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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4506

Mr ROB MITCHELL (McEwen) (18:03): It's always interesting to note when those opposite talk about hard work. They neglect to tell you there are three MPs over there who, in between the three of them, have given themselves a bigger tax rise than one pensioner earns in a whole year. When they talk about entrepreneurs, they're actually talking about lining their own pockets and not those who actually need it. They could live on $40 a day, apparently!

In the latest budget, the government has shown its true colours. It's proven has once again—as we've seen time and time before—that while we on this side of this House are about giving Australians a fair go, those opposite are only here to look after the top end of town. There's not a lot to talk about when it comes to what the government has funded in my electorate compared to what it hasn't funded. It's pretty hard to talk about nothing—zip, zero, zilch. That's the funding this government has given to the community in this budget. There is not one road, not one school, not one TAFE, not one hospital and not one mobile phone blackspot tower. There is nothing. All they are doing is cutting money from workers and pensioners and giving tax cuts to their big banker mates. We've said it all before, and we'll say it again: this budget does not pass the fairness test. The budget was an opportunity for the government to show the nation what they believed in, and they did that.

In his last speech, Hubert H Humphrey said:

The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.

The morals of this government are clearly on display with this budget. There's no secrecy. There are no hidden agendas. We see their priorities front and centre. They believe in backing big banks and big business over children, pensioners and working Australians, whereas we believe in a fair go.

I represent one of the fastest-growing regions in our nation, with Whittlesea, Mitchell and Hume shires all being among the fastest-growing local government areas in the country. This growth brings with it pressures. Pressures that can only be relieved by proper funding of infrastructure, school and health care. We know that this government doesn't listen to anyone because one in five businesses have said outright they don't need a company tax cut to secure their business future—that's businesses telling the government they don't need this tax cut—and four in five businesses are saying they won't pass on the extra profits to increase employment or increase wages. So why is the government arrogantly pushing ahead with tax cuts for multinationals and overseas investors? This isn't ideological position. It's not a nation-building or an economy-building position. It's just their values to look after the top end of town.

These cuts will be done at a time when inequity is higher than it's ever been before; stagnant wages and insecure work in this country are only getting worse. And not only that, the so-called tax cuts they want to give to workers won't be fully effective for about another 25 years. The Treasurer points to the 1.1 million underemployed Australians in his budget. He says himself, despite global growth being the best in six years, underemployment will still remain elevated. So, Treasurer, after five years of Liberal-National government, when global growth is at its best, why is unemployment at the same rate it was when you came in? Why is wage theft and wage stagnation so high when you're telling us the economic situation is better than it was six years ago? Why is it you would rather fork out $80 billion to tax-dodging big businesses, including overseas investors, than fund pensioners $14 a week for a winter energy supplement?

Not only did this budget not deliver a single dollar to McEwen or the rest of Australia in infrastructure, it also admitted the government failed delivery on any infrastructure funding promised in the last budget. Down in Victoria, we've been working hard to get our fair share of funding. There's a much longer list of what hasn't been done than what has. We've been asking for the Wallan interchange, we've been asking for the E6 and we've been asking for safer and better access to our outer suburbs. We've had three infrastructure ministers this year alone, and not one of them can answer a call. Instead we are left to deal with the mess of single-lane roads and dangerous intersections while this government commits nothing to the communities in McEwen. Even the flailing PM finally seems to understand the need to get on with the North East Link so that we can give local roads back to local residents. This was a project that Labor championed at the last election and, boy, wouldn't it be nice if the government did just one thing right by McEwen's residents? In the latest Infrastructure Priority List compiled by Infrastructure Australia, only 13 projects out of 96 were in Victoria, and only two of those benefit McEwen. And yet both of those have again received no actual funding. Two out of 96 is simply not good enough.

Unlike those opposite who came to the last election with no funding for vital roads in our communities, Labor committed $120 million to the Bridge Inn Road complete duplication, and funding for the O'Herns Road interchange. Why? Because we understand that growing communities need this access, and we know how to deliver it. The government talks big on its plan, but in five years it hasn't delivered a thing. It's like the Blackadder comedy. 'We have a cunning plan. A plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel!' But Treasurer Baldrick is delivering nothing that actually helps our communities. That means each and every year they deliver nothing; it gets worse and worse and worse.

We have mobile phone blackspots. Much of Australia has had a small taste this week of what happens when your mobile phone doesn't work—it's been front-page news for days—but it's all too common an occurrence in our communities. It's what we face each and every day. This government put not one cent in the budget towards a mobile phone blackspot program. In fact, what it did do in the last round was mislead Australians in round 3 in delivering towers. By its own criteria, it failed to deliver. But it ensured that the money it had put aside for round 3 was put into a pork-barrelling exercise for marginal Liberal and National seats. We meet every single criterion listed by the government, yet we've received two in three rounds. You need to ask why. Why did the government take taxpayer funds and fund this pork-barrelling exercise at the expense of communities who can't get phone reception? Instead, 75 per cent of the mobile phone black spot towers have been in Liberal and National seats. This means for the next four years this government is not putting one cent towards improving coverages across Victoria. The message to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer is: the jig is up. Victorians are tired of the lack of transparency and consultation in this government's delayed black spot program. While the government turns a blind eye to the fact that McEwen residents are being left off the grid, fortunately the Victorian Andrews Labor government is committing where the Turnbull government refuses to do so.

The attacks don't stop there. The Turnbull government has had it out for young Australians from child care all the way through to university and TAFE. Those opposite don't seem to know or don't seem to care if kids start off on the wrong foot for their very first day of child care, cutting $6 million over the next three years from childcare early learning projects. Instead of putting that money into fixing the budget, they're giving that to the banks in the form of tax cuts. As if child care isn't bad enough, the government good is cutting $17 billion from our schools as well. McEwen is one of the top 10 electorates nationwide for students attending government schools. We know firsthand how many kids and parents will be affected by these brutal cuts. We know how devastating these cuts will be to schools squeezing every dollar to deliver excellent learning outcomes for our kids. While those opposite think mummy and daddy should pay more for schools, when people can't, they're still entitled to a good quality education. That's why we will restore fair needs based funding to all schools and put back that $17 billion the government is robbing from our kids' future. The choice is clear: Liberal government, $17 billion to the big banks; Labor government, $17 billion into education. Our TAFEs are under attack, with out-of-touch ministers who have never worked a day outside of a cushy office. It's an utterly bizarre attack on TAFE. The Minister for Education and Training said that funding the TAFE system is like funding basket-weaving. With comments like that, no wonder the government feels so comfortable cutting $270 million from TAFEs, on top of the $3 billion they've already cut from TAFEs and apprenticeships. Australian tradies—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Proceedings suspended from 18:12 to 18 : 28

Mr ROB MITCHELL: Australian trades are facing massive skills shortages, from carpenters, to bricklayers, to bakers, to pastry cooks. Despite high unemployment, this government's cuts mean workers can't learn the skills industries are calling out for. I wonder if the Prime Minister has ever thought about who will build his fifth, sixth or seventh investment property. That's why we are committed to putting $100 million into modernising TAFE facilities around the country and to the scrapping of up-front fees for 100,000 TAFE students. We will also reverse the cuts and uncap the student places in universities. This will open up around 1,500 more places for McEwen residents to head off to university. We won't stand for the $80 billion being handed to the top end of town when our universities' and TAFEs' budgets are brutally slashed. We understand that education is the key to securing our economy and creating opportunities.

For our pensioners, this government's trademark of consistently being out of touch has not left retirees unscathed. You can always rely on this government to take from the needy and give to the rich—that's their trademark. In what world does increasing the pension age while also cutting the pension energy supplement make sense? Instead of rewarding those who have worked hard for our nation, the government is ripping $14 per fortnight out of their pockets and telling them they just have to keep working until they're 70. In McEwen, there are 17,000 residents over the age of 70, who will no doubt be affected by the government's tax cuts—that's 17,000 nation-builders in my community alone who are worse off under this government. Australians who have worked hard to enjoy their retirement shouldn't be made to continue to slave way because of the Prime Minister turning his back on them.

The health care system is no different. Under this government, average waiting times for elective surgery are the longest on record, the number of hospital beds available for elderly Australians is the lowest on record and the number of people arriving in emergency departments is the highest on record. Instead of fixing this and making health care more accessible to Australians, this government has locked in further cuts to hospitals from 2020, joining the ludicrous $715 million cruel cuts they already have in place. If you make huge cuts to health care and health care outcomes are getting worse, what possible argument can be made to double down and cut even more? They are keeping the Medicare rebate freeze in place. Many families in Mernda, Wallan, Sunbury and Kilmore are going to be forking out their savings just to see a specialist. Seeing a GP is costing families in Romsey and Whittlesea 20 per cent more than it did a couple of years ago.

Under Labor's Better Hospitals Fund we will invest an extra $764 million over the forward estimates to fix our public hospitals. That means that over the next six years we'll be committing an extra $2.8 billion in funding for more beds and shorter waiting times. We'll invest in every single public hospital across the country.

I was in Whittlesea just last week talking to Luscombe Automotive about Labor's plan to give all mechanics access to the technical information they need to service modern cars. This will expand opportunities for people in our communities to shop locally, supporting local businesses, local people and local jobs. It's so important that we do this in rural and regional areas in order to make sure our economies grow and that we end the scourge of high unemployment, something this government has totally ignored. We have communities with 42 per cent unemployment for young people. There is not one cent in this budget to actually help them find work or to improve services to allow them to get to work.

In conclusion, while the Prime Minister sits in his harbourside mansion, content with the havoc he has wreaked on the working middle class, sussing out the latest happenings at Ugland House, Australians like the ones I have in my community are out there working hard, struggling to make ends meet, week in week out. By now, hardworking Australians know that the economy is not working for them. The only way to fix this is to remove this Prime Minister, this greedy Treasurer and this government at the next election.

Back in May 2011, Sid Maher and Jared Owens wrote in The Australian:

Senior Liberals have declared that Malcolm Turnbull will never again lead the party …

They were right. This Prime Minister does not lead.

As I said earlier, the moral test of government is how the government treats those who are at the dawn of life, the children, those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly, and those in the shadow of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped. On every moral test this government and this budget are absolute failures.