23 May 2018

Speech: Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019

It’s my great pleasure to rise and speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019, which I am very pleased to say delivers for all Australians, including those in my electorate of Corangamite and the broader Geelong region. This bill and our budget, very significantly, provides tax relief to encourage and reward hardworking Australians. It backs business to invest and create jobs. It builds the infrastructure that we need in Corangamite, across the Geelong region and across the nation. It also ensures that government lives within its means.

I want to reflect on the member for Lalor’s contribution. One of the things that the Prime Minister said in question time today is that repeating a falsehood over and over again doesn’t make it true. One of the most disappointing things for me, being part of the political process in this House, is the constant misrepresentations and lies that we hear from those opposite. Of course we saw that in spades at the last federal election with the Mediscare campaign. It’s no longer right and proper that Australians should tolerate any member of parliament, be they in government or in opposition, who is prepared to stand up and tell these falsehoods. I regret that whether it’s schools funding, hospitals or taxation, the member for Lalor has made some very significant misrepresentations.

I want to reflect a little on hospital funding and the news locally that Healthscope has announced today that it’s closing the Geelong Private Hospital. That is quite a shock and very concerning news. I understand the company is working very hard to deploy staff and provide for the orderly transition of patients. We’re very fortunate to have University Hospital, run by Barwon Health, of course, and many other fine public and private hospitals in our region, including the St John of God Hospital and Epworth Private Hospital. I’m very hopeful that Barwon Health will be able to investigate how it can use the premises of Geelong Private to offer a broader range of services in the Geelong community.

One of the outstanding misrepresentations made by the Leader of the Opposition in his budget reply was that he was going to fix waiting lists. He obviously doesn’t really understand how hospitals work in this nation, because of course waiting lists are a matter for the state government. I am hopeful that these premises may be used by Barwon Health to combat unacceptably long waiting lists for elective surgery in the Geelong region. That has to be higher priority for the state government.

I also want to note that the Commonwealth government—our government—is proudly providing record funding to Barwon Health and to Victorian hospitals. The Commonwealth has increased funding to Barwon Health by $36.2 million, or 23.8 per cent, between 2013-14 and 2016, and funding to Victorian hospitals increased by 36 per cent between 2013-14 and 2016-17. This is in comparison to the Andrews government, which has delivered growth of only 13.9 per cent. And going further forward: under the coalition, the Commonwealth is increasing funding from $3.2 billion in 2012-13 to $7.1 billion in 2024-25, a massive increase to $7.1 billion for Victorian hospitals. This means record numbers of surgeries, more doctors and more nurses.

I also want to reflect on the very significant commitment that we have made to infrastructure. In Victoria, this is very, very significant. We have invested a record $17 billion in productive infrastructure, including new spending in this budget of $7.8 billion for Victoria—and this does not include the $3 billion for the East West Link. I think it is regrettable that the member for Lalor, who represents a safe Labor seat, and the members for Corio and Gellibrand, about whom I was speaking earlier in my contribution in the MPI, take their electorates for granted. The members for Corio, Gellibrand and Lalor, who all represent either Geelong or Western Melbourne electorates, have failed to stand up for their electorates when it comes to investing in infrastructure.

Daniel Andrews cancelled the East West Link—vital, critical infrastructure for our region. That cost Victorians $1.24 billion. And what did those Labor members do? They did nothing. They didn’t have the courage to stand up for their constituents and to say that we are growing at a very fast rate, which we are. Geelong and the Geelong region is now the fastest-growing region in the country. We desperately need this infrastructure and it is absolutely horrendous to see a state Labor government waste money like that and not progress the infrastructure we need. The West Gate Tunnel is a small part of the East West Link. It’s not enough; it’s a poor cousin, and it’s very regrettable.

We’ve also invested $1.7 billion across Victoria for regional rail, most of which, of course, is coming from the Commonwealth, with only a very small amount from the state. Again, we’ve seen a paltry contribution from federal members who don’t seem to be mindful of the second-rate rail service that we are being delivered by the Daniel Andrews government.

For instance, we have contributed $150 million to the Geelong rail duplication project and state Labor have put only $10 million into that project. It’s an incredibly important project for the City Deal. Rail and road infrastructure in a fast-growing region such as ours is absolutely vital, and we have seen a pathetic contribution from Labor. Again, those Labor members showed a lack of courage in their ability to stand up and say that we need greater investment. It’s an absolute indictment on Jacinta Allan and Daniel Andrews that of the nearly $274 million being spent on the Geelong-Colac-Warrnambool line through to Melbourne to deliver faster and more reliable services, only $20 million is coming from the state. So I call on the state government to get its act together, to deliver its business plan and to start delivering the money that we need for rail infrastructure.

The other outstanding failure in our region by Labor members is their failure to stand up for Avalon Airport. In 2008, unbelievably, the Labor government shut down Avalon Airport by refusing to allow it to build an international terminal. That happened on the member for Grayndler’s watch and the member for Corio’s watch. Unbelievably, the member for Corio justified that decision by saying it was not in Geelong’s and Australia’s interests to have Victoria’s second international airport. So that is an astounding failure—an astounding failure by all Labor members, but particularly by the member for Corio.

Very proudly in this budget, as I mentioned, we’ve delivered another $50 million for the Geelong rail duplication project and, proudly, another $20 million for the new international terminal at Avalon Airport. We announced the funding on the Tuesday. The following Saturday, the Treasurer visited Avalon and we turned the very first sod. That terminal is now being constructed. That will be delivered before the end of the year, when AirAsia starts its international flights. We are very proud. We announced the funding on the Tuesday and on the Saturday construction began. Not only are we fixing Labor’s mess but we are also getting on with the job of providing vital infrastructure for our region.

I note the member for Lalor has returned to the chamber. There are a couple of other messes that she has failed to stand up for. The Regional Rail Link has turned into an absolute disaster. There was very significant money contributed by the previous Labor government—it was their project—and it has now become a second-rate service. It is overcrowded and unreliable. It is an absolute disaster, and I would have thought that the state Labor government would have put some money into its budget to fix the Regional Rail Link. It has done absolutely nothing. In fact, I don’t even remember if the member for Lalor stood up for her community when Werribee lost its direct line back to Geelong, so there is now no direct line between Werribee and Geelong. We’ve seen a real failure by Labor to deliver the services that we need on the Regional Rail Link. I say to state Labor: get on with the job and fix this rail service. We deserve much better. There is all this rubbish about a bullet train between Geelong and Melbourne, and they can’t even fix the basic rail services.

I’m very pleased that, as part of our budget, we have announced tax relief for low- and middle-income earners. By 2024-25, around 94 per cent of taxpayers are projected to face a marginal tax rate of 32.5 per cent or less, as compared with 63 per cent if we leave the system unchanged. This is a huge win for Corangamite residents. There are 64,558 taxpayers who stand to benefit from the low- and middle-income tax relief in the upcoming 2018-19 financial year. For instance, a high school teacher on $75,000 will have an extra $530 in his or her pocket from the budget year onwards, with an extra $3,740 in their pocket over the first seven years of the tax plan.

I have to say, this is in stark contrast to the ‘bigger and better’ tax plan that Labor announced in its budget reply. It was a bit like hearing the Leader of the Opposition selling steak knives. It was very hard to believe when you look at what the Labor Party intends to do in terms of how it’s going to fund these tax cuts. It is going to slog and hit the most vulnerable people in our community. Some pensioners and self-funded retirees will be hit with the shocking retiree tax. It’s a $10.7 billion hit on those pensioners and on those self-funded retirees. It is the biggest single hit, and Labor members opposite think this is something that they want to justify. It is absolutely shocking.

The Labor Party have deserted these people in our community. With this $10.7 billion hit, it has no regard for senior Australians. When we speak about our home packages and the provision we’re making for older Australians, including the 14,000 home packages, we’re very proud of how we’re standing up for senior Australians. We will fight for seniors every step of the way. This retiree tax is a shocking piece of policy. It is whacking the most vulnerable people in our community, the Labor Party, including the member for Lalor, should be absolutely ashamed to be defending this shocking policy which leaves older Australians high and dry.

I’m very proud of our real tax cuts, as distinct from the economic jumble that we have heard from the Leader of the Opposition in his budget reply. I also note the member for Lalor’s comments in relation to supporting business. We’ve very proudly already delivered small- and medium-sized business tax cuts which will benefit many millions of businesses across Australia. That is for businesses with turnovers of up to $50 million if they’re incorporated and up to $5 million if they’re not incorporated. That impacts almost 17,000 local businesses in my electorate. This is coupled with the very significant instant asset write-off benefit for small businesses, which has been extended for another year.

As part of this $220 billion tax grab that the Labor Party is proposing if ever it got into office—and God forbid if ever that happened—it’s now proposing to increase tax on small- and medium-sized businesses by reversing some of these tax cuts that we’ve already introduced. It’s very disappointing, and when the Leader of the Opposition declares war on business—he’s said very clearly that he’s declared war on business; he’s got no interest in standing up for business—then I think that says it all. Whether you run a small, medium or large business in this country or you work in a small, medium or large business in this country, the Labor Party is no friend of yours. The Leader of the Opposition has made that very, very clear.

The other very significant part of our budget is that we will be returning to balance, a small surplus, in 2019-20. Also, through sustainable budget management, and for the first time in a decade, the government is no longer borrowing to pay for everyday expenses. We’re incredibly proud of what we are doing. It’s a responsible, measured budget for all Australians and to benefit all Australians, including the people I represent. I very much commend this bill to the House.