Budget – Speech in the Federation Chamber 23/05/23
Hansard 23/05/2023 Federation Chamber
Mr LLEW O’BRIEN (Wide Bay) (18:50): I congratulate the member for Spence on his first grievance debate speech, for sticking to his early statement that he wouldn’t be entering into too many grievances and for the very collegial nature of it. But it’s over now, so hold onto your hats. I’ve got some grievances!
In his budget reply speech, opposition leader Peter Dutton asked: are you better off than you were 12 months ago when Labor came to government? No-one I’ve spoken to in Wide Bay has answered this question with a yes. Labor’s full first-year budget has broken its election promises to deliver a better future for all Australians and fails to provide long-term solutions to the inflationary pressures we face. At the 2022 election, Labor promised cheaper mortgages and lower electricity prices. They promised that families would be better off and that no-one would be left behind. Our future under Labor is not looking very bright.
There is no mention of the four-lane Tiaro bypass in the budget. The $269 million funding allocation secured from the former coalition government is now under Labor’s 90-day infrastructure investment review, which could drag on for six months, with no certainty about when, or if, construction will start on the desperately needed Tiaro bypass. The Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government has said that the government’s $3 billion Brisbane Olympic Games commitment is exempt from the review, but our four-lane Tiaro bypass isn’t. Surely the life-saving Tiaro bypass can be quarantined from Labor’s cuts in the same way the Brisbane Olympics is. With around 11,000 daily motor vehicle movements, this section of the Bruce Highway through Wide Bay is one of the deadliest. We need the Tiaro bypass and we need the remaining section between Gympie and Maryborough to be made four lanes to transform this dangerous section of the Bruce Highway into the safest.
It’s also a disgrace that the veteran community in Wide Bay has been denied access to support and advocacy services under Labor’s axing of our $70 million commitment to building veterans wellbeing centres. This includes a centre committed to in the Wide Bay region which, under the former coalition government, was likely to be funded in the Gympie area. The Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide has identified that veteran hubs are an important support for our service men and women and their families, and I call on the government to honour the coalition’s commitment to establish a veterans wellbeing hub in Wide Bay.
The 2023-24 budget includes funding allocations for a range of commitments I secured from the former coalition government’s Community Development Grants Program, including $1.5 million for a two-bedroom expansion to Katie Rose Cottage Hospice, enabling it to provide more end-of-life care; $1.8 million for the Gympie RSL for a new landmark veterans memorial at Memorial Park to honour the service and sacrifice of local veterans and defence personnel; $700,000 to improve access to the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum; and $1.3 million to improve road safety around the Noosa Golf Club along the Cooroy Noosa Road at Tewantin. These projects will make a big difference within our communities. However, just today, we discovered that the federal and state Labor governments conspired to kill off an $18 million project to provide water security and boost agricultural production in Maryborough. The decision to cancel the grant was actually made in March, but that decision was shrouded in secrecy, and the state Labor government didn’t even have the courtesy to tell Maryborough Canegrowers—a key stakeholder—that the grant had been axed. The axing of this grant leaves us wondering if the water allocation for the project will now be transferred to the very controversial Borumba pumped hydro scheme.
Last October, Labor axed the former coalition government’s Building Better Regions Fund and, with it, more than $10 million in applications from Wide Bay. Community groups, services and sporting clubs have been waiting for government to deliver on its promised regional development programs. Meanwhile, costs have soared. This budget finally delivered Labor’s Growing Regions Program, but, with the minimum grant threshold set at $500,000 and only local government and registered charities eligible to apply, many sporting clubs and community groups will miss out.
Small grants make a big difference in communities in Wide Bay, and I call on the government to rethink its approach to regional development. Labor’s budget population forecast shows that net overseas migration will rise by 1.5 million over the next five years, placing even more strain on already stretched services. Our hospitals are full, our roads are congested, there is a housing shortage and a rental crisis, interest rates are going up and the cost of living is soaring, and a booming population will burden already stressed essential services. Labor has failed to detail the taxpayer costs required to fund this massive surge in population. Without the investment, every Australians’ living standards will surely fall.
In changing the Distribution Priority Areas classifications, Labor has made it less attractive for doctors to practice in regional and remote Australia by offering incentives for doctors to practice in outer metropolitan areas. As a result, regional communities are struggling to get doctors. Residents in small communities, such as Imbil and Pomona, where GP clinics have closed, are now forced on a long commute to access basic health care. The GP, medical and allied health workforce shortage is an ongoing issue that is getting worse under Labor’s warped policies.
Labor has now been in government for a year. Before the election, Labor told voters their electricity bills would be $275 cheaper each year. Now the budget shows electricity prices are increasing by 32 per cent, around $500 more for a family, compared to the 0.3 per cent under the coalition.
Labor promised voters cheaper mortgages. Instead, there have been 10 interest rate rises in 12 months. Labor’s promise of a 24/7 registered nurse in every aged-care home has resulted in a raft of aged-care homes being forced to close and others are struggling to stay viable. Changes to temporary skilled migration income thresholds mean nurses who were coming to work in regional areas will now not be eligible to live and work in Australia because their wage is under $70,000 a year.
Australians now pay an extra $1,723 a month on a typical mortgage, and it will get worse as the three-month lag between rate increases being announced and being passed onto mortgage holders occurs. Labor is increasing a road user charge on truckies, which will be passed onto everything going by freight. Labor is also introducing a fresh food tax on farmers, forcing them to pay for the biosecurity risks of their foreign competitors enabling them to sell their produce in Australia, except groceries bills will continue to climb under Labor’s warped policies. Power bills, mortgage repayments, rents, groceries and petrol have all increased and inflation on clothes and winter blankets is biting household budgets in times of great need. After promising higher wages, real incomes are being further eroded as cost of living under Labor skyrockets.
There is a better way. A coalition government will take action to reduce inflation and bring the cost of living down for all Australians. We will manage a well planned migration program. We’ll do what Labor won’t do and seriously look at implementing modular nuclear technology. We’ll restore the tax cap of 23.9 per cent of GDP that Labor axed and establish an importer container levy so Australian farmers will not have to pay for imported biosecurity measures. We’ll incentivise unemployed Australians to take up work by increasing how much they can earn before JobSeeker is reduced. We’ll restore the number of Medicare subsidised psychology sessions from 10 to 20. Smaller government, lower taxes and less regulation will build a brighter future for all Australians.