Sunday, 1 May 2016

Australian Federal Election 2016: Turnbull's federal plan for your pearly whites

Excerpt from Australian Dept. of Health statement, 23 April 2016:

Through the 2016–17 Budget, the Government is introducing the new national Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme from 1 July 2016. This Scheme will replace the Child Dental Benefits Schedule and the National Partnership Agreement on Adult Dental Services.

Under the Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme, over 10 million Australians will have access to Federal Government subsidised public dental care. We expect that an extra 600,000 public dental patients will be treated each year through this Scheme.

The Government will spend $2.1 billion in the five year National Partnership Agreement for the new Scheme. This represents the largest-ever Commonwealth investment in public dental coverage –– which, for the first time, will be enshrined in legislation to provide long-term certainty.

Overall, we will spend a total of about $5 billion over the next four years in improving dental outcomes, including through the Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme, private health insurance rebate, the Commonwealth's contribution to in-hospital dental services, and dental infrastructure in rural and remote Australia.

Public dental services will be improved with better funding. Over time, people's dental health issues will be tackled earlier, with the focus shifting from restorative to preventive dental care, avoiding tooth decay, and alleviating more significant health problems and expense.

The new Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme lays the foundations for a fair and equitable national scheme for children and adults that Australia can afford now and into the future. This reflects the Government's broader integrated approach to health reform, improving oral health, and contributing to better overall health.

Sky News, 23 April 2016:

As part of the $5 billion plan, $2.1 billion will go to the states and territories, who can use the money to pay for private dentists "where service gaps arise" Ms Ley said.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) has described the new scheme as "smoke and mirrors".

Axing the children's dental scheme is the wrong approach to a serious problem, and money is being taken out of dental care, dentists say.

"Let's see this for what it is. This is a 'budget saving' that results in a reduction of about $200m per annum for dental care," ADA president Rick Olive said in a statement.

"Let's not be fooled. This is a measure that just won't deliver."

The Turnbull Government announcement reveals that the new dental health scheme is directly funding public dental health to the tune of $2.9 million over five years, with approx. $415 million available in 2016-17 or an average of around $51.8 million for each state and territory.

In its 2014-15 Budget the Abbott Government deferred the National Partnership Agreement for adult public dental services and ceased the Dental Flexible Grants Programme – saving $609 million over four years. In that budget government also expected to achieve savings of up to $35.7 million over four years by deferring indexation of Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) dental and allied health provider payments to 1 July 2016.

In its 2015-16 Budget the Abbott Government expected to save $125.6 million over four years from 2015‑16 by broadly aligning indexation arrangements for both the benefits payable and the benefits cap under the Child Dental Benefits Schedule with indexation arrangements for other health benefits programmes. In that budget government stated it would provide $155.0 million in 2015-16 for a one year agreement to replace the existing National Partnership Agreement on Adult Public Dental Services and that the agreement would support the provision of dental health services to adults who rely on the public dental system.

Public dental health schemes across the country have been under intense strain since at least July 2014 even when eligibility for these schemes was targeting low-income households. Now the Turnbull Government has decided to open the floodgates by removing means-tested eligibility.

There is a subsidy cap per eligible individual of $1,000 every two years in the existing federal scheme and I presume that this cap will remain in the new scheme.

With the $2.1 billion divided between eight states and territories over a five year period only 1.74% of the Australian population, or a total of est. 52,500 people in each state/territory, will potentially be able to access this scheme every two years via a participating private dentist before the money runs out.

The remaining 40% of adults and children the Turnbull Government calculates may wish to access this national public dental scheme will be obliged to seek treatment from the public dental heath schemes in their respective states or territories.

However, if the Turnbull Government subsidises dental treatment at a lower rate that the existing scheme then the number of individuals who receive adequate treatment by way of state and territory public dental health schemes may drop dramatically.

All those accessing state public dental schemes will be faced with waiting lists.

At the end of December 2015 there were 9,203 children and 104,156 adults who were waiting for public general dental care in NSW – 11% of the children and 32% of adults had been waiting for periods exceeding clinically acceptable benchmark times.

An est. 15,507 individuals on the waiting list were in the Mid-North Coast and Northern NSW regions.

Given past reports of waiting times, it is not outside the realms of possibility that approximately 25% of those who have been waiting for public general dental care in NSW have been waiting for up to one to two years.

In September 2015 the population of NSW was 7.64 million people. All of these people are now potentially eligible for public general dental care under the Turnbull Government's Child and Adult Public Dental Scheme once they reach two years of age and over.

Does Prime Minister Turnbull seriously believe that his est. $5 billion cut eight ways will stretch that far?

Australian Federal Election 2016: who else is tired of Liberal-Nationals political lies concerning negative gearing?

Human Rights Commission President Gillian Triggs recently observed that Australian politicians were generally ill-informed and uneducated.

She was speaking in reference to democracy, human rights and international law.

I am beginning to suspect her observations may apply to almost any matter that is placed before them for consideration or action.

When it comes to negative gearing, Liberal and Nationals federal politicians have obviously not read beyond those party talking points released as the federal election campaign heats up and, I suspect their ignorance is wilful. 

Readers have probably already noticed how many of them have declared investment properties and accompanying mortgages in the current Register of Members’ Interests?

So in an effort to balance the one-eyed view of negative gearing held by those with vested interests, here are some facts and observations……

What is negative gearing?

This is how the Direct Property Network (Denuo Pty Ltd) website describes negative gearing:

Negative gearing: cost of the property is greater than the income generated. e.g. total cost is $2,000 per month (includes loan, council rates, real estate management fees etc) less the incoming rent $1,500/month rent received. The difference is $500 per month or $115. 38/week, which costs the investor.
The benefit of negative gearing is the cash loss is offset against income from other sources, thus reducing your taxable income, and hence the amount of tax you have to pay (compared to the tax you'd pay without the investment).
The effects of this cash loss are buffered or absorbed by the tax system.
Because of the tax effects your loss is reduced.
Simply put: the tax man and the rental income pays for your investment property!!

And this is what the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) says about negative gearing:

A rental property is negatively geared if it is purchased with the assistance of borrowed funds and the net rental income, after deducting other expenses, is less than the interest on the borrowings.
The overall taxation result of a negatively geared property is that a net rental loss arises. In this case, you may be able to claim a deduction for the full amount of rental expenses against your rental and other income (such as salary, wages or business income) when you complete your tax return for the relevant income year. Where the other income is not sufficient to absorb the loss it is carried forward to the next tax year.
If by negatively gearing a rental property, the rental expenses you claim in your tax return would result in a tax refund, you may reduce your rate of withholding to better match your year-end tax liability.
If you believe your circumstances warrant a reduction to your rate or amount of withholding, you can apply to us for a variation using the PAYG income tax withholding variation (ITWV) application (NAT 2036).

Advice from on how to negatively gear your own holiday house so that the taxman pays for your weekends away and annual holidays.

Who negatively gears investment properties?

Business Insider reported on 16 February 2015 that:

The richest 40% of Australians carry 80% of the investor housing debt.

According to the Grattan Institute on 8 March 2016:

Data is not directly available on what proportion of home purchases are made by investors. Data on new home lending from The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Lending Finance figures indicates that between one-third and half of new lending is to investors. And ABS census data shows that just under a third of existing properties are owned by investors.
But not all of them negatively gear. Some do not borrow, and others do not borrow enough to be negatively geared: that is, their rental income is greater than the expenses and loan interest. The tax stats show us that about two-thirds of all housing investors are negatively geared. This suggests that around 20% of housing buyers are negatively geared investors.

In 2015 Australians borrowed a total of $73.54 million in housing finance [ABS, 5671.0 - Lending Finance, Australia, Dec 2015].

These figures indicate that in 2015 negatively-geared investors borrowed an est. total of $14.7 million in housing finance.

It appears that many investors who negatively gear property have borrowed up to 50 to 80 per cent of the purchase price of their investment.

This is a breakdown of who these investors are thought to be, according to Grattan Institute spokespersons writing in The Conversation on 8 March 2016:

Click on images to enlarge

That graph is supported by a second based on ATO data:

Executive Director of The Australia Institute Ben Oquist stated in The Sydney Morning Herald on 16 February 2016:

"In total, these concessions [negative gearing, capital gains tax discount & superannuation tax concessions] are worth more than $37 billion, yet the young receive only $2.4 billion of their value…
"The capital gains tax discount and negative gearing are particularly unfair for the young, with the under 30s taking approximately 1 per cent of the benefit of tax breaks worth $7.7 billion a year and climbing.
The NATSEM research also shows that 73 per cent of the benefits of the capital gains tax discount, flows to the top 10 per cent of income earners.

The Sydney Morning Herald also reported on 13 November 2015 that:

According to Tax Office data, nearly 30 per cent of anaesthetists negatively gear their properties, compared to just 3.6 per cent of cleaners.
Surgeons (27.7 per cent), finance managers (23.4 per cent), mining engineers (22.2 per cent), and lawyers (22.1 per cent) are also far more likely to use the strategy than people in lesser-paying jobs, the data shows.
Sales assistants (3.7 per cent), hairdressers (5 per cent), nurses (9.6 per cent) and teachers (12 per cent) are much less likely than surgeons and lawyers to use negative gearing…..

Click on images to enlarge

Data shows the average tax benefit that surgeons received from negatively geared property was $4161 in 2012-13, followed by anaesthetists ($3353), lawyers ($1788), mining engineers ($1336) and finance managers ($1247).
But cleaners only received an average tax benefit of $41, while sales assistants ($42), hairdressers ($167), nurses ($254) and teachers ($327) fared little better…..

Data for the 2013-14 financial year confirms the same professional occupation mix as benefiting most from negative gearing tax concessions.

It comes as no surprise that an electorate with some of the wealthiest people in Australia - the Liberal Party electorate of Point Piper held by Malcolm Bligh Turnbull MP - is also the electorate which claims the most in average rental losses from negative gearing:

ABC News, 27 April 2016, ATO (2014) and NATSEM

According to the Brisbane Times on 1 May 2016:

New research by the Parliamentary Library has found that of the 6071 people in Mr Turnbull's postcode who submitted a tax return in 2014, 592 claimed the tax deduction to the tune of almost $18 million - or $30,278 each.
That works out at about $582 a week.

Nor does it come as a surprise to find some Turnbull Government ministers have one or more geared investment properties, such as Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, who in December 2015 purchased a $2.235 million two-story beach-front house at Palm Beach QLD with money borrowed from the ANZ Bank. He and his wife appear to own four other properties - two of which are also listed as investments.

In fact an est. 1 in 3 federal politicians own rental properties and ownership by party breaks down like this:

Qld Nationals senator Barry O'Sullivan reportedly owns 41 of these properties, Nationals MP David Gillespie 18 properties, Palmer United Party MP Clive Palmer 12 properties and Country Liberal Party MP Natasha Griggs 12 properties.

So why does multi-millionaire Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insist that removal of the negative gearing would hurt mum and dad investors ie those with taxable income incomes at or below $80,000pa?

Well, the first point to remember is that people with genuine and 'unmassaged' taxable incomes below $80,000 per annum are more likely to be receiving negative gearing tax concessions worth less than $800 per year.

The second point is that Labor is only talking about removing the negatively gearing option from old housing stock that is not already negatively geared.

Current investment properties - no matter who they are owned by - will be exempt from proposed negative gearing changes.

Basically, removing negative gearing from old housing stock purchased after 30 June 2017 would predominately affect that section of society which seeks to aggressively avoid tax and accrue wealth by property speculation.

The simple answer to the question of why Malcolm Turnbull has taken his contrary stance is that this is a federal election year and the country is probably heading to the polls in less than six weeks - therefore both Liberal and National ministers, senators and MPs all need to keep their political donors, personal support bases and the property, banking and finance industries firmly on their side if they are to retain their seats and win the Abbott-Turnbull Government a second term in office.

I suspect that small-time investors did not genuinely factor into Turnbull’s decision to leave negative gearing arrangements well and truly alone, no matter what he argues between now and 2 July 2016.

After all, before this election year dawned negative gearing was open to debate in his own party. As the departing treasurer Joe Hockey demonstrated in Hansard on 21 October 2015 at Page 11952 when he appeared to be agreeing with an element in Labor’s draft affordable housing policy:

JOE HOCKEY: We should be wiser and more consistent on tax concessions to help pay for that. In particular, tax concessions on superannuation should be carefully pared back. In that framework, negative gearing should be skewed towards new housing so that there is an incentive to add to the housing stock rather than an incentive to speculate on existing property

In an effort to paper over Turnbull Government unwillingness to look taxation inequities squarely in the eye, Liberal and Nationals politicians are apparently blaming ordinary Australians and their supposedly shaky levels of confidence, if The Saturday Paper of 30 April 2016 is any indication:

Coalition sources say concerns about the impact on consumer confidence of big changes to the tax system – along with the assessment that the boost to growth was too small to justify the upheaval – were behind the decision to abandon an increase in the goods and services tax. 
Similar concerns also fed into the decision not to fiddle with negative gearing.

The online newspaper went on to say:

The Saturday Paper has been told cabinet took its decision to retain negative gearing some weeks ago and that it was a political – and not an economic – move.
The policy decision was made to form part of the government’s armoury in the lead-up to the election…..

What do ordinary people think of negative gearing?

According to The Australia Institute less than 9 per cent of the Australian population owned investment properties in 2012, so it is unsurprising to find this online poll in The Daily Examiner (Clarence Valley) on 29 April 2016:


Putting it quite frankly;  protecting current negative gearing tax concessions for an estimated less than 9 per cent of the population (whose cumulative tax minimisation/avoidance is by most accounts distorting the property market) at the expense of the remaining est. 91 per cent is bad taxation policy.

Favouring this less than 9 per cent, during a federal government term which saw first Abbott then Turnbull rip into the fabric of health, education and welfare safety nets protecting over 23 million people because tax revenue is not keeping pace with government spending, is mindlessly destructive politics.

A fairer approach to taxation concessions - particularly those on self-managed superannuation funds, investments and capital gains realized - which does not encourage aggressive tax minimisation/avoidance at the expense of the common good is not the bogeyman vested interests are making out.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Just because it is beautiful......(8)

Adiantum aethiopicum, also known as the common maidenhair fern

Found on Google Images

Quotes of the Week

the [Westpac- Melbourne Institute Leading] Index last took a dip during the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, but then recovered shortly thereafter. However, despite the LNP’s claims to be economic masters, since they took office in September 2013, the Index has been steadily trending downwards to its current record low. [Progressive Conversation blog, 23 April 2016]

Not a jot of cosmic humility, religious or otherwise, is detectable in anything I have read or heard Abbott write or say. He doesn’t speak in these terms, even obliquely; I wonder if he fears death. It’s this, I think, that people find weirdest about him: how can you trust the judgement of a man so utterly immune to the animating psychic horrors of the human condition? As the woman from the focus group pointed out, everything he says is tainted, even his experience of something as quotidian as the weather. Abbott contains an absence, a conspicuous and upsetting lack, and as long as he hangs around Australian politics, he’s going to make us all stare straight into the void. [Freelance journalist Eleanor Robertson writing in The Monthly, 28 April 2016]

Friday, 29 April 2016

Disgraced Liberal MP blots his copy book again and another Liberal minister is found wanting

This was disgraced Liberal MP for Fadden, former Minister for Veterans' Affairs and former Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC, Stuart Robert, tweeting on ANZAC Day 2016 and then deleting the tweet around three hours later once he finally realised that using soldiers to play politics on the major national day of remembrance in this country was not a good idea.

As New Matilda editorialized online; Yes, At the going down of the sun over our multiple investment properties, We will remember them.

To make matters worse Robert tweeted an apology at 1.17pm the same day and then deleted that eight minutes later - probably after the first journalist rang him to confirm the apology. 

 He then had second thoughts and tweeted his lame excuse again.

Oh dear.....with friends like Stuart Robert in an election year, Malcolm Turnbull doesn't need enemies.

However, Robert is not the only fly in the election ointment.
On 26 April 2016 ABC News reported on Country Liberal Party Senator for the Northern Territory and Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion:

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion has asked the board of the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) to change a controversial section of its annual report that dealt with the corporation's $320 million acquisition of the troubled Voyages resort at Uluru.

The extraordinary intervention is revealed in documents released under Freedom of Information (FOI) amid an ongoing battle between Senator Scullion and the former chair of the ILC, Dawn Casey…..

A draft briefing paper by acting ILC chief executive Leo Bator and released under FOI asserts that Senator Scullion threatened to "withhold permission to table the (annual report)" unless it was amended.

The annual report's publication was delayed by months as a result of the conflict, and appears only to have been published in February following media inquiries.

The delay in its publication prevented Senate Estimates from examining the Voyages acquisition last October.

The documents released by the ILC under FOI reveal the current board of the ILC, and senior members of its executive, were deeply concerned at the request by Senator Scullion for amendments to the foreword and by the delay in the report's publication.
The ILC director of strategy warned last year that the agency would "attract scrutiny about the delay and any deletions to the annual report" at Senate Estimates.

In the end, the board decided to publish two forewords to the report, one written by Dr Casey and one by Eddie Fry, who was revealed to have assured Senator Scullion that the ILC would pursue no investigation into the Voyages sale and instead was intent upon tackling its large debts.

Senator Scullion has insisted his intervention was in response to incorrect information being asserted by the former ILC board about the Voyages acquisition. He declined to speak to the ABC yesterday and referred to his published statement.
"What I did was ask the ILC board to consider responding to factual inaccuracies in the statement from the former chair contained in the annual report," Senator Scullion said in the statement.

"It is completely appropriate for me to bring to the attention of the ILC board these inaccuracies."

Excerpts from Dr. Dawn Casey’s statement which was included in the published ILC 2014-15 annual report in question:

Report card on the Nationals 2013 election promises as set out by Kevin Hogan, MP for Page during that election campaign

This is Nationals MP Kevin Hogan's large electorate:

Excerpts from Kevin Hogan's 2013 election campaign website with annotations in blue text:

The Nationals have a plan to reduce the cost of living by:

* abolishing the carbon and mining taxes; Done.

* lowering taxes and reforming the tax system; Not done to date with regard to tax system reform. As for lowering taxes: As est. 70% of all incorporated businesses do not pay the full company tax rate. So it was no surprise to find that the Abbott Government's cut in the small business tax rate of 1.5 per cent, along with the ability for companies with revenue under $2 million to claim an unlimited number of tax deductions for items that cost less than $20,000 each, is only thought to have contributed to a brief two-month surge in retail goods and cars sales as an est. 30.8% of business owners splurged, according to the CPA Australia Asia-Pacific Small Business Survey 2015 - presumably for the deductions against future tax liability. While neither the Liberal-Nationals tax increases via the Temporary Budget Repair Levy nor the reintroduction of the twice-yearly indexation of the fuel excise contributed to the promise to lower taxes. Indeed, since the Liberal-Nationals Coalition won government in September 2013 federal taxation has increased from 21.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to an est. 22.3% of GDP in 2015-16 according to Budget Paper 1 for 2015-16.

* restoring the private health insurance rebate; This rebate was never abolished but became means tested in 2012 with thresholds increased annually and, it remains means tested to date.

*making childcare more affordable and flexible; Not actually done to date, with out-of-pocket childcare costs continuing to rise, with low-income families having to find an est. $700pa per child according to The Conversation Fact Check in March 2016. Flexibility is still a work in progress with the principal thrust being allowing private nannies to be registered childcare providers.

* protecting and strengthening Medicare; Not done to date. In June 2014 Kevin Hogan spoke in favour of weakening Medicare by creating a Medicare patient co-payment, which has since been shifted to a reduction in the Medicare rebate received by GPs. In July 2014 he voted in favour of increasing the price of subsidized medicines by increasing the concessional co-payment. and

* paying back government debt to keep interest rates low. Federal Government net debt is higher now than when Kevin Hogan entered  parliament. In September 2013 net government debt stood at $174,577 million and in March 2016 net debt totaled $288,681 million, with net financial liabilities of $518,013 million according to Dept. of Finance figures. In Nov-Dec 2013 he first voted to increase the amount of money government could borrow to $500 billion and then voted to remove the debt ceiling entirely. In spite of higher government debt and a budget deficit in excess of $35 billion in 2015-16, the Reserve Bank has kept the official interest rate at 2% during 2016.

Local families deserve some breathing room between weekly pay cheques. Under a Liberal and Nationals government hard-working families will be able to enjoy more rewards for their efforts. Low wages growth continues to date. According to the NSW  Dept. of  Family  & Community Services, with the exception of Ballina and Byron, all North Coast local government areas had a higher proportion of low income households at the 2011 Census than the NSW average (47.3%), with high rates of both very low and low income households in rental stress in the region. Yet I never heard Kevin Hogan speak out against his government’s December 2014 announcement  that it was abolishing  the $21.13 million Housing and Homelessness Grants program, part of which funds three national peak bodies; Homelessness Australia (HA), National Shelter and the Community Federation of Housing Australia (CHFA). He should have been well aware of social conditions in his electorate as in January 2014 he officially launched the Northern Rivers Social Profile 2013, which clearly states that 1 in 200 of this region’s population are homeless and it has median weekly household incomes which are 62-70% of the State average, depending on where you live - with the lowest in the Clarence Valley.

As part of The Nationals team in Canberra, I will create jobs here at home by:

* helping small business growth and productivity by reducing red and green tape; The Abbott-Turnbull Government's Red Tape Repeal Day (commenced Autumn 2014) was itself repealed this year by the Turnbull Government and appears to have been largely ineffective in relation to both productivity and business growth. National productivity growth in 2012-13 was 3.7, by June 2014 it was 2.5 according to The Conference Board data. In 2015 productivity in the manufacturing, retail/wholesale, transport/logistics, business/property services sectors were below the average productivity of our global competitors in those sectors according to a Deloitte Access Economics analysis.In NSW compared with 2010-11 there were 9,675 fewer businesses at the start of the 2014-15 financial year. Nationally, agriculture, forestry and  fishing  industry sectors have seen business counts decrease by -2.4% from June 2014 to June 2015 according to the Australian  Bureau of Statistics. In Hogan's own electorate in December 2013 there were est. 3,900 local businesses but by June 2014 that number had reduced to 3,863, representing an annual "year to June 2014" growth of -1.5% according to Lawrence Consulting.

* creating a world class 5-Pillar economy building on our strengths in manufacturing innovation, advanced services, agriculture exports, education and research, and mining exports; The 5 Pillars1 economic goal has not been achieved. The Reserve Bank recorded GDP growth in 2014 as 2.75% and projects GDP will only be between 2.50-3.50% in December 2016.

* investing in local roads and modern infrastructure; A work in  progress in relation to roads, while the Abbott-Turnbull Government's idea of modern infrastructure appears not to have advanced beyond sloganeering and an approx. 90 project-long "rolling" wish list in its 2016 Australian Infrastructure Plan which seems to be confined to roads and railways.

* delivering higher real wage growth and protecting workers’ rights; Not done. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2015 ended with the lowest wages growth on record since it began monitoring wages in 1998. As Kevin Hogan has never voted against his party's policy or position on any matter before the parliament, it is not expected that he would support protecting workers' rights in any move to change existing industrial relations law.

* increasing job security; Not done. Nationally the unemployment rate has gone from 5.6 in September 2013 to yo-yoing around 6 or over and then to 5.7 in March 2016. By December 2015 in Kevin Hogan's own electorate unemployment rates were still above the state average - Kyogle LGA 11.1%, Lismore LGA 10.2%, Ballina & Clarence LGAs 6.7%2a. The Coalition federal government continues to reduce the number of public service and government agency jobs2b. 

* providing safe workplaces; Not done. According to Workplace Safety statistics in 2013 workplace fatalities numbered 186, in 2014 they numbered 187, in 2015 fatalities totaled 193 with 2016 to 7 March seeing 22 workplace-related deaths nationwide. In 2013-14 there were 531,800 cases of work-related illness and disease and work-related conditions are reportedly among the top five leading causes of disability in Australia. Data on work-related illness and disease beyond 2013-14 is not yet publicly available.

* implementing workplace law reform to balance the system and reward people for effort;
Not done to date in relation to workplace reform and, as for rewarding people for effort, this appears to be confined to various as yet untested proposals to increase services, cash transfers, subsidies and tax cuts for predominately high income households. and

* providing incentives for tradespeople, professionals and businesses to relocate to regional Australia. NSW Regional Relocation Home Buyers Grant closed on 30 September 2014 & Skilled Regional Relocation Incentive closed on 21 March 2015. Both had a poor take up rate. The Commonwealth  Relocation Assistance to take up a job commenced in July 2014 – it  too  reportedly has a patchy take up rate.  Nationally, agriculture, forestry and  fishing  industry sectors have seen business counts decrease by -2.4% from June  2014 to June 2015 according to the Australian  Bureau of Statistics. 

The Nationals in government will create one million new jobs over the next five years and two million within the decade; To reach the first target an est. 8,333 additional new workers would need to be in employment on average each month until the end of 2018. ABS labour force surveys tell us that in September 2013 there were 11,646,800 people employed nationwide and, by January 2016 the total was 11,909,900 people in work - not the 12,143,224 total is would have been if Kevin Hogan and the Nationals had actually met their election promise. Since the Liberal-Nationals formed government in 2013 the combined unemployed & underemployed rate has ranged from 13.1 to 15.0%, currently at 14.3%. During the preceding two terms of Labor government the underemployment rate ranged from 9.5 to 13.8%, finishing at 13.3% according to ABS Labour Force, Australia, Mar 2016.

The Nationals plan for roads and infrastructure includes:

* delivering on our commitments by making $5.6 billion of funding available to complete the upgrades to the Pacific Highway through our region; Some of the upgrade work since 2013 used funding which was committed under the  former Labor Government’s 2013-14 Budget. During Kevin Hogan’s time as MP for Page Pacific Highway funding was deferred  with  Maclean and Ballina projects delayed and the final completion date put back to 20203.

* ensuring that regional NSW roads receive appropriate funding and working with the state to upgrade our major regional transport routes including bridges; Local governments in the Page electorate have successfully applied for funds from the federal  Bridges Renewal Program.

* continuing the successful Roads to Recovery and Black Spot programs started by the Coalition in Government; Current funding (2012-13 to 2018-19 ) for these programs was allocated by the former Labor Government in its 2012-13 Budget when it extended the life of these programs  for another five  years according  to  the  Dept.  of  Infrastructure  and  Transport Annual report 2012-13.

* supporting regional and general aviation by abolishing the carbon tax on aviation fuels, continuing the Remote Aerodrome Safety Program and providing assistance to encourage the expansion of our regional network; In May 2013 the former Labor Government allocated  $1.06 million to the Grafton Regional Airport Upgrade in Round 4 of the Regional Development Australia Fund– something Kevin Hogan took credit for in February 20145.

* delivering the National Broadband Network quicker and cheaper than Labor while providing users with faster speed downloads than current broadband allows. Readers  in the Page electorate are excused for cynically laughing out loud at this point, but the situation is serious for regional areas like the Page which is being locked out of genuine high-speed broadband at a time when access to a workable NBN will be the principal way to create new & innovative employment the local economy to offset the predicted existing job losses that increased computerization of business and industry will bring6.

Under a Liberal and Nationals government our roads will be built faster and more fairly without the bureaucratic squabbling between the two levels of government. We will stop the blame game and get the job done. See footnote 3.

My plan to build a sustainable environment includes implementation of a direct action plan which:

* abolishes the carbon tax; Done

* balances the economic, social and environmental considerations in decisions between business, primary industries and nature; Not done to date.

* increases government investment in and incentives for local green projects including soil  carbon storage; Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority received funding of $548,000 ex GST (under round 1 of Action on the Ground from June 2012 to June 2015) to trial & demonstrate multiple farming practices which reduce farm greenhouse gas emission and increase soil carbon sequestration.  At time of writing no local projects are known to  me which were funded  by  the Abbott-Turnbull Government.

* encourages investment in clean green technologies; In 2014 Kevin Hogan voted for the  abolition of  the Australian  Renewable  Energy  Agency (ARENA) and against restoring funding to this agency7 after which investor confidence in the renewable energy industry stagnated according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

* refocuses environmental spending on Australian projects, rather than sending money overseas; Not done.  and

* creates a 15,000 strong green army to work on environmental projects within Australia including cleaning up riverbanks and creek beds, revegetating sand dunes, revegetating  mangrove habitats and a host of other environmental conservation projects. In December 2015 Green Army projects were capped at 500 per annum & funding was cut by est. $165.7 million8

We need a sensible balance between the environmental, economic and social needs of our regions. Mining and gas extraction continue to generate vast wealth for our country but should not be conducted where there is a risk of land and/or water contamination. In 2014 Kevin Hogan voted for a bill which would allow the handing over of approval  power to the states in relation to large coal  mines and coal seam gas fields 9.

  As part of The Nationals team, I will work to deliver world class education in our region by:

* working with the states to ensure quality education is delivered to students regardless of  where they live; Neither the Abbott or Turnbull federal governments guaranteed  the full six years of Labor’s Gonski  funding  program and former  Education Minister Christopher Pyne has said the government believes it has a  particular responsibility for independent schools that it doesn't have for public schools10.

* investing in job skills training; TAFE fee waivers were abolished in December 2014 with TAFE  funding  cuts in the 2014-15 Abbott Government budget and, the cessation of  the Tools For Your Trade (TFYT) program. 

* providing incentives for teachers to relocate to regional areas; N/K

* driving genuine reform to give principals and local communities more power to put students first; Mixed success as reportedly teachers in several  schools have endorsed resolutions for their school to be withdrawn from the Empowering Local Schools, a joint federal-states initiative.

* ensuring our curriculum is rigorous without being too prescriptive or overcrowded; A narrower curriculum focus is now in place & ministers of religion are allowed to proselytize within  the school  system with impunity.

* continuing current levels of funding for schools, indexed to deal with real increases in costs and ensuring that money is targeted based on the social and economic status of the community; Non-government schools will receive  the  same  level of  Federal-State funding  per student as  their public  school  counterparts  by  018. Public schools  are  repoted to be facing  an est. $30 billion funding black  hole  from 2018 if  the last  two  years  of  Gonski  funding  are not forthcoming in the Turnbull Government 2016-17 budget.

 * encouraging and investing in science education at primary schools; National programs are underway. However, Australia's OECD PISA global ranking for science has slipped from 9th place in 2012 to 10th in 2015, with mathematics remaining as 12th in the rankings. Australia's ranking for reading skills has dropped from 8th place in 2012 to 10th place in 2015.

* working with social media operators, schools, parents and children to tackle cyber bullying and other harmful material and behaviour targeted at children online; The Safe Schools program has been reviewed due  to pressure  from far-right Coalition MPs & senators  obviously uncomfortable  with  the existence of  lesbian,  gay, bisexual, trans and/or intersex (LGBTI) school students. Funding for this program will now end in 2017. Kevin Hogan appears to have  never spoken out in support of this  program in the  House  of Representatives.

* reviewing and restructuring government research funding to make sure each dollar is spent as effectively as possible; Research funding was reduced in the Liberal-Nationals 2014-15 and 2015-16 budgets, which saw National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and Sustainable Research Excellence combined funding cuts at est. $674.2 million, however there appears to be no coherent planning by government for research into the future as the National Innovation & Science Agenda remains to date vaguely pie in the sky and potentially open to rorting by business at the expense of established research agencies.

* ensuring the sector, including higher education, has a stable, long-term source of infrastructure funding; Not done to date and

 * growing higher education as an export industry and to support international students studying in Australia. The VET-Help loans scheme was rorted by private ‘colleges’11before the federal government would act, leaving an est. 40% of all these loans to private vocational course students now being considered unrecoverable

My vision is to see every child in Australia given access to and receiving the highest possible quality of education, and the genuine reform throughout the sector that will make this a reality.
The Liberal and Nationals have released 'Our Plan: Real Solutions for All Australians' which outlines many of the initiatives we will be pursuing should we form government at the next election. As to the best of my knowledge Kevin Hogan has never rebelled against the orders of his Canberra masters and never crossed the floor to vote against any Abbott or Turnbull government measures, I suspect that his 2013 grand vision of "Our Plan" faded into nothingness long ago. 


as examples

4. Regional Development Australia Fund — Round 4