Tuesday, 20 October 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2020-2021, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Second Reading
What a time in the history of this proud nation that we are living through and what a budget the most recent budget was. These are quite exceptional times, and in exceptional times exceptional things have to be done. The hallmark of this budget is that it is a budget for the time. The world has been thrown into a recession as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you like it or not, we have done very well compared to the rest of the world. We came into this budget and this pandemic in a good fiscal situation and we have acted in a manner that will support the economy, which is currently in the throes of travelling out of the pandemic induced recession. First of all, we softened the blow and now we are thinking all about recovery.
We have brought forward the personal tax cuts that were promised for the forward years. We have brought them forward so that now over 11 million taxpayers in Australia will be better off by paying less tax and keeping more of what they earn. In my electorate of Lyne that amounts to 51,500 taxpayers. The maximum benefit they will get will be $2,745 this financial year. There is also support for 15,900 businesses in the Lyne electorate, with the instant asset write-off ramped up so that any eligible capital expenditure can be written off in this financial year. It will allow businesses to purchase equipment to grow their industrial or business capacity, it will improve their cash flow, and it will hopefully trigger a lot more economic output and activity. There is also JobKeeper, JobSeeker and all those other COVID-related responses that are being supported by this budget. Around 9,905 individuals received the coronavirus supplement. Some 4,200 small and medium businesses have accessed the improving cash flow initiative, which was the first cash adjustment made early in the pandemic response. In the Lyne electorate, 30,576 age pensioners received $750 cash payments in April and July, and this budget is offering them another $250 cash payment in December and a further $250 cash stimulus in March next year. Because Lyne has such an ageing demographic, we have many carers—3,312 carers. As I mentioned, there are 30,576 pensioners, and we have a large cohort of veterans as well, so it's no surprise that we have so many carers. They have received extra support payments of $750.
As I mentioned, there are so many things in this budget that are designed to get our economy back on its feet and up and running. We have kept control of the health situation, which means that, even though our economy has gone into recession, we're so much better off in a financial sense than other nations who haven't controlled the pandemic as well as Australia has. One of the most tangible and immediate stimulus packages in the infrastructure space is the local roads and community infrastructure spending that was announced. We brought forward $500 million before the budget, and another billion dollars has gone into that. For people listening in my electorate, that means that Dungog council is getting and extra $1.2 million that they would not have budgeted for a year ago; MidCoast—$8.1 million; Maitland council—$3.7 million extra this year; Port Stephens—$3.2 million extra this year; and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council—$5.25 million. That's on top of financial assistance grants: Dungog—$2.7 million; MidCoast Council—$18.25 million; Maitland—$7.1 million; Port Stephens—$6.75 million; and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council—$9½ million. That is very tangible and very immediate support. The initiatives that have been announced are really coming home. Just last week I was in Wingham. They're bringing forward a whole revitalisation of the Wingham CBD. It is going to be a game-changer for Wingham.
As I mentioned, we've got a large cohort of elderly in the Lyne electorate, and aged care is a huge part of our economy. When I first entered parliament representing the Lyne electorate, spending in the Lyne electorate was $90 million per year. Due to incremental increases in the intervening years and in this budget, it's now up to $180 million per year. We are all familiar with the aged-care crisis, but there is good news. The latest figures show that the home-care shortage has finally peaked and that the number of people waiting for home-care packages has dropped. Aged-care funding overall has similarly grown from $13 billion in 2013 up to $24 billion. That's a massive increase in such a short time.
You probably recall, Mr Deputy Speaker Wilson, that before the budget there was an announcement released about another 6,000 homecare packages. Well, this budget brings on another 23,000 packages. The cost of this is quite exceptional—$1.9 billion. It is making a huge difference. The figures in the homecare national prioritisation system reveal that there has been a 20 per cent decrease year on year to March 2020, and that's before these extra homecare places are released.
Of course, there are all the COVID support measures for mental health and for general health in the budget, including in the aged-care space. The COVID-19 aged-care response now totals $1.6 billion. Whether it is increased cash payments for staffing costs or COVID PPE, it covers all sorts of things. There is also extra funding for aged care and training in dementia support. Unfortunately, we have a very high incidence of dementia because of our demographic. We also get extra funds to help young people who have ended up in aged care. Where there has been nowhere to care for them, in a chronic sense, if they've had physical or brain injuries, they've often ended up in aged care. But in this budget there is a plan to move younger people out of aged care and into more appropriate settings.
As you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, I practised medicine for 33 years before I was given the honour of standing in this room and in this building. The general health budget funding is quite staggering, is quite exceptional. It's $467 billion over the forward estimates. That's $32 billion more. These figures are staggering, but the important thing is what they are delivering. They're not just delivering more money, they are delivering significant changes.
We have got the Medicare guarantee in place. Every year there is a requirement to find and fund new medicines, and there is a new initiative in this budget. There is an extra $700 million in the pharmaceutical budget to allow for this exponential growth in complex personalised medicine, biological drugs et cetera. Just to give you some examples of some of the news things being funded, there are new biological drugs for ovarian cancer, liver cancer, a rare eye disease—it's actually not that rare; about 500 people each year lose their vision because of a development of new vessels in the back of their eye, but this new treatment will give them hope. There is also stuff for small chronic lymphocytic lymphoma, and for a nasty variety of lung cancer there is a second line biological treatment. It is really exciting for people in the health space to be able to offer people with these unfortunate diagnoses chances of longer survival, better quality of life and, in some cases, a cure. We all know how many diabetics there are in the country. There is another new medicine, semaglutide, for diabetes.
We've put record funding into supporting public hospitals and into intergovernmental agreements. We are reforming private health insurance. A really notable improvement is that dependents can stay on the family insurance policy up to the age of 31. Hitherto, it was up to age 24. Once you struck that age, you had to fend for yourself. It is also great that people with a disability can stay under the health insurance provided by their parents. There are many people with major disabilities who do stay dependant on their parents, and this will give them another level of support.
Obviously the mental health problem around the country has been exacerbated by COVID and the isolation forced on people by lockdown. There is a massive $5.7 billion to be spent on mental health alone in this financial year. Of note is an expansion of the headspace network around the country. Currently there are 124 services, and that's growing to 153 by 2022. And, over the next four years, that's $630 million into the headspace network. That's really important because in Taree, in the centre of the Manning Valley, there was a commitment to deliver a headspace centre and the funding for that will come out of this appropriation.
I could go on just on all the other things in preventative health. There's a life-saving medical research initiative where there'll be regionally-funded research trials—that's $125 million. In rural medical and nursing and allied health training, there's another $50.3 million to start another university department of rural health. The list goes on. There's funding for vaccines. There's funding for more research. The Medical Research Future Fund is now delivering all the dividends that were promised when it was set up. We are also funding extra into the aged-care system for development and research. It is really staggering.
There are many more things that will benefit everyone in regional Australia, including in telecommunications. There's another extra round of funding for the Regional Connectivity Program. There was over $50 million put into this in the 2019-20 budget, and there's another $30.3 million. In the budget, for regionalisation and decentralisation there's $41 million of new funding to bring forward our decentralisation agenda—that's not necessarily public service or public government bodies decentralising but private decentralisation. And that's really become turbo charged because people have found with the COVID pandemic the wonders of living in regional Australia. People are buying into regional centres up and down the north coast, and over the Blue Mountains they're just going absolutely ballistic. It's like people have had the sleep taken from their eyes and they've realised how great regional Australia is.
We have got extra road funding all over the country, including for road safety. Unfortunately, a lot of the deaths and major injuries around road safety happen in regional Australia, so it's really great that we've got a special fund set aside to improve road safety around the nation. That's what you get when you have regional members fighting the good fight in this building to get a fair deal for regional Australia.
I could go on and on. There is so much in this budget. As I've said, exceptional times require exceptional responses, and there's no shortage of funding for all those other areas. We're familiar with the defence budget—that's massive. We've got a manufacturing recovery plan. We're supporting apprentices. We're getting extra training places in TAFE. We're subsidising over 100,000 apprentices because we know they are vulnerable in this situation. We're building our skills. There's a huge spend on education, health—you name it. But, when it comes to managing things, we've had the books balanced before, so we'll get there again, but it's going to be—