Prime Minister Julia Gillard has responded to the questions our readers supplied via Facebook.
Read the questions and answers below:
When will they [the government] put more funding into equestrian sports in the western suburbs?
Recently the Government, with Equestrian Australia, launched the Ready, Steady Trot program aimed at young people between the ages of 5-12 that gives them the chance to learn and try equestrian sports, this is happening all over Australia including in Western Sydney.
Currently the Government, through the Australian Sports Commission provides Equestrian Australia with $2,576,000 in funding for high performance and participation. Any ideas you have for increasing equestrian in the Western Suburbs would be greatly appreciated and I encourage you to contact the Minister for Sport Kate Lundy to discuss them further.
Why is her Government approving mining in the Tarkine, lands so precious that even the Howard Government protected them?
The Minister Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, recently announced that the Western Tasmania Aboriginal Cultural Landscape is now protected on the National Heritage List. The sites include some of the best evidence of the lifestyle of Aboriginal people in the area, where groups moved seasonally up and down the west coast of Tasmania.
Minister Burke undertook extensive consultation with the community throughout this process. He camped with environment groups in the Tarkine and met with local mining and industry groups to understand the economic development issues of the region.
In making this listing, Minister Burke also carefully assessed the socio-economic impacts which a national heritage listing would have on the people in Tasmania’s north-west and the state of Tasmania as a whole.
It is the Government’s job to ensure that a balance is found between the protection of our natural and cultural heritage treasures and maintaining the economic futures of our communities.
Tasmania has the highest unemployment rate in Australia and the north-west region has the highest unemployment rate in Tasmania.
This decision is the right one for Tasmania. It will deliver a balance recognising the heritage values of the region while ensuring that Tasmania has a sustainable future.
Why are people with permanent disabilities on Newstart? And why are they being told they don't have to job hunt but they have to report every 12 weeks?
The Government wants to see people who have some capacity to work supported to do so.
Work provides independence, purpose and dignity and a sense of achievement.
We’ve made a number of reforms to help people with some work capacity to get ready for and find work.
We’re providing extra support for people with disability to find and keep a job, including more employment services and new financial incentives to encourage employers to hire more people with disability.
All DSP recipients can now work up to 30 hours a week without their payment being suspended or cancelled, subject to usual income testing arrangements. This gives DSP recipients the security they need to test their ability to work, without worrying about losing qualification for the pension.
We are also investing more than $3.2 billion in Disability Employment Services over four years, including uncapping access to these services so people with disability can more easily get help to find work.
Of course, the Disability Support Pension is and will remain an essential part of our social safety net for those who are unable to work.
We’ve delivered the single biggest increase to the pension in more than a century, and we’ve changed the indexation so that it now goes up more quickly.
Thanks to Labor’s reforms, a single person on the maximum rate of the disability support pension now receives an extra $207 a fortnight because of our reforms – making them more than $5,300 better off every year.
We’re also looking out for DSP recipients under the Household Assistance Package, with single pensioners receiving an extra $351 a year to help make ends meet.
Why are they spending millions on hospitals when there aren't enough staff members to run them?
We completely agree that you can't run a hospital without a properly trained and adequately staffed health workforce.That is why Australian Government funding for health across NSW will increase by 23 per cent over the next four years, going from $4.7 billion in 2012-2013 to $5.8 billion in 2015-16. That is an extra $1.1 billion. In fact, Australian Government funding to NSW hospitals will this year be $378 million more than if Tony Abbott's old health funding arrangements had continued. This is ample funding to let the state government get on with the job or running the hospital system and have the resources to hire the best doctors and nurses possible. It is up to the O'Farrell government to make sure this happens.
Why does her Government insist on pushing single mothers below the poverty line by cutting Newstart, while continuing to give mega-rich mining companies billions of dollars in free handouts?
I understand that living on Newstart can be tough. That's why recipients affected by these changes are eligible to receive a range of supplementary payments in addition to the basic rate of Newstart. This includes Family Tax Benefit A & B, Rent Assistance, the Schoolkids Bonus, Child Care benefit and Child Care Rebate.
It's also why we’ve delivered the $1.1 billion Income Support Bonus paid twice yearly to assist with unexpected Bills, car repairs, school fees and health care costs.
The Government has also announced a $1 billion plan to support Aussie Jobs. Australia is experiencing a resources boom which is generating enormous investments in new minerals and resources and infrastructure projects. One of the main measures in this Jobs Plan is new legislation to require large multinational companies (like mining companies) which are developing major projects in Australia to give our local companies a fair go to win work on these projects. That will mean more opportunities for Aussie manufacturers, construction companies and other businesses – which also means more jobs for Australians.
Why build up the wall on Warragamba dam when you could just dig it deeper and wider?
The Government has committed up to $50 million over two years for flood mitigation in Western Sydney by raising the Warragamba Dam.
The Government’s announcement has the support of the Insurance Council, as well as the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils.
This project has been identified as a priority by Infrastructure NSW.
An assessment of various alternative proposals has already been undertaken by Infrastructure NSW. That process found raising the dam wall to be the most cost effective option. Raising the dam wall allows for flood storage capacity above the current level required to supply Sydney with water.
Will you stop CSG mining?
There are significant community concerns about Coal Seam Gas.
The responsible Minister, Tony Burke, has expressed concerns surrounding the approval process of CSG mines by the NSW government being too close to houses.
The NSW Government’s planning decisions to allow CSG exploration and production licenses in urban areas and close to regional population centres is quite different to the approaches that other States have taken.
The Commonwealth welcomes some of the recent changes that have been made by the NSW government to avoid urban areas for the time being.
Why is the NSW government selling Bayswater power station to the Chinese if they will use their own coal to power it?
We are not aware of this power station being sold. This question should be directed to the NSW Government.
What is Labor doing to support the homeless people in Australia? The illegal boat people arrive here, get a bed, clothes and food given to them but what about the people who have lived here all their lives then lose their jobs, run out of money, can't pay their mortgages and bills and end up homeless. Besides some charities (St Vinnines, Salvos, Red Cross etc.) What else is being done or planned to be done long term to help the homeless people? This is an urgent matter that needs attention today not after the next election.
It is not true that refugees living in Australia are paid more than Australian pensioners.
In fact, only those asylum seekers who are in community detention or are granted a bridging visa receive limited support which is less than the pension.
We would strongly encourage anyone who receives an email claiming asylum seekers or refugees are treated more favourably than Australian permanent residents to hit the delete button and ignore these claims.
We certainly do need quality homelessness services and whilst historically these are joint funded, the Federal Labor Government is spending an unprecedented $20 billion to address homelessness and housing across the country.
The Australian and state and territory governments have jointly funded more than 180 new or expanded homelessness initiatives rolling out around the country, 49 of which were operational in NSW in 2011-12.