Monday, 28 May 2007
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008
I rise today in support of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008 and cognate bills. These bills outline the spending of the federal government associated with the federal budget for the 2007-08 financial year. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Treasurer on delivering yet another exceptional budget for this nation, which will lock in the gains of the past as well as invest in the future of this nation. I would also like to congratulate the team behind the Treasurer, specifically Senator Minchin, the Minister for Finance and Administration; the member for Dickson, the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer; the member for Aston, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer; and Senator Colbeck, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration—the team. Together this team has guided the nation to a period of economic strength and, instead of widely spending, as history shows us our colleagues across the chamber would have done, this team has put together a responsible budget which will build on that prosperity and strengthen the future of our nation. It places us in a position to still address areas of state Labor responsibilities, which we have done and will continue to do into the future.
The first matter I would like to talk about is the introduction of the dental program. The Howard government’s decade of strong economic management has enabled the federal government to fund a number of programs which are not technically its responsibility but which, nonetheless, are desperately required, and there is no better example of that than the dental program. When it became clearly evident that the South Australian Labor government were not going to live up to their responsibilities in relation to the dental health of South Australians, I canvassed my electorate to determine the level of concern about the lack of public funding for dental treatment and the impact it was having on people’s quality of life. I was overwhelmed by the response and raised the matter with my colleague the Minister for Health and Ageing. I also wrote to the Prime Minister, as well as raising the matter in the coalition party room. I was thrilled to see this item included in the budget: $2,125 per year for dental treatment for every patient whose dental health is impacting on a chronic medical condition. This is a huge relief for many Australians who have suffered too long because of state government inaction and it is a huge relief for many in my electorate of Kingston.
Another initiative in this year’s budget which is to be commended is the $1,000 wage top-up for first- and second-year apprentices aged under 30 who are training in a trade in an area of skills shortage. I have two young boys who are apprentices and I can assure the House that one of the biggest problems they face in completing their apprenticeship is the fact that in their first few years they are earning significantly less than their friends who are working full time in jobs which do not require apprentice training. This wage top-up payment will go a long way to encouraging young people into trades where there is a skills shortage but it will also provide in the early years of their trade an incentive to remain in that trade and complete their training. This is yet another initiative which, but for the strong and disciplined economic management of the Howard government, would not have been possible.
This government recognises the important contribution senior Australians make to our nation and we recognise the importance of doing all we can to assist them. That is why I was pleased to see included in this year’s budget the $500 non-taxable payment to senior Australians who are eligible for the utilities allowance or the seniors concessions allowance. Senior Australians have already given so much to this fine nation and yet they continue to give in their senior years. The Australian government is proud to provide this support to senior Australians and I am very pleased that this will assist so many in my electorate of Kingston where I have been overwhelmed by the response from senior constituents of mine calling to say ‘thank you’ for this initiative.
I have spent a considerable amount of time since I entered parliament advocating for the rights of the disabled and their carers. I was exceptionally pleased to again see a reward for carers included in this year’s budget. This year, those carers on carers payment will receive a bonus of $1,000, and those Australians receiving carer allowance will receive $600. No government and no amount of money can ever adequately thank carers—those people who give so much of their lives to caring for and defending those who are tragically less fortunate than themselves. Carers do not undertake this task for the money or the one-off payments from the government. They undertake the task purely because they love and care for the individual. The Australian government is proud to recognise that very selfless commitment and we are proud to be in a financial position to provide this financial relief to Australian carers.
This budget saw a massive increase in the Australian government’s funding for roads across the nation. The safety of Australian road users is dependent on good quality roads. Put quite simply, the upgrading and maintaining of roads to an appropriate standard saves lives, and the Australian government has once again increased its commitment to that cause. Being a former police officer, I know firsthand the carnage that can be caused by poorly kept roads, and the grief that can engulf a family or an entire community when a young life is cut tragically short. That is why I am so pleased to see the increase in this year’s budget for Australian roads. I can stand here today and assure the people of Kingston that I will fight very hard for their share of that increased funding. The South Australian Labor government has neglected the southern suburbs of Adelaide. It has refused to fund significant projects in the south. Despite spending millions of dollars in projects which have had massive blow-outs across the rest of the state, the state government has refused to live up to its responsibility to road users in the southern suburbs.
The Labor candidate for Kingston, Amanda Rishworth, decided to attack the fact that I did not get the same amount of funding for my electorate of Kingston as was received by the northern suburbs seat of Wakefield. I will put aside for the moment the fact that the Labor Party were whingeing about pork barrelling when it came to this funding everywhere else in the nation but somehow the candidate for Kingston was complaining that the Howard government is not in the habit of pork barrelling in Kingston. I will leave aside the fact that the City of Onkaparinga, my local council, in fact got every last cent they asked for. The thing that really annoys me and my constituents is that if the Labor candidate for Kingston had lived in the electorate for more than five minutes she would have been all too aware that since my election to the parliament I have delivered many millions of dollars in road funding.
Maybe Ms Rishworth should stick to commenting on the road-funding arrangements in the seat of Port Adelaide, where she has actually spent most of her time. Southern suburbs residents will not tolerate being fooled. They deserve someone who actually knows their area, knows how it ticks and knows the constituents’ concerns as I do, having lived in the area for over 20 years—and I still live there. They want someone to represent them who actually cares, who has a vision of security and direction for the south, to stand up and deliver as I have done in just two years—in comparison to the Labor candidate for Kingston, who proved how little she understood or knew about the southern suburbs when commenting on the budget.
I am proud to be a part of the Howard government team, and this budget is yet another fine example of what we can achieve because of the depth of talent within our ranks. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Finance and Administration, Leader of the Government in the Senate, have served this parliament and their nation with honour and have delivered nothing but positive results for the last 11 years. I am proud of this budget and this government, not just because of the hard work and talent of one man but because of the hard work and talent of an entire team—an entire team of individuals who are here purely to fight for what they believe is right for their nation. Sadly, we cannot say the same about the members opposite.
It is fitting, given my former SANFL football playing career and the Treasurer’s love of AFL football, that we put the performance of these two teams in context. I liken the Howard government to the Adelaide Crows, a group of individuals with finely tuned skills who come together and take the field as one, fighting not for themselves but toward one ultimate goal: the taking of the premiership flag. Conversely, I liken the Australian Labor Party to the current state of the Richmond Football Club, plagued by inconsistency, all playing for their own careers and desperately searching for a free kick, a one-man team with no team to provide substance and, most importantly, yet to win a game. This is the Rudd and, dare I say, the Rudd-Gillard team. But there is no ‘I’ in team, and that is a most significant aspect of the Howard government team versus the Rudd one-man team.
The joy for the Richmond Football Club is that at the end of the year the AFL will hand them a lifeline with some priority draft picks. They will be back; that is how the game works. Sadly, that is not how politics works. That is not so for the Australian Labor Party either, whose benches will be so full with union hacks they would not have room for a star recruit if they were handed that all-important first draft pick.
I commend these bills, I commend this budget and I commend the Treasurer. I commend the budget for its commitment to the future of our nation, I commend the Treasurer for yet again making the tough decisions and I commend these bills for locking in the gains and planning for the future. I commend these bills to the House.