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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4499


Mr ZAPPIA (Makin) (17:33): The Turnbull government's 2018-19 budget is a budget full of trickery which seeks to create a perception that the nation's finances are under control, that the Turnbull government is a government with a social conscience and that this budget will assist older Australians and working families. It also purports to be a nation-building budget, with big infrastructure projects. Nothing could be further from the truth. A close analysis of the budget will not only expose those perceptions as being false but also expose the budget as being a cruel hoax. Most of the tax breaks do not take effect until several years away, with the last phase of those tax breaks being in 2024, possibly three elections away. Infrastructure spending is equally a long way down the track, and mostly dependent on unsecured substantial commitments from state governments. The much-touted aged-care announcements, one of the cruellest hoaxes in this budget, are nothing more than a sneaky trick by this government. There is no new money for the aged-care system; what is happening is that one area of funding is being cut in order to prop up another.

Can I go to the detail of that, because that is one of the claims that this government has tried to hang its credentials on with respect to this budget. It claims it will fund an additional 14,000 home care packages over the next four years. That is 3,500 each year. There are currently almost 105,000 people on waiting lists for home care packages. In the last six months of last year alone, there was an increase in demand of 20,000 people added to the waiting list. On those trends an additional 14,000 new packages would not even meet the needs of the next six months, in terms of the new numbers that will come on stream. Waiting times for packages will get longer, not shorter. The House health and ageing committee currently has an inquiry underway into this very issue, and we have heard many submissions on it. This is an area of real need as of now. It's not an area that the government should be playing these kinds of tricks with.

We know from the inquiries thus far, and from numerous other reports that have been made available and other inquiries, that the aged care sector is riddled with claims of insufficient staffing numbers, poor access to allied health services, inadequate care and poor food quality. Yet there is no additional money for any kind of improved levels of care from the government. Rearranging the oversight of the aged care sector through a newly formed department will not of itself overcome the problems associated with the inadequate daily funding or inadequate access to allied health professionals and other needs of the sector. The critical industry problems will not be resolved by the establishment of an audit and safety commission. The government thinks that simply by rebadging the oversight body all the problems are going to be magically resolved. They won't be. It is simply kicking the can down the road.

I now turn to the overly exaggerated claims of this budget being an infrastructure budget. The nation is being conned, and in particular South Australia, my home state, is once again being dudded. I will quote directly from a post-budget press release issued jointly in South Australia by the RAA, the South Australian Civil Contractors Federation, the South Australian Chamber of Mines and Energy and the South Australian Freight Council. None of those organisations could be described as left wing, Labor Party stooges. Their press release states:

The Commonwealth’s re-asserted pledge to complete the North South Corridor by 2023 is now a seemingly impossible task with none of the $1.2 billion needed for the North South Corridor works making it into the forward estimates.

It goes on:

Only $52 million of the promised $177 million for the Regency to Pym project is included … Duplication of the Joy Baluch Bridge has also taken a back seat with only $60 million of the $160 million promised for its duplication … Rail electrification from Salisbury to Gawler has also been short changed, with only $50 million of the $220 million required accounted for … The new $3.5 billion ‘Roads of Strategic Importance’ program allocates $530 million over the forward estimates, and South Australia receives just $3.7 million, less than 1% of the funds allocated … Of the new $250 million ‘Major Project Business Case Fund’ only $75 million appears in the estimates, with SA allocated $4.1 million, or just 5.7%.

In closing, Evan Knapp, the Executive Officer of the SA Freight Council, said:

This year’s Federal budget is all smoke and mirrors and delivers none of the promise of the pre-budget announcements.

That press release sums up the real situation for South Australia in respect of infrastructure funding. Those bodies and organisations that put that press release together have scrutinised the budget because it is in their members' interest to do so. And in their assessment is the truth of just how poorly South Australia has been treated. What makes it even worse is that this is the second year in a row that South Australia has been so shamefully treated with respect to infrastructure funding for our state.

I turn to the government's much-touted tax cuts. Even the most modest tax cuts proposed will not make their way into households until July 2019. That is probably after the next election. So there is no immediate assistance to people who are struggling with stagnant wages and rising living costs. Even worse, when all of the tax cuts do take effect, 60 per cent of the money will go to the top 20 per cent of households—such are the priorities of this government.

At a time when many households are indeed struggling to make ends meet, when wage growth has stagnated and when the cost of living is increasing almost on a daily basis, there are two ways that householders can be helped. Either their taxes can be cut or their wages can be increased. Both put additional spending dollars in the pockets of households. And yet this government, at best, believes that by providing householders with a measly $10 a week, it will fix all of these problems. Well, it won't, and, quite frankly, when it puts $10 into the pockets of average householders, but down the track wants to give over $7,000 to those on very high incomes, it clearly shows that this government is totally out of touch with reality.

One of the cruellest parts of this budget is not so much what is in it but rather what is not in it. There is no additional support in this budget for welfare recipients and pensioners, other than to say to pensioners: 'If you want more money, you can go and work for it, because we're going to increase the amount that you can earn each week before it affects your pension. And you can also, if you want to, use your house as collateral to get money under the Pension Loans Scheme.' Can I say to the government that most pensioners—not all, but most pensioners—are not able to work? They are simply not able to because of their age. So increasing the amount that they can earn is of no use to them whatsoever. And for those many pensioners who are already in rental accommodation, the Pension Loan Scheme will also be of little assistance. And it is those pensioners, those who cannot work or who live in rental accommodation, who are most likely to be in the most difficult financial situation of all. So the government's pretentious support for pensioners will not help those in the greatest need.

And then we look at people on Newstart. There has been a debate in recent weeks about whether it's possible for a person to survive on Newstart. For many people, surviving on Newstart is indeed very, very difficult. We know that unemployment in this country is 5.6 per cent at the moment. In my home state it is 5.9 per cent. Many of the people on Newstart are on Newstart because they can't get a job, and they can't get a job because, in many cases, they have no skills or they have limited skills. They already find it incredibly difficult to get work. For them, the option of even relocating is sometimes not possible. Perhaps they might have a disability of some sort or they might have other medical problems. For example, for a single mum, perhaps with a couple of children, transferring schools and finding a suitable home in a new region in order to get a job, is just going to make that person's life even more difficult than it already is, and possibly add costs to that person that they simply cannot afford.

Likewise with respect to young people, who often have strong ties and responsibilities in their place of residence. Indeed, I know some young people who actually act as carers for their parents, so moving out of home and moving to another region is not possible for them. And yet for them, Newstart has remained stable for years and, indeed, there are attempts to cut the benefits that they might already have access to.

The other matter that has totally been neglected with respect to this budget is any real commitment to climate change. I accept that not everyone supports the view that the climate is changing and, if it is, what the causes are. But the reality is that the climate is changing and whatever the causes are we need to be taking steps and have a strategy in place to help with adaption to climate change. But, again, this government has totally neglected that.

Lastly, I turn to the government's claim that conservative governments are better economic managers. We know that net debt in this budget is going to reach $350 billion in the year 2018-19 and gross debt will hit close to $600 billion in a couple of years' time. If this government believes they are better economic managers, why are they allowing those debt figures to grow at the rate that they are?

The most damning criticism of this budget is that the Turnbull government is a government that clearly is not only out of touch with Australian sentiments but has its principles and priorities absolutely wrong. For a government to be saying that the highest income earners in this country, and the corporates, can get huge tax cuts—$80 billion for the corporates and tax cuts of over $7,000 for higher-income earners—at a time when $17 billion is being cut from schools, hospital funding is being cut, the ABC is being cut, the $14 energy supplement assistance for pensioners is still on the books to be cut, $77 in possible cuts to people who are currently earning penalty rates, the Medicare freeze continuing with respect to specialists, and increased child care costs of about $40 a week to most householders. With all of those cuts being made, this government, the Turnbull government, says it can find money to hand out big-business tax cuts, $17 billion of which I might add is likely to go to the four big banks, but it can't find the money to help people struggling out there in the community.

Budgets are about priorities but they are also about ideology. The problem with this government is that it is too much controlled by the big end of town in this country. It has been for too long. This budget totally reflects that and it totally reflects a government that has completely lost touch with Australian households and Australian working people.