BILLS; Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2018-2019, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019, Appropriation Bill (No. 5) 2017-2018, Appropriation Bill (No. 6) 2017-2018; Second Reading

May 21, 2018

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (18:57): I would like to make a contribution in this cognate debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-2019 and other appropriations bills. There's probably one thing that we have learnt since the handing down of this budget by the Treasurer, and that is that it is only a Labor government that understands and knows about the delivery of fairness. Fairness is not about what you say or the words you might want to couch your budget in. Fairness is about what you do; it's all about actions. This government, once again, has failed that test. As a matter of fact, they've failed it five times.

This is their fifth attempt at a budget delivering so-called fairness to the Australian community, yet, despite the rhetoric of those opposite, this is really a budget about big business. We've heard in the past about trickle-down economics. We have heard that, provided we give it to the big end of town, it will eventually work its way down to the workers. We know that over the last couple of years businesses have been making reasonable profits, and yet we are seeing the lowest wage growth in living memory at the moment. They want to take this whole concept further—to say, 'Well, just trust us,' and, 'Let's make our key signature policy giving $80 billion to the big end of town in the hope that that's going to stimulate the economy and create jobs, and that everyone's going to live in a land of prosperity.'

After five years, I think the tired old government over there should be starting to think about giving it up. Let's face it: that's what the electors are thinking. The previous speaker might want to get bolshie about this, but he, like any of those on the other side of the parliament with margins under 5 per cent, knows what the polls mean. They know that people have turned off. They're no longer listening. It's one thing for the Liberals to want to come out and say that they're concerned about fairness and about returning fairness to the Australian economy and to working families. But to make your key signature policy all about big business is really not delivering much in the way of fairness for working families of this country.

In fairness, the tax plan does give a modest $10 a week to Australian workers. As I say, it's modest, and we will support such a modest increase. But don't forget that they're giving with one hand while, with the other hand, savagely making cuts to pensions, cuts to education and cuts to health. I'm not sure they can actually sell that at the election. I invite them to try! They've got to get out there and say, 'We'll give you something and we'll take all of this from you.' It simply is not going to work, because, as I say, people have turned off. They're no longer listening, despite the talk around the corridors here, and I know, regrettably, you guys don't get a bounce out of this. I'm not sure what that means—should you go to a longer period for elections, or which leader should you take to the election? All that is in the hands of you and your party room. But the realistic aspect about this is that a $10 tax cut for Australian workers does not cut it when you want to do things such as take $17 billion out of education and cut into health and pensions. People are aware of this stuff. This is not something new. They've seen this before. This is a government that is showing all the signs of being tired. It's out of ideas, and the only thing it can come up with is: 'Let's throw some money at big business.'

Bear in mind, this mob opposite is the same mob that protested vigorously about having a royal commission into the banking industry. They said, 'We know what's happening in our financial institutions. All the royal commission is going to do is make lawyers rich.' I'm not sure how the lawyers on the other side would take that. They said, 'It would only tell us what we know.' I really hope those opposite and those in the Treasury didn't know about all the things we now know about—things about AMP and what is occurring with the Dollarmites at the 'which bank'. All those things are happening. It's a far cry from what they wanted to do and say about a royal commission into trade unions—absolutely. They were looking at one prosecution as a result of the trade union royal commission, but I think that's been withdrawn now.

Mr Wallace: Only one? Only one, you reckon?

Mr HAYES: Only one flowed out of the royal commission, as my friend reminds me. But it took $78 million for that one. Anyway, we've lost the board of AMP. We have a financial system in debacle, a financial system which has been protected by those opposite, who withdrew the very protections we put in place for people so that financial advisers would act in the best interests of clients. One of the first actions of the government opposite was to withdraw that. What! These are the people who are now saying, 'We want you to trust us with our fifth budget because we are all about fairness for Australian people.' No wonder people are starting to think, 'When they talk about fairness, let's see what their track record is.' I've got to say it's pretty dismal.

Anyone in this joint must think that it is our absolute honour to be here. Very few people get to represent their community in the federal parliament. When you think in those terms, you must think the Australian people deserve better than what's being offered by this government. They deserve better than to be told that what's in your interests is to give the top end of town a lift at the expense of everybody else. A modest tax cut, if it's affordable, is the right thing to do. But you don't give with one hand and take with the other.

I have just one little piece of advice for those opposite: if you can't afford to give an $80 billion tax cut to business—and I accept that you can't—simply don't do it. You wouldn't do this in your household economy. You wouldn't say, 'Look, I'd like to buy that new car but I can't afford it so let's just add it to the mortgage.' If you can't afford it, don't do it. Don't do it at the expense of working families, at the expense of pensioners, and don't do it at the expense of all those people who put their blood, sweat and tears in, who are raising families and who want the best outcome for them. And by the way, we need that $80 billion for our future.

The cutting of $17 billion out of education is ridiculous. Any investment in education is not a line item. It's not something you just say, 'This is what we're doing in our budget, how we're going to save money.' An investment in education is an investment in our future. It's an investment in our prosperity. It's an investment in our nation. It's not just a line item in the 2018 budget. And $17 billion is almost exactly the amount of money the banks are going to get, a tax cut of $17 billion as a reward for their hard effort over the last 12 months. The royal commission will no doubt now discover more and more things. I know those opposite didn't want the royal commissioner to extend the terms of reference but they might be stuck with them now, because the Australian people are getting more and more concerned about what they're seeing is happening in their financial institutions. By the way, over the last period of 12 months, those banks made something in the vicinity of $34 billion in straight-out profit.

Ms Madeleine King: They need a tax cut!

Mr HAYES: They really need it, don't they? And you know what happened? Those workers in the financial institutions, well, jeez, they haven't done terribly well. They haven't increased their salaries. The executives may have actually got some bonuses. As a matter of fact, they did work some stuff with the Dollarmites, making sure those accounts were working so that people got a payout. A number of banks and financial institutions were signing off fraudulent statements on behalf of applicants at the NAB. Look, you guys opposite have got to start thinking there's more to being in government than trying to pull a job of smoke and mirrors, more than just pulling the wool over the eyes of people.

I'm very fortunate. I work in the most multicultural community in the whole of the country, bar none—very vibrant, very colourful. We have many, many opportunities to celebrate New Year from the start, with everyone else, on the 1st January, through to my last New Year's, celebrated in August or September with another group. Mine is not a rich community. The average income in my community is a tad over $60,000. I know what this budget means for them. I know what taking $14 a fortnight off pensioners means for those people. They're not going to go and work an extra shift. They are not going to work some overtime to make this up. The pension is all they get. Taking the $14 energy supplement off them at a time when the member for Hughes keeps reminding this House about energy prices. At a time when he wants to talk about record energy prices in New South Wales, he's part of a government that is going to take $14 off pensioners who can't go and make up that difference.

We need to be a bit smarter about this. We need to give people the opportunity to go out and invest in themselves and in their future. We did that in the global financial crisis. By the way, you never, ever hear a word about that from those opposite, but we came through that reasonably well, because we stimulated the economy. We did that by looking after families and encouraging them to invest in their futures. That is not what we're seeing coming out of this budget.

The mums and dads in my community are more concerned about what's happening in education. I preface this by saying that mine's not a rich electorate. As a matter of fact, I have the lion's share of refugees coming to this country, and many of the migrants make their home in the Fairfield and Liverpool areas. Interestingly, of the 12,000 refugees that the government decided to take, particularly out of the Middle East—and we supported them—we get 7,000 in Fairfield. Yes, there are all sorts of issues that come with that in terms of making sure those people are appropriately settled, which is fine, because I think we are a very giving community in my area. But what I've seen with the people from the Middle East or, before that, the people from Cambodia or, before that, the people from Vietnam is that they have a passionate belief in education. They believe that the ticket to success in a country like Australia is to ensure that their children have a first-class education, and they just cannot rationalise in their minds what this government is doing in taking $17 billion out of education. I know they all want to get up and say that's all just hyperbole over there. We have even got the Catholic bishops coming out today and reaffirming what this means in respect of Catholic education.

We are privileged to be in this place. We are privileged to have the honour of representing our communities in this parliament. Not many people get this opportunity. When we're here, we should be trying to make a difference for the better in our community, not simply rattle off some lines about how this is the budget and we're going to do all these various things. We should, on both sides of the House, be trying to make a difference for the better. Quite frankly, after five budgets, I just do not think those opposite have that view in mind. Perhaps they think this is their ticket to another election. I've got to say: guys, I think you're mistaken on that as well. But, if you're not in this House with a genuine commitment to make a difference for the better in the community, you should not be here.