Mr PASIN (Barker) (17:50): It’s a privilege to be given this opportunity to provide comments on the appropriation bills as they relate to the budget that was handed down recently by the Treasurer. It’s also great to be given the opportunity to do it after there being a little time for the community to digest the content of that rather substantial piece of work. The sense I get from being in my community is that Australians understand that this budget effectively builds on the excellent work that our government has been doing since first being elected in 2013.
The coalition are known for their ability to be good economic managers. Over the last eight years that we’ve been given the privilege of government, it’s at least my suggestion that we’ve consolidated that reputation. For the first time in 11 years, in the lead-up to this pandemic, the budget was set to be back in black. That was because of good economic management, and it meant that we were in a position to weather the inevitable economic storm that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. It meant that we were in a position to guarantee the essential services that every Australian relies on, constituents in the electorate of Barker, of course, included. These are services like aged care.
The budget assists 33,535 senior Australians living in my electorate. There is $17.7 billion in additional funding—it’s practical, it’s targeted, it’s new—aimed at significantly improving the aged-care system. It will have an impact on older Australians in Barker, and I can tell you, having spent a week in the electorate, it’s very welcome news. Like everyone in this place, but I think I speak for every Australian, I found the findings of the aged-care royal commission and much of the evidence confronting. It was heartbreaking, to be truthful. That’s why this important structural aged-care funding adjustment has been applied. The reforms that we’re talking about are being undertaken through a five-year, five-pillar aged-care reform plan, which will see the funding increase that I mentioned. It will include $6.5 billion for 80,000 additional home-care packages to get our senior Australians the support they deserve. This is a legacy issue—it’s across governments—but we are chasing down the waiting list. We are also set to improve face-to-face care. There is $3.9 billion in the budget that will ensure, once in care, our loved ones receive the care and treatment we all expect that they will.
The investment of $123 million in our rural and regional health workforce, including $65.8 million to increase bulk-billing incentives for doctors working in rural, regional and remote Australia, is also very welcome news. It’s news that I hope will deliver practical solutions to issues we face in our regional towns when it comes to seeing a GP. For those who don’t need to see a health professional face to face, there is $204.6 million invested in extending telehealth arrangements.
That’s fantastic news if you just need a script and you don’t want to leave the farm, or you can’t, or, indeed, you are too busy to go and see the doctor. This is our government continuing to provide access to health services for all Australians, regardless of where they live.
Mental health, I am pleased to say, was an important focus in the budget, as it is for my constituents. The announcement our government will undertake significant structural reform to mental health and suicide prevention systems in this country was welcomed. There’s a $2.3 billion package in the budget. It’s a fantastic step forward. Our government understands that mental health funding and the resources for suicide prevention services benefit Australians quality of life, quite obviously. But it’s also my respectful submission that it’s an investment that reduces dependence on emergency services, while improving barriers to economic productivity.
We’re also cutting the cost of child care for families in Barker by increasing subsidies available for families with more than one child under five in child care. Not only is this lowering the cost of living for families but it’s boosting, and will boost, workforce participation in our regions, which is all great news.
Our budget also contained a women’s safety and economic security statement, outlining the budget’s $3.4 billion commitment to improve women’s safety, economic security, health and wellbeing. This funding, importantly, includes $164.8 million in financial support for women who escape family and domestic violence. That continues to be a scourge in our society, and one that I know across the divide in this place we are committed to doing real work to address. There’s $129 million for increased legal assistance enabling women to access justice. Our budget supports women not only through economic empowerment but also as a safety net if women experience, as I said, the scourge of domestic violence.
Another important budget measure, for my constituents at least, was the commitment to fully fund the NDIS with a further $13.2 billion in funding for the scheme. Mr Deputy Speaker, you know that we are committed to ensuring the NDIS is a demand-driven scheme, which is why the last two budgets have allocated an additional $17 billion to the scheme to make sure it remains fully funded. Not only is it important that the NDIS remains demand driven, but it is important that the eligibility and appropriate plans for recipients are made in a timely, objective and consistent manner to be fair for all Australians that are in need of that care. The strength of the NDIS is highlighted by the fact that currently approximately 450,000 Australians are accessing services via the scheme.
Getting Aussies skilled and into jobs is how our economy will bounce back. I know it’s something you are personally past passionate about, Deputy Speaker. It’s the fastest and best way to bounce back from the COVID-induced recession. That’s why I was pleased to see that we are doubling our commitment to the JobTrainer fund to support a further 163,000 new training places to upskill jobseekers and meet skills shortages. We’re funding more than 170 new apprenticeships and trainees. These measures, I’ve got to tell you, have been popular in Barker. I’ve spoken to numerous businesses and countless apprentices and trainees who have been taken on as new apprentices or trainees because of these initiatives themselves. Of course they were very pleased to hear that the next cohort of apprentices and trainees were likely to find their way into employment because the 50 per cent apprentice wage subsidy was continuing.
We also firmly believe that once in a job, Australians spend their own money far better than government spends it for them. To support Australians in keeping more of what they earn, the budget expands personal income tax cuts for low- and middle -income earners. Low- and -middle income earners earning between $48,000 and $90,000 will benefit by up to $1,080 for individuals or $2,160 from couples, increasing the amount families can spend on the goods and services they are keen to consume or buy.
In addition to these personal benefits embedded in the budget, infrastructure improvements, I got to tell you, are a standard in the coalition budget and so it was for Barker in this budget. Connectivity is the No. 1 issue in my electorate, as I expect it is for many rural and regional electorates around the country. Being connected by road is a big part of this. It keeps our local economy ticking and gets our loved ones home safely.
So it’s great news that the government’s record support for infrastructure places regions right at the centre. We are building the infrastructure our economy needs for the future, with a record $110 billion infrastructure pipeline which is already supporting 100,000 jobs across the country.
This budget goes even further, with $15.2 billion in additional infrastructure commitments which will support a further 30,000 jobs for projects such as the Truro bypass, upgrades to the Heysen Tunnels, investigation into duplication of the Swanport Bridge, upgrades of the Princes Highway and Dukes Highway and investigation into the construction of upgraded freight routes connecting the regional north-south freight route via the Sturt Highway to bypass Adelaide. The new National Water Grid is also allocated $3.5 million for a detailed business case to bring a sustainable alternative water supply to the Barossa Valley.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I don’t have any knives for you, but wait—there’s more! As well as these major projects, our Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program has also received a significant boost. In addition to the $1 billion for our Road Safety Program that will deliver thousands of kilometres of road upgrades to regional Australia, our Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program, which has already injected a whopping $1.5 billion into our local communities via local government, has been extended with another $1 billion for local roads, bike paths, community halls, public facilities and almost whatever local councils and local decision-makers deem a priority.
In Barker this means a total of $37 million in additional money being pumped into our local councils to spend on community priorities. From the Beachport Bowling Club to the riverfront lighting in Renmark and many local roads in between, this project is funding direct, tangible projects, putting spades in the ground and jobs on the books. Of course this is on top of the additional $250 million for a sixth round of the highly successful Building Better Regions Fund; $22.7 million for a seventh round of Stronger Communities; and a new program, Rebuilding Regional Communities, which will provide microgrants to grassroots community organisations to assist communities in their recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. This funding is not only delivering outcomes for local communities; as I said earlier, every brick laid and every metre of bitumen applied is creating jobs, supporting local communities and leaving legacy infrastructure in its wake.
This brings me, in the time I have, to local businesses. This government is continuing tax incentives that will allow around 23,500 local businesses in Barker to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase. Additionally, around 4,620 businesses in Barker will be able to use the extended loss carry-back measure to support cash flow and drive confidence. It’s stimulus measures like these—in particular, in my view, the instant asset write-off extension—that have seen business spending on machinery and equipment increase at the fastest rate in nearly seven years. It’s measures like these that have seen employment go above its pre-pandemic levels ahead of any other major advanced economy. It’s worth repeating: it’s measures like these that have seen employment go above pre-pandemic levels.
Our government also understands the value Australians place on homeownership, which is why we are proudly the party of homeownership. Despite the last budget’s success in getting 133,000 applications for the HomeBuilder program, we are committed to continuing to support even more Australians to get into their own homes. This includes establishing the Family Home Guarantee, with 10,000 guarantees available to single parents with dependents, allowing them to purchase a home sooner with a deposit of as little as two per cent. First home buyers seeking to build a new home or purchase a newly built home will be able to do so with a deposit of as little as five per cent. All other first home buyers are able to save more under the First Home Super Saver Scheme; we’ve increased the maximum allowed to be saved from $30,000 to $50,000.
So whether it’s providing the essential services that my constituents depend on, securing our economic future or getting more Australians into work, our government will continue to work hard to provide an environment for all Australians to not only survive this pandemic but of course to thrive following it.