Mr PERRETT (Moreton—Opposition Whip) (17:10): I rise to speak on the appropriation bills: Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2016-2017, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2016-2017 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2016-2017. I should say up-front that these appropriation bills are not controversial inasmuch as they provide for the continued functioning of the Turnbull government for the remainder of this financial year. Obviously, the Labor Party will not block supply. We have always been very clear about that. There has only ever been one political party that has blocked supply for political purposes, and I think Australia condemns the Fraser government for so doing. However, I should point out that Labor does not agree with the way the Turnbull government is going about or attempting to go about budget repair. Nevertheless, the Labor Party, under the guidance of Chris Bowen, is working constructively with the government to achieve budget repair that is fair.
I do point out that under the party that claims to be supposedly good with the books we now have tax as a percentage of GDP at 25.8 per cent. Just to put that in context, that is at a similar level to that which Labor had during the global financial crisis. We are now in the fourth year of the Liberal and National parties' government and of them handling the books, and we have got tax at that amazing rate. Now, those that may have seen the Menzies show know that there are times when the nation can run deficits. But the Labor Party was lectured for years and years by those opposite before they came into office about how they were going to reach surplus. I think the Joe Hockey said that they were going to reach surplus within the first year. We have now had increased taxes and increased spending, as we saw finance minister discussing recently in that great train wreck of an interview with Leigh Sales on the 7.30 Report. But the party of supposedly responsible spending and taxing have shown that they have lost control of the situation.
Thankfully, in the Labor Party, we are still doing what we do well. Under Bill Shorten, we were not prepared to be a small target opposition in the lead-up to the last election, and ever since we have been prepared to take on budget repair. We did so before the election campaign—in fact, a year out. Labor's budget repair package would actually raise more than $80 billion over the medium term. But, obviously, because we are the Labor Party, it is budget repair that is fair. For example, when it comes to superannuation, our package is not retrospective. I know that people in Moreton were very worried about the retrospective changes that the government said that they would bring into effect. There has been some retreat from that, but there are other things that were rock-solid election promises that they are not prepared to back away from.
Labor made that strong commitment to reforming negative gearing and capital gains tax. These were sensible changes that would come in over time and would not influence anyone who already had negatively geared properties. But they would in the long run make home ownership more achievable, particularly for the millennial generation, who are missing out on the benefits of home ownership and of being able to transfer accumulated capital to their children. I would hate to see an Australia where owning a home was no longer a dream held by most Australians.
Our budget repair package also included increased tobacco excise. It opposed the return of the baby bonus and it included an $8,000 per year cap on VET FEE-HELP loans. All of these measures are considered. We lost a bit of bark over them, but that is what sensible alternative governments do. They are all measures that are fair and reasonable.
Sadly, the Turnbull government or the Turnbull-Morrison team is committed to delivering a very different budget that focuses on giving big businesses a $50 billion tax cut at a time when we have a budget under stress. That is an unbelievable commitment. As we know, nearly $9 billion of those benefits would flow to overseas companies rather than to Australian companies or to Australian pensioners or schoolkids. They also wanted to give a cut to the marginal tax rate of individuals who earn over $180,000—not exactly battlers. That would be a tax cut to the top three per cent of income earners. Whilst I am always happy to hear their concerns, I do not think a sensible government needs to worry as much for people who are earning over $180,000.
So Prime Minister Turnbull is shackled to the same unfair measures that the member for Warringah brought into place in that disastrous 2014 budget. I am sorry to bring that up for you, Deputy Speaker; I know it troubles you whenever that 2014 budget is mentioned, but that is the reality. You are still out there defending measures that Mr Hockey and the member for Warringah brought in in that horror budget and that they are still trying to visit on the Australian people. It is saddling our children with debt before they have even earned a wage with these $100,000 university degrees. It is raising the pension age to 70, which would give Australia the unlikely record of having the oldest pension age in the world. The age of 70 for a lawyer is not the same experience as for a manual labourer. The experience for an electrician or a builder would be completely different.
I still recall your former colleagues, Deputy Speaker, talking about the double dipping and rorting levelled at hardworking parents when it came to changing the Paid Parental Leave scheme. That was until they found out that some of the people they were talking about were their own spouses. There was also that horrible suggestion of leaving the young unemployed to fend for themselves, magically, for four weeks before receiving any unemployment benefits. That was an incredibly short-sighted and cruel measure. How could any sensible government expect young unemployed people to go to job interviews, to look presentable for those job interviews or to have a phone with some credit when they have no money to house themselves or to feed themselves? That was a particularly cruel measure. Lastly, there was the cutting the pension of migrant pensioners when they visit their families back in their homeland.
Here we are in the fourth year of this Liberal-National government. Let's look around at the nation. Are we in better shape now than before the Liberal and National Parties took the reins of government? No, not by any reasonable measure! Obviously they talked about the debt and deficit disaster. Well, what has happened under their watch? If we look at the Treasury books at the moment, we see that the coalition has tripled the deficit. Net debt has increased from more than $100 billion; it is now north of $326 billion. The national unemployment rate, which is a good measure of whether the engine of government is working well, has increased to 5.7 per cent, whereas when Labor left office it was 5.1 per cent. This is the government that still has the hide today to talk about jobs and growth. I would also point out, Mr Deputy Speaker, as I am sure you are told by the people in your electorate, that not a single full-time job has been created by the Abbott-Turnbull experiment. There are currently more than 700,000 unemployed Australians—40,000 more since Labor left office.
There was an election commitment that the government made while in opposition that you would create one million jobs in five years. We are now in the fourth year of this government, and you really need to get a wriggle on if you are to meet that one million job target. As we have also seen with the ratings agencies, there is the risk of our AAA credit rating being downgraded.. We have seen the concerns raised by those international agencies. I would point out that under the Labor government with the member for Lilley as Treasurer we had, for only the second time, three international ratings agencies give the Australian economy a AAA rating.
The Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Outlook has confirmed that Australians are much worse off in this fourth year of the coalition government. Spending is up, deficits are up, debt is up; wages are down. Wages growth is the lowest since they started to measure wages growth; so people are effectively going backwards which means that their standard of living is going down.
We are still prepared to act sensibly and work with the government to make amendments to their budgets. We have secured important amendments in their omnibus bill which will protect the most vulnerable from the harshest cuts and preserve the ongoing viability of ARENA. We secured that $800 million for ARENA over five years to ensure the continued investment in Australia's clean energy future which will deliver jobs and a planet that we can leave to our great-grandchildren. Labor has also secured the continuation of affordable access to dental care for children by protecting our dental benefits scheme. We have also seen the dropping of the Baby Bonus payment which ensures that all existing categories of recipients to the Energy Supplement will continue to receive this modest supplement. We removed the cuts that would have seen people with severe psychiatric conditions lose support.
Labor's amendments of $6.3 billion in savings over four years can be added to Mr Morrison's budget bottom line, and that is more than the government put forward in its original legislation. We can see that we have a Labor Party that is adventurous when it comes to policy and that is prepared to retail its ideas.
I do ask myself: what is the point of the member for Wentworth when it comes to vision? If it were revenge on the member for Warringah for having knocked him off as leader back in December 2009, that would have been a short-term step towards the Lodge but then you have to lead the nation. We sadly see a member for Wentworth who is beholden to the right wing of his party. There is almost no Liberal left in the Liberal-National Party—almost none. Deputy Speaker, you are one of the last of his tribe—the last of his tribe. You have the member for Dawson setting the tenor and direction of the government—this sort of hillbilly-harbourside alliance is a crazy combination when it comes to ideas.
So we see the member for Wentworth, who has Oxford Street in the middle of his electorate, representing a significant group of the GLBTIQ community, saying that we will enforce a plebiscite on the GLBTIQ community, where we know there will be hate and division peddled throughout that community and we have had mental health experts saying that that will have horrific consequences.
We have in the member for Wentworth a former environment minister. He was elected 12 years ago yesterday, I think. He was passionate about climate change. Do you remember when he was the environment minister in the Howard government? Now we have a policy on climate change where we will see emissions going up year on year under this government. We saw his ludicrous defence in question time today. What is he passionate about? The enterprise bargaining arrangements between some workers and volunteers that fight fires in Victoria.
This is the vision of the member for Wentworth. It is unbelievable. We had a double dissolution election; we wrote off to the Governor-General saying it was crucial that we go to an election on the ABCC legislation and the registered organisations legislation. They barely rated a mention in the election. We had that most laughable of speeches ever, the speech by the member for Wentworth at the Wentworth Hotel on election night. It will surely go down in political history as one of the worst political speeches ever.
From that I will segue to a comment made by one of the greatest speechwriters ever, Don Watson, Paul Keating's speechwriter, who worked on so many great speeches, including the response to Mabo—that Redfern speech, crafted by Don Watson, where the government had to respond to the Mabo decision and came out with the native title legislation. It was an incredibly difficult idea to sell to the Australian people. Don Watson, writing about the member for Wentworth recently in The Monthly, had a line that, like much of what Don Watson writes, is incredibly poetic but also incredibly accurate. Speaking of the member for Wentworth's previous nature, he compared him to Steppenwolf—being like a wolf. Then he said, 'Now look at him. He is bland in tooth and claw.'
Sadly, it is a damning line about the member for Wentworth; but, more troubling, it says that the nation, when we need direction and a steady hand on the teller, lacks it. When we need some guidance and vision, instead we have this man who is a hollowed-out version of what he used to be.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Irons ): I thank the member for his contribution. The member for Moreton did mention the word 'adventurous' a few times in his speech. Remember that members who sit in this chair are independent. You might want to structure your speeches in a way that does not reflect on the chair.
Mr Perrett: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker.