MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE;Turnbull Government – 02 Feb 2016

We may have replaced the Prime Minister, but the only difference that can be seen between former Prime Minister Abbott and Prime Minister Turnbull is that Mr Turnbull wears a nicer cut of suit. So many people have made that comment that it has got to be true: that the only difference is that Mr Turnbull wears a nicer cut of suit.

The government removed Mr Abbott because he was unable to sell their misplaced priorities and disastrous broken promises. They did not remove him because they rejected his cruel policies. They still support those same cruel policies. The policies that caused the Australian people to decry Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey are still the same under Mr Turnbull. He is just hoping that nobody will notice. Mr Turnbull is also hoping that no-one will notice that the urbane, small ‘l’ liberal Mr Turnbull of times past has sold out every single principle he has to become Prime Minister—every single one. We are now seeing a huge gap between what the Prime Minister says and what he does.

He was hoping that by breaking promises during the summer holidays, when Australians were enjoying time with their families, no-one would notice. Between Christmas and New Year Mr Turnbull’s Liberals confirmed they will dump the needs-based Gonski reforms and keep his massive school cuts. The new education minister has said that he will not fund years 5 and 6 of the Gonski school education funding reforms. This is an enormous disappointment to parents, to students and to teachers right around Australia. The students who will suffer the most are those in remote schools and in disadvantaged schools and particularly Indigenous children. Before the last federal election Christopher Pyne trumpeted his unity ticket on Gonski claiming, ‘You can vote Liberal or Labor and you will get exactly the same amount of funding for your school.’ Well, that is a clear broken promise—one which they tried to hide during the Christmas break.

This comes after two consecutive Liberal budgets that will strip $30 billion from our classrooms over the next decade. That is an average of over $3 million in school funding lost from every school in Australia. Australians should be outraged by these cuts. It is a farce that Mr Turnbull talks about innovation at the same time he is cutting funding for every school across the nation. The Liberal government’s cuts to our classrooms are the equivalent of sacking one in every seven teachers.

Labor knows that, if you are serious about education policy and equally if you are serious about this country’s future economic growth, then you need to get our education system right and that means real investment in the programs that make a difference to increasing Australia’s educational attainment. Labor’s ‘Your Child. Our Future’ is a fully costed policy guaranteeing long-term education for all Australian children. We have a plan that will improve the literacy and numeracy of every child in every school in every state and territory and we have a plan that will increase year 12 retention, because we know that this is the biggest indicator of whether these students will go on to be employed. Labor’s ‘Your Child. Our Future’ plan will see an additional investment in our education system of $4.5 billion over school years 2018 and 2019 and a total provision of $37.3 billion for the package over the decade. Labor has done it through finding sensible, appropriate and fair savings of $70 billion to pay for the most important program of school improvement in a generation.

As well as failing to properly fund schools the government’s misplaced priorities have seen them cutting funding to the healthcare system. We saw recently the Australian Medical Association’s Public hospital report card 2016 that confirms the crisis being created by the Turnbull government’s decision to cut more than $57 billion in public hospital funding. Before the last election Labor had a signed agreement with all states and territories committing to fund 50 per cent growth funding at the national efficient price. The Liberals promised to match it. They have again broken this promise. Most importantly, this agreement included reforms to improve the efficiency of Australia’s public hospitals to reduce waiting times and increase capacity. Instead, in one of their first acts in government the Liberals completely walked away from this promise. In doing so the Liberals immediately gave up on any attempt at reform and cut more than $57 billion in the process.

The government has fundamentally attacked bulk-billing of pathology and diagnostic-imaging services through $650 million in cuts for bulk-billing incentive payments. There are 50 million pathology tests done every year. It is extremely alarming that there will be many thousands of Australians who will end up not having vital pathology tests because they will no longer be able to afford them. This is a shameful attack by this government on the health of those who are least well off in our community. It is utterly shameful. This government’s attacks on health are just more broken promises.

Labor has a $7 billion plan to close tax loopholes and stop multinationals shifting profits offshore but the Liberals are refusing to adopt it. It is not a priority that they want to pursue. In fact, they have made it even easier for companies and high-wealth individuals to avoid paying their fair share of tax. The tax office has confirmed that more than half of the 2,149 redundancies in the ATO in 2014-15 came from the compliance business line, with the pivotal private groups and high-wealth individuals section losing 270 officials, or nearly 20 per cent of its workforce. It makes absolutely no sense for this government to sack the people responsible for ensuring that appropriate amounts of tax are paid by private groups and high-wealth individuals.

Instead, the government wants to increase the GST to 15 per cent as well as increasing the base of the GST. It wants to slug the least well off in our society with a massive increase in the GST. We could see a massive increase in the cost of fresh food, education, health care, electricity and other vital daily expenses. A 15 per cent GST on everything, including fresh food, health care, aged care and education, will see an average family pay an extra $6,200 in GST per year—$6,200 extra in GST per year. That is a huge attack on household budgets and that is why on that side some of them are talking about compensation, but we all know that that compensation, because of inflation, gets eroded, gets eaten away, so any compensation is only temporary. This is a terrible attack on the budgets of millions of Australian households and it is not what the Australian people want.

The government has also shown that it does not care for our communities through its savage cuts to the DSS grants program. The government savagely cut $270 million from vital services that support and advocate for vulnerable communities, families and children, including domestic violence services, emergency relief and financial counselling.

And what about the government’s utter lack of interest in Australia’s cultural heritage? The government’s attacks on the arts community have been unfair. They have been unrelenting and they have been totally misguided and inappropriate. The Abbott-Turnbull government’s attacks on the arts include more than $100 million of cuts in the 2014 budget, including $37 million from the national cultural institutions and $25 million from Screen Australia, a further $13.2 million cut from the Australia Council, Screen Australia and the Ministry for the Arts in the 2015 budget and, most appallingly, $105 million ripped from the Australia Council to fund the government’s ministerial slush fund. In December, the government made an extraordinary cut of $10.4 million from Screen Australia to help fund the government’s spending on two films by the American filmmaker Ridley Scott—Alien: Covenant and Thor. This government, the Turnbull government, has decided that it will utterly decimate the Australian film industry to fund foreign films. So, apart from its broken promises, the government continues to show that its priorities are completely and utterly wrong.

As we have seen, the new Prime Minister has just continued the cuts, broken promises and wrong priorities of the previous Prime Minister. Mr Turnbull sold out every belief he had to become Prime Minister and his continued following and implementation of Mr Abbott’s policies shows this to be so. He is beholden to the conservatives in his cabinet and on his backbench—those who want to cut health, cut education, cut the arts while allowing multinationals to pay almost no tax and allowing very high income earners to get extremely large superannuation tax concessions. He has done nothing, and will do nothing, to change these terrible policies.

He has been happy to allow the least well-off Australians to suffer, just to fuel his personal ambition. Mr Turnbull is rapidly looking like the Wizard of Oz: just a powerless man in a shiny suit hoping that no-one will notice he is a fraud, arguing against everything he used to believe in. I can assure Mr Turnbull and his senators opposite— (Time expired)