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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3428


Ms CLAYDON (Newcastle) (15:56): I rise today to speak on today's matter of public importance:

The Abbott Government's failure to make the right choices and pursue the right priorities for Australia's future.

Yes, we have seen the government time and time again prove that their priorities are in the wrong place. The list is long—way too long for the five minutes I have today—so let's just focus on a few. Just this week, of course, we saw the infamous knights and dames announcement. This came off the back of the $75,000 gold-plated paid parental leave scheme that the Prime Minister announced, albeit not necessarily with his cabinet's support; the cutting of funding and access to our local schools; and, of course, the giving of a green light to bigotry in Australia through changes to the Racial Discrimination Act. And that is just for this week.

On the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act, I think it is worth quoting an article from The Age today. I believe my colleague the member for Rankin made reference to it earlier. Quoted in the article is an unnamed source that was, however, clearly identified as a government minister, reflecting on the Attorney-General's controversial changes to the race hate laws. He says:

George has really drunk the right-wing Kool-Aid.

And I would suggest the Kool-Aid has been pretty free flowing from the taps in the offices of those opposite.

It is the only way that I can explain some of their decisions. Honestly, does the government think that the Australian people want their elected representatives to be hiding 900 pages of deep cuts from the public? We know that the Commission of Audit has been sitting on the desk of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer for nearly six weeks, but the public—particularly the voters of Western Australia—have absolutely no idea what is in store for them. Does this government think that the Australian people want their representatives to provide extravagant rewards for a small segment of the community as part of the gold-plated paid parental leave scheme at the expense of providing shelter and services for the homeless in our communities? Does this government think that the Australian people want a government to slap a new tax on them every time they go to see their GP, making health care less and less accessible and undoing the universality of Medicare—the quintessential goal of every Liberal government that has ever sat in this House?

Do they think that the Australian people want representatives to strip away funding from infrastructure projects? We have already seen the government cut half a billion dollars from infrastructure projects in Western Australia. Do the government really think that the Australian people want a Treasurer and a government prepared to cynically manipulate the budget in order to create a distorted picture of the state of the budget in order to justify their severe cuts to essential services?

Independent advice from the Parliamentary Budget Office has shown that the decision by the government to ditch the previous government's fiscal rules dramatically inflated the level of net debt by an incredible $260 billion—and, as we heard time and time again today, $68 billion of that is in this term of this government alone. It is absolutely this Treasurer's own problem. It is his spending priorities and his changed economic assumptions that have added $68 billion of new debt—doubling the deficit under this Treasurer's watch. There is no-one else to blame; that is his doing.

So here we are with dramatic inflation of the state of the budget, which buys into the government rhetoric of requiring massive ideological cuts in the upcoming budget. We have already had some warning bells ringing about needing to scale back the alleged unaffordability of the National Disability Insurance Scheme—a scheme which this government assured us had bipartisan support. But everyone is fearful that this softening up of the unaffordability of this scheme is in fact paving the way for it to be scaled back. In my electorate of Newcastle, which is a national launch site, this is a major issue and it is very stressful for carers and families in the region.

And what about this trumped up 'repeal day'? It is nothing more than a distraction from cuts to protections for seniors, consumers, workers and investors. What about jobs? This government has no plan to save Australian jobs or to save Australian industry. It is a government willing to sit back and watch the ship-building industry in my electorate and many others go the same way as the automotive industry.

An opposition member interjecting

Ms CLAYDON: It is a shame. It is time that this government got itself together and started focusing on the issues important to the people of Australia. We want a plan for Australian jobs. We want a plan for Australian industry. We want a plan for a future—not looking back.