The Government's Unfair Budget

Click here to watch Sharon’s speech

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (16:57): As the day draws to an end, it is obvious to many of us that we will be heading off to an election and unlikely to meet here in jovial good company on Monday, as the manager of government business intimated at the end of question time. So, it might be worth taking the opportunity in this MPI to have a little think about what has happened in our journey over those three years, because we have had three budgets in those three years.

Ms Claydon: And haven't they told a story.

Ms BIRD: They do indeed, as the member for Newcastle says, tell a story. The government encapsulated it themselves with the term 'continuity with change', because each of those budgets has been exposed consistently—and, I have to say, with increasing speed—to be fundamentally unfair at the heart of what they represent. We had the infamous 2014 budget—the first budget of the Abbott government. It put in place such reprehensible changes that the government had to back-pedal on them or hide them away or freeze them. They were so objectionable to the community that the government simply could not get them through this place.

In that budget, we saw broken promise after broken promise. It went to the heart of the trust that people had in the government that they had elected. There were broken promises on school funding, broken promises on health funding, broken promises on pensions, broken promises on cuts to the ABC and the SBS.

Mr Giles: Consistency.

Ms BIRD: If there was consistency in that budget, it was: if they had made a promise, they went out of their way to break it in that budget. It was an absolutely discredited budget. One would think that, having been exposed relatively quickly for how bad and unfair it was, it might have disappeared off the landscape. There is more to that story, and it is not going to give any great comfort to the Australian public.

So, we then had another budget: 2015. This was a budget that said: 'Let's just stay under the radar a bit. It didn't go too well last time. Let's just try to stay under the radar a bit and maybe try to get everyone to focus on our commitments around child care.' As my colleague the member for Adelaide very clearly outlined for the House, that did not go too well either. Having travelled through two budgets in not quite two years of government, for quite a few on the other side, obviously the message got through. And they thought: 'We need a solution to this. We don't have an economic narrative. The Australian public are not coming on this journey with us. We're being exposed for breaking election promises. We're unable to articulate a case for the future.'

Now, what could be the solution to that? We would have suggested: drop your unfairness—that might have been a start—get in contact with where average people are actually at in their lives, seek to put in place a plan for jobs, invest in the things such as education that contribute to people being able to get jobs or create their own businesses. We could have given them a couple of options like that. But no. What did those opposite decide to do? They decided to swap their leader. The current Prime Minister stood in the courtyard, not far from this place, and said: 'It's time to end this farce. I'm going to challenge, because I'm going to give economic direction to this country. I'm going to bring the reforms that are needed to set us up for the future.' And what hope there was as a result of that, particularly on the backbench! People were hoping that this would be the circuit-breaker that got them where they needed to be. Well, what a disastrous experiment that has been! We now have this new Prime Minister's budget—naked and ashamed in front of us within less than two days of its having been brought down. It should not surprise you, because fundamentally we have a Prime Minister who is the emperor with no clothes. People are in the street pointing out that he is a great disappointment.

This budget prioritises millionaires and it prioritises big business over the average, ordinary people it is supposed to deliver for. It is exposed, it is an embarrassment, and it is no wonder the backbench was so deathly silent in question time. (Time expired)