Within the Hunter electorate there are five local government areas and a number of towns which are part of a sixth. It takes three hours to drive from one end to the other.
During the years of the former Labor Government record amounts were spent on local roads, schools, parks, playgrounds, TAFEs and many more. Despite the billions spent, much more needs to be done.
In its second Budget, the Abbott Government announced that each electorate around Australia will received $150,000 per year for two years to fund small capital projects. It's a very small amount but we'll take it.
The biggest challenge will be spreading it fairly without breaking each grant down to such small amounts they will be meaningless.
Projects can range from the construction and fit out of mens sheds to sporting facility upgrades, bike paths or purchase of equipment for the local SES.
Following community consultation, I will invite identified incorporated not-for-profit and local government organisations to apply for funding.
Identified applicants can apply for funding of at least $5,000 and up to a maximum of $20,000 and must provide matching cash or in-kind funding on at least a dollar-for-dollar basis.
If your community organisation has a project that you think may be eligible I encourage you to complete the Expression of Interest form on my website or alternatively phone my office and one can be posted out.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to read the Stronger Communities Programme guidelines and the Frequently Asked Questions which are available on the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Developments website http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/SCP
In the 2014 Budget the Coalition launched an unprecedented attack on Australias health system. This, amongst other things, included cutting more than $57 billion in hospital funding, increasing the cost of medicines, introducing a GP Tax and cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for public dental programs. And this attack continued in this years Budget with more than $2 billion in new health cuts. Sadly, the rebates provided through Medicare for optometry services were not immune from this attack. One of the decisions of the Coalition Government was to cut the rebates optometrists receive under Medicare by 5%. Another was to remove the cap on the fees optometrists can charge, allowing them to set their own fees. These changes came into effect on 1 January this year.
Labor of course is the party that introduced Medicare and the only major party that stands for universal access to health services. We believe that every Australian should have access to the highest quality healthcare regardless of where they live and regardless of their capacity to pay. My colleagues and I in the Opposition are at the moment closely engaged in examining policy proposals for a health system that is relevant to the times as well as adhering to our longstanding principles of universality and fairness as well as efficacy.
Are you a registered organ and tissue donor? If you are-does your family know?
Australia is a world leader for successful transplant outcomes yet has one of the lowest organ donation rates in the world and it has been declining over recent years. Sadly NSW has the lowest donation rate of all the States.
Up to 1500 people in Australia are on the wait list for organ and tissue donation, 42 in the Hunter region.
One organ and tissue donor can transform the lives of 10 or more people.
Lets start this conversation and increase participation in the life saving program.
For more information go to www.donatelife.gov.au/discover/facts-and-statistics or to register go to www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/medicare/australian-organ-donor-register?utm_id=9
I am always keen to assist with issues or questions relating to Federal Government departments or put you in contact with someone who can, so please ring, write, visit the website or call in.
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To contact the office, phone 1300 301 753, visit www.joelfitzgibbon.com or by post 3 Edward Street, (PO Box 526) Cessnock, 2325.