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Thursday, 10 May 2012
Page: 3113


Senator NASH (New South WalesDeputy Leader of The Nationals in the Senate) (13:19): I rise to make a contribution on the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (Schoolkids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill 2012. Colleagues, just when you think the government cannot possibly come up with yet another shambolic policy, here it is. After the litany of shambolic policies that we have seen from this government, we thought maybe one day they might get to the end of that; maybe one day they might actually give us something that they have thought through and that is substantive. Sadly, colleagues, no—not a chance. This country should be so lucky! This schoolkids bonus is yet another example of this government simply not thinking things through.

This should not in fact be called a schoolkids bonus; it should be called a parents bonus. This is money that is going straight to parents with absolutely no requirement whatsoever that the money be used for their children's education. Supposedly, this is all about ensuring that money goes to children to support their education and other needs. Yet the government says to parents: 'Don't worry; we'll just give you a bit of a cash handout and you don't have any responsibility to prove to the Australian taxpayer that you're going to use this for your children's education'—none whatsoever. How you can possibly call it a schoolkids bonus when there is nothing to tie the bonus to schoolkids? I must say I think we should show these so-called schoolkids the respect of at least calling it a schoolchildren's bonus.

This government has absolutely no idea. This is nothing more than a cash splash. This is nothing more than a sugar hit for families. And it creates a diversion from the carbon tax hit to the cost of living. That cash splash is going out to parents at the very same time as the government is asking the nation to stump up for a $300 billion limit on the country's credit card. On one hand we have the irresponsibility of putting money out, throwing out a cash splash, with no requirement for responsibility from parents as to how they are going to spend it, and on the other hand asking this parliament to increase the limit for borrowings from $250 billion to $300 billion. This Gillard-Greens-Independent-shambolic-crazy government is absolutely appalling. They have no idea how to construct a budget that will take the country forward to a sustainable future.

The people in this nation get it; they understand it. Senator Cash was absolutely right when she said earlier that the Australian people are not fools. They know that this is money to buy votes, that this is money to distract people from the cost-of-living hit which will come from the carbon tax—there is absolutely no two ways about that. With the litany of policy failures, this is just another. Look at the Home Installation Program, where $2½ billion was mismanaged with at least $500 million spent fixing the mistakes; computers in schools is a $1.4 billion blow-out and way behind schedule; Fuelwatch and GroceryWatch had nearly $30 million spent setting them up and then they were dumped; Labor's multibillion dollar NBN rollout—as my good colleague Senator Joyce said last night, the next budget nightmare—has continued without a proper business case; and my personal favourite, a small but a goodie: the government sold the parliamentary billiard tables for $5,000 and then spent $102,000 determining whether or not they got value for money. This demonstrates the calibre of this government.

It is no wonder people come up to me in the street and say time and time again that they are embarrassed by this nation's Labor government. There is absolutely no confidence out in the community, none whatsoever, and things are in a downward spiral courtesy of this cobbled together, Labor-Independent-Greens government which people are mightily sick of. When they see things like the schoolkids bonus, they know money is not being targeted properly, that there is no responsibility being required from parents as to how they are going to spend this money. There is not one single thing linking that payment, the cash bonus going to parents, to providing educational needs of the students. How can it possibly be called a schoolkids bonus? As I said earlier, it is a parents bonus; it is not schoolkids bonus.

Earlier Senator Bilyk used a litany of phrases about how terrible it was that we thought parents were going to spend this money on things other than educational needs. It is not that we think badly of parents; it is that the cost of living being exacerbated by the carbon tax will mean parents will have no choice but to use this money to address cost-of-living increases. They are not going to have any choice.

This government should scrap the carbon tax. If this government had one shred, one iota of sense and sensibility, it would get rid of the carbon tax, which is not going to change the climate one little bit yet will put a huge impost on families across this nation when it comes to the cost of living. If the government did that, it could retain the education tax refund, which would be targeted to families for education purposes. We heard comments earlier from Senator Milne trying to compare it to the baby bonus. The baby bonus was a targeted payment to achieve a policy objective. This is nothing more than a cash splash, like the $900 cheques which went to prisoners and people living overseas. Indeed, I remember a story of a fellow who had worked in property in north-west New South Wales, who called his boss when the $900 cheques went out and said, 'Hey, mate, can you thank the Prime Minister for me. I've got my $900 cheque.' He was sitting in a pub in London. That is the sort of policy ineptitude—'expertise'—that we see from this Labor government. The schoolkids bonus is yet another example of it.

With this dodgy budget, cooking the books, the way the government are running the nation's finances, if it were not so desperate it really would be laughable. Everyone can see it. Labor think they are hiding in the corner saying, 'No-one can see that we have moved all this money into this financial year and pushed a whole lot out to 2013-14. Gee, doesn't the surplus look fantastic in 2012-13!' People can actually see. They know and understand that the government have cooked the books to get the 'surplus' they want for this year, and it is simply appalling. The schoolkids bonus is no way to provide for educational needs for school children. It is absolutely no way to do it. It is yet another example of this government's complete ineptitude, and the Australian people know it. They are out in the streets decrying the fact that this Labor-Greens-Independent government simply are unable to run the country properly. They are completely inept, and it is no wonder people are saying it is time for the government to go.