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Tuesday, 2 April 2019
Page: 14491


Mr THISTLETHWAITE (Kingsford Smith) (17:05): With an election due shortly after the budget, the coalition has proposed the passage of supply bills to ensure there's an appropriation authority for the operations of departments to administer a range of programs across the Commonwealth. These bills, the Supply Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020, the Supply Bill (No. 2) 2019-2020 and the Supply (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020, provide appropriations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the annual services of the government for a portion of 2019-20. The bills don't reflect any measures from the 2019-20 budget but reflect measures from the 2018-19 MYEFO which are currently before the House as part of the additional estimates bills. Of course, Labor does not block supply, unlike the coalition, and we will not do so in this case.

The Liberals will say or do anything over the next six weeks to cover up for the dysfunction, the chaos and the cuts to many government services and programs that have been characteristic of this out-of-control government. This isn't a budget about Australia's best interests; this is an election document from a desperate Prime Minister looking after his own interests, not the interests of the Australian people. Australians have every right to ask: if these announcements are so important now, why have they waited until six weeks before an election? What about the last six years? The latest Prime Minister in the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government will boast about how strong the budget is and how corporate profits are at record highs. Those opposite will say things have never been better, but they just don't get it. They do not understand just how much Australian families, Australian pensioners and Australian small businesses are struggling at the moment. They don't get that everything is going up except people's wages. The cost of living is going up, power bills and health insurance bills are skyrocketing, and families are suffering from the Liberals' cuts to schools and hospitals.

In the last three budgets the Prime Minister, as the Treasurer, cut funding for schools and Medicare while locking in an additional $80 billion tax handout to the top end of town. That's what the Liberals will always be about—cutting hospitals and schools and looking after the top end of town. Australians will judge this Prime Minister not on whatever he's promising today but on the damage that he has already done to our nation. And it's a track record that's full of lowlights: cuts to schools and hospitals while looking after the top end of town with $80 billion worth of tax cuts; cuts of $715 million to Medicare and public hospitals; cuts of $5 billion to TAFE, apprenticeships and university funding; voting seven times to cut public school funding; voting 26 times to block a banking royal commission—and we've all seen from the evidence that's come out of the banking royal commission what a disaster this government has been when it comes to taking stronger action to ensure that Australians aren't ripped off through our financial services and banking sector—and voting six times to cut penalty rates. This means that middle-class and working Australians are paying more and missing out on a fair go. It's a bleak legacy that shows that the Liberals and Nationals are only for the top end of town. Of course, the Prime Minister cut more than $4 billion out of the pockets of many Australian pensioners. In this day and age, we need to be protecting Australian age pensioners, not giving more handouts to big banks and multinationals and cutting some people off the pension. Cutting those taper rates has seen almost 200,000 people go off the pension at the same time that those opposite are giving tax cuts to multinationals and big banks.

Despite all their talk about being better economic and fiscal managers, debt has hit record high levels and is growing under this Liberal government. Net debt has more than doubled on their watch and is now more than $370 billion. On their watch, gross debt has crashed through the half-a-trillion-dollar mark for the first time ever in Australia's history and has reached a record $534.2 billion. Both kinds of debt are growing faster under the Liberals, with their rosy global economic conditions, than under Labor, when we had to deal with the downside associated with the global financial crisis. The Prime Minister and this Liberal government, both modern and ancient, have no-one else to blame but themselves for their record and their growing debt. The budget is a mess and debt is at record highs because of the Liberals' twisted priorities, including giving unsustainable tax breaks to those who need them the least.

It's clear that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government aren't about managing the economy or the budget in the interests of ordinary Australians. Under the Liberals, the economy is not working for all Australians. It's why Australians are feeling the pinch and are not feeling positive about their future, are not feeling positive about the housing market, are not feeling positive about their employment prospects and are not feeling positive about business investment and small-business growth in this country.

A strong economy needs, most importantly, a stable government with investment certainty, and that is the complete opposite of what the government have delivered over the course of the last six years, with not only three prime ministers but the fact that they haven't had an energy policy during the whole six years. They've had 11 different iterations of energy policies. Whilst they bicker within their party room about whether or not climate change is real, Australia's energy prices have been going through the roof, and it's small businesses, pensioners and families that are struggling to make ends meet that are paying the cost of the government's chaos and dysfunction and division around energy policy.

But you could go across a number of areas where there are similarities, where the division and the chaos of this government have stopped real progress in ensuring that the economy grows in the interests of the average Australian. Another area is the NBN, which of course, under this government—particularly given that it was the former Prime Minister's pet issue as the former communications minister—is a disaster. Signing up to the NBN and a month later having no internet services at all has been characteristic for many people who've signed up to it under this government.

A strong economy needs a stable government, and the Liberals are so divided and dysfunctional that they can't even manage themselves. They've been too busy fighting amongst themselves or looking into One Nation for ideas on how to manage the economy. Six years of Liberals' cuts and chaos have damaged the economy. Under the Liberals, wages growth is at its slowest on record, which means that many households and their budgets are struggling. Childcare costs are up 24 per cent, power bills up 15 per cent and private health costs up 30 per cent. Company profits are growing six times faster than wages and have been doing so since 2016. One point eight million Australians are underemployed, meaning they can't find enough hours to work.

Living standards are stagnating, and household debt is at record highs. Australia has one of the highest levels of household debt, associated predominantly with very high housing costs, and yet this government refuses to do anything about that. It even countenances some of the most generous tax concessions that exist in the world for property investors, which ensure that the average first-home buyer is priced out of the market because they don't get the government support that the average property investor gets under this government.

The Liberals' only plan has been cuts—cuts to education, cuts to health, cuts to Medicare, cuts to schools and massive tax cuts for the big banks and for big business. It means that many Australians are hurting.

Well, Labor has a different approach. We have a different plan. Compare this bleak legacy with Labor's plan to give all Australians a fair go, not just the banks and not just the big end of town. We'll pay for our plan by making multinationals pay their fair share of tax here in Australia, stopping them shifting profits overseas before they pay tax here in Australia, closing tax loopholes that mainly benefit the top end of town in Australia and give tax breaks to big multinational companies.

Our Fair Go Action Plan will fix our schools and hospitals. We'll ease the pressure on household budgets. We'll stand up for workers by ensuring that we're restoring penalty rates for low-paid workers who have to work on weekends. We'll invest in cheaper, cleaner, renewable energy to reduce power prices, and we'll build a strong economy that works for all. That is Labor's commitment to the Australian people: to ease the pressure, to listen to your concerns and to make sure that the economy works in your interests, not in the interests of the big end of town.

Our Fair Go Action Plan fixes our schools and hospitals, delivers bigger tax cuts for workers and puts money back into the pockets of everyday Australians. That's good for the whole economy—not just for the few who are wealthy and are well off, but for the whole economy and all Australians, particularly those who are struggling to make ends meet with their household budgets. Labor's led the way when it comes to budget repair that is fair, and we'll continue to display the fiscal and economic leadership this government has proven incapable of.