Senate debates

Thursday, 19 March 2015


Abbott Government's Budget Cuts Select Committee; Report

6:40 pm

Photo of Doug CameronDoug Cameron (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Human Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks, Mr President. I appreciate your consideration on this. I had been waiting patiently, but that is how the call went. I do want to talk about the Abbott government's budget cuts and the select committee's first interim report.

The budget cuts of the Abbott government are absolutely the worst cuts that we have seen in any budget for many, many decades in this country. It is even worse than that, because the budget cuts that have taken place are cuts that the Abbott government and the Prime Minister personally indicated would not take place. I am well aware of the new approach to the word 'lie', so I will not go there. I will try and find some other word to express what this has been all about. It has been a complete misrepresentation to the Australian public—a complete misrepresentation.

To go to the Australian public just before the election and tell pensioners that their pensions would be safe, to tell the education system that they would not get cuts to their funding, to tell students that they would not be paying more for their education and to tell people relying on the health system that they would not be paying more was a complete misrepresentation of the reality that has now come about as a result of this budget—a complete misrepresentation. If anything was designed to deceive the Australian public, it was the promises that were made by the Abbott government before the election and broken by the Abbott government in the budget. Absolutely nothing could have been further from the propositions that they put to the Australian public than what is in this budget.

The budget attacks a whole range of areas. Under this budget, in my state of New South Wales, schools will be around $9.6 billion worse off. We did hear a little bit of a bleat from the coalition in New South Wales, but now it is closer to election time you do not hear the coalition in New South Wales talking about the $9.6 billion that is going to be ripped out of the school system in New South Wales as a result of this budget.

There are the cuts to universities: $1.3 billion from New South Wales universities over four years, as a result of the Abbott government budget. This is in addition to the cuts that have already been made to university teaching and research programs across the nation. There are the cuts to hospitals: $16.5 billion cut in this budget as part of the $50 billion cuts to hospitals across the country—$16.5 billion out of New South Wales hospitals. New South Wales health department figures reveal that, if the $7 GP tax had been maintained, it would have driven 500,000 patients into the emergency departments of New South Wales hospitals. This is nothing more than a cost-shift to the New South Wales government from their so-called mates in the federal government.

Families are hit. New South Wales families who are on $65,000 a year will be around $6,000 a year worse off because of the Prime Minister's unfair budget. Four hundred and twenty thousand recipients of family tax benefit B in New South Wales will lose their payment when their youngest child turns six, leaving them $2,341.55 a year worse off. Of the 218,000 Newstart recipients in New South Wales, those under 30 face losing their payments for six months, leaving them without any income for six months and having to rely on charity. What has this country come to? What is this government thinking about, saying to some of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable young people in this country, 'You can go for six months without any income; go down and find your nearest charity and see if they will look after you'? This is totally unacceptable and something that the public, in my view, have rebelled against. The public understand that this budget is absolutely unacceptable.

Petrol tax is up. What about the people in the bush? The National Party are quiet. You hear nothing from the National Party on this. They want to do the bidding of the Liberal Party on industrial relations, but they do not want to look after their own people in the bush who are getting slammed by these hits under the budget. They do not want to do it. You hear nothing from them. You do not hear a word from the doormats of the National Party when it comes to the issues that are beleaguering the public in rural and regional New South Wales—not a word. They get up and they do the dorothy dixers every question time, as if this is going to give them some brownie points. Some of them sound more like right wing conservatives than they ever have been. The National Party are doing the bidding of the Liberal Party. They are simply down on their knees saying to the Liberal Party, 'We will do whatever you ask us; just give us the questions and we will put them forward.'

At the same time, pensioners in rural and region New South Wales will be $80 a week worse off as a result of the changes in this budget to the indexation of pensions. You never hear a word from the National Party on these things. People in Armidale, people in Tamworth, people in Coonabarabran and people in all the regions of New South Wales will be doing it tough because of this budget, and they should understand that the state New South Wales Liberal Party have not raised a voice on these issues that are so important to their welfare. The National Party have not raised a peak about these issues on New South Wales welfare and the problems that they are going to create. Under this budget, a single-income mum will be six per cent worse off—$90 a week worse off—due to these budget cuts. These budget cuts are the worst that we have ever seen. They are certainly the most unfair budget cuts.

So the issue that you have to look at in terms of this government is, No. 1, credibility in terms of the promises that they made and which they just ditch time after time. There is absolutely no credibility in relation to their promises. No-one will ever believe a federal coalition government or a federal coalition party going to an election and making promises. They cannot be accepted on any promise that they make, because it will have absolutely no standing. So on credibility they are gone. The second issue is trust. The public do not trust them. The public know that they will say anything to get elected and they will ditch the promises as soon as they are elected. The public know that they will not have any decent policy from a coalition government that is absolutely steeped in ideology—an ideology that says, 'We'll look after the big end of town and those who get plenty of money and the poor can look after themselves. They can go to a charity.'

That is what is happening with this coalition government. Young people who may have mental disabilities and young people who cannot get a job will be told, 'You will survive without any income for six months.' Pensioners and seniors will be 80 bucks a week worse off and young people will be left with no money. Yet what does this budget do if you are on three times the average income? If you are on three times the average income you pay an extra $24—one per cent. If you are a single parent with an eight-year-old you are 12 per cent down. If you are an unemployed 23-year-old, you are 18 per cent down.

There is no fairness to this budget, and the coalition will pay a huge price at the next election because of their untruthfulness with the electorate and their incapacity to deliver on their promises. It is a bad government, a chaotic government, a government in disarray and a one-term government. I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted.