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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4299


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (13:36): Mr Deputy Speaker, at 9.26 this morning, the Gillard Labor government introduced this bill, the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill 2012. This policy was first announced in a preplanned, pre-budget leak only a couple of days ago by the Treasurer, the member for Lilley. The coalition supports Australian families, but we must consider today's bill in the context of the worst budget, the worst Treasurer and the worst government this nation has ever seen. Today, it can be plainly seen that instead of rushing this bill through for the benefit of Australian families and for the education of our children, the Gillard government seeks to rush it through for only the basest political reasons, which I will outline today. The coalition has a proud history of supporting Australian families. The family tax benefit system was itself reformed by the Howard government to support hardworking Australian families and to ensure that parents of school children received adequate support from the government to which they pay so much tax. The coalition under the Howard government made sure that parents with schoolchildren as well as parents with only one income earner were looked after. From 1 January next year, under this bill, families will receive $820 for each high school child and $410 per primary school child. These payments will go to families who are eligible for family tax benefit A. Under this program families will not be required to keep an account of what the money is spent on; indeed, they can effectively spend it on anything they like, whether or not it is related to education.

This bill would be completely unnecessary if Australian families had a competent government. Australians have a very important question for the Treasurer: where has he directed the hard earned tax dollars of Australian families in the four years that he has been Treasurer of this nation? We know that he has not directed it towards programs delivering effective outcomes for Australian families. Under the member for Griffith, and the current Prime Minister and the current Treasurer, hard earned taxpayer money has been spent on government programs which were failures from start to finish. These failures amount to billions and billions of wasted dollars—money which would have been better spent in the hands of individuals and families. I remind the House again of the pink batts fiasco, which resulted in the deaths of Australians. I remind the House of the Building the Education Revolution scheme, which directed funds to building school halls at schools already scheduled for closure. I remind the House of the hard earned taxpayers' money spent on an inefficient solar rebate program, which was not only economically inefficient but also did almost nothing for environmental outcomes. How can we forget the unnecessary and exorbitant cost of giving set-top boxes to pensioners at a cost higher than that of a whole new television? Nor have we forgotten the $900 in stimulus payment which was sent to both people living overseas and people who are dead. How can we have confidence in this latest effort at pork-barrelling?

Inefficiency is the hallmark of this government, and Australian families have suffered under its incompetence since 2007. As a result of its profligacy and incompetence, the Gillard government had even before last night introduced 19 new or increased taxes. This government has turned $70 billion of net worth into accumulated deficits of $167 billion and $136 billion of net debt. The figures are indeed alarming. In 2013-14 w will see net government debt climb to a record never before seen in this country. It will represent an increase of over $40 billion since last year's budget. This country and its economy will be struggling after four years of Labor debt totalling $174 billion. By 2015-16 the government will be spending over $8 billion a year—around $22 million a day—on interest payments alone. Considering the government's love of accumulating debt, these payments are more like a schoolkids mortgage than a schoolkids bonus. The Treasurer must think that he has an unlimited credit limit for which he requests an increase that is automatically provided. But Australian families know what it is like to be in debt—to struggle financially with an ever-increasing cost of living—and, although the government would like to claim that today's schoolkids bonus budget measures bill is supporting such people, as I previously said, it is merely a bandaid for the government's reckless financial mismanagement.

On the other hand, Australian families know that with a coalition government they receive strong economic management. They know that there would be absolutely no need for a bill such as this schoolkids bonus budget measures bill if the Gillard government were not imposing such a destructive, economy-wide carbon tax. This tax, finally included in the budget last night, is going to hit Australian families. It will hit jobs in this country and significantly harm investment. It will do nothing for the environment. The payments specified in this bill are an admission by the government that the carbon tax will hurt families more than the government is admitting.

Efforts to harm Australian families would be abhorrent at any time, yet the Gillard government is introducing this measure now, when the global economy is in complete dire straits and when consumers and businesses in this country are not sure what the future holds—so of course they are worried. We also heard last night of possibly one of the most ridiculous budget measures for decades: the increase in the pig slaughter fee—the bacon tax. The message to Australian families last night was: 'We're going to hit you. We're going to hit you hard and in ways you've never even thought of.'

It is clear that this bill is not introduced genuinely to support Australian families but is instead a measure to hide the disastrous effects that the carbon tax will have on the family budget. The government's own modelling shows that under the carbon tax there will be an immediate 10 per cent increase in electricity prices and a nine per cent increase in gas bills. Food costs will increase due to the electricity price rise and increased transportation costs. Be in no doubt that the basic necessities of life will cost more. If families cannot save through not buying necessities, they will buy less—less entertainment, less clothing and less generally from the already struggling retail sector.

Since 2007 Australian families have been struggling under incredible cost-of-living pressures. I list some of these increases in the cost of living to remind those on the opposite side of the House what has really been occurring for Australian families. From the December quarter of 2007 to the December quarter of 2011, electricity prices have increased by an average of 61 per cent across Australia. Gas prices have increased by an average of 37 per cent across Australia. Water and sewerage rates have increased by an average of 58 per cent across Australia. Health costs have increased by an average of 20 per cent across Australia. Education costs have increased by an average of 24 per cent across Australia. The cost of food overall has gone up by 13 per cent across Australia. The amount of rent people are paying has increased by 25 per cent across Australia. Australian families are struggling, and today's bill will do little to compensate these families for what has occurred under Labor governments.

The government earlier this year slugged tens of thousands of people with significant extra costs by reducing the private health insurance rebate. There are now tens of thousands of families in Ryan alone who will face higher premiums and more strain on their everyday cost of living if they choose to protect their own health with private health cover. Last night the government announced changes to the tax offset system for out-of-pocket medical expenses, so adding further misery to the lives of thousands of Ryan residents.

If you combine the carbon tax, the debt and deficit incurred by this government, the cost of the NBN, the reduction in the private health insurance rebate and everything else I have mentioned today, it is clear that this government is not committed to reducing the cost of living or to supporting Australian families. Moreover, if this bill was truly aimed at improving educational outcomes the government would have introduced it in a way that directly benefited educational outcomes. Instead, this payment is a free-for-all measure so that parents can spend the money in any way they please. Clearly, this government has given up any pretence that this bill is about offsetting education costs. Under this bill, the money given to parents of school children may be spent on the education of their children, but it is of great concern that it probably will not be. This government should come up with a targeted campaign to ensure that the money is spent effectively. We already had a program designed to do such a thing. It was called the education tax refund. But this government dumped it last night.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order! It being 1.45 pm the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The debate may be resumed at another hour.