It is important to be here speaking on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2023-2024, the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2023-2024 and the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2023-2024 at a time when our government knows that Australians are looking to us for support. Australians are looking to our government to steer our country through some difficult economic circumstances, and they understand that, in crafting the budget that we have put together, we are putting cost-of-living relief front of mind, while also behaving as a responsible government should do in circumstances where we do see inflation rising and where we do know that we have to be responsible economic managers in setting up our country for the long term. That is certainly very much what this budget is designed to do.

I know from speaking to people in my community that it very much addresses the concerns that many in our community have. It does provide cost-of-living relief in some really important areas. In particular, it invests in our health system at a time when we know that our primary health system—our GPs and our local clinics—has been close to breaking. That’s because what we’ve had until this point was a Liberal-Nationals government which neglected our health system and which seemed to think that Medicare didn’t need investment. The previous Liberal-Nationals government did not invest in the fundamental piece which holds up our health system and which means that we have a universal system where health care is accessible to all. In my community and in communities around Australia, we have been seeing the impact of that underinvestment. In fact, I recently ran a survey in my community asking people to share their views with me on their priorities and, in particular, their experiences with health care.

Nearly a thousand people sent back responses to that survey, and I thank everyone who took the time to share with me what’s going on for them and what their priorities were. A very key theme that came from that survey was how our community values healthcare workers—the doctors, nurses and support staff who do so much—but also that they realise how the system is stretched. One of the key themes was around local health services. Miriam from Bundoora told me, ‘The cost of seeing a doctor has gone up a lot, and it’s harder to access bulk-billing now.’ Irving from Macleod told me: ‘I’ve been going to a local clinic that bulk-bills, but from 1 July they will stop that. So it will become more expensive to access health care, because out-of-pocket expenses will increase.’ Meredith from Ivanhoe told me, ‘It is nigh on impossible to get an appointment with my preferred GP.’ Gayle and Brian from Research said: ‘The wait for health care is too long. Local GPs are now too expensive, and we can’t get in for appointments for at least three weeks in advance.’

I’m really pleased to be able to say to all of these people and to the others who brought up health care in that survey that our government has listened. Our government knows that this is a priority area that we have to invest in, and we have invested in it in this budget. I’m very proud that our government is making a historic $5.7 billion investment to strengthen Medicare in this budget. We have heard the concerns of patients and doctors, and we are doing something about it. Our government is tripling bulk-billing incentives. This will make it easier and cheaper for people to see a doctor. It will support GPs in my community and in communities around Australia to bulk-bill. In my community it means that around 63,000 eligible people right across Jagajaga will have better access to bulk-billing. That is a huge difference, when we think about the importance of people being able to see a doctor when and where they need one.

Recently I was pleased to be able to talk with some of our local health providers about the impact this will have. On International Nurses Day I visited Eltham Ridge Medical Centre with my friend the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care. We were there to thank the nurses and all the staff who keep that very busy clinic running. It was a great opportunity not only to thank them for the work they do but also to talk with them about what a difference this investment our government is making in bulk-billing will make. Having that bulk-billing incentive triple will make a difference to them in their practice and will make a difference to the number of locals they are able to bulk-bill. It will provide relief to ensure that the centre keeps going—that it can provide the essential services, that it can provide bulk-billing services. I know that that support will be there not just at Eltham Ridge Medical Centre but at GP clinics across Jagajaga, and I’m very pleased about that.

Of course, on top of the huge investment we’re making in bulk-billing we’re also making medicines cheaper. An estimated 38,710 people in Jagajaga alone will be able to buy a month worth of medicines for the price of a single prescription for 300 common PBS medicines. This is going to halve the number of visits needed to GPs and pharmacists—again, taking pressure off our GPs—and will save people up to $180 a year on every eligible medicine they buy. In total, this will save Australians $1.6 billion. We’ve been very clear as a government that the savings the government makes in this measure will be put into community pharmacies. We do value our community pharmacies and will be reinvesting in them so that they can deliver more services.

The final part of the health package that I would like to emphasise and that our government’s been really working on is vaping. I know this has been a huge concern, particularly for many parents and teachers in my community, who have raised their concerns with me about young people taking up vaping and what that means for the future, when they’re not realising the potential impact on their health and the dangers. Our government has committed $733 million to tackling the challenges we’re seeing with both vaping and smoking, and our priority is protecting people, particularly young people, from the harms these cause. So we’re working with states and territories to stamp out the growing black market in vaping by introducing stronger regulation and enforcement.

Across these measures it is really clear that health is front and centre of our budget. Our government values the health of people in our community. We value Medicare. We will always protect and strengthen Medicare. We are putting your health care, the health care of people in my community, front and centre in this budget, and I am really pleased and proud and looking forward to seeing the impacts it will have on people in my local community.

Our government recognises that cleaner energy is cheaper energy. Again, what a transformation from what we’ve had over the past decade—to realise that the future in our country is renewable. Again, when I go around my community, people absolutely understand this. They are looking—and have been looking for quite some time—at what they can do to make that switch to renewable energy. Our government has seen that that’s an area where we can support people, that we can take action to support households with energy-saving upgrades; $1.6 billion is being deployed for energy saving upgrades for homes, businesses and social housing, helping people in my community and in others—those who have older appliances or homes that they need to upgrade—to make sure they are getting these upgrades that lead to more energy-efficiency savings.

Our government’s Household Energy Upgrades Fund will turbocharge financing options for upgrades by partnering with banks and other lenders on upgrading homes with battery-ready solar modern appliances and other improvements that will help keep energy costs down; 110,000 households will benefit from lower energy bills under this initiative.

We’re setting aside $300 million to support upgrades to social housing, recognising that a lot of the stock of social housing was built before minimum standards were put in place, and it is absolutely important that people in social housing get the benefits of those upgrades to energy-efficient appliances. Once implemented, 60,000 properties will save up to one-third of their energy consumption each year. We have also put in place a dedicated fund for small businesses with an annual turnover of less than $50 million a year. They will be provided an additional 20 per cent deduction on spending that supports electrification and more efficient use of energy. This will help up to 3.8 million small and medium-size businesses with ongoing energy savings.

Our government is prepared to take a leadership role in this space. We have transformed our country’s approach to tackling climate change. We have recognised that we need to make the investments that set us up as a future, not just to be a renewable super power—there is potential for our country there—but also the potential for all households, including in my community, to benefit from a renewable energy future. We are doing that work not only at a national level but we are doing it at a local and household level as well. Again, I know that investment will be warmly welcomed in my community.

In the time left to me, I would also like to talk about our government’s investment in the environment. My community in Jagajaga is a beautiful part of the world. We are surrounded by trees. We value our natural environment. Indeed, I know many people around Australia do so. That’s why I’m pleased that our government is also investing in the environment. Locally, we are investing in our local rivers with grants to help support local efforts to clean them up and protect them. But, nationally as well, we are investing in national parks, an area that has been long neglected but which I know people from my community love to visit and enjoy around Australia. We are taking the long-term investments that mean these places will be protected for us to visit time and time again. I commend this bill to the House and look forward to seeing the benefits of this flow through my community.

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