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Thursday, 14 November 2002
Page: 6382

Senator COLBECK (3:12 PM) —Senator Bishop is quite eager to play in, but what do Labor have to offer? Again, that is the question. Here we are again in a situation where we have had to come in behind Labor and fix up a huge mess. Senator Bishop complains that this system does not provide immediate benefits, but that is exactly what it is designed to do and exactly what it does. Senator Bishop seems to imply that Centrelink in some way is supposed to know exactly what the income details of these families are and yet the payments are based on the income details provided to Centrelink by the recipients. The recipients have the option of making a decision as to whether they underestimate their income so that they can get a tax cheque at the end of the year. A lot of families that I have spoken to make a deliberate decision to do that so that they know that there is going to be some extra money at taxation time. The average payment at the end of the year from the system is a bit over $1,000; $1,028 is the average top-up received by recipients under this system.

I find it a little amazing that the Labor Party want to get in and rattle the system that has made a real difference and provides some options for taxpayers. How much did the Labor Party provide as a top-up when they were in government? Not a cracker; absolutely not a penny. If you were underpaid, that was it. The Labor Party kept it in the bank. They never came near you and never told you that you were underpaid. That was it; it was just too bad. Bad luck. If a person was underpaid, how much did the Labor Party give back?

Senator Forshaw —The system was based on the previous year.

Senator COLBECK —So what we are doing is basing it on the current year's income; that is exactly right.

Senator Forshaw —That's not what happens. They put the information in and it gets stuffed up by Centrelink.

Senator COLBECK —That is a pretty bold statement.

Senator Forshaw —It's true. That's what they're complaining about. They give the information to Centrelink and Centrelink still gets it wrong.

Senator COLBECK —This government has a proud record of achievement for Australian families. First and foremost, it has provided sound economic management: low interest rates, the lowest inflation in a generation, real growth in wages—something that did not exist under the Labor Party, I might add—and a fairer tax system, where more people are paying lower tax. Again, that has a significant positive impact on families. A single-income couple who have two children and are living on minimum wage received about $9,500 in support from the Commonwealth—a significant level of support from this government that really does have a significant, caring attitude towards families and places a real priority on looking after the family unit. The income-testing arrangements are much more generous: more families are receiving maximum levels of assistance and families are able to keep more of each dollar they earn—again through the lower tax system. Over the next two years, $144 million will be provided through the Stronger Families and Communities Strategy—again, a significant investment by this government in families. From 1 July 2002, families have been able to claim the government's new first child tax refund—again, more for families, for Australian people.

The government has also made significant improvements to child care—a $600 million increase over three years in child-care payments and $18.872 billion in assistance to families through the family tax benefit, the child-care benefit, the parenting payment, the maternity allowance and the maternity immunisation allowance. This government has a significant record in looking after and caring for Australian families. The baby bonus is a further measure aimed at looking after Australian families.

Senator COLBECK —Mutter, mutter, mutter.

Senator Carr —That's what you're doing. Why don't you get on with it? Get on with it.

Senator COLBECK —I will take as long as I like. (Time expired)