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- Start of Business
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Reconciliation: Indigenous Australians
(Stone, Sharman, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Taxation: Interest Rates
(Evans, Gareth, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Draper, Trish, MP, Fahey, John, MP)
(O'Connor, Gavan, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Skase, Mr Christopher
(Jull, David, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Taxation: Child-Care Costs
(Wilton, Greg, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
(Gash, Joanna, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Pay Television: Australis
(Rocher, Allan, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
(Bailey, Fran, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Secondary Boycotts: Waterfront
(Randall, Don, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
Taxation: Entertainment Costs
(McMullan, Bob, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
Taxation: Land Transport
(Marek, Paul, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Commonwealth State Disability Agreement
(Billson, Bruce, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
Public Hospital Funding
(Lee, Michael, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Forrest, John, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
One Nation Party
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Andrews, Kevin, MP, Howard, John, MP)
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
National Reconciliation Week
(Stone, Sharman, MP, Mr SPEAKER)
Flags in the Chamber
(Melham, Daryl, MP, Mr SPEAKER)
(Price, Roger, MP, Mr SPEAKER)
(Morris, Allan, MP, Mr SPEAKER)
(Morris, Allan, MP, Mr SPEAKER)
(Causley, Ian, MP, Mr SPEAKER)
- National Reconciliation Week
- NATIONAL SORRY DAY
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- SOCIAL SECURITY LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (YOUTH ALLOWANCE CONSEQUENTIAL AND RELATED MEASURES) BILL 1998
- MATTERS REFERRED TO MAIN COMMITTEE
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1998-99
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Higher Education: Studies
(Latham, Mark, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Grants
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Superannuation Benefits: Emigrants
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Overseas Australian Missions
(Crosio, Janice, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Natural Heritage Trust: Funding Applications
(Crosio, Janice, MP, Anderson, John, MP)
(Kerr, Duncan, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
Robinson, Mr Floyd
(Campbell, Graeme, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade: Labour Hire Firms
(McMullan, Bob, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Department of the Environment: Labour Hire Firms
(McMullan, Bob, MP, Anderson, John, MP)
Attorney-General's Department: Labour Hire Firms
(McMullan, Bob, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
Department of Veterans' Affairs: Labour Hire Firms
(McMullan, Bob, MP, Scott, Bruce, MP)
Protocol to the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
(Jones, Barry, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
Protocol for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict
(Jones, Barry, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
Air Charter Programs
(Tanner, Lindsay, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
Telstra: Public Telephones
(Jones, Barry, MP, Smith, Warwick, MP)
Family Court: Newcastle, New South Wales
(Morris, Allan, MP, Williams, Daryl, MP)
Cairns Migrant Resource Centre: Funding
(Ferguson, Martin, MP, Ruddock, Philip, MP)
(Bevis, Arch, MP, McLachlan, Ian, MP)
Wool Containers: Land Transport Costs
(Morris, Peter, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
Tuesday, 26 May 1998
Mr SAWFORD (10:10 PM) —When the Treasurer (Mr Costello) delivered the budget speech the other night, and in television interviews afterwards, he sought to make a virtue out of having a surplus on the budget bottom line. Where did that surplus come from? That is the real question. It came straight from the pockets of millions of decent, hardworking Australians.
The budget was in surplus because the government has, in three budgets over two years, abdicated its responsibility to provide adequate services in a range of areas including health, education, child care, aged care, job creation and social welfare. The withdrawal of funding is where the surplus came from—it is as simple as that. Millions of Australians who watched the budget delivery on television understood that, and they could not see the virtue in it.
Take, for example, Mr Lance Morcom of Birkenhead, a constituent in my electorate. He wrote to me immediately after the delivery of the budget, and I will quote from Mr Morcom's letter. He said:
I put forward the following the analogy with which, as a family head, you will be familiar. If your household budget is blowing out, it is very easy to adjust by simply taking the following steps:
(1) Slash your wife's housekeeping allowance by 70%;
(2) Don't feed your children;
(3) Don't provide them with an education; and
(4) Don't provide them with any health care.
Very soon your budget is back under control but the family you have on your hands are all sick, both physically and mentally.
Lance Morcom is spot on—getting a surplus in the household budget is easy if you have no qualms about inflicting pain and deprivation on your family. It is exactly the same with the national budget—a surplus is easily achieved provided the government has no qualms about inflicting pain and deprivation on decent, honest and hardworking Australian families.
In the name of creating a budgetary surplus, the government has cut its pound of flesh from over the hearts of the aged, the sick and the jobless, and the withdrawal of government services is causing the greatest hardship to those most in need. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Beazley) put it well the other night in his budget reply speech when he said that the Costello surplus is made up of `a million small deficits in the lives of ordinary people'. In short, it comes out of their pockets and into the Treasurer's. As Lance Morcom said, it is easy to get a surplus provided the breadwinner has no qualms about inflicting pain and deprivation on a family.
To make matters worse, the government has sacked the breadwinner as well—80,000 Public Service jobs have gone; 80,000 pay packets have been taken from workers' pockets. In my home state of South Australia, the situation is all the more desperate because the Brown and Olsen governments have also sacked tens of thousands of South Australian public sector workers. It is therefore not surprising that the South Australian economy has stalled. Confidence has left the state, along with so many of our young people, and the jobless queues remain depressingly long.
In my electorate of Port Adelaide, the situation has been made worse by the failure of the budget to make a decision on the construction of the additional two Collins submarines. This is a very important industry for the local economy. It was won by a South Australian Labor government when there was a federal Labor government in Canberra. Who knows what the future is under the coalition governments which are currently in South Australia and in Canberra?
The delay has caused concern to the workers, their families, other businesses in the local area and to related industries which rely on the Submarine Corporation for their livelihood. This problem has been compounded by the government's failure to award to South Australia even one dollar of funding under the roads of national importance program, a failure that will cause further delay in the construction of the much needed river crossing in Port Adelaide.
That delay means that heavy industrial traffic will continue to rumble through the streets of Port Adelaide, inefficiently delivering a dividend in transport, hampering local efforts to breathe life back into the heart of the port and its suburbs, and not completing what would be one of the best transport hubs in the world. For the record, South Australia is the only state to miss out on funding in that program. On both these matters, it is clear that Premier Olsen and federal Liberal members have failed to convince their federal colleagues of the importance of these projects for South Australia.
With national unemployment set to rise again, according to budget forecasts, this is the time to remember the candid comment early in this parliamentary term of the then employment minister, Senator Vanstone, that the government would not deserve to be re-elected if it could not get the jobless rate down. Well the jobless are still looking for work, and the outlook is not getting any brighter. Youth unemployment has risen dramatically during the term of this government, and the situation for the over-45s is becoming increasingly tenuous.
How does the government treat the unemployed? It basically treats them with contempt. It has closed down all the CES offices so that the jobless may now have to pay a private agency to help them find work. It has revived the `dole bludger' tag to add insult to injury.
Dr Kemp —What rubbish! Name one. Tell the truth.
Mr SAWFORD —Why don't you make a comment on the GST and education expenses, Minister? No answer. We are very quiet on that one, are we? The government has decreed that the unemployed must accept a job offer, irrespective of where the job is located, or face losing the unemployment benefit. Young people who are hit by this measure will be forced to move away from their families. If a person finds a job in an area of lower employment but later becomes unemployed, the unemployment benefit will not be payable for 26 weeks.
Those who are on a pension and studying part time will no longer get the full rate of the pensioner education supplement. The $30 a week cut will especially hit sole parents who are trying to improve their chances of getting a job. Also, $10 million in social security benefits is being taken away from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sole parents.
Over the last three budgets, the government has made serious cuts to social security support for those most in need and for those who are most vulnerable. With despair all around, you would think that the government would take the opportunity in the budget to put some money and some care back into the community, to provide some opportunities for employment—that word `opportunity'—and opportunities for education, or perhaps to provide some easing of the hospital waiting lists, or a legion of measures that would offer some hope to the millions of Australians harmed by its funding cuts. But, of course, that was the furthest thing from its mind.
The government was determined to build a surplus, and to build it for one purpose only: to pave the way for a goods and services tax. This is the tax that Mr Howard said we would never ever have. That was his specific promise to the electorate, that the coalition would never ever introduce a GST. Yet, just two years later, he says the coalition will introduce a GST, if re-elected. Who ever said this Prime Minister was honest?
It is beyond dispute that the people who are most disadvantaged by a GST are those on fixed incomes, like pensioners and other beneficiaries. The aged, in particular, will be hard hit by a GST. The Howard government's new nursing home fees already bleed the aged of up to $27,000 a year. They must now also face the prospect of a GST increasing those fees by a further 10, 12, 15 per cent—who knows what it will be. It is no wonder that this budget was so roundly condemned by Aged Care Australia, the peak body looking after the interests of the frail aged.
Others to be severely disadvantaged will be those living on incomes from fixed investments like superannuation. Self-funded retirees got a few sweeteners in the budget, but I wonder how they will feel when the value of their nest eggs are devalued overnight by a GST of 10, 12 or 15 per cent, or whatever the rate will be, and this is despite having paid tax on the income when it was earned in the first place.
It is obvious that the government will put the so-called sweeteners into the package but, after the sweetness has gone, the tax will remain. Such sweeteners can never adequately compensate people for having to pay a tax on everything they purchase in the future. The deficiencies of the tax package will become especially noticeable when the rate at which the GST is applied is increased in the future. An increase is very probable—in fact, very likely. In 23 of the 26 countries with a GST, the rate has been increased by as much as 15 per cent.
Households on average or below average incomes will also be subject to disadvantage under a GST. Any number of reputable studies of the GST overseas clearly show that lower income households pay a greater share of their income in the tax than higher income households. Low income households spend most of their income on the basic necessities of life—food, rent, power, clothes and transport—all of which will be subject to the new GST. The GST also puts a considerable onus on small business proprietors. They will become the unpaid tax collectors, at an unrebated cost to each of about $7,000 per annum.
The other side of the coin, of course, is that the GST amounts to a tax cut for big business and for wealthy individuals and households. Is this the reason why so many of the coalition's traditional supporters are pressing for the introduction of a GST? It is clear now that tax is going to be a core issue at the next federal election, and we know that because the Treasurer put it there in this budget. The phrase `goods and services tax' might not feature in the document, but the rest of the arithmetic in it proves its existence. In this way, the GST is like the black holes in the universe. The bottom line in the debate about the GST is that the greatest burden falls on those least able to pay. Coincidently, they are the same ones who have been most hurt by the government's funding cuts of the past two years.
In particular, the GST will do nothing to create economic growth and jobs. There is no correlation anywhere in the world between the form of tax applicable and economic performance, as any examination of the European tax structures and economic indices clearly demonstrate. For example, in regard to private savings, Belgium has the highest household savings rate, and its neighbour, the Netherlands, the lowest. But guess which one has the GST. They both have it. The Treasurer, in his budget speech, talked about the importance of private savings to this nation's economy, but this is evidence that the government's focus on tax reform has nothing to do with economic considerations and everything to do with political gains.
Further, other things more critical to economic performance than the tax structure are also being ignored. Perhaps the member who is following me in this debate might want to talk about the current account deficit, for example. I recall the current Treasurer before the last election harping on about the current account deficit and foreign debt. Do you remember that truck? But, in government, debt does not seem to matter to him anymore. It is not that the problem has been fixed—in fact, it is worse than it has ever been.
The current account deficit has doubled in the past two years to $31 billion, and Australia's national debt is now $26 billion more than at the time of the last election. One of the reasons why it has not been fixed is that the government has paid so little attention to industry policy, which is where more jobs must be found. It is not that the government does not recognise this fact. It promised 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing by the year 2000, but that target already is more than 100,000 jobs behind schedule because insufficient attention has been paid to getting the settings right for business and for a productive manufacturing industry.
Evidence of this is that demand for research and development funding has plummeted and investment growth and export growth are both predicted to fall. The textile, clothing and footwear industries assistance package promised by the Prime Minister has not eventuated and this is putting thousands of jobs in this country at risk.
In this climate, national debt is continuing to rise, further dampening economic growth and jobs growth. Yet the government seems to take little heed of this serious situation, preferring to run its three-prong ideological agenda of tax, race and union bashing. That agenda involves imposing a GST to favour their corporate mates at the big end of town, stirring up race tension by the disgraceful amendments to the Native Title Act and causing chaos on the waterfront by conspiring to illegally remove working people from their rightful place of work simply because they were members of a union. Talk about a manufactured dispute.
This is the agenda the government intends to go to the election on. It is an ideological agenda which can only cause further dislocation, insecurity and strife for the average, decent, hardworking household. What this government needs to do is to cease its ideologically driven agenda and get on with governing in the interest of all Australians. Do members on the other side remember that phrase? Governing in the interest of all Australians?
Mrs Bailey —Something you know nothing about.
Mr SAWFORD —That means getting economic growth going again, because it is only growth that will create jobs in this country. It is growth; it is not a damn GST, for God's sake. It is clear that after three budgets and two years of government, the economy is effectively worse off now than it would have been under Labor's growth program outlined in our last budget before the 1996 election.
Mr Bob Baldwin —Back in the black, back on track.
Mr SAWFORD —You two will not be here after the next election, so why don't you keep a little quiet. If these policy settings remained unchanged, the budget would have been broadly balanced this year in any case, without the unnecessary hardship caused to so many people by this government's attack on the wellbeing of average Australians.
Labor's emphasis on growth leads to the creation of jobs and that directly affects the welfare and wellbeing of working people and the community in general. Labor's approach means more people in work and, for those in work, it means greater job security. The coalition's approach has opened up worrying gaps in Australian society. It has sought to divide the nation with its predatory race-based legislation and its shameful and illegal attack on waterfront workers.
To sum up, Lance Morcom, my constituent from Birkenhead, got it right. The government has achieved its surplus on the backs of ordinary working Australians and the coalition has withdrawn financial assistance from those in our community who are most in need and called that windfall its budgetary surplus. On budget night, the Treasurer went looking for praise, but it was a cheap, harsh, sleight of hand which did not fool Lance Morcom and did not fool the majority of the electors in my electorate. I expect it will not fool many other Australians either.