2007 Federal Budget Fails the Future Test

Federal Member for Calwell, Ms Maria Vamvakinou, welcomed tax cuts for working families and carers, but warned that this year’s Federal Budget fails to address the long-term challenges of the nation.

“Australia’s current mining boom has injected $55 billion into our economy over the last year and more than $300 billion into the Budget” Ms Vamvakinou said.

“Burdened by the higher cost of living, families deserve to share in the profits of Australia’s current mining boom, and I welcome the tax cuts that have been announced.”

“However, this Budget does very little to build Australia’s future productivity. Instead it relies on the continuation of the mining boom for our future economic prosperity” Ms Vamvakinou said.

“It also relies heavily on one-off payments that are intended solely as an election sweetener. One-off payments won’t provide long term relief for working families, and they won’t meet the long term challenges of Australia’s future” Ms Vamvakinou said.

“The cost of living has risen dramatically under John Howard’s watch. The cost of basic services like education, health, dental care and childcare continues to put enormous pressure on working families. Responsibility for this falls squarely on the shoulders of the Howard government, which has systematically slashed government funding to these areas over the last decade.”

“The Howard government needs to invest in the services that Calwell residents rely on every day to maintain their standard of living. One-off payments don’t do this.”

“Much of the Budget contains piecemeal solutions that fail to fix many of the problems that the Howard government itself has created by cutting government funding to basic services and by allowing the cost of everyday living to spiral out of control.”

“This Budget lacks any long term vision for Australia. It fails to meet the core challenges that Australia will face in the future.”

“Peter Costello should be asking himself questions like ‘how do you build Australia’s long term prosperity for when the mining boom is over, and how do you lift Australia’s flagging productivity growth?”

“How do you deal with the challenge of future technologies, such as providing a high-speed national broadband network, which Australia still doesn’t have?”

“And how do you address the economic challenges of climate change?”

“Instead, this was an election year budget - not a budget serious about the future” Ms Vamvakinou said.

“It fails the future test because it fails to address the challenges that will face Australian families beyond the prosperity of the mining boom, including:

· Improving our third world Broadband Network; · Investing in an Education Revolution; · Reviving our flagging Productivity; and · Implementing measures to address Climate Change.

Contact: Alex Kouttab

2007 Budget Summary:

1. Dental Care:

- There is nothing in this Budget to fix our 3 year dental waiting lists in Calwell, and nothing that will help with lowering the exorbitant cost of everyday dental care and regular dental check ups.

- Reinstating the Commonwealth Dental Program which provided commonwealth funding to help working families afford dental care, but which John Howard scrapped in 1996, will help.

- Labor will re-establish a Commonwealth Dental Program and make dental care more accessible for working families.

- The Budget provides funding of $65 million over 4 years to establish a new regional dental school and $378 million over 4 years in Medicare funding only for those with a chronic disease affected by poor dental health.

- Providing funding to combat Australia’s dental health crisis should stand on its own as a key area that needs to be urgently addressed. Instead, the dental health initiatives included in the Budget will only assist those who are chronically sick.

2. Education:

- The Budget abolishes current restrictions on the number of full-fee degrees universities can allocate for Australian students, replacing the previous 35 % quota on domestic full-fee degrees (25% for medicine).

- This is plainly unfair. It puts Australian students who can’t afford full fee paying degrees, which is the vast majority of students, at a significant disadvantage. Universities are now free to choose how many full fee paying students they take, and how many government funded university places they make available. Those students who can afford to pay for full-fee degrees, which can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, now have even more of an advantage when it comes to university entrance.

- It also means that Australian students will now have to compete for university places against full fee paying students from overseas.

- Labor believes that entrance to university should be determined solely on the basis of scholastic merit, and it will abolish full-fee degrees for Australian students.

- The Howard government doesn’t understand the early learning needs of young children, or the crucial importance of early learning in the first 4 to 5 years of a child’s life.

- Learning problems need to be addressed early on in a child’s life. That is why Labor introduced its new Early Childhood Education Program that will provide every 4 year old in Australia with 15 hrs of early learning per week, for a minimum of 40 weeks per year, supervised by a quality teacher.

- In contrast, the Budget provides a one-off $700 private tuition voucher for those children who fail to achieve national literacy and numeracy benchmarks in Years 3, 5 and 7.

- This is a piecemeal solution that isn’t aimed at prevention. Parents with kids already receiving private tuition know that $700 doesn’t go very far.

- Labor’s Education Revolution also includes: · $111 million to encourage students to study maths and science at university and use their degrees within the maths and sciences professions, particularly, teaching; and · Investment of $62.5 million on a pilot program to fund the construction of shared facilities between government and non-government schools.

3. One-off Carers Payment:

- Carers worry most about what will happen to their loved ones after they are no longer able to care for them. They worry about finding suitable accommodation for their loved ones, and they worry about being able to meet the long term ongoing expenses associated with caring for an individual.

- The Budget provides a one-off payment of $1000 for recipients of the Carer Payment, and $600 for recipients of the Carer Allowance.

- In the long term, this doesn’t fix any of the most pressing problems carers continue to face.

4. One-off $500 payment to pensioners:

- In a budget surplus of over $13 billion, pensioners are getting a one-off payment that roughly equals the amount they get over a fortnight.

5. Climate Change:

- This Budget is particularly disappointing when it comes to tackling climate change. It sets no targets for reducing Greenhouse gas emissions, and there is no commitment to finding environmentally sustainable solutions to climate change.

- Labor has introduced 11 practical measures to tackle Climate Change including - · A $500 million National Clean Coal Fund; · Setting up a $500 million Green Car Innovation Fund; · Cutting Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2050; and · Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol.

6. National Broadband Network:

- This Budget fails to deal with the challenge of future technologies.

- Labor will invest $4.7 billion to create a National Broadband Network – providing 98 per cent of Australian families and small business with high-speed internet access up to 40 times faster than is currently available.