The 2024 Budget

Impact of the 2024 Budget in Lalor

VIDEO

As the member for Lalor, there is no prouder moment than when standing to deliver a speech supporting our budget, the third budget of the Albanese Labor government, at a time when we know Australians are doing it tough. I know that in my community people are under mortgage stress and renters are struggling to find the funds to pay their rents.

The children I talk to when I visit schools are relaying those things to me in our question-and-answer sessions. I've been the member for Lalor for 10 years. In the last few months when I've been to schools to talk about civics and citizenship, and it's come to questions and answers, there have been lots of young people talking to me about families that they know that have had some time being homeless. Young people are asking questions about inflation. I know how deep this goes, because I'm hearing it from primary-school-age children.

That's why I'm so proud of this budget. It's a budget that prioritises easing cost-of-living pressures and it's been designed to help every Australian, not just some. It is a Labor budget through and through. It's a budget to support those doing it tough and to build the industries needed to power Australia into the future.

As part of this budget, we are delivering a tax cut for every taxpayer in Lalor and giving every household in Australia a $300 energy rebate. We're wiping $3 billion in student debt and fixing the indexation issues around HECS. We're investing in new bulk-billed Medicare urgent care clinics in other communities; we already have one in Lalor. We're making medicines cheaper for people in Lalor. We're delivering the first back-to-back increase in rent assistance in more than 30 years, and I know what that means to some of the families in Lalor. It delivers for women. This budget delivers for workers, for young people, for families and for small businesses. It's a budget for everyone, coming off the back of two years of work to get wages moving and get inflation down. Those are the priorities of this Labor government. It's a responsible budget. The focus is on relieving financial stress—for families, workers and people across the country—without increasing inflation.

The government is providing $3.5 billion in energy relief for all Australian households and one million eligible small businesses. We know that relief needs to be provided where it matters. From 1 July, more than 10 million households will receive a total rebate of $300 and eligible small businesses will receive $325 off their electricity bills throughout the year.

One of the other headlines of this budget obviously is the relief for university students and for those who have studied. Our government's budget is making HECS-HELP fairer by capping the HELP indexation rate to the lower of either the consumer price index—the CPI—or the wage price index. This will be backdated to June 2023, meaning that those with a HELP debt will receive a credit. It will also ensure that HELP debts never grow faster than wages again. The government will cut $3 billion in student debt for more than three million Australians. It's an issue that's important in my electorate. Lalor is home to one of the youngest demographics in the country, and this change will support 19,500 people who have a HELP debt in the community I represent.

Another key issue for the people of Lalor that this budget helps with is the cost of medicines. We're investing $4 billion to deliver cheaper medicines to ease pressure on household budgets by freezing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme co-payment and adding more medicines to the PBS. Across Lalor, residents have already saved $2 million thanks to the Albanese government's commitment to delivering cheaper medicines. Those in our community who access PBS medicines are set to save even more following our freeze on the maximum cost to PBS medicines. We're also ensuring that pensioner and concession cardholders in Lalor won't pay more than $7.70 for their PBS medications for the next five years. That is a great comfort to those who are filling more than one script often. The actions taken by this government are again supported in this budget, delivering cheaper medicines for people across the community that I represent.

In the area of health, one of the things I'm proudest of has been our government's work in making Medicare more available to Australians, and we've done that by tripling the bulk-billing incentive. I know, for Deputy Speaker Chesters's electorate, how important this has been in the area of Bendigo. Equally, it has been important in Lalor. We've strengthened the distribution priority area through recognising 700 areas with either full or partial DPA status, including Wyndham. This has been a game changer, because under those opposite we lost 30 per cent of our GPs when we lost our DPA status. This government has restored our DPA status, and those GP clinics are attracting doctors and assisting to train doctors and get them qualified in our community. It's absolutely critical, and I'm really proud it's something that this government has done. It means more skilled doctors are able to take their experience to benefit the lives of those living in regional, rural and remote Australia or, as in our case, in the outer suburbs in the growth corridors.

Residents in Lalor have continued to reap the benefits of our government's investments and will continue to do so through this budget, with an additional 2,000 bulk-billed visits to the GPs in Lalor since November 2023. Our community will continue to access bulk-billed walk-in urgent care from the Werribee Medicare urgent care clinic, which, of course, was established when we came to office. Sixty-three thousand residents in Lalor accessed 168,000 pathology services last year, and the number of people accessing these services is significant. We are making sure that pathology tests remain bulk-billed by indexing the Medicare rebates for common medical tests—something that I know is important to locals.

But the big news in this budget and something that I am really proud of is that in the city of Wyndham, which is home to the electorate of Lalor—where our community has for too long had to travel to Geelong or the city to access a Medicare rebated MRI or fork out hundreds of dollars from their own pockets—this Labor government has fixed that issue. Unlike the previous government, who continued to give more Medicare rebated licences to Geelong and ignore the west of Melbourne, this Labor government has made a commitment to provide four Medicare rebated MRI licences in the city of Wyndham, the first of which will come online in the coming months.

This is a game changer for our local community. I know because I have been at our hospital, and, at one point during the time that those opposite were in government, I watched people be put into patient transport inside our hospital and be taken across the road to get an MRI and then have the privilege of paying $500 for that service, not for the transport but for the MRI, because it wasn't a Medicare rebated MRI licence. Now we will have four. That is a game changer for so many locals.

One of the things I'm proudest of in this budget is the announcement around the increase again for fee-free TAFE. This is an absolutely critical part of the Labor government's priorities, and the impact it has in my electorate can't be understated. We're investing $88 million to deliver an additional 20,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places, including 5,000 pre-apprenticeships, that will be for construction and housing. In an area like mine, where we build houses—it's what we do every day—this is critical. I know how many small businesses will be welcoming that news. It means that they can take on apprentices and that those apprentices will be able to afford this process. It's going to be a game changer for so many small businesses in my electorate. That, of course, is on top of the work that we've already done in the fee-free TAFE space across the last two years, with hundreds of thousands of people getting training, accessing training and joining our workforce.

This budget is about priorities, but the most important thing about this budget is that it steps out what we will be doing in terms of investing in a future made in Australia. Budgets are about priorities, and this budget really tells Australia what this government is about. We're about ensuring that the good jobs of the future are created here in this country; that we become more than a quarry and a farm; and that, where we have resources, we are value-adding to those resources and ensuring that we have the skilled workforce we need to get these jobs done. Just as we are creating another 20,000 fee-free TAFE places and apprenticeships in the housing industry so that we can build the 1.2 million homes that we know we need across the next 10 years to ensure that our young people and other people can afford houses, we need to invest wisely in the Future Made in Australia so that we can position ourselves to gain the benefit of the opportunities of the decades ahead. There's a $22.7 billion plan for a Future Made in Australia. It will help us to be an indispensable part of the global economy as we shift to renewable energy. It will help us attract investment, make our country a renewable energy superpower, value-add to our resources and increase economic security. It backs Australian ideas, innovation and science. It invests in our people and our places, particularly our regions. It's thoughtful. It's a policy that will drive us for the next decade.

This budget demonstrates a responsible Labor government doing what needs to be done to support families, communities and workers right now on the ground but with an eye on the future, ensuring that as a country we are making the most of the opportunities presented to us and the opportunities that we have already in this great country.

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