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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4451


Ms TEMPLEMAN (Macquarie) (11:30): I must pick up on something that the member for New England just said. He said, 'You can show compassion when you have the wallet to do it.' Sorry, compassion and humanity should not depend on how much money is sitting in your wallet. That is not the definition of compassion and humanity, and it is shameful that this government has that attitude to refugees, asylum seekers or anyone in need for that matter. Too often, people tell me that they can't see a difference between Labor and Liberal. Well, I think we just saw a very stark difference there. That is not something that they can say today; they cannot say that there is no difference between Labor and Liberal—not today, not this budget, not this government and not this alternative. These things are as different as apples and oranges, red and blue or Labor and Liberal. There is a very clear choice to be made.

Let's look at hospitals. The Liberals have cut $2.8 billion from hospitals, which is locked in in this budget. Labor will reverse public hospital cuts and create a $2.8 billion Better Hospitals Fund and put 20 new MRI machines in regional centres and outer suburbs. That is a very stark contrast. On schools, the Liberals have cut $17 billion. Labor will restore the full $17 billion so there is more money for teachers and resources to make sure that our kids get the education they need. In universities, the Liberals are cutting $2.2 billion, which means 10,000 fewer places. Labor will abolish the cap on university places so that students who want a university degree can get one. At TAFE, under the Liberals, there are already 140,000 fewer apprentices and trainees in Australia, and this budget cuts $270 million more from TAFE on top of the $3 billion already cut. Labor will rebuild TAFEs and waive up-front fees for 100,000 TAFE places in courses where Australia actually needs those skills. This means developing kids who have the skills that this country needs for the jobs that we have.

Let's look at pensioners. The Liberals have tried to cut the energy supplement for pensioners three times. That supplement is $14 a fortnight to help pensioners pay power bills, and the Liberals have tried three times to cut it. They also want people to work until they are 70. Labor will continue to fight these cruel measures. The contrast between red and blue, Labor and Liberal, couldn't be more stark, and so it is with tax cuts. The Liberals say they want to deliver tax relief for low- and middle-income Australians; but their income tax plan is modest, to say the least. It holds those low- to middle-income earners hostage to tax cuts for those at the higher end of the income scale years down the track. If this government really cared about low-and middle-income workers, they would split out the tax cuts so that the relief could flow from 1 July, which Labor would support immediately.

Our tax plan is a better one. Our plan will deliver lower taxes for 10 million working Australians. Labor's plan will see those who earn up to $125,000 a year paying less tax than they would under the Liberals. More than four million people will get a tax cut of $928 a year—so that's chalk and cheese, apples and oranges, Labor and Liberal. What really appeals to me about our approach to tax cuts is that it puts more money into low- and middle-income earners' pockets. We know that most of that money will actually flow through to local economies where those people live. They will be able to have that extra meal out for a special occasion or, God forbid, not for a special occasion. They will be able to let their kids go on that extra school excursion. The fees for soccer and netball won't be such a stretch. All of our tax cuts support an engaged, involved and less cash-strapped local community, where small businesses can thrive because people are able to do more than simply struggle to survive. At a time when no-one is getting decent wage increases and the cost of living keeps rising, Labor's tax plan has benefits to local communities, like mine throughout the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury.

The government's budget has failed not only the fairness test set by Labor and the community but also the fiscal responsibility test the government set for itself. For years I have heard the Liberal Party banging on about the debt and deficit disaster. Now there's barely a peep from them on those topics. On the back of the best global economic conditions in more than a decade, we now have net debt for this year coming in double what it was when this government came to office. Gross debt, which crashed through half a trillion dollars on their watch for the first time in history, will remain well above half a trillion dollars every year for the next decade. No wonder they're not talking about debt and deficit. Both types of debt are growing faster under this government than under the previous Labor government, which had the global financial crisis to contend with. Let's talk deficit, since they won't. This year's deficit—the 2017-18 year—is 6½ times bigger than the Liberals predicted in their first horror budget in 2014. Any budget that gives $80 billion tax handouts to big business while cutting from schools, hospitals and pensioners is an unfair budget.

Labor will achieve a budget balance in the same year as the government and deliver a bigger surplus. On top of that, a Shorten Labor government will be guided by clear fiscal principles, which include repairing the budget in a way that doesn't ask the most vulnerable Australians to carry the heaviest burden. We'll more than offset new spending with savings and revenue improvements and we'll bank changes in receipts and payments from any changes to the economy to the bottom line if this impact is positive. We won't just use them; we won't just spend them.

Labor has made the tough and big calls on tax reform, like negative gearing, capital gains tax, trusts and dividend imputation refundability. We've made those calls to close loopholes to those who need them least. We will have a superior debt reduction plan than the Liberals. Our plan is fairer and more responsible because we've made the big calls and we've got them right.

The budget gives an $80 billion tax handout to big business, including $17 billion for the big banks. This is at a time when it is clear to everybody that banks have questions to answer about their culture, their governance and their dealings with customers. Yet here we have a Liberal budget that looks after big banks at the expense of small businesses and individuals. Clearly, there is a massive power imbalance when it comes to what one can demand or do to the other.

We've heard of the pressure put on guarantors for small business loans. We've heard revelations that people at the Commonwealth Bank have meddled with the savings accounts of children, including those in the Blue Mountains in my electorate of Macquarie. These are the sorts of revelations that the Liberals tried to keep from people for so long. First, the Prime Minister resisted a royal commission into the big banks and now he wants to reward them with a $17 billion tax cut. He always sides with the big banks and big business over ordinary working Australians and ordinary hardworking small businesses. It says it all about the Prime Minister that he wants to give a $17 billion tax cut to the big banks at the centre of the rorts and rip-offs that are being exposed at the royal commission.

This budget lays bare, once and for all, the utter contempt the Liberals and Nationals have for Australians and the ABC services that they trust and rely on. We all remember the promise by the coalition on the eve of the 2013 election that there would be no cuts to the ABC. On top of the $254 million in cuts that they've imposed since 2014, this budget contains a further $127 million in cuts. They have frozen indexation of the ABC's operational funding. That's effectively a new cut of $83.7 million. It is supposedly to ensure that the ABC continues to find back-office efficiencies. The reality is that this government knows full well it will mean cuts to jobs, cuts to content and cuts to services at the ABC.

The Liberals and Nationals complain the ABC isn't doing enough news coverage, yet hypocritically they have left a $43 million hole in funding for ABC news and current affairs. You can't keep cutting the ABC's funds and expect the same quality of news coverage. I have been a journalist in a newsroom. My husband was in the ABC newsroom for years. We've both been foreign correspondents. We know the reality of gathering news on the ground. We know that it is changing, but as the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance says—I am a proud member of the MEAA—they describe it as a dangerous and irresponsible assault on public broadcasting in Australia. At a time when news platforms are expanding but credible, on-the-ground, informed news sources are contracting, the implications for audiences looking for reliable news and information are really serious, particularly for audiences in rural, regional and remote Australia. The ABC is already cutting 20 journalist positions in a proposed restructure, cuts that will hurt its local newsrooms and starve local communities of quality reporting of news stories that matter to them. With fake news needing to be exposed and countered and social media undermining the current news models, the ABC has a crucial role in providing high-quality public interest journalism. It is still one of the most trusted sources of news, and it needs to be adequately funded to remain so.

The MEAA warns that the budget cuts also represent a dangerous threat to the creation of original Australian television production, particularly drama. The constant slashing of funding by governments endangers the ABC's ability to produce quality Australian screen content and fulfil its really important role of telling Australian stories. Even before the budget, more than $250 million had been cut from the ABC since 2014. Over this same period the ABC's commissioning budgets for adult drama and children's content each dropped by 20 per cent. Given their important cultural role, the ABC must be properly funded and future funding must be guaranteed so productions can be developed with certainty.

The Liberals say this budget is about investing to create more jobs and support essential services, yet these cuts will force further redundancies at the ABC and a reduction in ABC services that Australians value. It is pretty clear that just as he shed his leather jacket for good, the Prime Minister has also launched the biggest attack on ABC independence in a generation. There are three pieces of legislation lined up, a fake competitive neutrality inquiry and a further efficiency review, all designed to undermine the ABC. After years of budget cuts at the hands of Malcolm Turnbull, first as communications minister and now as Prime Minister, it is clear you can't trust the Liberals or the Nationals with the ABC.

I want to speak about the impact of this budget on women. Not that the government wants you to know the impact, because back in 2014 the Liberals abolished the annual women's budget statement. Recent Senate estimates show that after five years of supporting policies that disadvantage women, the Liberals are still failing to take real action to achieve gender equality. If you don't have women in your cabinet or your ministry or even on your team, you will never have policies that bridge the pay gap and the gender gap. The Labor 2018 Women's Budget Statement shows gender equity just isn't a priority for the Prime Minister or the Liberals. After five years in government, they have taken no serious action on gender equality, and I suspect they never will. In this budget they have locked in $80 billion of big business tax cuts but refused to scrap the $30 million a year tampon tax. Labor, of course, has promised to remove the tampon tax and we have made budget savings to do so. The Liberals still haven't secured a national housing and homelessness agreement with the states, leaving women's refuges and homelessness services unsure whether they will receive federal funding after 1 July.

After five years and five budgets, the Liberals are still leaving Australian women behind. Think about what they have done or tried to do. They have tried to cut paid parental leave, calling working mums rorters and double dippers. They have introduced a childcare policy that leaves 279,000 families worse off as childcare costs continue to rise. They have frozen funding for the six national women's alliances and they have cut millions of dollars from community legal centres and capital funding used for safe housing options for women. They have cut almost $2 billion of pay rises and support for workers in feminised industries such as early childhood education and disability care, and they have cheered on cuts to penalty rates that disproportionately impact women. They clearly don't see women and women's equality or even a fair go for women as a priority.