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Wednesday, 10 May 2000
Page: 16132

Mr ALBANESE (10:14 AM) —I rise to add to the comments made previously in the debate on the Senate requested amendment to the Youth Allowance Consolidation Bill 1999 when it was before the House some three weeks ago. The difference is that the government reversed its position last night and is now saying that we were right three weeks ago when we were pursuing this amendment. The government essentially agreed in the budget last night to actually fulfil an election promise that it made back in 1996. The Treasurer's speech last night demonstrated that the government had finally been forced into a corner by the Labor Party, by the Democrats and by their own constituents—forced to fulfil a promise that it was clearly uncomfortable about keeping.

Mr Anthony —You never supported it; you never go there.

Mr ALBANESE —I go to regional Australia a lot, Larry, as you would know. Indeed, on Friday I was in Richmond, and it is a lovely seat. Labor and the Democrats supported a 75 per cent exemption of farm assets for the purpose of qualifying for the Common Youth Allowance and Austudy. This is because many farmers are asset rich and income very poor. Rural and regional families are shown to participate in higher education at only two-thirds the rate of urban Australians. It is vital that there is equal access for rural and regional people to education and income support for young people. This is a promise that the coalition government took over four years to deliver. Last night they caved in to the pressure exerted by the Labor Party, the Democrats and their own constituencies. There might indeed be an election coming because there is a desperate attempt by the government to address the devastating impact that previous budgets have had on rural and regional Australia. Perhaps my visit to the electorate of Richmond with the Labor Party caucus gave the government the ideas that they put last night in the budget. So bereft of ideas are this government that a staffer for the member for Richmond came to the Labor Party caucus meeting to get some ideas as to what should happen in rural and regional Australia. We made him welcome; we even invited him to address the people who had gathered there.

Mr Martin Ferguson —We did not charge him $2.50 for scones.

Mr ALBANESE —And we did not charge money. It was free—put on by the Labor Party at Banora. Perhaps it was the member for Richmond who was the minister at the meeting where people were charged money to hear about the impact of the GST on their rent. It is not surprising that a government, which now accepts everything that we were saying weeks ago—although weeks ago it was no good—gets its ideas by going to Labor Party caucus meetings to get some policy ideas about what is really needed in rural and regional Australia. I am pleased that the government has caved in to the pressure; I am pleased that this change will now occur as a result of the Labor Party and the Democrat amendments in the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.