28 February 2017



If you want to know what is wrong with this government, look at this particular piece of legislation.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and Child Care Reform) Bill 2017 sums up just how arrogant and out of touch they are with the Australian people and sums up their management of the Australian economy.

This bill contains many of what has been described in the national media and on both sides of the chamber as zombie cuts.

Do you remember the comments made by the then opposition leader, the member for Warringah, Tony Abbott, right before the election? He stood up there in an interview in Penrith just before the election and said that there would be no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no changes to pensions. He went on and on. He then proceeded to come into this place and, on the first budget, broke promise after promise.

The government did not take the people into their confidence and made change after change to pensions.

Look at this. This legislation is about taking money away from pensioners.

Just look at what the government did in the 2014 budget. They tried not only to slug pensioners and other people with increases to GP payments but made pharmaceuticals much harder to buy.

In addition to that, they tried to change the indexation for the calculation of the pension, which comes in twice a year. So instead of 27.7 per cent of male total average weekly earnings or CPI, whichever is the highest, they decided to use the CPI, which meant that pensioners would be worse off by about $80 a week within 10 years.

We are talking about $23 billion being ripped out of pensioners' pockets by the then Abbott government in 2014.

We on this side opposed so many of the things that government tried to do and we were very successful in doing that, just as we are opposing this particular legislation before the chamber.

What they tried to do was slug pensioners.

We heard the debate before around the member for Barton's motion.

We have a situation where constituent after constituent is coming into our offices after getting wrong letters from Centrelink.

There are about 20,000 a week.

The government is admitting about 4,000 are wrong, and pensioners are worried. They are worried because of that, and because of the changes to superannuation the government made as well, which were different from what they went to the election with.

From 1 January this year, after the change to the asset test for the calculation of pensions and the change to the taper rate, we saw hundreds of thousands of pensioners worse off as a result.

Guess what? We have got a situation here where pensioners will be much worse off by losing energy supplements and the like.

This government has got it wrong.

Historically it is the case that more senior Australians tend to vote conservative than they vote progressive.

It is a fact of electoral history.

But this government seems intent on attacking the very people it will ask their votes for at the next election. It is simply extraordinary.

On top of this we see cuts in this legislation to family tax benefits, the supplements which people rely on in my electorate to meet the sports costs for their kids, the computer costs for their kids, uniform costs and the like.

Many people in my electorate will lose family tax benefits. About 14,997 families in the electorate of Blair, based on Ipswich and the Somerset, receive FTB part A, many of whom will be $200 per child worse off. About 12,358 Blair families will lose $354 as a result of the abolition of family tax benefit part B end-of-year supplements.

We have a situation where 1.5 million families will be worse off.

It takes a very inept government to spend $1.6 billion of taxpayers' money and still make one in three families who are using child care worse off. How can you do that? How can you spend $1.6 billion of taxpayers' money and get it so wrong?

There will be 230,000 Australian families worse off according to the ANU analysis.

How can you do that? And why should you hold pensioners, families and young people to ransom to get this legislation through?

The government have been talking about childcare reform for a very long time but they could not even get that right.

Do you remember the last election? I remember debating people who were running against me and the government were talking about spending $3 billion on child care.

Now it is reduced to $1.6 billion. They are ripping away $2.7 billion away from families, pensioners and young people and only putting back $1.6 billion. It is a sleight of hand.

See how few speakers have spoken on this particular legislation for the government? They know this is political poison just as they know their position with respect to penalty rates is political poison.

In my electorate, 9,403 people—one in seven workers in Blair—who work in retail, food and accommodation industries will potentially be affected by the Fair Work decision the other day.

These workers stand to lose up to $77 per week. What are the government doing? They talk about process all the time and attack us.

We had 60 members of the government talk in favour of cuts to penalty rates for people in retail, hospitality and other areas.

This is the thin end of the wedge.

Last Saturday, I was doing my usual mobile office—I have done 57 of them since the last election. I do them all the time. It is a great way to keep in touch with people.

I was on my way to West Ipswich, to Casual Coffee, where I set up my mobile office.

As I was packing up my car with the signs and putting in the materials, a woman came up to me and talked to me. She was a nurse, and she said, 'We're next. We're next on penalty rates.'

If this government has its way with this legislation, she will be much worse off again. It is not just her but young people as well, because this government is trying to take people off Newstart and put them onto youth allowance. They will be up to $48 a week worse off.

This government says it stands up for small business and it wants to make sure there are a profitable small businesses in communities, in the regions and in the cities because that is the way people can improve their wages and conditions et cetera.

If you rip money away from people, they will spend less. You send the economy into a nosedive.

We already know that wages growth is 1.9 per cent. It is the lowest it has been in decades. Inequality in this country is at a 75-year high.

Yet this government thinks, 'We'll rip money out of the economy, rip it away from families and from pensioners as well, and that will be good for the economy.'

That is not good for the economy. It is not good for business confidence either.

This government has its priorities wrong. They promised when in opposition that they would deliver a surplus in their first year of government and every year thereafter.

They gave up government revenue sources in terms of the carbon price and so many other areas.

They are giving up the capacity for revenue sources that would meet the kinds of payments that could be covered by this legislation by not doing reforms of capital gains tax and negative gearing. If they want money, they could do that. That is also a potential boost to the real estate industry and the construction industry; we know that from the independent modelling. But they will not do that either.

So they give up revenue sources and then think it is okay to attack the most vulnerable people in the economy. 

The big thing that shows that this government has its priorities all wrong, why people will not listen to this government, is its $50 billion in tax cuts to big business, $7.4 billion of which will go to the big banks.

That goes to show that they are prepared to give tax cuts to the wealthy, to the most profitable businesses in the economy. They are prepared to give that away in terms of revenue.

Yet they feel that they need to cut funding for the most vulnerable people in the economy—cuts to support for young people, forcing young jobseekers to wait five weeks for Newstart; cuts to family tax benefits; cuts to migrant pensioners; scrapping the pension education supplement and the education entry payment. They continue to do this.

But in opposition they always talked about the debt and deficit emergency. The talked about it all the time. In fact, they talked about it for a year or so after they got into office. They never talked about it again, because the deficit is eight times bigger than they projected—the actual deficit is three times larger—and debt has gone up about $200 billion.

That is because they have their priorities wrong.

They have given up revenue sources and not looked at appropriate revenue sources to get rid of the excesses and the rorts in terms of capital gains tax and negative gearing, which they previously talked about in the past.

So they have their priorities out of whack.

The government are not standing up for families. We hear about hardworking Australian families in question time all the time, but they are not actually doing that which is necessary to help hardworking families.

They could support our private members' bill to help hardworking families with respect to the Fair Work Commission decision the other day. They could be doing that, but they are not.

They could withdraw this legislation and think about other changes. Talking about hardworking families, child care is at the heart of this particular legislation.

The ANU has found that 71,000 families with an income below $65,000 will be worse off.

There are about 300 budget-based funded Indigenous and mobile childcare programs, including in my electorate of Blair, in Ipswich. Many of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services are well represented by their peak body, SNAICC. I have a lot of time for SNAICC. They are great organisation. They represent their members well. They have advocated hard on this issue. Many of these services are in regional and rural areas.

Where are the Nationals on this, by the way? They are completely missing, as usual.

Deloitte Access Economics has found that changes to these budget-based funded programs will disadvantage Indigenous kids.

Fifty-four per cent of families will face an average fee increase of $4.40 an hour. Forty per cent of families will have their access to early childhood education reduced.

Over two-thirds of Indigenous early childhood education services will have their funding cut.

In my community, we have Amaroo and Kambu childcare services, and Indigenous child care run though the children and family centre in Ipswich. But these organisations are at risk of cuts.

If the government wants to spend $1.6 billion in child care, how about looking after the most vulnerable families in Indigenous communities, in working-class and low-socioeconomic communities in my electorate—or in the member for Lingiari's, up in the Northern Territory? How about thinking about that?

Even with their childcare package, the government have got it out of whack. They have not even got that straight. This is a government that really is without proper priorities and values with respect to decisions.

Remember that 'rolled gold' Paid Parental Leave scheme from the former Leader of the Opposition and then Prime Minister, the member for Warringah, Tony Abbott, years ago?

Now the government talks about fraudsters, and women double dipping as if they do it deliberately. It is disgraceful the way this government has carried on.

What it is going to do here is take away hard-won conditions that women in the workplace have negotiated themselves, or that their respective representative bodies, their unions, have negotiated in EBAs.

This bill will rip away the capacity of women to support their families financially. The measure removes the mandatory employer paymaster role—that is, employers administering the payment rather than Centrelink—and so it removes the contact women have at the coalface with their employer.

We will see cuts to paid parental leave to remove what this mob opposite call 'double-dipping' and sometimes 'fraudulent activity' by placing a cap on the total number of weeks and a new mother can claim on the employer-funded leave.

They expect us to pat them on the back because the leave is going up from 18 weeks to 20 weeks, but in fact, if you negotiated through your EBA with your employer a much better deal, you lose.

What they are doing is anti-mothers, anti-age pensioners, anti-young people and it is anti-business because they will sap confidence in the economy. This is certainly not childcare reform; we want genuine childcare reform in this country, and it is about time they delivered it.

They have failed in this area and they should withdraw this legislation, which should not be supported.