Page 1516 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 May 2006

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But it is not just here that the Howard-Costello budget fails the people of the ACT and, indeed, Australia. On leaving the budget breakfast this morning, the businesspeople at my table reflected, “This government is treating Australia like a quarry. What happens when the quarry is mined out? It is short-term thinking.” The gentlemen said, “We should be investing in technological advancement and education. That is the future.”

On aged care, this budget has failed. It does nothing to improve the standard of aged care in this country. Here the federal government had the opportunity to review facility accreditation, to provide funding for programs that eliminate violence against residents and to regulate staff-to-resident ratios. It has done nothing.

Health also suffered the federal government’s snub. AMA president Mukesh Haikerwal said this morning:

So much could have been achieved with a big budget surplus, especially in indigenous health, and in combating obesity. With the budget surplus screaming out for big ticket items, we find ourselves in a health policy two-dollar shop.

Those areas that the federal government claim are supposed winners out of this budget receive bandaids instead of real solutions.

There are currently 174,000 families on waiting lists for childcare places. Apparently, we should shout aloud the praises of the federal government for their additional 25,000 places. I will not, because I did the maths. That is a decrease of only 14 per cent on current shortages. This measly 14 per cent reduction is not only bad politics but also bad economics, with reports by the Department of Family and Community Services showing a return of $2 on every dollar spent on childcare in the form of increased tax revenue from working mums and savings on welfare spending.

Further on childcare, this budget had the opportunity to address child-to-carer ratios, staff turnover and again accreditation of facilities to ensure that our children are provided with the safest and best care possible. Instead, we are supposed to applaud the bandaid. What of children outside of childcare? What is the federal government’s contribution to education? This is yet another budget that dumps TAFE facilities in marginal seats, a continuing policy of pork-barrelling.

As we have seen time and time again, Costello budgets are not about long-term solutions, they are about short-term political advantage. And it is here that this budget draws most of its criticism: tax cuts for supposed middle Australia and superannuation changes that disproportionately benefit the well-to-do. All these, economists claim, are spending the savings that are necessary for when the resource boom collapses. Any tax cuts will soon be sucked up by a rise in interest rates and petrol costs anyway.

This budget is not responsible. It does not assist middle Australia. It ignores those in our community for whom struggle is a way of life. Even with an apparent surplus of $10.8 million, the Howard government fails to deliver for the people of Canberra. I urge the opposition to get their heads out of the sand. Their blind adoration of the Howard government is unwarranted.

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