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Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Page: 5183

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (20:34): I first welcome the comments by the previous speaker, the member for Maranoa, insofar as he was saying that skills are important. Skills are important for the life chances of Australians right around the country, so I hope that the member will recognise the huge investment that this government has made in this budget in skills, in particular by allowing anyone in this country who wants to obtain a certificate III to have a government subsidised place. That is of critical importance because we know that people who have a certificate III can ensure that they have a better earning capacity. So I think the turbocharged investment in skills, which will be industry led, which has industry involvement, which will open up training opportunities right around this country, should be supported by the member opposite. We are turbocharging when it comes to skills and postsecondary education. It is a pity that he did not acknowledge that huge investment that we have made in the budget, but I have to agree with him on that one point, that skills are important in this country, and I am so pleased that this budget is delivering it. It is a pity that he could not acknowledge that.

Anyway, I rise today to support the 2012-13 budget. This is an incredibly responsible budget and it is also a Labor budget, a budget that builds on our strong economic management. The Labor government have shown that, at the time when it is needed, during a GFC, we will act to support jobs and that when conditions get better and growth returns to trend we will return the budget to surplus to ensure the future prosperity of our nation. Not only are we returning the budget to surplus on time, as promised, but we are also acting to spread the benefits of our strong economy more fairly by delivering relief to families and businesses who are feeling the pinch.

Probably the members on the other side are a little bit embarrassed. Especially, I think, the members would be a little bit embarrassed that, despite the Leader of the Opposition talking a lot about the difficulties people are facing, when it comes down to it, when he has the opportunity to look at fairness and look at helping families, he squibs it. It took this Labor government to set in this budget the long-term foundations with which we can really make the most of the opportunity that will be presented by the Asian century and ensure our lasting prosperity.

The other part, as I said, is that this is also about delivering a fair and balanced budget that looks at those who are doing it tough. This is in direct contrast to the Leader of the Opposition's budget reply speech. Once again there was a lot of fanfare and a lot of theatrics; no detail. It added quite a lot to the bulging $70 billion black hole but, most importantly, was a real kick in the guts to Australian families who are struggling to make ends meet, by saying no to education payments for parents who are putting their children through school. Obviously it is very disappointing that the opposition oppose that, but we are not going to let the opposition stand in our way of delivering for Australian families.

This budget puts us on track for a $1.5 billion surplus in 2012-13. We are returning the budget to surplus, as I said, on time and as promised, despite global uncertainty ripping an estimated $150 billion from government revenue. We are doing it ahead of every single advanced major economy. I think this is very, very important, because we hear a lot from the opposition but they fail to recognise, when they compare us to the rest of the advanced economies in the world, that we are doing extremely well. This has not been by luck. This has been through having a government that is actually willing to act and willing to deliver. I am very, very pleased that we have been working very hard to return the budget to surplus. Returning the budget to surplus does a number of things. It gives us a buffer in times of continuing global uncertainty but it also provides maximum flexibility for the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates further if they deem it necessary. So I think that, while most of the rest of the world is still grappling with the fallout from the global financial crisis, we are seeing our economy continue to grow. Indeed, our economy is seven per cent larger than before the global financial crisis. Once again, we often see a lot of negativity from those opposite, which I think is a little bit of envy, because, at a time when countries around the world are struggling with huge unemployment and are facing recession, we on this side of the House, in government, are creating jobs. More importantly, the envy from the other side comes from the fact that, while they were in office, they could not get a AAA credit rating from all three major global rating agencies. They could not manage that. Even their great hero Peter Costello could not manage that.

Mr Chester: Was that nine surpluses in a row, or 10?

Ms RISHWORTH: The member opposite is talking about nine surpluses in a row. Of course, $100 billion of that was excess revenue from the mining boom. And what did they do? They squandered it. They would have had a lot bigger surpluses if they had actually used that money in a constructive way. They had rivers of gold which they squandered, and that is why, I have no doubt, all three international rating agencies at one time never, ever offered a AAA credit rating.

Our government's management of the economy is doing that well, and that is why we have seen Wayne Swan get the gong that Peter Costello could never get from Euromoney magazine. It is why we got the AAA credit rating from all three major global rating agencies, something, once again, that Peter Costello could not get. He is feeling a bit grumpy at the moment; I have seen the media reports and I have no doubt that, since he may be taking his anger out at a number of different Liberal Party people, he is a little frustrated because Wayne Swan is achieving what he could not do.

Mr Gibbons: He wants to come back! He wants Kooyong's seat.

Ms RISHWORTH: I think it is a bit tough for the member for Kooyong to have to make way for Peter Costello. I think it is pretty rough. He probably wants to come back and see if he can get back.

We understand that in this country our economy is ticking over on a macro level. There is, as many have said, a patchwork economy and that is why this government is not just saying, 'Mining companies that are doing very well—you just keep your money and we'll just let everyone else suffer.' We have had a lot of criticism from the opposition about this. They have said, 'Don't bring in a mining tax; don't do this; don't do that,' and we have heard them talk about the patchwork economy as well and how we need to do more. Well, when you look through all the details, the opposition offer nothing to address fairness in this country. In fact, they plan to vote against the company tax cut to help companies across this country. I just cannot believe we are in a situation where, as the member has quite rightly put it, the Liberal Party vote with the Greens to oppose a tax cut. Once again, it has taken this side of the House to look at the patchwork economy and say, 'There are some areas that are doing very well but there are some areas that are struggling, so we're going to help out.' Of course, it is opposed by those opposite. They oppose helping businesses with a one per cent tax cut, and they are against helping families by opposing the schoolkids bonus.

I want to talk a little bit about the schoolkids bonus, because I believe that this is so important. I was at the Hallett Cove Shopping Centre on the weekend, and I actually had parents come up to me and say: 'Thank you to the Labor government that is delivering this; this is important money that we need to help our students. More importantly, we are insulted that the Liberal Party would say that we would just waste this money.' I had a number of parents come to up me to say that. I personally think it is insulting that the opposition thinks that parents will just waste this money and that they will not spend it on the kids.

When you ask the opposition why they think this and why the baby bonus is different, the answer that comes back from the Leader of the Opposition is, 'It just is'. That is not a good enough answer for Australian families. Australian families want to know why the Leader of the Opposition and all of those opposite do not trust them—do not trust them to spend the money on their kids. They are very disappointed, and I know that that message from the opposition was a disappointing message heard loud and clear by families in my electorate—

Mr Gibbons: The Nationals don't believe it.

Ms RISHWORTH: No, the Nationals did feel a little uncomfortable about that. They were shown up a little bit by the member for Kennedy, who spoke very passionately in favour of this assistance. He knows that families are doing it tough. Around 11,200 local families are expected to receive this new cash payment just in my electorate, and that will assist them greatly. A number of other family payments have been announced in this budget, and I am very pleased that 15,000 families in my local community of southern Adelaide will receive assistance of at least $300 and up to $600. In addition there is the supplementary allowance that was announced to help young people, single parents and unemployed people who are currently receiving allowances to manage unexpected living expenses. Once again, we are helping those who are doing it tough.

While this has been a difficult budget because we are bringing it back to surplus and are doing the responsible thing, a couple of things we have done mean a great deal to people in my electorate. The first is the injection of funds into the dental health care scheme. After the Liberal government was elected in 1996, the first thing they did was cut the Commonwealth dental scheme. This made it difficult for many people on low incomes, on payments and on pensions, to access dental health care. I am proud of this budget because it provides a boost to funding to ensure that we can reduce the waiting list for people on low incomes.

In Noarlunga, in my electorate, as a result of federal government investment we have done a lot to improve dental services. As a result of having the GP superclinic at Noarlunga we have been able to triple the number of dentist chairs at the Noarlunga dental service. This injection of funds will affect the lives of so many people. When the opposition cut the Commonwealth dental scheme they failed to understand that dental health is really important to general health. They completely ignored that and said that the Commonwealth would cut its funding. I have seen some awful situations of people with significant dental problems who, because they did not have a chronic disease, were not considered worthy of adequate dental treatment under the coalition government's scheme. This is an issue that is raised with me on a very regular basis, and I am pleased that this measure is in the budget.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme is another budget initiative that is about fairness. Of course the Leader of the Opposition said he was in favour of it, but he then sent the shadow Treasurer out to backtrack significantly on their commitment. So on this issue the Leader of the Opposition says yes but the shadow Treasurer says, 'Well, we'll see'—and, of course, the shadow finance minister said it was just an aspiration. While they might deliberate on what they want to do, this side of the parliament is delivering. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is beginning with trials in four locations and will ensure that, no matter how you got your disability, you will be provided with adequate services to ensure that you can live a fulfilling life and achieve your potential. That is critically important, and it makes me proud to stand here as part of the Labor government.

This is a very important budget—it delivers to families, i t shares the wealth of the mining boom, i t deliver s not just to vested interests and it help s those who are doing it tough —and I commend it to the House .