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Wednesday, 26 October 2022
Page: 1605

Senator BARBARA POCOCK (South Australia) (15:30): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Gallagher) to a question without notice I asked today relating to 2022-23 budget.

Budgets matter. They are a government's road map. With every budget dollar it allocates, a government signposts what it stands for and who it stands with. Budgets are about choices, and choice is about what you value. Choice is about whether you want to make Australia fairer or want to look after the top end of town and leave others behind.

In this budget, Labor have made a clear choice. Their choice to retain stage 3 tax cuts will widen income, gender and intergenerational inequality, as will other choices they have made. They retained negative gearing and capital gains tax benefits in relation to housing and they've refused to tax the windfall profits of the gas industry, unlike so many other countries that have chosen to share those windfall gains with citizens. Indeed, the government's tax take from our existing oil and gas tax—the PRRT—will actually fall by $450 million in this budget. What a failure of tax policy in the gas boom! These decisions benefit corporations and the wealthy. They flow much more to men than to women. They deliver much more for older Australians than for younger. They widen inequality. In giving away so much money to those who need it least, they narrow the opportunities to assist those who need it most.

Appallingly, there was no help in this budget for those most in need in our society—those living on JobSeeker and youth allowance. That's a million Australians amongst the 3.3 million who live in poverty. It's one in eight of us. Appallingly, it's one in six of our kids. The ratio of our kids who live in poverty is a statistic that should appear in any measure of wellbeing.

Labor chose in this budget not to increase JobSeeker. Two weeks ago, with Senator Janet Rice, I met with a group of people living on JobSeeker who were brought together by South Australia's Anti-Poverty Network. They were living lives of anxious juggling of last dollars and complex bus route navigation to get to Foodbank. They talked about the long queues at free food outlets in Adelaide. They talked about rent. They often cannot afford food or medicine. They bear the scars of poverty on their faces and on their bodies. They cannot afford the health care they need, their kids don't make it to school excursions and their teeth hurt every day. They're living on $48 a day, well below the poverty line, in this very wealthy country. It's shameful.

Last night's budget was a chance to help these and all Australians who are facing the very real cost-of-living pressures documented in the budget by redirecting the stage 3 tax cuts. These cuts—a quarter of a trillion dollars—flow to very wealthy Australians, mostly men and older people, instead of helping those who are most in need. Stage 3 tax cuts, a windfall tax on gas, cutting back on housing or super tax breaks—there are a lot of unfair taxes to choose from and that could have been used to help Australians. Australia does not have a tax revenue problem. It has a priorities problem, it has a courage problem, it has a leadership problem and it has a problem of failing to stand up to sectional interests whether they be coal, oil and gas or other vested interests.

The cost-of-living crisis is real. Rent, power and food—all are rising against the background of flatlining wages, falling growth and rising unemployment. Why has the Labor government stuck with a $9,000 annual tax cut for the very wealthy, striking a real blow against Australia's progressive income tax system, while leaving low-income families struggling to pay for food and power? There is no economic theory or evidence to support the idea that giving a tax break to older, wealthy Australians—men, mostly—will increase their work participation, productivity or GDP. There is none of that. There is, however, a powerful bucketload of evidence that says that helping women get to and stay in work, and helping working carers, has a massive effect on work participation, productivity and GDP, and gender inequality.

We can make a difference for our kids and for women. In this budget we could have done many things and made a real difference for those at the bottom end of our society, helping them to face cost-of-living pressures and narrowing inequality. Instead, Labor have backed in a tax measure that mostly benefits wealthy men while offering women no superannuation on their paid parental leave, no matching of their normal pay rate on their paid leave and making them wait four years just to get 26 weeks of paid parental leave, which is half the international standard. We can do so much better.

Question agreed to.