Thursday, 1 August 2019
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2019-2020, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020; Second Reading
I relish this opportunity to speak to the appropriation bills because they represent the delivery of government service, delivery of government commitments, and excellent examples of the Morrison government's values and beliefs in supporting Australians right across our great country. Of course I do want the opportunity to refer to the bills from the perspective of my electorate of Groom. I do that in the context of representing an electorate based around the city of Toowoomba, which is Australia's largest inland private sector city. It is the second largest inland city in this country behind Canberra, but Canberra is not a private sector city, of course.
Our government took significant commitments from the last budget, endorsed at the election, to the people of Australia in relation to tax relief. That was about us not interfering in people's lives but simply ensuring that they have the opportunity to get ahead. From a small business tax relief perspective, I can refer to the 18,020 small businesses in Groom that are already benefitting from that tax relief. They cover the services area; they come from agriculture; they are involved in manufacturing and construction; they involve all of the trades; they are engaged in retail in our great city and the towns of Oakey, Pittsworth, Highfields and the many villages in between. 18,088 small and medium-size businesses in Groom will benefit from the instant asset write-off scheme, which enables businesses to invest in machinery and equipment, now up to the value of $30,000.
There is a significant continuing focus on the individual as well. In the Groom case, 62,731 low- and middle-income earners will benefit from income tax relief this year, many receiving the full tax offset of just over $1,000 per individual. Again, that is already beginning to flow. As the Treasurer, the Hon Josh Frydenberg, reminds us so often, it is about supporting people to earn more and to keep more of what they earn. That is what is happening in Groom.
We support our community to achieve its objectives and to pursue business interests by ensuring we have appropriate infrastructure in place. I am very proud of the fact that the Warrego Highway, that major east-west corridor from Brisbane through south-west Queensland and travelling through Toowoomba, continues to receive attention from our government. Under the Roads of Strategic Importance program, we're very much focused on future upgrades, not only in Toowoomba and to the west of Toowoomba, across the electorate, but in the connection through to Ipswich to the east as well, because that is a major freight corridor. If you travel on that highway at the moment, you'd say it's in pretty good nick, but our government takes a long-term view and is allocating the funds now for the decade ahead and beyond to ensure that we continue to maintain it for both local passenger traffic and freight as well. It is about efficiency and safety. For the Gore Highway from Toowoomba through to Goondiwindi it is the same issue. It is a road of strategic importance linking us to the south for freight and passenger travel.
Just west of Toowoomba is the Brimblecombe Road intersection. I am very pleased to get a commitment to that in the budget. It is now a major connection for those travelling from the west, from Oakey and Dalby and further west, wanting to make their way to the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport. But that intersection has seen some terrible tragedies, and I'm pleased to say that the government has committed to upgrading the intersection as soon as we can get the state government organised to get on with it. The money is on the table.
New England highway turning lanes for the PMVs—protected military vehicles—at the Borneo Barracks at Cabarlah—that's part of our national security effort, and being based at a Cabarlah, the significant upgrades there mean that defence industry spending is happening in my electorate. Here again we're working with locals to make sure these heavy protected vehicles can integrate with that traffic safely.
There is the upgrading of the Warrego Highway through Toowoomba itself, at East Creek and West Creek, at the Kitchener Street intersection and at West Creek adjacent to our Police Citizens Youth Club. These were the scenes of significant flooding tragedies—in fact, deaths—in 2011. This is the final part of the jigsaw puzzle to fix up all of the drains, all of the streams, through Toowoomba for flood mitigation. The flood mitigation at the ring-road near our railway station has been quite significant. We have committed to supporting council in this last piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
There are bridge renewals right across the electorate. Then there are the big ticket items. The Inland Rail, as it crosses the Groom electorate adjacent to Toowoomba and then heads east to the Brisbane port, will be such an economic boon for our region. In fact, it already is, with the InterLinkSQ intermodal freight terminal already under construction as we speak, ahead of Inland Rail coming through. That's the private sector taking signals from our government and getting on with the job, getting ready for the excitement of the future. Similar plans at Wellcamp will mean so much for our region and for south-west Queensland.
I refer as well to the Toowoomba Second Range Crossing. The state government has funded 20 per cent of the cost of this $1.6 billion project. The federal government has funded 80 per cent, almost $1.2 billion. The state government have been managing delivery of the project. It's behind time, but finally we've got an opening date and, just in recent days, we've got news about the tolls for light trucks, heavy vehicles, cars and motorcycles. This is evidence of what we can secure from a government that's got a sound budget and is interested in infrastructure. I'll be using exactly that approach to continue to advocate in the future for a Highfields connection road to that massive growth area north of our city.
Our city is recognised as a Refugee Welcome Zone. It has been a great pleasure to work with Minister David Coleman since 1 July, just over the last month, as he has taken on coordinated responsibility for various refugee support programs—the humanitarian refugee program, which means so much in our city; settlement grants; and fostering integration grants, which I've been able to secure for various agencies in our city, including the Peaceful Humans group, who work with Yazidi women and children, and Canvas Coworking in Toowoomba, a business incubator again assisting immigrants—refugees, in this case—to look at their own small-business opportunities and the Adult Migrant English Program. We worked very hard on that and secured significant support from the government prior to the election for settlement grant funding for Toowoomba Refugee and Migrant Support services, run by CatholicCare. Minister David Coleman is focused, with me, on ensuring we continue to make sure we've got appropriate supports in place, and hence a high-level delegation from his department is in my city at the moment reviewing our circumstances.
PFAS at Oakey has had a significant impact on our local community. Last weekend, Oakey Together was an event run by the community to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Oakey Army Aviation Centre. The whole community came together—me, councillors, state members, community representatives, the Oakey Chamber of Commerce, one and all. It was a massive turnout to celebrate what is positive about Oakey, this beautiful little town in which I spent much of my childhood. PFAS has been a challenge, and I'm proud to have been appointed just in recent days to the PFAS Subcommittee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade. I will be able to look at my own community and those affected elsewhere around the country. I'm certainly very proud that earlier this year we secured the first settlement of an unlitigated claim between a landholder and the Commonwealth—the first in the country.
There has been plenty of discussion of late about climate and environment. I'm very proud of the fact that, in my part of the world, we have representation of virtually all energy sources. I talk about coal, gas, the renewables—solar and wind under development in my part of the world; the bioenergy plant just west of Toowoomba at Dalby; and the fact that the Minister Angus Taylor is overseeing the shortlisted proposal at Cressbrook Dam for a pumped hydro project under his new generation program. That shows how innovative we are. It's a pity that the state government has not moved yet on the New Acland Coal Mine Stage 3 proposal. I had the then environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, in our region three years ago when he provided the final federal approvals under the EPBC Act for that expansion. More than three years later, the state government is still dragging the chain. We are anxious to see some progress there in the very near future.
From a health perspective, I am proud that the Darling Downs local health network has seen increased funding since 2013 of more than $104 million. That is set to increase by $200 million to 2024-25. That is a massive increase of 300 per cent over that period. That fact really puts to bed the lie from those opposite during the election campaign. Funding has increased for our health service in our part of the world. There are an extra 231,056 GP services bulk-billed in Groom electorate under our government. That bulk-billing rate now stands at 84 per cent.
I can refer to the facts equally in education. I note the comments of the member for Moreton previously about school funding in his electorate. Maybe he needs to go and do more work on it, because every one of the schools in Groom, state and private, has received significant increases in funding and will continue to do so—about 50 per cent per student in the public sector, for example, over the decade to 2029. I have used examples that are available on the school funding education estimator, including Oakey State High School and Harristown State High School, which will see an increase of around $2,000 per student over that period.
We can only guarantee such essential services—stronger health and hospitals, historic high bulk-billing rates, the record number of PBS listings, school funding support right across the electorate that I referred to—if we have a stronger economy. That is exactly what the Morrison government has been focused on, has planned for and is delivering, as evidenced through these appropriation bills.
In conclusion, I want to talk about the values, as I said at the start, and the beliefs that we bring to our electorates as a government and, in Queensland, as the LNP. Freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of association are the building blocks of our community: people from different backgrounds and beliefs coming together in peace and harmony and contributing to the common good; freedom of citizens to choose their own way of living, subject to the rights of others and the laws of the land, of course. Freedom of the individual and the importance of the family are the bedrock of our community. We want a government that supports that. We are a government that supports that. Sustainable level of debt—we don't want to impose unfair burdens on future generations, whether that is in terms of our economy or our environment. That is why we focus on smaller government getting behind people right across Australia, particularly in my electorate of Groom. We're putting those values into action. We're encouraging the development of individual wealth and prosperity, people enjoying the highest standard of living they can, with health and essential education services to support them. There are tax incentives for individuals, families and small business. There are the health, education and other essential services that I've provided examples of across Groom. There is the stewardship of our environment. There are our landcare activities, and those that I have been supporting right across the board. There are those industry and community support mechanisms that I have referred to, and the fact that we can deal with the challenges facing our local economy from time to time. Of course, there is national security and the broader picture. Above all else, there is harnessing the magnificent potential of our region and allowing people to achieve their own objectives, to pursue their own dreams and not encumber them with ridiculous legislation and regulation that might affect them in an economic way, particularly in a small-business sense. I'm very pleased to speak to this appropriation bill. It is living proof of our values and our beliefs in supporting people—in my case, in the wonderful electorate of Groom.