What an appalling matter of public importance brought on by Senator Fifield. It is appalling because it feeds into the campaign of fearmongering that the federal opposition continues to engage in. It is absolutely breathtaking in its hypocrisy. Another day, another scare campaign. The opposition are trying to tell us how to budget when they brought forward election costings with an $11 billion black hole. Being criticised by the opposition on fiscal responsibility is like being flogged with a feather duster. I would sooner take marriage guidance lessons from Tiger Woods than I would take lessons in accounting from those opposite!
The other great hypocrisy is that, if there was ever an assault on families, it has been perpetrated by the coalition. Let’s look at their record. They talk about Work Choices being dumped and yet they come up with a workplace relations policy that revives the worst elements of Work Choices. They talk about cost of living pressures and last year they proposed a levy that would feed through to the cost of every grocery item at Coles and Woolworths. They talk about the effects of a carbon price and then they come up with a so-called ‘direct action’ plan which will cost the average family $720 a year and will blow a $30 billion black hole in the budget.
While the opposition perpetrates its attacks on families, the Gillard Labor government is actually delivering for families in this budget. The family assistance measures in this budget build on the $46.7 billion we have already delivered in income tax cuts. A person earning $50,000 a year pays $1,750 less tax now than they paid in 2007. The budget also builds on the family assistance we have delivered through the education tax refund, the childcare rebate, our teen dental plan and pension reforms. And through the budget we continue to deliver on skills and jobs, after making our workplace laws fairer and simpler and tearing up Work Choices.
I will outline just a few of the initiatives that are helping Australian families through this budget—just in case Senator Fifield missed them. We are providing a $296.3 million boost to provide more community based support for people with mental illness and their families. We are providing $147 million through the Better Start for Children with Disability initiative, which will give children with disability affecting their development better access to early intervention services.
We are trialling new measures in disadvantaged communities to help teenage parents to finish school and support their children. These measures will break the cycle of disadvantage experienced by some families. For vulnerable and disadvantaged Australians we are making investments in financial counselling, emergency relief and other money management initiatives.
The headline initiatives for families are our changes to the family payments system. At the same time as making the system fairer, simpler and more sustainable in the long term, we are providing more support for low- and middle-income families raising children. From 1 January this year, family tax benefit part A will be increased for 16- to 17-year-olds in secondary school by $4,208 per year and for 18- to 19-year-olds in school by $3,741 per year. This measure will benefit the families of 650,000 teenagers. We will also give families access to more flexible advance payments of family tax benefit part A.
At the core of this budget is the one thing that helps Australian families more than anything else, and that is the dignity and financial independence that comes with getting a job. Since coming to government in 2007, Labor has created well over 700,000 jobs, and we intend to build on this success. The Gillard Labor government is investing $3 billion over six years in skilling the Australian workforce. We are also delivering a package of participation reforms to make sure that more Australians have the opportunity to engage in the workforce. This includes a workforce development fund to deliver 130,000 training places over four years, a national mentoring program to help 40,000 apprentices finish training, and investment in more flexible training models to allow apprentices to be fast-tracked as they acquire critical trade skills.
We are providing additional investment in the national partnership with the states and territories to boost vocational education and training. We are reforming the disability support pension and providing more support for DSP recipients to participate in work. We are extending our ‘earn or learn’ requirements to 21-year-olds and creating new pathways to full-time employment for early school leavers. We are investing in targeted wage subsidies and extended work experience programs to help the long-term unemployed into work. Now let me go to the issue of a carbon price, because there are a couple of things the opposition conveniently overlooks in its commentary on this. First of all, the carbon price is not going to be included in the budget because the design is yet to be finalised. It will not affect the budget bottom line because the measure is expected to be revenue neutral. However, one member of the opposition who is sceptical about that claim put in one of the best comical performances I have ever seen on Insiders last Sunday morning. I am referring to the shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey. For those who missed it, here is the transcript:
JOE HOCKEY: Well on budget night when they claim to deliver a surplus in 2012/13 there will be a gaping hole and the hole will be the carbon tax …
BARRIE CASSIDY: It’s true that the carbon tax figures won’t be there but isn’t it generally accepted that the figures will be broadly neutral in that first year?
JOE HOCKEY: No, because revenue will be higher.
Mr Hockey claims that the government’s carbon price will make it more difficult to deliver a surplus in 2012-13 and then five seconds later he claims that revenue from the carbon price will be higher than expenditure. Can the opposition please make up their minds on this one? If one member of your caucus has two views, it is no wonder you have trouble coming up with any sensible policies.
The other salient fact that the opposition choose to ignore when they start their big scare campaign on cost of living pressures is that this is a tax on big polluters. While we accept that there will be some price increases, we have committed to at least 50 per cent of the revenue from a carbon price going to household assistance, a measure that we expect will fully compensate many Australians and will leave millions of Australians better off.
When it comes to supporting families, this government’s record is second to none. The opposition likes to try to scare families because it suits its political purpose, but the scariest prospect for families would be if Tony Abbott became Prime Minister. We must not forget that if Tony Abbott had his way there would be an $11 billion black hole in the budget and 200,000 Australians would be out of work because of his opposition to the economic stimulus plan.
We understand the pressures that Australian families are under. We have just been through a global financial crisis and, despite Australia’s resilience, we have all felt the effects. But this Gillard Labor government is supporting families, supporting skills and jobs and supporting strong and responsible fiscal management that will return the budget to surplus by 2012-13.
We all know Mr Abbott has a knack of getting the big economic calls wrong. Just look at his approach to the global financial crisis, the flood recovery package and his so-called health reform. The big risk to Australian families is the opposition, just as it is a big risk to the budget and a risk to our $1.3 trillion economy.