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Tuesday, 19 June 2012
Page: 6983

Family Payments

Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (14:23): My question is to the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. Will the minister update the House on the government's assistance to families dealing with the costs of educating their children? How is this an important improvement on previous policies and what steps has the government taken to make sure it is delivered?

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (14:24): I thank the member for Petrie for her question. She is very, very focused on the education that her constituents are able to secure as a consequence of the spending initiatives that this government has made in education, and I know that she, like all on this side, has a strong focus on education in her constituency and in her electorate. The fact is that raising a family can be a costly business and, when it comes to kids and to school, things like school uniforms, excursions, music lessons, extra books and so on—all of these things add up to the cost of raising a family. So I am proud to be able to provide this update to the House, because on this side we take cost-of-living pressures that families face and the education costs that they face seriously. That is why the government has delivered a schoolkids bonus.

It was voted against by the Leader of the Opposition and those opposite, but the fact is that from tomorrow $1.3 million Australian families will get a much needed boost to their budget to help with school costs, because we have replaced the education tax refund with the new schoolkids bonus. People might not know that about 80 per cent of people who were eligible for that education tax refund were not getting their full entitlements, but now it is guaranteed that families who are entitled to family tax benefit A will get the schoolkids bonus. Before June ends, we will see $409 for each primary school kid and $813 for each secondary school kid going into people's accounts. Before the end of the month, two million kids around Australia will benefit from this, and then from January next year the schoolkids bonus will be paid twice a year: once before term 1 and once before term 2. That is a guaranteed payment so that families can meet the costs of education pressures that they face.

It is well known that the opposition derided this initiative by the government. The Leader of the Opposition was fretting about which negative line he could run on this particular initiative, and he came up with the fact that he was worried about it and he opposed it because Australian parents were going to blow it on the pokies. It is a direct quote of Mr Abbott that Australian parents would blow it on the pokies. All I can say to that is that Australian families make hundreds of decisions every week about how best to support their kids, particularly their kids who are at school. Australian families know what cost-of-living pressures are about, and they know that a schoolkids bonus will help them meet those cost-of-living pressures, particularly as the kids are starting school and then halfway through the year. We are committed to delivering this schoolkids bonus because we know how important education is. Shame on the opposition for opposing it and on the opposition leader for not trusting Australian families with the interests of their own children. (Time expired)

Mrs D'ATH ( Petrie ) ( 14:27): Madam Deputy Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Minister, how will the schoolkids bonus you have talked about help parents in my electorate and others around the country?

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (14:27): I am very pleased to be able to answer this supplementary question from the member for Petrie because she, in her electorate, will find that 9,700 families are expected to benefit from the schoolkids bonus—that is, over 17,000 eligible kids in the member for Petrie's electorate in primary and secondary schools. Queensland will see about 281,000 families who are expected to benefit from this schoolkids bonus. It was opposed by those opposite, including the Manager of Opposition Business, who is coming up to ask a question, I hope on education. In the electorate of Sturt 6,100 families are expected to benefit and 10,700 eligible kids in primary and secondary schools will benefit from the schoolkids bonus that the shadow minister for education actually opposed in this parliament.

It is not only the schoolkids bonus. This government's investment in education has been more substantial than we have witnessed in this federal parliament, almost doubling the spending in comparison to those opposite and providing improved facilities in every school in this country: trades training centres, library upgrades—you name it, we have delivered it to schools in one of the great educational and social dividends that we have witnessed in this parliament. We are proud of the support we are providing to education and to families, including this important schoolkids bonus.