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Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Page: 5424

Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (17:14): I rise to speak on Appropriations Bill (No. 1) 2012-2013 and related bills. As the member representing the electorate of Robertson on the Central Coast, I fully support this legislation and the budget it supports. It is a Labor budget that reveals Labor values. It is all about spreading the benefit of the boom to all corners of our country—to families and to small businesses in particular. It will return us to surplus and allow the Reserve Bank all the room needed to cut interest rates if they need to. This is a critical budget for Australia and it is a great thing that we have a Labor government right now making sure we continue the excellent work that was undertaken during the global financial crisis. I say that it is a Labor budget that reveals Labor values. There is considerable literature about what happens to people's values responses when they hit a crisis situation. It is very clear to the Australian public now that when the GFC hit Australia Labor reverted to our values. We kept Australia working. We kept Australians learning. In this budget, we have made sure that, while we have been extremely fiscally responsible and cut $33 billion to enable us to come back to that surplus, we have stayed true to the things that we believe in. We have continued to support jobs. We have continued to support and enable economic growth because we believe in Australia's capacity to innovate and be successful in industry and business in this sort of climate. We believe in families, we believe in education and we believe in health. All these things are in the budget and we are funding to support growth and the necessary development in those areas.

One of the things that is very troubling at this time in politics in Australia is the incredible gap between what really happens here in Canberra and what gets reported in the gossip-scandal cycle. Of course, we should shine a light on all elements of the parliament. But when we look at the budget, when we shine the light carefully on that, we see what the real things are that this Labor government is doing for Australia. There are so many good things to flow into the life of our community, to the families in my seat and to the families in the seats of the other members here in this chamber, to those who employ so many people, our small businesses, and to young people, who need education, support in to work and training. There is money in our budget to support the aged and infirm who need care and healing. All of these things are within the budget and vitally important to communities such as mine.

Our Labor budget is a budget in globally uncertain economic times. It delivers essential infrastructure and services as well as help for families and households who need it because we understand the real lives of ordinary Australians. This is a budget that brings the benefits of the mining boom to the doorstep of the Central Coast. The resources sector is not a pillar of the Central Coast economy but, thanks to the Labor government, we in Robertson will reap the benefits of our nation's mining wealth. There will be benefits for locals from Kariong, Springfield and Erina who will access the wealth of this mining boom through Family Tax Benefit Part A payments which will see an increase of $600 for more than 10,000 families in the seat of Robertson alone. Benefits from the mining boom include a supplementary allowance for more than 9,100 young people, single parents and unemployed people in Robertson.

This is real money for real people, delivered by a Labor government that accepts the responsibility of moving all Australians forward together and not leaving some behind. We understand that people who need a hand to pay for essential services like electricity, gas and water will benefit from money that is flowing to them from this budget not only because they need it to help them manage their lives but also because it is a sense of belief in their capacity. It is looking after those who might have fallen on hard times until they are able to pick themselves up and move on. Singles are going to receive a supplementary allowance of $210, while couples will receive $350.

In addition, we are investing in our kids. The schoolkids bonus, which I can hardly believe the opposition voted against, will provide assistance to about 1.3 million Australian families, with about 2.2 million Australian children ready to be advantaged by this. This bonus, which we absolutely believe parents will be well and truly able to spend in their own child's interests, will pay for things such as uniforms, school shoes, textbooks, stationery and camps. As a former teacher, I can tell you what a relief it will be to teachers across this nation. The parents of children who once upon a time would have been coming to school looking for a little bit extra to be able to go on an excursion because their parents were so disadvantaged that they were unable to have the money in the bank to help their kids will now be able to allocate funds to ensure that their children do not miss out on the vital learning that happens when you take a school group of kids on an excursion.

This is not a small amount of money, and it is a significant investment in parents, who are going to have $410 a year for each child in primary school and $820 a year for each child in secondary school. Because the payment is made up-front and is automatic, it is quite different from the education tax refund. Parents do not need to keep receipts anymore. They will have this guaranteed payment up-front so that they can have the money and plan for spending it appropriately on their kids. Already, in schools in my electorate, principals are speaking with one another about how they might be able to provide some financial guidance to parents about the things that are on the horizon. Kids who once upon a time could never have thought of going on an overseas excursion with their class—to the Western Front, for example, to go and see where our soldiers died; an enrichment learning opportunity to understand their history and the history of the world—can begin to think that maybe it is possible for them. For the first time, this is going to happen for many, many young people.

Parents will receive the full amount every time. So families will not miss out if they lose receipts, as has happened in the past. Importantly, this bonus, which will come to families as of 20 June this year, will continue in the new year, being paid in two amounts: at the beginning of the year, in term 1, and then again in the middle of the year, in term 3, which is usually when I find that the school shoes start to wear and the books start to look a little ratty, and when, if they have been working very hard, they need replacement texts to go on with. There are also changes of courses that happen for students in the middle of the year.

I also think that the amount of $820 to help parents with bringing up a teenager is a really significant help in communicating to the kids the value of education—to say to them, 'The government believes in you; they believe in you so much that they are going to give us $820 to help you get through school.' If the kids are anything like my teenagers and the teenagers I have spent so much of my life teaching, I am pretty sure that they will be watching to make sure that they get their fair share of that $820 and directing the way in which it might go.

As for other important efforts that have been made in this budget to make sure that all Australians move forward together, I turn now to the real infrastructure that we are supporting. We are really committed to making sure that communities such as mine are able to go on with developing things in the community. So, in my local area, key projects such as the Macmasters Beach surf club upgrade, the $2 million Ettalong Beach foreshore redevelopment project, the Umina surf club upgrade, and the refurbishment of the Coast Community Centre in Gosford, known to locals as Coast Shelter, were all funded in this budget. These are projects that I have worked hard alongside the community to deliver, and they have a commitment from this government that those funds will be paid. That will change the lives of all of the members of the community who interact with those services and places of gathering in the seat of Robertson.

Through this budget, delivering on the commitments to my local community and extending them, community infrastructure support funds will be given to Gosford council in the amount of $1.808 million from the Gillard government through the Roads to Recovery program. This is an important grant for the council to assist with the maintenance and upgrade of local roads through the Roads to Recovery program. There is also the $5.5 million allocated to progressing the Gosford passing loops as part of the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor upgrade. Also, as we know, the delivery of a dedicated line for rail freight north of Sydney will certainly help improve the reliability of the passenger rail networks for Central Coast commuters. It is frustrating enough that workers travelling from the Central Coast to Sydney spend dozens of hours a week on trains supposedly running on time; they certainly do not need the added inconvenience of a freight train breaking down and causing delays on the passenger line. In relation to infrastructure, perhaps the most significant point in the budget for the Central Coast is the $150 million contribution by the Gillard government towards the F3-M2 missing link, as well as the offer to the NSW state government of $25 million to establish a special purpose vehicle which would bring financing of the F3-M2 project to the market. This project is long overdue, especially for the suffering Central Coast road users who travel to Sydney's west or beyond on a regular basis, either to places of employment or to do their business.

The allocation by the government puts the ball squarely back in the court of Barry O'Farrell in the New South Wales state government. Barry O'Farrell and his Central Coast Liberal representatives have been extremely coy on this issue. If they are going to walk away from the federal government's money then they need to stand up and say that to the local community. They need to look the community in the eye and explain why, currently, they refuse to support the F3-M2 missing link. This is not just a project for road commuters; it is a project that will improve the productivity of the Central Coast business community and make the Central Coast so much more accessible to people who want to come for holidays. Any local business who moves goods or supplies in and out of Sydney or through Sydney to the south of the state has a huge stake in seeing this project delivered. Every time you see a truck bound for the Central Coast stuck in gridlock on Pennant Hills Road, all you see is productivity essentially washing down the drain.

While the New South Wales Liberal government dithers on this issue, the Labor government is continuing to invest in business innovation. Over the coming years more than $1.2 billion in grants will be available for industry through clean technology programs for manufacturers to improve their efficiency and competitiveness. I am very pleased to inform the House that businesses in Robertson have received more than $3.8 million from Auslndustry since 2007. And, since 2007, Labor has supported 51 programs promoting business innovation in Robertson, totalling $1.87 million. A further five manufacturing programs have received assistance totalling more than $1.2 million. We had the most amazing innovation summit just last week, with my local community delighted that the NBN is rolling out in our area. That, again, is another transformer of the community—a sound, productive investment by this Labor government.

More than 15,600 small businesses exist on the Central Coast. We put $27.5 million into business advisory services, and our local business advisory service will stay alive and active. We are also providing a $6,500 instant asset write-off for eligible small businesses to help with cash flow and promote investment in pieces of equipment that are essential to the success of small business and to improving their productivity. We have also put in a loss carry-back scheme. In 2012-13 companies will be able to carry back tax losses of up to $1 million so that they get a refund against the tax they have previously paid. From 2013-14 companies will be able to carry back tax losses for two years, and that will provide a tax benefit of up to $300,000. This will certainly help companies to finance the investment, training and restructuring that is needed to improve their competitiveness, and this will certainly support productivity and promote employment.

At the core of this Labor budget is a budget for people, including support in the form of increased and improved health services, such as the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. In my electorate, 18.9 per cent of people are over the age of 60, and they stand to benefit from that. Labor will also deliver a $500 million blitz on dental care. The COAG agreements have seen $21 million go to the GP helpline. I have got a $28 million regional cancer clinic and a $21.5 million investment in bringing back the rehab unit.

This budget is a proud Labor budget. It is a budget that will make a difference to the people of the Central Coast. I commend the bill to the House. (Time expired)