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Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Page: 4499

Mr MATHESON (Macarthur) (18:42): I rise today to speak on these appropriation bills because I believe the people of Macarthur are worse off as a result of this Labor budget. This year's budget delivers more debt, more deficits, more taxes, more broken promises and more uncertainty. It was a cruel blow to families, pensioners and small-business owners in my electorate. Sadly, our country is in more debt than ever before, with the total gross debt set to have reached $300 billion within the forward estimates. It is Labor's fifth record deficit in five years and there are at least two more deficits to come. Over the past five years the government has spent $191 billion more than it has raised.

Australia cannot afford to keep running up record debt and deficits. This government needs to start living within its means, just like every family and every business across the country. I hold great concern for the people of Macarthur, who are struggling to make ends meet as a result of this government's reckless spending and waste since it was elected in 2007. It is a big concern but no surprise that Labor's budget has failed to address the cost of living pressures for all Australians. Since elected, this Labor government has done nothing to ease the cost of living pressures for families in Macarthur. Since 2007, the cost of electricity has increased by 93.8 per cent, water and sewage costs have increased by 63.1 per cent, the cost of gas has increased by 61.8 per cent, the cost of medical and health services is up by 40.9 per cent, and rents have increased by 30.2 per cent. The rising cost of living has had a huge impact on quality of life for many families in Macarthur. People in my electorate are working hard to pay off their mortgage and balance the family budget. They are trying to decrease their own debt and reduce their credit limits. So you can imagine how frustrating it would be to see their own government's wasteful spending result in almost $300 billion of debt, reaching record national debt interest payments of $7.8 billion per year. That is almost $50 million per day in borrowings. This government does not have a revenue problem; it has a spending problems. Labor's interest payments are now at almost $35 million a day. This budget delivers more than $25 billion in higher taxes over the next four years. And to make matters worse, this budget includes an extra $100 million spending on government advertising. How can this government justify $100 million on advertising when there are people in Macarthur who are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table for their families? I have spoken in this House recently about families in Macarthur who cannot afford to sign their children up for sports teams and after-school activities. The cost of living is so high that there is no money left after one income covers the mortgage and the other income barely covers the electricity bills, water bills, grocery bills and the council rates—all of which have gone up thanks to this Labor government's record debt and their toxic carbon tax. There are pensioners in my electorate who shower once every two days and have cut down on the number of meals they eat each day because of the rising cost of electricity.

The budget revealed that Labor's carbon tax projections are again wildly off the mark. The collapse of the European carbon price means that Labor is now covering up a further black hole of $6 billion. But relief is in sight for Macarthur families under a coalition government. We will abolish the carbon tax and provide immediate and substantial relief on electricity and gas prices. On day one of the new government, we will instruct the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to draft legislation to repeal the carbon tax. We will instruct the department to start implementing the coalition's Direct Action plan on climate change and carbon emissions. We will ensure that households get the full benefit of the abolition of the carbon tax by requiring the ACCC to make sure companies do the right thing.

Under the government's budget, families in Macarthur will be worse off. They are being forced to bear the brunt of the government's failed mining tax and carbon tax—and that is not fair. The government has extended the pause on income thresholds for family payments, the family tax benefit supplement payments, until 2017. This decision will impact the 1.5 million families who receive Family Tax Benefit A and 1.3 million families who receive Family Tax Benefit B, as these supplement payments fail to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The Labor government's decision to scrap these planned family tax benefits will impact 12,261 families in Macarthur. This benefit would have provided up to $300 to eligible families with one child and up to $600 to families with two or more children.

In May 2012, the Prime Minister promised a $1.8 billion boost to family payments, new tax relief for business and lump sum allowances for struggling Australians as part of a new 'benefits of the boom' package to spread the benefits of the resources boom to all corners of our country. This is just another broken promise for the people of Macarthur. At the last election, Labor also promised company tax cuts for businesses and then took them away last year, saying that the money would go towards family payments instead. Now those family payments have been taken away before they were even meant to start. Families across the country are literally paying the price for this government's reckless spending and waste. I can tell you now that more than 12,000 Macarthur families have taken a clear message away from this decision, and that is that Labor cannot be trusted to keep its promises or honour its word. Labor promised 'no carbon tax', a budget surplus, 500,000 new jobs and increased family payments—and every one of these promises has been broken.

Macarthur families will also suffer as a result of this budget's broken promise on child care. At a time when childcare costs are increasing, Labor has broken its promise that the indexation of the childcare rebate would recommence in 2014. The coalition will ensure that child care is more accessible, affordable and flexible by getting the Productivity Commission to urgently undertake a major inquiry into the childcare system. There are thousands of families across Macarthur relying on child care to allow both parents to work, to stay on top of the mortgage and to pay all the bills. It is imperative that these families can access affordable and flexible child care to fit in with their employment.

The coalition is also committed to its strong and effective paid parental leave scheme, which has been our policy now for three years. We want to ensure that Australian families are able to afford to take time off work for the birth of their children. This policy will ensure that they are able to spend these formative months with their newborn, before returning to the workforce. The beneficiaries of this policy in Macarthur will be teachers, police officers, nurses and retail workers who earn more than the minimum wage but are in no way rich. Paid parental leave should be viewed as a workplace entitlement, not a welfare entitlement. To this end, it makes sense for the amount paid to be based on an actual wage. Labor's scheme, on the other hand, puts families who earn above the minimum wage at a real financial disadvantage when starting a family. Our parental leave scheme is a genuine economic reform because, if we want a stronger economy, it is vital that we encourage skilled people to stay connected to the workforce.

Increases to the Medicare levy under this budget will also hit Macarthur families, with an average Australian family who earns $70,000 a year, $350 per year worse off. Under this government, it is going to cost Macarthur residents more to visit the GP and other health professionals as a result of this budget. The government has cut more than $1.8 billion from Medicare rebates, the Extended Medicare Safety Net and the net medical expenses tax offset. These cuts will hit the sickest and most vulnerable members of my community the hardest. There will be no increase to Medicare rebates between November 2012 and July 2014, despite continued growth in the cost of delivering health care. This means the costs are likely to be passed on to patients directly, particularly in general practice, where there is a high volume of pensioners and concession card holders. These cuts follow Labor's previous attacks that have forced up the cost of private health insurance and cut Medicare funding for dental services.

The government has failed to deliver on key promises in health. It has forced up the cost of health care for millions of Australians and has diverted much-needed resources to building bureaucracy. The coalition will restore good economic management so that sensible investments can be made in frontline health services that actually benefit patients.

Families caring for a loved one with a disability can be sure that a coalition government will keep the announced spending on the National Disability Insurance Scheme. We will also ensure that the scheme reflects the Productivity Commission's recommendations, rather than just becoming another government bureaucracy. I believe that the NDIS is the most important piece of legislation ever to go through this parliament. There are many families in my electorate which will benefit, but the scheme must reflect the Productivity Commission's recommendations to make sure nobody falls through the cracks.

It is my strong belief that the financial support and assistance for these people living with a disability should not be the responsibility of parents and carers who have already provided hands-on support to their loved ones 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The coalition believes that the NDIS can be delivered in the time frame recommended by the Productivity Commission by a sensible government that manages it well. We are ready to work with the government to see an NDIS delivered as soon as possible and believe that we must get this right the first time around, with a very high level of consultation and attention to detail from now until its full implementation.

The federal budget has revealed that Labor is actually reducing school education funding by $325 million over the forward estimates. This is despite the claims of extra spending. Labor claims that they are putting $2.8 billion into schools over the next four years. But they are discontinuing national partnership funding for lower socio-economic schools, reward payments to teachers, cash bonus payments to schools and literacy and numeracy funding to the value of $2.1 billion. On top of these discontinued programs, there is a third of a billion dollars reduction in ongoing funding set aside for non-government schools when comparing last year's budget figures to this year's figures. This means that schools in New South Wales will not see any of the promised federal funding until 2017—two federal elections away. Labor has also cut funding to universities, student income support, apprenticeships and training and tax deductions for self-education expenses.

The coalition certainly supports additional funding for schools. We have always suggested that at least the same amount of funds indexed each year to meet rising costs must be a basic starting point arising as a result of any new school-funding model. Unlike this government, if elected, we will focus on areas which are linked to improved student outcomes. We will introduce reforms and improve teacher quality, implementing a robust national curriculum and principal and school autonomy, and encouraging more parental engagement.

We believe that improving teacher quality is the most effective way to improve student outcomes. We also recognise that quality professional development for teachers has to be at the top of the education agenda. In Macarthur we have many fantastic teachers dedicated to the education of their students. These teachers know and understand how important it is that they receive professional development training to ensure that their students succeed in the classroom.

The coalition will also oppose Labor's plan to introduce a means test on parents of children in non-government schools. The Labor Party calls it an 'individual parental capacity to pay'—this is just another term for 'means test'. Under Labor's school funding changes, parents will have to reveal their individual income when enrolling their child at a non-government school from 2017.

The lack of infrastructure promised for the people of Macarthur in this budget was no surprise. Even the government's NBN was slashed. Budget figures reveal that plant investment in the NBN Co. this year and the next two years has been slashed by $3.5 billion. Less investment in the NBN Co. will clearly lead to a reduction in the number of households and businesses in Macarthur which actually receive access to the NBN fibre network. This number will be substantially lower in the period between now and June 2016 than forecast in the revised NBN 2012-2015 Corporate Plan.

The budget confirms what the coalition has warned of for some time: Labor's NBN is unaffordable within the currently claimed budget, and undeliverable on the currently claimed schedule. The gutting of NBN funding is a clear admission that the rollout is extremely behind the schedule unveiled by the government only nine months ago. After almost six years of Labor, fewer than 20,000 households and businesses are connected to the fibre network, while 2 million are still unable to obtain fixed broadband that supports viewing a YouTube video. If elected, the coalition will complete the NBN sooner, more affordably and at less cost to Australian taxpayers.

We will aim to ensure all households and businesses in Australia have access to broadband, providing a download data rate of at least 25 megabits per second by 2016. Within three years, the coalition's NBN will deliver broadband speeds at least five times faster than the current average for $60 billion less than Labor's version.

The coalition will help Macarthur families, households, retirees and pensioners get ahead and plan their futures with confidence. We will do this by scrapping the carbon tax and ensuring that tax cuts and fortnightly pension and benefit increases are kept. This is good news for Macarthur families. We will redirect savings from wasteful government spending to provide cost-of-living relief to families and benefit recipients in Macarthur, including pensioners, while also improving the budget bottom line.

By making savings across a range of programs the coalition will generate sufficient savings to retain in full the personal tax cuts which commenced last year, including the increase in the tax-free threshold to $18,200. We will also retain all of the fortnightly pension and benefit increases provided as part of Labor's carbon tax compensation package. This means people will continue to receive these tax cuts and fortnightly benefit increases—but without the carbon tax—giving Australians genuine cost of living relief.

Everything we do will be to build a stronger economy. We believe that this is the key to almost everything we wish for as a nation. It means more jobs, higher wages, greater government revenue, better services and, ultimately, stronger and more cohesive communities. The coalition has the experience and discipline to return the budget to sustainable surpluses. We will reduce debt and provide real support to Macarthur families to help them get ahead again.

A coalition government would give businesses in Macarthur the certainty they need to prosper. We will create stronger jobs growth by building a diverse, world-class, five-pillar economy and we will generate one million new jobs over the next five years. This budget has little to offer the people of Macarthur aside from pain and empty promises.

I am proud to be a member of the coalition. Our Real Solutions Plan will take pressure off families in Macarthur and strengthen our economy. This will ensure that over time there will be more wealth to go around for everybody. The people of Macarthur deserve much better than this government and its reckless spending and broken promises. Through responsible savings and strong economic management the coalition will provide hope, reward and opportunity for all Australians, and that is something the people of Macarthur can get excited about.