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Tuesday, 28 May 2013
Page: 4173

Mr MITCHELL (McEwenGovernment Whip) (18:30): Boy, we regret letting Patrick get in there, don't we! I rise to talk about the bill before the chamber tonight—Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2013-2014—because it is part of probably one of the most important budgets that we are going to see in a long time. We have known for a while about the revenue write-downs. We have known about the GFC, which has had a very long tail and which affects a lot of people in a lot of ways. The Treasurer delivered a budget which seems foreign to those opposite because it is not full of election bribes and handouts. It is a sensible budget which puts us on track to make sure that this country continues in the position that it is in now.

Those on the other side are running a scare campaign—the fairy tales about the economy being dead, the world going to pieces and the Australian economy going to pieces—but the facts on the table prove that the reality is completely otherwise. They prove that the only failure is the failure of the opposition to put forward a plan. They have come up with a magic pudding—'we're going to give everyone tax cuts; we're going to give everyone the world and not collect any money for it'—and then they have the audacity to come into this place and the other place and complain about what the Labor government is doing. They did have budget surpluses when they were in government, but they also cut the guts out of spending. They did not cut it to the bone; they cut right through it. That is why our hospitals are in such trouble. There was as much money spent on golf balls by former health minister Abbott as there was money spent on patient care.

Compare this to what this government have done and to what we have had to do in such tough economic circumstances. We have invested money in health. We have delivered cancer centres right across the nation. Those opposite did not do that. We have delivered superclinics, which means that families do not have to drive for many miles, particularly in my electorate, to see a doctor or specialist when they need to. We have delivered right across the education portfolio with the Gonski reforms. The report by David Gonski looked at a better and fairer way to get education funding for our kids which would be based on their needs, not their postcodes. But the silver-spooners over there would like to see something different, and that is why they never invested money in schools.

You only have to look at what is going on with state governments to see exactly what will happen if those opposite get their claws into the Australian economy. In Victoria, before the Liberal government was elected, every school was to be rebuilt over the period from 2012 to 2016. But that has been totally scrapped by the state Liberal government to the point where there are kids in learning facilities where you cannot even open a window or where you have to nail the windows shut because otherwise they would fall out. What has happened to Woodend Primary School in my electorate is an example of what will happen if the coalition is elected to federal government. The coalition in Victoria have totally stopped every bit of maintenance on Woodend Primary School. There is an example of what we will see if those opposite are elected.

Let us look at the very fundamentals of our budget and Australia's position in the global economy. We have extremely low unemployment. We have low interest rates—a lot lower than what they were when those opposite were in government. We have contained inflation. These are pretty big fundamentals to have right and for the Australian people to look at on 14 September.

The average person in McEwen has a home with a mortgage of about $300,000, and that is rising. Because of this government they are now more than $100 a week better off than they would have been, in exactly the same place, had we unfortunately kept a Howard or Costello, or whoever had the guts to stand up and do it, government under the coalition. That is direct money into people's pockets that they are using to spend and keep the economy going along.

We hear those opposite constantly carp and whinge and complain about debt in this country. There are any number of studies and reports around the world showing just how strong our economy is. We are one of only eight countries that still hold a AAA credit rating by all three rating agencies. That is something those opposite can only aspire to, because they could never achieve it. Even through the glorious days of the Howard era, as they call it, they could not achieve a AAA credit rating from all three agencies. It has only been done by our government, by a Labor government, and we have done that because we stick to the fundamentals of what is right for the economy. We stick to what needs to be done to ensure that Australian families are better off. When we look back to the GFC we see the 200,000 jobs that would have been lost had they had their way and not supported the stimulus package that was put through by the Labor government.

We did that because it needed to be done to keep the economy afloat. We are getting the benefits of that now, because we are not in double-digit unemployment, we are not in recession, we are actually going along quite strongly. Yes, it is a patchwork, it is up and down—that is a reality of the Australian economy. You only have to look to that great conservative icon Mr Howard, a man who it is fair to say none of us on this side admire too much but who put it well when he told a Sydney conference:

When the current Prime Minister and the Treasurer and others tell you that the Australian economy is doing better than most—they are right.

Those are pretty powerful words coming from the great leader of the conservatives; when he comes out and says our government, this Labor government, has got it right and that 'we are fortunate that we have an unemployment rate with five in front of it'. Even he did not think that was possible, and it is something that would not be possible if those opposite get their hands on the economy.

We have also invested in DisabilityCare. This is something that strikes, I think, to the morals of your heart. This is about protecting and supporting people who are the most vulnerable, who are not able to actively participate in the workforce because of a range of issues, usually because they are not getting the support that they need. We have brought that in to ensure that people with disabilities can have a fair start to life and a fair opportunity to become participants in the workforce and do what they want to do, which is to be contributors to our society.

The fundamentals of our budget are being stronger by supporting jobs and supporting growth. We have seen nearly a million jobs created under this government—something those opposite only wish they could do. We have seen investing in our classrooms to give kids the best possible opportunities, to skill them up for the future to make sure they can get job opportunities in the future. Again I look to those opposite and say: let's look at your track record. The track record of the conservatives is to cut skills education, to cut TAFE, to cut the VET and VCAL programs in Victoria. We inherited a massive skill shortage when we came to government in 2007 because of the direct actions of those opposite in cutting the funding for training and support and for further education. We took the cap of university places. We have actually invested all this money for our future.

If you look at the Victorian government, the Queensland government and the New South Wales government, there is a window to what will happen if those opposite win the 14 September election. We will see exactly the same thing: everything is cut to the bone. That is a term we do not use lightly, a term we do not like to use, but it is a clear fact that that will happen if they get in. You only have to look at what they have done in Victoria and New South Wales, where everywhere you go, right across those states, unemployment is going through the roof. It is going through the roof because they are doing what they do best, and that is sack people and take away wages and conditions. We have already seen the Leader of the Opposition talk about a tax review and about increasing the GST, and that is exactly what they will do.

They will increase the GST. It is the first thing that came out on their Thursday night speech. Look at Tony Abbott, the Leader of the Opposition's, carefully scripted and crafted words. He talked about how people's personal income tax will not be affected. But what it means over here is that they will be pushing to support a rise in the GST by at least 2.5 per cent. They have never been able to come out and deny it and they will not stand up and say absolutely categorically it will not happen—and I will resign if it does. They will not say that because they know they cannot.

They have already had discussions with their state colleagues about the redistribution of GST. They have already gone through that. We have already seen that they are going to put in an impost on Australian families with a 1.6 per cent tax increase to businesses to pay for the paid parental leave scheme that is going to help people who are earning $150,000 a year more than it is going to help those that need the money the most, those on the lower end of the scale. We already know now that because of what they are doing, the banks are saying, 'We will just pass that onto people; we will pass that on to interest rates, credit card rates et cetera.' No one is going to wear what they have said, what they have done and what they are threatening to do without passing it on so it is going to be a cost to every single one of us.

When I look at the budget and to some of the direct things that have been an absolute improvement to my community, I look at the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk. What is really important to notice about this is there are two levels of government in Victoria that have funded this as well as the shire that gifted the land and did the work. The Victorian government funded it. The federal Labor government funded it. When I say the Victorian government, I mean both state governments, Labor and Liberal. The only people who have never ever committed one cent to supporting these veterans through this commemorative work is the federal Liberal Party. They have gone to two elections and have not committed a cent. In fact, one of the candidates actually said, 'Not a chance. We are not going to build something like that in Seymour,' which just goes to show how much contempt they show for regional areas. We are putting in a Huey helicopter and a Howitzer gun as well as lighting and pathways for the Vietnam Veterans Commemorative Walk. Out of the two parties, at state level both supported it but at the federal level only Labor supported it. I think it is a real blight on those opposite that they are not prepared to support our veterans.

The commemorative walk is delivering many benefits. It not only recognises the people who worked on the volunteer committee but also what it is doing for local businesses and tourism, which is amazing. It is actually delivering people. Every single day or night when you get there people are going for this walk. They go back to look at their own names on the wall, their father's, their grandfather's, their mother's and their grandmother's. It is an exciting thing that is being done and an absolute credit to a bunch of blokes who sat round the table over a cup of coffee and said we should do this because it has never been done before. They should be absolutely congratulated for the work that they have done and for their dedication.

The other thing I want to talk about is our NBN policy, which is being supported by my community. The opportunity to be part of the digital future is astronomical. You only have to look at things like business productivity, health and education. There are many things that can be done with NBN today and in the future that are actually going to save money for our health budgets, for education and it will also take cars off the congested roads that we have leading into the city. The things we talk about cannot be done with copper and that is why the opposition refused to say what their upload speed will be. They refuse because they know that what you have got today is what you will get for the future. You would have thought that those opposite would be supporting a national broadband network that actually meant that country areas can have the same access to medical treatment.

Dr Stone interjecting

Mr MITCHELL: You might sit there and laugh. Let us note that the member for Murray sits there and laughs.

Dr Stone interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Member for Murray.

Mr MITCHELL: Doing live breast-screen examinations in country towns hooked to the NBN can be done straight away, and you think that is funny.

Dr Stone interjecting

Mr MITCHELL: You were laughing. You are being untruthful saying that you are not laughing. You even admitted you were laughing through interjection. I am glad you think that is funny, because it shows the calibre of person you are.


Mr MITCHELL: And your friend laughs too, but that is because she is not real bright. The fact of the matter is—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Member for McEwan, members will be called by their correct titles.

Ms Gambaro: I rise on a point of order. I ask the member to withdraw the insulting comment that he made.

Mr MITCHELL: What insulting comment?

Ms Gambaro: You made an insulting comment and I ask you to withdraw. You know what you said.

Mr MITCHELL: I am happy to withdraw. This is the person who actually reckons our migrants stink. She cannot deny that.

Ms Gambaro: I was misrepresented in the press. I made an explanatory statement. I ask the member to withdraw that untrue statement.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Members, there is another place for this to be done. Please withdraw unconditionally and finish.

Mr MITCHELL: I withdraw.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Your time has now expired.