Joanne Ryan MP
Federal Member for Lalor
Joanne Ryan MP

Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2013-2014 and Cognate Bills

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate. I welcome it not because I am enthusiastic about the content of this bill but because I think it perfectly epitomises the actions and approach of the Abbott government to date. The bill before us is yet another example of their willingness to break promise after promise, yet another ideological attack on the central tenets of our society and yet another kick in the guts for every vulnerable Australian. It is what this government is all about. In just a few short months they have wreaked havoc. Take, for example, the first parliamentary sitting week of the year: in just seven days they managed to finish off the Australian car industry, blame affected workers for wanting wages and conditions, and then backtrack on their promise to deliver new jobs. I am sure they see it as quite the achievement. Broken promises, ideological attacks and hurting working Australians is this Liberal government's bread and butter.

So let us see what further pain they can inflict with these new appropriation bills. How about cutting $13.2 million from the Health portfolio, $4.8 million from education, $4.6 million from legal policy reform and advocacy funding, or $11.5 million from the Building Multicultural Communities program. They certainly have stayed true to form, with broken promise after broken promise. After all, this is the very same Prime Minister who said on the eve of the election that there would be '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'. Let us break that down. Mr Abbott said there would be no cuts to education, a unity ticket: that did not last long. No cuts to health: obviously abolishing one of our oldest peak public health organisations does not count. No changes to pensions: I am not sure what Mr Abbott thinks a welfare review is for, then. No GST changes: mobile home owners who fought against the government's tax hike might disagree. And no cuts to the ABC or SBS, just apparently an efficiency and expenses review. It is almost like a checklist of cuts to come, a checklist of broken promises, a checklist to mislead the Australian people. So much for a no surprises, no excuses government. The Abbott government has consistently said one thing before the election and then gone and done the complete opposite.

This is, after all, the party that said on multiple occasions that if debt is the problem then more debt is not the answer. What then did they do in government? They cut a deal with their avowed enemies, the Greens, to legislate for an unlimited debt ceiling—quite a backflip. And how many times did we see the current Prime Minister and Treasurer get to their feet in the lead-up to the election and claim Australia had a budget emergency? They claimed we were headed for disaster. I heard more of it today in this House. They claimed that only they could fix it. I guess they hoped that if they said it often enough it would become the truth, and when it did not they decided to change the rules. As the Secretary of the Department of Finance told Senate estimates recently, the Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Outlook has discarded the former Labor government's fiscal rules which limited real spending growth. Mr David Tune confirmed that this change in assumptions had increased the outlook's projections of budget debt over the next 10 years. So the government changes the rules to suit its own purposes and then, lo and behold, uncovers a $667 billion debt figure in 2023-24. It is a disgraceful action by the Treasurer; it is deplorable. This willingness to fiddle with figures might also explain why the Treasurer decided to gift $9 billion to the Reserve Bank. It was an interesting choice, particularly given that there had been no indication that this was money they asked for or needed.

So why would the government do this? What reason could they possibly have to create and craft a bad result? It is because they are looking for excuses to cut health care, excuses to slash education and excuses to rip up important infrastructure and services around Australia. So obsessed are they with cutting, they are willing to distort the budget numbers in order to justify their ideological agenda. And we know from history that this is something those opposite do. They say, 'We can't afford it and it costs too much.' They attempt to dupe and deceive the Australian public in order to cut, cut, cut. But it flies in the face of logic that if we cannot afford vital health and education services we can somehow afford the coalition's exorbitant Paid Parental Leave scheme, or tax and superannuation breaks for some of our most wealthy. To put it simply, if we are broke, we should not be eating caviar. But the truth is we are not broke, it is just a question of priorities. So it seems that the health of our nation and the future of our kids, creating an equitable and welcoming society, none of this matters to the Abbott government; they simply do not care.

There is a fundamental disconnect between what Australian people want and what the Abbott government is delivering. After all, this is a government that relentlessly pursues inequity. It is a passion of theirs. It is in their bones. They govern for the big end of town while leaving the rest of us behind. We see it again and again. As my colleague the member for Throsby said last week, if you want a tax cut under this government then you had better own a mining company. At the same time as they reward big business they are cutting the schoolkids bonus. They are arguing that we cannot afford to help low-income earners with their lifetime superannuation savings. They are saying that Australian workers like those at Toyota and Holden earn too much.

And if you need any more proof that this is a government that embraces inequality, look no further than their Gonski backflip with triple pike. It was those opposite that promised they shared a unity ticket with us on better schools funding. The Minister for Education pledged to us that he understood the importance of better and more equal education, but of course with this government promises and pledges mean little—in fact, zip. Despite their promises to the contrary, fundamentally, and buried deep within, this is a party that does not believe in funding education. Overcoming disadvantage, a fair go, creating equality—that is not what the Liberal Party are about. And now they are in government they no longer have to fool the Australian people, they are showing their true colours. They are pursuing their dreams of inequality and inequity. They are robbing from the poor to give to the rich. Yet this is the very same party that said they would govern for every Australian. I cannot recall how many times I saw a member of the coalition during the campaign with their Real Solutions pamphlet in hand. It contained, they claimed, the cure for every problem. It promised hope, reward and opportunity for everyone. But, as you can see, Mr Deputy Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. The bill before us is yet another example which proves that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer govern for a minority, a small few with vested interests, and certainly not for everyday Australians.


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