MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE;Abbott Government – 12 May 2015

I rise today to speak on the matter of public importance to remind the people of Australia about the Liberal-National coalition government’s seemingly endless trail of broken promises. It has been a year since Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey unveiled a pathetic and cowardly budget that sought to attack the most vulnerable in Australia. The Australian people and the majority of senators in this place have rejected Mr Abbott’s plans and his broken promises. Never has a government been so out of touch. Before the election, the Prime Minister—well, the Prime Minister for now—Mr Abbott, promised no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS, and that is what the Australian people expected. But, unfortunately, that is not what they got. Mr Abbott’s promises have been broken time and time again.

Last year’s budget paper show cuts of around $60 billion from health funding over the next decade. These cuts will increase emergency department waiting times, increase elective surgery waiting times and reduce the number of hospital beds across the country. Last year’s budget also cut hundreds of millions of dollars from preventative health, dental clinics, mental health and medical training. They shut every Medicare local and sought to slug all patients with a GP tax—I think we had about four iterations of that—and higher prescription charges. This is clearly a broken promise which will hurt all Australians.

The last budget also ripped $30 billion from our schools, locked in inequality and ignored the need for further investment to ensure that Australian students do not fall behind. Education is the single most important thing that we can invest in to improve the lives of individuals and improve the productivity of our nation. It cannot be understated just how important education is. The government have shown that they either do not understand or do not care about the importance of education. And in tonight’s budget they need to reverse this $30 billion cut and commit to funding years 5 and 6 of the Gonski reforms. They also need to keep their promise to fund the Gonski disability loading from 2015 to ensure that children with disability get the best educational outcomes that they can.

Our teachers and our schools do their best, but without extra resources students with disability will continue to miss out on vital educational opportunities. Before the election, the Abbott government promised to deliver extra funding for students with disability from 2015. Instead, they terminated the More Support for Students with Disabilities program—a cut of $100 million per year. And they have failed to implement the Gonski disability loading in 2015. They should be ashamed.

For the last year the government has fought tooth and nail to change the indexation for pensions, which would have left pensioners $80 a week worse off in a decade’s time. Mr Abbott knew his cuts to pension indexation were unfair but stood his ground. He stood by his decisions and he put millions of pensioners through an entire year of worry and anxiety. Over that time, Labor fought relentlessly for pensioners and forced the government to back down from their plans for now. In addition, the government also cut, in the last budget, about $1.3 billion of funding for pensioner concessions, such as public transport, council rates and help with the cost of electricity and water bills. Mr Abbott and his ministers are both cruel and out of touch.

We have also seen more than half a billion dollars worth of cuts to the ABC and SBS. Since the 2014-15 budget, more than 250 people have been sacked from the ABC, and there are another 150 who will face the sack in coming months. Production facilities are being shut down, regional radio stations have gone and the Australia Network is but a distant memory. The Abbott government’s dishonesty and incompetence is still hurting creative Australian jobs and ABC and SBS listeners and viewers. The ABC and SBS are crucial voices of our nation. I am extremely disappointed that women’s sport is the latest casualty of the so-called Prime Minister for Women’s unfair policies.

Tonight, Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey hand down their second—and possibly their last—budget. Already, we know it will contain more broken promises. We know it will not be fair; we know it will not be balanced. It will be a document designed to save the political skin of the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. But it will not work. The government have not learnt their lesson from last year’s disastrous budget.