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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4768


Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (16:02): I should say that it was interesting to listen to the member for North Sydney in the debate in relation to Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2012-2013 and the related bills. Once again, we have come to expect just negative commentary from the opposition. The bile that was just spilling out across this chamber a moment ago from the shadow Treasurer in relation to the Treasurer of this government was unbelievable. It once again shows that the opposition, particularly the shadow Treasurer and the Leader of the Opposition, cannot bring themselves to accept the facts before them. The member for North Sydney talked about a surplus and said that the government are misleading the Australian people. The fact is that the budget papers and the information are there to show that we will be back in surplus.

The opposition could not bring themselves to accept the seriousness of the global financial crisis and they would not acknowledge the need for a stimulus to support the economy during that time—nor have they been able to acknowledge the success of that stimulus in supporting jobs and businesses in this country. So, for the last few years, all we have heard is that the financial crisis was just a blip on the radar, that we did not really need to stimulate the economy and that there has not really been support of jobs. They are just sticking their heads in the sand. They refuse to acknowledge the facts.

The facts are that this country's economy is the envy of the developed countries. Earlier today I moved a private member's motion in relation to the economy. We have heard that our unemployment is 4.9 per cent. We have heard our statistics compared to those of other countries, especially those in Europe. We have heard the figures in relation to the debt levels in Australia compared to those of other countries. At some point the opposition have to acknowledge the facts and stop this scare campaign and the rhetoric they keep using with the Australian people.

The member for North Sydney said 'the Australian people deserve'—they do not deserve the rubbish that is coming out from the opposition. What they deserve is an economy that is growing strongly and a government that is supporting jobs and investing in skills and training, investing in health and infrastructure and supporting business. When we talk about business, it is not just about the direct incentives that businesses are being provided; it is also about the flow-on effects of the assistance that this government is giving to households.

Let's look at the schoolkids bonus, for example. The schoolkids bonus is providing many families, over 9,700 families in the electorate of Petrie alone, with financial assistance for students—$410 per primary school student and $820 per secondary school student—to provide them support with their education expenses. The question is: where does the opposition think that parents are going to buy those education resources? They are going to buy them from businesses in our local communities. That money helps stimulate our economies. So, when we talk about business, we talk about the financial assistance that is flowing to households through the schoolkids bonus, the financial assistance that is flowing to families through the family tax benefit A assistance that has been outlined—which is an increase of $600 a year from 1 July next year—and we talk about the assistance to families from the supplementary allowance. The supplementary allowance will benefit 9,497 local young people, single parents and unemployed currently receiving allowances, by providing cash payments to help meet the costs of essential services like electricity, gas and water. They will receive a supplementary allowance of $200 while couples will receive $350. These are benefits that go in the pockets of households across the electorate of Petrie and across this country. That additional income for those families will help our local economies.

Of course, it is not just those initiatives that we are seeing benefits for in relation to this budget. There are many benefits flowing to people across my local community, especially in the area of health. I just want to take some moments to talk about the benefits to health. Firstly, in this budget the government is investing $515.3 million in a dental health package. Much of this will go towards dealing with the long waiting times for public services. It is estimated there are currently 400,000 patients on public dental waiting lists. That is why this funding is so important and why $345.9 million over the next three years will help reduce those public dental waiting lists. That is a huge benefit to people in my local communities and across this country.

But the opposition do not want to acknowledge that. They do not ever talk about dentistry because they are the ones that scrapped the Commonwealth dental scheme. But there are other initiatives flowing in relation to health—and they include the expansion of bowel cancer screening. In this budget the government is providing $49.7 million over four years to fund a phased expansion of the National Bowel Cancer Screening program. Bowel cancer is the second most common cause of cancer related death in Australia. The expansion of this program will significantly reduce illness and death from bowel cancer through early detection and treatment. When the scheme is fully implemented around 12,000 cancers each year will be detected.

In addition, there is progress in relation to the e-health agenda. The government is investing another $233.7 million to deliver its e-health agenda, including $161.6 million to operate the personally controlled electronic health record system. This builds on the $466.7 million in the 2010-11 budget to establish the personally controlled electronic health record system. In my electorate I have medical clinics which are now offering patients the opportunity to register with the health record. That is fantastic. My new Medicare local, the North Brisbane Medicare local, which has just set up a new office at North Lakes in my electorate, has a stand-alone machine. You can walk up to your medical centre that has one of these machines—it looks very much like a stand-alone EFTPOS machine—and you can type in details and register immediately to get that electronic health record. That starts the process rolling, which means that people who do that will have the security of knowing that their health records are shared across key primary healthcare providers. If they end up in hospital—they may be unconscious, for example, or unable to recollect all the medicines they are on or the sorts of conditions and allergies they have—this sort of e-health record can save lives, because the hospital will know what that person can and cannot have and will know the sorts of conditions or illnesses they may already have. That will decide the sorts of health treatments they should get into the future.

In addition, across Queensland the Labor government is delivering on its commitments by spending around $8.9 million in 2012-13 on digital mammography technology to BreastScreen Australia. It is really important to invest in this new technology to more accurately detect breast cancer. All too often I meet people in my electorate who have been diagnosed with breast cancer and who are still battling this terrible disease. So it is great that there will be extra money, through this budget, invested in this important technology.

There is also a huge investment in an area that is very dear to my heart—that is, the disability area. There is much debate about the National Disability Insurance Scheme. There should be no debate on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. As far as I am concerned the argument has been had. The case has been made. The Productivity Commission has spoken. We need a National Disability Insurance Scheme in this country.

This budget commits $1 billion over the next four years for the first stage of the NDIS. From July 2013, an NDIS will begin operating in launch locations across Australia. And I am hoping that the Queensland government will sit down around the table with the Commonwealth and agree that one of those launch sites should be Queensland, because all too often I meet families who are caring for someone with a severe disability, who know that the current disability system is not adequate: it is not providing for their needs and they need something else. They know that we need the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This scheme will start by assisting around 10,000 people, and this will be expanded to 20,000 people from mid-2014.

It will provide individualised care and support and an assessment process so that those most in need—people with significant and permanent disability—will have access to an assessment that develops an individual support plan. That is so needed in the community. Those suffering disabilities and their carers have cried out for this individual support plan, with funding allocated for reasonable and necessary supports. There will be case management. Local area coordinators will work with clients providing information needed to make informed decisions in navigating the systems and assisting in planning. There will be increased services. Increased formal care services will include home support and respite care, and early intervention services to improve functioning and delay or lessen a decline in functioning. I do not have time to go through it in detail, but in addition this budget has significant and important investments in aged care—another key area in the electorate of Petrie. It is great to see that a large proportion of the funding that is going forward is related to home care packages, at a cost of $880 million dollars. The fact that we are increasing the number of home care packages by nearly 40,000 over the next five years is critical. People want to be able to stay at home. They want to be able to stay at home longer. Carers want to be able to stay at home with them. We need to provide them with that support, but when they do need to go into a nursing home, we need to make sure that they have the appropriate care.

That is why the other initiatives in relation to aged care are so important. It is important to address the workforce pressures. We have all heard about it: both sides of this parliament have been lobbied hard about the importance of workforce shortages, and not just from the union movement, but also from the workforce and the aged care providers. They all know that there is a workforce shortage that is critical in relation to the aged care sector and they need to be able to do more to attract and hold on to aged care staff. That is why they need to look at improvements in recruitment, training and wages for aged-care staff to enable the sector to meet growing demand and provide quality care for older Australians.

In the last couple of minutes I have left, I want to touch on the fact that, as always, this Labor government's budget has ensured there is ongoing investment in infrastructure. This has been a strong commitment of this government since we were first elected in 2007. We have continued to invest in infrastructure, and what this government has been able to show with this budget is it can bring the budget back to surplus, but it does not have to do it to the detriment of investing in infrastructure, health, education, aged care and disabilities. It can do all of that. It is about responsible fiscal policy.

In my electorate—and I know as a Queenslander you would appreciate this, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott—I was very pleased to see an additional $20 million in this budget for the Moreton Bay Rail Link. Last year, $135 million was brought forward out of the commitment of $742 million to deliver a rail line that has been promised for over 100 years. Once again there is funding allocated in this year's budget to continue that work. I spoke with the project team just this week. We are very close to announcing the contractor for the road-over-rail bridge at the Kinsellas Road East, where it will go over one of the stations. It is fantastic that this construction has started and, of course, construction along the rail corridor itself will start from mid-next year and the concept designs for the new stations will be released shortly. We are also investing in the Gateway Motorway-Nudgee Road. This budget does deliver a Labor budget: it provides for the community and for our economy, and it is a strong Labor budget.