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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Page: 9408

Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (15:20): Today says it all about this government and today says it all about this Prime Minister in particular. He is a Prime Minister addicted to breaching election commitments. Even worse, he is a Prime Minister who insults the Australian people by denying it and who insults the intelligence of the Australian people by refusing to admit a blatant truth. We saw it just a few moments ago in question time when the Prime Minister claimed a mandate for his freezing of the increase in the superannuation guarantee. I am holding a copy of his superannuation policy from the election. Remember when he used to hold press conferences and hold pamphlets under his head, point to them and say, 'This is our plan for Australia.'? They had a plan. It reads 'The Plan'. It gets better: point 1 is 'Certainty and Stability' for superannuation. It says 'the gradual increase will be delayed by two years'. So says the Liberal Party's policy at the last election. Today two years became six, and the Prime Minister does not even have the grace to admit this breach of an election commitment.

A year ago, tomorrow, the Prime Minister said:

I expect that people will be very harsh on a new government that doesn't keep its commitments.

It can count on that because the Australian people are harsh on a government that does not keep its commitments; and this government has broken more than any other. Today we have seen a deal done in the other House. We saw the Treasurer up doing the deal in the Senate—very proud of his handiwork; very pleased with himself. Then there is the commitment from the now Prime Minister:

There will not be deals done with independents and minor parties under any political movement that I lead.

That says it all!

More than anything else, Madam Speaker, what today tells us about this government is this government's warped values and twisted priorities. This is a government which says, 'Work longer.' This is a government which says, 'We can't afford fair indexation of the age pension.' But this is a government which says, 'We are not going to help you save for your future retirement; we are going to make it harder.' Today the government has achieved the trifecta: they have made Australians work longer, they have made the pension less fair and they have put more people on the age pension by their short-sighted policies.

There is only one thing that is consistent about this government and it this: it is the people who can least afford it who pay the price for their broken promises. It is Australia's low- and middle-income earners who pay the price for their breach of commitment. During question time we saw the Prime Minister show that he did not know how many more people will be reliant on the age pension because of his policies. He had no idea how many more people will be on the age pension. He has no idea by how much Australia's pool of savings has been reduced today. He has no idea what the long-term impact on the federal budget will be. Let's help him out. During question time, financial services counsellors helped the Prime Minister out: they said that by 2025 there will be $128 billion less in our national pool of savings, thanks to this Prime Minister and thanks to this Treasurer. The Treasurer who puffs himself up to full height, beats his chest and lectures Australians that they should work longer than anybody else in the world, that they should have a less-fair pension, that they should have a pension which is not indexed fairly and properly—a Treasurer who dares to say that it is strongly arguable that pensioners could be better off under his budget. By his actions he will have made Australia's working population $128 billion worse off by 2025. That is the only thing consistent about this government.

They say to high-income earners: 'Oh, look, those terrible tax changes the Labor Party put in—which were modest—we're going to reverse those. We're going to look after you, but for low-income earners—people earning less than $37,000 and some of them might even drive a car—we are going to give them zero tax concessions for their future. They commit no crime other than to work hard, but we are going to give them nothing.' I say this: the vast majority of those low-income earners—people in Australia's factories, cleaners, people in manual labour—are women, who deserve a chance to save for their future through superannuation and to receive some modest tax breaks for doing it. But this government just does not get it. They do not understand the impact of their own policies; they certainly do not understand the impact of their values and their twisted priorities; and they certainly do not understand the impact of their budget on Australians.

But there is just one more reason that today says it all about this government. Yesterday we all saw the farce of the government introducing a bill into the House with no speech—the bill with no speech. The government forgot to explain to the House what they were voting on. There was a clause in that bill yesterday which said that the Treasurer should have the ability to change the superannuation guarantee rate himself—and need not come back to the parliament. We pointed that out to the House, when we eventually got the bill, but I can report to the House that it lasted less than 24 hours, because even the government acknowledged the error of their ways—and now they have not done that. So this is calm, methodical government by this government of grown ups, who have had three positions on superannuation in the last 24 hours—the last one just negotiated in the Senate. I wonder how long the cabinet meeting went to discuss that one! We were told, of course, by the Prime Minister:

The main commitment I want to make tonight is to restore cabinet government.

That was on 22 June 2010.

As a general rule all significant government decisions should be considered by cabinet before they are announced, rather than subsequently presented as done deals.

We hear a lot about methodical, calm government, don't we? We hear a lot about it, but we do not see a lot of it.

They have adopted three positions in 24 hours on a matter of some importance to the Australian people—their retirement incomes. It is a matter that actually counts to Australians who are saving for their retirement and who care about their future. They want to know that this government has a plan. They do have a plan, apparently—in fact, they have three, and we have seen them all over the last 24 hours. But today's is the worst, because they have frozen the increase in the superannuation guarantee for six years. As the Leader of the Opposition said, 'They have got form. This is what Liberals do, because Liberals don't believe in working people having the ability to save for their future.' Liberals do not believe in working people receiving some modest assistance to do so. Liberals won the 1996 election promising to increase the superannuation guarantee. They won the 2013 election promising to increase the superannuation guarantee, and what we have found is another point of consistency—breaching their promises on superannuation. Why? Because they just don't get it.

It tells us something even more about this government, this Prime Minister and this Treasurer. It tells us about their prejudice—their prejudice against working people. If this was an ideology, Madam Speaker, I would have a little bit of respect for it. If this were an extreme right-wing ideology, I would have as much respect for it as disagreement, but I have no respect for prejudice. I have no respect for the prejudice which this Treasurer implements in his budget and his policies. I have no respect for the prejudice which this Prime Minister implements in his blatant disregard for Australian people and his election commitments to them. We have no respect for your prejudice, and the Australian people have no respect for your prejudice, because your prejudice hurts working people. People around Australia go about their daily business hoping that somebody in Canberra is looking out for them—somebody in Canberra saying, 'I wonder how we can help people save for their retirement,' or somebody in Canberra saying, 'Let's care about the long-term future of Australia.' They hope somebody in Canberra is saying, 'Let's give the working people of Australia a hand.' Right around Australia, millions of Australians are saying, 'Is somebody in Canberra looking out for us?' Well, not over there. It is not that Prime Minister and not that Treasurer. We have a Prime Minister and a Treasurer who have such contempt and prejudice for working Australians that they scoff, they smile, they snarl, they sneer—

Opposition members: They smirk!

Mr BOWEN: And they smirk. Even more importantly than that, they are hurting people with their policies. I have to confess, I am not sure whether the Treasurer just does not understand the impacts of his policies or he embraces his policies because of this government's prejudice. I suspect that it is a bit of both, because he does not understand the impact of his budget on the Australian people and he does not understand the impact of his retrograde superannuation policy either.