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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4444


Mr SNOWDON (Lingiari) (10:59): I am so pleased to be involved in this discussion. We watched the budget with great interest, thinking that we may see something productive come out of it in the context of looking after ordinary Australians, the health system, the education system, housing, remote communities and infrastructure across Australia, but how disappointed we were! We ended up with what we have seen in successive budgets from this government: they're all spin, and the substance leaves a great deal wanting. In 2014, $500 million was unceremoniously cut from the budget for First Nations peoples across the country, money that has never been restored. When you look at this budget, you ask what's in it for ordinary Australians—let alone Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote parts the country—and you find there's not a great deal. We know this budget is aimed at the top end of town and denies the opportunity it should provide for ordinary Australians. We've heard repeatedly that it fundamentally fails the fairness test: 'We'll give a massive $80 billion handout to big business, $17 billion of it to crook banks, and at the same time cut funding to hospitals, schools, TAFE and housing.' How does that work?

An opposition member: It doesn't.

Mr SNOWDON: It does not work. Ordinary Australians are having their pockets pilfered. We can see that in the government's support for the Fair Work Commission's penalty rate decision. How do you say to ordinary Australians, 'We're looking after your interests; we want you to do well and have good access to education and health care,' while at the same time ensuring the beneficiaries of this budget are not them, but the people who do well out of this community already? We're seeing record profits for the banks in particular. I cannot comprehend how this government sees it as a good idea to give banks a $17 billion tax cut, and how anyone in the community supports that idea. $17 billion is what they're cutting out of schools. How do you justify that?

When the opposition comes up with budget measures designed to restructure the tax system, like the decisions proposed for negative gearing, we get nothing from the government except criticism that this somehow or another is going to pilfer the pockets of the rich. That's the people it will impact upon, not working people, not families dependent upon public housing—the people who are going to suffer directly as a result of this budget. The Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Treasurer have made it very clear that we'll restore the funding cut from hospitals and schools in this budget. That means we'll scrap the up-front fees for 100,000 TAFE students as part of our $470 million plan to boost TAFE apprenticeships in the schools of Australia. We'll invest $100 million in modernising TAFE facilities around the country. We'll provide 10,000 pre-apprentice places for young people who want to learn a trade and 20,000 adult apprentice places for older workers who need to retrain.

We'll put $2.8 billion back into hospitals. That will impact upon the health care of ordinary Australians right across this country. That's what is important: health care and education. If we want young Australians to have a sustainable long-term future and the opportunity for a job, we have to make sure the foundations are right. We've got to make sure that they have good access to early childhood education, to a good health system and to a good education system which provides them with the opportunity to learn as they should learn and provides them with good post-school training, whether it's in the TAFE system or the universities—areas which have been impacted directly by this government's budget. The people who will suffer the most from this budget are people who live in regional and remote communities of this country.

The $17 billion cut from schools over the next 10 years, which this government has put in place, will impact on my electorate in a disproportionate way. The most disadvantaged students in the country live in rural and remote parts of my electorate—Aboriginal communities scattered across 1.3 million square kilometres of my electorate. They will be the ones who suffer the most as a result of these cuts. It means that, over the next two years, schools in the Northern Territory will be losing $71 million—that is $71 million that schools across the Northern Territory will lose. Of course, the kids in Lingiari will be losing access to almost $40 million: $37.3 million of that money will come out of the seat of Lingiari. Let's be very clear about it, they have the highest levels of poverty and the greatest disadvantage of any kids across this country. That funding cut to the Northern Territory is equivalent to cutting four teachers from almost every school. We need to be clear that 70 per cent of kids in the Northern Territory are enrolled in the public education system. It's not reasonable. It's not fair. That is why Labor is committed to restoring the $17 billion cuts from education.

This budget is such a con. It is such a con! We learn from the budget that Scott Morrison, the Treasurer, has led Territorians to believe that the Central Arnhem Highway will receive funding of $180 million for bituminising—by the way, $180 million won't be sufficient—and another $100 million for the Buntine Highway, which should also be upgraded. You would think as a result of those announcements that the people of the Northern Territory would be jumping up and down with glee, knowing that this money would be coming almost immediately and that the next financial year they could see the engineers, the road workers, the vehicles, the tractors and the bulldozers. We could see all this work happening on the roads in the Northern Territory—well, far from it. Four out of every five dollars of this money will appear in not this parliament, not the next one but the one after. It is in 2022 when we'll see any of the real money hit the deck. It means that people have been told to believe that this money would be forthcoming through this budget process, when, in fact, they won't get it until 2022. And it's even worse than that. What we know from their previous budgets and from estimates this week is that, in their first four budgets, this government have committed to investing $675 million in the Territory's infrastructure—that is $675 million that they have committed—but they have actually invested only $451 million. So, $224 million of the $675 million promised in budgets over the last four years to the Northern Territory for infrastructure have not appeared.

What sorts of fools do they think the people of the Northern Territory are, if they believe they're going to say, 'What a great thing it is that you've told us once again that you're going to spend more money on us, when we know that the money you said you were going to spend in the past has not been spent'? It's worth pointing out where some of that money hasn't been spent. Just think of this: $305 million was committed to major road projects and only $237 million has been spent—a 22 per cent underspend. The Bridges Renewal Program was allocated $17 million and $2 million has been spent—an 89 per cent underspend. With the Northern Australia Beef Roads Program, we hear it all the time—I can remember the former Deputy Prime Minister standing up in the parliament and telling us what these beef roads were going to do—that there are funds for Northern Australia. I will tell you what has happened. The Northern Territory was allocated $14 million, but do you know how much has been spent over the last four years? It was $1 million—and 89 per cent underspend. What sort of fools do you think we are in the Northern Territory that we're going to cop the crap you give us all the time. Northern Australian roads—$98 million coming to the Northern Territory. How much has been spent? It was $15 million, an 86 per cent underspend. We're not galahs around here. But you are, because you take us for galahs. We know that this place needs a lot better outcomes than you're providing.

The funding profile across the Northern Territory between 2018-19 and 2021-22 is $222 million in 2018-19, and by the time we get to 2021-22 it is $61 million. You cannot be serious. We see the current Deputy Prime Minister coming to the Northern Territory and pontificating about how much money is being spent and all the infrastructure that is going to be developed, when we know it's a fraud. We know it's an absolute fraud, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

It's not all brickbats, though, I might say. I want to acknowledge a couple of bouquets in this budget, because they impact upon particular groups of people. One of them is the excellent announcement of $23 million allocated in the budget for Western Desert Dialysis, or the Purple House. This is the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation, which provides renal care for people living in remote communities. What this government has done, and I support it absolutely, is to provide a Medicare item number for remote renal dialysis, which means there will be a dedicated item number, providing $590 per dialysis treatment, at a total cost to the budget of $34.8 million for 2022. This is welcome. The expansion of remote dialysis will take the number of dialysis machines in remote communities from 36 to 54, allowing more than 400 patients to receive dialysis, compared to the current patient load of around 250 in these remote communities.

For those who don't understand the importance of this, let me say that the number of people who live in remote communities across north and central Australia who have had to relocate to places like Alice Springs, Katherine, Darwin, Adelaide, Perth, Broome, and other places for end-stage renal treatment is enormous. It means there's an impact on those communities. If we can provide these services to people in their home communities, that releases pressure on the towns, it will be cheaper in the long term, and it will provide a better health outcome for those people, which is where they want to be—in their home communities. That's a very important announcement and I congratulate Minister Ken Wyatt in particular for it.

There were some other announcements that I thought were important, although much overdue. They related to the Indian Ocean territories of Christmas Islands and Cocos Islands, although I note there is nothing in this budget directly for Cocos Islands. There is money for Christmas Island to relocate and upgrade the wharf crane and mooring systems at Flying Fish Cove. This is a process that has been going on for over 10 years, so it's about bloody time it was done, and I think it's important we acknowledge that it is being done. This money is welcome, but I have to say there are no infrastructure announcements for Cocos Islands. We know that the airstrip on Cocos Islands needs to be upgraded—it is being upgraded, but there's no money in the budget for it. So, I just wonder what is happening? Where is the money coming from for this work? It's vital for the nation, as many will know. It is important that we acknowledge that it needs to be done, but there's nothing in this budget for it.

I have given the bouquets, but the brickbats are a lot heavier and they are creating a lot more damage. I have mentioned a number of things, but I haven't gone into all the issues to do with remote area housing. We have seen a welcome announcement from the government of $110 million a year for remote area housing over the next period. That is $34 million a year less than was being provided under the previous agreement for remote housing in the Northern Territory, and no money has been allocated in this budget for remote housing in the other states of the country, and that needs to be done. This budget is a fraud.