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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14557


Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (09:31): I seek leave to move the following motion:

That the House:

(1) notes that:

(a) after six years of cuts and chaos under this Liberal Government, Australians are doing it tough;

(b) in last night's Budget, the Treasurer delivered an energy payment which left out thousands of Australians who rely on Government payments, including: ABSTUDY, Austudy, Double Orphan Pension, Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payment Partnered, Partner Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance, Wife Pension, Youth Allowance and Veteran Payment;

(c) on radio this morning, less than 24 hours after he delivered his Budget, the Treasurer caved into pressure from Labor and backflipped, saying that Australians on Newstart would now receive an energy payment;

(d) in just a few minutes, the Government will introduce legislation that now extends the payment to all the people that the Government had previously left out in its Budget;

(e) the Government's backflip has already blown an $80 million hole in the Budget; and

(f) the Government's Budget is unravelling less than 24 hours after it was delivered; and

(2) therefore, condemns this government for:

(a) six years of cuts and chaos, which has only continued in the last 24 hours; and

(b) only looking after the top end of town and treating vulnerable Australians as an afterthought.

Leave not granted.

Mr BOWEN: I move:

That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for McMahon from moving the following motion forthwith—That the House:

(1) notes that:

   (a) after six years of cuts and chaos under this Liberal Government, Australians are doing it tough;

   (b) in last night's Budget, the Treasurer delivered an energy payment which left out thousands of Australians who rely on Government payments, including: ABSTUDY, Austudy, Double Orphan Pension, Newstart Allowance, Parenting Payment Partnered, Partner Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Special Benefit, Widow Allowance, Wife Pension, Youth Allowance and Veteran Payment;

   (c) on radio this morning, less than 24 hours after he delivered his Budget, the Treasurer caved into pressure from Labor and backflipped, saying that Australians on Newstart would now receive an energy payment;

   (d) in just a few minutes, the Government will introduce legislation that now extends the payment to all the people that the Government had previously left out in its Budget;

   (e) the Government's backflip has already blown an $80 million hole in the Budget; and

   (f) the Government's Budget is unravelling less than 24 hours after it was delivered; and

(2) therefore, condemns this government for:

   (a) six years of cuts and chaos, which has only continued in the last 24 hours; and

   (b) only looking after the top end of town and treating vulnerable Australians as an afterthought.

Mr Speaker, I've seen some budgets unravel in my time—as you would have in your time here in this House, Mr Speaker—but never before have I seen a budget unravel quite as spectacularly or quickly as this.

I have a copy of the budget here. The ink is a bit smudgy, because the ink is still wet—the ink is not dry on the budget—but it is nevertheless my copy. It says at page 159 of Budget Paper No. 2 that the government will provide $284 million over two years to make a one-off energy assistance payment of $75 for singles and $62.50 for each member of a couple. The budget makes it clear that the qualifying payments are the age pension, the carer payment, the disability support pension—and it goes on. I'll tell you what doesn't appear in the budget delivered last night, a little over 12 hours ago, by the Treasurer. The budget doesn't say Newstart, nor does it say Abstudy or Austudy. This is the explanatory memorandum of a bill that will be introduced to the parliament in a few moments time and it says it will pay a one-off energy assistance payment to recipients of the age pension, the disability support pension, Abstudy, Austudy and Newstart allowance and it says the cost is $365 million over the forward estimates. Last night it was $287. Now it is $365 million. I've heard of inflation, but it is a bit ridiculous. That inflation rate is Venezuelan in its proportions. If that is the budget blowout over the last 12 hours, if they can't keep the budget until the next morning of parliament, God knows what the budget will be like in 2024 when they are promising tax cuts.

They simply forgot some of Australia's most vulnerable people. The Treasurer likes to quote two people. There are two major people he likes to quote—himself, in his main speech, and Robert Menzies, his predecessor as the member for Kooyong. He takes photo shoots next to a polished bust of Robert Menzies and he quotes 'The Forgotten People'. Well, this member of Kooyong has forgotten people as well; he forgot the recipients of Newstart and Austudy and Abstudy. This is a Treasurer who has forgotten the most vulnerable people in Australia. This energy supplement is no small thing. It was the centrepiece of their budget drop on Sunday. It was on the front page of various newspapers around the country as their big pitch for Australians. 'They have learnt the lessons of the last six years of cuts and chaos'—that was their pitch. 'Forget about the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison years; they didn't happen. 'Look at this budget.' The energy supplement was on the front page of the papers, so proud were they of it. They just got it wrong and forgot Australians on Newstart, Austudy, Abstudy and other important payments such as the double orphan pension. These aren't people who you would regard as the top end of town that you are considering whether support is necessary for; these are people who really need the energy supplement. Senator Sinodinos was on Q&A earlier in the week arguing for an increase in Newstart 'if only he knew someone who could do something about it'—but he is a member of a government that can do something about it. But here we have this big reset of the government's narrative and it is falling apart before our eyes.

I have here the budget papers that were printed less than 24 hours ago. I have some advice for the Treasurer. Next time, put the budget in a ring binder and then you can just take pages out. You can bring it in here and table the latest update on an hourly basis!

Ms Plibersek: Post-it notes!

Mr BOWEN: I am grateful to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. You could put post-it notes on it; you could have post-it note updates to the budget as well; that's another way of dealing with it. The other budget blowout is the cost of pulping the budget. That is going to cost a bit of money. Down the shredder it will go; there will be no shredder in Canberra left turned off over the next 24 hours as they shred the budget and start again! In all seriousness, this says it all about this budget. I confess to the House that I was ready, in my media performances last night and today, to say that there might be some good things in this budget, there might be some changes in this budget, but this won't mean that Australians forget the six years of cuts and chaos. I confess that I had to change my response. I can't say that anymore, because this budget is about cuts and chaos. This budget is about chaos writ large!

Here we have a government which is so chaotic that they have, as the centrepiece of their budget, the energy supplement. This is their big message to Australians: 'We've learnt the lessons. No more cuts under us; no more chaos under us. We've learnt it all; we're all fixed. We're better people than that bad Abbott and that bad Turnbull! Just forget about them.' So chaotic are they that they bugger up the cuts; so chaotic are they that they can't get it right.

Really, Australia deserves better than this. Australia deserves a government which has actually thought about its policies. Australia deserves a government which has a plan for the country. Australia deserves a government which actually recognises that we need to lift people up, that we need to bring people with us on the 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth. We actually need to support those Australians doing it tough, including Australians on Newstart and other payments. We actually need a government for which Australians doing it tough are not an afterthought.

And there's another afterthought in this budget. It's not just about the energy supplement; there's another problem in this budget. What's their other big pitch? 'Oh, we've got double tax cuts,' they say, 'We finally acknowledged that the Labor Party was right 12 months ago when the Leader of the Opposition announced bigger, better tax cuts in his budget reply.' They've caught up with us on bigger, better tax cuts. We welcome that, 326 days too late—

Mr Robert: Unbelievable!

Mr BOWEN: It's 326 days too late! Look it up on the internet, Stewie, you might learn something! It's 326 days too late and they still get it wrong! They still get it wrong because they've forgotten some other Australians as well: the more than two million Australians earning $40,000 or less who are better off under our plan.

There's a theme. I detect a theme emerging. I'm just a simple boy from Smithfield, but I detect a theme. The theme is that those Australians who need the support most miss out. Those Australians earning less than $40,000 miss out on the double tax cuts. They get some tax relief, but not as much as those who earn more.

And what of the Australians who earn less than $40,000 a year, many of whom work on Sundays and who have had their penalty rates cut and many of whom are female workers? Many of them are the gender pay gap in daily operation. They're doing their jobs, working hard on Sundays, but are earning low pay and dealing with low wages growth and their penalty rate cuts. And what do they get from this government? An insult of a tax cut! It's an insult because the tax cut is not double what Labor offered last year—nowhere near it.

And then you get the insult that Newstart recipients and Austudy and Abstudy recipients and living allowance recipients are an afterthought. 'Oops!' said the Treasurer this morning. The Labor Party has pointed out that they don't receive the payment. We received advice that we could not move an amendment to put them in. Constitutionally we did not have the power, but we moved a second reading amendment to point out the error of their ways. The government got the second reading amendment and said: 'Oh, dear. That's embarrassing. Whoopsie! We forgot Newstart recipients.' Well, here's a tip for the Treasurer: get your work right in the first place and your budget might not disappear on day 2.

The Prime Minister and Treasurer went out today talking about the budget. What was their line on their budget, their big vision for the country? It was, 'Labor, Shorten, Bowen, Labor, Shorten, Labor.' That was their big defence of their budget! It's no wonder, because their budget is a piece of nonsense.

The SPEAKER: Is the motion seconded?