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Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Page: 23

Senator STERLE (3:09 PM) —I start my contribution with great disappointment because I thought Senator Cash’s contribution was going to get better. But I am still waiting. It did not get better. Senator Cash, that was absolutely shocking!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Sterle, I think you should address your remarks to the chair.

Senator STERLE —Through you, Mr Deputy President, I reiterate that that was terrible. I would like to take note of the question by Senator Bernardi to the minister. I find it absolutely offensive when those on the other side of the chamber get up and thank us for adopting their policy.

Senator Cormann —That is exactly what happened.

Senator STERLE —Senator Cormann, if your mob had got what they liked, only single pensioners would have got $30. What about couples? What would they have got?

Senator Cormann —We shamed you into it, and you know it.

Senator STERLE —Senator Cormann, what would—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! I think we will have a little bit of decorum.

Senator STERLE —Senator Cormann—through you, Mr Deputy President—if we had adopted your policy, what would we do for couples?

Senator Cormann —We shamed you into it, and you know it.

Senator STERLE —We would not have worried about couples if you had had your way. You mentioned nothing about couples over on that side of the chamber—absolutely nothing!

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Cormann, you will cease interjecting. Senator Sterle, I remind you that you do not make your remarks ‘through’ the chair, you make them ‘to’ the chair.

Senator STERLE —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I will continue my remarks to the chair. As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted by Senator Cormann, if we had adopted the Liberal’s policy of $30 for singles, what would we tell the married couples, those pensioners who are just as much in need of extra money in their hand for their weekly costs? What would we have told carers? They were not on the radar; carers did not matter to the Liberals. It was a stunt. Let us call it what it is. It was a stunt. It was not even a cunning stunt. It was just a poor stunt. And they disregarded not only couples and carers—what would we have done for widows if we had adopted the Liberal’s policy? Oh, of course, they were not on the radar either! When you were running off with your stunt, widows did not get a mention. And what about those on the disability pension? Oh, you forgot about them too, did you? You only thought about this stunt: $30 for a single pensioner—and, all of a sudden, you people are the gurus, the experts, to save the pensioners! They had 11½ years. What did they do for pensioners in 11½ years? They come into this chamber and look for cheap shots like $30 for just the single pensioners—no-one else mattered. Thank goodness we did not even listen to your stunt.

I would like to congratulate the Prime Minister and the Treasurer on the Economic Security Strategy. Let us have a look at exactly what it delivers. It delivers $10.4 billion where it should be going. For all those years, we heard about the surplus. Surpluses are good. Let us make no mistake about that. We have built on the surplus with our budget announcements. I am sure that all Australians will agree with me that it is all very well having a surplus but if you do not spend it where it is needed you should be ashamed of yourself—and the Rudd government will spend it where it is desperately needed.

There is $10.4 billion in our Economic Security Strategy. The strategy includes five key measures, and I would like to go through them. There is $4.8 billion as an immediate down-payment on long-term pension reform. Are you listening over there, senators opposite? It is long term—not just one stunt between now and Christmas. There is $3.9 billion in support payments for low- and middle-income families—another group that did not even come onto the opposition’s radar when they were pulling this stunt. There is a $1.5 billion investment to help first home buyers. There was no mention of that in your stunt! There is $187 million to create 56,000 new training positions. You lot absolutely wrecked training over the years that you were in government. You sat here and watched over the greatest skills shortage in this country since Federation. Do not deny it. I am not hearing a word from senators opposite, because it is true. You know it is true, Senator Cormann, because you come from WA, where the skills shortage is biting. (Time expired)