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Budget Statement 2013 (Continued)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty]  The Minister stated the property tax will be levied on local authorities. In such circumstances, local authorities will be forced to increase rents for their tenants, which is disgraceful. The idea that people will be chased into the grave for this unjust tax is unjust and repulsive. As I indicated, the proposed deferral is a sham. Asking people to pay more because they do not have the money to pay the property tax in the first place is a disgrace.

Nobody who will struggle to pay the family home tax cares if other countries have family home taxes. The countries in question did not have a property boom or crash, as we did, nor do they have huge household debts, as is the case across this State. Taxes in other countries pay for free health and education and decent public services, whereas our taxes pay for the mistakes of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party. The family home tax will pay for bankers’ salaries and bondholder bailouts. That is the difference and the Minister should be ashamed to bring such a measure to the House.

A comprehensive wealth tax is the way of the future. The Minister should look abroad to find out what his ministerial counterparts are doing in France, Spain and Iceland. The Tánaiste should note that his party's sister party in Germany, the Social Democratic Party, SPD, proposes to introduce a wealth tax, as do the Liberal Democrats in Britain.

Sinn Féin twice produced legislation that would have reduced the salaries of Ministers, Deputies, Senators and the Taoiseach. Not one cent has been cut from politicians' salaries today. We asked the Government to cut the incomes of politicians and high ranking civil servants rather than cut child benefit but despite tinkering with allowances, the basic salary of a Deputy continues to be €92,000 a year, a Minister still earns €169,000 per annum and the Taoiseach earns €200,000. Not only does the Minister for Finance, who introduced the taxation measures that will bear down heavily on ordinary families, earn €169,000 but he still receives a ministerial pension from his previous time in office. That is not acceptable.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is a lie.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The Government is not in a position to tell low or middle income families that they can manage without €10 a month in child benefit for each child - the figure is higher for subsequent children. I cannot imagine any of the Ministers opposite having to look into the recesses of their kitchen cupboards to try to find enough ingredients to put together a meal for their children, as many mothers and fathers were doing this afternoon when the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform were announcing their budget. Ministers inhabit a different reality, a little bubble in which they earn huge sums of money, have access to a personal driver and are disconnected from real life.

I ask the Taoiseach and Tánaiste what happens to the Labour Party and Fine Gael when they get into government. In the 1980s, they introduced a tax on children's shoes and now they are cutting the benefit that keeps children in shoes. Do they have something against children? Do they not like them? Why do children bear the brunt time and again?

Tá scéal mór déanta ag an Rialtas a deir nár athraigh sé rátaí cánacha ioncaim. Ach ón lá inniu amach, tiocfaidh ardú ar bhillí cánacha daoine. Ní dhéanann sé mórán difir do ghnáth-theaghlaigh amuigh ansin cén dóigh ina bhfuil an bille ag méadú mar caithfidh siad é a íoc. Is í an cheist mhór atá acusan ná an mbeidh orthu níos mó a íoc nó an bhfuil siad ar dóigh níos fearr mar gheall air seo. Don chuid is mó daoine, caithfidh siad níos mó a íoc mar gur chuir an Rialtas a lámh ina bpócaí agus thug sé amach na euro deireanacha a bhí fágtha acu.

Sinn Féin asked the Government to end the generosity of providing higher tax reliefs for high earners and instead put resources into reducing excise duty on petrol and diesel. Today, the Minister increased motor tax, introduced changes to vehicle registration tax and blankly refused to reduce excise duty on motor fuels. The Automobile Association calculated that between January 2009 and January 2012 the average family’s monthly fuel bill more than doubled from €142 to €300. Motorists have been squeezed at every opportunity and from every angle by successive budgets introduced by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party when they ramped up excise duty on petrol and diesel. Now they want to squeeze motorists some more.

Just last week, the cost of public transport increased. These price increases are biting at people who must pay more to get around or travel to work. Many people in rural areas do not even have the choice of taking a Luas tram, DART, train or public bus because successive Governments have failed to invest in public transport. Between the increases in fuel prices introduced this year and last year, motor tax hikes to be introduced next year and VRT changes, the Government is implementing a policy that makes it too costly for many families to leave their homes. People in rural areas know the Minister has abandoned them and they will not stand for it.

I am pleased the Minister announced a rebate on fuel tax for the haulage industry. Sinn Féin proposed such a measure in our jobs plan in October and it is one I hope will provide some relief to the struggling transport sector.

Sinn Féin asked the Minister to increase the taxable amounts from the super-pension pots to cover the cost of restoring more than 1 million home help hours cut by the Government last year. Thousands of people scattered across every county do a job without any help or acknowledgement from the State. They spend every waking hour and many an hour when the rest of us are sleeping taking care of elderly, infirm parents or severely disabled children. They do not have nights out or holidays and their ability to work in full-time paid employment is stripped from them. The small carer’s allowance they receive is under constant threat. These are the unrecognised heroes. The only respite available to them is the few hours of home help they receive each week which enables them to visit the post office, chemist or grocery store and run other little errands they must attend to. The Minister has removed from many of them the ability to live an independent life. Home help was their chance to stay in their own homes. Those of them with whom I have spoken say they do not want to be a burden on the State. Again, however, the Government has taken Fianna Fáil's lead on this issue and adopted its policy of placing the heaviest burden on the shoulders of those who can manage it least.

The Taoiseach and Tánaiste had choices but the only choice they made was to ignore all the other choices available to them. The Government couches its budget measures in lectures on deficits, numbers and targets and claims we are getting there. Where are we getting? Meeting a 3% deficit in 2015 will not fill a child’s belly, put clothes on children going to school or warm the house of an elderly couple who face the choice every day between heating or eating. Where does the Government want this country of ours to be in the coming years?

Ní chruthaíonn preas ráitis poist. Sin an rud atáimid ag feiceáil seachtain i ndiaidh seachtaine, ráitis ag teacht ón Rialtas. Is infheistíocht atá de dhíth chun daoine a fháil ar ais ag obair. Tá an neamart iomlán atá déanta ag an Rialtas ó thaobh infheistíochta i bpoist de agus deireadh á chur le slí bheatha daoine. Le bliain anuas, cailleadh 5,800 post níos mó ná a cruthaíodh. Ó tháinig Fine Gael agus Lucht Oibre i gcumhacht, tá 20,000 níos lú post sa gheilleagar.

For the past four years Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil have attempted to fix the economy through austerity. It may be news to the Taoiseach and Tánaiste but austerity is not working and has not fixed the problem. Austerity measures amounting to €28 billion have not reduced the deficit and the Government must change course. One cannot starve one's way out of a famine. Investment is required in growth and jobs.

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