Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2019-2020; Second Reading
Before I start, I want to pick up on a couple of points the member for Whitlam made—not that I'm entirely sure what they had to do with the appropriation bill. The first was the statement that he or she is not one of us. A person who is sitting in this place has been elected by their electorate. Whether we agree with their views or not, they are a part of us. They are a part of this august institution.
The second point I want to pick up on is: he made some excellent comments about doing the right thing, about being a guide, about being a light. But this afternoon the opposition has called quorums and shut down speakers—more than just the speaker he was referring to in his speech. I don't necessarily see that as shining a light for democracy or living up to the trust that's been put in us. The member for Whitlam might not have been involved in that, but, as a way of responding to the comments he made, I think we can all reflect on the behaviours we undertake in this place.
I want to comment on three important areas of this government's support and investment which are particularly assisting my electorate: the support and investment in small business, in health research and in vocational education and training—all of which have a profoundly positive impact on the people living in Curtin. Small business is the backbone of our economy, and this is particularly true in WA. There are 3.4 million small and medium businesses in Australia with an annual turnover of less than $50 million. Some 7.7 million Australians are employed by small business. Around 99 per cent of all businesses in WA are small businesses. In WA there are 354,000 small businesses with a turnover of less than $10 million. These WA businesses employ 647,000 people. In my electorate of Curtin, there are over 26,000 small and medium-sized businesses across a vast range of industries and professions. When I have been out and about in my electorate meeting with some of the small businesses I have been astounded by the variety that we have. In Curtin, they range from financial and insurance services, scientific and technical services, health care and social assistance through to retail, hospitality, construction and education and training.
Our government understands the importance of small businesses to our communities, and that's why it has been lowering taxes for small and medium businesses and increasing and expanding access to the instant asset write-off to help businesses reinvest in their businesses they grow. The government has legislated lower tax rates for small and medium-sized companies. The government has also legislated to bring forward increases to the unincorporated small business tax discount rate. Small businesses with a turnover of less than $10 million have access to a range of valuable concessions, helping them get ahead. This government has also continued its strong record of backing businesses and helping them invest, grow and employ more workers by increasing the instant asset write-off to $30,000 and expanding access to medium-sized businesses. Of course this is of enormous benefit to the three million small and medium sized businesses across Australia and, more importantly to me, the 26,000 small businesses in my electorate.
As I mentioned, I've been out and about meeting a number of the small and medium sized businesses in Curtin and all of them tell me that, while there are, and have been, business challenges over the last year or so, they have expressed their relief at the tax relief that is being legislated and the instant asset write-off. They have also expressed their delight at some of the other steps, particularly in red tape, that the government is taking. Some of those businesses include a florist in Wembley called Manic Botanic who have utilised the instant asset write-off to purchase a new fridge to help grow and expand their operation—and they do do magnificent bunches of flowers. Likewise, my local cafe, Deli Chicchi, who, I have to say, make some of the best coffee in Western Australia, recently purchased a new enclosed window display cabinet, using the instant asset write-off scheme, and this will continue to grow their operation.
These business owners in my electorate, and in Australia more broadly, are independent and resilient. They work extremely hard, and in fact they never switch off. These business owners want the appropriate level of support from government but, above all, what they want is an environment in which red tape is minimised and they have the flexibility and opportunity to get on and do what they do best. This is exactly what our government is focused on: providing these small and medium businesses with the environment they need to succeed and the means for them to invest and grow their businesses.
The second point I want to make that is vitally important in my electorate of Curtin relates to health, particularly to medical and health research. In my electorate we have 11 hospitals, a mix of private and public, which service not only the people in Curtin but across Perth and Western Australia. Of significant interest to me within this mix is the fact that Curtin is home to a great hub of vital medical research facilities. We have over 10 world-class research institutes such as the Lions Eye Institute, the Australian Alzheimer's Research Foundation, the Harry Perkins institute, the Telethon Kids Institute and the Perron Institute for Neurological Research. We are also home to the University of Western Australia which of course undertakes an enormous amount of medical and health research.
Last year I visited CliniKids in Curtin, which is the Telethon Kids Institute's first clinical service and the first of its kind in Australia. CliniKids focus is putting research into practice by providing therapy support and individualised programs, including speech therapy, psychology, occupational therapy and diagnostic assessments to children aged zero to 12 with development delay and/or autism spectrum disorder. This bespoke clinic has been designed in collaboration with families to meet the specific needs of children. The Morrison government supported the development of this project with an investment of $600,000. This funding, together with generous donations from private donors and the Telethon Kids Institute, has ensured a purpose-built and unique design and fit-out which benefits the kids and their families.
I also recently visited the Telethon Kids Institute after attending the opening of the discovery centre last year. I met with the director, Professor Jonathan Carapetis, for a tour. This facility has now been collocated with the new Perth Children's Hospital, and this collocation enhances the institute's collaboration with clinicians, nursing staff and other applied health professionals, leading to better care, better treatments, and better health and development outcomes for our kids and young people. They are undertaking a broad array of vital research, and it was absolutely fascinating to take a tour and meet some of those researchers. I confess: I didn't actually understand what some of them were talking about, but it was absolutely fascinating nonetheless.
The government understands that health and medical research, like health reform more broadly, is a long-term investment. This is why we have the $20 billion long-term Medical Research Future Fund which is investing in and supporting Australian health and medical research. The fund aims to transform health and medical research to improve lives, build the economy and contribute to the health system's sustainability. In this year's budget, we committed $6 billion over the forward estimates for medical research. This comprises $3.5 billion for the National Health and Medical Research Council, $500 million for the Biomedical Translation Fund and $2.3 billion for the Medical Research Future Fund.
In my electorate of Curtin, 13 Medical Research Future Fund grants have been awarded since the fund began—$35 million to the Telethon Kids Institute for a vaccine to combat rheumatic heart disease; $4.91 million to UWA for generating Indigenous, patient centred, and clinically and culturally capable models of mental health care; and another $2 million again to UWA for the evaluation of clinical pathways and patient outcomes for breast MRI in assessing and staging breast cancer. I would also add that, from 2018 to this present time, the NHMRC has awarded $57 million to research projects at UWA, covering issues such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, cancer, genomics, infectious diseases and mental health. In essence, the hub that is Curtin in education, in medical health and in medical health research is vitally important, and this government gets it and this government invests in it.
I did say I was going to speak about VET. I've actually spoken about the importance of VET a number of times in this chamber over the past week. It is vitally important to our country that we have an extremely strong, stable VET system sitting hand in hand with the higher education system. In Curtin, 16,000 people are studying VET qualifications. Across Australia, that number is clearly a lot more. VET is vitally important to the future of this country, making sure that people have the required skills for a future which is undergoing quite dramatic transformation. I refer back to the member for Whitlam. Yes, we don't want to actually be training people right now for skills that aren't going to be needed tomorrow. We should be training people and giving them the skills and the capacity to upskill for the future through the provision of excellent vocational education and training.
We have a number of VET providers in my electorate, and I recently met with them with the assistant minister and, at another time, with the minister. The providers are really excellent providers—dedicated and committed to ensuring that their students have the capacity to succeed, that they are taught and trained extremely well, and that they can get through and actually have a great career pathway. To all of the VET providers in my electorate, I say: thank you—thank you for reaching out to us and for sharing with us your concerns about red tape and your desire for us to implement some of the reforms that we've actually been talking about with you. We really appreciate that feedback, and you'll see that we are actually implementing that feedback this year.
By way of concluding, one thing I know when I'm out and about in my electorate of Curtin is that the people of Curtin are hardworking and independent people, and they want to succeed in their endeavours. The Morrison government understands this completely and is providing the right environment, investment and support for the people in my electorate to get ahead.