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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 2580

Senator KETTER (QueenslandDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (17:08): I rise to speak on the MPI and join with Senator Bilyk in calling on the coalition to see sense and restore some fairness to Australia in tonight's federal budget. Before I go into those comments, the problem for Senator Macdonald, in his comments, is that it's not just the Labor opposition which is condemning the government's cuts to health and education. When you look at the issue of health, you see that the Australian Medical Association, which represents the nation's doctors, has joined with Labor in decrying the cuts to health and the impact that this is having on the public hospital system.

A couple of months ago, the AMA issued their public hospital report card, again revealing the impact of the Prime Minister's cuts and showing that:

The current funding formula will doom our public hospitals to fail, and patients will suffer as a result.

Even worse, the AMA says that the Prime Minister wants to lock in these cuts for another five years. The AMA goes on to say that the latest Commonwealth funding offer at February's COAG meeting, which is effectively a continuation of the current agreement:

… would lead to a continuation of the prevailing underperformance of hospitals due to significant underfunding and insufficient capacity.

So it's not just the Labor opposition talking about this issue; there are other independent bodies which support our proposition.

We see business profits at record levels, the highest since the GFC hit, which is good news, but wage growth is still at historically low levels—and we touched on that yesterday when I was at the Labour Day march in Brisbane. The Premier came out very strongly and talked about launching a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of wage theft. I welcome that move. That is the action of a government which does care about the real issues that are impacting on families. People are hurting because of rising health costs, rising insurance premiums and high energy bills. Despite this, we see the coalition government cutting hundreds of millions of dollars out of hospitals across the country. In Queensland patients are copping a $160 million cut to hospitals, which is the equivalent of taking 1,435 nurses out of our wards. This is on top of the over $1 billion owed to Queensland that the coalition had failed to pay until recently. We note that, in a win for Queensland, there was an agreement from the Treasurer last month to pay around a third of what is owed to Queensland hospitals going back to 2014-15 and 2015-16. That's $300 million in back pay to the Queensland public hospital system, but there's more to come. We're yet to see how that's going to play out. We know that the Prime Minister successfully implemented his GP tax, which means that there are more out-of-pocket expenses for Australians when they go to see the doctor—in going to see a specialist there is $12 more in out-of-pocket expenses.

Turning to education, I've been in my duty electorates of Maranoa and Flynn recently. It is important to note the impact of these education cuts on local schools. Warwick State High School is going to lose $770,000 over a two-year period; Warwick West State School, $440,000; and Warwick Central State School, $240,000. In Roma, the state college will miss out on $780,000 over a two-year period. In Stanthorpe, the high school will lose $580,000, while the state school will lose $270,000. In Flynn, another regional electorate, Gladstone State High School will lose $1.35 million over two years; Toolooa State High School, $870,000; Gladstone Central State School will lose $300,000; Gladstone West State School, $570,000; and Gladstone South State School, $220,000 over two years. In the northern suburbs of Brisbane, Pine Rivers State High School will have $1,060,000 ripped out of its budget and North Lakes State College will lose $2½ million. I could go on. The Catholic sector makes up 12 per cent of the $17 billion in cuts. That means that Catholic schools stand to lose over $2 billion in funding over the next two years. We stand with the Catholic sector, and I know that the Catholic sector welcomes Labor's approach.

This is the time for balance to be restored. It's only a Labor government that will restore balance and fairness to Australia to start bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.