Monday, 18 June 2012
Questions without Notice
I thank Senator Cameron for his concern for the most vulnerable in our society, who of course need our help the most. The fact is that across this country energy prices have been rising for years. That is unrelated to the carbon price. To the extent that the carbon price will drive an increase in costs the government will help to ensure those costs can be met. The revenue it is raising will directly support nine in 10 households. Almost six million households in the greatest need will receive assistance that fully covers the cost or exceeds the estimated price impact. We are not waiting for the first power bills to fall due; we are delivering payments right now as part of the clean energy advance. These payments started rolling out in May through the Department of Human Services. I can now report to the Senate that the department has already advanced $1.18 billion in assistance to 5.8 million Australians—on budget and on schedule. Payments have gone straight to people's bank accounts without requiring action from them. I can also advise the Senate that people who need to run essential medical equipment at home can apply from today for an annual payment of $140. Struggling households that are not able to receive assistance will also be able to apply for a special $300 low-income supplement from 1 July this year. This is a practical response. It is practical assistance for people who need to face the reality of rising costs.
Nothing is more important to the government than helping families meet these costs. We have taken the view that every child is entitled to a fair go in life wherever they live and whatever their family's income. That is why we also introduced the schoolkids bonus. As I reported to the Senate last month, 1.2 million families of 2.2 million children will see money in their bank accounts twice a year every year from January next year. Families will also receive a one-off lump sum payment replacing the old education tax refund this month. The Department of Human Services advised me that the first payments will be actioned tonight, to appear in bank accounts on Wednesday, and more will follow in the fortnight ahead. We expect the department to administer more than $1.4 billion in payments to households before the month is out. This is money they would not have if the coalition had had their way. (Time expired)
This is a country that aspires to do great things. It says that every one of its people is entitled to a share in that aspiration. It is not a privilege; it is a right, and it is the Australian way. For more than a century we have defended a minimum wage, unemployment benefits, pensions for the aged and for invalids, child endowment and universal secular education. In my lifetime we have introduced the universal healthcare scheme and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. We are trendsetters for our neighbours. We are the envy of the Western and developed world. This government will not renounce our legacy and join a global race to the bottom. That stands in contrast to the approach that is taken by those opposite. It seems that the shadow Treasurer has made Asia, if not Greece, the inspiration for his social welfare under a Liberal future. It is easy to prescribe hard medicine if you do not have to taste it yourself. (Time expired)