16 October 2008
Order of Business
Senator Ivana Bacik: It is interesting to hear Members on the other side being so critical of the budget. It confirms Senator Fitzgerald's comments on the reigning confusion. The more that Government spokespersons speaking on radio concede that there are anomalies and the more that Senator Boyle and others state that the budget may not have been well handled, the more confusion and anger there will be about its effects on the vulnerable, the elderly and those on low incomes.
It is evident that the budget has been poorly handled. There is a lack of clarity on all sorts of measure. Why are the figures on funding for arts institutions on the Department of Finance's website different from those outlined in the document given to us? This is a small example of the types of anomaly in the budget.
Why was a radical approach not taken to carbon tax, particularly given the inclusion of the Green Party in the Government? A Green Party Minister more than hinted at the introduction of a carbon tax next year, but the Minister for Finance did not commit to it in the budget. He only hinted at its introduction. This could have raised revenue on more radical and imaginative basis yet it has not been done. There is a question of why it has not been done now.
As we debate increased rates of carbon emissions and the poor record of Ireland in meeting its Kyoto target, it is important to note that the carbon budget has been criticised by Friends of the Earth as too patchy, piecemeal and slow. I ask the Leader why a stronger carbon budget was not introduced in this year of all years when people are willing to make sacrifices to meet environmental targets.
I support Senator Fitzgerald's call for the Minister for Health and Children to answer questions about the medical card scheme, which has not been thought through and lacks clarity. I do not often agree with Senator Leyden but he is right. It seems completely wrong to remove medical cards from people who have been given them and who have made plans on the basis of being granted medical cards by this Government in a previous term of office. It is extraordinary that they are proposing to take them away and introduce an unclear form of means testing. We have seen great injustice in means testing in the past and will see it in the future.
I reiterate my invitation to Members and colleagues to the seminar on youth justice. It has been somewhat overtaken by events but is due to be held at 11.30 a.m. in the audio visual room and will be addressed by the Irish Penal Reform Trust.