House debates

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Matters of Public Importance

75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore

3:25 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government threatening families, working Australians and the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Photo of Bill ShortenBill Shorten (Maribyrnong, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Australians are demanding more of their parliament and more of their politicians, but this week they would have been severely disappointed by the actions of this out-of-touch, desperate and divided government. This is a government who have no agenda and no authority, and all they seek to do is respond by promoting one flawed economic proposition. They will do anything to Australians in order to pass a $50 billion corporate tax giveaway. We have seen this week every day greater and greater energy by this government to take middle- and working-class Australians hostage in their actions to pay for an unfunded $50 billion tax cut.

On Monday they said that the only way that people can ever get childcare reform is if pensioners lose $14 a fortnight, if families lose $750 a year. The only way they think that you can get childcare reform is by telling young unemployed people that they have to go a month without receiving any money whatsoever. It is a flawed strategy which pits one group of Australians against another group of Australians, but, watching the sensitivity of the Prime Minister's grotesque defence of preferencing One Nation, we see they have no problem with pitting one group of Australians against another. We heard the Prime Minister describe One Nation: 'all parties do it'. No, Prime Minister; not all parties preference the sort of candidates One Nation is running.

On Tuesday, not content with taking family payments, pensioners and young unemployed people and putting them against people who want to see improvements in child care, the Treasurer, that marvel of conservative engineering, came out and said, 'The only way that you can have the National Disability Insurance Scheme funded is if you vote to cut pensioners, if you vote to cut young unemployed people, if you vote to go after family payments.'

Then on Wednesday, not content with their attack on child care on Monday, with their attack on the National Disability Insurance Scheme Tuesday, this increasingly desperate government let the cat out of the bag. The Treasurer and the government said that, if Labor does not give in to the blackmail of the government and vote for unfair cuts harming vulnerable Australians, the government will increase the taxes of all Australians. I never thought I would hear any government threaten the Australian people that they will all have to increase their taxes unless they go along with harmful cuts to the less well off in our society.

But the real poverty of the government's conservative proposition was seen again today. They cannot even maintain a position. Today in the morning and yesterday they said that they were looking at capital gains tax reform, and in the afternoon, after the Minister for Finance slam-dunked the Treasurer behind the scenes, all of a sudden the government has now said: 'We will not look at reforming negative gearing. We will not look at reforming capital gains tax deductions. We will keep looking after the really well off, and instead the only way that you can have any change is by going after the vulnerable.'

And why are they contorting themselves? Why are they going so hard on the National Disability Insurance Scheme? Why are they threatening to raise the taxes—unspecified so far? It is because they want to pay for their $50 billion corporate tax cut. It is the $50 billion corporate tax cut which is the real issue here. It is flawed economics. What they want to do is take $50 billion out of the nation's ATM and give it back to large businesses. Labor will support reform for businesses up to $2 million—that is 83 per cent of small businesses, we will support that—but what this government wants to do is take $50 billion, in the next 10 years, out of the nation's ATM and, of course, they have not explained to anyone where they are going to replace it from. That is why we have seen some of the funding for the NDIS on the chopping block. That is why we see pensioners being told, 'If you go overseas for longer than six weeks, that's it. It doesn't matter how long you paid taxes for in this country, that's it.'

This government wants to give $50 billion in corporate tax reforms to the big companies; they want to hand the bank $7.4 billion. The Commonwealth Bank just announced a profit of $4.9 billion. They really need a pay rise from the government, not at all. And no less than Goldman Sachs has said that something like $30 billion of the $50 billion in corporate tax giveaway they are giving out of the budget back to large companies will go overseas. So the money will not be invested in Australia; it will head back overseas—that is what Goldman Sachs has said. The money will go to big banks to increase their profits; the money will go to multinationals. This is the government, who, whilst they do not generally believe in foreign aid—the only foreign aid they want to give is corporate tax relief to large foreign companies.

This $50 billion corporate tax giveaway is not going to generate jobs. It has been proven, modelled and researched that we will see economic growth of one per cent in 10 years time—that is 0.1 per cent GDP improvement a year. That is a rounding error. They are spending $50 billion out of the Australian economy and they are going to give negligible economic benefit.

Then you also look at what will be forgone. When you take that $50 billion out, the question you have to ask is: what is the opportunity cost of that $50 billion? How many schools will not be supported? How many hospitals will not be property funded? How many apprentices will not receive the support they need? How many older Australians will have a dignified and proper aged pension forgone, because of the corporate tax giveaway? This is the proposition of the government this week. The only plan they have got is $50 billion of corporate tax giveaway, and they are asking ordinary and battling Australians to pay for the $50 billion. Labor is not going to have a bar of that whatsoever.

Then we look at the proposals they are actually trying to do in terms of the tax cuts. The National Disability Insurance Scheme—this is a dishonest government. This National Disability Insurance Scheme was funded and, if the minister wasn't so dilatory in terms of the pursuit of his task, he could simply go to the budget papers in 2013 and see it is there, so it is not necessary. There are other alternatives for this government to fund the changes it needs to make. You do not have to give the $50 billion dollars away. And, what is more, you do not have to give negative gearing tax concessions ongoing in the next 10 years. That will save $36 billion to $37 billion. This is a government with the wrong priorities.

The government has given Australians, this week, a false choice. It has said that the only way you can have child care is by cutting other working people's benefits—wrong! It has said that the only way you can have childcare reform is by going after and undermining the security of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. This is a government who has made it perfectly clear on Wednesday, and not resiled from, that tax increases are on the table. This is a government who is contemplating actively—unless they can blackmail Labor into giving up working- and middle-class people and the scarce benefits they enjoy—making all Australians pay more tax. But what they never do is look at the other alternatives.

Labor stands here to positively suggest to the government that, if you drop your $50 billion in corporate tax cuts, we will support you. We will actively support the government, if they choose to reform negative gearing and, by the way, give first home buyers an equal go on the market against investors. We will actively work with the government in terms of capital gains tax reform.

This is a government who does have more choices than it presents to the Australian people. But how has the government responded this week? Has the government actually tried to say what it is going to do? It has not. Instead, every time we call the government out on their propositions, what have they done? They have just flipped the switch to negative.

Labor stands here, promising the Australian people that we will work to make this parliament work. We will work with the government to make sensible reforms, and we think that the most sensible reform that could be made is the government dropping the $50 billion tax cut. For me, it is a very simple equation. If you are given a choice between properly funding Medicare or giving large companies a corporate tax cut, we will choose Medicare. If you have to choose between docking a month's money off an unemployed person who earns $13,750 or if the choice is to take $8.80 a week off someone on $13,000 Newstart or giving large corporations a corporate tax cut, we will choose to stand up for the less well-off. If there is a choice between taking $14 a fortnight off a pensioner in energy supplements or giving corporate Australia a $50 billion tax cut, we will choose the pensioners. If there is a choice between letting a family on $60,000 keep a $750 family payment or giving corporate Australia a $50 billion tax giveaway, we will choose families. Labor will stand up for the Australian people. We will put people first, and we will fight and fight and fight the government's rotten corporate tax giveaway.

3:35 pm

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Leader of the Opposition. At the heart of the motion that he has put in his contribution just now is an accusation against the government and a denial of the proposition of fact that the government has consistently put. The accusation is that somehow the coalition government is not committed to the NDIS. The denial of fact of the proposition is the proposition that the NDIS, designed by members opposite, was not fully funded.

I want to deal first with the notion of the commitment to the NDIS. The NDIS trials commenced, in effect, three years ago and, over several trial sites, there was the rollout and transition of Australians into the NDIS. As of 1 July last year, the full rollout, the full transition, of the NDIS occurred in Australia. There is nothing that speaks to the commitment of the coalition government to the NDIS as strongly as the fact that it is happening. It is being rolled out Australia wide. Aside from the ACT, where the process was interrupted by an election, the full population of Australia is now covered by bilateral agreements with each of the states. In fact, the only reason that there was a delay with respect to one of those states, significantly Queensland, was that the Labor government there refused to sign on to the same bilateral that they later signed on to. But, in any event, the bilaterals are signed.

As of 1 July, the rollout began in earnest. At the end of that first six months, the government met 85 per cent of what was a very ambitious estimate for the people who should have transitioned in the first six months. In fact that was much higher than the transition results in the trial stages, which were around 75 per cent. At the end of December, at the end of the first six months, there were 63,482 Australians transitioned into the NDIS. We transitioned in more people in six months than had been transitioned in the full three years of trials. There are now 5,000 service providers in this amazing enterprise recognised and registered; $1.7 billion has been paid to providers and participants; and the processing of payment claims is now running at a success rate of 95 per cent. We inherited a blueprint from members opposite, and in many respects the blueprint is a sound one and in some respects it is somewhat clunky. In any event, nothing speaks to the commitment of this government to the NDIS more than the fact that it is happening. The opposition are very good at making announcements; this government is very good at making things happen. The accusation that there is some lack of commitment is simply not borne out by the facts.

The second proposition that has been put by members opposite is that it was fully funded, that there is no funding gap. This transition that commenced on 1 July last year will find its fruition in the year 2020 when we will reach full scheme, based on estimates. At that point, it was estimated that 460,000 Australians would be participating in the NDIS Australia wide. A reform of this nature—the most massive reform in a generation—comes with an enormous administrative effort, great complexity and, of course, a massive expense. It is a worthy expense and an expense which of course everyone supports, but, like all reform expenses, it has to be paid for.

We accept several of the funding sources that were nominated—and were nominated in budget papers—by members opposite. In 2020 when the NDIS reaches its full scheme operation, the Commonwealth will be spending, along with the states, $21.4 billion. The Commonwealth will fund 52 per cent of that total expenditure, at $11.1 billion. We accept the legitimate and preserved form of funding left by members opposite was the existing Commonwealth funding for disability programs, which rolls into the scheme. That is $1.1 billion. We accept that there was an increase in the Medicare levy and that the Commonwealth's share of that is $4.1 billion. We accept that there is a return, by agreement, to the Commonwealth of fundings previously provided to the states, often in the form of grants, and that is $1.8 billion.

Those figures, adjusted for 2020, amount to $7 billion. The Commonwealth's expenditure, as estimated in the budget papers produced by members opposite, is $11.1 billion in the year 2020. That leaves a funding gap of $4.1 billion, which has never been satisfactorily explained. You would think that, for a reform as important, as long awaited and as extraordinarily large as the NDIS, a $4 billion funding gap in 2020 would have been sufficiently explained in the budget papers. When you hear both in the media and in this House members opposite claim that it was fully funded, you will hear the phrase again and again that that $4.1 billion was funded through 'other savings'—the mysterious 'other savings'. The notion that, for a reform enterprise as large and as expensive as the NDIS, it would be acceptable to present in parliament that it is good enough to suggest that $4.1 billion can be adequately described with the term 'other savings' is absolutely ridiculous—and members opposite have struggled time and time again.

When you go back to the history of this matter, you will find that the 2012-13 budget papers do not identify where that $4.1 billion is going to come from. They do not identify savings that were linked to the NDIS that, when projected out to 2020, filled that $4.1 billion funding gap. Anyone here can be invited to look through those 2012-13 budget papers. The answer simply is not there. Of course, this presented something of a problem at budget estimates in the relevant year. There was a budget glossy that was produced at the time—not the budget papers that form part of the parliamentary record, but a budget glossy—and that did contain a chart. The chart nominated private health insurance reforms, reforms to retirement incomes and the mysterious 'other' long-term savings.

I would briefly note with respect to those two broadly identified savings measures, private health insurance changes and reforms to retirement incomes, that, as noted in question time today, those private health insurance changes were spent three times over. The member for Lilley explicitly said that those savings would be taken to help return the budget to surplus. He later explicitly said that those savings would be redirected to partially offset the cost of dental health reform. And the claim now is that they are being applied to the NDIS. The golden rule of public finance is: if you make a savings, you can only spend it once. Many have tried to spend it twice, but few have tried to spend it three times. The same can be said of the reforms to retirement incomes. They were first announced as savings to return the budget to surplus. They were then announced, or claimed, to be allocated to the NDIS. I might just add that this budget, 2012-13, which is said to contain the mysterious answer to the other savings—which it does not—predicted, at one point, a budget surplus in 2012-13 of $1.5 billion which turned into a budget deficit of $18.8 billion. This is the document that we are supposed to search for the credible answer as to how this $4.1 billion funding gap in 2020 is going to be filled—a document that predicted $1.5 billion and delivered an $18.8 billion deficit. What a joke!

Then we end up at Senate estimates after this 2012-13 budget, and that glossy table—which I think the member for Jagajaga attempts repeatedly to table, which is pointless because the thing is utterly meaningless—becomes the subject of questioning in Senate estimates. Under 'other savings', that chart attempts to point to things that were in the 2012-13 budget—which, of course, in that budget were not linked at all to the NDIS, but it attempts to point to those things nonetheless. Senator Fifield, who was responsible at the time, of course asked the obvious question that anyone would ask: if you say that they were other savings and you even make an attempt to point to them, can you quantify them? Can you wrap numbers around these other savings that add up to $4.1 billion? Senator Fifield said:

I might just return to the helpful document you provided at the start of proceedings today and try my luck.

Try his luck he did!

This relates to chart 3, 'DisabilityCare Australia' on the last page of the document. There is a category 'Other long-term savings' … for 2013-14 to 2022-23. Are you able to further disaggregate that by each of the measures there over the time scale?

The Treasury representative answers this way: 'The short answer is no'. That is a very awkward position, isn't it?

They left a government a massive expenditure on an incredibly worthy reform. They failed to fully fund it. They claimed repeatedly, in the most vague, ridiculous and nonsensical ways, that it is fully funded through other savings, and they left this government with the hard work. Well, the work is being done.

3:45 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This side of politics will not be lectured by the member for Pearce on public finance. This is a man who was a great disaster as WA Treasurer. This is a man who every day woke up and tripped over the billions of dollars of iron ore royalties and wasted the lot. He left the Treasury of WA in a massive black hole, so he has a massive hide to come here and lecture us on public finance.

This MPI is about the true nature of government. Nothing reveals the true nature of government than the last week's events. We have seen the NDIS held hostage by this government's brutal cynicism—a hostage-taking condemned not just by the Labor Party but by great Australians who are passionate about helping our disabled Australians. Most notably, Kurt Fearnley—a great Novocastrian, a great paralympian and a great advocate for disabled Australians—condemned this government and he condemned the minister now walking out of the chamber for treating the NDIS as a political football and for being politically opportunistic.

We have also seen this week the omnibus bill—a bill that leaves 1½ million Australian families worse off. We have also seen debate around a $50 billion corporate tax cut. We have seen an emphasis on an energy debate where their only policy, according to Danny Price, is to jack up electricity prices by $15 billion. The Prime Minister's chosen economic electricity expert is saying their policy would jack up power prices by $15 billion.

And yet they have the hide to lecture us about them being the worker's best friend. They have the chutzpah to say that they are interested in looking after workers when all they have produced is a tax on workers. We will not be lectured about protecting workers and jobs by this mob. This is the party of Work Choices, a party that opposed superannuation, a party that cut the pension and a party that cut Newstart.

I am proud to be a Labor Party MP. I am proud to be from a party that stands up for workers and communities and stands up for the disadvantaged in this country and says we will improve their lives, unlike the Liberal-National coalition, which is intent on tearing them down. It is no surprise that is their attitude. Look who leads them: a man whose biography is entitled Born to Rule. Mr Deputy Speaker, you only have to see his actions in this place that demonstrate that mentality.

A good indicator of someone's attitude is the topics of speeches they make in the House. It is always useful to go back to Hansard, so I went back to Hansard and looked through the number of times Prime Minister Turnbull—before he was Prime Minister—talked about creating jobs. He was in this place 11 years before usurping Mr Abbott. Guess how many times he mentioned creating jobs?

An opposition member: None!

People here are very pessimistic! The truth is, in an 11-year career he mentioned it 18 times. Interestingly, that is the same number of times he mentioned rugby, sailing and wine. It is also the same number of times he mentioned chardonnay, cafe, Ferrari, poultry and luxury. Such is his commitment to the working people in this country.

We also saw it in his first major thought piece when he was an MP—when he was busily trying to get Prime Minister Howard's attention. What was the centrepiece of his coming out party? It was a 30 per cent top tax rate. Nothing for working people, but a 30 per cent top tax rate for the very well-off. We also saw this attitude in parliament this week, when he talked about energy prices as the most important thing dominating family budgets. Electricity prices are really important, and we do not diminish that point, but the fact that he never mentioned mortgages in all this is very illuminating. It demonstrates that this guy does not understand the cost of living pressures that families face.

It is no surprise. One only has to go back to what Brendan Nelson said about him. Brendan Nelson is hardly a friend of the Labor Party, but he said of the current Prime Minister that he has a narcissistic personality disorder and that he has no empathy. Everything we have seen this week—taking the NDIS hostage, cutting family payments, trying to cut the pension and attacking unemployed Australians—demonstrates that.

The truth is that history will condemn this Prime Minister. History will condemn his party as cynical, petty, divisive and myopic. History will condemn them. They are a government deeply out of touch that will shortly be condemned to the dustbin of history.

3:50 pm

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a concern. The people of Australia are under threat. They are under threat from an opposition with no plan. They under threat from an opposition and a Leader of the Opposition who use scare tactics on the most vulnerable people in our community. They stop at nothing to play politics with those in need.

The Leader of the Opposition is an expert at spruiking the spin, but he never has a plan. He never has a real solution and he never has the support, whilst we come up with actions to deliver for families, for working Australians and for those with disability in our community. If the Leader of the Opposition had any true reason to support the people who need it most he would support the current legislation in this parliament. He would support our plan for child-care reforms which will assist more than one million Australian families and make child care more affordable, more flexible and more accessible for people who need it most. These reforms will provide better futures for our children and positive relief where it hits families the most: the back pocket.

That is the point: if we want to support families in Australia today, we need to help them with the rising cost of power, and yet those on the other side support reintroducing a carbon tax. They support 50 per cent renewables. They do not care about the cost of power, about the cost of energy for the people who need to pay it—the families.

Ms Keay interjecting

I take that interjection. You are saying, 'Give them a supplement.' Where from? Where are you going to find the supplements to supplement and compensate people for another spectacular carbon tax like your last one?

Ms Keay interjecting

Yes, bring up more taxes. That is the way to solve your problems. That is because you support the Greens who want to introduce taxes or do you have a magic pudding where you just keep spending money three times over? That is the problem with those opposite: they really do not understand basic economics. They do not understand that you cannot use the same money three times over. They do not understand that, when Wayne Swan says he has delivered a surplus, he has not.

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The assistant minister will use members' correct titles.

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Sorry. I do apologise. They do not understand. The former Treasurer, the member for Lilley, Mr Swan, said he delivered a surplus. In fact, those on the opposite side were so excited they printed brochures declaring they had delivered a surplus, but sadly they had not. Even their forward estimates, which indicated a surplus, from where they were going to take money to pay for the NDIS, resulted in an $18 billion deficit. That is a bit of a difference from a surplus. That is the problem with the economic and fiscal irresponsibility on the other side of this chamber.

The coalition does have a plan. The other plan we have that is in legislation in front of this parliament today is to support the mothers who get no paid parental leave at the moment. They are the people they should be caring about—the thousands of mothers or would-be mothers out there who do not get any paid parental leave at all, and yet they are blocking that legislation. They are stopping the most needy in our community from getting any support at all. They should be ashamed of the lack of support for women and for mothers and for families in this community.

The NDIS is indeed a life-changing program.

Luke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

A Labor reform.

Photo of Jane PrenticeJane Prentice (Ryan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services) Share this | | Hansard source

And it is. As I said, the Labor Party—great architects, very bad at delivering. In fact, incapable of delivering. Everything they do—pink batts; you name it. They are incapable of delivering these programs. And, once again, they are not delivering the funding so that we can roll out NDIS to everyone. So how can we ever trust the hypocrites who present to the common man yet again and fail to provide for the future by imposing debt? They impose debt on families, they impose debt on the working person and they impose their lack of funding on the working families of Australia and the most vulnerable in our community. Even the Leader of the Opposition in his speech once again brought up that wonderful 'Mediscare' campaign that they dared to inflict on our community. As the Prime Minister says, the problem with socialists is they soon run out of other people's money. (Time expired)

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I call the member for Longman, I might remind members that the MPI is not a team sport. I now call the member for Longman.

3:56 pm

Photo of Susan LambSusan Lamb (Longman, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yesterday, during the debate on the government's attempt to muddy the waters around the future certainty of this funding, I spoke about the high level of hope and goodwill towards the delivery of the NDIS that I have experienced from my community since I became the member for Longman. That hope and goodwill came from not just people with a disability but also their families, supporters and carers. There is passion and hope in the voices of the people who speak to me about what they see as a better future—a future where they are able to make better choices about their care. For many there is hope of a level of independence that they have never, ever experienced before, and for many of the increasingly elderly carers of disabled adult children there is security in knowing that their child will continue to be cared for after they pass. But what I can tell you is that none of them have expressed a desire to achieve that at a cost to other members of the community who are also doing it tough. Not one of them have suggested to me that the cost of their brighter future should be borne by people who are unemployed or families doing it tough or, bizarrely, through a reduction of their own Centrelink payments or those of their family.

The bipartisan promise made to them was a scheme funded appropriately through the Medicare levy, where every taxpayer would pay according to their income. That is the fundamental difference in outlook from those on this side to those on the Treasury benches. We believe in lifting our community up. They believe in tricked up but trickle-down economics. We do not believe that you lift people up by attacking them. We do not believe that you encourage families to succeed by giving less. We do not believe that you shift people from unemployment by forcing them into homelessness and poverty. We do not believe it, the people of my electorate do not believe it and Australians do not believe it. The attempt by this government to rob Peter to pay Paul, while at the same time handing out $50 billion in corporate tax cuts to the big end of town, is about the least Australian thing you can contemplate a government doing. Almost $7½ billion of those tax cuts are to the big four banks alone. On this side of the House, we do not think the big four banks need another extraordinary bonus—

Ms McBride interjecting

They need a royal commission. You are absolutely right. That is what they need. People in Longman are sick and tired of seeing CEOs of big companies getting richer while they continue to struggle. People in Longman are sick and tired of seeing the big banks ripping them off while the government refuses to take action to rein them in and now proposes handing them back $7.4 billion in tax cuts. The people in Longman are tired of having to fight to get a basic service, such as a post office, or acceptable mobile phone coverage while this government proposes handing back $30 billion in tax cuts to multinational companies based offshore. Quite frankly, the people of Longman are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Having heard the stories of the organisations and the people who work in the communities that are represented by the member for Petrie—and it is a bit of a shame he has just walked out of the chamber—or the member for Dickson, that are just beside me, I know that Longman really is not alone here. Not a single person has bailed me up in the street to ask me to support cuts and to be more generous to banks, but what they do stop and talk to me about is the pressure on them as working families—older Australians and the disabled. They want a government that cares about the NDIS and that cares about jobs. They want to see apprenticeships and traineeships for the kids. They want high-quality, affordable child care for their kids and their grandkids. They want corporate Australia to pay their fair share.

This government's priorities are twisted. They care far more about delivering to their corporate mates than to the good people of Longman. If they cared about it, they would demonstrate it by putting to bed their cruel cuts to pensioners, working families, the unemployed and the disabled and would, instead, figure out a way not to cut tax to multinationals, but to ensure they actually pay their fair share. This government needs to stop using the NDIS and the people who it is bringing so much hope to as political footballs and instead deliver the NDIS that they deserve.

4:00 pm

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The dialogue we are getting from the opposition benches these days compared to what has happened in this country for the last 30 years means we have never had a more separate and stark choice between government and opposition for 30 years. For 30 years, both sides of politics, whether Labor were in government or out of government or whether we were in government or out of government, had a few core beliefs about what was good for the economy.

The Leader of the Opposition today gave his MPI, which had things like the NDIS and all that stuff written in it, but all he spoke about for over half of it was corporate tax cuts. For nearly the whole time, he focused on corporate tax cuts. I will give a history lesson to the opposition benches. The two Labor people, or the two prime ministers, who began corporate tax cuts were Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. Bob Hawke and Paul Keating understood, as did the Howard government, that they wanted to provide better government services. Hawke and Keating wanted to provide better government services, and so did the Howard government, and both governments understood that doing that would grow the economy. We have had almost 20 years of uninterrupted growth, parallel with lowering company tax rates, lowering personal income tax rates, lowering tariffs and getting our economy to be more open and international.

Unfortunately, that has now changed. This Labor opposition has shown that they want to go back. We are not the government of the fifties and sixties; they are. They want to go back to tax and spend. You want to do something? You want to spend some money? Go and tax someone. Well, if you do that, then put them back to 80 or 90; put them back to 60 and 70. And do you know what will happen? We will lose jobs and we will shrink our economy like you have never seen before.

I want to read something from the Financial Review this week, from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It says it has examined tax revenue data collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics—so I hope we all still have faith in the ABS.

Dr Leigh interjecting

I have read some of your books, and I know what you think about corporate tax rates, the member for Fenner. As they said, they thought you were from the AWU, not the ANU. So the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says it has examined tax revenue data collated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics over the past three cuts in the corporate tax rate, undertaken—listen to this—by both Labor and the coalition government. I have given them that history lesson, as they may have forgotten. It says that, in each case, the revenue collected from company tax has increased within two years.

Dr Leigh interjecting

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Fenner will sit silently!

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Furthermore, it says that, as the rate of company tax has fallen—get this: this is important too; I would love the academic to get this bit—the proportion of company tax as a share of total government revenue has risen. Who would have thought? I would have thought that, hopefully, an academic would have got that. Revenue from company tax rose from $8.6 billion in 1987-1988—and, just for the history lesson, you were in government then—to $12.7 billion in 1988-1990 after a 10-point cut in the rate, while the company tax as a share of government revenue rose from 11.4 per cent to a 14 per cent increase.

That is what we are talking about. It would be lovely, if we lived in a closed world. If we lived in a closed world, we could do and tax what we like. But we live in a very open and global trading economy and, whether we like it or not, we have to be competitive. We also have to be competitive in company tax rates. But, to go on, revenue rose from $26 billion in 1999-2000 to $35 billion in 2002-2003—again after a one percentage point as a share of revenue after the coalition cut the tax rate from 36 to 30 per cent. That is what history tells us.

We have other international history lessons. Ireland—Ireland cut its tax rate. Ireland was going broke in the eighties. They had a corporate tax rate of 60 per cent, which they lowered to 10 per cent, and, within three years, they were collecting more at 10 than at 60 per cent. But that has been a standard belief of both sides of politics for 25 years. We are— (Time expired)

4:06 pm

Anne Stanley (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is disappointing to see the level of cynical politics that this government is willing to engage in to pass these bad cuts. In the most Machiavellian of ways, in this bill they have tried to force a choice upon people where, indeed, there is no need to choose. They are pretending that, in order to properly fund the National Disability Insurance Scheme, we need to leave millions of families, pensioners, working parents, young people and those who are the most vulnerable in our society, worse off.

Putting the question in these terms conveniently distracts from the fact that the government still intends to proceed with a $50 billion tax cut for big business. The truth is that this government is intent on squeezing our most vulnerable in order to give a hand to the big end of town. It beggars belief that even this government would go so low.

In my electorate, these cuts will hit hardest those without a voice. Youth unemployment in my electorate is amongst the highest in Sydney at 12.4 per cent. This government expect young job seekers to wait four weeks to access financial support. They speak of them as if they choose to be unemployed. They do not. The reality for my constituents is they will probably be $48 a week worse off. It is not possible to attend an interview or a jobactive provider if you cannot afford the transport to get there, not to mention if you do not have the funds to make the phone calls or afford the access to the internet just to make job applications. You cannot organise interviews, you cannot feed yourself and you cannot turn up properly dressed for interviews. That is assuming, of course, that my electorate ever gets the NBN it was promised. Not all families in my electorate have the means to help young job seekers. They themselves have bills and they find that a continual problem.

At the same time, this government also sees fit to withhold funds that are vital to the success of the National Disability Insurance Scheme if they cannot pass these unfair cuts. To put it mildly, this is a slap in the face to many in my electorate. Werriwa is home to a higher than average number of families with disabilities who are relying on the success of the NDIS. I have spoken to many families who feel relieved that this scheme, designed by Labor and fully funded by Labor, will make a huge difference they need in their lives. Families and recipients now have choices about the type of care their loved ones get, how it is structured and who provides it. The empowerment of people living with disabilities, their families and carers is amazing. It is beyond unreasonable that this government would undermine such an important reform by treating it as mere collateral to allow them to secure a big business tax cut.

The NDIA estimates that the support of the NDIS will allow over 24,000 carers of people with a disability to return to the workforce and that, in turn, will add over $22 billion to the national GDP, not to mention how wonderful it will just make them feel. More and more people in my electorate need assistance in their homes caring for themselves or their loved ones. More and more people in my electorate need assistance to enter the workforce through financial support and access to better vocational education. What they do not need is a $50 billion tax cut for big business and $7.4 billion of that is for the big four banks, who have again posted records profits today. As far as communities in my area are concerned, this government has its priorities completely wrong.

4:10 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is great to rise to speak on this MPI today. What we have heard from those opposite is talk of threatening families. In this Australian parliament the only people who are threatening families are those opposite. The MPI, led in this chamber today by the Leader of the Opposition, first mentions families and working Australians, yet the opposition are denying families essential reform in the childcare industry. Our reforms, government reforms, will make child care more affordable, more flexible and more accessible for families in Brisbane and the Moreton Bay region and right around Australia. Our package will deliver the highest rate of assistance to those who need it the most. I have people in my electorate who are paying $1,300 a month in childcare costs. Our reforms will help them to significantly reduce their childcare costs, help them stay in work and get back to work. This is at a time when we know that for every person over 65, we have four to five people in the workforce and in the next decade that will go down to two to three people. Yet we have reforms here that will help working parents keep their kids in child care, get back to work and help Australia get back on its feet. Those opposite are blocking these childcare reforms.

They are increasing the cost of living with electricity prices. In Queensland, we know that electricity prices have gone up quite a bit. There are restaurants in my electorate in the Moreton Bay region paying $5,000 a month—and we want them to employ more people, yet their electricity costs keep going up. We know that state Labor governments in Queensland, for years under Beattie and Bligh and now under Palaszczuk, have massively underinvested. Not since the days when Joh was Premier was there investment in the electricity until 2004. Members will know that in 2004 we had massive blackouts and that is when they started to reinvest. So we have reinvestment. We saw Bligh pushing up massive rebates for those who got on board with solar. They were tapped in at the right time. Now we are seeing that everyone who did not have those rebates paying for it. We have now seen Palaszczuk put tens of billions of dollars of government debt onto our electricity providers and go, 'Hang on, that's government debt; that's the electricity providers, right.' Then they pocket the income that they take out of that and they prop up the budget. All of this gets passed on to residents in my electorate in the Moreton Bay region, and those opposite do not even blink.

Negative gearing—this thought-bubble of a policy that they have come up with. I have this report on negative gearing and its impact on the housing market. We know that the Hawke government got rid of negative gearing for two years, but they quickly reversed it. They knew they were wrong and they reversed their decision. Those opposite never know when they are wrong. They flip-flop all over the place. We have seen it with the Leader of the Opposition. One minute he supports company tax and the next minute he does not. This report says:

One of the arguments against negative gearing is that the tax deductions afforded to investors in the housing market reduces government revenue. However, if investors did not provide shelter to those that can't provide it to themselves, government revenue would already be reduced due to the fact that this responsibility would fall on the Government.

Now, that is not even talking about the people in the Moreton Bay region in the seats of Petrie, Longman and Dickson who will see their rents go up if negative gearing goes. Naturally, if you are an investor and you cannot negatively gear, you are going to positively gear and those who can least afford it do not do it. This government has a plan for jobs. Those opposite have no plan. Do you know what their plan is? We heard it from the member for Braddon today and those others in Tasmania: 'Let's whack up taxes. Put up more taxes.' And they wonder why they have an unemployment problem in Tasmania. They fought us on the FTAs, they fought us on the ABCC, and they are fighting us on company tax. Labor have lost their way and they cannot be trusted. They attack the very groups who historically offered them their unfettered faith and support. Whether drumming up diatribe on Centrelink debt overpayments, their outrageous 'Mediscare' rhetoric, or their reckless, devil-may-care attitude to the NDIS, the opposition consistently exhibit a callous disregard for those who rely on welfare. Putting politics over people is a dangerous game, but that is precisely what the opposition have done. Led by Bill Shorten, they have trotted off on a tangent, down a one-way street that finds a dead end. Shame on you.

4:15 pm

Matt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This week we celebrated Valentine's Day, but this government has a very funny way of showing its love for the Australian people. It is planning cuts to family tax benefits, cuts to the age pension and cuts to the benefits of people with disability, carers and the most vulnerable jobseekers in our community. That is how this government shows its love for the Australian people. What a funny government it is indeed.

In Western Australia, data released today shows that we have the highest level of unemployment in the country. We have over 93,000 people unemployed, and over 35,000 of those are under the age of 25. If we narrow that down to my electorate of Burt, in the south-east of Perth, under the changes being proposed by this government, 12,775 recipients of family tax benefit part A are going to lose their end-of-year supplements and 10,946 recipients of family tax benefit part B are going to lose at least $354 a year.

This is an absolute travesty that the government are visiting upon hardworking Australian families. But the other thing is this: they proposed these cuts to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and Minister Porter came in here to defend this. He rabbited on about how the NDIS was never paid for by Labor, when we know it actually was, but what was even worse was that he talked about how he has now signed these agreements with all of the states. I thought that was really interesting, because he talked about that happening in July last year. I thought, 'That's not quite right.' He did a deal with the WA state government—a grubby, almost secretive little deal—that was signed on the last day before the WA government went into caretaker mode. Under that deal, the Western Australian government will now have to pick up all of the administrative costs and 75 per cent of the cost overruns on the NDIS in Western Australia.

So the minister is worried about not being able to pay for the NDIS because, he says, Labor did not budget for it. The way he is fixing it is by shifting all of the costs onto the states. But wait for it—it gets worse: he is trying to muddle this by setting up this system in Western Australia, with the Barnett Liberal government, where we have WA NDIS. What is WA NDIS? How can you do that? It is almost an oxymoron: you cannot have a WA version of a national disability scheme. But that seems to be what we are going to get.

But what really troubles me about that is that after having gone through a process of running evaluation trials of a WA scheme, and then a national scheme—we would like to think there was some evaluation of those trials—they decided on the WA scheme, which has some significant difficulties and problems with it, but they did not release the evaluation report. We have no idea which is the better scheme, and this is the fundamental point: not only does it undermine a national scheme but it means we really have no idea and no way of assessing whether Western Australians with disability are going to be worse off under this WA scheme than they would be under the national scheme that was proposed by Labor to make sure we have national transferability. We have no idea because they will not let us see the evaluation; they are hiding it. This is another example of how much this government is undermining the futures of Australian families and working Australians. It is all part of their 'love' for the Australian people that they demonstrated on Valentine's Day this week.

Today, of all days, we talk about this, because it is women who disproportionately have the responsibility of caring for children with disability. It is women who disproportionately take themselves out of the workforce to care for their children. They are, therefore, the beneficiaries of a properly functioning childcare system and are the recipients of payments under family tax benefit arrangements. On this day, when we have been speaking about the importance of narrowing that wage and income gap for women, and about the importance of getting more women into the workforce to make sure that we have a more equal nation—and ultimately a more prosperous nation by having better and equal representation of women—we have the government introducing policies that will see them go backwards. All the while, the government wants to grant a $50 billion tax cut to big business and the banks. That shows who this government loves—and it is not working Australians.

4:20 pm

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before I get to the matter of public importance, I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Robyn McClelland on her retirement and wish her and Sam all the best. I know when you and I came into the parliament in 2007, Mr Deputy Speaker Coulton, the clerks were very helpful to us, and I also see the two clerks who are in the chamber now. We have enjoyed the highs and lows together as members of parliament and clerks, and I thank the clerks for the great job they do. All the best to the McClelland family on Robyn's retirement.

We heard the member for Shortland before talking about not being lectured by the Minister for Social Services, but I would like to go back over a little bit of history. I do not think that, as a government, we should be lectured by anyone from the other side of the House, particularly with the lack of economic credibility that they had in the six years that they were in government. We can mention a few things. We can talk about FuelWatch, we can talk about the Grocery Choice, or we can talk about the pink batts.

They talk about the biggest threat to families. Let's remember that the introduction of the pink batts scheme by those on that side of the House killed four people. Two hundred houses were burned down by a policy that was introduced by the Labor Party. They did it and they hid it. They talk about hiding reports. They hid those reports, and they were actually hiding the fact that they were culpable for introducing a scheme that burned 200 houses down and killed four people. So no-one on that side can sit there and lecture this government about threatening families.

The other side talk about the $4.1 billion. Again we get back to the former Treasurer and 'tonight I introduce four budget surpluses'. There is their economic credibility thrown straight out the door. They sit there and try to lecture this government over economic credibility. You guys are fossils when it comes to economic credibility. You have left a $4.1 billion—

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

You're the ones bringing fossils into the chamber.

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I see the member for Fenner has arced up. Mate, you are on the wrong side of the House. Anyone who reads your books would think you should come over here.

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

You're bringing in the fossils literally and figuratively.

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is good you are participating in the MPI, member for Fenner.

True to form, Labor's implementation of the NDIS was at best a joke; if not, a nonevent. During the time I was on the NDIS committee we looked at some of the expenditure of the billion dollars that had been committed by the Labor Party for the first four years—they committed $1 billion only for the first four years and then they started committing bulk expenditure, knowing that they would not be in government. We went out to visit Midland, and the money being spent by the government on the NDIS was to build a Taj Mahal out at Midland to house the people who were going to service those clients who needed to use the NDIS. Where were the actual priorities for the Labor government in building Taj Mahals to service the clients? What about spending that money on the clients? Where were their priorities?

Those opposite talk about the NDIS and the fact that they introduced it. It was a bipartisan agreement that we were to introduce the NDIS, and the coalition will honour our commitments. We have an absolute commitment to keeping the NDIS going, and anyone who is part of the NDIS knows that they are already getting the services they require. We heard members from the other side of the House talk about how successful some of the NDIS management programs have been for the people who live in their constituencies. So they are having a go at the government about the NDIS scheme but at the same time congratulating the government on the process and the introduction of management plans for NDIS clients.

We then have Labor talking about savings. In their budget they said they were going to make savings, but they could not identify those savings. We heard the member earlier talking about the increase in the Medicare levy. How that was going to save the government $4.1 billion, which they cannot identify, is an absolute mystery. These are mysterious savings that they are not prepared to identify. Those opposite talk about threats to the Australian people. Let's look at their 50 per cent renewable energy target. That is now the biggest threat to Australian families. If they do not realise that now, they never will. They are just barking up the wrong tree.

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allocated for the discussion has expired.