Senate debates

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Answers to Questions

3:25 pm

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to take note of answers to questions asked today by Labor of various government ministers about the budget. I thought for a moment that we were on the adjournment debate, because all we have heard about from the government is everything except the budget; they do not want to talk about the budget. Over the last five weeks, they have made gaffe after gaffe about all sorts of issues: whether it is, 'Poor people do not drive,' whether it is, 'Women do not do science degrees,' whether it is about women, cancer and abortion—they have gone on and on.

Today, Labor sought to ask proper questions to scrutinise the government's harsh, cruel budget in this place. What did the government do? For the whole of question time—and indeed afterwards—they simply tried to avoid scrutiny. The Australian public is not fooled by the government, and the Australian public has worked out for itself that the government's budget is so harsh and so cruel that there is barely a person in this country who is not impacted. What did the government promise? There were all those lies they told before the election: 'We won't cut health,' 'We won't cut education,' and 'There will be no cuts to pensions'—and we have seen the complete reverse of that. It does not matter what type of spin they try and put on this and whether they try to avoid things by having a go at Labor. We have just heard Senator Smith, from Western Australia—where today the Barnett Liberal government has again dropped our credit rating—go on and on about 'Labor this' and 'Labor that'.

Let me remind him that the coalition are in government, that it is their budget that is under scrutiny and that it is the role of the opposition to scrutinise their budget. The Australian people have also been scrutinising the budget, a budget where we were promised 'no cuts to health' and yet that is what we have seen: big cuts to health and education worth $80 million. Where did the GP tax come from? It was a thought bubble from a former Howard government adviser that Australians were somehow overusing their GP services. Where is the proof of that? Where is the research? Where are the academic papers on that? There are none. The Abbott government have been very good at simply making it up. Recently we have had Senator Cormann putting a new spin on it. They are a little bit like a baseball team that is losing. First we had Mr Hockey try and sell the budget. He got a big fail. 'Next batter up!' Then we had Senator Brandis come out and try and sell aspects of their policy around racial discrimination in this country. He got a big fail and was sent back to the bench. Then we had Senator Abetz on TV embarrass the government to the point where the Prime Minister had to pull him into line. So he is back on the bench. Now we have Senator Cormann batting for team Abbott, trying to sell their ridiculously harsh and cruel budget that no-one in this country, except themselves, seem to be hoodwinked about. The GP tax, the tax on prescriptions, the tax on other health services: where is the research on that? There is nothing to indicate that Australians are overusing GPs. In actual fact, what GPs do in this country is act as a gatekeeper to additional services. I do not know how many times is too many times for the government; maybe if you go to a GP more than 10 times in a year that is too many. But maybe there are underlying reasons that people are visiting their GP: maybe there are mental health issues; maybe there are family issues. But no; the government does not want to do its homework and actually ask GPs what is going on.

Today the government will give itself a slap on the back and say, 'Well done, government; we avoided scrutiny on our budget.' Well, you are wrong, because the Australian public have given you a big 'fail' for your budget. They are not hoodwinked. You can sit in this chamber and carry on about Labor and about this and that—anything else you care to do—and not answer questions about the budget, but no-one is fooled except yourselves. It is time to look in the mirror and realise that your budget is gone. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.


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