Tuesday, 20 October 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2020-2021, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Second Reading
This is Australia's first recession in 30 years. The Morrison recession is the second recession in my life time. Nearly one million Australians are unemployed, and the government expects another 160,000 Australians to be unemployed by Christmas. In September alone, 30,000 jobs were lost. The unemployment rate is rising to 6.9 per cent, and we don't know how far it will go. There are some 2.5 million Australians who are looking for work or looking for more work, and a new report from Deloitte Access Economics expects Australia's unemployment rate to get as high as 8.6 per cent in the June quarter of 2021. And yet many unemployed Australians face, at the end of this year, the Christmas present of their JobSeeker payments snapping back to just $40 a day.
We know that the Morrison recession has hurt those in insecure work the most, particularly women and young people. Think about what young Australians have already lost, and what they face in 2021. Under this government, 140,000 trainee and apprenticeship positions have already been lost. Now they're making university education unaffordable for an entire generation. The cost of studying commerce and law degrees is going to increase by 28 per cent next year. From one year to the next, this government is increasing those degrees by 28 per cent. But it doesn't stop there. When it comes to humanities degrees, they are increasing in cost, in one year alone, by 113 per cent—costing as much as $14,500 a year or $60,000 over the course of a degree. This is on top of the fact that young people were forced to raid their tiny superannuation accounts—many of them going down to zero—just to survive through this pandemic. We're a rich country and we're a country that's taken on a lot of debt, and we have treated young people appallingly during this pandemic. It's estimated that some $40 billion in superannuation has already been withdrawn during COVID. While we're saying to everyone, 'Go and take money out of your superannuation,' this government has managed to increase gross Commonwealth debt to $1 trillion. We've got record youth unemployment and huge dents in superannuation accounts, and young people will be saddled with paying back $1 trillion of Morrison Liberal debt.
At the same time, the thankyou gift that we gave young people in this place this week was to increase their HECS debts massively, through one piece of legislation. Last week I met with year 12 students in my electorate to discuss the government's knowledge tax, to get their feedback. These were year 12s who were in the middle of studying for their exams, but they thought it was important to meet with me and tell me what they thought. Elizabeth told me that she felt the government were trying to coerce students into what they said were the job-ready disciplines. She has decided to ignore the government's financial coercion and instead study what it is that she's passionate about: humanities, history and anthropology. But she's worried that many students that she's studied alongside may not follow their passions.
If that's how we've treated arts degrees, let's talk about how we've treated the arts industry. This government has continued to punish those who have pursued a career in the arts. The arts, entertainment and events industry was one of the first to be shut down by COVID and will be one of the last to reopen. But somehow, despite the Liberal Party advocating for a deregulated labour market and advocating for more casual employment—the Liberal Party sometimes tell us they believe in the free contract and movement of labour—if you swapped jobs in the last 12 months, they punished you. If you'd worked as a casual, you were punished by this government. The 600,000 Australians who work in the arts and creative industries—some 4,663 in my electorate alone—were forgotten, and they have had to pay the financial consequences of being ignored by this government. The feedback I've received from organisations and individuals working in the arts and entertainment industry is that they do feel that this government has let them down and left them behind. They've been saying now for six months that we need a tailored package for the arts. We've seen small amounts. Very little of that money has actually gone out the door, and it has been a terrible way to treat our artists, who have actually helped enrich our souls in the hardest of years. They have started capturing the stories of Australia, in the middle of a recession, in the middle of a pandemic, in the middle of a health crisis. They've been capturing these stories and sharing them. They've been putting on free concerts and entertaining us in many ways, many of them giving away their craft for free. I will never accept that in this year, of all years, we are treating our artists and our creative industries worse than we have in any other year since Federation.
Politics is about choices and it's about the alternative visions for this country. With the budget and the opposition's budget reply, we have started to see a choice for Australians. I believe that this government has left too many people behind, but at the same time it has managed to rack up $1 trillion of debt. It's a unique set of skills the Prime Minister has that he can forget so many people—so many women, so many young people—and still rack up that much debt. But you've got to be optimistic in the business of politics. There are ups and downs. I think we're an optimistic country, and I'm pleased that Labor has an optimistic vision for the future. Rehire our workers. Give people new jobs, supporting industries old and new. Rewire our economy. Make sure that we can actually transmit power, at the lowest possible cost, to all Australians. Recharge the workforce participation of women by doing something serious about child care. Any family you talk to about this system knows it does not work when you get to certain income points. Rebuild our nation.
Child care should be one of the great economic drivers of our country. It should be the thing that allows our economy to succeed well above and beyond. It not only invests in the minds of young people; it also means that those people that we've invested in training can actually get out there and work, whether it be for four or five days. But, again, how did we treat workers in the childcare sector?
The first and only sector to be kicked off JobKeeper was the childcare sector—an industry that, by some coincidence, is made up of 97 per cent women. To have kicked the entire sector off JobKeeper after the incredibly difficult work they did, particularly in the middle of the pandemic, at the same time as ripping way free child care from millions of Australian families, was seriously one of the great policy missteps of this government. We know that affordable child care is a key driver of women's participation in the economy. The Prime Minister used to lecture us about this himself when he was responsible for this policy area in a previous portfolio. And Australia still, despite all the reforms, has some of the most expensive childcare costs in the world. Fees have gone up 35 per cent under this government alone, and in the north-east of my electorate, at Bayswater to Bassendean, some 48.6 per cent of services are charging over the cap. That is, many of the families reached the services cap by September and received no subsidy for the remainder of the year. This means that they are paying thousands of dollars more as they head to Christmas—indeed, now. Families in Bayswater and Bassendean are paying more for child care now than they were at the start of the year, because the Prime Minister and his government refused to do anything about the caps that they have imposed.
I received a bit of correspondence from a constituent in the member for Canning's electorate. Lana wrote to me, and this is the story of hundreds of thousands of families across Australia. Lana said, 'My young family with two kids can't afford to go to work either. Between childcare costs and train fares from Mandurah to Perth, the future looks grim for a professional young mum who may end up unemployable if she is forced to exit the workforce and stay at home. Her income doesn't even cover the costs.' Her income doesn't even cover the costs—this is why we've got to fix the childcare subsidy. We need to increase the maximum childcare subsidy rate to 90 per cent, remove the disincentive to work additional hours and help 97 per cent of families by between $600 and $2,900 a year.
If you'll indulge me, Deputy Speaker, I want to give a shout-out to all of the people who work in childcare centres in my electorate. This is a huge employing industry. I sit through question time. We heard the story of one employer who's employed two or so people, in some pre-prepared, formulaic answer from the government. I want to say a huge thankyou to all of the childcare workers and early childhood educators in the Perth electorate. I'm going to name their workplaces because I think it's important that we recognise all of these small but significant centres of early learning across each of our electorates. I'm lucky—I've got 62 of them in my electorate of Perth. There is MercyCare Early Learning in Bassendean; Wind in the Willows in Ashfield, Buggles Childcare Brookfield Place and Buggles Childcare in Cherry Court; Citiplace Child Care; Little Peoples Place in Forrest Street; Goodstart Early Learning in East Perth; Community Kids Morley Early Education Centre; Italian Australian Child Care Centre; Great Beginnings in Bayswater; Care for Kids School of Early Learning in Morley; Jellybeans Child Care Centre in Morley; Kidz Galore in Kyilla; Little Peoples Place in Monmouth Street; Amare Child Care; Leederville Early Childhood Centre; Marjorie Mann Lawley Day Care Centre; YMCA Maylands Early Learning Centre; Meela Child Care Centre; Mercy Child Day Care Bedford; Mount Lawley Child Care Centre Inc.; Mulberry Tree Mount Hawthorn; Indigo Montessori in both North Perth and Mount Hawthorn; Indigo Outside School Hours Care in North Perth; Noranda Child Care Centre; OrganiKids Childcare Centre; Perth College Kindergarten; Rossi Child Care Centre in Embleton and Morley; Ruth Landau Harp Early Learning; Salisbury Child Care Centre; Silverwood Child Care Centre; 10th Avenue Childcare in Inglewood; Sparx Early Learning Centre in Eden Hill; Eden Hill Outside School Hours Care; Wind in the Willows in Bassendean; YMCA Morley Child Care; Thriving Threes and Fun for Fours; Murdock Early Education Schools;. City West Kidz Early Learning Centre; Buttercups Childcare; Inglewood Station; Helping Hands at Hillcrest; Learning Sanctuary in Kings Square; Helping Hands in Inglewood and Helping Hands in Bayswater; Derrick Ernst Neighbourhood Centre; Smart Start in West Perth; Mama Moose; KinderPark Early Learning; Kiddies Learning Hub; Inglewood Station on Beaufort Street; The Akidamy School of Early Learning; Leaps & Bounds Preschool; Bilingual By Five in the CBD; Nido Early School at QV1; North Perth School of Early Learning; Global Village Family Day Care; Kids on Beaufort; Rightway Learning Family Day Care. That's a long list, but that's just for my electorate alone. There are 62 centres in the Perth electorate alone: This is a huge sector. It employs thousands and thousands of people, predominantly women, in my electorate alone. They are incredibly qualified and educated, and some of the most compassionate and hardworking people you'll meet in any electorate across the country. I want to say to everyone who works at every single one of those centres: thank you for everything you did in 2020. It was one of the toughest years that you've ever had to work in early childhood education, and many people here in parliament and, indeed, across the country, owe you a great debt of gratitude.
I'll finish on something important to the people of the City of Perth, which comprises just one small part of my electorate: finally, the City of Perth has an elected council again. The City of Perth has been through an incredibly rough time. I want to particularly congratulate the new lord mayor, Basil Zempilas, who is well known to people in this place. It is great to have a new lord mayor for the City of Perth. I look forward to working with Basil. I know that he is a guy who is passionate and driven. He has a vision for the city and will be pushing many things that he and I care deeply about, including a national centre of Indigenous culture and history, which is something I strongly believe should be located within the City of Perth. I also congratulate: Deputy Mayor Sandy Anghie, and councillors Di Bain, Rebecca Gordon, Catherine Lezer, Clyde Bevan, Brent Fleeton, Liam Gobbert and Viktor Ko. This is a fresh start for our city. It is an incredibly exciting time for Perth. Again, I congratulate the entire new council, and I wish them and their professional staff well.