Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 24 September 2002
Page: 4717

Senator PAYNE (2:02 PM) —My question without notice is to the Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Vanstone. Will the minister outline to the Senate what steps the government is taking to lift the living standards of the most vulnerable in our community? Will the minister also advise the Senate what effect state taxes and charges are having on low income earners?

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women) —I thank Senator Payne for the question. She, along with all senators on this side, shares a concern for vulnerable Australians and I am very pleased to outline the Commonwealth's record in this respect. The linking of pensions to male total average weekly earnings means that single pensioners are $24 a fortnight better off and couples are over $20 a fortnight better off. We have allocated $1.7 billion to create an active welfare system to help the most needy. We have put more than $2 billion extra a year into family tax benefits. Of particular interest to female senators on the other side is the fact that, in six years of government, we have spent 70 per cent more in child care than Labor did in its last six years. We are out there trying to help the most vulnerable Australians. Under us, the minimum wage has gone up; under the other side, under Labor, what happened to workers' wages? They went down. We have created a million new jobs and I sat on the other side in opposition when those people in government put a million people out of work. We can see the difference. We have affordable housing with interest rates now at seven per cent while they peaked at 17 per cent under the previous government.

I turn to look, for example, at what the states are doing—irrespective of their political persuasion, which happens to be Labor at the moment. The states definitely regressively tax low income earners. Some state taxes are the highest in the world and they hit the poor the hardest. In Victoria, which Senators Carr and Conroy might be interested in, they have the highest per person gambling tax in Australia of $340 per person. Of course, that is laden more on the low income people who are doing the gambling. In New South Wales, which Senator Faulkner and Senator Forshaw might have an interest in, the average home buyer pays over $12,000 just for the privilege of buying a new home. In Victoria, which Senator Jacinta Collins might have an interest in, they pay $9,700—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Order! Senators on my right and on my left will come to order.

Senator VANSTONE —Thank you—

Senator Cook —Tell the truth for a change.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Cook!

Senator VANSTONE —Mr President, I thought you were going to ask him to withdraw that but since you have not I will continue and take that matter up with you after question time. In Victoria, they pay $9,700 in conveyancing tax on an entry level home— $9,000 to the state government for the privilege of being able to buy one of the lowest priced homes in Victoria. In Western Australia the insurance tax burden has doubled in four years.

To help low income people and those who are needy, the Commonwealth decided that we would extend the benefits of the Commonwealth senior health care card. We have offered to the states that they should also extend the benefits of the pensioner card to people on the Commonwealth senior health care card in recognition that they have provided for themselves and as an incentive to provide for themselves for the future. If you do not offer incentives to people to provide for themselves, they simply will not do so and they will all go on the pension. What has the Commonwealth done? We have not just said to the states: `You too should look after people who have provided for themselves.' We have said to the states: `We'll give you 60 per cent of the money to do it.' And they will not do it. I am pleased to say that in New South Wales when we finally get a Liberal government back under John Brogden—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator VANSTONE —Laugh as you will—New South Wales will then meet the Commonwealth's offer and they will provide these benefits to Commonwealth senior health care card holders. Unless you get a change of government in New South Wales, Commonwealth senior health care card holders will not get these benefits. (Time expired)