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Thursday, 1 August 2019
Page: 1852


Mr MARLES (CorioDeputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:54): After 2½ months and three weeks of sittings, what is completely clear is that this is a government without an agenda. This is a government with no vision. This is a government that finds itself completely surprised to be sitting where it is, and it has no idea what it's going to do. This is a government that has absolutely no answers whatsoever to the challenges that are facing our nation today. Indeed, the only contribution that this government has made to Australia since 18 May is to pose one question: whose side are you on?

When the Prime Minister said of all of us who were campaigning and speaking on behalf of those who are on Newstart and about the woefully inadequate income they receive, including the Governor of the Reserve Bank and John Howard no less, that we were engaging in 'unfunded empathy' he made completely clear that he was not on the side of the most vulnerable Australians, who this winter are trying to work out how they are going to make ends meet, whether they will have the heater on at night and what they will not be able to buy with the money they do not have when they go to the supermarket. Indeed, if you are any person in this country who gets the deserved support of government—if you are a single mother, if you are one of the 155,000 people on Newstart over the age of 55, if you are a pensioner—do not expect an extra dollar from this man, because when those of us who campaign on your behalf engage in that activity he will be the person saying that we are engaging in 'unfunded empathy'.

When the Treasurer this week came into this place and said that Australians are better off now than they were in 2013 he made it completely clear that he was not on the side of every working Australian in this country, because the truth is that median household income, as we've discovered this week, fell by $500 in 2017 alone and right now is much less than it was in 2013 when this government came to power. Indeed, growth is at its slowest now since the global financial crisis. We are experiencing alarming rates of poverty and we have seen record low wages growth. It is completely clear to every worker in this country that wage stagnation remains the stand-out feature of this economy. When the Treasurer said that we've never been better off than what we're seeing now and that the situation now is better than it was in 2013 he made it clear, in that moment, that he was not on the side of working Australians.

As parts of this country are, right now, going through the worst drought since records have been kept, the Deputy Prime Minister came into this place and made it completely clear which side he was on. The Deputy Prime Minister came in here and made it completely clear that he stood for his own self-interest when he said, 'We're on this side and you're on that side and get used to it.' I mean, that was an act of refined arrogance. In that moment, the Australian people heard everything they needed to hear about the fact that this government is on its own side and is absolutely not on the side of the Australian people. If you are on Newstart and you are struggling, if you are in receipt of a robo-debt that is asking you to pay money that you do not owe, if you are a farmer in this country, if you are a pensioner who is struggling, what is absolutely clear, from the way in which this government has been acting from the moment that it was re-elected on 18 May, is that this is a government that is not on your side. The only thing it's interested in is being on that side, and, in doing so, the only side it's interested in is its own. But, over the days and years ahead, as every Australian comes to understand exactly what is going on here, they will, when the time is right, issue their judgement that this is a side that they do not deserve.