Thursday, 3 December 2020
That was kind of cute, actually, with Professor Kelly over having to listen to a speech from the government about climate change. It's almost like they didn't run the scare campaign at the last election that Labor was coming to take your ute with electric vehicles. That was terrific—oh, the irony!
I want to talk about the poor and the vulnerable. It will hard to pick the most egregious, the most nasty, the most scandalous and mean attack this government has made, now in its eight year, on the poor and the vulnerable in this country, because there's frankly too many to choose from. One thing that is clear is that the Prime Minister has been up to his neck in every attack on the vulnerable in Australia. He's been in the cabinet for over seven years. He was the social services minister, then the Treasurer and then the Prime Minister. He owns every single one of the attacks.
You could choose the attacks on pensioners. They spent five and a half years trying to raise the age pension age, the retirement age, to 70, with no consideration for what that would do to blue-collar workers who had wrecked their bodies for their entire working lives. Every single budget they have introduced contains cuts to the pension—a little snip here and a little tuck there. It's in their DNA. This year they froze the pension and gave pensioners $250—the crumbs off Scott Morrison's table, while they're hurtling towards $1.7 trillion of Liberal debt. Then there were the DSP medical reviews. They were a good one! Remember? They were sending letters to people with Down Syndrome asking when their Down Syndrome would be cured. They were sending letters to amputees saying, 'Has your amputated leg grown back?' This was a budget savings measure that this mob of Liberals defended budget after budget until they scuttled away from it. This week in parliament we saw them vote for the single biggest cut in Australian history, which will push 1.5 million of our fellow Australians into poverty, by pushing the Newstart rate—or JobSeeker, or whatever marketing spin they put on it—back to $40 a day.
You could say, though, that that's just routine, everyday business for the Liberals. That's what they do. When you strip away all the rhetoric and all the nice hair they have to go on TV, the pretty suits—they probably smell nice, but I try not to get that close to them to find out—when you trip away all the marketing nonsense, they're funded by the wealthy in Australia to defend the people who already have the most. That's what they are.
But even for them, I reckon the biggest scam they've perpetrated is robodebt. They used the power of the state, the full power of the Commonwealth government, the Commonwealth logo, and put it on fake debt notices and sent it to 430,000 Australians. They sent these fake, illegal debt notices that were ruthless and impersonal and reversed the onus of proof. Apparently, elsewhere in Australia, you actually have to prove there's a debt before you send an invoice to someone and say they have to pay it. But not if you're the government. You just get the Commonwealth logo out, send it the most vulnerable people and say, 'Hey, you've got to pay this.' 'But I don't owe this money.' 'Bad luck, got to pay it.'
It's the kind of thing which would make you ring up ASIC and say, 'I've had a scam perpetrated on me.' You'd ring the government and say, 'Save me from this scam.' But they are the government. That's the disgrace of it. They used the power of the state to extort vulnerable people. I will quote Alan Jones for a moment. As he said, it only stopped when the hot breadth of the court was on their throat—the largest class action ever in Australian history: $1.2 billion. No wonder they want to get rid of class actions and make it harder for poor people with no access to justice. They just had to pay out the largest class action in Australia's history.
The minister, though, still pretends it wasn't illegal. If what you were doing wasn't illegal, why did you pay $1.2 billion? Maybe it was because they didn't want their ministers cross-examined in open court on what they knew. Maybe they didn't want their ministers to have to go—
Dr Allen interjecting—
Look at the Tory, the arch-Tory from Higgins, who waltzes in here. It's exactly what I was saying: you represent the wealthiest people in our city, and you come in here and take the piss when I'm talking about vulnerable people being extorted. You are a disgrace, an absolute disgrace! We are talking about the most vulnerable people in the country and she comes in here and laughs. She represents Toorak. I represent Dandenong. These are people for whom $70 is a fortune. You are a disgrace. That is the modern Liberals.
What? She is a Tory. Sure, whatever you want. I withdraw it. Do you know how much these people are being asked to pay? Do you know what it's like if you're living on Centrelink on $40 a day, to be asked to repay $20 a fortnight. You have no idea—
Dr Allen interjecting—
She says we introduced it. She's perpetrating the lie that the minister says. Why is no minister being sacked?
I was not laughing. I would like that to be withdrawn. I think that was actually incorrect information. I have been misrepresented. I would be very upset to think that anyone in Australia would think I would be smiling, smirking or laughing at any of the comments that the member was making. I find that very offensive.