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Monday, 29 May 2000
Page: 16462

Mr HARDGRAVE (8:20 PM) —I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2000-2001. I must say that I count the member for Prospect as one of those great, strong advocates for her side. She is a woman of tremendous experience and was particularly good company on a number of delegations.

Mr Slipper —She should be on the front bench.

Mr HARDGRAVE —She should be on the front bench. I think the parliamentary secretary is quite correct. I think it is very sad, though, that she, like so many others opposite, has been so heavily indoctrinated by living the big lie of the Australian Labor Party over the last few years about taxation reform that even she tonight has made in her contribution a repeat of the same old chestnuts that we have heard time in, time out.

Mr Slipper —It is tired old rhetoric.

Mr HARDGRAVE —It is tired old rhetoric. The parliamentary secretary is quite right. It is very sad too, because I think the people of Australia who live in Labor Party electorates deserve a little bit better than this great negativity that we are hearing and the great down in the mouth, we are all doomed kind of approach that we are hearing from those opposite. It is quite sad to think that, after so many years of wanting a decent taxation system—one that people could grab hold of, readily understand and then very happily comply with—and after so many years of waiting for and wanting that sort of taxation system to come in, we have finally got a government in place delivering on it and those opposite are still running, right to the very death of their dreadful old wholesale sales tax system, with this great line about how fantastic it is compared with what the government has proposed. It is very sad to find the Australian Labor Party wanting to maintain this great `opposition for opposition's sake' approach right to the death.

Mr Kelvin Thomson —If it is so good, why does the taxpayer—

Mr HARDGRAVE —The shadow minister opposite is asking why it is so good. In debates on this matter time in, time out, my view has been that if it is so bad why didn't they pass it holus? If it was so bad, why didn't they pass the proposition this government put forward instead of creating obstruction in the other place which created the necessity to hobble so much of what we promised the people before the last election and what we have mainly delivered upon? If it was so bad, why didn't they simply pass the government's legislation holus and then reap the electoral reward they believe will come?

They should have respected the people's voice, voted through the ballot box—the mandate of the government that was achieved in the majority of electorates. The majority of people in my electorate voted for a system that we are in the main bringing into place and, moreover, that this budget delivers upon. Those opposite still cannot come to grips with the fact that, unlike their 13 years in power, for over four years now a government has been in place in this country that actually says something before an election that it then delivers upon after the election. We say, and we do. I do not know how many times I have made this point so plainly obvious to those opposite and, time and time again, they come in and try and create an urban myth that we are not doing what we said we were going to do.

We continue to trust the people by fully disclosing our intentions and keeping them well informed—as is currently the case through the variety of advertising measures, public service announcements and direct mail contributions that we are going to make—so that every Australian can feel well satisfied that their government have done what we said we were going to do. Is it any wonder there is a deterioration in the faith amongst average Australians in the workings of this place? For 13 years, we had in place a Labor government that told everybody one thing and then did another straight afterwards. People had no faith in the process of parliament as a result.

Mr Slipper —They lied!

Mr HARDGRAVE —They did lie. It is so sad to think that, for 13 years, they did not trust the people with the truth. Those opposite now cannot come to grips with the fact that this government actually does trust the people and delivers upon what it says. If they do not want the public to be informed about the government's programs, that is their decision. But if the government of Australia rightfully wants to keep Australians well informed—and also feeling certain, comfortable and relaxed about exactly what their government has done for them—it is only right it makes available that particular information, and the government is doing just that.

It is sad to think those opposite continue to do everything they can to talk it down—to talk our nation down, to talk the economy down and to talk about interest rates rising because of a new tax system. It is a statement of fact that any pressure existing currently as far as interest rates are concerned in this country is a result of external pressures that were always going to be there. It has always been the contention of the government that there would be a one-off effect on inflation from the new taxation system. That is why—and this budget reveals the details of it—people who are reliant upon fixed incomes through pensions and benefits paid by the government can now feel certain that their government will keep their payment ahead of inflation and that it is a guaranteed payment ahead of inflation.

For years, as the CPI rose, inflation rose, and pensioners found themselves unable to keep in full touch with the cost of living. Their pensions always lagged behind the cost of living increases. They can now feel certain that their pensions will always be above the level that is set as a result of 1 July and rechecked every six months—based, as it always has been, on increases in the consumer price index. In other words, they will get the pay rise before the price rise, and those opposite cannot stand to think the government has delivered good social policy—much better than they delivered over their 13 years of shameful administration in this country.

What is before us is the delivery of what the government promised. The appropriation bills give us a good understanding of just what the government intend to do on behalf of the people of Australia in this place over the next 12 months. This budget is the big something. It actually delivers the tax cuts we promised before the 1998 election, unlike the promises of the Labor Party, who promised before 1993 l-a-w law tax cuts, and they were g-o-n-e gone as soon as they won office. To add insult to injury, they secretly snuck up the cost to the average Australian of wholesale sales taxes—not once but twice. So 20 per cent became 22 per cent, and 30 per cent became 32 per cent. Where were their compensation measures in those days? There was absolutely nothing, and that was all occurring at a time of record interest rates and record unemployment.

For those opposite to come in here and decry the efforts of the government, first and foremost, to be honest, secondly, to trust the people of Australia with the information and, thirdly, to deliver upon an intention stated prior to an election is an absolute sham and disgrace. I would have thought that, with just a few weeks to go until the new taxation system starts, they would have run out of puff. But they have to maintain the rage that they themselves have confected. They have to look as though they are very upset and very worried about it. The first thing they will do if they ever manage to sneak back into office is to keep everything we have put together, which is in itself a farce. They are so opposed to the new taxation system that has been unveiled and has been made obvious to the people of Australia through the budget that the first thing they will do is keep the thing in place.

We are going to hear a sad contribution in the course of this long appropriation debate—a traditional debate in this place. I forecast we are going to hear a sad contribution from those opposite. But the good news—and there is just so much of it in this budget—is that there will be so many jobs created as a result of the government's definite and firm economic management. There will be 650,000 jobs created in four years. Unemployment is expected to fall to 6.25 per cent by June 2001—and that is quite a contrast with the 11.2 per cent record that the opposition leader, Mr Beazley, had when he was the minister in charge of employment. We have also managed, despite other pressures on our economy, to maintain a budget surplus of $2.8 billion.

Those opposite imagine that, as in the case of the cartoon character Scrooge McDuck, this $2.8 billion is floating around in a room somewhere in this building and people are swimming in it and having a happy time. That $2.8 billion is still repaying Labor's debt. So, when the member for Prospect comes in and says that this is about taking from tomorrow to pay off yesterday, she is right. There is no doubt in my mind that the people of Australia today, and a little while into tomorrow, are going to keep paying off what Labor left us. The fact that we will have $50 billion of Labor's $80 billion debt paid back at the end of the next financial year, by June 2001, is a major mark of success for the government.

It is important to know that, if we share in the proceeds of government in this country, we also must share in the debt. Labor left each man, woman and child in this nation a share of that $80 billion debt, and this government through proper management and concern on the real issues will have managed to pay back $50 billion of it by the end of this financial year. At the same time, we have enhanced some of the basic things that should be done and need to be done, some of the things government must do to try to help private citizens and private enterprise. Apprenticeships will be increased as part of a $2 billion program over four years. That is the sort of real issue that a lot of people in my electorate want. Members of the business community have struggled forward to try to maintain new growth in their sector and to bring new people into their industry; they have desperately needed the sort of ready assistance that has come from this government.

The Small Business Enterprise Culture Program means that owner-managers' skills will be enhanced under a $5.1 million three-year program. As well, businesses will find it easier to deal with government departments as a result of a $6.5 million boost to further develop the business entry point. So businesses will be able to deal with government through tenders and other arrangements far easier than before. On top of that, the real big boost to business has been a fall in the company tax rate to 30 per cent by June 2001 as well as a fall in the capital gains tax to a maximum of 24.25 per cent. They are part of the government's business tax reforms, which have been promised and delivered upon.

It is important to note that this is not simply a happy day to help small business along, because every time you take some of that financial and government systemic pressure away from business what do you do? You make it easier for businesses to go and to grow, to survive and to thrive. It makes it easier for businesses to hire more Australians; hence the reason we are optimistic enough to suggest—although we are always cautious in our optimism—that there will be an ongoing decrease in the number of unemployed people. It is also important to note that the government's programs over the last four years have delivered some great gains as far as that is concerned.

Likewise, other sector beneficiaries are education and employment, which are important in my electorate because there are faculties and facilities within my electorate and also because they are a matter of concern to parents and students alike. It is good to know that TAFE and private training providers will receive $3.9 billion over the next four years to provide practical and relevant vocational education and training for young Australians. The highly successful Jobs Pathway Program, JPP, is managed in a number of different ways in my electorate. I was at a function on Friday night at Clairvaux McKillop College at Upper Mount Gravatt where we talked with some of the people administering the Southside Cluster Industry Placement Scheme, SCIPS. That scheme involves small business working with education professionals to help students understand the relevance of what they are learning in the classroom. That is just one program that is supported, assisted and encouraged by this government. At-risk young people will receive an additional $10.3 million under the Jobs Pathway Program to assist in that practical support, including literacy and numeracy training.

I must pay tribute to Minister David Kemp, who visited my electorate the other week and spoke to a wide cross-section of people who were providers as well as recipients of the sort of work that he is doing at the ministerial level. He explained very clearly why he has focused so heavily on the literacy and numeracy question: it is not because he is incredibly in favour of having tests and assessments but because, as we work on the question of literacy and numeracy and arm more of our young people with the skills they need to work and succeed throughout life, we will slowly but surely unravel those in our society who need additional assistance because of things beyond their control—that is, they may come from a violent household or there may be other reasons why they are not able to fully gain the literacy and numeracy skills that they should. Those sorts of people will be exposed as we slowly but surely peel back the onion to see those who are failing in those areas. The happy news is that this government's measures over the last couple of years have greatly improved the circumstance of literacy and numeracy so that most students now are achieving the benchmark levels that are being set.

As well, we are looking at building young people's creative and enterprising skills through the Enterprise Education Program. That is $25 million over the next four years.

Madam Deputy Speaker Gash, I know of your own commitment to the veteran community in your electorate of Gilmore. I try to match the commitment that you have, and I know that the member for Fisher, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration, who is at the table, has the same commitment. In my electorate of Moreton, there is a very considerable vocal veteran community. They are people who have been prepared to put on a uniform to serve our nation in years past, and they ensured that the values we have as a country were protected at times of war. So I am very pleased to see that our collective efforts on behalf of veterans have achieved some additional results in this budget before us tonight. In particular, the Far East Strategic Reserve veterans have received the long overdue recognition for their service in South-East Asia between 1955 and 1975. That is delivered in this budget.

As well, there is support for Vietnam veterans. The coalition is providing an extra $32.3 million to support veterans and their families in response to the findings of the Vietnam Veterans' Health Study. I look forward to next year's budget—and I do not mind nailing my colours to the mast on this one—when this government gives further recognition to those national servicemen who were drafted in 1951 and since, who over a long period of time, from almost 50 years ago, were called up to serve our country.

The coalition government has also ensured that war widows pensions keep up with 25 per cent of male total average weekly earnings, which is something that those opposite never did. The coalition has committed $600 million over four years to the Department of Veterans' Affairs to purchase hospital care for entitled veterans.

With regard to health matters, while it does not directly benefit people in my electorate, they are very pleased to see the focus being put upon rural health. We in Queensland understand our country cousins and the difficulties they have, and we appreciate this government's investment in them. Budget measures that help people in my electorate include a new $22 million investment in the future of our children by promoting wellbeing and preventing and treating illness. This includes $13 million over the next two years to improve the eating habits of children aged zero to 12 years. Let's face it: in the era of all-too-fast food, it is important that we start to promote healthy eating and wellbeing amongst our young people.

We also are providing support for Australia's blood bank system with $32.1 million to be spent over the next four years. The important issue of depression—all too topical perhaps in the hearts and minds of many members today—will be tackled over the next five years, with $17.5 million being spent to establish the National Depression Initiative. I, like too many members in this place, have been touched by friends and family members who have suffered at the hands of depression. It is a silent and hidden killer of too many people in our community. For this government to commit money to those sorts of matters is only right.

But it is the big ticket items which really stand out, I guess, when you are in a debate such as this. There will be record hospital spending in the public sector; over $6 billion this financial year will go to state governments, under the Australian health care agreement which was signed in 1998. On top of this, the budget is promoting access to the best health services for people living in the city as well as, of course, in the bush. So, let anybody opposite suggest health funding has declined and, without a doubt, such suggestion will fall on deaf ears.

What we have here is a government which has looked at the needs and wants, the aspirations, of Australians in various parts of the nation and, in particular, their concerns are being met by this budget. Families in my electorate are concerned about matters to do with their safety. We are seeing in this budget a boost in the fight against local crime through the National Crime Information System, Crimtrac, a boost through the Tough on Drugs strategy and the National Crime Prevention strategy. These are practical measures which will provide support to Neighbourhood Watch right throughout my electorate; there are about 55 Neighbourhood Watches that are maintained by the dedication and concern of local citizens. It is great to see there will be a Canberra based addition to the support mechanisms which they desperately need. One would hope the Queensland government would understand it has still failed to put enough police on the beat on the south side of Brisbane and provide enough impetus and importance to those who are doing community policing at the departmental level; there just is not enough importance being placed on this particular factor. But this fight against crime can be inspired by the proper spending of money here in Canberra.

So I conclude by stating this budget has produced a lot of great good for the people of Australia. I am disappointed to hear those opposite continuing to talk down the efforts of this government in its provision of the practical measures and the long awaited measures which the people of Australia want and expect from their national government.