Budget Reply Speech 2015
My fellow Australians,
A Budget should match the priorities of the nation.
And the priority of our nation has to be a plan for the future – a plan for the decades to come.
A plan to build beyond the mining boom, a plan for confidence.
Our people and our nation are interesting, imaginative, caring, productive and adaptive.
But the 2015 Budget has neither the qualities, nor the priorities of the Australian people.
Australians awaited this Budget in fear, anticipation and hope.
Fear - that the unfairness and cruelty of last year’s Budget would be repeated.
Anticipation - that it might not.
Hope - that the Government would, at last, after 613 days get the economy right.
But once again, in every way, this Government let Australia down.
The test for this Budget was to plan for the future: to lift productivity, to create jobs, to boost investment, to turbo-charge confidence for the years and decades ahead.
To restore hope.
But this Budget fails every test.
It is a hoax, a mirage, a smokescreen.
To the extent that the Treasurer pretends this Budget is in any way remedial to the Australian economy, it is a hoax.
Does it return Australia to trend growth this year, in future years? No.
Does it smooth the transition in our economy? No.
Does it deal with the challenges of the digital age and the new skills and jobs that we need? No
- deepen our engagement with Asia
- help older Australians live in comfort
- advance equal treatment for women
- tackle climate change
It is nothing but a cosmetic job by a very desperate make-up artist.
And this Budget also missed the main game – the challenge that defines life in the 2020s.
Let me unpack this for you:
In 2012 – 8 per cent of our GDP was investment, now slumping to as low as 2 per cent.
This is a fourfold contraction.
In a 1.6 trillion dollar economy – it’s a $96 billion contraction – the biggest Australia has witnessed.
This is the reason we are living in a low growth economy, the massive step change, the step down in investment.
But what does this Budget do about it?
A giveaway to start a fire sale at second-hand car yards and Harvey Norman, that’s good as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far.
The sum total of this Government’s stimulus is a $5.1 billion deposit against a $96 billion withdrawal.
Is the Treasurer seriously asking Australians to believe that this is the best he can do in response to a $96 billion withdrawal,
Even the Government knows this is a short-term fix - they must.
They’ve only booked the measure for the next two years.
The truth is the 2015 Budget is silent on the big picture, the next decade, the long run.
This Budget records the Government’s lack of vision and the price our economy is paying for it.
This Budget drops the ball on reform, change and fiscal sense.
It is a sorry roll-call:
- 17 new taxes
- Tax at its highest levels in a decade
- The deficit doubled - up from $17 billion to $35 billion since the Treasurer’s last Budget.
- Spending outweighing revenue every year
- Over 800,000 Australians unemployed
- And no plan to tackle the structural deficit
The only polite description for the forecasts in this Budget is that they are an experiment in hope over experience.
This Budget is built upon improving forecasts, preceded by worsening results.
According to the Treasurer, nominal GDP is forecast to jump by a whopping four percentage points in two years.
This year it came in at half of what he forecast 12 months ago.
Tuesday’s Budget banked wages growth at 2.5 per cent – Wednesday’s figures put it at 2.3 per cent and experts predict it will stay low.
The truth is, a trifecta of indecencies underpin this Budget.
One– the repackaging of last year’s unfairness: cuts to hospitals, schools, universities and family support.
Two –relying on bracket creep to increase taxation by stealth.
Three– their unconscionable attack upon the States.
Oh, yes Madam Speaker, it’s a bad Budget.
In every respect this Budget is a hoax – it is an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of Australians.
Where it counts, this is last year’s Budget - rebranded, reheated and repackaged for an opinion poll.
The same broken promises, the same unfair, extreme ideology, wrapped in trickery.
Last year’s Budget cut $6000 from families working hard to make ends meet.
Those cuts are still in this Budget – and Labor will never support them.
Last year’s Budget cut university funding by 20 per cent and ambushed students with higher fees and bigger debt.
This unfairness is still in the Budget – and I can promise you this Christopher Pyne – Labor will vote against $100,000 degrees, every time you bring them to this Parliament.
And whether it is for one month – or six – Labor will never support leaving young people looking for work to survive on nothing.
We will never sign off on this Prime Minister’s plan to push young people into poverty, and worse.
The meanness of spirit in the last Budget lives on in this one, the same spitefulness in all things great and small:
- $2 billion in cuts to health and aged care, hidden in the fine print.
- $100 million cut from Indigenous housing.
- $70 million cut from dental care for Veterans and $130 million from dental care to children.
- And $1 million cut from a program that puts seatbelts in school buses in our regions – the Coalition has an eye for detail.
And this government’s second Budget has one more thing in common with its first - it creates divisions and faultlines in our community.
Remember the 2014 lifters against the leaners – they’re at it again this Government.
Cutting family support to pay for childcare, pitting Mums and Dads of three and four year olds against Mums and Dads of six and seven year olds.
Forcing nurses, retail workers and police to choose between more at time home with their baby or a cut to their pay.
In just one year, this Prime Minister has gone from the staunchest defender of Paid Parental Leave, his signature scheme, to vilifying tens of thousands of women who rely upon it.
From praising ‘women of calibre’ to demonising ‘rorters’ and ‘frauds’ – that’s how quickly and viciously this Prime Minister reverts to type about women in the workplace.
And it confirms what we have always known: no employee. no employer. no family can ever trust this Prime Minister with their rights at work.
Nowhere on Tuesday night did the Treasurer utter the words bracket creep.
He should have – because bracket creep is the biggest driver of revenue in his Budget.
The Treasurer should have told Australians that for every dollar that the government keeps in spending cuts, two dollars will be collected through higher taxes.
In a lazy Budget, Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are getting inflation to do their dirty work.
80 cents in every dollar in the rise in revenue comes from bracket creep - the invisible hand in the pocket of every Australian worker.
Along with rehashing of the manifest unfairness of last year’s measures, the abuse of bracket creep, the third cardinal sin of this Budget is the Government’s unconscionable attacks upon the states of Australia and the people who depend upon the services they provide.
There is no atonement, not even a trademark, insincere mea culpa from this Prime Minister or a tear from the Treasurer about the cuts to the States.
Like the last Budget, this Budget cuts $80 billion from Australia’s schools and hospitals.
This breaks an old and a new Abbott promise.
Not just ‘no cuts to health’ and ‘no cuts to education’.
But a breach of his promise before this Budget, not to hurt families.
Prime Minister, let me tell you something, on behalf of the families of Australia.
When you cut $30 billion from our schools - you hurt families.
When you cut $50 billion from our hospitals Prime Minister – you hurt families.
When you close hospital beds, rob our kids of the resources they need, when you put nurses and teachers under more pressure, you hurt families.
Right now, we need the states more than ever, we need a new approach.
For a decade, capital investment in mining has been running at 8 per cent - four times the long-run rate.
Now it is reverting to the long-term average of around 2 per cent of GDP.
And there has been a 17.3 per cent fall in spending on public sector infrastructure in the last year.
The Commonwealth must use its fiscal horsepower to work with the States and private investors to:
- provide more affordable housing.
- develop our cities and towns.
We will bring certitude and direction.
We will bring confidence, that’s what we intend to do.
Confidence for new rail and roads and new ports and bridges, better social housing, smart energy grids, efficient irrigation projects and of course, the best digital infrastructure.
New infrastructure projects boost demand in the short term and they lift supply over the long term, creating jobs and generating national momentum.
But this Budget does nothing to address the funding cut from important public transport projects like the Melbourne Metro and Brisbane’s Cross-River Rail.
It continues to overlook high-return, productivity-enhancing projects like Managed Motorways – a series of overdue improvements to Melbourne’s south east.
This is the first Budget in living memory with not one significant infrastructure project funded.
In government, Labor funded all 15 projects on the priority list: the Pacific Highway in New South Wales, Regional Rail Link in Victoria and the Gold Coast Light Rail.
This government has not funded a single priority project, in fact they have abolished the funding for three and have ripped away half of Infrastructure Australia’s budget.
Inaction undermines confidence, and hurts State budgets and we all pay a price.
More of us spend more time stuck in the car on our way to work.
We need a circuit breaker – for investment and a commitment to put the nation’s interest at the heart of nation-building.
Just as the Reserve Bank of Australia is the independent voice at the centre of monetary policy.
We will put Infrastructure Australia at the centre of capital investment, this will bring greater rigour, transparency and authority to give investors greater confidence.
Infrastructure Australia will drive projects that deliver:
- benefits to our economy and our community
- commercial viability
- And a capacity to enhance national productivity.
I want the experts at Infrastructure Australia to play a more active role in getting projects properly financed.
To act as a broker, to bring together construction companies, long-term investors like super funds and most importantly State Governments, to get projects underway.
Infrastructure Australia Priority projects will receive funding first.
And Prime Minister, in Government, I will do what you have proved incapable of.
We will consult with the Opposition of the day on every appointment to the Infrastructure Australia Board, to put the national interest first.
Prime Minister, Australians are sick of the petty partisanship around appointments – we can do better and we will.
Infrastructure must be at the centre of any plan for Australia’s future – it is too important to be held hostage to short-term politicking or squabbling.
Good infrastructure makes our cities more liveable, our regions more accessible and our economy more productive.
It’s essential to the jobs and economy of the future, to where we will live and the life our families will enjoy.
There is a role
for the Commonwealth in the future of our cities.
By 2025, an extra 4.5 million people will be living in our cities.
And making our cities more productive, more sustainable and more liveable is a key responsibility of the government.
Prime Minister, when it comes to Small Business - I will offer you another thing you never extended to your opponents - co-operation.
There are measures in this Budget Labor will support, in the national interest.
We will co-operate on:
- national security
- we will cooperate on overdue drought relief for our farmers.
- and we will cooperate on small business.
When Labor proposed a tax cut for small business – you opposed it.
When Labor implemented an instant asset write off – you abolished it.
When Labor introduced loss carry back, you unwound it.
But I’m not like you. I want to create jobs and grow the economy.
A 1.5 per cent cut for small businesses might be enough to generate a headline – but it is not enough to generate the confidence and long term growth our economy needs.
So tonight I say, let’s go further.
Let’s give small businesses the sustainable boost to confidence that they deserve.
Confidence to create jobs.
I invite you to work with me on a fair and fiscally responsible plan to reduce the tax rate for Australian small business from 30 to 25 per cent.
Not a 1.5 per cent cut, a 5 per cent cut.
That’s the future. That’s confidence.
I understand this will not be easy and may take longer than the life of one Parliament.
That’s why it must be bipartisan and has to be fair.
That’s why it must be part of a more comprehensive approach to address the key pressures in our taxation system – not only small business, but, as I mentioned before, bracket creep and tax rates for ordinary working Australians.
All of these things, and more, need to be addressed together – in a fair and fiscally responsible way.
This Parliament, you and me, working together to create more jobs, working together to build a stronger economy and a better country.
And you are welcome to work with Labor on our clear, fair plans to improve the Budget bottom line by more than $21 billion dollars in the decade ahead.
Making foreign multinationals pay their fair share of tax: a concrete, costed measure, raising over $7 billion dollars.
Improving the Budget bottom line by an additional $14 billion, by tightening unsustainably generous superannuation tax concessions, subsidised by Australian taxpayers to those who already have millions in their accounts.
Labor created superannuation for the same reason we champion a fair pension: we believe dignity and security in retirement is the birthright of all Australians.
And we will take responsibility for making sure that superannuation is sustainable and fair, a national retirement savings system for the many, not a tax haven for the few.
Prime Minister, your stubborn defence of these unfair loopholes will only cause millions of other Australians to pay even more tax and our deficit to rise.
Labor will back small business to support jobs today and we have a plan for jobs tomorrow.
We have a plan to build a new engine for prosperity – and turbocharge it with science, skills, infrastructure and education.
Like so many of my Labor team, I’ve spent my adult life standing up for fairness – in the workplace, in the community and in this Parliament.
In twenty years of representing working people, I’ve been there in good times and hard times.
When economic change starts to bite, Australians don’t reach for a hand out and they don’t want charity.
But they do expect hope, a sense of confidence.
Above all, Australians want to know where the new jobs are coming from, what will their kids will do for a living, what will the jobs of the next generation will be.
Nothing matters more to Labor than securing the jobs of the future.
Jobs that help Australians aim high, raise families and lift their standard of living.
And the new jobs of the future require new skills.
Designing skills, coding skills – building, refining, adapting and servicing the machines and supply chains of a new age.
Three out of every four of the fastest growing occupations in Australia will require skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Not just researchers and programmers but technicians, electricians, plumbers and machine mechanics.
Yet right now, in our schools, TAFES and universities, there not enough people are acquiring these skills.
Australia must get smarter – or we will get poorer.
I believe Australia can be the science, start-up and technology capital of our region: attracting the best minds, supporting great institutions and encouraging home our great expats.
We should aspire, together: universities, industry, the people and the Parliament to devote 3 per cent of our GDP to research and development by the end of the next decade.
I want more Australians making breakthroughs and adapting technology here in Australia.
And more Australian businesses sharing in the benefits of that technology: in our warehouses, in our factories, in our farms and design firms.
Together, let us harness the power of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to prepare for the future.
A future of knowledge and service industries and advanced manufacturing, a nation of ideas and a country that makes things here.
Our future prosperity depends on harnessing Australian ideas and defining a new global market for world-leading products.
I want ideas born here, to grow up here and create jobs here.
25 years ago, if you were looking for work you purchased a newspaper.
Today, all around the world, millions of people search online.
The world’s largest online job ads company, seek.com, was created in Australia with the support of the Australian Government
A $2.5 million investment in 1998, helped grow what is now a $5 billion company, employing over 500 Australians.
Labor will create a new, $500 million, Smart Investment Fund, to back-in great Australian ideas like this.
Our Smart Investment Fund, will partner with venture capitalists and fund managers to invest in early stage and high potential companies.
Our model has a definite, proven record of success both here and abroad.
Every global company begins as a local one, every big business starts out small.
And Labor will work with the banks and finance industry to establish a partial guarantee scheme, StartUp Finance, to help more Australians convert their great ideas into good businesses.
We will enable entrepreneurs to access the capital they need to start and grow their enterprises.
So many of our competitors for the jobs of the future already have a scheme of this kind in place: the UK, the US, France and Germany and Hong Kong is a leader in our region.
We understand, in the new economy, it’s these businesses that will drive growth and create jobs – and it’s our responsibility to support our next generation of designers, refiners, manufacturers and creators.
Productivity is the most important catalyst for our economy.
And the most important catalyst for productivity is education.
Resource booms come and as we discover, they go - but our future depends on investing in our best natural resource: the creativity and skills of the Australian people.
Digital technologies, computer science and coding – the language of computers and technology - should be taught in every primary and ever secondary school in Australia.
And a Shorten Labor Government will make this a national priority.
We will work with states, territories and the national curriculum authority to make this happen.
Coding is the literacy of the 21 st Century.
And under Labor, every young Australian will have the chance to read, write and work with the global language of the digital age.
All of us who have had our children teach us how to download an app, know how quickly children adapt to new technology.
But I don’t just want Australian kids playing with technology, I want them to have the chance to understand it, to create it, and work with it.
We can’t do this without great teachers – not now and not and in the future.
We all remember our great teachers, I was raised by one of the best.
My mother lived the value of education: as a young teacher, a mature age student and as a university lecturer – she showed me the doors education can open for Australians from every walk of life.
Yet today, two out of every five science and maths teachers for years 7 to 10, don’t have a degree in these subjects.
20,000 teachers in our science, maths and IT classes didn’t study these subjects at university.
We are asking too much of these teachers, and not doing enough to support them – or pay them properly.
- boost the skills of 25,000 current primary and secondary teachers
- we will train 25,000 new teachers who are science and technology graduates
- we will write off the HECS debt of 100,000 science technology, engineering and maths students.
- and will encourage more women to study, teach and work in these fields.
We need to offer the most powerful incentive to Australians thinking about studying science and technology: a good job.
A career in science does not only mean a lifetime in a lab coat, it means opening doors in every facet and field of our national commercial life.
Innovation offers opportunities everywhere: smarter farming and safer food, more liveable cities and better transport.
New ways of learning from each other, working and communicating with each other and caring for each other.
It is the key to the jobs of the future, the jobs that a Labor Government will deliver.
The Government have nicknamed this the ‘have a go’ Budget.
But it doesn’t have a go at returning to trend growth.
It doesn’t have a go at smoothing the transition in our economy from mining to services and cities.
It doesn’t have a go at getting us back to surplus – it doesn’t have a go at reform.
It doesn’t have a go at delivering skills required in the digital age.
Madam Speaker – it didn’t even have a go at apologizing for the last Budget.
But to be fair Madam Speaker, it does have a go at some things.
This Budget has a go at schools and hospitals.
It does have a go at pensioners and the states.
It does have a go at working women and working families.
It does have a go at students, veterans, carers and jobseekers.
It does have a go at the sick and the vulnerable.
If this is an election budget, so be it.
But be under no illusions. But be under no illusions.
The failure of last year’s Budget was not inevitable.
If Labor had not stood strong, if the Government had had its wilful way, if Tony Abbott had controlled the Senate –last year’s malignant Budget would have passed – with all its social vandalism.
And if he gets another chance, by having this one confirmed, he will, by ricochet, inflict last year’s unfairnesses this year.
Unfairness which remains at the core of this political document.
Tony Abbott has only changed his tactics he hasn’t changed his mind.
Whatever this Budget brings, we are ready.
We’re ready to offer remedies, rather than reactions.
We’re ready to fight for equity and for what is reasonable.
We’re ready to fight for what is good and for what is true.
We see the future.
We see the future as one defined by science, technology, education and innovation.
We see a future in Australia with good jobs and thriving businesses, productive infrastructure and liveable cities.
An Australia writ large, where opportunity is shared by all.
This is the future Labor that believes in.