MPI – Coalition Government delivers on announcements

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Mr PITT: First and foremost, can I welcome the member for Eden-Monaro to the parliament and congratulate her on her victory in the recent by-election.

It’s always a great pleasure to follow the Manager of Opposition Business, a very passionate individual—in seven years, I’m sure there’s one opportunity somewhere. The Manager of Opposition Business talks about a number of catchphrases and catchwords, the first one being ‘ambition’. Of course we’re ambitious. We’re ambitious for the Australian people. We’re ambitious for where they might go. We’re ambitious for our economy. We’re ambitious for growth and jobs. We are ambitious for every single individual in this country and the opportunities that can be made for them.

They talk about hope. Well, we of course are out there providing hope for the Australian people. This is an incredibly challenging time right around the world. There is a pandemic. With regard to lists of announcements, they are lists of investments. They are investments in our country. They are investments in lots of areas, including for those representatives from the opposition. To get onto retirees and economic management I think is pretty dangerous ground for those opposite. It is incredibly dangerous ground. I think the retirees around this country very clearly remember what happened at the last election and what was promised from those opposite in terms of an attack on their retirement savings and investments.

The other point I would like to make, though, is around downloading the app, ensuring you keep your distance and you wash your hands—that continues to be very good health advice. We need to ensure that all Australians do abide by those basic hygiene requirements, because it does make a difference. It makes an actual difference to what happens around this country in terms of the pandemic and its effects on people, particularly around community transmission.

The pandemic has been a very confronting challenge for all Australians, and of course we are concerned about the impact on individuals and the economy. But, on this side of the parliament, we continue to support not only business but individuals, and we do that through assistance measures like the JobKeeper payment, a wage subsidy to support business and not-for-profits and one which is providing support to some 3½ million Australians right around the country and right now. We are looking to ensure that cash flow is available so that businesses can pay their bills and wages. We’ve provided temporary cash flow payments of up to $100,000 that are available to keep eligible small and medium businesses operating, paying their bills and retaining staff.

There are wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees. Apprentices and trainees find it incredibly difficult. They are on lower wages than adult wages, in the majority. They are usually in businesses which tend to be small businesses, which find it very difficult in the current environment. That’s why it’s so important that we continue to provide those subsidies to businesses that have apprentices and trainees that keep them connected to those businesses so that they can continue training, complete their apprenticeship or traineeship, come out the other side and add their skills to the Australian economy.

The list goes on. Ten minutes simply won’t be enough to cover all of it. A time-limited asset write-off of $30,000 to $150,000 for businesses with an aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million—what does that actually mean? It means that an individual business that invests in a new piece of equipment can write that off, 100 per cent, in the year of purchase. I come from business. I ran a small business for 10 or 12 years, depending on whether you consider it the family farm, a consulting business or a training business. Can I tell you the enormous difference the capacity to write down 100 per cent of the purchase cost of an asset in the year that you purchased it would have made to me in the operations that I had.

With credit and loans under the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, we are providing a guarantee of 50 per cent to SME lenders to support new short-term unsecured loans to SMEs. We’re supporting the regional economy. We’re supporting regional Australians through a $1 billion fund set aside to support communities, regions and industries that have been most significantly affected.

Mr Deputy Speaker O’Brien, I know you’re incredibly interested in the tourism sector. What does it mean for regional tourism? A $715 million package to assist our airline industry means bums on seats. It means individuals moving to other parts of the country who potentially stay in hotels, visit and go into those domestic regions where they can build on the economy.

In recent weeks I’ve been throughout the north—I’ve been in the Territory, Far North Queensland and western Queensland—and I know there are some areas where it is incredibly challenging. Those areas which are almost completely reliant on international tourism are doing it very, very tough—Cairns, in particular. It’s an incredibly difficult period of time for business in Cairns. What I know is that they’re resilient and they’re looking for new opportunities to expand and ensure that they can diversify their economy. That includes going further into resources, further into agriculture, and we will continue to support them to do that. That’s why it’s important that this billion-dollar fund continues to be rolled out.

We are supporting hardworking Australians throughout the pandemic. It’s not just the hardworking Australians, I have to say. Those opposite want to make merry about our pensioners, those who have retired and contributed to the Australian economy for their entire working lives. There are some challenges for them, as there are for all of us. That’s why we’ve provided two $750 economic support payments for eligible pensioners, seniors, carers and students. It’s made an enormous difference to their life, lifestyle and what they can do in their local regions. It’s not just across the board. We are looking to support individual economies.

As good local members, when you get the opportunity on your feet, you should always talk about your local electorate and what we’re doing for them. In my local electorate, everything hinges on the Hinkler Regional Deal: over $170 million of Commonwealth investment, combined with support from the local government and some support from the Labor state government, who were dragged kicking and screaming to the deal. They never signed but have supported some roads projects, which is very positive.

We are delivering on the ground $9.2 million to redevelop the Hervey Bay Airport. That work is currently underway. That means that in my local economy there are jobs being delivered with support from the Commonwealth. There are a number of other stages to come afterwards. There is $7.7 million to extend the Urraween Road through to Boundary Road and Hervey Bay. That doesn’t sound like much in parliament to the individuals who are in here and have never heard of Urraween Road and Boundary Road, but this is an interconnector in Hervey Bay and means we can split that cross-flow and ensure, in particular, that emergency vehicles can get to the Hervey Bay Hospital through this new connecting road. It is a long-awaited construction—more than two decades, 20 years. The total investment is $21.7 million between the Commonwealth and local government, the Fraser Coast Regional Council. There is $7 million for a palliative care facility at Hervey Bay—Woollam Constructions has been appointed to lead the eight-month build. That’ll be underway very soon. They’re going out to contractors right now to deliver that facility. That is good news for those individuals who find themselves in incredibly difficult circumstances towards the end of their natural lives, and I’m very pleased that that is available. There’s $4 million towards overtaking lanes on the Isis Highway, which should go out to contract later in the year, and $40 million for the redevelopment of the Hervey Bay CBD, working closely again with Fraser Coast Regional Council. But we continue to wait for the Queensland Labor government to make further commitments to jobs. Mr Deputy Speaker, I know you’ll be surprised at this. We are actually funding some of these projects 100 per cent—not 50, not 75, not 80, but 100 per cent. Yet the Queensland government still won’t deliver these projects.

The one in particular that I want to talk about is down at the Bundaberg port, where we have put forward $10 million. Sugar Terminals Ltd has put up the remaining $2.3 million. The project is ready, the project’s business case is completed, the design is done. What are we waiting for? We’re waiting on approval from the owner of the port, which is the Queensland Labor government. So at a time of a pandemic, at a time when jobs are at an absolute premium, at a time when the Commonwealth continues to invest in regional Australia, at a time when the Commonwealth continues to put up the money—right now, 100 per cent funded—we have Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland Labor government again holding up jobs in regional areas. I would say to them: it’s not that hard; just approve the project. There are many other projects that are waiting for this connecting infrastructure to be done. It is a conveyor that can be utilised by other companies at the port facility. It will mean an increase in utilisation. It is very, very straightforward. All they have to do is approve it.

I say again to the Queensland Labor government: stop standing in the way of jobs, stop standing in the way of projects, stop standing in the way of regions; get out of our way and let us get on with our economy. Once again, we’d be very pleased to see them approve the project.

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