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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 3964


Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (13:18): This bill increases the Medicare levy low-income threshold for individuals and families, along with the dependent child/student component of the family threshold, in line with movements in the consumer price index and also for single taxpayers and families eligible for the seniors and pensioners tax offset, also in line with movements in the consumer price index, so they do not have a Medicare levy liability where they do not have an income tax liability. As honourable members will be aware, the Medicare levy currently kicks in for individuals at the level of $26,120. Below the threshold of the $20,896 the Medicare levy is not paid and between those two income levels the Medicare levy is 10 per cent of the excess over the threshold. Both of those amounts, and respective amounts relating to seniors, will be increased by approximately two per cent under this bill.

This bill benefits low-income Australians, which is—let's face it—a rare bill for this government to be moving and is a too rare example of decency from a government far more concerned with looking after multinationals than protecting Medicare. We will support the bill, ensuring as it does that vulnerable Australians are not disadvantaged and will maintain their access to Medicare. But it does remind us on this side of the House of the Abbott-Turnbull governments' attacks on Medicare—the GP tax, the $650 million cut to Medicare payments for pathology and diagnostic imaging, and now their plan to axe the child dental benefits scheme.

This bill will provide a small measure of tax relief for low-income earners but, let's face it, this is a government that is increasing the tax take, except at the top. If the Treasurer's latest thought bubble is to be believed, the government intends to provide not only a tax cut for those earning over $180,000 but perhaps even a modest tax cut for those earning over $80,000. The Treasurer seems unaware of the fact that this is not the median figure for earnings in Australia and that about three-quarters of Australian workers in fact earn less than $80,000. The Treasurer also seems unaware in his recent statements that under him Australian living standards are not rising but falling. While this government came to office promising to raise living standards and cut debt, in fact they have cut living standards and increased debt.

Labor is concerned about defending Medicare, we are concerned about making sure that multinationals pay their fair share and we are committed to doing something about inequality, which has risen substantially over the course of the last generation and which is now as high as it has been in 75 years. The careful work that the member for Jagajaga has done on social policy and the careful work that is being done in the area of health by the member for Throsby and others in the shadow health team are part of the more than 70 policies that Labor has put on the table. They are practical policies in education, health care, housing affordability, climate change, the sharing economy, marriage equality, domestic violence, competition policy and more.

Labor is committed to a strong Medicare. We are committed to standing up for low- and middle-income Australians. We are committed to making sure that multinationals pay their fair share. We believe that it is absolutely vital that we look after not just the big end of town but all Australians.