Like many in this place, I hold regular mobile offices and street corner meetings. As a new member of parliament, I find these are a great way to understand what the community is thinking and what actions we might undertake to assist. Last Thursday I attended, with other Lalor locals, a very interesting street meeting on the corner of Spring and Bourke Streets in central Melbourne. Estimates were that around 30,000 concerned residents turned up. On Friday I held a mobile office with state shadow transport minister, Jill Hennessy, in Point Cook, and it was the same—lots of people with lots of concerns about the budget. What were the concerns that were raised? The deeply unfair nature of this year's federal budget—cuts to pensions, cuts to health, cuts to education, cuts to universities, cuts to training, cuts to family payments, the introduction of the GP and health co-payments, increases to the fuel tax, unfair conditions for the young unemployed, increased university costs and higher interest repayment rates. Thirty thousand Victorians gave a very clear message last Thursday, that this budget is unfair, with the most vulnerable doing the heavy lifting.
The Abbott government want to re-create Australian society. They seem to want us to be a country of haves and have-nots. They want to break the social contract that this great nation is built on, the egalitarian dream. The Treasurer went to great lengths recently to explain that working Australians contribute one month's income to welfare recipients. I am keen, as were many people who spoke to me last Thursday and Friday, to see the comparison with how much the taxpayer contributes to negative gearing, superannuation concessions for the wealthy, family trusts and other juicy items in the gamut of things our taxes go to support. Minister Pyne is similarly taking every opportunity to paint a picture of the poor taxpayer contributing to higher education as an unfair burden, when in fact we all know, and Australians know, that these funds will be recouped by the taxpayer through higher tax contributions from graduates if and when they earn the big bucks that Minister Pyne assures us they will. As a former teacher, and with a nurse for a niece, I know that some university educated people certainly will not be earning those big bucks.
Most Australians I speak to—those I spoke to last Thursday, those I spoke to on Friday, those I spoke to on Saturday at the football in my electorate—are happy to see taxes paid being utilised on education and health services and assisting those who require additional assistance, because they understand that social mobility and equity are essential for a productive economy and a fair society. Certainly that was the message I heard loud and clear last week in my electorate.