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Wednesday, 3 April 2019
Page: 14646

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:39): If you want more evidence of the dumpster fire of chaos, confusion, dysfunction and incompetence in the Morrison government, look no further than the fact that the final Expenditure Review Committee meeting to finalise the budget occurred four hours after the budget was handed down—not four days, not four weeks before the budget was handed down, but four hours after the budget was handed down.

If you strip away all of last night's self-congratulation, all of the boring speeches, the forced smiles, the fake applause and the awkward hugs—if you strip all of that away—for those opposite, the budget was fundamentally only about one thing. It was about hoping that Australians will forget about six years of cuts and chaos which have delivered nothing but a floundering economy and a divided society. Those opposite spent all of their time trying to work out how they can make Australians forget the cuts to hospitals, schools, unis, TAFEs, pensions and penalty rates; trying to work out how to make Australians forget the stagnant wages, the insecure work, the slowing growth, the slowing consumption and the low household saving; and trying to make Australians forget the fact that net debt has more than doubled on their watch. It was a 'budget emergency' at $175 billion; it's now $373 billion of net debt. Since the Prime Minister has become the Prime Minister, they've racked up debt at a rate of $100 million every single day that the Prime Minister has been in office.

When Australians watched desperately last night for a government that had listened to them and had learned from their anxieties, when they wanted the government to change course, they instead got more of the same. There was nothing to deal with wages, insecure work, energy costs or climate change—all of the things that they deeply, deeply care about in the communities that we represent. Last night's budget and the anxiety that people feel in the community were like two ships passing in the night. After six long years of these characters opposite, I think Australians are sick and tired of the most vulnerable people in our country carrying the can for the failures of those opposite and the sick ideology which poisons their policy.

We saw it again last night in the budget in at least three different areas. There was the fact that, when they were handing out tens of billions of dollars in tax cuts, if you earn less than $40,000 in this country, you don't get a look in. That says it all about their sick ideology. There was the fact that they didn't make room for Newstart recipients in their energy payment until it was clear that we were going to win the vote on the floor of this parliament. Then, all of a sudden, they convened a meeting and did the right thing at last—and we hear the pathetic excuses for that backflip from this pathetic excuse of a Prime Minister. The third bit of sick ideology in the budget last night was the fact they are propping up their surpluses by making Australians with a disability wait longer for the services that they were promised. What makes that worse is when the Prime Minister and the Treasurer jump up and say, 'That's because there is a lack of demand for the NDIS.' If those characters were in touch, as this side of the House is in touch, with the needs of people with a disability, they would know that the demand is there. The budget last night failed the fairness test and failed the economic test as well.

As much as those opposite like to talk about Labor and pretend that we're in charge, this is the sixth budget now and the verdict is in: trickle-down economics has failed here, as it has failed everywhere else. The evidence is there in the government's own numbers. The evidence for their economic failures is right there in the numbers, in the downgraded growth, the downgraded wages and the downgraded consumption numbers. Those opposite might want to pretend otherwise, but the truth is that whoever wins office next month will inherit a budget with slowing growth, slowing wages, slowing consumption and a budget in deficit. Whoever wins the May election will inherit a budget in deficit.

Australians aren't stupid. When the Prime Minister scampers off to the Governor-General, whether it is Friday or Sunday or some other day, they know that the budget that was handed down last night was all about the interests of the Prime Minister—the political, narrow, cynical interests of the Prime Minister—and not about their interests. And they know something else as well. They now that, if working people and pensioners in this country want to be front and centre again in the considerations of this place—if they want to be front and centre as budgets are put together and debated here; if they want to be front and centre every single day and not just when an election is six weeks away—the only way to ensure that is to vote for a Shorten Labor government.