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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4349

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (16:45): I am very pleased to contribute to the debate this afternoon. We on this side, when we consider the management of the budget and the management of the economy, have a very clear understanding for whom we are managing the budget and the economy. We have a very clear understanding that we come to this place representing families—families with children at school—who today we are prepared to support financially, and those opposite very clearly have said they will not. They have said it in a way that is demeaning to ordinary Australians, such as the 10,300 ordinary Australian families in my electorate who stand to directly benefit from this initiative proposed and supported uniquely by this side of the House.

We have a very keen understanding of the people who we manage the economy and the budget for when we come to this place and make a financial commitment to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I really do hope for the future of people who suffer with a disability and for people who care for them that the rhetoric of those opposite stands up when they need to make financial commitments at a state level and, potentially at some stage in the future, at a federal level. I really do hope that those people stand up for the NDIS in the way that we have quite clearly stood up for the launch of the NDIS in this place and in this budget—that is, ahead of time and fulfilling the initial expectations of those people who have campaigned so strongly for it.

We know that we come to this place managing the economy and managing the budget for working Australians. We manage the economy and the budget for people who may find it difficult to get access to dental care, which is why we have made a significant commitment of $500 million in this budget to ensure that we provide adequate responses to people who are on waiting lists around the country. We provide them with dental care, which will enable them to have a better quality of life and which will perhaps enable them to participate more fully in employment—we all know that dental difficulties present people with confidence issues and difficulties in securing and maintaining employment.

We know that we come to this place and make a commitment to working Australians when we manage the economy and when we manage the budget. We also know that those opposite, while they profess to support families and they have professed so many times to support business, come to this place and oppose measures that practically assist families and assist business. In this budget we have indicated our support for business, notwithstanding the opposition coming to this place and opposing the company tax cut that we have endeavoured to put in place to try to support people who they regard as members of their constituency. Although we have been unable to secure that given the opposition from both the Greens and the Liberal Party—an unusual alliance—we have endeavoured to provide small business with some relief in this budget through the loss carry-back arrangements.

We have been very clear in this budget about the way that we want to manage the economy and about the way that we want to manage the budget for ordinary people, people who are not in the fast lane of the mining boom. Unfortunately the opposition come here with not even a piecemeal plan for the economy and for the budget of this nation. In fact, when you look back at the budget reply from last year it was extraordinary and really quite commendable because it did two things that I thought were impossible: it neither looked at the budget, nor was it a reply to the budget. So once again the Leader of the Opposition did the unthinkable, the unimaginable, and came into this place and spouted off. In fact, a member of my family remarked that it was not so much a budget reply as an interpretive dance, something titled 'How the budget made Tony feel'. I suspect that we are going to see the same again this year with lack of substance and, frankly, a lack of interest in families, in business, in ordinary Australians and in anything and anyone other than mining magnates in this country. We have a very clear picture of the opposition on this and it will be revealed, I am sure, on Thursday night as we all expect that the priorities of the opposition will be revealed again in their budget reply and they will indicate exactly who they stand for in this country.

It is very important to reflect on the circumstances that we came to office to find because it really was a scorched earth situation on so many fronts. We came to office at a time when the Howard government had presided over 10 interest rate rises in a row. For people who have a $300,000 mortgage today, that means that practically you would be paying around $3,000 less per annum than you were under the years of the Howard. When John Howard left office and we came to office, tax as a proportion of GDP was running at 23.7 per cent. As a result of this government's efforts, in the next year it will be at 22.1 per cent. That amounts to $24 billion less tax that Australians are paying. We see an opposition come to this place and talk about themselves as being pro-business, pro-family and pro-company. They have opposed the company tax cut and they are opposing measures that we are putting in place to practically respond to the needs of families and the cost-of-living pressures for people who are sending their children to primary and secondary school. They come into this place and we find that, in fact, they have been a higher taxing government on the last occasion that they were on these benches than we have been. It is quite revealing to have a look at not only the priorities of this government in its budget, but also the legacy of those who left us with very little when we came to office. They left us with very little that means anything to Australian working people: very little in education, very little in housing very little in health. I will have a look at each of these in turn. We inherited an education system that was chronically underfunded when we came to office, particularly in trades training. It was an education system which had not benefited from meaningful, capital investment for decades. We responded. We have now completed the biggest program of capital investment in schools in Australia's history. It stands to the benefit of those who are in those schools and learning. It will stand to the benefit of future generations.

Opposition members interjecting

Ms SMYTH: It has stood to the benefit of those workers who are engaged in construction of those projects and I do note members of the opposition laughing and interjecting throughout this. It reveals to me their sense of priority, both for workers and for participants in our education system—people who we hope, on this side, will go on to secure jobs and have a valuable future in the Australian economy and the Australian community. Unfortunately it is not a priority that is emphasised by those opposite.

We are building trade training centres; we have made a significant commitment to that and will continue to do so. We know that those opposite chronically underfunded the education system and that their proposals now are to strip money out of the education system, specifically in trade training.

Mr Craig Kelly: You closed the TAFE colleges!

Ms SMYTH: Those commitments have been publicly indicated. For the edification of those opposite who are interjecting, you may choose to have a look at that, maybe on Google. It seems you continue to object to our trade training centres and our other proposals just as you continue to object about our computers in schools arrangements. We inherited a health system which the Leader of the Opposition had de-funded and run into the ground.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): The member for Hughes will listen in silence.

Ms SMYTH: We faced a GP and nurses shortage and Australians know that we have responded by investing heavily in things like hospitals, GP superclinics and regional cancer centres. We have invested in the training of GPs, we have invested in the training of nurses and we have done so because we came to office at a time when all of these things had been undermined or left wanting by the Howard government and, in many instances, by the same people who are sitting on opposition benches today.

We inherited a housing and homelessness crisis when we came to office. We responded swiftly. We responded in one way with the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which is intended to increase the supply of affordable rental housing by 50,000 dwellings across the country by June 2014. That is us taking the lead, to give people affordable housing, making sure they do not have to worry about that, making sure that they can carry on productive lives, making sure that they are supported and their families are supported. Those are the kinds of financial priorities that we have and have had since coming to office. Those opposite may like to note that we have made a continued commitment. We have made a commitment of $3.6 billion in the 2013 budget alone, delivering record investments in affordable housing and in investments to address homelessness.

Once again, we carry on our commitment in managing the budget and managing the economy for ordinary Australians who have the kinds of needs in education, health and housing that Labor people know need to be responded to. It is the reason we have put together a budget against the backdrop of very difficult financial circumstances. They are circumstances where we have faced continuing global financial instability, which the opposition continues to wipe out of its memory, and where we have faced natural disasters around the country, which the opposition continues to wipe out of its memory. We have managed to maintain these objectives and make financial commitments that make a difference to the lives of ordinary Australians for whom we are managing the budget. I hope to see exactly for whom the opposition is managing the budget tomorrow night.