Monday, 28 May 2007
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008
I rise today, in this debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008 and the cognate bills, to congratulate the government and the Treasurer on delivering another budget which demonstrates not only economic credentials but also a capacity to invest for the future. Many people in my electorate of Greenway, and residents of the Hawkesbury particularly, will benefit from this budget. Australia is one of the few countries across the globe where the budget operates on a surplus rather than a debt. More than that, the government is investing billions of dollars to earn income to build infrastructure and cover future liabilities, such as superannuation.
The member for Parramatta spoke about the budget as passing by with little comment from her community. Australians are in a position where they expect tax cuts. They expect one-off payments. They expect assistance for child care. They expect this because they have a government that has been able to manage a trillion-dollar economy responsibly and deliver to Australians. The Australian public have come to expect tax cuts. When they are delivered, they accept them as part and parcel of everyday life. When Labor was in government people hoped for a tax cut, and when they got it, it made headlines. It did not happen very often.
Tax cuts should be for everyone who works, and I am proud that the Howard government has yet again delivered tax cuts for all Australian income earners. Because of these tax cuts, over 80 per cent of taxpayers will pay no more than 30 per cent of their gross earnings in tax. These tax cuts will mean that people in my electorate who previously earned up to $25,000 and paid 15 per cent tax will be able to earn an additional $5,000 before the tax rate increases. A part-time mum who may have felt that the $25,000 threshold was a disadvantage may now find this an incentive to work extra hours. It will give working mums more choice. Families from Kings Park, Glenwood, McGraths Hill, Bligh Park, Kellyville Ridge and Riverstone will welcome the 10 per cent on top of indexation that will be added to the childcare benefit and the further $2 billion in childcare assistance. It is because of strong economic management that additional funds can be made available to assist families with childcare costs without putting our budget into deficit. Families in the electorate will also receive a childcare tax rebate of up to $4,200 per child. Parents have welcomed this.
In Greenway, parents with primary school children who are having difficulty with their literacy and numeracy will have additional peace of mind knowing that there are education vouchers available to assist with tutorial costs. As a parent of an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old, and as someone who mixes with many other parents, I know our children’s education and the ability for them to achieve their potential is critical. Literacy and numeracy are vital to their future education and their future prospects. From 1 January 2008, parents will be provided with a $700 tuition voucher if their child does not achieve national literacy and numeracy benchmarks in years 3, 5 and 7. This provides the financial assistance parents need to secure for their children the help they need to bring their literacy and numeracy up to speed. For teachers there will be bonuses to encourage academic excellence. Schools will be eligible for up to $50,000 if they make significant improvements in numeracy and literacy, and teachers will receive a $5,000 bonus if they undertake training over summer.
The $1.8 billion invested in aged care will further improve our aged-care system. I have spoken personally with aged-care providers, carers and older residents and I am sure the increase in payments for residents of aged-care homes and the extra 100,000 days of respite care over the next four years—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 8.08 pm to 8.22 pm
I was speaking earlier about personally speaking to aged-care providers, carers and older residents. I am sure the increase in payments for residents of aged-care homes and the extra 100,000 days of respite care over the next four years will benefit the aged-care community greatly.
The Minister for Health and Ageing, Tony Abbott, and I recently met with Hawkesbury division of GPs at the Hawkesbury after-hours practice to discuss their service, and I am sure that the announcement of an additional 357,000 GP hours of after-hours service will be very much welcomed by the Hawkesbury team. I am sure that residents living in the Hawkesbury district who use the after-hours clinic will also welcome the additional $71.8 million that has been allocated to after-hours GP services, as well as the Australian government’s commitment to promoting healthy eating and physical activity for children through the CSIRO Wellbeing Plan for children.
Greenway has an unemployment rate of 4.2 per cent, 0.3 per cent below the Australian average, which is 4.5 per cent. We have seen two million new jobs created. This, coupled with the increase in real wages by 19.8 per cent since March 1996, has enabled families to plan with confidence not just for their future but for the future of their children. New jobs create new wealth. This extra money in the economy and also in the hands of families and income earners has enabled a growth which has seen business investment grow by more than 70 per cent in real terms.
I welcome the Howard government’s ongoing commitment to small business by providing this sector with tax cuts worth $450 million over a four-year period. Small businesses who earn less than $75,000 do not have to register for the GST and, over a 10-year period, there will be $90 million plus in grants for small businesses. By continuing to support small business, we will continue to strengthen our economy and enable small business to plan their future with confidence. This means more jobs for more people.
Families in Western Sydney want to know that their children’s future is as important to the nation as it is to them, and I welcome the Howard government’s commitment to tomorrow’s future—our children. Before the last election, the Howard government reminded us that an apprenticeship is just as important as a degree. This is why it has continued to invest funding in addressing Australia’s skills shortages. In the electorate of Greenway we can already see the success of the Australian technical college. Students from the 2007 intake are about to finish their first block of on-the-job training and are about to start their third term. By the end of 2008, these students will be ready to move into full-time employment with a certificate III under their belt, their HSC and a job. Inquiries about the 2008 classes are already strong. The reputation of the Australian technical college has meant that students have enrolled from all over Western Sydney, including Hawkesbury, Penrith, Blacktown and Pennant Hills. The $549 million that will be invested over four years to help address skills shortages by further boosting Australian apprenticeships is welcomed. I congratulate the Australian government on recognising the need for another Australian technical college in Penrith.
Then there are the students who attend universities. The University of Western Sydney, which has two campuses in my area, will welcome the news of the Higher Education Endowment Fund. This $5 billion investment fund will enable campuses such as UWS Hawkesbury to deliver world-class research facilities and capital works. Universities will be able to plan with confidence, knowing that money will always be made available through the $5 billion investment fund.
One trillion dollars is a lot of money for a government to be responsible for if they are not strong economic managers—and the Howard government have shown that they are strong economic managers. An everyday Australian would not give the management of their weekly budget to a person who had no economic credentials. Would families trust their household budget, when the house is fully paid for, to someone who, last time they were in control of the purse strings, created a $96 billion debt? I think not. This is what Labor want Australians to do. Labor want Australians to trust them to deliver a strong and prosperous economy like the Howard government have done.
After the Labor government left Australia with a $96 billion debt, will they really be able to deliver surplus budgets? I think not. Will they be able to guarantee the security of the education fund and ensure that it remains a priority? I think not. Will they be able to offer personal tax cuts for all Australians like the Howard government have done for the past four years? I think not. Will they be able to provide a bonus to older Australians who are receiving a utilities allowance or a seniors concession allowance? I doubt this very much. Even the opposition’s shadow Treasurer stated publicly that Labor do not have a tax policy. How can they deliver the type of budget Australians expect when they do not have a tax policy in place? With an economy 1½ times larger than it was 10 years ago, Australia needs to have a government that will manage it responsibly.
It took the Howard government 10 years to pay off Labor’s debt. Can Australia afford to have another debt of $96 billion? I think not. Can Australia again afford headlines such as ‘Old, sick and jobless hit’ or ‘Budget acts on welfare, jobs, wages—it sinks or swims’? That is in contrast to a government which has spent significantly on Welfare to Work packages, which returned people to work who were able to work and gave people who historically have not been given the opportunity to work—people with disabilities—access not just to training but to support. Many of these people are now in full, open employment whereas under the previous Labor government they would not have been supported because money was not made available for them. Other headlines when Labor were in government read, ‘$3.50 to see doctor’ and ‘$8 tax cut, cigs up 6c, petrol up 3c, sales tax up—gain and pain’.
Can Australia afford a Labor government, when they have a history of going back on their promises—like the second round of tax cuts for middle-income earners that was dropped, as reported by the Daily Telegraph in May 1996? How many Australians plan their future with confidence? They will not be able to under Labor—Labor do not even have a tax policy to give Australians the confidence that they can do the job and manage a trillion-dollar economy. It is because of solid economic management by the Howard government that another budget surplus has been produced, and because of that people in my electorate and across this nation can plan with confidence. They can plan with confidence because they know that the Howard government has planned for an ageing population, has planned for the growing demands on health care, has planned for the challenge of climate change, has planned for the future of education and has planned for Australia’s future. I commend this budget to the House.