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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4296


Mr EWEN JONES (Herbert) (13:25): It is always good to follow on from my colleague the member for Hughes. I rise to speak on the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill 2012. This bill is about the government desperately trying to buy votes that it cannot afford, at the expense of good policy. There can be nothing surer than that. This bill allows for the removal of the education tax refund and replaces it with the Schoolkids Bonus: twice-yearly, lump sum payments of $410 for primary school students and $820 for high school students.

The education tax refund is a targeted program that provides genuine assistance to families paying off education costs. With this bill, Labor have abandoned this measure, opting instead for a cash handout that they hope will distract families from the world's biggest carbon tax. This is not offsetting education, and no-one should be fooled by that. As the member for North Sydney and shadow Treasurer so eloquently put yesterday or the day before, it is simply 'a sugar hit for families', a distraction from increased bills and costs that will rise just for going about their everyday lives. Unlike the now defunct education tax refund, there is no requirement that this education handout be spent on schooling needs. It is just as likely to go to Dan Murphy. Once again, the Labor government have opted for a vote grab instead of good policy.

On this side of the House we do support investment in a child's education and we do know that parents need better assistance. The coalition took a policy to the last election that would vastly expand the number of eligible school expense items and increase the rebate amounts. This plan would have given families a rebate of $1,000 for each secondary school child and $500 for each primary school child, some $270 more beneficial for families than what the government is proposing with this bill. Additionally, our policy was targeted to make sure that taxpayers' money was being spent where it was needed: on education costs. After its promise of a tough budget to get back to surplus, Labor's bill can be seen as nothing more than a cash-grab attempt to win votes, paid for by debt. While parents might get a handout today, it will be the children who are paying it off in the future, along with the rest of this Labor government's debt.

One of the things that I found most disturbing about this whole exercise of a cash grab is that during the whole budget speech not once was the word 'productivity' mentioned. Is this the best use of our taxpayers' dollars? Is this the best way we can hand out taxpayers' dollars—just splash cash out in every way, shape and form towards an electorate that is becoming increasingly cynical about the way that we operate here? Surely we have learnt our lesson from the stimulus packages and the flood handouts, that by and large the money is not going to the places where it is actually needed. What is wrong with having to provide receipts for genuine educational costs and claiming that on your tax? What is wrong with actually having to stump up and say: 'This is what I am spending on my child's education. Can you give me a rebate for it?' What is wrong with that? What we are doing now is just giving this cash out to anyone who has a school-aged child. As long as you qualify for it, the money just goes into your account and away you go. You can do whatever you want with it. There is no onus on you to do anything with it. Having kids is not cheap. I have got three of my own and I can tell you that when they are at school, it is probably the cheapest they will be! Wait until they get out of school and they start wanting motor cars and plane trips and things like that. That is when they start to get expensive. Are we going to go down the track where we start to hand out money because our teenagers want to stay at home, or because our 20- and 30-year-olds are still living at home? Are we going to start handing out cash because they will not move out of home? That is the way we are going with this government at the moment. Money is going everywhere. It is a splash for cash that just goes all about the place. We have to think about things that are more productivity based.

What are we doing with our taxpayer dollars? It was Kerry Packer who stood in that joint house committee inquiry and said that he had a fundamental duty to reduce the amount of tax that he paid because governments do not spend it wisely. If you are busting your backside out there, if you are making the effort to make a difference, to create wealth and to create employment, and you pay your tax and then you turn around and see a government of any shape or form just splashing cash all over the place, you have every right to stand there and say: 'What the hell is going on here? Why should I be paying tax? Why should I be in private enterprise? Why should I be a small businessmen trying to do the best for my family and for the people who work for me, when the government does not respect the money that we give it?'

My mum and dad have three boys. Two of us went to boarding school, because we did not have the option of going to a local senior high school, and my little brother went to school in Brisbane. It was not easy and it was not cheap. All the way through, my parents scrimped and saved to do what they had to do. It is the same with my kids. We have to make do with what we have. We have chosen an education system for them and we will do the best we possibly can for them because they are our children.

What we do not need is a government standing out there and setting an example to us as parents that says, 'If you just hang around long enough and you don't do anything then we, the government, will give you cash.' The government will just stand there and at some stage in your life you are going to be just sitting around and you will open up the mail and there will be a $1,000 cheque from the government—just because. Just because it is your turn. Do not do anything, do not get up off your backside, do not get out there and do the extra work, do not work hard, because that is not what you are after.

What we are after here at the moment is a free handout. We want free money. That is what the whole society seems to be jumping up and down about at the moment. What this budget says is that if you qualify—if you sit at home and you do not do anything—then you are going to pick up $2,190 for doing nothing. Whereas the men and women out there, and the small businesses, who are working 70-, 80- or 90-hour weeks are not getting the tax refunds, they are not getting the tax cuts, and they are not getting anything out of this budget. They are the ones that should we be feeling sorry for.

As a parent, you have to set an example for your children as to what it means to be a person. You have to set the parameters as to how they will behave. You have to start that very, very early. If, as parents, we allow our kids to just sit there and they see that they will be given stuff for nothing—if they do not have to do the dishes, if they do not have to clean up the yard or they do not have to clean up their bedroom—then that is the example that we set for them. As a government, we must set an example for the country. We are given a ton of money—we are given a lot of money in this place. We are taking a lot of money out of Australia and we must use it the best way possible. Handing out cheques to people all over the place is simply not the best way to do it.

Everyone knows that, all the way through, this is a cover-up for the carbon tax. This is a cover-up because the carbon tax is coming in. This is a cover-up because the world's biggest carbon tax is going to hit absolutely everyone. The Treasurer stood there last night and said: 'It is only the big emitters that pay it.' But it is not the big emitters that pay it, because they will just pass it on. It is the people who are at the bottom of the pile who will pay it. It is the ratepayer, it is the wage-earner, it is the pensioner and it is the sole parent: those are the people who will pay with this carbon tax at every level. Every time you turn an electric light on, every time you open your fridge, every time you buy something you will be using electricity—and it is a tax on electricity. If you want to compensate people, do it by getting rid of this toxic tax. In Townsville—and they are using the Treasury's own figures—it is going to cost the Townsville City Council $5 million in carbon tax to run the dump because of the greenhouse gases.

Mrs D'Ath: Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member has strayed significantly from the content of this bill and I ask that he be brought back to it.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): The member for Herbert will make his comments relevant to the bill before the parliament.

Mr EWEN JONES: Mr Deputy Speaker, my points are relevant. They go to the way that this money is being handed out and to the way that this government is throwing money around. They are therefore relevant. We have to look at the way we are teaching our children. We have to look at the way that we as a government and we as a parliament are handling money on behalf of the Australian community. To stand here in this House and tell people that the best way that we can use your tax dollar is to send cheques out in the mail is a slap in the face for those people who are trying their best. This is what it is about: we have to make sure that we as a parliament are working our hardest to justify the people's faith in us. Is there any doubt out there that we are held in such low esteem at the moment because of the way that we are handling money? Is this the most productive way of handling money? Is this the most productive use of taxpayer dollars? If this is the best that the government can do, then I suggest that it go back to the drawing board and start again.

This bill is a pox on both our houses. This bill is not good policy. This bill does not make sense. This bill is doomed to failure and this money will not be spent where it should be spent. I thank the Deputy Speaker for his indulgence.