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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1697


Ms HALL (ShortlandOpposition Whip) (18:57): I know the member for Gilmore is a very community minded member of parliament, but unfortunately I do not see a major achievement of government as conducting a cooking competition.

Rather, I must say, members of the electorate that I represent are coming to me in a very distressed situation. They are distressed because they are worried about health care. They are worried about the education of their children and grandchildren, and they are worried about the impact that this harsh government—this Abbott coalition government—is having on them, on their lives and on all people in their families.

Regarding the point that the member for Gilmore made about packaging, I think knowing what you are eating and having it clearly marked on the package is important, but the other thing that is really important is that the quality and the purity of the food is known and that a consumer can really be confident the food they are about to eat is not contaminated. That is an issue that has been raised with me in my electorate, and I encourage the government to look past the labelling to actually looking at ensuring that the food that is packaged is safe and that consumers can eat it with confidence.

These budget papers demonstrate that the Abbott government is unable to govern for all Australians. We see time and time again in this House that the government is pushing small sectional interests. We all know that those on the other side of the House made a move towards good government a couple of weeks ago, but we are still trying to find evidence of that good government. When people phone my office and when I meet people in the community, their comments about this age of new government are anything but flattering.

These bills do absolutely nothing to address the unfairness of the May budget, an issue that has been raised with me time and time again. Constituents ask me to stop measures that this government has tried to introduce. But the bottom line is that the government has the numbers in this House. Unfortunately, those opposite are arrogantly ignoring the people in their electorates. If they were listening to what their constituents were saying, I am sure they would be hearing exactly what I am hearing.

This government is really not in tune with what Australian people want. And these papers contain no new ideas whatsoever. It is more of the same old diatribe, more of the same tired ideas that we have seen from this government since it was elected. It is pushing an ideological agenda. With respect to workplace relations, it already has credentials on the books, with its commitment to Work Choices in a previous parliament. Then there is its attack on Medicare. We on this side of the House appreciate that the Prime Minister has very little respect for Medicare. As health minister, he used to stand up in this parliament with a smirk on his face—I emphasise 'a smirk'—saying that he was the best friend that Medicare ever had. We have seen him demonstrate just what sort of a friend he is. I would certainly hate to be his enemy. We have probably seen a bit of an example of what it means to be his enemy in the way that he has treated people in this parliament and in his attacks on Gillian Triggs.

This government talks about Medicare. There have been many, many attempts to ram through this House its unfair GP tax. It has not introduced the legislation into this parliament, because it knows it will not get through. It tried to do it by the back door, through regulation that was supposed take effect on 19 January. But the government pulled the plug at the last minute, because not only the people that I represent and the people that each and every member of the other side of the parliament represents but the doctors themselves were up in arms about this government's assault on Medicare, this government's assault on the good health of all Australians.

The plan that this government has for Medicare is diabolical. It means that if you have a chronic illness you will have to pay a lot of money to go and see a doctor. On an ongoing basis you are going to be hit with surcharges. If you are a pensioner or a senior and you are lucky enough to find a doctor who will bulk-bill you, you should be okay. But it is a two-tier system that is designed to end Medicare as we know it. It is a system that is about watering down Medicare. It shows the ideological hatred that those on the other side of this House have towards universal health care, because that is what it is—an attack on universal health care. And it is the Australian people who will pay for this attack.

Then we come to the $100,000 university degrees. I was fortunate enough to go to the University of Newcastle during orientation week. I had a petition with me that students could sign, stating their objection to the changes that this government had in the pipeline for universities.

Ms Scott interjecting

Ms HALL: The member for Lindsay may support these changes, but I can assure her that the university students at the University of Newcastle were lining up to sign the petition. We had three people working on that stall, and university students were constantly signing the petition, because they did not want legislation introduced into this House that led to a 20 per cent cut in funding to universities, they did not want legislation that deregulated fees to allow universities to charge basically whatever they want to, and they particularly did not want savage cuts to regional universities like the University of Newcastle. These changes will have an impact on mature age students and a great impact on people from lower paid background.

Ms Scott interjecting

Ms HALL: The member for Lindsay continually rabbits on while I am speaking, but no matter what she says it will not change the fact that this is unfair, that this is going to undermine our university system. There is a real prospect of $100,000 degrees. But those on the other side of this House really are not too concerned about it.

I have talked a lot about the unfairness of the May budget. I think this is borne out by the fact that the gap between the rich and poor in Australia is growing bigger and bigger, with 12.8 per cent of all Australians living below the poverty line. That is after taking into account their housing costs. As well, 17.3 per cent of children are living below the poverty line. Many, many families are living lives of stress and deprivation due to poverty. Those on the other side of the House are keen to implement more policies and changes that will make this situation even worse.

At the same time that we have growing poverty, we see that the richest 10 per cent of Australians had almost 50 per cent of the growth in income over the past three decades. Income inequality has continued to grow and it is getting worse. At this rate, we will soon have an American-style split between the working poor and the super rich. This growing inequality of income is made much worse by the increasing cost of housing.

How do this government address this inequality? They address it by cutting funds to services that provide support for those people who are really struggling to make ends meet. They have cut community grants, they have cut funding for homelessness service providers and they have cut money to groups that provide emergency services. This is the Liberal way. This is the way that those on the other side of this parliament believe things should be. They are quite happy with the burgeoning inequality in society, and they are quite happy for the wealthiest Australians to become even wealthier. At the same time, they are happy to cut funding to community organisations and a large number of charities who provide welfare services across Australia. We on this side of the House believe that that is totally unacceptable.

Another area is unemployment. Unemployment has increased, and what is the government's response to that? Its response is to make young people under 30 wait six months before they can get any sort of income support. Once again, it is throwing people into poverty and not understanding the real issue. The real issue is not that people are unemployed, because they choose to be. The real issue is not that if you are under 30 then you must go for six months without receiving any income support or that it is your problem and not the government's. The real issue is that jobs are disappearing under this government. The real issue is that this government has a one-sided approach to addressing unemployment, and that is to punish those people who lose their jobs and those people who are unemployed.

This is once again driven by the government's ideology of attacking those people in the community who are least able to look after themselves. It is driven by their ideology of attacking the sick, the poor and working families; cutting pensions and attacking seniors; and ripping funds, as I have mentioned, from groups that support those people who look to government to support them. This government has no new ideas, just this harsh ideological approach to governing Australia. This harsh approach has no idea whatsoever; it is directed towards inflicting the greatest amount of hurt upon people.

You might ask: what is the Labor Party's approach to this? It is very, very different indeed. We do not think that you attack those people that can least afford it. We believe that some of those multinational companies out there should contribute a lot more towards the welfare and the budget in Australia. We have a plan that will bring in $1.9 billion in revenue, as opposed to the Abbott government's attack on families, the sick, the poor and the seniors in our country. At the same time, our plan will provide $45 million more than the combination of this government's attacks on Australians. It is not broken promises and it is not the lack of vision; it is the hurt that this government is causing.

Why should a company such as James Hardie have a tax advantage over other Australians? We believe that loopholes should be closed so that large multinational companies stop sending profits overseas and avoid paying their taxes. That is fair. That is ensuring that the big companies and multinational companies contribute to our country. That is what Australians want. They want to see that it is not just ordinary, average Australians that become the lifters. We want to see some of those supporters of the government do a little bit of heavy lifting.

I find these budget papers extremely disappointing and I urge members to go back to their electorates and talk to their— (Time expired)