House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Matters of Public Importance


4:08 pm

Photo of Brendan O'ConnorBrendan O'Connor (Gorton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to support this matter of importance because it's absolutely vital that the people of Australia understand that their Prime Minister is so out of touch that he wants to give an unfunded, unconditional $65 billion to the big end of town and, at the same time, impose taxes on 80 per cent of the workforce. This is a Prime Minister who is so out of touch: former merchant banker, never met a worker in his life that he'd have a concern for. He thinks it's reasonable—at a time when there is wage stagnation in this country, when we have the lowest wage growth in a generation—to provide $65,000 billion to corporations without conditions, without being funded, without being explained.

We know how it's going to be funded if it gets through. We know what's going to happen here. As we already know because they've already announced it, the government is going to impose taxes on all workers on between $21,000 and $87,000 a year. Every worker earning between $21,000 and $87,000 a year will be getting a tax increase as a result of this government. At the same time, if you earn $1 million a year, you get a $16,000 tax break. What sort of equity is that? What sort of equity and fairness is that?

This could only be from a Prime Minister that's so out of touch, that's comfortable in the boardroom but awkward like a fish out of water in offices, depots and factories because he has no understanding, no empathy and no concern for working people in this country. That is the reality. It must be the reality because the only thing he seeks to do is to rob from workers and look after his mates—rob from workers by way of increasing their taxes, and at the same time provide an unconditional, unfunded $65 billion in taxes. What we heard today in question time, of course, was that there are no conditions—no commitment to wage growth, no commitment to employment growth, no commitment to stop offshoring, not one intention to do what is needed to look after working people in this nation. No wonder the Australian people have turned their back on this Prime Minister. He turned his back on them. He turned his back on them, and we saw it first, of course, when he chose to oppose the opposition's private member's motion to stop the cut to penalty rates.

This Easter is the first Easter since the penalty rate cuts were brought in on 1 July last year. We will have retail and hospitality workers going to work on public holidays and on Sunday and receiving real wage decreases. Of course, next July they have further cuts in real wages to look forward to. And in July 2020 they have further cuts to occur as a result of that penalty rate decision. I don't know if people notice—certainly they wouldn't notice on the other side of the chamber—but hairdressers and beauticians are also going to get penalty rate cuts if the application before the Fair Work Commission is successful. That application was made last week.

We have one application after another to attack working people at a time that wage growth is stagnant. Profits are up, wages are flatlining, and what is the answer from the Prime Minister? 'Well, we've got profits up, wages low; let's give a tax cut to big business.' That's all they contemplated. That's the only policy they have. As the Leader of the Opposition said, they are a one-trick pony, this government. They have one policy. As the Leader of the Opposition has made very, very clear, we're up for this fight. We're happy to have this fight from this day forward and every day until the next election, because we know the Australian people do not believe in unfairness and widening inequality in this country.

We are seeing too many people missing out in this country. We do not need lectures from the government in relation to pensioners. They want to increase the pension age to 70 for working people if this country. Can you imagine nurses, construction workers—workers who actually work physically—working until they are 70 before they are even entitled to the pension? It would increase to the highest number in the entire world: 70 before you receive a pension. And yet this government wants to lecture us on pensioners? This government's unfair, the Prime Minister's out of touch and we can't wait till the next election.


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