I also rise to take note of answers on the budget. It seems that, when you claim a budget is for all, it is very difficult for anyone to accept even direct questions about how people will be affected by it. Amidst the hyperbole, it seems that it is impossible for people anywhere-but in particular for people on this side of the chamber-to ask any question about the budget without being accused by government members of quibbling, complaining or being desperate . Basically, we have had the delivery of the budget and we have heard that there are certain values in this budget that people do celebrate; indeed, last night various groups did say that there were things in this budget that they applauded. When that was done, instead of the government actually acknowledging that there is this common ground that this is a good thing, they are throwing back at us any kind of positive comment that people have made about the budget, claiming that these militate against any questions we might have about people who may not have received generous benefits or in fact any benefits from the budget.
I reject the allegation that there is desperation in questioning any government decision; that is our job. The questions that we have will emerge, as the different information comes forward, because all we have now is the original process and the inches of paper, as we all know, where we hope to find the details that back up the wide promises that have been made. In the questions we asked today-not attacks but simple direct questions about information we had-we looked at how different groups in our society would be affected by the decisions that have come out of the budget. We asked questions about the degree of payment that came out in various things, such as the utilities payments, which we talked about, and also about those groups of carers, groups that we all value and celebrate. When we specifically asked whether the benefits that were announced apply equally to all people who provide care, the minister, instead of responding to those direct questions, decided to turn the argument around and made the usual longstanding statement about how we are complaining and seeking to find the losers in the budget. Minister, no-one is seeking to find losers in the budget. What we are trying to do is investigate the claim that has been made by the government, which is that it is a budget for all. If it is a budget for all, there should be expectations from all in the community that they will receive something out of the budget. Also, it should be open to all to investigate whether they have in fact been forgotten in this budget process. Increasingly, the government seems to reject any kind of questioning of its decisions.
On the issue of poverty, we know that when there was an inquiry into poverty in this country the government rejected the notion that there was poverty in the community. They rejected the majority report of the Senate Community Affairs Committee's poverty inquiry and came back with pages of documentation from numerous government agencies on programs that had operated in the time since the inquiry had been completed. I am not quite sure how that was relevant to the investigations at the time of the inquiry. But the statement that there are people in our community who suffer disadvantage is not accepted by this government; it is rejected, and people who ask questions are in some way demonised for having the gall to question whether the hyperbole is in fact warranted. There are people who are currently disadvantaged because of their income, particularly those who are in receipt of various payments through the social welfare system, and we need to know: where is the benefit to them from this particular budget? If it is not there, accept that and look at where we should go in the future. Don't colour the argument by trying to attack those who are asking questions. Don't try to divide the community by saying that asking whether one group is getting more out of this budget than another is somehow divisive. Either it is a fact or it is not. So, please, engage in the discussion. It is only through discussion that we will be able to effect real change. There has been no attempt by people on this side of the chamber to devalue the good things that came out of this budget. However, we are not claiming that it is automatically a budget for all. That would seem to be an obvious response. But, if you make the claim, make sure you can stand by it, and do not attack those who are asking questions about it. Let us see what is in the budget for every single Australian. Let us see if every Australian will benefit. Don't just throw stupid comments back at us-and I will respond in kind: it is not short sighted and narrow minded to ask questions; we actually see where the answers are. (Time expired) Question agreed to.
10 May, 2006