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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7851

Mr ADAMS (3:26 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. How is the government supporting Australian families, and are there any alternatives to this responsible approach?

Ms MACKLIN (Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) —I thank the member for Lyons for his question and for the work that he does for the families in his electorate. The Rudd government are of course committed to doing everything we can to help families and particularly to make sure that we direct that help to those who are in the most need. We have recently announced major new initiatives to support families. For the first time, this country will have a national paid parental leave scheme, a new family support program and a national child protection framework. We have also, in the last two budgets, done some very difficult things to make sure that we are targeting our family payment system to those most in need to make sure that it is sustainable for the future. We on this side of the House know that we have to be, especially in these difficult economic times, responsible for making sure that that assistance is targeted.

It does seem that this is not a view shared by those opposite. We know that they have been running around the country scaring the public about debt and deficit, but what they have not told us is that, if they were in government, the level of the deficit would be even higher.

I am very pleased to see the member for Warringah back in the House. It is very nice to have him back. He has been out and about touting his book around the country.

Mr Abbott interjecting

Ms MACKLIN —This one is from the library. It is definitely from the library.

Mr Abbott interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Warringah should contain his enthusiasm.

Ms MACKLIN —This is the library copy. It will not be defaced.

Honourable members interjecting—

10000 SPEAKER, TheThe SPEAKER—Order! Those on my left will hold their enthusiasm.

Honourable members interjecting—

10000 SPEAKER, TheThe SPEAKER—Order! The House will return to a modicum of order.

Ms MACKLIN —It is very nice to see you back, Tony. I know you have been off in the Brisbane Polo Club, no less, selling the book.

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister will resume her seat.

Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The point of order refers to standing order 104. I did not hear anything in the question—that dorothy dixer—that referred to books or failed attempts to run a bit of humour. I ask that they come back to the question.

The SPEAKER —In allowing the question I allowed the part that said, ‘are there any alternatives’.

Ms MACKLIN —I reassure the member for O’Connor that it is from the library.

It is great to have the member for Warringah back. We know that this book not only reveals a little bit about their family policy, it does seem to be the member for Warringah’s latest effort—I am sure there will be more—at his tilt for the leadership.

This book has in it just another clue about how profligate this opposition would be if they ever got into government. He reveals in this book that he, the member for Warringah and the opposition shadow minister for families, wants to abolish the means test for family tax benefit A for children under five. He is nodding! I am glad to see he still agrees with the policy that he put in his book.

This would mean an extra cost to the budget bottom line—I will just let the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance know—of $1.8 billion a year. So over the forward estimates that means around an extra $7 billion to the budget bottom line. The question really is—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 98C a minister can only be questioned on matters for which she or he is responsible or is officially connected with. I am sure the minister will be glad to hear she is not responsible for the member of Warringah’s opinions, but she is not entitled to comment on them either.

The SPEAKER —The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. As I alluded to earlier, that relates to what can be in the question, and I indicated that as it referred to alternatives the response is going to that aspect of the question.

Ms MACKLIN —The real question is: is this Liberal Party policy? Does the current Leader of the Opposition support this policy? Does he support the government’s approach, which is to make sure that family tax benefit is targeted to make sure it is sustainable for the future, or is he having to fall into line with his rival?

Mr Abbott interjecting

The SPEAKER —As I said, the member for Warringah should contain his enthusiasm and not deny the member for Macarthur the call.