Boost for region
Thursday, 11th May, 2017
By Andrew Robertson
The federal budget could deliver extra apprenticeships to Broken Hill and boost plans for an airport upgrade, according to Parkes MP Mark Coulton.
While the $8.4 billion in funding announced for the Inland Rail project will benefit towns in the east of his vast electorate, Mr Coulton said there were “a couple of things” that stood out for Broken Hill and other centres to the west in Tuesday’s budget.
He said local schools would do well out of changes to funding and the budget would also deliver more money for mental health, including the wider use of teleconferencing in remote areas.
“So all of those far west communities would obviously benefit from that,” he said.
Extending the instant asset write-off program for small business for a further 12 months would also provide a boost to the region, according to the MP. The program allows small businesses with an annual turnover of up to $10 million to immediately deduct eligible assets each costing less than $20,000.
Still on business, Mr Coulton suggested Broken Hill could benefit directly from the government’s plan to establish a permanent National Partnerships Skilling Australia Fund.
Some $1.5 billion was included in the budget for the skills fund which aims to deliver an extra 300,000 apprentices and trainees over the next four years. It will give priority to apprenticeships and traineeships in occupations in high demand.
“We’re bringing more money into apprentices,” Mr Coulton said.
“I think with some of the projects in the pipeline for Broken Hill, a bit of extra incentive for some of those projects to take on extra apprentices in the mining and companies associated with that would be quite good.”
A further $4.85 billion will be used to establish a regional investment fund, including $200m for the Building Better Regions Program.
“That’s where we’ve applied for an upgrade of the (Broken Hill) airport,” Mr Coulton said.
“So we’re hopeful it stacks up.”
City Council will also benefit from the government’s decision to resume the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) to councils and will also share in $31m as part of the Roads to Recovery Program.
While disappointed there was no new money in the budget for the mobile phone black spot program, Mr Coulton did defend the federal government’s decision to increase the Medicare levy.
“On the flip side of that is the people in Broken Hill who have a disability will know the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be funded.
“There’s been a gap in that (and) that’s what that’s to do. I think it’s not a levy that people wouldn’t have some empathy with.”
He also welcomed a plan to crackdown on welfare recipients who continually fail to meet their mutual obligation requirements because they were drunk or drug-affected.
The government has said it will conduct a drug testing trial for 5,000 new welfare recipients and JobSeeker recipients.
Those who test positive will go on a Cashless Debit Card for their welfare payments and be subjected to further tests and possible referral for treatment.