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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4804

Mrs ELLIOT (RichmondParliamentary Secretary for Trade) (18:34): I am very pleased to be speaking on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2012-2013 and cognate appropriation bills tonight and talking about the budget this government has delivered and what a positive impact it will have throughout the country and in my electorate of Richmond, on the North Coast of New South Wales. It is interesting to contrast this with what we hear from the opposition, which is again just more negative comments and more scaremongering; we do not hear anything positive from them when we look at this budget and the positive impacts of this budget, particularly its positive impact on families. It will be very wide ranging and wide reaching in its effects. In fact, we are very proud of this budget. The government is very proud of it and its economic credentials. We made a promise to deliver a surplus and we have done that.

In delivering that surplus we have also been able to deliver quite a lot for families, which is very important, and to deliver for businesses as well right across the country. Tonight I am going to run through some of those achievements in this budget and some of the great improvements that we have made, particularly in areas such as health and education, and particularly in delivering for families. This budget delivers on much needed cost-of-living relief to hundreds of thousands of families right across the country. It is really about making sure that all Australians share in the benefits of the mining boom, whilst at the same time keeping our economy very strong. Of course, we have done that in assisting those families. In my electorate we have that new cash payment to over 9½ thousand local families under the schoolkids bonus. We are increasing family payments: there are more than 12,000 local families in my electorate that will get that increase. It will make a big improvement for them. We are very proud of this budget, and the return to surplus.

We have also found time to deliver reforms that make for a much stronger community and a fairer society—doing things like the National Disability Insurance Scheme, in addition to our big investments in dental health and aged-care reform. I will come to some of those. What we are doing with this budget is spreading the benefits of the boom. It will deliver a $1.8 billion boost to family payments. There is also new tax relief for business and lump-sum allowances for struggling families as well as part of this entire package. We have got a boost in family payments for over 1.5 million families. Families receiving the maximum rate of FTB A with two or more children will receive an extra $600 per year or an extra $300 per year if they have one child. Families receiving the base rate of family tax benefit part A with two or more children will receive an extra $200 a year or an extra $100 a year if they have one child. Also, more than one million Australians will benefit from a new lump-sum supplementary allowance to help the recipients of payments such as a parenting payment and allowances who will receive $210 a year for singles or $350 a year for couples.

Businesses will also benefit from the introduction of a loss carryback scheme, which is very important. Indeed, the benefits of the boom package will be funded by redirecting the minerals resource rent tax revenue intended for the company tax cut—and of course we know this tax cut was repeatedly rejected by the Liberals and by the Greens as well. It is quite astounding that the Liberal and National parties rejected it, but that is the reality of it. They did not want to help business—they kept saying that they were not going to support it at all—but the Gillard Labor government is determined to deliver tax relief through this new loss carry-back initiative for businesses facing some challenges in our economy at the moment. We are making sure that we are keeping the economy strong. We are focusing on that and making sure that we assist business.

As I mentioned, one of the things that we are very proud of in this budget is delivering on the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The government will deliver $1 billion over four years to start rolling out the first stage of the NDIS. It will begin in mid-2013 and provide care and support to around 10,000 people with significant and permanent disabilities in up to four locations across the country. From mid-2014, the reach of the NDIS will be expanded to bring the total number of eligible people up to 20,000. That is a really strong commitment from this government. Many people have talked about the need for a national disability insurance scheme for many years, and this government has made the commitment and is delivering on the NDIS. We understand how vitally important it is, and we are delivering it a year ahead of the timetable set by the Productivity Commission.

We are very proud to be assisting local families through both the increase in family benefits and the schoolkids bonus. That is going to have a major positive impact for the people in my electorate. Eligible families will receive a total of $410 a year for each child in primary school and $820 a year for each child in high school. These schoolkids bonuses, which replace the education tax refund, are available to families receiving family tax benefit A. We wanted to make sure that the people who were not filling out the refund forms and receiving the benefits were getting the assistance they need with all the expenses that parents with kids at school have, whether it is uniforms, textbooks, stationery or school excursions. The schoolkids bonus is there to help families. In my electorate, families of more than 16,500 local kids are going to benefit from it, so it will make a big difference.

In fact, the Labor government has already made a big difference in the lives of many schoolchildren in my electorate of Richmond. We have made a massive commitment to education. We have the Building the Education Revolution, through which more than $115 million has been committed to over 90 schools. It is a wonderful privilege to be continually attending so many BER openings and seeing the real difference that the federal Labor government through our many education commitments is making in the lives of our schoolchildren. All of those schools on the North Coast needed those improvements, and they have made a massive difference. We continue to make a massive difference through so many of our reforms—our education reforms, our investment in training and our investment in skills. We understand how important it is for future generations. We also know it is important to assist families whilst their kids are at school, so we are very proud to have the schoolkids bonus there as well.

In this budget we are delivering on some major health initiatives. We continue to do that. We know how important it is that people can access care when and where they need it, and we have made major investments in some major areas of need—dental health, rural and regional facilities and aged care. The main target of the health initiatives in this year's budget is dental care. Over $515 million has been committed to a dental blitz for those people who are least able to afford dental care. About 400,000 people have been waiting on public dental waiting lists for care, and they will benefit from this blitz. We know what a difference it will make for them and how important dental care is for a person's overall health. We are very proud of making this major investment in dental care.

The budget also focuses on rural and regional Australia: $475 million has been directed to new and upgraded health and hospital infrastructure across 76 projects in country areas. These projects include: hospital redevelopments, community health centres, multipurpose services, dental facilities and training and accommodation facilities. We are very proud to be reforming Australia's aged-care system through a five-year, $3.7 billion package to build a better, fairer and more nationally consistent aged-care system. It will enable older Australians to get the help they deserve so that they can remain living in their own homes for as long as possible. We know how important that is.

We are also very proud to be investing over $49 million in expanding the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. Under the expanded National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, screening will be offered to people turning 60 years of age from 2013 and 70 years of age from 2015. We understand how important it is to expand upon that program.

Another investment in the budget is an additional $233 million in the continued rollout of the national electronic health record system, which is so important in reducing errors and duplications in services. The federal Labor government has made such a strong commitment to health reforms across so many areas. One of them is e-health, which will deliver so many practical benefits to Australian families by greatly reducing medication errors. It will allow parents to keep better track of their children's immunisation records; it will also make it a lot easier for older Australians who may have complex and chronic health conditions to ensure that their health practitioners can access a lot easier their medical history, therefore helping them to make diagnoses quicker and a lot more accurately. So we have this ongoing commitment to the e-health, and I think we are all very much looking forward to it rolling out across the country and making a real difference in the lives of so many people.

Within my electorate there is a lot of very positive feedback all the time on our health initiatives—particularly on e-health, because there is a large number of senior Australians living in my electorate. Indeed, we have had very positive responses to many of our health commitments. Prior to the last election we made a commitment of $7 million to build a GP superclinic. The development consent has recently been approved by our local council, and we expect construction to be underway soon. It is being delivered by a wonderful consortium of local GPs who have decades of experience around the Tweed Heads area. They are going to be providing a whole series of different allied health initiatives at the GP superclinic at South Tweed Heads. They are very keen to have it built and up and running. I am very proud as a local member to have delivered the $7 million to get it up and running. Indeed, I am very proud of all our health initiatives. They will make a major difference to many people living on the North Coast. We have made some major commitments to roads funding in this budget, particularly the Pacific Highway funding, which is an area where the federal Labor government has really stepped up when previous governments have not committed funding. This budget injects an extra $3.56 billion into federal Labor's Nation Building Program funding, which if matched by the New South Wales government could be used to complete the full duplication of the Pacific Highway by the end of 2016. Of course, we are still calling on the New South Wales state government to honour their election commitment to match that funding, and it is very disappointing to see them now stepping away from that commitment. We need the Pacific Highway duplication completed in New South Wales, and I again call upon the New South Wales government to honour their commitment to make sure it is built. In my electorate, I can tell you what a difference the Pacific Highway upgrade has made.

In previous budgets we committed substantial funds of about $900 million for the Pacific Highway upgrade in my electorate. We have $357 million for the Pacific Highway upgrade at Sextons Hill at Banora Point and $554 million for the Pacific Highway upgrade between Tintenbar to Ewingsdale. Of course, construction of the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale upgrade is starting now, which is fantastic. We are very excited about that. We have only recently opened the northbound lanes for the Pacific Highway upgrade at Sextons Hill. It is a fantastic project that has been strongly needed for many, many years. I was very pleased to have the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport there last Friday, when we inspected the northbound lanes, which opened a couple of days later. This $357 million upgrade is making a huge difference to the people of the North Coast. It is a much safer road now and it cuts travel time, which is vitally important. Essentially, it means that you can now leave the Brisbane CBD and not strike any traffic lights until you get to Coffs Harbour. That is what the federal Labor government has done. We promised that and we delivered it. Those upgrades have made our roads so much safer and make such a huge difference to the people of the North Coast. I congratulate the road traffic authority, which has worked very hard to get those northbound lanes open in time. It is great to see and is certainly something that I am very proud of in our local electorate.

The federal Labor government have delivered so much for our area over so many budgets, and we continue to do that in this year's budget. We are delivering the benefits of the mining boom, particularly to local families and businesses, and continuing our strong investment right across the board to our entire community. It builds upon our already strong record, particularly in community infrastructure. In the past, we have invested $2 million for the community centre at Murwillumbah, $1.8 million for the Jack Evans Boat Harbour redevelopment, $2 million for Australia's first high-performance surfing centre, at Casuarina—we are very proud indeed of that and intend to open it in a couple of weeks—and $9.5 million for a sport and recreation centre in Byron Bay.

The federal Labor government continues to deliver for the people of the North Coast. We have certainly seen that in Richmond and in the neighbouring electorate of Page, with its very good local member. We have been delivering quite a lot for the North Coast. The largest investment that we have seen in the history of the North Coast has come about since federal Labor has been in government. There has been health investment, education investment and community infrastructure, particularly delivering for families. We are very proud to be able to do that in this year's budget, particularly through the increases in family benefits and the schoolkids bonus.

These bills are about delivering the benefits of the boom to all Australians. They are about honouring our commitments, particularly in areas such as health and education, and making a difference in the lives of so many Australians. Whilst we deliver that, we do it in a way that is very economically responsible. We made the promise that we would bring the budget into surplus, and we have completed that great economic achievement. At the same time, we have delivered a fairer society through our commitments to health and education and, very importantly, through our commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The federal Labor government has been able to deliver a very responsible budget but also a fairer society. I commend the bills to the House.