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Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Page: 11792


Ms LAMB (Longman) (17:34): I rise to speak on the Medicare Levy Amendment (National Disability Insurance Scheme Funding) Bill 2017. As do all my Labor colleagues who have spoken before me, and who will continue to speak after me, I stand here in resounding support of both Medicare and the National Disability Insurance Scheme—or, as we all know it and love it, the NDIS.

Both Medicare and the NDIS are incredible initiatives, of course. Both programs have been designed to deliver quality and affordable health and social outcomes for all Australians regardless of who they are or where they live. For many vulnerable Australians these programs ensure—or in the case of areas yet to receive the NDIS, like my area in the Moreton Bay region, they will ensure—that we have a reasonable quality of life for people living with a disability. In my area, that's around 10,000 people, so we're eagerly awaiting on the NDIS to arrive in the Moreton Bay region.

But programs like these should always be lauded. Anything that can be done to ensure that all Australians have a fair go are highly important in helping move Australia forward. It comes as no surprise that both Medicare and the NDIS were Labor initiatives. Labor are 100 per cent behind both initiatives and Labor is 100 per cent committed to the successful rollout of the NDIS Australia-wide. As I mentioned, that includes the Moreton Bay region as we await the rollout.

But as all Australians know, it is only Labor that's 100 per cent committed to Medicare, because they just can't trust the Liberals with Medicare. At any chance the Liberals get they will take a jab at it. They will look at dismantling the pride of our nation wherever they can. Sometimes it's pretty blatant—blatant, like the Medicare freeze, which they absolutely refuse to lift. Instead they make excuse after excuse, day after day. The Prime Minister could lift that freeze right now if he wished to—right now. He could lift it right now, but he won't because this government has it in for Medicare.

But sometimes this government isn't so blatant. Sometimes they're a little more subtle—not a lot but just a little, like with the bill I'm speaking on right at this second. Despite the NDIS having been fully funded in a bipartisan fashion, with funding allocated to the NDIS in all budgets since 2013 and 2014, here we are today with the government looking to raise the Medicare levy to fund what has already been funded. This is the government raising the price of Medicare for every Australian, one step at a time. We all know that this government wants Australians to pay their healthcare costs completely out of pocket. So, instead, they raise the cost half a per cent at a time. That is not completely subtle, of course, but not as blatant as their Medicare freeze.

Somehow, the government had money to burn in this budget, though. They threw $122 million away—$122 million!—because they were too weak to do their job. They were too scared to stand up to the right wing of their party despite their dishonest claims that they were united and a factionless party. They were too weak to do their job and threw away $122 million. And they're throwing away $65 billion by sending taxpayers' money offshore with huge multinational companies that will benefit from the ideological big business tax cut. And they've cut $16,400 in taxes from millionaires by axing the budget repair levy.

I would argue that this budget is far from being repaired. Under this government the national debt has skyrocketed. This government claims that when Labor was in power, Australia was facing a budget emergency. Do you remember that, Deputy Speaker Buchholz? It was a budget emergency. What would it be called now, I would ask? What would they call it now? Now that debt has grown so much under their rule and now that it has grown so much due to this government's reckless spending, surely it can be called nothing less than catastrophic? And yet despite the catastrophic circumstances that Prime Minister Turnbull and his government—and his Treasurer, of course: don't forget the Treasurer's involvement in this—have got Australia's budget into, they now think it's okay to remove the budget repair levy.

Well, I agree that some things need to be done—they absolutely do—to reduce the negative balance that continues to grow under the Turnbull government, but I vehemently oppose this government's ridiculous assertion that it's low- and middle-income Australia who should be the ones to pay for this mess. It is not their fault. It is not the fault of hardworking taxpayers that this government mismanages money. So how is it fair? Tell me how it is fair that this government plans to burden a worker on $55,000 a year with an extra $275 a year in tax. How is that fair? Somebody earning $55,000 a year is now going to be burdened with $275 extra a year in tax. How is it fair that the government's proposed increase to the Medicare levy will hit vulnerable Australians earning as little as $21,000 a year? You have to ask: how do you live on $21,000 a year?

This government has absolutely no idea. It has no idea what real Australians live like, how people just barely get by, or how this government's continual attacks—such as cutting the take-home pay of hundreds of thousands of workers, which has begun rolling out to Australia's most vulnerable workers—are taking their toll on these people. The government has no idea how the cost-of-living pressures that have ballooned under this government—like the energy prices that this government, despite its claims, still hasn't got control of—are taking a toll on households all over this country. It has no idea how this extended period of low wages growth is taking its toll. Then here stands this government, raising the rate of taxation on the very same people who it's taking its toll on: Australia's most vulnerable workers.

This is all coming from a party that like to claim that they're the party of lower taxes. What they like to omit, though, is the footnote on the party of lower taxes, and that's the caveat that shows their true intentions. They are the party for lower taxes—but for wealthy people, of course. How else could you define the government? They raise taxes for people on a barely liveable $21,000 a year—that's right—and they've cut $16,400 from the taxes of millionaires. They are raising the tax on people earning $21,000 a year, and millionaires get a $16,400 tax cut. That is over three-quarters of $21,000. It's three-quarters of a salary of a worker who'll be getting a tax hike, being gifted to a millionaire. I really struggle to understand how the government justify this—how they can look at low-income earners in Australia and say that they deserve a tax hike while millionaires deserve a tax cut.

That is why I so strongly oppose this bill. Anyone earning less than $87,000 shouldn't have to shoulder the brunt of this government's economic mismanagement. You know, there are less than five per cent of people who earn over $87,000 in my electorate. Ninety-five per cent of people in Longman earn less than $87,000, and they're going to shoulder that, while your millionaires get a tax cut. Tell me how that's fair.

Not only that, but over the next 10 years Labor have plans to make sure that we have a plan that is fair. We've got a better plan for the budget, and let me tell you about it. Labor's plan raises over $4 billion more than this government's proposed tax rise for low- and middle-income Australia. It is a plan that just makes sense. Independent research from the Australian National University shows that twice as many households would be worse off under the coalition's plan than under Labor's plan.

But the sad part about this is that the government won't listen to the ANU, of course. It won't listen to the ANU. It won't listen to Labor. It certainly won't listen to Australian people. It appears to me that, unless you are conforming to the government's single-minded vision—and it supports the top end of town; this government only wants to hear from the top end of town, the wealthy people—then it just wants to put its fingers in its ears and say: 'We don't hear you. We don't want to know about it.' But we on this side of the House know this isn't how good governments operate. It's not how strong governments operate. It's not how governments with leadership operate, of course.

As you well know and, I'm sure, as lots of Australians well know, this government has no real reason to impose a Medicare levy on the NDIS. The NDIS is fully funded from consolidated revenue like nearly every other item of government expenditure, so what makes the NDIS so special? Why is it so different that it requires its own funding stream? Why doesn't defence spending, for example, require its own levy? Why does the $65 billion taxpayer fund that will pay for this government's big business tax cut come from its own revenue stream? Is it because the government doesn't completely support the rollout of the NDIS? You have to ask the question. I can't think of any other reason that would make sense. Why else would you isolate the NDIS and impose such an increase to the charge for Medicare to pay for it? What I suspect is that the government is seeking to pose both the NDIS and Medicare as much greater burdens than they actually are. By increasing the cost of Medicare, it seems less attractive—I suppose because it is. It is because the government is not stopping its continual attempts to undermine Australia's first-class universal healthcare system. It just keeps chipping away at it. As long as the coalition is in power, nothing is safe.

Despite this government's attempts—or maybe because of them—Labor will fight. We will fight for Medicare. We will fight for the NDIS now more than ever before. Labor will fight for these services because Labor truly believes in them. The NDIS was Labor's great idea. It became a great policy and now is a great reality. We in Labor will fight for the NDIS and we will not allow low- and middle-income Australians to be caught in this crossfire, especially not now—not now when, we have low wage growth that has flatlined; not now, when energy prices are through the roof; and, for that matter, not in a few years' time, when Prime Ministers' half-baked energy plan saves people 50c off their power bills either. We will not be doing that now. We will not get people caught in that crossfire—certainly not now, when the government is giving high-income earners and big businesses a free pass.

This is a government in disarray. This is a government and a party that used to claim to be really good economic managers, but we know they can now be seen as anything but. Following the disastrous run-out over the last through years, I think it's pretty clear. We've had millions wasted on a postal survey—$122 million, to be precise. Billions and billions of dollars have been lost on the failed rollout of the NBN. Tens of billions have been spent on big businesses getting a tax break. This is a government with no policy except to recklessly throw taxpayers' money at their conservative base.

I oppose this government's attacks on low and middle income. I oppose this government's taxation hike for over seven million Australians. As I mentioned before, about 170,000 of those seven million Australians live in my electorate, and 95 per cent of those people earn less than $87,000 a year. That's why I oppose this. I was elected to represent the people of my electorate, and that's exactly what I will stand up and do. Unless this government is willing to amend this bill to no longer hit society's most vulnerable, including the people of Longman, and to no longer increase the taxes of people earning less than $87,000, I will stand here and oppose this bill.