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Monday, 11 May 2015
Page: 2738

Child Care

Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory) (14:42): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Abetz. I refer to yesterday's announcement by the Prime Minister and the de facto Treasurer, Mr Morrison, which links the government's childcare package with its cruel and unfair cuts to family tax benefits. Does the decision to link the childcare package with family tax cuts have the full support of the coalition party room?

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:43): First of all, I congratulate the honourable senator on her first question and thank her for it. In relation to the matter that the honourable senator raises, I must say she does herself no credit in referring to an excellent Treasurer who has to clean up the mess of the failed finance minister who sits in this place. Mr Hockey is doing an exceptionally good job, as is Mr Morrison, as is the whole team, apart possibly from the Minister for Employment, and I will allow others to comment about him.

In relation to the coalition generally, we are united to ensure that we can get the best possible deal for the Australian people. It stands to reason that there will be people who would want us to do even more. Indeed, I recognise Senator Williams and Senator Canavan—great representatives of the National Party in this place—who want to do even more.

Regrettably, because of the financial mess we inherited from those opposite, we are unable to do everything that we otherwise might like to do. So, in this task of repairing the budget, in this task of getting a sustainable financial framework for our nation, we have to do it step by step. Does that mean that we cannot take every step immediately that we would like to? Does that frustrate some of my colleagues? The chances are: yes. But we are a good, united, cohesive team, and I simply say to the new senator that a left-wing Labor Party that is devoid of proper policies will face a similar fate in this country as it did in the United Kingdom and—for the benefit of Senator Cameron—the Scottish Labour Party. (Time expired)

Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory) (14:45): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is Nationals Senator Canavan correct when he says, 'The system we are proposing massively penalises families where a parent stays home to look after children, and we think it does not properly value the benefits of unpaid work'?

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:46): One of the great things that we enjoy on the coalition side is the ability for people not to have to read from the trade union handbook for their public comments. We actually allow our senators and members to say what they think and why they think it. Senator Canavan, of course, is a very good exponent of that and is supportive of that principle, as am I.

Does that mean that Senator Canavan always agrees with everything I say? I hope not, and the chances are not. Similarly, while Senator Canavan makes a lot of good sense and is an exceptionally good senator in this place with a great future in front of him for the benefit of the Australian people whom he seeks to serve, Senator Canavan has made some—

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! The time for your question had basically expired.

Senator ABETZ: What a pity!

The PRESIDENT: I can give you four extra seconds if you think that would assist; otherwise I will go to the supplementary.

Senator ABETZ: No.

Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory) (14:47): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Is Nationals senator John Williams right to be disappointed that stay-at-home mums will lose almost all the childcare assistance they now get?

Senator Canavan: Mr President, I rise on a point of order. That is the second time now I believe we have been misquoted in questions, and I do not understand. It is a new senator, but we should not be misquoted.

The PRESIDENT: That is not a point of order.

Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:48): There was I, going on the assumption that a brand new Labor senator would not misrepresent the situation in this place. Sadly, my hopes have been dashed. Senator Canavan has just pointed out that the honourable senator has grievously misrepresented the position of both Senator Canavan and Senator Williams. In those circumstances, I will have to have a very close look at exactly what they said, but, if the gist of what they said was that they would like this government to be able to do more for stay-at-home mums, I would say I agree with them. Regrettably, the financial circumstances left to us by Senator Wong, Senator Cameron and others deny us that opportunity, but I look forward to the day when we can do more for the stay-at-home mums of Australia.