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Thursday, 10 May 2012
Page: 3117


Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (13:37): I will make a very brief contribution on the Family Assistance and Other Legislation Amendment (SchoolKids Bonus Budget Measures) Bill 2012, because on such an important piece of legislation it is important that the record is made clear. I will be supporting the second reading of this bill but not the third reading. I do so for this reason: as a general principle I think it is important to support parents in the area of schoolkids' education expenses. I am a supporter of government assistance where it is needed. One of the functions of government is to provide financial assistance to help those in need meet basic living expenses. So in that respect the principle is not a bad one. Increasing the level of assistance to families for schoolkids' expenses is a laudable principle.

I object to the bill in its current form and I cannot support the third reading of the bill because of the way it is being handled, because this is just a blank cheque, in a sense. A voucher system would have been much more preferable—the system that was in place previously—because it would limit the possibility of some parents, a small minority of parents, rorting the system. In some cases that does happen and we ought to acknowledge that. But there is also the general principle of ensuring that, if this is about schoolchildren and their educational expenses, this money ought to be spent directly for the kids' educational expenses, not by means where there is no accountability. That is why I think this bill in its current form is flawed. The government ought to have stuck with the voucher system; if it had, I would have supported this bill.

In summary, I do support the principle that there should be additional assistance to families, but if it is targeted specifically to educational expenses for schoolchildren then it ought to be via a voucher system rather than a system which does not have any reasonable measure of transparency or accountability.