Budget 2014: Promises to Tasmania honoured

Funding for the Midland Highway, starting with $40 million next financial year, has been honoured, but there are still no details on how the money will be spent.FEDERAL election promises designed to revive Tasmania’s struggling economy have escaped the Coalition government’s axe.
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Funding for the Midland Highway, starting with $40 million next financial year, is the major new spending in the state.

However, there are still no details on how the money will be spent and the long-promised four-lane highway remains a far off vision.

The budget papers state the federal and state governments are working together to finalise the projects to be undertaken in the next 12 months.

“It is likely that a package of works will include road widening, additional lanes and other safety measures,” the document states.

Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic said it would be a progressive duplication, but stopped short of committing to a full length, four-lane highway.

“That’s a conversation we have got to have with Will [Hodgman] and Peter [Gutwein] and Rene [Hidding],” Mr Nikolic said.

The budget confirms $2.7 million has been set aside to establish the Major Projects Approval Agency in Launceston, set to be up and running by July 1, and work to clean up the Tamar River will also begin with $3 million allocated over three years from next financial year.

“This funding aims to help improve water quality and address the problem of silt deposits which have been an ongoing issue along the Tamar for over 100 years,” he said.

Promises to extend Hobart Airport’s runway – key to attracting international flights – and $24 million for Antarctic research were also delivered in the budget.

New spending has been offset by cuts to security at the airport, which will now be provided by Tasmania Police, abolishing scholarships for nurses and clawing back $4 million in funding that had been set aside for new reserves created by the now defunct Tasmanian Forests Agreement.

Significant changes to the way health is funded, such as linking Commonwealth payments to inflation and population growth, is also likely to impact the Tasmanian health system.

The state government welcomed the budget spending measures and is analysing the impact on the Tasmanian budget including the state’s share of GST.

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Powerful message from own challenges

ROBYN MOORE is at peace with her stepfather who battled with alcoholism and abused her and her family.
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She has accepted her mother marrying three times and her father twice.

She will not let breast cancer dampen her spirits.

And she has forgiven all the other people along the “rollercoaster called your life” who didn’t see her worth.

The reason why is simple.

“It’s OK to not be OK, through experiencing tough times like grief, abandonment and despair, we learn appreciation,” she said.

“What you hear here is a voice of forgiveness and understanding.

“This is the voice of a leader, not a victim.”

The former voice of Blinky Bill and current professional speaker inspired participants of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards yesterday.

There are 33 young leaders attending the week-long conference held at Ulverstone’s Camp Clayton, which is focused on providing lifetime leadership skills.

“When I work with disadvantaged children I talk in the third person about my story and then I say but this girl speaks around the world now, she has a life she loves and she wouldn’t change anything,” Ms Moore said.

“Then I tell them she is standing right in front of them.”

The key to happiness in life was not to find a way to make it perfect, but to find the positives in it, said Ms Moore, who described life as a rollercoaster of ups and downs.

“Being at the top of the rollercoaster is not authentic, the media can give us false impressions about this,” she said.

“Realistically we live our lives in the top and middle part of the rollercoaster, going between these stages.

“But I understand, I was one of those kids at the bottom and it’s not bad, it just happens, but you can choose to not be there.”

One of the activities Ms Moore led RYLA participants to do was called speed appreciation, where they formed into groups of two and took it in turns stating things they liked about their lives.

“This appreciation is missing from a lot of our lives,” she said.

SHARING EXPERIENCES: Guest speaker Robyn Moore gives a talk at yesterday’s Rotary Youth Leadership Awards program. Pictures: Meg Windram.

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Pro victory to Richardson

RIVERSIDE’S Kalem Richardson has broken through to record the largest win of his career with a one-shot victory in the Papua New Guinea Open.
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Riverside touring professional Kalem Richardson has broken through in Papua New Guinea for his biggest win as a professional.

The former state player and dual Tasmanian amateur champion trailed by a stroke going into the final round and with an even par 72 managed to secure the title from Sam Brazel, of New South Wales, and Jared Pender, of New Zealand.

The leaderboard changed throughout the final day, and it was an up-and-down from 60 metres for par at the 16th that kept Richardson’s momentum going.

He followed with a regulation par at the 17th and a two-putt par at the last and his four-round total of four under par was enough for victory.

“This is no doubt the biggest win of my career, a win that I have been dreaming about for the past 12 months,” he said.

“Patience was certainly the key this week around the Royal Port Moresby golf course and the timing of this win couldn’t have been better, as I will take the confidence I have gained into the remainder of the Asian Tour.

“I was very pleased at the way that I was able to control my emotions over the final round, much better than before, which is something that my coach Nick White and I have been working hard at.”

The 26-year-old, who is based on the Gold Coast, received a winner’s cheque of $26,000 while Wynyard’s Craig Hancock took eighth place at one over par and earned $4200.

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Warning that access to care will become harder with $7 fee

Reduced outcomes: Rashmi Sharma Photo: Elesa KurtzFederal budget 2014: full coverage
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Medical professionals are disappointed by the introduction of a $7 payment for doctors’ visits, warning access to care will become more difficult for patients and it will burden GPs.

Bulk-billed patients can expect to pay $7 for a GP visit, out-of-hospital pathology and imaging services from July next year. For concessional patients and children under 16, the contribution will be for the first 10 services in a calendar year. The first $5 of the patient contribution will be injected into a new Medical Research Future Fund. The remaining $2 will go directly to providers.

Under changes to come into effect from next year, doctors will no longer receive bulk-billing incentives but will be paid a “low-gap incentive”, which they will receive only if they collect the $7 patient contribution.

States and territories will also be able to introduce the patient contribution for “GP-equivalent visits to emergency departments”.

Medicare Local chairwoman Rashmi Sharma said any measure that might decrease GP demand was not sustainable in the long term.

“At the end of the day, the people who go to a GP more often are the most vulnerable people within our community, who are going to need to receive that healthcare somewhere,” she said. ”If cost is going to become a barrier at a general practice area, then they’re going to have to go somewhere else and that’s going to be the emergency department.

“If we’ve got departments that simply cannot cope with the stress, obviously volumes of patients coming along, we’re going to end up with reduced health outcomes in those areas and quality is going to drop so anything that may have a flow-on effect to the emergency department is of great concern to us.”

Dr Sharma said more than 50 per cent of GP consultations in the ACT were bulk-billed.

She said the co-payment would hit the most vulnerable the hardest.

”I think it’s going to be very difficult to be able to deliver appropriate health care to these groups, so I’m not sure how it’s going to affect looking after those populations,” she said.

AMA vice president Geoffrey Dobb said access to quality primary health care would be more difficult for many Australians. He said the revised safety nets did not provide sufficient support and there would be greater red tape for GPs without adequate compensation.

Safety-net thresholds for patients who require a lot of medicines will be increased from next year.

Between July next year and June 2018, the Medicare Levy Surcharge and Private Health Insurance Rebate thresholds will not be indexed.

Other changes will have patients pay an extra $5 – or 80¢ if they have a concession card – for PBS prescription medications.

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Education landscape tipped to change for ever as universities free to charge at will

Federal budget 2014: full coverage
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The vice-chancellor of the University of Canberra has predicted a dramatic change to Canberra’s education landscape – and to education nationally – after the federal budget.

Universities will be able to charge whatever they like, new higher education providers such as TAFEs, colleges and private providers will be allowed in the market, and all students studying diplomas and associate degrees will be eligible for Higher Education Contribution Scheme loans.

But Professor Stephen Parker said the changes were a winding back of social democracy in Australia that would lead to a user-pays, Americanised, competitive liberal state.

On the other hand, Australian National University vice-chancellor Ian Young welcomed the changes, which will allow the ANU to charge a premium for its degree places.

The changes, which will save the Commonwealth $1.1 billion over three years, represent a double whammy for students, who will likely pay more for their degrees but will also be forced to cover a 20 per cent reduction in Commonwealth contributions for course costs, also announced in the budget.

The government will require higher education providers to direct $1 of every $5 of additional revenue they raise to Commonwealth scholarships for disadvantaged students.

Professor Parker said urban universities would raise their fees considerably, but it was uncertain how regional institutions would operate in the free market.

The budget represented an opportunity for the UC to refocus itself on the sub-degree market as it planned to in its Polytechnic model in 2010 before the then Labor government capped sub-degree places.

”The extension of HECS places to the sub-degree market will enable us to put on a new range of diplomas and associate degrees and provide support for students if they are not ready for a degree course. I speculate as to what this would mean for other providers in Canberra,” Professor Parker said, in reference to the UC potentially moving in on the market dominated by the Canberra Institute of Technology.

”I don’t want to disturb the equilibrium that exists in Canberra but it is inevitable that the higher education landscape in Canberra will change fundamentally.”

Professor Young, meanwhile, hailed the budget as a win for the ANU and for Australian research.

”I strongly believe that the reforms announced tonight will see a greater diversity of educational offerings and experiences at universities across the nation, giving students more opportunity to do what suits them.”

He welcomed the Commonwealth scholarship requirement.

”We will be looking at our scholarship offerings to ensure that we address what has long been one of the biggest challenges for students coming to study in Canberra – accommodation and living expenses.

”The changes do mean that students make a greater contribution to the cost of their education, putting greater onus on universities to offer the highest quality education and demonstrate the value of that education,” Professor Young said.

But Professor Parker said the pendulum had swung too far and future Australians would regret the fundamental changes unveiled in the budget.

”This changes the face of higher education in Australia for ever and I believe the country will regret it in due course,” he said.

”Certainly this is the worst possible outcome for tomorrow’s students, with anyone who applies to university from tomorrow having to pay for these changes from 2016.”

The old system will still apply to current students and those who have deferred.

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Going to university now means more pain before gain

CHANGE ”INEVITABLE”: University of Canberra students Erin Davis, 19, and Nicole Semmler, 20. Ms Davis says the higher fees will turn people away from tertiary education. Photo: Elesa KurtzFederal budget 2014: full coverage
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University students are bracing to be hit in the hip pocket after the government announced it would reduce contributions towards their course fees by 20 per cent, while also giving universities the green light to set their own tuition fees.

Graduates will also have to repay their HELP loans sooner after the income threshold was lowered, and they are likely to be hit with higher interest rates on their HELP loans under budget changes.

Most of the changes to higher education look set to come into effect in 2016, meaning current students are largely unaffected because existing arrangements will remain until the end of 2020.

University of Canberra second-year accounting student Nicole Semmler, 20, said even if she had been affected, she didn’t think she would have been ”that disappointed”.

”It is a tough decision, but we are in a very difficult position economically so I do, in a way, agree with a lot of the decisions made in the budget,” she said.

”I definitely think some people could be deterred [from higher education], but I think that as a country we’re in a fairly lucky position compared with some people who have to pay upfront.”

Erin Davis, 19, also a second-year accounting student at the University of Canberra, said she was concerned about how the changes would affect future students.

”If we’re already short on skilled workers, is it just making it that much harder for another generation,” she said. She was also concerned that fees at some universities may increase to such a level they would be unaffordable for some students.

”There’s less government encouragement [to go to university]. It would definitely put people off,” she said. ”I think it’s concerning, the lack of concern for students and their finances and their motivations. You would think they’d be encouraging education, but it’s like they’re trying to put up more barriers to stop people.”

Millie Burton, 18, said she did not think the changes would stop people from going to university.

”Going to uni, I didn’t think how much it would cost because of HECS and because of how much the government helps us out, so I don’t think people are going to stop going to uni just because the amount we have to pay has increased,” she said.

”I do think with the deficit, it’s necessary, and I think it’s not that big a price to pay to get a better education.”

The first-year exercise physiology student is also concerned about increases to the petrol price after the government announced it would reintroduce fuel indexation, which is estimated to raise prices by about 3¢ or 4¢ a litre. She lives in Bywong, NSW, and drives about 30 minutes to get to university.

”I’m not really happy about it, but I figured it’s probably only going to cost me less than $1 a week and I think if that’s going to help Australia … I don’t think it’s that big a price to pay,” she said.

The Australian Medical Students’ Association president, Jessica Dean, said fee deregulation threatened to severely reduce access to tertiary education and discriminate against low socio-economic groups.

”By increasing university fees, the government is biting the hand that will feed the future,” she said.

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Territory residents set to cop double hit

Federal budget 2014: full coverage
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ACT businesses and social services have described the Abbott government’s first budget as ”disappointing”, with Canberra set to suffer more than other states and territories.

Canberra Business Council chief executive officer Chris Faulkes said although she understood everyone had to contribute to repair the budget, the ACT had been asked to give more.

”The problem is that Australians living in Canberra are being asked to make a contribution as younger people, older people, business people, but they’re also being asked to make a contribution in terms of cuts to the public service,” she said.

”In other words, they’re being asked to make an additional contribution in addition to what has been asked of other states and territories. It is disappointing.”

ACT Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew Blyth said a disproportionate impact would be felt in Canberra due to the high level of public service cuts.

But he said the 2014 budget would be seen in time as the point when Canberra transitioned from being a government town to a mature economy. ”What’s important now is that the ACT government continues to provide economic stimulus in order to cushion the coming blows that will be felt by small business,” he said.

”[We] would be looking to work with the ACT government on developing some of those measures.”

ACT Council of Social Services director Susan Helyar said the council didn’t think it was a fair budget, with the burden of savings falling on low-income households.

She said the public service cuts were disproportionate to the level of infrastructure investment by the Abbott government in the ACT.

”We know that [the cuts] will mean older workers and young people who are trying to get into the workplace will be locked out,” she said. ”We know that’s what happens when job cuts happen in the public sector.

”The ACT government and the ACT community put in a modest proposal for a convention centre and it was knocked back.

”I don’t see that there’s been the right investment in Canberra to get us through the loss of 16,500 jobs.”

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Armed forces get $1.5b shot in combat arm

Budget winner: $1.5 billion fast-tracked for Defence. Photo: Gary RamageDefence has emerged strongly as the winner out of Tuesday’s budget, with spending on the military set to grow about 6 per cent above inflation in coming years.
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Despite the belt-tightening elsewhere, the government has fast-tracked $1.5 billion in military spending to help meet promises for major new hardware. About 1200 Defence bureaucrats’ jobs will go but these savings will be pumped back into combat capabilities.

Australia’s leading defence economist, Mark Thomson of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, said it was “a very good budget for Defence”.

“In the current environment, where everyone else is being cut, this is a good outcome for Defence,” he said. “I was on the record saying that the budget Labor gave [in 2012] left things in an unsustainable mess. What we’re seeing here is the first stage of the repair job.”

He said the budget took defence spending to about 1.8 per cent of gross domestic product, well on the way to meeting the Abbott government’s pledge to raise it to 2 per cent within 10 years of being elected. Under Labor, defence spending fell to less than 1.6 per cent, the lowest since World War II. “I think the 2 per cent target remains a credible proposition,” Dr Thomson said.

Australia’s neighbourhood is seeing considerable increases in defence spending, prompted largely by the rise of China. China, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines are boosting their militaries.

Since coming to power, the Coalition has pledged major new acquisitions, including an additional 58 Joint Strike Fighters at a cost of more than $12 billion, new P-8 Poseidon spy planes and Triton surveillance drones.

While the budget does not fully explain how the money will go towards those big-ticket items, Mr Thomson said the fast-tracking of $1.5 billion would be a big immediate boost for the military.

“It’s payment for the sinews of the whole organisation . . . The money brought forward will help provide the capacity to initiate those big acquisitions going forward.”

Australia will spend $29.2 billion on defence in the coming financial year and $122.7 billion over the four years of the forward estimates.

Defence Minister David Johnston has repeatedly promised to move money from the so-called “tail to the teeth” of defence, by correcting the ratio of defence bureaucrats to combat personnel. The axing of 1200 civilian jobs will save $1.2 billion over four years.

Further savings will come from cuts and delays to “lower priority projects” such as unarmoured vehicles and a defence accommodation precinct project.

The budget also reveals that Defence expects to pay nearly $28 million for the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

The resumption of the Defence Force Gap Year program, which allows school leavers to sign up with the military for just a year – rather than the usual requisite minimum of four years – will cost $192 million over four years.

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Ricky Stuart changes halves

SPORT: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans match at Canberra Stadium. Raiders player Terry Campese react after loosing the match. 23rd March 2014. Photo by Melissa Adams of The Canberra Times. Photo: Melissa Adams MLA Terry Campese returns to the No.6 jersey for Sunday’s match against Penrith. Photo: Melissa Adams
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Will young gun Mitch Cornish be called into the side after being named in an extended bench on Tuesday? Photo: Melissa Adams

The Canberra Raiders have ditched their halves experiment as part of a major overhaul designed to snap them out of their slump.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has wielded the axe, dumping three players and making several positional switches for Sunday’s match against the Penrith Panthers at Canberra Stadium.

The most notable is breaking up the new-look halves combination of Jack Wighton and captain Terry Campese after just nine games.

Campese moves to five-eighth, Josh McCrone shifts from dummy-half to return to halfback and Wighton is back in the centres.

The changes may not be over yet, with promising halfback Mitch Cornish a chance to be a late inclusion for his NRL debut after being included in an extended 21-man squad.

Former Raiders captain Alan Tongue said the return of McCrone to the halves would take pressure off Campese and allow him to play his natural game.

“Whenever Josh McCrone has jumped into the halves this season he’s done really well and he’s been one of the Raiders’ best in the last couple of seasons,” Tongue said.

“He’s a good ball-runner and takes it right to the line, so hopefully that will help (Campese’s) game, too.

“Jack Wighton is probably more comfortable in the centre position and there’s been some defensive issues on the edges.”

After playing his first two NRL seasons on the wing and the centres, Wighton was moved to five-eighth this year for the first time since he was in the juniors.

“I don’t think he’s been that bad, but I think everyone was expecting a bit too much out of him,” Tongue said.

“Give him time back in his preferred position and he’ll be fine.

“I don’t think it (having Wighton at five-eighth) is something you would never go back to, but this was an opportunity for Josh McCrone to go back there.”

Cornish was set to debut for the Raiders in the final round last year, but the 21-year-old Goulburn product wasn’t allowed because of NRL salary cap restrictions.

He captained the NSW under-20s team last year and was also in the Junior Kangaroos side in 2012.

In other changes, winger Mosese Pangai will make his debut for the Raiders after coming in at the expense of Bill Tupou.

Second-rower Jarrad Kennedy takes over the No.12 jersey, back-up hooker Matt McIlwrick has been recalled while forward Paul Vaughan moves to the bench.

Centre Matt Allwood and forward Kyle O’Donnell have been dropped, although O’Donnell is in the extended squad along with Cornish, Shannon Boyd and Sami Sauiluma.

Pangai, 22, is in his first season at the Raiders having played one game with the North Queensland Cowboys in 2012.

The mass changes are in response to the Raiders conceding more than 50 points in their past two games for just the second time in the club’s history.

The Raiders (3-6) were thrashed 54-12 by the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland last weekend – a fortnight after a 54-18 belting at the hands of Manly at Brookvale Oval.

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Tallis knew Milford would honour deal

Gordon Tallis believes the Raiders’ recent hefty losses would have made Milford’s decision to join the Broncos easier. Photo: Jeffrey ChanRaiders star Anthony Milford was in a suburban shopping centre in Brisbane during the pre-season when he introduced himself to Broncos and Queensland great Gorden Tallis.
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So Tallis wasn’t shocked when Milford announced on Monday he would honour his contract to join the Broncos for the next two seasons in the face of a massive offer to stay in Canberra.

The Raiders had dangled more than $1 million a season in front of Milford to convince the 19-year-old to change his mind about returning to the city where he grew up.

Tallis believed the Raiders’ recent hefty losses would have made Milford’s choice to join the Broncos easier and applauded him for sticking to his word.

The former Broncos captain was always confident Milford would follow through on his decision after running into him earlier this year.

“He walked up to me in a shopping centre, I didn’t know him, and introduced himself and said he couldn’t wait to come and play,” Tallis said.

“He wouldn’t do that if he had second thoughts, and that was in the pre-season, and there was talk about June 30 and the Raiders then.

“I believed Milford was always going to come because if he was not going to come to the club, why would you introduce yourself to a former player?”

Milford signed with the Broncos last year for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but was unsuccessful in asking the Raiders for an early release so he could move to Brisbane this year.

The Raiders put together a sizeable financial package to try and get him to stay, and even relocated his parents to Canberra this year to help with Milford’s homesickness.

While Milford has probably sacrificed some financial gain in the short-term, Tallis said the respect Milford was likely to get by sticking with his choice would pay off in the long run.

“I think it gives him a hell of a lot of credibility as a man to get offered a lot more money in Canberra and choose to play closer to his family,” Tallis said.

“He stuck to his word and he didn’t waver, so his word is his bond.

“He’s old-fashioned, which is amazing and outstanding.

“In 10 years’ time, if Milford goes on to be a great player or he doesn’t, he’ll be known as a guy … he’s gone up in a lot of people’s thoughts.

“He’ll get that money back at the end of his career.”

Milford was in impressive form at the start of the season, but has dropped off in the past couple of weeks as the Raiders have slumped.

Milford’s manager Sam Ayoub said while the uncertainty about his future hadn’t been a distraction, it was human nature to not be totally focused when there were external issues.

“Everybody, when they’re going through a situation when they’re making their mind up about something, it’s always going to be playing on your mind,” Ayoub said.

“I certainly don’t want this drummed up as he’s been distracted, because he hasn’t been. Subconsciously these things have an affect, it’s human nature.”

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