Thursday, 10 May 2018
Statement and Documents
Mr Acting Deputy President, there's a convention. We've been doing this for many, many years. I ask you to consult with the Clerk and whoever you need to consult, but we've never had a situation in this chamber where the privilege hasn't been afforded to a party that represents the next biggest majority to the Labor and Liberal parties.
Mr Acting Deputy President, we are just looking at the protocol for this evening. Normally, at this stage, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate tables the Leader of the Opposition's statement. As, we are all aware, the Leader of the Opposition in the other place is still on his feet. We are unable to table that statement until he finishes his speech. I wanted to make clear that is what is happening. There is no protocol, I believe, that needs to say that that has to happen first. That's my understanding. For the understanding of everyone in the chamber, that's why we were looking to delay. At this stage, that speech is not yet completed. As soon as it's finished, I promise I will make sure that the leader is here to table it for us.
Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. I open by acknowledging the Ngunawal people as the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I want to start by saying the Greens welcome the government's budget. We welcome it, because it presents Australians with a clear and stark choice about the future. Do we want to live in a more selfish, dog-eat-dog society where everyone is in it for themselves, where we get tax cuts for big corporations and wealthy Australians to make them richer, and where everyone else is left behind?
Do we want to live in a society where young people are denied a safe and stable climate, affordable housing and a quality education? Or do we want to come together as a community and fund universal services that we know are the foundations of this society, that give everyone, not just those with wealth, the ability to fulfil their dreams and aspirations and to live a good life? As a doctor, I know that tax cuts mean crowded emergency departments, longer hospital waiting lists and bigger bills when you see your GP. As a parent, I know that massive tax cuts mean more children crammed into overcrowded classrooms, struggling to learn. And I know that it's my children's generation who will inherit the legacy of an unstable and dangerous climate.
Scott Morrison might have his name on this budget, but let's be absolutely clear about who the real author is. In the long history of ghostwriters, hidden from public fame, this budget has been written for and by the corporations that have captured this government. This is not a budget that rises to the challenges we are facing in this century, challenges we can only face together, challenges like climate change, inequality, affordable housing and the changing nature of work as jobs are replaced by machines. It's a selfish budget, a mean budget, one that steals from the future and benefits corporations and the super-rich at the expense of everybody else. This budget is a case study in how big companies have taken over politics and reorganised the economy for their own benefit. Big business wins twice in this budget. Firstly, it gets a whopping great big tax cut worth $80 billion. Secondly, the personal income tax cuts mean it doesn't have to give up one cent of its additional profits to give workers a pay rise. Yet again, it's the public who pays while the big end of town gets off scot-free. The champagne corks will have been popping in boardrooms right across the country on budget night.
Look at our multinational gas companies, who are making billions of dollars getting our gas for free and not paying a single cent in tax. We were promised the government would crack down on this rort. We could have at least $4 billion from collecting a 10 per cent royalty, alongside an improved petroleum resource rent tax, that could raise revenue for thousands of jobs, jobs for park rangers, community legal centres or an investment in climate mitigation programs. Instead, the big energy giants ended up writing themselves out of the budget. Now they can sit quietly and wait for their tax cut. It's more evidence that we do not have a tax system in this country; we have a tax avoidance system. That's what needs to be fixed.
Instead, the Liberals have rewritten tax thresholds, and with that they will rewrite the fabric of Australian society. They have delivered a budget that will turbocharge inequality. Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison are hoping against hope that they can fool you, that you will be bought off with a few tax cuts and that you'll miss the devil's bargain at the heart of their plan: they give with one hand but they take twice as much with the other. Australians won't be fooled. They know that this budget rips billions of dollars in tax revenue from our schools and hospitals. They know that it is grossly unfair that a nurse or a childcare worker gets a few hundred dollars in tax cuts but a politician or a banker gets $7,200 in tax cuts. Even for those measly tax cuts starting on 1 July this year, a graduate childcare worker earning the minimum wage of $36,000 will only get $3.65 a week. If you're a young mum returning to the workforce, working one or two days a week, you'll get nothing. Of course, the ABC will struggle to report on these changes because they've had another cut to their annual budget.
With this budget this government is taking us further away from the kind of decent, generous and caring society that most of us want and believe in. Look no further than the government's shameful refusal to increase the Newstart payment. Despite even John Howard and the Business Council of Australia joining with people right across the community, agreeing that now Newstart is so low that it guarantees that people who fall out of work will be locked into a downward spiral of poverty, Malcolm Turnbull said no.
A progressive taxation system is the best protection we have to combat inequality, but, if we want to keep it, we've got a serious fight ahead of us. We in the Greens believe in progressive taxation because it ensures that people contribute according to their means. It allows us to raise money and to target it where it is most needed. We all know that, if you want to fix the tax system, you fix the tax avoidance system; you don't give a tax cut to corporations and the super-rich. With one small and achievable policy change we could be making big mining companies pay fuel excise tax like the rest of us, and with that small change we could lift youth allowance, Newstart and payments for single parents by $75 a week so that no-one in this country is living beneath the poverty line. And, if we did that—if we made that small change—we'd still have a staggering $14 billion left over to inject into Medicare and into more childhood education, which would mean fewer out-of-pocket costs for people and lift the quality of life for both young and old. If we didn't plough billions into continuing the capital gains tax rort for wealthy investors, we could invest those billions into public schools instead of leaving it up to parents to raise money through fun runs, through cake stalls and through reading challenges.
But here's the rub: you see, parents can't afford to bankroll a television campaign, so it's young people who get screwed over time and time again, budget after budget. Those without a roof over their head, those living in insecure housing, those living in fear of domestic violence—they're left to fend for themselves because they can't organise a lavish fundraising dinner on the 20th floor of Ernst & Young House. Schoolteachers, nurses and those on the front line of social support services—they can't offer lucrative contracts for retiring energy or trade ministers once they leave parliament, so they don't get the budget they want.
And so what are we left with? Housing remains as a speculative asset. It's a great tax lark. It's easier for people to buy their third, fourth or fifth house than their first. Renters are locked out; they have to brace themselves for the next inevitable rent increase. People are forced to buy health insurance they don't want or need to boost the profits of private health companies, who funnel it into tax havens offshore. We need to end that unfair and inefficient subsidy so that we can invest it in Medicare-funded dental care so that going to the dentist is just like going to the doctor. We know that taking $140 billion out of our tax revenues is going to give future parliaments no hope of meeting the $57 billion in capital costs for hospitals and aged care and the $30 billion to run them and to pay the 120,000 nurses and 400,000 aged-care workers that we're going to need in 2025, when these tax cuts really start to bite.
The reality is that Australia is already a low-taxing nation. We've got the eighth-lowest tax collection of the 35 countries in the OECD. Of course the government wants you to believe otherwise. Corporations have exploited our broken political donation system to buy influence and to rig the rules for themselves so they can make megaprofits from our resources while the rest of us pay for it. Good job if you can get it.
We know what happens when a country places greater importance on corporate profit and individual tax cuts than the public good. Just look at our mates in the US. Just look at the US to see what it's like to live in a society run to benefit big business and the super wealthy. Good luck if you get sick, because there's no Medicare to cover your medical bills. If you lose your job as a result of your illness then you'd better find a charity that can feed and clothe you, because there's no income support to help you get back on your feet. Do you want to send your kid to uni? You'd better hope you've got a spare hundred grand lying around so you can send your kid to uni, or get ready to carry that debt burden on your back for the next 20 years.
Margaret Thatcher once said there was no such thing as society, but she was wrong. She was dead wrong. We are all in this together, and how we choose to treat each other is one of the critical questions that define who we are. Decent societies have a few things in common: universal health care, access to high-quality education, environmental sustainability, a social safety net to ensure that no-one's left out in the cold, modern infrastructure, a pathway to employment, and housing for everyone. It's not a huge list, not a long list, but each and every element is vital to a fair, decent and caring community.
This is a budget that does over young people. Successive Liberal and Labor governments have pushed the tough choices onto future generations. They've done it through tax and housing policies that lock young people out of the housing market. They've done it by privatising higher education, which makes it harder to equip our next generation for a future that is rapidly changing. They've done it by propping up dying industries at the expense of investment in a future economy rich in clean, green jobs, one that values caring and learning.
But it is hard to conceive of a greater act of intergenerational theft than this government's inaction on global warming. On the day the budget was delivered, the world hit the highest concentration of heat-trapping gases in 800,000 years. With extreme weather becoming more frequent and more violent, with the increasing risks of tipping over into runaway global warming, you'd think the government would have some semblance, even a fig leaf, of a climate plan—but no. Instead, the budget shows climate funding falling off a cliff to a tiny 0.2 per cent of total government expenditure—all this in the face of a climate crisis. Some of that money is earmarked to monitor the Great Barrier Reef after bleaching events. But surely preventing global warming from occurring is a more sensible investment than counting dead corals?
Those of us who work in this building are the temporary custodians of this fragile planet. Instead, one in every three workers in the department of the environment, who are striving to ensure the survival of threatened species, will be thrown out the door and into unemployment over the coming months. Australia's extinction rate is the worst in the world. Previous cuts have meant that one-third of the 538 threatened species are of so little interest to the Liberals and their donors that they're not even being tracked. We don't know anything about them. These species are disappearing from our earth quicker than our dismal records can keep up with. But, of course, again, the government's donors don't see the super profits in bringing an ecosystem back from the brink of extinction. To the Liberals, a statue of Captain Cook is more important than supporting an environmental scientist to stop the extinction of Leadbeater's possum.
The Liberals have also trumpeted the infrastructure spend in this budget. But the great bulk of the capital spend in the budget is on military infrastructure. It's not on public transport or on building climate resilience—not on any of those things. There's now more money in the budget to support exporting weapons of death than there is for clean drinking water and educating young women in our region. There's money in the budget for private toll roads but none to preserve the local rivers and ecosystems that sustain us. There's now more money in the budget to support Victoria's polluting brown coal than there is in clean, renewable energy.
If we want to create the sustainable industries of the future and if we want to make our economy work for all of us, we need real tax reform. That means stopping tax avoidance, not giving tax cuts. The Greens' three-point plan would raise $59 billion in contributions from those who aren't paying their fair share. Firstly, we would make wealthy corporations actually pay tax. We would do this by using gearing ratios that prevent corporates from cooking the books and shifting profits offshore, and by forcing them to publicly disclose the details of any settlements with the ATO. Secondly, we would close loopholes that allow millionaires to pay less tax than their secretaries by introducing a Buffett rule. It doesn't matter how many expensive accountants someone employs and how many dodgy deductions are claimed, every cent over $300,000 would be taxed at a minimum rate of 35c in the dollar—it's a minimum, a floor. Thirdly, we would ensure mining giants give us a fair share of our natural wealth. We would implement a fair petroleum resource rent tax, with a low uplift rate and royalty provisions that don't gift oil and gas giants our resources. And there would be no more tax-free fuel for miners.
Wealthy corporations and the super-rich don't need a tax cut; they need to start paying their fair share of tax. That's what our plan does. To do all of this, we need to resource those critical public agencies that help us to enforce the law, particularly the ATO and ASIC, whose responsibility it is to enforce these policies. It's outrageous that, in light of the recent banking royal commission, a $26 million cut to ASIC is going to result in fewer staff to ensure compliance with the law when there should be more.
We'll be taking this plan to the election because we know that Australians want a national budget that ensures that big miners, insurance companies and property investors contribute their fair share. We know that people prefer services over tax cuts. We know that people want urgent action on climate change. We can fundamentally transform our society. These are choices that we need to make. We can transform our society to reduce inequality, to urgently tackle climate change, to build a future for young people to prosper, to return public ownership over essential services to the public, to restore our environment and to bring forward new ideas—like the people's bank. We know it means taking on the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, but we're up for it.
We know where the Liberals stand. We know that big business aren't going to stop trying to push the boundaries in pursuit of profit. We know that, if Labor wins government, big business is going to come knocking again, looking to collect the rent after years of donations into their party coffers. That's why, when we see yet another budget written for big business, the Greens are more motivated than ever to clean up politics, to get donations and corporate influence out and to stop the revolving door between our parliament and the big end of town. Only then will we have a government that writes a budget that is for all of us, not just a select few. Colleagues, we've got a big fight ahead of us and the choices we face have never been clearer.
I rise to pay my respects to all Australians, especially those who have fought and sacrificed their lives for our country and freedom. This is my response to the 2018-19 budget handed down by the government on Tuesday. This budget, like countless others before it, is more about securing the short-term political survival of the government of the day than about charting a serious long-term plan to reclaim the economic sovereignty of our nation and its citizens.
In delivering his speech on Tuesday night, the Treasurer told us what he wanted us to hear. The Treasurer painted a picture suggesting the nation's finances are now in good order, when they are not. The budget papers show gross debt at $565 billion. He says we can now afford $140 billion in personal tax cuts, and deliver some surpluses each year, that will literally take a lifetime to pay back the debt on. As much as working people need these tax cuts, I worry they are unaffordable and won't be delivered. But I will support the legislation to introduce stage 1 and stage 2 of these personal income tax cuts.
The truth is that after successive coalition-Labor governments our economy is exposed to risks, and this budget does nothing to address that. It does nothing to reduce our reliance on China and the record terms of trade that are underpinning growth projections. It does nothing to restore our hollowed out manufacturing and agriculture industries that can provide value-added exports and sustain good, well-paying jobs. It does nothing to stop the exploitation by foreign multinationals of our tax laws, which places a higher and higher tax burden on Australian businesses and workers. It does nothing to reverse the cuts and constant rule changes that have undermined the retirement incomes of older Australians, especially those that have skimped and saved—in particular, self-funded retirees.
Instead, it is a budget that relies on high record prices for our exports continuing off the back of China. It is a budget which assumes that half of our economic growth will be driven by immigration. Immigration accounted for 63 per cent of our population growth last year, and while the government recognises the revenues that come from immigration, it will not recognise the costs of immigration. Australians say they do not want this level of immigration, but neither major political party is listening. That's because, for different reasons, each political party benefits from high immigration, but Australians do not. The Treasurer won't publish the assumptions made in the budget concerning immigration so that everyone can see them, and I ask: why not? What is the government hiding? I acknowledge the value of immigrants to this country who have worked hard and adopted our values and our way of life, but federal government debt is proof that growth driven by immigration is a total failure.
One Nation calls on the government to progressively reduce immigration to approximately 75,000 per year until we address a host of immigration related issues, including congestion in our cities, jobs for Australians, the rising number of homeless, unaffordable housing, the cost of water and power, and problems with health and education. Ever higher population growth driven by immigration is a lazy way to grow the economy and, like any Ponzi scheme, there will come a time when there are not enough new immigrants to pay the cost of those already in Australia. It was argued today by Senator Cormann that immigration helps to support our ageing population, but immigrants get old like everyone else. Immigration takes the pressure off the government to lay out a plan to make our country smarter and richer by diversifying our industries and developing value-added products to sell to the world.
Precious little is being done to support and develop once-great industries that are being picked off by opportunistic and canny foreign investors. Bit by bit Australia is losing its economic sovereignty and, with it, the capacity to withstand economic and political events that will inevitably occur. The effects of this loss of sovereignty are far-reaching, and we need to look no further than the way our tax system is being gamed. There is a black hole in the budget: a revenue black hole worth billions of dollars, created because non-resident foreign owned multinationals do not pay their fair share of income tax. The government funds its spending through the power of taxation, and in the 2015-16 year individuals paid 75 per cent of all income tax collected and companies paid the balance of 25 per cent.
When we look a bit further, we find that Australian resident companies pay 98 per cent of that company income tax. This means non-resident companies, mostly multinationals, pay just two per cent of all company tax or less than one per cent of all income tax collected. Let me say that again: non-resident, foreign owned multinational companies pay less than one per cent of all income tax collected. That is extraordinary when we consider the dominance of multinational companies in so many sectors of the Australian economy. Guaranteed payment providers such as Visa, Mastercard and American Express pay next to no income tax on their business in Australia. In the years 2008 to 2014, American Express paid no income tax despite earning $3.6 billion in merchant fees and $2 billion in interest from cardholders who did not pay their bills by their due date. Technology giants Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon collectively paid $148 million in income tax on $8 billion of sales in Australia in 2015-16. Petroleum giants Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell paid no income tax on $1.3 billion of sales in 2015-16. Non-resident, foreign owned petroleum companies paid no income tax on the profits made from our natural gas because politicians have given them generous deductions under the petroleum resource rent tax. We estimate these petroleum concessions cost us $5 to $7 billion a year, but clearly the total tax shortfall from foreign multinationals is much higher when all sectors of the economy are considered.
The Turnbull government are wrong for not addressing tax avoidance of multinationals by strengthening our taxation laws, the same as they were wrong for not calling a royal commission into the banking and financial sector sooner. When Labor leader Kevin Rudd became Prime Minister in 2007 our debt was approximately $58 billion, but when Labor left government the debt was around $270 billion. Both sides have been very poor managers of our economy, because the debt is now $565 billion. Australians are fed up with the blame game. It's about time both sides pulled their heads in and took responsibility for bad management.
A debt of $565 billion is an absolute disgrace after 27 years of consecutive growth. We are lucky interest rates are low, because we paid $18 billion in interest on the federal government debt this year—otherwise, it would have been higher. Every worker paid, on average, $1,332 to service federal government debt, but it will be our children and grandchildren who will have to repay the debt. If they can't then foreign creditors will effectively take our land and resources as payment. Australia has had 27 years of uninterrupted growth, but, despite this growth, the federal government has had to borrow to make ends meet.
Welfare equates to 41 per cent of revenue and rising. We are expected to hit $182 billion by 2019-20. Australians are very generous and caring but draw the line at people ripping off the system. Welfare, age pensions and disability pensions were introduced for people who are truly in need or need a short-term helping hand. We can no longer support those who are not prepared to work. Being on welfare has become a way of life for many, as we see third-generation claimants. Some in our society have multiple wives who go on to have multiple children, all claiming welfare. Our laws are being abused and so is our welfare system. Both the Liberals and Labor—and their mates, the Greens—are reluctant to discuss or stop this abuse. Are we mugs being taken for a ride? You bet we are. We are regarded as the treasure island of the world.
We need to introduce an Australian identity card for all Australians who access taxpayer funded services. This card would not be transferable. This card would not allow anyone, other than the holder, to access money or services. Tourists, family friends and visiting relatives, including illegals, would be stopped dead in their tracks. Medicare would not be abused by people seeking drugs. Doctors and service providers abusing the system would no longer find it as lucrative. Our public hospitals would be for Australians only. We are registered for our mobile phones, driver's licences, voting and bank accounts. Surely it's time that stringent tests must apply to anyone wanting to access taxpayer money and services.
Around 80 per cent of retired Australians rely on the age pension in full or in part, but there is no relief for them in this budget, and not a word from Labor on this critical issue. All we have is a plan for them to hock their homes to the government to get a top-up to their pension. By handing over home equity to the government, how will they pay for aged care, which so often they relies on the sale of a home? This is a false economy. The age pension is inadequate, which is why we want the maximum fortnightly basic couple pension payment increased by $150 per fortnight. This will automatically increase other pensions like the disability support pension and the service pension. The Parliamentary Budget Office costed my proposal, which will be made available to the public.
I also believe that self-funded retirees are taken for granted and not respected for the contribution they have made over their working lives. Many have gone without, saved their money and paid off their homes. We tend to open the purse strings to those who have contributed the least to society due to choice by way of drugs, crime or unemployment. One Nation believes self-funded retirees on reaching the pension age should receive a concessional healthcare card.
We are one of the most resource-rich countries in the world. Our gas fields off the North West Shelf of Western Australia are believed to be among of the richest. Multinational companies have been harvesting our gas for many years but successive governments, including the current crop, are reluctant to tax the petroleum industry, and the current Labor Party under the leadership of Bill Shorten is in the same boat. We hear not a word now, nor ever, because they are all looking after their mates, the multinationals. It is outrageous that we give away our natural gas for free to foreign multinationals and we give away $4 billion a year in foreign aid, including to the United Nations, while nearly 14 per cent of Australians live below the poverty line, and the number of homeless people in Australia is climbing at an alarming rate. Non-resident foreign owned petroleum giants with names like Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell dominate the list of the top 10 foreign investors in Australia. They are here because our vast and valuable reserves of natural gas are located on the doorstep of Asia, the largest liquefied gas market in the world. We have the most concentrated foreign ownership of petroleum resources in the world, which gives these non-resident multinationals, which co-venture with each other, unprecedented power to intimidate the government of the day. The tax system is the way we get paid for our natural gas, but politicians have allowed foreign petroleum companies to design the tax system that applies to them, which means we get next to nothing for the gas taken from the seabed in Commonwealth waters. We get nothing on the profits made by foreign multinationals from the gas.
Foreign companies are exporting so much Australian natural gas that Australia will become the largest exporter of liquefied gas in the world next year, but none of the economic benefits of exporting our gas will come to Australia. We are the owners of the gas and we will receive less than one cent in the dollar of the export sales. Foreign multinationals take the other 99c in the dollar, less any claimed expenses. Experts say we get the lowest share of economic benefits of any country in the world in respect of the extraction of our gas, yet we cannot have a sensible conversation with Labor, and the government will not consider any significant reform.
We wrote to the Reserve Bank because we saw that the value of exported liquefied gas was used to increase the gross domestic product, when in fact none of the economic benefit from these export sales will trickle into the Australian economy. The Reserve Bank said that after the construction phase there were few benefits for Australia, but, ironically, they suggested Australians could benefit from the export of our gas by buying shares in companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell.
We say that the inclusion of export sales of liquefied gas renders the GDP figure in the budget inflated and renders any indicator which uses GDP in the ratio misleading. That includes debt to GDP and the government's promise to restrict taxation to 23.9 per cent of GDP. We say that if the Japanese government makes $2 billion a year by imposing an import duty on our gas and if Japanese households buy our gas cheaper than we do then the government needs to reform the gas tax laws. The government could impose a common royalty regime and reform the petroleum resource rent tax, because one cent in the dollar is not exactly a fair share.
How do non-resident, foreign owned multinationals avoid paying tax? Firstly, they understate income and overstate expenses. But, in a belt-and-brace strategy, they also invest heavily to shape the tax system. The petroleum resource rent tax has been changed a number of times since it was introduced by Labor in 1988, and every change has favoured the companies. Years ago, petroleum multinationals told the government they needed certain concessions or else they would not invest in Australia. Governments, both Liberal and Labor, obliged them with generous tax concessions. By the time the government realised they were outwitted by these foreign petroleum companies, the multinationals were ready with the caution that any change to the law would create sovereign risk. This is a reputational risk to Australia that would then endanger further investment. If these arguments fail then foreign multinationals are prepared to fund negative advertising campaigns which would destabilise the government. This approach worked a treat when mining companies killed off the mining resource rent tax in 2010. The ghost of that event still walks the parliamentary corridors.
The mischief with the petroleum resource rent tax is that it allows claimed expenses to compound at rates set annually. A handful of companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell, have more than $240 billion in tax credits created by concessions in the petroleum resource rent tax. These concessions mean that claimed expenses double every four years. This snowball effect means foreign multinationals will not pay tax during the life of these integrated gas export projects. The government could have made a regulatory change to the method of valuing gas but has not done so, with the result that $20 billion will stay with a few petroleum companies instead of the people of Australia.
Dr Kraal, an academic at Monash with an interest in petroleum taxation, notes that four of the largest integrated gas projects in Australia, producing 44 per cent of Australia's natural gas, will raise no petroleum resource rent tax and scant income in the foreseeable future. We say that this is possibly for the 40-year life of these projects. We say that there never was a need to provide the generous concessions in the petroleum resource rent tax, because massive investments were made in Papua New Guinea without them. The PNG government got an equity share, a royalty, income tax and a super-profits tax arising from the establishment of the Hides gas-processing plant in the remote Southern Highlands of PNG, while we do not get any equity shares or royalties.
You're probably wondering how PNG got a better deal than we did. Well, the PNG government listened to the Australian government Treasury officials who advised them, while our government ignored them. One Nation has been speaking to government about reducing the overly-generous concessions in the petroleum resource rent tax law and the need for a common royalty regime. The government, however, are unwilling to entertain a royalty regime, saying that it's a sovereign risk, even though they know it is a cashflow issue.
Most petroleum-producing countries in the world receive royalties in exchange for extraction of their oil and gas. Qatar receives more than $10 billion a year on sales of gas. We get less than $400 million a year. State governments get royalties for their gas, but not the Commonwealth of Australia. Royalties are the price of taking the gas. They represent an expense for goods sold. The benefit of royalties is that they would give us the income earlier and allow us to increase the age pension and other pensions almost immediately.
Who do you think got rid of the Commonwealth royalties for our gas? Well, of course, it was Labor—good old Wayne Swan, from the political party that spruiks that it will look after the battlers and age pensioners. No, they don't; they look after their multinational mates—and so do the coalition. Multinationals must stop ripping the guts out of our country by taking our resources and making billions of dollars while we are left paupers.
One Nation has been negotiating working with the government on these issues for more than a year. We want to repair the budget with the proceeds from a uniform regime of royalties on the extraction of gas and reduce the generous concession; introduce a reporting and disclosure regime so we can hold government accountable for its management of these precious publicly owned petroleum resources; set aside gas for domestic use so we can get cheaper electricity on the one day in four when gas is used to generate electricity; introduce a 'use it or lose it' policy for retention leases and licences that do not go into production; and build a gas pipeline from WA to the eastern states, with a guaranteed 15 per cent domestic gas supply from all production sites. It is ridiculous that we are about to become the largest exporter of gas in the world and, at the same time, we have the highest gas prices in the world.
The government plans to spend money in this budget to attract investment in coal-seam gas fracking, which farming communities do not want. What is the point of wasting money on developing coal seam gas when we already have plentiful gas in Commonwealth waters? It is just plain wrong to subsidise coal seam gas, which is ultimately more expensive for consumers, just so a few National Party members can get elected. Gas could come from Western Australia to the eastern states. The government is costing that project but, without a plentiful supply of gas, there is no point. Every Western Australian should make note of the fact that this government has undermined the domestic gas policy in Western Australia, which requires that 15 per cent of all gas coming from Commonwealth water be set aside for domestic use.
The Commonwealth's failure to place conditions on Shell's floating storage and processing ship means that none of that gas will come into the domestic market. The Commonwealth's failure to place conditions on the Ichthys project means none of that gas will come into the domestic market. We note that the Ichthys pipeline took a 900-kilometre detour to avoid giving gas to Western Australia. Both of these failures by the federal government endanger not only the gas supply for Western Australia but also the viability of the proposed pipeline which would take gas to the east coast.
The gas story is not only about forgone tax revenue; it is about our loss of globally competitive gas and electricity prices and rising living costs that hurt most Australians. The government's signature policy, the National Energy Guarantee, does not guarantee the price of electricity. But One Nation's gas reform proposals will deliver much lower electricity prices because gas is used to generate electricity in Australia one day in four. Lower gas prices mean lower electricity prices. One Nation does not believe it is government's role to pick winners for the supply of electricity. For that reason, we do not support government subsidies for renewables, which will cost us $2.5 billion this year and billions over the forward estimates—which largely goes to foreign owned multinational companies.
The fact that we do not support subsidies for renewable energy is not the same as saying we do not see a role for renewable sources of energy—because we certainly do, even though foreign owned multinationals dominate wind farms and other parts of the renewable industry. If renewable energy is as good as it is supposed to be, then let these multinational companies stand on their own two feet. Why is competition encouraged in other sectors but not in the energy market? We need globally competitive electricity prices to have more jobs and better jobs. New gas- and coal-fired power stations can provide what we need to keep manufacturing here and bring manufacturing back to Australia. It is time our $2.7 trillion pool of superannuation savings started to be invested in Australian businesses with the unique products and knowhow to sell to the world—including one of our great industries, agriculture. It simply isn't good enough for foreign pension funds to be swooping to buy and invest in our agriculture and upstream processing industries while Australian funds sit on their hands. There are clearly good investments and returns available. It's time Australian super funds, and our Future Fund, step up.
Payroll tax remains a barrier for employment and, while I understand payroll taxes are a matter for the states, I want to see payroll taxes reduced and eventually phased out. But that can only happen when the federal government works with the states. This will create employment and investment.
In 2018-19, SBS will cost the taxpayer $272.4 million, but SBS has lost much of its relevance because Australians can access international news and programs on their computers. We should merge SBS with the ABC and make savings in the millions of dollars each year. If there is no merger then the ABC budget should be cut to $750 million a year.
Our youth must be given the opportunity of apprenticeships. We must stop the influx of skilled migrants taking the jobs of Australians. The government must introduce an apprenticeship scheme that supports businesses.
One Nation does not accept donations from petroleum giants, but both major parties do so. They feel no shame in accepting donations from foreign petroleum companies which pay no income tax in Australia. Surveys show the public's opinion of politicians has never been lower, but citizens will get spineless politicians until they make it clear at election time that politicians have more to fear from voters than from foreign multinational companies. One Nation believes foreign multinationals should be removed from the current tax system and pay tax on the basis of observable activities. History shows it is just too easy for foreign multinationals to avoid company income tax by contriving to have no taxable income and by intimidating government into making laws that advantage them and not the people of Australia.
I must reflect on the Labor leader's speech tonight in the other place. When he says that the government are giving tax cuts of $80 billion to foreign multinationals, that is not the truth. Again Labor has lied and will put out spin. The truth is that, as I've stated here, foreign multinationals don't pay tax, and the ones that do are only two per cent of the tax coming in. It is the Australian companies and businesses that we need to support with tax cuts. As I'm saying here in my delivery of my speech tonight, we must go after the multinationals who are not paying their taxes in this country.
It is about time that Australians wake up. If you give your vote and your preferences to the political party that is not doing right by you then you must consider where your vote goes. Give it to the party that will represent you and withstand political interference and rorting from foreign governments and foreign multinationals. Thank you.
I rise to respond to the 2018 Commonwealth budget. Again, it's not my first speech. Many of those who have spoken about the budget today have taken the opportunity to try to take cheap shots at the government and have claimed they could do so much better if somehow they were in charge.
To be honest, a great deal of what we have heard from those outside the government is total rubbish. First, those who have spoken the loudest will never be burdened with the responsibility of having to form a government and so have the luxury of being able to promise the moon and stars in an effort to con mug punters into voting for them. Second, those in the opposition who will eventually wind up on the treasury bench know full well that they can promise anything now and then renege on their promises later just like they have done so many times in the past. The fact is that, in the words of the late, great President Ronald Reagan, 'Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one.'
In reality, this is on the whole a pretty good budget—maybe even better than we might have hoped for. The government has offered tax relief to the low- and middle-income earners, which I've called for in the past. This is a vital and overdue measure, countering the bracket creep that has pushed even lower income earners into unreasonably high tax levels. It also complements the government's proposed corporate tax cuts, which are vital in allowing Australian businesses the ability to expand their operations and hire more staff. Prior to the budget, I called for this, and although I would have preferred the government had adopted my proposal of cutting the $37,000 to $87,000 marginal income tax rate from 32.5 per cent to 28 per cent immediately, saving taxpayers around $580 from 1 July, the government's proposal is still good.
The budget includes commitments to new and important infrastructure developments, including the Bruce Highway upgrade, the funding for which, despite it being a slow and painful process, is much more welcome, although, as I shall explain later, the actual proposals are far too modest. The budget also includes funding of $123.6 million over four years to increase the number of bachelor places at regional universities. Although this is positive, I would have liked to have seen more places created in regional areas such as the James Cook University in Cairns or Townsville, as opposed to them being allocated to northern metropolitan Brisbane. And though I am pleased to see the continuing funding for the National School Chaplaincy Program, which has provided care and support for countless students, their families and, in many cases, staff, the government has failed our nation's students.
Educating our future leaders should be a priority, and I'm bitterly disappointed to see the lack of funding allocated to many of the 11 recommendations put forward in the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education, coupled with the government's failure in inexplicably committing to mark II of Labor's Gonski plan—pure socialism which sees wealth redistribution rather than education quality as the answer to our kids' learning needs. The government has swallowed this rubbish, hook, line and sinker, adopting the recommendations without any indications as to the cost. As someone who attended a low-fee Catholic school myself, I am very concerned at the adverse effect of 'Comrade' Gonski's five-year plan on smaller independent schools. Parents like my own, who sought an affordable Catholic education, are now faced with uncertainty over the coming financial years. I cannot understand why the government would penalise the children of its own supporters.
I was very pleased to see that the government is increasing the waiting time for migrants to access welfare to four years. However, this still fails to address the ability of so-called refugees who just want to jump on the welfare gravy train. This is a major pull factor in encouraging illegal immigration, as we have seen in Europe, where over a million Syrian Muslims trekked through one safe European country after another, all the way to Germany, in search of not asylum but the best deal in handouts. Free welfare and public housing attracts the very worst type of migrants: transnational parasites who travel not in search of opportunity, but in search of a free ride at everyone else's expense. It's no coincidence that 56 per cent of Australia's working age Muslims are not in the labour force, with over 75 per cent of illegal arrivals under the Rudd-Gillard government settling down to a life of permanent handouts. According to research by the Crawford School of Public Policy at ANU, refugees are four times more likely to be on welfare than is the average Australian. Immigration by anyone who doesn't want to work is a net cost to this nation that we should not have to pay. We need to ban all immigrants, including so-called asylum seekers, from accessing welfare and public housing for four years after arrival.
The government has clearly listened to the voices of the road freight transport industry in its commitment to close the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme and transition to national registration. However, in the future I would like to see registration based on kilometres travelled, as opposed to a fixed cost per vehicle, because many companies and individuals will have to front additional costs if they have multiple trucks and only use one or two at a time while the others sit in the parking lot.
In an initiative very close to my heart as a former publican, I am pleased to see the government is increasing the alcohol excise refund scheme cap to $100,000 per year, and extending the concessional draught beer excise rates to eight-litre or greater kegs from 1 July 2019, which is beneficial for craft breweries and allows them to compete with the larger beer companies that transport their beer in 50-litre kegs.
Another aspect of this budget that I feel very strongly about is the funding our national veterans receive. Although there is still a very long way to go before we have fixed the issues veterans face when dealing with DVA, including setting the bar for the proof-of-service injuries at an unacceptably high level, I was pleased to see the government allocate $13.5 million to improving the processing of rehabilitation compensation income support claims. As a nation, we have asked our men and women in Defence to make innumerable sacrifices, and in some cases, tragically, the ultimate sacrifice. As such, it is imperative we invest in their rehabilitation when they come home. The government should be applauded for its commitment in this budget to ensuring the ongoing support for the wellbeing of our veterans. Its commitment of $9.1 million for a veterans' workforce participation pilot is welcome in helping transition veterans after their service into work. There will be $33.5 million spent to expand the range of mental health conditions current and former Defence members can seek treatment for on a non-liability basis. And though it is a good start, with the allocation of another $9.1 million for supporting veterans' mental health services and preventing suicide, we need to ensure ongoing programs are effective and look to future budgets for increases in their funding.
However, despite being largely positive, the elephant in the room continues to be the government's chronic failure to rein in spending—particularly on working age income replacement welfare; on socialist, unfunded, zeppelin-sized thought bubbles like the $30-plus billion NDIS; and on absurd vanity projects like the $60 billion submarine program. Although around 20 per cent of the working age population is on income replacement welfare, the government only proposes to tinker with benefits and refuses to address the growing problem of working age pensions, which are growing at a rapid rate.
Despite improvements in the bottom line, the usual optimistic predictions of magical future surpluses—which we have been hearing about at every budget since the end of the Howard era—continue to dangle just out of our reach. This is now the seventh consecutive year that treasurers have predicted a return to surplus without ever getting one. The national debt continues to increase. It is more than $560 billion, representing over 41.7 per cent of GDP, and is above last year's confident prediction of $537 billion for this financial year. This means that interest payments alone are now more than $17 billion a year, or one per cent of GDP, leaving us all with a very real question of how long we can hold onto the string of this ever-rising debt balloon.
The federal government, like its Labor state counterparts, continues to fritter $2.3 billion subsidising solar and wind power. Their unreliability and huge expense means that they are not alternative power sources, but a child's fantasy. Australia is now the sixth-largest country for new investment in so-called renewable industry. The hip pockets of everyday Aussies are being hurt by this zealous march to a green utopia. Historically, our competitive advantage as nation lay in abundant, low-cost raw materials and energy. Thanks to the left-wing inspired policies, this advantage has been lost. The sooner this and every other government realise the only current, genuine alternative is nuclear power, the better off we'll all be.
Housing affordability is another major area of failure by this government. According to the ABS, in 2014-15 alone, over 17 per cent of all new residential properties in New South Wales and over 15 per cent in Victoria were bought by foreign—mainly Chinese—buyers. As these were concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne, this means that around 30 to 40 per cent of all new properties in these cities are now bought by foreigners. Never mind negative gearing—it is clearly foreign Chinese property speculators, together with the flood of new immigrants, that are pushing up house prices and locking Aussies out of buying a home. Yet, prior to Kevin Rudd changing the foreign investment rules nine years ago to allow open-slather buying up of Australian properties by foreigners, this was heavily restricted. We need to ensure that Australians are given preference when purchasing property in a housing market that is squeezing out our sons and daughters. A simple ban of foreigners from purchasing residential property in Australia, coupled with a drastic reduction in the rate of immigration, would go a long way to solving the current housing crisis. If Chinese investors complain, they need only look to their own government, which does exactly the same. You and I can't buy property on mainland China, so why should we let the Chinese snap up all our properties here?
Rural and regional infrastructure continues to be severely neglected compared to our urban centres. While much of this is the fault of urban-centric Labor state governments, the Commonwealth could have a much greater role to play by giving tied grants and borrowing guarantees. The fact is that much of Australia isn't viable agricultural land with low rainfall; it's a desert where it just rains occasionally. Water is the key to transforming this continent, yet it continues to be neglected by governments at every level. The lack of concrete action on this is, for me, the greatest disappointment with this budget. Dam construction, the length and breadth of this nation, needs to be an absolute national priority. Our nation needs water diversion schemes to send water inland instead of out to sea. For example, by building Hells Gates dam, raising the Burdekin weir wall and finishing the Tully-Millstream project we could irrigate hundreds of thousands of acres of prime land in Queensland. Agricultural production in Queensland could massively increase, with thousands of jobs created, and the west could be permanently droughtproof, saving millions in stock losses. The best drought relief we can give our farmers is water.
One Nation has previously called for our raw materials as a nation to be treated as a national asset and taxed for the benefit of the Australian people, and I strongly support this. Giant foreign corporations make vast profits extracting raw materials, such as gas and oil, from our national resources endowment, and yet they pay little or no tax. This must end. A new Commonwealth resources tax of even 10 per cent on all raw materials mined and extracted would deliver hundreds of billions of dollars in extra revenue over the life of existing resource extractions to the national coffers and would easily fund major infrastructure projects that we need. The best part of this is that most of this would not be paid by Aussies. Together with cuts to working age income replacement welfare, such a Commonwealth resource tax could also fully fund the age pension and help pay off the national debt.
In conclusion, the government has delivered a good budget—as good a budget as might be hoped for—and deserves credit for many measures that will benefit us as a nation, but what is missing is any real sense of vision. Where is a clear perspective reflected in government budgetary decisions of who we are to be as nation and how we get there? A sense of where we are trying to go as a nation has never been more lacking than it is today. Insofar as the budget fails to point the way forward, it is a symptom, not a cause.
This budget fails to address the structural mismanagement of the Rudd-Gillard years—the uncontrolled spending, the growing dependence on welfare, the ever-growing role of the state in every aspect of our lives, and the ideological bankruptcy that has infected every public institution. It is a reflection of the fact that government and opposition continue to drink each other's postsocialist Kool Aid.
Once there was a national consensus that united government and opposition, country and city, rich and poor. It was a shared perspective of who we were and where we were going; of the limits of state power and the rights of ordinary, decent people. It was a vision of what Australia was and what it was going to be. But, when this is the best budget that we can reasonably hope for, it has never been clearer to me that it is a vision we have lost.
I am very pleased to be able to seek leave to have the Leader of the Opposition's 2018-19 budget reply speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows—
As the Opposition listened to the Government's fifth budget, we knew immediately that we can do better than this.
The people of Australia deserve better than this.
And a Labor Government will deliver better than this.
Better than ten years of cuts to schools and hospitals – in exchange for ten dollars a week.
That's all the Government thinks it will take for the Australian people to forgive and forget.
The Government thinks for ten dollars, the Australian people will forget it tried to put up their taxes last year.
For ten dollars, the Australian people forgive waiting two years for a hip replacement.
For ten dollars, the Australian people will not care about cuts to their child's school.
That for ten dollars, the Australian people will not mind their internet's no good and their local TAFE is closing and their daughter cannot find a place at uni.
The Government thinks if the Australian people get ten dollars a week, they will not notice they are losing $70 in penalty rates from their Sunday pay.
And the Prime Minister is so out of touch, he thinks if the Australian people get ten dollars a week – they will be fine with the banks getting a $17 billion giveaway.
The Government desperately wants the Australian people to believe this budget is fair.
But here is what the Prime Minister is not telling the Australian people.
His $715 million cut to hospitals is still in the budget.
His $17 billion cut to schools is still in the budget.
And his $80 billion hand-out to big business, banks and multinationals is still in the budget.
This budget still cuts money from universities – and it contains a sneaky new $270 million cut to public TAFE.
The Prime Minister is still cutting $14 from pensioners every fortnight.
He is cutting dental care for veterans, he is cutting the ABC – yet again.
He is keeping Medicare frozen for specialists, he is even keeping the GST on tampons.
And he is still increasing the retirement age to 70.
So tonight, the Australian people should ask themselves if they rely on any of these services, what kind of future is this Prime Minister offering them?
Labor has a plan to bring the Fair Go back to the heart of our nation.
A plan to properly fund health and education.
A plan to boost wages for the Australian people.
And a plan for real tax cuts to help with the family budget.
It is a plan we can afford – because Labor is not going to spend $80 billion of public money on big business and the big banks.
And it is a plan that will work, because Australia thrives when middle class and working class people can get ahead.
Tonight is about a Fair Go for everyone who wants the best for their kids and their future.
A Fair Go for every part of our nation – from the bush and the regions to our cities and growing suburbs.
And a Fair Go for the real forgotten people: working families, pensioners and Australians doing it tough.
Labor's plan begins with a better and fairer tax system.
After years of flat wages, rising power bills and increasing health costs, it is time for a fair-dinkum tax cut for middle class and working class Australians.
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, has already said Labor will support the Government's modest tax cuts starting 1 July this year.
And tonight, the Leader of the Opposition announced a Labor Government will go further and do better on tax cuts for working and middle income Australians.
Labor will support the Government's tax cut this year – and in our first budget, we will deliver a bigger and better tax cut for 10 million working Australians.
This is Labor's pledge to 10 million working Australians:
Under Labor, working Australians will pay less income tax – because we think working Australians are more important than multinationals, banks and big business.
In Labor's first term of government, a teacher on $65,000 will be $2780 better off – an extra $928 a year.
A married couple – one partner in the ADF earning $90,000 and the other working in aged care on $50,000 - will be $5565 better off under Labor, $1855 a year.
Labor can afford to do more to help Australians and their families because we are not giving $80 billion to big business and the big four banks.
And because we have already made the hard choices for budget repair.
Creating a level playing field for first home buyers, by reforming negative gearing and capital gains.
Cracking-down on tax avoidance by eliminating income-splitting in trusts –without affecting farmers.
And ending unsustainable tax credits for people who pay no income tax – while protecting pensioners and charities.
At the next election there will be a very clear choice on tax.
Ten million Australians will pay less tax under Labor.
We can afford to cut taxes, without cutting services, because unlike the Liberals, we are not wasting $80 billion on a discredited giveaway to the top end of town.
Labor's plans mean we can deliver the winning trifecta in government.
A genuine tax cut for middle and working class Australians.
Proper funding for schools, hospitals and the safety net.
And paying-back more of Australia's national debt, faster.
There was a time when the Liberals ran around saying a debt of $227 billion was a 'budget emergency' and a national crisis.
The Opposition remembers, when the Government was elected, it said every man, woman and child, owed $9,000.
But on Tuesday night, the Opposition did not hear the Treasurer admit that debt has doubled under the Liberals.
The Opposition does not remember him admitting that it is now $21,778 for every man, woman and child.
Nor does the Opposition remember him admitting that next year, total interest payments on Australian debt will pass $18 billion.
$18 billion, every year.
That is more than the Commonwealth spends on the NDIS or aged care or child care – it is twice as much as Australia spends on public schools.
And the Liberals' only strategy is to cross their fingers and hope.
That is not good enough in a time of trade conflict between America and China, in an age of soaring global debt and rising United States bond markets.
No Australian government can prevent global bad news – but good governments do prepare for it.
This is not the time to blow everything because of a short-term economic upswing.
That would be an act of generational folly.
It might not be fashionable, but it is time to be responsible.
Labor's economic reforms have put Australia in a much stronger position to cope with international uncertainty, over the decade.
As a nation, we can pay down national debt, faster - because we are not giving $80 billion to multinationals – and because we have made the tough decisions.
On Tuesday night, the Australian people discovered the Liberals are planning to radically re-write the tax rules in this country.
And the more Australians learn about this scheme, the less they like it.
Australians have got every right to ask, how can it be fair?
How can it be fair for a carer on $40,000 to pay the same tax rate as a doctor on $200,000?
For a cleaner to pay the same tax rate as a CEO?
How can it be fair that, under this tax experiment, the doctor earns five times as much as the nurse - but his tax cut is 16 times bigger?
And today, new research revealed that under this plan, 6 in every 10 dollars will go to the wealthiest 20 per cent of Australians.
Very quickly, this is starting to look like a Mate's Rates tax plan from the Liberal Party.
And at a time of flat wages, rising inequality and a growing sense of unfairness in the community.
When too many jobseekers are stuck in poverty, when children go to school hungry, when women fleeing family violence cannot find safe accommodation, people are worried this plan is not fair or affordable.
And, frankly, Australians are also entitled to be pretty suspicious of this whole thing.
To wonder if this 'come and talk to me after two elections' plan, this promise on the never-never, will ever happen.
The opposition is ready to vote for tax cuts for working families.
And we will not allow the Prime Minister to threaten to block tax cuts for 10 million Aussies unless the Parliament writes a cheque for high income earners.
Every Australian knows wages have grown by just 2 per cent in the past year - slower than the price of the things they need to buy, way less than their bills.
Yet the Government is pretending that wages will increase by over 13 per cent in the next four years.
The Opposition knows the Liberals do not have the slightest idea how it will be achieved.
Labor has shown we are the party of lower taxes for families - and for more than 120 years, we have been the party of higher wages for workers.
We have got a real wages policy.
We will restore Sunday penalty rates.
We will crack down on wage theft and the abuse of labour hire where companies shift their workforce onto casual jobs just to cut their pay.
We will get bargaining off life support, and employees and employers back to the negotiating table for more productive workplaces and higher wages.
And we will lead a new push to deliver pay equity for Australian women.
Labor's wages policy is better for workers, our income tax policies are better for households – and both are better for the economy.
We also have real plans for job creation.
We are committed to a tax cut for every Australian small business, for 93 per cent of all businesses.
We will provide tax incentives for companies who invest here: in their own productivity, in new plant and equipment, new utes for tradies, new software and technology.
And our commitments to Defence Manufacturing and local procurement, to agriculture, science and research, to tourism and renewable energy and to a better NBN are all about creating the jobs and industries of the future.
We can afford to invest in small business, in productivity and growth because we choose Australian businesses and Australian jobs over tax giveaways for multinationals.
Since the Budget, we have heard the government boast about 'record' funding for hospitals.
Let us take a closer look at this record.
The cost of seeing a doctor is the highest on record.
The average wait time for elective surgery is the longest on record.
The number of hospital beds available for elderly Australians is the lowest on record.
The number of people presenting at Emergency Departments is the highest on record – and yet 1 in 3 patients considered 'urgent' do not get seen on time.
Yet in this budget, the Liberals locked-in a further cut of $2.1 billion to hospitals in every part of our country.
The health of Australians should never take a backseat to a hand-out for big business.
In response, Labor announces that we will reverse the Prime Minister's cuts to hospitals and create a $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund.
This will put more beds in emergency departments and on wards so we can reduce the wait for people sitting in emergency rooms, worrying about a child or a loved one who is hurt or unwell.
To launch a blitz on waiting lists for elective surgery - so people can get a knee replacement to walk without pain, or have their cataracts removed to watch their grandchildren grow.
And we will start in Tasmania, which has the worst waiting times in the country: a year for cataracts and up to 435 days for a knee replacement.
And our fund will upgrade emergency department facilities in the suburbs and regions: including better security measures for staff and patients to handle the scourge of Ice.
If a loved one has cancer, it consumes their loved ones' whole world.
It is a terrible disease.
Many senators and members will have been through it with dear friends and family.
The Leader of the Opposition's own mum battled breast cancer for years - and as everyone who has been part of the fight knows, there are endless scans and tests involved.
For too many people outside the big cities, either their hospital does not have an MRI machine, or it is not covered by Medicare.
So for someone who lives in Emerald, it is necessary to drive 3 hours to Rockhampton - or they pay hundreds of dollars out of their own pocket each time.
Cancer does not care where an individual lives, or who it strikes - and Australians should never have to worry about where to go to get treatment they can afford.
Health care should just be there for Australians, when they need it – that is what Medicare is all about.
Labor will provide an extra 20 hospitals and imaging centres in the regions and outer suburbs with new MRIs.
And we will make sure every one of these machines is covered by Medicare.
Labor can properly fund hospitals and invest new money in Medicare - because we have made the hard choices on tax reform and because we are not wasting billions on big business and the big banks.
Labor believes every government has a responsibility to leave the country better than it found it.
That is why Labor will create a National Integrity Commission – a Federal ICAC - to improve accountability in politics and public life.
We will do the right thing by people who have been let down by social institutions.
Through National Redress for the courageous survivors of child sex abuse.
Through new healing initiatives for the Stolen Generations and to reduce the shocking numbers of Aboriginal kids growing up away from country and culture.
And justice for people who have been ripped-off by the banks.
The banking Royal Commission has finally lifted the lid on a culture of exploitation.
And after years trying to stop the Royal Commission - in this Budget the Prime Minister is giving the big four banks $17 billion of taxpayer money and cutting money from ASIC, the cop on the beat.
This is a disgrace, it is immoral - and Labor will have no part of it.
The Government try talking tough on this - but wagging its finger in the banks' faces does not mean much when it is giving them a tax cut with the other hand.
And upping penalties will not do a thing if corporate criminals with deep pockets and big legal teams know they can outspend the government.
Labor will create a special taskforce inside the Commonwealth Department of Public Prosecutions, to see justice done.
We will deliver $25 million in funding to make sure public prosecutors have the resources to follow through the work of the Royal Commission.
In this fight, as always, we stand on the side of ordinary Australians.
Every budget should strive to deliver Australians a better deal today.
But Labor understands so many of the sacrifices people make are about tomorrow, about passing-on a better set of opportunities for their children.
And this budget betrays the next generation.
Young Australians always get a dud deal from this government.
Young people volunteer, they give back to our community, they work to support their studies, they pay GST, they are funding Medicare and contributing to superannuation from their very first day on the job.
And yet in return, the Liberals are cutting schools, closing-off university, taking the nation backwards on climate change, locking first home buyers out of the market, and making it harder to get an apprenticeship or go to TAFE.
Young Australians deserve better.
Labor will create a level playing field for first home buyers, because we do not want Australia to be a country where someone's only chance of owning a home is to inherit one.
We are serious about tackling climate change and helping the environment, with 50 per cent renewables by 2030, a 45 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 and zero net pollution by 2050.
Because we do not want to leave Australians with a ruined reef and rivers and oceans choked with waste and plastic debris.
And Labor will always invest in education: in schools, TAFE and university – because we know when our young people succeed, Australia succeeds.
The Leader of the Opposition's mum sacrificed everything for the education of him and his brother - and it changed their lives.
If Mr Shorten is elected Prime Minister – he will make it his mission to ensure every Australian child gets the life-changing opportunity of a quality education.
Reading and writing.
Maths and coding.
Science and languages.
Individual attention in the classroom.
And protection from bullying – in the schoolyard and online.
Labor wants children to fall in love with what they are good at – and we want every public school to be able to offer music and drama and sport and camps.
This government can announce as many education reviews as they like –everyone knows cutting schools will not produce better results.
That is why Labor will put back every dollar the Liberals have cut from schools.
The government's cuts have hit public schools and their 2.5 million students the hardest.
And it is public schools that will benefit most when Labor invests an extra $17 billion over the next ten years.
Labor's funding boost will help the schools and teachers educating 82 per cent of Australia's poorest kids, 84 per cent of Indigenous kids and 74 per cent of kids with disabilities.
We want smart and driven young Australians to compete fiercely to get into teaching courses, just like they do to get into medicine.
The same level of competition for the same reasons: because it is a profession that changes lives, because it is respected in our community and because it is well-paid work.
So when it comes to schools, at the next election the choice is this simple.
Labor will put $17 billion back into Australian schools, the Prime Minister wants to give $17 billion to the big banks.
Nine out of 10 new jobs created in the next 4 years will need either a university degree or a TAFE qualification.
That is why Labor believes in quality universities and strong public TAFEs, working side-by-side, equal partners in our nation's future.
Yet in this Budget - the Liberals are cutting more money from both university and TAFE.
In government, Labor uncapped degree places and opened the doors of university to a new generation.
Tens of thousands of students became the first person in their family to go to university - the fair go in action.
But the Liberal freeze on university funding means 10,000 fewer places are available next year.
By 2032, over 200,000 people will miss out.
Millions of families in our region want their child to go to an Australian university – they keenly understand what it means to hold a degree from our country.
And the government's freeze will simply lock out working-class kids and students from regional Australia.
Labor will restore funding certainty to our universities.
And we will uncap places – providing our nation with over 200,000 more university graduates.
Under Labor, a university education is not a privilege someone inherits, it is an opportunity they earn.
And Labor will always choose better universities over richer banks.
Labor's plan for training is crystal clear: we will stop the slide to dodgy private providers and back public TAFE all the way.
We will renovate campuses and rebuild workshops.
We will ensure 2 out of every 3 training dollars goes to public TAFE
We will invest in programs to help older workers re-train later in life.
We already know the expertise our nation will need in the next decade:
More workers for the NDIS and in aged care.
More construction workers for national infrastructure and housing
And more programmers and technicians for the digital age
Labor does not want Australia to meet these needs with skills visas, we want to train our people for these jobs.
There is no excuse for a skills vacancy to last one day longer than the time it takes to train an Australian.
A Labor government will cover all up-front fees for 100,000 TAFE places, in high priority sectors.
From Agriculture and Engineering to Plumbing and Disability Support.
And we would expect at least half of these places will go to the women of Australia.
We will get jobs like carpenters, cooks and bricklayers off the national skills shortages list, and keep them off.
And instead of looking overseas or relying on temporary visas, employers will have a skilled local workforce ready to go.
And we can make this happen because we put 100,000 TAFE courses, ahead of $80 billion in corporate giveaways.
This budget falls hardest on the young – and the old.
The Prime Minister is still cutting $14 a fortnight from pensioners and still telling Australians to work until they're 70 - with no idea what this means for people who have spent their lives doing jobs that are hard on their bodies and tough on their backs.
But the dirtiest trick in this year's budget is the fraud it has perpetrated on Australians in need of aged care.
Around 105,000 older Australians are waiting for home care packages.
And despite all the hype, the government is offering only 14,000 places, over the next four years.
14,000 places in 4 years – when 20,000 people joined the waiting list in the last six months alone.
And worse still, we discovered there is no new funding here – the Government is simply taking the money away from nursing homes.
The people who raised us and cared for us and love us – deserve so much better than cuts to their pension, the world's oldest retirement age and tricky double-dealing on aged care.
If Mr Shorten is prime minister, tackling dementia and delivering better aged care will be a national priority, backed by real resources.
Because we know giving older Australians the security and dignity they deserve matters more than an $80 billion corporate tax cut.
The same Liberal accounting trickery is at work in infrastructure.
Across the four years of this budget, Commonwealth investment in infrastructure projects actually falls - from $8 billion to $4.5 billion.
For the Western Sydney Rail link –there is only money for a study, a report.
And the same goes for the train to Tullamarine – not a single dollar for construction – apparently it can be done for nothing!
Only Labor believes in nation-building, in good public transport projects like Cross River Rail in Brisbane or the Western Sydney rail line.
And when we invest in tourism infrastructure in Northern Australia and Tasmania.
When we improve the Bass Highway in Tassie.
When we deliver a long overdue upgrades to the Bruce Highway in Queensland.
When we fund and build these projects, we will prioritise Australian-standard steel, we will hire local workers and we will require that 1 of every 10 people employed is an Australian apprentice.
Labor can put real dollars into Australian infrastructure, because we are not going to give $80 billion to multinationals and the big banks.
Under a Labor Government, the Fair Go means rescuing hospitals and re-investing in Medicare; proper funding for schools, TAFE and universities; and bigger, better income tax for 10 million Australians.
This is Labor's plan and this is Mr Shorten's challenge to the Prime Minister.
If the Prime Minister thinks this budget is fair, if he thinks his sneaky cuts can survive scrutiny – put it to the test.
Put it to the test in Caboolture.
Put it to the test in Burnie.
Put it to the test in Perth and Fremantle.
We will put our better fairer income tax cuts against his.
We will put our plans to rescue hospitals and fund Medicare against his cuts.
We will put our plans to properly fund schools against his cuts.
We will put our plan to boost wages against his plans to cut penalty rates.
We will put our plans for 100,000 TAFE places against his cuts to apprenticeships and training.
And we will fight for the ABC against his cuts.
And house by house, street by street, suburb by suburb, Labor put the Prime Minister's $80 billion tax giveaway to big business and the banks to the test with the Australian people.
This nation needs a leader that gets it, a party that believes in it and a government that will deliver it:
A Fair Go for all Australians.