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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5191

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (BraddonParliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) (21:05): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, and good evening colleagues. I have just been having a quick browse at the economic indicators in Australia. If I read those indicators correctly, Australia has an unemployment rate, an inflation rate and an interest rate below five per cent. If you believe those opposite and read News Ltd newspapers, you would swear this is the end of the world. Let me repeat it—unemployment, inflation and interest rates below five per cent. But it is the end of the world. I am not an economist but I have been doing a bit of reading and I can tell you that a percentile decrease in the value of the Australian dollar and the Howard government's introduction of the GST have had and will have more of an impact on the Australian economy than the clean energy future and a carbon price. But, boy oh boy, have a read of the News Ltd newspapers and listen to the opposition and it is the end of the world. Australia has an unemployment rate of below five per cent, an interest rate below five per cent and an inflation below five per cent.

Mr Danby: The envy of the world.

Mr SIDEBOTTOM: I would not say 'the envy of the world' but I tell you what, I would not want to be anywhere else. Of course, we must deal with the reality of Australia. I have been having a look at this budget and I have looked at my region, because I am biased, on the north-west coast and the west coast of Tassie including King Island, and I think this budget is a good budget for the nation. It is responsible and it is fair for my people and for small businesses. That mob on the other side say they are the claimers, the saviours and the supporters of small business but, when you look at the record, they are hopeless.

What do I care about in particular? I care about education, so I look at the budget and say to myself, 'What does it do for education?' Well, we have a proud record of investment in this area. We are implementing the school kids bonus scheme. That is the one that the opposition say, 'For heaven's sake, don't give it to parents, because they wouldn't know what to do with the bonus.' Those opposite could not even imagine that parents with children going to school would actually use the bonus for expenditures and costs of education—of course they will. The mob over the other side, the mob for choice and free enterprise, could not imagine the population having enough brain and willpower to use money wisely. The bonus is $410 for each child at primary school and $820 for each child at secondary school. It is needed, it will be used responsibly and there is choice. It is fantastic and, again, it is there to assist families when times are tough. This means the Labor government has backed up its massive investment, which the other mob are happy to turn up to but never recognise, in the Building the Education Revolution. We are putting more money in families' pockets to assist with school expenses and we know this will benefit education.

I just looked in my electorate again. There are 63 schools with over $100 million of investment in the BER, 95 projects and four trades training centres dealing with hairdressing, construction, horticulture, engineering and hospitality. But, those opposite say, 'What has Labor done for education? What has Labor invested in education?' I think the facts are clear. Every member in this House, including those on the opposite side, know exactly that you cannot invest in anything better than education and this government has put massive, record amounts of investment into education into all regions including those electorates on the other side.

Most businesses in my electorate are small businesses, as are most represented in this chamber tonight, as we come from rural and regional areas, and small businesses are the predominant businesses. This government does look after them in what are challenging circumstances. For the smallest businesses we have increased the instant asset write-off to $6,500. It might not sound much until you think about it. That is $6,500 for every item—an instant write-off. So small businesses will benefit massively from this. But, if you listen to the other side, small businesses are going to go down the tube. This will help with cash flow to 2.7 million small businesses around Australia, small businesses like Mount Gnomon Farm, which I visited a couple of weeks ago with the Minister for Small Business, Brendan O'Connor. They are suppliers of free-range saddleback pork products. They will be able to write off refrigeration equipment—which they specifically raised with us—which will assist them to expand their business. I know that Brendan listened very intently to their comments about freight and freight logistics charges in Tasmania and has taken that on board, and I thank him for that. They are one of around 9,600 small businesses in Braddon which will benefit.

The budget also includes significant incentives and assistance for small business. For example, the loss carry-back provision is a really interesting proposition that will allow companies to carry back up to $1 million worth of losses to offset past profits and to get a refund of tax previously paid on that profit. That was one of the recommendations, of course, that came out of the tax summit.

Then there are the tax cuts for low- and middle-income earners. In Braddon, approximately 35,000 taxpayers will receive a tax cut on 1 July—a tax cut, but of course you never hear that mentioned on the other side. With the increase in the tax-free threshold to $18,200, 3,000 residents in my electorate will not pay tax at all. But you do not hear that on the other side.

In this budget there is $1 billion to initiate the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Those on the other side originally professed interest in this and support, but now of course we cannot expect that support at all. I know that disability support advocates and the disabled themselves in Braddon are welcoming this initiative, and I, along with my colleagues from Tassie, have already met with the Minister for Health about selecting north and north-western Tassie as a launch site for one of the first NDIS sites in Australia. No doubt colleagues on my side of the House and opposite will also be putting propositions forward to the health minister, even when they pretend that they may not be interested in it.

When combined with the $3.7 billion commitment towards aged-care reform, this is a significant budget for the elderly, the disabled and the infirm. I am also really pleased that years of hard work in my electorate have finally paid off with the provision of $1.28 million to establish a centre at Mount St Vincent, in Ulverstone, to train healthcare professionals in aged care who will provide services in our region. Aged care is crucial in my region, particularly as we have a very high aged demographic compared to the Australian average and a rapidly ageing population structure. The new centre will not only greatly improve access to quality health care and necessary skills but will, like any other investment, stimulate the local economy and create new jobs.

In this budget, $650,000 has been allocated to boost security for passengers travelling through Devonport Airport, which is on the eastern end of my electorate. We also share another airport with Burnie; it is called 'Burnie airport at Wynyard', but it is the Burnie airport itself. More than 50,000 passengers fly out of Devonport every year, with this figure likely to keep growing in coming years. The safety and security of all Australian passengers is the government's highest priority, and that is why Devonport Airport will see the funding support the purchase of two explosive-trace detection machines—God help us that we never need it—one checked-baggage screening machine, one carry-on baggage screening machine, one walk-through metal detector machine and four hand-held metal detectors. I will continue to work hard to make sure that Burnie ends up getting security, because it is the only airport in Tasmania that does not have security. It seems strange to me that the chain of security in Tasmania is missing that important link.

In my role as Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries I have responsibility for dairying. It is a great industry to be associated with. In the budget, Dairy Australia will be allocated $1 million for energy assessments of dairy farms. In this way the government is helping dairy farmers to lower their energy costs and improve energy efficiency in dairy farms. I also note that the dairy industry is a major winner in the recently announced Australia-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement. The agreement will allow annual increases in Australian exports of liquid milk at zero tariff. After my recent trip to Western Australia and in the wake of a report from Wesfarmers, WA is, I believe, well placed possibly to take advantage of this opportunity to expand production and exports to Malaysia's rapidly growing middle class.

In Tassie, at the moment dairying is undergoing a rapid expansion. It is exponentially increasing, especially in my electorate, with major announcements from processors: an increase in capacity from Fonterra, a proposal by Kirin-Lion-Nathan to massively expand specialty cheese production in Burnie and on the iconic King Island and Murray Goulburn and Tasmanian Dairy Products are currently building a milk-drying facility in Smithton. The opportunities created by these expansions may be leveraged by the Commonwealth and state governments' $104 million investment in the Midlands Water Scheme. My recent visit to the Tasmanian dairy business of the year, the Rosemount dairy farm in Cressy, highlighted to me that opportunities may exist in Tassie in areas that have not been considered traditional dairying areas. I would also like to comment on the first major robotic rotary dairy near Deloraine which has been established by the Dornauf family. This is going to have exciting prospects for the dairying industry throughout Australia, particularly in Tassie.

As part of the $20 million IGA diversification funding associated with the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement, $4.25 million has been allocated to fund what we call a new Agritas Trade College at Smithton—that is at Circular Head in the far north-west of Tassie, in my electorate. This is an area that is going to explode with dairying. Funding for this new college is $4.25 million, and up to $1.5 million has been allocated to invest in a major upgrade to the Harcus River Road—particularly for road upgrade and energy provision. This is on top of the $45 million voluntary exit assistance package that we have managed to devise and implement for harvest-haulage and silvicultural contractors.

Freight is a significant issue for an island state like Tasmania. A combination of factors recently, such as the loss of direct international shipping—for those who do not know, we do not have any direct international shipping to Tassie now—and the higher Australian dollar, which is affecting all exports, have put pressure on Tasmania's exporters. That is why the Labor government, particularly through the member for Grayndler, the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, and my parliamentary colleagues from Tasmania have seen an allocation of $20 million to assist in the transportation issues facing exporters. We hope that we will be able to make some form of formal announcement of that distribution in the very near future.

This is a responsible government producing a responsible budget. Australia is returning to trend growth, so it is appropriate to return the budget to surplus. Interest rates are now lower than at any time under the previous Liberal government, and a family with a $300,000 mortgage is now paying around $3,000 a year less in repayments. In the Labor tradition we are managing tough economic times, as we did through the global financial crisis, in a responsible manner while providing assistance to those who need it most. I remind those in the chamber again: Australia has unemployment, inflation and interest rates below five per cent. But, if you listened to those opposite or read a News Ltd newspaper, you would never believe it.