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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3234


Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (15:43): It is difficult to assess and discuss the priorities of a government whose objectives are so hard to find and whose stated aims, when you do find them, are so small-minded and mean spirited.

The key characteristic of this coalition government is the continuation of its deep, intractable negativity. They are not 'for' anything. They do not have a vision of Australia's best future. They are resolutely against many of what should clearly be the nation's highest priorities: universal, affordable and high-quality health care, education and training, a national broadband network and a clean energy future Instead, all this government has is an abiding nostalgia for the trinkets of the past, a blind faith in market forces and the big end of town, and a list of friends and enemies to fix up along the way.

On the basis of what we have seen so far, this government's priority is to re-hash old battles and re-heat old obsessions. They want to remove, through deregulation, key pieces of social, environmental and financial protection. They want to privatise every available public asset. They want to end the so-called age of entitlement, but only to the extent that it means removing the kinds of apparently objectionable largesse that exist in the form of measures like the low-income superannuation contribution and assistance to the orphaned children of veterans.

For Labor, a strong economy means shared economic and social benefits, starting with the opportunity to have the best education and training, universal public health care and a labour market with good jobs and fair pay and conditions. For the coalition, a strong economy means anything goes at the top end and everything goes when it comes to public assets and social services. When it comes to the economy, the government's priority has been adding new items in the spending column, including billions of dollars the Reserve Bank did not ask for and a non-means tested Paid Parental Leave scheme that people do not need.

We know there is an audit commission report that will detail cuts across the board. We do not know what is in the report, because it is being kept secret, and we do not know what will be in the budget papers, but we can make an educated guess based on the form this government has shown to date. It may involve a GP co-payment so that ordinary Australians pay more for primary health care. It will certainly involve measures to ensure that highly profitable mining companies pay less. It is likely to involve further reductions in the support available for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. It will certainly involve changes that ensure carbon polluters pay nothing for their pollution. On the contrary, that is a tab the coalition wants the taxpayer to pick up.

We do not need to make an educated guess about this government's priorities when it comes to jobs. We know this government has no interest in longstanding industries such as manufacturing and burgeoning industries such as renewable energy. This government believes the way to create jobs is to cut pay and conditions. We know that marine protection is out but the protection of bigotry is in. We know that health star ratings and preventative health agencies are out but tobacco donations for the National Party are in.

There is one government priority that we have heard about repeatedly from those opposite. We have been told that Mr Abbott will soon come to be known as the infrastructure Prime Minister. That is a relief, because I can tell you that in my electorate of Fremantle, and indeed throughout WA, many people are looking forward to the continued delivery of the single most important infrastructure project in Australia in the 21st century, the National Broadband Network. Except, unfortunately, the NBN is out too.

So I guess the kind of infrastructure we might expect in WA is investment in public transport to continue the former Labor government's historic level of contribution to those projects, but no again. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he is not interested in partnering with state governments to help create functioning, productive and vibrant Australian cities through the delivery of well-planned public and freight transport rail networks.

So what infrastructure is it exactly that the Prime Minister expects he will come to be known for? In WA this week we had an indication, when the new Western Australian Minister for Transport announced a 'new' co-funded road project involving the widening of the Kwinana Freeway between the Roe Highway and Armadale Road, only for it to be revealed that this agreed and co-funded project was actually announced by the former federal Labor government last August. Three other transport infrastructure projects have been similarly re-announced. For all I know, the Abbott government will shortly announce and claim credit for building the Perth to Kalgoorlie pipeline, Fremantle Harbour and the 'Polly' Farmer pipe.

The Abbott government has no discernible positive priorities. It has chosen to shape and guide itself by what it wants to cut and by what it wants to remove, unwind, deregulate, sell or abandon. In WA we have no great need for knights and dames; we need forward-looking and courageous policy to secure a clean energy future, to secure established and developing job opportunities and to create fairer and more effective social conditions through mechanisms such the National Disability Insurance Scheme and by addressing homelessness and the urgent need for affordable and social housing. Unfortunately, with this government, those priorities are nowhere to be seen.