Maintaining a strong social security safety net
The Nationals-Liberal Government is committed to maintaining a strong social security safety net. The Government announced a significant package of welfare integrity measures which are being implemented from 2015-16 to 2019-20. The package consists of five measures which were included in the 2015-16 Budget, 2016-17 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook [MYEFO] and the 2016-17 MYEFO papers. These measures are estimated to save more than $8 billion over five years during the life of the measures and include:
- Undertaking about four million reviews where there is a difference between the income reported by a recipient to the Department of Human Services and information held by other agencies (i.e. the Australian Tax Office); 2. The recovery of outstanding debt owed by former and current recipients in particular those with high value debts; 3. Working with AUSTRAC to share intelligence and undertake about 5,000 reviews into serious welfare fraud and organised crime; 4. Confirming study loads for individual students during enrolment periods and at the end of semester, which could deliver about $95 million in fiscal savings; and, 5. Confirming the circumstances of those receiving rent assistance and other payments (starting with Parenting Payment) which is estimated to produce about $447 million in fiscal savings.
Think big to combat invasive pests and weeds
The national research institute leading the way in pest animal and weed research and development has had a facelift, receiving a new name and $20 million in funding to expand its ground breaking research, delivering on a key Coalition Government election commitment. With funding now underway, the new Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS), formerly the Invasive Animals CRC, can continue its coordinated national approach to the management of pests such as wild dogs and feral rabbits, to protect the $60 billion agriculture sector. The CISS will bring together cutting edge research and development, providing innovative solutions to make managing the land easier for our farmers, who bear an estimated $4 billion in livestock losses and weed management costs each year. The centre will build on the excellent work the Invasive Animals CRC undertook into rabbit biocontrol, that is helping to manage one of Australia’s most costly vertebrate pests. The scale and complexity of the pest animal and weed problem needs a cooperative approach between governments, industry, business, universities and research agencies. If we are going to truly take on this national problem, we need to think big and think at a landscape scale. The Coalition Government is investing $50 million over four years as part of its Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, to tackle established pest animals and weeds, and a further $25.8 million specifically for areas still feeling the on-going impacts of drought.
Inland Rail Project
In recent weeks Expressions of Interest were called for contractors to construct the Parkes to Narromine section of the Inland Rail Project. Last week further important details were announced with the preferred section of the Inland Rail corridor across the border between Yelarbon and Gowrie revealed. The Government has chosen this route because as much as possible it uses existing rail corridors; it goes past Wellcamp Airport, which didn’t exist in 2010 when the original route was considered. This proposed route is a significantly more economically viable option than the alternative routes. Also across the border, field studies are beginning for the Environmental Impact Statements for the Gowrie to Kagaru sections of the Inland Rail. The Gowrie to Kagaru sections are the most technically complex, requiring major tunnelling through the Toowoomba ranges.