Monday, 22 May 2023
Private Members' Business
Deputy Speaker Freelander, it is fantastic to see you this beautiful Monday morning in our nation's capital. I know those opposite are in opposition and they haven't got much to crow about. We're trying to fix up the state in which they left our national economy, and I'm immensely proud of the budget that we handed down on 9 May, which is delivering responsible cost-of-living relief for Australians and in particular for Australian families, who are doing it tough. Taking pressure off those families is our top priority.
This budget provides cost-of-living relief that is affordable. It prioritises those who are most in need, including by providing energy bill relief to over five million households and one million small businesses. I'll be speaking upstairs later on on the small business support, but that's huge for small business. It also helps 170,000 households save on energy bills by financing energy-saving home upgrades. The budget cuts the cost of medicines by up to half for at least six million Australians. It supports 57,000 single parents around our nation by expanding eligibility for the single parenting payment. That's huge support for those who need that support from our government, and we're giving it to them. It responsibly increases the base rate for eligible recipients of JobSeeker and other payments—1.1 million Australians. It increases the Commonwealth rent assistance for 1.1 million households. It encourages investment in more housing, including tax breaks to boost investment in build-to-rent projects. It delivers a 15 per cent pay rise on award wages for aged-care workers. It's getting wages moving again across the board. That, again, helps families to balance their own budgets.
We promised the Australian people that, after a wasted decade by those opposite, we would get on with the job of taking pressure off household budgets, and I'm proud to say that this is exactly what this budget does. I note that the honourable member opposite's motion lectures the government about the need to balance the budget. That's exactly what it did, strengthening our fiscal position, with a budget surplus now forecast in 2022-23; and delivering lower deficits and debt compared to recent budgets. Labor is on track to deliver the first surplus in 15 years. Those opposite had nine years in office to achieve this. Those opposite talk a big game when it comes to fiscal management, which is supposed to be one of their supposed strengths, but not once did they achieve in nine long years what this government has already achieved in its first year in office.
I'm also proud that in this budget we're strengthening Medicare, which is the foundation of Australia's primary healthcare system. The budget invests an historic $5.7 billion to strengthen Medicare. It makes it cheaper and easier to see a doctor, by tripling bulk-billing incentives, with immediate benefits for more than 11 million Australians. That is huge. It funds more medical urgent care clinics, including in my electorate up in Darwin and Palmerston, and after-hours primary care. This will see immediate benefits for many Territorians. When we improve primary health care for Australians we'll see fewer Australians getting into acute care and needing to be hospitalised. The budget also invests $17.3 million in the current financial year and $17.7 million in 2023-24 to maintain the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, at the Royal Darwin Hospital and the Darwin International Airport, to make sure it's in a state of readiness to respond to major health incidents in Australia and the region. The NCCTRC is something that we can all be incredibly proud of. I'm proud that our government continues to back its important work. We're also providing $9.8 million for increased quarantine capacity at the Centre for National Resilience in Howard Springs, which kept the nation safe during the pandemic. This is a great budget.