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Thursday, 16 February 2017
Page: 1373

Mr KEOGH (Burt) (16:15): This week we celebrated Valentine's Day, but this government has a very funny way of showing its love for the Australian people. It is planning cuts to family tax benefits, cuts to the age pension and cuts to the benefits of people with disability, carers and the most vulnerable jobseekers in our community. That is how this government shows its love for the Australian people. What a funny government it is indeed.

In Western Australia, data released today shows that we have the highest level of unemployment in the country. We have over 93,000 people unemployed, and over 35,000 of those are under the age of 25. If we narrow that down to my electorate of Burt, in the south-east of Perth, under the changes being proposed by this government, 12,775 recipients of family tax benefit part A are going to lose their end-of-year supplements and 10,946 recipients of family tax benefit part B are going to lose at least $354 a year.

This is an absolute travesty that the government are visiting upon hardworking Australian families. But the other thing is this: they proposed these cuts to pay for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and Minister Porter came in here to defend this. He rabbited on about how the NDIS was never paid for by Labor, when we know it actually was, but what was even worse was that he talked about how he has now signed these agreements with all of the states. I thought that was really interesting, because he talked about that happening in July last year. I thought, 'That's not quite right.' He did a deal with the WA state government—a grubby, almost secretive little deal—that was signed on the last day before the WA government went into caretaker mode. Under that deal, the Western Australian government will now have to pick up all of the administrative costs and 75 per cent of the cost overruns on the NDIS in Western Australia.

So the minister is worried about not being able to pay for the NDIS because, he says, Labor did not budget for it. The way he is fixing it is by shifting all of the costs onto the states. But wait for it—it gets worse: he is trying to muddle this by setting up this system in Western Australia, with the Barnett Liberal government, where we have WA NDIS. What is WA NDIS? How can you do that? It is almost an oxymoron: you cannot have a WA version of a national disability scheme. But that seems to be what we are going to get.

But what really troubles me about that is that after having gone through a process of running evaluation trials of a WA scheme, and then a national scheme—we would like to think there was some evaluation of those trials—they decided on the WA scheme, which has some significant difficulties and problems with it, but they did not release the evaluation report. We have no idea which is the better scheme, and this is the fundamental point: not only does it undermine a national scheme but it means we really have no idea and no way of assessing whether Western Australians with disability are going to be worse off under this WA scheme than they would be under the national scheme that was proposed by Labor to make sure we have national transferability. We have no idea because they will not let us see the evaluation; they are hiding it. This is another example of how much this government is undermining the futures of Australian families and working Australians. It is all part of their 'love' for the Australian people that they demonstrated on Valentine's Day this week.

Today, of all days, we talk about this, because it is women who disproportionately have the responsibility of caring for children with disability. It is women who disproportionately take themselves out of the workforce to care for their children. They are, therefore, the beneficiaries of a properly functioning childcare system and are the recipients of payments under family tax benefit arrangements. On this day, when we have been speaking about the importance of narrowing that wage and income gap for women, and about the importance of getting more women into the workforce to make sure that we have a more equal nation—and ultimately a more prosperous nation by having better and equal representation of women—we have the government introducing policies that will see them go backwards. All the while, the government wants to grant a $50 billion tax cut to big business and the banks. That shows who this government loves—and it is not working Australians.