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Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (8.50 p.m.)—I will commence my contribution to Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008 where the previous speaker, the member for Fraser, left off and deal with Commonwealth-state relations. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure you will remember the Premiers Conferences at which there was a pre-discussion statement by all premiers blaming the Commonwealth for disastrous management and claiming what their share of the pie should be. Every Premiers Conference during the time of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, even though many of the states were Labor, was heralded by pre-Premiers Conference claims and counteraccusations. After the conference there were the traditional ‘we was robbed’ press statements from premiers. That has not happened for a long time in Australia. The concept of the Australian Labor Party that the blame game is active and alive in the Commonwealth government could not be further from the truth. I will always remember the decision that we took, following an election, to establish a consumer tax, the way in which the premiers signed up to that process and the huge cooperation there was in the tax-sharing arrangements. That was a landmark and historic example of cooperation and working together. There was no blame game there. It was a historic process of cooperation between the states and the Commonwealth.

The recent $10 billion water initiative has seen the states and the Commonwealth come together for the first time to solve the Murray-Darling problems. Never before have the states and the Commonwealth been able to agree on the Murray-Darling difficulties in the way they have recently. I know Premier Bracks still has some reservations, but it is wonderful to see that the Commonwealth and the states—even though the states are all Labor and we have a coalition federal government—have come together and, through the $10 billion water initiative, established for the first time a cooperative and workable arrangement for the management of our great water systems.

I would also like to point out to the House the way in which the states and the Commonwealth have cooperated in our management of the threat of terrorism. Our national police and security agencies have worked with state police to establish a system with the cooperative exchange of ideas and support. The Olympic Games is another example. There is example after example. This blame game nonsense that is being carried out by the Labor Party is a fabrication. There is nothing in it. When a state government like that of New South Wales is failing and is seen by everybody to be failing in the way it manages its affairs, it is fair enough to say so and to point out its shortcomings. The state governments do not hesitate to do that with all brands of Commonwealth government. They tend to say, ‘Give us the money and we’ll solve the problems.’ It is not a uniform process.

I have mentioned terrorism and the Olympic Games. What about the Tough on Drugs program? From the school and health systems, right through to the interception programs of Customs, the Australian Federal Police and the Department of Defence, everything has worked on a cooperative basis because Australians realise that we need to be tough on drugs if we are going to deal with the drugs problem. In general, there has been absolute cooperation between governments, even to the extent of personal income tax sharing to local governments and the roads programs. For the first time we have had a cooperative arrangement between the states and the Commonwealth and the funding of local government. There are not the rows there have been in the past. Peace and quiet reigns as people work together for the betterment of Australia with common goals and common objectives. It has never been like that. In my experience of this parliament there has never been better cooperation between the Commonwealth and the states, despite the political differences. Of course there will be point-scoring from time to time, but not with the viciousness and nastiness that there has been in the past.

I would like to break the budget down into the various community groups that are most affected by it. Such a massive budget is only realisable because of good management and the capacity to put down the foundations that allow Australians to succeed and our economy to build. If anything, the trouble with the budget is that it is so large and so diverse in its assistance, support and intelligent application to the needs of Australia that it is hard to get one’s head around every aspect of it. One approach I have tried—and I think it works for me and for my community—is to examine the budget on the basis of the groups of people that are affected by it.

For the electorate of Mitchell nothing is more significant than Australian families, and support for families is probably one of the most notable features of the budget. It has been a notable feature of all Howard government budgets. One needs to focus on the various needs of families as they go through the stages of home acquisition, the arrival of children—who then become teenagers—and moving on to becoming older Australians in retirement. I should begin by talking about the tax cuts and the way in which they affect families. For 2007-08, taxpayers with an income of $30,000 will receive a tax cut of $21.15 per week. It will stay at that level in 2008-09. The income range that I think is most affected by the budget and which relates to most families is $30,000 to $80,000 per year. For those on $80,000 a year, in 2007-08 there will be a tax cut of $14.42 per week, but in 2008-09 there will be a tax cut of $24 per week.

That is assisting families with money in the pocket to be able to use as they choose. This government has consistently passed back taxation where it does not need the funds. I think that is a laudable objective for governments. It is not something that has been general practice by the Commonwealth; the Commonwealth has tended to stick with every dollar it has collected, but that has not been the case for a long time under this current government. The low-income tax offset will allow $750 per year to return to families with incomes of under $30,000. That is a way of offsetting the incapacity to further lower taxation in that group, so there is almost a negative taxation process of giving funds to support those on lower incomes.

There is a $2.1 billion child-care investment, but what does it mean to families? Families eligible for the child-care tax rebate will receive two tax rebates this year, with one being brought forward. I think this is a very sensible approach, because I thought the 22-month delay before these rebates were paid was detrimental to the program. I have sought for some time for that to be rectified, and I am pleased that it has been in this budget. The child-care rebate has been brought forward, with a reimbursement of up to $4,200 per child per year. The rebates for last year and for the current year are being paid together so that there will be two payments in the one year. For families with two children under the age of five, it would be possible to be reimbursed over $16,000 for child-care costs. The child-care benefit will increase by 10 per cent, which will take it to $20.50 per week for low-income families with one child.

Mr CADMAN (Mitchell) (4.33 p.m.)—When the House adjourned debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2007-2008 I was dealing with some of the issues that relate to various family groups. The first group I was dealing with was families—in particular, families with children. The current budget proposes that the childcare rebate—which has been brought forward, and the current year’s payment will be made at the same time—will mean a reimbursement to families of $4,200 per child for each year the child uses child care. It is possible for families with two children under the age of five to be reimbursed up to $16,000 for childcare costs over two years. In addition, the childcare benefit for low-income families with one child will increase by 10 per cent, which is about $20.50 per week.

In addition, I draw the attention of the House to the general tax cuts that apply in 2007-08. Taxpayers with an income of $30,000 will receive a tax cut of $21.15 per week. It will stay at that level in 2008-09. This year, taxpayers with an income of $80,000 a year will receive a tax cut of $14.42 per week, but next year they will receive a tax cut of $24 per week. In addition, there will be a low-income tax offset of $7,500 per year for families with an income of only $30,000. That is a return to families on lower, modest incomes in support of their families.

In addition to support for families, there will be a boost in educational skills and standards, with an extra $843 million over four years. This will go to standards of education for our children. There is also funding to develop core standards in English, maths, science and Australian history. That is another family measure in this budget. As I remarked when speaking previously on this measure, there are so many matters relating to families and other sections of the community, and the only way to look at them is to look at people groups and see how each group is affected. There is an extra $549 million over four years to help address skills shortages by boosting Australian apprenticeships. On top of that, there is $1,000, tax free, for each apprentice under the age of 30, to assist them and support them in training in an apprenticeship.

There is a training voucher of $500 per annum for first- and second-year apprentices. And for mature apprentices—those over the age of 30—there is a subsidy of up to $13,000 a year to help them into the apprenticeship. They are mostly mature age apprentices. They are men or women who have probably taken up another career but have realised there are benefits in trades and, late in their career, have taken on an apprenticeship. I know a number of people who have taken up this option. However, they often have children. They are commited, with families and mortgages. Sometimes, it is really hard for them to meet the cost of attending TAFE on a regular basis at the same time as working for a boss as an apprentice on only a modest wage. This is a subsidy to assist those mature age students over the age of 30 to gain their apprenticeship skills and to go on to be much valued trades men and women.

I must mention health in regard to families, because most mothers and fathers worry about health programs and the security of them for their children. The government is providing, more as a preventive measure, $124 million for an after-school community program. This is the Active After-school Communities Program, and it is an excellent program. I have a number of them operating in my electorate. It is a delight to see children involved in active sports and also to watch them try new sports and different activities. This will help keep children healthy, and maintaining their involvement in such activities will be conducive to their continuing health.

There is $32 million over four years for Medicare rebates for extended out-of-surgery hours for GP care. It is a sensible thing to support doctors to visit households to provide after-hours care. It is something that we have lacked in our community, and this budget delivers it.

Another group that we need to look at as part of the budget is small business. The small business community will receive tax cuts worth about $540 million over four years. We will be cutting down compliance costs, because if anything makes small business really annoyed it is trying to handle the paperwork. As I have said on a number of occasions, an Australian business which is spending more time on paperwork than its competitors do in Japan, the United States or any else is disadvantaged. The role of government—in my view it is above all others—in regard to small business is to reduce the amount of paperwork for tax and other compliance measures so as to allow people to spend more time on the job, doing what they are best at: running a business, and supporting their families and their employees. From 1 July 2007, businesses with a turnover below $75,000 a year will not need to register for the GST. Of course, they can register and, if they do, they can pay their GST annually. They can make their pay-as-you-go instalments annually. That is a change from $50,000 to $75,000 for small businesses reporting for the GST.

The new Commercial Ready program is fascinating. It is an excellent program which encourages innovation. It takes an innovation from the point where the prototype is finished and carries it into commercial production. The new Commercial Ready Plus program will provide $90 million in small grants to small businesses. Small businesses are usually the innovative ones but often they are not structured to carry their innovation to the next stage. The $90.3 million in the program will greatly assist small business in that process.

This year there will be three new Australian technical colleges, adding to the 25 we have already established. These colleges are brilliant; they are absolutely terrific. They are run by a committee, which is headed by an industry representative. Their programs are practical and are related to industry, TAFE and other continuing education institutions. So, at the end of two years at senior high school, when students graduate at the end of year 12 with their HSC, their first year’s apprenticeship will be fully completed. They will be ready for work, with an understanding of the workplace, and have their qualifications. Employers and students whom I have spoken to think this is a great program because it is so practical and so relevant to the workplace. For some time we have had the successful Tools for Your Trade program. This provides $800 towards tool kits for first year apprentices in areas of skill shortages, and that will continue.

All of these policies are built on reforms that have already been introduced and have produced increased productivity. Despite what the Australian Labor Party and the union movement say, Work Choices is for business. I have seen both employers and employees committed to this program. We could not have gained all of those extra workers if the program was a failure.

Mr Byrne—You’re using the wrong word.

Mr CADMAN—You are being absolutely ridiculous carrying on about this. There are many more people in work. They value their jobs, they are being honoured for once and they think that it is great.

I need to deal with older Australians. A $500 dollar bonus will be provided to individuals receiving the utilities allowance or the seniors concession card. Both members of an eligible couple will receive the $500 bonus, and that will be paid by 30 June, at the end of this financial year. Recipients of the carer payment will receive a $1,000 bonus. I heard members of the Labor Party say in the adjournment speech last night—I think it was the member for Prospect or the member for Fowler—that there was no support for carers. How absolutely wrong they are. In the budget, recipients of the carer payment will receive a $1,000 bonus payment, while those who receive a carers allowance will be given a $600 bonus payment, and they will be paid by 30 June. That is recognition of the invaluable work of older Australians.

The tax offset is another measure for pensioners and senior Australians. Singles on an annual income of up to $25,867 and couples on an annual income of up to $43,360 will not be taxed. This is an excellent program for older Australians. They will be able to take advantage of the senior Australian tax offset. I commend this budget as one of the best Australia has seen.

Author: Alan Cadman MP
Source: House Hansard - 21st / 22nd May 2007
Release Date: 21 May 2007


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