Hunter Region MPs talk priorities ahead of Turnbull government’s 2018-19 budget release

Wish list: The Hunter Region’s MPs outline their top priorities ahead of the Turnbull government’s 2018-19 budget being revealed on Tuesday.Tax cuts will likely take centre stage when federal Treasurer Scott Morrison hands down the Turnbull government’s 2018-19budget in Canberra on Tuesday night.
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But more moneyfor healthcare, education, NewStart and infrastructure–such asthe Lake Macquarie transport interchange at Glendale–were among the key items on thepre-budget wish list of the Hunter Region’s MPs.

Nationally, most attention in the lead-up to the budget has been on aplan forpersonal income tax cuts for low to middle income earners–which wouldcomeas the government seeks to bring the corporate tax rate down to 25 per cent over the next decade.

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But Newcastle MP Sharon Claydon said ruling out the corporate tax cut should be the government’s first step.

“Every dollar we hand over to big business is a dollar we can’t spend on health, education, vital public services or budget repair,” she said.

Treasurer Scott Morrison. Picture: Alex Ellinghausen

Paterson MP Meryl Swansonargued the corporate tax cutwould benefit a financial industrythat’s under the spotlight of a royal commission because of its practises.

When asked about possiblepersonal tax cuts, she said the“trade-off” would behealthcare and education.

“Everyone likes tax cuts–we all like to get a tax cut and we all like to have more of our income,” she said.

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“But people also understand that if we want to have first grade hospitals, if we want to have state-of-the-art schools, if we want our kids to receive the best education it needs to be paid for.”

Shortland MP Pat Conroy said hewanted to see more funding for hospitals andschools–a call echoed by his Hunter Region colleagues–and an increase to the NewStart allowance, which he said was“criminally low”.

But his top priority was funding forthe Lake Macquarieinterchange.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

“If this government was serious about advancing interests in the Hunter, it needs to find only $13 million for the next stage of the Lake Macquarie transport interchange,” he said.“It will unlock our entire region.”

Ms Claydon and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon also identified theinterchange as a major issue.

“My top priority for the region is the same for every region throughout the country,” Mr Fitzgibbonsaid.

“That is, equality of access to 21st Century health, educational, child care and aged care services, the transport infrastructure we need to grow and prosper…[and] astrategy to increase skills training so we can have more people to fill the many skills gaps we have in our region.”

The Cessnock ring road and aSingleton/Muswellbrook bypass were also on Mr Fitzgibbon’s wish list, while Ms Swanson called for funding for theM1 extension to Raymond Terrace.