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Monday, 9 November 2015
Page: 7979


Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (16:21): I welcome the opportunity to condemn this government for, yet again, another broken promise. It was the finance minister who, before the last election, said there would be no cuts to education, there would be no cuts to health and there would be no increase in the GST. Quite rightly, the Australian people are seeing how arrogant and out of touch Malcolm Turnbull is, as they did for that short period of time when he was opposition leader. There is nothing that is going to hit the Australian community—and those low-income earners, those families in our communities—harder than an increase to the GST of 15 per cent.

This is going to hit families every time mum makes lunch for the kids going to school. Every time she puts a piece of fruit in the lunchbox—whether it is an apple or a banana—it will be there, as it will with the sandwiches. If she has to take the kids to the doctor there will be GST on the doctor's visit. Education, including school uniforms, will be hit by an increase in the GST. That is an outrageous attack on Australian families. On top of the budget the government brought down in 2014 and on top of the budget they brought down this year, this is a total disgrace.

My home state of Tasmania unfortunately has a very high unemployment rate, and there are people in the workforce who are on very low incomes. They are going to be disproportionately affected by this increase in the GST. That is unfair, when people are already struggling to pay their bills, whether on a weekly or fortnightly basis. But those on the other side of the chamber are so out of touch, so arrogant. We have a new Prime Minister who, as my colleague said, is singing from the same old song sheet. Nothing has changed, except his arrogance. He has an idea in his head and he is going to push forward with that without knowing its implications.

As has already been mentioned, you can move taxes around a little bit, but this government will not increase the GST by five per cent to 15 per cent without putting more and more pressure on state governments. This government is screwing them to ensure that they will have to agree to the increase to the GST, otherwise they will not be able to meet their obligations to health and education. This is an unAustralian attack on Australian families being led by the so-called innovative Prime Minister. There is nothing innovative at all about increasing the GST. It demonstrates to me that there is no vision and no capacity to lead good government policy.

Malcolm Turnbull's idea of fairness will become a nightmare for every Australian, who will have to pay more for everything. It is not a choice. These are everyday basics, not luxury items. This affects the everyday cost of living. Already pensioners in Tasmania are having to go to bed at night with their electric blankets on because they cannot afford the power bills. This is only going to increase. Quite frankly, I know this government is out of touch, but it should listen to the people out in our communities. There is increasing demand on those who provide good support in our community, like the Salvation Army and other not-for-profits. People who have never before had to go and seek assistance are knocking on their doors—not because they waste their money, not because they gamble it away, but because they are doing it tough. This government's only response to that crisis is to increase the GST.

I have to admit that there are a few in the coalition who are as appalled as we are on this side about what their government is doing. They should talk to their colleagues, they should talk to the Prime Minister, they should talk to the hopeless Treasurer they have now and they should talk to the finance minister and explain to them the things they are hearing when they move around their electorates. I cannot believe for one moment that, as government members and senators, they are not getting the same sort of feedback, the same concerns raised with them, as we are on this side. If they are not, it is quite clear they are not out talking to real people in the community—people that are doing it tough, people that are concerned already about the cost of going to see a GP.

We have a health minister who says she does not want to talk about the cost of the GST on fresh food because she does not want to muddy the waters. What an outrageous statement from a health minister—not to be concerned about a new cost on fresh vegetables and fruit. We have issues in this country around obesity. When we were in government we did something to help people stop smoking. But what does this health minister do? She turns tail and runs. It is quite outrageous that a health minister cannot stand up for the Australian people, because the impost of the GST on fresh food is going to mean that families who are already struggling will struggle even more. We should be doing everything we can to get more families to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. This is an outrageous attack. (Time expired)