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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 2334


Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (16:07): What a desperate, distrusted, dysfunctional, disastrous government we have got! They are so desperate—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Menzies should recall section 90. I will be reminding people of imputations that are implying intent.

Mr ANDREWS: They are so desperate that the Labor Party have to come in here this afternoon and defame the coalition's policy. I say 'defame', because what is their complaint? Their complaint is that the coalition has a better paid parental leave scheme policy then does the government. That is their complaint because that is the reality. They talk about the Paid Parental Leave scheme, but let us take a couple of things into account. Firstly, how did they construct it? They constructed it in part by cannibalising the baby bonus that was put in place by the Howard-Costello government. I note the previous member conceded that when Mr Costello was Treasurer for all of those years he balanced the books. That is more than the current Treasurer of Australia has ever been able to do in the four years that he has been the Treasurer of this country. Each year he promises a surplus. For four years now we have been getting the same statements from the Treasurer, Mr Swan: he is going to deliver a surplus. Yet year after year after year after year, so far, that promise has never been fulfilled. There has not been a surplus. We are getting it again now: 'I'm going to deliver a surplus. The government's going to deliver a surplus.' We will not know for over 12 months whether that is the case or not. But, so far, if you want to go on the record of this government, the promise has amounted to nothing for each of the four years.

But let us get back to the subject matter of this discussion—namely, a paid parental leave scheme. The first thing is that the baby bonus put in place by the Howard-Costello government is being cannibalised, modified, in order to pay for a paid parental leave scheme. But what is happening with the baby bonus? The piece of legislation that is to come before this parliament when this debate is over in a few minutes time is going to do two things to the baby bonus. The first thing it is going to do is reduce the baby bonus from $5,437 to $5,000. So much for helping the families of Australia! So much for helping the men and women of Australia who are having children! But the government are not only going to reduce the baby bonus, which has been cannibalised in the first place in part to pay for the Paid Parental Leave scheme; they are also going to put a cap on the indexation. Instead of the baby bonus going up by an indexed amount each year for the next three years, what is going to happen? It is going to come down to $5,000 and there will be no indexation in place for the next three years. The government come in here with the gall to talk about what we are doing, when the reality is that the actual thing they are doing, which will be in the debate following this one, will be a reduction in the baby bonus. What gall from this desperate government!

There are two problems here for the government. First of all, they take an existing scheme and change it in order to pay, in part, for their Paid Parental Leave scheme. Secondly, they then reduce the amount of money that is available under the baby bonus over the next three years for intending parents in this country. Then they come in and complain that our policy is better. And it is better. We are going to pay parents the actual wage rather than a wage based on the minimum wage. Look at the schemes around the world and make a comparison. Almost every one of the schemes around the world is based on actual wages rather than on the minimum wage. On top of that, we are going to include superannuation. We have the member for Maribyrnong spouting off every now and again about superannuation. Where is the superannuation component of the Paid Parental Leave scheme that this government have put in place? It does not exist. They know in their hearts that it does not exist and they know in their hearts that this is a better proposal than what they have there at the present time, yet they come in here and complain about it.

That is why I called this government desperate. It is now seeking to defame the policies of the opposition in order to somehow make itself look good. Not only have we got that happening here with the Paid Parental Leave scheme, for which a better policy is being proposed; we have also heard in the last few days about how the coalition is not supporting the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Again, that is totally wrong. Again, we have said, 'This is a scheme which we're supporting. Put it in place.' What we have said is: 'Where's the money? No money has been put forward so far. When are you actually going to commit and tell us how that money is going to be put forward?' But of course there is no answer to that, just the imputation that somehow the coalition is not supporting this scheme.

Let us get real about these things, Madam Deputy Speaker. The reality here is that the coalition does support families. It supported families right throughout its term in office. What better thing can you do for families than keep down prices and ensure that people have got jobs? The last speaker was spouting about jobs and employment. Can I remind him and his colleagues on the other side that when this Labor government came to office the unemployment rate in Australia was 4.3 per cent. What is it today? It is 5.1 per cent—and higher in some states.

Mr Buchholz: It is 7.1 in Townsville!

Mr ANDREWS: My honourable colleague tells me it is 7.1 per cent in Townsville. Yet it was 4.3 per cent when this government came into office.

Mrs Griggs: They're doing such a good job!

Mr ANDREWS: Yes, they are doing such a good job, as another of my honourable friends behind me says. The reality is that this is a government under which families are actually being treated worse. At the same time, cost-of-living pressures are on families right across Australia. Electricity prices have increased in the last four years on average across this country by 61 per cent. Gas prices have increased on average by 37 per cent. What we know is that on 1 July this year this government will introduce a carbon tax which will further push up those prices. The great lie in this policy debate is that somehow the carbon tax is only going to be implemented for 500 companies. First of all, we cannot be told who the 500 companies are. That is a major secret. Maybe the government does not know itself. But the implication of what is being said here is that somehow the tax will be totally absorbed by these companies and that will be that. The lie to that was given this week by Virgin, who said that they are going to increase the cost of their domestic airfares by $6 because of the carbon tax, following what Qantas had already announced in relation to their airfares. And do you think that the top 500 companies across Australia are not going to follow Qantas and Virgin in relation to this and push up their prices? Of course they will. I said that electricity went up by 61 per cent over the last four years and that gas has gone up by 37 per cent. We are told by the energy producers that electricity prices and gas prices will go up by nine to 10 per cent, in addition to what they might have gone up otherwise, simply because of the carbon tax. And here we have a government talking about its care for families. That is just bunkum when you see what is happening.

But it is not just electricity and gas prices that will be affected. Water and sewerage rates have increased by an average of 58 per cent across this nation in the last four years. Health costs have gone up by an average of 20 per cent, and that is even before the Labor Party has hit on the private health insurance scheme. Education costs have gone up by an average of 24 per cent. So with just health and education—two major items of expenditure for any family in this country—one has gone up by 20 per cent and the other has gone up by 24 per cent, and they are going to continue to rise. If you do not think that a carbon tax is going to flow through into all goods and services in Australia then you must be living in fantasy land, like I suspect some of the members opposite are.

The cost of food has gone up by 13 per cent on average in Australia. Food requires energy to produce. Food requires energy to process. Food requires energy to transport from one place to another, from where it was manufactured to where it is stored and onto the supermarket shelves of shops all over this country. That is going to go up as well. And who is going to pay for that? The families of Australia. So I would say to members opposite: do not come in here and try to pretend that somehow you are doing something which is great for the families of Australia when you are ripping out the costs in terms of what they are going to pay for in the coming years. Also, rent has increased by 25 per cent for families who are renting across Australia. All of these costs have gone up under this Labor government—costs that have been hitting families over the last four years—and we know that they are going to go up even further into the future.

There is a paid parental scheme in place. We acknowledge that. We concede that. The government has put one in place. But we are saying that they can do better than that. They can put a better paid parental leave scheme in place and they do not need to be ripping down the amount paid under the baby bonus at the same time. The reality is that what we have got is a better proposition than what the government is offering at the present time, and it does not need people to come in here and defame that policy.