p>Speech to Parliament, 16/03/2015
On the impact of the Abbott government’s harsh cuts to regional services.
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on the impact the Abbott government’s harsh
budget cuts are having on my community in Ballarat—particularly, the cuts to social services. It is fair to say that the cuts across emergency relief and financial counselling were not something that was anticipated by the sector at all, and it has been quite shocked and it is quite shocking.
Over the past three months alone, we have seen cuts to community and social services, cuts to support for families and another area that I want to talk about—employment services—but, particularly in relation to small business support where we would like to see growth in jobs. Any one of these cuts on its own would be difficult for a community such as mine to absorb, but it is the compounding effect of all of them that is seeing the community services sector reeling.
This government—for whatever reason; I do not know—just before Christmas took $15,000 out of emergency relief funding from Ballan District Health and Care. This is a very small community in my electorate which has a high level of people on pensions and very marginal incomes and with a lot of farmers experiencing quite a lot of pressure. That service has been provided for a long period of time. That funding has not been replaced, and we are not sure at this stage what other organisation, other than one directly out of Ballarat, will make up for that cut.
We have also seen child and family services lose $100,000 from their financial counselling service. Again, this was an organisation I worked for a very long time ago now and I know just how busy those financial counsellors are and how in demand that service is. I refer people from my electorate office constantly to child and family services—this is in the context of major job losses in my community: 80 from Telstra; several from Allied Mills; very disappointing announcements by Fairfax which will see 10 job losses; and other IT job losses.
We are also highly reliant on car componentry and, if we ever get to see a single dollar of any of that transition fund, I will shout, ‘Hey!’ If you think the amount of money cut immediately—$900 million, $500 million down to $100 million—is going to go very far in assisting the communities of Adelaide, Broadmeadows and Geelong and across the country, and filter down to regional communities such as my own in Ballarat that have brake components that have contracts that are solely with Toyota or Ford, they are not going to see any of it.
Add to that all of those support services—Youth Connections, the mentoring program, the brokering program for young people; there are already 17 per cent high youth unemployment rates in my community—and we are often the first to bear the brunt of an economic downturn and the slowest to recover.
To add insult to injury, the small business advisory centre in Ballarat receives no state funding at all—there are other services that seem to have also been the recipient of Commonwealth funding—
Mr Brendan O’Connor: The government of small business!
Ms KING: Apparently, this government is a government of small business but, clearly, not in Ballarat or in the Central Highlands region of Victoria. Where we have potential job growth from those small businesses, money has been absolutely slashed. It is to the credit of the small business advisory service that they will try and continue to provide those services at a fee—it was a service provided for free previously.
We are seeing a pattern here: cut after cut after cut. For regional communities such as mine, we do not have other major centres where people can go and find work—particularly unskilled workers and young people. The support services, emergency relief and homelessness services are also being cut. Frankly, this government needs to reverse those cuts and understand the cumulative effect, and I call on it to do so.