Friday, 06 June 2014 09:25
Hansard 5 June 2014
Dr FLEGG (Moggill—LNP) (8.28 pm): It gives me great pleasure to rise and respond to the budget—this is my 11th budget response speech—and, boy, do I mean that I am pleased to respond to this budget. I can well remember the days when the Labor Party treated the people of Moggill like they did not even exist, when they allowed schools to have asbestos blowing around in the classrooms. We fought the Labor Party for six months just to get the most basic safety measures. I will never forget dragging TV crews from estimates out to Chapel Hill State School where there were trip hazards, unfenced watercourses and flaking asbestos floors. We had to go to that level to get anything at all done.
It is a great pleasure to be able to respond to this budget. In just one term of our government, the residents of Moggill have received more of what they should be getting from a government than they received under the previous three terms of Labor governments that I have been here for. After I raised the issues around Moggill Road on many occasions, we have finally got our decaying surface repaired and we have got some additional money to upgrade the surface between Pinjarra Hills and Pullenvale.
I am very glad to see this government put forward an initiative such as the South-East Queensland Roads Fund. I look forward to us taking that policy to the next election because these issues have been neglected in a shameful way. I represent the largest electorate in Brisbane in area by far that does not have one metre of busway, that did not have a single park-and-ride and that does not have one set of lights with bus priority—this is the legacy of years of Labor neglect. The responsible management of this budget means we can take a policy like this and start to address that. It is no secret to any of my constituents or indeed anyone here that I have been a long-term advocate of a Kenmore bypass, but we had little or no chance of having that considered whilst the Western Freeway was in the state that it was. Thanks to the Brisbane City Council and the LNP state government, we are now seeing the upgrade to the Western Freeway that will have serious benefits for the people of Moggill and give us a prospect of fixing our single biggest local issue into the future.
The Great Results Guarantee in education has been warmly welcomed in Moggill. I see the Minister for Education here, and I congratulate him on that initiative, as does everybody out in the schools. In Moggill alone, there is $1.2 million in extra funding. I have spoken to my schools and I can report that several of my schools are using this for extra teacher aide hours specifically to support literacy and numeracy. Brookfield State School is engaging specialist educators in reading and writing. Moggill State School, which is an enormous state school, is engaging a literacy consultant and a speech language therapist. Kenmore South State School is purchasing a set of tablets and relevant apps. Kenmore State School is developing a targeted individual learning plan from prep to year 3. Mount Crosby State School, which is one of the largest state schools in Queensland, is engaging a specialist teacher/coach for those in the first years of their education. Kenmore State High School is developing a literacy toolkit and providing professional development for staff to be able to use it with classes.
In the area of capital works, when the Labor Party were in government they would have given Kenmore State High School a few scattered, second-rate demountables to welcome the year 7s when they move to high school next year, but that school now has a multimillion dollar state-of-the-art new block. Mount Crosby State School got a school hall with two of the walls missing under the debacle of the federal Labor government’s BER school project—costing about $3½ million—but that school actually now has the prospect of having their hall completed with four walls. That was a shameful waste of money that went on and I am so glad to see that being made good.
Another thing that is very important to the residents of Moggill is public transport. I look forward to working on some of the infrastructure issues. We are a fair distance out of the CBD, and local commuters who travel five zones each way to get to the CBD have been, in the first instance, spared Labor’s shameful 15 per cent per annum fare rise that began back in 2009. The LNP government and Minister Emerson have initially halved those increases, and now we are delighted to see that any annual change to the fares will be kept down to the rate of inflation over the next three years. This is a huge issue for people who live in the outlying suburbs of Brisbane. I know from recent research that I have done in my electorate that the cost of living really hurts people in an electorate like Moggill where most people have families and children. One of the key issues for the people who live in the outer suburbs is transport. This change is a very significant achievement for this government after we were faced with that sort of financial constraint, and I congratulate the Treasurer and the transport minister on that.
There are other areas in the budget that I want to mention. My constituents, like all the other parents and families around Queensland, know that their children will grow up with their cohort and travel into the city—and they will have a lot of trouble getting home sometimes if they live out in parts of my electorate—and go to nightclubs when they turn 18, hopefully, and consume alcohol. We want them to come home safe, but all too many of them do not. I have worked for most of my adult life as a doctor—in fact for 3½ times longer than I have been in this place—and I have seen so many young people’s lives trashed by violence. Members will recall that I recently spoke in this place in relation to my concerns not just about alcohol fuelled violence but about the toxic mix of drugs and alcohol that is fuelling this senseless aggression on our streets. The government has recognised that that is so important to the parents in Queensland and Brisbane and Moggill and it has devoted a very carefully thought-out strategy and a large sum of money to trying to make sure we cut down this very insidious problem.
It has often been said that Child Safety is perhaps the toughest ministry to have in a cabinet because you tend to only be noticed when something goes wrong. This government—not those opposite who bleat on with the nonsense they carry on with—has recognised that we need to be a compassionate government on behalf of the people of Queensland. That means that you protect those people who are vulnerable and unable to protect themselves. The major additional funding into Child Safety might not be a very sexy area but it is a very important area because it means we can protect the most vulnerable people who in many cases do not have a family or parents who are able or willing to do that.
I have very strong and large environment groups and very, very passionate people who care for our environment. I am delighted to see that the state government is injecting a large sum of money into the reef water quality program. This comes on the back of a very strong track record on the environment for the Newman government. We have seen the roll-back of that absurd amount of 300 million tonnes of dredging to enlarge Abbott Point and the crisscrossing maze of railways that the Labor Party wanted to build across the Galilee Basin. These are all things that will benefit.
Mr Johnson interjected.
Dr FLEGG: I will take that interjection. This is a budget that sets Queensland up to move forward. All Queenslanders are aware that the LNP government inherited a financial basket case, with huge government deficits every year which were funded by further debt and by having to pay the interest that accumulated on that debt.
We all know—at least anyone who is remotely honest with themselves—that that was unsustainable. Every year that we were in deficit meant we had to add further to borrowings to fund that deficit as well as borrow to pay the interest on previous debt and, alarmingly, borrow to provide virtually all of Queensland's much needed infrastructure and capital works. That cannot go on.
In order to fix the budget, some difficult and at times unpopular decisions were made to stall the rampant increase in recurrent expenditure. These decisions, unpopular or not, have worked and Queenslanders can now look forward to the benefits. As the budget comes into balance and finally comes into a position which will enable much needed capital works and infrastructure to be funded by tax revenue, not debt, as it should be, then the government has set the foundation to deliver what Queenslanders expect and deserve, particularly in relation to services and infrastructure. It is particularly impressive that the state budget does not contain the usual spin that we might see in such documents. In fact, the key points are simple and understandable: no new or increased taxes. This has never been more critical. In my lifetime, which is now getting to be a fairly lengthy period of time, like a few of my colleagues back here—
Mr Johnson: What are you looking at us for?
Mr Malone interjected.
Dr FLEGG: The members for Mirani and Gregory are in agreement. I doubt that I could recall a time when the cost of living has been such a burden and a concern to families. The problems relating to the cost of living in Queensland have been largely fuelled by poor policy of previous governments and they have built up a burden on Queenslanders.
Key services will still receive the extra funding that they need. This is by no means an austere budget. We find that Health funding increases by six per cent to $13.6 billion—double the rate of inflation. Education funding increases by even more—seven per cent to $11.8 billion. It includes the construction of 10 new schools. I had a stint as shadow education minister and I watched schools being closed like nine pins. Over the course of a decade the Labor government reduced the number of schools in the state while the population went through the roof. It is a testament to the benefits that come from sound economic management that we now see that trend reversed and Queensland students across the state are able to move into new schools.
There is a substantial new investment in our entertainment precinct, which I mentioned previously. The budget has been a major achievement. I sent a message to the Treasurer to congratulate him on what I think is an outstanding effort. This was not a situation where we inherited rivers of gold—quite the opposite. I heard some of the ravings of the member for Nicklin earlier. I was astonished—in fact, disbelief would be a better expression—that anybody having even the most casual look at a state with a projected debt at the time of over $80 billion, with debt per person rampantly ahead of every other state and an interest bill of $4 billion per annum could not see that that situation was unsustainable. I think they would be blinded by some sort of political bias.
I am delighted that the Premier and the Treasurer have had the courage to put forward to the people of Queensland a plan in relation to assets, getting debt under control and moving Queensland forward. I have listened to some dreadful presentations from the other side here tonight which all managed to ignore one thing: that the Labor government went to an election and said, `Queensland Rail not for sale, no asset sales,' when they knew within days they were going to do that.
This is a whole different ball game. Anybody who wants to try to pretend it is similar is kidding themselves and their constituents. In this case it is a very detailed plan. It is put forward ahead of elections. There has been extensive consultation with the community. The reasons why we have been left in this situation have been made clear to people. Let's be honest; no-one wants to make a hard decision. I do not think that this government or any other government wants to go out and make decisions which are going to be controversial or politically different. In actual fact, if honourable members look back they will see that the best governments that we have had, federal or state, are the ones that have been willing to say there is a problem that has to be dealt with. We should never forget that someone like John Howard had the courage to take the GST to an election despite what happened in 1993. Not only did he take it to an election, but he actually got a mandate so that when he introduced the GST it was legitimate.
Mr Wellington: Bruce, he was a statesman. He was a man for the time.
Dr FLEGG: I am glad to hear the member for Nicklin praising former Prime Minister Howard.
Mr Wellington: He had respect and admiration.
Dr FLEGG: I do take that interjection because there is a good analogy here. A GST was never going to be popular, yet have a look at our tax system now and see where this country would be had they not had the courage to take that to the people. The analogy is very much the same here. If we have to deal with an $80 billion debt we have to consider asset sales so that we are in a financial position to provide the new assets and the new services that Queenslanders need. We have to be prepared to take it to an election, prepared to be judged, prepared to cop some of the second-rate criticism that we have heard from the other side. That is what leadership is all about. I am very impressed with what the Premier, the Treasurer and the cabinet have put forward and with their courage to make sure that Queenslanders are given a full explanation of where we are going.
With that short contribution, I commend the Treasurer and the Premier for their budget. I commend it to everyone.
Thursday, 05 June 2014 16:25
Hansard 4 April 2014
Dr FLEGG (Moggill—LNP) (6.15 pm): I rise to speak to the Sustainable Planning (Infrastructure Charges) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill. I noted that earlier tonight the Deputy Premier said that this is a highly technical bill, which it is. I a little surprised that he did not go a bit further, because I suspect that it is a highly thorny issue as well. I think that this is a very complex area of policy that everyone has a different view on, but I want to extend my congratulations to the Deputy Premier for seizing this issue, because it is a problem and it is a problem that the government needs to try to address, difficult as it may be to do so.
Infrastructure charging has become a very important source of revenue for many councils, some more struggling councils than others. Burgeoning communities that have to deal with the strain of growth and development need to be—
Mr Crandon: Coomera.
Dr FLEGG: Coomera is probably a reasonable example. I will take that interjection. Those councils need to be able to tap into the funds to provide infrastructure at all levels—the little local drainage and sewerage type of facility and the much more major upgrades that are needed for intersection, traffic flow, public transport et cetera. But balanced against this need must be the fact that infrastructure charges add to the cost of development and, in so doing, they not only discourage development—and if development is lost everybody loses out in the revenue stakes—but also and importantly become a cost that is borne by the community who use that new development. For example, they are a cost that passes on to new home and unit buyers and add significantly to the issue of housing affordability when frequently it is the young first home buyer who needs to go into a new area and buy a new house who has to contain elements of infrastructure charges.
The member for Gladstone raised the issue around this dilemma very well when she said that it is a balance between what is funded by community generally and what is funded by, I think the honourable member said, the developer. But I would add to that: the ultimate end user. That is a really difficult balance. This issue comes up in my electorate of Moggill all the time. There is a proposal for a little local retail precinct in Pinjarra Hills. There are some fairly sizeable housing estates down in Priors Pocket at Moggill and people have great concern about the ability, or more particularly the inability, of infrastructure to be able to cope. In this case, that infrastructure is Moggill Road—so it is a state controlled road—whereas in many cases it will be a council controlled road that will take incremental increases of traffic. It is very hard to get the balance to what costs should be levied on a new development that adds an incremental level as opposed to the new development being the sole user of the infrastructure.
The Priority Development Infrastructure Co-Investment Program is, I think, a very exciting prospect to try to deal with some of these very difficult to address issues. I note that the PDICP is not a traditional loan or grants scheme to local government, but a co-investment program that will focus on delivery of key infrastructure such as major roads, water, sewerage and stormwater projects that will support significant economic development. I think the key there is that these projects to be favoured with funds from this program will be those that support key economic development.
As a fairly longstanding Brisbane based member certainly some issues have been raised with me and not surprisingly so because every council and community is going to have different needs in terms of how they manage development. In many respects the Brisbane City Council is a very unusual council in that it is the largest in Australia and has been able to take on projects as vast as the Legacy Way tunnel, a project currently under construction to benefit my constituents in Moggill. A question has been raised with me and I will put the question here to give the Deputy Premier the opportunity to respond to it because there are some concerns around Brisbane. I think it goes something along these lines: why should Brisbane and South-East Queensland councils adopt the reduced fair value infrastructure charges when they have no idea whether they can access the catalytic fund and, if so, how much they may be able to get and how much they will have to pay back? I understand the Brisbane City Council has already adopted a decision not to go to the new fair charges. I think this is an issue in general that must be confronted. I do not envy the Deputy Premier's task in doing it. These issues are ones that one would expect to come up in the course of this sort of legislation and I know that the Deputy Premier will continue to look at them and try to address them.
If I could perhaps add one final comment of my own and that is that as somebody who has at various times been involved with some small development applications with various councils around the place, the issue of the quantum of charges is only one issue that confronts people who are developing property and employing people and injecting money into the construction industry. One of the others that I think could also bear with some looking at is significant time delays which have exactly the same effect as increased charges. I raised once before some years ago that I thought there would be some benefit in incentivising councils to reduce the average time taken to process the development applications. Most development applications are not highly controversial. Nobody wants to see a highly controversial or a high-impact development rushed through. Some of these development applications are very small indeed. Many of them have very little adverse impact and are not controversial. Any way that average processing times and red tape could be reduced could deliver an economic benefit to the state equally as significant as reducing the cost of fees charged. I am happy to commend the bill to the House and congratulate the Deputy Premier on tackling something that I do not envy him and I am sure was a very thorny issue and will probably continue to be so.
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