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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 3731


Senator BILYK (Tasmania) (13:10): I rise to speak on the appropriations bills. Commonly known as the budget, the appropriations bills should fund the government's vision of how Australia should be into the future. Unfortunately, the vision the government has outlined in its budget is myopic. It makes the tax system less progressive, provides greater returns to those who are already better off and gives huge corporate tax cuts to the big end of town. The government pretends they're promising Australians the same service into the future, but how can that be when they're trying to deliver them with less funding and a smaller revenue base?

The budget is a total con job. Its numbers are flimsy, its promises are overcooked and it's based on an ideology that wants to provide the least assistance to Australians in need. It's a selfish budget and it's an unfair budget. More importantly, it fails to address the problems of our society that we need to solve. Housing, health care and education are all neglected in the budget. As a result, the millions of Australians who are having difficulty affording housing and health care or who are trying to get a decent education will continue to suffer. Included in the budget are larger tax cuts for those on higher incomes—billions of dollars of tax cuts to the disgraced banking sector and to multinationals, who we know will send the funds offshore. Everyday Australians will be harmed by the budget.

The Liberal Party has spent its time in power doing everything it can to drive down wages and cut penalty rates. Wages in Australia have stagnated. Insecure work is on the rise and full-time work is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Yet Mr Turnbull and his government think they can buy the vast majority of Australian taxpayers back with a pitiful $10 a week. Billions have been ripped out of the budget that pays for schools, hospitals and health care. These tax cuts are based on projections of unrealistic figures and were secured through dodgy side deals. As Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten said in his budget-in-reply speech:

They think for $10, you’ll forget they tried to put up your taxes last year.

For $10, you won’t care about cuts to your child’s school.

For $10, you’ll forgive waiting for elective surgery at Australia’s hospitals

That for $10, you won’t mind your internet’s no good and your local TAFE is closing or your daughter can’t find a place at uni.

They think if you get $10 a week, you won’t notice you’re losing $70 in penalty rates from your Sunday pay.

And this Prime Minister is so out of touch, he thinks if you get ten dollars a week - you’ll be fine with the banks getting a $17 billion giveaway.

How on earth can it be fair for a nurse on $40,000 to pay the same rate as a doctor on $200,000, or for a cleaner to pay the same tax rate as a CEO? How can it be fair that under this tax experiment the doctor earns five times as much as the nurse but gets a tax cut that is 16 times bigger? This is not a progressive tax system but a first step towards flat-rate taxation. Research has revealed that under this plan $6 in every $10 will go to the wealthiest 20 per cent of Australians. How's that fair, and how's that fiscally responsible?

I can assure the government that the Australian people won't be fooled. And for those senators in this place who are unable to see through this trick and were unable to stick to their principles: when your constituents come to complain about the healthcare, education or aged-care system, please remember to tell them that you ripped tens of billions of dollars out of the budget to give yourselves a $7,000-a-year tax cut. Please tell them you thought it was better that those on the highest incomes get thousands of dollars in tax cuts while those on the lowest get $10 a week. Truly, you should be ashamed. For those Australians on lower incomes, Mr Turnbull has a perfect solution. Mr Turnbull said that if you're a 60-year-old aged-care worker in Burnie in the electorate of Braddon you should 'get a better job'. It's clear that Mr Turnbull and his handpicked candidate for Braddon, Mr Whiteley, do not consider the work of aged-care workers important. I know that Labor's Justine Keay does. I know that she cares about aged-care workers, that she cares about their pay and conditions and that she cares about the vital services they provide to give senior Australians a higher quality of life.

The government expressed surprise at the reaction following these thoughtless comments, but what the Prime Minister should have realised is that perhaps this aged-care worker doesn't actually want to change her job. Perhaps she just wants to get better pay as a carer. Why should she have to stop caring for people and have to do a different job in order to get the sort of money that the Prime Minister thinks everyone aspires to? Perhaps—just perhaps—she aspires to better penalty rates, better staff-to-patient ratios in these facilities or better funding for aged care. It's clear that Mr Turnbull doesn't believe aged-care work is a good job. And if Mr Turnbull thinks his past as a corporate banker—ripping companies apart and profiteering from them—is a better job, maybe he should check his prejudices and reflect on how much good the collapse of HIH caused. I'm pretty certain the community up in Braddon don't care much for harbour-side millionaires raking in tens of millions per annum for stripping companies and sacking workers, but they are extremely thankful for the aged-care worker helping to feed, clothe and care for their elderly relatives in aged-care facilities. It is an example of how out of touch our millionaire PM is that he thinks most people can just walk into another job.

Let me give those in the government a quick lesson: most Australians are concerned by the idea of losing their jobs. It causes them anxiety because they know just how few jobs there are in their town or in their community and they worry about how they will pay their bills. And when Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison's recklessness tanks the economy, it's these people who will suffer. The Prime Minister telling people to 'get a better job' is not helpful and just goes to show how out of touch he and his government truly are.

Here is another example of just how out of touch the Prime Minister is. At the height of the royal commission into the banks—a royal commission that has seen reckless negligence, incompetence and downright fraudulent acts by the banking sector—this Prime Minister wants to reward them with a $17 billion tax cut. The Australian people are screaming out that we should punish the banks, and Mr Turnbull's doing everything he can to reward them—once a banker always a banker. Some members of the crossbench are lining up to support the corporate tax cuts as well. Nothing says 'helping battlers' more than giving multinational companies billions of dollars more to send offshore every year! But while those opposite have trumpeted their unfair tax cuts, they have neglected to tell you a few important things about this budget.

On the back of the best global economic conditions in more than a decade, net debt for this coming year is double what it was when the Liberals came to office. Gross debt, which crashed through half a trillion dollars on their watch for the first time in history, will remain well above half a trillion dollars every year for the next decade. Both types of debt are growing faster under this government than under the previous Labor government, which had a global financial crisis to contend with. And this year's deficit is 6½ times bigger than the Liberals predicted in their first horror budget of 2014. A $715 million cut to hospitals still remains in the budget, as does the $17 billion in cuts to schools. This budget still cuts money from our universities, and it contains a very sneaky new $270 million cut to TAFE. The Prime Minister will still cut $14 from pensioners every fortnight by taking away the energy supplement, cut dental care for veterans and cut the ABC yet again. Our well respected national broadcaster is being gutted by this government just because it won't give credence to climate sceptic quacks and anti-vaxxers—if only we could do the same in this chamber!

Mr Turnbull is keeping Medicare frozen for specialist visits. He's even keeping the GST on tampons and is still increasing the retirement age to 70. So it's clear to see what this budget is about: it's about large tax cuts for those on high incomes, tax cuts for banks and cuts to schools and hospitals. It will destroy the progressive taxation system and set the Australian government up in future years to be unable to afford the required spending in health, education and aged care.

However, there is an alternative. The Australian people have an alternative. They have an alternative government that will act in the national interest, not just in the interests of the top end of town. They have an alternative government that will put fairness at the centre of its agenda.

A Labor government will go further and do better on tax cuts for working and middle-class Australians. In Labor's first budget, we will deliver a bigger, better and fairer tax cut for 10 million working Australians. That's almost double, in fact, what the government offered in the budget. This is our pledge to 10 million working Australians: under Labor you will pay less income tax, because Labor think you are more important than multinationals, big banks and big business. In Labor's first term of government, a teacher earning $65,000 will be $2,780 better off. That's an extra $928 a year. A married couple, with one serving in our Defence Force and earning $90,000 and the other working in aged care and earning $50,000, will be $5,565 better off. That's a combined $1,855 extra each year under Labor. We can afford to do more to help 10 million Australians because we're not giving $80 billion to big business and the big four banks. We can do more to help those who need it because we're not favouring the highest income earners and because we've already made the hard choices for budget repair.

Labor is creating a level playing field for first home buyers by reforming negative gearing and capital gains. We're cracking down on tax minimisation by eliminating income splitting in discretionary trusts without affecting our farmers. And we're ending unsustainable tax refunds, for people who currently pay no income tax, while protecting pensioners and charities. Labor's plan means we can deliver a winning trifecta in government, a genuine tax cut for middle- and working-class Australians. There will be proper funding for hospitals, schools and the safety net and we will pay back more of Australia's national debt faster.

Next year, total interest payments on national debt will pass $18 billion. That's $18 billion more than the Commonwealth spends on the NDIS, aged care or child care. It is about twice as much as Australia spends on public schools. The government have locked in $140 billion in tax cuts on a further $80 billion in corporate cuts and they have said not one word about reducing debt. Before the 2013 election the Liberals were screaming, positively frothing at the mouth, about debt and deficit. What do we hear about it now? Not one word. The Liberals' only strategy is to cross their fingers and hope. It's time for this parliament to be responsible. Labor will be the responsible government that the Liberal Party is unable to be. Labor's economic reforms put us in a much stronger position to cope with international uncertainty over the coming decades. We've seen that there are global downturns and that we need to have the capacity to stimulate the economy. We can pay down national debt faster than the government, which has just put its hands in the air and given up.

The whole point of government is to provide people with the services they need to build themselves a good life. The budget isn't just numbers on a page; it's a blueprint for a better society. We all know that education is one of the most important means of building a better life. I believe that every Australian child should get the life-changing opportunity of a properly funded, quality education. They need to be taught not only reading and writing but also maths, coding, science and languages. They need individual attention in the classroom and protection from bullying, be it online or in the schoolyard. I want children to discover and fall in love with what they're good at. I want every public school to be able to offer music, drama, sport and camps and to have fully resourced libraries. As a passionate advocate for reading, I want children to fall in love with reading. For that, they need a properly resourced library.

The government can announce as many education reviews as it wants. Everyone knows that cutting school funding does not deliver better results. That's why Labor will put back every dollar the Liberals have cut from schools. The government's cuts have hit public schools and their 2.5 million students the hardest. It's public schools that will benefit the most when we invest and restore the extra $17 billion over the next 10 years. The public system teaches 82 per cent of Australia's poorest kids, 84 per cent of Indigenous kids and 74 per cent of kids with disabilities. When it comes to schools, we want the very best for Australian children.

At the next election, the choice will be simple. Labor will put $17 billion extra into schools, and the Prime Minister will give $17 billion to the banks. Labor's approach to the budget is fairer for middle Australia and the most vulnerable in the community, and it will be more responsible when it comes to budget repair. Our plan will deliver lower taxes for 10 million working Australians. Labor's plan will see those who earn up to $125,000 a year paying less tax than they would under the Liberals, and more than four million people will get a tax cut of $928 a year. It's clear that the only way to protect schools, hospitals and pensioners is to change the government at the next election. The Liberals say they want to deliver tax relief for low- and middle-income Australians, but their income tax plan is holding those people hostage to tax cuts at the higher end of the income scale and way down the track.

Labor will achieve budget balance in the same year as the government and deliver bigger, cumulative budget surpluses over the forward estimates, as well as substantially bigger surpluses over the next 10 years. Unlike this reckless government, we will put the majority of savings raised from our revenue measures over the medium-term towards budget repair and paying down debt. Remarkably, this budget is pretending that wages will increase by over 13 per cent in the next four years. Given the current wages system is obviously not delivering for workers and that the government is working actively to see lower wages, it's absolutely wishful thinking to think that this goal will be met. Labor have a wages policy which will help meet this budget assumption, restore Sunday penalty rates, crack down on wage theft and address the abuse of labour hire, where companies shift permanent jobs to labour hire jobs just to cut pay. We'll get enterprise bargaining off life support and employees and employers back to the negotiation table for more productive workplaces, more profitable enterprises and higher wages, and we'll lead a new push to deliver genuine pay equity for Australian women, because workers, not just millionaires, should be rewarded for their hard work.

While Labor will pass the appropriations bills, we will do so knowing that our plan is fairer and more responsible because we've made the big calls and we've got them right. Australians deserve better than what they've received from this government. They deserve a government that tries to build our society, not rip it apart, and that looks to improve our health and education systems, not starve them.