Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Matters of Public Importance


4:59 pm

Photo of Anne UrquhartAnne Urquhart (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak in this matter of public importance debate to wholeheartedly condemn the Turnbull government's unfair budget, which delivers tax handouts for multinationals and millionaires while hurting every Australian family. The facts do not lie. In this budget, every worker who earns more than $21,000 a year will pay more tax, and at the same time millionaires will receive a tax cut of over $16,000 a year. Multinational businesses have been let off the hook. In this budget, workers in receipt of the minimum wage face a tax increase of at least $170 a year. Teachers, nurses and many small-business people face a tax increase of over $300 a year. The premise of the budget is quite simple: reduce taxes on the rich and increase taxes on the lower and middle-income earners—at the same time as wages are now falling in real terms.

What is truly remarkable with this budget is that it actually goes one step further. The budget locks in a wage cut for 700,000 of Australia's lowest-paid workers—workers who give up valuable time on the weekends, late at night, early in the morning and on public holidays. These workers face losing hundreds of dollars a year in wage cuts, and in some cases thousands, and they are facing a tax increase to boot. And the Prime Minister and those opposite have the gall to talk about cost of living pressures as an excuse for their inaction on Australia's energy crisis. What is clear is that the Australian people are watching, and for the 14th poll in a row the Turnbull government trails the Labor opposition on a two-party preferred basis. This budget is completely out of step with Australian values and completely out of step with what Australians want.

Turning to some specifics about my home state of Tasmania now, we have the Mercy hospital deal, which hands back the hospital to the Tasmanian government and locks in a reduced rate of Commonwealth funding over the coming years. It sets the Tasmanian government up to rely on the stock market to meet the funding gap over the coming years. The funding package that the Tasmanian Liberal senators are so confident about is supposed to last for 10 years, when in fact this money will last that long only under a high-return and low-inflation scenario. So, if the Tasmanian government is unable to achieve a high return, or if the cost to the hospital services continues to rise at a rate above the budget inflation rate, then the Turnbull government appears to be expecting the Tasmanian government to just foot the bill. Who knows what the Turnbull government's plans are if the Tasmanian government's investors lose money on their investments. It might have been a nice announcement for the Prime Minister to make, but we are watching the progress of this deal with detail. Relying on the stock market to fund a vital hospital service might be innovative but it is definitely risky, and it is no wonder the Tasmanian Premier did not bother to attend the announcement. It just gets worse with health—with over 8,000 people in north-west Tasmania saying they will skip going to a GP because of cost, yet the Turnbull government's budget fails to drop the Medicare freeze immediately.

For our schools and TAFEs, this budget locks in a cut of $85 million from Tasmanian schools and millions of dollars of cuts to TAFE and training programs. This is leaving thousands of Tasmanians behind and leaving Tasmanian industry without the skilled workforce that it needs. Tax cuts for millionaires and multinationals will not grow jobs in Tasmania. What Tasmania needs is strong growth, strong economics, strong investments in education and training, and support for industry to grow. Yet there is no money for the Cradle Mountain Master Plan, with the Turnbull government continuing with a pointless feasibility, when Deloitte Access Economics have already completed one which shows that the project would create around 140 jobs and $29 million worth of investment. It is the No. 1 project for the Tasmanian tourism industry, yet the Turnbull government has failed to give it due attention in its budget. It is a budget based on a strange set of ideologies. It fails the Australian people. It is clear—very clear—that the Turnbull government have prioritised millionaires and multinationals over Australian families yet again.


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