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Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Page: 4216

Dr ALY (Cowan) (12:42): This government likes to talk—a lot—about aspiration. I've listened rather intently every time somebody from the coalition government talks about aspiration and aspirational Australians, and the contexts within which those terms and those phrases are used.

I am the daughter of a migrant bus driver, who became a single parent on welfare, who became a casual worker on minimum wage, who became a professor with an international reputation, who stands in this chamber today. I think I know a little bit about aspiration, or at least the kind of aspiration that people like me contend with every day. Let's talk about aspiration. Let's talk about Roxanne. Roxanne suffered some horrific injuries as a result of a car accident, but she's a determined and gutsy woman and she's now, finally, realising her dream of studying psychology at the University of Western Australia. Roxanne called the Prime Minister's office after the budget speech, concerned about her ability to finish her studies. The response from the Prime Minister's office was to tell her to either leave university or get a job at Coles.

Let's talk about Callum, who aspires to finish his university degree while working in retail. Callum has had his penalty rates cut, which means that he'll have to put on hold his dreams of finishing his university degree while he increases his hours of work. Let's talk about Tim, who I met the other day. Tim is in his 60s and he aspires to retire in a few years time, but is now facing the prospect of having to work until he's 70. And let's talk about Jackie, who suffers from cystic fibrosis. She doesn't aspire to much. She aspires to live long enough to marry the love of her life, to have children and to grow old watching over her grandchildren. And let's talk about Lara. Lara aspires to also grow old, with dignity, within an aged-care system that looks after her best interests and after her health.

So when this government talks about aspiration and about aspirational Australians, what exactly are they talking about? They are talking about the aspiration to be able to pay an accountant a million dollars to reduce your tax bill to nothing; the aspiration of the big banks to pay less tax; the aspiration of multinationals to continue to pay no tax; the aspiration to give an $80 billion tax cut to multinationals and the banks. But I know of a different kind of aspiration that dwells in the hearts of Australians. It's the aspiration that I see in the faces of the children in Cowan, my electorate. An aspiration to become a teacher, a doctor, a police officer or nurse, a footy player or a dancer. It's the aspiration I see in the faces of new Australian citizens at citizenship ceremonies in Wanneroo, Joondalup and Swan. It's the aspiration to contribute to the social, political and economic life of their adopted land; the aspiration to be and to be accepted as Australians.

What does this government think of their aspirations? What does this government want for Roxanne, Callum, Tim, Jackie and Lara? First of all, they want to axe the energy supplement for pensioners. On top of that they want people to work until they're 70. The majority of people in my electorate of Cowan are employed in the trades and in professions like teaching. It might be okay for a banker to work until he or she is 70, but what about a roof tiler or a carpet layer who is on the waiting list for a knee replacement?

What does this government want for people like Lara, for older Australians? Yesterday I met with aged care workers, and they told me stories of the challenges that they are facing in our aged care system, where they have just two aged care workers to 35 residents in residential care. This government is offering 14,000 more home care packages over the next four years. That won't even put a dent in the waiting list of 100,000 people waiting for home aged care. There is no more funding for aged care at all—no more funding for those extra 14,000 places over the next four years. That is money siphoned off from residential care.

What does this government want for Jackie? When my son was nine years old we were faced with the prospect that he might have cystic fibrosis. He was showing some signs and some of the side effects that are carried with cystic fibrosis. In the two weeks that it took to wait for his tests to come through, I learnt everything I could about this terrible disease. I scoured medical journals and the internet and read through piles and piles of journal articles about cystic fibrosis. I thought I knew everything there was to know about this disease until last week, when I attended the Conquer Cystic Fibrosis ball in Perth. It was there that I met people like Jackie and Taryn: Jackie who was living with cystic fibrosis, and Taryn, whose two-year-old son has cystic fibrosis. I got to see the human side of this disease. I was honoured, because it was a very eye-opening experience. Taryn and Jackie have been lobbying for access to a life-saving drug called Orkambi. But they have got nothing from this government—no assurances from this government that the $250,000 it costs for them to access Orkambi, which will increase their life expectancy by 23 years and improve their quality of life, will be made available to them.

That evening I also met not just an aspirational Australian, but an inspirational Australian. I got to meet Adam D'Aloia, who has lived with cystic fibrosis all his life, and who recently got a lung transplant. But Adam continues to live with the side-effects of cystic fibrosis and continues to face the prospect of a life cut short by a terrible disease.

But what about students? What about those who, like me, aspired to social mobility through education? Indeed, there were opportunities afforded to me through education, doing first a postgraduate degree and then a master's degree, and then eventually, after some years, a PhD. One might say that I'm a bit addicted to education—just a little bit. But what about those students? What about those young people who aspire to improving their lives through access to education? Unfortunately, under this government's funding freeze, announced in December 2017, the University of Western Australia will lose $38 million in funding. Overall, universities across Western Australia will lose $208 million, and that's going to force students to pick up the bill. According to this government, TAFE is only for basket weavers and energy healers. Well, there was once a time when I worked at TAFE. In fact, I worked with aged-care trainers in helping to ensure the success of quite a number of newly arrived migrants in the Certificate III in Aged Care. I think we saw about 30 new aged-care carers graduate through a six-month program—and, I can tell you, they weren't studying basket weaving or energy healing. As for schools, as for all the thousands of kids in Cowan who aspire to be something and the millions of young people in Australia who aspire to more than just having rich parents, well, this government ripped $17 billion of funding that was allocated to fully fund schools and handed it right back to the banks.

On all accounts, this budget fails the fairness test. But it also fails another test. It fails the test on the merits of it providing any kind of assistance to aspirational Australians. It is uninspiring to millions of Australians who looked to this government for leadership and instead got a Prime Minister who is held to ransom by the right wing of his party on the issues that matter to the everyday lives of Australians—of hardworking Australians and aspirational Australians.

But it's not enough for me to just stand here and talk about what the government doesn't do. I think it is also my responsibility to talk about what Labor can do and what we're putting forward as an alternative to this government's budget. We can do better. We can do better than the government on delivering a better future for our children and for our children's children. Labor can deliver on these commitments because, unlike the government, we are not committed to giving $80 billion in tax handouts to big business and to the banks. A Labor Shorten government will achieve budget balance in the same year as this government has said it would. It will deliver bigger cumulative budget surpluses over forward estimates as well as substantially bigger surpluses over the 10-year medium term. And it will put the majority of savings raised from our revenue measures over the medium term towards budget repair and to paying down debt so that our grandchildren don't have to pay it. We will also be guided by clear fiscal principles, including repairing the budget in a fair way that doesn't ask the most vulnerable Australians to carry the heaviest burdens, more than offsetting new spending with savings and revenue improvements and banking changes in receipts and payments from changes in the economy to the bottom line if this impact is positive. That's because Labor has made the tough and big calls on tax reform, on negative gearing, on CGT, on trusts, on dividend imputations and refundability, in order to close loopholes to those who need them least. I often remark that I'm astounded that the percentage of my wage that went to tax when I was a single parent working in the casual labour force on a minimum wage could be actually less than the percentage of my wage that I pay in tax now as a high-income earner with the privilege of being able to negatively gear some properties and take advantage of all the loopholes that this tax system offers us.

Labor's plan is for a fair and more responsible budget. That's because we've made the big calls and because we've got them right. More importantly, it's because we understand aspiration. We know what it means to be aspirational. We know that it doesn't mean having rich parents—

An honourable member interjecting

Dr ALY: Thank you. I'll take the member's interjection that this is inspirational, because I hope it will be. We understand that aspiration towards social mobility doesn't mean wanting to pay less tax or find more loopholes in the tax system. It means the things that I hear from young people, middle-income earners, families and older Australians in my electorate every day—the ability to contribute and live a life that means more than just how much you earn and how much money you've got in your pocket, being able to live a life that is meaningful to you, your family and your community.