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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5135

Mr LYONS (Bass) (17:05): I just get amazed by the contradiction in all of this. The Liberals were higher taxing than we are. We have a deficit which was to keep people in jobs and we have a debt that is more than manageable and that the World Bank insists on us having. So I am just amazed that this is even raised. But they are not smart enough to know that they are trying to fool many of the people most of the time.

The budget handed down in 2012 by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, will deliver a strong and fair future for all Australians. This budget is about spreading the benefits of the mining boom to all corners of our country by delivering much needed financial relief for families and businesses under pressure. The Gillard government understand the pressures on working families to make ends meet. That is why we are easing those pressures through tax cuts and increasing payments.

We are also boosting assistance to older people to support them in their retirement or while still working and have introduced new initiatives to help younger people support themselves while studying or learning a trade. This budget delivers a surplus not only for this year but for the next four years—a powerful endorsement of the strength of our economy, resilience of our people and success of our policies. Our economy is one of the world's strongest, which is a testament to Treasurer Swan's sound economic management. This budget will continue to put downward pressure on interest rates whilst also providing the vulnerable and less fortunate with more disposable income. A combination of these factors can only create increased confidence in our economy, which in turn will be good news for small business operators not only in my electorate of Bass but Australia wide.

From the firm foundations of a surplus budget the Gillard Labor government has announced new policies to spread the benefits of the mining boom. We understand that Australian families face many pressures. That is why we are delivering $47 billion in personal income tax cuts and tripling the tax-free threshold to benefit low- and middle-income earners. The $3.6 billion Spreading the Benefits of the Boom package is sharing the proceeds of the mining tax with families and small businesses. From 1 July all small businesses can immediately write off eligible assets that they buy for less than $6,500 and up to $5,000 for cars and utes. This will drive investment and improve productivity in small businesses around the country. This news is warmly received by the business community in my electorate.

The Tasmanian business community have also embraced the continued rollout of the National Broadband Network, being laid out as we speak. The NBN enables small businesses to reach out across the globe in a way that has never been available to them before. This enables them to grow their businesses, accessing new markets, opportunities and avenues for promoting their businesses and products both nationally and internationally. Many businesses in my electorate tell me they are taking orders, bookings and inquiries for their products through an ever-increasing capacity over the internet because of the high speeds and capabilities that the NBN provides.

Recently Senator Helen Polley, Senator Catryna Bilyk, Senator Carol Brown and I were in Scottsdale and we heard from local businesses there about how the NBN has assisted them in doing business more efficiently. I believe that technology has changed all of our lives for the better. We can now communicate with loved ones on the other side of the world or conduct business at any time of the day. We can find out news in an instant which would have previously taken days or weeks. In Australia governments and the community are embracing these opportunities as we roll out the National Broadband Network to homes across the country.

In the 21st century communications has become an essential utility, like electricity and water. Australian families rely on it and Australian businesses need it, yet those opposite see it as a cost, not an investment. They fail to see the opportunities it can provide. The Tasmanian Liberal state team have embraced the NBN. A former member of this place, now a Liberal member of state parliament, Michael Ferguson MP, claims that the opportunities of the NBN are tremendous. Without world-class broadband Australia will fall behind the rest of the world and our economy will suffer. Our businesses will not have the tools they need to compete with businesses around the world. Those opposite have a policy of putting communications towers on every second hill and 100-year-old copper wire as the communication model for the 21st century.

The great challenge for Australia is to harness the wealth from the current resources boom to improve our productivity and diversify our economy. The Gillard government is taking this decisive action to support those with a disability. To get the care and support they need and deserve, the budget commits $1 billion over four years to roll out the first stage of the NDIS, which I hope will be trialled in Tasmania. The budget also provides $515 million to address the immediate dental care needs of people on the public dental care waiting list. This is important because the current lack of universal access to high-quality dental health services has a significant impact on the health outcomes of Australians.

I was also pleased to tell my electorate that 15 per cent of the people in Bass will benefit from the extension of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program. This will now include screening for people over the age of 60, in 2013, and over the age of 70, in 2015.

For families, the schoolkids bonus will include new cash bonuses of $410 for each child in primary school and $820 for each high school student. This replaces the Education Tax Refund: locally in Bass there are an estimated 1,250 families missing out on this payment. There are 6,900 families in the Bass electorate who expect to receive these new benefits. There are also more than 9,000 local families who will receive an increase of up to $600 on their Family Tax Benefit Part A payments. This is in addition to the supplementary allowances that we will be delivering to help with the cost of living for 9,646 young people, single parents and unemployed people in my electorate of Bass.

Also in this budget was $5.2 million for improvement of the Bell Bay intermodal terminal. This project will improve road and rail access to the Burnie intermodal terminal to allow it to manage expected growth. I look forward to this project and the opportunities it will create.

I also had the pleasure of making the pre-budget announcement of $6.8 million for St Giles to redevelop the Amy Road site to include paediatric centre implementation of modern e-health structures for people with a disability. The Gillard government is committed to helping Australians gain improved access to quality health care where and when they need it. This funding will go a long way to helping to meet the current and future demands of paediatric disability services right across Tasmania.

As a Labor government we will always manage the economy in the interests of working people. That means delivering a surplus while also making room for critical investments in health infrastructure. This is a big win for Launceston. Not only will this mean improved paediatric and disability services for all Tasmanians but the facility will mean more health professionals are attracted to the area. Ian Wright, the CEO of the St Giles Society, said that this means for the first time in 75 years St Giles will have purpose built premises that are family and workforce friendly and provide opportunities for increased professional and specialist collaboration.

The St Giles Society successfully applied for funding from the government's Health and Hospitals Fund. Their application was assessed by the independent HHF advisory board. This initiative is one of many projects being funded by the HHF in the 2012-13 budget to help regional health services networks manage the expected increase in demand for services over the coming years. This, together with $18.7 million for the Scottsdale Defence Science and Technology Organisation, demonstrates Labor's commitment to the north-east. Improvement of the DSTO had been under consideration for the past 15 years. It is now being funded by the Labor government. Between 20 and 30 new jobs will be created during the construction phase of the project and, for the most part, we hope with subcontractors from the north-east of Tasmania employed on the construction work. The works include the redevelopment of a food technology facility, upgrade to existing chemistry and nutrition labs and improvements in the site infrastructure and working areas. The redevelopment will result in a modern food science facility equipped to meet the future nutritional needs of the Australian Defence Force personnel and support their performance in highly demanding operational environments.

The redevelopment of the Scottsdale site is part of an initiative to establish a new centre for food innovation for which the University of Tasmania and the CSIRO are partnering with the Defence Science Technology Organisation. The north-east region has been particularly hard hit in recent years with a downturn in the dairy processing and forest industries and the closure of vegetable processing facilities. I believe this region has a bright future, thanks to projects such as this one and through our investments in irrigation infrastructure and the National Broadband Network.

The 2012-13 budget delivered a further $102.6 million to start, progress or complete road projects in Tasmania. Already, the federal Labor government has increased annual infrastructure spending per Tasmanian from $157 to $264. This is significant. After 11 years of Howard government neglect, we are acting. Some of the major projects that will go from drawing board stage to construction in the coming financial year are the North East Freight Roads package—federal contribution $34 million, including widening and realigning of the Bridport Main Road—$1.6 million to eliminate another 12 dangerous black spots in Tasmania and $38.7 million to assist councils across the state to maintain and upgrade their local roads.

Not only are we investing in infrastructure but also we are investing in skill development of our workforce for the future. The federal government is helping 260 workers across Tasmania to undertake further training to meet the skills of industry. Labor is negotiating with the Tasmanian government to provide HECS-style loans for local students studying for a diploma or advanced diploma, allowing TAFE students to study now and pay later. The federal government is negotiating with the Tasmanian government to provide subsidised training places for local people who want to gain new skills up to certificate III, and that will also roll out from July. This is great news for the north-east of Tasmania.

The Greater Launceston Plan will receive $320,000 in funding as part of the federal government's Liveable Cities Program. The funding will allow the region to plan for its future, taking into account future public transport, water and land use needs, the best placement for new employment and industrial precincts, population growth, demographic change and community aspirations.

The Labor government believes in the tremendous opportunities of the mining boom and that they should be fairly shared with all Australians. The mineral resources of Australia are owned by all of us, therefore the benefits from the resource should be shared by all of us. This budget does exactly that. It delivers much-needed financial relief for families and businesses under pressure. It will protect low and middle income Australians and our most vulnerable communities. Along with reforms like the historic first step towards a National Disability Insurance Scheme, aged care and the blitz on dental waiting lists, the Gillard Labor government is returning the budget to surplus on time and as promised. We will continue to support those most in need.