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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 2581

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (17:13): I rise to contribute to this matter of public importance, which, frankly, is a waste of taxpayers' money. For about an hour we'll sit here and throw political hand grenades at each other and talk about who is best fit to run the place. I know you wouldn't, Mr Acting Deputy President Sterle—you're fair dinkum. I've done a lot of work with you over many years. When I leave this place next year I'll look back and say, 'Senator Sterle? He was one of the genuine blokes on the other side.'

But here we are talking about an issue that is all about politics, instead of working together to make things better. It infuriates me. I'll tell you a secret, Mr Acting Deputy President, at the time of the 2013 election, I think most of those in the Labor Party knew they were going to lose. The polls were terrible. It was pretty clear that the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era was coming to an end. Believe it or not, and I would never try to mislead you, Mr Acting Deputy President, there were promises made by the other side that they were going to spend $80 billion—this huge amount of money—on education and on health. Of course, they were never funded. The money was never there. It was a political promise, a piece of propaganda—that's what it was. Those promises were never funded, because the Labor Party knew full well they were going to be thrown out of government, but Labor used those figures today. Those figures are dream figures. They were never true figures, never funded. They were figures plucked out of the sky and would never have been produced, even if they had won the election, believe me. Now we play this political game on this matter of public importance put forward by Senator Collins.

The words 'like axing the energy supplement' really caught my eye. Why was the energy supplement brought in? I will tell you why. It was to compensate pensioners and low-income earners and those on social security for the extra cost of electricity. Because of what? Because of a carbon tax. Remember the 2010 election? I'm sure Senator Ketter would. I know you would, Mr Acting Deputy President Sterle, remember the 2010 election when former Prime Minister Gillard was the Prime Minister. She said those famous words, the big statement: 'There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'. Senator McGrath would remember it well, would you not? However, it was a cliffhanger of an election. I remember it well. The coalition won 73 seats; Labor won 72. Enter Mr Tony Windsor from New England. Whose side was he on? He was on Labor's side. Of course, Mr Oakeshott, the then former National Party member from Lyne, which includes Port Macquarie, sided with Labor. One of the deals they agreed to was that they would set up the multiparty political gathering of whatever it was to look at climate change and what we are going to do about a carbon tax. What was it called? It was called the multiparty climate change forum or some stupid thing. It was going to change the planet.

In came the carbon tax and so here we have this supplement to those pensioners. And it was a fair thing to say we're going to supplement your social security, your pensions, because the electricity price will go up because Prime Minister Gillard broke her promise, simple as that. Mr Tony Abbott said if he won the election in 2013, the carbon tax would go and it did, but that supplement has stayed on. We're supplementing people, especially pensioners and low-income earners and those on social security, for electricity prices boosted by a carbon tax that doesn't exist. In this debate today, which is about wasting taxpayers' money, we are playing politics—probably doing little for the Australian people—and getting prepared for the budget tonight.

I have learned a lot in politics since I've been here. Do you remember the last election on 2 July 2016? Opposition leader Bill Shorten said, 'They will privatise Medicare.' Mr Acting Deputy President Sterle, you've been in business, you have been a truckie, you have carted furniture and you know a fair bit about business, probably quite different to many of those opposite over there. Mr Acting Deputy President, would you buy a business that earns $10,000 a week but costs $23,000 a week to run? I wouldn't. It's a clear loss. Medicare collects around $10 billion of Medicare levies and spends about $23 billion on Medicare pay-outs. Who will buy a business or a coffee shop earning $10,000 a week through the till and costing $23,000 a week to run? That's a terrible business. Who would ever buy that? There might be some gullible people out there who want to invest but I don't think you would find too many who will put to that sort of money in to buy a business like Medicare when those opposite said it would be privatised—just crazy politics.

Let's look at Medicare. We're guaranteeing Medicare and putting in record levels of funding with an additional $2.4 billion over the next four years. That's a fact. We're listing life-changing medications on the PBS. As Senator Macdonald said, we've listed over 1,600 new and amended medicines worth $8.2 billion We're debating the hospitals. My memory might not be very good but I remember a bloke; his name was Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He said to the Australian people, 'I will fix the hospital system and the buck will stop with me.' Does everyone remember that quote? You should do. You could probably google it up. Well, surely, Mr Rudd fixed the hospital system. What are we doing arguing about hospitals? Mr Rudd fixed them. Surely he honoured his word, or did he? Perhaps he didn't fix them. Perhaps the buck didn't stop with him either. These are the politics we play come budget night.

Altogether our government will invest more than $103.3 billion over the next four years in hospitals. I will give you some figures. Commonwealth funding for public hospital services has increased from $13.3 billion in 2012-13, when we were in opposition, to a record $22.7 billion in 2021, or 70 per cent over this period. On school funding, in 2017 we spent $17.5 billion on schools and by 2027 we will be spending more than $31.1 billion. That spending will almost double between now and 2027, so the next 10 years. We're growing funding each year by more than $1 billion.

And so the politics goes on with Labor's retiree tax. The Labor Party's proposed $56 billion retirement tax will hit 875,000 Australians, including low-income earners, retirees and pensioners. I'm getting plenty of emails on the franking credits issue! People who are self-funded retirees, husbands and wives on $40,000 a year, are going to lose between $10,000 and $12,000 a year. If you're taking home $40,000 a year and you haven't even got your hand out to taxpayers, why are you going to be hit? This is a big issue. I reckon this is why the polls have turned against Labor, because they're going to dig into the people who've worked hard and saved their money. Of course if their money's in the bank they'd be lucky to get 2½ or three per cent as interest rates are so low; the official cash rate is 1.5 per cent. So Labor are going to take money off them, the self-funded retirees. They backflipped on pensioners. They say, 'We won't touch the pensioners,' but the original plan was that the $55 billion would include them. I have no doubt there will be a lot more said about that as we run towards the election.

The Liberal-Nationals government is delivering a record $75 billion in investment in infrastructure and transport projects, focused on building local communities, connecting the regions and our cities, busting congestion and boosting productivity while creating local jobs. The government has committed to a 10-year infrastructure investment plan. I'm glad to see this, and I hope we hear more about it tonight when Treasurer Morrison delivers his budget—especially roads in regional areas, where many of us still drive on dirt roads. Many of those in the city wouldn't know what a dirt road is.