet colleagues about issues important to small businesses. The commissioner will also be able to take up individual cases with relevant government agencies. The commissioner's office will work with state and territory small business commissioners to ensure services to small businesses are simple and easy to access and minimise duplication across jurisdictions. The office will also simplify advice to small businesses, including advice on dispute resolution, making the advice more readily available online and via the hotline.

Labor has always taken the needs of small business seriously. We appointed the first ever small business minister, as I have alluded to, and we made that portfolio a cabinet appointment earlier this month. This announcement was in response to the Australian government's review of small business dispute resolution programs and options, which reported in 2011. I say again that Labor understands and supports the aspirations of working people who want to run a decent small business, and that is why we are also increasing the small business instant tax write-off from $1,000 to $6,500 and introducing a $5,000 tax break for motor vehicles. Both of those measures are opposed by the opposition.

The budget also provides for improvements in infrastructure, both large and small. While the government is already providing $840 million to improve the main northern rail freight corridor from Strathfield in my electorate to Broadmeadow to remove bottlenecks and enhance freight capacity, availability, reliability and journey time, it is also providing much-needed funding for local roads. Funding from the Roads to Recovery program is largely provided to local government authorities to assist them to maintain and upgrade their local roads. The Treasurer announced that the 2012-13 federal budget provides a further $350 million per annum from 2014-15 to 2018-19. The portion of this roads funding allocated to councils in my electorate of Reid for the next financial year is $668,630, and the amount for 2014-15 to 2018-19 is $3,984,000. I strongly welcome the government's commitment to maintaining funding of this important program for local roads in my electorate, and so do my constituents.

The government has stated quite clearly that it is building a new Australian economy based on highly skilled workers, high-technology, fast broadband and clean energy. We are ensuring Australians possess the skills they need to get the jobs of tomorrow by reforming our vocational education and training system and building on our record investment in skills and training. In this budget, $18.1 million will be invested to establish three Australian skills centres of excellence, in partnership with industry and training organisations, to give Australian workers access to cutting-edge education to prepare for roles in emerging industries. There will also be a $35 million boost to the National Workforce Development Fund to help ensure more mature-age workers can reskill or upskill in areas of skill shortage. Employers will continue to work in partnership with the government to ensure training is targeted at skills demanded by industry. A further $19.4 million will provide training to newly qualified tradespeople to help them establish their own businesses. Business and finance training will also be funded for those completing their apprenticeship skills that are critical for running a successful small business.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority will receive $4.2 million over four years to support high-quality training through the national regulator. More than $6 million will be invested for the continuing development and expansion of the My Skills website to be launched later this year. This one-stop shop will help people wanting to reskill and keep track of their training over the course of their working life. Labor's continuing record investment in skills and training is driving fundamental economic reform in this country. You can see it with the confidence expressed through the OECD. Labor is giving more Australians than ever before the chance to access high-skilled, high-paid jobs of tomorrow.

My main concern is to get the best for my electorate. That is what we are all elected to do in this place. In addition to the measures I have already outlined, 1,309 local families in my electorate of Reid are benefiting from Australia's first Paid Parental Leave scheme delivered by Labor, a program I am very proud to be associated with. One thousand four hundred and twenty-three local families benefited from the baby bonus last year and many of these families received $500 more of their payment upfront to help pay for initial costs. Six thousand one hundred and seventy-one local families are now benefiting from Labor's increase in the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of parents' out-of-pocket costs and the increase in the maximum payment of $7,500 per child per year. These families now have the option of claiming their childcare rebate payment fortnightly rather than having to wait to the end of the year, so it is easier to make ends meet. Eighteen thousand eight hundred local pensioners are now benefiting from Labor's historic pension reforms, including the biggest increase to the pension in 100 years. Single pensioners on the maximum rate are receiving an extra $154 a fortnight and couples on the maximum rate are receiving an extra $156 a fortnight combined.

With this budget the Labor government has delivered four years of surplus, despite big revenue losses, while also finding room to deliver reforms which make for a stronger community and a fairer society. We are delivering a surplus with targeted and responsible savings, while protecting the front-line services Australians rely on, as well as helping families with cost-of-living pressures. We have set in train the first historic steps towards the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We are reforming aged care to help senior Australians stay in their own homes. We have made a new big investment in dental health to deliver a blitz on waiting lists. The Labor government has made big investments in our health system with 76 major projects in regional Australia.

This is all part of Labor's commitment to manage the economy responsibly in the interests of working Australians and not just for a fortunate few, which the coalition seem more intent on representing. I commend this bill to the House.