House debates

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Matters of Public Importance


3:28 pm

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

I have received letters from the honourable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Goldstein proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by standing order 46, I have selected the matter which, in my opinion, is the most urgent and important, and that is that proposed by the honourable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, namely:

The Government's failure to provide a plan for Australia's future.

I therefore 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—

3:29 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3:39 pm

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on today's MPI. When the Prime Minister answered his last questions in question time, he talked about when the Liberals and Nationals came to government in 2013. We said we'd stop the boats, we'd get rid of the carbon tax, we'd spend on infrastructure that would drive the Australian economy, and we would also bring the budget back to surplus, which we have done.

I want to briefly touch on and acknowledge the Leader of the House's time in parliament. One of the first things that happened to me when I arrived in parliament in 2007 with some of my colleagues, who I see are still stubbornly here—

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

We certainly are!

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

On a percentage ratio, we've got more of us here. Anyway, what I'd like to say about Mr Pyne is that he gave me some great advice when I first arrived and at times during the course of my parliamentary life. He's also given me other titbits that have been helpful, as I am sure he has given many people in the Liberal-National coalition. Hats off to him, and I wish him all the best in his future.

The coalition does have a plan. It's right there for everyone to see. It's a public document. Everyone knows about it. We have a plan. Australia is one of the best countries in the world to live, work and raise a family. The Prime Minister is right: in Australia, if you have a go, you'll get a go under a Liberal-National government. The Morrison government is working to keep our economy strong, keep Australians safe and keep Australians together without increasing taxes. We have a plan for Australia—one that will build a stronger economy and ensure we continue delivering for Australia. Those opposite might not have learnt to read our budget, as we saw in question time following the budget, but our plan was shown in our budget. It's a surplus budget with heavy investment in ensuring that Australians are safe, that our economy remains strong and that we continue to build in Australia.

Our plan for a stronger economy includes tax relief to encourage and reward working Australians. People deserve to keep in their pockets more of the money that they earn. In my electorate of Swan, our plan to lower taxation will benefit more than 75,000 people, thanks to the tax relief we have legislated. Our plan for lower taxes for working Australians will benefit over 10 million Australians, with more than 4.5 million individuals estimated to receive the maximum benefit for the 2018-19 income year. Our little book that we've got here talks about Labor's tax bill. I'll just quote to you from it.

Ms Collins interjecting

I can hear the member for Franklin dying to hear what we've got to say about their taxes.

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

No, we're not.

Photo of Amanda RishworthAmanda Rishworth (Kingston, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

Clip art!

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, well done! Labor wants higher income tax. Once our full plan comes to effect, 94 per cent of taxpayers will pay no more than 30c in the dollar. Income taxes under Labor would be higher. Labor has said it would cut our legislated tax relief in half, increasing income taxes by $70 million. Further, in the 2018-19 budget, we have announced $158 million of additional personal income tax relief. Former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating has described the Shorten tax hike as 'too punitive a level where the state is confiscating almost half of people’s income over $180,000'.

Our plan is to continue backing small businesses every step of the way, as they are the engine room of our economy. I know this as I was a small-businessman for 25 years. Without small business, there would be no Australia for any government to have a plan. Those opposite don't have a plan for Australian businesses. They instead want the CFMEU and their union mates to come in and take control. They even oppose the fast rail link to Geelong. They demonise business owners at every step. They think of them as being big, fat, greedy cats when, at the end of the day, what almost all of them do is risk their own assets and their own family lives and always they paid at the end. As someone who's spent 25 years in business, I understand that, and many of my colleagues on my side of the chamber have been through those experiences as well.

I was also told that we should always leave things better than how we found them. This is an important value for not only me but all Australians. How can we ensure that Australia continues to be the great country it is? We do that by fixing the budget, because fiscal responsibility means we can ensure that we can provide funding for all essential services without putting at risk services and without future generations having to pay back debt. Those opposite have no plan for fiscal responsibility. At every election, they go, 'You can trust us on the budget,' like the Leader of the Opposition's on-again, off-again friend Kevin Rudd—who described himself as a fiscal conservative—did before the 2007 election.

The fact is that, after six years of chaos, Labor left Australia with a broken budget, a damaged economy and a serious mess to fix. The key facts are that, between 2008-09 and 2012-13, Labor delivered deficits totalling $191 billion. Labor left additional projected deficits of $123 billion over the next four years. The Treasury projected that the budget would be in deficit for the next 10 years. This would mean 16 unbroken years of deficits if Labor had stayed in power. As we heard from the Prime Minister, if you vote for Labor once, you pay for it for a decade. That is a very true story.

In practice, what have Labor done? They have done nothing—nothing but deficits for 12 years, which they created, and they haven't been in government since 1990. The last time they delivered a surplus was when Allan Border was the captain of the Australian cricket team, my 26-year-old son wasn't alive yet, and the West Coast Eagles hadn't won an AFL premiership. Mr Deputy Speaker, I know you're from a different state, but it resonates for a lot of people. People can put a time line through that.

Keeping Australians safe is something that this government has as an absolute priority. For any government, it is front and centre in our future plan for Australia. Those opposite talk a big game, but they're beholden to the Greens and the Labor Left on this. They slashed our defence budget when last in government to rates lower than 1939. And they couldn't stop the boats, and they told us we couldn't stop the boats, so they turned their failed minister for immigration into their shadow Treasurer. If you couldn't secure Australia's borders, how can we put you in charge of Australia's economy? Stopping the boats is more important than just ensuring Australia's border security is in the hands of our agencies. In fact, it allows us to spend more on the services all Australians rely on. As we know, $16 billion was blown by those opposite on border protection. That is just $2 billion shy of the amount in drugs we have listed on the PBS since coming to government. And we can't forget the fact that over 1,200 lives were lost at sea under their border protection policy.

In our budget, we are providing more than half a billion dollars of new funding for our Australian Federal Police to keep Australians safe. This includes funding to enhance our ability in counter-terrorism in all forms and it will help ensure that Australians, anywhere in Australia, are actually safe. Since being in government, we've cancelled the visas of over 4,150 foreign nationals who have committed serious crimes, including murderers, rapists and child sex offenders. That reminds me: this government introduced a bill for mandatory sentencing of paedophiles, rapists and child sex offenders. Guess who voted against it. Can anyone guess who voted against it?

Photo of Nicolle FlintNicolle Flint (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, the Labor Party. Disgusting.

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

That side. That side of the chamber voted against it. They are protectors of these people.

With a stronger economy, the government are delivering more funding for schools—an extra $37.6 billion over a decade, to 2029, which is a 62 per cent funding increase per student. In my electorate, schools received an average increase of 70 per cent of their funding. Our government are embarking on an infrastructure spend that has not been seen in the lifetime of anyone in this House. They have played the game for health—they would like to own that area—but here I have an article, which I will table. It says, 'Bentley Hospital loses $10m upgrade funds'. The WA state Labor government took it out of their operating budget. It's all here in the Canning Times, in September 2017. What happened? Recently, the Leader of the Opposition and his candidate turned up at Bentley Hospital and announced $10 million of funding for the Bentley Hospital, just to replace the money that WA state Labor had taken out. The hypocrisy of that is well known to everyone in the electorate. They'll see through that, as they will see through the Labor Party having no plan for our economy and no plan for the future of Australia, as the coalition does. I will table that now for you, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

Billions of dollars you ripped out.

Photo of Steve IronsSteve Irons (Swan, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I can hear the member for Franklin cheering me on. There's a stark contrast between the choice of either the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition at the next poll. I'm sure that all Australians know that they want to see Scott Morrison on their TVs in their rooms for the next three years and not the Leader of the Opposition. The coalition has a plan for the future of Australia.

3:49 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

A whole heap of more election cons and a whole heap of stuff locking in Liberal cuts from their budget. Their budget was one of the biggest cons I've seen in this place in 11 years: a whole heap of smoke and mirrors that talks about how they have doubled the debt. They absolutely have doubled the debt, and they try to come in here and blame others for their mismanagement of the budget and the economy. What they have done in their budget is actually lock in their cuts to hospitals and to schools. That is what they've done. You absolutely have locked in your cuts to hospitals and to schools in this budget. There are schools in Tasmania who know about this cut. There is $52 million cut from schools and students in Tasmania and $11 million cut from our hospital systems in my home state.

And then of course we've seen this alleged surplus. We know this is built on the underspend in the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme—$1.6 billion. We had the Prime Minister try to convince everybody that this is a demand-driven system and that, if the demand was there, it would all be okay. I'm going to quote Senator Eric Abetz in the Sunday Tasmanian. Senator Abetz and I normally don't agree on very much, let me assure you of that, but he is one of my constituents, and I do represent him in this place. Senator Abetz raised some questions about the NDIS in our local paper because he was so concerned about it. There are some participants in Tasmania who cannot get the services they need because of this government's bungled implementation of the NDIS. We have a builder in Tasmania who said:

Since July 2015 we have been quoting and providing services for the NDIA. Nearly four years later, we have not seen one NDIS project go ahead.

Let me tell you about the people we're talking about here. As Senator Abetz identified, we're talking about a teenager who's six foot seven and who needs to be lifted and carried to get inside their home. We're talking about a participant in Kingston, in our electorate, who is a teenage child—an NDIS participant of three years—who still has to be carried up stairs to the living area. These are people living with disability and their families who need services that they can't get, and you have an underspend that's propping up the alleged surplus that you're claiming you're going to get in a years time. For the Prime Minister to say there's no demand when his own senator knows that there's a demand is just appalling, quite frankly.

And then of course we have the situation with TAFEs and apprenticeships. I had another Tasmanian senator on the radio earlier in the week talking about how great it is—'Employment is going terrifically; a lot of great jobs are going on in Tasmania.' There have been 2,900 full-time jobs lost in Tasmania since June last year. Tasmania currently has almost 2,000 fewer apprentices than it did just a few years ago. That's because of this government and the $3 billion that they took out of apprenticeships and TAFE; $3 billion taken out of apprenticeships and TAFE is the reason there are fewer apprentices in Australia today than there were. You have to take some responsibility for where we are today with those apprenticeships and young people not being able to get into TAFEs and into apprenticeships.

I have teenage sons. They have a lot of mates. All of them are struggling to get into TAFE and into apprenticeships. Those positions are simply not there because of what you on that side of House have done, because of this government, and it is not okay. And yet they want to come into this place and they want to go on radio and on TV to talk about how wonderful everything is. Well, it's not wonderful for some people. It might be for their mates at the big end of town, but it is not wonderful for a lot of Australians out there today. Your hubris and the way you're going on about what a wonderful budget it is and what a great set of numbers it is shows that you are not listening and talking to people on the ground in your electorates. That's what it says.

In my shadow portfolio of ageing, to have people come and say there are another 10,000 aged-care packages in the budget when there is not one new home care package in the budget is actually outrageous because what you're doing is telling all of those 128,000 people currently waiting on a home care waitlist that, somehow or another, some package is going to miraculously appear for them and they won't have to wait that 12 months to 18 months to two years that some of them are having to wait. You are giving false hope, and that is not okay. We heard today in question time about a 93-year-old who has been waiting. I'm getting stories of a lot of people in their 90s who have been waiting more than a year for a home care package that they have been approved for. You have done nothing about that waitlist in this budget. Everybody knows that this is just smoke and mirrors. Everybody knows that this budget is a con. (Time expired)

3:54 pm

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Roads and Transport) Share this | | Hansard source

On indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker: before I talk about our outline for our plan for the future and how it contrasts against those who sit opposite and seek to run our country, I'd first like to associate myself with the words of the member for Sturt. I have learnt a lot from the member for Sturt in his time. His comment that there are some appalling people in this place is apt. Do you know what? We learn from those people. We learn from those people on how we don't want to conduct ourselves. The member for Sturt's understanding and knowledge of the standing orders is nothing short of inspirational. He is a 26-year veteran of this place. He has maintained his humour, his sharp edge, his 'lovable larrikin' persona. He has cut through with virtually every demographic of the Australian public. I wish him well in whatever he chooses to do. His contribution to this place is noteworthy.

I now come to the upcoming election and the MPI before us today around changing Australia. Who do we trust to run the budget as we move into the future? Someone who can produce a $7.1 billion surplus. We've heard other speakers talk about the last time Labor produced a surplus—and it's been some time. The bleeding-heart excuses come out: 'Oh, there was a GFC.' But the reality is that you need to have fiscal discipline to be able to bring about surpluses. The Australian public know that the best side of this House to manage future surpluses is the coalition side. We are renowned for coming in after Labor and fixing up their mess and getting us back into place. I want to address this as briefly as I can for those in the gallery. You'll hear rhetoric from the other side that we've come in and doubled the deficit.

Ms Butler interjecting

Doubled the debt. I thank the member for Griffith. When you take the Treasury books, there are contracts that the privilege of government will sign into, and they'll be contracts for up to four years. We took office in 2013. When you come into government—whichever side it is—there is expenditure that is committed to, so you are locked in. In 2013 we were committed to that expenditure because we inherited those poor mistakes from those on the other side. During this campaign, you will hear those on the other side say that we have doubled the deficit. I want you to understand why that came about. The member for Swan was an electrician before he came here. Another bloke here has got country in western New South Wales. That bloke up there, the member for Moore, is a land developer. They're all businesspeople. They run balance sheets. They know what it's like to lie awake in bed at night knowing they've got a wages bill to meet the next morning.

So you're trying to contrast who's got the best plan for Australia—those with the skill set on this side or those on the other side. Those on the other side are openly not necessarily business oriented people, so they'll play the big game. I take you back to the last election: those on the other side said that we were going to sell Medicare. There will be other claims made by those on the other side as we go in to the upcoming election. It'll be scare campaigns. They will absolutely come, and they will be thick and they will be fast.

The Australian public, when we go into this election, will have a very clear choice to trust a government that has a proven economic benefit. We have a plan for Australia, we have a plan for infrastructure, we have a plan for families. You'll hear those on the other side talk about cuts to hospitals. When those on the other side left office in 2013, they were spending $69 million on Moreton Bay District Hospital in my area. Today, we spend $140 million—just on double that amount of money—and it is forecasted to go to $210 million. (Time expired)

3:59 pm

Photo of Amanda RishworthAmanda Rishworth (Kingston, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

The matter of public importance today is the government's failure to provide a plan for Australia's future. We have had six years of cuts and chaos. We have had three Prime Ministers, two Deputy Prime Ministers and no plan—no plan delivered, no plan for the future; just cuts, cuts, cuts. It is absolutely disappointing that we in this place have had six wasted years when there are hospitals and schools that are facing further cuts. We've had a range of different programs. They attempted to cut the pension. They attempted to cut a whole range of different services that we had to spend our time here stopping. And, of course, when it comes to families, we've had so many cuts and disappointments as a result of this government.

We hear the government talking about franking credits a lot. In fact, the member for Goldstein is here; he loves to talk about franking credits. What we don't hear about is Australia's future and the plans they have for families. We don't hear much about families from this government, and it's no wonder because, when we look at the early years, this government has abandoned families. They have let families down, and this continues in the budget in front of us today.

There are many failures, including the one in four families worse off as a result of the childcare changes. It is a system that has made providers become debt collectors. They now have to wear costs if families are found to not have the right amount of entitlement to child care. Not only do they have to wear costs; they have to recover that money on behalf of the Commonwealth.

They've made it harder for regional and remote early learning services to stay open. It is very interesting that the National Party stood by while the budget based funded services that were in their electorates were demolished by this government. It has been a very disappointing time, especially given what we're seeing for the future of Australia's preschoolers. There was an opportunity for the government to actually commit to Australian preschool, to recognise that the two years before school were really important and to invest in them. Labor has been very clear about its plans. We plan to give two years of before-school funding—universal access to both three- and four-year-olds—when it comes to preschool.

This is a very, very important measure that is supported universally by experts across this area and is actually being implemented right around the world. Labor has a clear plan, and there was an opportunity for the government to fund preschool in this budget. If they didn't want to support our three-year-olds' preschool, they could at least have supported permanent funding for four-year-olds. But they failed to do that. They provided a one-year extension for preschools and nothing in the forward estimates, and they've cloaked it with excuses about participation rates. Well, we've heard from the Department of Education in Queensland, which said the Commonwealth never tried to seriously address participation rates. They've been using this for the last three years as an excuse why they couldn't provide permanent funding, but they've have done nothing about it. It is just a ploy, because they've never been committed to funding universal access to preschool, and that is clear to see in the budget.

But, of course, this has an impact in the real world. There's news for the coalition here. It provides families with uncertainty about access to early education. It provide uncertainty for centres. It provides uncertainty for those educators and teachers wanting a career. Year-by-year funding is not the way to run a system. But it is not surprising from this government, which has been completely chaotic, completely obsessed by itself, completely uninterested in the Australian people, uninterested in Australian families and more ambitious for itself than it is for the rest of Australia. So there is going to be a clear decision— (Time expired)

4:04 pm

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

I was hoping to finish this parliamentary year in the spirit of the member for Sturt's remarks, a spirit in which we come together and celebrate the achievements of our great country and what we seek to do as a nation to recognise it. I don't dispute that whoever is in government aspires, hopes and wishes to do the best for the Australian people. We can disagree on the policy and the detail, but always there is the aspiration to do the right thing. Sadly, this has been denied us by the opposition, who have put forward this patently ridiculous matter of public importance.

This matter of public importance goes to the heart of why I'm a Liberal. It goes to the foundations of our values and, yes, a modern Liberal vision for this country. It is one where we understand the importance of intergenerational equity and the social contract, one where we understand that we can give no greater gift to future generations than the stewardship and inheritance of a sound economy and a society that's united in an environment that cares for them so that they can live out their lives freely. That's the core and the focus of what this government has sought to do. It's why we have made getting the budget back into black so important, because every dollar of debt that is incurred means taxes for future generations to pay. Every dollar of debt incurred by the Labor Party and their agenda denies future generations their freedom. That's why we have made it such a priority, because it enables future generations to live their lives freely and makes sure they don't pay more than their fair share of tax.

We made sure that we put the budget into surplus so that in the Goldstein electorate alone 24,077 people are receiving the low- and medium-income tax offset. Getting the budget into surplus means that 11,000 age pensioners in Goldstein are going to see support through the energy supplement and, of course, the regular indexation of pensions. Getting the budget into surplus is so critical because we're then able to fund essential services at record levels. I know that in Goldstein alone we have seen significant increases in hospital funding. Of course, public hospital funding in Victoria has increased by 80 per cent under this government. We've seen an increase in the GP bulk-billing rate to 66 per cent in Goldstein. And, of course, we've seen massive funding increases for public schools across the entire electorate as well as seeing many people enjoy things like the childcare package. This is complemented by tax reform to diminish the obligation, the tax burden, that future generations will have, so that they can be successful and support themselves and their families, buy their own home and secure their future.

Thinking about the future is core to everything that we stand for on this side of the chamber, and it is everything that is disregarded—for the indulgence of today, without any sense of probity or responsibility—by those who sit on the opposition benches. It is one of the reasons this country is always better off when I am sitting over here and you are sitting over there. What we are able to do is make sure that we have a situation where we can support those people who have a go—who stand up, who want to employ people, who create a small business and the opportunities for others—because the greatest contribution that anybody can make in this country is to stand on their own two feet so they can help others do the same and help those who are unable to do so.

What we're doing with the small and medium businesses in Goldstein, the 24,435 who are going to get tax relief under this budget, is backing them every single step of the way. If you had the honesty and decency to repeal this matter of public importance, you would acknowledge that there are thousands of businesses in your electorates that would enjoy those benefits as well. There are 24,500 small and medium businesses in Goldstein who will benefit from the government's instant asset write-off. That will flow through the whole economy. It will flow through the whole of society and make this country a better place.

4:09 pm

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Young Australians and Youth Affairs) Share this | | Hansard source

It is such a pleasure to follow the member for Goldstein. I do hold him in high regard, though obviously not as high as the regard in which he holds himself. He is a fine member of the Australian parliament but one that is sadly quite wrong about most of the things he addresses in this place. It has also been a pleasure of course to listen to the other coalition speakers in this MPI debate—again, quite wrong, but somewhat entertaining.

What we have today is a genuine matter of public importance about this government's failure to have a real plan for the future of this nation. Nowhere has that been more evident than in this week's budget—the greatest con job of a budget in many, many years; a con job of a budget that seeks to tell the Australian people that this coalition government will be delivering for them, when in reality only a Labor government will deliver an economy that works for everyone.

The young people of Australia have been rightly complaining about the fact that there is very little in this budget for them. The youth unemployment rate remains in double digits, including in my own electorate. Yet, there is nothing from this government in terms of a vision for the future of work for young Australians. There is nothing in this budget that talks about what they're going to do in relation to this unemployment rate. Of course they have tried to suggest that they will be promoting more apprenticeships, but the number of apprenticeships they have raised in this budget, that they have said that they will promote, isn't even enough to cover the shortfall in apprenticeships that have occurred since this coalition government took office. Young Australians want to know what the government is going to do for them.

Never has the lack of a youth minister been so evident as in this week's budget. The government is forgetting young people. Young people aren't even featuring on this government's radar, and I think the young people of Australia are going to make very clear that, if the government doesn't care about them, come election day they will certainly not care about this coalition government. I certainly look forward to young Australians en masse standing up and speaking out and raising the issues that matter to them come this federal election.

Another example of the failure for young people is that there was nothing said this week in the budget about the government's failed Youth Jobs PaTH program, a program that has had fewer than 4,000 young Australians since its inception actually go through an internship and get a job. That is 4,000 across the country. I'm not talking about in a single electorate; this is across the country. When there is 50,000 long-term unemployed young people in this country, they have every right to be disappointed in this government's failure when it comes to youth unemployment.

I wanted to say in relation to this budget and this week's demonstration of a failure of a plan, that it is incredibly disappointing to see the failure to even admit the ongoing, locked-in cuts to public funding for public schools—$14 billion in cuts. That is $14 billion across this country. It is an absolute disgrace that the government is failing to reverse these cuts to public school funding. In my own electorate, no matter what school I go to, they want to see better funding for public schools. Whether it is the biggest of the public schools in my electorate, State High, or the smallest, they want to see much better support for schools funding, because our kids deserve a world-class education no matter what school they go to.

I am also gravely concerned about the failure of this government to address their cuts to hospital funding. In my own electorate alone, there's $26.7 million in cuts to hospitals, including Princess Alexandra, the Mater Hospital and the Queensland Children's Hospital. It's not good enough. People in Queensland deserve to have hospitals funded properly. It will take a Labor government to restore the funding that the LNP has cut.

For me, the most disappointing thing out of this budget—and it is a crowded field—was the failure to commit real funding to congestion-busting infrastructure in my electorate of Griffith. There is no federal money for Cross River Rail. Yet again there is no federal money for this transformative project that is absolutely necessary to bust traffic congestion in Queensland. Labor has committed $2.2 billion of federal money to go to this project if we form government. The Deputy Premier has called for it, the Premier has called for it and we will deliver it if we are elected come May.

I'm also gravely disappointed by the failure to commit funding to the Coorparoo-Cavendish Road level crossing removal project. They know it's important, we know it's important; why has the coalition, once again, failed to deal with this major south side traffic snarl? There must be a change come May.

4:15 pm

Photo of Nicolle FlintNicolle Flint (Boothby, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Only the Morrison government has a plan for a strong economy. It's a plan that busts congestion, lowers taxes and eases cost-of-living pressures on Australians and their families. And only the Morrison government will guarantee the essential services that all Australians rely on, like hospitals and Medicare, because of our plan for a strong economy. And it is a plan that is working.

My local residents in the electorate of Boothby are seeing this firsthand at the Repatriation General Hospital site in Daw Park, in the heart of my electorate. This is a very significant hospital precinct for my local community. It is a place that was closed down by the former state Labor government. All of those opposite—and there are no South Australians in the chamber—every single federal member of the Labor opposition from South Australia stood by and let this happen. It was a disgraceful decision and it was yet another broken Labor promise.

Former Premier Mike Rann said that the Repat hospital would never, ever be closed under a Labor government, and yet that's what they did. It devastated my veterans' community—in fact, it devastated the entire veterans' community in South Australia—and it devastated my local community, because not only was it an iconic hospital for our veterans but it was also a general community hospital. So many of my local residents had used it or had family members who had been nursed there as well.

Under the Morrison government and the Marshall government, we are revitalising the Repat; reactivating the Repat for my local community and returning health services to the precinct. This is a project that I've been working on for years, and I'm so proud to be delivering this for my community. I cannot thank the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, enough for his support, and also the Minister for Health and Wellbeing in South Australia, Stephen Wade.

Thanks to our strong economic management, the federal government will deliver $30 million in funding for a brain and spinal injury unit at the Repat hospital. This will be state-of-the-art. We will care for people who most need our support in our community there. The federal government will also fund a specialist dementia care unit, and the state government is providing additional funding to make sure that some of the most vulnerable people in our community receive the care and careful attention that they need. Unfortunately, under the previous Labor government in South Australia, we had the Oakden disaster—a scandal that cost people their lives and saw people mistreated terribly by the healthcare system. A lot of these people had dementia, or they had very severe mental health issues. They were all senior Australians. This will not happen at the Repat; we are investing in the very best dementia care on the Repat site, and our most vulnerable residents will never again be out of sight or out of mind. That's what they were under the previous state Labor government.

So I'm incredibly proud of what we're doing in the health space, and I'm just going to run through some of the record funding that we're providing for health in our nation. We're investing a record $104 billion in 2019-20, up from $75 billion in 2012-13. That will guarantee Medicare and it will make life-saving medicines and services more accessible and more affordable. It will reduce out-of-pocket costs and strengthen primary care. And we will invest in breakthrough medical research.

Only our government is increasing Medicare funding by $6 billion to $30.7 billion in 2022-23. We are also making sure that our hospitals are funded; we are increasing hospital funding by $5 billion, up from $21.7 billion in 2018-19 to $26.2 billion in 2022-23. These are big numbers; we are investing record amounts of money in our hospital system and in our healthcare system.

In my part of the world, by investing in crucial local roads we are making sure people can actually get to hospital and do so on time and as safely as possible. We are investing in the North-South Corridor, in the Flinders Link rail project, in the Fullarton Road and Cross Road intersection, in the Springbank, Daws, Goodwood roads intersection, and we are fixing Oaklands crossing. I am so proud of our strong economic plan and the things we are delivering for the nation, but particularly for South Australia.

4:20 pm

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

It is somewhat alarming that here we are on the eve of an election and the matter of public importance before the House is on the government's failure to have any plan for the nation, Indeed, we see there was barely a plan to deliver speakers for the matter of public importance today, so that's a worrying start. But when I listened with great care to the budget coming down on Tuesday night I was also questioning what new measures for Australian women were to be found anywhere in it. I was listening very carefully—and nothing. And you ask: 'Really? Seriously? What kind of government thinks it is okay to bring down their last budget, especially one on the eve of the election—one that they are taking to the Australian people—that ignores 50 per cent of the Australian population, and they think they will get away it?' I have news for this government. How do you think you are going to be returned to government when you have no plan to address the gender pay gap, for example, and no plan to address the gross inequities that continue to exist in superannuation? We know that for the minister here they don't have many women to consult with in the party room, let's face it. There are not many women for you to chat to about these issues and clearly there is no-one in your party room who is capable of standing up and bringing up these issues so as to make sure they are on the table for you to address in government. You have had six years to think about how you might tackle the fact that there's a massive gender pay gap still in Australia, six years to think about how you might address inequities in superannuation, six years to think about how you might deliver paid domestic violence leave for the women of Australia and six years to think about how you might go about restoring penalty rates—penalties rates that affect the lowest paid workers in Australia. And who are the lowest paid workers in Australia? Australian women. You've had six years to think about how you might invest in and bring us into line with the rest of the OECD on early childhood education. We got—what was it?—a 12-month reprieve for four-year-olds to have early childhood education in the budget. There was nothing beyond a year for that and no mention at all for three-year-olds. This is a government that thinks it is still okay for all Australian kids to be lagging way behind the rest of the OECD when it comes to developing young people.

I know the member for Griffith raised a number of issues impacting on young people, but I'll tell you what: the Australian school children who came to see me during the climate change strikes that took place around the nation are onto you guys. Gosh! They know you have no plan for their future. They know you have no plan to deal with climate change and no plan for energy. Actually, you have had 13 plans; it's just that you can't settle on a plan for energy. No-one in the party room can actually agree on how we tackle things like a national energy policy.

Importantly, the issue of trust was raised earlier. I thought: that's right, no plan for delivering integrity into the Commonwealth government any more—no plan for a national integrity system. Well, not one with any teeth that can actually do anything, that's for sure. What is it that this government is going to the new election with? We all know there are endless scare campaigns in store, banking on the fact that Australian people have very short memories, I think—that somehow the Australian people might forget that you have had six years to stand up and do some serious reform in this country. But, no, you didn't take the opportunity to do that. You had a budget last Tuesday night that professed to be a plan for infrastructure in Australia. I understand most of it is Albo's plan for infrastructure, now funded by you, which is not bad. But in my electorate: a big zip

There's no money on the table for the Bascawen Street bridge, which I'd written to the Deputy Prime Minister about. I've got a suburb, Wallsend, that gets inundated when it rains. It has had a flood mitigation plan on the table. We sought some money—$3 million to $4 million—from this government to build a plan so the people of Wallsend could have the flood mitigation plan implemented, but there was nothing, absolutely nothing in the plan for the Bascawen Street bridge. I'm devastated about that. The people of Wallsend will be devastated about that. It's time this government came to grips with the fact that they have nothing. (Time expired)

4:25 pm

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

As we see the scare campaign for 2019 barely igniting, this is a Labor Party that has scurried around the known horizon of social policy, unable, like a political arsonist, to ignite any kind of scare campaign on health. Nothing is lighting with hospitals. They had this crack at schools but nothing's burning. Then of course we heard it was a referendum on wages. We were going to have a referendum in 2019 on wages, with a Labor government promising to increase everyone's wages and life would be easier, when anyone who has studied—what?—five minutes of school economics knows that if you could raise wages and improve living standards it would have been done decades ago. There are consequences to artificially raising wages. It causes inflation, and then the wage increases rapidly disappear again. But when you're designing policy intentionally for people who can't tell the difference between truth and lie, you're going to have more and more of these scare campaigns.

Let's be honest. It's been a decade and no Labor opposition has ever come to government without a scare campaign. They've tried one at every frontier on social policy. They enter what is a likely election campaign with absolutely no momentum at all on any scare campaign, which is why each one of the speakers today has jumped up with a different topic, hoping they would get lucky, hoping they would strike that lucky seam where a few agnostic, apathetic or disinterested voters will say, 'Ooh, cuts. Cuts to something I'm worried about. I'd better vote Labor.' Do you know what? Australians are increasingly waking up to this. They are increasingly waking up to the fact that the best evidence of commitment to education is funding in the forward estimates. We learnt from Prime Minister Julia Gillard that you simply move your funding promises out beyond the four-year forward estimates and you can talk about billions of dollars but never budget for it and never provide for it, and when you slip into opposition weeks later you can say, 'We promised way more than they ever delivered.' It's like a fool catching up with you, offering to double your salary and then vanishing, and then you go and beat up your boss and say, 'Thanks for halving my wage.' This is a Labor government that never follows up with these magnificent numbers. It's a government on the Labor side that mentions these massive figures only weeks before it loses government and then trades on it throughout opposition.

We've had it on health and hospitals and schools and now we have it in early education. It is exactly and precisely the same circumstance. We've had a measly $200 million committed to three-year-old preschool, but everyone in the early education sector knows you can't deliver three-year-old preschool for less than a billion dollars. Where is the other $800 million? They'll try and strongarm the states, and when they don't get that money the promise will vanish. It's all about being elected and then worrying about the unfulfilled promises once, and if, you're elected.

The Minister for Education today can proudly commit to $310 billion, to annual increases of over six per cent for state schools and over five per cent for the independent sector each and every year through to 2016. The best evidence for what this Labor government will do is what their kooky cousins in Queensland Labor do with schools. There is only party cutting education in Queensland. It's the state Labor government cutting classrooms from Ormiston State School. How do you educate a child when you take away their classroom? How do you deliver STEM and advanced subjects when you're taking away classrooms at the same time? The only party doing that is Queensland Labor. When Queensland Labor had to build classrooms, back under Anna Bligh, they went to wealthy corporations and did dirty deals—that's right. It's not a comfortable narrative. Anna Bligh said, 'How much would it cost the private sector to build me seven schools, two of them high schools?' It should have been $340 million off the bottom line. Instead we got a $1.08 billion deal with corporations. Two-thirds of that money is interest to be paid over the next 25 years to wealthy corporations, direct from Labor policy. That's money that should be spent on children, money that should be spent on the curriculum. But—alas!—we cannot, in this great place, debate education policy so long as there is one side of politics, called the Labor Party, utterly fixated on the quantum, utterly oblivious and blinded, with a massive scotoma, unable to talk about quality in education because they're fixated on the fictitious numbers that they invent just weeks before they lose government.

This nation deserves better than a Labor government that can't deliver on quality schools. It has, in the coalition, secured the future—back in black, back on track and delivering for Australian parents and their children.

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

Order! The discussion has concluded.