Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2019-2020, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2019-2020; Second Reading
You read a lot? I have no doubt that I'm not the best-read person in this chamber right now, Member for Cowan. But I'd love to see a big new TAFE facility. It's something that could come in that Perth City Deal. The lack of investment in vocational education is historical. For the last five years, we've seen a wind-down, year after year, in investment in vocational education. I hope that the Perth City Deal—and possibly the next appropriations bill I speak on—might actually give an opportunity to increase that investment in vocational education.
There are many states and many places in the country that would like to see themselves become home to a national Indigenous museum. The work that's been done by the National Museum of African American History & Culture in the United States has truly allowed the sharing of many stories that had been previously not shared, not told enough or not communicated appropriately in other cultural institutions. Western Australia approaches its bicentenary in 2029. This is a long-term project, but it is the sort of thing that would properly reconcile a very difficult past for this country, in our historical treatment of Indigenous Australians, with what we hope will be a brighter future, making sure that we treat them more fairly into the future.
Then there are the standard community needs that you have. One of the huge gaps in my electorate that has not been addressed in this appropriations bill, and, indeed, was ignored by the coalition in the most recent election, is the lack of community facilities in East Perth. East Perth is in desperate need of a community centre. One option to fix that—an option that I know the Attorney-General and Leader of the House is a quiet supporter of—is to redevelop the WACA ground, a cricket ground that's stood for more than 100 years in the heart of Perth and has provided some of our greatest sporting heroes with a place to perfect their craft. It's now turning into a community facility, as we've got a beautiful new stadium. I always make the point of giving credit to former Premier Colin Barnett for building that stadium. It is loved by Western Australians, and he deserves due credit for that visionary decision. Sadly, it was expensive, but sometimes good things are expensive. It leaves the WACA with no clear direction from government and in need of huge upgrades. Turning it into a community centre with a gymnasium, community space and a piazza would be one way of making sure that we grasp that opportunity and fill that gap, the lack of an East Perth community centre.
The other thing that always concerns me when I look at these appropriation bills is that we haven't got any clear long-term policy when it comes to child care. I commend the government for trying to put more money into the early childhood education and care space. I really do. It is such an essential piece of our education system and an essential piece of making sure that people can participate in the economy. I pay due credit to the co-convenor of Parliamentary Friends of Early Childhood, who is in the chamber right now, but, unfortunately, the policies that are funded in this budget aren't actually achieving their stated outcomes. For long day care, fees have increased 4.8 per cent since December 2017, despite billions and billions of dollars of more money going into the system. In the government's own independent report on the new childcare system, 73 per cent of families said that they've found their fees have gone up or not changed at all. Less than half of providers, just 40 per cent, said they felt there was enough support from the government for the transition to the new childcare system. Eighty-three per cent of parents said that the changes have made no impact on their ability to get a job, go to work or study. Eighty-three per cent of parents are saying that this system is not making it easier to get a job, to get more hours or to get the skills they need.
The system isn't working. Yet we're appropriating more and more money, to do more of the same, despite the government's own independent report showing that it doesn't work. It's such an important area. Kids learn so much in the first five years of their life. It's important to allow parents to go back to work. It's important to make sure that every child is valued and gets those basic skills in life. If we can't properly deliver that, we really do have to look at whether the system we are continuing to fund is actually doing the job it is there to do.
Despite the billions and billions of dollars in this appropriation bill, there is no money to continue the CapTel handset service. For those who aren't aware of it, this is a service that makes sure people who have a hearing difficulty can use a telephone like you or I would. They can pick up the phone and the National Relay Service helps by speaking to the person at the other end and typing in what they say. It allows people to communicate with the outside world. It allows them to maintain, or gain, employment. To save just $10 million, in February next year it will shut. That service has no guaranteed future. That's wrong. It should have been in this budget. It's not.
Similarly, there is no money in this budget to continue Vision Australia Radio. This is a service that is based on the edge of my electorate. Technically it is in the electorate of Curtin, but it is in the suburb of Leederville. It provides a service so that people who have vision impairments—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 16:41 to 17:20
As I was saying, this appropriation bill has no funding for CapTel handsets and the 4,000 Australians who rely on them. It has no funding for Vision Australia Radio and the hundreds of people with vision impairment who rely on Vision Australia Radio to make sure that they hear the nation's news and that they can engage with the print text that we all enjoy in this place. This budget locks in a six-year Medicare rebate freeze. There's not one cent for the new Western Australian women and babies hospital. The budget locks in historic cuts to the ABC, historic cuts to ABC KIDS, historic cuts to ABC News, and a five-year program of cuts to vocational education. Worst of all, when you have a downturn in the economy and a need for active and urgent stimulus, there's nothing for Newstart recipients.
On the positive side, this appropriation bill does enable us to fund the valuable work of our public sector. I'll always stand up for the work of our public servants, who make sure that our nation remains one of the best, if not the best, in the world. They help you with everything from the tax office to Centrelink to making sure that the policy debates we have in this place are informed—sometimes dignified—but always in the national interest.
I'll just pause to note that today is Thank You For Working In Aged Care Day. Aged-care workers do so much to protect the most vulnerable in our society. They look after our grandparents, our family members, and our brothers and sisters. They make sure that we give people the dignity in their later years that sometimes we are unable to give ourselves. Aged-care workers do such difficult work. It is physical and it's deeply emotional. You only need to sit with an aged-care worker for two or three minutes to discover just how much work they do in helping the elderly and the vulnerable in our society work through not just entering an aged-care facility but also some of the very difficult moments as they approach the end of their life. I always take the time to say 'thank you' to the aged-care workers who helped my great-grandmother, Rooke, when she was in an aged-care facility before she passed—as a teenager, they were incredibly nice to me at a very difficult time—and then, a few years later, when I helped my grandmother pack when she was in palliative care. Aged-care workers really are some of the most important workers in our society. It's appropriate we take a few moments to thank them for that work. So, to the aged-care workers of Australia, I say a very, very big thank you for everything that you do.
There are about 1,700 aged-care places in my electorate, but we have some 17,000 people over the age of 70 in the electorate of Perth. We need more aged-care workers. I talk about the funding of TAFE. We talk about making sure that we have the workforce of the future. When we talk about the challenges of cutting vocational education, there is also a challenge in terms of cutting our future aged-care workforce. It's a great career. It is a profession. I think that, if we're honest in this place, many of us would not have either the guts or the dedication to do that job well and, unfortunately, many of us would look at the pay packets of those who work in aged care and say, 'That is a ridiculously low wage for that incredibly important work.' So, on Thank You For Working In Aged Care Day, I'm going to conclude my remarks by saying thank you to the aged-care workers of Australia. You deserve our absolute support, you deserve our absolute gratitude and you deserve more funding, both for your wages and for the facilities in which you work.