Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Budget 2020: Statements
Let us move on to education. I have already seen the responses today from third level institutions. There is great disappointment. Basically the Government has kicked to touch again. We have costed proposals to reduce the student fees by €500 a year with the aim of phasing out fees over the next five or six years. The annual cost of that would have been €40 million. The Government could have done something on this but it has not. It has also done nothing to tackle the core operational funding issue at third level. It just is not there. That is another failure in a litany of failures, I am afraid to say.
I was interested to attend a childcare meeting the week before last, campaigning for a living wage for childcare workers. I saw people from parties, including Fine Gael, lining up to have their pictures taken supporting the stance but nothing has been done. Childcare workers are voting with their feet and leaving the sector. They are leaving to take jobs making sandwiches or in Lidl or Aldi, because they pay more. The Government has had years to sort this out and it has failed to do so. While it has increased spending for childcare, it has not done anything to tackle the crisis in poor wages. This is always where Fine Gael misses the point. It never looks to do anything concrete for the lowest paid workers. We have talked about a living wage in this Chamber for years. It could have been delivered in this budget but it has not been.
As an aside, I support what my colleague, the Acting Chair, Senator Byrne, said about Shannon Airport and the need for a hub. There is a real need for that money to be spent wisely. It is not clear yet where that tourism money is going to go. I hope some of it goes to Shannon. I have to mention that there is already a hub in Shannon, namely, the war hub supporting wars in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. That is one hub we could do without. I would certainly welcome a commercial hub for Shannon Airport and an emphasis on that instead.
On the vacant sites levy, the ESRI called upon the Government to revisit and increase it. Why has that not been done? What is this ideological fixation on avoiding taxing assets? It is a major area where again Fine Gael's Tory ideology comes to the fore and the Government will not do it. In the midst of the worst housing crisis in the history of the State, it will not tackle what needs to be tackled to make people sell their land and free up land for housing. That this has not happened is another missed opportunity.
I appreciate the Minister of State's patience. It has been a long evening and I look forward to his replies.