Wednesday, 7 September 2022
Matters of Urgency
Budgets are all about priorities, they are all about choices, they are all about values, and government policies are about choices and values. The Australian Labor Party has made a choice and that choice is to adopt holus-bolus Scott Morrison's $240 billion worth of tax cuts for the top end—for the billionaires, for the politicians, for the CEOs. I say 'Scott Morrison's tax cuts', and of course they were designed by him, as Treasurer, and introduced by him as Prime Minister. But, as of today, they are the Australian Labor Party 's tax cuts. They belong now to the Australian Labor Party. And the choice in adopting those tax cuts—those obscene $240 billion tax cuts for the top end that Labor has made—is stuck, because this is the Labor Party that has made it clear that folks who are on JobSeeker will be condemned to abject poverty. They will be condemned to starvation rations. They will be condemned to having to make a choice every week about whether to put food on the table or to pay their rents or pay their power bills.
Yet, at the very same time that the government is crying poor, saying, 'We can't afford to raise the amount of money we give to people on JobSeeker,' they are, in the same breath, proposing to give $240 billion worth of tax cuts to the top end—to the billionaires, to the politicians and to the CEOs. And what's their excuse? 'Oh, they're legislated, and we're not going to re-litigate that,' said the Prime Minister at the Press Club last week. Well, a little bit of educative work here for the Australian Labor Party: Section 1 of the Australian Constitution vests the legislative power of the Commonwealth in—wait for it—the federal parliament. Section 51(ii) of the Australian Constitution gives—who? Wait for it—the federal parliament the power to make taxation laws. And the federal parliament has the power to—do you know what?—repeal taxation laws, and that is exactly what we've got the numbers to do, and the only thing stopping the repeal of these obscene stage 3 tax cuts is the Australian Labor Party.
We've heard a lot of rhetoric from some people in the chamber around the stage 3 tax cuts. But we need to remind ourselves that what we are talking about is people's lives.
Just before I came into this place as a senator I was a secondary high school teacher in a public school. I taught students whose families are doing it tough in this cost-of-living crisis. I taught students who are working four or five nights a week—not for pocket money, but to help put food on the table for their families. Those students come to school tired. They don't have time to do their assignments, and they do poorly on their exams, because they are working to help support their families. That should not be happening in a rich country like this. I taught students who came to school hungry because their parents or their carers were on JobSeeker and their families did not have enough money to put food on the table. Again, that should not be happening in a rich country like this. Students who are hungry find it very difficult to learn. They too suffer when they are sitting assessments and doing homework and exams. I taught students whose families were living in a shed. I taught students who were living in the open air under houses. I taught students whose families were living in cars.
This government is going to give $244 billion to the top end of town while students and their families and carers suffer. That is shameful. It is reprehensible. It is obscene. How about we take that $244 billion and we raise JobSeeker so that families and their kids can afford to eat, how about we take that money and we put it into housing so that students and their families have a roof over their heads and how about we take that money and we properly fund public education so that every kid in this country has the same opportunities for a good life?