Wednesday, 4 May 2016
Matters of Public Importance
A letter has been received from Senator Moore:
Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:
The Turnbull Government's Budget that puts high income earners and big business before families, students, patients, pensioners and low income earners.
Is the proposal supported?
More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
I understand that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today’s debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.
I rise to speak on this matter of public importance. It is the last afternoon, the last opportunity, for us as a Senate chamber to review and pass judgements on the Turnbull government's attempt to buy its way back into office.
What we saw last night was Mr Turnbull's priorities exposed for all to see. The coalition government spent the best part of five years pretending Australia had a debt and deficit crisis, making claims like Australia was heading down the path of Greece—the Deputy Prime Minister would make that claim regularly. Whereas what we saw last night was no attempt to address those issues.
I have many words I wanted to say today but I was captivated by an article written by Andrew Bolt today, who had the following to say about the budget:
It's the 'Gunna Budget'—a promise by a scared and clueless Turnbull Government that it’s gunna do the right thing one day. But not yet.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said this 'was not just another Budget' and he was right. It’s a fraud.
None of the important things you were promised have been delivered in this pathetic document.
Spending restraint? Spending is actually up next year by another $19 billion.
Cutting taxes? This government will grab an extra $21 billion from us next year.
Tackling the debt crisis? The government plans to put another $85 billion on the national credit card over the next four years.
He goes on to say:
But if this Budget is short on delivery today it’s huge in promises for tomorrow. And here’s where the spin gets mad.
and I am quoting directly here—
Turnbull sent poor Morrison to talk up the massive tax revolution they were planning that would cut your taxes, boost growth, cut the deficit and splash cash on hospitals?
'Everything is on the table,' the Prime Minister said. But then he got cold feet and now there’s almost nothing left on that table but a bunch of IOUs. And so Morrison in his Budget was left to feebly promise the government is gunna cut business taxes to 25 per cent to make them 'internationally competitive'—but not until 10 years from now, should Turnbull still be PM.
He promised the government was gunna start repaying our debt—but not for another five years, and even that depended on shaky China not tanking, global financial markets not freaking and the Senate finally passing the kind of cuts it’s blocked for years.
He goes on to say:
As I said, it’s the Gunna Budget. All promise, no delivery.
But some of the spinning of this dud is astonishing. Of course, I feel for Morrison but, really, how can he boast of his '10-year enterprise tax plan' to gradually cut business taxes when this government would need to be elected four times to see it through?
Talk about a boy with a finger in the dyke.
That sentiment of broken promises, talking to the hypocrisy of those opposite, as I said, captivated my attention.
What we saw was Mr Turnbull's priorities: a cut for millionaires of $4,000-odd and a cut for big business. But the funny thing about this is that he has promised a 10-year benefit. He has modelled the benefits of a 10-year cut in tax, but he has refused to reveal the costs of the 10-year plan. So you have to ask: what does the government, Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison, have to hide? Is it $20 billion? Is it $30 billion? Is it $40 billion? Is it $50 billion, $60 billion or $70 billion? Come clean. Senator Cormann in question time today refused to tell the Australian people the price of the priorities favoured by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and the Treasurer, Mr Morrison. Come clean. Seventy-five per cent of Australians get not one cent of a tax cut, but the millionaires and the big banks get billions and billions of dollars—tax cuts for the big banks and tax cuts for millionaires.
With all of this, in the lead-up to the budget, it drew little comment that Mr Turnbull promised not to introduce a GST in the next three years—but we know that it is in the DNA of the Liberal Party. If you scratch the surface, you know that every single one of those senators from the coalition sitting opposite want to increase the GST and put it on food. So I am not reassured by Mr Turnbull's promise that he will not introduce it in the next three years, because what that is code for, we all know, is that he plans to propose a GST in the next three years. He plans, ultimately, to increase the cost of food in this country with a GST—15 per cent if he gets his way. He wants to spread the base to cover all goods and services. So do not be reassured, people of Australia, that if you vote the coalition government in you are not going to end up with a higher GST on food and other items currently exempt.
This is a government that wants to look after the big end of town. It is giving its paymasters, the Business Council, everything they want, but just a little bit slower than they wanted, so that they can pretend. Last year Labor proposed a small business tax cut and it was absolutely voted down, opposed and attacked by the government and then we had the farcical situation last night where they come in and say, 'Actually, we do want to steal another of Labor's policies, a small business tax cut.' And then what do they do? They start redefining what a small business is. A $2 million turnover has become a $10 million turnover and, ultimately—in what can only be described as the most ironic conversation you can have—a small business has a turnover of a billion dollars. I think there might be three or four big banks and Telstra and BHP that might escape in those first few years. The absurdity of the desperation of Mr Turnbull to give a tax cut to the big end of town was on show for all to see.
Then this morning when debating housing affordability, we found out what Mr Turnbull's housing affordability plan was: get rich parents to give you money to buy you a house. How out of touch can this Prime Minister be: 'If you are locked out of the housing market and you are a first home buyer, get your rich parents to give you a house or a loan.' (Time expired)
First of all, I would like to assure those listening out in the public that the coalition's 2016 budget is an action budget. It is a budget for all Australians. It is an economic plan for jobs and growth. This budget ensures Australia continues to successfully transition from the mining investment boom to a stronger, more diversified economy, opening up export opportunities which will help more than 100,000 young people into jobs.
The coalition's budget is injecting $840 million for a youth employment package which will help up to 120,000 young people secure jobs. As a former teacher, I know how innovative and needed this package is. The Youth Jobs PaTH package equates to prepare, trial and hire. It increases the employability of today's young people, providing them with real work experience in the real world. It responds directly to business feedback, allowing young people to tailor a pathway that better suits their needs, and builds on their experiences and individual strengths. This package sets up young jobseekers to achieve successful job outcomes.
We must not forget our hardworking young Australians and the Australian businesses that employ them. They, too, will benefit from the coalition's 2016 budget. They will receive tax relief so that they can earn more without being taxed more. This includes at least 870,000 businesses that employ 3.4 million Australians.
We must remember that from 1 July this year, the middle income tax bracket will be increased from $80,000 to $87,000 per year. This increase of the income tax bracket is the real winner for families. In my home state of Queensland, every person earning over $80,000 will get a tax cut from July. This tax cut will be worth as much as $315 per year. This will stop around 500,000 taxpayers from facing the 37 per cent second-top marginal tax rate in each year.
There will be no removal or limit on negative gearing, ensuring no further increase or tax burden on Australians who are simply trying to improve their futures. Those earning less than $80,000 a year in taxable income make up two-thirds of those who use negative gearing. They are the backbone of our society—teachers, nurses, police officers, Defence personnel, office workers and tradespeople.
We have a resilient economy. Last year, our economy grew by almost $40 billion, and 300,000 jobs were created—the most jobs in a single year since 2007, including more than 50,000 new jobs for young people in the last 18 months.
The budget is still casting a targeted welfare safety net for vulnerable Australians, establishing a $1.7 billion dental scheme for children and adults, prioritising spending to capture those most in need of these services. There is also room to support hospitals and schools, and to protect our strong social safety net. We have already announced an additional $2.9 billion in funding over three years for public hospital services, focusing on improving patient safety, quality of services and reducing avoidable hospitalisations.
Australia is growing faster than any other advanced country. This is occurring by fixing the problems in the tax system, and that enables us to sustainably cover the government's responsibilities for the next generation. Governments, like families, understand that they need to live within their means—budgeting and balancing their incomes—something those opposite are yet to understand. This budget keeps Australia on a sustainable path to bring the budget back into balance by policies that continue to control spending while not increasing the tax burden on average Australians.
I rise to make a contribution to this debate because the Turnbull government's budget has put high-income earners and big business before families, students, patients, pensioners and low-income earners.
They are giving the big end of town $12 billion worth of funding in tax cuts and tax breaks. They will be giving high-income earners $6 a week in a tax return. Six dollars a week does not even by you a sandwich. But imagine what you could buy with $12 billion? You could certainly afford to raise Newstart, because people on Newstart are currently living below the poverty line and keep dropping, fairly rapidly, under that poverty line.
The government could then not require people with disability who are on Disability Support Pension to be reviewed against the new eligibility criteria. They are the people who have been on DSP, but who were not reassessed before the new eligibility criteria came in. We estimate that the government plans to drop about 36,000 people off the Disability Support Pension and onto Newstart, costing them nearly $7,000 a year. Already, estimates show that nearly half of people with disability living in households are living below the poverty line. This government now wants to drop those people below the poverty line. And that is supposedly the funding for the NDIS.
The NDIS is fully funded anyway, so potentially what we are going to see are people getting an NDIS and not having Disability Support Pension. How are they supposed to pay for their food, basic living requirements and accommodation? Obviously, they cannot when they are living on Newstart. This is a ludicrous situation. The government could be funding that with the $12 billion they are giving back to the big end of town.
They are taking the Clean Energy Supplement from aged pensioners and people on Newstart—again, costing people who are already living either on the poverty line or just above it if they are an aged pensioner, or below the poverty line if they are living on Newstart.
And the government is saying, 'We've got this new plan for youth. We'll have them as interns.' The potential for exploitation of young people is phenomenal and mind-blowing. Senator Lindgren just let the cat out of the bag: it is what business want. I bet they do, because they are going to get a source of extremely cheap or free labour from the government. Of course they will be lining up!
What does the government think is going to happen to the people who are currently employed at those particular workplaces? The experience from England is that people were sacked so that the businesses could get access to free or very cheap labour. To say that it is voluntary is absolutely ludicrous, because the government also has legislation in the parliament—and there are already sanctions on the books—that if you do not agree to your employment pathway plan, you will be breached. In other words, you will be dropped off your income support. If your jobactive and job services provider says that you have to do this and you do not agree, you could be breached. So to say it is voluntary is absolute nonsense. It is good to see that the government has finally admitted that Work for the Dole is ineffective.
This budget is also conspicuous by the absence of any significant new funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In February we had the Prime Minister with his hand on his heart saying, 'We're going to do whatever we can to close the gap'. Well they are not, because there is no funding in the budget for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health implementation plan—no funding for that. There is no redress, no support for putting funding back into the half a billion dollars that the former Abbott government took out.
And of course this is on top of those harsh cuts that the Abbott government's two budgets delivered. Income support payment cuts and family tax benefit cuts, which this Senate has resisted supporting. I hope the new Senate continues to resist supporting those cuts to family tax benefits. This government still wants to leave young people with no income support for five weeks. That legislation was resisted by this Senate, but this government, the Turnbull government, which is supposed to doing things differently, is supporting all of those harsh, unfair budget measures that the community so clearly rejected. This Turnbull government has put them all back in there again. They are counting them in there, thank you very much. So this is an unfair budget that unfairly targets the most vulnerable members of our community. (Time expired)
The Turnbull government's budget makes it clear that it is absolutely no different from the previous budget counterparts of the Abbott government: it has also been a complete let-down for the majority of Australians. 'Let's protect the higher income earners'—that is the mantra of the Turnbull Liberal government—'and let's do it at the expense of families, let's do it at the expense of workers, let's do it at the expense of young people.' What a lost opportunity last night was indeed.
How can you have a plan for jobs and growth and then make massive cuts to infrastructure spending and be absolutely silent on tourism and the arts? Indigenous Australians have been completely forgotten, let alone the environment. How can it be fair that you have someone who earns $300,000 getting a $2,600 tax cut, yet average Australian families, the majority of which make up the country, earning $60,000 a year will face cuts of $5,000? Where is the fairness in that? Those who earn more than $80,000 may look forward to this tax cut, but if you look at Tasmania 80 per cent of its workforce earns less than $80,000. That is how out of touch the Turnbull government is with the states that it is supposed to be thinking about and providing for, as it was last night in its budget. Four out of five Tasmanians earn less than $80,000. They are the people who are going to be affected.
And where are the Liberals standing up for Tasmania? Where is Senator Abetz, Senator Bushby or Senator Colbeck—who knows that in his portfolio of tourism there was a big ask on the table that would have created jobs, that would have created investment in our state with the Cradle Mountain Master Plan. It was completely left off the table. What about the Cadbury money that we were promised in the lead-up to the last election by Tony Abbott—the $16 million that the whole state is still wanting. The state was led down the garden path into believing that if they voted for a Liberal government, they would receive some funding in that sense. It still has not come, and we are now nearly three years on. So not only have there been cuts to schools, to Medicare, to family benefits, to higher education, to veterans' hospitals and of course the GP tax by stealth, there has also been a complete disregard and disconnect for the people who actually live in my home state—let alone the other families around Australia who also earn under $80,000 who very much rely on the services that this government chooses to cut.
A Labor government will stand in stark contrast to this Turnbull Liberal government. In fact, the contrast now could not be any starker. We, of course, will put people first. We will put families first. And while the 2016 budget has shown Mr Turnbull and the Liberal Party will look after those higher income earners and multinationals, Labor will look after all Australians. And, yes, we will tax multinationals so that they do pay their fair share of tax. We will crack down on the tax that they should be paying, rather than avoiding; we will look after families who rely very much on their government to provide the services that are a mainstay of any government provision, and the things that they pay their taxes for, that they do not hide their taxes for, in order to get by and to live. Medicare is a very good example of that, and it continues to be in the spotlight for this government—where Liberal government changes means people have to pay more to go and see a doctor for vital tests like X-rays and blood tests and ultrasounds and Pap smears and the like. That is still there, along with cuts to our hospitals of up to some $54.1 billion.
Our schools are still not fully funded using Gonski, a needs-based funding model. The work has been done, so why won't this government fund it? Again, we have to ensure all of those children who are in such desperate need get the funding so that they do have the quality education they so deserve. University degrees: young people will not be fooled. Students know that it has been shelved, but they also know that after the election—if, dare I say it, the Liberals are re-elected—those opposite will bring it back onto the table. And of course a fairer tax system is what we all really need, and that means a big corporation has to pay their fair share of tax and not given huge tax cuts like the Liberals are continuing to protect them to do. (Time expired)
I too rise today, but this time to congratulate the Turnbull government for the 2016-17 budget, and I especially commend the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the finance minister and all of our economic team on a truly outstanding budget. It is a budget that really is preparing Australia for the long-term economic future, and I am absolutely thrilled with the benefits that it will provide for the people of the great state of Western Australia.
I agree with those opposite: the difference between this side and that side has never been starker. The difference is not that those on the opposite side want to make sure that Australians, and in my case West Australians, are looked after in health, education and all of the other services we need; the difference is we understand that these services actually have to be paid for, and that as a nation we have to live within our means. If we want to spend it, we also have to work out how we pay for it, and that is one of the things about this budget that I am so happy and pleased about. It is a realistic plan for the long-term future of our country.
I stand here, having listened to Senator Conroy trotting out all of the old left-wing rhetoric and class warfare rhetoric and criticising the government for having a 10-year economic plan. If that does not also highlight the differences between this side and the other side, then nothing else will. This is what good government looks like—it is actually planning to live within our means and growing as we can afford to. Every family in this country knows that they have to live within their means, and it is about time that this country also lived within its means. That means this government making an economically responsible long-term plan to grow and to live within our means.
I have to say that one of my proudest moments so far as a senator for Western Australia was last night when the Treasurer, in his budget speech, referred to Western Australia, to Perth, as a shipbuilding hub for this nation—something that, just 12 months ago, would have been inconceivable. It just goes to show what can happen when federal and state politicians, businesses and other organisations get together for a common cause. This acknowledgement in the budget last night shows that Western Australia is successfully diversifying from the resources sector into other areas of economic opportunity. We have so many skills that are transferrable from the resources sector into manufacturing, into shipbuilding and into other high-end industries, and it never just happens. This is a fantastic endorsement of many thousands of jobs for the future for Western Australia.
In the last few months alone the federal government, through the defence white paper—and this is now contained in the budget—has had nearly $6 billion of new spending in the Western Australian defence industry and shipbuilding. That means thousands of new jobs not only for the long term for Western Australians but also for the supply chain, which goes right through hundreds, if not thousands, of other businesses—mostly small mum-and-dad businesses—in the manufacturing and other support sectors.
Senator Lines might want to sit there and heckle, but I tell you what—I will always stand up, as I have stood up, for Western Australia's jobs and for getting new jobs and new industries for our state. While an extra $5 billion to $6 billion is a great additional investment in Western Australian jobs there is still much more to be done, and this budget puts us on the right path for the future.
How is it supporting and helping Western Australians? It is helping hardworking Western Australian small business owners. Those opposite do not understand. They talk about class warfare and about big businesses being the antithesis of support for families, but they are the ones that employ Western Australians, they are the ones that give people long-term jobs and they are the ones that put food on our families' tables. Mostly it is the small businesses that will benefit so much from this budget, because it encourages those small family businesses and other businesses to grow. The more they work, the more they will be rewarded and, as Liberals and as Western Australians, we know that that is the right thing.
Western Australians absolutely understand that where there is investment and where there is economic growth there are jobs. It also means that we are prosperous and that we can afford to pay for the services that we all want. There is no magic pudding, where the money to pay for all of these services just appears. That is why the Turnbull government is putting in place this long-term economic plan.
How else do Western Australians benefit from this plan? Tax relief and a reduction in red tape for small business will mean that more than 74,000 companies in Western Australia will pay less tax, so they can get on with the job and employ more people. The feedback I have had today from small business people—a lot of them family businesses—has been overwhelmingly positive. They believe that they will do better. For our regions there will be more development assistance, with a focus on infrastructure. But probably the thing I am happiest about is the jobs program for our youth. In Armadale in Western Australia there is 17 per cent youth unemployment and many children grow up in families where neither parent has ever had a job. This plan is probably the most encouraging and wonderful thing that we have had. There is help for young people in Western Australia to get their first job, to get their foot in the door, to keep a job and to have long-term employment security. No Australian, and no young person, should ever be written off and condemned to a life of welfare.
The government is also ensuring that the 54,090 hardworking average wage earners in Western Australia are not slugged with 37 per cent marginal tax for the coming year. These are not the wealthy, as those opposite would like to have us believe; these are average, hardworking Western Australians who did not deserve to go into the next higher tax bracket. Additionally, for the 313,779 low-income earners in Western Australia, who are often women and mothers working part time while supporting a family, there will be new tax settings on their superannuation to ensure they are able to start to afford more superannuation. These are just some of the very tangible benefits for Western Australians.
Another pillar for the Western Australian economy is the additional infrastructure funding. In this budget the government has committed more than $1 billion for infrastructure projects across Western Australia, which is on top of the $5 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. Here I would like to indulge very briefly to note a fantastic appointment for Western Australia today. Our own Sharon Warburton has been appointed Chair-designate of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, and I would like to congratulate Sharon on her appointment. I have absolutely no doubt she will bring the wealth of her experience in construction, resources, agriculture and infrastructure to this very important role for northern Australia. Congratulations, Sharon.
The alternative for Western Australians is the budget black hole of those opposite. Their shadow Treasurer last night said a $20 billion error was merely a rounding mistake. Today it has come up to about $100 billion. All Western Australians know that that actually means the money has to be paid back by them because it is the taxpayers who have to pay.
The people of Western Australia want a plan. They want a sound, safe and carefully considered long-term plan for their economic future. This government's plan does set out a clear path to future prosperity for Western Australians. It is a plan that will deliver positive, genuine effects in the lives of hardworking Western Australian men and women, their families, their children and their small businesses.
The Turnbull government's national economic plan will also boost opportunities for Western Australian regions and agriculture and infrastructure sectors along with previous policies announced by the government such as the national continuous shipbuilding program and the National Innovation and Science Agenda, which offers Western Australia so many new opportunities.
In conclusion, unlike those opposite, I am incredibly optimistic about Australia's future and particularly about Western Australia's future as we transform to the new economy. I am proud to be part of a government that has the courage, leadership and commitment to deliver not some shiny new policies that we cannot afford but a plan that will secure jobs and our economic future.
Yesterday's budget had the occasional bright spot. The proposed job path program in particular appears to be a constructive attempt to tackle the dire problem of youth unemployment in this country. But, on balance, this is a deplorable budget. While there are a few positive measures, it is completely unacceptable that the government is seeking to fund these measures at the expense of those who can least afford it. I am talking about cuts to the family tax benefit, cuts to those on the disability support pension, cuts to aged care, cuts to health, cuts to higher education and cuts to the NDIS. This budget is an unprincipled attack on low-income earners, the disabled, students and families. This is a family-bashing budget in which yet again we see this government attacking the most vulnerable in our society for its own political ends.
The Treasurer has taken the Hockey stick to the last, the lost and the least in Australia. It is a Liberal kick in the guts to those who can least afford it. Even the government's headline revenue measure, the increase in tobacco excise, forecast to raise $4.7 billion over four years, will hit the poor the hardest. I might add this is a carbon copy of previously announced ALP policy. I am no fan of smoking and the harm it causes, but the disproportionate impact this kind of measure has on low-income earners should not pass without comment. Just like this government's first budget in 2014, this budget is unfair and poorly targeted. It contains a few election sweeteners and will be good for those at the top end of town, but typically this is at the expense of low- and middle-income earners and Australian families.
I am proud of my role in having blocked the worst excesses of the government's unfair 2014 budget. If I get another chance, I can assure all Victorians and all Australians that I will use my vote to block the worst excesses of this attack on Australian families.
Make no mistake; the Turnbull government's budget is about winners and losers, and the losers in this case are the Australian community. Almost every Australian on an average income, working hard and paying their taxes has been punished by the Turnbull government. From day one of the election of this LNP government they have done nothing but bring havoc onto ordinary Australian families and ordinary Australian workers. Quite frankly, I do not know how LNP members can stand in this place and somehow cheer the budget. They are totally, absolutely out of touch with reality.
Of course, Labor is always concerned when governments such as the Turnbull government target families and pensioners first. The Turnbull government is happy to give multinationals a big tax cut but hits families and pensioners hard for the third budget in a row. And what about this quote: 'a grab for money, it's a political statement and I don't like it'? Guess who said that. The Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, said that about Labor's tobacco plan. And what have we seen today and last night? An exact copy of our tobacco plan. Those opposite were absolute hypocrites and slammed us for that policy, which we put out months and months ago, but suddenly they pick it up last night in their budget.
Where else have they been hypocrites? Superannuation for low-income earners. Labor had a really good plan in place for low-income earners—particularly women—whose super balances need a boost. What did they do? They stood in this place and criticised us but, as soon as they could, they got rid of that. Suddenly it is back because it is another good idea that they suddenly saw and put in place for themselves, somehow now sprouting a policy for women. This budget is nothing about women. It does harm to women. All they have done is put back something they already took off people.
And what about small business? Suddenly the Turnbull government has discovered small businesses. Labor already knew about them. We had good incentives in place. I remember when they removed those incentives. Small business people were up in arms about it.
And look at what they have done to young people. I do not know what young people have done to upset the Turnbull government. They probably did not vote for them. That is the mistake they made. The first budget said you had to wait six months for the benefit and introduced the Work for the Dole scheme, which Labor said from day one would never work, and now they have to admit it does not work.
And what have they done? They have swapped apprenticeships, which lead to proper skills, a trade certificate and a career for the future, with these internships. Who in their right mind would give a subsidy to employers like Coles and Woolworths to put interns on? What is that going to do?
We all know on this side what it is going to do: it is going to mean young people are sacked, they are put on internships on $4 an hour, and somehow they should be grateful for that, and they can just keep rolling these internships along. In just the same way that Work for the Dole was a failed strategy, internships will also be a failed strategy.
Then guess what they are doing: they are giving the employers more money than the poor worker on an internship. Imagine. Why would a large employer have someone on $4 an hour working alongside someone on $20 an hour? We know on this side what is going to happen to that part-time or casual worker who is earning 20 bucks an hour: they will be sacked in favour of this worker on an internship. Quite frankly, if the Turnbull government think the way to fix youth unemployment is to give big employers like Coles and Woolworths a subsidy for employing the young people they already employ then they have well and truly lost the plot. Just like Work for the Dole and just like their punishing of young people, this internship nonsense will fall on its face. Why would you abolish apprenticeships and come up with this wishy-washy internship notion? What an insult! Get real. (Time expired)
Last night's budget was just what Australia needs right now: steadfast leadership; an economic plan for Australia, for jobs and growth into the future; no frills; no inducements; careful management of our finances; and guaranteed spending on health, on education and on help for those in our society less fortunate than us.
Perhaps the centrepiece of the budget was real help for small business, the groups of people in Australia who create the real jobs in Australia. Coming from the North of our country, from the North of Queensland, and having a passion for northern Australia, I was particularly pleased to see the budget confirmed spending commitments in northern Australia: an additional $9 million for new northern Australian water infrastructure feasibility studies; $2 billion for a concessional loan fund for water infrastructure, most of which, I would hope, would be spent in the North; $2.4 billion for Roads to Recovery, which is so important to all of the councils across northern Australia; $600 million for the priority roads and $100 million for beef roads in northern Australia; the $1 billion National Stronger Regions Fund, comprising 162 job-creating infrastructure projects in regional and disadvantaged communities across Australia; the $75 million Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia, so very important in the North; and, perhaps best of all, confirmation of the money for the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, for which we passed the bill through the Senate just this week. This budget was good news for northern Australia, as it was good news for Australia.
Those people like the Labor Mayor of Townsville, who was disappointed because there was not a long list of roads in her city—she has done nothing and the state Labor government have done nothing—do not understand what federal budgets are all about. Budgets set the parameters and the plan and allocate moneys to various departments of state, and in the future the relevant ministers and departments will allocate those moneys to specific projects right across Australia. I know that there will be a significant number of projects going to northern Australia, because this is a government that believes in northern Australia and that has followed up its beliefs with a firm northern Australian plan as part of the overall Australian economic plan.
Contrast this with the Labor Party: no plan and no real initiatives—just a return to the old tax and spend. Already the Labor Party have committed over $100 billion for projects that they have no money for. When they made a mistake of $20 billion in their calculations, they just passed that off as a rounding error. You can never trust Labor with money. That is why I was so proud of Mr Morrison, Mr Turnbull and our government last night. Here we have a sensible plan for Australia's growth into the future and for jobs.
In the North at the moment—in Townsville, Mount Isa and Mackay—there is some unhappiness. There are a lot of small businesses struggling because of the downturn in the mining industry and because some people—some Queensland senators—want to tax the sugar industry, one of the big industries in northern Australia—an industry that does so much for the North. You would not believe that there is a Queensland senator who wants to introduce a tax on sugar. There are Queensland senators who keep denigrating the Great Barrier Reef, who keep telling lies about the Great Barrier Reef and about mining, who want to shut down mining and who want to shut down the Trans-Pacific Partnership, perhaps the best thing that has ever happened to two of Queensland's most significant industries, the beef cattle industry and the sugar industry. There are Queensland senators who want to shut those down. There are Queensland senators who, as I say, want to denigrate the Barrier Reef and chase away the tourists that mean so much for jobs and growth along the Queensland coast.
On the other side of that, you have a government that is again providing money for research and tangible support for the Great Barrier Reef. You will not hear any of the Greens political party or their fellow travellers on the crossbench recognise the work that this government has done with our marine areas and particularly the Great Barrier Reef. And whilst the Greens and the crossbenchers and the Labor Party will never recognise that, I proudly display some work by the Marine Conservation Foundation, which has issued a booklet called A Big Blue Legacy. It talks about the Liberal-National tradition of marine conservation and it clearly shows that if you are interested in marine conservation—and I add to that to say any sort of environmental protection and support—you can only look at a government like the one we have now, because in the past it has been Liberal governments that have done real work for the environment. Last night's budget continued that approach with real funding for the environment, for the support industries that protect what is so wonderfully Australian and all of our natural resources.
I am also delighted to see the emphasis in last night's budget on the provision of jobs for young people. Regrettably, because of the work of the Greens in trying to shut down mines in the Great Barrier Reef and the Labor Party not giving the support that they should have in a timely way to projects like the Adani mine, unemployment is in some difficulty in Mackay, Townsville, Mount Isa—places where I live and visit very regularly. I was calling upon the government to do something tangible for that. The encouragement they have given to small business in last night's budget will help those small businesses and it will help with employment for young people. The PaTH program that was unveiled last night is something that will work. It is tangible. I hear the Labor Party people criticising it. These are people who have never employed anyone in their lives. They have always worked for the government, for the union, for another politician. They have never actually had to employ people and understand what works. What works is training young people, giving young people real jobs and giving them hope for the future.
Last night's budget is, as I said, just what Australia needs at this time. It is not something of outlandish promises that will never be met. We all know the Labor Party will promise everything and deliver nothing. We have a government now with a sensible economic plan for the next decade that will provide real growth and real jobs and that is what Australia needs at this time. We do not need uncontrolled spending that will blow out the budget deficits to $500 billion, as was the case under the last Labor regime. We want a sound government who can manage the finances, who understands that governments do not actually have any money; they only use taxpayers' money. It is important that we manage taxpayers' money in a very sound and sensible way. That is what last night's budget does. All congratulations to Mr Morrison and Mr Turnbull on a wonderful budget.
I rise to contribute to today's matter of public importance. If you are a banker or a politician, this budget will put a smile on your face because you are going to receive a number of tax cuts and benefits. However, if you are an aged pensioner, after the delivery of this budget—its official—the Liberals and Nationals hate you. And if you are an age pensioner who is sick and needs to visit the doctor, the measures in this Liberal budget regarding health and Medicare show that they really actually hate you.
If this tricky budget, with $13B of Tony Abbot's cuts to family welfare still embedded in it, is allowed to pass this parliament after a double dissolution election then 2.5 million Australian pensioners, including the 70,000 pensioners in Tasmania, 800,000 in New South Wales, 470,000 in Queensland and 615,000 in Victoria—and I guess you will not be getting any of those 470,00 votes in Queensland, Senator Macdonald—will all be severely financially disadvantaged and out of pocket. What is that going to do to economic growth and job creation for Australia, with all those broke pensioners living below the poverty line?
Malcolm Turnbull's Treasurer quoted statistics from the OECD in order to justify cuts to company tax. Instead of quoting OECD statistics on company tax rates, he should have quoted the OECD report which found that more than one-third of Australian pensioners are living below the poverty line. The OECD report indicated that our government is: (1) ranked second lowest on social equity, with 36 per cent of pensioners living below the poverty line; and (2) spends 3.5 per cent of our GDP on the pension, below the OECD average of 7.9 per cent.
Australia will borrow at least $50 billion over the next 10 years to give away in foreign aid. My plan is simply to redirect $25 billion of foreign aid into the age pension and boost the average single Tasmanian age pension by $50 a fortnight for singles and the couple age pension by $76. (Time expired)
I rise to speak about the Turnbull government's budget that puts high-income earners and big business before families, students, patients, pensioners and low-income earners. This morning in my home state of Tasmania, four out of five workers who make less than $80,000 woke up to find out that they were getting nothing from Turnbull's government's budget. Eighty-two per cent of the working population in Bass have been left off the map and will not get a tax cut.
With this budget, Tasmania's federal Liberal MPs have put their credibility on the line. They have let themselves and have certainly let Tasmania down. We know they backed Tony Abbott, and now Tasmania is seeing the result of this loyalty. The three amigos—Andrew Nikolic, Brett Whiteley and Eric Hutchinson—clearly have no influence here Canberra. The budget offers nothing positive for Tasmanians. It puts big business and high-income earners before families. We all know that Malcolm Turnbull likes rich people, but this budget proves how out of touch he is with everyday Australian families. We are right on the eve of having the election called, and the three amigos have done absolutely nothing to stand up for the Tasmanian community, particularly over the last three years. This is the third budget in a row that Tasmanian federal Liberal MPs have failed to stick up for Tasmanian families.
Malcolm Turnbull's budget does not pass a fairness test and has left Tasmania off the map. It still includes Tony Abbott's cuts to the family tax benefits and cuts to paid parental leave. It will still see Tasmanians working until they are 70. It fails to set up a Tasmania for the future by cutting services, infrastructure investment, skills and education. Along with that we know that there have been cuts as far as health is concerned, which is having an enormous impact on the Tasmanian community. There is no additional funding to replace the nasty cuts that they have that are crippling our hospitals in Tasmania. There is no money being put forward towards Tasmania's roads, rail or public infrastructure. It has failed to match Labor's $150 million investment in the future of jobs and education in Bass—the most comprehensive plan for education and jobs that northern Tasmania has ever seen. Even the local TheExaminer newspaper has paid credit to the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, for his commitment to the future education of Tasmanian young kids in being able to access university.
The three amigos have talked big on a whole range of projects, but have failed to deliver on any of them. Malcolm Turnbull's budget has also put the high-end of town ahead of vulnerable older Australians. We know that Malcolm Turnbull's budget offers—
We on this side of the chamber know that this government has brought down an unfair budget. We know that each and every one of the last three budgets they have brought down has had a cut to aged care in this country. We on this side of the chamber know that, for whatever reason, it is not just unemployed kids that the government do not like; they do not like older Australians. We know that they have no concern when it comes to those people who are living with dementia. We have seen the cuts that they have made to support for those people with dementia and their carers trying to live in the community. We know after almost three years that this government have no other plan other than the plan to secure their own re-election that has been propped up by the budget.
The Australian community will have a very stark choice when they go to the ballot box. Labor will put up further policies. We already have out there 100 policies that are costed. They will have a stark choice. The Liberal government has continued to make cuts to health, education, aged care and dementia care. We know that they cannot be trusted. Whatever they say today and before the election on 2 July, we know they will not deliver on their promises. That has been proven time and time again. They shafted a Prime Minister because they thought they might win an election. What do we do? We have a Prime Minister who talked about innovation. What has he delivered? Nothing but a backward-looking budget—a budget that will do nothing at all for the Australian community and certainly nothing for the Tasmanian community.
This budget is bad news for Queensland average income earners. Changes to Medicare will mean that people will have to pay for blood tests and other pathology and rising prescription costs. Most Queenslanders earn under $80,000 and none of them will receive a tax cut. Struggling families will miss out on extra childcare assistance. There is no money for Brisbane's cross river rail. There is no money for the M1 Gateway upgrade. The Gonski education reforms are drastically under-funded, so needy kids will miss out. There is no funding for the Townsville sports entertainment precinct. The Cairns consortium missed out on the Pacific patrol boat tender. Last of all, the fact that Queensland was not mentioned once in the Treasurer's speech speaks volumes.