When she was 14, my mother spent the first six months of her working life paying for her rotten teeth to be pulled out. She was the daughter of a single mother who worked three jobs to keep food on the table, and dental care in such difficult circumstances was a luxury—an option that could not be afforded.
That is why I rise today to express my anger at the Abbott government's cruel cuts to the Child Dental Benefits Schedule. Nearly half of all Australian children aged between five and six have a history of dental decay. That figure rises to 70 per cent for children from the lower socioeconomic areas. Having good teeth, having a nice smile, is about more than just self-esteem—dental health is critical to our overall physical and mental wellbeing, particularly in our youth.
Dental health is a clear indicator of poverty in adulthood, and the effects of poor dental health can haunt people throughout their lives. I support a denture scheme here in the ACT and I have helped fund mothers who do not want to go to parent-teacher nights because of their bad teeth and people who are frightened of going to job interviews because of their bad teeth.
The Abbott government's decision to cut $125 million from child dental services is short-sighted and cruel, and will leave thousands of Australian families worse off. Budgets are all about priorities; and, if the physical, economic and social wellbeing of all Australians is not a priority, I do not know what is. I call on the government to reverse this cut immediately.