Liberals fail to invest in Australians

Credibility is very important in this debate and that is why the comment made by the Prime Minister that 'This is the budget that the Australian people elected us to bring down' is such a breathtakingly arrogant statement. It reflects how out of touch this government is with community sentiment but it also reflects, more importantly, a disregard for the Australian people.

Saying one thing before the election and then doing another, as is reflected in the broken promises of this budget, is insulting enough but to turn around and assert that this is what people voted for is downright offensive. It is particularly offensive to the people in my electorate who have been very hard hit by the measures in this budget. My electorate has a long history of socioeconomic disadvantage—it is in the top 10 most disadvantaged electorates in the country. My residents have been particularly hard hit by the closure of the automotive manufacturing industry, Qantas's ruthless decision to move jobs offshore and the continued onslaught of the rising cost of living. By no stretch of the imagination are pressures on low- to middle-income families and the erosion of consumer confidence conducive to economic growth.

The Abbott government promised to turbocharge consumer confidence but what we saw in the lead-up to the May budget was the exact reverse, with the Treasurer making it clear in his own words that these budget measures were about hitting household consumption. That inevitably means that pensioners, students and families relying on basic services and payments to get ahead will suffer—and so will the economy. If households do not spend, business will continue to sit on the sidelines and the economy will be unable to fill the gap left by rapidly falling investment in the mining sector. The release of the Dun and Bradstreet quarterly Consumer Financial Stress Index has shown, as the member for Wills mentioned, that Australian financial stress levels have risen by almost a third, to 18.7 points from 13 points in September last year. Low- and middle-income households are reeling from this budget through the new GP tax, the petrol tax increase, cuts to the pension and cuts to family benefits. The Dun and Bradstreet Business Expectations Survey report comes on the back of consumer confidence collapsing to its lowest level in nearly three years.

With mining investment in steep decline, the economy is desperate for other sources of growth. That growth should come from other areas of the economy and, in particular, from science and innovation. Instead of putting a plan in place that will underpin future growth and productivity, this budget takes a baseball bat to education and innovation funding. The massive cuts to the major science and research agencies of at least $878 million come on top of more than $5 billion slashed from higher education. The cuts to the CSIRO, totalling about $111 million, add to the obvious penchant this government has for slashing innovation, research and education.

This budget means big job losses, a range of missed opportunities and the tragic loss of scientific expertise through an inevitable brain drain. None of this augurs well for the Australian economy. The government is oblivious to its responsibility to invest in its people in order to secure future economic growth and the creation of jobs through the innovation economy.

Australia's capacity to nurture high-tech start-ups has suffered a massive blow. The budget completely abolishes Commercialisation Australia, Enterprise Connect, the Enterprise Solutions Program, the Industry Innovation Precincts Program, the Innovation Investment Fund, Australian Industry Participation plans, and textile, clothing and footwear industry co-investment.

Mr Dreyfus: There's not much left!

Ms VAMVAKINOU: There is not much left. That is absolutely correct.

The Abbott government's abandonment of Australia's advanced technology companies and emerging industries puts thousands of jobs in the sector at risk by adversely affecting the economy. My electorate has lost thousands of jobs, especially in manufacturing. It relies, therefore, on government to invest in innovation, skills and education. This government's budget has shown no commitment or interest in such investments. As such, it has been and is detrimental to the Australian economy. (Time expired)