House debates

Monday, 22 May 2023

Private Members' Business


10:57 am

Photo of Stephen BatesStephen Bates (Brisbane, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that in the budget the Government chose to:

(a) spend half a trillion dollars on Stage 3 tax cuts for the wealthy, handouts for wealthy property investors, handouts for fossil fuel corporations, and nuclear submarines; and

(b) not adequately address the cost-of-living pressures people are facing; and

(2) calls on the Government to lift people out of poverty by raising JobSeeker above the poverty line, wiping student debt, and taking urgent action to address the housing and rental crisis.

We hear constantly from the government that this budget was about making hard choices and about showing restraint, but that narrative is not universal—it does not apply to everyone. This budget applies the rule and expectation of restraint and hard choices to working people but an entirely different set of rules and expectations to the mega wealthy and multinational corporations. When working- and middle-class Australians ask for the government to have their back, the government immediately employs the narrative of restraint, which is completely disconnected from the reality that people are facing.

This government tells us that it can't lift JobSeeker or youth allowance above the poverty line to $88 a day because it needs to tackle inflation and it has to be fiscally responsible, but the reality is that inflation is being driven by price gouging and corporate profiteering, and not by the incomes of workers and the lowest-paid people in our country. The reality is that 69 per cent of additional inflation in Australia has been caused by excess corporate profits, while labour costs account for just 18 per cent. The reality is that people across this country are struggling to put food on the table or a safe roof over the heads of their children.

This government acknowledges that, yes, there is a housing crisis and, yes, most people on income support are spending more than 80 per cent of their payments on rent, but the most this government can do is propose a measly $8 a week increase in Commonwealth rent assistance. The reality is that in my electorate of Brisbane 53.5 per cent of people rent their homes, and rents have increased by 23.5 per cent in the past 12 months alone. When the average rent has increased by $135 a week in my electorate, $8 per week won't even cover six per cent of that increase.

With this budget the government tells us that the student debt system works perfectly fine and that there are no issues with the fact that student debts will be indexed at 7.1 per cent this year, which equates to an increase of about $2,840 on a HECS debt of $40,000. The reality is that this government will reap more money from increasing the debt burden of thousands of students this year than it will from taxing the profits of oil and gas companies. In this budget, the government tells us that they must curb the growth of the NDIS. The reality is that too many disabled people are not able to get the support they need to live a good life. The reality is that this government is more willing to hand over $41 billion of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and $9,000 in tax cuts for the wealthy this year than it is to support those in our country who most need it.

This government has made it clear with this budget that they are uninterested in standing up for the needs of the average Australian. I hear constantly from people out there in the community that our economic system is broken—that it is not functioning for the benefit of working people but rather is being rigged in favour of those with the wealth and power to buy favourable policy outcomes.

But there is a better way forward. Three hundred and sixty-six days ago, our campaign in Brisbane made history. We fought the election on a platform that offered transformative change to that broken system and to put power back in the hands of people. We can create a better future for all of us, and we should not just accept the crumbs that we are being offered. This starts with banning corporate donations and ending fossil fuel subsidies, and taxing the superprofits of banks, the mining sector and the energy giants that are rorting us, to pay for the things that benefit us all: getting dental and mental health into Medicare; raising JobSeeker, youth allowance and the age pension to $88 per day; directly investing in building public and genuinely affordable housing; and making all education truly free—no debts, no fears. All of these would make a meaningful difference to the lives and livelihoods of people across my electorate, but more so, as well, to the entire country. We will fight every day in this place for transformative change. When we win, we fight for you.


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