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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 3534


Mrs MARKUS (Macquarie) (16:07): I heard members on this side start with a statement about Australian families. Australian families deserve a stable, competent government that lives within their means and serves the best interests of those they supposedly seek to serve, and particularly to relieve the cost-of-living pressures that everyday Australians—mums and dads, families, single-parent families, families that are endeavouring to make a way for their children—face on a daily basis.

This week the families of Australia have been hit once again by the economic mismanagement of an incompetent government. Families are endeavouring week by week, day by day, month by month, to juggle their income and their expenses; making decisions between paying a bill or buying food, whether to meet the needs of their children at school, paying for an excursion or paying a lighting bill. These are the challenges that everyday families are facing on a day-to-day basis.

It seems that the other side, the government of the day, fails to understand. My question is: are you really listening? Are you listening to the needs of your communities? I am not sure that you are. In fact I question that on a daily basis when I speak to the families in my community, when I knock on their door, when I see them when I am out at a street stall, and they come to me and say, 'Louise, I cannot pay my bills.'

The budget does nothing to help Australian families deal with cost-of-living pressures, economic uncertainty and poor services. It does little to provide them with hope for their future. After six years of rising prices and increasing costs, our families need a break. The phrase 'cost of living' is not just a phrase; it bears little weight I think with the government of the day. What the government of the day fails to understand is that behind this phrase are thousands of families—small families, large families, single-parent families—that are doing it tough. These families are living with the fear of getting hit with another bill that they simply cannot afford. They plan a budget but then the bills keep rising. The budget blows out. But they are endeavouring to manage to live within their means; something that this government is failing to do.

Families are trying to make household budgets stretch, to pay rents or mortgages, groceries, bills, petrol, school uniforms, textbooks, excursions. It all adds up. We know that parents try to do the best they can, but sometimes the numbers just don't add up and parents may have to go without to provide for their children.

The Australian people have clearly lost faith in this government. At the heart of this growing discontent lies very deep and very real concern that this government is pursuing a course of extraordinary political and economic mismanagement that will burden our nation and people for decades to come.

At the start of National Families Week, this week, Labor's budget has delivered another cruel blow to Australian families. The budget delivers more debt, more deficits, more taxes, more broken promises and a greater level of uncertainty.

Let's look at this government's track record—and this was alluded to by members earlier. Since 2007, the cost of electricity has increased by 93.8 per cent. Water and sewerage has increased 63.1 per cent. Gas has increased 61.8 per cent. Medical and health services are up 40.9 per cent and rents have increased by 30.2 per cent. The member for Menzies mentioned earlier that these are not luxuries; these are basics. These are things that every family, every individual and every community needs to spend money on every week, every month, every year.

And this is just the start. There are numerous initiatives in this budget that disadvantage families. The abolition of the baby bonus is an example; an initiative delivered courtesy of the Intergenerational Report to ensure that Australia maintains an adequate birth rate. This will mean more than 150,000 families will be worse off. The increase to the Medicare levy will also hit family budgets. The average Australian family earning $70,000 a year will be $350 worse off. There was also the broken promise of child care. Child care was talked about earlier. Labor have broken their promise that the indexation of the childcare rebate would recommence in 2014.

Labor simply cannot be trusted. What is written in black and white by this Labor government today cannot be trusted tomorrow. At a time when childcare costs are increasing for more families, this decision will hurt financially. Families will also be worse off under Labor after the government announced an extension to the indexation pauses on income thresholds for family payments and FTB supplement payments until 2017. This decision will impact the 1.5 million families who receive family tax benefit part A and the 1.3 million families who receive family tax benefit part B, as the FTB supplement payments fail to keep pace with the rising cost of living.

In the electorate of Macquarie there is a strong loss of confidence in both the economic and social future of our country. Families are clearly struggling. I spoke recently to the Stubbs family in Windsor, who have three children; two at school and one in child care. Their main concern has been the rising costs, particularly of their electricity bills. Every quarter it gets harder for them to predict what their bill will be—what will it look like—and it causes incredible levels of stress and uncertainty.

Our welfare centre in Katoomba, run by the Salvation Army, has reported a growing number of families reaching out for help over the last 18 months. This is reflected in every single non-government organisation that hands out emergency relief. People are requesting more help with paying bills, assistance with buying food and clothing.

In fact many of these agencies refer to the 'working poor', families with one or two incomes who are struggling to pay their bills. That is something that was not happening five, six or seven years ago. They have also experienced an increase in participants in their program to assist families with their household budgets. This pattern is consistent across the nation. The number of families needing financial and material assistance through not-for-profit organisations has increased considerably.

Can I say: this was not necessary. Only the coalition has a clear plan for easing the cost-of-living pressures for families. The coalition and I believe in Australia. We believe that all Australians deserve a brighter and more optimistic future. That is why we have a plan to build a stronger, more prosperous nation, so that all Australians can have opportunities in a global economy.

We believe that strong families underpin a strong and flourishing society. They are our foundation. We must support families. We must create an economy and provide opportunities and rewards for hardworking parents. As a coalition we have a clear commitment to families. We will abolish the carbon tax, which has caused significant damage to families with rising utility costs. This tax has failed to achieve reductions in emissions and is hurting everyday Australians—pain with absolutely no gain. We will put downward pressure on prices, getting the ACCC to make sure that prices do not remain artificially raised when we abolish the carbon tax. We will fund personal income tax cuts for individuals and families. We will protect and strengthen Medicare by restoring the private health insurance rebate as soon as we possibly can.

We understand the urgent need for accessible, affordable and flexible child care for families, and we will have the Productivity Commission urgently undertake a major inquiry into the childcare system. We will look at different ways child care can become more flexible and responsive to the differing needs and lifestyles of parents. It is clear that work patterns and demands on parents are different today than they were even a decade ago. We will deliver a genuine paid parental leave scheme to give mothers six months leave based on their actual wage. This will mean that young families are given options and flexibility to balance work and family and will not be forced to survive on a single wage. The truth is, only the coalition understands economic pressure on families and only the coalition has a clear way forward for them.

The government has a spending problem. It has been given enough chances to get it right. Enough is enough. The budget delivers more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years, 99 per cent of which will hit Australians after the next election. After six years of chaos, debt and spin, Australians deserve stable and competent economic management so they can have confidence in a government that will live within its means and that will work to ensure that families have priority and that they have the opportunities, on a foundation that is firm, to step into their future with confidence.