Bill's Speeches







Madam Speaker, the 2014 Abbott Budget is the most unfair attack on Australian families in living memory. This Budget goes too far, and Labor will continue to oppose this Budget's unfair measures, because they hurt the future of Australian families. We will fight this Budget because of its bad policies, because of it’s unfair outcomes and its bleak vision for the future of Australia.


The Australian people have learned two things since the Budget. One, it’s been a dreadful 23 days for this divided government, obsessed with the wrong priorities and addicted to telling lies. But more importantly, it’s been a worse 23 days for Australian families as we learn the shocking details of this Budget.


The Government accuses Labor of trying to frighten Australians. We are merely telling the Australian people the truth. It is the truth in itself that is frightening. This is a Government with a very narrow view of society and a narrow view of our obligation to look after one another. Unless key parts of this iniquitous Budget are struck down, Australian families in the future will have to work longer and harder just to keep up. This Budget does make it harder for families to pay the mortgage, to pay the utilities, to fill up the car, to make ends meet, to go to the doctor.


It will cost families more to look after older members of the family who will be denied a decent pension and a secure retirement. It will cost families more to support their adult children who cannot find work and receive nothing from the Government. It will cost families much more to pay the taxes for the emergency services to help those who have no families to fall back on. And the states will most definitely be blackmailed into increasing the GST and broadening its base.


The stability of Australian families will be jeopardised by the Abbott Liberal Government assault on fairness. This parliament needs to jealously guard fairness in Australia. Fairness is the soil in which grows Australian wealth, Australian success, Australian safety and Australian community. We are indeed a wealthy and stable society because we encourage growth on one hand whilst looking after the less well off on the other. We are amongst the richest nations in the world. Our gross domestic product is an outstanding $1.55 trillion but this Budget selfishly demands the heaviest lifting to be done by our poorest citizens.


Under this Budget, a single parent on $55,000 a year will lose about 10.5 per cent of their disposable income as result of cuts and increased medical costs. Yet someone on half a million dollars will only lose just over two per cent of their disposable income. Liberal priorities: tax the poor and don't worry about doing anything to anyone else. So for every dollar that the single parent gives up, the person on half a million dollars chips in 20 cents. That’s right: for every dollar that a single parent will give up, the person on $500,000 will chip in 20 cents. By 2017-18, the single parent will be losing around $120 per week—11.5 per cent of their family budget. But the millionaire will no longer be paying a single extra cent. They will be back to their pre-budget position.


The Minister for Education’s driving up fees, putting university degrees beyond the dreams and hopes of Australian families. This Minister's plan to increase the debt of students will hurt Australians for decades. Universities know this. Ross Millbourne, vice-chancellor of UTS says, 'I don't think any vice-chancellor in the country supports the moves to increase the debt’. Deakin University vice-chancellor Jane den Hollander called the changes 'punitive and unfair'.


Universities Australia modelling reveals that the debts for engineering and nursing students will take an extra 15 years to pay off. It could take engineers up to 33 years to clear their HECS debt. It’s been revealed that women will be the worst affected by these changes. The NTU has reported that the new arrangements have a built-in biased against graduates with carer responsibilities, which will mainly be women. The total repayments in an accounting degree will grow to $120,000 in today's dollars, including $45,000 for interest. That will be the case for graduates who have to take off time to start and raise a family. The degree will now take up to 36 years to pay off, compared with 10 years for a typical graduate today. This Minister for Education chooses to employ a dangerous community dividing dog whistle. He says, 'Why should 60 per cent of Australians who don’t go to university support the 40 per cent who do?' Minister, education is a public investment in the future of our country. It is not solely a private benefit.


We know about the damage of the GP tax. It doesn’t deliver a single dollar to recurrent health funding, not a single dollar. It will turn GPs into tax collectors. Brian Owler, the new AMA President, has warned it will put our front-line doctors under pressure to deliver ‘four minute medicine’. And for what? A rushed medical research fund. The Department of Health, we found out this week, hasn’t provided any advice on the structure of a $20 billion fund. AAMRI wasn’t consulted. The chair of the CSIRO board was not consulted. The Chief Scientist was not consulted. The Department only found out about these thought bubble weeks before the Budget and there is no guarantee that the fund won’t rob money from the National Health and Medical Research Council.


The Government says it believes in science. They boast about helping to find a cure for cancer. Don’t patronise Australians. Don’t damage science and don’t make the sick of today pay for the research funds for tomorrow. Indeed, Australians already pay for their Medicare. We keep hearing from that so-called Minister for Health that somehow medicine isn’t free. Australians know that, you arrogant fellow. That’s why they pay their Medicare levy already. Australians already pay 12 per cent in terms of co-payment. The OECD already shows that we are only second or third behind Switzerland and the United States in what consumers have to pay now. We don’t need to go down this path.


Then of course we’ve got the poor old pensioners. Weren’t they misled and lead up the garden path by this dreadful Prime Minister? But the cat’s out of the bag last night. Senator Fifield, the Minister, said of the change in indexation:


It’s been put in place in an effort to slow the rate of pension increase.


A deliberate and calculated cut. The Department’s confirmed the bad news last night to all Australians. 530,000 additional pensioners will have their pensions cut because of changes reducing the threshold. I bet those brave members opposite in this Government won’t be giving that number out to their constituents in the parliamentary break.


Then there’s the $65 million cut to war pensions—a disgrace from a party that so loves to wrap itself in the flag of patriotism.


The Minister opposite says, 'Spare them.' You should spare the veterans of Australia. Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister said before the election, he said before the election if it’s inadequate to lift Centrelink pensions by the consumer price index it is even less to apply only that index to those who’ve risked their lives for the country. While we know what a Tony Abbott election promise is worth. Nothing, zero, zilch, nada.


So in conclusion Madam Speaker, Australia has a choice. Australia has a choice: we can choose the Liberals bleak and narrow view, the meaner, colder, crueller more expensive country beloved of conservatives, but Labor believes this country can do better. We remain convinced and dedicated to the proposition that fairness is still the most sensible, pragmatic and decent path to a bright future. Despite their woeful unfair budget, their contradictory answers, their infighting and their broken promises, the Liberal Party of Australia and the ventriloquist dummies of Australian politics, the National Party, they say to Labor, 'what’s your answer?' Here again is our answer and you will hear it every day for the next two years: we still believe in fairness. We believe a budget can be fair and sustainable, should foster universal quality health care, a great education, a decent pension and world leading superannuation.


I note the Prime Minister’s going to visit the United States next week. While he’s there I urge him to reflect on the wise words of Martin Luther King:


In the final analysis the rich must not ignore the poor, because both rich and poor are tied in a single garment of destiny. All life is interrelated and all men are interdependent. The agony of the poor diminishes the rich and the salvation of the poor enlarges the rich. We are inevitably our brother’s keeper.


Labor will hold true to that wisdom.