Monday, 21 June 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the consideration in detail today and ask some questions about this budget—a budget that leads us into deficit to the tune of $340 billion over the forward estimates, with no surplus all the way into the medium term, and with gross debt of $1 trillion by 2022-23 with so very little to show for it, so devoid of vision. Never has Australia seen a budget so devoid of vision—a budget that spends nearly $100 billion but forecasts real wages to go backwards. After eight years of stagnant wage growth under this government, they have no plan for wages. Actually, in their own budget papers, they acknowledge that wages are going to go backwards, that economic growth will be below trend over the forward estimates and that wages growth will continue to be at record lows—$100 billion spent but no vision for something better for Australia.
It's been a challenging time, going through a pandemic, and we're not out of it yet. We've got a vaccine rollout that's a complete shambles. We will never get our economy back on its feet until we are properly vaccinated—when Australians have certainty that they can get on with that—and we can look towards reopening our borders. There should be positives that we look to. There should be an opportunity to invest in Australia and build back better—a more inclusive Australia, a more inclusive economy and a more sustainable economy. But we see nothing from this government for renewable energy in the budget. Today we have them tearing themselves apart, yet again, because they can't even commit to net zero by 2050—the rest of the world has, but not Australia. We want to really lag behind the world; we want to really embarrass ourselves on the world stage, as the Prime Minister did this week. He can't even commit to net zero, which we're actually supposed to be committed to through the Paris Agreement in 2015. The best we can get from this government is that 'preferably we'll get there'. My first question: how do we justify that to future generations? What's the point if we destroy the planet that we're living on?
The centrepiece of this budget was around aged care; $17 billion sounds like a big figure, but what is it actually doing to solve the problems of neglect that we've seen in our aged-care system, which is absolutely in crisis? A serious question: how is that money directed towards addressing the fact that people are malnourished, the fact that people have had maggots in wounds and the fact that people are lying in their own excrement because there aren't enough staff to look after them properly? How is this money directed towards those staff and paying them properly? Why hasn't the government committed to nurses in aged care 24/7? What about waiting lists for home care? What does the $17 billion do for that, except to put more money towards the providers, many of whom mean well but many of whom have been flaunting their wealth while those in aged care are really suffering?
What is in the budget to address poverty, to address the fact that one in six Australian children is living in poverty right now? How does the increase of $3.57 per day in the JobSeeker payment help the 10 per cent of recipients who are single parents? How does it help them to put food on their table and get their kids to school in decent shoes and clothes? These are my questions to the minister. And what does it do for universities? They've been completely left out of the response to COVID. Public universities, as the member for Fenner said, are not even eligible for JobKeeper. I guess some jobs aren't as important as others, according to this government.
Why are we so devoid of vision? Why have we got a government that has led us into a huge debt with barely anything to show for it? My last question is: why couldn't you find $67 million for the National Archives? Perhaps keeping the critical records of our nation isn't important! Why has the National Gallery got a leaking roof? What about our national institutions? Where's the money for them?