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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 2942

Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (16:31): by leave—I move:

That the Senate—

(a) acknowledges that the Turnbull Government's budget:

(i) cuts the energy supplement for pensioners - costing pensioners $14 a fortnight,

(ii) forces Australians to work until they are 70 before they are eligible for the pension,

(iii) locks in $17 billion in cuts to schools, $2.2 billion in cuts to universities and cuts to hospitals,

(iv) cuts Medicare by keeping the rebate freeze on specialists for one more year,

(v) introduces $270 million in new cuts to TAFE and apprentices,

(vi) breaks a promise to not cut funding to the ABC by slashing more than $80 million,

(vii) announces a $1.5 billion cut to remote housing by ending the national partnership agreement and $40 million cut to dental care for veterans, and

(viii) confirms $80 billion tax handout to big business, including $17 billion to the big banks; and

(b) calls on the Turnbull Government to immediately reverse these unfair measures.

Tasmanians have a right to feel extremely disappointed by this federal budget. While the government would like you to think that it's a budget with something for everybody, in reality the tax rates after the first couple of years are overwhelmingly skewed towards those on the highest incomes. It's clear that in this budget Mr Turnbull has failed. He has failed to address the fundamental structural problems in our economy and the challenges that ordinary Australians face. It's a budget with a short-term focus on winning the next federal election, rather than one mapping out a future economic agenda for our nation. Hidden in it are cuts to essential public services to our schools, hospitals, families and pensioners. It's clear that Mr Turnbull and his party colleagues are completely out of touch. He does not and cannot understand the concerns of those who live outside Point Piper, and he certainly does not understand the concerns of people in my home state of Tasmania, particularly those on the north-west and west coasts. They're doing it tough up that way, and the federal Liberal government has been completely missing in action when it comes to fixing issues in those communities. The government may make promises in the lead up to the election, but people need to remember that Mr Turnbull has failed the people of Tasmania, not just on Tuesday in the budget but over the whole of the five years in government. Short-term, pre-election pork-barrelling is not enough to overcome this government's years of neglect.

I know my good friend Justine Keay has been working very hard in the communities on the north-west and west coasts of Tasmania, and I sincerely hope that the people of Braddon will give her the opportunity to keep on working and fighting for them, because only Labor can reverse the neglect of this government. Let me give an example. While the government wanted to talk a lot about senior Australians in the lead up to the budget, their past actions are the ones that they need to be judged on. The task of fixing Australia's aged-care system is critically important, but, sadly, the Turnbull government are not doing enough. In the north-west of Tasmania alone there are 243 older Tasmanians waiting for care—that number is based on the latest data from the Department of Health. These include 160 older Tasmanians waiting with high-care needs, many of them with dementia. The aged-care portfolio is in crisis, and that is absolutely unacceptable. This situation will worsen with the ageing population on the north-west and west coasts, too. We have to remember that in my home state of Tasmania we have the oldest population, and it is ageing faster than the national average. How is it fair that these older Tasmanians have to wait for care while the Turnbull government continues to pursue an $80 billion tax handout to big corporations and to the banks?

Senior Tasmanians are also set to lose the pensioner energy supplement of around $7 a week. We've got to remember that 1,570 local pensioners in Braddon alone are worse off due to previous cuts: 1,170 lost part of their pension, while 400 lost their pension entirely. More and more Tasmanians will have to work for longer, with the government hiking the retirement age to 70. I'm sure that these Tasmanians won't trust a government that previously promised no changes to pensions. We don't forget. We've got long memories in Tasmania, and we do not forget.

Young Tasmanians also feel that the government has completely failed them. The government in the budget has done absolutely nothing to address the biggest concern that young people in Tasmania face, and that's affordable housing. According to Anglicare's Rental Affordability Snapshot Tasmania 2018 there were no private affordable rentals in Tasmania for people on youth allowance—none. And, for a single adult with a Newstart allowance, there was only one affordable rental property in the whole of Tasmania—just one in the whole of Tasmania. That is a disaster. Yet this government doesn't see there's an issue. This government's so utterly blind that it can't see the wave of homelessness that's approaching. We've had recent protests in Tasmania, with people camping on the lawns of Parliament House and crown land because there's nowhere else for them to go. As a result of the actions, or nonactions, of the Liberal federal government and the Tasmanian Liberal government, that's what it has come to. We're coming into winter, we've got a really bad weekend coming on weather-wise, and we've got people living in tents. It's atrocious. In the north-west in the seat of Braddon there was a 45 per cent drop in advertised properties since 2017. That means that many Tasmanians in the north-west and across the state with a job, good references and a solid credit history are now unable to find a rental property. And yet this government's done nothing, and it has done nothing in the federal budget to make any improvements to the dire housing situation facing Tasmanians.

They've also failed utterly on the issue of youth unemployment. The youth unemployment rate in Braddon has just dropped below the national average. It's around 11 per cent still, and that's not good enough. The overall level of unemployment in Braddon on the north-west and west coast of Tassie is at six per cent, which is above both the state and the national averages. One in five workers in the electorate of Braddon could have been affected by the government's penalty rate cuts—one in five. While the government's focusing on giving $17 billion to their mates in the banks and $80 billion to their mates in big business, including multinationals that will funnel those funds offshore—we know that—Labor has a plan to create jobs. In Braddon alone, 6,611 local businesses will benefit from Labor's Australian Investment Guarantee, and that's including 6,147 small businesses. While the Liberals just want to give away money to line the pockets of foreign shareholders, we want to generate real investment and create real jobs.

This budget also locks in the government's cruel cut of $715 million to hospitals over the next two years. Once again, if we look at the seat of Braddon, that includes $730,000 from the Tasmanian North West Regional Hospital. The budget also contains further cuts to hospitals for the five years from 2020. Mr Turnbull's cuts will see $11 million less to public hospitals in Tasmania from 2017 to 2020. There's a crisis in Tasmanian hospitals at the moment, an absolute crisis, and these cuts will only make things worse. Surgeries will be delayed; nurse and doctor numbers will decline. We've got people resigning left, right and centre in our public hospitals. Emergency department wait times—and we have ramping in Tasmania constantly—will increase as a result of Mr Turnbull's cuts.

I've mentioned previously in this place that the government has locked in $17 billion worth of cuts to schools. This includes cuts of up to $14.7 million from local schools on the north-west and west coasts of Tassie. I think we're all pretty aware of the importance of education in creating better employment outcomes for people, but this government would rather give money to Mr Turnbull's mates in the big banks than spend it on good, local community schools in Tasmania. I would be embarrassed and I would be ashamed if I were part of the government. They're handing out $17 billion to their mates in the banks but they're cutting resources from our classrooms and from our children's education. Tasmanians, particularly those on the north-west and west coasts, should remember, every time their school can't afford something, that the money was ripped from their schools to inflate bank profits.

And then we face the issues around higher education. Higher education is on the chopping block as well, with $58 million cut from the University of Tasmania. The University of Tasmania has three campuses, and one of them is in Burnie on the north-west coast of Tassie. This is vital to ensuring that the young people on the north-west coast are able to gain skills and qualifications to participate in growing the economy of the region. So I hope those cuts won't directly impact on the courses provided by the Cradle Coast campus, but I'll be watching because I've got my doubts.

Tasmanians on the west coast—over there in Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan—should also be furious about the second-rate NBN they're being left with under this out-of-touch government. I know my colleagues Senator Anne Urquhart and Justine Keay pushed very strongly for upgraded NBN services on the west coast, but the government have failed them. Households and businesses on the west coast are screaming out for improved broadband. The region has some of the highest rainfall in the country, and much of the copper is heavily degraded. While some premises on the west coast will now get fibre to the curb, Mr Turnbull needs to direct NBN Co to immediately change the designs for Queenstown, Rosebery and Zeehan to deliver fibre to the curb to all premises in these towns. While he's there, the government should make sure the people in the towns on the west coast of Tassie have an opportunity for employment when the rollout gets to them, if ever it does. Mr Turnbull's ego should not leave the west coast of Tasmania with a dud NBN service.

Mr Turnbull wants to distract people with pre-election promises while the rest of his budget has locked in cuts to schools, cuts to hospitals and cuts to pensions. It's absolutely clear that this budget has failed Tasmanians. It's particularly failed people on the north-west coast of Tasmania in the seat of Braddon. That's why Tasmania needs a Shorten Labor government, which will govern for all Australians. The north-west and the west coasts of Tasmania need Justine Keay, who will continue to be a great representative for the electorate of Braddon, and I'll be very happy to go and support Justine in her campaign.