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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1309


Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (12:30): I am very, very pleased to stand and speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2012-2013, because it gives me an opportunity to speak about the economy and how the work that the government is doing, when it comes to managing the economy, is very positively affecting people in my electorate of Kingston.

We hear a lot about managing the economy. I am proud to be part of a government that has really been active, and ensured that it intervened during the global financial crisis. That is so important because, due to its activeness, it acted during the global financial crisis and we now see an economy that is 13 per cent larger than when it first entered office. It is also an economy that has a AAA credit rating from all three credit rating agencies—something the Howard government could never do. This is a very important accomplishment by the government. The government has not taken its eye off the road when it comes to guiding our economy to ensure that it continues to grow and continues to stay strong.

But it is not all just about a growing economy. When we talk about what is important for good economic management, we have to make sure of who we are managing it for. I am very pleased that the focus of this government has been not only on managing a strong economy but also on delivery for the people around this country, and in particular it is about ensuring that people have a job. Since Labor came to office, I am pleased that it has seen a continually relatively low unemployment rate compared to many, many places around the world. The creation of more than 850,000 jobs has occurred since it came to office. Quite frankly, that is an enormous achievement when we have seen what has been happening around the rest of the world.

I know that those on the other side do not like to hear about what is happening around the rest of the world. They like to live in a bubble where they ignore the fact that there has been a global financial crisis and the aftermath of that. They ignore the fact that there has been significant upheaval and in many, many developed countries significant unemployment. I am so pleased that our government has been focusing on people, focusing on their jobs and ensuring that they continue to have a good quality of life because they have jobs, they have an income.

It has always been Labor that has not only been focused on growth, and focused on growing our economy, but also focused on ensuring that that is delivering to people such as those in my electorate of Kingston. It has not just been about the good economic management. What we have also seen is that this government has delivered assistance to families that need it the most, ensuring that those who may be doing it tough—the fact is that while our unemployment has remained low, there are areas that are doing it tough—continue to get support and assistance. One part of that assistance that I am very pleased to have delivered to many families in my electorate of Kingston is the Schoolkids Bonus. Most of us would be aware, if we are listening to people in our electorates, that sending a child to school can be costly, especially with all the associated costs around uniforms and books. When I speak to parents, they are so desperate to give their children a very good education, but the costs around that can really add up. I am very pleased that the government moved, after originally allowing a number of school items to be tax-deductible, to provide the Schoolkids Bonus. Just in my electorate, in January it delivered to approximately 11,200 families, representing 19,750 primary and secondary students. These families have already received $205 for each child in primary school and $410 for each high school student. Of course, they will receive another payment in July. This has certainly been welcomed by families in my electorate.

I have to say that, after the opposition announced they were going to scrap it if they ever came into government, there was a lot of disappointment and concern around the electorate. In particular, families indicated that they were insulted when it was said by the opposition that families would just waste this money and not spend it on the educational needs of their children. I have to say that there were a lot of mums and dads that came up to me that were feeling quite insulted by this. I was at a shopping centre in Hallett Cove just after the opposition announced their position on this and the fact that they did not believe parents would spend it wisely, and I had a line-up of people wanting to tell me that they would spend it wisely and would spend it on their children's education. I certainly believe them.

But what is even more concerning from my perspective is not just the insult that the opposition gave to these families but the fact that they are going to scrap the schoolkids bonus. This is very concerning, because this has a significant impact for families while their children go to school. Indeed, if the Leader of the Opposition had his way, a typical family with two kids would be approximately $15,000 worse off during the course of their children's schooling. That is a significant burden to be placing on families that want to do the right thing—that want to buy the school uniforms and the school resources and perhaps a computer for their kids to share so that they can connect to the internet and be able to do their school projects. All those things assist kids at school and assist them when they go home at night to do their homework, and these families will have that money ripped away from them if the Leader of the Opposition ever gets his way.

But, of course, that is not the only area in which families in my electorate will find that they are worse off if the opposition ever does come to government. I was very proud once again of the government's decision to triple the tax-free threshold. This has a significant impact for many people in my electorate who are now out of the tax system and do not necessarily have to pay tax anymore. That is a massive saving to many people and provides assistance with the cost of living. But it is also an encouragement for people to enter the workforce and perhaps take up a part-time job, maybe only working one day a week. If they were doing this and found that they had to put in a tax return, it was all too hard. So what we have done is not only to take many, many people out of the tax system and allow them to have a little assistance with cost of living but also to create an incentive to contribute and to go back to work. For many people, that will be a big bonus. So I think this is very important, and indeed it affects many, many people in my local electorate.

In addition, the news of the scrapping of the 15 per cent tax on superannuation for low-income earners was very welcome. This was very popular in my electorate, because we are not only helping low-income earners with the cost of living now—with the tripling of the tax-free threshold—but also, by getting rid of that tax, helping them in the future. This allows them to accumulate more superannuation that will ultimately ensure that their quality of life is better in the future.

So these are two examples that really show that the government is not just managing the economy very well but also thinking about the people that it is managing it for. Unfortunately, I have had to report to my electorate that these two initiatives will be scrapped if the coalition ever come to government. They have indicated that they will reinstate tax for people earning $27,820 or lower. They will reintroduce it so that they have to pay tax after $6,000, so taking it back to the status quo as before. That has been very distressing for many people in my electorate.

In addition to that it has now been confirmed that the opposition, if ever in government, would reinstate the 15 per cent tax on superannuation for those earning $37,000 or below. It is so important not to put that tax back on. The reason it is so important is that these people, if they are low-income earners, are not going to have the same opportunity to accumulate superannuation over time. They really need a step-up and assistance when it comes to superannuation so that people are not living under the poverty line when they retire. This is a critically important thing for many women workers. Many women workers perhaps might be going back to work, once again, part-time—maybe a day or two days a week. If we do not help them build up their superannuation and ensure that they have a nest egg to retire on then we are going to be committing them to living below the poverty line when they retire.

So these two are really important, and I strongly urge the coalition not to scrap these but to change their policy and to say, 'We came out a bit negative, saying that we're going to scrap these things. We've changed our mind now and our policy is a bipartisan policy to help those lower-income earners really get help with the cost of living today and also help accumulating wealth for the future.'

At the beginning of my speech I made a very important point: when we are managing the economy well we also need to consider who we are managing it for. One of the things that I have been very pleased about is that the Labor Party has had a very responsible fiscal management strategy. We spent when it was needed, when we needed to save jobs and we actually needed to stimulate. Recently we have gone through one of the largest fiscal consolidations ever, because as the economy returns to growth that is the responsible thing to do.

Of course, this was not the attitude of the Howard government. As growth accelerated the Howard government spent more, fuelling interest rate rises. That was very burdensome for many, many people in my electorate. While the national average percentage of homes owned with a mortgage is 34.9 per cent, in my electorate it is 44.3 per cent. So if interest rates are high, this has an unrepresentative burden on my electorate.

What we have seen from the responsible economic management of this government is that those families, perhaps with a mortgage of $300,000 on a standard variable mortgage, are now paying $5,000 less in repayments each year than when the coalition left office. I remember a pamphlet coming out in my electorate in 2004 saying, 'Who do you trust to keep interest rates lower?' That was one done by the Howard government. Unfortunately for them, the evidence is in: it is actually Labor that manages the economy in the interests of people with a mortgage—the people facing these cost-of-living pressures—ensuring that we are considering what their needs are. As I said, we acted when we needed to to support people to keep their jobs, and we have acted now to ensure that we do not put any extra fiscal pressure on interest rates. We have done that well, and I know that this is certainly welcomed by people in my electorate.

As a member of the government, and as we go forward into 2013, I will continue to urge responsible economic management. This is quite in contrast to the coalition, if the spotlight were ever put on it. However, I will continue to be part of a government that does that, but does that by not forgetting who we are managing the economy for. As a government we will continue to deliver to those who need it most—those low-income earners and those people who really need our assistance—and we will continue to do that because that is why we are here and that is why we govern. I commend the bill to the House.