Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:46): The former Governor of New York Mario Cuomo was famous for saying that you campaign in poetry and you govern in prose. Unfortunately, with this government that we have, they campaigned on honesty and they govern in lies. They started this year all puffed up—they had the smell of ministerial leather in their nostrils; they had the electoral wind at their backs—and now they end it with a whimper, broken down and busted up as a government, limping towards Christmas but determined to deny Australians the festive season that they deserve.
There has never been a bigger gulf between promise and delivery than what we have seen in the first year of the Abbott government. Tony Abbott promised that there would be an adrenaline charge of confidence in the economy, and we get a note today from Commonwealth Bank economists saying that confidence is the missing ingredient in the economy—not an adrenaline charge, but a lack of confidence in the economy.
The Prime Minister had the nerve to say that it has been a year of achievement. They said that they would make the budget better; they have made it worse. They said that they would make living standards better; they have made them worse. They said that they would make the cost of living better, and they have made it much, much worse. They said they would be part of the solution, and instead they have turned out to be the problem.
The Prime Minister also said today that the budget this year and the government this year have changed people's lives—and I agree with him. He has damaged the aspirations of people who want to go to university. He has jacked up the price of petrol. He has jacked up the price of medicine. He has introduced a GP tax to attack universal health care in this country. All of these things will change people's lives, for the worse. He has pulled $80 billion out of schools and hospitals, as their own budget documents demonstrate. So he has changed people's lives.
He puts this down, of course, to a change in the atmospherics. It is not the atmospherics that need to change; it is the government and their budget. But there is a stink in the air, and that stink is that carcass which was described by those opposite: the budget hanging around their neck. They say that they need to reboot the message, but what they actually need to do is to restart the budget—to redo the budget—because the judgements that they have made are damaging the Australian economy. In getting things so badly wrong, this hopeless Treasurer is damaging the economy.
The Australian people do not want better spin; they want their country back. They want our nation to be a place where the fair go thrives, and where people look after each other and look out for each other. They want to recognise in our country one of the great civilisations in the world. They want these things advanced not trashed. They want the fair go advanced not trashed. They do not want better talking points; they want a government with better values. They want a government with values consistent with the best of our nation and not the worst of our nation.
Australians want a new government for Christmas but, in the absence of that, they would settle for a new budget. The government should start again in this mini-budget—the Treasurer should start from the beginning and come up with a budget that is fair to Australians.
I was reading Ross Gittins who said in The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday:
The first and biggest reason the government is having to modify or abandon so many of its measures is the budget's blatant unfairness. In 40 years of budget-watching I've seen plenty of unfair budgets, but never one as bad as this.
Even The Australian is getting into Joe Hockey for his performance in this budget. Even The Australian says:
The key player here must be the Treasurer but he has been all but invisible in past weeks and only a sporadic performer since the budget.
It is little wonder that Campbell Newman is saying that Tony Abbott is not needed in Queensland for the election that is coming up in Queensland—
Mr Fitzgibbon: Box office poison!
Dr CHALMERS: As the member for Hunter says, he is box office poison in Queensland, just like he was in Victoria.
So the Abbott government ends the year not waving but drowning. And all of us on this side of the House end the year doing what we do best: we end the year standing up for people in our communities and right around the country—standing up for people against the unfair attacks being made by those opposite. And we will continue to stand up for people. We will continue to look out for people and look after people. We will continue to defend the fair go. But we will do another thing on top of that, as important as it is that we defend the fair go in this country—we also want to advance it.
So, as to all of the terrible things being done to people on low and middle incomes in this country, as the year ends, all of us on this side of the House commit to never rest while those opposite are attacking people in our communities, but also to come up with policies for the future that do not just defend the fair go in this country but advance it.