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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 4968

Mr ABBOTT (2:00 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister, and I ask it on behalf of the working families of Australia that he has so badly let down. Prime Minister, if the government is such a good economic manager, why are Australian families paying more for their food, more for their housing and more for their power, water, education and health than when the Prime Minister promised to ease the pressure on working families prior to the last election?

Mr RUDD (Prime Minister) —I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. His one script for working families is to bring back Work Choices. Our script for working families is to abolish Work Choices. That is the difference. With Work Choices, which he regards as his key mantra for the future: number one, it strips away basic working conditions for working families; number two, it undermines such things as penalty rates; and, number three, it damages a whole series of additional basic conditions which working families need to ensure that family incomes are held up. When the Leader of the Opposition stands up here in an exercise I can only describe as rancid hypocrisy on the interests of working families, I say to him two words: Work Choices.

The Leader of the Opposition referred to education. This government prior to the last election said we would bring in an education tax refund. We have brought in an education tax refund for working families with primary school kids and with secondary school kids. Secondly, we also said that for working families dealing with childcare costs we would increase the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. We have increased the rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. The Leader of the Opposition refers to health costs. I refer him to the government’s pre-election commitment to bring in a teen dental scheme. The government has brought in that very scheme, which has benefited, I am advised, some 400,000 or more across the country.

The Leader of the Opposition refers more broadly to health costs. Can I say to the Leader of the Opposition on the question of health costs and the effectiveness of the health system that what he did as health minister for five years was reach his long hand into the health budgets of the nation and take out $1 billion from the public hospital system of Australia. What he has now said, further, is that if he were elected to the office of Prime Minister at the next election he would reach his hand in again and take out nearly another billion dollars from the health system of Australia. On housing, I remind the Leader of the Opposition that interest rates now are some percentage points lower than they were when he left office at the end of 2007. So whether it is on interest rates, whether it is on housing, whether it is on education, whether it is on health, whether it is on hospitals, but most of all whether it is on Work Choices, the Leader of the Opposition’s record on working families is clear to each and every person listening to this debate today.