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Wednesday, 23 May 2018
Page: 4487

Ms McBRIDE (Dobell) (16:36): Budgets are about priorities. Budgets are about choices. Sadly, with this government, this budget is about winners and losers. I don't really like to talk about winners and losers, but there are clear winners and losers in this budget. No-one in my electorate of Dobell is left wondering just who the winners and losers are. The winners are clearly high-income earners, big business and the big four banks. The losers are young people, pensioners and people living outside of the big cities in regional communities like mine on the Central Coast.

The government has pushed on with its plans to deliver an $80 billion tax cut to big business. It is a tax cut that just isn't fair and a tax cut that we can't afford. The government's plan to deliver tax cuts to big business is at the expense of young people, pensioners and people living outside of big cities. The government has failed to properly fund schools, failed to look after older Australians waiting for home care packages and failed younger people. This government has continued with its ideologically driven, trickle-down economics and the flawed notion that giving a tax cut to the wealthiest Australians will benefit other Australians. It isn't fair and it doesn't work.

There are some parts of the budget that Labor does support. Labor supports the tax changes for low- and middle-income earners that would come into effect on 1 July. We support the extension of the $20,000 instant asset write-off for small business and the tax cut for small businesses. We support the crackdown on the black economy and multinational tax avoidance and, to some degree, the changes on superannuation. I—more than most, as a pharmacist—support the new listings on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, knowing firsthand the importance of being able to afford your medicines and see a doctor close to home when you need one most.

Labor wants to see the economy grow. We want to see more jobs. We would prefer not to be spending billions of taxpayers' dollars servicing the interest bill on the government's record debt, which has doubled over the past five years despite positive global conditions. Labor does not believe the policy settings in this budget will mean more jobs or will pay down the debt. We are not paying down the debt fast enough, not going about it in the right way and not making the most of our opportunities. We have $40 billion of new receipts in the budget as a consequence of the global economy picking up after the GFC, but we don't know how long these positive conditions will last. Some of the assumptions in the budget are a bit rosy, given flat wages and international uncertainty. Labor is approaching the forecasts with caution. We also have record net debt that is twice what this government inherited and gross debt of over half a trillion dollars.

We don't agree with the company tax cut for big business, especially to the big banks, given the evidence that has been heard by the royal commission. It's important to note that Labor opposes the tax cuts for big business and high-income earners not on ideological grounds but for fiscal and economic reasons: we cannot afford them, and we can do better. Labor priorities are about targeting tax relief at low- and middle-income earners in genuinely small and medium enterprises. That's why we would introduce the Australian investment guarantee, to give tax relief to companies investing onshore, in Australia. We want people to have lower taxes so they can spend more on the things they need in local businesses in regional communities like mine.

We want businesses to have the workers that they need, so we will waive upfront fees to 100,000 TAFE students. Labor will rebuild TAFE—a TAFE system that has been hollowed out under this government. We will get more from those policies than from tax cuts to the wealthiest Australians and overseas multinationals.

Labor is ready to govern, to walk through the front door of the parliament with sound policies, having listened to people. We are making difficult decisions and getting them right. As Labor has always said, we are about a fairer approach. This budget won't make Australia a fairer place. This budget will help the rich get richer. On the question of tax, Labor will ensure bigger income tax cuts for 10 million working Australians. Labor will provide tax cuts to everyone who earns up to $120,000 a year. But Labor will not give an $80 billion tax cut to big businesses, and Labor will not give a $17 billion tax cut to big banks. By not supporting tax cuts for large corporations and by closing loopholes in our tax system, Labor will be able to restore $17 billion in schools funding, restore $2.8 billion in hospitals funding, restore $2.2 billion to universities and restore $473 million to TAFE.

The TAFE spend includes $100 million to update ageing TAFE facilities, as well as scrapping up-front fees for up to 100,000 students who choose to learn the skills that Australia needs. This will make a difference in regional communities. This is how we can transform regional communities. This is how we can provide opportunities to people living outside the big cities. And we will pay down government debt faster. We will fight for pensioners. Labor will not increase the pension age to 70. We will not abolish the energy supplement, as the government plans to do for new pensioners, costing a new pensioner couple $550 a year that they just can't afford.

We have been brave enough to reduce capital gains tax discounts, stop tax refunds where no tax has been paid, and crack down on multinational corporate tax avoidance. And, by taking those measures—not by giving tax cuts to big business—we can fund schools properly, we can better support hospitals, we can rebuild TAFE and support universities, and still pay down debt faster than the current government is promising to do.

Under this budget, schools on the Central Coast will lose $33 million. These are schools that have used needs based funding to make such a difference in our local community, schools that have employed extra teachers' aides and speech therapists, schools that have been able to provide specialist Aboriginal programs, coding and robotics classes, specialist support for students, and leadership and mentoring for teachers to give them the support they need to support our children in their classrooms.

I want to now turn to something that is very close to home for me—and something that means a lot to so many people in my community. At the moment on the Central Coast 750 older Australians are waiting for home care packages, and a third of them are waiting for high-need level 4 packages right now. Those are people—like my late father—who lived with young onset dementia. This is urgent. These people can't wait. The people that are caring for them are under enormous strain. And what has the government decided to do? They're not going to be better off under this government's promise of 14,000 in-home aged care packages over four years. How will that go anywhere near to fixing the current waiting list of 105,000 Australians? It's just not good enough. There needs to be a sense of urgency and a sense of responsibility to change this, and change it now. Incredibly, the small amount that these home care packages were increased by—and I welcome any increase in home care packages—has been funded by cuts to residential aged care. As a pharmacist, I've been visiting residential facilities since my first year of work. There are definitely areas and pockets of success where people get the support they need without financial strain, but I see so many people under enormous financial strain, particularly when one person in the couple has to enter care sooner than they thought. We need to help people living with early onset dementia, like my dad and so many of the people I've met through his experience. These people need support now. There is no more funding in this budget for aged-care services. It simply beggars belief.

Cuts to the Public Service lead to cuts in services to the public. That is exactly what we are seeing with this government. A further 1,200 jobs will be axed from DHS, even though unanswered calls to Centrelink increased from 29 million to 55 million last year, and wait times blew out. This government doesn't seem to care about people in regional centres. This government speaks about infrastructure, but there has been no new infrastructure spend on the Central Coast. There has been no increase in spending on health, education, aged care or child care; in fact, funding for all these essential services has been cut. On the Central Coast the youth unemployment rate is currently 18.6 per cent. Almost one in five young people in my community are looking for work, yet there is nothing for young people in this budget except a further cut to TAFE and higher education. TAFE, where my father worked as an engineer, used to be a trusted pathway to an education and a secure job, has been completely decimated under this government, as have apprenticeship opportunities.

This government has delivered modest tax cuts for some Australians, but these in no way make up for the job insecurity, record low wages growth and loss of penalty rates that Central Coast workers face under this government. Labor will deliver bigger tax cuts to those who need them most. We know the cost of living is making life difficult for many Australians, particularly those living in regional and remote communities. Nowhere is that more true than on the Central Coast of New South Wales. My community of Dobell has more older people, more very young people, more people looking for work, more people on low or fixed incomes and more people struggling to make ends meet. I saw this in my work at Wyong Hospital in the mental health unit. Each and every day there for almost 10 years, I saw people whose circumstances were contributing to their being unwell. One in five people on the Central Coast are aged over 65, and one in five are aged under 15. Our median household income is $1,258. We have more than 21,000 small businesses, more than half of which are sole traders. We aren't a rich community, but we work hard and support one another.

Last week in Dobell I hosted Labor's shadow minister for finance, the member for Rankin, where he introduced a number of our small business community on the budget and Labor's alternative plans. I share you with you a telling comment from one person in that room. Ernest told Jim that, while tax cuts for low-income earners would be more than welcome in many households, the national debt was top of mind for many people. Ernest said:

People are worried. They are worried about the national debt and they would like to have it paid off as soon as possible. The community will make sacrifices if they have to, but we must pay off the national debt.

Ernest is not the only person to have said this to me. A retiree, John, said that while he was happy with the tax cut and would welcome the $10, he has preschool-aged grandchildren and would much rather that $10 tax cut provide better services in early education and to schools, and that there are much bigger priorities for many Australians, particularly those living in regional and remote Australia.

Labor has those priorities front of mind, and those priorities are not the winners in this year's budget. This budget is about high-income earners, big business and the big four banks. Labor's priorities, and those of most middle and working Australians, are the losers in this budget. Labor's priorities are with students, and with older Australians waiting for aged care. Labor will look out for the regions—regions like mine on the Central Coast of New South Wales; regions where the quality of the NBN connection matters, where affordable housing matters, where good schools matter, where access to health services matters, where vocational education matters, where jobs matter. This budget does nothing for the regions. Labor is committed to the regions.

We are committed to rebuilding TAFE to provide the skills base for employers to hire the workers that they need. We are committed to a pre-apprenticeship program and an advanced adult apprenticeship program to help workers, young or mature, to get the training or retraining they need. Labor is committed to securing pathways into work for those apprentices, with one in 10 jobs on Commonwealth priority projects to be filled by Australian apprentices.

Labor will not oppose these appropriation bills. Labor will support supply, but Labor will never put tax cuts for big earners—for big business and the big four banks—ahead of vulnerable Australians who need our support; young Australians looking for a start or a chance to get a job or an education; older Australians who are looking for work, secure housing and dignity; Australians who live in our regions; Australians who have been put last by this government.

This budget is about winners and losers. In this budget the winners are the big end of town, the big four banks and big business. In this budget the losers are the people in communities like mine. They are young people looking for work, older Australians who are waiting on the queue for home care packages, people who need support from Centrelink, people who are doing it tough, people who really need support now from a government that cares about people and wants to change things and improve things and make them better in our regions.