By Darren Coyne
Page MP Kevin Hogan admits the federal government’s handling of the federal budget has been appalling.
‘Our message on this budget has been atrocious. The clarity of the message very messy,’ he told Echonetdaily.
‘People do have issues. Pensioners are concerned and they have come to me anxious and fearful,’ he said.
But Mr Hogan says that once told that measures such as raising the pension age to 70 will not kick in for 20 years, most go away relieved.
He maintains that the Liberal/National Party coalition was tasked with the job of ‘budget repair’ and had delivered on that commitment.
And while some were unhappy, there were also positives contained in the austere measures announced by treasurer Joe Hockey.
‘If you’re making the right decision and doing what’s right over time then things will work out. If you’re doing what’s popular then you could get into trouble,’ he said.
Mr Hogan said the main issue facing the region was to strengthen the economy.
‘We want and need economic growth and small businesses to thrive because we want continued job creation… that’s the big focus,’ he said.
He said local councils such as Kyogle and Clarence Valley had been very positive about the federal government’s 50/50 commitment to repair bridges.
He said the main aim of toughening up unemployment benefits entitlements was to motivate people into the workforce.
‘We want everyone under 30 to have a job or learning. We want them to be motivated and optimistic and that’s what it’s all geared around,’ he said.
That would be achieved with ‘green army’ projects, which would provide certificates along the way to participants taking part in projects such as regeneration.
For those not on such schemes, Mr Hogan said, the Government’s new HECs style loan scheme for people training for apprenticeships would also help.
‘Another plus is that local councils will have more money under the Roads to Recovery program because that’s increasing and I’m very pleased about that’, he said.
‘The budget was great for infrastructure for Page and I suppose the biggest promise we took to the election with regards to infrastructure for our region was the $7 billion Pacific Highway project.
‘Eighty per cent of that is federal money so that’s been quarantined,’ he said.
He also rejected suggestions that $80 million cuts to education and health would be detrimental.
‘Our spend on education will go up every year, just not as fast as some people would like,’ he said.
‘The same with health … there will be more money spent on health each year.’
And while the Government has copped plenty of criticism for introducing new levies and charges, he dismissed suggestions that the Coalition had lied.
“There’s been a lot of language used around that but taxes overall are down’, he said.
“Governments sometimes have to make unpopular decisions.’
Mr Hogan said he remained committed to opposing gas mining in the region, and welcomed yesterday’s decision by the Ballina Shire Council to write to NSW premier Mike Baird requesting that the region be declared gasfields free.
‘This electorate is not suitable for coal seam gas mining. It requires very industrialised infrastructure and is very invasive,’ he said.
He said such mining would lead to a loss of property values, with the potential to impact on water quality and prime agricultural land.