Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1699 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
It was commented yesterday in the Assembly that there was no money for education in the federal budget. That is also bunkum. The federal government has allocated a record $6.6 billion to Australian schools in 2002-03. That continues the trend of the last six Howard government budgets. Since 1995-96, Commonwealth funding for schools has grown by over 80 per cent in Australia. That sounds to me like a pretty significant commitment to education.
To prepare young Australians for the work force, $35.7 million is being invested over three years to improve literacy and numeracy in the education system. The recent results of the year 3 and year 5 tests demonstrate that there is some success with this kind of program. The quality-teacher program is being expanded at a cost of $82.4 million over three years-also not mentioned yesterday. Funding to government schools has increased by 5.7 per cent over last year. That represents a 52 per cent increase since the Howard government was elected in 1996.
The claim has been that this has been funding only for non-government schools. That is not the case. A 52 per cent increase over seven years not just big; it is massive. An estimated 2,000 students will benefit from an extension to the postgraduate loan scheme.
Mr Speaker, there is plenty of good news in this budget. It is a pity that some people are too blind to see it.
MS GALLAGHER (11.25): I would like to use my time today to reflect on the federal budget's impact on people who have a disability. While many members of our community will feel the negative impact of the federal budget, it disappoints me that yet again the Howard government seems intent on pursuing those people who are the most vulnerable and who often require support from the state in order to participate in the community.
Let us look at what the government introduced on Tuesday night. On the surface, it looks good-$100 million for continuing services for people with a disability-but look behind what this money will be used for. It does not mean any new services; it does not address the increases in unmet needs over the past five years; it does not address any future demand, which ACOSS estimates will require a further 20 per cent over current levels of funding.
Let us also look at the significant impact of new budget initiatives, if you can call them that, on people who currently receive the disability support pension. This pension is currently $421.80 for a single person or $352.10 for a couple. Newstart is $369 for a single person and $322.80 each for a couple. So there is a significant difference in the amounts.
The federal government has decided that in order to reduce costs and the number of people receiving the DSP the guidelines or the criteria to receive that pension should be tightened. The 30 hours someone could work and receive the DSP is reduced to 15 hours. If you are able to work more than 15 hours, then you will be ineligible for the DSP and will be moved on to the dole.