Wednesday, 7 September 2022
Matters of Urgency
I think we're in a parallel universe, because the people of Australia just voted to change the government, yet the new government is keeping the policies of the last government. People understand that a budget and governing are about choices, and they hear it loud and clear when the Prime Minister talks about how choices are being made. What this government is doing is choosing to keep the stage 3 tax cuts. They are actively choosing to give $244 billion over 10 years to people that are CEOs, billionaires and politicians. All of those folk are going to get about a $9,000 tax cut every year.
We're in a cost-of-living crisis. I don't think anyone disagrees with that. Why of all things would you be giving tax cuts to the rich when people are struggling to meet their daily cost-of-living challenges? Budgets are about choices. The Australian people did vote for a new government. Why are you keeping the policies of the last one? They weren't right then and they're even less right now. It is the most ill-timed policy decision that you could possibly make, and I think it is a betrayal of everyone who voted Labor that you are going to keep the stage 3 tax cuts. They are now your stage 3 tax cuts, I'm afraid. These are now Labor's stage 3 tax cuts for the wealthy. At the same time, the new government is saying the country is too poor to make child care free, the country is too poor to fix homelessness and the country is too poor to make Medicare include dental and mental health. I'm sorry, but that is just heartbreaking nonsense.
If you axe those stage 3 tax cuts, PBO costings show that you could in fact end homelessness, make child care free and put dental and mental health care into Medicare. Those are the sorts of things that will provide real cost-of-living relief to people and provide services which they deserve to be able to rely on and access free of charge.
On child care, we've got a thousand childcare centres striking today because they are begging for better pay and conditions. So we could also make child care free for parents. But we should be paying those workers more. You could do that with the $244 billion over 10 years—pay women more. Give a legislated increase above CPI to feminised industries.
We heard a lot of talk at the jobs summit last week about women's workforce participation. There's a great idea—pay woman more. Then they won't have to strike out the front of Parliament House, desperately pleading for pay and conditions that reflect the calibre of their work and the importance of their work in raising the next generation. Free child care would cost $9 billion a year. That's a lot of money, but that would ensure women can get back into the workforce; importantly, it would ensure that kids get the best early childhood education that they deserve, that would set them up for a bright future; and, of course, it would reduce not only the gender pay gap but the unfair distribution of unpaid domestic labour in the home.
This government has got a real choice to make. Are they going to be 'Morrison lite', or are they actually going to dump a bad policy and help people? It shouldn't be that much of a conundrum to decide whether to give $244 billion to the rich or to make child care free, fix homelessness and put dental and mental health care into Medicare.