When I climbed off my tractor to stand for the seat of Parkes, the establishment of the Inland Rail from Melbourne to Brisbane was a key priority of mine. I spoke about it in my Maiden Speech in February 2008. Now with the allocation of $8.4 billion in the Federal Budget the completion date of the line in 2024 is now a reality.
Inland Rail will create the incentive for industry to develop intermodal hubs, potentially at regional centres such as Moree, Narromine, and Narrabri. I think some of the businesses in Dubbo can start to seriously look at how this can be an advantage for them.
The Central and North West regions of New South Wales will see $480 million in net economic benefits from the delivery of this project, and some of those 16,000 jobs will go to locals.
This region supports a range of industries such as mining, the production of beef and pork, grain farming, and the production of fruit and vegetables. Having access to a freight link that directly connects to major ports will give local farmers and producers the best opportunity they can to compete in Asia and beyond.
The Inland Rail project has a positive cost-benefit analysis, has been positively assessed by Infrastructure Australia, the nation’s independent infrastructure umpire, as returning $2.60 for every $1 invested, and features on IA’s Priority List. This is going to take trucks off the Newell Highway and help us get our produce to our markets faster and cheaper.
But the good news does not stop there. The Budget will bring to the Electorate of Parkes much more than the infrastructure the Inland Rail. The extension the instant asset write-off programme and incentive payments for cutting red tape are highlights of the Budget boost for small business.
The Government will extend the immediate deductibility rules for a further 12 months – to 30 June 2018 – allowing small businesses with an annual turnover of up to $10 million to immediately deduct eligible assets each costing less than $20,000.
Small business has a big impact on the Australian economy – with 3.2 million small businesses employing 5.6 million Australians. It’s small business – not Government – which creates jobs and that’s why the Government backs small business.
I also welcomed the announcement of a third round of the Stronger Communities Program which helps fund small capital projects in local communities, across Australia. This is a terrific programme, which helps us to invest in important community infrastructure right across the Electorate.
The Government will be reinstating the Pensioner Concession Card for 92,000 older Australians impacted by the January asset test change to allow continued access to discounts offered by the States and Territories. We will be supporting greater opportunities for older Australians who choose to downsize their housing with greater flexibility to contribute the proceeds of the sale of their home into superannuation without penalty.
The Government, in partnership with Medicines Australia will reduce the costs of medicines by $1.8 billion over the next five years. Another 60,000 patients at risk of chronic heart failure will benefit with the listing of new drugs at a cost of more than $510 million.
Commonwealth funding for hospitals will increase by $2.8 billion. This brings additional support for hospitals across Australia delivered under the Coalition Government to $7.7 billion.
I welcome the strengthening of the welfare system to protect those who needed it most and the increased scrutiny on mutual obligation.
The Government will no longer accept excuses from repeat offenders who could not meet their mutual obligation requirements because they were drunk or drug-affected.
The Government is planning a modest drug testing trial for 5,000 new welfare recipients and JobSeeker recipients. Those who test positive would be placed on a Cashless Debit Card for their welfare payments and be subjected to further tests and possible referral for treatment.
A $9 million investment will see rural and remote Australians who for the first time will be able to access psychology services covered by Medicare through teleconferencing.
The Government has also resumed the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants to councils, which results in an extra $836.5 million provided over the forward estimates.
The 18 local governments in the Parkes Electorate will share in $31,148,973 as part of the Roads to Recovery Programme to maintain and upgrade their local roads.
Regional Freight Corridor funding for the Newell Highway will total almost $79 million, including $61,350,000 for the Mungle Back Creek to Boggabilla heavy duty pavement construction project.
The Coalition Government has underlined the importance of Landcare by investing more than $1 billion in the National Landcare Program (NLP). The NLP was a key demonstration of the Coalition’s commitment to supporting strong natural resource management and the environment.
The program continues to focus on practical, on-the-ground ways to improve issues like soil health, erosion management and water quality, making the program relevant to all land managers—but especially farmers.