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Thursday, 30 May 2013
Page: 4657

Mr WINDSOR (New England) (11:02): I do apologise for the state of my voice. It may mean that I will not speak for the full time allocated. I am pleased to be able to speak to the appropriation bills, and there are a number of comments that I would like to make particularly in relation to the electorate of New England. There are a number of projects that are funded in the current budget that I am very proud of and the community should be very proud of as well. I particularly recognise the $80 million that is in the budget to go towards the reconstruction and realignment of Bolivia Hill on the New England Highway. As you would recognise, Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, the New England Highway is a major thoroughfare that goes up into Queensland. Over the years governments of both persuasions have put money into rectifying some of the major problem areas—the Liverpool Range was one that was fixed some years ago now, the Moonbi Range was another, and there was a place called Devils Pinch—and I pay credit to the former member for New England, Stuart St Clair, and the Howard government, of which you were an eminent member, Mr Deputy Speaker, for being involved in that funding. The money for Devils Pinch was obtained during that period of time, and there is no doubt it has saved many lives.

The last remaining very dangerous section of the New England Highway in terms of traversing the hills is Bolivia Hill. Quite a number of deaths have occurred there. I am absolutely delighted that Minister Albanese took the time to come up with the then Mayor of Tenterfield, Toby Smith, to inspect that deathtrap, as he described it. It is very expensive to fix. This will now be done with the grant of $80 million. This has been in the pipeline for a long time. I think it occurs to most of us in parliament that, if the issue is a real one, eventually it does get taken care of. I particularly recognise Minister Albanese, his staff, the government generally and the Treasurer for being able to fund that project.

There are a number of other projects that various interest groups in the electorate would be very pleased about, including the Acacia Park industrial estate National Broadband Network fibre rollout. If the National Broadband Network is maintained—and I sincerely hope it is—a lot of country towns are going to face the issue of where you draw the boundary between the major centre that gets fibre and the exterior area that receives fixed wireless. I congratulate Minister Conroy and the government once again because the fixed wireless reception has been excellent. Parts of surrounding Tamworth and other communities are either getting fixed wireless or have fixed wireless. With the additional upload and download speeds that are coming with the newer technology for fixed wireless the response has been excellent from a lot of people who were essentially sceptical and fell into the political rhetoric that was going on at the time.

This is going to be an issue in a number of communities, irrespective of where they are in Australia, where there is an industrial area on the outskirts of a major community and the boundary determining the rollout of the fibre does not include the industrial area. That is something I think they have to have a very close look at. We need those industrial areas to expand and to take advantage of the National Broadband Network and make where you actually live in Australia irrelevant in terms of doing business and accessing global markets, global information sources et cetera. These industrial estates are a very important part of the productivity of those economies and should be included where possible in the fibre rollout rather than get the fixed wireless. Acacia Park in Armidale will in fact be catered for.

There was some funding in the budget for the Gunnedah Shire Band that has represented Australia. Mr Deputy Speaker Scott, knowing your background, I know you have been to these areas. Whilst representing Australia they spent some time in France with various French bands over on the battlefields. It was a very moving occasion for those young people from Gunnedah. The government has seen fit to give them some degree of assistance. They have had to pay most of their way, but the government has given a relatively small gesture of support, and I think that is appropriate.

The Inverell RSL museum have been here on a number of occasions lobbying. Inverell has an incredible history in terms of particularly the First World War but also other wars like the Boer War, the Second World War and obviously more modern-day theatres of war. Inverell was the source of the group called the Kurrajongs. An enormous percentage of people came out of the Inverell community. Inverell is the town where they have maintained a whole range of artefacts over many years, although in not very good sheltering conditions. This money will make a contribution towards what the Inverell RSL and the community are doing to establish an appropriate museum to recognise the various groups and the artefacts that have come out of that area and returned from various theatres of war. That restoration is very important. I thank Minister Snowdon for coming to the electorate and talking to the people about this project. The presentation took place just recently.

Inverell is the home of the descendants of the tree on the Lone Pine ridge. Recently, a plaque was made out of one of the descendant pine trees. It was carved to recognise those sons who had fallen at Lone Pine. One of the brothers of a fellow who was killed at Lone Pine sent his mother back a pine cone, and from that pine cone she grew three trees. Those trees obviously aged and are not with us anymore, but other trees have been grown and are descendants of that tree. From one of the trees a massive plaque was carved as a memorial, not only to those families but also to many others.

One of the things that I am very proud of, too, is that the Ashford Medical Centre is to receive some funding. Ashford is a small community and, as always, it is trying to do most of it on its own, as you would recognise in your country electorate, Mr Deputy Speaker. The little communities really get in there and have a go. The Ashford community have had difficulty over the years. They have doctors, specialists and allied health professionals coming to see them, but the accommodation has not been good. They have now been able to obtain some funding from both Inverell council and the government to go ahead and relocate the medical centre adjacent to the Sunhaven aged care facility, and this will make it unique in a sense. These people have been discussing this issue and wanting it for many, many years, and it is good to see that happening. The Liverpool Plains Shire Council received $400,000. They have a vision to provide water to three communities. This will not deliver the vision but it will deliver the feasibility study that will look very closely at it.

The New England Regional Art Museum has received money. New England has the Hinton and Coventry collections. They are probably worth $50 million. Air-conditioning for the art itself is very important, and funding will go towards the storage of those magnificent paintings. The Inverell Linking Together Centre has received some funding as well. This is an outstanding project for troubled youth in Inverell. It has got the runs on the board, and this funding will allow it to extend those runs. There is also a small grant for the Werris Creek Community Shed. This is not a men's shed, because there are ladies involved; but it is a good example of one. Governments have assisted in various men's sheds and there are various grants which they can apply for. There is no doubt that the men's shed concept saves lives. I have seen it. I talk to people in various communities about how they have been able to re-establish contact after the death of their wife or a family member and the depression has set in. It is extraordinary to see the camaraderie that occurs, particularly in country towns; but I guess it does in suburbs and some of the major centres as well. A number of those things will see the light of day because of money in the budget.

My time is nearly running out. There has been some criticism of the budget, particularly in relation to the forecasting of the Treasury and the Treasurer. A rare event has occurred, and I would urge people who might be interested in the technicalities of this to google what Ross Gittins has said on a number of occasions in terms of the relationship between the nominal GDP and real GDP and how that relates to the terms of trade and exchange rate. It is well worth looking at, as it particularly applies to the capacity of the forecasters to forecast the destination to surplus or deficit.

The rare event is that this is the fourth occasion in our economic history where the nominal GDP is less than the real GDP. I will not get into all the definitional stuff there, but it is the fourth occasion. The first occasion was the 1961 Menzies credit crunch, which I think some people are old enough to remember. I was only 11, but it hurt my pocket money, I know that; I remember it bitterly! The second time was the Asian financial collapse in the nineties; the third time was the global financial crisis a few years ago now, when the stimulus arrangements were put in place; and, as I said, the fourth time is now. I know we will all play our political games with this, and I am not defending the Treasurer, because I do not think it was correct to say, 'We will achieve a surplus at all costs.' Even the business community is saying this is not the time to have a surplus anyway. The politics of 'he said, they said' will be played out. But that is not my reason for raising this particular issue.

On this occasion, we are in uncharted waters, because there have been three financial quarters where nominal GDP has been less than real GDP, and that is a response to changes in the terms of trade. Normally, when that happens, you get a drop-off in the currency, a correction in the currency. That was not happening. In fact, it has just started to happen in the few weeks since the budget. But, in the lead-up to the budget, it was not happening. The dollar was staying high—and there were a whole range of external influences there. Nonetheless, it was having an impact on the capacity to achieve a surplus. There are those who have said that Treasury just cannot forecast anymore, but no-one would forecast three successive quarters of nominal GDP. No-one would put that in the forecast; if they did, they would be laughed at. But there is no doubt—and, as I said, I am not defending the Treasurer—that it has had an impact, particularly in the last six months, in terms of the statistics in the budgetary process.

What we are seeing now is the currency starting to drift back. It is still not responding to the old influences, as it did under the Asian financial crisis or even the credit crunch; it is responding more to the American economy improving rather than other factors. But I think people have to recognise that Australia is in a global economy now, and we need the Chinese, we need the Indians, we need others more than they need us, and there are influences in terms of the flow of currency and capital that have significant impacts on our economy and will into the future. Thank you.