HUNTER VALLEY NEWS COLUMN 11 FEBRUARY 2016

Four years ago I secured $45 million to address Scone’s level railway crossing problem.  Suddenly, a debate emerged about whether the over-pass should proceed or whether a by-pass of the town would serve residents better.

Having surveyed every household myself, I found the township pretty evenly divided.  The State Government must have gathered the same results because it suddenly declared it would do both.  Problem is, they didn’t say how they would fund both.

Now, after all the debate, consultation and discussion, the NSW and Commonwealth Governments announced last week they were holding more community consultations on the over-pass design.  Can someone please just make a decision ?  We could have built both by now!

The news is even worse for the prospects for by-passes of Singleton and Muswellbrook.  The Muswellbrook project has been on the books forever, more than twenty years in fact.  In the lead-up to the 2013 election we were almost to the “shovel-ready” stage, but the project has since gone into the freezer.

The Singleton project is much younger.  For years the RMS (RTA) had argued it doesn’t stack up economically.  To his credit, Duncan Gay didn’t accept that when he became the roads minister and spent some money commissioning a study.  The study appears to have proven the projects viability and the project was talked up.  That was more than a year ago and the Minister has turned eerily quiet.

On the Commonwealth front, projects can’t be considered until they exist and someone in the NSW Government needs to speak up.

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Parliament kicked-off for the year last week and debate was dominated by the proposal to increase the GST to 15% and possibly, to extend it to exempt goods and services including fresh food and education.

It’s a weird environment because both the Prime Minister and his Treasurer are simultaneously arguing the case for changing the GST while saying there is no such proposal.  This allowed one wit on the Labor side to paraphrase Paul Keating’s famous attack on John Hewson by claiming Scott Morrison was “doing himself slowly”.

On-going tax reform is important.  We must constantly strive to ensure our tax system is fair, economically efficient (including providing incentives to work and invest), and not unnecessarily burdensome.  But increasing the GST is not reform.  In the absence of off-setting tax reductions elsewhere, it’s just lazy and regressive increase in the tax burden.

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Last week I took the opportunity to speak in the Parliament about our wonderful emergency services personnel.  We’ve had more than our fair share of radical weather and bush fire events in recent years and on every occasion, our paid and volunteer emergency services people have been there for others in need.

As I told the House, they leave their families – often on Christmas Day and during other holidays to risk their lives for others.  They are skilled, determined, selfless and dedicated.

Where would we be without our dedicated volunteers?

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Just a reminder, I will be providing a Mobile Office at Muswellbrook Council Chambers on Monday February 15 from 2pm – 4pm. Appointments are available or just call in and say hello.

Remember, I can deal with issues such as Centrelink, Child Support, Immigration, Medicare, Superannuation, Taxation, Veterans’ Affairs and Telecommunications.

For appointments please call 4991 1022 or email joel.fitzgibbon.mp@aph.gov.au


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