Federal Budget 'a contradiction'
GREENS Leader Christine Milne has criticised the Federal Budget as a "confused" document that was "great for teeth but bad for brains".
Giving her first major speech in the Senate since taking the leadership, Senator Milne found little to praise in Treasurer Wayne Swan's fifth Budget other than a handful of initiatives she said had been secured or instigated by the Greens.
Chief among those measures were the $345 million allocated in the budget to help clear dental waiting lists in Australia over the next four years and the deeply unpopular carbon pricing package.
"In Tuesday's Budget, we saw from the government a fundamentally confused and internally conflicted picture," Senator Milne said during her Budget reply on Thursday night.
"We saw a government that wants to make Australia the country of the fair go by handing out cost-of-living payments while at the same time cutting benefits to single parents and saying it cannot afford to increase support to our poorest, most vulnerable people to help lift them out of the cycle of debt and unemployment.
"Its budget is a contradiction that is great for teeth but bad for brains.
"It sets up some big reforms and ignores others in its drive for the surplus."
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott's Budget reply did not escape Senator Milne's scorn.
"What we just saw from the Leader of the Opposition's reply to the Budget was a picture of irritating static and no ideas for the future," she said just minutes after Mr Abbott delivered his speech in the House of Representatives.
Senator Milne said the Budget fell short of providing the support regional Australia needed to flourish.
While she welcomed funding for biosecurity and carbon farming, she said more was needed for research and development and mental health services.
"The greatest challenge for rural and regional Australia is to lift productivity without access to more land and without access to more water," she said.
"That means massive investment in research and development.
"I am pleased there is money for the Beale review but disappointed there is not more R&D money, particularly for the apple and pear industries, which are now having to respond to competition from New Zealand apples.
"They (regional Australia) also need an investment in mental health services, because there are huge consequences for individuals and communities in rural and regional Australia, who have very limited access to mental health services, and they are entitled to their fair share."
Senator Milne said more investment in nation-building was needed to move Australia "away from the resource based economy it is dependent on and towards a creative, brain based, service and information based economy".
And she urged a move away from using gross domestic product figures to measure a government's success in managing the economy.
"... the GDP is quite inadequate for this task. It covers only market activities, excluding work done in the home and by community volunteer groups," she said.
"GDP makes no allowance for how income is distributed across society. It does not capture the health or happiness of our people or the quality of our environment."