Source: Australian Labor Party (ALP)
Thanks very much Mr Speaker.
This is a matter of real public importance.
A matter what choices parliament makes, what priorities it adopts, what values it implements.
Today I want to talk past the government, to the Australian people.
The fact of the matter is that wherever I travel in this great country, the two biggest priorities for all of us and for the people I talk to, is their family and their health.
It’s the questions about: can you pay the bills, do you have enough for holiday, are you able to make sure your kids can get a good education, do an apprenticeship if they want, or go to university if that’s their inclination.
They talk about whether their kids will ever be able to buy their first home.
They talk about their ageing parents and will they be in a position to care for them, and what can be done.
They always talk about their health.
I was talking to a former member of mine, an underground miner in northern Tassie. He was going to work, doing his shift at the mine but he had just taken his daughter to local hospital, she’s battling cancer.
These are the issues which affect the Australian people.
And this is what matters to me.
And this is what matters to the Australian people and this is what matters to the Labor Party. This is what Labor values are about, a fair go all around.
The Australian people do not talk to me about the urgency or the importance of an $80 billion corporate tax handout.
I’m privileged to do a lot of town hall meetings around Australia.
I’ve literally spoken and listened to tens of thousands of our fellow Australians, in every location.
The issues that I get asked about, and this is what I want to say to the Australian people, the issues I understand and Labor understand are important is: how are the people on the pension going, how are they making ends meet?
Will there be an affordable place for childcare, does the childcare worker get paid appropriately?
What to do about the waiting lists in hospitals. The challenge that Tasmanians have that they have to go to the mainland to get medical services that other people take for granted.
The parents raise the issue about lack of resources in the schools, especially when their kids are getting bullied.
We talk about energy prices in these meetings, they go up and up and up.
We talk about the poor administration of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the lack of putting people with disabilities at the centre of these services.
We talk about the frustrating search for adequate and dignified aged care.
The parents talk about apprenticeships for their kids, like they once had the chance to do.
And certainly people do raise with me, talk about the boats – but they don’t say that the answer to stopping the boats is indefinite detention on Manus and Nauru.
People do raise the low level of Newstart and whether or not an older Australian has a fair go when it comes to discrimination and whether or not they keep being sent for interviews manifestly inappropriate and soul destroying for the job-seeker.
The workers in the audiences talk about labour hire and how it’s used to undermine existing conditions at work. And the people on insecure work talk about the inability to get regular rosters.
And then we talk about housing and people complain, they feel the deck is stacked against them. Some people do complain about foreign investors buying residential housing.
And others complain that whenever their kids save up for the deposit, they find the price of the house just leaps the next $200,000 and they’ve got to go back to the start again and there are plenty of people who talk to me about the inability, not ever to even own a house but the cost of rent and secure housing and public housing and social housing.
And people talk to me about the job losses, every part of Australia we hear the government boast about job creation but they never seem to worry about the people who lose their jobs.
Of course, I hear about the NBN failures. The fact that people have to wait for countless unmet installation turn-ups and missed appointments, the fact that the service drops out. They talk to me about the fact that as small businesses they get ignored, not just by NBN Co, but by the government who delivered this policy.
They do complain to me about the treatment of banks on small business.
They do complain about if you receive a government payment being made to feel second-class, because of the cut-backs at Centrelink.
They certainly say to me: why don’t politicians listen to them more.
But what I don’t get asked about by the vast bulk of the Australian people, the people making ends meet, working hard.
The people who, as the Small Business Minister said when he was taunting me, he said: “Oh, you’ve only ever signed a mortgage”
Well whether or not that’s true, which it’s not, what a patronising statement that people who might have signed mortgages and haven’t inherited a lot of money, somehow they’re not as smart as other people.
But I never get asked about how do we do income-splitting in discretionary trusts for adult members of the family.
And I do not get asked about the importance of wedging Labor on national security.
And I don’t get a lot of complaints about the ABC.
And I do not get asked about buying the Liddell power station, although it is fair to say, some people do challenge the role of privatisation in energy prices.
And I never get asked, ‘Why aren’t we giving the banks a $17 billion tax cut?’
I am interested in what is real in the lives of Australians and I know that on the 1st of July, those two important priorities of families and health will take another setback. Another stagnation of the standard of living in this country.
On the 1st of July there are new cuts to childcare which hurts families.
New cuts to family payments, which hurts families.
New cuts to Sunday penalty rates, which hurts families.
And this is on top of the Medicare freeze, which hurts families.
This is on top of the rising private health insurance premiums, which hurts families.
And this is about the power bills that keep increasing, that hurts families.
And this is on top of the longest period of wage stagnation in the nation’s recorded economic data, that hurts families.
So today I say to the Australian people, Labor is listening to you and we know what are the real issues.
We understand that when your family is okay and your health is okay then you’re in a fighting chance to really start thinking about having quality of life and a decent standard of life.
That is why our party will not be deterred by the cat-calling and the shouting and the buffoonery of a government who desperately want to pretend that somehow if we don’t back the tawdry, meaningless, shallow nature of their tax cut agenda that somehow that this is not the right thing to do.
Because we will offer Australian workers better tax cuts – and we do.
But we will also offer a plan to lift the living standards of families.
We will invest in schools, we will invest in hospitals and we will invest in the safety net.
We will make sure we pay down this ballooning national debt. But we will not do it at the price of cuts to schools and hospitals and the standard of living.
We can make all of these promises because we’ve made a choice.
We’ve made a choice not to go with $80 billion of corporate tax give away and $143 billion of unfunded personal income tax cuts on the never-never.
We understand and our economic values are very straightforward.
When there is a fair go for all, when this country becomes more equal, then we really make progress as a nation.
I did say that politics is about choices and values, it’s about making hard decisions.
I must talk about this Senator in the other place, Senator Hanson.
She actually understand it’s about choices. She actually clearly enjoys it.
She wants to take a time to savour the experience of making choices.
Indeed, she started out in favour, she made a choice to back the $17 billion for big banks.
Then she was against it.
Then she was for it.
Now she’s against it again.
Then she said: ‘I haven’t tried undecided yet, I’ll give that a go’.
People have said she’s a flip-flopper. But flip-flop implies changing your mind once, not every few hours.
Now people might say this is an unfair interpretation on Senator Hanson’s positions, so let’s put it in her own words.
Last night, as she reproved those pesky Labor senators to put them back in their box, she said, and I quote:
“I said no originally. Then I said yes. Then I said no – and I’ve stuck to it.”
She stuck to it for nearly 12 hours.
Post-it notes have a longer stickiness than Pauline Hanson to her decisions.
This morning, she said on the Today show:
“I’ll change my mind as many times as I want to ensure that I come up with the right decision.”
Let me be clear, Senator Hanson: the right decision is not to simply vote with the LNP 90 percent of the time.
The right decision is to back battlers, not to back the big end of town.
The Liberal Party homing pigeon has got one destination in mind and that is to give the banks a $17 billion tax cut.
It’s a decision which the people of Australia will understand: if Australians vote for our Labor team, what we can say and what we can promise is the early years of your child’s education will be properly funded.
We will invest $17 billion in schools and teachers, based upon need.
We will renovate the TAFEs instead of closing them.
We will train Australian apprentices instead of importing skills.
We’ll make sure that kids from every postcode in Australia don’t have to rely on having rich parents to get a university education, to get a good job or to buy a house.
We will make choices because we know our values and we know to stick to them.
The fundamental choice, in this matter of public importance for the Australian people, is the Australian people have got priorities.
Long after people here have moved on to other things, long after the debates are finished, the priorities of the Australian people remain the same. It’s their families and their health.
And the Labor Party will make sure that you can raise your family with financial security and dignity and that we will protect and support your health.
That is what the people expect.