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Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Page: 7008


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (15:29): I am pleased to participate in the debate this afternoon about the vague answers that we were given to some pretty important questions in question time today. Here we are, on day 2 of the bright, new Turnbull era of the Abbott-Turnbull government, and already we can see just how different this government is not going to be. This is not a government that is in any shape or form significantly different from the one that Australians have been ashamed of and disgraced by so frequently since Mr Abbott came to office. We still have ministers avoiding answering any of the questions, and we still have the same policies intact—the cutting of $57 billion from health remains and the cutting of $30 billion from schools remains. Yesterday in question time we saw the new Prime Minister confirm that he supports all of the policies. All of their measures that will bring a change of style to the role will not do anything in terms of changing the direction. That was evident in Senator Cormann's answers to my questions today.

When I asked my first question about the deal that was stitched up between Mr Turnbull and Mr Truss to secure the Prime Minister's job, there was a question about the families package that is supposed to be coming as part of the deal to improve the lot of people in the bush. Well, nice try! But the answer we heard was that it would be 'cost neutral'. And the National Party are trying to dress themselves up in a new suit as well. With this new agreement that they have made with the Turnbull government they acting like they are great heroes. But we have seen week after week, month after month and, sadly, year after year this Liberal government absolutely trash its partners in coalition—the National Party—and rip off the people of the bush. And they are being sold another dud on this families package. 'Cost neutral', says Senator Cormann. That means no more money for those families. So they should listen very carefully to the web of lies that is already being spun by those in this place who seek to pretend that they represent the people of the bush.

Going to the question about Minister Joyce's dams, again, the National Party has made some claims that they have this great deal. We had some of them saying, 'Let's not go into a deal'. Others have rushed headlong into it. We are getting claims that Minister Joyce has secured this great deal about dams. But, again, what did Senator Cormann reveal? He said, 'Oh, no, we'd already done that deal. That's already accounted for.' Again, this shows the gap between what the Nationals are trying to tell their constituency, who have been loyal to them for many years in the bush, and the reality that is emerging. When the finance minister has to cough up the money, it simply is not there.

Let us go to the last question that I asked of Senator Cormann. It was a question about Senator Canavan's claims on radio in Brisbane yesterday that there will be between $2 billion and $4 billion—additional dollars—that they have for the bush. What did the minister have to say about that? In his comments, he confirmed what he has already put on the record with the media, and that is that that is not correct. The first two items, as was clearly indicated in Senator Cormann's response, were cost neutral—already in the budget. This claim of $2 billion to $4 billion is a furphy. It is not the truth. And that is what we get: you cannot get the Liberals telling the truth and you cannot get the Nationals telling the truth. That is what we have got: a completely untruthful government. Whether it is left or right, whether it is city or country, they cannot tell the truth about what they are doing.

They certainly do not respect the people of the bush. The people of the bush, who have aspirations for their children, know not just in their heart and soul and not just in their sense of integrity and fairness but in their hip pockets that they cannot possibly envision a future for their children with $100,000 degrees on the horizon. That is what this government will try to continue to push through. They know that they cannot afford a GP tax. Whether it is the one that they advertised that they wanted to bring in to put a price signal between sick people and their doctor or the shameful one that they snuck in by regulation on the first day of July in this new financial year where they froze the indexation, the people in the bush will pay. It is hard enough for them to get petrol in their car and drive the distances that they need to get to a doctor, but this Liberal-National coalition will put a barrier between people in the bush and health.

They are continuing on their merry way. Turnbull is nothing new. It is all the same—the same old, same old. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.