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Tuesday, 26 August 2014
Page: 44

Senator CAROL BROWN (Tasmania) (16:39): I too would like to make a contribution in the matter of public importance that we are debating here today on the Abbott government's unfair budget based on broken promises and twisted priorities. In Senator Mason's contribution to this debate, he talked about keeping it simple. He said, 'Let's keep it simple.' Well, I will remind Senator Mason and those senators who are here listening to this debate of what the Prime Minister said during the federal election campaign. He said:

I want to be known as a Prime Minister who keeps commitments.

…   …   …

I will do what I say we will do.

It is pretty simple. It is very, very simple. Many people, many electors, out in the community took Mr Abbott at his word when he said: 'No cuts to pensions, no cuts to education and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.' They took him at his word when he said that he wanted to be a Prime Minister who keeps his commitments. On budget night they found out that he was not that Prime Minister who kept his promises. He was not that Prime Minister who kept his commitments. What we saw on budget night was a budget full of broken promises, a budget full of twisted priorities. And who was the budget aimed at? It was aimed at, as Senator Siewert said in her contribution, those easy targets—those least able to afford it or defend themselves, those already struggling to make ends meet. They are who this government has targeted.

In his contribution, Senator Mason also talked about people seeking handouts. Let us have a look at who Senator Mason is actually referring to when he talks about people seeking handouts. When he talks about the cuts to the age pension, he is talking about pensioners seeking handouts. This is what has happened in the Abbott budget. This is their very first budget and it is a complete and utter breach of faith with the community. To those who voted for this government, it is a breach of faith. The community have woken up to it. They do not like this budget. They do not want this budget. They want this government to do as they said they would do, and that is to keep their commitments. It is what the Labor Party intend to do. We intend to keep this government to account and to highlight day after day the promises they made.

Let us have a look at the cuts to the age pension. We have just had a report from the Parliamentary Budget Office, and its projections of government spending over the medium term confirm massive cuts through the budget. It has confirmed the true extent of the Abbott government's massive cuts to the age pension, family payments, disability support pension and carers pension. The Parliamentary Budget Office report shows that the cuts include $23 billion to the age pension, $40 billion to family payments, $8 billion to the disability support pension and a $3 billion hit to the carers support pension. When we talk about the pension indexation system and the changes that this government wants to make to it, we know that a single pensioner on a maximum rate—and let us understand what that actually means; it means around $20,000 a year—would be around $1,500 a year worse off than they are today. That is a massive amount of money for a pensioner. And it is not just the indexation; it is all the other bits and pieces that this government are proposing not only through their budget but also through other pieces of legislation, where they are tightening up measures and seeking to exclude people from accessing more payment and more support and making it even harder.

This is just one measure that I am talking about here today. There are so many measures in this budget that are so unfair. That is why the community have not accepted what this government wants to do—because it is unfair and because it is a massive breach of faith by this government with the people of Australia. It is a breach of faith with the Tasmanian people, the people I represent. They too took Mr Abbott at his word when he said that there would be no cuts to education, health and pensions. They took him at his word. They believed him. They no longer do. The government have a real problem, and it is not just the budget—it is also one of credibility, and they brought it on themselves. They had been in government for no longer than a few months when they set about breaking some of the most fundamental promises that they made to the community. Then they come in here and say, 'We did this because we have to fix a budget problem.' They have changed their rhetoric on that time and time again. One week it is a crisis and another it is, 'We're managing it.'

They chose the easiest targets in the community. They did not do the hard work. They did not do the heavy-lifting. They just said, 'There's a group of people who are easy targets. We'll make these changes and we'll get this through. We can't be bothered to actually do what we are here to do'—and that is to keep their commitments and do what the Prime Minister said that he would do. He wants to be the Prime Minister who keeps commitments, who will do what he says he will do. Well, he is not and he has not—and it is about time that he stood up and accepted that this budget is harsh and unfair. (Time expired)