Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021; Second Reading
After eight consecutive years of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government, this country has been left without a plan for the future. There is a void where there should be leadership. We have a conservative government that's more interested in running a protection racket for poorly behaved cabinet ministers than it is in acting in the national interest of the Australian people. The government are in chaos. They just move from one crisis to another. Our communities deserve better. They deserve a government that is on their side.
The government is failing Australians by failing to tackle climate change. We can see the evidence of this on our TVs right now in devastated communities in New South Wales and Queensland. This week we've witnessed catastrophic flooding across New South Wales that has destroyed thousands of properties and cut off towns, and unfortunately today, as we've heard, there has been a fatality. I can only extend my sympathies and thoughts to all of those people who are now trying to rebuild their lives.
These floods follow the disastrous bushfire season of 2019-20. We keep getting all these events that are meant to be one-in-100-year weather events—droughts, floods, fires. They're hitting more often and more quickly, yet this government fails to tackle climate change. It fails to recognise the link between these catastrophic weather events and global warming. It is because this government has a bunch of deniers on its backbench. How can they take action, how can they be the government we need for this country's future—a government setting up the clean energy jobs of the future and making sure our children will have a future—when they're full of deniers? They are failing our communities, our country.
This government fails to acknowledge how climate policy is intrinsically linked to jobs, and that the failure to act on climate change will inevitably end up costing our economy. Labor's spokesperson on this, Chris Bowen, put it very well. He said:
I'm worried about what will happen to the planet in thirty years without real action on climate change. I'm worried about how many Australians, and how many people around the world, will die in natural disasters, heat waves and other health impacts of climate change. But I'm also worried about what the employment prospects for people in our suburbs and regions will look like if the nation continues to neglect the economic transformation that is good climate change policy.
I represent a suburban electorate. My electorate is in the suburbs of Melbourne. People there always talk to me about the need to act on climate and the need to secure people's jobs. The idea that there is some kind of massive gap in what our communities in the suburbs want and what our communities in regional areas want is a massive light being spread by the climate change culture denying warriors on other side. Our communities in the suburbs and in the regions want the same thing. They want a decent, secure future for them and their children. But this government of climate deniers preys on fear. It is not doing the work to create the jobs of the future. It's selling workers and their families out. It's selling families in my communities out and it's failing everyone's future.
I was just in a briefing with Labor's Environment Action Network, the AMWU and the ETU. These are groups that are doing the work. They are on the ground in the Hunter, a region where jobs will need to be found for the future, and they are doing the work with the community there about what those jobs look like, about what it looks like if Australia is a global leader in this area instead of the global laggard we currently are. Australia is increasingly being isolated from the rest of the world, and we will miss out on the jobs and opportunities that come from clean technologies and from being a leader in this space. We're not going to get there without action from this government.
Look at what's happening in the United States. The centrepiece of Joe Biden's energy and climate proposals is a call for $1.7 trillion over 10 years promoting a portfolio of clean energy technologies: supporting electric vehicles, building a national vehicle charging network, accelerating the smart grid and battery storage, scaling up tax credits for renewable technologies, and nurturing next-generation energy sources like hydrogen and advanced nuclear power plants.
That's a government with a plan. That's a government that is investing in the jobs of the future, that is putting its country on the right track. What have we got in this government? A bunch of deniers who are doing nothing, who are pretending they're acting but who are failing to make the commitments and the investments that we need for the future and that our children need for their future. We can't have a few people in the Liberal National party backbench holding Australia back. Australia is losing economic opportunities. We should be and we can be a renewable energy superpower for the world. Labor can achieve this. This government is failing.
Our aged-care system is in crisis. The final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has found that the aged-care system has failed to support older Australians. There have been almost two dozen reports on aged care in the past decade, and more than half of them have been public since the current Prime Minister has been both Treasurer and Prime Minister. Yet the Prime Minister has cut $1.7 billion from our aged-care system. I saw firsthand in my community the devastation caused by Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister, failing to protect people in aged care in our community during the worst of the pandemic last year. The Federal government is responsible for aged care, but the Prime Minister was nowhere to be seen when people were dying in our aged-care homes in my community. The Prime Minister was nowhere to be seen when families in my community were coming to me worried, unable to get the information they needed about their loved ones, worried about what the next step would be, whether there was PPE in the home where their loved ones had gone, how many cases of COVID there were in a nursing homes. This government was absent.
There are almost 100,000 older Australians waiting for home-care packages, and many of them are waiting for years to access the support they need. Older Australians in my community deserve better than this. Last year I held an aged-care forum in my community. So many constituents shared with me their stories of navigating a failing system. They shared with me the worry they have, not just for their own future but for the future of their parents. They told me that they don't want to be part of the system, that they are afraid of putting their parents into the aged-care system, that they are afraid that their parents are going to end up on a waiting list without the support they need to age in their own homes.
It's not good enough. We are failing older Australians. This government is failing older Australians. From the experience in my community, I can tell you that older Australians, their families and those of us who know that sometime soon we will be looking to support parents in aged care—we are worried about this, and we know that this government has not done its job. So I am fighting for the Morrison government to urgently fix our aged-care system, to provide more home-care packages and to provide older Australians with a secure future.
The Morrison government's plan to implement NDIS independent assessments has absolutely blindsided Australians with a disability. It is a betrayal of everything the NDIS stands for—the idea that people would not have to tell their story over and over again, the idea that people with disability would be looked at for what they can do in life and the support they need to lead a decent life. Instead, this government is reducing them to a tick-a-box assessment activity. I've heard from so many people with disability in my community, from the parents of children with disability and from disability providers in my community—all of them are worried about the proposal for independent assessments. They ask me how a person they've never met before can carry out a tick-a-box exercise on them and understand their complex needs. It can't be done. And, as I said, it goes against the very fundamentals of what the NDIS is meant to be about, which is personalised support for people with disability.
I urge this government to rethink the independent assessments. I urge this government to listen to participants, listen to their stories and listen to the experience of people who participated in the trial. I heard from one group that works with children with disability. They were telling me parents were really concerned about the way assessments on children who participated in the trial were carried out. They told me that it seemed as though there was the possibility that the way the assessment was done would reinforce for the child the sense that they were different and that they had a disability, rather than being the experience it should be, where children feel like they get the chance to lead the best possible life they can.
I heard from people with disability. One woman in my community spoke to me about her fears about independent assessment. She talked to me about how, for her, with her complex needs, retelling her story was one of her triggers. It was traumatising for her. She's worked for many years with specialist health professionals who know her, who know her disability and who know her needs. She has managed to, with that support, build a career for herself. But she told me of the times in her life when that fell apart. She is worried that she will now have to go to a situation where she has to retell her story, where she has to retraumatise herself by telling that story to someone with no understanding of the complexity of her needs, no understanding of what her life might be and no understanding of actually what the NDIS should be doing for her, which is allowing her to be a wonderful, productive member of our community.
This proposal is not supported by people with disability. It is not supported by their families. It's not supported by any of the providers that I've spoken to. It is supported by a government that doesn't get the NDIS, a government that's failed people with disability and that does see the NDIS as a tick-a-box exercise rather than something that empowers people with disability. It's not good enough. It shouldn't be rushed through. The government's conducted a tiny trial, as I understand it—not much consultation. Disability groups are saying it's not good enough. It's time for the government to listen to them, to make the NDIS achieve the promise that Labor set it out with—knowing that people with disability should be full members of our community and supporting them to be full members of our community. That's the promise the NDIS has. That's the promise we have to see realised from this government, because what is happening at the moment is not good enough.
I want to take the chance to wish everyone in the community of Jagajaga a happy and relaxing Easter. The last year has been one that we have never seen the likes of before. I've been reflecting on the fact that, at Easter time last year, my community was heading into lockdown for the first time. We certainly had no idea at that time what was ahead of us. I have been so proud to serve a community that has shown such resilience. They've looked out for each other and have done everything they can to keep jobs going and keep businesses going. There is a community full of wonderful healthcare workers at the Austin hospital, Banyule Community Health and healthAbility who have reached out and made many people's lives better in what has been such a difficult year since last Easter. So I hope that, for every family and every person in my community, this Easter is filled with chocolate, hot cross buns, love and family, and that they have a chance to celebrate what they have been able to endure over the past year and have a chance to reflect on the strength and resilience of our community. From me to you, happy Easter and thank you.