2017 has certainly been an interesting time in Australian politics. However, away from the spotlight of Canberra the work of the Government continues.
Last month I celebrated my ten years as the Member for Parkes. The Parkes Electorate is now nearly four times larger than it was at the 2007 election. Over this period of time I have been privileged to work with wonderful community groups and individuals across half of New South Wales. These people are driven by a desire to make a positive contribution towards improving the social and physical environment in which they live. The response to the devastating bush fires that raged across the eastern end of the electorate earlier this year was a fantastic example of this community spirit.
During the year I catch up with many of the schools in my electorate when they visit Parliament House and I’ve recently had the opportunity to attend a number of end of year award ceremonies. Our students are excellent ambassadors for their schools and their enthusiasm gives me great optimism for the future of our country.
The festive season is an opportunity to spend time with family and friends.
Robyn and I, along with my staff, would like to wish you a joyous Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.
Aims to further reduce young driver fatalities and serious injuries
Young drivers and their parents will be targeted as part of a Coalition Government program to reduce road trauma, particularly in regional areas. The Australian Government today approved an additional $16 million to extend a safe-driving program for learner drivers – keys2drive – for a further four years.
The extension of the program, which follows a commitment in the 2017 Budget, will provide support for some of the most at-risk drivers on our roads. This program is a great way to ensure learner drivers gain as much knowledge and experience as possible before they drive solo on our roads. The program provides learner drivers and their supervisors with a free 30-minute theory lesson and 30-minute practical lesson with the aim of preparing for solo driving with a P-plate licence.
The keys2drive program is also a key factor in helping to reduce the number of road fatalities and serious injuries recorded across Australia. First-time licensed drivers are at high risk during their first six months on the road and young drivers are generally over-represented in serious road crashes; we want to curb this trend. With 66 per cent of road trauma in regional areas, the extension of the keys2drive includes an increased distribution of keys2drive lessons to regional areas.
The Government is determined to do everything it can to see the number of road deaths decline among drivers aged between 17 and 25. In 2006, there were 17 per 100,000 young driver deaths compared to 9 per 100,000 in 2016.
In line with our commitment to reduce the number of serious road crashes, the Australian Government has so far provided $31 million to support keys2drive, with further funding bringing this total to $47 million. Learner drivers can register for a free keys2drive lesson online: www.keys2drive.com.au
Supporting world class solar research and development
The Nationals-Liberal Government, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), is providing $29 million to twenty R&D projects that will further accelerate the development of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology – improving its efficiency and reducing its costs.
The successful candidates of Round Three of ARENA’s Research and Development program comprise research teams from four leading Australian institutions: the University of New South Wales, the Australian National University, Monash University and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).
This funding will see that we continue to increase our skills, capacity and knowledge, as we seek to deliver more affordable and reliable power, while transitioning to a lower emissions future. All projects focus on efficiency and cost effectiveness – whether they be developing promising materials, improving manufacturing methods or scaling up new technology.
Government delivers more gas, more jobs
Australia is no longer facing a shortfall of gas supply in 2018 on expected demand, with Coalition Government action to keep more gas for the domestic market beginning to reap dividends.
Since we moved to shore up our gas supply for Australian users, significant gas supply has been diverted to the domestic market, and we are now on target to have a 20 petajoule (PJ) surplus of gas in the coming year, based on expected demand. Just three months ago, the ACCC estimated Australia would face a shortfall 55 PJ, on expected demand.
More gas in the domestic market means more contracts for businesses, more offers to customers, and lower prices. The updated report from the ACCC finds that Queensland LNG producers have contracted 42 PJ of gas to Australian buyers in the past few months, and have reduced their planned exports by 29PJ.
In just a few months, prices for large gas users have fallen from a peak of $16 a gigajoule (GJ) to as low as $8/GJ, allowing more users to secure affordable supply agreements. Prices for small users have fallen from around $18-$19/GJ in mid-2017 to less than $11/GJ.