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Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Page: 2040


Senator IAN MACDONALD (10:54 AM) —I thank Senator Fielding for allowing me to interpose ever so briefly. I want to add my support to the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Income Support for Students) Bill 2009 [No. 2] and congratulate Christopher Pyne and my colleague Senator Mason on the fabulous work they have done to ensure this backflip by the government. It is one backflip of the government that I support and congratulate them on. As Senator Hanson-Young said, it is not perfect, it is a compromise, but it is a great win for rural and regional students—students who under the original Labor proposal would have been very seriously disadvantaged against their capital city counterparts.

In cobbling this together, the Labor Party has used a classification that has brought up some very silly results. They have used the ‘Census of Population and Housing’ paper, but even the ABS in promoting this classification some time ago put in the classification a warning that it should only be used for the purposes for which it was done. It said:

Equally, no geographical classification can safely be used as a surrogate for other variables without extensive testing of assumptions.

Obviously there was no extensive testing of assumptions. Where I come from, Townsville and Cairns are in—they get the advantage of the new arrangement that the coalition has negotiated—but the city of Mackay is out. The town of Proserpine, 100 kilometres north of Mackay, is in and the little town of Sarena, 20 kilometres south of Mackay, is in, but Mackay is out. It is just a crazy system. Rockhampton is out; Townsville and Cairns are in. Good luck for Townsville and Cairns—I am delighted about that—but what about poor old Rockhampton? What about Gladstone? Gladstone is out, and yet Townsville and Cairns in.

I want to know what Kirsten Livermore, the Labor member for Capricornia, is going to do about this. I want to know what Mr James Bidgood, the Labor member for Dawson, is going to do about his constituents in Mackay who will miss out. His constituents in Proserpine, Bowen, Ayr, where I live, and Townsville will be fine, but what about Mackay? If I were a parent in Mackay I would be camping on Mr Bidgood’s doorstep at the moment until I got some justice. What about Mr Chris Trevor, the Labor member for Flynn? Is he going to allow this to go through without a whimper? He certainly was going to allow the CPRS to go through without a whimper, and that would have destroyed the jobs of many people in his electorate. We will wait and see what he does.

This backflip is good work by the government, as far as it goes. If they had used a better classification and put a bit more energy into this rather than berating the opposition over the last three months, we might have had a better result. Congratulations again to Mr Christopher Pyne and Senator Mason on the concessions they were able to draw from the government and, begrudgingly, congratulations to the government for accepting that and making it better for many people, but regrettably not for the people of Mackay.