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Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Page: 6834


Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (10:05): I speak in support of the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011. I am very proud to be part of a government that actually supports families. There are a number of measures we have brought in since we came into government in November 2007 that have made a huge difference and will continue to do so over many years. First, I am most proud about the Paid Parental Leave scheme that we brought in and that is now operating in this country. For 11½ years those opposite opposed it. In fact the current Leader of the Opposition said that it would come in over his dead body. Then, later on, in a road-to-Damascus conversion experience, he decided that he was going to bring in a system that would actually tax companies and increase the impost on household budgets. It is an extravagant scheme that plays to the higher income earners but fails to assist middle- and low-income earners.

The second issue that as part of this government I think has made a big impact is the area of childcare rebates. The 73 per cent increase in childcare rebates we have seen in this country—up to $7,500 per child—assists mums and dads who want to participate in the workforce and make an impact in the workplace with their productivity. They also contribute to their family's financial security by working hard day in, day out for the money. It has made a big impact because we have seen more children placed in childcare centres, where they get good-quality child care. This is because of the funding that this government has put in. It is far more than the Howard coalition ever put into child care. One of its first acts in power was to rip $1 billion out of the childcare sector, so we have massively increased the funding there. The increased funding for the childcare rebate has been a huge advantage for Australian families.

The third area is in the education tax refund for people on family tax benefit A, putting real money back into people's pockets so they can spend that money on things like computers and education needs for their kids, and extending this out to uniforms is also a big advantage. We have a proud record of helping Australian families, not just through the tax cuts we provided for three years in a row but also through real measures like the paid parental leave scheme, the childcare rebate increase, areas like helping households and schools, school and education communities, and helping health by massively increasing its funding. In fact, in so many areas since we have been in government we have made changes to remedy the problems of the past.

The bill that we are debating has a number of budget measures. There is the reform of family payments for 2011-12; the aligning of family tax benefit part A eligibility with the youth allowance, which makes sense in terms of the age of dependency; and the pausing of indexation of certain family assistance and paid parental leave income thresholds for a further two years. I do not think that is unreasonable in the circumstances as we get the budget back into surplus and put a focus on good economic management. We are the ones who brought in the paid parental leave scheme. We are the ones who increased assistance to households. Of course, we put in pause indexation on FTB end-of-year supplements for three years. There are a number of changes in this piece of legislation which we believe are important and necessary for the whole budget framework.

Those opposite on so many occasions will criticise us for what we do. They will say that we should not do this; they will say that we are wasting money, but when push comes to shove and when they are given the opportunity to say something about the budget and legislation here they carp and whine and moan. They do not come up with plans; they do not come up with strategies which are geared towards helping families. We are the ones who have been vigilant with respect to pension increases, tax cuts and building Australia's future by helping participation in the workforce.

We are the ones who have also made an impact by making sure disability support pensions do not get left out. Those opposite will criticise us in that regard. They will criticise us for what we are doing about disability support pensions and the implementation of efficient and more accurate assessments for disability support pensions. They will criticise us for all kinds of things we do to make sure that people transition from welfare to work and say we are not doing enough or achieving what we say we are achieving. But we have brought forward reforms. We want people to participate in the workforce, we want to get them off welfare, because we know that if someone works it improves their self esteem, it improves their employment prospects in the future and their family's financial security. So we are making reforms in this bill. We are making changes which we think are necessary in the overall budget strategy.

The bill covers a number of elements, as I have said. We are supporting families with dependent children in study and training—we think that is an important focus for our government. The reforms contained in the legislation are sensible initiatives. They not only support families but also are geared to getting the budget back into surplus. I come from a small business background. I ran a business for 20 years and I know how important it is to get your business in the black. I know how important running your business efficiently and effectively is for your credibility not just in terms of the bank but also for the staff and your customers.

We undertook to go into deficit during the global financial crisis. I am committed to jobs in my area of Blair, in Ipswich and the Somerset region, because it was absolutely necessary to do what we did. The measures contained in this legislation are about getting the budget back into the black. They are about doing what we need to do. We think it is important that we undertake these measures, some of which may be tough. They may be very hard. Some may say they are effective but stern. We think it is important to undertake these measures.

As a business needs to get in the black, as a family's household budget needs to be in the black, we need to get the economy geared towards productivity and productive growth in industries—not just the mining industry but also the retail and construction sectors et cetera. Government needs to be efficient and lean and it also needs to be prudent in its management of the economy and its own finances. The measures contained in this bill relate to the budget. They will have a financial impact—for example, the aligning of the age of FTB is $29.2 million over four years and assessing qualifications for the DSP is $622.7 million over four years.

There are many measures here that have a financial impact on the bottom line. These are prudent budget measures. They are necessary to do. They are part of an overall strategy by this government to get the budget back into surplus. I think we have the runs on the board and the credibility to show that we do support Australian families. We support families across the country and the community in my electorate. I commend the legislation to the House.