Senator Dastyari is a hard act to follow—
Senator O’Sullivan: It is impossible.
Senator DUNIAM: It is impossible, but I will try and stick to the facts.
Senator Hume: You have good hair too.
Senator DUNIAM: I like my hair—thank you very much. Following on from the motion moved by Senator Brown to take note, I thought I might try and stick to the facts of the debate.
Senator O’Sullivan interjecting—
Senator DUNIAM: Yes, I know. I am going to be boring today. What I find most interesting coming into Canberra at the beginning of a sitting week is sitting on the plane and wondering what sort of stunt the opposition is going to try and pull this week and what sort of tactic will be employed during question time by the brains trust of those opposite. This week we saw the taking out of context of three words—winners and losers—from what was probably a 15- or 20-minute speech. That was the basis for today’s question time. They were three words out of a very long speech out of all of the speeches the Prime Minister has given. They have used those words as a basis to try and attack the government. They have clumsily threaded together all of these questions, trying to contrast statements made on policies against what they think to be right.
I was listening to Senator Dastyari and his characterisation of policies geared toward creating jobs and economic growth—policies targeted, in many cases, at small businesses. We are not talking about billionaires, as the opposition would characterise them. These are small business operators who employ small numbers of people. These policies create an opportunity for these people to employ more people, often in small and regional communities in my home state of Tasmania. The characterisation that these policies are all geared toward billionaires at the expense of down-and-outs in our community—or whatever they want to call them—is just wrong, and I think they need to be held to account on this. They are trying to mount a simplistic argument and they are trying to take the Australian people for mugs. I think that is something that is not right and is unbecoming of people in this chamber.
The other point that was made by the Attorney in response to questions today was the need to ensure that the system is fair and sustainable moving forward, so that it is there for generations to come. It is not a system that is going to be burdened by oversubscription and something that becomes unaffordable. Contrast the approach we employ and the policies we have outlined, which are about job creation and economic growth—everyone knows about them. They get derided by those opposite, but we have outlined them as ways forward to create jobs—against the policies of those opposite. They want to spend more and tax more and hope for the best into the future. They have no regard for trying to manage a budget and ensure essential services, like many of the welfare payments referred to by the senators who asked questions, the answers to which we are taking note of today. There is no reference to that at all.
If we stick to this theme of winners and losers that the opposition have tried to bring to the debate today, the real losers are those people who will miss out if Australians fall for the rubbish being espoused by those opposite and re-elect the Labor Party into government. What you will see is spending at record highs again, increases in taxes and an unsustainable future—a future where the welfare system that provides for so many in need just cannot be sustained. Who is going to pay for it? How are we going to manage it? We need to take that into account.
Also, with regard to Senator Brown’s question about Medicare bulk-billing in the state of Tasmania: I have some sympathy for Senator Brandis, who does an excellent job of being across many, many briefs representing the Prime Minister in this place. Senator Brown did have the opportunity to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health—and may well have been able to do that and get a more specific answer—but what became apparent to me was that Senator Brown did not actually like the statistics that were being repeated to her in the answer. The question I would like to know is where things were at in the state of Tasmania when the Labor Party left office in 2013. I know that Senator Hume, who spoke previously in this debate, has referred to some of them.
In closing, I think we need to reiterate where things are at with regard to bulk-billing: rates are 3.2 per cent higher in the September 2016 quarter, at 85.4 per cent, than they were in September 2013—Labor’s last quarter in office—when they were 82.8 per cent. You only have to look at where things were throughout their term in office. They were consistently lower than where we are today. So this claim being mounted and the statistics that are being cherry-picked really show this argument for what it is: a baseless one and one without fact in its foundation. I think Australians deserve better.