Government has not changed

10 February 2015

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:58):  The Prime Minister's claim that he would lead a stable, adult government has gone from a political promise to a political punchline. In 521 days of government we have not had one single budget passed. There have been fewer budgets passed than leadership spills during the Abbott government, and that is why the government has become a joke. They are led by a figure of some ridicule. They have a much diminished figure as Treasurer.

Government members interjecting—

Dr CHALMERS:  All of these characters that pipe up now just reinforce my point that they have become a joke. We have got a Treasurer that cannot even secure his own job, let alone the jobs of Australians. The Prime Minister stood there yesterday, hand on heart, and said he would change, but not a single policy changed yesterday. Even the promise to properly consider Australian-built subs only survived about as long as that creepy, quivering silence he subjected Mark Riley to in the courtyard out there that day.

Let us take stock of the policy suite of those opposite. They still have, after this big reset, cuts to the age pension, the disability support pension and the veterans pension. They are cutting the pensioner education supplement and axing the seniors supplement. They have still got a GP tax. They are still increasing the petrol tax and they are still radically increasing the cost of a university education. That is why yesterday was not a restart; it was a re-run. That is why it did not matter, at the end of yesterday's leadership ballot, who was left holding the axe, because people on low and middle incomes were still under attack from this Liberal government.

As entertaining as it has been to watch them stagger around in a haze of confusion and contempt for each other, it does have serious consequences for our economy. It has consequences for our business community and for people on low and middle incomes. For those people, the government's disarray is no joke. Economic growth and jobs are at stake while they fail the nation. That was a point made very well by Peter Martin from The Age today, who said:

The government itself has become an impediment to economic growth. It had the ability to make a fresh start. On Monday it didn't take it.

They said there would be an adrenaline charge and they would be open for business. Confidence is way down. Consumer confidence is down 16 per cent since the Abbott government was elected.

Mr Watts interjecting—

Dr CHALMERS:  As the member for Gellibrand says, it is like they are trading while they are insolvent.

Half of company directors surveyed said that they were making negative decisions about their decisions based on the performance of the Abbott government. They said over there that they would be part of the solution. Instead, they are part of the problem, whether it is the budget, which they have made worse, whether it is the cost of living, which they have made worse, whether it is stability and confidence, which they have made much worse, or whether it is employment outcomes, which they have made much, much worse.

It beggars belief that the government lecture us about budgets when, after 521 days of government, they still cannot pass one. There is a simple reason why they cannot. It is that this budget asks the most vulnerable people in our community to carry the heaviest load. For as long as the fair go lives and breathes in this country, for as long as the fair go is cherished by the Australian people, a budget like this will be rejected. It says it all about those opposite that the Minister for Finance on Sunday, and the Prime Minister today, confirmed that not a single minister around the cabinet table said this budget might be unfair. As much as the member for Wentworth and the member for Curtin want to pretend that this budget was drawn up in a cabinet room that only had the Prime Minister and the Treasurer in it, they are all part of this same mess. And, when the member for Wentworth stood up today in that avalanche of arrogance that he always brings to the dispatch box, he confirmed that he supports every part of this budget. No matter how far and how fast the member for Curtin runs in the morning, she will never escape the fact that she supports this budget. The member for Wentworth will wear this budget like a leather jacket on Q&A. He will wear this forever like a leather jacket on Q&A. On this side of the House, we will keep standing up for people on low and middle incomes, because that is what we do. On that side of the House, nothing has changed. Monday was not a restart, as they claim. It was a re-run of a budget horror show.