2014-2015 Appropriations Bill


Hon. GW ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier) (11.53 am): I cannot let the last 50 minutes pass without making a couple of comments. I feel like I have been living in a parallel universe since 2006 when I came into this place. Honourable members heard the opposition leader talk about the previous Labor government and the wonderful things that they did. The fact of the matter is that the member for Inala, the member for Mackay and the member for Mulgrave sat around the cabinet table for most of that time voting to ensure that every loopy, out-of-this-world, especially-designed-to-fail scheme that came before them was ticked off and the losses added to the debt levels of our state.

The other thing I would like to mention is that, during the course of that presentation, the opposition leader made much of jobs and what they are proposing to do. We heard terms like ‘Labor standing for jobs’, ‘the champion of the worker’, ‘Jobs Queensland’ in terms of the set-up. If honourable members are going to look at some future jobs plan for a government that is a long, long way from ever coming back into that particular position, they probably need to have a look at the last jobs plan that the former government had—the last jobs plan that it had with the Queensland Public Service that would have seen 41,753 workers sacked from the Queensland Public Service and, of those, 13,800 were to be front-line service providers. That is the previous jobs plan for Labor. That will give members some idea of what some future—way off into the future—jobs plan may deliver should they ever come back into government and should Queensland ever be that unfortunate.

 also am here today to speak in support of the 2014-15 state budget bills. I congratulate the Treasurer on not only the presentation of this budget but also what he has done over the last two years to try to sort out the sordid mess that was left to him to clean up. From the point of view of my portfolio, this budget will continue to support better life outcomes and lifestyle for Australia’s oldest cultures and also our very newest. The best way to address historic Indigenous disadvantage is through economic development. The Queensland government is committed to increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander economic participation through employment and business ownership. That is not just a desire; we are working actively and practically to make it happen. We are working hard to wean Indigenous communities off the welfare mentality, which was the cornerstone of the previous Labor government’s policy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In contrast, we have a clear goal of greater economic independence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders, which is detailed in our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Economic Participation Framework. This government’s policies also provide funding for outcomes for migrants and refugees who now call Queensland home. Our focus is on improving the prospects of migrants for attaining jobs and also for participation in the economy. This reflects our dedication to provide equality of opportunity for all Queenslanders to participate fully in our strong economy and enjoy our vibrant society.

Specifically in this budget, the Newman government is continuing support for Cape York Welfare Reform efforts with a further $8 million in the state budget to continue the program until December 2015. Welfare reform is directed at changing behaviours and building more positive remote Indigenous communities. The reform program commenced in 2008 in four Cape York communities as a trial, but the trial period has finished. It is now time to look at how we can spread the benefits of the program to other communities. I want all Indigenous communities to have the benefits of better services and greater social cohesion. I will be working with our welfare reform partners, the federal government and the Cape York Institute, to develop the next stages of the program. 

An evaluation last year found that progress had been made in some areas but also concluded that more effort is required in the areas of economic development, home ownership and engagement of high school-aged children in ongoing education. These issues are not specific to the four welfare reform communities of Aurukun, Hope Vale, Coen and Mossman Gorge.

In another part of my portfolio, the budget includes funding of $1 million to support community harmony, celebration of cultural diversity and building skills for migrants and refugees across the state. The funding is for Valuing Diversity grants, which fund multicultural events, and for Economic Participation grants for projects, which support employment and business creation prospects. The events that are funded through the Valuing Diversity grants strengthen the understanding and the appreciation of cultural diversity and its benefits in the wider community.

Our Economic Participation Grants further support our multicultural communities by backing projects that encourage economic participation and business development for Queenslanders from culturally diverse backgrounds.

Other portfolio initiatives funded in the budget include: the transfer of ownership of state land and national parks to Aboriginal people through the Cape York Peninsula Tenure Resolution Program, providing opportunities to carry out land management, grazing, tourism and other enterprises; $1.25 million to upgrade the government owned and operated Kowanyama retail store to provide food quality, health, safety and operational efficiencies; and to deliver planning schemes, development approvals and early civil works and subdivisions ahead of major housing construction programs in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

In the Noosa electorate the 2014-15 Queensland budget maintains services and does not impose any increased taxes and charges for taxpayers in what is a challenging financial environment. Residents in my electorate will benefit, along with all other Queenslanders, from the careful planning and responsible allocation of funding within the budget to achieve the maximum benefits for all Queenslanders. This is not a budget of benefits for specific community sectors; it is a budget for the whole state. All Queenslanders are being asked to share the burden of getting the state out of the huge hole left by Labor, and this budget will see that target largely achieved. The budget is responsible and stabilises the state’s financial position to lay the foundation to return to balanced budgets from next year on.

As far as budget allocations for the Noosa electorate, they include: $1.47 million for child safety services; $4.7 million for disability services; just over $800,000 for state schools in the electorate as part of the Great Results Guarantee initiative to boost student literacy and numeracy; $350,000 to replace visitor amenities at Fig Tree Point to stop erosion; $50,000 to upgrade some change rooms to support disability services at sailing venues at Chaplin Park in Noosaville; $638,000 for non-government organisations to deliver homeless services; $400,000 to complete the bus stop on the Cooroy-Noosa Road; and $534,000 for the upgrading of Kin Kin Road. Noosa has an active night-life and nightclub industry which will be eligible to share in the $8 million of grants available state-wide for local projects under the Safe Night Out Strategy.

A budget is more than the dollar amounts, which usually occupies the media and opposition members; a budget is the way in which funds are raised and how they are apportioned to achieve the best outcomes for Queensland and for Queenslanders. Both elements require discipline and recognition of what the state as a whole needs. What is not needed is pandering to sectional interests and propping up pet projects, which was the hallmark of the previous government. Budgets must reflect the times in which they are cast, and they must be crafted with an eye to the future. That is what Queensland will get from this budget. It is a budget that is appropriate for the times and which is making the most of the mess left by Labor. Most Labor members opposite were part of a government which budgeted to try to buy popularity, which focused only on spending money, and which had no hope of funding the desperate promises made in its dying days. From this government Queenslanders are getting responsible budgeting from which there has been a positive future outlook, despite the current tight financial situation caused by Labor’s mismanagement of the past.

This budget will continue to deliver a strong plan for a brighter future for Queensland and Queenslanders. It carefully balances increases in education, health and community services spending, while not introducing or raising any new taxes or reducing services. The budget outlines our plan for secure finances by making the strongest and smartest choices to reduce debt so that we can sustainably invest in schools, hospitals and infrastructure for the future.

We are making significant progress in restoring our finances, growing a four-pillar economy, revitalising front-line services and funding infrastructure projects and jobs, with more than 60,000 jobs created in Queensland in the last year. To sustain this we must reduce debt so that we can keep building on top of our strong plan for a brighter future. I again congratulate the Treasurer on a fantastic budget.