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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 79


Senator BARNETT (3:20 PM) —It is an absolute pleasure to stand here today in response to this motion to take note that has been moved by Labor and to talk about families. That is what this debate is about. We have been debating the merit of choices. The Australian people made a choice on 9 October. They had a clear choice between the coalition and the Labor Party. One of the reasons that people overwhelmingly supported the Howard government was the Howard government's support for families. That is why Labor are still in opposition. Senator Marshall talked about people missing out. He made certain allegations regarding Minister Patterson. He said that people were missing out in many respects. Let's just remind Senator Marshall and the Labor Party of their own policy in terms of people who were missing out. Labor's policy made it very clear that over one million people in low-income families would miss out; their financial assistance would be cut.

Senator Marshall, who has just left the chamber, is not willing to listen and accept the views that have just been put. These views are sound, they are real and they are factual. Under Labor's policy, over one million low-income families would miss out on this financial assistance. Labor member Tanya Plibersek said that Labor's policy was a `fantastic' policy. Wayne Swan called it `a real winner'. But they got caught out. Labor's policy was to scrap the family tax benefit part B. That would reduce the choices for families and scrap the $600 per child payment, which they said `was not real'. That is what Wayne Swan was saying. Somehow or other they came up with this policy. They tried to con low-income families by telling them they would be better off weekly, when they would be worse off annually. How does that add up? How does that make sense? The Australian people could see through the veneer, through this ploy that was put to them by the Labor Party. The Labor Party were caught out—hoist on their own petard. The former federal member for Stirling—as Senator Sue Knowles has made clear on radio in Western Australia—was caught out.

I debated this matter with Senator Nick Sherry in Tasmania, at an independent retirees' meeting. It was made very clear to Senator Sherry at that meeting that single mothers on a low income would also miss out. It was also made clear during the election campaign, and the Australian people decided what was best for them. They decided that our policy was best because it benefits 1.6 million families with around 2.8 million children. Those families have seen the benefit of the $600 per child supplement.

I walked through Waverley, Rocherlea and Mowbray, doorknocking with Michael Ferguson, the new member for Bass. We asked people: `What do you think of this $600? Is it real, or is it not?' They said: `Of course it is real. We have got the money in the bank. We will be spending it on household items. We will be spending it on tables, chairs and beds, and on fixing the car.' The money was being spent on a whole range of items to help these low-income families. They were thrilled and they were very thankful. This is something that the former member for Bass, Michelle O'Byrne, was not prepared to disclose. The biggest swings—in Bass, at least—were in those former `Labor heartland' areas. Michael Ferguson got a swing up of up to 10 per cent in some of those suburbs. That is primarily because of our good policy across the board, including our policy to support families— (Time expired)