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Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4783


Mr RIPOLL (OxleyParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (17:03): It is a great pleasure to have an opportunity to talk about all the good, positive and great things about this country and the great things that are being done in ordinary people's homes and for working families, small business and all those people that really work hard to make this country a success—not the negative drivel that we get over on the other side about how it is all doom and gloom and the world is coming to an end. It might be coming to an end in some parts of the world, but not in Australia, because in Australia we have a government that listens to people and delivers the right budgets at the right time, with surpluses when they are needed, not just in the golden years when the rivers of gold used to come into Canberra. The government makes the really important decisions about maintaining sustainability into the future, and that is exactly what this budget does, to a tee, and it gets it right.

In fact, it was just last week that I had the great good fortune of being with the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon. Anthony Albanese, when we opened the Ipswich Motorway, a great Labor commitment—something I had campaigned for since 1998. We might have done a lot of work, and from opposition you do not get too many wins, but I tell you what: that was one of the best wins we ever got for South-East Queensland. Finally, now, in 2012 we can actually open up this road that actually began on the very first day after we were elected in 2007. That is when work began on the Ipswich Motorway. You know what they say: success has many fathers and failure is an orphan. In this case the Liberal Party, the National Party and everybody who opposed it were scrambling to be part of this great success, because they can now see with their own eyes the difference it has made to ordinary people in the south-east in that same spirit of positive thinking, responsible action, good work in terms of budgets, spending on infrastructure, keeping the economy strong and keeping people in jobs even through a global financial crisis.

I can understand if some people do not think the crisis hit Australia, because we actually did something to prevent it hitting here. This government, when we got elected, did something real. We were opposed all the way, kicking and screaming, by this mob over there on the opposition side, who just refused to do anything. If they had had their way—if they had had the numbers on the floor—we would have sat back, watched it all happen and hoped, like Europe or even the United States, that it just would not affect people here and that they would not lose their jobs. That just did not happen in Australia, because we took action. It always takes a government with just a small amount of responsibility and courage to do what is required, and we have done that since 2007—not always the most popular decisions, but always the right decisions and the responsible decisions.

I am very confident that in 20 years time, in the full glare of day, when people review us, they will go back and say, 'I tell you what: they were pretty tough decisions. They were tough times. They were tough days, but that was a government that stood up and was counted, and I'm proud of that.' I can tell you that that is exactly what will happen, just as for the first time in Australian history, as a result of the actions that we have taken as a government, the rest of the world—the global community—has rated the Australian economy one of the best in the world. We are AAA rated across all three credit-rating agencies for the first time in our history. That tells you something: at least they are not biased. At least they are not just opposing for opposition's sake. They are just making a global economic assessment and they say we are doing okay, and you know what? I agree with them. I actually think we are doing okay, and I think that if were a little bit more confidence emanating out of the people's house in parliament then there might be a little bit more confidence among ordinary folk as well.

I can talk about all the positive things, and there are so many that it would take me a lot more than the 15 minutes for which I have been given grace to speak today, but I will talk about some of the good things and why it is so important that we have put a surplus in our budget this time around. One reason is that we promised it. We said we would return the budget to surplus on time, and we have. Returning to a surplus is our best defence. We do not know what is around the corner, but it is our best defence. It arms us against another potential that we have seen in the past and it gives us and certainly the Reserve Bank more flexibility to move in terms of more interest rate cuts, if they are needed, just like occurred recently. An official cash rate of 3.75 per cent is good for some. It is certainly good for mortgage holders and it is really good for our economy. And now we are seeing a turnaround in the Australian dollar. It is easing, which means there is a little less pressure on our manufacturers and exporters. There is a little less pressure on a range of Australian businesses. It shows you that the good work of the government does pay off in the area of jobs where we have a great record.

During the global financial crisis Labor had a great record of keeping people working. Currently we have 5.1 per cent unemployment rate, which is low enough—it will never be completely low enough—compared to the rest of the world, almost at full employment, coming down to 4.9 per cent. Interestingly, that particular set of numbers, that data, are the same figures and the same dataset that have been used for 30 years, along with the same methodology. There is no question about the number—for 30 years we have had the same methodology. So rather than it being anything but positive it is actually a fantastic result. It simply says: while there are jobs being shed in certain parts of the economy, jobs are also being created just down the road. Unfortunately, we have a media in this country who will only report on one side of the ledger. Jobs go, but they never walk two steps down the street to say: 'Job created.' That is the reality: job created. Sure, there is a change in our economy and we are managing through that change because we believe people have a right to a decent opportunity to work to make something for themselves.

If we just look at interest rates and mortgages we see that, on an average mortgage today of $300,000, people are actually saving around $3,000 a year. That is how much they are saving by paying less because we are here in government. This is all in the framework of massive global uncertainty, of government being stripped of $150 billion of revenue. That is when it gets tough. That is when you need a good Treasurer, good government and serious policy. That is when you need to take responsibility, because that is when it makes a difference, not when the rivers of gold used to flow in this place and then Treasurer Costello could not make a prediction on the budget surplus because there was so much money going around that he never knew how much money was going to flood into the place. That was happening all around the world—in Europe, the US and everywhere. We were not immune. But what did we do with that great surplus, those great opportunities? Did we invest in the long-term future? Did we invest in the aftermath of a mining boom? Did we invest in skills and training, in education and in health?

You get criticised by this sloppy opposition, which had 12 years in government, yet it could not even do half—in fact, not even a third—the things we have done in four years. I am confident in saying that, in four years, we have achieved more than three times what you achieved in 12 years. It goes to evidence and proof. Just have a look at the budget. Have a look at the programs that Labor is delivering. Have a look at dental health and at a whole range of other areas. Have a look at how we are helping ordinary families keeping people in jobs and sustaining manufacturing. Have a look at what we have done in terms of solar panels and helping people on pensions. The single biggest increase in the pension rate in this country, in 100 years, came from a Labor government—a Labor government that understood that there was enough talking about people on the age pension being on the poverty edge and that actually made a financial commitment. People here still oppose that rise. They just do not get it. Go and talk to a real pensioner. Go and talk to somebody who appreciates that significant rise that we put in place. It cost the budget $5 billion on the day and $20 billion over the forward estimates. But that is the reality of what we did. We actually did something real and we have done something real for pensioners again in this budget. We have ensured that they are not the forgotten people. Call them whatever you like—battlers, people doing it tough. But I tell you this: you can talk the talk, but you have to walk it as well. Over here, in tough times, we are talking it and we are walking it. We are delivering the programs that make a difference.

Have a look at the average family and their cost-of-living pressures. What is a cost-of-living pressure? Everything costs money. We all get that, but what are we doing about it—schoolkids bonus. Call it whatever you like.

Mr Robb: The carbon tax!

Mr RIPOLL: I am happy to talk about the carbon tax; I am happy to take the interjection. They giggle and laugh, but the reality is they have the same targets, the same policy. Everything is the same except, on the Labor side, the government side, we have a market based solution and we will be taxing 500 big companies, 500 big polluters. On the opposition side, same target, same policy, same outcomes, except they are going to tax ordinary people—households—directly. That is, in your hip pocket, in your home and at the kitchen table. That is who will have to pay under the opposition's policy. The Liberal-National Party have done this greatest turnaround in history. Once were maybe something; today are barely nothing. Because today they want to tax ordinary people and let the big polluters get away with it. You cannot even imagine it—this is the Liberal Party of Menzies over here, because they just want to tax ordinary people on absolutely everything.

Schoolkids bonus is for ordinary families. We put a tax incentive in place and not everyone accessed it, not everyone made use of it, so we have a better plan. And the better plan is to give it to them directly. They are responsible parents out there and, one way or another, they will spend that money on their kids. In whatever form it takes they will spend that money on their kids. It is good for them, it is good for their kids and it is good for the economy. For the life of me, I cannot understand how an opposition could credibly stand up and oppose such a positive change. They talk about the carbon tax. Let me tell you that, when they introduced the GST, there was no compensation. You just had to wear it. That was it; just wear it. The impact of that was 10 times what the impact of the carbon tax will be. But, at least, we have recognised that where we make people pay a little bit extra, indirectly, where there will be a cost, we will be keeping an eye on how those costs work and ensuring that people will be compensated for that. The list is long. We are protecting vulnerable children. There is more money and we are ensuring children get better access to education.

In this budget we have not forgotten disability and ageing. We have put a significant amount, billions of dollars, into the aged-care sector, ensuring that as people age they actually get some dignity, they can stay at home longer and they are not forced into a home and, very importantly, are not forced to sell their home to get into another one. That is something that only a Labor government would do. On this side we do not have discussions about kero baths; we actually have discussions about giving people proper care. That is what we do over on this side and we deliver it through this budget in the toughest of times. Again, I cannot believe that this mob over here would oppose a National Disability Insurance Scheme on the scale of Medicare. It will take some years to put into place, but you have to start somewhere. You have to recognise the need. We have been listening to people across the political spectrum talk about the need for this for 20 years. When is it going to happen? It will happen under a Labor government. We have already put it into place; that is what we are doing right now. There are many other programs: dental programs, making sure people in the workforce have skills, better safety on regional buses, Roads to Recovery—a great program, and we are continuing to fund it for the next five years.

I also want to make particular note today, in the small amount of time I have left, that it is World IBD Day. I mentioned earlier that the government is increasing funding for bowel cancer screening, and it gives me an opportunity to speak about inflammatory bowel disease. World IBD Day was Saturday, 19 May. It was the second World IBD Day. The conditions that make up IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Both are very debilitating diseases that mostly hit young people and are largely unsupported and unfunded in this country. It is a great tragedy to see what the hardworking young people that are affected by this disease have to do to survive and fund their own way. Even though we have great programs and a first-class Medicare system—the best Medicare and pharmaceutical system in the world—there is still a lot more that we can do.

I am making it a mission of mine to make people aware of this. I helped set up the Crohn's and Colitis Parliamentary Friendship Group with Andrew Laming. I have good support from both sides of this House on what is recognised across the spectrum as a really bad disease that needs more work. The causes of inflammation of the bowel are more prevalent in society than epilepsy, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema or schizophrenia—it is just little understood and little known. It is a responsibility for all of us to make people aware of this, and I have certainly taken that on.

Over 61,000 Australians have IBD and a new study indicates that 18 people per 100,000 have Crohn's disease and 11 people per 100,000 have ulcerative colitis. The peak onset age is between 15 and 40, in a person's prime, and it affects not only the sufferer but also their friends, their families and their ability to work. Often you will find that they are self-employed people who, from an early age, understood that their disease meant they could not hold down a regular job and, therefore, had to create their own job and their own work. I know a number of people who have this very tragic disease and who work very hard not to be a burden on taxpayers or on others, including their family, but to fight this disease as best they can.

It is a chronic condition and sufferers require long periods of expensive medication and face multiple bouts of major surgery—some having surgery 20, 30 or 40 times. If you can imagine what that does to a person's body, you can understand just how chronic this disease is. Apart from the obvious personal cost, there is also a huge economic cost. A 2007 study by Access Economics found that the cost to the community is around $2.7 billion—a $500 million financial cost and a $2.2 billion cost in lost wellbeing and productivity through absenteeism, workplace separation, early retirement and premature death. Keep the 2007 figures in mind because I know today they are much higher.

Last year I started the parliamentary friendship group and I am very thankful for the members of that group. Tonight we have a major function on to mark World IBD Day. I challenge everyone here to pay more attention to this chronic disease and do whatever they can to find out about people in their own electorates who have it. (Time expired)