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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4293

Mr CRAIG KELLY (Hughes) (13:11): I rise to speak on the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill 2012. It is always a pleasure to follow the member for Kennedy. I hope that Hansard records and that, Madam Deputy Speaker Rishworth, you will be the witness to the $100 wager between myself and the member for—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Rishworth ): I have to caution the member about making wagers in the House.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: I am sure that the member for Kennedy, at the change of government, will gladly give me $100 for my charity, for what was said. This bill is not about a schoolkids bonus; it is all about abandoning the education tax refund, which was a targeted program that provided genuine assistance to relieve education costs for parents. It has been replaced by nothing other than a free money handout.

Mr Katter: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I claim to be misrepresented. I never offered him $100 if they do it. I would not trust them to do it or not do it, but I most certainly accept his offer of $100!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I must caution members that the House is not a place for making wagers. I ask the member for Hughes to continue.

Mr CRAIG KELLY: This bill is about abandoning the existing tax education refund, which was a targeted program that provided genuine assistance to relieve education costs for parents, and replacing it with nothing other than a free money handout. It is a handout that has nothing to do with education. Everyone likes to give away free money. We have seen it before from this government, thinking they could buy popularity, but they should learn from their past mistakes—this only buys very short-term popularity. And it is certainly not free money when that money has to be borrowed and when that borrowed money creates an obligation to pay interest in the future and when that borrowed money has to be repaid. The free money handout that this bill will give will only further add to our nation's debt burden that will have to be repaid by future generations of Australians. So this bill would be far better if it were renamed as not the 'schoolkids bonus' but the 'schoolkids debt burden', because that is exactly what it is.

The last four Labor budget deficits have totalled a cumulative $174 billion. And even if last night's forecast $1.5 billion surplus is achieved—and I note that the online betting agencies are actually taking wagers on this and it is a very short-priced favourite that it will not happen, but let us give the Treasurer the benefit of the doubt and assume that last night's forecast $1.5 billion surplus is actually achieved—this will mean that Labor's legacy, the legacy of their last five budgets, the cumulative deficit that they will leave as a legacy to future Australians, will be $172½ billion. So, because of those last five Labor budgets leading to a cumulative $172½ billion in deficit, for years into the future, for future generations, before we have one cent to pay for the education of our children, before we have one cent to assist our children with disabilities, before we have one cent for aged care, for hospitals, for roads, for medical research et cetera—for everything that is important in this nation—we will now have to find $8 billion just to pay the interest bill on Labor's debt. And the majority of this $8 billion will actually have to be paid to foreigners, and will have to be paid year after year after year—forever, until we start paying down that debt that they have left us.

How long will it take to repay Labor's debt from the last four years' budget deficits? Again, let us give the Treasurer the benefit of the doubt and assume that the betting markets have it wrong and they will actually deliver the $1.5 billion forecast surplus. At that rate, a surplus of $1.5 billion per year, it is going to take no fewer than 116 years to pay off the combined deficits that Labor has rung up in just the last four years—116 years to undo the damage of just four years. To visualise just how much $172 billion actually is, imagine a stack of $100 bills; if you were stacking piles of $100 bills on a pallet and filling that pallet up with $100 bills as high as you could go, to reach that $172 billion, that pallet would be stacked no less than 2.4 kilometres high. That is the debt mountain that this Labor government is leaving future generations. A good question to ask is, 'Why is this legislation being rushed through the parliament today? Why is it being rushed through to rebadge the education tax refund?' We all know: it is simply about throwing money at people before they get hit with the world's largest carbon tax.

If you were really about helping future generations of our schoolkids, you would not be handing out free money to them. You would not be leaving them with a debt burden. The one thing that you would be doing would be protecting our nation's competitive advantages so that they could be passed on to our future generations, the schoolkids of today, so that they could enjoy the competitive advantages that we as Australians had as a nation in years gone past. As a nation, just as for a business, we can only succeed if we have a competitive advantage. A competitive advantage is our lifeblood. It is what creates opportunity. It is what creates prosperity. It is what we should be handing down to our future generations. It should be the sacred duty of every elected member of this parliament to do everything we possibly can to safeguard our national competitive advantage. For, although we may survive if we are just at competitive parity, if what was our advantage turns into a competitive disadvantage then as a nation we go backwards.

There are many things that we suffer in Australia as competitive disadvantages. We have high labour costs, and that is something we do not want to do anything to harm. We also have the competitive disadvantage of major distances to our major markets. We also have the competitive disadvantage of our large nation—the large distances between our cities. But one of our nation's greatest competitive advantages has been our low-cost electricity supplies. Abundant supplies of high-quality black coal generating low-cost electricity—that has been one of the true national competitive advantages we have had, and it should be our sacred obligation to hand that competitive advantage on to our future generations, the schoolkids of today, who will be running our businesses and our economy tomorrow. But this Labor government, in an act of sheer economic treason, has decided to surrender this one national competitive advantage that we have by imposing upon our nation the world's largest carbon tax—a mere charade that has nothing to do with controlling global temperatures and nothing to do with the environment but which will simply raise electricity prices and sacrifice our national competitive advantage.

Australians used to enjoy some of the lowest electricity prices in the world. But a recent study released by the Energy Users Association of Australia has shown that average electricity prices in Australia are now, unbelievably, amongst the highest in the world. And once the world's biggest carbon tax takes effect, Australian businesses and consumers will have the highest electricity prices in the world. Interestingly, in South Australia, where they often boast about having more wind turbines than anywhere else in the country, they can now also boast that they have the highest electricity prices not only in Australia but in the world.

Again, this schoolkids bonus will not be directed at education; this coming winter, many families will simply have to use this money, this cash handout, to pay for their increased electricity costs so that they can keep their heaters on during winter. Another question about this bill is: why does this money have to be shovelled out before 30 June? What is so important about 30 June? What is the rush? We have heard the excuse from the Prime Minister that it was needed for the winter school term. But, if we check the school holidays, at 30 June in almost every state our school kids are still finishing off their second term, in the first two weeks of July they are on a break and they do not go back to school for the winter term, the third term of the year, until late in July. So why isn't this money handed out in the first week of July, if that is what it is really meant for?

We know it has nothing to do with school kids. It is simply thrown in at 30 June so it comes in in the current year's budget and not in next year's budget, when we see an artificial surplus. So is it any wonder that we have seen the current year's deficit blow out from $22 billion? We had thought it was $37 billion but, as we heard last night, another $7 billion has been tacked onto it and we now have, in this financial year, an estimated budget deficit of $44 billion. So the reason is simply to bring that expenditure out so it sits in there: rack up the deficit for this financial year as much as we possibly can and bring all the expenditure forward to create that artificial surplus for the next year. This is one of the most blatant attempts we have seen of cooking the books to allow Labor to protect that artificial surplus for next financial year by simply paying the refund before 30 June this year.

The coalition knows that families with school-aged children do have large costs, but the best way to ensure the money is spent on their kids is through the now abolished education tax refund system. This was a successful regime that ensured taxpayers' money was given only to families who actually spent it on education costs. Compare the two plans. The coalition's plan would have provided for a rebate to families of $1,000 for secondary school-aged child and $500 for each primary school-aged child. In contrast, they are being short-changed under this bill because Labor's scheme only provides $820 for secondary school-aged children and $410 for primary school-aged children, leaving a family with two children—the typical Australian family with one child in secondary school and one child in primary school—some $270 a year worse off. This bill actually makes school kids and families worse off. The coalition's policy has more money, it is better targeted and it will go straight to families who need it most. In contrast, Labor continues to borrow more money. While parents might see a short-term benefit this year, it will be their children in the future who have to pay off Labor's debt.