Wednesday, 14 May 2008
Statements by Members
I wish today to raise two issues which will affect constituents not just within my electorate but within all electorates in relation to the budget delivered last night. The first is the loss of community water grants. What will happen now is that sports clubs and environment groups will effectively lose their access to up to $50,000 to achieve water savings and water quality outcomes for the people within not just the electorate of Flinders but electorates all around Australia. I refer specifically to examples from Flinders. Firstly, the $32,000 for water tanks for the Crib Point Community Garden will not be repeatable elsewhere around Australia. The funding for the Dromana Country Club, the Balnarring Bowls Club and the Somerville Bowling Club to make enormous savings in terms of water quality will not be achievable and it will affect the capacity of seniors to go about recreational activities, as well as water saving. These are important issues for Flinders; they are important issues for seniors all around Australia.
In addition to that, the $47,000 which was allocated to rehabilitate the Candowie Reservoir catchment is not the sort of thing which will henceforth happen. Catchments in need of significant riparian work will lose that funding. Firstly, environment groups and sports clubs will lose their capacity to make water savings, which is important of and in itself, and, secondly, the demonstration effect for young kids who are members of football and netball clubs and for people who are a part of sports clubs will be gone for ever. I think this is a very dangerous move. Communities will suffer as a result, and, importantly, water will be lost and children will lose that inspirational example.
A second grievance is the likely death of any federal funding for a Rosebud aquatic centre and the Phillip Island aquatic centre. Both were well advanced under the Regional Partnerships program and each was enormously valuable to seniors, families and low-income earners within their respective parts of the electorate—in Rosebud, in the southern peninsula, and on Phillip Island. The Rosebud program had been approved by the area consultation committee and sent through to Canberra; it was awaiting final approval. It has been axed. That is a real loss to the peninsula. I hope these programs can proceed, but I see now that there is a cloud hanging over them. (Time expired)
Last night the Rudd government delivered a responsible budget that will not only help tackle inflation but also help working families—those that really need a helping hand in the present economic climate. Very importantly, the government has honoured its election commitments. I have been working for over 12 months to ensure the tropical north receives the attention and investment it requires to meet future needs and challenges. I am proud to be part of a government that does what it promises, looks past the short term and quick fixes, and plans for future generations.
In the lead-up to the election last year I campaigned strongly for new health services for the region. I am proud to say that we are delivering. Last night we delivered on all our commitments in full, but I am particularly proud of our health commitments: $45.9 million for a new dental school for James Cook University, providing 60 training places over four years and including a clinical outreach service; a GP superclinic to tackle the growing problem of chronic disease, particularly diabetes and heart disease; and $8.3 million towards radiation oncology facilities for Cairns, in the tropical north. I will continue to work with COUCH and the state government to deliver this commitment as soon as possible. We are already delivering $7.5 million for a new MRI machine for Cairns Base Hospital, which will reduce the need for patients to transfer to Townsville. These local commitments are part of a national plan to fix our health and hospital system. The community is tired of the buck-passing and the blame game on health and just wants the system fixed. These are all specific funding commitments within this budget that start to fix the health system.
Last night the Treasurer also set out a national plan, including $3.2 billion for health and hospital reform to revitalise the public health system, $600 million to cut elective surgery waiting lists, $491 million to help families meet the cost of dental check-ups for teenage children and $290 million to help state governments reduce public dental waiting lists. We need to tackle workforce issues, and we have announced new funding to bring nurses back into the workforce.
These are all specific spending commitments within the budget, but we need to plan beyond the short term. The $10 billion health and hospital fund was a very important announcement last night. This fund will allow us to look beyond this budget cycle and well into the future. I am pleased that the Queensland government recently committed $450 million to expand the Cairns Base Hospital, including cardiology and new oncology services, but we need to ensure that we have a new hospital into the future and we need to start planning for that now. This $10 billion fund will ensure that we have the funds available to invest in this sort of infrastructure into the future.