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Thursday, 26 November 2015
Page: 9175


Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (18:02): The Community Affairs References Committee report, Availability of new, innovative and specialist cancer drugs in Australia, was a very, very important report. I will leave it to others to talk more in depth about the report but I will talk tonight about the impact that the GST is being considered by the Turnbull government would have on medical expenses—medical expenses for all Australians would increase.

If you have a serious illness—like cancer and other disabilities, or people who suffer from MS, arthritis or anyone of those terrible diseases—then it is going to cost you more to fulfil your prescriptions. It will cost you more to go to the doctor. A GST of 15 per cent will mean that you are going to pay more, if you have to go to hospital.

It is very easy for the government—and they do not like us talking about the GST and the fact that they are considering raising it to 15 per cent. They can very clearly just rule it out. The Prime Minister has had every opportunity to rule it out, and he has not done so because it is under serious consideration. We on this side, the Labor opposition, will never support a GST of 15 per cent, because we know the real impact it is going to have on every Australian. It does not matter whether you are talking about a suburban family with a couple of children because, every time they go and buy their school uniforms, it is going to cost more. Every time they pay their school fees and levies, it is going to cost more. Every time they pack the children's lunches, it is going to cost more. Not only is it going to cost more but, if they put—which, hopefully, they do—fresh fruit into that lunchbox, it is going to be 15 per cent more.

This is what the government has in store for the Australian people. No wonder they are cynical about politics, because Tony Abbott said before the last election: there would be no increase in taxation; no new taxes. This is a very big new tax that those on the other side have under the table ready to pull out.

This government believes that they are just cruising along and they can pull the wool over the people's eyes. Well, they will not pull the wool over the Australian people's eyes. No matter how much they believe that they are just cruising and can do anything, we on this side know, and the Australian people are a wake-up to them.

You can change your leader—and that has been done before: we should know; we did it. The real test is that Mr Turnbull sat around the ministerial table in the cabinet room and supported every one of their unfair taxes—every one of their unfair cuts—to those who are most vulnerable in our community.

I have spoken before in this place and other places about what a GST increase will mean to older Australians. They are people, who, we on this side have always been very concerned about. It took those on the other side two years and a new Prime Minister to even appoint anyone in the ministry to deal with aged care. The problem is: they only see older people as a problem, because they only think of it as aged care. They have no consideration of ageing and how we need to embrace older Australians, keep them in the work force and develop policies so they can transition out of full-time employment.

Those on the other side—I do not know what it is but I actually do not think that they like old people. I certainly know that they do not like poor people. I also know that they do not like anyone who belongs to a union—we have seen what they have done to unions in this country by having a political witch-hunt.

Senator Sinodinos interjecting

Senator POLLEY: Then we see the double standards—and, thank you, Senator Sinodinos; I will take your interjection. You, my fellow colleague, have been treated very badly by your comrades over there. You stood aside when you were under investigation but, no, what do we have now? We have the Special Minister of State and we had that debate during motions to take note of answers—I think it was the longest taking note I have experienced in the last decade with all the interjections from the Attorney-General, trying to defend the indefensible.

Politically speaking, I would have thought that the Special Minister of State would have done the decent thing and stood aside until this whole episode was cleared up. As Senator Ludwig said in his contribution in the taking note debate this afternoon, I am not making any assertions about the Special Minister of State and his role in the Slipper affair—with the Ashby allegations and all the drama around that—but there are questions that need to be answered and there are questions that need to be asked.

The new Prime Minister says he is going to be the Prime Minister of the 21st century government, and those opposite come into this chamber every day and talk about how agile and nimble they are. But what we have seen from this Prime Minister calls his judgement into question. So I am not so sure that he is as smart as he thinks he is—and I certainly know the Australian people are a lot smarter than what this government gives them credit for. The government is very bolshy at the moment because it is leading in the opinion polls. But we all know what the media do and we know that opinion polls come and go and everyone uses them to their own advantage.

I can tell you that the people who ring my office and those who come to see me when I am out in the community are not fooled at all. They know that what we have is a government that is so out of touch with how difficult it is for families and for people to make ends meet each and every week. So an unfair, great big new tax—a 15 per cent GST—is not the solution. It is certainly not the solution that the Australian people thought they were getting when they voted for Tony Abbott. They certainly did not get the government they thought they were getting. This government made cuts to health and education, and the only people who have looked after Australian pensioners in recent times, by giving them at least a step up to an income that is a little bit more to help them try to manage, was the former Labor government.

We now have a government that is bereft of any real vision. We have a Prime Minister who talks an awful lot—and I have to say he is very good at it; he talks and talks and talks—but he does not say anything. In fact, he has been referred to as having a medical problem because he runs off at the mouth and talks a lot. It seems that he thinks that everything is fine if he looks good and is well presented. Let's face it: everyone was relieved when Mr Abbott was deposed. They sighed, 'Oh, what a relief; we do not have to cringe like we did every time Mr Abbott headed off overseas or was somewhere publicly speaking.' But it takes more than a smart dresser. He is a self-made man, and I give him credit for that—that is great; we should all aspire to that—but, for someone who is self-made, it is really, really disappointing that he would even consider bringing in an increase to the GST when that is going to hurt those people who can least afford it. Low-income families and individuals who have less disposable income are the ones who are really going to pay the tax.

People out there are not silly. They know that a government never, ever changes a taxation system without expecting to get more money. So the promise of compensating people will not wash with the Australian people. Those who are on a limited income—and I know; I have been there and done that—do not have any extra disposable income. They are the people who we on this side will always stand up for and protect. We have those opposite talking about various state premiers. When you start to cut funding and put the screws into the states so they will not have any choice, of course they are going to come out and say, 'Maybe we should support it.' But we know what it really means and we will never desert the Australian community. We will always stand up against any increase to the GST. A 15 per cent GST is wrong. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.