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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4468


Mr RICK WILSON (O'Connor) (12:45): I rise today to support the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 and to congratulate the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance on preparing what has been a great budget for my electorate of O'Connor. It's the culmination of five years of hard work on behalf of the government—a plan that has us on a realistic trajectory back into surplus. Given the situation that we inherited in 2013, with a $48.5 billion deficit, to get us on track to be back into surplus next year is an extraordinary achievement and, once again, I applaud the Prime Minister and the Treasurer for their hard work.

Part of that plan has been to get Australians back into work. In the last 12 months we've seen 413,000 jobs created, with 75 per cent of them full-time jobs. And as a former great Prime Minister said, 'The best form of welfare is getting people into work.' That's what this government has done and that's what this government is doing.

In relation to my electorate, which is home to 19,200 small businesses, we are seeing that plan really come to fruition. In the town of Kalgoorlie, the capital of the Goldfields and the capital of the goldmining industry in Western Australia, we see unemployment at 3.1 per cent. I'd like to say that that has fallen, but Kalgoorlie has been in full employment now for some time. The local chamber of commerce up there have identified around a thousand unfilled jobs, so I'd love to see some of the people from Western Sydney or other parts of the country who aren't finding work to maybe look at the option of coming to towns like Kalgoorlie. There are very well-paid jobs, a wonderful community and we'd love to see them. If there is high unemployment in those areas then we'd love to see them move to towns like Kalgoorlie.

Or, indeed, the town of Esperance. It's a beautiful coastal town with a population of 14,000 and it has an unemployment rate of 3.3 per cent. I'm struggling to think of a better place to live. Perhaps Albany, which is the largest town in my electorate. It has an unemployment rate of 4.2 per cent. And all of those jobs have been created by small businesses. We don't have large multinationals—the much-hated multinationals. We just have 19,200 small businesses. They are benefiting from our tax cuts, they are reinvesting those tax cuts in their businesses and they are employing local people. That's the plan that the government has put in place, and that plan is now starting to show fruition across the rest of the country.

A big part of supporting those small businesses has been to extend the $20,000 instant asset write-off, which not only benefits the small business which might be upgrading its equipment—the restaurant that's buying some new cooking equipment and so on—but it also benefits those businesses that supply those products. So that has been a wonderful asset to the business community across O'Connor, and over a thousand businesses have taken advantage of these measures.

Of course, the farming sector is very important across my electorate. Once again, they have taken advantage of that $20,000 instant write-off. There is a whole range of locally manufactured products, like silos, field bins, sheepfeeders and all of that sort of equipment that's used on farms. They're manufactured locally by local businesses, such as Birds Silos in Popanyinning. Popanyinning is a town of about 50 people, and about 20 of them work in that particular business. It's a great business, and they're benefiting from that instant asset write-off, because their sales have gone through the roof.

We're also trying to work our way through red-tape reduction, which has been a big part of this government's agenda, and we'll continue to do so. Small businessman don't want to spend all of their lives filling out forms and dealing with red tape; they want to get on with doing what they do, manufacturing great products across my electorate and creating jobs and profit for themselves.

Through our free trade agreements we're also boosting exports. The wine sector across my electorate—the regions of Plantagenet and the southern forests—produces wonderful wines that are now being exported in huge volumes, particularly to China. China is taking more and more of our wines. I think we're up about 50 per cent by volume and about 100 per cent by value, so it's a terrific result. We're seeing some of the fruits of our free trade agreements.

We're also investing another $335 million in skilling the Australian workforce. Obviously, training people is important. We are struggling to attract skilled labour to my region. As I said, there are wonderful towns with plenty of well-paid jobs, but, unfortunately, we're seeing people concentrate in places like Western Sydney. We want to skill them up and get them working in our regions.

I was out on the road last week selling the budget and meeting with various chambers of commerce and other groups. The budget was extremely well received, particularly because of our tax relief. Over 61,000 people in O'Connor will benefit from the government's tax relief—up to $530 for someone earning between $48,000 and $90,000, so for an average family that could be up to $1,060. The point I made to the chambers of commerce is that this money will stay in their communities. If it goes to Canberra, they're not going to see it all come back. They might see some come back in the form of infrastructure funding or whatever, but essentially they're never going to see that $1,060 come back to their communities. If we can leave that in people's pockets, they will spend it in the community and that will increase economic activity and provide more jobs and wealth in our communities. That's what we're about—creating wealth in those communities.

We've also made changes to superannuation. I've always thought it very pernicious that a young person in their first casual job, while studying or still at school, has their compulsory superannuation contribution paid into a fund—it's a small amount of money—and that fund tends to charge fees and also often charges for compulsory life insurance when that young person obviously doesn't need life insurance at that stage of their life. So we've made some changes to make that illegal. That will leave more money in those young people's superannuation funds so that that balance continues to build for the rest of their working lives.

We're also making changes to self-managed super funds. The limit of four people in a fund will be changed to six people in a fund. I think that will benefit family businesses in particular who want to keep family members together in a fund and pool their resources. It also allows for succession planning. Parents in a business can transition and allow the younger people in the family to take over. The super fund acts as a tool to allow that succession planning.

We're also delivering affordable and accessible child care with no annual limits on the childcare subsidy for families earning up to $187,000. As I've pointed out, we've got very low unemployment. We're looking for everybody to get back into the workforce in towns across my electorate. Allowing people, particularly obviously women, to access that child care and get back in the workforce is a major part of our plan.

One of the key features in the budget—and this is particularly pleasing for me because I've done a lot of work on this—is the overhaul of the independent youth allowance scheme. We've raised the parental income cap from $150,000 to $160,000 and we're allowing $10,000 per additional child. I'll explain this. A young person who does a 14-month gap year—another initiative of this government—earns $23,500 and then applies for the independent youth allowance has often been found to be ineligible because their combined parental income is in excess of $150,000. As we know, $150,000 is, effectively, two median wages—it might be a policeman and a nurse. These are people who are not considered wealthy, by any stretch of the imagination, but they are being told that their child doesn't qualify for youth allowance. Raising that cap to $160,000 and allowing an extra $10,000 per child, which, for a family of three children, lifts that rate to $180,000 is a marked improvement, but I'll be working, together with my regional colleagues and the Treasurer, to have that cap lifted further or removed completely in future years.

We've put in an additional $440 million to support 15 hours of quality preschool for all children. Preschool is a very important aspect of early childhood education. My wife, who is an early childhood educator, would very much support that move, and, hopefully, we will see that rolled out across O'Connor. We have seen 29 childcare and early-learning centres share in more than $6.7 million in the Community Child Care Fund. Just the other day I visited the Willi Wagtails Childcare Centre in Williams. It's a great little facility there. There are only 12 kids, because it's a small town. This money is helping them develop a plan that will guarantee their long-term viability. It's giving them three years of funding to assist the transition to that phase. We also dropped into the Narrogin childcare centre. Once again, it is a great facility. It services the Upper Great Southern region. They have shared in this funding to transition to a more sustainable funding model in the future.

With fair and needs based funding for schools—it has been referred to as Gonski 2—we have seen a 6.7 per cent increase in funding for schools across my electorate of O'Connor. In Gonski 1, the original Gonski deal—as the member for Brand would be well aware—Western Australia did very poorly. There were 23 or maybe 27 separate deals done around the country, and Western Australia missed out very badly. So Gonski 2, which has seen a 6.7 per cent funding increase across the board in my electorate, is wonderful news. We are blessed with a wonderful range of schools and educational opportunities across O'Connor, and I am very pleased to see that funding increase across the board.

The $247 million to continue the Schools Chaplaincy Program is one of the features in the budget that has been well received. I have spoken to many school principals, many of whom you probably wouldn't think would necessarily be supporters of the conservative government or voters for me. But one thing they have in common is that they strongly support the School Chaplaincy Program, because of the pastoral care that those chaplains offer the kids in their schools. They see it as an absolutely essential part of the make-up of their schools now, and they are very, very happy we have extended that funding. Brent Findlay and his crew of 20 chaplains across the Albany region do a fantastic job. I've met with them on several occasions, and for them it's great news they have some funding going forward and some surety about their own futures. We are also are assisting regional students with 685 additional Commonwealth supported places for students studying regionally.

The other headline feature that was very well received as I travelled around the electorate talking about the budget was that we have fully funded the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It's a wonderful program. It had bipartisan support, but when we came into government in late 2013 it was discovered that there was no funding allowed in the forward estimates for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So, it's wonderful news that the Treasurer was able to announce that it is now fully funded and will be rolled out in parts of my electorate from 1 October.

I had the pleasure of taking Minister Tehan, the Minister for Social Services, to Kalgoorlie on Monday last week on Monday to meet with the Goldfields Individual and Family Support Association, which is run by CEO Robert Hicks. The Chair, Graham Thomson, was there as well as other board members. They had the opportunity to tell the minister about some of the challenges that they might be facing rolling out the National Disability Insurance Scheme in some of our more remote communities. They operate from Kalgoorlie 1,000 kilometres north to Warburton, and there are some particular issues around some of the Indigenous communities and how we're going to roll the scheme out there. They got a very good hearing from the minister, and I'm sure they will continue to work to make whatever changes we need to make sure those people get the services they deserve.

Affordable access to life-saving medication: there's a whole new range of drugs that have been added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. I want to touch on one area that is not new, but is great news. I see it making a difference to families. (Time expired)