Senator HENDERSON (Victoria) (12:37): Last night, the Treasurer handed down the 2022-23 federal budget, which delivers Australia’s plan for a stronger future: cost-of-living relief now; a long-term economic plan which creates jobs; record investments in essential services; and stronger defence and national security. This is a budget which delivers for all Australians. The government recognises households are facing cost-of-living pressures as a result of the invasion of Ukraine and ongoing global supply chain issues from COVID, so, as part of the budget, we’ve announced some very significant cost-of-living measures which will be delivered as temporary and practical support for households right across this nation.

For the next six months, Australians will save 22c a litre every time they fill up their car. A family with two cars who fills up once a week could save around $30 a week or around $700 over the next six months. This cut in fuel excise, which took effect from midnight last night, will flow through to the bowser over the next two weeks. This temporary reduction in fuel excise will not come at a cost to road funding, very importantly. We will see more than $12 billion spent in the coming year on roads.

There’s a new one-off $420 cost-of-living tax offset, which will benefit more than 10 million low- and middle-income earners. Taxpayers who are already receiving the low- and middle-income tax offset will now receive up to $1,500, and couples up to $3,000, from 1 July this year. There is a one-off new $250 cost-of-living payment which will be delivered within weeks to six million Australians. Pensioners, carers, veterans, jobseekers, eligible self-funded retirees and concession card holders will all benefit. Together with existing indexation arrangements, this will see a single pensioner receive more than $500 in additional support over the next six months, just when they need it the most.

Very proudly, the Morrison government is helping more Australians to own a home and to combat and deal with housing affordability. Of course, we have HomeBuilder, the First Home Super Saver Scheme and the home guarantee scheme. But now, in the budget, there is a doubling of the home guarantee scheme which will provide 50,000 places a year. This will help single parents to buy a home with a deposit as low as two per cent and will help more homebuyers to buy a home with a deposit as low as five per cent. I know this is going to be very much welcomed in the region I represent as patron senator for the electorates of Bendigo, Ballarat, Corangamite, Corio and Gorton, all very fast-growing areas. Many are moving to these regions, and they are looking for that additional support.

There’s a new $2.8 billion investment to increase take-up and completion rates as part of our skills investment, and we’ll be providing a $5,000 payment to new apprentices and up to $15,000 in wage subsidies for employers who take them on. There will be $3.7 billion to support an additional 800,000 training places.

Of course, small business is a massive recipient of the measures in our budget. We know small and family businesses are the absolute lifeblood of our economy right across this nation, employing nearly eight million Australians. From budget night, for every $100 spent by a small business on training, those businesses will receive a $120 tax deduction—120 per cent. Of course, this will drive more resilience and more jobs right across the nation. We’re also backing small businesses which are embracing the digital revolution by providing the same tax deduction for investments in digital technologies.

Local manufacturing—a very big passion of mine—of course receives a huge shot in the arm, with a wide range of investments to drive collaboration between our universities and CSIRO. Of course, in Victoria we have the incredible announcement of the manufacture of mRNA vaccines. And there’s a new patent box to support the agriculture and low-emissions-technology sectors. So that’s going to make a huge difference in terms of innovation.

The regions—I’m proudly a regional senator for Victoria—have received unprecedented regional investment. There’s a new $7.4 billion investment in more dams and water projects to improve vital water security. There’s a new $2 billion regional accelerator program. Of course, there are the transformational investments in other parts of the country: the Hunter, the Pilbara, the Northern Territory and North and Central Queensland, and a wonderful $1.3 billion telecommunications package. I know our incredible Liberal candidate for Corangamite, Stephanie Asher, has been advocating up-hill and down-dale for more funding for mobile coverage in places like Armstrong Creek and the Bellarine Peninsula in Corangamite. She’s doing an incredible job. We are very hopeful that we will see more news about how that $811 million in mobile connectivity is going to be distributed across the nation. We’ve both been advocating for an extension of the PUMP program, the Peri-Urban Mobile Program, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed, as is Stephanie, that we’re going to see some very significant funding flow into our region.

Of course, massive infrastructure projects are underway in all the areas of regional Victoria that I represent as patron senator. The Waurn Ponds to South Geelong rail duplication receives another $274 million in this year’s budget. Stage 1 of the Barwon Heads Road upgrade receives $105 million. There is $37 million flowing into the budget for Geelong Fast Rail, so we are going to see stage 1 construction begin next year. That’s the section between Werribee and Laverton. When critics talk about pork-barrelling in Corangamite, this really does remind them what an absolute joke it is. That $2 billion has gone into western Melbourne, which has been so badly ignored by Daniel Andrews and state Labor. We are very proud of what we are doing to deliver faster, more affordable and more efficient train services, including through our massive $2 billion investment in Geelong Fast Rail.

There are some other very significant investments. In the electorate of Gorton, $20 million is flowing to the Melbourne Intermodal Terminal’s planning and development in this year’s budget. In Ballarat we’ve got $31 million flowing to the Western Highway project for the Ballarat to Stawell duplication, which is a very significant investment as well. There’s also significant money flowing into the Bendigo electorate, including to the Bendigo-Echuca rail line and the Sunraysia Highway upgrade.

This is a budget, as I said at the start of my contribution, which is delivering for all Australians. In health, Medicare is guaranteed, with bulk-billing rates at a record high. We’ve now approved more than 2,800 new or amended listings on the PBS. Following on from the very significant $2.3 billion investment in mental health, we’re seen more funding flow for community based treatment centres, headspace services and digital mental health support.

There is a massive women’s safety, health and economic security package, including another $1.3 billion to combat violence against women and children. There are more frontline services, more investment in emergency accommodation, and support for legal and health services. This builds on the incredible investment that we have made in many, many different ways for Australian women. We’ve now also included an enhanced Paid Parental Leave scheme, providing more accessibility and, in particular, standing up for sole parents—single mothers and fathers—who can now access the full 20 weeks of paid parental leave.

Our commitment to the NDIS and disability continues. NDIS funding grows every year. We’re making an even further massive contribution to older Australians, with more home-care packages, additional training places and personal care workers. There’s record funding for education, for environment and for national security and defence, which is incredibly important, including the 10-year investment in our cybercapabilities. Only the Morrison government can be trusted to deliver a stronger economy and a safer Australia.

Categories: Speeches