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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1543

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (17:33): I rise today to support the federal government's Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012. Success and progress have never come from those who stand still. This government will be successful because we never stand still because we create change using methods that give us a far better society. One of the measures supported through these bills is our comprehensive plan for securing our clean energy future. I am very proud to be part of a government which is championing this vital initiative. The plan will cut the nation's pollution and drive investment which will help ensure that Australia continues to compete internationally and that it will remain strong now and into the future.

The decisions that our government has made have taken courage. It would be easy in the short term to do nothing and to not take advantage of new and emerging markets. But where would this take our great country? This is why the Gillard government is taking action to tackle climate change by putting a price on pollution and ensuring that all money raised will go to supporting households and jobs to build this clean energy future. Our government has a plan to cut pollution and lay the foundation for the clean energy future that Australians deserve. Putting a price on carbon will require Australia's biggest polluters to pay for the pollution that they put into our environment. We on this side of the House are supporting families and households as we move to this clean energy future. The bill sets out a range of measures including supporting jobs, households and energy markets and setting up the Clean Energy Regulator.

More than 43,500 McEwen residents will receive support from the funding in this bill, because it is for families and individuals, to assist with any additional costs that may be associated with the emissions trading system. The revenue raised will go to tax cuts and increased payments for pensioners, low- and middle-income earners and families who are doing it tough. Support will be provided to eligible self-funded retirees, job seekers, students and other income support recipients and low-income earners.

Under our Household Assistance Package, more than 20,900 pensioners in McEwen will receive pension payments increased by more than the average price impact of an emissions trading system. Pensions will increase by $338 per year for singles and $510 per year for couples combined, and concession card holders who rely on essential medical equipment will also be eligible to receive a $140 essential medical equipment payment each and every year. Family assistance payments like family tax benefit A will increase by 1.7 per cent. Nine out of 10 households will receive some assistance through tax cuts or payment increases. This monetary support is permanent and will increase in the future. The Gillard government will review the adequacy of assistance each year and will increase it further if required.

I am proud to be part of a government that makes the big decisions that demand courage right now, decisions for the future which, when we look back, will be seen as the right decisions. The coalition, who are trying to manipulate and grasp anything they can to promote their own political ambition, would claw back this support for all these people in McEwen. Just like Medicare and the superannuation reforms that we have proudly introduced, you would think no party would seek to undo them, because they have irrefutably changed Australian society for the better, but if the coalition had had their way none of these essential reforms would have seen the light of day. In the context of this government's clean energy future initiatives, we again hear the opposition cranking out the same old broken record of their negative spin.

Consistency is not the Liberal Party's strength. As we all know, Mr Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition, dismissed climate change as 'absolute crap', yet they still have their own carbon plan which will tax individuals $720 on average a year to fund support for big polluters. Last year on radio the Leader of the Opposition said:

I've never been in favour of a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.

But in 2009 he stated:

We don't want to play games with the planet. So we are taking this issue seriously and we would like to see an ETS …

That is what he said at the time. In the same year he also said:

You can't have a climate change policy without supporting this ETS …

Yet last year Mr Abbott criticised the proposed five per cent carbon emissions cuts as 'crazy', even though the coalition support the target. They have their own policy for the same target. You really have to ask: can you ever get a straight answer out of that lot opposite? Last year he repeatedly commented that measuring carbon dioxide was near impossible, and he said:

It's actually pretty hard to do this because carbon dioxide is invisible and it's weightless and you can't smell it …

The member for Wentworth quite eloquently put an end to that.

You have to wonder—this is a bloke who is a Rhodes scholar, yet he must have failed year 9 science to not understand that sort of thing and spew out the garbage that he does. But we should not be surprised that he thinks this, as most of his views are from the dark ages. What is even sadder is that it was the Howard government which introduced standards for emissions accounting—a government that he was a senior minister in. It is clear that those on the other side do not understand science. Over the years, when you look back and you look across, it is just a litany of contradictions from the Liberal Party and the National Party.

In speaking on this bill, I would also like to touch on the foreign aid component which this legislation is seeking to fund. Over a year ago, I was delighted to be involved with Plenty Valley Christian College, a school in my electorate that has been working extremely hard on the Make Poverty History campaign. After the students learned about the hardship and the challenges that people face in other countries, they decided to stand up and take action to raise awareness and help others less fortunate than us. Year 10 students led the college in organising the school to be involved in a worldwide campaign to help raise the issue of poverty around the world. The students collected hundreds of birthday cards from the school community to raise awareness in our wider community. They brought to the government's attention our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, particularly goals 3 and 4 to improve child and maternal health. I would like to say as their local member and as part of the Gillard government that I am proud to represent such caring young people from my electorate.

Our government is committed to the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, which are the agreed targets set by the world's nations to reduce poverty by 2015. This bill will see Australia providing $127.3 million to support developing countries in transforming their resources into significant, valuable and sustainable benefits for all their citizens. I would like to stress that the Australian aid program does not fund mining ventures. The aid program recognises that mining in developing countries is inevitable and that Australia would be better placed in helping these developing countries to develop their economies with sustainable practices. The potential benefits for developing countries to lift their economic status are enormous, especially for improving incomes, employment, education and enterprise opportunities for poor people in both rural and urban areas.

Many of our developing partner countries have substantial natural resource endowments, which, if well managed and regulated, can accelerate poverty reduction efforts. For example: in Papua New Guinea, mining employs over 30,000 people and provides 80 per cent of export earnings, and this is before LNG revenues are realised. Australia has already helped many countries to make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, such as in Papua New Guinea, where more than 900,000 children were immunised against measles and other childhood illnesses between 2000 and 2009. In East Timor, Australian assistance contributed to a decrease in infant mortality from 60 per 1,000 live births in 2003 down to 44 in 2009. In Indonesia, more than 2,000 new junior secondary schools were built or renovated between 2006 and 2010. That created places for about 330,000 more children to get a decent education. I am looking forward to getting back to my electorate and visiting Plenty Valley Christian College again and talking to those students who are now in year 12 about the progress that we are making with our responsibilities as a member of the global community.

The Gillard government is committed to our Millennium Development Goals and to assisting nations that are not as lucky as we are. The early stages of a child's development are extremely important. It is well known that what happens to children in their early years has consequences throughout the course of their life. The electorate of McEwen has one of the largest zero- to 5-year-old populations in the country and it is continuing to grow, with large numbers of families and their children moving into the area. Another measure in this bill introduces reforms to strengthen incentives for parents to have their children immunised, which will improve immunisation coverage rates. As we know, immunisation helps to guard against harmful infections before they come into contact with humans. Immunisation helps people stay healthy by preventing serious infections. Immunisation is the safest and most effective way of giving protection against diseases. After immunisation, your child is far less likely to contract a disease when there are cases of disease in the community. We know when enough people in our communities are immunised that an infection can no longer be spread from person to person and that can help kill off a disease altogether. This is how smallpox was eliminated from the world and how polio has now disappeared from many countries.

The Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement, which is worth $726 per child per annum, will now only be paid once a child is fully immunised at one, two and five years of age. These new conditions will be implemented at a new immunisation checkpoint at one year of age, along with the existing checkpoints at two and five years of age. This means that over the three immunisation checkpoints families will now have an incentive of more than $2,100 to insure their children are fully immunised. Health is obviously a very important issue in my electorate. That is why we have seen things like the GP superclinics in Wallan and South Morang going ahead and there has been the removal of GP training place caps. All of these things are designed to help give us better health and a better standard of living.

It is important that these things be funded and continue to grow to make sure that we have a better future for our kids and their kids as they come along. It is important that these bills are passed speedily so that we can get on with the job of delivering a better Australia for our future.