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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4447

Mr JOYCE (New England) (11:15): I think that one of the most crucial things about this budget is that we return to a surplus position. If we do not return to a surplus position as envisaged, in 2020-21, with a small surplus and more substantial surpluses after that, then the budget loses its integrity, and at any future time it really won't matter what you say in the budget, because there will be no money to do it. This is a task that was left to us by the trajectory that Labor Party imprudence put us on. At that time, I remember being at the front doors and giving a speech, because I was amazed at how quickly they had taken our gross debt from around about $60 billion to over $100 billion, in lightning form.

Then came the time where, apparently, they were going to save Australia from the global financial crisis. Might I say, we were saved from the global financial crisis not by school halls or ceiling insulation or other ridiculous money that was thrown out the door for people to go and spend as they wish. A lot of it went into such things as the pokies; I don't know whether the pokies revitalised the Australian economy, but they certainly gave it a good crack. We were saved by a range of things. Coal exports were a very big one; iron ore exports were another very big one. We also had a large export of grain, especially from Western Australia, at the time. These factors contributed to our capacity to avoid a downturn in the economy, to keep that record growth going; it had nothing to do with Labor prudence.

The repair mechanism we were placed on from that trajectory has been long and arduous. It has taken hard work, it's required people to deal with a lot of pain as they had to try and remove themselves from these crazy contractual obligations like some madman who'd been on a late-night television shopping splurge, buying everything they could possibly see. Now we are heading back to a surplus. I hope, no matter who the government is, that they are cognisant of the fact that, if we don't move towards surpluses, then your promises to an electorate are meaningless because there is no money to back them up.

Within this budget, though, we do have a range of things that talk to the growth of our nation, and I want to identify a few of them. Infrastructure is the core to the development of our nation. We have a nation that is basically seen through the eyes of a crescent economy: it starts at about Rockhampton, goes through to about Adelaide and sticks very closely to the coast. That is not the way our nation should see its future. It has to develop further regions. Within this budget, we have a continued equity injection into something the National Party fought for, and in which I was proud to play my part—that is, the inland rail. This is absolutely vital in how we drive another section of our economy into a form of economic development, and you will see this in its most prevalent form in places such as Parkes, where Pacific National is already investing in excess of $35 million into new infrastructure—into Narrabri, into places such as Goondiwindi and Toowoomba, and of course the beneficiaries of this reside at the bookends, which are Melbourne and Brisbane. This is one of the most seminal statements of regional development that this nation has seen, certainly in my time in politics, and it is something that we fought for and that we can still do whilst bringing the budget into surplus.

Hand in glove with that I'd like to acknowledge that, yes, we do have an obligation to make sure that we make the lives of people better. The member for Lingiari, who spoke previously, brought to our attention such things as the renal dialysis issues, and these are vitally important, especially for Aboriginal people, Indigenous people, particularly those of the Western Desert. Renal dialysis is vitally important because of the high incidence of renal failure that is present in Indigenous communities. Mr Deputy Speaker Gee, you would also have a personal engagement in the investment that will be made in such things as the Murray-Darling Basin medical school, something I know you have fought diligently and ardently for over such a long period of time. Once again, the only way these sorts of things can happen is due to the prudence of having a budget that is ultimately going back to surplus.

We must also invest in roads. Within my own electorate, we're looking for close to $75 million to be spent in the current year on capital on roads, especially the New England Highway, which is our corridor of commerce. It will go between the Inland Rail to our west and the Pacific Highway to our east. To our east, we'll also see something we have been fighting for over a long period of time, and I acknowledge the work of the member for Cowper, and that is the Coffs Harbour bypass. Coffs Harbour is one of those areas where it's a bottleneck. We have a national purpose to remove these bottlenecks, because we should be able to get on a dual highway at Gympie and go all the way to Melbourne. One of the last major bottlenecks is Coffs Harbour, and now we have brought forward the capacity to start working on that. It was always in the budget, but timing was the issue.

I know that the member for Wide Bay is very aware and thankful for the work that will be done on section D of the Bruce Highway. Section D was slightly easier because there were other savings, and these savings in the allocation within that portfolio were allowed to be brought forward to 'like purposes', and a like purpose was obviously seen to be section D of the Bruce Highway.

Regional airport security and the upgrade of regional airport security are other issues of vital importance, and two beneficiaries of that reside in my electorate, including Armidale. The federal government and the state government have invested a large amount of money in Armidale, and this $3.5 million will take that airport to the next stage—that is, getting the proper screening facilities in.

I'd like to acknowledge former Leader of the National Party Warren Truss and the work he did in bringing about $1 billion for the Building Better Regions Fund. During my time we refurbished that with in excess of half a billion dollars, and that fund continues on. This work is hand in glove with the requirements of councils, who always have certain projects they're looking for funding for. I'm not trying to be parochial, but working closely with councils allows us to deliver to people the projects that they want. There has also been an unfreezing of the financial assistance grants, otherwise known as FAGs. They'd had their indexation frozen, but they have now been released so that councils can have greater access to money. We must work closely with our local councils because they are, to be quite frank, closest to the people. In that working relationship between state and federal and local governments, we must allow them to have access to resources to do their jobs. By so doing, they are doing ours.

We can also see there is a $3.5 billion Roads of Strategic Importance initiative. Now $1.5 billion of this is going to be spent in northern Australia, so I would like to take issue with what the previous speaker, the member for Lingiari, brought up when he asked, 'What are we doing in northern Australia?' This is yet another statement, a $1.5 billion statement. It allows another $2 billion to be spent on other Roads of Strategic Importance initiatives. I think we should really start thinking of roads that not only go north-south but also east-west. Within my patch we have things such as the Bruxner Highway. We need to make sure we upgrade that; it's a major corridor. We have the Taree to Tamworth road, including such things as the Bucketts Way and Port Stephens Cutting, which is a vitally important piece of infrastructure that needs to be upgraded. Recently the Armidale Regional Council approached me about a major road—that is, the Kempsey to Armidale road, a large section of which goes over the Great Dividing Range Range—that is without side rails, so if someone goes over the edge, they're dead. It is roads such as those that are crying out for an investment—an investment that can only be made by a budget that is going back into surplus. Mr Deputy Speaker Gee, Bells Line of Road is something that you drove us half-crazy with, so it's good to see that there is a pool of funds with the capacity to allow us to deal with issues such as that one.

The digital transformation package, which is $10.1 million, will allow us to further build on something that has been a core issue for the National Party, and that is decentralisation. This is genuine decentralisation: decentralisation to regional towns, not decentralisation to other suburbs within Sydney, or to other major capitals within our nation, but actually to regional towns.

I know that one of the more noteworthy of those, and something we fought for, was the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale. Obviously, it builds on the concept of centres of excellence—people who can socialise the acumen on research into plants and animals. And by doing so in an area such as Armidale—a university town, with cathedrals, art galleries and the CSIRO—we hope that after the transition, which always has to be managed, that we allow and set up our nation for a better future, with resident expert knowledge and the capacity for that to cross-fertilise in such a way that we have a better outcome. This will be a better outcome for the CSIRO, a better outcome for the University of New England in its research into animals and plants, and a better outcome for the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority, because these skill sets are in close proximity to one another.

In your own electorate, Mr Deputy Speaker Gee, we're doing the same thing. We are setting up to do the same thing, with the financing of soft commodity products to stand behind such things. I commend the work done by David Littleproud in finalising the movement of the Regional Investment Corporation, a $4 billion investment cooperation, to Orange, where it can cohabit with Paraway financial, which is part of Macquarie Bank, with the regional and rural investment arm of the National Australia Bank and with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. This is creating, yet again, another centre of excellence, a centre of financial excellence. I may have talked about this excessively, but giving vision to it is our own form of Chicago in Orange. That is what you want to do when you have real vision for this nation.

I know there's further decentralisation, such as the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. A section of that has gone to Wodonga. That is good, taking jobs to Wodonga. And might I note that there were more applications for those jobs in Wodonga than we had places available for them. That is real decentralisation. And I know that the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, the member for Maranoa, has further goals to set in further decentralisation.

I would also like to commend the work that is being done by the member for Riverina, the Leader of the National Party, in making sure that the offices for the Inland Rail Corporation are not in Canberra, but actually out in places such as Dubbo. This is the sort of decentralisation that our nation has to do if we want to evolve from this crescent economy that resides predominantly within 10 to 50 kilometres of the coast, in an arc from Rockhampton around to Adelaide. It's only through a budget such as this that we have the capacity to invest in what is important.

For the New England, it has been a good outcome: there is the further investment that is happening for the New England Highway, the further investment that is happening in our airports and the further investment that is happening in securing better water infrastructure. I note that we've had the upgrade of the Chaffey Dam in the past, and we're now driving for a further upgrade of water infrastructure to secure the water supply for the City of Tamworth. If we hadn't upgraded the water supply we'd be in dire consequences now. In the past we fought for it and we achieved it. Water is wealth, and it also underpins the economic development of those areas.

We're also working hand in glove with the resettlement of refugees. It was great, the other day, with Settlement Services International to see people such as the Yazidi people, who were persecuted. We may remember when they were on Mount Sinjar, being pursued by ISIS. I have a great sense of joy in making sure that these people find refuge, solace and a great future in a city such as Armidale.

We can show compassion when we have the wallet to do it. It is very hard to show compassion when you don't have the money. So the first responsibility—and concluding where I started—in anything is to make sure that what you spend, ultimately, is less than what you receive, otherwise you will go broke. You must pay off the credit card, otherwise your promises are without purpose. They are false and they are misleading, and you leave your nation in a dire position in the future, where the people who come after us, and our children, have to pay back debts—and they really would be debts. We have to set ourselves on that path, no matter who is in government. We must set ourselves that task and put ourselves on that path, otherwise we are being totally and utterly selfish in how we see it. We are letting down the people in the future who would have needed that money for a better lifestyle and for a better future—for better health, for better education, for better roads, for a nation that can defend itself, for a nation that has the capacity to show compassion in looking after others and for a nation that decentralises for a greater purpose in the future.