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Wednesday, 4 February 2009
Page: 340

Mr SIDEBOTTOM (10:06 PM) —I find this extraordinary. I do not like to be negative about this, but we have had the carping about this package, the Appropriation (Nation Building and Jobs) Bill (No. 1) 2008-2009 and the cognate bills, going on all day. Frankly, from the mob on the other side—who rammed through this place the financial packages for the Murray-Darling and the intervention in the Northern Territory without any real modelling at all—it beggars belief. The hypocrisy that is being demonstrated on the other side in relation to this is quite breathtaking. However, I do not want to enter into that. People do not want to hear that. I agree with the member for New England that what they want from this House and this parliament is bipartisanship. All I can tell you—and we all agree on this—is that we are facing a serious challenge. We do not have time for these games, this argy-bargy. This government was elected to make decisions and we are doing it—exactly the same rhetoric that Howard and his crew used when making important decisions. We are doing it. What we are witnessing today is political gamesmanship.

I also find it extraordinary that the member for Higgins has finally emerged from under his mushroom—not one speech in 2008, not one speech in this parliament, and he now has made two speeches this year and made a few comments on TV. So something else is going on and that is what is affecting the performance of those opposite in relation to this very significant package.

All I want to say about this is that we on this side are fair dinkum. It may not be the bees knees in terms of what is required. There may be some difficulties with it. But its intention is right and the response of the Australian people is, ‘Get on with it.’ We have had enough third-party endorsement for this already to have this endorsed by the Australian people. So let us not play games anymore.

This speech is being broadcast, and I had some people contact me today with some practical questions about how this affects them. I would like to deal with those. I would like to share the questions and answers with those who may be listening to this broadcast and with my colleagues here. So let us begin. The first question is: if a person is working as a casual employee and is over the age of 18, do they get the one-off payment? My research says, yes, the government will provide all eligible taxpayers with a tax bonus payment of up to $950. The bonus will be available to Australian resident taxpayers who paid net tax in the 2007-08 financial year. If they have not yet lodged a return for the 2007-08 year, they have until 30 June 2009 to lodge it and must be eligible for the payment. That is an important condition to this.

The second question is: what happens if you are self-employed? My answer is the same as above: so long as a person has lodged a tax return, they will be eligible. If in doubt, they should contact their accountant.

How soon do these payments get paid? As soon as the Senate passes these bills—and this is what all this is about. This is all conditional on the Senate passing these bills. As soon as the Senate passes the bills, the tax office will determine eligibility and payment will be paid either direct to bank accounts or by cheque, depending on how your tax return is generally delivered to a person.

When do they get paid? It is all dependent on the Senate passing these bills, but at this stage the tax bonus for working families is April 2009; the farmers hardship bonus is the fortnight beginning 24 March 2009; the back-to-school bonus, for those that are eligible, the fortnight beginning 11 March 2009; the training and learning bonus, from 24 March 2009; and the single-income family bonus, so important to so many families both in my electorate of Braddon and throughout Australia, from 11 March 2009. This is pretty immediate stuff, ready to roll, depending on the Senate, depending on those opposite. The Australian people wait for sensible deliberation.

To be eligible for the ‘worker earning under $100,000 payment’, would you have had to be in paid work prior to this announcement or could you get a job between now and when the payment comes through and still get the payment? Unfortunately, the answer is: no, you have to have been in work and paid tax in the 2007-08 tax year.

How does the government determine who is eligible for the insulation subsidy and how is it paid—through vouchers or cash or whatever else? Guidelines and application forms for this one will be released once the bill is passed, but effectively there is a very generous subsidy for people to insulate their houses. Of course, the environmental effects from this are fantastic, so it has widespread community and environmental benefits.

Do people who are under 18 and working full time and earning under $100,000 get $950 as well? So long as they have lodged a tax return for 2007-08.

How does the package work for people who have one person working earning under $60,000 and one on a disability pension? Do they get another payment for the pensioner, seeing that they got the pre-Christmas payment before? A good question. According to my research, the person on a disability pension does not get another payment. They got either $1,400 as a single pensioner or $2,100 for couples last December. The government is providing additional financial assistance to families who rely on one main income earner. This includes sole-parent families and two-parent families where one parent chooses to stay at home. I add that the bonus will be a one-off payment of $950 per family to every family entitled to family tax benefit part B, or FTB B, as we call it, irrespective of the number of children. If that income earner also earns less than $80,000, they also get the $950 working families tax bonus.

Another interesting question next: does salary sacrifice act to bring your actual wage down in relation to the $950 handout? According to my research, it is based on net tax liability—after deductions and adjustments.

For separated parents, is the $950 back-to-school payment made to each parent as a percentage of the care of their children? If it is, why should the main carer, who is responsible for school levies, uniforms et cetera, as per information provided by the Child Support Agency, not receive the full payment? This payment is made to the parent or parents who physically receive family tax benefit B. If this payment is split between parents then the amount of back-to-school payment delivered to each parent will be directly proportionate to the percentage of FTB B they receive, which is dependent upon the percentage of care they have for their children.

Finally: if there are two breadwinners and one earns $10 million a year, does that person’s partner, who earns $50,000, still get the $950 bonus? I do not know who sat down to write that question, but I do not know anyone in my electorate who fits that example. However, it is worthy of researching and answering. The answer, if you are still waiting and awake is, yes, as long as the person who earned $50,000 lodged a tax return for the previous financial year. If one partner has $10 million, why would the other partner need to work, I say! However, we have choices in this world.

This is a serious issue. I do take it very seriously, but I wanted to answer some practical questions that were put to me by people from my electorate. I know my electorate will benefit. It is an electorate full of hardworking, innovative and industrious people and an electorate that has a relatively low-income status compared to many other parts of Australia. I know that the people in my electorate will benefit from this. We have done it tough for a long time in relative terms. We are used to hard times, but we do value support when we need it most.

I am very proud that I am about to inherit the west coast of Tasmania from my colleague and cousin the member for Lyons, Dick Adams. Yes, he is my cousin—on my mum’s side, for those who may not be interested! Anyway, I am inheriting Cousin Dick’s area, and they are going through tough times. I have already met with Mayor Gerrity, the state departments and the unions to try and help in the downturn of the mining industry on the west coast. I know that they will benefit from this greatly. They want this package, warts and all. I know it may well have difficulties—members on the other side have raised some issues and so have we—but this is the best we believe we can do seriously, practically and realistically. Australian people do not want mucking around on this. Let us get on with it and, please, stop the games on the other side. It is too serious for everyone involved.