House debates

Wednesday, 14 September 2016


Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016; Second Reading

10:05 am

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

I am very pleased and very proud to support what will be a far superior version of the omnibus bill than the one that it will replace. The Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016 is superior because it is bigger, in terms of savings, and infinitely fairer, and it also ensures that we are investing in the future, as it relates to renewable energy.

We have been saying for some time that the bill that we support in this place will reflect the quantum of savings we took to the election, be consistent with our values, as it relates to things like protecting the vulnerable—people on Newstart and the like—and also invest in renewable energy, particularly with what we have been able to achieve through the ARENA part of the bill.

This bill is also infinitely superior because of the leadership provided by the member for Maribyrnong, the Leader of the Opposition, who has done an outstanding job in leading a team which has made this bill fairer than it otherwise would have been. It is a superior bill because of the consultation that has taken place with good people in the community and with peak groups like ACOSS and LEAN—the Labor Environmental Action Network—an organisation I am proud to be a patron of in Queensland.

This bill is infinitely superior because of the consideration of the colleagues in our broader caucus—the people that the member for Port Adelaide ran through. There are many people on this side of the House with a view on this bill who have encouraged and allowed us to get to this far superior outcome.

It is a better bill because of the work done by the member for McMahon, the member for Sydney, the member for Jagajaga, the member for Port Adelaide, the member for Ballarat—all of the colleagues in the shadow cabinet. The member for Port Adelaide mentioned I am new to the shadow cabinet—I have only been there five minutes or so—but I am very pleased to see the way that the team worked together so effectively under the member for Maribyrnong's leadership. He and all of his colleagues here did such an extraordinary job making this bill infinitely superior to the one that it will replace.

What we have shown on this side of the House is that budget repair can be fair. It can be in the finest traditions of the Labor Party. It can stand up for the vulnerable people in our community and not ask them to carry the can when it comes to budget repair in this country. What we did on this side of the House was seize the initiative, because something needed to be done about the mess that the budget is in.

Debt has blown out by more than $100 billion under the watch of those opposite. The deficit has tripled since that disastrous 2014 budget—and, perhaps most importantly, our coveted, hard-won AAA credit rating is in serious jeopardy. We on this side of the House will do what we can to defend that AAA credit rating. If we lose it, it will be on the heads of those opposite, because we are playing such a constructive role, helping them out of the mess that they have created in the budget.

In the absence of the economic leadership that was promised a year ago by the member for Wentworth but which never eventuated, we will continue to take that initiative. There are fairer savings in this bill—that is true—but there are more where they come from. There are more savings of this nature that add up to budget repair that is fair. There is more to be done in private health insurance. There is more to be done in capping the VET FEE-HELP arrangements.

We have offered a constructive way out of this humiliating impasse that those opposite have come to on superannuation. We invite them to pick up these fair savings and to run with them. They can have the credit for them. They should build them into the budget. We call on them to do that so that we can continue to fix their budget mess in a fair way—a way that does not ask the most vulnerable people to carry the can.

If they are serious about defending the AAA credit rating and they are serious about improving the budget bottom line, they should abandon the $50 billion tax giveaway to big, multinational corporations in this country. That is the biggest piece of fiscal vandalism on the table at the moment—$50 billion out of our schools and hospitals and into the pockets, onto the bottom lines and into the profits of the biggest companies in Australia at a time when the country cannot afford it.

There is a right way and a wrong way to fix the budget. The wrong way is to lecture people about moral responsibility while you give $50 billion away when the country cannot afford it. The wrong way is to ask the most vulnerable people to do the heaviest lifting. But there is a right way. We are proud of what has been achieved here in this omnibus bill because it is the right way. It is a bigger savings package than the one contemplated in the original bill. It is infinitely fairer than the one it replaced and it invests in renewables. This side of the House has shown again that we can make concessions, we can consult and we can negotiate with the government. I again want to pay special tribute to the member for McMahon for doing the negotiations from our point of view, as he carried that duty from our side of the House. But we have shown that, while we can make the concessions and do the consultations, we will not compromise our values. That is why what we are supporting here, when the bill is amended, is in the finest traditions of the Labor Party. It is a product of our shadow cabinet and our broader caucus that we can be proud of.


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