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Monday, 27 May 2013
Page: 3674


Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (13:02): In rising to speak to these appropriation bills I acknowledge the sort of atmosphere in which this is occurring. I look at the speakers' list and, to my absolute amazement, there is not one government speaker to speak in favour of the Labor Party's budget. I think that speaks volumes for the Labor Party itself, particularly the backbenchers, whose dismal faces we saw on budget night when the Treasurer delivered this document. It was one of despondency and despair. Indeed, the government could not even fill the galleries and, when it was completed, aside from a hug from Ms Gillard for Mr Swan, that was it—everybody left. Now they seem to be leaving the budget as the forlorn and abandoned orphan that it is.

But why am I not surprised? The document itself was a very poor and tawdry document in presenting itself to the Australian people as a way forward. So much of the expenditure is not only into the future—as we have seen as a practice by this government—but some of it is also two elections henceforth. There are projections over 10 years—which, instead of being a method of having proper transparency, is used as a tool to say, 'Look what we are promising and look what we are going to give,' but in fact it is so far in the never-never that one can put no faith in the projections at all.

That brings to one's mind the fact that this is a government that has always erred in presenting figures that are by far the most optimistic that could possibly be conceived. This is in contradistinction to what used to happen under the Howard government when Mr Costello was the Treasurer, when he would take a very conservative view about estimates of revenue so that, in the event that they changed, it was a change for the better and indeed a surplus or a larger surplus than had already been anticipated was able to be announced. Whereas this government, since it came to office in 2007—both under Mr Rudd and under Ms Gillard, but with the constant of Mr Swan—has continually taken a very optimistic view of what the revenue might be and then proceeded to spend the money without it ever coming in. It is time that we saw a return to living within our means. Perhaps we are going to return to handbag economics. That means you can only spend what is in the handbag and not tie future governments to expenditure which, quite frankly, the Australian people may not wish.

There was a lot of talk about the money that is being provided in this budget for the NDIS, which is a policy which is being supported by both sides of parliament. I hear shibboleth which the Labor members use when they are talking about it such as, 'This is what Labor governments do.' But, in truth, it is the philosophy of the Liberal Party and the National Party, where we follow the philosophy of individualism, which means that every individual matters. That means everybody, not just the right in the land or ordinary folks getting along; it means people with a disadvantage or a disability. They are part of us and they are our responsibility.

The principles of free enterprise define for us what is the business of government, and it is to do those things that the private sector cannot or will not do and provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. That surely is people with a disability. Tony Abbott has described it as 'an idea whose time has come'. This means, quite frankly, that the NDIS is right in line with the things in which the Liberal Party believe. So to try to claim it as something that belongs to one side of politics simply is not true. For a long time, Mr Abbott has offered to hold a joint committee with the Labor Party to oversight the rollout of the NDIS because there is so much detail which is yet to be determined.

It is very disappointing that people over the age of 65 will not be covered. That is in the bill. That means that somebody who has a catastrophic accident, who is over the age of 65, who becomes a paraplegic will be treated in the aged-care sector, whereas somebody who is 64 would be treated by the NDIS provisions. Perhaps I should not be particularly surprised by the fact that older Australians are being discriminated against by the Labor government, because they do it perpetually.

When I brought in a private member's bill to ensure that those people who were 70 and who remained in the paid workforce received their superannuation entitlements, I remember that the Labor Party—the Labor government together with Mr Oakeshott, Mr Windsor and Mr Wilkie—voted against that bill and voted it down. That was in 2011. Subsequently, Mr Shorten said he would bring in a bill to remedy that situation. The only problem is the bill did not do that, even though he put it in his second reading speech and put out a press release to that effect. All his bill did was change the age from 70 to 75. Consequently, I drew this to the attention of the Speaker and suggested it might go to the Privileges Committee—and that did not happen, of course. But some little time later, Mr Shorten brought in some amendments that made his bill just like my bill, except that the provisions in his bill do not start until 1 July 2013. There are still many older Australians in the paid workforce who are not receiving their entitlements. But, surprise, surprise: Mr Windsor, Mr Oakeshott and Mr Wilkie voted for the bill this time because the government brought it in—even though it was not as effective as my bill would have been, which would have made a remedy to the situation in 2011. I am not surprised that there is continuing entrenchment of disadvantage for people who are over the age of 65 and of course that is of great concern to me as shadow minister for seniors.

If one goes to the budget figures, one will see once again that there are many projections there which are, quite frankly, never going to come to fruition. To call the figures rubbery is the best description I can think of. The Treasurer is responsible for a rubbery budget with rubbery figures that cannot be relied upon—that is the real message from this budget that has been brought down. One good example of why I call them rubbery figures relates to the question of superannuation.

This particular budget will increase the concessional cap from $25,000 to $35,000 for people over the age of 60 beginning in July 2013, and from July 2014 for people over the age of 50. The problem with this is that a previous budget announced that the cap would rise from $25,000 to $50,000, but that was never enacted. However, that did not stop the Treasurer, in fact, banking the difference between the revenue to be received as a saving—because he is no longer promising the $50,000 cap but reducing it to $35,000 and claiming that it is a saving because in a previous budget it was put in at $50,000. So you can see how rubbery figures are.

With regard to the question of superannuation generally, fairly recently in my electorate we had a round table discussion with senior and mature-age Australians, who were in both the accumulation stage and the draw-down stage with their superannuation. It was very interesting to hear that people are now feeling more and more concerned about the safety of their superannuation investments—and it is an investment of their wages because the money that is taken by way of the superannuation guarantee charge is in fact the wages of people paid into a superannuation fund, and a concessional rate is paid on that money. The interesting thing, of course, is that it works so long as people have confidence and they have to have confidence that future governments will not steal their money. Yet, we have seen announcements by this Labor government of a theft of some people's superannuation, which the government glibly say will only affect 16,000 people. But if one goes to an excellent article written by Mr Henry Ergas some two or three weeks ago, you will see that by 2050 those provisions alone will mean that it will apply to 20 per cent of people with superannuation.

People are starting to doubt whether or not their money is safe. That is what came out of that round table discussion. One employer, a mature-age worker but still in the paid workforce, who employs a range of age groups said that, whereas there was concern from mature-age workers about their superannuation, he was quite alarmed to hear that younger people on his payroll were concerned that they were compulsorily having to put their money into a superannuation fund that some future government, two or three decades on, might choose to steal. Now if you undermine the beliefs that people have that their money is safe then you start to undermine the whole system, and that is precisely what this Labor government has done.

There are so many issues that are raised with me, as I go around Australia during seniors forums, where I find that people are so well informed that their questions and statements echo many of the things that are debated in this chamber. They do their research, they are prudent, they are suffering enormously from the cost of living and they understand that this next election will be a referendum on the carbon tax. They understand that the carbon tax is a cascading and compounding tax which affects every aspect of their life. They understand that electricity is what makes the difference between being a First World country and a Third World country. They understand that when the carbon tax is placed on electricity it cascades onto the price of everything else. They know that it impacts on the cost of lighting, refrigeration, air conditioning and getting petrol into the family car, which Ms Gillard said would never be impacted by the carbon tax. Yet how do you think the petrol gets out of the tank in the ground and into the tank in the car? It is electricity operating pumps that allows the petrol into their car. Even when they pay the bill at the cash register, electricity is involved. Every aspect of their life is affected by it.

I will end on this saddest note, one comment I heard from a young family. We have heard of older people who remain in bed when they do not need to be there simply to stay warm. But this concerns a young family who left the outdoor solar lighting in the garden during the day and would bring it in at night and put it in the bathroom and toilet so that they did not have to turn on the light. That is not the Australia that Australians were brought up to believe was their inheritance. That is not the Australia that our men and women fought in World War II to bequeath to subsequent generations. The carbon tax is something that robs individuals of their ability to enjoy their birthright and it will be abolished should we be successful in winning the next election.