I would like to thank the opposition for bringing forward this matter of public importance today. Once again, it demonstrates just how detached from reality they are. Do they really believe their own spin? We don’t. We are governing for all Australians. We are governing for all Australians by focusing on jobs, by focusing on education, ensuring those Australians with disability get the support they deserve, and by focusing on delivering high-speed broadband so that all Australians can participate in an increasingly digital future.
One of the most important objectives in governing for all Australians is keeping unemployment low and delivering jobs. Our decisive action during the global financial crisis saved 200,000 Australian jobs, while there are 28 million people still out of work across the globe. Unemployment is low by world standards at 5.4 per cent and over 800,000 jobs have been created since Labor came to office in 2007. But we are going further. We have a plan for Australian jobs. A $1 billion investment in boosting Australian innovation, productivity and competitiveness will generate business opportunities and economic growth for the future as part of the Gillard government’s plan to support and create jobs.
The government’s Industry and Innovation Statement, A Plan for Australian Jobs, will back our firms to win more work at home, support industry to win new business abroad and help our small businesses to thrive and grow. Our plan will give Australian firms a fair chance to win work on major resources and infrastructure projects, improving their opportunities to gain the experience and business connections needed to successfully become part of global supply chains. It will translate the nation’s research effort into better economic outcomes, by promoting collaboration between businesses and research institutions through a major new network of industry innovation precincts.
Small- and medium-sized businesses and start-up companies will also be provided with expanded business assistance and better access to finance through measures to further stimulate Australia’s venture capital market. The government’s strong economic management during the global financial crisis has provided a solid foundation for businesses, delivering contained inflation, low interest rates, low unemployment, solid growth and strong public finances. We are providing real, practical assistance to help people on income support get a job, by providing record amounts in funding for skills and training and, through measures like extra child care, support for parents looking for work.
The Gillard government is governing for all Australians, including those with disability. This government believes that the circumstances that you were born into should not affect your opportunities in life. Labor understands that the current system of disability care and support is letting down people with disability, their families and carers, and we know it needs to change. That is why we are leading the way in completely transforming the disability care and support system in this country with the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
The Commonwealth will be investing $1 billion over four years in the first stage of the NDIS. The NDIS will mean more choice and control, more independence and more opportunities for people with disability to be involved in school, work and community life. An NDIS will give all Australians peace of mind to know that, if they or a loved one is born with or acquires a disability, they will get the care and support they need to lead a good life. Let us not forget that the opposition did not govern for people with disability in the 12 years they spent in office.
This government is governing for all Australians, and this includes Australian workers. We have tripled the tax-free threshold, ensuring that those who are earning the least in our society are able to take home more of their pay. It is disappointing, but not at all surprising, that those opposite opposed the tripling of the tax-free threshold. This government is governing for all Australians, including those who are financially vulnerable. We understand that there are people who need just a small amount of assistance to improve their lot in life.
The Minister for Community Services, Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Julie Collins, last week announced an additional $1.2 million to extend the Community Development Financial Institutions initiative that gives vulnerable Australians access to small loans and financial literacy training. This initiative fills a gap for vulnerable Australians who are able to repay a loan but are excluded from the financial mainstream because of low incomes or poor credit history. These loans are used to pay for whitegoods, cars, car repairs, medical expenses, household bills, the development of microenterprises or to pay off debt, thereby creating a positive credit history.
We are governing for all Australians with changes to education. The Australian government believes in the power of education to transform lives and is committed to making every school a great school. Between 2009 and 2012 the government almost doubled its investment in schools compared with the previous four years, to around $65 billion. From 2013, the government is building on its vision for school reforms by continuing to drive change and deliver results across a range of school initiatives. Our National Plan for School Improvement is the next step in our education reform agenda. It will provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve the way schools are funded and to provide our children with a fair and high-quality education system. We are also delivering a new Schoolkids Bonus to 1.3 million families of $410 a year for a primary-school child and $820 a year for a high-school child—vital financial assistance that Mr Abbott will cut if he becomes prime minister.
We have improved childcare access. There are 900,000 families now benefiting from Labor’s lifting of the childcare rebate from 30 per cent under the Howard government to 50 per cent of out-of-pocket expenses. The government is also governing for all Australians through paid parental leave. More than 230,000 new parents across Australia are benefiting from up to 18 weeks leave under Labor’s Paid Parental Leave scheme.
An MPI like this coming from the opposition is somewhat hypocritical because the opposition’s own policies on maternity leave discriminate against mothers on lower wages. They will not be governing for all Australians. Theirs is a bizarre form of reverse need where the higher your income level the more support an Abbott government will give you. The opposition believe that someone on $150,000 a year should be paid $75,000 to have a child, while someone on $50,000 would only get a third as much. Do the opposition really believe that babies of parents on higher incomes are worth more? The opposition come into this place and claim the government does not govern for all Australians, yet they want give more money for those on higher incomes to have children than those on lower incomes. Who do they think will pay for this? The taxes of the same people who will get the lower payment amount, that is who. They will pay for it through their taxes, and they will pay for it at the supermarket checkout, when Mr Abbott puts up the price of everyday groceries through increased business taxes. Under an Abbott government wealth will be redistributed, but it will be redistributed from people on lower incomes to those who are better off.
We are governing for all Australians by building the National Broadband Network. The NBN will deliver to all Australians, either by optic fibre, wireless or satellite, high-speed broadband internet at a uniform national wholesale price no matter where they live. It will lead to improved education and health services for regional and remote Australia, as well greater opportunities for small business, agriculture and local government, to name a few. It will also allow high-quality video conferencing, making it easier to work remotely. With Minister Conroy’s announcement a couple of weeks ago that the NBN’s fixed wireless and long-term satellite services will be upgraded to provide broadband speeds of 25 megabits per second download and five megabits per second upload, this is a great initiative. This upgrade represents a doubling of speed for the NBN’s fixed wireless and satellite services, and means that people living in regional and remote Australia will be able to access significantly faster speeds than what is available now through ADSL services.
The opposition failed to act on broadband internet in their time in government, and their plans to tear up the NBN would leave my home state of Tasmania with a high-speed fibre optic network that is unable to fulfil its potential across the rest of Australia. I am disappointed that the Tasmanian senators in the opposition cannot support the NBN like their Tasmanian Liberal Party colleagues can. I was very pleased to see state Liberal MP Jacquie Petrusma at the Kingston Beach Digital Hub last Monday at the Future Tasmania event organised by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Obviously, Ms Petrusma understands the importance of the NBN, but the Tasmanian senators opposite do not.
The opposition speak about governing for all Australians. I think that is a joke coming from them. We are governing for all Australians by focusing on jobs and education, on ensuring those Australians with disability get the support they deserve, on delivering high-speed broadband so that all Australians can benefit from an increasingly digital future.
Senator Nash interjecting—
Senator BILYK: The opposition focuses on creating division, and by supporting those who are better off at the expense of the least well off. And there have been interjections from across the chamber. We sit here and listen quite nicely and calmly to them, but throughout my speech there have been interjections. As an ex-childcare worker I am very used to speaking over people who are yelling, so go for your life over there. I am happy for you to continue.