Speeches

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Bills - Turnbull's Unfair Budget for Townsville - 29th May 2018 - Federation Chamber

May 29, 2018

I stand here today in this place to take the fight for my community straight to the Turnbull government. There is not one thing in the budget for Townsville—no funding for Townsville's long-term water security and no funding for our energy infrastructure. This is a slap in the face for the people in my electorate of Herbert, especially given that our electricity bills have been skyrocketing under the Turnbull government.

There's no funding for the Townsville Port Expansion Project. This is essential infrastructure, especially given that, in the very near future, our fuel will be shipped in dual hull ships that cannot access our port. Our fuel will sail straight past Townsville to the south and then be loaded onto trucks and sent back to Townsville along the Bruce Highway. This will result in more maintenance for the Bruce Highway and a higher cost of fuel, which is already expensive in my community.

In fact, there is not one single extra new dollar for infrastructure in this budget for Townsville—not one cent. Townsville has received a nothing budget announcement. This is a budget that has simply been repackaged, keeping the cuts from the previous budgets reworded and presented with a very nice bow on top. The Turnbull government is a government of cuts. The only thing that this budget delivers is cut after cut after cut. There was $9 million cut to Townsville Health and Hospital Service; $40.7 million cut from veterans' allied and dental health services; $36 million cut from James Cook University; $38 million from Central Queensland University; and $14.8 million cut from Townsville schools.

Then, of course, there is the biggest cut of all, which happens to be an $80 billion tax cut to big business and the banks. After the devastation and poor practice that has been revealed in the royal commission into banking, the Turnbull government actually has the gall to give big banks more than $17 billion in tax cuts. That seems typical of LNP priorities. This government would rather give billions of dollars in tax cuts to the same big banks that have behaved badly, as we have witnessed in the royal commission. The same banks tried to evict a blind pensioner from her home; falsely filled out their customers' forms over 350 times, including on life insurance policies, charged people they knew to be deceased for financial advice, sometimes up to 10 years after they passed away; manipulated kids' bank accounts to gain millions in bonuses; advised an elderly widow to put her life savings in to a complicated investment account when she initially came in for a term deposit; and changed nearly 16,000 customer fees for no service for years and then lied to the regulator more than 20 times regarding this, in what can only be described as attempts to cover their tracks. We know there is still more to be uncovered. Yet, given all of this, the Turnbull government still wants to give big banks $17 billion in tax cuts. This is nothing short of rewarding appalling behaviour. Turnbull backs the banks not people. He puts profits before people. He puts top hats before hard hats. More importantly, he puts his job before Townsville jobs.

Townsville knows that these cuts means more job losses. Jobs, workers, families, pensioners and veterans have all suffered under consecutive LNP governments. When Labor left federal government in 2013, Townsville's unemployment rate was lower than both the state and national averages. Now Townsville's unemployment rate is higher than the state average and almost double that of the national average. Townsville's unemployment has almost doubled under the Abbott-Turnbull governments. Under the previous Labor government, manufacturing in Townsville soared. When Labor left federal government in 2013, more than 8,400 people were employed in the manufacturing industry, but under the Abbott-Turnbull governments manufacturing has nosedived, with job losses of more than 3,000. The manufacturing industry made up eight per cent of our local employment. Under the decimation of the coalition governments, manufacturing, jobs and industry have spiralled down to 4.9 per cent. These were good-quality jobs, and now they are gone under the Abbott-Turnbull governments.

There has been the complete and utter decimation of our construction industry. The Townsville Workforce Report January 2018, commissioned by recruitment firm TP Human Capital, showed that Townsville had 442 fewer construction industry business registrations last year compared with 2012. That's a drop of 15.7 per cent. That's more jobs gone from Townsville under the Abbott-Turnbull governments. Then there is the retail industry. The retail industry is often a very good yardstick that one can use to measure how the local economy is thriving. That same Townsville workforce reportindicates that Townsville is not thriving. There was also a loss of 153 retail business registrations in the same period between 2012 and 2017. That's a fall of 17 per cent. That's more jobs gone. And let's not forget the coalition government job cuts to the public sector. One hundred and ten ATO jobs have gone. Fifty defence jobs have gone. Forty aviation jobs at No. 38 Squadron have gone. Nineteen CSIRO jobs have gone. The coalition is a government of job cuts.

Then there's the LNP's track record for our veterans. Townsville is the largest garrison city in Australia, and I am proud to represent a strong and vibrant defence community. I am passionate about supporting our veterans because they have fought for the freedoms that we enjoy in this great country today. But they also deserve the support that they need when they return home. However, sadly, this is not the case under the Abbott-Turnbull governments. First, there were the cuts to the pay of our defence personnel. This was completely inexplicable, especially when the LNP government was sending our service men and women into harm's way whilst at the same time forcing the ADF to take a real pay cut. However, Labor stood by our defence personnel and fought against those wage cuts. Then there is the $40.7 million cut to veterans' allied and dental health services and the freeze to the repatriation medical fees scheme, which is creating a reduction in access to critical medical services for our veterans. They are not even delivering on their own commitments. In 2006, the Turnbull government said that they would establish a DVA mefloquine support team to assist our serving and ex-serving ADF community with mefloquine-related claims, and in 2018 our defence community and their families are still waiting. When asked at Senate estimates about the minister's dedicated team, DVA confirmed that there was no dedicated team and that, rather, this was spread across a handful of DVA staff who deal with a range of issues at any one time. This is shameful, disgraceful and frustrating for our veterans.

Another issue of major concern for veterans in my electorate of Herbert is that of transitional employment. Transitional employment issues can impact severely on a veteran's mental health if they are unable to secure employment. Given the significance of this issue, I was very disappointed to find that the Turnbull government has only committed $8.3 million over four years for veterans' employment, which pales in comparison to Labor's $121 million program. If the Turnbull government had matched Labor's commitment, I would have extended my sincere congratulations, but this difference in funding can only indicate a difference in priorities. Labor will put our veterans first. Labor have our priorities right. We are putting people first. We are prioritising health, education, pensioners, workers, families, aged-care facilities, and veterans before an $80 billion tax cut for big business and the banks.

More importantly, Labor is prioritising Townsville. Labor will fund $100 million towards Townsville's long-term water security. Labor will fund $200 million towards energy infrastructure in the form of hydropower on the Burdekin Falls Dam. Labor will fund $75 million towards Townsville's port expansion project. This investment alone will return more than $580 million to our local economy. Labor will fund the Townsville Health and Hospital Service. Labor will fund our schools with proper, needs based funding. Labor will fund our regional universities, James Cook University and Central Queensland University. Labor will deliver a fairer taxation reform.

We believe in supporting workers and families, not big businesses and the banks. The median weekly personal income in Herbert is $672. Under Labor, a person receiving $672 in Herbert will be $350 better off, and that is $150 more than the Turnbull government's plan. Families will also be much better off. The median weekly family income in Herbert is $1,640. Under Labor, families in Herbert will be $928 better off. That is more than $398 better than the Turnbull government's plan.

It is very clear that a federal Labor budget is the only winner for the people in my electorate of Herbert. These are all Labor priorities, because these priorities put people first. Labor has always been committed to a fair go for all citizens, and we will continue to be committed to a fair go for all citizens. That's exactly what a Labor budget will do for Australia, and particularly for the people in my electorate of Herbert.

WE'LL PUT PEOPLE FIRST