Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 21 May 2012
Page: 4811

Mr MELHAM (Banks) (19:04): It is interesting that the honourable member for Mackellar, in her speech, did not once mention the GST and its impost on pensioners and on the poor sections of our community. She did not mention the regressive nature of it, or the fact that you get it from the cradle to the grave, so when you have your funeral, your family cop 10 per cent on top of the bill, courtesy of her and John Howard.

In recent months, we have heard a lot from sections of the media, together with those on the other side, criticising the Labor government. What I have just pointed out is one example of the opposition's alternative way of doing business. I think they compensated pensioners in a one-off payment, not a continuous payment like our initiatives. The comments have focused on the level of our commitment to the Labor values that we believe in. Let me say that there is a stark contrast between the values that drew us to the Labor Party, that we continue to espouse, and those of the coalition.

I wish to highlight to the parliament why this budget is very much a Labor budget and one that I am very proud of. The Australian Labor Party had its origins with people who sought that the aspirations of the Australian people for a decent, secure, dignified and constructive way of life be realised. These were people who sought to embody the recognition by the trade union movement of the necessity for a political voice to take forward the struggle of the working class against the excesses, injustices and inequalities of capitalism, and to ensure that the commitment by the Australian people to the creation of an independent, free and enlightened Australia was successful. These were the values of the origins of the Labor Party

At that time and since then, the Labor Party has always acted to ensure a fair and equitable society based on principles of social justice, employment and access to all the benefits of a just society. This budget is a continuation of those core principles. Our policy is to ensure that the government continues to provide the basic infrastructure for the whole community and continues to help those who are in need of extra assistance. As the Prime Minister said in the inaugural Gough Whitlam oration on 31 March 2011:

The historic mission of our political party is to ensure the fair distribution of opportunity. From the moment of our inception our mission has been to enable the son of the labourer, the daughter of the cleaner, to have access to the same opportunities in life as the son of the millionaire, the daughter of the lawyer.

This is who we in the Labor Party are. Before I turn to the implications of the budget for the people of my electorate of Banks, I note that prior to this year's budget this government introduced a series of policy initiatives in the best of the Labor tradition that I am proud of. Some of the highlights of the Labor government's achievements since its election in 2007 include: abolished Work Choices and restored entitlements and a basic safety net for all workers; delivered more than 800,000 jobs and saved 200,000 jobs during the GFC and since; delivered a $2.2 billion comprehensive package focusing on early intervention and coordinated care, the largest investment in mental health; increased hospital funding by $20 billion since 2007, including 1,300 new subacute beds and support for 2,500 new aged-care beds; and invested in 24 regional cancer centres and 44 McGrath Foundation specialist breast cancer nurses.

Other highlights include: invested in the nation through the $37 billion Nation Building Program to improve our roads, rails and ports, together with a $6 billion regional infrastructure fund; decreased taxes as a percentage of GDP—21.2 per cent in 2011-12, down from the 24.2 per cent at which the Howard government peaked in 2004-05, 2005-06; managed underlying inflation at 2.6 per cent in December 2011, down from 3.7 per cent at the end of the Howard government; introduced less income tax of $1,750 for someone on $50,000 and $1,900 less tax for someone on $100,000; boosted retirement savings for 8.4 million workers by increasing the superannuation guarantee from nine per cent to 12 per cent. The achievements include: doubled investment in schools; conducted the first review of school funding in almost 40 years and provided increased transparency to give us the data we need for a proper debate on schools; delivered reforms to pensions since 29 September—pensions have increased an extra $148 a fortnight for singles and around $146 a fortnight for couples and in the electorate of Banks there are 22,800 pensioners benefitting from these historic changes; provided an extra $338 and $510 a year to assist those in need with the introduction of a carbon price; delivered the first ever Paid Parental Leave scheme on 1 January 2011 with 18 weeks of leave paid at the minimum wage—there are 1,075 local families currently benefitting from this initiative in my electorate; and introduced tax breaks for small business, improving their cash flows by allowing them to claim tax deductions sooner. From 1 July 2012, small business will get $6,500 instant asset write-off for each business asset, as well as an instant asset write-off for the first $5,000 of any car purchased.

These are just a few of the reforms introduced by the Labor government, and are in addition to the massive reform in the process of being introduced through the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the reforms to aged care. Who can forget that, for most of our first term from 2007 to 2010, we had an obstructionist Senate. In the first part the majority in the Senate was held by the Liberal-National Party. Then they relied on two independent senators to obstruct. In this term we have a hung parliament. So, all those achievements have been achieved despite the resistance of those opposite, dragged kicking and screaming, which is the conservative way of doing business. They do not mind when it comes to business welfare or welfare for the upper middle classes. That is what they expect. Traditionally, that is the history of the conservatives on the other side of politics. The rest of us subsidise the upper middle class and the business sector.

This government has had the courage to take action on climate change. We are cutting carbon pollution and driving investment in clean energy technologies like solar, gas and wind. We are supporting jobs in existing and renewable industries nationwide. This budget continues to deliver for the Australian community, and I will outline exactly the benefits to people in the electorate of Banks.

The school kids bonus will deliver over $7.5 million dollars to an estimated 7,450 families in Banks and over 1.3 million families nationally. This helps people on Family Tax Benefit A who need assistance in providing the necessities for their kids at school: uniforms; books, stationery and so on. They will also receive an increase of up to $600 in their payments from 1 July 2013, affecting about 10,000 of my constituents. Young people, single parents and the unemployed currently receiving allowances will receive extra payments of $210 for singles and $350 for couples. This will assist those in need to meet the costs of essential services like electricity, gas and water. This payment will impact on 6,954 people in Banks.

Labor has increased the childcare rebate from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of parents' out-of-pocket expenses to a maximum of $7,500 per family. This represents 5,575 families in my electorate. More than 22,800 pensioners in Banks will receive an extra $338 a year for singles and $510 for couples to assist with any cost-of-living changes brought on from the introduction of the carbon price. An additional 2,300 local self-funded retirees will also benefit from this initiative. Overall, around 53,000 local taxpayers will receive a tax cut on 1 July and around 42,000 will get a cut of up to $300. There are 17,400 small businesses in Banks that may benefit from the decision to extend the small business advisory service, providing access to knowledge and experience to help maintain and grow their businesses. We on this side look at our responsibilities as legislators through the prism of the Labor values of equity and fairness, and the Labor Party is the only party committed to social justice and equality. This is the 23rd budget that I have seen in this place. In my first speech I stated:

… a Labor government is the only government which governs in the interests of all Australians. They share the same hopes and aspirations as most Australians and look to their elected representatives to fight for an equal and fairer society which offers security for all.

This is as true today as it was in 1990. I continued in that speech to say:

I believe in government regulation and intervention, for without it the inequalities inherent in our society will continue to flourish. Governments are elected to govern, not to sit back and be spectators.

The classic example of that being successful was this government's response to the GFC, which made the rest of the world look up and take notice because we were the best performing economy in the world. Why? Because we did not do as the coalition wanted us to do: act like moo-cows and just watch the passing traffic. We got involved. We protected our society from the GFC. Instead of losing 200,000 people from employment, we have now created over the life of the Labor government 800,000 jobs, protecting families, protecting the workplace and protecting our community, in stark contrast to what the opposition were advocating: do nothing.

The road to reform as we are now experiencing it is not an easy one, nor has it ever been. The reforms of the Whitlam, Hawke and Keating governments were not easily accepted at the time, yet today they are keystones of our society. Medicare, when it was originally introduced as Medibank, was to be the end of Western civilisation as we know it, as was the Mabo legislation. The superannuation guarantee, when it was introduced, was the beginning of the end for business, yet civilisation is still standing. The mining companies admitted on the Four Corners program the other night that they are doing better than ever in relation to their involvement in the mining sector and their interaction with the Indigenous people of this country.

Today we are looking forward to major initiatives in the form of a National Disability Insurance Scheme and the beginnings of a national dental scheme. Superannuation will be increased so that all Australians can benefit from the mining boom. The direct result of this measure will increase superannuation as the guarantee is lifted from nine per cent to 12 per cent for around 8.4 million working people, increasing retirement savings by $500 billion by 2035, as well as providing 3.6 million low-income earners with concessions worth $800 million a year on employer super contributions. That $500 billion is a good capital pool that can be used to invest within Australia on a range of fronts: creation of jobs and assistance with infrastructure. The Liberal-National coalition have no such vision for the future. Time and again in this place we experience their negativity, their complacency and their inability to identify with the great social and economic changes introduced by Labor governments. Their role is to carp and criticise, to complain, to block and to continually look back. And what is their big reform in the Howard years? A 10 per cent tax, a GST from the cradle to the grave—a regressive tax.

This government and the Labor governments which preceded it can look with pride at their achievements for all in our society. The government will continue to implement policies and programs which will benefit all Australians and will continue to address the needs of the less fortunate in our community by seeking to raise the standard of living for all Australians. So I am proud to be speaking on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2012-2013 and related bills, because I think this is a Labor budget that we on this side can be proud of. I note that the electorate itself has generally accepted the budget because it sees that in the circumstances it is a very good budget. I commend the bills to the House.

Debate interrupted.