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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4272


Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (11:36): It is my great pleasure to rise to speak on the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill 2012. Let me start by telling the House that this is bad legislation. This bill before the House is a desperate, crude, blatant cash splash designed to win votes. There is no productivity outcome for the Australian economy, there is no positive educational outcome for kids at school and there is no dividend in terms of job creation and investment in Australia. That is why we oppose it. And we oppose it because it plans to replace a perfectly viable and effective scheme, the education tax refund.

The education tax refund was based on parents with school-age children at primary and secondary school providing receipts at the end of the financial year. They then received reimbursements for those particular educational related expenses. It was such a good scheme that the coalition took to the last election improvements. We took to the last election policies to expand this particular dividend. In fact, if you go to our election policy, under the title 'Real action plan: Reducing the pressure on families', it talks about how the Liberals will increase the education tax rebate. It said that we would 'increase the maximum rebate to $500 per year'—up $110 per year—for every child in primary school. That same document said that the Liberals and the Nationals, the coalition, would 'increase the maximum rebate to $1,000 per year'—up $221 per year—'for each child in secondary school'.

What is more, we were planning to expand the eligible expenses for the rebate so that it included government and nongovernment school fees; special education costs for children with disabilities, like dyslexia; camps and excursions; musical instruments; extracurricular school activities, such as music, sports, dance and drama lessons; and tutoring costs, sporting fees and equipment and school photos.

This education tax rebate is a targeted scheme. This is a scheme that put money in the pockets of parents who have primary and secondary school-age children. They would provide receipts. This encouraged responsibility in our system. Instead, we have this proposal before us in this Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill particularly designed to cushion the impact of the carbon tax. This is not an education related expenditure.

This government is so embarrassed by its record on education, including the fact that it believes that a billion-dollar cost blowout on its computer in schools program means better educational outcomes and that spending more than $15 billion or $16 billion of taxpayers' money on overpriced school halls leads to better educational outcomes. It was wrong on both accounts. This government commissioned the Gonski review to look at how to improve educational outcomes in our schools and has done nothing in this budget to meet the recommendations of David Gonski and his committee. Instead, it has rebadged this cash handout the 'schoolkids bonus'. How ridiculous is that. There is nothing that is linked to school outcomes. This is just a desperate bid for votes.

You tell me, Mr Acting Deputy Speaker: what is the connection between school outcomes and handing out cheques for $800-odd for secondary students and $410 for primary students with no receipts and no commitment by the parents that that money will be spend on education related expenses? They have got rid of that responsibility, that accountability, that viability and that transparency in the current system. Instead, they have replaced it with this desperate, blatant cash splash. It is a bad outcome for parents and a bad outcome for taxpayers and it does not produce the educational dividend. What would have produced a better educational dividend is the policy that we took to the last election, designed, as I said, to increase the maximum rebate for parents with students at primary and secondary school and designed to expand the eligible expenses for the rebate. That would have produced a better educational outcome.

So why has this government done this? Why are we having this legislation thrust upon us the morning after the budget? I will tell you why. It is because Australia is about to face an economy-wide carbon tax—the biggest carbon tax in the world. If you go to the United States, there is no cap-and-trade system. In Canada, their Prime Minister, a conservative, just won the biggest election victory in over 100 years campaigning against a carbon tax. If you go to China, you see that they are increasing their emissions by 500 per cent. But if you go to Australia, you have a Labor government which wants to burden every taxpayer and every household with higher cost-of-living expenses through a carbon tax.

I can tell you from my own experience in the electorate of Kooyong that parents and households are worried about this. Small businesses are getting desperate, and they know they are not going to be compensated. That is why this government has decided, through this fictitious bill called a schoolkids bonus, to hand out money to parents, with no link to educational outcomes. I will tell you about the drycleaner in Cotham Road, Kew, who employs four people. He works six days a week. He has seen his electricity bills rise and now they are going to rise another 10 to 12 per cent on July 1 this year with the carbon tax. He does not know what to do in order to recoup those expenses. He cannot lift his prices because that will see a fall in his trade; but he can put off a worker and that will not be good for the economy. He cannot work any harder because he has a family and he works six days a week. I will tell you about the self-funded retirees in my electorate, who are under the age of 65 and have an income of around $30,000, who went to the government's own website to see what compensation they get under the carbon tax—and they get nothing. They are over $200 out of pocket and worse off every year under the carbon tax, but they do not get compensation.

Under the carbon tax this government is going to be spending $3½ billion of taxpayers' money on offshore permits by 2020 and $57 billion by 2050. In my electorate people—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr Leigh ): Order! I would remind the member for Kooyong of the debate before the House. The member for Kooyong will keep his remarks relevant to the bill before the House.

Mr FRYDENBERG: I am staying absolutely relevant, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am talking about the carbon tax because it is the motivation for the bill that is before the House right now. This is not an education-related bill. This does not produce better outcomes for parents and their children who are students. It does produce a cash bonus for their pocket which will not necessarily be used on educational outcomes. The reason is the carbon tax. That is the only reason. Mr Acting Deputy Speaker Leigh, you know that there is no job creation in just giving a handout to parents with school-aged children.

The last time this government gave cash bonuses, during the GFC, 16,000 dead people received their $900 bonuses. How many ineligible people will receive this cash bonus? The current scheme, which the coalition strongly supports, is all about giving parents money after they have spent their own hard-earned dollars on education-related expenses and provided the ATO with the receipts at the end of the financial year. That is the current system which we were in favour of improving. Instead, this government has designed to remove that existing system so that it can cushion the pain and the blow of the carbon tax. Deloittes have done studies that have found that over 23,000 people will lose their jobs in my own state of Victoria. Jobs will not be created. Billions of dollars will be sucked out of the economy. I have told you about my own experience with small business and self-funded retirees. They are not going to get this cash bonus—this fictitious schoolkids bonus—but they will be paying higher cost-of-living expenses.

This Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill is part of a rotten budget. It is part of a budget which has forecast an increase in unemployment to 5.5 per cent, which has ripped more than $5 billion out of Defence and which insufficiently supports the National Disability Insurance Scheme. It is part of a budget which has lifted the debt ceiling from $250 billion to $300 billion—four times the amount that existed under the Howard government. It is part of a budget which has told us that last year's budget deficit has ballooned from $22 billion to $44 billion. That is why this educational mechanism, this schoolkids bonus, is so wrong. It is part of a broader budget which fails Australian families. It is a budget which abolishes company tax cuts for small and big business, which makes people pay more for aged care and which will see Australia's debt rise to $145 billion, including an interest bill of $8 billion a year or $22 million a day.

Mr Gonski was talking about an extra $5 billion dollars to provide better educational outcomes. Hang on! Isn't the interest bill for the Australian taxpayer now $8 billion—the cost of an NDIS; the cost of five teaching hospitals; or the cost of real educational change? You get educational change by putting the budget in the black, not by running up massive deficits. In fact, the four largest deficits in the history of the Australian nation have been in the last four years under Wayne Swan—a total of $174 billion.

One of my heroes, Margaret Thatcher, a reformist prime minister, said: 'The problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people's money.' That is what we are seeing from this government. That is why I am against this cash handout, this 'cash splash' which is a desperate bid for votes. It is not designed to boost productivity, it is not designed to create jobs and encourage investment, and it is not designed to improve educational outcomes. We want to go back to responsible fiscal management. We want to look after those students who are at school and whose educational outcomes we care about.