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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4776


Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (16:33): I rise to voice my support for the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2012-2013 and the related budget bills before the House. Before I do, I might just slip back into my role as an English teacher and correct for the record a comment made by the previous speaker, the member for Curtin. Like many people, she misunderstands the difference between 'uninterested' and 'disinterested'. I think when she used 'disinterested' she actually meant 'uninterested'. Disinterested means impartial, so I think she might have to correct that with Hansard because there is a complete difference—unless she meant that our Minister for Foreign Affairs is impartial, which is a strange assertion.

Back to the budget, which is a testament to the Gillard government's commitment to govern for all Australians and sits on those solid Labor pillars of equality, justice and opportunity—the very things that brought me to the Labor Party in the first place. These are strong times for Australia. Our economy is solid and the resources industry is booming, particularly in Western Australia and Queensland, but, unfortunately, not all Australians have been reaping these benefits. Thanks to our Prime Minister, our Treasurer and the recent battlers budget, more Australians will get to share in our national wealth. Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan are delivering much needed financial relief to families and businesses in Moreton who are currently struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. This Labor government understands current pressures and knows that the best way to support Australians is through tax cuts and directed payment increases. These measures are designed to spread the benefits of our national mining boom to help those who need it.

I am still rather surprised that the coalition does not understand the concept of a government helping people in need. The Gillard Labor government is helping 6,800 families in Moreton with kids in school, with $410 a year for each primary school student and $820 a year for each student in high school. Strangely, many in the coalition did not want these much needed payments to happen. I think some of the explanations of that included: 'Because it is just different'—it is different to the baby bonus which was, I think, one of the more detailed explanations I saw. It was certainly small-minded politics at its worst. They were so committed to saying no that they did not actually think about the ramifications or implications.

The Gillard Labor government is also helping more than 9,000 Moreton families with a $600 boost to their family tax benefit part A payments. Some in the coalition also do not want this payment to happen, which is a shame. During question time and earlier today I saw from the opposition the daily jeremiads about the cost-of-living increases but, when it came to voting for something that would benefit families in Moreton, they would not lift a finger. This Gillard Labor government is also helping 9,073 Moreton young people, single parents and the unemployed with a supplementary allowance to help them pay for essential services. Surprise, surprise!—the coalition are also against this vital assistance to help these vulnerable Australians with the cost of electricity, gas, water and those other living expenses.

I am also particularly proud that this Labor budget provides further protection for vulnerable children, with the creation of a national children's commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission. I have had a particular interest in this area for a long time because my partner has worked in this area for about the last 22 or so years. We are taking some great steps in the area of looking after children. Jenny Macklin's National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children and some of the other initiatives we have taken with the states will hopefully mean that fewer children will slip between the cracks.

Unfortunately, we have seen some opposite rail against the budget, which is making sure that vulnerable children are better prepared for school with a $55.7 million boost to the Home Interaction Program for Parents and Youngsters. And they rage against a budget that is helping to build a National Disability Insurance Scheme, which is something that I would have thought the Leader of the Opposition would have been quite supportive of. We have put on the table $1 billion over four years to help Australians with a disability. I see the Deputy Leader of the Opposition sitting opposite. As a Queenslander he would know some of those shameful statistics, which must be sheeted home to Labor governments as well. The sad thing is that if you are a Queenslander with a disability you receive $7 for every $10 that a Victorian receives. That is not a legacy. To take the politics out, it is certainly something I would be urging those opposite to talk to Premier Campbell Newman about as he said there will be no negotiation. But surely there could be a roadmap towards trying to help this very vulnerable group in our community, a group that has been particularly vocal in lobbying me over the last few years.

In other budget initiatives there is a $3.7 billion funding commitment towards aged care reform. Unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition has said 'no' to this measure. Investing in maths and science, increasing the number of students attending university and improving health services are all noble aims in a parliament that on occasion lacks nobility perhaps. What did the Leader of the Opposition say? He said 'no'. It is like one of those episodes of Little Britain on steroids, where the computer says 'no' to everything.

There are over 19,000 small businesses in my electorate which need help, such as through the Gillard Labor government's instant tax write-off for each asset purchased below $6,500 and the same for the first $5,000 spent on a new motor vehicle. Unfortunately, we could not deliver the one per cent cut in company tax. I would have loved to vote for that in this chamber as would most people who understand how important small business is. As I said, I have 19,000 small businesses in my electorate so I understand the issue very well. Unfortunately, those opposite said 'no' again. These businesses need decisive action. Unfortunately, we were not able to provide that but at least the instant tax write-off and the other money will be some compensation. I still ask those opposite to step up and support that in the future. There are some good things in the budget for business. There is the small business advisory service, which I have had a bit to do with in my electorate. We are able to provide another four years of advice, knowledge and experience to help some of some of those fledgling ideas grow into big businesses.

As the Treasurer said, this is a battlers budget. We will give money to Australians who need our help the most. Unfortunately, some of those opposite have said it is the wrong thing to do. You could say that is the fundamental difference between the Australian Labor Party and the coalition: the balancing of the community versus the individual; the greater good versus individual greed; selfless versus selfish. Unfortunately the Leader of the Opposition, in his blind pursuit of power by any means necessary, has shown his true character and also shown that he is truly out of touch with Australians that are struggling at the moment with some of these cost-of-living pressures.

Although Australia does stand out amongst its international peers as a prosperous economy, despite the dark days of the global financial crisis and the current hiccoughs that are being experienced in Greece, Italy, Spain and even in the United Kingdom and United States, there are some tough times ahead for the globe, that is for sure. Obviously many other nations were hit by these tough times, particularly during the GFC, but Australia weathered the storm reasonably well with Wayne Swan at the helm of our finances. We avoided a recession that would have meant horrible job losses. That is something that is glossed over in this chamber. Think of what 200,000 job losses would mean and think of how it would affect kids in school and how it would affect businesses. That would be a horrible thing for our community. So I am glad we were part of an economic stimulus package that steered Australia through that very tough global time.

We have come through that period of global uncertainty in relatively good shape when it comes to government debt, inflation and living standards. Here we are now with our economy expected to outshine almost every other advanced economy over the next two years yet we were still able to return the budget to surplus. This sends a clear message to the rest of the world that Australia's economy has remained strong during this period of global uncertainty. The Acting Prime Minister said during question time that we had the courage to stick to our guns and to stick to our 2007 election commitment that was shared by those opposite of putting a price on harmful pollution. Obviously those opposite are still committed to reining in exactly the same amount of pollution as this government, the same emissions targets. Although how they are going to do it in a one-, two- or three-year turn around with only carrots and no stick is beyond comprehension—as any sensible environmentalist or economist would know. So we will bring in a gentle but necessary change to our economy through this price on harmful pollution and that will set us up well to provide jobs for my grandchildren long into the future as the digital economy becomes passe. Combine that with the NBN and our education reforms and we have structured the economy well for the future. Delivering a surplus or getting back in black—to quote AC/DC—will protect low-and middle-income earners and the most vulnerable people in our nation. It will give us a buffer during these turbulent global times and it will give the Reserve Bank the room it needs to cut interest rates should the international situation deteriorate and send troubling waves towards our shores.

As I said before, these are relatively good times for Australia but I know many people feel like this is somebody else's boom—somebody else is reaping the benefits when our minerals are dug up by mining companies. It is hard to be grateful for a strong economy when you are having difficulty making ends meet. Electricity, rents, mortgages, groceries and petrol are putting considerable pressure on many family budgets throughout Australia. I know in Queensland many residents are still trying to get back on their feet after the devastating floods and cyclones of recent years. What we must do, and what the Gillard Labor government has done in this budget, is support families, students and low-income-earning Australians to help them get ahead, to better share in the prosperity. This is simply the right thing to do, but let us not forget that these measures also support our economy by assisting retail, manufacturing and those other businesses that are struggling because of the high dollar and perhaps because of sales going overseas and because of the uncertainty. These are uncertain times, yet the Australian budget remains in stable hands: help is going to where it is needed and action is being taken to create a fairer Australia.

I mentioned this briefly before, but the National Disability Insurance Scheme is a component of this budget of which I am particularly proud, and I again urge every Queensland MP to contact the Leader of the Opposition about it—and Premier Newman as well. The NDIS, due to begin its rollout in mid-2013, will provide care to around 10,000 people with significant and permanent disabilities. A year later the NDIS will be expanded to help up to 20,000 people. This is a groundbreaking plan, and I thank Minister Shorten for his involvement with this early on, when he was the parliamentary secretary. Why? Because it will provide eligible people with the support they need; it will grant people decision-making powers, including being able to choose their service provider; it will deliver high-quality evidence based services, be user-friendly and link to mainstream and community services; it will acknowledge the invaluable role of families and carers and help them continue their great work, and maybe even beyond that as we move to an ageing group of people with disabilities. It will also assist with community participation, education and employment opportunities and it will be managed, as the name suggests, on an insurance basis. Disability groups in Moreton, and throughout Australia I guess, have welcomed the commitment, but unfortunately many states are dragging their feet.

I want to take this opportunity to again ask Premier Newman to consider what must go on here. And I put out the call to my LNP state MPs around Moreton—Sunnybank MP, Mark Stewart; Stretton MP, Freya Ostapovitch; Yeerongpilly MP, Carl Judge; and cabinet Minister Scott Emerson to join me in asking the Premier to reconsider this stubborn stance of just saying no. The NDIS is great news for local people with disability and their carers, and we need Queensland to sign on to this vital reform. I hope we can work together and ensure Queenslanders with a disability get the care and support they deserve. They have waited long enough for change—and, as I said, I was a bit embarrassed to find that out about the Queensland $7 to $10 ratio.

This is the right budget for the right time for Australia. It delivers a surplus on time, as promised. It delivers financial support to those in need and it delivers a plan for a fairer nation to create a stronger community and a more just society. I wholeheartedly commend the bills to the House.