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Monday, 23 October 2017
Page: 11552

Mr DICK (Oxley) (16:25): There are 5,000 people in my electorate who live with a disability and have waited their whole life for the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The Productivity Commission report released this year commented that early evidence suggests the NDIS is improving the lives of many participants and their families and carers. Many participants report more choice and control over the support they receive and an increase in the amount of support provided. In my electorate of Oxley, I've seen this firsthand with the dedicated work that the carers do in our community. The story of Youngcare is a good example. They were established at Sinnamon Park in my electorate, where they opened their first residency in 2007. Youngcare Wesley Mission Queensland Apartments had a new approach to independent living. The residents have independence to live their lives the way they want and receive dignified and age-appropriate care. Both side of this House need to be committed to supporting organisations like Youngcare with a fully resourced and effective NDIS. In the electorate of Oxley, I am also privileged to represent wonderful organisations like the Endeavour Foundation. I recently met with the CEO, Andrew Donne, and a number of parents who see their children and family members go off to work everyday.

In the electorate of Oxley, I also have great educational facilities like Goodna Special School, Western Districts Special School and Mount Ommaney Special School. I was privileged to visit the Mount Ommaney Special School, along with other service providers, with Assistant Minister Jane Prentice a number of weeks ago. P&C President Liza Raggatt, Pat Tyrell and Susan Christensen, the principal, were generous to host a round table to discuss the issue of the NDIS rollout and, in particular, the issue of transport accessibility to transport students to services. At this round table, I listened to what parents go through every single day—the love, the care, the attention they give to their children and simply wanting them to lead normal lives, attend schools and fully participate in society. I commend them for their work. I know from listening to these parents and carers how important, how critical, the NDIS is.

Labor under Bill Shorten, the person who did so much to deliver this national reform under the former government, and every member of this House—in particular, every Labor member—is 100 per cent committed to rolling it out. This was a Labor initiative—a program implemented by the previous Labor government. I know from talking to people what Medicare delivered to this nation—that groundbreaking reform led by a former member for Oxley, then social security minister, the Hon. Bill Hayden. Medicare transformed the lives of thousands of Australians and, to this day, is world-known for delivering quality health care regardless of income or where you live.

But the key to this debate is how we fund it. The contrast is clear: the coalition will make low- to middle-income workers pay for it; Labor will make those on incomes over $87,000 pay. This government proposes a tax hike on people earning as little as $21,000 a year. This will affect seven million workers across the country. In my electorate, it will affect 45,000 of my constituents. For example, a young tradesman living and working in Redbank Plains in the electorate of Oxley earning $55,000 a year will be hit with a tax hike of $275 per year. A mid-career professional—the highest average earning occupation in my electorate—earning around $80,000 a year will face $400 extra in tax per year.

We all know stagnant wages, falling living standards and record levels of underemployment all mean that low- and middle-income Australians are less able to pay more tax than they have in the past. The effect of these measures, combined with the removal of the deficit levy by this government, is an increase of the marginal tax rate for low- to middle-income Australians and a tax break for those income earners at the top. I've said it before and I'll say it again: it doesn't make sense, it simply is not fair, and it runs contrary to the principle of progressive taxation.

Labor's plan is better and fairer. Labor will increase the Medicare levy for individuals earning more than $87,000 a year and keep the deficit levy on those income earners earning more than $180,000. Labor's plan would see the budget bottom line better off by $4 billion. As we've heard, independent research from the ANU's Centre for Social Research and Methods has shown that twice as many households will be worse off under the coalition's plan than under Labor's fairer alternative. That's twice as many households that will be worse off. This was confirmed by the independent PBO report, which showed that middle-income Australians will be worse off under government policy.

We know that the Australian Council of Social Service have stated in their submission to the Senate inquiry on these measures that it is their view that those with an ability to pay should be making fair contributions to the NDIS, and they agreed that Labor's proposal was more progressive than the government's. We've always said this: governments are about making choices. Governments have a crystal-clear choice. We can ensure that the NDIS is funded. We on this side of the House want to make it fairer—fairer for those people who can afford to pay it to ensure those who are living on middle to low incomes are simply not slugged through the nose with demands from this government that they pay more tax. ACOSS went further in welcoming Labor's policies to make people that can afford these measures pay for them. They supported Labor's holistic measures to crack down on income tax minimisation through reform to negative gearing—which I spoke about in this place last week—capital gains tax, trusts, superannuation funds and multinational tax avoidance.

However, what I find difficult to understand and comprehend is this government tying the repeal of the Education Investment Fund to this suite of legislation. As Disabled People's Organisations Australia rightly said in their submission to the Senate inquiry into these measures, there shouldn't be a trade-off between people with a disability and critical funding for Australian research infrastructure. Universities Australia has said closing the Education Investment Fund, which has $3.8 billion remaining, would make it harder for the sector to create jobs and generate world-class, innovative research. So it seems strange to me, given the government announced a National Research Infrastructure Roadmap earlier this year, that it would touch a measure to abolish $3.2 billion dedicated to research infrastructure. This is a Prime Minister that talks about an innovation agenda—except when it comes to the NBN—but, when he comes into this place, he does the complete opposite. It simply doesn't add up. We know that funding for research infrastructure makes our universities highly competitive in the international tertiary education market. Universities need capital research infrastructure to be successful. As Universities Australia has said:

Without capital funding, the renewal of teaching and research infrastructure needed to equip universities for today's competitive environment will slow significantly. The proposal to abolish the EIF is compounded by the Government's current proposal to reduce public investment in universities by $2.8 billion.

Australia's university education sector, as I know coming from Queensland, is one of our largest exports. It contributes around $22 billion to the Australian economy. The abolition of this program not only reduces certainty in the sector, as I said, it just makes no sense. And this is compounded by the fact that it's tied to a suite of legislation to make low- to middle-income workers pay more.

It's clear that on this side of the House we have a better and fairer plan to fund the NDIS. This government would do itself a favour to listen to what the community sector is saying and to listen to what middle- and low-income Australia is calling out for. When I visit shopping centres and do mobile offices and street corner meetings, people who are middle- to low-income earners don't ever come up to me and say: 'We've got too much. We're flush with cash.' They talk about the rising cost of the standard of living, they talk about not being able to make mortgage payments and they talk about not being able to get enough money together for their kids to play sport—on it goes, on it goes. We've all heard the same stories.

In my electorate, where there are a number of families doing it tough, I simply cannot look them in the eye and say, 'I'm going to increase your tax share.' At the same time, this government's priorities are to make sure that millionaires get a tax cut. So, on one hand, millionaires get a tax cut and large corporations are looked after, but people on low to middle incomes get a tax increase. So I don't want any more lectures, any more speeches or any more advice from members of the coalition, saying that in some alternative universe they are the party of low tax. We know that they are not, and middle Australia is seeing that.

The bill that we're asked to support today, and that the government is insisting on passing, will fund the NDIS, but at what cost? We have a fairer and more equitable plan to make sure that the NDIS delivers what it should. The government should not be increasing the tax burden on those most vulnerable Australians.

As I said in my opening remarks, the NDIS is incredibly important to the lives of people with a disability. But it's critical that it is fully funded. Labor will continue to fund this well into the future. However, we'll ensure that low- to middle-income earners aren't hit with an unfair share of the bill to fund the NDIS into the future.