Unfortunately, we do have a need for a new vision for a stronger and fairer Australia. And that’s because this government has not got the ability to lead our nation. There is no leadership. Added to that, they fundamentally lack vision and a sense of what is fair. It’s as if they’re stuck in a time warp. They espouse policies from the 1950s without realising that the world has actually moved on, that the world has changed. And the policies the Australian government enacts for the Australian people need to change, too; they need to keep up-to-date.
Labor, on the other hand, has a vision for a stronger and fairer nation. Only Labor will fight for secure jobs and fair wages. Only Labor will tackle rising power prices, invest in education and health and address housing affordability. And why is that? It’s because those opposite lack the courage, willingness or ability to fight for a better Australia. They’re content to keep on eroding workers’ rights and conditions because it suits them and their big-business mates. But we on this side believe Australia will be a stronger nation when we are a fairer nation, when everyone believes that they have opportunities, when everyone has potential to succeed and when loopholes in the law aren’t used by some to not pay their fair share.
Sadly, fairness has gone backwards. Since the mid-1970s, real wages have grown by 72 per cent for the top 10 per cent of workers but by just 23 per cent for the bottom 10 per cent. If I was still an early childhood educator, or a cleaner, and had received the same wage gains as financiers and solicitors, then I would be about $16,000 better off a year. Unfortunately, early childhood educators and cleaners do not receive the same wage gains as financiers and solicitors, so they’re not $16,000 better off a year. We know rising inequality has direct costs. And in an economy that benefits only the fortunate few it isn’t just unfair; it’s likely to be quite unstable and even unhappy.
The rules shouldn’t be rigged for one group of people over another. Labor wants to see changes in a number of areas. One of those areas is discretionary trusts, which are overwhelmingly held by the most affluent households. Taxing discretionary trust distributions to mature-age beneficiaries at 30 per cent is a similar approach to what John Howard did as Treasurer in 1980 when he stopped the rort of distributing tax-free trust income to toddlers. Charitable trusts, deceased estates and people who work in or run a small business and receive a salary won’t be affected. But high-income professionals who are splitting their income with their adult children and parents will have to go back to just one tax-free threshold, just like the rest of the workforce. That is fairness.
While the Turnbull government has led cuts to penalty rates and let them sail through, Labor will continue to fight these cuts. It’s just unfair to cut the wages of our lowest income earners while millionaires get tax cuts. We’ve also seen the rise of the casualisation of work. Casual work makes it harder for people to get loans or mortgages, to plan their future and to maximise their career opportunities. The priorities of federal Labor start with jobs and wages and tackling inequality in the labour market, and the best way to secure jobs is to ensure we have a well-educated and trained workforce. So, while Labor stood its ground and campaigned against Gonski 2.0, it is a bit unfortunate that we saw the Greens capitulate and allow approximately $68 million to be ripped out of the education system of my home state of Tasmania. Unless we focus on quality education based on need, we will leave behind a generation ill-equipped to face the challenges of the future economy.
I’ll just quickly talk about Australia’s homeownership rate, which is now at a six-decade low. Over the past generation, the share of young Australians owning their home has fallen while the share who are renting has risen. As major city house prices push the seven-figure mark, we increasingly risk becoming a nation where the only way of buying a home is to get help from your parents. That’s okay if your parents can afford it. I had to help my daughter recently to purchase a home. I earn good money, but if you’re earning $60,000 or $70,000 a year, or even less, how do you help your adult child buy a home? Let me tell you: it cannot be done. My daughter wasn’t eligible to get a mortgage, because she’s on contract work all the time. Although she has an honours degree, she was— (Time expired)