Senate debates

Wednesday, 9 May 2018



7:25 pm

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Disability and Carers) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to address the Senate the day after what has, sadly, proven to be another budget for bankers and billionaires. This is a budget where the welfare of everyday Australians is placed squarely behind that of big business, and it places cuts at its centre. This budget places cuts to pensioners; cuts to the energy supplement; and cuts to TAFE, schools and hospitals at its core, and at the same time this is a budget that raises the pension age for working Australians. As we've just heard, there are also cuts to the public broadcaster, the ABC, of which I have to say the minister with some careless disregard uses weasel words as to whether he knew there would be possible job losses due to the cuts to the ABC.

Not only does the budget raise the pension age for working Australians; it also fails to adequately address the crisis that it's made in the aged-care sector. At a time when the waiting lists have grown by 20,000 places over a period of just six months, the government is offering 3½ thousand places a year. What an indictment on the priorities of this government and on its ability to act for older Australians.

And just why is it that they're proposing these cuts and half-baked measures? Well, the government has decided that it needs to make life harder for pensioners, young people and working Australians because that's how it's going to afford its $80 billion handout to banks and big business. Quite frankly, despite the unpopularity of these measures and despite the clear will of the Australian people, this budget moves to lock in a seven-year plan that asks Australians to trust the government. Apparently Australians are expected to vote for this government two more times before they can expect to see all of the proposed tax cuts put up by the Treasurer last night.

Thankfully, the Australian people know better than that. They know better than to vote two more times for a government that announces a budget emergency that it then decides has disappeared overnight. They know better than to vote for a government who can announce cash handouts to banks and big business despite cutting essential services. Frankly, they know better than to vote for a government that says it needs to hike up the Medicare levy to pay for the NDIS and then announces that it was fully funded all along. This is a government that simply can't be trusted, and the Australian people know that. Australians know that this is the same government that stood in the way of the banking royal commission because that's where the Prime Minister's mates are. They know that under this government's watch there's been $117 million worth of cuts to hospitals while there's also been a $7.5 million weekly gift planned for the Commonwealth Bank—all this at the same time as the Prime Minister plans to make Australians work longer than almost anywhere else in the world.

This budget speaks to just how out of touch this government is. Only a government that doesn't understand the jobs of everyday Australians would plan to give big banks a $17 billion handout at the same time as it plans to ask hardworking Australians to increase the number of years that they work. Only this government would expect struggling Australians to deal with $300 less towards rising power bills and would also ask young people to plan for a future with fewer TAFE opportunities and less funding for hospitals.

That's why Labor is committed to holding this government to account and that's why I rise today to address this budget and to address the failed plans at the core of it. I rise to speak against any plans that place cuts to essential services at their core but place future plans of income tax changes over two elections away. This is a budget for bankers and billionaires and this is a budget that, sadly, does no more than we've come to expect from this government. It's only Labor that can guarantee the continued funding of services that Australians value. It's only Labor that plans budgets that look out for everyday Australians.