House debates

Thursday, 2 September 2021

Matters of Public Importance

COVID-19: Morrison Government

4:06 pm

Photo of Fiona PhillipsFiona Phillips (Gilmore, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

[by video link] Never could there be a greater failure of the coalition government to plan through and beyond the pandemic. My constituents are pretty smart—they're pretty savvy. Many are retired and have told me their stories of difficulty in accessing a vaccine or a local GP. Thousands of local small-business owners and workers have been thrown into turmoil due to extended lockdowns due to the Morrison-Joyce government's failed vaccine rollout and a business support package which simply doesn't cut it.

And what does the Morrison-Joyce government do? Nothing—'It's not our problem.' This is what one local business owner, a cafe in Kangaroo Valley told me. Monique did the right thing and applied for support—a business grant. But Monique had heard nothing 18 days after applying. How does she pay the bills? There are so many mixed messages daily between the Morrison-Joyce government and the New South Wales state government through the COVID-19 pandemic. Who can keep up? Families are battling to homeschool their children while working from home. There are impacts on our children, teenagers and teachers, and, of course, our health, aged-care and essential workers. And then there are the people who have been completely left behind: pensioners and carers who don't even qualify for the COVID disaster payment. Why is the Prime Minister so against pensioners? And for the people on JobSeeker there's nothing really to support them this time.

I want to share one of the very sad stories I received this week. An Aboriginal gentleman in his 40s contacted me from Ulladulla: 'I am writing to you to inform you of the struggles my family are having with COVID. We are in lockdown. We are homeschooling as best we can. I have my son back home from Canberra. He is on Abstudy and is currently on a scholarship at school and boarding there. The school asked all boarders to go home due to health concerns, so we brought him home. Abstudy is not doing anything to help financially, nor is the government. We have four children at home. The cost of food, electricity, water and so on are making it harder every week. I'm on a carer payment for my partner, which is making it even harder on me and my family. The struggles are real. It hurts. I cry by myself at night when everyone is asleep, as I have to be strong for my kids and my partner. Can you please help us or point me in the right direction of help, as we need the help? Why is the government only helping workers and businesses, not low-income earners? We are all struggling. We all need help in some way.'

The lack of forethought, planning and collaboration by the Morrison-Joyce government through the COVID pandemic is staggering. They are more focused on short-term political gain and media spin. I am proud to say that the election of a Labor government at the next election will fundamentally change our nation for the better. One of the biggest challenges we face is how we come out of this pandemic. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make things better for people. Don't we owe it to people to do that? Workforce shortage is already a major issue, but, with no plan, this will become an even larger issue. New jobs require a better, skilled workforce. Labor will rebuild Australia's training system. That means investing more in TAFE, investing in renewables and investing in renewables jobs. It means a national reconstruction fund to boost business and jobs.

Labor would commission a white paper on full employment to create a blueprint for new employment arrangements that would rebalance security and flexibility in workplace arrangements. We want more jobs but also secure jobs with better pay. Australia is a great nation but it can be even greater. Only a Labor government can deliver the change that people so desperately need.


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