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Wednesday, 9 May 2018
Page: 3546

Mr JOSH WILSON (Fremantle) (10:06): The week before last, I held a forum for seniors in my electorate, in the beautiful memorial hall in Cockburn. Our guest was the shadow minister for families and social services, the honourable and the brilliant Jenny Macklin. People asked questions or gave us their perspective about a range of issues, including pensions, health care, home care packages, dividend imputation, climate change, the resources and client services at Centrelink, and aged care services in general. Of course, we talked about the forthcoming budget and the areas in which Australia needs leadership, direction, action and a sense of purpose.

The reality in Western Australia is we are still fighting our way through the end of a recession. The reality for people on fixed incomes, like pensions, is that non-discretionary costs like gas and electricity, health costs, and health insurance are continuing to rise and they are far outstripping inflation. The reality for people in semiretirement is that we have the highest rate of unemployment in the country and opportunities to take on more work are extremely thin. Older Australians in my community—and seniors around the country—are closely bound up in the lives of their extended families, and they see close at hand the pressures their kids face at a time of falling real wages and record household debt. They're often called upon as a childcare backup when early childhood education places aren't available or affordable or when casual employment and shift work springs a surprise on parents, who, because of their financial position and insecurity of tenure, aren't in a position to pick and choose.

So along came last night's budget, with people understandably hoping for some direction from government. But in the end, it is just more of the same. It's 'Let's play the old tune once more with feeling'. The government remains intent on $80 billion in tax cuts to big business, when company profits are strong—billions of dollars to go to the same banks and financial institutions which otherwise have relied on charging people unnecessary fees, sometimes after they're dead! The Turnbull government are going to push on with removing the clean energy supplement, they're going to persist with the Medicare freeze, they're going to proceed with a further cut of 1,280 jobs in the Department of Human Services, with a further shift towards outsourcing and privatisation of essential services. That is a recipe for more delays; it's a recipe for more mistakes and more robo-debt disasters. The government that were elected nearly five years ago on the promise of no cuts to the ABC are cutting a further $84 million from our public broadcaster. There is not one new dollar for investment in infrastructure in my state or anywhere else, as far as I can see.

This latest budget from the Abbott-Turnbull government continues their tradition of cuts to the things we share and largesse to the big end of town. There is no relief for those who need it most. It is a bitter disappointment. It is a dereliction of leadership and responsibility at a time when we need a government that will take on the big challenges and provide some solutions. (Time expired)