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Wednesday, 19 September 2012
Page: 11300


Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (18:51): One is almost left without words after that truly sad, pathetic, unpassionate display of class warfare. We heard the member for Shortland talk about the fact that the current scheme is there for millionaires. I think I will go back to my electorate and tell my constituents, who are upset that the treatment they are getting under the current scheme is going to be axed leaving them in the lurch, that the Labor Party in Canberra is saying they are millionaires and do not deserve any help. In fact, I think I might even make sure that the constituents in the member for Shortland's electorate know that, because I think it is only fair that they know what their member of parliament says in this place instead of going back home and pretending to empathise with her constituents who are receiving treatment under the current scheme.

What we have seen from the Labor Party with this bill, the Dental Benefits Amendment Bill 2012, is exactly what they are doing across the board: pretending, faking concern and compassion in order to try and save this government from the most laughable claim it has made, which is that it will deliver a budget surplus. This is just a budget cut masked in the clothing of compassion. And this bill does come at a very interesting time. It comes during a week in which the Labor Party has spent its collective efforts on demonising state Liberal governments for making budget savings—those Liberal governments that took over basket-case economies from embarrassingly corrupt, morally bankrupt, long-term Labor governments, swept out of office with record results in some electorates because people had had enough. During the last two weeks, Labor members have lined up like lemmings at the doors of parliament to take cheap political pot shots at state Liberal governments. And it truly is pathetic.

What I would have liked to have seen was these same members going out on the doors when there were still Labor governments in the states in which they reside and defending the indefensible. Australians right across this nation will suffer for a long time from the wanton waste and negligence and debt that Labor governments at the state and federal levels have incurred. It is a crime: it is a crime against future generations, and it is a crime against the truly needy people in our society who are suffering because this government is being tricky with the truth and slippery with its funding of programs and its freezing of this program and that program and putting off funding beyond the next election. How stupid do they really think journalists are, not to pick this up? How stupid do they really think the Australian public is, not to see through this slippery, slimy, record spin-doctoring from the Labor Party?

Before going into detail, let us look at what this bill is fundamentally about. To borrow a phrase from the minister for families, this bill represents a $1.5 billion claw-back from Australia's health budget. Let us be very clear about that because, according to the minister, this bill is a savings measure; there is no doubt or ambiguity about that. And it is not just the health minister who claims that this policy is a savings measure; indeed, the Prime Minister herself boasts about it being a cutback as well. When asked at a recent press conference whether it was irresponsible to make a large promise without yet identifying where the funds will come from, the Prime Minister said this:

Well the announcement today is about a large saving. That is through the closure of a scheme designed by the former Government, by the Howard Government.

'The announcement today is about a large saving'—those were the words of the Prime Minister. No amount of weaselling and squirming and tricky double-speak will hide the fact that there is a cut in funding and services to the Australian people in terms of dental care.

We all recall the previous health minister, the member for Gellibrand, screeching untruths about the Leader of the Opposition cutting health funding during his tenure as health minister. Obviously her statements were untrue, but her central argument was that cutting money from the health system was morally wrong. So I do look forward to hearing the member for Gellibrand's contribution to this debate. I wonder whether she still holds the same hardline views about budget cuts in the health portfolio? I suspect not, because it is her own party that is engaging in this behaviour—and far be it from the member for Gellibrand to be consistent and apply consistent standards to both sides of the parliament! We know there is great hypocrisy and there are double standards when it comes to these issues from the member for Gellibrand and so many on the other side.

I also wonder whether those same Labor members who have made cheap political attacks on state Liberal governments in recent days will come out with the same spirited attacks on these cutbacks. I suspect that they will not, because, as far as those opposite are concerned, it is all very simple: Liberal cuts are bad; Labor cuts are good. It is like something out of George Orwell's 1984. And, according to those opposite, Liberal savings are 'savage cutbacks', but Labor cutbacks are 'responsible savings'. Well, let us be clear about one thing. The only reason Labor is pursuing cutbacks across portfolios, across dental care, is that it has wasted tens of billions of taxpayers' dollars and borrowed funds—poured them down the drain—to fund its ill-conceived, poorly executed policies. Whether it is free fluff in roofs, the outrageously expensive school halls, the redundant computers in schools—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! Before the member for Indi sits down, I require her to withdraw her reference to 'corrupt' state governments in the body of her speech. I did not pull her up at the time—she was in full flight—but I do ask her now to withdraw the allegation of corrupt state governments.

Mrs Mirabella: I will withdraw what everyone knows was—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, you will do it unreservedly.

Mrs Mirabella: I withdraw.

Debate interrupted.