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- Start of Business
- FAIRER PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE INCENTIVES BILL 2009
- FAIRER PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE INCENTIVES (MEDICARE LEVY SURCHARGE) BILL 2009
- FAIRER PRIVATE HEALTH INSURANCE INCENTIVES (MEDICARE LEVY SURCHARGE—FRINGE BENEFITS) BILL 2009
- FAIR WORK (STATE REFERRAL AND CONSEQUENTIAL AND OTHER AMENDMENTS) BILL 2009
- GUARANTEE OF STATE AND TERRITORY BORROWING APPROPRIATION BILL 2009
- TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (2009 BUDGET MEASURES NO. 1) BILL 2009
- COORDINATOR-GENERAL FOR REMOTE INDIGENOUS SERVICES BILL 2009
- SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (IMPROVED SUPPORT FOR CARERS) (CONSEQUENTIAL AND TRANSITIONAL) BILL 2009
- MIGRATION AMENDMENT (PROTECTION OF IDENTIFYING INFORMATION) BILL 2009
- TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (2009 MEASURES NO. 2) BILL 2009
- FINANCIAL SECTOR LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (ENHANCING SUPERVISION AND ENFORCEMENT) BILL 2009
- HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPORT AMENDMENT (VET FEE-HELP AND PROVIDERS) BILL 2009
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- DISTINGUISHED VISITORS
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
- PRIME MINISTER AND TREASURER
- AUNG SAN SUU KYI
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- AUDITOR-GENERAL’S REPORTS
- MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- HEALTH WORKFORCE AUSTRALIA BILL 2009
- THERAPEUTIC GOODS AMENDMENT (MEDICAL DEVICES AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 2008 
- TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (2009 MEASURES NO. 3) BILL 2009
- HIGHER EDUCATION SUPPORT AMENDMENT (VET FEE-HELP AND PROVIDERS) BILL 2009
- CAR DEALERSHIP FINANCING GUARANTEE APPROPRIATION BILL 2009
- Start of Business
- Sir Donald Eckersley
- Bennelong Electorate: Consumer Confidence
- Tangney Electorate: Internet Access
- Deakin Electorate: Ringwood Soccer and Multipurpose Sports Pavilion
- Indi Electorate: General Practice
- Dobell Electorate: Proposed Coalmine
- Swan Electorate: Belmont Medicare Office
- Forde Electorate: Rivermount College
- Workplace Relations
- Sri Lanka
APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 1) 2009-2010
APPROPRIATION BILL (NO. 2) 2009-2010
APPROPRIATION (PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS) BILL (NO. 1) 2009-2010
- Baldwin, Robert, MP
- Bevis, Arch, MP
- Jensen, Dennis, MP
- Rishworth, Amanda, MP
- Secker, Patrick, MP
- Sullivan, Jon, MP
- Simpkins, Luke, MP
- Livermore, Kirsten, MP
- Stone, Dr Sharman, MP
- Jackson, Sharryn, MP
- Moylan, Judi, MP
- Bradbury, David, MP
- Schultz, Alby, MP
- Parke, Melissa, MP
- Pyne, Chris, MP
- Sidebottom, Sid, MP
- Southcott, Dr Andrew, MP
- Marles, Richard, MP
- Second Reading
- QUESTIONS IN WRITING
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Dr JENSEN (11:30 AM) —I rise to respond to Kevin Rudd’s re-election package, thinly disguised as the 2009-10 budget. At the outset I should say that, as a Western Australian, some of the infrastructure projects are good. It is just a shame that they were not part of the first stimulus package instead of the billions of taxpayers’ dollars that were thrown around like confetti, falling near and far and, from what my constituents are telling me, missing many of the supposed intended targets.
I remember prior to the 2007 election being told—as was every other Australian—that the then opposition leader had a plan for everything. As we soon found out after the election, with the so-called 2020 Summit, he had virtually no ideas at all beyond changing the industrial relations regime to reimpose the power of union bosses. Imagine what could have been done to help the now apparently unfashionable working families with the millions of dollars wasted on that PR photo op extravaganza.
The main problem that I have in addressing the budget is where to start. There are so many gaping holes, there is lack of consideration for the implications of measures and there is the sheer unconscionable debt burden for working families and individual Australians in the future. But we all know that the only future Kevin Rudd is interested in is in the short term: getting re-elected. Anything past that is irrelevant. Let me start with the changes to the taxation laws governing income earned outside Australia, outlined briefly on page 19 of Budget Paper No. 2. I have been inundated with calls and emails from concerned constituents which can be encapsulated in this email:
The Australian Government is proposing changes to section 23AG of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 which currently provides an income tax exemption for Australian residents’ foreign earnings derived from foreign service employment.
The Government believes these changes will recoup additional funds by increasing the personal income tax (PIT) payable by Australian workers employed overseas.
I believe the Government is missing the bigger picture, and that these proposed changes will overall have a negative effect on the Australian economy, with the resultant loss of incoming earnings and jobs, outweighing any return from the collection of PIT from those workers who may choose to continue in their overseas employment once their income is subject to full Australian PIT.
With full PIT for Australians working overseas, there is no incentive to remain working overseas. Some workers may choose to become non resident.
Either way, the Australian economy misses out on these overseas earnings returning to Australia and being circulated into the economy.
The recent cash handouts from the Government were intended to inject funds into the Australian economy, hence it seems odd to now be considering policy that will cause a reduction in funds entering the Australian economy.
With rising unemployment, it is nonsensical to create a disincentive for Australians to seek work overseas.
On the contrary, the government should encourage overseas employment.
What better panacea for an ailing economy than to have Australians gaining employment overseas instead of taking jobs in Australia, and their subsequently returning home to invest their foreign income in the Australian economy?
Encouraging Australians to work overseas is a simple and very cost effective means of boosting the Australian economy.
It provides a net gain in available jobs and injects foreign sourced funds, thus providing a positive contribution to Australia’s economic recovery.
The email finishes by saying:
I ask that you vote against any changes to section 23AG of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, and instead, consider various means to encourage Australians to seek employment overseas, whilst remaining resident in Australia.
That says it all, in a nutshell. The government should be roundly condemned for proposing such a short-sighted move without considering the obvious consequences. But lack of understanding is a common thread throughout this budget. The government’s proposed changes to superannuation highlight the key changes of this budget: lashings of reckless spending, no proper planning or cost-benefit analyses and large helpings of 1950s style politics of envy. Superannuation is a prime example. My constituents who have contacted me on this issue are not multimillionaires spending the summer in Monte Carlo on their 40-metre yachts. These are men and women who have worked hard all of their lives, often living quite frugally so that they can put money by for their retirement.
Given the proposal in the Henry report to lift the preservation age to 67, the first thing the government clearly does not understand or appreciate is that superannuation funds are not public money. The Prime Minister should pay attention to the TV ad featuring a certain Scottish comedian. The final three words are ‘It’s your money’. I have a message from my constituents: ‘Hands off, Prime Minister! It’s our money and we’ve worked hard for it.’ It is another example of the lack of appreciation by the government for possible consequences. Where will be the incentive to put money into superannuation if the government is going to deny access to it? Today it is 67; tomorrow who knows—70, 75, 80? This of course was after the Labor spokesman said in April 2006 that Labor would maintain the existing ages for access to superannuation. Prime Minister, superannuants have already taken a battering from the global financial crisis, and now this. It is disgraceful.
The bank guarantee was another knee-jerk, superficially clever stunt that has backfired on many Australians. I have a constituent whose husband suddenly died recently. She wanted to take his ashes back to England, to their previous home town. The financial organisation that controlled their pension initially said she could have access to a small amount and then refused access to any money. It took a phone call from me, quoting ASIC regulations on this, before the company acquiesced and gave her a reasonable amount of her money.
As with its state counterparts, this Labor government has no concept about the creation of wealth—that it is not done by government but by business. And yet, the government does nothing to help business; in fact, it only makes things more difficult. It is only the opposition that have policies to help business—especially small business—through this difficult economic period. We are proposing tax loss carryback and fairer rules for companies in temporary difficulties. In addition, we are proposing minimising red tape and better targeting training programs. And what is the government proposing? Tax breaks, which many businesses will not be eligible for; increased fees; reviving a helpline for businesses, which Labor axed last year; and an online initiative somewhat hampered by the continuing non-availability of broadband to so many Australians. And speaking of broadband, what a disaster that is; a $43 billion proposal with no business plan. That amount of money would pay for more than four Snowy Mountain schemes today.
A popular cliche in politics is ‘the devil is in the detail’. The government have cunningly avoided this criticism with the simple tactic of not having any details. They want to be taken on trust. After 18 months of PR snow jobs, motherhood statements and broken promises, who in their right mind would take this government on trust on anything? This government could not manage a lemonade stand let alone a multibillion dollar budget. Where are the new broadband services promised by 2008? Where is the approximately $20 million spent by this incompetent government on a flawed tender process which ultimately collapsed—gone, wasted, blown? And my constituents cop a further hit with the closure of the Perth ACMA office at a time when it needs more resources to identify television black spots with the change from analog to digital.
I have also been getting many complaints from constituents about another prime ministerial popularity stunt—the $900 stimulus payment. One man drew money down from his superannuation to pay his mortgage off and he said that was used as the reason to reduce his payment to $250. A lady who was recently separated said she did not receive the payment because she was not working and therefore did not pay tax in the 2007-08 period, but she is now in quite straitened circumstances. She did not get the $900. Another constituent rang and said she works in a very low-paid job part time. Because she got all her tax back, she did not qualify for the $900 payment. Compare these genuine cases to the reports of money being paid in all sorts of unsuitable ways—money going overseas to deceased estates, in the casino et cetera. Once again, it was a rash decision, appallingly badly implemented, which will mainly result in just a larger debt burden. Everyone who did get any payment should think a while on the debt burden that payment represents. It is a bit like taking blood from your left arm, putting it back in your right arm but spilling 90 per cent on the floor.
Further highlighting its gross incompetence, the government has had to make several embarrassing backdowns. A constituent of mine is a gifted young musician. She was devastated at the decision of the arts minister to stop funding the Australian National Academy of Music. After representations from many people, including me, that ridiculous decision was reversed. Then there was the proposal to limit the eligibility of superannuants to have access to a Commonwealth seniors health card, which I spoke about in this House recently. This was a measure that was kept strangely hidden during the 2007 ‘I have a plan’ campaign and only surreptitiously brought out afterwards. Thankfully, due to overwhelming pressure brought by many members and individuals, including the 3,000 signatures for a campaign against this measure which I brought to Canberra, we saw this iniquitous proposal shelved. Of course, the question still remains: is this proposal truly dead or has it just been put in the bottom drawer for another time?
This government claims to be so concerned about global warming that it is spending millions of taxpayers’ dollars on insulation batts. However, when questioned by the shadow Treasurer recently, the Treasurer could not say where these would be manufactured—presumably more taxpayers’ dollars taking an overseas holiday, just like the Prime Minister and much of the other stimulus payments. However, despite this alleged support for alternative energy and energy saving, the government keeps tampering with the successful Howard government $8,000 solar rebate. First the environment minister placed a means test on the rebate. Then he attempted to fix up this mess by putting in place another scheme, which will still not deliver the benefits that the coalition government’s program did. Now I understand that the minister is set to introduce yet another scheme, which still will not be as good as ours was, which means that not just working families but also businesses and industry are hit hard. It is more lack of thought and understanding by this shambolic government. Too bad the minister did not burn a bit of midnight oil thinking this through properly instead of subjecting the Australian people to such a farcical scramble from one disaster to another. There seems to be a disturbing similarity between his choreography of the past and his policies of the present.
Much was made by the government of its education revolution. We have already seen what a roaring success the computer on every desk promise of the education minister was! From day one it has had problems—from backdowns to questions as to who will pay for the necessary and utterly unforeseeable infrastructure needed to support such an increase in computers. ‘Gosh, we didn’t think of that’ example No. 612.
There was also the Whitlamesque funding for school infrastructure. Anyone who has been following politics over the last few years knows that the state Labor governments have wasted the boom and let essential infrastructure decline to a poor condition. This includes the problem of maintenance for schools which the new Liberal-National government in Western Australia is facing, just as was the case in 1993. Here is a classic example of Labor scrapping an effective coalition program—Investing in Our Schools—out of pure political spite, then having to replace it with another funding regime because schools still needed proper funding. So, instead of the highly successful and smoothly-running coalition system, we have this new program which is offering schools money but not giving them enough time to decide how best to spend it. Some only had a few weeks—totally insufficient when considering the amounts of taxpayers’ money involved. Still, when your government does not give that proper consideration and thought to detail necessary before spending $43 billion, why should you, as a principal, hesitate for even a heartbeat before splurging your grant? The answer, Prime Minister, is that school principals actually care about their schools. They do not just see them as a vehicle for self-aggrandisement. They use the funding as best they can, but of course the ‘Rudd Election Express’ stops for no one.
There are numerous other areas which would have been better uses of the so-called stimulus funding than untargeted cheques—222 unfunded childcare centres; no new funding to protect women and children from domestic violence, merely a rebadging of the highly successful Howard government program; and cuts of seven per cent to the Australian Crime Commission’s budget, to name but a few. One cut which will have terrible ramifications is the $58.1 million cut to the Customs budget. The shadow minister for justice and customs outlined recently the increased possessional use of cocaine, which has risen nearly 60 per cent in New South Wales during the past year. These budget cuts will probably put Australians at risk from an increase in criminal activity in illicit drug supply.
The implications of drug abuse has actually been an area of interest to me, especially since meeting Dr George O’Neill. As I have mentioned in this House before, Dr O’Neill runs a marvellous program treating drug addicts for both legal and illegal drugs with Naltrexone. It negates the effects of the drugs, making it a waste of time and money for his patients to buy and use more drugs. Dr O’Neill has been granted funding from the WA state government but needs assistance from the federal government in two ways. One is funding especially to help those addicts who come all the way from the east coast to be treated as they have heard how successful the treatment is. Secondly, he needs the Therapeutic Goods Administration to approve the treatment, as at the moment he is operating under a special licence which is causing some problems. The extra funding would be good and would make a huge difference to the lives of addicts, as the existing funding has already. However, the TGA approval is the most important thing. The government should look at why it is taking such a long time. Dr O’Neill’s patients would benefit so greatly from this approval, and the length of time taken for the approval is of great concern to us.
Another group which needs a continuation of the funding provided under the previous government is the Disabled Workers Union, which I have referred to before in this House. This incredibly successful organisation, run on a shoestring, helps many disabled people, including quite a few from my electorate. But is the government willing to help the most vulnerable, deserving and needing members of our community? No, the government is using a ridiculous, bureaucratic excuse to sound the death knell of this excellent service. This shows how empty the government’s words are about helping those in need. How many millions does the union need? Not even $1 million. All it is asking for is $60,000 a year—a drop in the ocean in budgetary terms. It equates to about one $900 stimulus cheque in each Labor electorate.
All in all, this budget reeks of desperation, a lack of imagination and understanding of finance, employment and people, and a party looking for the easy, short-term way out instead of thinking about the long-term welfare of the country. Ironically, for a party forcing people to work until they are 67, there was a certain 67-year-old whom the Prime Minister characterised as ‘too old’, ‘past it’ and ‘should be replaced with new blood’. But many are fed up with the incompetent and inexperienced new blood and long for the stability and good governance of the coalition. I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me or my staff, ‘I wish we had you lot back in charge.’