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Monday, 27 May 2013
Page: 3885


Mr LYONS (Bass) (17:10): I rise to add my remarks to the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014 and related bills. This year's budget keeps our economy strong, makes the smart investments for our future and ensures that every Australian gets a fair go. Importantly, the 2013-14 budget sets the National Disability Insurance Scheme in stone—one of the biggest social reforms our country has seen. For too long, successive governments have shunned the opportunity to reform services for the profoundly disabled, leaving behind people with significant and permanent disability, their families and their carers. The government is proud to be changing that. Delivering disability care will ensure the level of support someone receives does not depend on where they live or on the manner in which they acquired the disability. Around 1,850 people in my electorate of Bass will be eligible for support under disability care, which is fantastic.

Australians have a choice in September this year: a choice between Labor protecting jobs, caring about the vulnerable and making the smart investments we need for the future, or the coalition's savage cuts to the bone, and its slash and burn. The member for Warringah's choice would be to cut to the bone so hard that he would put tens of thousands of jobs at risk and grind the economy to a standstill, stopping growth—like President Hoover. The savage cuts of Premier Campbell Newman in Queensland and the Liberals in Victoria are an entree to what will happen if the Liberals win in September. Before the election, the Leader of the Opposition wants you to believe you can have lower taxes, less savings and smaller deficits all at once. Yet we all know that after the election he will slash and burn like his mates in Queensland and Victoria. This is a mindless recipe for higher unemployment and lower growth.

We on this side are governing for the future, investing in infrastructure and working to deliver the NBN. We are looking after regional Australia and thinking about what is important to local communities. For example, in the recent budget it was announced that every Broadband for Seniors kiosk would receive extra funding for a new computer and touchscreen monitor, ensuring seniors can benefit from a wider range of interactive computer applications and programs. There are many kiosks in Bass, at Invermay Bowls and Community Club, Glenara Lakes, Ainslie House in Launceston, Elphinwood Gardens, UAC, Aldersgate Village, Masonic Homes of Northern Tasmania, Fusion Home Support, PCYC Incorporated, Uniting Care Tasmania, Pilgrim Uniting Church, Ainslie House in Low Head, George Town Neighbourhood House, George Town District Hospital and Community Health Centre and Bridport Ex-Service and Community Club—all of which will benefit.

I am also pleased to be able to tell seniors in my electorate of Bass that the federal government is supporting a three-year trial program to support pensioners over pension age to downsize their homes without an immediate effect on their pensions. There are over 9,600 pensioners in Bass who will take part. This is a great opportunity for them. There are also more than 12,600 local pensioners now benefiting from Labor's historic pension reforms including the biggest increase in pensions for 100 years. Since 2007, single pensioners on the maximum rate are receiving $207 a fortnight and couples on the maximum rate are receiving $236 a fortnight combined. We are also looking after families. For many modern families, with mums and dads juggling it all—working, caring for children, managing costs of living pressures and often supporting aged parents. While jobs have always been the federal Labor government's No. 1 priority, we have also had to work hard to help these families deal with the very real pressures that they face. In Bass, 990 local families are benefiting from Australia's first paid parental leave scheme, delivered by federal Labor. Around 80 local dads and their partners are already benefiting from Labor's new dad and partner pay since 1 January 2013, which provides two weeks paid leave to spend time with their new child and their family. More than 6,900 local families with 12,100 schoolkids get help with back-to-school costs each year thanks to the Labor government's Schoolkids Bonus. Eligible families will get $410 for each child in primary school and $820 for each child in high school, paid in two instalments each year.

We are also looking after workers. Approximately 37,000 taxpayers in Bass received a cut on 1 July 2012 and around 31,000 taxpayers received a cut of at least $300, and 3,000 local residents will pay no tax at all, due to the tripling of the tax-free threshold. This will make a big difference to family budgets. The average wage-earner in Bass now pays approximately $2,103 less in income tax than in 2007-08 as a result of Labor's cuts for lower- and middle-income families, which is significant. It is also worth noting that recently I had a jobs expo in my electorate of Bass, where 2,400 people attended and well over 200 full time and part-time jobs were filled. Labor understands the dignity of work and the dignity that work provides.

There are 311 local workers already benefiting from Labor's new Fair Entitlements Guarantee scheme. This scheme delivers on the government's 2010 election commitment to provide greater certainty for Australian workers. If their employer enters into liquidation or bankruptcy and they cannot pay their full entitlements, like annual leave and redundancy pay—the Leader of the Opposition voted against this—we will protect workers' entitlements. Labor has looked after Bass and I am very pleased with the support Labor has given to my electorate.

Thousands in Bass would be left behind with a coalition government—6,900 eligible families and around 12,100 children if the schoolkids bonus is ripped out. They will cut to the bone, ignore the needs of the future and always ignore those in our community who have no voice. The Gillard government will always act responsibly to prioritise jobs so that the economy works for more people. We know that the biggest threat to the Tasmanian economy is the Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition is coming under increasing pressure to change the way the GST is distributed and we have just heard from a member from Western Australia. They are into GST, don't worry about that.

Let me inform the House that the Liberal candidates in Tasmania have been espousing that the only way the GST formula can be changed is by agreement with all state premiers. This is not the case. The distribution of GST is determined by the Treasurer. It is the Treasurer who signs the determination of state revenue-sharing relativities that are used to distribute the GST, under section 8 of the Federal Financial Relations Act 2009. It is not something that is agreed with by the states or requires change; only the Treasurer. There is a requirement that the states are consulted, but the Treasurer has full discretion. It is for this reason that Tasmanians and South Australians are worried. Tasmanians are worried that the GST could take away from our state, resulting in massive cuts to essential services, like hospitals and education.

Treasurer Wayne Swan has assured Tasmanians that the Australian government will support the principle of horizontal fiscal equalisation. The Liberals are hopelessly divided on this issue. The Liberal premiers of Queensland and Western Australia believe they deserve a bigger piece of the pie and the Leader of the Opposition has said he is sympathetic to their concerns. In fact, he says one thing to those states and then comes to Tasmania and says something completely different. What we have to do some time or other is get it in writing—because that is what he says you can believe.

It is clear that if the member for North Sydney, Joe Hockey, becomes Treasurer he could decimate Tasmania's revenue with the stroke of a pen. Do we trust Joe? No. They have free rein to make their own decisions, and that is a $600-million risk to Tasmania's finances. Labor has worked hard to protect jobs and support families and that is what it will keep doing. The Prime Minister has a plan to strengthen our economy, to grow jobs beyond mining and support families so that no one gets left behind.

Throughout the GFC, Labor focused on keeping people in jobs, creating new apprenticeships and maintaining economic growth. Australia has triple-A status for the first time, one of only eight countries in the world with a 12-biggest economy, up from 15. With Labor, our economy has grown more than six times faster than Germany and the United States. We are helping families, working hard to protect jobs and investing in the future.

Those opposite have had a negative, disruptive five years in opposition and they have been too lazy to come up with a plan. Their document that was released in Tasmania this week is supposed to be a plan. It is no plan. It is all smoke and mirrors—and mostly mirrors because all they are going to do is look into it.