Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Matters of Public Importance
Health and Education Funding
What we are debating here today is the Liberal Party's smash and grab on health and education—$80 billion out of health and education in last year's budget papers, in this year's budget papers. Of course, what we know is that the stench of unfairness that was in last year's budget remains in this year's budget, and today the cat was let out of the bag. Suddenly we find out that, with that cut of $80 billion hitting health, hitting education across the states, it is now going to be made up by a tax on state schools. That is where the gap comes from.
This says something about the ideals and the approach of those opposite. Those opposite believe in trickle-down economics. They think that, if you give everything to everybody at the top, take away services and tax working people more, that somehow gives you growth. When you look at these cuts to health and education, what you actually see are their priorities. In their ideal world, if you have money, you can have the best; and, if you do not have money, you can go without. That is what sums up these federation papers which build on this $80 billion cut. Their aim here is to dismantle quality, affordable health and education that have made Australia one of the fairest nations on earth and given us one of the highest levels of social mobility of any developed democracy. Underpinning that, admired around the world, the envy of other developed economies, is Australia's approach to quality health and education delivered to people irrespective of their means—universally available, the whole basis of Medicare, the whole basis of our future prosperity in education.
In their ideal world, if you have the money, you get the best; if you do not have the money, you can do without. If you cannot afford to send your kids to a private school, you do not deserve the best education in this Liberal trickle-down world. What we are seeing here is the survival of the fittest ideology that dominates everything this crew opposite do. They had in last year's budget a proposal to knock off unemployment benefits for six months for unemployed young Australians when unemployment was at six per cent and youth unemployment was at 13 per cent. What does that say about their priorities?
What is missing from this year's budget—and it is true that there is something that is not in this year's budget that was in last year's budget—is the language of 'lifters and leaners' because there is now a pretence that somehow this year's budget is fair. What blows that away is the fact that the $80 billion cut to health and education is in this year's budget as well as being in last year's budget. And why is it there? Because those opposite actually believe that inequality is good for us. When you scratch the Treasurer, when you hear the Prime Minister talk, when you hear those trickle-down economics people opposite talk, what they really believe is that inequality is good for us. They believe that we should not have intervened during the global financial crisis to support Australians. They believe in the cleansing power of recession.
The truth is that, in the Asian century, no country can afford to leave any student behind in the education system. If we have learnt anything about the future of our country in the Asian century, it is that we have to build up the capabilities of our citizens, and nowhere is that more important than in education. So a proposal which says, 'Not only are we going to junk Gonski but we're also going to vacate the field of Commonwealth funding in education,' is a recipe for making Australia a backwater in the Asian century, falling behind the increasing educational achievement that is happening in all of our major trading partners.
But I do not think we should be surprised by this approach, because, after all, one of the first actions of those opposite was to rip up the Asian century white paper and put it in the rubbish bin, precisely at the time we needed forward policies and forward funding to make ourselves the best-educated developed country in the region. This $80 billion worth of cuts is not only going to happen in education; it is going to happen in health. And we are increasingly understanding that the health of your population, along with the education of your population, is the key to prosperity. (Time expired)