On Monday 7 November 2022, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on the government's October Budget and the Stage 3 Tax Cuts. You can watch the speech here or read the full transcript below.
E WATSON-BROWN: I move:
That this House:
(1) notes the Government's Budget gives billionaires and politicians a $9,000 a year tax cut but delays cost of living relief for everyday people; and
(2) calls on the Government to scrap the stage three tax cuts that cost the public over a quarter of a trillion dollars, and instead spend this money providing immediate cost of living relief, through measures such as getting dental and mental health into Medicare and making childcare free.
There are many words I could use to describe the recent budget, some of which would likely get me thrown out of this chamber. But one that keeps coming to mind is 'demoralising'. After this recent election, I, like a lot of people, felt something I hadn't felt for some time: hope—hope about the future. But with this budget the government seems to be actively trying to crush people's hope, to demoralise people.
It's clear to everyone that we're headed for tough times, with inflation on essentials like we haven't seen for decades, unprecedented spikes in rent, rapid mortgage rises not seen since the nineties, energy bills set to jump 50 per cent, fuel costs continuing go through the roof and wages continuing to stagnate. This budget, despite being accompanied by great rhetoric, offers nothing to meaningfully address any of these issues. People will be worse off with this budget.
Since the budget, my team and I have had the chance to chat to a lot of locals in Ryan. At a doorknock we held in Upper Kedron last weekend, the mood was palpable. People are all worried about the cost of living rising, but they're giving up on the government helping. They think the major parties are as bad as each other, and their family will just have to suffer through it. Is this the kind of society we actually want—one where people are just resigned to their fate? That's what the current budget achieves.
Part of what is so demoralising about this budget is that, while people are getting no relief on their energy bills, Labor is going ahead with handing out over $9,000 a year in tax cuts for politicians and billionaires. While the government are pursuing a housing policy that will see the need for public housing increase, they're spending over a quarter of a trillion—a quarter of a trillion—dollars in tax cuts, the bulk of which will go to the wealthy. So, while the government refuse to offer meaningful support for people struggling, they are going ahead with these stage 3 tax cuts that actually turbocharge inequality and destroy our progressive tax system.
I don't want to sound all doom and gloom. There are solutions, but they require a little courage, and they're far from radical or impossible. They're all policies that have been implemented overseas or even in Australia's not-too-distant past. Capping energy bills; bringing dental and mental health into Medicare, and guaranteeing people can see a bulk-billing GP; implementing free child care for everyone; making public transport cheap or even free; raising the pension and lowering the retirement age; building enough public homes so that no-one is without a stable place to live—they're all actually achievable right now, and, combined, they would transform the lives of just about every Australian for the better.
Labor talks about not wanting to break election promises as an excuse to continue with these absurd cuts. Well, you either break the promise to back the stage 3 tax cuts or you break the promise to look after all Australians—the promise of a better future. You just can't do both. You either scrap these tax cuts and spend that money on helping people, or you keep tax cuts for the megarich and leave everyday people to fall behind.
I want to conclude with a point that I think is often overlooked in this discussion. There are plenty of people in my electorate of Ryan who earn over $180,000 who also want the stage 3 tax cuts gone. They understand that plugging that quarter of a trillion dollars into reducing inequality is more valuable to them than receiving an extra $9,000 that they actually don't need. They understand that invested in public services and support is good for everybody. What good is an extra $9,000 to someone on $210,000, when kids end up trapped in poverty and our society loses the opportunity to develop our amazing talents to the fullest? What good is that extra money when the government doesn't invest in reducing emissions and in building infrastructure to prepare us for climate change? Australians understand that a more equal society benefits everyone. The Labor government would do well to remember that too.