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Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Page: 4369


Mr RANDALL (Canning) (18:37): I am very pleased to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2011-2012 and cognate bills this evening because it gives me the opportunity to examine some of the impacts of these bills. I want to make it quite clear from the outset that when the budget was generally delivered in this House, particularly in the Howard years, it was exciting. In fact, in the budgets delivered by Peter Costello we were always trying to find out who the beneficiaries were and what tax cuts there would be. What we are doing now is saying: 'I wonder who is going to get hit? Who is going to get a negative impact from this budget?' In fact, the half life of this budget is such that it was an absolute fizzer that only lasted about 48 hours. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer had huge difficulty keeping any momentum on this bill past the weekend. Where we used to put out a newsletter explaining the benefits, the impact and the rollout of budgetary initiatives, if you were a government member you would not want to put out a newsletter on this because it was old news—it was fish-and-chips wrappings—by the end of the first week it was out there.

So much for a party that once used to champion the working families of Australia. Probably the most divisive and negative impact of this budget was on middle Australia and the families of middle Australia. Let's have a look. In this budget the government proposed a freeze on indexation to family tax benefit parts A and B for three years, past the next election, in the forward estimates. When we add up all of the savings on tax benefit parts A and B at the 2010 rate by fixing it until July 2014, what we see is that a freeze is actually a reduction over those forward estimates years.

The cost of living is going up for working families in this country. We know from the polling and from the feedback to my office that the biggest item for Australians, particularly Australian families, is the cost-of-living impacts. Grocery costs are up 14 per cent. Health costs are up 20 per cent. Education costs are up 24 per cent. Gas prices are up 30 per cent. Electricity prices are up 51 per cent. In my electorate of Canning there are roughly 38,731 families. They are going to get hit by this Labor budget. The Treasurer described it as a true Labor budget. It really is, because it rips the heart out of working families. Interestingly, you do not hear the Labor Party talking about working families in this place much anymore, because they know what they have done to them.

As I said, these thresholds are going to be frozen. In addition to that, the government have suddenly decided that the rich in this country are people who earn either an individual or a combined income of $150,000. I say to you, Mr Deputy Speaker Adams, that even in downtown Tasmania two school teachers on a normal salary for teachers who have been teaching for a number of years would combine to make $150,000. In fact, I was talking to a teacher at a local school of mine the other day and she is on $85,000. So a school teacher and nurse or a policeman with a schoolteacher wife would be on $150,000 and considered by this government to be rich. As a result, they are the ones who are going to have a whole lot of tax benefits and family entitlements gutted.

One of the interesting things about this budget is that the savings measures will be directed to spending on projects in other areas. So the $2 billion being stripped away from families is going to be directed to other areas. One of the things that I could not believe, which was almost a case of 'ripped out of here and put over there', was the $2 billion out of middle-income Australia or from working families and the almost $2 billion extra—not in total but extra—to the asylum seeker program.

Where do our priorities lie? Do our priorities lie with the people and families at home? Or do they lie these days with those, to use the Orwellian term, 'unauthorised arrivals', non-Australian citizens? That is what makes my electorate angry. When I go to Anzac Day or go around the electorate, people are coming up to me and saying, 'Mr Randall, you've got to do something about what is going on here—the free access to phones and all the sorts of rorts that are going on and the motels that they are staying in around my electorate.' Generally they are on Commonwealth land. Jandakot air base has a whole lot of asylum seekers housed there. Of my people, there are 20,000 seniors on a waiting list in Perth for housing for low-income earners. They cannot get it. Pensioners are trying to get help with their power bills and cannot get it. There are people wanting legal aid; they cannot get it. But we took $2 billion from working families and put almost $2 billion extra into the asylum seeker program because the size of the program has blown out from the government's anticipated 3,000-odd to what we know is more than 7,000.

I notice that there is $1.37 million for carbon tax advertising. As I said, imagine trying to tell constituents, mothers and fathers, who cannot pay their power bills that the expected savings from the indexation of their family tax supplements are being redirected into an advertising campaign to try to sell them a tax. Seriously, what are we doing talking about working families? The Prime Minister is saying: 'These families are wealthy. They do not need any extra assistance to help raise their dependent children. They do not suffer under the big rising cost of living. Let's make it even harder for working families.' That is the message that is out there, and that is why the poll on the budget was bad and why the poll on the Prime Minister and the Labor Party was bad.

There are other initiatives in the budget which have not materialised. In the area of aged care and high-level residential care, funding for residential care has been eroded and redirected. As much as we support aged-care packages in the community, there are some people who have to end up in nursing homes and institutional care.

The government has once again ignored the plight of grandparents acting as sole carers for their grandchildren, as evidenced in this latest budget. The government have said that they are going to put in $1.2 million over four years to establish 25 peer support groups across Australia for grandparents to meet and share information. Meeting and sharing information will not help pensioners pay the bills for their grandchildren whom they have been left with. Quite often, grandparents have ended up with their grandchildren because their children have either deceased in some manner or got into a lot of trouble such as being hopeless drug addicts. This is a disgrace and something I have raised in this House so many times.

With respect to the solar initiatives, what happened to the green government after a number of houses burnt down under the pink batts program and the green loans program and some of the other initiatives the government said they were going to be green about? They are actually reducing the subsidies for solar heating and photovoltaic cells. There is no extra government rebate for pensioners. Recently, I went to the house of one of my constituents in Pinjarra and she gladly showed me on her roof the eight photovoltaic cells which were feeding power back into her house. Not only was it good for her because she was receiving power from the sun but she was getting a dividend because it was being fed back into the grid and she was getting money from the state government to do so. Out of the window, it is being reduced.

During the election campaign many people were sold on the fact that we were going to help them towards solar power. For example, in the RAAFA village in Erskine in my electorate, under the proposed Solar Towns program 197 units were very keen to get a project going, but nothing has come from this government. In fact, this program is now totally off the drawing board and, even though the people from the RAAFA village have had a meeting with Synergy, Western Power and Perth Energy, they cannot meet the 30 June deadline when the solar credit multiplier reduces.

I am hearing also from those supplying solar panels that they have had an absolute rush. For example, the head of the Australian Solar Energy Society, John Grimes, has said:

Literally thousands of people will rush in to try to meet the deadline of July 1 and then after that all activity ceases, because you've brought forward all the sales for the next couple of years.

You can see what is going to happen here. We have got pink batts all over again. My office has talked to a contact in the area, Paul Hart from Solargain, one of Australia's leading solar suppliers. He said that he is unable to service a huge influx of people wanting to switch to solar because by the beginning of May his books were already filled to the end of September. Even if his paperwork is completed before 30 June this year, the installation will have to happen before 30 September this year, and he does not have the manpower to do this. So it is pink batts all over again. You currently have people out there trying to get on the back of this program and quickly fitting up solar panels everywhere—a whole lot of unqualified people doing potentially shonky work, accidents waiting to happen; and people potentially losing money. That is some of the collateral damage from this.

One of the things I want to raise in the last few moments I have is the fact that Western Australia has made application to this government—and I have also spoken privately to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen—for Perth to be classified as a region for the purposes of immigration. In Western Australia, we have a huge shortfall of skilled and unskilled workers. If you are from another state of Australia, you might find that unusual, because I am sure that you are not necessarily in the same boat. Everyone thinks this is in the mining areas, in the Pilbara, in the central west and in the Kimberley; it is not. The Western Australian Minister for Energy, Mr Collier, wrote to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen. He put out a press release, which said:

Training and Workforce Development Minister Peter Collier has expressed his frustration that his calls for Perth to be recognised under the Regional Sponsorship Migration Scheme (RSMS) have been ignored by the Federal Government.

Some of the occupations not on the ASCO code nationally that we want in Perth are teachers aides; childcare workers; aged or disabled carers; dental assistants; hospital orderlies; nursing support workers; personal care assistants; therapy aides; bar attendants; hotel service manages; waiters; security officers; bookkeepers; property managers; plastic production machine operators; reinforced plastic and composite production workers; sewing machinists; sterilisation technicians—that is obviously for equipment in hospitals; shot firers—in other words, blasting; engineering production workers; railway signal operators; train controllers; waste water plant operators; agricultural and horticultural mobile plant operators; logging plant operators; earthmoving plant operators; excavation operators; taxi drivers; bus drivers; train drivers; and truck drivers generally.

They are the sort of people we are chasing for Western Australia—and do you think we can get recognised? Tasmania is obviously regional for the purposes of migration, as is Adelaide, yet Western Australia, which is screaming out for skilled and unskilled workers, is getting ignored. We want 200,000 workers in the next decade or so for projects worth billions and billions of dollars. When people say to us, 'Why are you sending the prefabrication of some of this mining equipment and general work to places like Korea and elsewhere?' we say that we have not got the skilled workers. We try and bring in the skilled workers from Korea and the Philippines et cetera, but we have the dickens of a problem because retrospectively this government has changed the rules on 457 visas and the English qualifications, so they cannot come. At the end of the day, the productivity of this country is going to get hurt because this government had an opportunity in this budget to do something about productivity through migration to the areas that need workers. It is a damp squib that failed. It has failed the Australian people. It is an irresponsible document which is going to put us in debt for many years. We need to see the end of it by going to an election as soon as possible and changing the government. (Time expired)