Wednesday, 18 March 2015
Statements by Senators
I rise today to draw attention to the lies and backflips perpetrated by this Abbott Liberal government and the effect it is having on my home state of Tasmania. Their agenda is built on lies and broken promises. It is built on policies which are hurting low-income people, families, pensioners, students, job seekers and the homeless. If you are marginalised in Australia, you will suffer under the agenda of this cruel Abbott government.
The first Abbott-Hockey budget has gone down as one of the worst budgets in history, under the most dysfunctional government ever. Since taking office the Abbott government has launched an unrelenting attack on low- and middle-income Australians. No wonder the Australian people do not trust the Prime Minister to lead this country. Going into an election, promising one thing and then doing something completely different—this was meant to be an adult government. This was meant to be a government of no surprises. Instead we have been struck with people like 'Mr Fixer' and his program of national tertiary education destruction.
Those opposite may not know what it is like to live hand to mouth, but there are millions of Australians who do. The majority of Australians live hand to mouth and they are hurting. I know personally of the hardship of having to depend on a weekly paycheque, living from hand to mouth and what it is like to try to manage a budget reliant upon a disability pension. I have a better comprehension of what it means when the Abbott Liberal government makes these savage attacks on low- and middle-income families. People like me know what effect it is having when they change the indexation on pensioners. We know what effect it has on their daily living costs. We know what the effects are when you break your promise not to cut education.
Although the Higher Education Amendment Bill 2014 was voted down in the Senate last night, it is blatantly wrong that in the future, if this government gets its way, families will only be able to send their children to university if they can afford it, if their credit card is big enough. If this government had its way, students would be burdened with debt for the rest of their lives. It is all very well for the Liberal government to deny that there were going to be $100,000 degrees, but make no mistake: if they get their way and change the system, that is exactly what will happen. This government seems determined to Americanise our education system and to continue down that path.
Education is the gateway to a brighter future. Education should not be a debt burden for young people or for those trying to improve their status in the work environment. We should be investing more in education, not cutting it and making it harder for those who want to go to university and give themselves a brighter future. If the Liberal government really believed in educating and upskilling the workforce, they would not be cutting funding to the TAFE system in this country. In the last election Mr Abbott said that there would be no cuts to education and no cuts to TAFE, but what did they do? Already this government wants to cut $113 million from the budget of the University of Tasmania.
If we turn to health, now they want to introduce a tax to visit the doctor. Their agenda has always been to undermine Medicare and universal care in this country. Our country depends on the work that GPs do. This government should be putting more money into preventive health care, but no. What do they do? They energise the GPs in this country to mount a campaign—thus far successful—to stop any further introduction, although the government keep coming up with new ways, so stay tuned to that one.
I turn to pensioners. When the Liberal government stings pensioners and changes the pension indexation and increases the fuel tax, the Liberal government never considers what effect this will have on those on very limited income or the lower socioeconomic indicators within our communities. But it is interesting. If I recall, the Treasurer, Mr Hockey, said:
The poorest people either don't have cars or actually don't drive very far in many cases.
That statement alone demonstrates how out of touch this government is.
When we were in government, we actually gave pensioners in this country the biggest increase in the history of this country because we recognised they needed it. Do they need more? Is there more to be done? Of course there is. But those opposite have, as usual, slugged those who can least afford it. Under this government, the 'adult government', the government of chaos and the government of lies, we are now in a situation where we have to rely on people like Mr Abbott and 'Mr Fixer'—and where are they when older Australians are terrified of getting sick and not being able to afford to go to the doctor? That includes those who are self-funded retirees. These are also the families who—
Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. It would be nice if Senator Polley were to refer to members of this place and the other place by their correct name.
This situation is outrageous. Have we really fallen this far? Is this the fix that this government is talking about?
I turn to the local member for the federal electorate of Bass in Tasmania. He has constantly failed to stand up for and speak up on behalf of his constituency. He has not come out and defended those people in our community who are concerned about the introduction of a GP tax. He supported the government's attack on higher education. He has done nothing but deny that the government is changing the indexation of the pension for those in our community who have worked hard and pay their taxes. He is extremely vocal and proactive when someone criticises him, but he never stands up for the people who matter—and they are the people who put him in this place. Unfortunately, he is one of those MPs who overreacts to those people who disagree with him. It does not matter if you are an academic or a journalist who is writing up a story that is contrary to the government's position. I ask him to consider taking on board the concerns that are raised with him and in this place rather than coming out and attacking people individually.
This government are not a government for everyone. This government are only concerned with governing for themselves and for those who support them at the big end of town. We know that whenever the Liberals have been in government they have always attacked and directed their negative policies at those who can least afford them. It is in their DNA.
Let's look at the dysfunctional budget and the black hole for a moment. The failed GP co-payment will cost $3.5 billion. The failed university fee policy will cost $640 million. The failed welfare reform will cost $1.2 billion. This is just a snapshot of the failed policies of the Abbott Liberal government's budget. So how will they make up this shortfall? I will tell you how. It will be through more surprises. It will be through more policies of surprise from people like 'Mr Fixer'. Despite their election commitment to not be a government of surprises, over the last year and a half—
Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. This is the second time I have raised a point of order against Senator Polley about using a member of parliament's correct title. It would be nice if she actually understood what she was saying rather than just reading it from her transcript and addressed members of this place and the other place according to their correct titles.
Over the last year and a half, Australians have been waiting for a good government to arrive. The Prime Minister of this country said on 9 February that good government was going to start. Well, I say to Mr Abbott and the Minister for Education and Training, known as 'Mr Fixer', 'We are still waiting.' All you give us are increased budget deficits—
Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Senator Polley is paying no respect to this chamber and its standing orders—no respect at all. She comes in here and in her speech she talks about making attacks on people and then proceeds to do just that by not using people's correct titles. This is the third point of order I have taken in this 10-minute speech already, and we still have time to go. The standing orders clearly state that members of this place and the other place are to be referred to by their correct titles and not some made-up name that Senator Polley might like to utilise.
On the point of order, Senator Polley did in fact listen to you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I understand that she did refer to the Minister for Education and Training, so she did in fact refer to Mr Pyne in his correct capacity.
On the point of order, the Minister for Education and Training's name is Mr Pyne. It is not anything else. It is Mr Pyne. It can be 'Minister Pyne'. It can be 'Mr Christopher Pyne'. It is not 'Mr Fixer'. It is a breach of standing orders for Senator Polley to refer to the minister by anything other than his name. She knows that. She is trying to be clever. Senator Urquhart really should not be intervening in this. Senators and members should be—
For the record, I did refer to the Minister for Education and Training. What this highlights again is that this is a government that is in chaos. It is a government that has been built on lies and broken promises. It is a government that is full of backflips and quick fixes. When it comes to issues in relation to the area that I am responsible for, and that is aged care, we saw this government come into office with no policies, no vision and no plan for the future of the ageing community in this country. We saw them take away a supplement in the sector for those who were caring for those people with severe behavioural issues relating to dementia. What have we seen? We have seen a quick fix brought in with a flying squad that is not going to do anything at all to address the concerns of those in the sector who are caring for the most vulnerable people in our community who are living with dementia. They have sent in a flying squad but there is no plan, and this is supposed to be implemented by the end of this year.
This is a government that is in chaos. This is a government that was so critical of the former Labor government. But since coming in to office their promise of being an adult government, a government of no surprises, could not have been further from the truth. It does not matter whether people in this chamber put their concerns on the record here. We know that those people on the other side do not listen to us and that they do not listen to the community. They have failed to ensure that they are listening to the community. The community has stopped listening to them because the community no longer has any faith in this government. (Time expired)