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Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Page: 9240


Mr SIDEBOTTOM (5:50 PM) —I congratulate the new member for Mayo on his entry to the House and on his speech. We live in troubling times, and this government has been seeking and will continue to seek to manage responsibly and in a preventative way what is increasingly becoming a serious economic problem both here, certainly potentially, and elsewhere throughout the world. We handed down a responsible budget in May this year and in that process, through savings, attempted to bring together an important and sizeable surplus and to do that responsibly.

More recently, in the wake of the downturn in the world economy and to try to act in a pre-emptive way, this government has made some decisions. One was to guarantee the savings deposits and mortgages of Australians for at least three years, when that will be reviewed, to give them confidence and also to give those banks and lenders confidence and to give those overseas confidence to invest in and borrow from Australia. At the same time, as announced most recently by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, we have put together a $10.4 billion Economic Security Strategy for the future. I suspect that the word ‘security’ in this case is most correct. It is something that affects us globally, it affects us regionally and, most especially, it has the potential to affect our economy. What we seek to do responsibly, conservatively, diligently and, in this instance, decisively is retain confidence internally and externally in our economy and to give confidence to Australians who operate, work and live in this economy. To do that we introduced five elements, which this House is familiar with and the Australian community is becoming more familiar with as they are disseminated.

In the time remaining to me in this debate on the Financial System Legislation Amendment (Financial Claims Scheme and Other Measures) Bill 2008 and cognate bills, I would like to highlight some of those elements to the House and give them some relevance to my electorate of Braddon. I come from a region of around 100,000 to 110,000 people. Those figures include some people who are in neighbouring electorates as they are figures for the discrete region. I estimate, from the number of first home buyer grants allocated in 2007-08 in Tasmania, that 800 grants for either first home or first new home buyers, to the value of between $2.8 million and as high as $4.5 million, will flow to my electorate as a result of the introduction of the total $1.5 billion investment to help first home buyers purchase a home. In addition, with 9,574 families in the electorate of Braddon who receive family tax benefit schedule A, with some 18,659 eligible dependent children, I estimate there will be a one-off stimulus of nearly $19 million to the economy. Finally, through this element, with 33,574 people or couples who receive a variety of pensions and entitlements, I estimate that inclusively around $70 million will be injected into my regional economy because of the Economic Security Strategy announced by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer. That is a sizeable stimulus in a region of about 100,000 people. Of course, if you multiply that across Australia that is the type of stimulus that we are encouraging. Hopefully, that will give confidence to our local communities, to those who produce, to those who sell, to those who buy, to those who invest and to those who save, in addition to the economic activity that is now taking place. We are also seeking that it acts as a stimulant in the wake of a potential downturn in the economy.

I mentioned there were five elements in the package. There is $4.8 billion as an immediate down payment on long-term pension reform. It is a down payment, not the only payment. It is a one-off payment that includes many more pensioners and entitlees than was mentioned by the opposition in their earlier politicking on this issue. I speak of age pensioners, disability support pensioners, carer payment recipients, wife and widow B pensioners, partner and widow and bereavement allowees, Veterans’ Affairs service pensioners, veterans income support supplement recipients, Veterans’ Affairs gold card holders eligible for seniors concession allowance, those of age pension age who receive parenting payment, special benefits or Austudy, and eligible self-funded retirees holding a Commonwealth seniors health card. In addition, people who are receiving carer allowance will also receive $1,000 for each eligible person being cared for. What we are looking at is making available a lump sum payment of $1,400 to singles and $2,100 to couples who will benefit. As I mentioned earlier, as part of this, the lump sum payment will be extended to disability support pensioners. That is a comprehensive investment and a comprehensive stimulus to people who need support at this time. They have always needed support—we do not doubt that. It is a down payment and I look forward with my colleagues—and hopefully with all in this House—to the outcomes of the review that is currently being out carried out on pensions and other income taxation reform by Dr Henry and his crew.

I also note that approximately $407 million in total will be paid in the fortnight beginning on 8 December to all Department of Veterans’ Affairs service pensioners, income support supplement recipients, Commonwealth seniors health card holders and gold card holders, including war widows over service pension age who receive the seniors concession allowance or utilities allowance. Around 4,000 people receiving a benefit from the Veterans’ Children’s Education Scheme will also receive a one-off payment of $1,000. So this is a very considerable stimulus to those in need. And Australian families will receive $3.9 billion in immediate financial support as a one-off payment of $1,000 for each eligible child in their care. Families who receive family tax benefit A and families with dependent children who receive youth allowance, Abstudy or a benefit from Veterans’ Children’s Education Scheme payments will also receive that one-off payment.

I am really pleased that this government is able to further stimulate the first home owners scheme by $1.5 billion. First home buyers who purchase established homes will have their grant doubled from $7,000 to $14,000. First home buyers who purchase a newly built home will receive an extra $14,000 to take their grant to $21,000. I also note that we will be doubling the Productivity Places Program from $57,000 to $113,000 in 2008-09. That will take the government’s total investment in training places since April to more than $400 million.

Finally, we wish to fast-track our nation-building agenda to help shield Australians from the global financial crisis. We will look to the opposition in this moment of bipartisanship, which we are being offered, to bring forward projects related to education research, health and hospitals, transport and communications. I commend the government for taking this initiative. It is done responsibly. It is done with a sense of urgency because that is the situation we face. I am sure that, put together with our responsible budget for 2008 and with the guarantee of deposits and mortgages to support our banking system, it will give confidence to the Australian community, it will show the world that they can have confidence in us and that we too have confidence in our institutions and in our economy.