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Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Page: 2055

Senator FIELDING (Leader of the Family First Party) (12:04 PM) —It was very interesting to hear Senator Carr say that the coalition, which is the National Party and the Liberal Party, did not include inner regional in their agreement with the government. That is interesting. Where was the National Party when you were sitting down with the minister agreeing to a deal that cut out rural and regional areas? Where were they? They are here now. But where were they when the minister said that they did not include inner regional in the deal? That is funny. The National Party did not seem to want to stand up then.

Now they have come back with this amendment. I will support this amendment because it does do something for regional areas, but I am surprised now that you are coming back in here after you have done the deal. You are allowing the government to walk all over you. They pick and choose when they bring legislation into this chamber. You know that. They have waited to the last minute to start to sit down and negotiate on this issue and you have fallen for the trick. You have blinked too early. You have sold out regional areas and now you are trying to scramble and claw them back. It is a joke. You should have realised they were always going to do this at the last minute and say, ‘We need to get this through.’ You folks have allowed them to mismanage this whole situation.

First of all, the Rudd government took away the scholarships early last year. I warned them, ‘You shouldn’t have done that unless you dealt with youth allowance at the same time.’ You could see this coming. The government have been devious from day one with the youth allowance changes, and I am telling them that they are getting caught out by people like the Rural Education Equity Alliance, whose media release is headed ‘Dismay at youth allowance deal’. The government have been deviously working on this all the way through, have come in here at the last second and have only really started to negotiate at the eleventh hour. It is disingenuous. It is just a joke to think that we are here, at the eleventh hour, trying to look after regional areas. I will support this amendment. It will be interesting to see if we divide on it, because I will be calling for a division, and I hope those people in the National Party who are here will call for a division as well.