06 January 2015

Unity offers hope after a year of challenge, tragedy: Opinion, Geelong Advertiser

On New Year’s Day, Australians awoke to the news that former Prime Ministers Hawke, Keating and Howard had united in their calls for urgent action on the federal budget.  This was bipartisan politics at its best.

Bob Hawke told The Australian newspaper that the deteriorating Budget bottom line had to be addressed because governments “can’t just keep pushing up taxes”.

John Howard said: “The lesson is that at crucial times you do need an acceptance on both sides … that bipartisanship around measures that are clearly in the nation’s long-term interest is essential …”

Over six years, Labor delivered $191 billion in cumulative deficits and turned nearly $50 billion in the bank into projected net debt of well over $200 billion – the fastest deterioration in debt, in dollar terms and as a share of GDP, in modern Australian history.  Our nation’s monthly interest bill is $1 billion, rising to $3 billion if urgent action is not taken.

To date, Labor has opposed nearly every budgetary measure including $5 billion of its own savings.

Yes, there are economic headwinds ahead.  But in 2014, economic growth strengthened – from 1.9 to 2.7% – and some 165,000 new jobs were created, at three times the rate we saw a year ago.

As we look back over 2014, there is no greater international challenge than combatting terrorism and the dreaded ISIS death cult.  Keeping Australians safe and bolstering our national security agencies will remain a key priority.

Across Corangamite, we are working hard to deliver on our election commitments, create new jobs and build a stronger and more prosperous economy.  We can only do that if we have a strong budget.  I also recognise how important is to listen, and govern with compassion.  Our changes to the Medicare co-payment reflect this.

Despite strong employment growth in some sectors, we face our challenges particularly in manufacturing.  In 2014, amidst the political noise, much was achieved locally.

We announced a new Australian Bureau of Statistics Centre of Excellence for Geelong, bringing with it 250 jobs.

The new National Disability Insurance Agency headquarters was opened and the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund delivered some 750 new jobs.

The NBN is being rolled out to more than half the Corangamite electorate, we are tackling mobile phone blackspots and our free trade agreements, particularly with China, are set to deliver major opportunities.

We are upgrading the Great Ocean Road and duplicating the Princes Highway through to Colac, both vital infrastructure projects for jobs and new industries.  The East West Link was to deliver almost 7000 construction jobs.  It is utterly shameful that the new state Labor government has put this on ice.  The western section is so critical for our region and I will continue my fight for this project.

Small business is the backbone of the Corangamite economy.  We have seen some disgraceful anti-competitive conduct from Coles, by its own admission.  In Colac, petrol prices are too high.  This is hurting consumers and small business operators.  Our Government’s decision to stand up for small business by reviewing competition laws, abolishing the carbon tax and cutting $2 billion in red tape will help level the playing field and create jobs.

We are rolling out some major funding opportunities to support our region.  These include the $155m Growth Fund to drive investment in advanced manufacturing and regional infrastructure and the $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund.

On the important economic reforms, none more important than fixing the budget, Labor needs to find a new spirit of bipartisanship in the national interest.

6 January 2015