Page 1531 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 7 May 2008

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community organisations raised issues about the need for particular infrastructure to better support groups in our community and many of these issues have been taken into account in the development of this budget.

For example, Building the Future invests in improved facilities for health and infrastructure, transport, the physical growth of the city, climate change, and information technology. These areas were all covered in budget submissions provided to the government by these organisations. Initiatives to tackle skill shortages, including attracting skilled and business migrants, increasing vocational education and training opportunities and improving the skills of existing workers were also addressed. These issues have been repeatedly raised by the business community, and the government has responded by providing around $51 million to address skill shortages.

Support has also been provided in this budget for business and the private sector in supporting innovation and research. Again, these are areas that the business community has called on the government to support. The upgrade of information technology systems was raised by the community during the budget consultation process, and the government is upgrading information technology and government services to improve efficiency and enable better service delivery in the community through this budget.

Health is an ongoing priority of both the government and the community, as evidenced by the recommendations from community organisations to improve our health system. As we heard earlier, the government is allocating $300 million from Building the Future as a first stage of investment to set up health systems for the next decade and beyond. The investment will provide for redeveloping and reconfiguring public hospitals and establishing a network of community health facilities. As we know, a suite of mental health facilities will be constructed, including a young persons unit, an adult acute in-patient unit, a secure adult unit, and a mental health assessment unit. A women’s and children’s hospital will be constructed, along with a surgical assessment and planning unit, a neurosurgery operating theatre, an intensive care and high dependency unit at Calvary, and a new community health centre at Gungahlin. In addition, the 2008-09 budget provides for growth in demand for hospital services, including elective surgery, cardiology, critical care and cancer services, and support for people with mental illness, chronic disease, and for our growing older population in Canberra. All of these areas were identified in the community consultation process.

In education, the community identified areas including teacher support, assistance to students at risk, including those with disabilities, more integrated services, upgrading technology and supporting arts in schools as areas for action. In this budget, the government has provided greater support for students at risk. I am very pleased about the announcement that has been made in the budget that Mr Barr made reference to before—the SPICE program. I am pleased that various consultation processes that have taken place have thrown that up as an area needing continued support. Students with disabilities in both government and non-government schools and the CIT are better supported through this budget. The government is also building a new performing arts centre at Calwell high to improve performing arts education in the region. Four new early childhood schools will provide integrated services for children and their families.

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