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Thursday, 24 May 2018
Page: 4658

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (11:35): I've got to say that, out of all the budgets that I've seen, this budget has the cruellest hoax attached to it. The cruel hoax is on the hopes and dreams of Australians. We see a budget that follows on from other budgets of the Abbott government and the Turnbull government. In the early ones we saw cuts to a whole range of things. For example, in the 2014-15 budget we saw in my own state over $60 billion of cuts to health. That was in one state. You can see the trickle-down effect that this has when you are in a public bed in a hospital. It has effects on it.

This budget is a hoax and a con. It says one thing but does another. It's a budget that continues making cuts to pensioners, hospitals, schools and universities and has new cuts for the ABC—the national icon, something that is revered by all Australians—and TAFE at the same time. We know that young people and mature-age people need skills to get into the workforce. TAFE has served us very well over the years. It skills up people who perhaps left school early or whose life, for whatever reason, took them in a different direction. TAFE skills them and assists them to get back into the workforce. They get a certificate. It's a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

This is a budget that delivers to the big end of town, to big business, while at the same time making cuts to some of our most vulnerable people. Let's have a look at this budget. It wants to deliver an $80 billion tax cut for the richest end of town, for the banks and the multinationals. Seventeen of those major companies pay no tax at all and yet they're going to be the recipients of the $80 billion tax cut. At the very same time as we're giving out $80 billion we're taking away the $14 a fortnight supplement from pensioners, from people who earn a mere pension, have a Commonwealth care card and struggle to keep a budget—and many do tighten their belts to be able to pay their bills and put food on their table. We are taking away $14 a fortnight from those people. At the same time we're giving Australia's richest end of town $80 billion. I don't see how this is right and I don't see how this is fair. It is very un-Australian.

When I think of that scenario I just put to this place—the $80 billion tax cut and the cut to pensioners—the only thing that comes to mind is that this government wants to deliver radical right-wing policies. It is basically a wish list of big business, entrepreneurs who are wanting to make big bucks. It's their demand on the government. I cannot see any other reason for it, apart from the ideological reason.

As I said, it started in 2014 with the budgets of the Abbott government and it has continued. We have seen attacks on trade unions and the Human Rights Commission. Even a policy came in to water down section 18C of our racial discrimination laws. They backed off on that, not because they thought it was wrong but because they didn't have the numbers in the Senate to pass a bill that would have made it easier for people to discriminate against other people in this nation.

We have always been a nation that has put egalitarianism, fairness and equality before anything else in this nation, and that's why we have become the nation that we are—those things have been fundamental to our democracy. They've been fundamental to the way that we are as a culture here in Australia. And here you had a government that wanted to water down the Racial Discrimination Act to make it easier for people to attack other people on a race basis. There is only one reason for that, and that is an ideological right-wing mentality. That is the only reason a government would go down that track.

We even saw the introduction of the deregulation of university course fees and the introduction of $100,000 up-front fees for people. Last year it was the company tax cuts, which have already delivered, as we heard from the previous speaker, $17 billion to the banks—at a time when we're hearing before the royal commission about banks charging the accounts of deceased people and meddling in children's bank accounts. This year, we see the radical proposal for a flat tax for people earning incomes between $40,000 and $200,000. So, if you're a cleaner working on $40,000 a year—subsidising the family's income because it may be part-time work, or it may be the only income you have—you will be asked to pay the same tax as most of us in this, who are on much more, pay. The flat tax for someone on $40,000 and someone on $200,000 will be the same.

I, like other members on this side in this place, know that we live in one of the best countries in the world, and, as I said before, in a country that has always been fair. Our families—in my case—chose to make Australia home, and we're all proud to serve our local communities. And it's not just us who recognise what a great country we live in: our capital cities, such as Adelaide, where I come from, and Perth and Melbourne consistently rate in the top 10 liveable cities in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. This has come to be because of the way that we have been for years. It's come to be because of the equality that we've had, the equality that we've always strived for to ensure that we are a nation where people respect one another, regardless of whether you're a cleaner or a professor. We have this great equality in Australia, and we don't want to see it watered down, which is exactly what this government was doing with 18C.

I don't think it's fair, as I said, for cleaners, aged-care workers, hospitality workers or retail workers to have their penalty rates cut. We know that this is the direction this government wants to go down. We know that someone who is working on weekends, who is giving up family time, shouldn't be penalised by having their penalty rates cut. It is wrong. Our progressive tax system in this nation has served us extremely well over the years, and it is one of the bedrocks of our system. It ensures that we have fairness in our society, based on the idea that those with greater means should contribute a little more. There's nothing wrong in that, and that's the way that this nation has operated for many years. It's a system that's served us well and will continue to serve us well.

Labor will deliver. On this side of the House, we will deliver a fairer system, a system that takes those things into perspective. We will deliver a bigger, a better and a fairer tax cut for 10 million working Australians. That's almost double what the government has offered. We can afford to do more to help because we're not giving that $80 billion tax cut to the richest end of town. We're not delivering $17 billion to the banks and $80 billion across the board to some of the richest people in this country. That's why we can afford to have a bigger, better and fairer tax cut for 10 million working Australians that is, as I said, double the amount that the government has offered.

I am a member who represents an electorate with one of the largest proportions of people over the age of 65, and I know that my colleague the member for Richmond also has a very similar electorate. In fact, when we came into this House, we were competing about who had the highest proportion of people aged over 65, and we were always neck and neck. So I know that the member for Richmond understands the needs of older Australians, as we all do on this side.

We know that they've worked all their lives, that they have contributed to this nation and that we now benefit from the fruits of the life that they lived and the contributions that they made. In many cases, they fought in wars to enable us to live the lives that we do. And all they're asking for is some dignity in their old age. What do I mean by providing dignity? Well, they need aged-care facilities that are appropriate facilities, and services that will look after them. Certainly, we know that extra home care packages are needed.

The aged-care announcement for older Australians that the minister made on budget night was one of the biggest cons that I've seen since I saw the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with Steve Martin and Michael Caine. We know that 14,000 extra places were given in this budget, but we know that there's 100,000 people on the waiting list for aged-care packages. We know that the rate for people needing aged-care packages rises by approximately 10,000 per quarter. So we've already got 100,000 people on a waiting list for an aged-care package so that they can be looked after at home, because they're old and frail, but the list is growing currently, and it's growing at a rate of about 10,000 per quarter. So in 12 months that list will be 120,000.

The government has offered 14,000 packages and the list is still growing. This is the greatest con job that I've ever seen in terms of an announcement. It just doesn't make sense. If we really want to get to the bottom of the problem we have to offer many, many more packages. And it's not fair. When we look at the detail of what they've proposed, it is paid for through cuts to residential care. They've taken money away from residential care and will barely make a dent in the waiting list. As I said, the figures we had recently showed there were 20,000 places in the last six months. So we've got 100,000 and it grows by 10,000 every quarter, then we announce 14,000 places and it's supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread. To me, that's a con job. It's an absolutely terrible trick to play on older Australians.

Apart from that, at the same time we're taking away the $14 energy supplement that assists them to pay their energy bills and which they receive every fortnight in their pension. At the same time as that, $80 billion is going to the richest end of town, to the people who, in their minds, need it the most. I can't work that out. And, of course, they're increasing the aged pension eligibility for someone to be eligible for an aged pension at the age of 70.

If this government wants to talk about our older Australians, I'm very proud to have listened to them. I listen to people every day who tell me how they struggle to survive and to live on a pension. These are people who have actually worked damn hard for their entire lives, and they do so still in the way that they look after grandkids, are a part of our community as volunteers and have contributed so much to this nation. I know so because I've held ageing forums with the shadow minister—the former minister, the member for Port Adelaide—in my electorate of Hindmarsh. I've advocated for a better and fairer go for those who need help. After giving so much to this nation, the least we could do is to give them some dignity in their old age.

We will be judged as a nation in the future by the way that we have looked after our elderly. We see some reports coming out in the media, where some of the aged-care facilities are allocating $6 a day for food—$6 a day for food! We saw that report recently, and that is a disgrace. It's something that governments should be investigating and looking into immediately.

Recently, I was contacted by a carer on behalf of her mother, who lives in the western suburbs of my electorate. She's lived in her house since the mid-1950s. She went through the process of an assessment and had ACAT approval in December 2015 for a level 3 to 4 package. My constituent has become frustrated and had to continue to follow up with the department, but to no avail. After raising this matter continuously we've finally secured a package, and she is receiving the support and respite that she deserves. So why does it require ministerial intervention to get a result? And what about those who don't speak up? It's just not right.

Labor in government has a proud record, a very proud record, of delivering for older Australians. I will continue to deliver, as will the member for Richmond, who is sitting next to me, and the member for Bruce, who I know has a big population of older Australians in his electorate. It is something that we on this side think is one of the most important things—that is, to give back to those that gave their entire lives for the next generation of Australians to live the wonderful lives that we have in this nation.