130315_wilkie_press_conference__mediumThe Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, says tonight’s federal budget is disappointing.

“Australia is a rich country and we can afford a better deal for the disadvantaged members of the community,” Mr Wilkie said.

“So it’s disappointing that there is next to nothing in this budget for those on Newstart, Parenting Payment for single parents and the Age Pension. Newstart really should have been increased by $50 a week, eligibility for the Parenting Payment should have been relaxed and a real increase in the Age Pension implemented.

“This budget is also a missed opportunity to genuinely boost health including mental health, stroke awareness and treatment and life-saving prostate cancer drugs.

“The decision to go ahead with the $2.8bn cut to tertiary education is especially galling, seeing as this government has now cut funding for the tertiary sector by some $5bn since 2011 with the result that universities are now underfunded by more than $1bn a year.

“The decision to further delay the increase in foreign aid to 0.5% of Gross National Income is shameful. Australia has already reneged on its year 2000 commitment to 0.7% of GNI and it’s now clear the Government isn’t much interested in achieving even a sizable fraction of that. This means money that could have gone to highly effective initiatives such as the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will simply not be forthcoming.

“This budget is not good for Tasmania in particular. An urgently needed enhancement of the Bass Strait Freight Equalisation Scheme has not been delivered. Some of the 165 staff being shed by CSIRO nationally will come from Tasmania. And of course there is no mention of funding for the Hobart Northern Suburbs Light Rail because the State Government couldn’t get its act together and get its submission in on time.

“But despite these disappointments there is obviously still some very good news, in particular the plan to at least part-fund the Gonski education reforms and DisabilityCare. Regrettably though, finding the money to fully fund these commendable reforms is being left to future governments.

“Good news for Denison is the confirmation that the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC at UTas has had its funding extended and $29.6m has been allocated for improvements to the Brooker Highway in Hobart. Oh the joy of being an Independent seat. How different things are in Denison since the last federal election and the end of the long days of Labor taking the seat for granted.”

The budget also includes $119.6m for freight rail revitalisation, $17.5m for the Huon Highway/Summerleas Road Intersection Upgrade and $102.4m for the Midland Highway Safety Package.

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