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Thursday, 25 June 1998
Page: 4120

Senator LUNDY (3:12 PM) —Is it not interesting that Senator Tierney spent the large proportion of this contribution to the taking note debate today on Labor—on what Labor have done and what he thinks Labor should do. The reason Senator Tierney had to spend so much time of his contribution on what Labor are doing is that the Liberal Party have done so little for young people during their term of government that we are now faced with a situation where over 47,000 young people are going to come away from the common youth allowance worse off.

Senator Tierney —That is the wrong figure. You are 50 per cent out!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order, Senator Tierney! You had your go.

Senator LUNDY —After 1 July, they will come away with a reduced benefit. This technical aspect of the act and the way that the government are proposing to apply the parental income cut-off demonstrates the poison contained within the rhetoric of this government. This government continually present a positive image of a very flawed policy. The bottom line is that it cuts the funding to youth in this country; it is a reduction. We know this because they keep crowing about the budget surplus. They keep telling us that this is the solution to the youth problems of this country, that this is the solution to youth unemployment. This expenditure cut, which will result in 48,000 young Australians being worse off, is the outcome of this government's overall fiscal policies. This is an example of how they care.

The best clue to when this government has something to hide is how often they repeat their glib statements. Today we saw Senator Newman continually responding to these questions by saying what a fantastic, positive thing the common youth allowance is. What is the other good indicator that the government is ripping off the young people of this country? They spend money on a very slick advertising campaign. That is always a very good signal that they are on their back foot in a policy sense and that they are doing the wrong thing—they come up with a cute slogan and a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to sell it.

Given that we have those two things well and truly exposed in this forum and out in the public, let us look at the substance of the issue. Let us look at this campaign and how they are selling their message to young people. We have heard already that the public campaign funded by taxpayers' dollars only tells people about the good aspects of this thing, about the gains for some people and about the families that are going to have more funding coming in as a result. It does not say a word about the ones that will lose. They come up with this lovely response, `It's on the Internet.' Great! Fantastic! How many young people have access to the Internet? If you are a student you are probably in the best position. Let us look at the statistics if you are not: 19 per cent of Australian families earning under $44,000 have access to the Internet. How many who earn over $80,000 have access to the Internet? Sixty-three per cent. We know that Internet access in this country is linked to socioeconomic status—how much money your parents earn. So it is an inverse contradiction to stand up and say that parents who earn more will get less support but at the same time those who will subsequently lose can only find out about it on the Internet.

What is the logic behind that? Forty-two per cent of young Australians between the ages of 18 and 24 have access to the Internet, but 30 per cent of those are still at school. Add that to the socioeconomic breakdown of Internet access and you have a very dismal picture of how this government communicates with those that it needs to. Too bad if it does not want to tell the bad side of the story. Too bad if it undertakes a narrow multi-million dollar positive campaign in the lead up to a federal election. Never mind about those who are going to lose. Not only are they going to lose that money but they are not going to be able to find out about it. The more heavily the government's communications policy with young people relies on the Internet the more at fault they are for not considering directly the implications of access and equity to the Internet. That goes straight to the Slartybardfast of this place—Senator Alston and his very regressive policies with respect to Internet access.

Senator Patterson —I rise on a point of order. That is not an appropriate way to describe Senator Alston. I ask Senator Lundy to withdraw it and use his appropriate title.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —I am not sure what it means. If it is at all offensive, I ask the Senator to withdraw.

Senator Patterson —It does not matter; she should address him by his right title.

Senator LUNDY —I will provide an explanation of the character Slartybardfast. He is from a Douglas Adams's novel called The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy . He is a character known for having slept for many millennia during a critical period of the universe's development and suddenly waking up to find the projects upon which he worked before he went to sleep had well and truly bypassed him leaving him in a state of com plete irrelevancy in the context of his current work. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —It is not offensive, but I would appreciate it if you used the appropriate title for the minister.