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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 42


Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (16:46): There seems to be a lot of reminiscing and talking about the good old days from the opposition today—and, by the sound of it, how keen they are to get back to those 'good old days' of the Howard government. We have heard a lot of bragging about the surplus of the Howard government, bragging about being friends of the working people and bragging about their fiscal policies. I would like to finish off what the member for Moncrieff started. Let us look at some comparisons between the Howard government and the current Labor government.

Let us look at the unemployment rate, which was 6.4 per cent under the Howard government. Let us look at the participation rate, which was 63.5 per cent under the Howard government. Under the Labor government unemployment is 5.2 per cent and participation is 65.5 per cent. Let us look at taxes as a percentage of GDP. Under this government it is 22.3 per cent. Under the Howard government it was 24.1 per cent. That is what they are proud of—being the highest taxing government in Australian history. Let us look at this Labor government's real government spending. In the next five years it will be one per cent per annum, the lowest since the 1980s. During the Howard government's last five years it was 3.7 per cent per annum. Underlying inflation under this government is 2.3 per cent, whereas at the end of the Howard government's term it was 3.5 per cent. So, if we are going to talk statistics and facts, let us talk real facts. Let us stop the fear campaign that we know the opposition is so proud of and let us start talking about real facts. Let us start talking about the surplus of the Howard government and how they achieved that surplus by flogging off government assets. Selling Telstra—that is what it really was. That is what we need to talk about.

But let us not talk just about the past; let us talk about now. Let us talk about what the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Treasurer would do to get back into surplus if they were in government. We heard it again last night from the shadow Treasurer: they would sack 12,000 public servants. That is where they would start. The MPI that the opposition put forward today is about helping Australian families and the day-to-day concerns of Australian families. Their solution to dealing with the day-to-day concerns of Australian families is: let us cut 12,000 jobs straightaway. That will fix the problem. If we look at the shadow Treasurer's idea of where those 12,000 jobs might come from, where did he target on Q&A last night? He said, 'Let's take 12,000 jobs out of health.' That will fix the system! That will look after Australian families!

We heard from the member for Moncrieff that Australia families want results. He said it is results that count; it is delivery. Let us look at some of the results that Australian families got under the Howard government. Let us look at what they did to Australian families. By putting in Work Choices, they did not just rip away penalties and take away job security; they attacked the most disadvantaged in the working community, the casual workers, who are predominantly non-English-speaking workers and women. That is how they looked after Australian families. In question time today we heard how the Leader of the Opposition looked after Australian families when he was the Minister for Health and Ageing: he took money out of health. But he did not just strip money out of health; he did away with the Commonwealth dental scheme. That is helping Australian families! Of course, let us not forget the absolute lack of investment in education and skills or in trades. Look at the burden that this country was left with at the end of the Howard era in relation to the skills shortage in this country, due to the lack of investment in infrastructure and job opportunities.

I am happy to talk about the Howard years. I am happy to talk about the Leader of the Opposition and the opposition as a whole and what their future plans are. They oppose the NBN. They oppose supporting jobs through the financial crisis. They oppose any investment in schools, whether it be halls, libraries, computers or trade training centres. In anything to do with schools, they oppose any sort of reform. They oppose the minerals resource rent tax. Of course they do not want to give companies, predominantly small business, company tax cuts. They certainly do not want to increase superannuation to look after workers in their retirement.

But they do want to do one thing. What they do want to do is take money back from families and business and give it to those hardworking mining owners. Let us look after Gina Rinehart and Clive Palmer because they are really struggling! They are the Australian families that the opposition really want to look after. Gina's family will be looked after. Clive Palmer's family will be looked after. But when we talk about the real day-to-day concerns of Australian families you certainly will not see those on the other side putting their hands in their pockets and saying, 'We need to support these people with jobs, with future opportunities, with health, with education.' It is this government that delivered on tax cuts. It is this government that will increase the tax-free threshold and provide further tax cuts for those earning up to $80,000. It is this Labor government that introduced the historic Paid Parental Leave scheme and it is this government that increased the childcare rebate. It is this government that filled the gap left by the Howard government in relation to family tax benefits and assistance for teenagers. It is this government that is investing in university places and trade training to give our kids opportunities and career paths after school. It is this government that is helping through the education tax refund.

In my electorate alone there are over 10,000 families benefiting from the childcare benefits—over $25,000 in the 2009-2010 year. It is my electorate that is benefiting through the Moreton Bay Integrated Care Centre—our superclinic where for the first time we will be training GPs, as well as bringing dental training to the area and bringing specialists to the area. It is this Labor government making sure that the youth in the electorate of Petrie are being looked after with new youth facilities at North Lakes.

It is this government who has finally stood up and invested in public urban rail across this country. It is only a Labor government that would do that. How much did the Howard government invest in urban rail? It is easy: zero. Absolutely nothing. Not one cent. It is this government that is delivering, in coordination with the Moreton Bay Regional Council and the Queensland state government, with Anna Bligh and her team, the building of the Redcliffe rail link. Those on the other side would never have done it and never did do it; it is this government that is delivering.

It is this government that is not just providing the 35 schools in my electorate of Petrie, and schools all across the country, with important infrastructure but also introducing a national curriculum. The Howard government could not do it in 11 years. This government has done it. For the first time ever in Australia's history, whether you are learning at Mango Hill State School in the electorate of Petrie or at a school in Moreton, whether you are going to school in Tasmania, in Western Australia or in South Australia, you will be following the same curriculum. That is about giving opportunities, lifting skills in education and increasing productivity for the future of this country.

Liberal is about tearing down hopes and dreams; Labor is about building hopes and opportunities and is dedicated to long-term reform. We have seen what happens with Liberal governments in the states. Look at what is happening already in Victoria, in New South Wales and in Western Australia—attacking the most disadvantaged, attacking education, attacking health, attacking essential services and attacking police and nurses. We will see it in Queensland under Campbell Newman and his team if they get in: they will attack the most disadvantaged in Queensland.

It is this Labor government that understands the day-to-day concerns of Australian families, and it is this Labor government that is facing up to the challenges for those Australian families now and into the future. It is this Labor government that makes the tough decisions to create a stronger economy and a fairer society for Australian families. The Liberal Party is about fear and negativity. It always will be. Whether it is Tony Abbott or any other Leader of the Opposition, we will continue to see negativity and we will continue to see fear. It can continue with that campaign because that is what it is about. Labor is about hope and opportunity. It is about caring for Australian families. It has done it since it got into government in 2007, it has done it throughout history and the Labor government will continue to look after Australian families into the future.