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Thursday, 10 May 2012
Page: 3218


Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (20:30): I rise this evening to talk about the budget delivered by the government on Tuesday evening. As you are aware, I am the only parliamentary representative of the Democratic Labor Party. As such, my resources are limited and a complete review of the implications of this budget for my constituents will take some time. However, I do have several issues I would like to bring up with regard the 2012-13 budget. Two days after the budget was handed down there has been plenty said by both sides of this house. For one it is the salvation of the Australian economy; for the other it means sackcloth and ashes for all. Political opinion obviously plays a major part in how the budget is seen, and while I will attempt to be as unbiased as possible, it is my role to mention some of the concerns I and the DLP have with this budget.

It appears that Australia's long-suffering manufacturing sector will have to suffer even longer before it gets any substantial relief. I have struggled to find much in the way of advantage, help, support or even thoughts towards the development of the manufacturing sector, which is crucial in the employment of so many people and for the future of our country. The mining tax is a linchpin of the government's economic figures, and as long as there is a boom that may prove to be a positive thing. However, the money that is raised from this tax is not being poured back into the infrastructure so desperately needed not only to save the manufacturing sector we still have but to encourage the development of new Australian owned and based manufacturing industries.

Regional communities across Australia are feeling abandoned and forgotten by this budget and this government. The introduction of the carbon tax is looming, yet there are no concrete measures in this budget to assist the communities that will be the hardest hit, especially in regions such as the Latrobe Valley in Victoria. An extra few hundred dollars in the year for children's school expenses may be welcomed by some, but for families trying to survive when factories are shutting down around them it is almost a slap in the face.

One area where the government could have made a significant positive impact was in the defence manufacturing area. Unfortunately, with the loss of the Bushmaster contract by Thales Bendigo and the loss of government support for the Tasmanian shipbuilder Incat, the further cut of some $5 billion from defence spending has simply rubbed salt into the wounds. Australia needs a credible deterrent. We can pour billions into inefficient and unreliable wind turbines but not into the material support needed for our defence forces. We can pour more than $44 billion into the National Broadband Network, but we can cut materiel supply to the people who defend our nation. I assume if Darwin is ever bombed again we will be able to see it in superfast broadband time, but there is not much we will be able to do about it.

The wealthy countries of the world manufacture. Manufacturing is the hub around which our economy should be turning. Mining provides great support for the economy, but in the end, if we rely solely on mining, we are simply and literally digging a deeper hole for ourselves. Something must be done. I do not know if the coalition will win the next election, but most pundits suggest they will. At that time, I will be reminding them of their promise to repeal the carbon tax. I will also be pushing for a review of the mining tax to make it fairer and to see the revenue collected by it being used more constructively for the future of manufacturing. In the meantime I hope to work with the government of today to advance the cause of Australian manufacturing.

The Democratic Labor Party attempts to put the community and family first in all things. Whilst examining the figures put out by the government, I was dismayed to find that a change to the qualifications for the family tax benefit has been made that may affect thousands of Australian families. In last year's budget the reform of family payments aligned family tax benefit part A with the youth allowance age of independence. The youth allowance age of independence is 22, which meant that family tax benefit part A was payable for students aged under 22. This year the government has changed the age of eligibility for family tax benefit part A to under 18 years of age. Or, if the young person remains in secondary school, family tax benefit part A will be payable until the end of the year in which they turn 19. However, the youth allowance age of independence remains at 22.

Initial reviews appear to indicate that family tax benefit part A payments will not be payable to thousands of 18- to 21-year-old university students who are living at home. These same 18- to 21-year-olds will not be eligible for youth allowance as they are under 22, meaning they are fully dependent on the income of their parents or their own earnings. The only thing many of them can expect from their university years, apart from a hard-won education, is a substantial HECS debt.

If our initial examination of this is correct, then this 'family-friendly' budget looks far less friendly. I have yet to complete a comprehensive review of these figures and will hopefully find it is not quite as bad as it first looks. However, if this is correct, I will be asking for a detailed explanation from the government of how this benefits families who are trying to educate their children at a time when their daily cost of living is about to be hit by the carbon tax. The economy is there to serve the people; the people do not serve the economy.

Debate adjourned.