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Tuesday, 7 February 2017
Page: 59


Mr HAMMOND (Perth) (15:35): In relation to the government's failure to protect the interests of local workers and consumers, notwithstanding the fact that the government's track record on this issue is lamentable at best, it is fair to say that they have been somewhat distracted of late. It seems that the Prime Minister's summer of discontent continues.

We got off to the year on a flying start, but no sooner had the champagne corks stopped popping in Point Piper than hundreds of thousands of Australians had been faced with the distress of being singled out for Centrelink debts, which they were mistakenly accused of. It went from bad to worse, with a senior minister of the government being seen off for a travel scandal. And as of today, as we are well aware, the government now appears to be one senator down. As if that was not enough, you will note that the matter of public importance relates to local workers and local consumers.

The story does not get any better closer to home in my state of Perth. In Western Australia right now, as you will be aware, there is a campaign leading up to a state election on 11 March. And what do we see in relation to local workers and consumers in the state of Western Australia? We see them being horribly let down and abandoned at every step of the way, and they have been in that position since 2008. They suffer from a Premier in Mr Colin Barnett, who is arrogant and tired. He has already admitted that he will not hang around, if he is elected, until the end of his term—having handed over the baton to who knows who. And he is hopelessly out of touch.

As if parliamentarians of today did not have enough to battle with in the context of the hearts and minds of the voters, you look no further than the track record of the state Liberal government in relation to the wreckage of broken promises over the last eight years. In my own electorate, what should have been an infrastructure project which could have transformed the community, insofar as transport goes, the MAX light rail, has been cast aside by Colin Barnett—by his own admission, as a broken promise. The same goes for another mother-of-all-broken-promises in relation to infrastructure, and that is a supposed rail line to Ellenbrook, a suburb in the north that has been long forgotten and abandoned by the state Liberal Party.

In relation to my own portfolio of consumer affairs, one looks no further, in relation to the government's failure to protect the interests of consumers, than the consumer credit legal centres all around the country, suffering, at this stage, from a chronic lack of funding. In Western Australia alone, over $1.67 million has been taken out of Western Australian community legal centres and will not be restored. What does that look like to vulnerable consumers in my community? Well, it looks to me like a failure on the part of the state government but also this federal government.

At the moment, we see vulnerable consumers being preyed upon by companies loosely described as 'debt vulture' companies, offering false hope to consumers who find themselves in ever-increasing mountains of debt, mainly due to the increasing cost-of-living prices thrust and inflicted upon them by our local state Liberal government. The story in relation to vulnerable consumers as to consumer leases or rent-to-buy products is not getting any better. In that context, increasing numbers of consumers are being put into positions of hardship and bankruptcy, as a result of poor advice, entering into these contracts, for which there is no remedy or recourse as a result of the millions of dollars that has been ripped out of the consumer legal centres, including the Western Australian consumer law centre.

We need look no further, in relation to the tale of woe as to the failure to protect the interests of local workers and consumers in Western Australia, than a snapshot of the debt and deficit scenario as we head into a state election. The story over the course of 10 years could not be more stark. In 2008, the state debt in Western Australia, upon the Liberal Party coming to government, was $3.6 billion. In 2018, as a consequence of what can only be described as irresponsible and reckless spending, the state Liberal government will have accrued $40 billion of state debt—an increase of more than 10-fold in the course of 10 years.

The situation does not get any better in relation to unemployment figures. Right now, almost 100,000 Western Australians are out of work and looking for work. We have a record high unemployment level in our state: six per cent, and projected to stay at six per cent over the course of the next four years. That does not include the hundreds of thousands of Western Australians currently underemployed and desperately looking for more work.

You do not have to look any further than the resource sector for ways in which Western Australians and Australians are being let down by the coalition government. The flawed design of Brendon Grylls's so-called mining tax, seeking to levy $5 a tonne out of the big miners, is not only doomed to failure and fundamentally flawed but threatens to put thousands of jobs of Western Australians at risk. There are three main reasons as to why this proposal is hopelessly flawed and doomed to fail. First, the design of the tax is one which does not promote investment and does not promote employment. An arbitrary $5-a-tonne mining tax imposed upon the big miners, as a result of Brendon Grylls's desperate grab for attention, is an arbitrary tax, and is in no way linked to production or values. All it will seek to do is simply to disproportionately punish the community, in the context where we do not have sufficiently buoyant iron ore prices.

In relation to the precedent it sets, it does not give Western Australians any confidence at all; if one can unilaterally embark upon ripping up a state agreement in relation to iron ore, one must logically ask: what comes next? Even if those two reasons were not sufficient, what we would see in relation to this tax—if, God forbid, it were ever to be implemented—is that the GST effect would simply see most of the proceeds come to this side of the country, leaving Western Australians hopelessly let down.

In relation to infrastructure, one looks no further than the flawed projects already underway, as well as the state of affairs as to a couple of election promises put forward by the state Liberal government. On Elizabeth Quay, $450 million was spent over the course of 10 months from February to December in 2015, only for it to be shut down for a 10-month period as a result of chronic water problems causing potential risk and damage to kids playing in the water playground. On the Perth Children's Hospital, $1.2 billion was spent; construction commenced in January 2012; it is hopelessly riddled with asbestos, causing unnecessary and potentially lethal exposure to Western Australian workers; and not only that: there is also a chronic history of the presence of lead in the water at the Children's Hospital, which has led to huge blow-outs, huge delays, and no end in sight as to when this hopelessly-managed project will ever be open.

Compare that to the Labor Party's platform going to the election under Mark McGowan and his team: innovative developments in Medihotels; innovative developments in urgent care clinics.

In relation to Roe 8,what we see is a hopelessly planned road to nowhere. Compare that to Mark McGowan's METRONET plan—a revolutionary plan to create tens of thousands of jobs as well as a future-proofed public transport system. We look no further than the abject failure of the rollout of the National Broadband Network in Western Australia, leaving millions of Western Australians let down. We look at the flawed idea of privatising Western Power. The choice could not be more clear. Mark McGowan and his team will retain Western Power. And we look at, again, the transformational infrastructure project of the outer harbour: future-proofing Western Australia for years to come. Contrast that with a tired, worn-out team, with no ideas, under Colin Barnett: hopelessly out of touch and willing to do a dance with One Nation and the far right of those in Western Australia. Compare that to Mark McGowan and his state Labor team: clearly offering a fresh start, fresh ideas and responsible management of the economy, which will properly protect workers and consumers in Western Australia.