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Monday, 7 July 2014
Page: 4201

Budget


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (14:38): My question is to the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Fifield. Can the minister inform the Senate of how the government's budget delivers on its promises to support Australian families both now and into the future?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:39): I thank Senator Smith for his question and for his ongoing interest in social policy in this place. The 2014-15 budget delivers $19.3 billion to support families through the Family Tax Benefit payments. It also provides $28.6 billion for the Child Care Rebate and Child Care Benefit. And of course with the support of our new colleagues in this place, we will have the opportunity to repeal the carbon tax and provide, on average, $550 extra in the pockets of Australian families.

On this side of the chamber we recognise that those opposite left us with a projected debt of $670 billion. It would not have been responsible to do nothing about that. It would not have been responsible to just let the existing policy settings continue as they were. So it is true that we have had to take some difficult decisions. But I just want to put that in context, because those opposite seem to see good economic policy and good social policy as alternatives. On this side we see that as very much a false dichotomy. You have to have a good economic policy in order to sustain a good social policy, and the heart of a good economic policy is a good budget policy. So one of the reasons we are taking what are some difficult decisions is that we want to ensure that there is ongoing support available for families. We want to be in a position where we can ensure that there is a good and decent social safety net, because we want to make sure that government has the money to support what is its core business—and that is supporting people who face extra challenges for reasons beyond their control.


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (14:41): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister outline to the Senate any particular measures in the budget that meet the government's election commitments in the area of social policy?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:41): Indeed I can. I think nothing could be more emblematic of this government's conviction that good economic policy and good budget policy support good social policy than our delivery in the budget of full funding for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. In fact, we went further. The previous government wanted to apply an efficiency dividend to the package costs in the NDIS. We did not think it was reasonable to apply an efficiency dividend to package costs in the NDIS, so we have returned that $45 million back into the NDIS. Through the NDIS example, we can demonstrate already the dividends of good economic policy, of good budget policy—that we are in a position to help fund the NDIS in full, with the support of our state colleagues—because, obviously, it is a national venture with all Australian governments.


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (14:42): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister inform the Senate of any alternatives to the government's budget strategy?


Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Assistant Minister for Social Services) (14:42): I can. There is not an alternative strategy. What we have from those opposite is opportunistic pot shots. Last time we were in government, after 1996, the Australian Labor Party opposed every single measure that was put forward to bring the budget back into balance. They are repeating that pattern yet again. Mr President, I know I do not need to remind you but, thanks to those opposite, $1 billion is being paid in interest every month. On this side of the chamber we know that deficit budgeting is nothing more than intergenerational theft. We do not think that is fair. We do not think that is reasonable. Government needs to live within its means. We are taking these steps so we can get the budget back on a path to balance, and also so that we have the capacity to do what the Australian public wants—government core business.