House of Representatives Speech- Budget 2014

On 13 May this Liberal-National Party government delivered a deeply unpopular budget. Pensioners, young people, students, parents across my electorate have made this very, very clear to me since 13 May—in fact, people across Australia, because I have been to some other places other than my electorate in the couple of weeks since the budget. People in Bendigo, people in Castlemaine, people in Mornington in Victoria, people in Sydney and people here in Canberra have all made it very clear to me just how deeply unpopular this budget is. It is probably for that reason that an unnamed Liberal was quoted in the media today as describing this budget as 'a stinking carcass around the neck of this government'. And well might that description have been given to this budget, because for a whole range of reasons this budget has deeply disappointed Australians. It has deeply disappointed Australians because of the number of broken promises that we find in this budget. It has deeply disappointed Australians because of the unfair and uneven pain that this budget inflicts on so many Australians. And it is deeply unpopular and bitterly disappointing to Australians because of the wrong choices that this budget is full of.

On 13 May this Liberal-National Party government delivered a deeply unpopular budget. Pensioners, young people, students, parents across my electorate have made this very, very clear to me since 13 May—in fact, people across Australia, because I have been to some other places other than my electorate in the couple of weeks since the budget. People in Bendigo, people in Castlemaine, people in Mornington in Victoria, people in Sydney and people here in Canberra have all made it very clear to me just how deeply unpopular this budget is. It is probably for that reason that an unnamed Liberal was quoted in the media today as describing this budget as 'a stinking carcass around the neck of this government'. And well might that description have been given to this budget, because for a whole range of reasons this budget has deeply disappointed Australians. It has deeply disappointed Australians because of the number of broken promises that we find in this budget. It has deeply disappointed Australians because of the unfair and uneven pain that this budget inflicts on so many Australians. And it is deeply unpopular and bitterly disappointing to Australians because of the wrong choices that this budget is full of.

One could start with, for a broken promise, the new income tax that is imposed by this bill. Leave entirely to one side the Orwellian title, like so many of the pieces of legislation that come before this House, where this bill, which imposes a new income tax and some other taxes as well, is, according to this government, the 'Tax Laws Amendment (Temporary Budget Repair Levy) Bill'. This government wants to say—and I will come back to this later—that the budget is in dire need of repair. But before I get to that, and before I get to the falsity of the government's claim about there being a so-called debt and deficit disaster, and, to state it clearly, there is not, I just want to deal with the multiple—not one promise, not two promises—but multiple promises made by the Prime Minister from opposition as part of the multiple promises he made, many, many of which have now been broken, in order to win government. This was the Prime Minister before the election:

A coalition government will keep the current income tax thresholds.

Or this one:

What you will get under us are tax cuts without new taxes.

Or this one:

There should be no new tax collection without an election.

It is not as if these were not recent statements by the Prime Minister. This is the Prime Minister in February 2013, a little over a year ago:

Personal income tax will be lower under a coalition government in its first term than it is now…

He said, in that repetitive way the Prime Minister is fond of:

We're about reducing taxes, not increasing taxes. We're about getting rid of taxes, not imposing new taxes.

When asked by a reporter, 'Is that a promise?' Mr Abbott replied:

This is my whole reason for being in politics—in the parliament.

How have the Australian people been repaid for accepting those and so many other promises from the Prime Minister? That was his set of promises about not increasing taxes or saying that he is about reducing taxes. The Australian people have been repaid with an increase in the income tax rate, which is what this bill would impose.

It adds to so many broken promises from this Prime Minister. There were to be no cuts to health. There were to be no cuts to education. So much for that promise! As the Premier of New South Wales has described it, this budget is a 'kick in the guts' because there is an $80 billion reduction. What is set out in the budget papers—although the Prime Minister, ridiculously, has been trying to deny it in this place—is an $80 billion reduction to health and education payments by the Commonwealth to the states. That is why the Premier of New South Wales thinks it is right to describe this budget as a kick in the guts.

No cuts to the ABC. That was another promise we had from the Prime Minister of Australia. That promise was made on the eve of the election. And what have we seen in the budget delivered on 13 May? We have seen cuts to the ABC—a so-called efficiency dividend cut and a much larger cut, which is the complete scrapping of the Australia Network. The scrapping of the Australia Network is a cut that does not appear in the communications portfolio budget; it is a cut which appears in the foreign affairs portfolio budget. But, make no mistake, it is a cut to the ABC, because the Australia Network—Australia's international television broadcasting arm that has been doing so much for us in terms of self diplomacy—has been fully integrated in the ABC's operations for some time. And the cutting of the $200 million over the next eight years is a cut to the ABC.

This is the government that, from opposition, liked to say it was on a unity ticket on Gonski. This is the government that promised, from opposition, that there would be no change to pensions and benefits. We have seen what that has meant in this budget. We have seen changes to the indexation of pensions and changes to a host of benefits. It is not a little change to pensions. We have had more nonsense from the Prime Minister about that over the last few days. He wants to be able to point to some projected rises in pension levels but entirely ignore the real change that is being brought in in this budget, which is a change to the indexation method to pensions, which would mean, in the most direct terms, that pensioners will receive less over time.

Just to demonstrate it, if you apply the different indexation method that this government wishes to bring in to the age pension, over the last four years it would mean that a pensioner now—had that new indexation method been in place for four years—would be receiving some $1,500 less each year. But there were to be no tax increases, no new taxes. That was what was promised by the Prime Minister in seeking to gain the trust of the Australian people and convince them that he ought to be elected at the last election. We have seen the way in which this Prime Minister, who pretended so much that he was someone to be trust and who talked so often of the need for trust in politics, has repaid the Australian people for accepting his promises. He has repaid them with broken promises as far as the eye can see.

The whole of this government's budget is based on untrue slogans. The whole of this government's budget is based on false claims. We have not heard anything from the train of Liberal backbenchers who have spoken on these bills about the host of broken promises that this budget contains. We have heard nothing from them about the unfair cuts and the uneven burden that is being placed on the Australian people by this budget. Far from it; what we have heard from them is simply a repetition of some of the untrue slogans that the opposition, now the government, went to the election with—a repetition of the false claims of a debt and deficit disaster; a repetition of the false claim that the Liberal Party is the lower taxing party.

There has been barely a mention of the global financial crisis that our Labor government steered this country through with sound financial management. In fact, there was no mention at all by the train of Liberal backbenchers who have spoken before me in this debate about the low debt of our nation—I will repeat that; the low debt—when you compare Australia's debt levels to almost every other OECD country. There has been no mention, of course, of the AAA credit rating that has been given to Australia by all three of the world's major credit agencies. There has been no mention at all of the sound financial state of the Australian economy right now.

Of course there are issues going forward in the budget. There is the issue of declining revenues, which is something that Australian governments have now been facing for some time. There has been no mention of that by speakers on the other side of the chamber . There has been no mention from the Treasurer or the Prime Minister that this budget does not actually do the great task that they have claimed for it. It does not reduce the deficit. A proper comparison would be of the pre-election financial outlook with this budget—not the false comparison that the Treasurer was trying to set up by offering a comparison between his mid-year economic and fiscal outlook and this budget. The charter of budget honesty makes it possible for Australians to have a true comparison. The charter of budget honesty was introduced so that we would not have the kind of game-playing we have seen from this government, where you invent a false picture of the budget

On the true comparison we are not even going to see from this budget a faster return to surplus than what is set out in the pre-election financial outlook. The pre-election financial outlook had us returning to surplus in 2016-17; this budget has us returning to surplus in 2017-18. The reason that the Treasurer and the Prime Minister have been able to bring about this sleight of hand is, of course, because they doubled the deficit. In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook they doubled the deficit by giving to the Reserve Bank of Australia $8.8 billion which the Reserve Bank did not ask for, and they doubled the deficit by changing all of the assumptions in the budget about costs by removing any cap on spending, and that enabled them to invent this supposed debt figure that we were going to reach on their false assumptions by 2023. It enabled them to say that, because of the changes that they made in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the deficit was much higher than it is and much higher, of course—something like double—than what the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook produced by the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary to the Department of Finance said very clearly to the Australian people.

The budget that has been presented is full of wrong choices. It makes wrong choices on the cuts. It makes wrong choices by imposing a cut on family tax benefit B. It makes wrong choices by imposing cuts to the way in which the unemployment benefit is to be administered. What an appalling thing for a government of Australia to be saying to the young people of Australia: 'If you are under 30 you will not receive unemployment benefit for six months when you become unemployed.' What an appalling decision to make in a budget to say, 'If you are under 25 you will not even receive the Centrelink benefit; you will be receiving the youth allowance.' What does this government think it is doing? Does it want to create an entire outcast generation in our country? What does this government think that people under 30 are meant to do? Are they meant to go out and steal? That is what is left to some people. Not everybody has a family to fall back on. Not everybody in Australia is able to obtain work when they want it. Some people, in some parts of Australia, are living in places where there is 20 or 25 per cent youth unemployment. We want a government that understands that. We want a government that understands that it is the role of government to provide for and look after the young people of our country, to provide for and look after the old people in our country, and to provide for and look after families. I can say to this parliament that Labor understands those priorities. This government clearly and absolutely does not. With its budget full of wrong choices and unfair burdens everywhere you look—wrong choices on revenue measures and wrong choices on cuts.