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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5218


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (16:39): I appreciate the minister's attendance. It is an unusual occurrence in my experience of this debate. Yesterday the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation went AWOL during the portfolio debate, so it is great to have three ministers at the table. Thank you very much for indulging this chamber. It is a great honour for us to have such esteemed company this afternoon—and, obviously, you will be able to answer questions too, Minister, because you know the answers.

If you would not mind, Minister, I will start with a pet topic of mine and also of the member for Higgins, who is at the table, which is the use of Australian taxpayers' money to advertise a payment which will be received come what may by people in the electorate. In this instance I refer in particular to the advertising for and around the so-called schoolkids bonus, which of course my constituents are fully aware and I know constituents across the country are fully aware we intend to abolish because it is paid for out of mining tax revenue which does not exist. It is paid for out of a revenue stream which was expected to be there: $4 billion in this financial year. They collected some five per cent of expected revenue, but magically they expect in the coming years to jump back up to that elusive target of $12 billion, I think it was, over the forward estimates. As my friend Senator Mathias Cormann has highlighted so effectively and efficiently in the Senate, that is just a pipedream, a tax which increases our sovereign risk but does not actually achieve the revenue targets, but the government has still spent the money.

In that sense, I ask the minister a series of questions in relation to the schoolkids bonus. I refer in particular to answer No. 1 provided to a question on notice from the supplementary estimates in February regarding research conducted in relation to the schoolkids bonus by Taylor Nelson Sofres Australia. Can you table this research in this chamber for us to consider? What was the scope of the research? Can you table the brief that was given to TNS by the department?

In an answer provided to a further question on notice, No. 2, the department stated that the findings of the research showed that people were confused about the assistance available to families and wanted clear information. How have these findings influenced the communication strategy of the department—I do not want to use the old term 'moving forward'—going forward? Have any communication initiatives besides the schoolkids kits—they were the kits that were sent to all our offices, and we appreciate those, Minister; I think we got a letter to ask for a kit, from memory—been instituted as a result of the findings of the research? If not, why not? How many of the kits in total have been distributed to date?

I note that $3.5 million has been allocated in the 2013-14 budget to continue the schoolkids bonus communications campaign, in your PBS at page 48. Can you provide a breakdown of how these funds will be expended? Have the advertisements that are to be funded by this expenditure already been produced? If so, are they the same advertisements that have been running since 2012, or will there be a new campaign? If there is a new campaign, why were the old advertisements not deemed to be sufficient to continue to be used? What are the implications in terms of costs for drafting a new series of advertisements, as opposed to continuing the existing campaign?

Given that the schoolkids bonus has been in place for more than 12 months and has extensively been advertised, what is the need to continue to advertise the payment to this extent? Surely those receiving the payment are now well and truly informed of what it is for. Minister, this is the use of Australian taxpayers' money to advertise something that people will get in any event. I would be interested in your answers.