Monday, 21 June 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Consideration in Detail
Labor of course supports using the budget to support the economy in times of need. That's what we did during the global financial crisis, preventing a recession and saving many jobs. It's about how you spend the money.
You'd think you'd get a lot for $100 billion, but this is a budget weighed down with rorts and waste. There are 21 funds either created or topped up in this budget, with some of the government's old favourites for rorts and pork-barrelling, including $250 million more for the Building Better Regions Fund, where we've seen 89 per cent of projects and funding between the 2019 election and the end of 2020 going to coalition seats. One hundred and twelve out of 330 projects in round 3 and 49 out of 163 projects in round 4 were approved by the Deputy Prime Minister's hand-picked ministerial panel against departmental recommendations. There was a $55 million top-up for the Community Development Grants Program, where 68 per cent of projects approved between the 2019 election and mid-January this year went to coalition seats. There are new ones such as the Preparing Australia Program, which has $600 million to be administered by the new National Recovery and Resilience Agency, ostensibly for a very good cause but at this stage having Minister Littleproud as the final decision-maker. Who is to know whether this fund will suffer the same fate as others?
This is not to mention the previous examples we have seen. Ninety-one per cent of the $30 million round 3 of the Safer Communities Fund went to government-held, Independent or marginal Labor seats, which involved rejecting the advice of experts and redirecting money to hand-picked projects. There were the infamous sports rorts and the colour coded spreadsheet, a program in which the ANAO found there was evidence of distribution bias in the award of grant funding and that the award of funding reflected the approach documented by the minister's office of focusing on marginal electorates held by the coalition as well as those electorates held by other parties or independent members that were to be targeted by the coalition in the 2019 election. Let us not forget the myriad waste examples. Over $6 million was spent on the COVIDSafe appropriate, which didn't work and hasn't been used in the majority of positive COVID cases. There's a question: how many cases have actually been traced by that app? What was the point of that spending? What has it helped with as we deal with COVID? Not much at all.
Ten million dollars was spent to create a new logo for spruiking Australian products at an international trade show which was junked. $2.5 million was spent on planning for a circumnavigation of Australia to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Captain Cook's voyage before it got cancelled. Billions of dollars was spent on contractors, consultants and labour hire. Millions were paid in the form of JobKeeper to companies that made profits or paid our dividends or executive bonuses.
This is a government that talks about using taxpayers' money carefully. What a disgraceful record they have on wasting that money. And yet their budget shows nothing for wages. They talk about the people that build prosperity and about taking risks and working hard. People who are working hard in this country are not supported. What thanks do hardworking Australians get for getting us through COVID? They get a budget that shows that wages are going to continue to go backwards under this government. There is nothing for wages, nothing for people on low incomes, no vision. It's not often you can spend $100 billion in one go—$200 billion in the course of two budgets—and not really be left with anything. There is nothing to show for it, but that's what this government has done. The government really has no plan other than getting to the next election. It's about doing the bare minimum to make what they see as political problems go away.
Here on this side of the House we don't see things as political problems. We don't see the aged-care crisis as a political problem. We see it as a genuine human problem that needs a genuine solution—a genuine solution that begins with addressing the fact that so many older Australians are malnourished and the fact that people working in aged care are grossly underpaid and undersupported in that work they're doing. They are central to the outcomes that we see in aged care. The money should be directed towards them, towards getting that right. Everyone can see that that's where part of the problem lies.
The fact is we need a change of government to address the real challenges facing Australia.