House debates

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Matters of Public Importance


3:29 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | Hansard source

Mr Speaker, can I thank you for selecting this matter of public importance and can I congratulate you on your excellent judgement, which you have exhibited once again in making this selection. I was listening to the radio this morning, and there was a bit of commentary about the fact that this week in Australia, this budget week, really treats the Australian budget in a way that you don't often see overseas. There are many other countries with similar sorts of democracies that don't stop for the week to see what's going to be in the budget, with the speculation, the reveal, the speculation about the budget reply, the reveal and the follow-up for days to come.

I think that, during this fiscal festival, it's worth going through a few other numbers. We've seen the budget numbers from the government, but there are a few numbers that they didn't want to share with Australians. They didn't want to remind people of the six years of cuts and chaos, of 2,034 days of a government that cares only about itself—one that's happy to appoint its mates to jobs as they rush out the door, without thinking about the jobs and working conditions and pay of ordinary Australians. They didn't want to remind you of the seven ministers or former ministers who are jumping ship at this election.

They didn't want to remind you of the fact that 30 per cent of Liberal women have complained about bullying in the Liberal Party. They didn't want to remind you that 80 per cent of the coalition party room are blokes. In fact, I found one number particularly interesting: After the next election, it is very possible that there will be more men named Andrew in the House of Representatives than there will be Liberal women.

Eleven—that's the number of votes the member for Curtin got in the leadership contest. Three—that's the number of votes by which the member for Dickson missed out on becoming Prime Minister. Three votes! Imagine the country! Twelve hours, or about 12 hours—that's how long the budget lasted before they were releasing version 2 with the updated figures in it.

Three hundred and seventy-three and a half billion dollars—$373½ billion! That's net debt—the net debt that has doubled under those opposite. Isn't it phenomenal to have a Prime Minister who gets up to the despatch box, day after day, talking about debt! He was the Treasurer when net debt doubled. Gross debt has crashed through half a trillion dollars, to $560 billion—also more than double—under the watch of those opposite.

One point six billion dollars—that's a number that we are familiar with. That's the underspend in the National Disability Insurance Scheme. And how stomach-turning is it to have the Prime Minister telling us today that the reason for this underspend is because there isn't demand—'This is a demand-driven system; there's no demand'! Seventy-seven thousand people have missed out on a National Disability Insurance Scheme package in this year alone because of the delays in processing packages. And this underspend of $1.6 billion comes on top of last year's underspend of $3.4 billion. That's about $6 billion of underspend in the National Disability Insurance Scheme to date. And do you know why? It's because they capped the number of staff at the National Disability Insurance Agency. It's because they've been underpaying for services in this sector, causing many disability service providers to threaten to leave the sector—to shut up shop.

Here's a number that contrasts with that: $80 billion; $80 billion is what they tried to give away to the top end of town in tax cuts—the tax cuts to multinationals and the big banks that those opposite voted for 12 times. Well, 12 times plays 26 times; 26 times is the number of times that those opposite voted against a banking royal commission, including the Prime Minister, including the Treasurer, including all of those on the front bench and including all of those on the backbench. Twenty-six times they voted against a banking royal commission. In the face of all the evidence from all of the victims about all of the problems, they kept voting against it.

Seventy-seven dollars: $77 is what people who rely on Sunday and public holiday penalty rates are losing from their pay packets. So, here we have those opposite boasting about a $5 a week tax cut when people are losing $77 a week from their penalty rates, with the support and complicity of those opposite and their enthusiastic applause. In fact, we've had those opposite saying low wages are a deliberate part of their economic strategy. They've confessed—700,000 workers are having their penalty rate cuts. Eight times, those opposite voted for those penalty rate cuts. We've got the slowest wage growth on record and every single prediction that those opposite have made for a faster rate of wages growth has been proved wrong. Twenty-seven times they have forecast faster wage growth and 27 times they have failed to deliver that faster wage growth—1.8 million Australians unemployed or underemployed.

We've seen the cuts. We've seen the chaos from those opposite. We've seen the fact that hospitals have been cut, universities have been cut, schools have been cut, TAFE has been cut, vocational education has been cut and aged care has been cut. We've seen 1.3 million Australians say that they skip getting basic health care, because they can't afford it. When it comes to energy policy—the cost of power, power bills, pollution—we've seen 13 energy policies from those opposite, and we still don't have one that works. We've seen 128,000 older Australians waiting for a home care package.

That's a pretty bad set of numbers in anybody's books. But there is an alternative. You'll hear an alternative tonight from the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, who has for six years led a united and disciplined team focused on delivering for ordinary Australians—stronger wages, better working conditions, better hospitals and schools, TAFEs and universities and an economy that works for everyone. You've seen already the commitments that we've made in education, and you'll see more—$14 billion extra for our public schools. Those opposite have confessed to the cuts by restoring funding to Catholic and independent schools—and good luck; we support that. But they haven't funded our public schools. Two out of three of all Australian children go to public schools—$14 billion difference between their proposal and our proposal. Every Australian parent can look at our Fair Go for Schools website and see how much extra their school gets—hundreds of thousands, and more than a million in some cases, over the next three years alone. There will be universal access to preschool for three and four year olds, because we know that the best education systems in the world invest early. That's when brain development is happening—we know that. From those opposite: one more year of preschool.

When it comes to TAFE and universities, from those opposite: 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when they came to office. We'll invest—more apprentices and more investment in TAFE. An extra 200,000 young Australians will get the opportunity to go to university. So, yes, there's a very grim set of numbers from those opposite. But there is an alternative—an optimistic, uplifting alternative that you'll hear more about tonight and in the coming weeks as we head to the polls. I ask Australians to consider these two alternatives: a chaotic, dysfunctional, divided coalition or a united, strong and determined Labor Party.


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