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Tuesday, 22 May 2018
Page: 4268

Ms COLLINS (Franklin) (19:07): This budget is so full of smoke and mirrors and hoaxes that I don't even know where to begin. There are so many hoaxes in this budget—whether it be infrastructure, whether it be health, whether it be education—but I think I'll start in my shadow portfolio of aged care.

We just heard the member for Barker speak, and we've heard so many on the other side in this place talk about how they've done something wonderful for older Australians in this budget. We know that is not true; they have not. There is not one cent more in this budget over the forward estimates than there was previously. Not one cent. They've come into this place, and they've gone out publicly, suggesting that somehow there's an extra 14,000 homecare packages. And it gets worse, because I've since found out they're spending $8 million of taxpayer money on an advertising campaign that will go out there and say there are 20,000 additional homecare packages available when they know—and they're on the record with this—that they have already put in 6,000 packages as at December last year. It's nothing to do with this budget, but they're going to spend $8 million of taxpayer funds on an advertising campaign that is not true, that says there's an additional 20,000 homecare packages when there is not.

There are 14,000 additional homecare packages over four years only. That will not even keep up with demand. There are still 105,000 older Australians sitting on a waiting list for home care packages as at December last year, according to the government's latest figures. That's the government's own figures. The average wait time for a level 3 or 4 package, according to the government, is more than 12 months. More than 12 months! So the government's response is to take some money out of other aged-care services—residential aged care and other services—to fund some more home care packages. And they are funding 14,000 over four years, so an average of 3½ thousand per year.

We know that the wait list for home care packages grew by 20,000 people in the last six months of last year. We do not know how many more people have been added to that list this year. The government's data will not be released until June for the March quarter, but I suspect that it has grown yet again, which means, of course, that what the government has done in the budget will not even keep up with demand. We know that there is no new money for aged care and that, in fact, they've taken $8 million out of services to pay for an advertising campaign that is not telling the truth. How is that fair on older Australians?

What they're actually going to do is create more demand with fewer services and not be able to fix the problem. They are going to encourage older Australians to apply for services they know they can't deliver. It's outrageous! It's unfair on older Australians, it's unfair on their families and it's a cruel hoax that this government keeps perpetuating. I've called it out in this parliament; I've asked the minister questions in this place and we still keep hearing this ridiculous notion that, somehow, people are going to be waiting less time for their home care packages. And we know it's not true. The minister knows it's not true, the government knows it's not true and it should stop trying to tell older Australians something that is not true.

Older Australians are vulnerable enough without the government trying to pretend that it has done something that it hasn't. They are taking money from residential aged care after this government has had three aged-care ministers and ripped billions of dollars out of aged care previously without any consultation with the sector and without any modelling done on how this is going to affect the industry. Quite frankly, it is not okay. And that's just in aged care.

We then, of course, still have the zombie measures that affect older Australians in this budget. We have the removal of the energy supplement for new people applying for the aged pension and Newstart. This government wants to take the energy supplement from older Australians who are applying for the pension. It wants to remove it. That measure is still in the budget. And the government, of course, still wants to have older Australians wait until they're 70 to receive the aged pension. That measure is also still in the budget. So how is this good for older Australians?

It's certainly not good for my state, which, of course, is the state with the oldest average age in Australia and is also the fastest-ageing state in Australia. But it's also not good for the low-income earners of Tasmania, or of Australia. This government is saying that they've got this great tax plan for individuals and that they're going to provide a tax cut. What they don't say, of course, is that they're also giving big business $80 billion in tax cuts and that they're giving individuals very little at all.

People will have heard that Labor has said that we will actually provide more of a tax cut for those low-income earners who have been doing it tough. And they've been doing it tough because wages growth is at the lowest it's been in a generation—the lowest it's been in a very long time in this country, because of this government. This government comes in here and crows about the number of jobs it's created. The truth is that the number of jobs that have been created by this government over the period is normal growth of jobs. It's nothing really spectacular. It is a target that any government could have set and that any government would have met. They haven't done anything spectacular with that either. It is, again, another hoax.

Infrastructure: this is another great hoax, where the government is trying to pretend that it's doing something great on infrastructure. Actually, what's happening over the forwards is that there is less investment. We've seen this government underspend on infrastructure when compared to its own estimates over the last three years.

In my home state of Tasmania it is really quite dire. We've had no new rail, no new bridges and no new roads in five years under this government. And here we are, on the eve of an election, and the government is trying to pretend suddenly it's got $461 million—or whatever it is—for the Bridgewater Bridge. Tasmanians are not going to believe this, because, before the last election, they came and they said, 'We're going to fix the Hobart Airport roundabout and fund $24 million for that, with $6 million from the state.' We heard today in Senate estimates that that roundabout is not going to be completed until 2022 at the earliest, which shows you how incompetent this government is when it comes to delivering infrastructure.

We asked about the Bridgewater Bridge and found out that the Tasmanian state Liberal government only put in a draft business case in January this year. We have no money over the forward estimates for this bridge. The government has no idea when it is going to be built. Quite frankly, Tasmanians have had enough. They've had enough of a government that overpromises and underdelivers and pretends that it's actually doing something for our state, when clearly it is not doing anything for Tasmania. It's almost as if this government has punished Tasmanians for not voting for them at the last election.

What we saw at the last election was, of course, Tasmanians remove the Liberals from the lower house. They were removed because the three people who were representing Tasmania could not deliver for our state, because this Liberal government ignored our state, and it continues to do so. The Treasurer has not been to the state of Tasmania in two years. One might ask why that is. Why do you think the Treasurer hasn't come to our state? I suspect it's got something to do with the Productivity Commission inquiry into the GST. He delayed it for the Tasmanian and South Australian state elections from January until just last week when he got it. Now that he's got it, he's delaying the release of it publicly. Tasmanians are wondering why. They're wondering why the Treasurer never comes and they're wondering why the Treasurer won't talk to them about the GST distribution and the Productivity Commission report that he commissioned.

I think Tasmanians are pretty concerned about it because, of course, Tasmania does rely heavily on the GST distribution; we do—there's no doubt about it. Tasmanians and the services that Tasmanians rely on are more expensive to deliver. Our state has less ability to raise revenue compared to some of the larger states. So we rely on that revenue to deliver essential services: to deliver police, to deliver education, to deliver health services. Without that GST money it's going to be very difficult for any state government to deliver the services that Tasmanians need, that Tasmanians deserve and that Tasmanians, like the rest of Australians, require to be treated equally as Australians.

We want nothing more than to be treated like everybody else in Australia. That is the whole point of being part of a federation. Being part of a federation means that all Australians have equal access to services no matter where they live. We already know Australians in regional and rural areas get less access to essential services, but this is going to be made worse if Tasmania cannot have access to the GST funds that it relies so heavily on. The Treasurer should come down to Tasmania, make the GST report by the Productivity Commission public, and explain to Tasmanians, prior to the Braddon by-election, exactly what the plan is for GST for Tasmania.

The people of Braddon have a right to know what is going to happen to our state with the GST distribution, because the biggest risk to Tasmania and the services Tasmanians need is the GST report and what the federal government decides to do on it. We've heard from the state Liberal government that it's all okay: 'The federal government won't do anything. They need all the states to agree.' That is not true. The federal government can make a decision about the GST distribution. Yes, it has to consult the states but it doesn't need their okay and it doesn't need their consent. All it needs to do is consult. It does not need their consent to change the GST distribution and Tasmanians are extraordinarily worried about it. And so they should be, because the Treasurer has hinted there needs to be a transition plan. A transition plan indicates you have a plan to change something. Tasmanians are really worried about where this is headed. There are no assurances in this budget. There are no assurances coming from the government.

We had the Minister for Finance, Mathias Cormann, and the Prime Minister down in Tasmania last week. It's the first time we've seen a senior government minister in a very long time. As I said, they don't like to come to our state too often. They said, essentially, 'Well, you know, whatever is in the budget papers.' There is not actually very much in the budget papers when it comes to the GST for Tasmania. What they're insinuating is, 'We might just give you what you would have received, what's estimated in the budget papers for the next couple of years, and then we might do something.' That's all that essentially says. There's no guarantee they won't change the formula. There's no guarantee that they remain committed to HFE, horizontal fiscal equalisation, which is the thing treats all Australians the same as part of its distribution method. There are no guarantees that this government is not going to do something to the GST—absolutely none. Tasmanians are really concerned.

Tasmanians are also concerned about the federal government's cuts to health and education, to TAFE and to universities. Tasmania needs to invest heavily in education if we are to overcome disadvantage. People will know in this place that Tasmania has a serious issue with children reaching the end of year 12 or equivalent. People would know that our retention rates are not where they should be compared to the rest of the country. People in this place know that Tasmanians and a large number of Tasmanians sadly are still illiterate. People would know that education is a very serious issue in Tasmania, and the only way to address it is to provide options for people close to where they live and to invest in education, to invest in the TAFE system and to invest in university education. For this government to cut all three of those is just outrageous. I cannot believe that the government of the day, when Tasmania is in such a difficult place and when we're striving to actually do better, would do something like this. Tasmanians are flabbergasted that this government wants to cut school funding, TAFE funding and university funding in our state. It will have devastating consequences for generations to come.

We then have the health issues that I alluded to. There are cuts to the hospitals in Tasmania. These are hospitals that are already overloaded. We already have some of the longest waiting lists for elective surgery in the country. We already have ambulance ramping. That is where there are not enough beds in a hospital and the ambulance crews have to stay with the patients until they're able to be taken in. We have had really serious issues in southern Tasmania, particularly at the Royal Hobart Hospital, where ambulance ramping has got so bad that there is a risk that ambulances will not be available for people who are having a critical incident. That is how bad it has got in southern Tasmania.

We then have a really serious issue with homelessness at the moment where we have a large number of Tasmanians who have nowhere to live. They are facing the intense winter out in the cold. We have a state government and a federal government that seems unable and unwilling to fix this issue. Tasmanians have had enough. There is nothing in this budget for older Australians, there is nothing in it for older Tasmanians and there is nothing in it for Tasmanians at all.

Debate adjourned.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19 : 24