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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4275

WYATT ROY (Longman) (11:52): Mr Acting Deputy Speaker, before I begin today, let me use this as the first available opportunity in this place to express my deepest sympathy and my community's deepest sympathy for the young girl who was tragically stabbed in my electorate this morning. She attended St Columban's College, which I am proud to say is a great local school. It is a school that I have a strong involvement with. It has great students, great staff and a great sense of community. This is, obviously, a very dark and difficult day for the school community and for the community at large. In this place I want to record my sympathy and the community's sympathy for the young girl, and our thoughts are with her family, with her friends and with the school.

I rise to speak today on the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill 2012 and to voice my sincere disappointment with, and objection to, this bill. Last night the Labor government disappointed millions of Australians with their cook-the-books budget. It is a budget which many Australians had high expectations for but were miserably disappointed with. One of the major disappointments for Australians, including the people in my electorate of Longman, was Labor's announcement that they are dumping the education tax refund, instead, give handouts of taxpayers' money, borrowed money, in a desperate bid to improve their electoral stocks.

As I have said in this in this place before, the government has a record of wasting taxpayers' hard earned money. Its record of waste and mismanagement is a mile long with pink batts, school hall rip-offs and border protection blow-outs, to name just a mere few. Now, the Labor government has abandoned the education tax rebate. It was a targeted program that provided genuine assistance to relieve education costs for parents.

This government has ripped out a program that not only ensured that the education needs of students were met but also provided genuine relief to the many families in my electorate and around Australia. They are families who are struggling with the escalating cost of computers, textbooks, workbooks and subject-specific resources. They are families who are trying to give their kids the best possible start in life, which is the very best thing a parent can do. They are parents who are doing everything they can to live within their means, but want to provide for their kids. Now, this program has borne the brunt of the consequences of this Labor government's waste and mismanagement and has become the latest victim of another dodgy Labor budget.

As the dust settles Australians will be able to see the truth. This Labor government is making its best effort to hide and distract from the pain that everyday Australians are feeling. This Labor government is trying as hard as it can to increase taxes, including the biggest of them all: the carbon tax. Any pretence of this new policy being about offsetting education costs has been dispelled. What we have before us today, what we have here in this place in this debate, is an instant sugar hit, a one-off hit for families, that is designed to help with a smoke-and-mirrors budget being delivered by this incompetent Labor government. It is a sugar hit being delivered before the end of this financial year to help dodgy the books and to deliver a fanciful surplus.

Let us talk about what this policy is not. It is not genuine relief for families to compensate for the enormous imposition of the carbon tax. This policy is not a carefully considered targeted measure that will reach families who need the assistance most. It is a careless blanket splash of cash, and there is no limit in the way it can be spent. In fact, this Labor government is recklessly promoting the policy by saying that families will be eligible to receive it even if they lose their receipts. It fails to explain that every eligible family will get the money regardless of whether they keep their receipts or not. This is an indiscriminate and careless sugar hit.

I am extremely concerned about the long-term consequences of this $820 sugar hit to families. As a young person I am continually aware of the long-term implications of debt. It is a debt, it seems, that people of my generation will be paying off for the extent of our lives. It is a debt incurred in just four years of Labor. The irony in this situation is that these young people, whose families will receive the $820 bonus, will be the very ones who will be faced with this interest bill. The very people this bill seeks to address and help will actually be hurt by the borrowings of this Labor government. They are the very ones who will be contending with the consequences of this over their lives.

I challenge those opposite with this: would the young people of the Australia prefer the security and stability of a healthy economy of a country that is not left with the burden of generations before who are unable to live within their means, or would they prefer the burden that comes with paying down an enormous debt: a difficulty in purchasing their own home and partaking in the Australian dream? I suggest that they would prefer the security and stability of a healthy economy and a healthy budget, one that has not been used to deliver a sugar hit to produce the appearance of a wafer-thin surplus.

What we are seeing with this budget and what we have seen with this sugar hit is one of the most blatant attempts at cooking this year's budget books, in order to allow Labor to protect its artificial surplus next financial year as the refund will be paid out before the end of this financial year. I propose that Australians deserve better. They deserve a government that is upfront and honest with its people, one that can live within its means, one that does not need to resort to smoke and mirrors to manage its books and one that does not cook its books.

The coalition understand families. We know that families with school aged children have large costs. The best way to ensure that money is spent on our kids is through the now abolished education tax refund system. We believe that this was a regime that ensured taxpayers' money was given only to families who actually spent money on education costs. It delivered the relief to families who relied upon it and who were making sacrifices for their kids' education to give them every opportunity in life. We believe that this could have gone even further. The coalition took a very strong policy to the last election—a policy that vastly expanded the number of school expenses items that would be eligible and increased the rebate amounts. We understand that parents have been looking for practical relief for real expenses. The coalition's plan would have provided a rebate to families of $1,000 for each secondary-school-age child and $500 for each primary-school-age child. By contrast, we are seeing with Labor's scheme $820 for secondary-school-age children and $410 for primary-school-age children, leaving a family with two children—one secondary and one primary—some $270 a year worse off. The coalition's policy was more money better targeted and it went straight to those families who needed it most.

Labor continues to borrow more and more money. While some parents might benefit this year, it will be their children who will have to repay this Labor debt for years into the future. Australians will not be fooled by this sugar hit. They know that Julia Gillard is not interested in helping families and is interested only in keeping her own job. An eligible family with an 18-year-old in year 12 may get a sugar hit, but that will not last as long as the student when they get hit and slammed by hundreds of dollars in compulsory student union fees when they go to university.

This Labor government is addicted to more spending and higher taxes. To put in perspective what this bill is trying to hide, let me have a closer look at this year's budget. What we have seen in this year is a predicted deficit of $23 billion blowing out to a delivered deficit of $44 billion—the fourth-largest deficit our country has ever seen, delivered in order by a Labor government. What does this amount to? A record net debt level of $145 billion and an interest repayment of $8 billion a year. This is what the young people of Australia will have to pay off for the reckless waste of just four years of Labor. They have taken away real means that would have given real assistance to families to deliver on their kids' futures and have instead given a political announcement and a sugar hit. This is why I will strongly oppose this bill. I encourage all members of this House to stand up against this Labor government's attack on working families. Thank you.