27 May 2014

'Labor's Budget deceit', Speech in the House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra


Check against delivery

This is a speech by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra.

We see an example today of the Leader of the Opposition highlighting the extent to which Labor is prepared to go down a very lowbrow road indeed. We see the man who is meant to be the alternative Prime Minister—

Mr Pasin: A statesman?

Mr CIOBO: he is meant to be a statesman—outline Labor's approach and their vicious, personal attacks on the Prime Minister. There is one thing that is crystal clear about the modern Australian Labor Party and that is this: Labor would always rather attack the man than they would attack the policy. We have seen a complete policy vacuum from the Australian Labor Party for the past two weeks. For two weeks the government have been attempting to argue why Australia needs structural reform. For two weeks we have been open and upfront to the Australian people about why things need to change. For two weeks the coalition have been outlining why Labor's trajectory was unsustainable and ultimately would mean more pain and more hurt in the future unless small changes were made now. And you would think that the Labor Party, and in particular the man who is meant to be the alternative Prime Minister of the country, would show the slightest bit of statesmanship. You think he might address some of the policy issues that have been at the centre of the debate in this parliament over the past two weeks. But none of that, none of that at all from the Leader of the Opposition. What we had was nasty and tawdry and vicious attacks against the Prime Minister and other members of the coalition.

I say to the Labor Party: grow up; start to learn that the Australian people have rejected the negativity and the barefaced mistruths that we have heard and continue to hear from the Australian Labor Party. And if you would like examples, there is already a myriad of them that were just enunciated once again from the Australian Labor Party. We see the Australian Labor Party talk about how they want—and we just heard this from the Leader of the Opposition—a 'mature and sophisticated debate'. I cannot believe the hypocrisy. Well let us deal with some facts for a change, rather than the personal arguments that we have heard for 10 minutes from the Leader of the Opposition. Let us talk about what is going on in health. Let us talk about what is going on in education. And let us talk about what is going on with pensions. Because those are the three main elements where the Australian Labor Party likes to puff their chests out and say, 'Don't worry Australian people; we'll be the defenders of those three shibboleths when it comes to the Australian society'.

Unfortunately, the truth does not accord with the rhetoric from the Australian Labor Party. Labor's approach in relation to each of those three unfortunately leaves a lot to be desired. Indeed, in the Leader of the Opposition's budget-in-reply speech a little over a week ago he said:

Gone, $50 billion from hospital funding to states.

He has repeated it on numerous occasions since then, and Labor members up hill and down dale like to say that the coalition is cutting funding to health. But it is simply not true. As the Prime Minister outlined today, what we see is that annual federal assistance to the states for public hospitals will increase by nine per cent every year for the next three years and by six per cent in the fourth year: representing a total increase of funding to the states for public hospitals of 40 per cent. But you do not hear those facts from the opposition. They would rather terrify people, they would rather run around spreading mistruths, attempting to manipulate the Australian public into thinking that this was the worst budget ever handed down.

Mrs Elliot: They are telling us!

Mr CIOBO: But the facts are when the Australian public know the facts, and they are quickly catching on to the facts—I tell the member for Richmond they are seeing straight through the Labor Party's manipulation of the truth. They learn that funding for health is increasing by 40 per cent, and overall annual health spending will increase by more than $10 billion over the next four years. And that sets aside to the world's biggest medical research fund. The Leader of the Opposition likes to talk about people's aspirations. We have a collective aspiration for the people of Australia, an aspiration that we as a nation might possess the largest medical research fund in the world—a $20 billion aspiration. Unfortunately, it is only the Australian Labor Party that stand in the way of that happening. So I say to the Australian Labor Party: raise your eyes above the next 24 hours, raise your eyes over the political opportunism, raise your eyes over the knee-jerk reaction and the rank manipulation of Australians' concerns and instead focus on the positives that the coalition are trying to deliver, because that is what Australians expect of us.

When we talk about schools, again we heard the Leader of the Opposition making comments on 20 May. He said, 'He'—that is, the Prime Minister, 'is cutting 80,000 million, $80 billion, from hospitals and schools right across Australia.' He also said, 'These are real cuts to hospitals and schools.' He also said, 'Tony Abbott is taking $80 billion out of hospitals and schools.' Three quotes on the one day—all factually wrong. The fact is that when it comes to Commonwealth funding for our schools it, like health, will continue to increase each and every year.

Students at schools will benefit from the government's record funding investment of $64½ billion over the next four years. What is more, the coalition, when it comes to education, is actually putting an extra $1.2 billion into school funding. I have the privilege of representing a small part, but a great part, of the state of Queensland. That state was left in the lurch by the Australian Labor Party. They did not have the intestinal fortitude to tell Queenslanders that before the election. No, instead they tried to sweep it under the carpet. But we found out in the Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Outlook the real truth, and the real truth was that Queensland and Western Australia were going to see $1.2 billion of funding ripped out of their school system. So don't lecture us about a commitment to the next generation of Australians, because it is only the coalition that has a commitment to making sure that there is more funding on the table when it comes to education.

I also want to address the issue of pensions, because we continue to see the Labor Party out there manipulating and attempting to make sure that they can provide as much misinformation as possible to those among the most vulnerable of our community—Australian pensioners. We saw Bill Shorten on 19 May in Bentleigh East say, 'This is a budget which cuts pensions.' That is his exact quote. Jenny Macklin turned around and said, 'All of these pensions, Tony Abbott wants to cut.' Once again it is plain wrong—completely wrong. The pension, for starters, will not change during this term of parliament. It will keep increasing and the indexation of it will not change in this parliament. In fact, the pension will continue to increase twice a year exactly the same as it always has. In March this year the base rate of the pension increased $14.30 a fortnight for single pensioners and $10.80 a fortnight for each member of a couple. In fact, for each year going forward the pension will continue to increase. That is no cut. I know the Australian Labor Party do not understand how mathematics works and do not really understand finances, either. I have a bit of basic information for the Australian Labor Party: if you have an increase in a payment every single time, that is not a cut; that is an increase. I think it is important that the Australian Labor Party stops trying to mislead.

The most fundamental point is this: I have an amazing privilege of being a father of two young Australians. There are many on both sides of the chamber that have got Aussie kids. We owe a duty of care not only to each of our own children but to all the children of Australia, and all the children of Australia rightly expect of us to bequeath to them an Australia that is better than the Australia that we inherited. That is a pledge that we on this side of the House hold solemn—a pledge that we will uphold. We will only achieve that if we as a nation live within our means. Labor's approach of saying, 'There's no need to change'—that multi-year, multi-tens of billions of dollars deficits are acceptable; that a policy approach that saw us on a pathway to reaching $667 billion worth of debt, that has left Australia in a situation where, thanks to the Labor Party, we have to borrow $1 billion a month just to pay the interest on the debt that Labor accumulated—is unsustainable. It is an approach that will mean Aussie kids will have to spend decades paying back Labor's debt.

When we make the tough but necessary decisions to put Australia back on an even keel, to try to live within our means, to start to make sure that the next generation of Australians actually have the opportunity to not have to pay back the debt from last six years, what does the Labor Party do? They stand in the way. So I say to the Australian Labor Party: it is time to grow up.