Wednesday, 7 September 2022
Matters of Urgency
Australia has a proud history of a progressive tax system. The stage 3 tax cuts are a watershed in relation to that history. They represent a turning away, and we know that we will never get back what we are going to give away with this reform, if it proceeds. We need to hang onto a proud Australian tradition, which is a tax system that looks after the bottom and fairly distributes the resources to the services that every Australian needs. These tax increases will give, as we all know—as I hope every Australian knows—$9,000 to billionaires and $9,000 to everyone in this place, but nothing for those on minimum wage, nothing for the working poor, who the other Senator Pocock spoke about, and nothing for the workers at the front of this parliament today who every day turn up for a job that pays them just over $20 an hour.
I think a lot about the care economy. I think about the economy that delivers care for our children, care for people with disability, care for our older citizens. All of us in this place, over our lifetime, depend on that care, and we all know that in depending on that care we need to look after it fairly. We need to make sure that those workers who are helping to look after our kids, grandchildren, parents or other friends with disability are properly rewarded and supported. We have a care economy in this country which is starved. It is thinned out. It is underpaid. It is overworked. It is disrespected. The stage 3 tax cuts are a doorway to making a historic intervention to fix that economy, which will be good for the future of our country and the citizens of this country.
As an economist, I know that when things change, when economic circumstances change, we have to change strategy. Only a fool doesn't do that. This policy was wrong at the time it was shaped. Labor knew it, and Labor opposed it. It is totally wrong now in such different economic circumstances. We are in an inequality crisis. The top of Australia has run away from the bottom. We can measure it in housing. We can measure in the quality of care. We can measure it in our health care. We can measure it, as my colleague says, in the quality of our teeth. And we can certainly measure it in a cost-of-living crisis which is leaving so many Australians under such pressure.
Today I met with Sam, a worker at Port Lincoln in South Australia, who came to the parliament to talk about his life as a carer for a household of people with disability. Sam works for $23 an hour. He's been doing the same job for 4½ years as a casual. He feels disrespected, he feels underpaid, he feels exhausted and he loves the people he cares for. He says, 'I love the guys I care for.' He is working for love, and he is not paid enough money. It is vitally important that we stop the stage 3 tax cuts and turn to the parts of our economy that are so desperate for our attention, for our resources and for our care. We must not pass the stage 3 tax cuts.