Page 1986 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 15 May 2013

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MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Health and Minister for Higher Education) (10.28): I welcome the opportunity to speak about the federal budget delivered last night. The government will not be supporting Mr Smyth’s motion without the amendment that has been foreshadowed by Mr Rattenbury, and we will be supporting the amendment. We believe it is important that we are clear about the full financial impact of the federal budget on the ACT. Of course, this is something that we would do as standard practice in the budget papers, but it will be supported in terms of an amendment today.

As I said this morning, I have mixed feelings about the federal budget. As a leader looking at it from a national perspective, there is no doubt that the budget delivers social policy reforms that will change Australia forever and for the better. I note that Mr Smyth spent almost all of his time critiquing parts of the budget but did not acknowledge that significant social reform is delivered through this budget in the form of DisabilityCare and the national plan for school improvements, both significant reforms that this government supports.

The budget, therefore, allows for a $19.3 billion commitment to fund DisabilityCare Australia and $9.8 billion for the national plan for school improvements, both great steps forward for equality, opportunity and fairness. I think anyone who has sat through meetings with carers of people with a disability essentially begging governments for resources so that their children can access support that enables them to live a dignified life would understand that, under the current system and the current level of resourcing, the funds simply have not been available and that we have created a system where it is a race to the bottom essentially—those who are lucky and get support from government to support their disability or their loved one’s disability and those that do not. It is a constant struggle for those who do not to try to become one of those who do.

This will remove that, and the significance of that in terms of the productive nature of Australia’s economy, let alone the impact of that reform on being a decent country that supports people who are less fortunate than ourselves and that understands the needs for the social security system to support people with additional needs, should not be underestimated, and it is an important part of this year’s federal budget.

There is $9.8 billion in the budget for the national plan for school improvement, again, supporting the idea that every child actually gets the same level of resourcing regardless of whether they go to school in Canberra, Adelaide, the Northern Territory, Queensland, Victoria or in rural or remote Australia. That is an important social reform that will provide benefits to a modern Australian economy, and that is an important pillar in this federal budget.

But I am not going to pretend that the budget does not have aspects that are tough for Canberra; there is certainly an impact on our own budget. Last night we lost $49 million across the forward estimates in write-down of GST revenues just from the MYEFO updates, and that will have to be factored into our budget. Now, that does not sound much when you are looking at the federal budget, but $15 million a year is tough in the ACT.

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