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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 6 Hansard (16 May) . . Page.. 1702 ..

MRS CROSS (continuing):

the words of one they so reverently worship, Mr Keating. In 1990 Mr Keating said of changes to the PBS:

It took almost 40 years-from 1948 to 1985-for the costs of that scheme to grow to half a billion dollars.

It took only another 4 years for the costs to grow by another half a billion dollars ...

The alternatives are stark: reconstruct the scheme so that it remains fair for everyone, or lose the scheme altogether, so that access to complete health care would only be available to the wealthy.

This budget ensures the scheme remains accessible to all, while boosting vital areas of education, roads and a raft of other areas to enhance the wellbeing and quality of life for all of us in this country. It is time those on the other side of the chamber got their heads out of the sand and accepted that this budget is for the benefit of all of us, even those of us who oppose it.

MS DUNDAS (11.35): The budget handed down by the federal Treasurer is certainly about fortress Australia. The war waged on asylum seekers is a costly exercise. We now have a military-based war on asylum seekers, and domestically the Treasurer is waging war on the most vulnerable in the community: the sick, the poor, the disabled and the unemployed. Let us not pretend it is anything else. This is a budget that wages war, as I have said, on the most vulnerable in Australia and abroad.

The taxpayers of Australia and the community of Canberra are now spending five times as much protecting Australia from a trickle of asylum seekers coming here in leaky boats as we are spending on the CNN-named "war on terror".

The federal government boasts of the economy going gangbusters, but the government cannot find any more money to invest in our future. It appears that the Liberal Party cannot keep its commitment to keep Australian borders safe from the world's poor and needy without hurting our own poor and needy.

This budget continues the Liberal love of middle-class welfare. The rebate on private health insurance continues unabated, uncapped and not means tested, giving millionaires tax rebates to go to private hospitals. The ill-planned baby bonus of up to $510 million by 2005 will benefit wealthy Australians while paying less to those on lower incomes. Even Mrs Cross in the Assembly yesterday admitted that it was ineffective and ill targeted. I am pleased that Senator Natasha Stott Despoja will introduce legislation in the Senate today to start a national paid maternity leave scheme.

Also key to this year's federal budget are the nasty cuts to the PBS. The federal government will seek to claw back $1.1 billion over the next four years from the poorest and the sickest people in our community. The Democrats have instantly stated that we will fight these proposed changes, and we welcome the added support of the ALP opposition announced late yesterday.

I watched the budget speech on Tuesday night, and on Wednesday morning I awoke feeling used and neglected. I thought I definitely needed a morning-after-the-budget pill but feared it was probably not going to be on the PBS.

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