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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4379

Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (16:59): I would like to concur with the words of my neighbour and colleague the member for Hunter: zip, zero, zilch for the Hunter for infrastructure. Like many in this chamber I listened intently to Treasurer Scott Morrison's budget in the hope that the needs of my hardworking constituents and taxpayers in my electorate of Paterson wouldn't be forgotten on budget night. Like most on this side of the House I was let down, as were my people in Maitland, Kurri Kurri, Raymond Terrace and Nelson Bay. What a disappointment.

We were let down by the fact that this government still expects many of us to work till we're 70 and provided no infrastructure funding whatsoever. The member for Hunter mentioned the Hunter Expressway—fondly known as Fitzy's Freeway in our part of the world. It's been a major boost. But we have another critical piece of transport corridor, the M1, which vehicular traffic traverses from Sydney to Brisbane—big trucks, grey nomads with their caravans, people in Sydney who are trying to escape the congestion, trying to get north. That intersects with the New England Highway, and there again we have all manner of goods being transported, west to east to the port of Newcastle. It is a major intersection. It is causing so much delay and congestion for the transport economy and also the local economy in my region. There was not a dollar for it, yet Infrastructure Australia lists it as a priority project. Truly, we were let down.

We were let down by the Treasurer's continued push to strip pensioners in my electorate of the $14 a week they receive now to help with the astronomical electricity bills—$14 goes a long way when you're on a pension. We were let down by the Turnbull government's smoke-and-mirror tax plan that won't take effect for years and years, and in the end will leave taxpayers in my electorate about $600 worse off than they would be under Labor's real tax plan. We heard a great deal about Prime Minister Turnbull's whizzbang new tax plan in the lead up to the budget. There were more leaks than the proverbial sieve, actually. We gleaned prior to the official announcement that the government wanted us to have a simpler tax system. Those of us outside the highest income echelons also hoped for a system that ensured a fairer distribution of wealth and fewer opportunities for multinationals to indulge and imbibe in tax avoidance. We expected that the taxation changes would be funded so that those who received the least weren't lining the pockets of those with the most. We hoped the government would allocate money to make our schools better, our universities more affordable and our TAFE more accessible and would allocate money to give our kids the best start in life and make sure our retirement years are as comfortable as possible. Yes, on 8 May 2018 the people of Australia once again looked to the Turnbull government to deliver fairness. What a disappointment. They looked for fairness on issues where every Australian, regardless of age, gender, location or status deserved equity. We were badly let down.

We are disappointed—not surprised but disappointed. Now, two weeks on, that disappointment is actually turning to anger, and I feel it in my electorate when I get back. People just shake their head. I can't help but think of my lovely mum. She's 86, and she's seen a lot of prime ministers come and go. She's a very intelligent woman, who lived through the Depression as a child. She gets a bit cynical at times, but she said, 'You know, Turnbull: I really thought that he'd be better. I just thought he would be, but he's just turned out to be nothing. He doesn't stand for anything. They're not really doing anything. You know, that budget was really pretty empty.' I thought, 'Wow, Mum.' Older people—you can't hoodwink them.

Outrage was really felt that Prime Minister Turnbull and his troupe of economic wizards think it's more important to give an $80 billion tax handout to big business and to the big banks, who've been under the blow torch of that not necessary royal commission: 'Oh no, nothing to see here, folks. We don't need a royal commission.' What a joke! Everyone in Australia knows when they're being ripped off. They've got very strong monitors for when they're being ripped off.

Mr Gosling: The BS monitor.

Ms SWANSON: The BS monitor—thanks to my friend the member for Solomon for pointing that out.

TAFEs, unis and hospitals have all been sent to the boning room and cut back to the bone. How can we expect to have an educated nation? All of this nonsense about being agile and innovative—they just want people to be caught up in trying to get by. Talk about not being able to be agile! Outrage was felt that this government persists with this ridiculous notion that handing the fat cats these billions and billions of dollars will somehow trickle down to the rest of us. As my other good friend the member for Herbert said, there's not a lot of trickle-down. It just seems to be a trickle down of who knows what on poor old Townsville. It's an absolute load of unsubstantiated rubbish.

The highly respected Grattan Institute assessed the Turnbull government's new tax plan and, surprise, surprise, it found that once we reach the end of the Treasurer's epic seven-year journey, $15 billion of the annual $25 billion cost of the plan will result from collecting less tax from the top 20 per cent of income earners. That's right: not only is this government locking in policy commitments that don't come into force for seven years; it's locking in higher income inequity.

I heard the member for Gilmore say something earlier today. She was talking about how this was a simpler and fairer taxation plan that will mean that people will be incentivised to work harder and do better, and we all want that. Yes, of course we all want that, but simpler isn't always better. In fact, it can really demonstrate a lack of understanding. A tax system where someone earning $40,001 pays the same rate as someone earning $200,000 is not fair. It may be simpler, but it's certainly not sophisticated. Truly, I think some of these things really need to be examined.

This government is locking in policy commitments that don't come into force for seven years. When we think back to the Hockey-Abbott budget of just four years ago in 2014, it was really a horrendous indictment on anyone who was fair thinking in Australia. It was absolutely categorically rejected by the Australian people. The budget that has been put out recently by Treasurer Morrison and Prime Minister Turnbull wasn't so immediately and utterly rejected, but I think as people go on and hear more of the detail coming forward from this budget they'll reject it, not because it was an abomination like the Hockey-Abbott budget was but because it is such a hoax. It's bribery in the highest form: 'Vote for us for another two election cycles and you might just get a bit more.' My goodness me!

The whole deal starts out stably enough. That's why we've said that if the government were happy to split the bill we would back in the first tranche right now. In 2018-19 low- and middle-income earners will get their tax offset. I think that's a good and positive thing. We've agreed to support that. But when you fast-forward to the 2024-25 tranche, the tax system will ensure that high-income earners gain $7,225 per year, those earning $50,000 to $90,000 gain $540 a year, and those earning $30,000 gain $200 a year. It's like reverse progressive tax. Let's not forget that those earning between $40,001 and $200,000 will pay the same rate of tax.

The people of Australia will see this bribe for what it is. The people of my electorate of Paterson won't be bought and sold for a piddling $10 a week, I tell you now. Don't ever underestimate working Australians. We are resilient, we are problem solvers and we stand up for what it is right, and there is much in this budget that is patently wrong. My electorate of Paterson is a beautiful and diverse place. We have the vineyards to the west that I share with my colleague the member for Hunter, and the ocean paradise to the east. As I'm often quoted as saying, I have wine and whales. We are home to wealthy retirees and single-parent households who struggle to meet ends meet. We are home to the unemployed and the entrepreneur. But the cord that binds us is the concept of a fair go.

I will be proud to take the Shorten Labor government's tax measures to my electorate. Labor recognises that a tax cut for families will actually flow into the community: shopping, schools, electricity bills, entertainment, transport, even tuckshop money. It will make a real difference in the hip pockets of individuals and in establishments where people lay their money down. As a matter of fact, everyone in my electorate of Paterson who earns less than $125,000 a year—and that's the lion's share, to be truthful, of my constituents; they earn less than $125,000; in fact, many people would be absolutely delighted if that's what their pay packets were—will receive a bigger tax cut. Just let me repeat that: if you earn under $125,000 per year, under Labor you'll receive a bigger tax cut than you will under the Liberals.

It's not just working people who'll be better off under a fairer system with Labor. Let's just turn our attention to those embarking upon their lives. In my home town of Kurri Kurri, I had the great pleasure of working with the Kurri Kurri Early Connections Group. They embrace the importance of preschool. In fact, my own preschool, which I went to in 1973, is part of the group. They know that the future for areas like Kurri Kurri and Raymond Terrace is educating young children. In a recent meeting with this group and the shadow minister for early childhood education and development, Amanda Rishworth, we learnt that there have been significant increases in physical, social, language and communication development vulnerabilities between 2012 and 2015. The rate in Kurri Kurri was double the national average in some areas.

Children who start their lives with vulnerabilities face even greater challenges as the years progress. For this reason, Labor believes and I strongly believe that early childhood education is an essential part of a child's development. This has been stated time and time again. It's even been stated in the most recent Gonski report.

In contrast, the Turnbull government's recent budget made absolutely no funding allocation for universal access to preschool, even though the government likes to say that it's forward thinking and far reaching, innovative and agile. We have to educate our youngest as early as we can. To make matters worse, from 1 July it's going to be even more difficult for people to try to gain access to this pivotal education, as it's going to be made difficult for families. They're going to have to register on a myGov website which is already oversubscribed and which people have so much difficulty utilising at the moment. It really is a problem. One in four families will be worse off under this new childcare package, and 350,000 families will miss out after next year. Meanwhile, big business and the banks are getting their $80 billion in a tax handout.

No wonder people are shaking their heads. It is what I would consider a travesty for our country and the prospects of our country, where we need to have people as well educated as we can. It's estimated that nine in 10 jobs created in the coming years will need university or TAFE qualifications. As I've said before, the days of pulling cable for Bluey or getting on the pliers will be pretty much long gone. People will need far more sophisticated skills, even for the entry level jobs, and we need to ensure that our youngest people are well educated.

That's why I shake my head at this budget. I shake my head at this taxation system that the government says is going to be simpler and fairer. It's actually precluding fairness. It may be simpler, but it's certainly not sophisticated. It's not sophisticated enough for a country like Australia, which should be faring so much better in the world in terms of our placement in the OECD rankings and in our education prospects for our young people. Labor can deliver the fairness that this country needs.