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Monday, 28 May 2012
Page: 5865


Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (16:29): This is the fifth budget that I have spoken to, the fifth budget brought down by the Treasurer Wayne Swan since the election in 2007. I have to say, I am as proud of this one as I have been of any of them. We have governed in extraordinary times. I came to this parliament at the height of a boom that had lasted for 20 years. I walked in every quarter and heard the Treasurer talk about how the mining boom in China had delivered billions of dollars to the tax base—billions of dollars flowed into the tax base every quarter on the back of that boom. Then I watched a government spend it like a drunken sailor; I watched a government that said to itself, 'We've got a rich friend in China; let's have a party,' that did not build for the future, that did not invest for the future and that essentially frittered it away in the most appalling way.

We, on the other hand, have not governed in those times. In fact, we have governed through some of the worst global financial times in about 80 or 90 years—since the Great Depression. I have watched the government, with Wayne Swan as the Treasurer, handle those circumstances in quite an extraordinary way. It is no mistake that we are now in a country which—in spite of having $150 billion ripped from our revenues by the uncertainty in global markets, which made the job incredibly difficult—has a AAA credit rating from all the rating agencies for the first time in our history. It did not happen during the great boom years when money flowed in from China at a great rate; it actually happened in one of the worst times in a century.

We have more people employed now than at any time in Australia's history. Again, it did not happen through the boom years; it did not happen through 12 years of unprecedented boom that came from a boom elsewhere in the world; it happened in one of the worst times in this country. In other parts of the world the unemployment rate is twice ours. We have more people employed now than ever before in our history. We have inflation, interest rates and unemployment below five per cent for the first time in 40 years. Again, it did not happen in the boom times; it happened in the worst of times. We have the highest projected growth of any country in the developed world, and we are one of only two that managed not to go into recession in what was the worst of times.

These are things to be proud of. I would love to have been in government in better times actually, because it has been very tough for government and for many people in the country. But these are things to be proud of, as is this budget. Just as the government did the right thing when things got very difficult, when the bottom fell out of investment, in the global financial crisis, and when it looked like construction had stalled altogether, we stimulated the economy as we should. In my electorate, we kept three per cent of the workforce employed on buildings in schools and public housing. That was three per cent of the workforce that we in my area all know would not have been engaged on other construction projects. So it was a great achievement to keep those people employed for well over two years while the construction industry began its recovery. It is still recovering now.

Now it is time, as the economy recovers, to bring the budget back into surplus. We are doing that through this budget. Again, it is not the best of times—not the most easy times to do it—but it is the right time to do it. In spite of that, and in spite of the extraordinary fiscal discipline that we had to show in bringing this budget back to surplus, we have provided quite considerable assistance to those who need it most. Again, that is something that I am really proud of: we have done the right thing for the economy as a whole but we have protected and looked after those in most need.

This is not a one-off for us. If you look at the record of the government over the last four years you can see how much of a difference we have made to people who are most in need of help. In my electorate alone, there are 1,335 local families who are benefiting from Australia's first ever paid parental leave scheme. That was delivered by us, again in the worst of times. We had 1,796 local families benefit from the baby bonus last year, and many of those families also received $500 more of their payment upfront to help pay for initial costs. The families of about 5,000 local teenagers turning 16 over the next five years will receive up to $4,200 extra in family payments if their child stays at school. There are 11,800 local family tax benefit part A recipients who may be eligible for an advance payment of up to $1,000 to help them meet unexpected family expenses. There are 7,211 local families who are now benefiting from Labor increasing the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of parents' out-of-pocket expenses; we also increased the maximum payment to $7,500 per child per year. That has made a significant difference to many families in my electorate. I remember those years when I first came to parliament, from 2004 to 2007. I remember families being on waiting lists for a year or a year and a half and then finally getting a job three or four weeks after their child's name made it to the front of the queue and being told they had to either pay the child care, which they could not afford, or go back to the back of the queue. I had many, many parents in my electorate who were really struggling with finding a place back then, and things for many families are much, much easier now thanks to that increasing of the rebate. Those same 7,200 families now have the option of claiming their childcare rebate payment fortnightly rather than having to wait till the end of the year, and that makes it much easier for them to make ends meet.

There are 22½ thousand local pensioners that are benefiting from our historic pension reforms, including the biggest increase to the pension in 100 years. Single pensioners on the maximum rate are receiving an extra $154 a fortnight, and couples on the maximum rate are receiving an extra $156 a fortnight combined. Four thousand one hundred and eighty-seven local families have received an annual $600 carer supplement boost to assist with the financial pressures associated with caring for a loved one. Those who care for a child with a disability now receive an extra $1,000 per child a year.

Twenty-two and a half thousand local age pensioners can now keep more of their pension if they continue to work. They can now earn up to $250 a fortnight averaged over the year without it being taken into account as income under the pension income test. This is particularly important for those pensioners who return to work at a key time of the year—maybe at Christmas because there is more work around, or maybe leading up the end of the financial year because their skills are in accounts, or maybe because they work at a school for 40 weeks of the year. Being able to average their money over the year makes a significant difference to them. There are 581 local apprentices training in skill shortage areas who are being supported with $5,500 in total government support to help them complete their qualifications.

The Household Assistance Package is rolling out now. More than 14,300 local families will receive extra money through family assistance payments in the months of May and June—we are almost finished with May now. A typical family in Parramatta will get $529 through both tax cuts and family assistance payments. Thirteen and a half thousand family tax benefit part A recipients in Parramatta will receive up to $110 extra a year per child, and 11½ thousand part B recipients will receive an extra $69 a year per child. More than 1,900 families will receive an extra $289 per year in increased income support as well as assistance through increased family payments, and more than 22½ thousand local pensioners will receive an extra $338 a year for singles and $510 for couples combined in their pensions from May. More than 1,400 local self-funded retirees will receive an extra $338 a year for singles and $510 for couples combined from May. Job seekers have not been left out either. Nearly 5,000 local job seekers will receive an extra $218 a year for singles and $390 for couples combined from May. More than 3,000 students in Parramatta will get up to $177 extra per year, and the amount they get will depend on the rate and type of their payments.

There is also assistance coming through the tax system. Around 55,000 local taxpayers—which is a substantial proportion of the working population in Parramatta—will receive a tax cut on 1 July. Around 45,000 taxpayers will receive a tax cut of at least $300, and 5,000 local residents will pay no tax at all due to the tripling of the tax-free threshold. The average wage earner in Parramatta now pays approximately $1,200 less than in 2007-08 as a result of Labor's tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, and these are being delivered not in the height of a boom but at a time when the global financial crisis and global uncertainty has ripped $160 billion from our revenue base.

From July, Labor will put up to $500 into the superannuation accounts of 26,400 local workers earning up to $37,000. The minerals resource rent tax will increase superannuation for 54,900 local workers from nine to 12 per cent. For an average 30-year-old worker this will add almost $108,000 to their projected retirement income. From October, local dads and other partners in Parramatta will be able to apply for Labor's new dad-and-partner pay scheme, which begins 1 January 2013. In spite of the opposition's unwillingness to support the cut to the company tax rate, we have still managed to provide significant assistance to small business. To 19,800 businesses we will be giving an instant tax write-off for each asset purchase below $6,500. It is one of the many benefits to be delivered by the minerals resource rent tax. On top of this, the first $5,000 spent on a new motor vehicle will also be able to be written off.

The schoolkids bonus is also great news for families. Up until this year we have had the education tax refund, where parents could claim part of the costs that they spent sending their kids to school, but about 1,700 families in Parramatta did not claim that. There are a large number of people who have not been claiming that rebate, and in many cases they are the people who need it most. So we have replaced that education tax refund with a schoolkids bonus. There will be 9,050 local families in Parramatta who are expected to receive $410 a year for each child in primary school and $820 a year for each child in high school, totalling $9 million worth of assistance for Parramatta families. Those payments will be received as they are needed: at the beginning of the year and in the middle of the year. We will see those payments rolled out to families in my electorate in June. More than 14,000 local families will also receive an increase of up to $600 in their Family Tax Benefit Part A payments, and that increase will flow from July 2013.

We will also be delivering vital assistance to 13,000 local young people, single parents and the unemployed who are currently receiving allowances by providing cash payments to help with the cost of essential services like electricity, gas and water. Singles will receive a supplementary allowance of $210 while couples will receive $350. We are also nationally investing over $225 million over four years through the jobs, education and training childcare fee assistance initiative, which helps parents on income support receive the training and skills they need to return to the workforce. It is a particularly important initiative and one that I am very proud of.

I could continue for quite awhile with the budget benefits to Parramatta, but unfortunately I have run out of time. I commend the bill to the House.