House debates

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Matters of Public Importance


3:25 pm

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

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

The Government delivering a Budget lacking fairness.

I call upon those honourable 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—

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

For this side of the House, fairness is not something that you learn from Crosby Textor. It is not something that you just say. It is not something that you just repeat over and over again in the hope that somebody will believe what you are saying. It is not a slogan. It is not something to try and get you through your internal political problems or to try and pump up a Newspoll. On this side of the House, fairness is something that we believe; on this side of the House, fairness is something that we cherish; and on this side of the House, fairness is something that we fight for.

We are witnessing the pitiful political existence that those opposite live and that they go through, where they have spent all week pretending to be something that they are not. We heard more of that today, with the usual over-rehearsed and poll-driven lines about fairness, security, opportunity and better days ahead. But what we really know—and, more importantly, what the Australian people understand—is that when this Prime Minister says 'fairness' he means a tax cut for the top end of town and a tax hike for people who work and people who struggle.

The government are desperate for us and the Australian community to believe that somehow they have changed and had some kind of big conversion and that all of a sudden they have learned that Australians cherish that fair go as much as we do on this side of the House. But for as long as that big tax cut for people on the highest incomes and that big company tax cut for multinational corporations are in the budget, as they are, we know everything we need to know about this budget and about this government and how they always preference the top end of town over people who work and struggle in this country. They have said over and over again that budgets are about choices, and we agree: budgets are about choices. In this budget, this Prime Minister, this Treasurer and all of these people have chosen millionaires and multinationals over people who work and struggle in this country.

The good news is that I think Australians see through this faux fairness thing that the government is trying to push. I think that Australians understand, when they read about this budget and hear about this budget, that it has the tax cut for the top end of town and for multinationals and it has the tax hike for battlers. But they also understand that this budget contains cuts for schools, cuts to universities, cuts to training, cuts to pensions with the removal of the energy supplement, and all of these sorts of things that make this such an unfair budget.

They also know that, when there is $21 billion in new taxes in this budget, that is the price that they are being asked to pay for four years of debt and deficit blowouts and four years of division, dysfunction and incompetence on that side of the House. That is the price that Australians are being asked to pay—that big tax bill—but the people who are excluded from that effort are the people at the top end—people who earn more than $180,000 a year. Millionaires get $16,400 a year in a tax cut. Australians know that the multinational corporations are excluded from this; they get a tax cut too, and I will come back to that tax cut in a minute. They know that it is the battlers in this country, the people who battle, who are being asked to carry the can.

We heard from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer four different explanations today for how much this company tax cut costs. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer jumped up and had us all wondering who the third stooge was. When they gave these four different answers, they tried to pretend that they were all to different questions, but they were to one question, and the Australian people deserved an answer to this question: how much is the ordinary Australian worker being slugged for this tax cut the government want to give to multinational corporations? Finally we have an answer: over 10 years, the government want to give a $65 billion tax cut to multinationals at the same time as they want people who earn 30, 40 or 50 grand a year to pay more tax. This is the Prime Minister's definition of fairness. Only a Prime Minister as out of touch as this one could possibly think that that is a fair outcome and describe this budget as fair.

When Bill Shorten stands at this dispatch box tonight—and we are looking forward to the speech that the Leader of the Opposition will be giving—he will propose to extend that deficit levy, and I think that is only fair. If you want to talk about fairness, fairness means not allowing millionaires to pay less tax while this Prime Minister asks workers to pay more tax. That $21 billion in extra taxes announced from that dispatch box on Tuesday night would not be necessary were it not for the mess that this mob has made of the budget. The deficit for the coming year is 10 times bigger under the current Treasurer than it was predicted in the Liberals' first budget under Joe Hockey for the coming year. The deficit for the coming year was $2.8 billion; now it is $29.4 billion. The current Treasurer has done the impossible and made Joe Hockey look like a genius.

Those opposite do not like to talk about the other facts that are in the budget. These facts were not in the budget speech; they were not in the budget papers, just like the $65 billion figure that we learned about today for the company tax cut. The deficit for the year that we are in, that is about to finish, has more than tripled. Net debt has blown out by over $100 billion for that year. Gross debt will hit $725 billion in the 10-year horizon of this budget.

Last night when the finance minister was on the Andrew Bolt program he was asked six times: what is the gross debt number? He would not answer that very simple question. You would think the finance minister would be prepared to answer that. I will read out only two of those answers. Bolt said: 'I am after the figure that you would have in your mind as to what that figure would be.' Cormann said: 'Well, what I am saying to you is that we are working to keep gross debt as low as possible.' Bolt said: 'I do not doubt it; I am just after the figure. I do not know why it is a secret. I would like the figure, that is all.' Cormann said: 'The Treasurer has made the administrative judgement that he has made.' That was his answer to the question, what does gross debt reach at the end of the 10-year period? We finally learned today from the Treasurer that there is three-quarters of a trillion dollars in gross debt. That has never happened in the history of this country. This is record gross debt under this mob, who like to claim that they are the superior economic managers. We are talking about three-quarters of a trillion dollars in gross debt.

The finance minister obviously was too ashamed of this record to even mention the gross debt figure. It is good now that the Treasurer has put that on the public record. We already knew, of course; we watch these things very closely. That is a mountain of debt and there is a whole range of other figures in the budget which trouble us greatly. When it comes to net debt, we will have record net debt for the next three years. All of these figures, including the interest bill on the debt, are extraordinarily high.

Before Crosby and Textor told them to start talking about fairness, they used to talk all the time about 'jobs and growth'. The inconvenient thing about that of course is that in this budget all the key measures for jobs and growth have been downgraded, so we have GDP growth downgraded, wages growth downgraded. The Treasurer has the nerve to say 'I have been listening to people who are worried about their wages'. The wages are at record lows. The wages number in this budget has been downgraded. All of these key figures are worse now than in the budget just last year. I think perhaps the most damning number in the budget is the one that says on the government's own figures that they expect there to be almost 100,000 fewer jobs in our economy over the forward estimates than they expected just one year ago. And they have got the nerve to stand up and talk about jobs and growth while they quietly downgrade their expectations for jobs and growth.

As the member for Jagajaga says—and the member for Jagajaga is always right—they have just changed their slogan, just like the 'jobs and growth' slogan was a total sham from beginning to end. They tried to perpetrate that whole fraud on the Australian people that they were for jobs and growth when we had record underemployment. We have got unemployment as high as it was in the GFC. Everyone over here knows these key indicators, because they are the people-facing part of the economy. These numbers measure the parts of the economy that people feel—underemployment, wages, unemployment and all of these sorts of things. But as the member for Jagajaga said, 'jobs and growth' was just a slogan, and we know that 'fairness and opportunity' is just a slogan as well. We know it is just something that Crosby and Textor typed out and handed to them. To the Prime Minister's great surprise, he learned that the Australian people care about fairness and they care about opportunity. But this 'fairness and opportunity' slogan is just as big a sham. It is just as big a hoax. It is just as big a con as the slogan it replaced, that 'jobs and growth' slogan.

The Australian people want a budget where fairness is more than a slogan. The Australian people do not just want budgets about fairness; they want this parliament to believe what it says about fairness, like we do on this side of the House. That means better schools. It means access to university. It means decent training. Australians want a budget where fairness is more than a slogan. That is what we on this side of the House will deliver, and we will hear more about that from the Leader of the Opposition tonight.

3:35 pm

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation) Share this | | Hansard source

As the member for Hunter, who is just leaving here now, knows well, I grew up in a small country town not far from here. Like most kids, we talked at school often about what was fair and what was not. We would talk about having a fair go, a fair crack of the whip, but not once—not once—did that mean taking the fastest runner and making them run slower. Not once did that mean taking the smartest kid and forcing them to play dumb. Not once did that mean taking the richest kid and taking away their money. No, it meant simply giving everyone a fair go. In fact, as one of the most revered leaders on the other side of the House in recent years once said, it is about giving them a fair suck of the sauce bottle so that everyone has their opportunity to be the best.

It turns out that Labor used to think that giving everyone a fair go was the right thing to do. Hawke and Keating believed that tax cuts—almost halving the company tax—were about giving Australians a fair go. More recently, exactly three years ago today—it was exactly three years ago today—

Mr Watts interjecting

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Could the assistant minister take his seat, please. The member for Rankin was heard in silence. I expect the same courtesy. There is a general warning.

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. As I was saying before I was interrupted, it was exactly three years ago today that the Leader of the Opposition said in this chamber:

I invite you to work with me on a fair—

note the word 'fair'—

and fiscally responsible plan to reduce the tax rate for Australian … business from 30 per cent to 25 per cent—not a 1½ per cent cut; a five per cent cut.

He used the word 'fair'. And other luminaries from the other side agree. One in particular recently wrote:

Small business represents aspiration.

Aspiration—that is what we believe over here. He went on:

It represents people who want to break away from a salaried job …

He then went on to argue for tax cuts. He said, 'A cut in company tax would be a good thing.' In fact, as we just heard, he went on to say it is a Labor thing. Of course, that member was the member for McMahon, in his book——which is worth a read, for all of you over there—called Hearts & Minds.

It was back in 2015 that I went to a tax reform summit hosted by the AFR. I asked if he accepted former Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson's statement that company tax falls hardest on workers. The member for McMahon told the summit:

It's a statement of fact, which I agree with.

That is fair: more for workers. So the member for McMahon used to think that reducing company tax rates was fair, but no longer, it seems.

In fact, what we have seen in recent years is a Labor Party that have lost their moral compass. They no longer believe in giving Australians a fair go. They have called out to the crass calls for pure equality, not fairness but equality, from people like Corbyn and Sanders. Indeed, we just heard an extraordinary speech from the shadow finance minister where he announced a tax increase after railing for four minutes about how bad higher taxes are. They are stoked by intellectuals like Piketty who want to tax aspiration and businesses into oblivion. In fact, this situation is so bad that you have a leader in the Labor Party who thinks it is fair to cut workers' penalty rates. We know that Bill Shorten's idea of fairness is to sell out workers—

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The minister will refer to members by their correct titles.

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation) Share this | | Hansard source

We know the Leader of the Opposition's idea of fairness is to sell out workers on penalty rates while he claims, to their faces, that he will look after them. We know that in the case of Cleanevent it took the royal commission to uncover the deal, which was then terminated in 2015 on the application of employees because, in the words of the lawyer from the AWU:

… the only purpose that it—

that is, the Cleanevent agreement—

is currently serving is to deny employees, particularly casual employees, access to penalty rates.

The Leader of the Opposition claims that he believes in and stands up for fairness. Just ask the workers at Chiquita Mushrooms about the Leader of the Opposition's idea of fairness. He saved Chiquita Mushrooms millions from the abolition of overtime rates, amongst other savings. We know that the moral compass of the Labor Party has gone a long way south in recent years.

Turning to the coalition's policy and view of fairness, we do want to give everyone a fair go. That means fully funded programs for our kids at schools and universities. It means fully funded programs for the disabled. It means genuine programs to make housing affordable. We know that, when the Labor Party talks about fully funded programs, it is vapourware. If I turn for a moment to the NDIS, we have said that the Turnbull government will guarantee the NDIS is fully funded by legislating a 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy. That will provide certainty for NDIS participants. We know that. In contrast, despite a lot of promises, we know the previous Labor government failed to fully fund the NDIS, leaving a funding gap in 2019-20 of $4 billion—a gap which grows each and every year and, in fact, increases to north of $7 billion.

Labor like the claim—and I am sure the shadow finance minister would claim this—that they clearly identified enough other long-term savings to pay for the NDIS. But, when you look at the actual budget papers, they did not link any savings to the NDIS funding. In fact, it was only in a glossy in the 2013-14 budget that we find any funding commitments to the NDIS. I have the glossy here. It looks very impressive; it is called DisabilityCare Australia. In it, under 'Meeting the costs of DisabilityCare Australia', there is a category which is basically the biggest part of the funding for the NDIS, and it is called 'Other long-term savings'. It is a very nice blue colour. It turns out that, in Senate estimates, Treasury officials were asked whether those measures could be listed in detail. The Treasury officials' answer was, 'The short answer is no.' It was totally unfunded, but to 'Other long-term savings' were hitched the hopes and dreams of disabled people across Australia. Many of the other savings that Labor supposedly allocated to the NDIS had actually been announced long before and assigned to other purposes, without any mention of the NDIS whatsoever. I have bad news for those opposite about budgets. You can only spend your money once—not two times, three times or four times. Unfortunately, disabled people across Australia had their money—the money that was supposed to be spent on the scheme to which they had hitched their hopes and dreams—spent many times over by the Labor Party.

In contrast, our additional increase to the Medicare levy will apply from 1 July 2019 and will raise, initially, $3.6 billion, and increase from there. Importantly, as a fairness measure, because this is about fairness, low-income earners will continue to be exempt from the Medicare levy and will not be impacted by the increase. Because it is a universal insurance scheme, everyone should pay their fair share and contribute to it through the Medicare levy. Australians who can afford to will pay for this scheme. (Time expired)

3:45 pm

Photo of Emma McBrideEmma McBride (Dobell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Fairness should be at the heart of a budget, but you cannot dress up an unfair budget with a three-word slogan. This budget is not fair. The rhetoric does not match the reality. It delivers more for millionaires than it does for the families. It delivers more for multinationals than it does for workers or those seeking work. And despite the government's claim, this budget does not guarantee Medicare. In my region on the Central Coast of New South Wales, less than half of the students there have the opportunity to complete high school. Youth unemployment remains stubbornly high at 16.6 per cent, well above the national average. There are close to 10,000 children living below the poverty line. And in pockets of my community around one-third of households have a combined income of less than $600 per week. Communities like mine deserve a fair budget.

I spent most of my working life as a pharmacist in Wyong hospital, working in mental health. I have seen firsthand the harsh reality of inequality and injustice. Is it fair to be discharged from a mental health ward to a caravan or a car or a cave? Is it fair to be lying for hours on a trolley because there are no beds? Is it fair to have to choose which medicine you do not take because you cannot afford to have your prescription filled? Professor Sir Michael Marmot, one of the world's leading public health experts, tells us the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work and age matter. Sadly, I see this every day, like with Steve, who spent his final days fighting lung disease on a hospital gurney in the annex of his caravan. His son, who gave up what casual work he had to care for him, was forced to sell his only asset, his own caravan, to pay the park fees. Is it fair to live and die with the pressure to make ends meet? Is it fair that the Central Coast, one of the fastest-growing regions in the state, does not have a palliative care hospice? Is it is fair to spend your last days in the rain in the annex of a caravan?

This budget does not guarantee Medicare. The government will not reverse its unfair cuts to Medicare for three years. But the government's own figures show around 15,000 people on the Central Coast say they have delayed seeing a doctor because of cost, and around 30,000 have delayed or avoided filling a prescription due to cost. Increases in upfront fees and out-of-pocket expenses and delays in processing rebates are hurting people. I have heard from doctors of the impact of the Medicare rebate fees on their patients. This freeze must be reversed immediately. Under Labor's plan, New South Wales' public hospitals would have been $630 million better off, with investment aimed at reducing ED and elective surgery waiting times. Is it fair that Wyong hospital in my electorate is facing privatisation because Liberal governments will not commit to properly funding public hospitals?

Education is the ultimate fair go, yet this budget contains cuts of $22 billion from schools and cuts of $3.8 billion from universities across Australia. Needs-based funding is making a difference in schools, and it must not be at risk. Around half of the students at the University of Newcastle are mature age students, juggling study with the demands of family, work and commuting. They are some of the first in their families ever to have the opportunity for higher education. These cuts hit the regions harder.

In my electorate, the number of people who leave school to pursue a trade is 10 per cent higher than the national average, and yet under this government courses have been stripped from TAFE and there has been an appalling lack of regulation in the VET sector. I heard from Brendan, a keen musician, who is vision impaired. He was enticed to study with Evocca College, but the coursework was clearly not designed for people with disability. After a short period he was forced to withdraw from the course. Years later, he was shocked to discover the experience had left him with a debt of $18,615. Is this fair?

Budgets are about choices, but choice is a privilege. This budget is not fair. The rhetoric does not match the reality—not on the Central Coast nor across Australia. (Time expired)

3:50 pm

Photo of Trevor EvansTrevor Evans (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

From some of those stories that the member opposite told it sounds like she should be very happy to see the details in the budget—for the listing of new medicines and for housing.

With the modern Labor Party it is always a case of looking at what they do, not just at what they say. And so it is with fairness. It is actually so fitting that this MPI today was moved by the member for Rankin, who, as we know, was sitting at the knee of the then Treasurer, Wayne Swan, the member for Lilley, when he promised this nation four surpluses that never eventuated when Labor blew the budget, spent the nation's savings and shouldered the next generations with so much intergenerational debt.

I observe that these days the member for Lilley appears to be trying to reinvent himself as some kind of modern-day Australian Bernie Sanders. He wants nothing more than the opportunity to once again run that odd socialist test as to whether it really is possible ever to run out of other people's money. To use the word 'fairness' when what they really mean is old-fashioned class warfare does not really wash in today's Australia. Maybe the member for Lilley will actually be the next Leader of the Opposition. Maybe we will see what happens tonight.

The Labor Party likes to drape itself in the name of 'fairness'. But they are a hollow husk of that Labor Party of old, which used to stand for something. Now they just stand for hypocrisy. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, there is nothing fairer than telling Australians the truth—

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

You must be really proud of your budget; you've spent two minutes talking about us!

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Rankin was warned during question time. His speech was listened to in silence; I would expect him to offer the same courtesy—certainly at the same level of volume.

Photo of Trevor EvansTrevor Evans (Brisbane, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As the Prime Minister said yesterday, there is nothing fairer than ensuring that Australians are told the truth about the public finances of their country and ensuring, as we have done in this budget, that there are funds committed to deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Who is fairer? The Labor Party, that make big promises but never put the money in place for the NDIS? Or this government, that delivers the funding and the certainty for people with disabilities, their carers and their families? Who is fairer? This government, that has just delivered tax cuts for Australia's small- and medium-sized businesses? Or the Labor Party, that I suspect we will see tonight seeking to reverse those changes and just jacking back up the prices and the taxes on small businesses which would otherwise continue to drive this economy and to create so many jobs and opportunities in the years ahead? Who is fairer? The Labor Party, that bastardised the Gonski review and the Gonski name by coming up with 27 different secret deals around the country, not visible to any parents or to most schools? Or this government, that finally delivered the consistent and transparent approach to school funding that Gonski originally intended?

I have 46 schools across my electorate of Brisbane, and under the school funding announcements made by this government and funded in this budget well over 40 of those schools will be getting an incredibly significant funding increase. I have a handful of local schools that will receive approximately the same funding going forward, and I do have one local school that will receive a cut of about one per cent in future years. With all of those facts in mind, I encourage all parents around Brisbane to check out the online estimator and to see for themselves how much better off their school will be—in fact, to look at the funding for so many different schools around Brisbane and how that will change.

I know that the school funding announcements made by this government and funded in this budget are eminently fair. We are creating a system that is equitable and needs based, as David Gonski originally intended, whereas Labor had such little confidence in their school funding model that they kept the numbers secret. The transparency of school funding we are providing is the key. It demonstrates the fairness for all to see and it stands in stark contrast to the unfair approach of Labor when it comes to school funding.

With the modern Labor Party you cannot just listen to what they say; you have to look at what they do. What was their record on fairness when they had the responsibility of being in government? No more surplus and no more savings—all gone, thanks to the class warfare of those opposite. Thanks to the member for Rankin, who was with the member for Lilley, the then Treasurer, all the way. Labor set Australia on this course where the next generations will be saddled with their mistakes. And they talk about fairness? We will see tonight.

3:55 pm

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thought that there were going to be 26 billion reasons why this budget was unfair, but then during question time that blew out to 36.5, 35.6 and then ended up at 65.4 billion reasons why this budget was unfair. I guess we are glad that question time ended, because that spendometer was about to blow up because it just kept rolling along. Then I thought to myself, where has this term 'fairness' come from? Where is this lightbulb on the road to Point Piper conversion? Then the member for Rankin drew to my attention a wonderful article in TheDaily Telegraph.

Did they sit around at the harbour and did they sit around on the yachts, thinking, 'I think we need to be a little fairer?' No, they did not. They wrote a cheque to Crosby Textor for $200,000 and said, 'You need to tell us what we need to put in the budget.' In TheDaily Telegraph on 8 April all was revealed.

The Daily Telegraph has learned the Liberal Party commissioned research firm Crosby Textor to help Mr Morrison formulate his second Budget, at a cost of—

a lazy $200,000—a round of drinks for those opposite.

Mr Morrison drew on the research to help him convince Mr Turnbull of the likely public support—

wait for it—

for meaningful changes to housing affordability in the Budget.

…   …   …

The research indicated that Australians were focused on future job growth for their children and were concerned their wages growth appeared to be flat …

This is a government that does not walk in the same shopping centres that we do. They do not go to the same pubs and clubs. They do not hang out at the same coffee shops and talk to the real workers in the community—the 'shoppos' out there. What they do is pay a cheque for $200,000 from the donors, from the member for Mackellar, who is in the chamber, and then turn around and say: 'Fairness? What is this term "fairness" that you talk about? Where are we? Where art thou, great term of "fairness"? We must put it in the budget!' That is the definition of 'fairness'.

Those members of the government who are sitting here today think giving a millionaire a tax cut of $16,400 is fair—that is what they think—while someone who lives in Redbank Plains, in my electorate, earning $65,000 will be hit with a tax hike of $325. Families in Forest Lake will be part of the 100,000 families who will be worse off thanks to your cuts in family tax benefits. A pensioner living in Springfield Lakes will now have to pay $355 more per year. Millionaires living on the north shore in Point Piper, near the ocean, will then get a huge, huge tax cut, but those living in my electorate can slug it through the nose. That is your definition of it. Get up and defend that. Stop the carry-on about what Labor did in government and defend your own pathetic budget.

We know that under this government more Australians will pay the highest amount of tax in our Commonwealth's history. We know that under this government record net debt will peak over the next three years—gross debt equivalent to $20,000 for every man, woman and child in Australia. Compared to last year's budget, GDP growth is down, employment is down, wages growth is down and, as we heard from the shadow finance minister, 100,000 jobs have gone under your watch. Do not lecture anyone about your economic credentials. Do not get up in this chamber and talk about fairness in any way, shape or form.

We know about the Queensland context. I listened to the member for Brisbane, waiting with bated breath for him to talk about infrastructure, of course. Like those opposite he remained completely silent when it came to Cross River Rail, which would benefit his own constituents. There was not one dollar allocated whatsoever. They are not interested at all. They are not interested in allocating funds. They are not interested in public transport. He is not interested in helping his residents. He is only interested in one thing: defending the millionaires in Australia and the multinationals, time and time again. When it comes to this government and when it comes to the member for Brisbane, the member for Robertson, the member for Mackellar and the member for Moore, we know that millionaires and multinationals come first, second and third. Medicare, schools and working families are always last. That is what you support. Just have the guts to get up and actually defend what you are doing to the Australian community. We know Labor is the party of fairness. We know Labor was built on fairness, and tonight you need to take a good lesson from Bill Shorten and Labor to hear what fairness is all about. (Time expired)

4:01 pm

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We have sat here and heard about the virtues of the Labor Party and how fair they are. I ask them: how fair is it to not give the most vulnerable Australians the confidence of a fully funded and secure NDIS? Where is the fairness in that? Where is the fairness for the most vulnerable people in this country? I would have thought that each and every one of us who grace this place—the men and women who come into this place—would stand with dignity and fairness and support the most vulnerable people, who need protection in our nation, and give them the confidence of that. That is our responsibility as elected officials, not to play political games at their expense. The member for Lilley might sit there and laugh, but while he was the Treasurer there was a $4 billion deficiency in the funding.

I am not going sit here and attack the member for Lilley. I want to move forward with dignity and respect for the most vulnerable people of this nation. We support them and we will work together to give them confidence. I ask Bill Shorten and all these people on that side to stand with us and support those people, the most vulnerable people in this nation. I would say that there is no Australian in this nation who would not be in support of a 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy to support those people that we need to protect. That is the fairness that each and every one of us should be supporting. We should support the $200 million that we are going to put in to help those great professionals that are out there across this nation building the workforce to support those with disabilities. That is what you should come in here and support. You should be supporting the Cheryl Daltons of this world. She is with SBcare in Kingaroy. You should support the Nina Templetons of this world. She is with South Burnett CTC; I have met with her. I have sat in their offices with their staff and with their patients and listened to their heart-wrenching stories and about the support that they provide. Those professionals need the support of a fully funded NDIS. Forget the politics; forget the vitriol; this is about real people's lives. It is not about the next election. Think about that and think about the people who have these disabilities. Go and look them in the eye and give them a fully funded NDIS.

A gentleman just rang me from Roma, reaching out for support. He was reaching out for support and he knows that he will get it because, if we have an NDIS that is fully funded into the future, we will be able to give him the support so he can have a fully-functioning life in a rural community. A young lady from Allora, a small community of just 800 people, came and saw me with tears in her eyes. Her daughter has profound disabilities and was only put on the NDIS in the last couple of months. With tears in her eyes, she told me that she saw a future for her children, not only while she is here but when she has passes on. Her child may live because of the services we provide those young people. That is our responsibility, not the vitriol and childish games that we are seeing here today. This is about you standing up tonight and helping those with a disability—those most vulnerable Australians. Put the politics aside and stand with us, shoulder to shoulder, walk out of this place and say to each and every one of us that we have done the right thing—not play politics. That is fairness. If they are the virtues of fairness that you want to come in here and espouse then let's roll the dice and do it together. Let's do it together as Australians who can walk proudly supporting the most vulnerable. We did that. When Julia Gillard—on your side—brought this to parliament, the member for Warringah supported it. That is what we did. That is what this place should enact: that we should walk out of here supporting those policies that protect the most vulnerable—not sitting here with vitriol and personal attacks but walking forward with those people who support it, because do you know what? Every Australian deserves that, but above all the most vulnerable Australians deserve respect and fairness from each and every one of us. If we do not uphold that then, unfortunately, we have failed not only those people but also the people of Australia. I cannot stand by and let that happen.

4:05 pm

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What we just heard is four minutes of an absolute lie. Let's go back; you see some of us were here. While you were sitting there waffling on—

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McEwen will withdraw that word.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Lie? All right—untruth. Shall we use the term 'mendacious claim'? That is parliamentary. We are allowed that. The National Party and the Liberal Party fought against the NDIS at the start. We have just heard these stories being prattled about. They should read their own budget papers from 2014. It was fully funded—every single bit of it. If people in your communities are only getting access now, that is because for the four years you have been in government you have sat on your hands and done everything you could not to deliver an NDIS. So do not come in here with your faux outrage and pretend that you care, because the evidence shows clearly that you do not. It is—

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McEwen will address his comments through the chair.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am not saying anything about you, Mr Deputy Speaker, because you were here at the time! I am not going to have people come in here and tell absolute untruths and keep sitting there squawking like some weird little parrot about things that are untrue. He did not—

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McEwen will take his seat. The member for Maranoa.

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

That is unparliamentary.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is not unparliamentary. Read the book. Truth is so important in here. That is what fails on the other side. What we have seen is this government not even standing up for their own budget. It is two days old and they cannot even stand up for it. Why can't they? Let's just have a look at some of the measures that have been put into this budget—they are absolutely disgraceful. This lot over here, every single one of them, gets a minimum of a $5,000 tax cut while pensioners receive one payment of $75 because the government are squibbing the winter energy concession. In fact, if you look at their budget papers that they so proudly talk about—but none of them want to talk; none of their economic team are here—pensioners are $366 a year worse off while each one these gets a $5,000 tax cut. So you tell me what is fair in that! What is fair in that? The prince of Point Piper sits there and gets his $8,000 tax cut. He is a multimillionaire, so he really needs that! The price of white truffles has gone up and it is painful for him. What we have seen, when they bring out their economic geniuses, is that this lot—fair dinkum—could not make money selling sausages at Bunnings. They are absolutely hopeless.

Let's go back to the NDIS—Mr Cockatoo over there—and what we see is $2 billion in administration. Why aren't you helping people with that? They will not do it because they know they cannot. It is not in their blood. Their DNA is that they do not want to help everyone. That is why they have increased the Medicare levy for people earning low incomes. Not everyone is like them and can afford truffles every week. The people out there who are trying to scratch a living, trying to stay in front and keep their heads afloat—

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Mate, you are the one who knows the price of truffles.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Oh, please, have a listen! Freedom Boy gets his undies out! He is off! He is out! He is the defender of fairness, our Freedom Boy, until it comes down to what we have seen. This is a government that backed multinationals and millionaires over Australians. That is why in question time they could not answer how much money in taxpayer funds is going overseas to international companies and international investors. Do you know why? Because that is who backs them.

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I back people with disabilities, mate.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Fair dinkum! You couldn't back anything; you're a moron—seriously! Let's be serious: Littleproud by name, Littleproud by nature. This is the intellectual giant of the National Party. It must be embarrassing, just embarrassing, if he is the future. He comes out with the little glasses and the bright skin and the little suit factory—has no idea about the real world. You have never had a bit of dirt under your fingernails in your life. We have the little private school collection come in here and talk about fairness!

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for McEwen will address his speech through the chair or I will sit him down.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Certainly. Unlike the traditional members of the National Party, the new breed come here with no dirt under their fingernails. They have never seen a day's hard work in their life. Their idea of fairness is to make sure they have champagne and red wine on the table when most people are trying to pay the bills and make a living. What we have seen today in this example is not one of the so-called economic teams of this government. If you look across at the frontbench— (Time expired)

4:10 pm

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I must say that it is somewhat hard to rise to the challenge after the somewhat erudite contribution that we heard from the member for McEwen, but I will try, because I have to say that the fairness of this government's budget was seen by all on Tuesday night. It is a budget that will help to grow the economy, secure more and better-paying jobs and guarantee the services that people in my electorate of Robertson, on the Central Coast, will rely on. It is also something that families and businesses in my electorate demand so that our region and the region of the member for Dobell is able to thrive, grow and succeed as it deserves.

Let us talk about what really is unfair. When I first became the member for Robertson, in 2013, people across my electorate had experienced the impact of several unfair Labor budgets and six years of chaos under local Labor members Belinda Neal, Deborah O'Neill and Craig Thomson. It was a government that many opposite were a part of. They were dark, dark days for the Central Coast. As a candidate running for election at the time, I was told by local people all the time how unfair Labor's policies were. They told me that the Labor Party was not providing fairness and opportunity for our region, but they did note the many press releases that had little action and little substance and that left cities like Gosford desperate for the rejuvenation of jobs and infrastructure, jobs and infrastructure that the coalition government is now delivering in spades.

Just how unfair were those Labor budgets and just how fair is this year's budget? Let us start with the National Disability Insurance Scheme, something of which I personally am very supportive. It is estimated that the NDIS will support a better life for almost 2,900 people in the Robertson electorate when it is fully rolled out, and it is already underway, including a local NDIA office in Gosford. Yes, the NDIS was announced by the previous Labor government, but, despite its promises, Labor left a massive annual funding gap of almost $4 billion from 2019 to 2020. How fair is that? It failed to fully fund the NDIS and that, I would say, is desperately unfair.

In contrast, this budget, announced by the Turnbull government, will guarantee that the NDIS is fully funded, by legislating a 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare levy. This will provide certainty for NDIS participants and their families and carers, to ensure their needs will be met. This is absolutely fair. It is the same for another health issue of critical importance in my electorate: the lack of access to GPs, particularly on the peninsula. We were confronted with this crisis left by members opposite when we first came to government, and we acted quickly by securing the additional 26 suburbs across the Central Coast to become a district of workforce shortage, opening up new opportunities for more doctors to get on the front line. Despite six years of talking about health care in my region, the peninsula was let down badly by Labor, so today we announced a vital injection of funding to help the local primary health network engage with local health professionals, recruiters and the community to get more GPs in surgeries on the peninsula as soon as possible, plus a long-term strategy that has never been in place before.

In this year's budget we are also boosting schools funding to record levels; delivering on our local election commitments, such as roads funding and the Gosford regional performing arts centre; backing small business; guaranteeing health funding through the Medicare guarantee fund; and delivering affordable, accessible child care for families with a simplified childcare package.

When the question comes back to my electorate on whether this is a fair budget, can I just say that I think it is only fair that people on the Central Coast be given the same opportunities in employment and education as those elsewhere in Australia. It is this government that has delivered $45 million towards a world-class, new Central Coast Medical School, including an extra $12½ million in this year's budget. This will help to attract and retain world-class health professionals in Gosford and create hundreds of new jobs and new opportunities for our young people and commuters. In contrast, Labor failed the people of the Central Coast in this area, as they did in many other areas. They have been near silent on this issue since the budget, despite the fact that this is such a major investment. So, with this deafening silence from Labor, let me just say that the people of Robertson are speaking up very loudly about the impact of our package to ensure more local jobs, better infrastructure, world-class health care and education for people on the Central Coast.

4:15 pm

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Usually, being the last speaker on an MPI is a pretty hard gig because everyone has already covered everything. But I have to say that if you are talking about fairness in this budget, or the lack thereof, we could be here all afternoon. We could be here day, after day, after day for weeks. I think it is fair—picking up a cue from the member for Fenner—to assess any budget against the challenges that our country faces. So, let's think about a few of them.

Inequality: we live in an Australia where the top one per cent already have 22 per cent of our national wealth. We live in a country where the two richest people have more than the bottom 20 per cent combined. We have a housing crisis, with home ownership at record low levels. We have a productivity and sluggish growth problem. We have employment and wages growth at low, verging on pathetic, levels and we have an infrastructure deficit. This budget fails every test.

Let us have a look at inequality. There are tax cuts for the top—for us, as we have heard—of at least $5,000 for everyone in this chamber, but tax rises for everyone else. There is a tax cut for everyone in this chamber, but university fees are up and repayments are earlier. There is a tax cut for everyone in this chamber, while penalty rates are cut from 1 July—the very same day we get more in our pockets. There is a tax cut for everyone in this chamber, while pensions and family payments are cut. The rich get richer.

I can say one good thing about the 2014 budget: at least it was honest. It did not pretend to be something that it was not. This is a deception. It is sneaky, and it is dishonest. I think the member for Moreton this morning talked about the humble battler millionaire that is the Prime Minister. Only in Turnbull-land could you say that this is fair: 95,000 fewer jobs. At least we will not hear much more about jobs and growth.

If we look infrastructure—and I will take a Victorian lens on this, because it needs to be said: the great state of Victoria is three per cent of our land mass, 25 per cent or more of our economy, 25 per cent of our population, the fastest-growing state and has the fastest-growing capital city of Melbourne. This is a good thing for the economy, but it brings challenges—particularly infrastructure for growth. So, what do we see? Victoria's share of infrastructure funding in the forward estimates is eight cents in every dollar. Eight cents! Nothing has changed. There is this great table in the budget papers that puts out the new spending for Victoria. It goes 00000. I do not even know why they put it in there.

But they have actually achieved an even better feat. They have managed to cut $500 million from zero. We were owed $1.45 billion from the asset recycling, but we are only getting a billion. So, all of those little regional rail lines, many of which I agree are very important projects, are actually been funded by a cut. Work that out. That is almost worth an achievement award. Labor invested $201 per head for every Victorian in infrastructure, but it is $92 under this mob. And, even better, their so-called infrastructure boost is a $1.6 billion cut this financial year, falling off a cliff to $4.2 billion.

I will tell you what else is unfair: this budget sees the start of the privatisation of Centrelink. It may sound extreme, but it is not. We have seen 5,000 jobs cut already under this government. We have seen staff suffering with not one per cent, not one dollar, in a pay rise over years. And 1.2 thousand more jobs have been announced to be cut from Centrelink, plus goodness knows how many from the efficiency dividend. They have quietly slipped in, 'a trial' of outsourcing 250 jobs to a call centre. Do you want to know how much that costs? So do I. It says 'NFP'. That does not mean not for profit; it means not for publication because it is commercial in confidence. So we have a mystery provider that is going to come and take 250 jobs—it could be in the Philippines; who knows where?—dealing with people's most personal, most private information, while they are cutting close to 2,000 more jobs. This is a disgrace. This is on top of the robo-debt, the DSP saga, age pension claims being delayed, and families literally spending hours and days trying to get through. Apparently, poverty is a crime under this government. The drug testing for welfare recipients will be a conversation for another day, but I presume we will also hear more about the drug testing regime that will come in for millionaires claiming outrageous tax deductions. We could talk about housing, but time does not permit. But I do encourage those opposite to listen quietly to Bill Shorten's speech tonight, when you will learn what fairness is really about.

4:20 pm

Photo of Julia BanksJulia Banks (Chisholm, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor do not have the best interests of Australians at heart. They have their own interests. Everything they do or say is designed to get them over to this side of the House. 'Politics before people' is their modus operandi and mantra. Any spirit of bipartisanship is lost on them, particularly on matters where it counts. A constituent of mine in Chisholm recently said to me: 'Julia, no matter the good things that the government does, I am sure I am not the only person in Australia who is sick of the combative response that Labor have to everything. Everyone can work out their response, because it will be negative before they say it themselves.'

The Turnbull government's budget offers fairness, security and opportunity to 24 million Australians, including those Australians who are impacted directly or indirectly by disability. No matter the combative nature of Labor and no matter how people vote, what I know for sure is that the thing I am most proud of about being Australian is that we all help when help is needed. Yesterday, the Treasurer spoke about the heartwarming and emotional story of his brother-in-law Gary—a good, honest, hardworking Australian family man who worked as a fireman and was, sadly, diagnosed with progressive MS. Out of all the speeches, lines and statements that have been made this week in this place, Gary's words, as spoken to the Treasurer, are the most compelling. He said:

It's not flash, being disabled, it's not flash. But if there is anything good about it, it's that you're disabled in Australia.

Australians have big hearts. Crisis, hardship and helping those in need, particularly those who are suffering either directly or indirectly from a health perspective, who have special needs or who are intellectually or physically disabled, are when the true Australian spirit comes to the fore. I saw it for myself only last week with the wonderful people of Burke and Beyond in my electorate in Chisholm. It is one example of where many volunteers provide services to those in need.

The NDIS is totally supported and will be totally funded by this side of the House. But, as with all things under Labor, the ability to pay for things is fictitious or confected. Labor takes its approach of, 'She'll be right on the day,' or whacks something on the national credit card—confected numbers, hoping that the money will appear from somewhere. Despite a lot of promises, the previous Labor government failed to fully fund the NDIS, leaving a substantial annual funding gap of almost $4 billion from 2019 to 2020—a gap that grows each and every year. What does Labor say to all of those people who go to bed at night worried about the future of the NDIS? Labor likes to claim that it clearly identified enough other long-term savings to pay for the NDIS, but how can it make this claim when its actual budget papers did not link any savings to the NDIS and that proposition only appeared in the 2013-14 budget glossy? Importantly, many of the savings Labor supposedly allocated to the NDIS had actually been announced long before and assigned to other purposes, with no mention of the NDIS whatsoever. Savings Labor now claims it made to help fund the NDIS went into consolidated revenue and were never set aside to fund the NDIS. That is the same response it had for the funding gap for the NDIS. Where there was a clear funding gap, Labor in government simply loved to fuel the funding wars rather than come up with practical, real outcomes and solutions. It is politics before the people—'Let's fuel the funding wars.' That is what Labor talks about with the NDIS.

The Turnbull government will guarantee the NDIS is fully funded by legislating an additional 0.5-percentage-point increase in the Medicare levy. This will provide certainty for NDIS participants, their families and their carers that their needs will be met, and ensure that the scheme remains available for all future participants. The additional increase in the levy will apply from 1 July 2019. Importantly, low-income earners will continue to be exempt from the Medicare levy and will not be impacted, so this increase actually represents a little over $1 a day for the average Australian income earner.

Australians help each other. Millions of Australians at some stage of their lives will be affected by disability either directly or indirectly. I am sure that Australians would like the Labor Party on this occasion to put people before politics so that those directly or indirectly affected can be helped and so that the uncertainty surrounding the NDIS can disappear.

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion has concluded.