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Thursday, 27 March 2014
Page: 3431

Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (16:06): As the Leader of the Opposition said in his great speech yesterday, a government's priorities can determine whether people are the victims of change or its beneficiaries. That is why the choices the government must make in its upcoming budget are so important. The Abbott government's failure to make the right choices and pursue the right priorities for Australia's future is a matter of great public importance.

Only a government with twisted priorities would be spending time and energy establishing knighthoods when it should be working on improving education for this country's future. Only a government with twisted priorities would set up a $5.5 billion Paid Parental Leave scheme when it should be making quality child care accessible and affordable. Instead we are talking about a $5.5 billion Paid Parental Leave scheme that will give women on high incomes, parents on high incomes $75,000 each when they have a child—that is, $75,000 for a single individual under this $5.5 billion Paid Parental Leave scheme. It is a twisted priority. Only a government with twisted priorities would devote resources to remove protections from hate speech, when it should be addressing community concerns about funding for services. Only a government with twisted priorities would set up a slush fund to pay polluters, when it should be introducing an ETS. Only a government with twisted priorities would spend its time trying to work out how to wind back consumer protections, when it should be trying to work out a plan for jobs in this country. Last week the Prime Minister said:

regulatory burdens around what are ethical givens are, I think, a classic case of regulatory overkill .

He was talking about the obligation to act in the best interests of clients of financial planners. I do not think that is overkill. Consumer protection is more important than ever. This week is the anniversary of the liquidation of Storm Financial—a sobering reminder of the need for regulation and protection. We know that retirees and mum and dad investors are burnt by the failure to provide consumer protections. I also know about that from being a Queenslander. And I know that, like Queenslanders, Western Australians understand the need for consumer protection laws.

The collapse of Westpoint led to $388 million in losses to investors. The Abbott government's retreat this week from removing consumer protections is a positive thing for our community. But let us hope this is not just a stopgap to avoid further scrutiny in the lead-up to the Western Australian Senate by-election. The retreat on this issue should give this government an opportunity to reflect on its twisted priorities. Like many in this place, and like my community on the south side of Brisbane, I am dismayed at the Abbott government's choices and its failure to work out what the real priorities are for this country. This government said that it would create one million jobs, but when you look at the actions of this government, you see that jobs are not their priority. Since this government has been elected, we have seen 60,000 full-time jobs being lost—that is, 5,000 jobs lost at Qantas; 2,500 direct jobs lost at Toyota; 2,900 direct jobs lost at Holden; 1,100 Rio Tinto jobs lost up at Gove; 544 jobs lost at Electrolux in Orange; 110 jobs lost at Simplot; more than 200 jobs at Peabody; 200 jobs at Caterpillar; and many other indirect jobs have been lost. Sadly, we know there will be more indirect job losses as a consequence.

If jobs were a priority for this government, why has it turned its back on providing support for training the future workforce of this country? Mr Abbott has already broken his promise that there would be no cuts to education by cutting $1 billion from the trades training centres. We have not even seen what Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey have in store for this country under the 'commission of cuts'. The government has had the Commission of Audit report for a very long time, since just before the Griffith by-elections. I am very concerned that the record reflects that the government had that Commission of Audit report before that by-election. Did it release the cuts before that by-election? No, the government did not. Will it release the cuts before the Western Australian Senate by-election? This is the chance that the government has to, at least in part, make up to Australian voters for its failure to tell voters before the Griffith by-elections what cuts it was considering. Why does the Abbott government not now tell Western Australian voters what cuts it is considering in the Commission of Audit? Why does it not come clean with the Western Australian voters?