House debates

Wednesday, 31 July 2019


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2019-2020, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020; Second Reading

12:17 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to speak to Appropriation Bill (No. 2) and the 2019-20 budget measures. This is being done without raising taxes. In fact, it is being done by lowering them. The 2019-20 budget is a strong budget. It's a building budget, and it's a budget that invests in our communities. More importantly, it's a surplus budget.

This Liberal-National government and the budget are focused on building a stronger economy to lower taxes and help hardworking Australians keep more of their own money, to provide opportunities to get a head start or start a business, to guarantee essential services and provide better health outcomes, and to invest in our communities—communities like Cowper and, importantly for me, our regional communities. There is infrastructure, development and support that will unlock the opportunities and the potential of our regions.

This budget will deliver $158 billion in tax relief immediately by doubling the low- and middle-income tax offset through long-term structural reform for all taxpayers earning between $45,000 and $200,000. That will mean that 94 per cent of taxpayers will pay no more than 30c in the dollar. In my electorate of Cowper, over 57,000 taxpayers will benefit from this tax relief. Many of the more than 21,000 people eligible for the full tax offset of $1,080 have already benefited. For those who are on modest incomes and a tight budget, this tax relief is so important—$1,080 for an individual or $2,160 for a couple is a significant contribution to the household budget and is great news for individuals and families to spend on their own priorities.

In particular, it's important for regional communities where money is spent in the local community, in retail or building services, and will support our local economy, local businesses and employees into the future—businesses like Ball's Butchery in Kempsey, Macksville Mowers & Auto Centre in Macksville, and the aptly named Moorebeer Brewing Co. in Port Macquarie. Going forward, these budget measures will mean that hardworking Australians who are looking to earn a little more, take an extra shift or pursue a promotion can do so without the government taking more of their hard-earned pay. I am pleased to be part of a coalition government that is delivering on its promise to the Australian people.

The budget will also deliver for our small and medium sized businesses. They are the engine room of the Australian economy and the backbone of the regional communities. This government's economic plan means lower taxes for over three million small and medium businesses, helping them invest, grow, employ more people and give back to the communities. There are nearly 19,000 businesses in my electorate of Cowper who will benefit from the government's instant asset write-off scheme, which enables businesses to invest in machinery and equipment up to the value of $30,000—businesses like Eagle Copters in Coffs Harbour, another decentralisation success from Queensland, employing a number of people in the Coffs Harbour area and growing significantly.

The budget will also provide an additional $60 million to support small and medium sized businesses to access overseas markets through the Export Market Development Grants scheme. This scheme provides opportunity and support for our regional businesses to market, promote and export products and services, and to build business and create local jobs. I am proud that this government's economic management means that this funding can be restored to the scheme, providing opportunities for a number of small and medium businesses across the mid North Coast to enter the export market or expand into new markets.

I was recently in Japan on the Shinkansen, or the bullet train, and I was very happy to see that they were serving Cassegrain Wines. Cassegrain Wines come from Port Macquarie. They are a second-generation business and a classic example of how this government helps small and medium sized business into new markets. There is also C2C, a clothing-manufacturing business in Port Macquarie, who recently supplied the uniforms and merchandise for the Netball World Cup.

Backing small and medium sized businesses is part of our plan for a stronger economy and stronger communities. People in our regional communities deserve all the opportunities for employment that our cities offer. I am pleased that this government has a plan for developing the skills of our workforce now and into the future. This budget provides a skills package that is so important for the people of Cowper.

Under our landmark skills package, up to 80,000 additional apprenticeships will be created over the next five years, in priority skill shortage areas, assisted by the new apprenticeship incentives. Youth unemployment will be targeted, with an offering of 400 scholarships in regional Australia, to the value of $8 million. This cannot be underestimated in Cowper, with 20.3 per cent youth unemployment. With this initiative by the government, along with our intended youth employment summit, we hope to address significantly this issue not just in Coffs Harbour but through the entirety of Cowper.

I stated earlier that this is a budget for all Australians, and I am proud to say that it is a budget for regional Australians. A key focus for the Nationals and this Morrison-McCormack government is our agenda to promote a stronger economy and better-paying jobs in regional Australia. My electorate is soon to benefit from this government's decentralisation agenda, with the relocation of 50 positions from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to a new regional headquarters in Coffs Harbour. This does not just mean 50 jobs. It means up to 50 families into the Cowper electorate, it means more kids going to schools in our area, it means shopping at family owned businesses and eating at locally owned restaurants, and it means using the sport and entertainment facilities, whereby all money is recycled back into the local economy to benefit regional growth and future stability.

This is also a budget for essential services. With a record investment of $104 billion in 2019-20 into patient-focused health initiatives, this investment will make medicines and services more accessible and affordable. It also strengthens primary care and mental health services and supports medical research. Medical funding will increase by $5.8 billion over the next four years. This is great news for my electorate, where the GP bulk-billing rate in Cowper is 90 per cent. Last year, over a million GP visits were bulk-billed in Cowper, 141,000 more than in Labor's last year in government. This means that more patients will not have any out-of-pocket expenses when they visit their GP.

This budget also delivered increases to Medicare rebates and important medical diagnostic services, including ultrasound and X-ray imaging, to reduce costs for patients. The government will also invest $151.9 million to expand the number of fully Medicare eligible MRI machines, adding to the more than 50 newly funded units in the last 12 months. One of these is Highfields Imaging at Port Macquarie. I had the pleasure of attending the opening with my colleague who was instrumental in its planning, Dr David Gillespie, the member for Lyne. This is a comprehensive diagnostic imaging facility equipped with world-class technology, including ultrasound, high-end CT, digital X-ray and OPG, nuclear medicine and, importantly, PET, which is an enormous benefit for oncology patients undergoing treatment. The new Medical Benefits Schedule services for MRI breast screening will help diagnose an estimated 1,400 breast cancer patients. I'm pleased that these services will be able to be offered in my electorate.

The coalition is committed to supporting older Australians and focusing on delivering quality aged care. This coalition government has provided a budget which will see funding for aged care increased by $7 billion, up to $20.5 billion in 2019-20 and up to $25.4 billion in 2022-23. We are supporting older Australians who want to stay home for longer by providing an extra 10,000 home care packages, taking the number of packages from 60,000 in 2012-13 to over 157,000 in 2022-23. We're also extending the Home Support Program, which provides access to home services like Meals on Wheels. In Port Macquarie alone, over 27 per cent of residents are over the age of 65. This figure is growing at 1.2 per cent per annum. In the next 10 years it is estimated it will be close to 40 per cent of residents over the age of 65 in Port Macquarie. This government has taken serious steps to providing compliance and quality services to cover those people. An additional $7.7 million will also be used to help to ensure that the use of medication in residential aged care is appropriate and in line with best practice and community expectations.

A stronger economy is also delivering for our schools, with record funding for education. This budget delivers needs based funding for students, providing more support for rural and regional students and programs for literacy and numeracy. This budget will see $310 million in needs based funding provided through the Quality Schools Package. The 93 schools in my electorate of Cowper will see Commonwealth funding per student more than double over the next 10 years. Importantly, this funding is tied to reforms that will boost education outcomes for students, who are the future of our nation. This is the job of the Australian government, with the National School Reform Agreement coming into effect in January this year to ensure our schooling provides access to high-quality education for all students.

This Australian government is investing $100 billion in infrastructure over the next 10 years in rolling programs to get Australians home sooner and safer. This includes an additional $23 billion of new funding to ease congestion, to better connect our regions, to improve safety on the roads and to meet our national freight needs. The Australian government is committed to improving road safety. This includes a major boost to the Black Spot Program, targeting safety issues on urban and regional roads, in addition to funding to the Roads to Recovery Program, which provides vital roads maintenance in local government areas. Since 2013, the government has committed over $33 billion in projects in New South Wales, including over $24 billion in New South Wales through the Infrastructure Investment Program. In the Cowper electorate, the Liberal-National coalition government has committed $971 million of the $1.2 billion project for the Coffs Harbour bypass. The residents of Coffs Harbour have patiently waited for the final case study and the environmental impact study for this project. I commend the government for its continued commitment to this project.

With the Local and State Government Road Safety Package, the coalition government has committed an additional $50 million per year to the Black Spot Program. Having in my time as a police officer in New South Wales attended serious and fatal accidents, I'm acutely aware of the significance of this initiative and funding, and, again, compliment this government on its commitment to road safety.

This is a budget that builds on the hard work and commitment of the coalition government during the past years and, most importantly, it provides economic security— (Time expired)


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