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Wednesday, 7 September 2022
Page: 66


Senator WALSH (Victoria) (16:08): I rise to speak on the urgency motion before the Senate today regarding the stage 3 tax cuts. During the election campaign we made a commitment that we would provide certainty and clarity around tax to Australian working families, and our position on the legislated stage 3 income tax cuts has not changed since the election, because, after an incredibly difficult few years for our country and the world, certainty is what Australians deserve. The legislated stage 3 tax cuts are not due to commence for another two years, so they won't do anything to address the near-term economic challenges that we face, including with the growing inflation challenge that we have right now. Instead, our government's priority, when it comes to tax reform, is ensuring that multinationals pay their fair share of tax here in Australia. Our priority is cracking down on the waste and the rorts that have contributed to the $1 trillion of debt left to us by those opposite with absolutely nothing to show for it. We, the Albanese government, need to repair the budget mess left by those on the other side so that we can get on with delivering the meaningful investments that maximise economic impact and meet community needs.

Australians are paying the price right now for a decade of missed opportunities and absolutely messed-up priorities under the coalition government. The $1 trillion debt, high and rising inflation, rising interest rates and a cost-of-living crisis—these are the consequences of a decade of complete economic mismanagement by those opposite. Australians understand that we didn't create these challenges, but they elected us to take responsibility for fixing them—for addressing them. And we are.

Our economic plan is a direct and deliberate response to the challenges facing the economy, including the rising cost of living that is hurting so many Australians today. We are getting on with the job, and we are delivering on our commitments. We are delivering on a better future for all Australians. We committed to rebuilding our economy with stronger wages and more secure work, and we are doing that. One of the very first acts of our government was to successfully argue for a minimum wage increase for our lowest-paid workers. That was an outcome which helped around 2.8 million Australians. And we followed that with a submission to the Fair Work Commission that unequivocally supports a wage increase for aged-care workers, for the tens of thousands of aged-care workers who do essential work every day but are completely undervalued with absolutely no action from those on the opposition benches.

We brought employers, unions and the community sector together at the Jobs and Skills Summit to discuss how we can get wages moving, how we can lift living standards and how we can improve productivity, which was nothing short of sluggish under the previous government. In so doing, we've ended up with a positive plan, bringing unions and employers together with the government. In so doing, we've ended the decade of division and delay from those opposite. We are delivering concrete outcomes from our Jobs and Skills Summit. We're delivering consensus on the need to improve the bargaining system and get wages moving again, as well as allowing age pensioners to work and earn more before it affects their pensions.

We committed to investing in Australian skills, in Australian jobs, in Australian manufacturing, and, as the new government, we are doing it. We've secured a $1 billion national skills agreement with the states and the territories. We're delivering 180,000 fee-free TAFE places in 2023, with 15,000 set aside for aged care to meet the workforce challenges that we've been left with by a decade of inaction from the previous government. We're working hard to deliver on our commitment to invest in advanced manufacturing.

We committed to backing clean energy and ending the climate wars, and we are doing it. We have reset Australia's commitment to climate on the world stage, sending a huge signal, an important signal, to the rest of the world that Australia is at the table and that Australia will do our part in the race towards net zero. We're working, just this week, right here, right now, to legislate our target of a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030. Part of that is ensuring that our government is accountable to these targets and providing the certainty—which the Australian people want—that we will actually deliver against those targets.

As part of our response to the climate crisis, we're making electric vehicles cheaper with our Treasury Laws Amendment (Electric Car Discount) Bill 2022, which we hope the opposition will support, and our National Electric Vehicle Strategy. We are securing Australia's future by delivering our Powering Australia plan. We are making the largest ever upgrade to our energy grid and driving down power prices for households and small businesses after a decade of complete inaction by those on the other side.

We also committed to easing cost-of-living pressures for Australian families. We are doing that too. We are getting on with the commitments that we made, and we are delivering them. Our budget in October will include our plans for cheaper child care, which will make a huge difference to the household budgets of millions of Australians. Next year, 96 per cent of Australian families will benefit from cheaper early learning. They will benefit from quality, affordable early childhood education under the plans that our government took to the election, which we are ready to implement right now.

We are also removing the penalty for parents taking on extra hours or extra days of work. That was a huge priority that came out of the Jobs and Skills Summit. We know that one of the biggest things we can do as a nation to improve workforce participation is encourage more carers of small children into the workforce—that's usually women—so providing quality, affordable and accessible early education is critical to our nation's economic future.

Today we've introduced legislation to reduce the cost of essential medicines. This is the first time any government has reduced the PBS co-payment. That is going to mean that essential medicines people are accessing on the PBS will cost around $30 less per month, a saving of around $300 a year for the average person who is relying on those PBS medicines. We're helping to ensure that fewer people have to miss filling a script because they can't afford it. The stories of people having to do that are extraordinary. We don't want people to have to choose between taking painkilling medication or taking another medication they need to address their underlying condition. That should not be happening in Australia, and we are getting on with fixing that problem.

There is no denying that the last few years have been difficult. We know that Australians are doing it incredibly tough. We don't need economic forecasts to tell us that, because we are listening to Australians every day. What Australians want is certainty from their government on the way forward. They want a government that does what it said it would do. That is the Albanese government. They want a government that will stick to its word and deliver on its commitments. It's exactly what we're doing.

The legacy of those opposite is a decade of mistakes and missed opportunities, a decade of waste and rorts, a decade of division and delay. They had no plans past the last election. They had no vision for anyone's future but their own. In May, Australians sent a strong and clear message. They wanted change. They wanted a government they could trust, a government who would bring the country together, not divide it, and a government with a plan to address the challenges that families and businesses are facing right now. That's exactly what we are delivering.

The Albanese Labor government were elected with a clear and ambitious plan to build a stronger, more equal Australia. That's what we're doing. We're keeping our promises and working hard to deliver the better future Australians deserve.