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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4441

Mr HOGAN (PageDeputy Speaker) (10:44): Before I talk about some of the wonderful things that will be funded under Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 and the related bills, I just want to pick up on what the previous member said—her accusation about the politicisation of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. Let's talk of facts here: that committee's decisions used to be done completely at arm's length, and it was, in fact, Nicola Roxon, a previous Labor health minister, who decided that all of those things from the PBAC would come before cabinet. She completely politicised the process. I would just put that fact on the record.

This budget has some wonderful themes to it. If I look at the themes of this budget, there is major infrastructure spending, as you and many people would well know, Mr Deputy Speaker Irons. There is a $75 million spend in infrastructure over 10 years, and I will talk a bit about that. The overarching theme of this budget, too, is that this side of politics understands. I am almost at despair that the other side don't understand that all of the wealth of this country is created by the private sector. Every single taxpayer funded job, every single taxpayer funded program and every bit of money we spend on education, health, welfare and defence—you name it; basically, the whole city of Canberra—survives on the taxpayer dollar.

And the taxpayer dollar is all generated by the private sector. These are people who have a go; people who go out there, start a business, start employing people, make money and do well. They then pay taxes to fund the public sector. So the theme of this budget is very much about giving money back. It is not about cutting money to any public sector or to any public area; it's actually making it easier for the private sector to thrive. This has been well proven: one of the reasons that I think this country has had uninterrupted growth for the last 20-odd years—and I will give credit to the other side—is the tax cuts for both individuals and companies from both sides of politics over those 20-odd years, begun under Hawke and Keating. They were into personal income and company tax cuts, as was, obviously, the Howard government as well. It stalled under Rudd and Gillard, obviously, but, again, we are looking to re-institute those.

What that means is we're competitive. It means that those private businesses have more money to spend and they thrive. And every single company tax rate cut that we've ever done, for example, has meant that the tax collection from the corporate sector not only increased in dollar value within two to three years but it increased as a percentage of the GDP of this country. So that says that when we have a thriving private sector, therefore the public sector benefits from that.

I just want to go through a couple of things to begin with—infrastructure projects that I'm very excited about out of this budget. The one thing I think that we do need to do as a government is that while the private sector will create jobs and grow our economy, we as a government need to provide good infrastructure and provide the types of things that a modern, thriving economy and country has to provide for people for be attracted here and for things—goods and services—to move with ease around our country and, indeed. leave our country to be exported.

One part of what I'm very excited about is the Pacific Highway bypass of Coffs Harbour. The reason that we do dual duplication of highways, as you would well understand, Mr Deputy Speaker, is to reduce fatalities. Fatalities on our roads are still far too high. Fatalities on the Pacific Highway, which is very dear to my heart, are now at multidecade lows. When you consider the increase in traffic over the decades, that is a great statistic and it's because we are dual-duplicating it. We still have a bit to go, and the last bit, really, that funds have been allocated to is the Coffs Harbour bypass. One of the reasons for this is that the Coffs Harbour area itself was dual duplicated. It was not unsafe, so the parts that we were doing first were those that weren't dual duplicated so that we could reduce fatalities on the road.

There are big parts happening in my electorate; it is now probably down to four, but the dual duplication was a $5 billion project a few years ago. The big section still to be done is between Woolgoolga and Ballina. Again, billions of dollars of federal money are going into that—80 per cent of the funding of that is federal and 20 per cent is from the state.

The missing link was the Coffs Harbour bypass, and in this budget we have allocated $971 million to bypass Coffs Harbour. Coffs Harbour has 12 sets of traffic lights and is busy in itself. It is a thriving regional centre with a large, growing population. With the 12 sets of traffic lights, just with local traffic, it is busy. When you have B-doubles and a lot of people driving up and down the highway it is in lockdown, especially around tourist times and busy holiday seasons. So I was delighted to see and be part of the announcement in the budget. The northern beaches of Coffs Harbour recently came into my electorate in the last redistribution in New South Wales at the last election, and I have been spending a lot of time in places like Sapphire Beach, Moonee Beach, Emerald Beach, Sandy Beach, Corindi, Arrawarra and other places. When I am down there and in those communities, this issue is raised a lot with me. So I was delighted that that was announced in the budget.

There are four other programs that I would like to commend that are going to be re-funded in the budget. One is the Building Better Regions Fund. Our cities—the Sydneys and Melbournes—really are overcrowded. A lot of the growth in Australia's populations does get centred in those two major cities, and we are looking to decentralise. We have some thriving regional centres and regional cities where people can move without necessarily locking down the infrastructure or overloading the infrastructure in those places. The Building Better Regions Fund is an important part of that and I am delighted to see that funded.

We also had a pilot program, the Regional Jobs and Investment Package, and I will be looking to see that further extended as well. RJIP is about not only building public infrastructure—the roads and the bridges that you need—but encouraging and giving incentives to private businesses to move to regional centres. I announced some at the start of this year, which I was really excited about. We are going to help along a medicinal cannabis facility in Casino. We gave money to them and their projections have them employing up to 280 people within the next three or four years. We also are looking to relocate a robotics company called Adaptapack. This is a world-leading company that will relocate to the Northern Rivers as well, and will bring, very importantly, high-paying, skilled jobs to the region. One thing with regional areas is that they often do not necessarily have the career choices for our young people, if they elect to stay in a region. Some of the career choices have been more limited, obviously, than in the capital cities, so attracting companies like this to regional areas is important.

We also are helping the blueberry industry again. Regional areas tend to be great exporters; we produce things. Whether we grow food or produce other stuff, we are large exporters. We are helping the blueberry industry out as well with one grant that we are providing. We are building some infrastructure around Cumaran Creek Road with one of the biggest agribusinesses in our area, Mara Seeds. Just as an anecdote, they provide 85 per cent of the soybeans for Vitasoy in our country. You wouldn't know it if you were driving around that area, but they are hidden away behind hills doing wonderful work, and we are going to be helping them as well. Again, these are very exciting things about developing regional Australia and making sure we get our fair share of spending.

It was great to see also the 20,000 extra at-home care places in the budget, and also the ACAR funding in the budget. There has been an amazing growth in aged-care retirement villages and nursing homes within my electorate. There is a new one in Grafton—144 aged-care beds for Signature Care in Grafton. There is more money for aged care in Kyogle and Yamba There are some exciting developments there that I look forward to watching grow and come online in the next few years.

It's also great to see the Stronger Communities Program funded in this budget as well. They're not necessarily large amounts of money, but a lot of people talk about partnerships when they have been speaking on these appropriation bills. That is a great grants program helping what are often volunteer based organisations, where people are giving of their time and sometimes of their own resources to provide essential services or facilities in local communities. The Stronger Communities grants are all about helping them and whatever service or facilities they are providing. There have been some wonderful examples of that in my community. That program is continuing as well.

Just on the bigger picture again, I started by saying how important the private sector is. This country only thrives if our private sector is thriving. We always need to create the environment where they do thrive. Some of the things that are very important in this are the asset depreciation write-off, the $20,000 as a one-off capital purchase or anything under that. That created a real boon in my regional towns when that was introduced two or three years ago. If you were a small business and you were going to buy something, whether it be a piece of equipment or something in the office, you could instantly write that off. As soon as we introduced that a number of years ago, a lot of businesses came to me and said that it had made a real difference. That is because we understand it; we understand that people investing and putting their capital into their business is important. Updating equipment and re-investing has created a real boom. It's great to see that as well.

Let's talk about tax relief. The other side, when they use this word, say, 'Giving people tax relief is almost like robbing the country.' This is about letting people keep more of their own money to invest and spend so they can thrive. It is a bit disturbing, because this current Labor opposition is really the first government in 30 years that doesn't accept that. We've had 20-odd years of growth because of that philosophy, and it is very disappointing to see that after 30 years we're starting to disagree on that.

Very importantly, we have already given tax cuts to small businesses with turnover of less than $50 million. That is very important as well. Again, the other side would like to think it's a fluke. But we have seen 400,000-odd jobs created in this country in the last 12 months. It's not a fluke and it's not good luck. It's about the fact that we are creating the environment and the conditions where small businesses are encouraged to invest and grow their businesses and therefore, obviously, employ more people.

We do free trade agreements, and they are great. A lot of them get caught up in protocols, and different agreements get established with different parts. They are micro areas of the different economies, if you like. It was good to see new trade councils with different countries funded in this budget, which is going to help our export markets. Obviously everything that we export creates more wealth in this country, which is important.

I have spoken a lot about where we might be spending money and allocating resources, but with all of this, because we have a growing economy, more people in jobs and less people in welfare, we actually are increasing funding in important social infrastructure like education and health. Other speakers have mentioned the PBS and other health areas where we are increasing funding. That is social infrastructure, which is a very important part of our country's growth as well.

Above all that, there is other great news. It is often said that if you run continual deficits and run up the debt of your country you are literally robbing future generations. It's not okay to leave your children and grandchildren with a huge debt that they would have to pay back. The coalition government since 2013 has been looking to restore the country's finances, which were ruined by the previous Labor government. We are bringing the surplus back a year earlier, and for the first time since the Howard government we will be running a surplus, which, along with ensuring the security of this nation, is one of the most important things we do.