Liberals' failure to prioritise middle Australia

June 19, 2018

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (15:38): In the member for Deakin's contribution just now, he managed to do two things which, until then, I had thought would be impossible. First of all, he made the member for Bradfield sound like Martin Luther King and, secondly, he made that Liberal Party punch-up at charcoal chicken seem enlightened in comparison to his contribution. In his defence, the Prime Minister is no better. We had a question time where the Prime Minister did some extraordinary things which I suspect he might be seeing in some campaign videos between now and the next election. But he also did something else: he quoted one of the Labor greats; he quoted Paul Keating in this parliament.

A lot of people on this side of the House know and admire Paul Keating. The member for Lilley does; the member for McMahon knows him well. Paul Keating has been right about a lot of things in his political life, but he's been especially right about the Prime Minister. He was the one who described the Prime Minister as a fizzer, and he got that spot-on. The other thing he got right, which we don't talk about enough in this place, is that the current Prime Minister went grovelling to Paul Keating, with Richo in tow, and begged him for a Senate seat, saying, 'Please give me a Senate seat.' So devoid of principles was the current Prime Minister that he was prepared to show up here in any party. Paul Keating was right to say, 'No, off you trot!' He was especially right to predict that Malcolm Turnbull would bob up somewhere in the party with the lowest standards. That's what we've seen.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): The member for Petrie, on a point of order.

Mr Howarth: The member for Rankin needs to refer to the Prime Minister by his correct title.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I take the point. The member will refer to people by their correct title.

Dr CHALMERS: The other thing Paul Keating was right about is something we're very proud of: the Labor Party is the party of aspiration. The Labor Party is the party of aspiration. Those opposite wouldn't know the first thing about aspiration. They don't have the necessary affinity with working people that we have to understand that aspiration is fundamentally about working hard, studying hard, getting ahead, providing for your family, looking after your community, making a contribution to your community and making a contribution to your country, as the member for Jagajaga said. What our parents wanted for us we want for our kids and for every Australian kid: the opportunity to get ahead in this country. The government don't have the necessary affinity with working people to understand that. They don't understand that the key to this country and the thing that makes this country extraordinary is social mobility. The fact is that someone in a suburb like the one I was born in, like the member for Lalor's electorate and like all of our electorates can work hard and get ahead in this country. They just don't get it.

What we were treated to today from the Prime Minister was the sickening spectacle of a Prime Minister who, from that despatch box, thinking he was being clever—he had the angry teapot out and he was doing all of those sorts of moves—boasted that, 'I've seen a lot of wealthy people in my time.' How sickening is the sort of stuff that he goes on about! The thing that really stuck in our craw was when we asked him about a 60-year-old aged-care worker, and the Prime Minister of Australia said to a 60-year-old aged-care worker, 'If you don't like the tax cut you're getting, go and get a better job.' A disgraceful slur! A disgraceful slur on the aged-care workers of this country! They just do not understand.

For a party that likes to talk about how much they hate the redistribution of wealth, those opposite sure are doing a lot of it. The key fact about the tax cuts that they want to impose on this country is that 60 per cent of the benefit goes to the wealthiest 20 per cent in this country. That's redistribution. By anyone's definition, that is redistribution. That's what they are into.

Australia will continue down this dangerous and perilous path of rising inequality and less social mobility for as long as these characters are on that side of the parliament. That's why the member for McMahon was so right to say that there are two ways to resolve this big barney we're having about tax right now in this parliament. One is to split the bill so that we can vote for genuine tax relief for 10 million working Australians. But we can also have an election and take it to the people. Let the people of Australia resolve this. Let the people of Australia choose between our bigger, fairer tax cuts and the trickle-down Reaganomics proposed by members opposite. (Time expired)