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Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Page: 97

Mrs ANDREWS (McPhersonAssistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills) (16:57): I'm pleased to add my voice to those speaking in support of these appropriation bills, which are part of the 2018-19 federal budget. I've spent the last week out in my community on the southern Gold Coast speaking with locals about the budget, what's in it for them and, more importantly, what's in it for the future of our nation—because that's really what we're all here for: to ensure we can make Australia an even better place for generations to come.

The feedback has been very positive—extremely positive, in fact. People see this as a budget that's responsible, fair and balanced. It reflects where we are as a nation and the values that are important. That's because this budget is all about doing the right thing: staying the course to bring the budget back to surplus; ensuring the government lives within its means; and guaranteeing the essentials we all rely on, particularly seniors, those with a disability, those who need help the most. It's about ensuring hardworking Australian taxpayers can keep more of their earnings and have incentives to get ahead and earn more, if they choose to. It's about ensuring that small and medium businesses can grow, succeed and employ more people. It's about the aspirations we share to make sure our kids and grandkids can do their very best and not have to struggle or rely on the government. We want to help create the conditions that encourage enterprise, endeavour, free thinking, independence, self-development and community contribution in the knowledge that reward is not a bad thing, getting ahead is not a bad thing and doing well for yourself is not a bad thing. It's exactly what we hope for our kids and our grandkids.

Today, I want to outline some of the positives that are in the budget for my constituents. There's one issue that has been raised with me more than any other since I was elected, and that's upgrading the M1 all the way through to the border to reduce congestion and travelling times on the southern Gold Coast. As a community, we've lobbied for this for many years. I spoke about it in my first speech in this place. Many thousands of local residents signed my online petition, calling for funding to finally complete the upgrades. So, I'm absolutely delighted that we have been able to announce—and it's in the budget—that there will be $1 billion of funding available to upgrade the M1 from Varsity Lakes through to Tugun, and to fix bottlenecks at Eight Mile Plains, further up the M1. That's part of the $75 billion infrastructure investment to strengthen the economy and create jobs.

This funding comes on top of the funding that we provided to upgrade the section from Mudgeeraba to Varsity Lakes. We announced that at the last election—back in 2016. Work on that section of the M1 is now underway. There were some preliminary works that took place prior to the Commonwealth Games, but now that the games are over we have now been able to commence the upgrade, and, with the additional funding that has been made available from the Turnbull government, it is my aim to ensure that we have a continuous build from Varsity Lakes all the way through to Tugun, to make sure that we can capture the economies of scale. We're looking at upwards of 10 kilometres of build just in that section alone, and, of course, whilst we have a continuous project there will be economies that form part of that as well.

I have indicated throughout this very lengthy process that I will work with the state government to make sure that Queenslanders, and particularly those who live in my electorate on the southern Gold Coast, do not have to remain in the M1 carpark for a second longer than is absolutely necessary. It is an absolutely huge win for our local community, and it's recognition that our government, the federal government, understands the frustrations of being stuck in traffic when you'd rather be at home with your family or at work earning a living. We know how important decent transport systems are, and that is clearly reflected in the many infrastructure projects funded in this budget.

Making our tax system fairer and simpler is also a large part of this budget, and I'm delighted that over 69,000 taxpayers in McPherson stand to benefit from the low- and middle-income tax relief this budget delivers in the upcoming 2018-19 financial year. And, over the coming years, they will benefit even more from our plan to tackle bracket creep and restore incentive to earn more. In fact, from 1 July 2024 the government will increase the top threshold of the 32½ per cent tax bracket from $120,000 to $200,000, removing the 37 per cent tax bracket completely. The plan means that around 94 per cent of all taxpayers will have a marginal tax rate of 32.5 per cent or less in 2024-25. This compares with a projected 63 per cent of taxpayers in 2024 without change to current settings. Australians who work hard, take extra shifts, or earn pay rises or promotions will be encouraged and rewarded. Workers can plan ahead, knowing they will pay one consistent rate of income tax. That's an incredibly positive change that I know is being welcomed by my constituents.

One of our other positive tax measures is extending the $20,000 instant asset write-off for small businesses. This is a really great incentive for businesses to invest in the things they need to grow and expand. Over the last week in particular, I visited many of the local businesses in McPherson. Some had already taken advantage of that instant asset write-off for the small businesses; others are continuing to take it up in the future. I have spoken a number of times in this chamber about how the Gold Coast is the small-business capital of Australia. We have so many thriving and growing businesses on the coast. The entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive and well in my electorate. So far, 2,250 McPherson small businesses have already taken advantage of the $20,000 instant asset write-off. The further extension will allow even more businesses to continue to invest.

One of the most important aspects of the budget is that, through responsible economic management, we have been able to guarantee the essential services we all need and rely upon. We have delivered record funding for hospitals. Queensland public hospitals will receive more than $29.5 billion over the next five years, delivering an additional $7.49 billion in funding compared to the previous five years. This is a funding increase of some 34 per cent. We're providing a fully funded NDIS to help those with a disability. Once fully rolled out the NDIS will directly help an estimated 2,572 people and their families in the electorate of McPherson. These people need our help and support the most, and I am proud to be part of a government that is delivering that support and not just talking about it.

We're making child care more affordable. On 2 July our new childcare system will come into place, with 7,556 local families in McPherson benefiting from our reforms. We're guaranteeing universal access to preschool. This ensures that this year 2,267 children in McPherson can access 15 hours of quality early learning in the year before school. We are absolutely safeguarding Medicare and bulk-billing, as we always promised. Australians are now well aware that there was no truth whatsoever in Labor's 'Mediscare' campaign at the last election. We're listing more medicines on the PBS to help Australians, including new medications to treat conditions like spinal muscular atrophy and breast cancer. Since coming into government the coalition has helped improve the health of Australians by subsidising more than $8.3 billion worth of new medicines. As part of our plan to ensure the essentials we're delivering affordable and reliable energy with the National Energy Guarantee.

There are many more benefits for my constituents on the southern Gold Coast. There's increased funding for in-home aged-care places, access to a range of new programs so seniors can supplement their incomes, positive health initiatives to help seniors live longer, and a funding increase to continue improving DVA services so our veterans are given the respect they deserve. I'm delighted that we're funding another round of grants for the Stronger Communities Program, which makes a direct impact in our local community, helping local groups with infrastructure and projects that assist in their great work. We've had some fantastic local projects funded so far, and this is about delivering a social dividend and giving back to the community in a practical way.

There are so many other positives: funding to protect the Great Barrier Reef, measures to crack down on welfare fraud, measures to ensure multinationals pay their fair share of tax, and a range of other initiatives designed to further trim wasteful spending. That's the responsible and balanced approach that the coalition has taken with this budget. Importantly the coalition government is committed to building the skills to meet Australia's needs not just now but into the future with the commitment of $1.5 billion to the Skilling Australians Fund. This was first announced and formed part of last year's budget, but we have confirmed that in this year's budget, and I can inform the House that we are well on the way to finalising an agreement that will ensure the $1.5 billion goes towards addressing skills shortages, with a focus on boosting the number of apprentices in training. The figures that we are quoting are around 300,000 additional apprentices in training. I'm speaking about Australian apprenticeships, so that includes apprentices and trainees.

We're looking to build a pipeline into the future. The 300,000 figure includes pre-apprentices, apprentices, those who are completing technical or workplace based training at the certificate III or IV level, and what we're calling higher apprenticeships at the diploma and advanced diploma levels. That is for sectors such as advanced engineering or finance, for example, where we've already run a couple of projects and pilots that have indicated a need for us to provide, effectively, the dual system of training that the Germans have in place. Quite frankly, I believe Australia has a system that is equally as good as the German model, because we are training technically and we are training on the job as well. So we will be creating that pipeline.

We have indicated to the states that we want to enter into a further national partnership agreement, but it will be very different to the last national partnership agreement, which was a $1.75 billion fund over a five-year period. But, of that $1.75 billion, only $600 million went towards direct training outcomes. We are now looking at a total of $1.5 billion over a five-year period that will go to a direct training outcome. So I'm very confident that we actually have the policy right. We have said to the states that we want to work with them, and we have asked them to come back to us with some proposals for projects that they want to run in their states that will address the decline in apprenticeships that has happened over the last five years—particularly over the term of the last national partnership agreement. I guess in that context it's very important to note that there was a significant drop-off in apprentices in training that took place in 2012 and 2013; in fact, it was the largest drop-off in numbers that has been experienced. There's quite a bit of work to do, so we've said to the states, 'Come to us with your projects that you would like to put in place to halt the decline in apprenticeship numbers.' We want to see those projects working in some priority industries and priority areas. We've named some of those—they include manufacturing, health, the disability sector and agriculture. We've said to the states that we are absolutely open to looking at it on a state-by-state basis to address what their needs are and to work hand in hand with them to make sure we are addressing the skills shortages that exist in this country, both now and in the future.

This budget is responsible and it's fair. We're balancing the books and we've guaranteed the services and infrastructure we need without plunging our nation into debt and deficit. We're not socially engineering outcomes; we're supporting local communities and providing support and incentives for everyone to do better.