House debates

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Matters of Public Importance


4:06 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government’s unfair Budget hurting ordinary Australians.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

4:07 pm

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

Thank you so much, Mr Speaker. I note that the Deputy Speaker is approaching the chair; it is wonderful to have him here now for the matter of public importance.

We heard debate on a censure motion today which allowed the government to make the case for the budget they brought down a couple of days ago. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer were able to talk about why this budget would benefit Australia and benefit Australians. And what did we get? Instead of a convincing argument about a budget that can benefit Australia, we got a damp squib. We got a missed opportunity to first of all admit what the 10-year cost of the 10-year tax plan was, but we got a damp squib of defending the budget. I have to say that this unfair budget, which will hurt ordinary Australians, is actually indefensible.

When the Prime Minister rolled the member for Warringah to take over the leadership of the Liberal Party, the argument he made was that the government lacked economic leadership, that it lacked a narrative, that the country was going nowhere. Well, this budget, according to the Prime Minister himself, would be the launching pad for the government to reclaim the agenda and to go into the election campaign showing Australians what they are capable of, what this country is capable of, what that government is capable of. Instead, it has been an entirely predictable, standard Liberal budget—you cut out the people who already have the least, you cut health and you cut education, and you help out the one per cent, the two per cent, the big end of town, the multinational companies. It is an entirely predictable Liberal budget.

I will tell you what has not been so predictable about this government. After making a big fuss about the state of the economy under Labor and telling Australians that they would be responsible economic managers, what have we seen? We have seen the most extraordinary thing. We see spending up, we see taxes up, we see debt up, we see the deficit up—and they are still cutting services. How can you put up taxes, put up debt and still cut services? What a trifecta that is. This is a government that has actually tripled the deficit for next year. I tell you what: they are not telling Australians about that, are they?

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source


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

They are still trying to run this fiction that somehow this pain is necessary for the good of the budget. We have got to cut health. We have got to cut family payments. We have got to cut pensions. We have got to cut education. For the good of us all, we have got to tighten our belts. I tell you what: they are managing to push up debt and push up spending at the same time they are cutting these services. Why is it? It is because their priorities are wrong. It is because their priority is to help out the big end of town and people on or above $180,000 a year.

This government has presided over an Australian economy where inequality is at a 75-year high. Living standards have fallen for seven straight quarters. Consumer sentiment is down. What do those opposite do? They say, 'Oh, it's a problem with commodity prices.' When we were in government, there was no drop in commodity prices. We had the worst economic circumstances in three-quarters of a century with a global financial crisis, but we did not use that as an excuse. We got on with the job of building a strong economy, as well as a fair society. What is the centrepiece of this budget? The centrepiece is a tax cut for companies with a turnover of up to a billion dollars. That is a 10-year plan without a 10-year costing. Imagine if a Labor government had walked into this place and tried to present a 10-year plan, without a 10-year costing.

There is something that is really, really bad about this budget, and I think it is something that most Australians are not aware of. They are not aware that all of the zombie cuts of the 2014 budget are still here. The health cuts are still in this budget. The education cuts are still in this budget. The attack on pensioners and the attack on university students are still all here, and loaded on top of that are further cuts. Let's just look at the fairness aspect of this budget for one minute: 75 per cent of tax cuts go to the top 10 per cent of income earners. A sole parent with an income of $65,000 and two kids in high school will be about—

Mr Hutchinson interjecting

Someone on $65,000 a year pays no tax according to the member opposite. They will be $5,000 worse off per year, while a couple earning a single income of $300,000 a year are $2,715 better off a year. Under this budget, a single working mum on $87,000 a year, with two kids in high school, will be $4,463 worse off—and that is even after the tax cut. That is after the pathetic $6-a-week tax cut. She is still going to go backwards under this government. But someone who earns a million dollars a year will be almost $17,000 a year better off. How can it be fair that these working parents, struggling to make ends meet, cop a cut, while someone on earnings of a million dollars a year gets a $17,000 tax benefit?

I will tell you this about the health cuts in this budget. In the eight months since the Prime Minister took over from the member for Warringah as Prime Minister, there has been another $4 billion in cuts to our health system. The one that I have to say breaks my heart—I mean truly, truly breaks my heart—is the kids dental program. Why did we do kids dental? Why did we invest in kids dental when I was the health minister? Because I went to too many communities where little kids had teeth rotting in their mouths and their parents could not afford to take them to the dentist. We live in a first world nation. This should not happen in Australia. We know that if children grow up with good oral health they will have good teeth as adults. But, if their teeth start rotting in their mouths and their gums start suppurating as children, they are never going to have good oral health. So what has this government done? It has completely killed off the kids dental program and said, 'We're going to add a few extra million people to the public dental waiting lists.' At the same time, they have said to the states, 'By the way, if you don't pay for more than half of it, it's not going to happen.' What an extraordinary thing, to cut this scheme and throw millions of extra kids onto public dental waiting lists. It is like saying: instead of being able to go to the GP, go and queue up in hospital emergency and then you can see a doctor. Go and queue up in the emergency department. That is exactly what it means, and it is not saving money, because those kids will have lifelong problems because of what the government is doing.

This budget still has all of that e cuts from 2014. The 80,000 new mums every year are going to lose paid parental leave because on Mother's Day a year ago they started calling new mums 'double dippers' if they were lucky enough to already have paid parental leave. Women who are trying to escape domestic violence will find it harder because of the cuts to community legal services. This is a budget that does the most for those who already have the most. The Treasurer has been really keen to talk about how this is for 'average' Australians. The Treasurer has obviously missed the fact that the average Australian woman working full-time earns nothing like $80,000 a year; on average, she earns $68,900 a year. Only 29 per cent of working Australians who earn more than $80,000 and will get this tax cut are women.

This is not a plan to grow Australia. This is not a plan to support families. This is not a plan for jobs. This is not a plan for education. This is not a plan for good dental care for our kids. This is not a plan that will grow the Australian economy because, as inequality grows, our growth will slow. This budget is a plan for the re-election of the Turnbull government. But I am pretty confident that it is not even going to work as a plan for the re-election of the Turnbull government—because Australians value fairness and at its heart, at its core, this is one of the least fair budgets this country has ever seen.

4:16 pm

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is like a fight looking for an argument. Every year we have to endure a lecture from the opposition that everything in the universe is unfair, that lowering the tax burden on Australians and reducing the income tax bracket for average income earners is the most unfair measure that any government could come up with. Where do you start in attacking what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has just said? Where do you start in making an argument about it? It is full of myths and hyperbole. They are trying to build a narrative that tax cuts for small, struggling Australian businesses are somehow unfair. They are saying that preventing 500,000 Australians from moving up to the second highest tax bracket is somehow an unfair measure. These are hardworking people.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition shows her economic illiteracy. A member opposite pointed out that sole parents who are earning $60,000 are actually net recipients of the tax system and our welfare system.

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


Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

No, I did not say 'bludgers'; you said it. We have a generous safety net. We have family payments. We already have in place measures that support people on low incomes. But we also have to be fair to people who work very hard and pay tax. As a government, we have to ensure that we provide incentives for people to continue to work hard and do not punish them when they earn more and more money up the scale in the middle and average brackets. That is what we have to do, and that is what this government is doing. That is what our economic plan is designed to do—a far cry from the most unfair thing the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has ever seen. I think she should really cast her eye over the plan again. If you lower the tax on average full-time income earners in this country, you are doing the right thing to provide incentives for people to get ahead.

What has been missed in the debate from the Labor Party and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition this week is that, with our business enterprise plan, we are increasing the threshold for small business from $2 million in turnover—not a dollar of profit has necessarily been earned at this point—to $10 million in turnover and reducing the tax rate. These are Australian small businesses. These are mums and dads who run small businesses. These are hardworking people who work their guts out running their own enterprise every day—turning over money and keeping the economy going. These small businesses actually employ about three million people in this country. We are providing them with a growth plan for the future. We are cutting their tax. It is what every business lobby in this country has called for. It is what the Leader of the Opposition called for before he came to parliament. It is what he said in last year's budget-in-reply—and I am going to get to this year's budget-in-reply in a minute. I would remind everybody here that in last year's budget-in-reply he said that he wanted the government to join with the opposition in a bipartisan way to lower the business tax rate in Australia to 25c in the dollar. That is what he said. That is how he began his speech.

In our plan for jobs and growth in this economy and in the economic plan that we are outlining, the government is lowering the business tax rate to 25c over a decade. The reality is that a big business in this country will not get a tax cut for eight to 10 years. But a small business or a medium business—a person who wants to grow their business and add more workers; a person who wants to add more shifts and employ more young Australians—will get a tax cut. These businesses, 90,000 of them, will get a 2.5 per cent tax cut immediately. They will be able to add that extra worker. They will be able to put on that extra shift. They will have access to the government's instant asset write-off program. They will now be able to take advantage of spending money through the transactions this economy needs, and they will spend money on their businesses to grow their businesses, to add those employees, to add those extra shifts—and this is how you grow an economy.

How else do you grow an economy? If Labor is going to oppose us on increasing the threshold from $2 million of turnover—this is not profit; this is just a business generating $2 million of turnover—to $10 million of turnover, if Labor does not accept that small and medium businesses in Australia deserve a tax cut, how else will you grow this economy? How will you get more jobs? Every person you get a job for gets off welfare. Every payment that the government does not have to make increases our ability to get back into surplus.

Of course, that is an obscenity in this place. Every time a Labor member rises and talks to us about debt and deficit, we know the reason this country has debt and deficit. Every Australian knows. Every member of the public will remember why Australia has a debt and deficit problem. It is because of the six Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years—one of the most wasteful times in our nation's history—which saw the racking up of the largest debt and deficit that has ever been racked up in such a period. Now we are dealing with the legacy of that. When you look at the difference between the economic plan that the government has and that which the Leader of the Opposition will propose tonight you will see a sustainable path to surplus and living within our means, which are the kinds of things that households and businesses want to see the government doing. The government has to live within its means as well.

Opposition members interjecting

There is a collection of shadow ministers opposite me—the big-spending group of the opposition you could call them because they are the big spenders. They are members of the Gillard supporter group. When Julia Gillard said to the state premiers, 'You think of a figure for your education and I'll sign anything that you like,' without any ability to ever fund it, there was not a tax regime that you could come up with to fund the promises that Julia Gillard made. You would never be able to fund it.

We have learned in recent weeks that your great plan has been to link tobacco tax funding, a declining revenue, to health and education funding. You have hypothecated health and education funding to a declining tax. Every economist in the country has said you will never get $47 billion of revenue over a decade out of cigarettes. The point of increasing the price of a pack of cigarettes to $35 or above is to have a decline in the smoking rate. It is to have less smoking. You will get less revenue. If you believe that your changes will bring $47 billion into the government from cigarettes, say so tonight. Tell us tonight if you are going to use cigarettes to fund your education promises.

It is very important that when governments make promises there is real money attached to them. That is what Australians want to see. When we promise increased health funding, as we have, and increased education funding, as we have, Australians want to see that they are reasonable amounts and that they are actual, real dollars that have been offset. Whenever you go through the budget papers—and I would bet my bottom dollar not many shadow ministers have actually opened a budget paper, but I am going to open one for them and go through it—everything is costed. What you will see is our 10-year enterprise plan. If you go to Budget measures: budget paper No. 2: 2016-17, page 41, you will see 'reducing the company tax rate to 25 per cent', and in the forward estimates everything is pay for. Every dollar of spending has been offset by a saving, and that is a sustainable way to run a budget and run the country.

But tonight we are going to hear from the Leader of the Opposition about their plans. What we do know is that they have a big, massive—or supermassive, I should say, in the lingo of the time—black hole in their costings, which already starts with $20 billion. That is true: they have a big, supermassive black hole. Some members of the opposition have allegedly referred to $20 billion as a 'rounding error'. We are still trying to round up who those people were!

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

Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. That has been corrected, and—

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That is not a point of order. The assistant minister has the call.

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The deputy leader should have listened carefully to what I was saying. I said 'some members of the opposition'—we have not been able to identify who—

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order: 68.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Go ahead.

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

That is it: standing order 68; he cannot repeat that misrepresentation.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The chair has expressed his difficulties with interpreting that section. I do not have reference to your previous speeches. The assistant minister has the call.

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I will move on. I can understand why members of the opposition are sensitive about costings, going into the budget-in-reply speech tonight.

Ms Macklin interjecting

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Jagajaga will take her seat.

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

In the budget-in-reply speech, you have a $60 billion black hole. You need to identify tonight where you are going to come up with the measures. Are you going to tax people more? What we know about the Labor Party, going into this election, is that every time the Leader of the Opposition's lips move tonight he will be increasing taxes; he will be increasing spending; he will be increasing borrowing to pay for that spending. All the sensitivities of the shadow ministers opposite will not explain away why their plan for Australia is to tax more, to spend more and to borrow more.

This is a government that has an economic plan: to lower the burden of tax on our businesses and our hardworking Australians. We have a plan to sustainably get back to surplus. And we will not increase tax and increase spending endlessly in an unsustainable way.

4:27 pm

Photo of Jenny MacklinJenny Macklin (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, here we go to the next election. We all know this is the last day. So I think it is important that we remember what this lot promised before they went to the last election. Remember what they promised last time: no cuts to health. And what did they do in their first budget? They slashed public hospital funding. They promised no cuts to education. And what did they do? They slashed school funding. And what was the third promise they made? They said: 'No cuts to pensions.' And in the 2014 budget, of course, they decided that they would cut pensions by up to $80 a week over a 10-year period. Of course, we were able to defeat that measure. So, as we go to this election, every Australian will be listening very carefully to what these people say, because they know: nothing they promise can be believed.

This Prime Minister is taking the following things to this election. This is what is in this week's budget: cuts to Medicare—and my colleague the member for Ballarat will set out how the cuts to Medicare will lead to increased prices every time someone has to go to the doctor—cuts to schools; cuts to family tax benefits; cuts to pensions; cuts to Paid Parental Leave; and cuts to young job seekers.

This Prime Minister's budget is fundamentally unfair. What this Prime Minister is doing, at the same time as he is cutting Medicare, pensions and schools, is giving a tax cut to the wealthiest Australians while, at the same time, cutting money out of the pockets of millions of ordinary Australian families. One and a half million Australian families face enormous cuts to their budgets. And this genius at the dispatch box says, 'These are cuts from two years ago.' Yes, they are—they are still in the budget, you genius! You're an absolute genius!

How much better off is a single working parent going to be, with an income of $87,000 and with two children in high school, after this $6 tax cut they will receive? Once you take into account the cuts to family tax benefit that she faces, she will be $4,463 worse off each year. They are the promises you are taking to the next election. That is what you will have to face up to every time you walk down the street and talk to families who are working hard with children in both primary and secondary schools. You are going to leave those families worse off and there are 1½ million of them right around Australia.

We also know that the other measures from the 2014-15 budget are now election policies that all of you are going to have to defend over the next two months. You are going to have to say to all of those people born since 1966 that you will have to work until you are 70, and, of course, when you retire you will get less.

They are also taking to the next election a cut to paid parental leave that will mean 80,000 new parents will be up to $11,800 worse off. That is what you are saying to young mums, 'You are going to be $11,800 worse off when you have your newborn baby.' There are cuts to family payments and of course there is still that cut in the budget, as they are saying to young unemployed people: 'You are going to have to wait a month, living on nothing, before you get access to Newstart.' All of the cuts from the reviled 2014 budget are still in this budget. They are still policies that this government is taking to the next election, all done with a special kind of incompetence, because at the same time they have trebled the deficit. What an extraordinary achievement. (Time expired)

4:32 pm

Photo of Eric HutchinsonEric Hutchinson (Lyons, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What every Australian knows, including those in the gallery, is that in 2007 we had a country that had money in the bank. We had the world paying us interest on the money we had in the bank. Six long years later, and we owe the world. In fact, today we are still paying the price for the unfairness that we were subjected to for six years by those opposite. There is $1 billion dollars every month that could be spent on hospitals, education, roads and other things but we cannot do that because of those opposite. There was nothing fair about what Labor did to our nation in six short years. All they know is how to tax more, borrow money and then spend it—other people's money. But we have a plan for a stronger economy, a more diverse economy, as we transition from the very important mining production phase, a phase that saw so much prosperity wasted by those opposite. Our nation's record revenues were squandered by those opposite who only new how to spend. We have a plan for jobs and growth.

I say to those who may be listening today, 'If you work for a business with a turnover of less than $10 million, your job is now safer because the taxation rate that your employer was paying yesterday, from 1 July, will be reduced from 30 per cent down to 27½ per cent, enabling them to invest more—quite probably enabling them to expand their business and employ more people. They will now be able to access the instant asset write-off—which may enable them to invest in a new piece of equipment which will make the job in which you are employed safer and more productive. If you are struggling to find a job, we understand.' I know the member behind me would acknowledge that the PaTH initiative is a wonderful initiative to prepare and train our young people who are struggling to find work, and if we train these young people we will see opportunities within business for them to get a real job.

I ask the question: do you think it is unfair that some multinational corporations operating in Australia do not pay their fair share of tax? Despite Labor's best efforts, we changed that. Those opposite voted against the measures that we put before the parliament in December. Lo and behold—and I know this will amaze you as well, Deputy Speaker—we were supported in the Senate by the Greens. Stranger things have happened, I know. Those opposite voted against it. We have extended those laws. We have increased them, with new anti-avoidance tax laws, and the diverted profits tax is expected to raise $650 million over the next four years. We have put penalties in place of up to 40 per cent for businesses that are found to be diverting profits overseas. That is fair.

Do you have children? Do you have a healthcare card? Do you need dental work? Have you been to the dentist in the last six months? We have increased access to the public dental scheme: $1.7 billion for 10 million children and adults. Before, there were only three million people in Australia who were able to access this scheme.

Do you own a car? Do you take the bus? Do you use trains? Do you think the infrastructure in your area needs further work? Over the last three years we have delivered the biggest infrastructure investment that our nation has seen—$50 billion. This is the biggest investment in our nation's history, funding smart infrastructure projects that create jobs and growth. This is part of our plan for a smarter Australia—safer and easier transport. In my own state, local councils are benefiting through the Roads to Recovery program, and we have seen significant investment in the Midland Highway, in the Black Spot Program and in the Bridges Renewal Program.

Do you use schools or hospitals? I see the young people up in the gallery. Do you understand, Deputy Speaker, that if you use schools or hospitals you can be guaranteed that the funding is now there to support you. Do you think, as I started out by saying, that governments should live within their means—in the same way that the families in the gallery and the businesses all around Australia are forced to do everyday? Governments should have the same obligation. We are the custodians of the taxes that we take from businesses and individuals all over Australia. For those on the other side, the plan is to tax more, to borrow more and to spend more of your money. (Time expired)

4:37 pm

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

It is always a delight to follow the member for Lyons, who I think represents some of the poorest communities across Australia. He seems to be such a champion of those poor people in his community that he somehow thinks that this budget, which puts most of the investment into the top end of town over people in his electorate, is somehow a fair budget.

Let me go to one of the areas in particular where this budget has again cut funding to services. The budget on Tuesday night proved that, no matter who the leader is, Medicare will never ever be safe under a Liberal government. This is a government that has sought at every stage to attack bulk-billing, undermine universal access to health care, make patients pay more and more, and wreck the Medicare that Australians know and love. That pattern was confirmed again in Tuesday night's budget, when the Treasurer again lined up the patients of this nation for billions of dollars worth of cuts. Having already imposed a four-year freeze on Medicare payments—a $1.3 billion freeze—in a shock move to doctors and what will be a shock move to patients, the government decided to hit them again, with another $925 million freeze, by extending it for another two years. Six years is not a freeze; it is an ice age when it comes to Medicare. It is designed to drive down bulk-billing, force patients to pay more and end universal access to health care. As the Rural Doctors Association have said, it is putting the health care of rural and regional patients into Siberia. In short, it is not just a GP tax by another name but a GP tax on steroids. Tony Abbott's now discredited GP tax only wanted to make patients pay $7. If this Prime Minister gets his way, Sydney University's Family Medicine Research Centre shows that by 2020 patients will be paying twice as much—a $14 GP tax. For many practices, this is the final straw, and we are already reading about clinics abandoning bulk-billing altogether and being forced to charge $10 or $20, even for children and concession card patients.

Mr Hawke interjecting

I hear the minister at the table say, 'I pay $60 for a co-payment.' What you don't actually understand—

Photo of Alex HawkeAlex Hawke (Mitchell, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The shadow minister has misrepresented what I said, and I ask her to withdraw it. It is offensive and I ask her to withdraw it.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is no point of order.

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

So he claims it is $60 in his seat. What you do not understand is that you will not be paying just $60—and that is people who are not being bulk-billed; bulk-billing rates are already high in this country and they will start to drop—it is concession card patients who are currently being bulk-billed who will be paying more and more, and patients who are currently paying co-payments will also be paying more than they currently pay because they will be cross-subsidising those patients. You do not understand how this works. What we are trying to do, and what we have done in health care for well over a decade now, is to make sure we have high rates of bulk-billing because that keeps fees low for everybody.

We heard the AMA president, who is often ridiculed by the other side of the House, say on budget night that the measure the government has put in this budget will mean 'the poorest, the sickest and the most vulnerable will be the hardest hit'. It confirms, as the Minister for Health has made clear, that this government is committed to forcing down bulk-billing by making more patients pay to see a doctor. Of course, that was just the start in this budget. We saw another $182 million hit from the health flexible funds, taking the total cuts to these crucial programs that fund drug and alcohol services, chronic disease services, communicable disease services to $1 billion under this government. They are cuts that will hurt. Of course, we have seen $1 billion cut out of the Child Dental Benefits Schedule.

This government is kidding itself if it thinks that millions and millions more patients on the public dental waiting list will somehow get seen when in Tasmania there is a waiting list of three years for public dental—if you can actually access it. The government is kidding itself. The budget has been described as smoke and mirrors. It has been described as a hoax and a fraud on the Australian people, and that is exactly what it is. A billion dollars cut out of kids dental in this budget. (Time expired)

4:42 pm

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The budget delivered last night by the Treasurer is a sound economic plan that is going to drive jobs and growth in our economy, and a stronger, bigger economy will deliver the revenue that the nation needs to balance our books. Not only have we the Innovation and Science Agenda, we have the defence industry plan, high-tech manufacturing jobs in defence industries that will spill across into other areas of the economy. We have the continuation of our infrastructure plan. That is a $50 billion spend that was budgeted for in last night's budget. That means the accelerated build of the Pacific Highway will continue, as will the Bruce Highway and other projects all around the country.

The most exciting thing for my part of the world, in Lyne, were the tax announcements. There are over 10,000 small businesses in my electorate. That is not the big end of town. It is not Macquarie Street; it is Main Street. The businesses in Lyne—all of them—are small. We have one or two successful medium sized businesses. To give them a tax cut of another one per cent is such an incentive. It improves their cash flow. The instant asset write-off was extended and the threshold has been raised to $10 million for some of our bigger businesses.

The other exciting thing in the budget last night was the pathway offered for youth unemployed. They get a real job in an internship with a real boss—not a made-up scheme or good deeds in community work. It is real experience. They get on-the-job preparation. They learn the skills they need to get a job and then they spend up to 25 hours a week in a real job. It gives them a chance to perform for their supervising boss. She might like what she sees and she might think: 'This young person deserves a break. I am going to employ them.' And there is bonus wage subsidy as well to encourage the employer to continue. That is really great news. I do not know what people are objecting to. Is the other side upset that 30,000 young people per year for the next four years are going to get that opportunity? You have to be joking. It is a great idea.

There is also over $500 million for road and rail. Look at inland rail. That is going to open opportunities and deliver growth in inland agriculture and produce across Victoria and New South Wales. It will get a whole lot of heavy transport off the east coast rail and road lines. It is going to be brilliant. We committed $630 million towards that.

We are also closing tax loopholes. Everyone complains about multinationals avoiding tax. We have a 1,000-person task force that is going to apply the tax avoidance legislation and a diverted profits tax. There will be a penalty of 40c in the dollar for any money that is deemed to have been transferred overseas through hybrids or other obscure mechanisms.

In my part of the world, the Lyne electorate, we have a lot of hardworking mums and dads, hardworking Australians. They are not the so-called high end of town that the other side are talking about. They are just hardworking families. We are helping them by raising the threshold for the middle tax bracket by $7,000. They should not be on the second highest tax bracket, but bracket creep is forcing too many of them up. Their families are going to be $378 every year better off.

The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Look at the deliveries of budgets by the last Labor Party Treasurer. We had a deficit that they outlined at $18 billion which came in $48 billion. That is a $30 billion blackhole. They do not need a plan; they need to go through a NAPLAN. They need to work on their arithmetic. (Time expired)

4:47 pm

Photo of Kate EllisKate Ellis (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

We know that government is all about priorities. We know that budgets are all about setting out and making clear what those priorities are. This government have made it very clear this week that ordinary Australians are a long, long way from being their priority. Their priority is big business. Their priority is millionaires, who they can afford to give a big tax cut to. Their priority is not the ordinary working Australians and the families who have been hit and hit again by these budget measures.

We know that, when it comes to ordinary Australians, they care about the education that their children receive. We know that they want assistance when it comes to balancing work and family through the childcare system. But we also know that these are issues that this government are happy to talk about, but we will judge them on their actions. Some people may have been excited when they picked up the newspaper on Sunday and read the headlines that this government would invest $1 billion into our schools. But what the government did not point out is that they are still going to rip out $29 billion first. You cannot change what was a $30 billion cut to our schools to a $29 billion cut to our schools and expect ordinary Australians to be grateful for it. Every student in every school will suffer if this government is re-elected. We know that in just the last two years of the current agreements alone Australian schools will be $3.5 billion better off if Labor is elected than under this government's plan for our schools.

Today we saw the centrepiece of the government's budget collapse in almost record time. We have seen it implode. But it turns out that there is a precedent for this. If we cast our minds back to the budget of just 12 months ago, we might remember that that had a centrepiece as well. The centrepiece of that budget was the government's plans to reform child care and make it more affordable for the Australian public. It was important that they announced this as a big plan because this was a promise they went to the last election with. In fact, in 2013, the then Prime Minister Tony Abbott said very clearly to ordinary Australians:

We're going to have much more affordable childcare with more money in parents' pockets and that's going to be very good for families.

Well, guess what, families of Australia: for those families who had a child when Tony Abbott made this pledge, that child will now be in school before this government plans to do a single thing to help with affordability or accessibility when it comes to child care. It was quietly announced in this year's budget that the centrepiece of last year's budget was all a bit hard and they are going to delay it. They have gone for three years without doing a single thing to assist Australian families with child care—except, I might add, cut over $1 billion out of the system and out of existing payments. And now they are going to the election saying: 'Vote for us. We promise we won't do anything when it comes to child care for another two years.' That is what is in this budget.

The Australian public and Australian families deserve better than that. The Australian public and Australian families deserve better than having a Prime Minister who stands up and waffles and waffles but delivers absolutely nothing for them. We know that Australian families will hurt as a result of the cuts to schools—cuts which were first announced in the 2014 budget by the former Prime Minister and the former Treasurer but now have the current Prime Minister's name on them. Make no mistake, $29 billion has been ripped from our school system under this Prime Minister, going to this election; and the childcare system was such a priority that they promised the Australian public they were going to reform the whole system. They were going to 'make child care much more affordable, with more money in parents pockets'. But when it comes to outlining what the actual priorities are, child care is not one of them. And when it comes to outlining and justifying why they can rip $29 billion out of our school system, it is because, they claim, it is not affordable.

Well, I will tell you what is not affordable. It is not affordable to not help families be able to participate in the workforce by having an affordable childcare system; and it is certainly not affordable to rob this country of our future prosperity, our future economic growth, by not investing in each and every young Australian. Regardless of their postcode, regardless of the local school they attend, every single Australian should have the opportunity to access a great school education. That is something they will get under Labor. That is something that is just not the priority of those opposite.

4:52 pm

Photo of Ann SudmalisAnn Sudmalis (Gilmore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When I sit in the chamber I am often absolutely stunned by the lack of connectivity I see from those in the opposition when they talk about ordinary Australians. In the diverse and sometimes disadvantaged areas of Gilmore, I work with and talk to ordinary Australians every day. Those opposite are under the delusion that this budget is somehow unfair. Good grief! I will tell you what is unfair—it is the debt they delivered last time they were in government. This is what Ian, from my electorate, has to say:

Make no mistake, the election will be won on the grounds of who can manage the economy best. As an observer of politics over 50 years, the experience of Labor has always been irresponsible financial management. It would be a disaster to see Labor in charge of the Treasury benches once more. We hurt whilst they were in power. Things are tight now. Australia would face ruin if the same incompetents who made the mess in the first place were back in power.

When the Rudd-Gillard government came to power in 2007 in the guise of being fiscal conservatives, they blew away Australia's nest egg in the most deplorable way. There will be cries of, 'But the GFC hit and we had to save the Australian economy!' In the first instance, that was correct. But then to go on and spend and spend and spend long after the GFC was over and done with was totally irresponsible. It left absolutely no financial buffer for the future of Australia. Well, let me tell you, that was unfair—to us, to our children, to their children and to our older Australians in their retirement years. And then in 2013 the Labor government's budget put in ticking financial time bombs with an explosive shrapnel effect that we are still stuck with today.

Often when the subject of budget deficits is mentioned I hear the shrill mantra of, 'You doubled the deficit!' emanating from the opposition benches. It reminds me of the complete lack of fiscal understanding by many of those sitting opposite. If you have a business—and I do not expect many of those opposite to understand this, because there is a distinct lack of business expertise there—and you lock in expenditure items at the end of the financial year and borrow additional funds for a project, then you have an increased debt as a result of the outstanding creditor and interest payments. We are paying off a million dollars a day in interest on Labor's debt. Talk about unfair! That was totally unfair to not just the incoming government in September 2013 but the financial sustainability of our nation as a whole. I deplore dishonesty at any level, but trying to sell a mythological set of figures like that was quite amoral.

What was unfair was the carbon tax, which created electricity price hikes for families and businesses, along with job losses in mum-and-dad small businesses. What was unfair was the mining tax, which was not just a thought bubble of extraordinary proportions but the cash cow for proposed education and health expenditure based on revenue, on 'taxes received', that never—and, I repeat, never—eventuated. This is exactly the same as telling your children that you are going to win the lottery. Then you buy each of them a new car, take them to Disneyland, buy new iPads and computers and take that holiday you all want. Oops! You did not win the lottery. But it is all the government's fault. You cannot go out on a spending spree. That is unfair.

Let's get this right: Australians want consistency. They want the chance for their families to have a better life, and you cannot do that while you are paying off mammoth debts, like those accumulated under Labor, to overseas nations. We as a nation must live within our means. The people we know as ordinary Australians are the hardworking small business owners and wage earners, who are all about raising their families and providing a better life for their kids. Some businesses will welcome the tax cuts so that they can reinvest in their livelihood, pay off their mortgage—because that is what they have used to finance it—buy equipment and employ more people. That is fair.

The PaTH program initiative was described just this week in the 2016 budget. The program for vulnerable young people having trouble breaking into the job market is a transformational change and very welcome for the 12 per cent of our unemployed young people who do not have a working adult role model in their home. This is fair. It will give workplace preparation and assisted work trials to these people, yet they will still receive income support as well as additional pay. This takes the risk factor away from getting a job—where the job may or may not work out, and then they are struggling to get back onto support.

The budget is just the beginning of good things to come. We have only just begun to take advantage of the potential in our nation with the free trade agreements, the recently announced business incentives, innovation platforms and a plan for economic stability to take Australia to a healthy financial future. Now, that is fair.

4:57 pm

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Vocational Education) Share this | | Hansard source

As the day draws to an end, it is obvious to many of us that we will be heading off to an election and unlikely to meet here in jovial good company on Monday, as the manager of government business intimated at the end of question time. So, it might be worth taking the opportunity in this MPI to have a little think about what has happened in our journey over those three years, because we have had three budgets in those three years.

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

And haven't they told a story.

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Vocational Education) Share this | | Hansard source

They do indeed, as the member for Newcastle says, tell a story. The government encapsulated it themselves with the term 'continuity with change', because each of those budgets has been exposed consistently—and, I have to say, with increasing speed—to be fundamentally unfair at the heart of what they represent. We had the infamous 2014 budget—the first budget of the Abbott government. It put in place such reprehensible changes that the government had to back-pedal on them or hide them away or freeze them. They were so objectionable to the community that the government simply could not get them through this place.

In that budget, we saw broken promise after broken promise. It went to the heart of the trust that people had in the government that they had elected. There were broken promises on school funding, broken promises on health funding, broken promises on pensions, broken promises on cuts to the ABC and the SBS.

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Vocational Education) Share this | | Hansard source

If there was consistency in that budget, it was: if they had made a promise, they went out of their way to break it in that budget. It was an absolutely discredited budget. One would think that, having been exposed relatively quickly for how bad and unfair it was, it might have disappeared off the landscape. There is more to that story, and it is not going to give any great comfort to the Australian public.

So, we then had another budget: 2015. This was a budget that said: 'Let's just stay under the radar a bit. It didn't go too well last time. Let's just try to stay under the radar a bit and maybe try to get everyone to focus on our commitments around child care.' As my colleague the member for Adelaide very clearly outlined for the House, that did not go too well either. Having travelled through two budgets in not quite two years of government, for quite a few on the other side, obviously the message got through. And they thought: 'We need a solution to this. We don't have an economic narrative. The Australian public are not coming on this journey with us. We're being exposed for breaking election promises. We're unable to articulate a case for the future.'

Now, what could be the solution to that? We would have suggested: drop your unfairness—that might have been a start—get in contact with where average people are actually at in their lives, seek to put in place a plan for jobs, invest in the things such as education that contribute to people being able to get jobs or create their own businesses. We could have given them a couple of options like that. But no. What did those opposite decide to do? They decided to swap their leader. The current Prime Minister stood in the courtyard, not far from this place, and said: 'It's time to end this farce. I'm going to challenge, because I'm going to give economic direction to this country. I'm going to bring the reforms that are needed to set us up for the future.' And what hope there was as a result of that, particularly on the backbench! People were hoping that this would be the circuit-breaker that got them where they needed to be. Well, what a disastrous experiment that has been! We now have this new Prime Minister's budget—naked and ashamed in front of us within less than two days of its having been brought down. It should not surprise you, because fundamentally we have a Prime Minister who is the emperor with no clothes. People are in the street pointing out that he is a great disappointment.

This budget prioritises millionaires and it prioritises big business over the average, ordinary people it is supposed to deliver for. It is exposed, it is an embarrassment, and it is no wonder the backbench was so deathly silent in question time. (Time expired)

5:02 pm

Photo of Matt WilliamsMatt Williams (Hindmarsh, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Cunningham, with whom I have participated in Education and Employment Committee hearings, is generally a constructive member of parliament, and I have enjoyed working with her on some of those occasions. It is just a bit disappointing for the gallery and for us here that there was not more constructive dialogue in our MPI. Child care is an interesting case study. It is an investment in the future. It is an investment in our kids—and I know there are some up there in the gallery—and an investment in our education, because it is a great form of education, with the quality childcare teachers we have. The thing is, we actually put $3 billion into child care. And guess who blocked it? They blocked it in the Senate. So, how hypocritical of them to stand up here and say that we were not supporting it!

The onus, the responsibility, lies with them. They were the ones to block it. We supported it, and we are, on education, investing around 25 per cent more across Australia, including in my state of South Australia, over four years—a considerable increase in funding that will help teachers and help students. But I am sure the people in the gallery know, as everyone else out there in Australian society knows, that although money is important for education there is more to it: there is parental engagement; there is school leadership. These are some of the many important pieces of the education puzzle that Labor continually forgets to acknowledge and focus on, and it does not do the whole discussion of better educational outcomes any justice. We know that over the past 10 years, although there has been a 40 per cent increase in education funding, by the coalition government in particular, our results internationally have declined in some areas. And that is what we are seeking to address, to provide a better future.

I will just touch on a couple of elements of this budget. We have heard about the tax cuts and incentives for small business—the engine room of the economy. That will mean more jobs. That will mean more capital and, hopefully, greater productivity. We have the export trade deals that will open up even further the middle class of Asia for Australian companies, with more Australian jobs resulting and more economic growth and prosperity. I want to say something about defence shipbuilding, in particular, and defence plans for local high-tech manufacturing. We know that, after the last two weeks, there have been 54 defence ships and submarines commissioned in Australia by the federal government, and there were zero from Labor—54 to zero. Not just is it important for those major projects; it is also important for suppliers. I know we have some members here from the state of Victoria and the state of New South Wales. I will just read out a few suppliers, because they might think that their companies are missing out.

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Because they are.

Photo of Matt WilliamsMatt Williams (Hindmarsh, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I tell you: they are not. I will give you some names from right around Australia. You might like to take notice and learn something. In New South Wales, we have Dowding & Mills. That is for the Collins class submarine program right here and now, so they are well placed to get further work. In Victoria, we have Pump Technology, Mackay Consolidated and ABB Turbocharging. In New South Wales, we have Stealth corporation, Vulkan Industries, Ampcontrol, Teterin Engineering—the list goes on. Millions and millions of dollars of work for suppliers all around Australia. We have quality radar technology that, I think, is made in the ACT to go on our Defence ships going forward.

We have guaranteed funding for education. It is an essential part of the Australian society to fund those services: health and education. Real revenue is banked—real money. And it will not go up in smoke.

In concluding, I know we have some departing members present in the chamber. I want to pay tribute to the member for Bruce. He has been a great colleague of mine on the soccer field. I call him the John Terry of the parliamentary soccer game every Wednesday morning. I will miss you, 'John'! I will miss you, the member for Bruce. I see the member for Hunter smiling. I am not sure whether he is coming back. I hope he is coming back. If he is, I look forward to—

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture) Share this | | Hansard source

We're sorry you won't be here!

Photo of Matt WilliamsMatt Williams (Hindmarsh, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We'll see about that! Up there in the corner, to the other members who are departing, thank you for your contributions. I will miss the banter. I will miss the collegiality. I will miss you all, but I am sure some of us will be back. Good luck. It has been nice to have been a part of the 44th Parliament.