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Monday, 19 March 2018
Page: 1434

Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (16:36): Before I start, can I just remind Senator Bartlett that it was the Greens who helped the Liberals cut pensions. There was a quote from someone—I can't remember who it was—on the other side along the lines that Senator Di Natale had constructively engaged with the government on this measure, so you might just like to remember that, Senator Bartlett.

There's something that our now Prime Minister, Mr Turnbull, said 2½ years ago that will come back to haunt him. He said this when he announced that he was challenging Mr Abbott for the leadership of the Liberal Party:

The one thing that is clear about our current situation is the trajectory. We have lost 30 Newspolls in a row. It is clear that the people have made up their minds about Mr Abbott's leadership.

Well, Mr Turnbull is now two Newspolls away from failing his own test, and he can't walk away from what he said. It's not a test that his party set for him. It's not one that the media set, and it's not one that we set for him. This is the test that Mr Turnbull set for himself.

It should be obvious to those opposite, as it is to most Australians, what the core of the problem really is. It's not just the chaos and the disunity within this government, as loud and as broad as that is; it's its failure to come up with policies that address the challenges facing everyday Australians and their aspirations for the future. Those on the other side have squandered any opportunity they had to be a government that is focused on the future and that governs for all Australians.

Set out in Senator Collins's MPI are a number of policy areas where this policy failure is particularly apparent. On climate change, Mr Turnbull's Direct Action climate policy has been a complete failure, and his long-awaited climate change review has offered no new or alternative climate policy. The government's own projections show carbon pollution rising between now and 2030 rather than going anywhere near its target of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction. The government has no climate change policies beyond 2020 and has made no commitment to long-term emission reduction targets.

On cost-of-living pressures, the government has comprehensively failed to tackle the rising costs of housing, school and childcare expenses and electricity bills, and in many cases it has made it worse. Australians wanting to afford health care are hit with the double whammy of skyrocketing private health insurance and the government's Medicare rebate freeze.

Cost-of-living pressures have of course been exacerbated by the pressures on Australia's incomes. Wages growth is now at a record low, thanks to the government's relentless attack on the pay and conditions of Australians. The failure of wages growth to keep pace with Australia's economy is leading to growing levels of inequality. The situation certainly hasn't been helped by the Turnbull government's cut to penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers, which has cut the wages of thousands of Australia's lowest paid workers by up to $77 a week, and now the government is talking down the minimum wage increase too. As for the government's education policy, their $17 billion cut to schools has hit school systems hard. Most of the cuts have hit the schools that need the funding most. Eighty-six per cent of the cuts have been borne by public schools and 12 per cent by Catholic schools.

By contrast, Labor want to see schools across Australia able to invest in regional and remote students, in students with disability, in Indigenous students and in students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. We want to see schools where teachers can get the support they need in the classrooms for those students who need that extra assistance, and this is why we initiated the Gonski review and followed its recommendations, and this is why we will reverse the Turnbull government's savage $17 billion cuts to schools.

We also have comprehensively costed plans to address the other areas where this government has failed dismally to show any leadership. We will legislate within the first 100 days of a Shorten Labor government to restore the penalty rates for workers who've been affected by the government's cruel pay cuts. We will reform negative gearing so that we can help young Australians to buy their first home. We will modernise the National Electricity Market to give more power to consumers, and Labor will take real action on climate change with a six-point plan which includes achieving a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.

But right now we're stuck with a government that are sleepwalking towards electoral defeat because they are gripped by policy paralysis. They have no serious policies to address the problems facing Australians. They have no serious policies around facing the rising cost of living, stagnating wage growth, the threat of climate change or the need for a quality education. The major policy platform of this government seems to be more about union-bashing— (Time expired)