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Wednesday, 17 November 2010
Page: 2795

Mr NEUMANN (4:34 PM) —I listened to the member for North Sydney, the member for Flinders and the member for Dawson—15 minutes of carping, 10 minutes of moaning and 10 minutes of jocularity, with not one answer for the Australian people, not one policy, not one proposal and not one idea from all three about how to assist Australian families. We understand that Australian families are struggling. We understand that these are difficult days. We have been through the global financial crisis. But guess what. We went to an election not more than a couple of months ago with the Leader of the Opposition promising to impose additional costs on Australian families, proposing to impose a cost of about $10 billion on businesses that would push up prices and blow holes in the budget of working Australians. He would have imposed a 1.5 per cent tax on 3½ thousand Australian businesses. That would have meant higher prices for grocery stores, department stores and petrol stations and businesses passing them on to small business. He did not think it was going to have an impact on those four million people engaged in small business in this country—2.4 million small businesses across this land. He was kidding himself. Guess what. The coalition took to the last election a policy of cuts—cuts to services, cuts to funding for schools, cuts to hospitals, cuts to e-health, and getting rid of the National Broadband Network.

The opposition leader was proposing to take us backwards—backwards on Work Choices and backwards on cuts to all aspects of community, making it easier to sack people. The idea that you would resurrect Work Choices in another name—and they could not even get it right within an hour of the election being called—and the idea that you would possibly entrust the architects and the apostles of Work Choices with the treasury bench once again would have seen low-income earners, working-class people, women, suffer at the hands of those opposite. What was their record on AWAs? We heard the member for North Sydney talk a lot about what we know. What did they do? They brought in AWAs, and the consequence of AWAs was that women on average earned $87.40 per week less, and worse if they worked in cleaning or retail. That was the consequence and that is the record of those opposite.

What is their proposal? Nothing at all; nothing to ease the pressure on Australians. We are acting, we have acted and we will act. For numerous election cycles in a row the coalition claimed that they were the great supporters of families in this country. Guess what. Their rhetoric was not borne out. We had the 10 interest rate rises under those opposite. They now criticise us when they know very well that monetary policy is established by the Reserve Bank independently. Since we have been in power, we have reduced the tax burden on Australian families, with income tax reductions three years in a row. We have abolished Work Choices and brought in a fairer, simpler system for Australian families that gives families a chance. We have increased the childcare rebate and extended the education tax refund to include school uniforms. That is what we are doing. Those opposite did not do any of those things when they were in power.

The Prime Minister has committed us to a strong economy, a sustainable Australia and better education services for our families. Through getting the economy right, acting decisively, supporting jobs through the global financial crisis, 375,000 jobs have been created in the last 12 months, which was absolutely critical. We have been boosting savings, building skills and improving infrastructure. Investments in road, rail and ports have seen $37 billion in infrastructure in those areas alone. This is far more than the coalition did. And workers work in those industries, they work on those roads and in those ports and on the railway lines. This is giving them jobs, giving them opportunities. We have improved health and hospitals with increased funding to those areas to put on new people.

We have achieved lower debt and lower deficit, and lower unemployment than most countries in the world, the countries that the member for North Sydney mentioned in his speech, ranting and raving on with not an idea about what he would do if he were in power—not a word; big on rhetoric, poor on action. We will bring the budget back to surplus by 2012-13 and it is not going to be by luck nor by chance but by decisive, determined action by this Labor government.

We have delivered pension reform and you can see it clearly: $115 per fortnight more for single pensioners, $97 per fortnight more for couples on a pension. It is the biggest pension reform this country has ever seen. Did those opposite do this? They took a proposal to cabinet, not long before they were ousted in 2007, to increase pensions, but it was knocked back. It took a Labor government to undertake secure and sustainable pension reform in this country to give pensioners a chance. Those opposite did not. We have seen 2.1 million age pensioners, 764,000 disability support pensioners and 167,000 carer payment recipients benefit from these unprecedented reforms, which are about easing cost-of-living pressure on Australians. The member for North Sydney did not address any of those issues in his speech.

From 1 January 2012 families with teenagers aged 16 to 18 in school or equivalent vocational training will benefit from even more significant reforms, such as increasing the maximum payment rate of family tax benefit part A by more than $150 per fortnight. And 650,000 Australian families will benefit as a result of these changes. Those opposite carp and moan about Building the Education Revolution, the BER. In my electorate 65 schools received $108 million for much needed community infrastructure: vital improvements to libraries, to multipurpose halls, to classrooms; digital whiteboards—we have seen it all in my electorate. On each and every occasion I go to a BER project, I ask the project manager, the builder and the school principal what is being done, how many jobs are being created, how many jobs are being supported, and how many local jobs. On each and every occasion the same message comes back: local jobs supported, local jobs created, the names of local builders, local carpenters, local electricians given. That is what is important and that is why we did it, supporting local jobs, helping with cost-of-living pressures for Australian families in local areas. If those opposite do not think that in the suburbs they represent that is important to help with cost-of-living pressures, they are kidding themselves. Early decisive action during the global financial crisis was absolutely critical for Australian families. That is why we spent $16.2 billion to support jobs. Those opposite opposed it. They come in here and they carp and they whinge and they moan.

They have really got a gall to talk about cost-of-living pressures, because their rhetoric does not match reality and their voting record in this place does not match their alleged support for working Australian families. They spent most of this morning attacking the very organisations that support low- and middle-income families, the trade union movement. They have spent most of the day pursuing their ideological obsession. We have heard speech after speech by those opposite. They do not care for those people who are struggling with cost-of-living pressures. Their voting record in this place shows it and their actions out there show it. Their failure to provide one idea today about how they are going to help working families is a clear indication of their complete lack of policy ideas and their philosophical vacuum.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. BC Scott)—Order! The discussion has concluded.