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Monday, 26 June 2000
Page: 18275

Mr ALBANESE (10:02 PM) —Labor has no difficulty with the amendments that have come back to the House tonight. They provide for the fact that this bill has been delayed for some time. The government must take some responsibility for this delay. As with most of the bills that come along, mildly beneficial measures are mingled with the usual line-up of mean-spirited cuts. These amendments make necessary technical changes to the basic rates of rent assistance. That is all. These amendments do nothing to actually alleviate the unfair `family pays' principle of the government's youth allowance scheme. They do nothing to ease the fact that when the Youth Allowance Scheme was first introduced 12,800 young people lost all their benefits and 33,250 young people had their benefits reduced.

These amendments do nothing to compensate Australian families for the $5 billion worth of cuts to social services in this country and the $4.2 billion cut from education and training programs. These amendments in no way compensate for the abolition of the CES, the gutting of the Public Service, the closure of Medicare offices all around the country, the attacks made by this government on aged care and child care, and the billions of dollars lost to our health care system. These amendments may give a little, but since 1996 the government has taken away much more. When this bill was being debated in the Senate, Labor and the Democrats took the opportunity to move amendments to address some of the most pressing issues surrounding the operation of youth allowance. We have also ensured that students who, through no fault of their own, must study for less than 75 per cent of a full-time load are not disadvantaged as a result.

We also sought to make the government accountable for its 1996 election promise to lift the farm discount on assets to 75 per cent. However, the government, having argued against its own promise, now intends to gain the credit for announcing the same measure in its recent budget. Having been forced to be accountable, the government is now cynically trying to claim it was all its idea. We have seen many broken promises from this government. The most recent examples have torn at the heart of the coalition and forced the Minister for Community Services to at last show his true colours. Before the last election, the government promised not to impose the GST on rents. The government promised rents would rise by only 2.3 per cent. Now the line has changed. Australians living in boarding houses and residential parks will be paying the GST on their rent. Private rents will rise by at least 4.7 per cent, according to the Econtech report—probably more—and these breaches of promise will have a direct and negative impact on some youth allowance recipients and on those most vulnerable in our community.

This government's modus operandi is to make poorly conceived, hasty policy and then spend a considerable amount of time trying to patch up its mistakes. Its grand new tax system is fraying at the edges. Instead of fixing the core problems that lie at the heart of this unfair tax, the government chooses to create elaborate compensation schemes that do nothing to address the source of the inequity—government decisions. It just hopes that people will not notice that the $33 million increase in rent assistance is a one-off payment, paid to those who receive the maximum rate of rent assistance. This payment is a one-off, whereas the GST will last forever. The government hopes that young people—

Mr Brough —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order on relevance. We are here to discuss youth allowance and the member has talked about everything other than youth allowance.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Nehl)—Before calling the honourable member for Grayndler, I do encourage him to speak about the youth allowance.

Mr ALBANESE —I will, Mr Deputy Speaker, because the government does not want to discuss any issues relating to the financial impact of its decisions, whether they be on young people or people in other sectors. As I was saying, the government hopes that young people will be so thrilled by the minor increases to their rent assistance contained in this bill that they will forget that, in this year's budget, the government spent six times more money on advertising for the GST than it spent on new funding for the nation's schools.

Mr Anthony —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. We are talking on the Youth Allowance Consolidation Bill 1999. The member for Grayndler gets carried away at times, but I encourage you to bring him back onto the bill.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I thank the minister. I do not need his encouragement. The honourable member for Grayndler has the call and will, of course, speak to the subject of the debate.

Mr ALBANESE —Many thousands of Youth Allowance recipients do not receive the maximum rate of rent assistance and will get nothing from this deal. They should be sceptical of any claim by this government that they are being given more. It is not surprising that the government runs and hides from debate. The minister, even tonight, has spoken on this issue for only one or two minutes and has attempted once again to stifle the opposition from putting forward our position on this issue. (Time expired)

Motion (by Mr Anthony) agreed to:

That the further requested amendments be made.