National Rural Health Commissioner Bill
I took great pride in introducing legislation in the House of Representatives, which will see the continuation and extension of the Office of the National Rural Health Commissioner.
The legislation will ensure rural communities and the rural health workforce will continue to have an independent advocate.
The Office will take a broader approach to rural health and will help deliver the Government’s key reforms and targeted rural health priorities to support practical change for communities.
The Coalition Government has shown it is willing to tackle head on the challenges of health services in rural and regional Australia, including through the $550 million Stronger Rural Health Strategy, and continuing the Office is a key component of our long-term approach to rural health policy.
This is all part of our plan to make regional Australia a better place to work, live and raise a family.
The Office will also support the Government’s ongoing rural response to COVID-19, advising on the impact COVID is having on the health workforce in regional, rural, and remote communities.
I’ve also expanded the remit of the Office to include the appointment of Deputy Commissioners who will play a critical role supporting the National Rural Health Commissioner and provide expertise across a range of vital rural health disciplines including Indigenous health, nursing and allied health.
The new Office will have the capacity to undertake targeted projects to improve rural health access and sustainable models of care.
The rapid reforms we’ve made to telehealth due to COVID-19 demonstrate the opportunity to better utilise technology and connectivity when it comes to healthcare delivery and medical training.
My vision is to see regional healthcare and training models that integrate local health, disability and aged care services to respond to the specific challenges faced by communities.
Location no longer needs to be a determinant of access to quality health services and care, we just need to take a fresh look to how we can support and deliver sustainable and modern health services.
Instant Asset Write-off Extended
Business owners in the Parkes electorate will be pleased the Coalition Government will extend the $150,000 instant asset write-off for six months to 31 December 2020.
Businesses with annual turnover of less than $500 million will be able to take advantage of this extended timeframe to invest in assets to support their business as the economy reopens and Coronavirus health restrictions continue to be eased.
They are designed to support business sticking with investment they had planned, and encouraging them to bring investment forward to support economic growth over the near term.
The instant asset write-off also helps to improve cash flow for businesses by bringing forward tax deductions for eligible expenditure. The threshold applies on a per asset basis, so eligible businesses can immediately write-off multiple assets provided each costs less than $150,000.
The extension will also give businesses additional time to acquire and install assets, as they will now have until the end of the year. Assets can be new or second hand and could include for example a truck for a delivery business or a tractor for a farming business.
Meanwhile, the Government has also committed more than $4.7 million to provide small regional businesses affected by COVID-19 with access to free and confidential financial counselling.
It equips the Rural Financial Counselling Service to support hundreds of regional small businesses.
The service will also create jobs for small business financial counsellors and support workers.
The funding will help eligible small businesses access the immediate advice and assistance they need to keep afloat and navigate the road to recovery.
This funding is in addition to the $7 million already provided for small business financial counselling services in drought-affected communities, and is part of the Government’s $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund, which is delivering targeted assistance to regions, communities and industry sectors disproportionately affected by COVID-19. More detail is at https://www.regional.gov.au/regional/programs/covid-19-relief-and-recovery-fund.aspx
Farm Household Allowance Improved
New measures to improve the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) program are now in effect.
These changes make the FHA payment simpler to access and improve the support available to farmers and their families.
Since the 2018 FHA Review our Government has been working with Services Australia to implement the recommendations of a farmer-led panel to modernise and streamline the FHA programme.
We have simplified the applicable assets test to a single threshold of $5.5 million and there won’t be any differentiation between farm and non-farm assets when accessing the payment now.
Farmers told the FHA Review Panel that fluctuating payments were confusing so we simplified that, too.
From now on, people whose income is under the limit will have the certainty of being paid the full rate automatically.
Furthermore, we’re expanding the support farmers have to make necessary changes to their businesses by including farm consultants and Rural Financial Counsellors among the professionals who can complete Farm Financial Assessments.
Farmers and their partners will also now have access to a $10,000 Activity Supplement to get independent expert advice, undertake training, or gain new skills and qualifications.
That is more than double the previous amount. Funds are not limited to opportunities in farming—any activity that can boost income will be considered.
We made all these changes to help farmers and their partners on their path to recovery.