Another unfair Liberal Budget - nothing has changed since 2014

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (15:51): There are occasions in the government's life when a particular budget epitomises everything that they stand for and what their priorities are. We saw such a budget in 2014, when those opposite were first elected to government under former Prime Minister Abbott, and we well remember the legacy of that budget —and so we should because so much of it still exists in the budget we're confronted with in Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2018-19 and the related appropriation bills today. The budget had at its heart unfairness and it did not pass the test not only of this parliament but of the general public's opinion of what it was trying to do. This budget is exactly the same as that previous budget. Plainly on display are the priorities of the government. I'm sure people will excuse me for borrowing the analogy of the member for Gilmore last week—and the member for Gilmore might be surprised to know that most members of the public probably consider that, if the horse is the government, the jockey would be considered to be the Prime Minister, not herself. You can change the jockey on the horse, but, if that horse is running the same race, you're not going to have any different outcome. That's exactly what is happening with the budget that is before us now. The priorities, the wrong values and the wrong approach to the challenges facing the nation that were encapsulated in that very unfair, discredited 2014 budget are still there in all their tarnished glory in the budget that was announced this month by the Prime Minister. It is both sneaky and unfair, and I want to address some of the most significant concerns that I have with the budget.

The first thing that it puts in headlights before the Australian people is the fact that the government are committed to an $80 billion tax cut for the big end of town. That is their immovable priority; that is what they are determined to have encapsulated in this budget as reflecting their values and their priorities. I would suggest that that is not shared by the vast majority of the Australian population, particularly when you consider that, within that $80 billion, is $17 billion that will go to the big banks, who have hardly covered themselves in glory in recent expositions coming out of the royal commission. It's particularly important to note, if you look at that $17 billion that the big banks will get as a tax cut under the priorities of the government, that that's exactly enough to put back on the table the $17 billion that the government have cut from our schools.

So here you have a contrast between those of us on this side of the House, who believe in investing in the things that make us a fairer, more dynamic country for the future that includes an opportunity for our children to be part of that story, and those on the other side of the House, whose priorities seem to be that big banks, who have been exposed as having not exactly exemplary behaviour and who are also, I have to say, making record profits, desperately need $17 billion in tax cuts, but our kids in our schools who actually need, as my colleague the member for Whitlam has outlined to this House, the investment in their schools, because they're working away in demandable classrooms across my region—they need investment in literacy and numeracy programs and work to be done in programs that ensure that young people in high school are well positioned for TAFE and university study when they leave their school.

All the programs that I've seen across my electorate and I know were happening across electorates around the country were built on the back of the original Gonski agreement, which was needs based and sector-blind funding. This government has rolled up a shonky version of that which is not needs based and sector blind and which cuts $17 billion from schools across the nation, and they have tried to claim that they are actually doing the right thing by kids in our schools. I don't think parents of those children, their families, their carers, the communities they live in or the teachers who spend so much time and energy working to make sure they position them well will agree that that is a reasonable priority for a government to have. And certainly I know that in my electorate many people would share that concern.

There are so many issues in this budget that I want to cover, and I'll take the opportunity to cover them in a number of contributions to the chamber, but, like many of my colleagues, I'm very excited to hear my new colleague's first speech, so I'm only going to take a few minutes to—

Ms Kearney interjecting—

Ms BIRD: Please don't apologise; I'm absolutely thrilled to have this dilemma. So I just want to make a few points about what my concerns are in particular. One I've already spoken to the House about is the pea-and-thimble trick that's been played in the aged-care sector. Indeed, I've had many locals in tears on the phone to me about access to home-care package places. There are 105,000 people across the country waiting for a home care package. We got 14,000 in the budget. That's not even going to keep up with increasing demand. That's not even going to manage the demand that grew in the six months since they last tried to do something to address this problem. Those families are under great stress and waiting up to 12 months. Somebody who's been assessed as needing support in their home is waiting 12 months. What does the government think the families are doing in the meantime? This is an enormous pressure and this is a particularly cruel trick—not to mention the fact that, as our shadow minister has highlighted, they also didn't actually put extra money in; they funded that by taking money out of residential aged care, which is also under a lot of pressure.

The second area I'm really angry about is TAFE. I'm very disappointed that the Prime Minister not only made an incorrect claim about the level of debt under the Labor government when they took control but also failed to engage and talk about TAFE. I think the government's record on vocational education, on skills, on providing apprenticeships and on filling the skills shortage which should be addressed by training our own people is that they have been cutting and cutting away at the heart of vocational education every single budget and midyear economic statement. Not a single one has passed where they have missed the opportunity to make another cut, and again and again they tout their Skilling Australia Fund, which they can't actually show has delivered anything in terms of apprentices. There is so much that's wrong. There's so much that goes to the heart of the priority for a government that is completely out of whack with where the community is, what their needs are and what we should be doing as a nation.

This budget, as I said at the beginning, puts their priorities the up in headlights, and I'll tell you what: if they were my priorities over my head, I would be ducking for cover, and I think many of those opposite should be doing the same. You can't prioritise $80 billion to big business with $17 billion to the banks while cutting away at the heart of school, TAFE and university, making sure we won't have the investments that we need. I'll continue to fight, as I know all of my colleagues on this side will, against what are very unfair and poor budget decisions by this government.

Debate adjourned.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.