I rise to speak on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Omnibus Savings and
Child Care Reform) Bill 2017. I strongly oppose the bill on behalf of the residents that I represent in this place
and strongly support the second reading amendment moved by the shadow minister and member for Jagajaga.
If there was ever a definition of what separates the current government from the Labor opposition, this bill is it.
We know this government is ideologically obsessed with attacking and undermining the national social safety
net, and this bill demonstrates that again and again with its long list of cuts.
Today, in my address to the parliament, I will be focusing on a number of critical measures that this government
deems acceptable to reduce the benefits of people who need and support child care, who require paid parental
leave and who receive family tax benefit, as well as focusing on the attacks on pensioners and young people.
We know that many Australians are struggling to make ends meet, and this bill will make it harder for everyday
Australians to make ends meet because it rips money out of the pockets of some of our most vulnerable. The
sheer contempt that is being shown to Australian families, soon-to-be parents, pensioners, people living with a
disability, jobseekers and young people makes for quite a long rap sheet.
It is interesting that the government has ceased even debating this bill. The government is refusing to put up
speakers. Looking at the speakers list yesterday, I noted it was very thin but also very thin when it came to
marginal seat holders, who did not want to get up and defend these cuts. Anyone who represents middle Australia
or who represents working people in this parliament—and there are people on that side, particularly in the
National Party, who represent working people—is going to have a very hard sell with some of these most
draconian measures, which previous speakers on this side of the parliament have listed in the debate today.
I want to be crystal clear about what this bill is about and what it will mean for families in my electorate of
Oxley. It contains cuts to families by removing family tax benefits, cuts to paid parental leave for parents, cuts
to pensioners, people with a disability, carers and Newstart recipients, cuts in support to jobseekers, cuts to
young people by pushing them onto the lower youth allowance, cuts to the pensioner education supplement
and education entry payment, and, sadly, cuts to the pension for migrant pensioners who travel overseas. In my
electorate of Oxley, I have a wonderful multicultural mix of families who call the south-west of Brisbane home
—families from right across the globe who reside and live in the suburbs in the seat of Oxley. Many of them
come from Vietnam and I have met with a number of pensioners who regularly travel home to see family and to
support family. These measures will have a serious impact on many of my residents.
But the saddest thing, when the parliament was sitting last week, was to consider that this government thinks it
is okay to pit vulnerable Australians against each other—'You can have support for the NDIS or you can have
support for child care. You can support family tax cuts or you can support vulnerable people.' This logic is not
the Australian way.
I conducted a mobile office in my electorate on the weekend before last, at the shopping centre at Forest Lake,
and a sole parent came to me with a long list of issues. She asked me why the parliament continually focuses on
cuts to the people who can least afford it. Just once, I would like this parliament to have a conversation about
multinational companies not paying their fair share of tax. Just once, I would like a proper discussion about those
at the top end of the scale perhaps paying a little more. Just once, I would like a discussion about how we can
make large corporations become better corporate citizens. But, since I have served in this parliament, all we
have heard is toxic rhetoric about lifters and leaners and double dippers—and on it goes. I was elected in 2016,
but who can forget that fantastic image of then Treasurer Hockey and the finance minister, Senator Cormann,
chomping down cigars, proud of their efforts. Then on budget night the Treasurer was dancing to the Best Night
of My Life when he walked into this parliament to deliver a cruel budget. We later found out that that had a
very devastating political impact on the government. There is a reason why so many government members of
parliament lost their seats at the last election. The results have spoken for themselves in communities right across
Australia. The Australian way is not to cut the safety net out from those who need it; the Australian way is to
give a helping hand to those who need it.
We know from reading this legislation that the government's proposed childcare changes will leave one in three
families worse off—not better off but worse off. Some 330,000 families will be worse off and a further 126,000
will be no better off, so almost half a million families will be worse off or no better off. What do we get from
it? We get cuts to Australian families. We get a whole lot of fresh news from this government. In addition to
these savings or cuts—and the government pretends that they are not cuts—we are seeing 700,000 Australians
facing cuts to their wages. It is interesting to note that when the decision came down last week the government
did not focus on those people. They were of course focusing on themselves. The warfare inside the Liberal Party
led to the front page of The Daily Telegraph saying 'Divided Liberals are losing faith as senior MPs prepare
We know that these cuts will mean 700,000 Australians will lose up to $77 per week. That might not be a lot for
the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services, who is sitting at the table, or the member for
Canning, who is in the chamber today, but it means a lot to residents in my community. It means a lot to those
people. Some may say it is deplorable, but I would say it is beyond the pale. We on this side understand that we
should not be cutting wages and conditions and, more importantly, we should not be cutting family payments.
We heard debate in the chamber today about childcare changes. When these reforms were brought into line in
2016 John Cherry, the CEO of the largest childcare provider, Goodstart Early Learning, said that that decision
alone would hurt families. He said:
We're extremely disappointed that our families will need to wait another year for the Government to deliver on
its promise to make child care more affordable.
They have sat on their hands for four years. They have sat on their hands. They have brought a package into this
parliament and expect up to one million families will be worse off. Jo Briskey from The Parenthood summed it
up when she said that working families had been let down by the government. She said:
This budget is an absolute disappointment for families who can't afford to wait any longer for the Government
to take action on child care affordability and accessibility.
We know that there are a whole range of families that are going to miss out. When it comes to paid parental
leave we know that, if the government were to have its way, around 70,000 new mums with a median income of
$62,000 would be $5,600 worse off. And on it goes. In my electorate of Oxley 14,334 families receive family
tax benefit A. Many of them will be worse off as a result of these changes this parliament is debating today.
This is in addition to the 11,477 families who will need $354 as a result of the abolition of family tax benefit
part B end-of-year supplement.
There have been all of these cuts and changes and a massive horror start to the year. We know that when it
comes to social security payments this government cannot be trusted. Look at the robo-debt debacle. Yesterday
I was in touch with a resident from Durack in my electorate. A woman called Maree began her horror nightmare
on 21 November last year. This woman is on a disability support pension. She has not worked since 2006. She
suffers from Parkinson's. She was given a debt of thousands of dollars. She is a wonderful model citizen. She was
horrified at this but realised that there had been a terrible mistake. She then contacted Centrelink and demanded a
review. The review said that she still owed the money. She knew that she did not owe any money. She knew that so
she demanded a second review. Finally, yesterday she was advised that in fact she owed nothing—nothing at all.
What about the trauma, suffering and difficulty she went through? Has anyone from the government—a minister;
the senior minister, who has run a million miles; or the Prime Minister, who is in a witness protection scheme
at the moment—stood up and said sorry? Absolutely not. Time and time again we see this victim blame culture
inside the government. It is not, 'We're here to help you. We'll look after you,' but, 'Prove your innocence.' That
is not the Australian way.
We know that pensioners and young people are also in the government's firing line. While the government has
been predominantly worried about the family payments, it is scrapping the energy supplement—a $1 billion cut
to pensioners, people with disability, carers and Newstart recipients. We just heard from the member for Kingston
about the impact a five-week wait for Newstart will have. The government is forcing people to live on nothing
for five weeks before they access income support. I challenge members of the government to come with me to
suburbs in my electorate and look people in the face and describe the impact that this is going to have on them.
I have heard horror stories from my local residents, who are fearful. They want to work.
We hear a lot of talk about jobs and growth. We hear a lot of talk and slogans from the government. But we
know budget measures are all about priorities. Today in The Sydney Morning Herald we saw, 'Company profits
soar as wages fall'. Company profits have surged to record highs at the same time as wages have suffered their
sharpest decline in eight years. We are seeing income inequality at a 75-year high, with wages growth at a historic
low and underemployment at record highs. This is not the Australian way. It is certainly not the fair go that our
country has been built on.
I understand the government's priority is to look after those who can look after themselves—corporations. We
have heard stories about investments in multinational companies. That is its No. 1 priority. The Prime Minister
today confirmed that he of course supports the cut of $77 to the wages of 10,500 retail, accommodation and
hospitality workers in the electorate of Oxley. This government thinks it is okay to rip their weekly salary apart. I
do not support that. This opposition under Bill Shorten will never support a reduction in working people's wages.
But, more importantly, we cannot and will not support these amendments and changes being put forward by a
government that is completely out of touch and that has lost its way. We know that the Australian community
deserve much, much better than they are getting from this current government.