Australian Parliament hears reply to Budget

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley

The Australian House of Representatives heard the traditional right-of-reply to the Budget released May 9, from the Australian Labor Party, led by Kim Beazley (Labor, Brand), plus Budget replies from minor parties in the Australian Senate.

While the Budget is politically popular, having as one of its main features significant tax reform, Beazley focused on the omissions in the Budget, such as the failure to address a skills shortage.

Opposition reply

Beazley opened by stating that "This budget fails middle Australia and mortgages our kids' future", and continued by stating that "after ten long years, they deserve a break" from the Howard Government.

Beazley introduced the key idea of his Budget reply by speaking directly to middle Australia, "Tonight I seek a binding agreement between us… Australia is counting on you to do the next round of heavy lifting… relying on you to drive a new wave of economic prosperity… under a Beazley labor government, when you put in, you get back".

Beazley contrasted that idea by criticising the Treasurer, saying that after five budgets without a decent tax break, which was affected already by "soaring petrol prices", likening him to a poker machine with a payout of only "ten bucks".

Beazley's commented solicited applause from the galleries, and continued sporadically through his reply, which focused on five points:

  1. new childcare centres at school, giving "parents the incentive to work without killing family life", and announced 200 million dollars for new childcare centres, placed "where childcare shortages mean they're needed most".
  2. students shouldn't have to pay for training in trades, and pledged to "get rid of tafe fees for traditional trades", to "train Australians first, train Australians now". Beazley announced payments of "AUD$800 per year for up to four years to apprentices", "AUD$1200 per year for up to two years for childcare workers", and a payment of AUD$2000 to students on the completion of their trade.
  3. no unfair dismissals. Beazley reiterated his plan to "tear up this government's extreme industrial relations laws" and to put in place a new system "to protect working Australians", "protecting both sides", and "resolving claims"
  4. no foreign apprentices: "three hundred thousand Australians have been turned away from tafe" and Beazley would "abolish foreign apprenticeship visas"
  5. real broadband: Beazley announced under a Labor government, he would "invest in a joint venture with telecommunications companies to build a super-fast computer network" and bring Australia's networking up to world standards.

Beazley also announced the founding of an independent expert body on infrastructure, and a "Building Australia" fund to invest in infrastructure.

In his conclusion, he stated his "unshakable faith in the Australian people", and criticised the Government's failure to "deal with climate change now", the Government's mishandling of foreign debt, rising up to "half a trillion dollars" -- Beazley likened Costello to Wile. E. Coyote, with an anvil about to drop on his head.

Beazley welcomed the tax cuts, but noted the influence of rising oil prices and student debt. Beazley also noted that he would not have spent the money on the Iraq war and would not have paid money to Saddam's regime, referring to the AWB scandal.

Beazley's speech ended in further applause.

Minor parties

Australian Democrats

Senator Lyn Allison (Australian Democrats, Victoria), the Leader of the Democrats, was the first to speak in the Senate on the Budget.

Allison stated that the Budget was developed through the eyes of "political strategists" and was developed with "little interest in the social, economic, and environmental mess left behind".

Allison criticised the Government, stating that "manufacturing can't compete against cheap imports", criticised size of the trade deficit and foreign debt, noted the lack of the Budget to address high petrol prices, noted that bankruptcies are at their highest, and high household debt, saying that "you won't read about them in this budget".

Allison argued that "surplus should have been invested in the future", to address climate change, student debt which was "burdening generations with personal debt", and strongly criticised the Government in regard to its failure to fund education, saying it was "an act of vandalism".

Allison said that the Budget was a Budget "for buying votes, not for the long-term future of the nation".

Allison continued to describe how the Government had lost its environmental credentials, stating that the "environment in much better hands when the Democrats held the balance of power".

Allison responded to the Budget allowances for transport infrastructure, saying that the Budget "ignoring public transport" and that freeway funding was not sustainable.

Allison argued that the income tax cuts introduced in the Budget were "rewarding those on the highest incomes the most". In response to the mental health provisions in the Budget, she stated that more must be done on mental health, smoking, obesity related disease, and said that the Treasurer's "generosity was not extended to the PBS".

She noted how the Government was "cynically failing indigenous Australians", describing a Government scheme of an assistance payment to indigenous Australians which was based on attendance at schools, and that the Government had revised the total amount of payment downward based on the expectations that indigenous Australians will not attend schools.

Ellison concluded by stating that "The Democrats are committed to what we know to be the priorities for a sustainable future for all Australians, well beyond a Costello next decade and most definitely beyond the next election."

Australian Greens

Senator Christine Milne (Tasmania, Australian Greens) presented the Australian Greens budget reply speech.

She begun by describing how the Howard Government had said they had "delivered rivers of gold and manna from heaven", and that the Budget message was such that "people were prompted to rejoice and be glad to spend, spend, spend".

Milne went on to say that Australia had become "two that is fixated on the present and cannot see what the problem is and the other that can see the problem and the huge risks for our children, grandchildren and future generations."

Milne noted that the capacity of the environment to provide and fuel economic growth by traditional means "is in doubt". She went on to criticse the squandering of a "a minerals boom which has delivered corporate profits to the Treasury", stating that the money should have been spent on "nation-building".

Milne went on to criticise Australia's interest in nuclear power and criticised Australia's export of uranium, and noted the impact of salinity and climate change, and called for the establishment of a "climate change disaster fund".

Milne responded to the AusLink funding proposed by the Government Budget, by also criticising the lack of development in public transport. Milne also echoed Ellison's criticism of the Government's treatment of its indigenous population, stating "If we cannot address Aboriginal disadvantage in an economic boom time, when can we address it?"

Milne concluded by stating "the Greens’ vision for Australia and the values we hold mean we would not squander the surplus on a spending spree. We do not support the tax cuts or superannuation windfall for high-income earners." and reiterated the points of view that the Greens felt needed addressing.

Family First

Stephen Fielding (South Australia, Family First Party) was the final Senator to speak on the Budget in the Senate.

He criticised the lack of support for low and middle income earners, stating "The government claims this is a budget for families, but the big winners are the high-income earners", and reiterated his earlier calls for reduction in fuel price by "10c a litre".

Fielding noted that Family First supported the fact that more families would receive benefits, but called for a greater increase in the benefit rather than "the child-care rebate, which only goes to parents of children attending formal child care".

Fielding concluded by noting that "Families do benefit from this budget and will welcome it. But, for the average Australian family, this budget will not be the bonanza the government would like us all to believe it is."


This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
  • ABC NewsRadio broadcasts of Parliament, May 11, 2006.
  • Australian House of Representatives Hansard, May 11, 2006.
  • Australian Senate Hansard, May 11, 2006.