Mr GILES (Scullin) (17:09): The member for Forrest talked a few times about hard decisions, tough decisions, and the willingness of this government to make them. I think, in essence, that is what is so sad about this budget and this government. They are so eager to impose pain on those least able to bear it; so keen to ensure that those least able to pay are asked to contribute the most.
Through this debate today, in a parliament which seems determined to debate everything apart from the budget priority of this government, we have seen plenty of bluster from those opposite, those speaking and those interjecting, but no amount of desperation can cover up a very uncomfortable truth for members of the Liberal Party and the National Party: that this budget rests on a mountain of deceit—as everyone in your electorates knows—and will cause untold pain in this community.
When conservatives, like the Treasurer, talk of lifters and leaners, they are deliberately dividing Australians and turning our community on itself. I think we all understand that the lifters and leaners are the haves and have-nots. In recent weeks we have had a big debate about inequality in the developed world, in particular rising inequality in countries like Australia. In most of the developed world this is a matter for concern but, through the Commission of Audit and then the budget that followed very faithfully the Business Council of Australia's script, we have seen almost a how-to guide to boost inequality and to return us to a gilded age where the circumstances of your birth determine your life choices. That might be this government's vision for Australia, but it is not the Labor Party's nor is it the Australian people's.
This talk of shared burden is, in these terms, so very offensive. It is also untrue. Those with the least are being asked to do the most. The cruellest cuts of all actually do not affect Australians. I am talking about the $7.6 billion cut from overseas development aid in this budget—cut from people who do not have any say in these decisions.
Government members interjecting—
Mr GILES: The contempt we hear through these interjections shows the contempt members opposite have for the most vulnerable people—not just in our communities but in the world.
There is no doubt that this is a matter of the greatest public importance. It goes to the heart of what is wrong with this government and what is undermining our democracy. This is at two levels—both of which are very important. It is about integrity—a matter the Prime Minister was very keen on until about 6 September last year—and it is also about substance. It is about choices; it is about priorities—not matters members opposite have gone into today. They are more interested in stunts.
This was to be a 'no surprises, no excuses' government. Of the many quotes the Prime Minister offered up before the election, this one is my favourite. On Melbourne radio the day before the election the then opposition leader and now Prime Minister said:
The fact is the most important thing I can do for our country in the coming months is to ensure that it is possible once more to have faith in your polity, to have faith in your government and that means keeping commitments.
I could not agree more with our Prime Minister on that. It is a pity that he does not agree with the words he spoke before the election. This was of course the day of 'No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no changes to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS'. These clear promises are all broken or in the process of being broken through the backdoor, as with the GST increase. It is breaking the modern Australian settlement of universal health care and access to higher education based on merit—the very social fabric of a merit based society premised on principles of equity and equality.
But what this budget really comes down to is not the long, sad list of broken promises and their impacts—because the sum of these broken promises is, sadly, greater than the individual parts. I turn to the words of the member for Higgins—and it is a pity she is not here. I am going to turn to her words in the Financial Review yesterday but turn them around so that they reflect our reality, not her warped ideological view. This is a budget that entrenches and embodies selfishness. For our children's sake, we must reverse this trend. We must bring Australians together in common purpose and work every day in our communities to undermine this divisive budget and the hurt that it has already caused. It must stop now.