Mr GILES ( Scullin ) ( 16:21 ): I rise to speak on the matter of public importance. I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak once more on this budget in this place, as I have been in my electorate in the week between the sittings. Let everyone in this place be very clear: people in Scullin have no confidence in this budget nor in this government's twisted priorities. So I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this genuine matter of public importance.
The budget is, of course, cruel. It divides Australians into lifters and leaners and into haves and have nots. Importantly, it is also uncertain and incoherent. So we see the rhetoric of emergency and of tough decisions while there are also big, unjustifiable spends—most obviously, paid parental leave. We see the confidence-sapping gap between the pre-election promises that the government so solemnly issued signed by our Prime Minister, who talked so much about lifting standards in politics and public life, and today's reality, the reality of the broken promises now facing Australian businesses and Australian families. It is damaging our economy just as it fragments our society and indeed Australia's social fabric. Perhaps this is why the Treasurer always looks so annoyed and tired when he is held to account or even, in fact, when he is asked Dorothy Dixers. He produces that world-weary sigh that we are not worthy to hear his words of wisdom.
Mr Nikolic: It is the sound of confidence.
Mr GILES: We have not heard much about confidence from your side and I do not think we will, Andrew. It is astonishing how yesterday members of this government, including the Treasurer, started to talk about the equitable nature of the budget. Putting aside for one minute the ludicrous nature of this claim, it is telling that it was made. It was another distraction. But it was yesterday's distraction; it has been forgotten about today because the budget is a failure in its own terms. Yesterday the Prime Minister said, 'This is the budget the Australian people elected us to bring down.' Really? Consumer confidence has collapsed since the budget was announced. It is at its lowest level for three years. That is not much of an adrenaline charge; it is more like a sedative. I am sure that members opposite have not been selling the budget assiduously in their communities.
Mr Nikolic: Absolutely, every day!
Mr GILES: I doubt that. As the member for Wills and the member for McMahon touched upon earlier, and as members opposite seem oblivious to, the Westpac and Melbourne Institute data supports what people in Scullin have been telling me. Not only is confidence low, this is clearly driven by an informed response to the government's priorities as set out in the budget. Westpac and the Melbourne Institute have found the highest level of recall amongst respondents for news in the budget and taxation category since the 1970s—higher than in respect of the introduction of the GST. Unsurprisingly, the view of respondents is overwhelmingly unfavourable. Who would have thought! Today, ANZ-Roy Morgan research referred to in The Sydney Morning Herald shows consumer confidence today at 11 per cent below where it was before the budget—that is, 11 per cent below before the Economic Action Strategy, as we are now told to refer to it.
As the previous speaker did not seem to understand, people in Scullin get it and Australians get it. They understand that this budget is not a repair job. It is a con job, but not a very good one. It is asking those with the least to do the most, while doing nothing for Australia's economy. This is an issue that the Minister for Small Business did not touch upon: a majority of businesses are concerned about the impact of the budget on how they will fare.
The pressure on living standards is of course a major concern. Work insecurity compounds anxieties in this regard, as does the slow pace of wages growth. Whatever ideologically-charged ministers may say in this regard, the evidence is once again clear: we are a long way from a wages explosion and most workers are struggling to keep pace. There is no shining light on the jobs front, of course, but we do not have a jobs plan, just a commitment to punish young workers. It is shameful. Financial stress is hurting consumer confidence and constraining consumption. We need a plan to manage our transition to a sustainable economy for the future, and the Treasurer's blind faith and overblown rhetoric and bluster offers nothing less than nothing, really.
A government interested in growing our economy and boosting productivity would be investing in our cities, not retreating from the challenge of supporting these great engines of our economy where over eighty per cent of economic activity takes place. It would be listening to suburban families grappling with real budget emergencies. It would be boosting investment in science innovation, not cutting it to the bone, and it would have a vision for the future, not simply an aspiration to build a better yesterday tomorrow. Calling the budget an economic action strategy does not generate economic activity and it does not change the fact that this government has no plan and is reaping the cost of its relentless negativity. (Time expired)