It has now been more than three weeks since the Abbott government handed down its budget of broken promises, but, in that time, the shock and outrage in the community has not subsided one bit. In fact, as people have become fully aware of the extent of the damage caused by this budget, outrage has grown.
Over the last three weeks, I have been inundated with phone calls, emails and letters about the budget, and not one of them—not one—has been supportive of the budget. The thing that has struck me is how much of this outrage is coming from traditional Liberal voters, or people who do not normally politically engage. In the last few weeks I have spoken to Liberal voters who now feel betrayed, and I have been contacted by people who have never contacted a politician before in their lives. These are just some of the emails I have received on the budget in the last week alone.
One of my constituents wrote: 'I am a resident of the ACT. I am a pensioner. I am a heart patient, I am a diabetic, and I am a cancer patient. Let me detail the negative effects that the budget has upon my welfare. Firstly, the government is going to change the indexation arrangements on the pension. The effect of this will be to reduce the effective value of my pension over the coming years—that is, my ability to sustain my quality of living will be reduced. Secondly, as a heart patient and a diabetic, the government is planning to increase the cost of medications. At the moment, medication costs me about $50 per month. How much will my medications increase by? Thirdly, the government is planning to introduce a co-payment to visit my doctor. I have a need to consult not only my GP but also my specialist, so here is another increase in my costs. Fourthly, I have been a cancer patient since 1990. I have a rare tumour which requires me to travel to Sydney once a month to consult with a specialist and undergo scans et cetera. This costs me approximately $80 per trip; now, thanks to the government, which is proposing to increase the tax on petrol, my costs are again heading upwards. To say the least, I am not a happy camper.'
I will quote again, from another constituent: 'I am extremely upset by the budget. As a pensioner with a small amount in super, I feel worried about how my situation may change with these impositions. I also worry about my daughter and her family and how they will cope with the changes, and further down the track. Their daughters are just starting school; how will this affect their public education? Please fight this budget, not only for our family, but for those youths of the country who cannot get a job and will have to live on air for six months.'
Again I quote another constituent: 'I am now writing to you about the serious concerns I have in relation to Tony Abbott's budget. I can hardly express my level of disappointment for Australia. I believe I speak for many by saying this budget will badly affect 90 per cent of Australians: those of us who are studying; the average- and low-income workers; the sick; children. Education, health and welfare should be the focus; these are investments in our future. I feel that, if the budget gets through, children will only be able to get an education if their parents can afford it, Australians will only be able to use a health facility if they can afford it, and if they lose their job—bad luck. As an Australian I was proud of our nation, that it wasn't defined by how much money we or our parents have and that everyone had a fair go.'
And I quote again, from another constituent: 'I am a student at the University of Canberra, studying nursing. The proposed budget has made me reconsider my decision to study. Not only are nurses undervalued and the health system not funded properly, but compound interest on my HELP debt will guarantee that I will be burdened with increasing amounts of debt and will struggle even more to pay my debt off. University should be funded and viewed as an investment. Students are the future. They are the future taxpayers and the ones that will be leading our country in the next 20 years. Therefore, our government should not hinder anyone by enforcing these unfair measures. What does it say about the Liberal Party's values when the budget says, 'Too bad if you cannot afford it'? I ask: please make a stand and represent the people of Canberra by telling Tony Abbott that this budget is unfair and asking him to fix it. There are many ways to make the government's books balance without making people suffer unfairly.' Those opposite seem intent to ignore the opposition, the Independents and the minor parties when we tell them that this budget is a dud—it is a stinker! But I urge them: do not ignore the people of Australia. Do not ignore your constituents and what they are telling you. Go out into your electorates, speak to your constituents and you will quickly realise that you have got it wrong, that this budget cuts into Australia's social fabric.