Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Speech in Parliament: Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2015-2016, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2014-2015, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2014-2015, Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2014-2015, Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2014-2015

Mr TONY SMITH (Casey) (12:41): It is a pleasure to speak on these appropriation bills for the 2015 budget. In doing so, I want to speak about the benefit the budget brings at a national level and also at a local level in the outer eastern suburbs of the Yarra Valley in the electorate of Casey that I have the honour of representing. The budget does a number of beneficial things. It continues the very important task of budget repair and, at the same time, it has critical initiatives to build a stronger economy with more jobs. As the Treasurer outlined on budget night, when this government won office it faced cumulative deficits over the forward four years of $123 billion. That has now been brought down to $82 billion over the next four years. A lot has been achieved. A lot more has to be done, as the Treasurer outlined. As a result of the legacy of net debt left by those opposite, we were borrowing $133 million a day. That is now down to $96 million. We are on the right track. There is more to be done. This is being achieved through choppy waters, with the iron ore price falling far more than anyone anticipated.

But, critically, the budget does a number of things to build a stronger economy into the future. It does this particularly by focusing on the vitally important small business sector, the backbone of the economy nationally and within our electorates. Those initiatives in the budget for small business—they are really the centrepiece—will do an incredible amount to support small business to grow and employ more people. That is the focus. It does it in a number of ways. It does it by reducing the company tax rate down to 28.5 per cent. For those unincorporated businesses, it introduces a five per cent tax discount up to $1,000 a year, which is the best equivalence. It means all small businesses below that $2 million threshold benefit from a tax cut. On top of that, from budget night, those same small businesses can claim an immediate tax deduction for each and every item they purchase up to $20,000. As the Treasurer said, that is going to benefit 96 per cent of Australian businesses. More than two million of those have a turnover of less than $2 million a year.

This huge initiative has understandably been widely welcomed by the small business sector and by many of those organisations that represent them so well. I will just take the time of the House to mention a few of them. Peter Strong, the chief executive of COSBOA, had this to say:

… the immediate deductibility for assets purchased up to $20k is as unexpected as it is welcomed. The 5% tax discount for unincorporated small business is another highlight of the budget. There are many more highlights in this budget which provides the lowest tax rate for small business since 1967.

The government has promised something special for small business and have delivered on that promise.

That was Peter Strong on budget night. The Business Council of Australia said:

The small business package is absolutely excellent. It's an absolute shot in the arm for small business …

MYOB said:

Tonight is a fantastic night for small business owners who should be celebrating all around the nation. Firstly because of the financial support to assist them to invest in and grow their businesses, and secondly because of the recognition of the critical role they play in our community.

The budget does those things. It recognises the critical role small businesses play in our economy in terms of providing jobs and their prospects for providing jobs into the future. That is why the member for Dunkley has worked long and hard in crafting this package, which makes up a suite of measures designed to boost small business and boost small business jobs. In the electorate of Casey—with outer metropolitan suburbs, the Yarra Valley and the Dandenong Ranges—that breadth and depth of small businesses will benefit. In the electorate, small business owners are seizing the opportunity that the budget provides for them.

Critically, these measures build on a number of other critical initiatives. In the course of last year, the government moved with initiatives on employee share ownership to reverse the devastating damage caused by the reckless changes made by those opposite back in 2009. On top of that, it is working on new initiatives in crowd funding to boost innovation and enterprise. The other critical initiative in the budget is for businesses just starting up. The Treasurer outlined some of the immediate write-offs that those businesses get in their start-up costs. That is another critical thing for those wanting to start a business; they know that they can write-off their costs. That is something that will go a long way for those taking that step to start a business. In the electorate of Casey, these initiatives are welcomed by the many thousands of small business owners. Many have worked very hard to create their business and what they want to do is built it further and to employ more locals. These initiatives will help significantly in that regard.

At the local level, there are a number of measures that were pledged by me prior to the last election that are contained within this budget. They are helping to build a stronger local economy and a stronger and safer community. I just want to mention some of those in the time available this afternoon. On the Green Army program, the Yarra Valley landscape project has been completed in and around Healesville and Coldstream. A dedicated group of 18- to 24-year-olds worked for six months restoring parks, removing weeds and working with local volunteer groups. It was a pleasure to go out to Healesville with the Minister for the Environment for the graduation ceremony of that important project.

On the same day, I was able to show the minister the beginnings of the work at the next Green Army project in Casey. That is the Mount Evelyn aqueduct. A group of dedicated participants have started work there and are working for the next five or six months restoring that important area for the natural environment in and around Mount Evelyn. There are two other projects that will occur in the coming months. They are a project in Monbulk and a project along the Warburton Rail Trail. This is a very important program that the government pledged prior to its election and that is being rolled out with great success in the Casey electorate.

A number of sporting groups do so much not just in terms of bringing the community together but also at a wider level as well. I just want to mention some of those. The Mount Evelyn Football Netball Club do a lot for the Mount Evelyn community. One of the things that I pledged prior to the last election was to provide funding with council for a netball change room facility to be installed there at the Mount Evelyn Football Netball Club. The club is quite innovative in how they have gone about funding this. They have used the Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE to construct it, so it has been a great project for the students involved. We pledged $45,000, which has been delivered. The council matched that funding and the club contributed as well. In the coming weeks, that will be fully operational. That will be a great win for the Mount Evelyn netballers.

In Monbulk, we pledged that we would co-fund the resurfacing of the netball court and the construction of new shelters to the tune of $15,000. It was great to go to the Monbulk Netball Club and see the finished works just a week or so ago. The Monbulk Soccer Club is receiving significant federal funds, state funds and council funds to construct a huge facility that will have three full-sized synthetic pitches, a pavilion, lighting and a car park. It was a pleasure to see that project get underway.

In the Yarra Valley in particular the tourism industry is absolutely vital—many small businesses in the tourism sector and many small business who would not see themselves as part of the tourist sector are of course very much a part of it. The small business initiatives are very beneficial to the tourism industry, but on-the-ground infrastructure matters incredibly as well. That is why before the last election we pledged that we would contribute $3.5 million to the construction of the Yarra Valley Tourist Railway. This will reconstruct the railway between Yarra Glen and Healesville as a tourist railway. The money has been provided and the bridges are being constructed as we speak. When it is concluded it will do so much to bring more tourists into Yarra Valley—day tourists from across Melbourne but also international tourists. It is all part of building the tourism sector to build a stronger economy. Those communities in the Yarra Valley know that getting the right policies in the budget matters. They welcome the small business tax initiatives and the immediate write-offs but they also welcome getting more customers, and this important infrastructure will help to deliver that. The railway is one of a number of pledges that were fully funded and are being rolled out in this budget.

In the time available I will mention a few more. One is the $110,000 to the Metropolitan Traffic Education Centre, METEC, in Kilsyth. This is a volunteer-run organisation set up more than 40 years ago by a group of dedicated parents. It is a safe off-road driver training school. The grant that we have provided has enabled them to double the size of their car control skid pan area so they can train more young drivers in a safe off-road environment. For an electorate such as Casey, where you have many dangerous roads in the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley, this facility and those who run it do a wonderful job.

The other thing I mentioned was initiatives to create a safer community, and one of the initiatives that I took to the last election was more security cameras in and around some of the key areas in the Yarra Valley, such as Lilydale, and the installation of security cameras in Yarra Junction and in the town of Healesville. Those security cameras will come online in the coming months. The work is being done at the moment and contractors have been appointed. It is something those towns will welcome. It is an important initiative in the budget that has enabled communities to be safer and it has a proven track record, particularly in Lilydale, where we had one of the first sets of security cameras installed back in 2004. This will add to that and it will add to the safety and security of those other towns that I have mentioned.

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