House debates

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Matters of Public Importance


3:19 pm

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

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

The failure of the Government's Budget to deliver for all Australians.

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

Many people, including, I confess, me, would have expected the government to use this budget as an attempt to distract the Australian people from the six years of cuts and chaos that have been inflicted by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. But, in fact, the government chose to reinforce the cuts and chaos, not to distract from them.

When the Treasurer and I debate each other in a few weeks time, it'll be the third Treasurer I have debated in three elections. I debated Joe Hockey in 2013, I debated the now Prime Minister in 2016 and I'll debate the incumbent in 2019. So I'm used to the instability on the economic team of the other side. But, to give them some credit—

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

How did that go?

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

I don't think I'll ever be debating you, sunshine! But I'll give them some credit: they've been consistent in their cuts, their chaos, their confusion and their inconsistency. This budget says it all, about all those cuts, the chaos and the inconsistency.

In effect, the Prime Minister argued in his defence on the energy supplement imbroglio that we've seen unfurl over the last 24 hours—not even quite the last 24 hours—that the energy supplement is not really part of the budget and that it's something completely separate from the budget. I guess that explains why it was the big budget drop in the newspapers on Sunday, that the centrepiece of the budget was the energy supplement, which the Prime Minister had actually announced, but is now saying, 'Well, actually, it's not really part of the budget.'

This is a Treasurer and a government that never cease to miss an opportunity—and I'll talk more about the energy supplement and their disregard of the Australians who commit no crime other than to earn less than $40,000 a year in a moment. This could have been an opportunity as well to reset the government's economic narrative, at least in a vain, last-minute attempt to try to get the support of the Australian people. They could have reversed their $14 billion worth of cuts to public schools. They could have reversed their cuts to health. They could have reversed their cuts to vocational education and training and they could have mentioned the word 'TAFE' in their budget speech, perhaps, as an important sign to show that they had got the message and that they had learnt the lesson. The funding and allocation that we had for apprentices last night goes nowhere near reversing the cuts that we have seen over the last six years—the $3 billion worth of cuts that we've seen and the 150,000 fewer apprentices who have been employed since the Liberals came to office. So we see more of the same.

We also see more evidence in the budget that the economy is not working for working people. We see confirmation of slowing wages growth, slowing economic growth and slowing consumption growth. Indeed, wages growth is worth some attention, because wages growth is important for the economy. It's anaemic; that's not good for employees and it's not good for our economy.

Of course wages growth is also important in determining how big the budget surplus is. Every single Liberal budget has seen wages growth downgraded. On every single occasion a Liberal Treasurer has risen to deliver a budget they've predicted wages growth and then at the next budget they've had to fess up that they got it wrong. Not once have they delivered. In fact, last night's budget saw wages growth in 2018-19 of 2½ per cent, edging up quite a bit to 2¾ per cent in 2019-20, then shooting up like a magic beanstalk to 3¼ per cent and then 3½ per cent, with no policy basis and no grounds to think that they've got policies to see wages growth. It just simply assumes wages growth gets to 3½ per cent by 2021.

The Treasurer, assuming he'll get wages growth of 3½ per cent by 2021 is a bit like me assuming I might look like Rob Lowe by 2021! I might hope it happens, but I doubt very much it will! And I certainly wouldn't base my policies on the hope that it does happen. You need a bit more than hope when you're writing economic policy.

What we need to do is assume, actually, that the government's lack of action on wages growth will continue to flow through and that we need a government in Australia which actually has a wages policy. The only way we'll get a government with wages policy is to change the government.

But I do want to turn, of course, to the centrepiece of the imbroglio of this budget, which is the energy relief payments. As I said, we had the big Sunday drop into the newspapers that this was the big centrepiece and we had the 7 pm budget delivered. I was told this morning—I got, I confess, a bit of bad intelligence—that there was a crisis meeting at 7 am this morning to fix the mistake. It turns out that it was actually last night!

That's how long the budget lasted. The budget didn't even last till 7 am. They had to have a crisis meeting last night.

Last night, the Treasurer gave one of the longest budget speeches in memory, but his budget actually had one of the shortest shelf lives in memory. The budget speech actually lasted longer than the budget, from the looks of it. Kim Kardashian has had longer marriages than this budget! We see the Treasurer's last roll of the dice—this big attempt to convince the Australian people that they finally get it, and it falls apart.

While those opposite are doing backflips—as they've backflipped on the Newstart payments, under pressure from the member for Barton and the Labor Party—they should also backflip on their insult to Australians who earn less than $40,000. The first backflip is the hardest when it comes to your budget. Once you've done the first one, it's easy after that. While you're on a roll, why don't you backflip on that? The Prime Minister says he's delivering tax cuts double what he promised last year. That is not true if you earn less than $40,000. If you earn, say, $35,000, you get a tax cut of $255 a year—that's $4.90 a week. That's it. That's the best they've got. That's all they can muster for Australians who earn less than $40,000. Again, we're glad that they caught up with our bigger and better tax cuts, but they've got it wrong. They've got it wrong for those Australians. That will need to be remedied, and Labor, of course, will have more to say about how we'll remedy it.

The only good bits about this budget are where those opposite have caught up with the Labor Party. I don't want to pre-empt the member for Grayndler's contribution, but another area where those opposite are trying to catch up is infrastructure. I'm a bit concerned about security in the member for Grayndler's office! I think they've got his diary! They've been through the member for Grayndler's diary for the last 12 months and found all the projects that he's announced that a Labor government will build, and they've photocopied them and put them in the budget. They've photocopied the member for Grayndler's diary and they've made it the budget! The one area where they did show a bit of creativity, the Geelong fast rail, is pretty slow. I was in Geelong with the member for Corio and the Labor candidate for Corangamite on the day it was announced. We said, 'Where's the money? When will it be built? What day?' We now know the answer: the 25th of never. There's not a dollar in the budget—not one dollar in the forward estimates. We were asked whether we would match the funding. I don't think we will match the funding; I don't think we will match zero. I think we could do a bit better than that, in cooperation with the Victorian state government. The great Corangamite con is what the Geelong fast rail is.

Australians really do deserve better than this. They deserve a better government than this. They deserve a better budget than this. The government are trying desperately to catch up with Labor and are botching it as they do. They can't even copy Labor efficiently or effectively. They are a government that have given up. This is a budget document of a government that have simply given up on governing. They simply have no agenda, no vision, no economic plans for the country, no funding for key projects, and they just don't get it when it comes to those Australians who are doing it tough. They just don't understand the pressures that go with very low wages growth along with high costs of living. That's why the government are so broadly seen as being out of touch and also broadly seen as being out of time. I was drawn to a statement today by respected journalist Laura Tingle, who said:

A tumultuous six years of declared debt and deficit crises, culture wars and internal warfare, the Coalition's sixth Budget seems to reflect a government that has collapsed, exhausted, in on itself.

Well said!

We want a government—Australia needs a government—that actually has vision, hope and plans for the future, and knows how to implement them. We need a government with the courage to lay out its plans before the Australian people. We didn't see any of that last night, and we're not going to see any of that over the next six weeks. We'll see that if a Shorten Labor government is elected. If a Shorten Labor government is elected on 11 May, then we can get on with the job of delivering those plans for the Australian people. If the Prime Minister is so happy to have that election, when he goes to see the Governor-General we'll be ready for an economic debate—an economic debate about a plan which is better than the nonsense that we saw last night. (Time expired)

3:29 pm

Photo of Stuart RobertStuart Robert (Fadden, Liberal Party, Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The shadow Treasurer and I agree on one thing—that the nation deserves better than the rabble we see opposite and the nonsense that we have just heard espoused from the opposition benches. You know what? I'd rather those opposite just came in and said, 'Thank you for cleaning up the horrendous mess that we left and for cleaning up the four highest-deficit budgets in our nation's history.' We'd all just rather they came in and said thank you, because, as the Treasurer announced last night, the budget is back in black and Australia is back on track.

For the first time in 12 years, the budget will be in surplus, a surplus that has not been seen by those opposite for 30 years, because they haven't been able to deliver one at all. This is not some wafer-thin surplus. This is not 'the four surpluses I announce tonight' from the member for Lilley. This is a $7.1 billion surplus, rising substantially over the forwards to $45 billion. In fact it's a $55 billion turnaround from the deficit we inherited from Labor six years ago. I'd rather those opposite just said thank you. But the problem is that they can't bring themselves to come in and say: 'Thank you for actually getting the nation's finances together. Thank you for keeping the growth of government expenditure to the lowest levels in 50 years. Thank you for turning around the deficits we left with a $55 billion turnaround to deliver a $7.1 billion surplus.' The problem is: those key numbers are nowhere to be heard on the opposition benches, because those opposite are embarrassed by their complete inability to deliver that sort of economic activity and they are doing everything they can to ensure the nation doesn't remember what the economy looked like last time they were in power.

Whilst any job is never done, the progress that this government has made is extraordinary. We are in a significantly better position on almost any measurement than when we came into office in 2013. Growth is higher. Unemployment is lower. There is a record number of Australians in jobs. Fewer people are on welfare—in fact, the lowest level in 30 years. And, of course, the budget is immeasurably stronger. So this election, which will be called, as the Prime Minister said, sometime in May, will be a choice between a government that is delivering a strong economy and a Labor opposition that will preside over a weaker economy. It's a choice between this government, which is fixing the budget, and a Labor Party that can't manage a budget. History has shown that Labor has not delivered a surplus in 30 years. This election is a choice between a government that is lowering taxes and a Labor-proposed government that wants $200 billion in higher taxes.

The budget clearly shows the next stage of our economic plan. It's about building a stronger economy and securing a better future, not just balancing the books, creating more jobs, delivering lower taxes and guaranteeing essential services like schools, hospitals, roads and higher funding across all of those areas of expenditure. The economy will always be stronger under a coalition government, which allows families to get ahead.

The budget surplus, of course, is $7.1 billion. In 2021 it will be a surplus of $11 billion, rising to $17.8 billion and $9.2 billion when the full effect of the tax cuts comes in. Of course, $158 billion of additional tax relief has been announced for hardworking Australians—more than a doubling of the low- and middle-income tax offset from 2018-19. Taxpayers earning from $48,000 to $90,000 will have a maximum of $1,080 in real cash in their pockets. A couple, of course, will receive double that. More than 10 million taxpayers will benefit, with 4.5 million receiving the full amount. The relief will flow quickly and be available to Australians after tax returns for the 2018-19 year are submitted, in just 13 weeks time. These are substantial tax cuts that people can see, feel, take and spend in simply 13 weeks time.

We'll also be delivering long-term structural reform by lowering the 32.5 per cent tax rate to 30 per cent from 1 July 2024. This will cover all taxpayers earning between $45,000 and $200,000 and will mean that 94 per cent of taxpayers will pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar. It allows Australians to be aspirational, to seek to work hard, and to earn more for their family's budget. The instant asset write-off has been increased and expanded from $25,000 to $30,000 and can be used every time an asset under that amount is purchased. Of course, the capacity of businesses has also been expanded, up to $50 million, covering an additional 22,000 businesses employing 1.7 million Australians. Already 350,000 businesses have taken up the instant asset write-off, which just goes to show how effective that is.

But this government, of course, is not just delivering on our tax relief, our lower tax and our tax reform agenda. There is also enormous commitment to congestion-busting infrastructure. Our record infrastructure has now got higher, with an investment $100 billion, of which the congestion busting has gone from $1 billion to $4 billion—an extraordinary focus and investment of this government into rail, both regional and urban, roads and other areas of infrastructure.

On vocational education and skills, we're about ensuring that all Australians have access to the skills they need. An investment of $525 million will develop a world-class vocational education and training sector, equipping Australians with the skills they need and creating up to 80,000 additional apprentices over five years for a whole raft of occupations that Australia needs. We'll invest in a National Careers Institute and a National Careers Ambassador. There'll be $50 million to establish 10 industry-training hubs. This is a budget that is delivering for modern Australia.

And we're doing more in health and aged care. The budget continues to guarantee Medicare despite the complete and utter lack of truth from those opposite. A range of life-saving medicines and services will be more accessible and affordable. As the Treasurer has said, since this government has been in power, over 2,000 life-saving medicines have been added to the PBS. In the last dying vestiges of those opposite when they were in government, they ceased all PBS listing. If there was ever a show between those opposite and this government, it is that this government has put over 2,000 new medicines on the PBS and those opposite had ceased doing that at the end of their term. There is $40 billion for the provision of life-saving and life-changing medicines in the forward estimates and $5 billion for a 10-year Medical Research Future Fund investment plan. There is $736 million for mental health, including youth suicide prevention, which, it is pleasing to see, has bipartisan support across the House. Australia should be rightly proud of that. There is $1 billion for Indigenous health and $1 billion for child dental services.

What this coalition government continues to deliver represents a strong dividend from economic management. This is what you get when the economy is in surplus, when the payment systems of the government are under control of the government. And it keeps moving forward. Our population plan will see the easing of pressure on big capitals while supporting the growth of the smaller cities and the regions. We'll continue to deliver and build on our record investment in infrastructure right across the country, including rurally. We'll reduce the cap on our migration program and plan for a more evenly distributed population growth. That's what this government is seeking to do. That is the dividend of a strong, sensible, seasoned budget and a budget that is believable. This is a budget that builds on the last five budgets the coalition has put forward— all of them with believable numbers, all of them with believable forecasts and all of them where numbers have been hit. Indeed, the shadow Treasurer and I can agree on one thing: this country deserves better than the words and hollow promises from those opposite. It deserves a government that says what it means and means what it says and delivers every time.

3:39 pm

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Special Minister of State (House)) Share this | | Hansard source

If you want more evidence of the dumpster fire of chaos, confusion, dysfunction and incompetence in the Morrison government, look no further than the fact that the final Expenditure Review Committee meeting to finalise the budget occurred four hours after the budget was handed down—not four days, not four weeks before the budget was handed down, but four hours after the budget was handed down.

If you strip away all of last night's self-congratulation, all of the boring speeches, the forced smiles, the fake applause and the awkward hugs—if you strip all of that away—for those opposite, the budget was fundamentally only about one thing. It was about hoping that Australians will forget about six years of cuts and chaos which have delivered nothing but a floundering economy and a divided society. Those opposite spent all of their time trying to work out how they can make Australians forget the cuts to hospitals, schools, unis, TAFEs, pensions and penalty rates; trying to work out how to make Australians forget the stagnant wages, the insecure work, the slowing growth, the slowing consumption and the low household saving; and trying to make Australians forget the fact that net debt has more than doubled on their watch. It was a 'budget emergency' at $175 billion; it's now $373 billion of net debt. Since the Prime Minister has become the Prime Minister, they've racked up debt at a rate of $100 million every single day that the Prime Minister has been in office.

When Australians watched desperately last night for a government that had listened to them and had learned from their anxieties, when they wanted the government to change course, they instead got more of the same. There was nothing to deal with wages, insecure work, energy costs or climate change—all of the things that they deeply, deeply care about in the communities that we represent. Last night's budget and the anxiety that people feel in the community were like two ships passing in the night. After six long years of these characters opposite, I think Australians are sick and tired of the most vulnerable people in our country carrying the can for the failures of those opposite and the sick ideology which poisons their policy.

We saw it again last night in the budget in at least three different areas. There was the fact that, when they were handing out tens of billions of dollars in tax cuts, if you earn less than $40,000 in this country, you don't get a look in. That says it all about their sick ideology. There was the fact that they didn't make room for Newstart recipients in their energy payment until it was clear that we were going to win the vote on the floor of this parliament. Then, all of a sudden, they convened a meeting and did the right thing at last—and we hear the pathetic excuses for that backflip from this pathetic excuse of a Prime Minister. The third bit of sick ideology in the budget last night was the fact they are propping up their surpluses by making Australians with a disability wait longer for the services that they were promised. What makes that worse is when the Prime Minister and the Treasurer jump up and say, 'That's because there is a lack of demand for the NDIS.' If those characters were in touch, as this side of the House is in touch, with the needs of people with a disability, they would know that the demand is there. The budget last night failed the fairness test and failed the economic test as well.

As much as those opposite like to talk about Labor and pretend that we're in charge, this is the sixth budget now and the verdict is in: trickle-down economics has failed here, as it has failed everywhere else. The evidence is there in the government's own numbers. The evidence for their economic failures is right there in the numbers, in the downgraded growth, the downgraded wages and the downgraded consumption numbers. Those opposite might want to pretend otherwise, but the truth is that whoever wins office next month will inherit a budget with slowing growth, slowing wages, slowing consumption and a budget in deficit. Whoever wins the May election will inherit a budget in deficit.

Australians aren't stupid. When the Prime Minister scampers off to the Governor-General, whether it is Friday or Sunday or some other day, they know that the budget that was handed down last night was all about the interests of the Prime Minister—the political, narrow, cynical interests of the Prime Minister—and not about their interests. And they know something else as well. They now that, if working people and pensioners in this country want to be front and centre again in the considerations of this place—if they want to be front and centre as budgets are put together and debated here; if they want to be front and centre every single day and not just when an election is six weeks away—the only way to ensure that is to vote for a Shorten Labor government.

3:44 pm

Photo of Sarah HendersonSarah Henderson (Corangamite, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

A budget returning to surplus. Personal income tax cuts. Record jobs growth. Stronger support for small business. Record investment in schools and health services. Record investment in infrastructure. And, of course, the big news is that the budget is returning to black, reversing the economic destruction we saw from Labor over so many years. This is an economic plan underpinned by our government's determination to build a stronger economy, in stark contrast to Labor's plan to weaken our economy and hit Australians with more than $200 billion in taxes—taxes on housing, electricity, investment, retirees and older Australians.

The 2019-20 budget is back in the black, with a budget surplus of $7.1 billion. There will be tax cuts—another $158 billion in income tax relief—for hardworking Australians. This means immediate tax relief of up to $2,160 for a dual-income couple to ease cost-of-living pressures. We're backing small business, with the instant asset write-off increasing to $30,000 and its threshold for eligible businesses increasing to a turnover of up to $50 million. There will be record health spending of $81 billion in the next financial year. That means that we'll be able to deliver very important investments, including, in the Corangamite electorate, a new paediatric emergency department in Geelong, $50 million for a new women's and children's hospital facility, and a new health and wellbeing hub for Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula, which will include a new headspace. There will be a record $292 billion for schools over 10 years. There will be record infrastructure. That means there will be $2.7 billion in this budget for Geelong fast rail, which will cut the travel time to Melbourne to 32 minutes. This figure includes $700 million more to duplicate the rail line between Geelong and Waurn Ponds, which will include the upgrade of stations at Marshall, Waurn Ponds and South Geelong. This is absolutely game-changing investment for our region.

In contrast, over four years, state Labor committed only $10 million to the Geelong rail duplication, and we now have seen dissension from those opposite. In a flurry, the member for McMahon says, 'Yes, no problems. We'll find the $2 billion.' Then, of course, we see from the Leader of the Opposition that there is no commitment to fast rail between Geelong and Melbourne. What's even worse than that is that there is no commitment to fixing the Regional Rail Link, which is what this is all about. Labor designed, planned and built the Regional Rail Link. Our services now run slower than they did many years ago. What's also regrettable is that we are being treated as second-class citizens. Labor's had a long time to fix the Regional Rail Link. Our investment in fast rail will mean an upgraded track between Geelong and Wyndham Vale. It will mean a second lot of tracks between Wyndham Vale and Sunshine. Then the next section between Sunshine and Southern Cross station is being funded under the Melbourne Airport Rail Link program. We have seen an appalling failure from the Labor Party to address these really significant regional rail infrastructure issues in our region and across Victoria. If you have a look at the $1.75 billion Regional Rail Revival program, all but $150 million is coming from the Commonwealth.

As I say, this is a budget which delivers for regional Victorians, whether it's major roads, major rail, health, schools or, of course, growing jobs. We are seeing a lowering of the unemployment rate in our region and across Australia, underpinned by our determination to build a strong economy, and you need a strong budget to build a strong economy. I'm incredibly proud that that's what we have delivered. Australians are sick of all the politicking and the rubbish. They want to see action, and in this budget they have seen a government which is turning this nation's finances around, delivering record jobs growth and responsible economic management for all Australians.

3:49 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Tourism) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, you've got to give the member for Corangamite credit for bravery, in being prepared to defend a government that last year delivered 7.7 per cent of the national infrastructure budget to Victoria—7.7 per cent to Australia's fastest-growing state and home to one in four Australians. Australia's fastest-growing city, in Melbourne, has been completely dudded. And Geelong, of course, has been dudded.

It took the Labor Party to build Regional Rail Link. The member for Corangamite used to try and take credit for it. But they opposed it in the House. They opposed the economic stimulus plan. But they were happy to be there at the ribbon-cutting—just like they were happy to be there at the ribbon-cutting for the Redcliffe rail link and Perth's City Link and to claim Noarlunga to Seaford. It's just like Gold Coast Light Rail: they went to demos against it! They weren't just voting against it; they were campaigning against it. Now they just absolutely love it!

The fact is that this budget is big on rhetoric but bad once again on substance. Firstly, they've gone through a whole range of Labor's policies and adopted them: Adelaide's South Road; Perth's Metronet; the Rockhampton and Mackay ring roads; Melbourne's south-eastern suburban roads package; Western Sydney rail. Imitation is the finest form of flattery, I know, but this has reached absurd proportions.

But it's even worse because, in some cases, what they've done is take projects that were cut by the incoming Abbott government, that were fully funded—like the Gladstone Port Access Road and Tasmanian rail freight revitalisation—and cut them; six years later, they've put money back and pretended it's new! And they want people to say thank you.

When you look at traffic congestion, they've got this urban congestion fund. But they believe that there's only urban congestion in coalition marginal seats! I mean, in South Australia, there are 18 road projects; 17 of them are in coalition seats. There are eight projects in Adelaide; seven of them are in the two electorates they hold in Adelaide, Sturt and Boothby—seven out of the eight. So it would appear that urban congestion only occurs in marginal seats where they're under threat!

Have a look at it around the board. For the ACT, there's nothing for the next two years—not a single dollar. For New South Wales, they say, there's $6.1 billion; have a look at what's in the forwards—$241 million of that. That's four per cent—$4 in every $100. For the Northern Territory, they promised extra funding—$622 million. What's in there? It's a bit better—nine per cent, or $60 million. For Queensland, it's $2.6 billion, but not a dollar in 2019-20—$313 million of the $2.6 billion over the next four years. So elect them and whoever the leader is next time around if they get re-elected, then elect them again, and you might get some money flowing. For Tasmania, there's not a dollar in '19-20, not a dollar in '20-21—$68 million over the next four years. Western Australia is pretty good. It's promised extra funding—$1.6 billion. It sounds good, except when you look at the detail: $17.5 million next financial year; $60 million the following financial years. That's it.

And Victoria they've finally realised exists! But the suburban roads package of course they've copied. The suburban rail loop they've ignored, though it's actually critical for Regional Rail Link, linking up the 11 tracks, making an enormous difference through Sunshine, and it's critical for the Airport Rail Link to work. But when you look at Budget Paper No. 2, and you look for the Geelong to Melbourne fast rail, they say they'll offer $2 billion for a project they have no idea of the cost of because there's no business case and no plan; they didn't talk to the Victorian state government before they announced it. Zero. Zero. Zero. Zero. This is a fail from a government that doesn't get that infrastructure requires proper planning and a fair dinkum government.

3:54 pm

Photo of John AlexanderJohn Alexander (Bennelong, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you to those opposite for seeking to talk about the budget. It's an excellent budget. Those on this side of the House are happy to talk about it as much as possible, so we thank you very much for giving us this opportunity. We're happy with it for a number of reasons. It spends billions of dollars on infrastructure we all need, it lowers taxes for individuals and businesses and, uniquely for a budget in the last decade, it delivers a surplus. After more than a decade of deficits, this budget forecasts a surplus of $7.1 billion in 2019-20. It is a $55.5 billion turnaround from the deficit we inherited some six years ago.

We've only got a surplus because we've put in the hard yards to make our economy strong. As the Prime Minister says, the great thing about a surplus is that it means you can spend money on things, and we've got a lot of things to spend money on. We will deliver record infrastructure investment of over $100 billion over the next decade, busting congestion and getting families home sooner and safer, while investing in our future economic growth. This includes $2 billion to help drive and deliver fast rail from Geelong to Melbourne; an increase of $3 billion for the Urban Congestion Fund, taking it to $4 billion; $2.2 billion for road safety packages; and an additional $1 billion for the next phase of the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative. Congestion is the biggest issue in Bennelong, and this funding will help everyone in my electorate.

Our economic plan delivers record health funding to guarantee Medicare, fund even more hospital services and provide greater access to more affordable medicines. The GP bulk-billing rate in Bennelong is 89 per cent. Last year, over 934,000 GP visits were bulk-billed in Bennelong, 182,021 more than Labor's last year in government, in 2012-13. In this budget, the government is increasing total health funding from $81.8 billion in 2019-20 to $89.5 billion in 2023, up from $64 billion in 2013-14. We've listed thousands of drugs on the PBS, keeping Australians healthy and supporting the pharmaceutical industry, with its biggest employer in my electorate.

We will deliver record funding for schools and new measures to equip Australians with the skills they need. Recurrent funding for schools will reach a record $19.9 billion in 2019, with average Commonwealth funding per student having increased from $3,755 in 2014 to $5,097 in 2019. Funding for all 28 public schools in Bennelong is increasing by around 52 per cent per student over the decade to 2029. There are 6,822 local families in Bennelong benefiting from the new childcare package.

But we haven't just used the money from our strong economy for spending; we've also used it to save people money and put more money in Australians' pockets. While the budget forecasts a surplus, it also delivers an additional $158 billion in income tax relief for hardworking Australians on top of the $144 billion in tax cuts locked into legislation last year. The government will provide additional tax relief to hardworking Australians by more than doubling the low- and middle-income tax offset. Low- and middle-income earners will receive tax relief of up to $1,080 to support consumption growth and ease cost-of-living pressures. That's up to $2,160—

Dr Chalmers interjecting

Mr Albanese interjecting

I'll come to that in a minute. You remind me of a couple of retired tennis players looking at Roger Federer, reckoning you used to play better, and when you get back on the field you will. But you didn't and you won't. That's a little juice for you. Taxpayers will be able to access the offset after they lodge their end-of-the-tax-year return from 1 July 2019, which is in just 13 weeks time. In only 13 weeks time, Australians will be better off. After the next election, when we're returned to power— (Time expired)

4:00 pm

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

This is a budget that hopes, when it comes to health, that the entire nation has some form of collective amnesia—that they forget what this Liberal-National Party government tried to do to health in the 2014 budget and the budgets afterwards. Every single time this government talks about health, we'll be reminding people about what they have done. They tried to introduce a GP tax—a tax that was basically premised on wanting fewer people to see the GP when they were sick. They then introduced it by stealth by freezing the Medicare Benefits Schedule for six long years, which has caused untold damage across the entire health system. People are now paying more out of their pockets to go and see a GP or a specialist in this country than ever before. That is the legacy of this Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. You now pay more out of your own pocket for your health care when you go to see a GP or a doctor because of the decisions that this government has made.

The other test that we set for this government was to in fact finally, once and for all, reverse its cuts to hospitals. It was their last chance, in the dying days of this government, to finally admit that they got it wrong on public hospitals. We saw in every single budget that the former Treasurer Scott Morrison, now our Prime Minister, handed down that he cut funding from public hospitals and funding from health. In his first—and hopefully only—budget as Prime Minister, he's locked in these cuts. There is a $715 million cut under the current funding agreement with the states, and if he is re-elected then billions more will be cut from public hospitals over the next five years. He is completely out of touch and he only cares about his big business mates. He doesn't care about our public hospital system.

He doesn't understand that his health cuts are hurting patients today. It means that people spend longer in emergency departments waiting for care for themselves or for their loved ones; it means people spend longer languishing on elective surgery waiting lists, often in debilitating pain or unable to work; or it means people are forced to travel far from home, leaving their loved ones and their support network, to get to a hospital that can provide the care that they need. It means that doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are expected to do more and more with less and less. That, in turn, compromises the quality and safety of the care that Australian people should be able to expect.

Right now, our hospital funding is barely matching population growth. It is not keeping pace with the needs of an ageing population or our growing chronic disease burden. It is why Labor knew, when we were in government, that the Commonwealth had to step up and do more. And step up we did, only to have billions of dollars ripped out of public hospitals by this government in 2014 and every single budget since, including this one. Yet there was not, as we know, an extra cent for public hospital funding to match Labor's commitments.

Bill Shorten and Labor, by stark contrast, will deliver a fair go for our public hospitals and the people across Australia who use them. We're reversing these cuts by making massive new investments with our $2.8 billion better hospitals fund. This was too little, too late—a health budget full of reheated announcements that don't even come close to making up for six years of Liberal cuts and chaos. We'll always welcome new investments in general practice, but this budget doesn't even come close to the $3 billion that this government cut out of the patient rebate, our Medicare system. It is a freeze that the Liberals first imposed in 2014, and now they're saying—just some six weeks before the election—that they might need to lift it. Australians will see this for exactly what it is; it is a cynical con job, a political tactic, not a genuine commitment to Medicare or our healthcare system. The rest of the budget, when it comes to health, is full of reheated announcements. There's very little new money and certainly no strategy, innovation or vision. In a few weeks time we'll see this government for what it really is, a government that cuts Medicare, and we'll see Labor for what it is, a government that invests in Medicare.

4:05 pm

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm very pleased to follow the contribution by the previous speaker, the member for Ballarat, but we should talk about some facts, and the facts are pretty straightforward. I'm very pleased that the member for Grayndler is still here because we're going to explain once again why it is that some of these funds are not being delivered in Queensland. It's because of the Queensland Labor government and the true Premier, which is Jackie Trad. She is the true Premier of Queensland, and they are stopping everything. In the Wide Bay area, funding for hospitals since we have been in government, in terms of federal contributions, is up 37 per cent. I'm sure this is no surprise to you, Mr Deputy Speaker Hogan. The only reduction has come from the Queensland Labor government, which cut some $16 million from our region, from our hospitals, for those public services. I think that is an absolute outrage. So the Queensland Labor government are reducing funding to hospitals. We are driving up hospital funding for public hospitals in Queensland.

To the member for Grayndler, who is still here, which I think is fantastic: Premier Trad simply won't sign up. She will not sign up to the funds under intergovernmental agreements which are already in place. Currently, they have not signed the intergovernmental agreement on inland rail. They're not signing on for massive road funding right across the state. They won't sign the National Health Agreement which would provide $8 billion of additional funding for Queensland. They wouldn't sign up to the skilling solutions fund—some $240 million just for Queensland for some 50,000 apprentices. So for them to sit opposite and say we are not delivering is an outrage.

The Queensland Labor government simply won't play ball and I'm concerned it is for purely political reasons. In my own electorate, the Hinkler regional deal is one of only a few regions right around Australia where we are ready to go. There is agreement between the bureaucrats and between all levels of government. It was scheduled for a federal cabinet minister to be in town to sign on a particular day. The mayor was set up. Less than 24 hours out, the Queensland government changed their minds on the basis that they wanted to expand it to five regional council areas. I don't think anyone who is listening to this broadcast would consider that that is reasonable in any way, shape or form. So the Queensland government are playing games for political purposes, and I think the people who are missing out are the people of Queensland and the people of Australia.

But a quick history lesson, Mr Deputy Speaker. I'm going to play a game of 'guess the year'. Allan Border was the Australian cricket captain and we won the Ashes 4-0 in England. It was a fantastic result for the Australian cricket team. Madonna was top of the pops with 'Like a Prayer'—and The Bangles with 'Eternal Flame'. There have been a lot of people born since then who are currently voters in Australia. I'm not sure if you know what year it is, Mr Deputy Speaker. We might get a guess from some of my colleagues.

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We have a winner in the member for Bonner. It was 1989. What else happened in 1989? Bob Hawke was the Prime Minister. It was the last time a federal Labor government delivered a budget surplus. Can you imagine how many voters have been born since 1989 who can vote at the next election who have never seen federal Labor deliver a budget surplus at the federal level? Last night, the Treasurer of Australia, Josh Frydenberg, delivered a surplus for Australia and its people. It's the first surplus budget since 2007. It demonstrates how strong the economy is. It demonstrates what we are doing to drive jobs, particularly into the regions. We've delivered over a million jobs—as we said we would. So this side of the House is delivering for the Australian people. We are building on a stronger economy, particularly in the regions.

Inside the budget, we have opportunities for those in my electorate. There are 12,182 small and medium sized businesses in Hinkler which will benefit from the government's instant asset write-off, which we've increased to $30,000. As one of those on this side who have run a small business, I know that that helps you with cash flow. It gives you the capacity to buy these items and write them off in the first year. That means a stronger bottom line and more confidence. More confidence in small business means more employment—and that's what we're all about.

We've dropped the unemployment rate across the country in the time we've been in government. We're back in the black in terms of the budget last night. Those opposite will destroy the economy with a $200 billion tax hammer that will destroy all of the work that we've done to turn around their terrible economic management when they were in government. There is an opportunity for the Australian people. It is coming up. It'll be a stark choice between us and them. I say vote for the Liberal-National Party.

4:10 pm

Photo of Linda BurneyLinda Burney (Barton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Preventing Family Violence) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise as the final speaker for the Labor Party in this matter of public importance debate. My colleagues who have spoken previously have demonstrated what this budget actually stands for. We have highlighted its inadequacy, we've highlighted its unfairness and we've highlighted the fact that it is a lot of smoke and mirrors.

I have spoken today on a number of occasions about this budget, particularly as it relates to the energy assistance that's supposedly provided, but let me start by saying that age pensions are at the heart of what we're really talking about here. For many years, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, we saw that the Turnbull-Morrison-Abbott government attempted time and time again to undermine age pensioners, in concessions, in reducing the amount and trying to do away with the energy supplement and also advocating that the pension age should rise to 70.

I'm glad that we have in the House today the shadow minister who is responsible for the issues around Centrelink. We have seen 2,500 jobs cut from Centrelink and, in the budget last night, another 200. This is at a time when it's virtually impossible to get any service from Centrelink, particularly in terms of wait times, especially for age pensioners making an application for an age pension. We've also seen the robo-debt debacle, and we are afraid that one of the savings measures in the budget could in fact turbocharge that robo-debt debacle.

But the real issue, apart from everything that has been raised today, is what has happened over the last 24 years in terms of the energy assistance payment. In the budget last night it was announced as it applied to some people who are in receipt of benefits, but amazingly it left out most. Significantly, it did not cover people who are on Newstart. Last night the Treasurer said they weren't going to be included and then, this morning, he said they would be included. At the National Press Club in the middle of the day we saw a stunning admission from the Treasurer who said: 'So we excluded Newstart originally from it last night. The Prime Minister, the finance minister and I discussed the issue and we thought it was appropriate to extend it.' I note that the Minister for Social Services was not part of that discussion. Is this an admission of callous incompetence? Who will ever know?

The National Disability Insurance Scheme, as I outlined this morning in the House, is $1.6 billion of the predicted surplus. I remind everyone that the predicted surplus is built on the back of people with disability. The NDIS rollout under this government has been a debacle—five ministers in five years and 77,000 people missing out on the NDIS in this year alone. I've just had the member who represents the Blue Mountains talking to me about the issues in her electorate. Everyone in this House knows that people with disability and their families are incredibly distressed. Some of the cruelty, callousness and chaos of this government have shaken me and my colleagues to the core. Those opposite have made me ask some serious questions about the responsibility we have to each other.

Labor will work to ensure that income support is accessible as and when Australians need it. Labor will work to get the NDIS back on track and deliver on its promise to people with disability. We will review the adequacy of Newstart. Labor believes in a social security system that ensures that all Australians get a fair go when they need it most. Labor believes that we are all in this together and that we all have a collective responsibility towards each other, and Australians can count on this from a Shorten Labor government. My colleagues have demonstrated in this debate just how inadequate, how shambolic and how callous this budget is. The Australian people will not be fooled—they will not be fooled by cash handouts; they will not be fooled in relation to the so-called tax debate that's going on in relation to this budget. A Shorten Labor government will deliver equity and fairness to all.

4:15 pm

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm not sure what budget the members of the opposition were listening to last night, but it clearly wasn't the one the coalition delivered. The constituents that I've spoken to in Bonner today are pleased that the coalition has delivered a strong budget with no taxes that will take away their hard-earned cash. We all know Labor can't handle money. That's why they come after yours. The constituents of Bonner can rest easy knowing the coalition is delivering for them. More than 71,000 constituents in Bonner will benefit from the tax relief in the 2018-19 budget, thanks to the coalition's Personal Income Tax Plan, and almost 30,000 of those people will receive the full tax offset of $1,080, which will go back into their own pockets. These are the largest personal income tax cuts since the Howard government. For a family in Bonner, this money will mean more fuel and more food on the table. For one local dad, Jake Smith, it will mean more quality time, doing the things that he, his wife and their two daughters love doing together—like going to the movies or being able to drive to the beach for the day.

Since we came into government, we also have increased funding to all hospitals in Queensland by 84 per cent, and the GP bulk-billing rate in Bonner is now 79 per cent. Last year, over 739,353 GP visits were bulk-billed in Bonner—179,000 more than in Labor's last year in government.

Thanks to the coalition, 17,564 small and medium businesses in Bonner will benefit from our tax relief measures. More than 17,000 small and medium businesses will also benefit from the coalition's extension of the instant asset write-off scheme, enabling them to invest in machinery and equipment up to the value of $30,000. Investing in business is investing in jobs. When the coalition assumed its rightful place in 2013, the unemployment rate in Bonner was 5.2 per cent. It's now 4.7 per cent. Nationally, there are fewer people on welfare. We're working hard for the hardworking people in Bonner.

A strong economy means that the coalition is able to deliver and invest in vital infrastructure that communities like mine in Bonner desperately need. As many locals already know, there's not a week that goes by when I'm not speaking to people at the Manly markets down on Edith Street, Wynnum, or visiting the Lindum station crossing and witnessing firsthand the horrors of this intersection. I've collected more than 7,000 signatures to fix Lindum. I've hosted ministers, senators and locals at the intersection, calling for a fix, and I've been working hard with the Minister for Cities, Urban Infrastructure and Population, the Hon. Alan Tudge, to secure funding for this crossing. Now, thanks to the Morrison government's strong economic management, the community's full support and my strong advocacy, we've done it. In last night's budget it was announced that the coalition government will contribute $85 million to fix Lindum crossing in Wynnum West. This is not an election promise; this is money in the bank.

Not only have I been able to fight for this funding in Bonner; I've also been able to secure $12 million to fix the Newnham Road and Wecker Road intersection at Mount Gravatt and also $6 million to fix the intersection at Rickertt Road and Chelsea Road. The coalition, in our recent budget, have delivered for all Australians, especially the families in my electorate of Bonner. We're able to do it not by putting our hands in the pockets of hardworking Australians. Just remember, Labor is the bill that you and your family cannot afford.

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion has concluded.