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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4383


Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (17:14): My electorate of Canberra is probably one of the most politically attuned electorates in Australia, not surprisingly, as we have this wonderful, iconic building here that is the seat of democracy, and many of my community are actually servants of democracy as public servants. So I have a highly politically attuned, politically aware electorate here in Canberra, and Canberrans are very quick to identify and point out when the government, particularly this government, is offering them crumbs from the table. That's exactly what they were saying to me about the government's budget when I was out doorknocking last week. I doorknocked a couple of days with my niece, who was up here from Melbourne. I doorknocked in Tuggeranong Valley with her during the week, and then I had a team of us doorknocking on the weekend after the budget reply. We'll hear a lot from colleagues on the opposite side talking about how their tax plan makes things more fair, but what my colleagues opposite need to know in this debate on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Personal Income Tax Plan) Bill 2018 is that Canberrans have their measure. They know what this government stands for. They know that this government stands for cuts to schools, cuts to universities and cuts to TAFE.

Talking about TAFE, here in Canberra, since this government has been in power, we have seen a 49 per cent drop in the number of apprentices that are coming on board—nearly a 50 per cent drop in the number of apprentices. We have a significant skills shortage in this town. I met with a number of Canberra businessmen today for lunch. They had bid for a lunch with me—thank you—as part of the fundraising efforts for Buoyed Up. In the discussions today about Canberra's economic future and our prosperity, they mentioned the fact that essentially this skills shortage crisis that we're facing here in Canberra potentially will be a significant impediment to our economic prosperity and our economic growth, because we can't bid for projects if we don't actually have the skills and talent to build the projects. It is a significant impediment and, when we see figures like a 49 per cent reduction in apprentices and trade trainees, that's a significant concern. My colleagues opposite and my ACT colleague up in the Senate don't seem that concerned about it, but to me, as the member for Canberra, it is a significant concern for the prosperity of our nation's capital and for the economic growth of Canberra.

Under this government we've seen cuts to schools, universities and TAFE, cuts to hospitals, cuts to penalty rates, cuts to the energy supplement for pensioners, cuts to dental care for veterans, cuts to the ABC, and more cuts from this budget. There is a continued freeze on Medicare, an increase in the retirement age to 70 years old, higher rates for private health insurance and soaring energy bills. All these cuts to education, health, wages, pensions and the ABC are while the government is giving $80 billion to big business and the big banks.

The member for McMahon has proposed an amendment to the bill, to split the bill, but my colleagues opposite are opposed to that. They want us to lock in changes that are seven years out—basically just sign it away, approve this and get on with it, even though we don't have any detail. We have been up-front from the start: Labor will immediately support the personal income tax changes to take effect on 1 July this year, the first stages of the tax relief outlined in this legislation. The 1 July changes introduce the low- and middle-income offset of up to $530 per year for taxpayers earning up to $125,333. They also increase the threshold of the 32.5 per cent personal income tax bracket from $87,000 to $90,000.

These changes will benefit just under half of my community—about 45 per cent—and put money in their pockets. The 1 July changes are something that Labor can give immediate support to, yet this government is attempting to hold them back unless Labor supports the other changes in the legislation. The second change would come into effect on 1 July 2022 and would increase the low-income tax offset, increase the top thresholds of the 19 per cent and 32.5 per cent personal income tax brackets. Labor has told the government that we will consider the second round of changes but we can't do that without the necessary information. We need the detail. We've been asking for the detail since the budget was released. We've asked the government to tell us how much this second round of changes will cost and we've received no answer. We've asked in question time and there's been no answer. Labor is being responsible and we want all the facts on the table before coming to a view because we're talking about seven years on, and I think we are entitled to have some understanding about what that will actually mean, what it will mean for Canberrans and what the cost is.

The third change would come into effect on 1 July 2024 and would see the 37 per cent tax bracket abolished and increase the top threshold of the 32.5 per cent personal income tax bracket. These changes are seven years down the track, as I've already said, after two election cycles. We've got no idea what the economic environment will be then. I mean, just think about it: we're really only, what, nine, 10 years on from the GFC. We're still seeing the economic consequences of that in some parts of the world. The thing is we do not know what the economic environment will be, and so without any detail about what it actually will mean seven years on, we are entitled to have our reservations. We don't know what condition the budget will be in. We've got no idea what the shape of global and domestic economies will be. For all the government's talk about this being a responsible budget, it does seem irresponsible to lock things down so far down the track, especially when we could split the bill to vote on immediate tax relief for low- and middle-income earners now.

While we haven't been given the full picture, the early indications are that once the government's three-stage stage package is in place, it will deliver larger benefits to those on higher incomes. Analysis from the ANU estimates that after the government's full plan is in place, someone in the highest quintile will see a 2.2 per cent rise in their income compared to a 1.1 per cent rise for those in the middle quintile and a 0.2 per cent rise in the lowest quintile. Of the tax cuts by 2027, around 60 per cent will go to the top 20 per cent of households. NATSEM modelling suggests this new tax system from 2024-25 will result in higher income inequality—the rich will get more of the tax cuts than the poor.

The tax offset in 2018-19 for low- and middle-income earners is progressive—more money goes to lower-income earners. But in the later years of this package, as I've just explained, the tax cuts mean that high-income earners gain $7,225 per year while those earning $50,000 to $90,000 gain $540 per year and those earning $30,000 gain $200 per year. So when you take the government's package together as a whole down those seven years, it does exactly what the most cynical amongst us expect it to do: it favours the wealthiest Australians.

But it's not just income. Again, analysis by the Australia Institute suggests that roughly two-thirds of the benefit of the government's proposed income tax cuts will flow to men, with men dominating the ranks of high-income earners. For every dollar in tax cuts for women, men get two. We know that this government just does not value the contribution of women. We see it in the way it treats its own, in the atrocious, abysmal way it treated my friend—and I do call her my friend—the member for Ryan, the high-performing Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services. If this government had any respect for women and their abilities, the member for Ryan would be the Minister for Social Services. And they're now going after the member for Gilmore and I understand others are going after Senator Anne Ruston. Also, if the government had any respect for women and their abilities, the assistant minister opposite, the member for McPherson, would be a minister by now. This is the longest-serving assistant minister in the government. Why isn't she a minister by now?

I was raging when I heard the news about the member for Ryan on, I think, Saturday a week ago. I don't normally take to Twitter, but was going to take to Twitter. I was so angry. This is a high-performing woman who has done an excellent job. I'm saying this from the opposition ranks. I've worked closely with the member for Ryan on NDIS and NDIA. She's done an excellent job in terms of performing in that portfolio. She's competent, she's intelligent, she services her community with the greatest respect and dignity and passion, and how is she repaid? By some young bloke from the local council coming in and being preselected for her position. Which part of 51 per cent of the Australian population does the LNP not understand? I was enraged. As I said, I never take to Twitter, but I was going to take to Twitter. But I sat down, had a coffee and thought, 'I will speak to the member for Ryan when I see her next.' I do think it's outrageous that we have the member for Ryan going; we've got the member for Gilmore under attack; we've got Senator Anne Ruston, whom I understand is under attack; and I hear that other female senators are potentially under attack. We've got the longest-serving assistant minister in this government who should be a minister by now. We have the member for Corangamite up there who is also hardworking and high-performing—dare I say it—and should potentially be promoted.

Which part of 51 per cent of the population does the LNP not understand? We're talking about 19 per cent in the lower house and 17 per cent in the upper house. That is the representation of women on the other side, in government. It's absolutely outrageous. It is shameful in 2018. I also do believe there is an element of sexism here. There is an element of bog ignorance here and there's an element of ageism. I do believe that, in the case of the member for Ryan, that we had ageism and sexism. How often do we hear that women over 50 have to be regenerated? We've got men in the ranks who are over 50 and they're there with their grey beards, their intellect and their experience, but, when women are over 50, they've got to be regenerated.

I had to get it off my chest. I didn't do it on Twitter. I have done it in the chamber because I do think the treatment of the member for Ryan is absolutely outrageous. It's not just the member for Ryan; it's other women too whom I respect on the opposite side of the chamber. Yes, this is a contest of ideas. My views differ from all of you on the other side on the fundamentals of life. I am proud Labor. I am dyed in the wool Labor, and I do not shirk from that. That said, I do understand that this is a contest of ideas and I understand that we have a difference of opinion, but I do want to see more women in this place. We need a critical mass of women in this place. It can only get better if we've got more women in this place. As my colleague said, we need at least 30 per cent for the rubber to start hitting the road, for us to get traction here, for us to get cultural change in this place, for us to see any significant change. For behavioural change and for cultural change, we've got to have 30 per cent—not just on this side, people; on that side as well, and up there. We've got to have at least 30 per cent. So I say to the LNP and I say to the preselectors: please, if you want to see a parliament that represents our community, with 51 per cent of the population being female, then please consider that during preselection and please pay these women far more respect than the way that they've been treated.