House debates

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Matters of Public Importance


3:37 pm

Photo of Kristy McBainKristy McBain (Eden-Monaro, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] Let's be real: this government has no plan to help in a disaster, whatever nature it is. It doesn't understand that its lack of planning has major flow-on effects to real people. Its lack of foresight and its governing by focus groups has plunged it into a series of reactive decisions. This government will always be remembered as the 'I don't hold a hose' government, which is a metaphor for so much.

So much of my electorate was devastated by the Black Summer fires. The whole country saw the effects of these catastrophic fires, and most understand there is significant trauma associated with these events. People lost their lives. Others lost homes, properties, businesses, livestock and their livelihoods. But the bushfires didn't just impact those who were on the front line; they had flow-on effects to the whole community, and these effects are still being felt today. Imagine you earn 70 to 80 per cent of your income in a short period of time over summer, and, because of this disaster, your entire area is deemed a tourist evacuation zone, seeing literally 80,000 tourists leave your area in a short window of time to keep them safe. Rather than proactively working with communities and businesses to support the economies of towns devastated by fires, this government sat idle and waited until community pressure forced them to act. The Morrison government did not understand that the flow-on effects of these fires meant businesses lost a whole summer of income—income they rely upon to get through the quieter winter months. This lack of planning has continued under the Morrison government, and it has caused immense damage to Australia's economy, to the economies of towns across my electorate and to individuals and small businesses.

This year the Prime Minister had two of the most important jobs—a speedy vaccine rollout and effective quarantine. They were the most important things he needed to get right to keep Australia's economy ticking over and to keep communities safe. But the Prime Minister's lack of proactive planning has flow-on effects. Who on earth wouldn't order enough vaccines for the country? He chose not to ensure we had a variety of vaccines available. He squandered the position that the Australian community and our premiers and chief ministers put us in by not being actively involved in the vaccine rollout. He said it wasn't a race. But it was. The Prime Minister ignored the calls for purpose-built quarantine facilities. The Morrison government made these choices, and the result has been an economic disaster. The Prime Minister's choices and his failure on vaccines and quarantines have plunged half the nation into lockdowns, which are devastating businesses, workers and communities in my electorate.

Small communities in my electorate are calling for support, but the Morrison government fails to deliver. When Sydney first went into lockdown in June, the Morrison government didn't offer to support businesses across the country that were impacted by this lockdown. Support was available for people who lost their jobs in Sydney. Support was there for Sydney businesses. But this lockdown crippled our snow industry. Businesses in the Snowy Mountains make 80 per cent of their annual income in the winter months. Sydneysiders account for 70 per cent of all visitors to the ski fields. Support needed to be rolled out immediately; but it wasn't, and it wasn't rolled out to our community. The result has been workers losing jobs. With no-one on the slopes, you can't employ ski instructors. With accommodation empty, cleaners were let go.

Right now, small businesses in my electorate are in crisis and workers are suffering. Businesses on the coast are usually preparing for September school holidays and for the summer influx. Businesses in Braidwood, Bungendore and Cooma would usually be getting ready for the huge amount of traffic transiting through their towns in the warmer months. It's usually a push to hire more staff and get them trained up. But businesses can't do that; they can barely keep their heads above water, let alone plan for the future. How can Eden-Monaro plan for the peak tourism season when it has lost most of the last seven school holidays? How can businesses continue when they are constantly cut off from their main sources of income?

Last summer, thousands of people left the region due to the Victorian border closure because of the Northern Beaches outbreak in Sydney. In the space of one day, businesses lost a week's worth of income that they were relying upon. Right now, these businesses need reassurance that support will continue when these lockdowns end. They need to know that, if borders are closed and lockdowns continue, this government will have their backs. Businesses and workers in my electorate need a government that has a real plan to repair the economy. They need a government that considers the flow-on effects of their decisions, a government that proactively plans for our communities. They need a government that will deliver for workers and small businesses. They need a Labor government.


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