Thursday, 10 December 2020
Matters of Public Importance
( Not only is this government not delivering for Australians; it also, you could almost say, enjoys misleading Australians. It is a government that likes to make announcements and then almost do the exact opposite. There are a few examples. This government also likes to rewrite history. It was only after we had the Centrelink queues out the front of their offices and in their electorates growing that they actually moved to do something like a wage subsidy. It was this government and this Prime Minister who suggested that wage subsidies, when Labor put them forward, were socialism. A ridiculous idea! Now they're the best thing ever. The JobKeeper program is a wage subsidy. It was only after we started to see the shutdown of industries because of the COVID-19 crisis and people—after being stood down, after being told they didn't have work—turning up at the Centrelink offices did this government act. It's a government that's not delivering for Australians, not when it's needed, not on time, not in a prepared way. It's a government that likes to rewrite history. It's a government that likes to mislead.
Take the university reforms: the government said the university reforms would be great for regional students. They're not great. What we've seen since their reforms have come out is not only a doubling of course costs but many universities being forced to sack staff, sack academics and close courses because this government didn't extend JobKeeper to their sector. We've seen entire courses go online. So for regional students, like those in my electorate of Bendigo, if they want to do an arts degree next year, not only will they have to pay double for it but the entire degree will be delivered online. This isn't good news for regional students. This sees them disadvantaged. This government said they did a great job and they support our educators. We had the minister stand up in question time and say, 'Thank you for the job you've done.' Well, thank you is not enough and it doesn't make up for the fact that this government kicked them off JobKeeper.
The first workers in this country to be kicked off JobKeeper were our early childhood educators. So it was: 'Thanks for the job you've done. We're going to cut your support and kick you back to JobSeeker or back to the low pay you're on.' These educators have worked hard. They turned up and they did the job, and they didn't really get the thanks they deserve from this government. Many casuals are still unemployed. They're waiting for numbers to pick up and hoping 2021 will be a better year.
Let's talk about the lack of support from this government for our aged-care workers. They keep using the excuse of the royal commission not to fix the issues in aged care. There's an interim report that's been released that details how this government now can help our aged-care workers, who are tired, who are stressed, who did everything they could to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our community. They worked longer shifts. They worked back-to-back rosters to make sure that their residents were safe and supported, yet they haven't got extra staffing; the government hasn't agreed to Labor's proposal of having minimum staffing levels. Instead, all they get are more excuses. The government is not supporting not only our aged-care workers but the residents they care for.
Probably one of the greatest areas where this government is not delivering and is not supporting people is the area of insecure work. The pandemic this year has exposed the fault lines in insecure work. Many people who were stood down and many people who might have come back into hours didn't get the hours they had. The Prime Minister boasted that 80 per cent of jobs are back, but they're not at the hours that they were. On top of that he said that they're now going to give employers the opportunity to cut pay, cut conditions. How is that delivering for Australians and Australian workers? Putting forward a proposal where the BOOT, the better-off-overall test, is paused—I cannot get over how we have an IR minister who doesn't understand his own legislation. When you say that you can pause the BOOT for two years, it means that we will have agreements that undercut minimum conditions. We will see workers end up on less money, workers in industries where they can't bargain for better pay.
This government in 2020 has failed Australians. It's failed Australian workers and failed Australian families. I hope that they pick up their game and do better in 2021, because our country cannot afford another 12 months of a government not delivering for them. (Time expired)