It is indeed a pleasure to be able to stand and deliver yet another appropriation speech. This is potentially our best budget that we have ever delivered from a government's perspective. It is always an honour to follow the member for Melbourne, who gave a stirring speech, but omitted to mention—it was probably just a slight oversight in his delivery—the jobs package and a few of the instant write-off benefits that small businesses in my area will benefit from.
For the benefit of the previous member, I would like to indulge in sharing with the chamber some of the benefits that this budget delivers for all Australians. But before I do, the previous speaker spoke about this budget. He mentioned that this budget leaves people angry. I have had the opportunity in the last week to spend an enormous amount of time with people in the small business sector in my electorate. They are far from angry. They are a group of people who have not been heard in the last 10 years. We respect the small business sector. Most of us on this side of the House come from some form of small business whether we were engaged in one or owned a small business or employed people in small business. We inherently understand that small business is the engine room of this economy and that small business is the vehicle for us to drive future growth, and future growth means more jobs.
The previous speaker spoke about jobs and said that there were no jobs. If you go back through the Hansard, the jobs that the Greens propose into the future are full. There are 12 million green jobs that they allude to, 12 million green jobs that will be there in the future. I can assure you that the green jobs are not there at the moment in the magnitude that the previous speaker would like to have the room believe.
He also spoke about science and technology and said that there had been cuts to future research, yet we put forward a future fund of $20 billion. It was opposed. Do not come to this place and complain about research being cut and then, when we put up funds specifically designed around research, oppose them, because it attacks your credibility.
He spoke about jobs and asked what we are doing for our youth. What we are doing for our youth is something that will transform, hopefully, our unemployment data for our youth. The work for the dole program was an initiative that was first introduced by the Howard government. We have taken it one step further with our Work for the Dole program, encouraging businesses now to participate in reaching out to those long-term unemployed to bring them into the business, to give them real, live work experience in a working business, not some training camp, not out working for a council picking up rubbish, just to tick a box to say that they are now a holder of some class I certificate, but actually working in a real, live, operational business. It is those real-life experiences which will allow the small business sector to try before they buy with someone who has been long-term unemployed, and that creates the real linkages.
That creates the opportunity for someone looking for a job to understand the importance of engaging with the public, getting out of bed early and being part of a team environment, knowing at the end of the day that they have put a decent day in, and going home feeling a valued part of their community. I know that both sides of the House would agree that they are the values for us to be a rich and prosperous nation—that those are the values we need to instil in our unemployed people so that they become valued members of our community. The best thing we can do for someone who is struggling to shift themselves from the current socioeconomic group of an unemployed sector into the workplace is to give them hope, and the way we do that is to try to stimulate our small business sector.
In trying to stimulate our small business sector, we have to stimulate the economy. The $20,000 instant write-off was one of the ways that we proposed in this budget to do exactly that. The budget measure speaks to the fact that, despite the economic headwinds, we are fixing Labor's mess. We will help by making Australia strong and giving Australians more choice for their future, stabilising the nation's finances and reducing debt. This is a key to building a stronger economy and a better future for all Australians.
Those on the other side of the House would think that it is some type of fiscal nirvana where you can continue to spend, with spending habits like we saw with the pink batts installation. We saw spending measures in the school halls. All of that was done on borrowed money.
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr BUCHHOLZ: I did listen to you in silence. I do not understand that you would pay me the same respect, but I did listen to you in silence, in all fairness.
We are about trying to service that debt. There will be those in this place who do not take any responsibility at all for the debt level that we inherited. If you do not believe us, take the word of Ken Rogoff. Ken was an IMF economist. Ken Rogoff is an economist at Harvard University. He forecast and he has put some data together which says that Australia's percentage of increase to debt was the highest of any OECD nations post the GFC, if you look at some of the other nations such as New Zealand, our closer trading partners, which did not have that level of stimulus, as to where their economy is now compared to where we are with reference to debt, stimulus and the way that their economy is recovering.
There are some things in this budget that affect my local community, and I want to go particularly to the government's ongoing commitment to the Roads to Recovery program. The Roads to Recovery program is an appropriation that the federal government are able to send directly to local councils. Within my electorate of Wright, I have four council provinces: the Lockyer Valley, the Scenic Rim, parts of the Gold Coast and parts of Logan. There is a $350 million allocation, and it all turns to roads. Every cent of that goes to roads; there is no clipping of the ticket by a state government on the way through. It is a valued part of our local governments' funding regime.
Also, we will continue to invest $60 million in the Black Spot Programme, and we are almost tripling the black spot funding for the next two years, with an extra $100 million being allocated in 2015-16 and then on to 2016-17. In that black spots funding, there are currently around 382 projects across the states. The other one I want to mention is the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Programme, with another $200 million. My local councils are taking advantage of that and doing roads that would fall out of the auspices of some of the other funding projects. That is delivering in spades for my communities.
Also, I want to acknowledge the Bridges Renewal Programme, which is a $300 million investment over four years. That is fifty-fifty funding, where the feds pick up 50 per cent. They can cofund with local government on their existing maintenance schedules. In the Scenic Rim area alone, there are no fewer than 132 bridges in one shire in need of repair. If this funding is not tailor-made for my electorate, it is tailor received. It is truly a great program. I also want to acknowledge the Stronger Communities program, which is providing $45 million over the next two years to fund capital projects in local communities. With funding of $150,000 over the next two years, commencing in 2015-16, we will be able to support projects that deliver stronger social and economic benefits in Australian local communities.
Funding under the National Stronger Regions Fund will begin from 2015-16 to support priority economic and infrastructure projects across Australia to ensure that we create more jobs and opportunities for our regions. One billion dollars is available for community projects over five years, with major focuses on strengthening our regions by improving the productivity, employment and workforce skills of Australians. Two hundred million dollars will be allocated in 2015-16.
But, most importantly in this budget, the jewel in the crown for my electorate is an investment of no less than $1.285 billion in the Toowoomba Range crossing. The Toowoomba Range crossing sits at the western end of my electorate. From all accounts, it has gone through its due diligence process. We should be going to the tender stage directly after this financial year. Regretfully I inform the House that I think there have been 126 lives lost on the current range crossing. A capital investment like this will not only provide safer roads but also increase the economic benefit to the region, as that Toowoomba Range bypass provides a corridor for transport out of Brisbane going to Darwin and also down to Sydney. The current transport route through Toowoomba, from memory, has to go through 26 sets of stoplights through town. So it will also create an economic boost to the electorate of my neighbouring member, the member for Groom, who I know has worked tirelessly in that space.
I say in wrapping up that this is a good budget, because it fulfils our commitment to have abolished the mining tax. It also fulfils our commitment to have abolished the carbon tax. So it is difficult to stand here and listen to those who would say that we are a higher taxing government. We want people to engage in the workforce. We want them to prosper. We want them to earn more money. We want them to shift from earning $50,000 to earning $60,000 to earning $70,000 and potentially to earning $100,000 or $120,000 per head. With that, they will make a greater contribution to our nation. When we as a government have serviced this enormous debt, as we will endeavour to do into the future, we will want those people to be part of our community and make that contribution, but it will be done under the auspices of our belief in smaller government, letting business get on with what it does best and encouraging people to go out and have a go. This budget does that: it encourages Australians to have a go. In this speech, I commend that to the House.