APPROPRIATION BILL 2018-19

A budget is a statement of the government's priorities. What we have in this budget is an example of how the government thinks it is more important to deliver $80 billion worth of tax cuts to the biggest companies in Australia while leaving our schools, our hospitals and our TAFE system struggling, unable to provide the services that Australians expect of them. And off the back of the best global and economic environment that the Australian government has seen in decades, we see a government that is making no inroads into net debt.

In fact, net debt at the end of this budget period is going to be double the level of debt that they inherited when they came into government. Debt is growing faster under this government than under any previous Labor government. Their economic credibility is completely and utterly shredded.

I want to talk about tax for a moment. When you give $80 billion worth of tax cuts to some of the biggest companies in the country, you have less money left over to do other things that people expect of you. I want to talk about aged care. In my electorate at the moment, there are over 900 people on waiting lists who have been assessed as needing an aged care package so that they can continue to live in their homes. They have been assessed as needing it, yet they are unable to access those packages because there are none available. In fact, looking at the situation around the country, there are over 105,000 people in exactly the same position and that number is increasing as an additional 5,000 people every year are assessed as needing a service but are unable to get one. Every year, another 5,000 people are assessed as being in need but are unable to get a package. So the government expects us to give them a pat on the back for putting a measly 3,500 additional care packages in the system each year? Frankly, we're not going to do that. And to make matters worse, they are robbing Peter to pay Paul; they are pinching money out of aged care—the residential system—to pay for the additional Home Care Package places, ensuring that the needs of both the home care and the residential sectors are not being met.

Frankly, the older people of Australia expect more from this government, and are getting much less. They should not be surprised because, if you look at the other initiatives that are baked into this budget, you can see that that the government are persisting with their reckless plan of ripping $14 a fortnight away from single pensioners in the form of the clean energy supplement. That $14 is helping pensioners pay for their electricity bills, which are going up and up and up, particularly as we go into winter, yet this government wants to reduce their pension payment by up to $14 a week for a single person pensioner. In addition to that, in every single budget this government—which thinks it's got the locked-on support of pensioners—has sought to cut pension payments. This is on top of the plan this government has to ensure that Australia has the oldest retirement age of any country in the Western world.

Only a bloke who's spent his life in merchant banking thinks that you can work to the age of 70 and not have your body give up on you. Well, I tell you, there are a lot of labourers, there are a lot of people who have worked in the mines and a lot of people who have worked in manufacturing and construction in my electorate who can tell a different story. By the time they hit their mid-60s their back is starting to go, their knees are starting to go, arthritis is starting to set in and there is simply no way that they're going to be able to continue on doing the same job until they're 70. It might be okay if you're pushing numbers around a page as a merchant banker, but people who are doing real work, with their backs and with their bodies, know that this is not the case. We're calling on the government to deliver a better deal for the pensioners and the seniors of this country—a better deal than the one that is on offer.

We are seeing another round of budgets with another round of cuts to hospitals. The Liberals are already cutting $11 million from hospitals in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven area. Hospitals are under stress. We need a better deal from the government. It's why, in his budget reply, Labor leader Bill Shorten announced that a Labor government would invest in over 500,000 more places for scans funded by Medicare over a first Labor budget. Labor would invest $2.8 billion in more beds and shorter waiting times for surgery, and Labor would also be investing over $80 million to boost the number of eligible MRI machines around the country and approve an additional 20 new licences. So, while the Liberals are cutting $11 million from the hospitals in my region and much more from hospitals around the country, we see Labor willing to invest over $2.8 billion in a fund to reduce waiting times for surgery and put more beds in hospitals, to invest in new MRI licences and to ensure more people can get the scans and the healthcare services that they need. There is a clear distinction.

This government likes to talk a big game about its investment in infrastructure, but when you look through the details of this budget there is not one new cent for investing in infrastructure throughout the country. And at a time when rail experts are saying that the Illawarra line between Sydney, Wollongong and Nowra will reach its capacity by 2021, there is not a plan from the state government, and not a cent from the federal government, to improve rail services to the people of the Illawarra and South Coast. There was not even a mention of the Maldon Dombarton rail link, though report after report said that it is essential to getting freight off our roads and freight off the Illawarra line to ensure that we can have better passenger services and better freight rail services to the people of the region and to western New South Wales. So, they talk a big game on infrastructure, but they are delivering very little indeed.

I have not been surprised to see members from regional areas—whether they are Liberal Party members, whether they are National Party members or whether they are Labor Party members—condemning the failure of this government to include funds within the budget for another Mobile Black Spot Program. We had the minister telling people that the job is already done. Well, there are over 10,000 black spots on the publicly listed database identifying the mobile phone black spots throughout the country. The government's funded a little over 800, and yet they say the job is done. Well, our message to the government is that the job is far from done when it comes to delivering better mobile services to the people of Australia.

People are keen to ensure that we bring the budget into balance, but that where we have the capacity to return money to wage and salary earners that we do it in a fair and equitable way. At a time when wage increases have been flatlining, through policies for which the government is directly responsible, we're seeing penalty rates cut from ordinary workers who are working over their weekends, and we're seeing immense pressure on wages. We think that there is a need for a better deal for ordinary workers. That's why, under Labor's alternative tax proposal, everyone earning under $125,000 a year will receive a better tax cut. More than four million Australians will be better off by over $398 a year than they would under the Liberal Party plan.

A teacher, for example, who earns $65,000 a year will receive a tax cut of $928 a year. A couple earning $90,000 a year and $50,000 a year respectively will receive a tax cut of around $1,855 a year, leaving them clearly in a better position under the Labor proposal than under the Liberal and National Party proposal. The reason that we're able to do this is that we aren't giving $80 billion to the biggest companies in the country. It's why we're able to do more in terms of schools, hospitals and aged care.

I want to talk about TAFE, because this budget has seen yet another attack on TAFE, with $270 million ripped out of the TAFE system. The minister describes it as 'the basket-weaving section of the education system'. We think it's something very different; not basket-weavers, but plumbers, electricians, carpenters—in fact, the tradespeople who people throughout Australia are relying on. It strikes us as absolutely ridiculous—it is absolutely ridiculous!—that at a time when we are having to import skilled tradespeople from other countries, the government is attacking the very institution which will enable us to train the next generation of skilled tradespeople.

So, by contrast to the government, which has cut well over $3 billion from the TAFE sector since it has been in government, Labor will scrap up-front fees for around 100,000 TAFE students who choose to learn skills that the Australian people need the most. Labor will also invest another $100 million in modernising our TAFE facilities right around the country after conservative governments, federal and state, have ripped the guts out of those TAFE campuses. And Labor will ensure that one in every 10 jobs are created to be filled by Australian apprentices on every Commonwealth priority project.

So we will walk the walk and talk the talk. We will ensure that when the federal government is investing in large-scale infrastructure projects, that one in every 10 jobs on those projects will have to have an Australian apprentice on it. This is the way you address a skills crisis, by ensuring that one in every 10 jobs on a priority project is for an apprentice. This is the way you address a skills crisis, by ensuring that you reverse the cuts that the government has made and by investing money to scrap the up-front fees in 100,000 TAFE student places.

The government thinks the TAFE sector is full of basket-weavers; Labor thinks the TAFE sector is absolutely essential to ensuring that we are training the next generation of skilled tradespeople, whether they are carpenters, electricians or builders. These are the trades that Australia needs and these are the trades that we should be investing in.

If you want a rolled-gold example of the government's priorities, if you want to look at the difference between Labor and Liberal when it comes to budget priorities, it's here: $17 billion in tax cuts to the disgraced big banks; $17 billion in funding cuts to our schools. In my electorate today there are more than 115 classrooms that are temporary demountables; there are schools that lack the specialist teachers to help those kids that are struggling get up to standard and reach their full potential. It's why Labor will return every single cent of that $17 billion that has been cut from schools and ensure that we fund that by getting our priorities right. So we'll give $17 billion to our schools, not $17 billion in tax cuts to the big banks, which have been utterly disgraced by their appalling behaviour to Australian consumers over the past decade.

We will deliver a budget that is more in tune with the priorities of ordinary, everyday Australians. Contrast that to the budget that has been delivered by the Turnbull government, which is arrogant, out of touch and not meeting the basic needs of everyday Australians. When it comes to a fair tax cut, when it comes to decent hospitals, when it comes to decent schools, universities and a TAFE system, this is what the Australian people expect from a budget and from a government, and they'll get it from a Labor government.