Last night in the Chamber, I spoke against the Government's omnibus Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill (2014 Budget Measures No.1).
House of Representatives
Tuesday, 24 June 2014
It is a pleasure, in this debate, to follow the contributions of the member for Jagajaga, the member for Gellibrand and the member for Hotham—three Labor members whose careers in politics have been founded on the notion that we must work for those more vulnerable than ourselves. It is a pleasure for me to follow them because the legislation we are debating tonight goes to the heart of the Australian social contract—a social contract that says that an egalitarian tradition is something that Australians hold dear.
Australians believe in a fair go. You can see that if you go to any institution in the land. The AFL, for example, manages to be a highly interesting sporting code, where teams go from rags to riches to rags, from the bottom to the top and back to the bottom of the table. Take the military as an example. Its great success has been in its egalitarian engagement. In places like Somalia, it is our military that gets out and talks with common folks rather than standing back and just listening to tribal leaders. That egalitarian Australia is under threat due to a rise in inequality over the last generation so that inequality is now the highest it has been in three-quarters of a century.
We have seen earnings for the top 10 per cent go up three times faster than earnings for the bottom 10 per cent. The income share of the top one per cent has doubled. The top 0.1 per cent income share has tripled. The wealthiest three Australians, who can, together, sit in the back seat of a limousine, have more wealth than the poorest one million Australians—the population of Adelaide.
In that environment you would think that a government should be working to look after the most vulnerable, yet we have a Treasurer who believes that half of all Australians are leaners. I challenge the Treasurer to identify those leaners. Are those leaners aged pensioners like the aged pensioner who contacted me and told me about her life of contribution to the nation, her four working children and her six grandchildren? She said to me, 'I am one of those pensioners whose sole income is the pension. I have no superannuation payments; nothing. I feel sad, depressed and scared for my ability to pay my way when all the cuts start.' Is she a leaner?
I would like the Treasurer to tell me. Is a leaner someone like the single parent who contacted me, who has worked hard to support herself and her two boys and is to be made redundant this year? She is one of 16,500 public servants who are facing redundancy as a result of this government's broken promise on public service job cuts. Is that sole parent raising two kids a leaner? I would like to hear the Treasurer say so to her face. When the Treasurer talks about leaners is he speaking about carers who are up three, four or five times in the night because the person for whom they care is calling out and they need to be by their side? Is that the kind of person the Treasurer thinks of as a leaner?
The fundamental problem with this government is that the members leading the government are unable to put themselves in the shoes of the most vulnerable. They cannot put themselves in the shoes of someone who lacks financial literacy—a low-income earner like those who invested their life savings in Storm Financial, Trio Capital or Timbercorp and lost them as a result of inadequate financial protections. They cannot put themselves in the shoes of an age pensioner who is expecting the pension on which they depend to go up with wages, and who hears the Prime Minister's mealy-mouthed words in question time: 'Pensions will continue to increase.'
Well, Prime Minister, they are not increasing at the rate these pensioners expect them to, due to your broken promise.
This is a budget which breaks promises like so much kindling. It is not just a budget which increases the deficit. Let us not worry about comparisons with the Treasurer's budget update last year; let us make the comparison with the pre-election economic and fiscal outlook. Compared to that, it is a budget that increases the deficit. The great flaw in this budget is that it breaches the fair go test, and that is why this government wants to talk about anything other than the budget. That is why members and backbenchers want to go out and speak to their constituents about anything other than the broken promises and the breach of the social contract. It is a social contract Australians have held dear and which, as previous members have so articulately highlighted, has been buttressed by a means tested social security net. (Time expired)