Monday, 21 November 2022
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2022-2023, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Second Reading
I'm very proud today to rise to speak on the appropriation bills of 2022-23 and on the Labor government's budget and the many things that it invests in for our nation and for the Australian people.
In the early 2000s, American singer-songwriter Steve Earle said that he wouldn't write another love song as long as George W Bush was in the White House. I must admit I often thought about that during the last term in opposition when I came in here to give speeches, and they were usually pretty negative. I would be coming in here giving speeches crying out for action on climate change, on the aged-care crisis and on the economy, and calling on the then government to deliver on its promise of a national anticorruption commission and many other issues. It did often feel that I would never get to give a positive speech until there was a change of government.
It is very good that in the last six months—and this week marks six months since our government was elected—we've been able to come in and talk about the promises on which we are delivering for the Australian people. I think it's fair to say that the previous government had ceased to deliver for Australians that were not at the heart of their decision-making. They were not taking responsibility for the issues that the Australian people were facing: the fact that they hadn't had a wage rise in over 10 years; the cost-of-living crisis that they were facing; the climate crisis that our world is facing, and Australia's failure to be a part of that solution; and the neglect that people in aged care were facing that a royal commission had laid bare and that a government, over a decade, had failed to address. So I'm very proud of the work that we have done in the last six months and in the budget that we handed down recently to deliver on those things. We're not wasting a minute in government. Our ministers and our Prime Minister have been working day and night, with the support of the Public Service, to get things underway to address some of these issues.
One of our first actions in government was to legislate our climate targets to reduce Australia's carbon emissions by 43 per cent by 2030, and our plans to do that are underway. We very quickly signed the international agreements around those, and we've obviously been doing a lot of work to reset important international relationships, including our Prime Minister being part of several successful summits in the past week.
The first bill that passed the parliament was urgent reforms to aged care: delivering more care minutes for people in aged care, delivering the requirement that we have 24-hour registered nurses in aged care, and other reforms. We were also very pleased that, following a submission from our government, the Fair Work Commission has delivered an increase of 15 per cent to aged-care workers, who have been underpaid for so long.
Another thing we did very early on was introduce 10 days of paid domestic violence leave for all Australian workers. People in unions and workers had fought for this for many, many years. It was a long overdue reform because no-one should have to choose between being safe and getting paid so as to pay their rent or put food on the table.
Our government has also been progressing the conversation about the Uluru Statement from the Heart. I am incredibly proud that our government is serious about seeing that delivered, including a Voice to Parliament enshrined in the Constitution, and that we are doing that work.
But to be a part of a progressive government, to be part of a Labor government, means there is always more to do, because we really are the party of reform and the party that, when in government, have delivered the reforms that have brought our nation into the future and delivered the things that give Australians the best shot at their own futures, giving them opportunities and making sure that no-one is left behind. The work that we lay down in this budget is a very important part of that.
It is a budget that builds a stronger and more resilient modern economy, and it invests in the capabilities of Australians. It invests in 180,000 new fee-free TAFE and vocational education places. It invests in 20,000 new university places over the next two years. It includes a comprehensive strategy to address the gender pay gap, which includes important industrial relations reforms that we are working on in this final sitting fortnight to get through this parliament, because they are about getting wages moving again. Australians have been waiting too long for a wage increase, particularly women. And our gender pay gap of around 14 per cent is too high. We have slipped in international rankings on gender equality in this country, and that is shameful. I'm very proud that our government is getting on with addressing that and has a plan to get there.
This is a budget that invests in unprecedented levels in renewable energy: Rewiring the Nation, the Marinus Link—there are many things, which I will not list here, where our government is putting in place what we need to make that shift to become a renewable energy superpower, to use that term. This will also bring electricity prices down. This is what needs to happen, and the ACT, where my electorate is, is a great example of this. The ACT government have transitioned our energy market to 100 per cent renewable energy, and we actually enjoy lower electricity prices than neighbouring New South Wales because of that. This is the long-term work that our energy market needs to have stability and to bring those prices down, and that is a very high priority of our government.
This is a budget that invests in a future made in Australia, including $15 billion for the National Reconstruction Fund, an investment pipeline of $120 billion in transport infrastructure, expanding access to the NBN and improving mobile coverage. It's a budget that supports small business, and it allows older Australians to keep more of their pension when they work.
It has provided more funding and more staff to slash the visa backlog. It is another shameful area of neglect under the previous government that this backlog was allowed to balloon to the level where it is. People have been waiting completely unacceptable amounts of time to get visas approved, and this is something that my constituents raise with me very frequently, so I was very pleased to hear that we are investing that extra money to get extra staff onto that important work.
It's a budget that improves our disaster resilience and preparedness. This is very important at the moment as yet again, with floods, we see many Australians battling natural disasters, which is just terrible. And there are investments, of course, to protect our precious environment.
Our budget delivers meaningful cost-of-living relief through a five-point cost-of-living plan. A major part of that is cheaper child care, and this was a huge part of our election platform and something that I know families all around Australia, including in my community of Canberra, have been desperately waiting for, because the costs of child care have been rising and rising. Here in Canberra we have some of the highest average childcare fees in the country. So this policy, which will be debated in the Senate in this final fortnight, will deliver more affordable child care to 1.26 million Australian families. It will benefit, I think, around 97 per cent of Australian families, and no-one will be worse off. It's a really important investment and, again, is good for gender equality, because it is usually the woman who decides that she can't increase how much she works, because she simply can't afford it, which in the long term means that she will earn less, potentially leading to a lower income in her retirement. So this is an important part of that as well.
Our budget expands paid parental leave to six months, another thing that I know many parents will welcome—to have some extra time with their new baby at that very important time for families. This is another great Labor reform. Labor proudly introduced our first Paid Parental Leave scheme when Jenny Macklin, who I had the honour of working for previously, was the minister for social services. She led that reform, which for many women was the first time that they had access to any paid leave when they had a child. Anyone who is a parent knows just how important that time is for the health of the baby and the mother. It is really important bonding time.
This leave can be shared by both parents, which is very important. The Women's Economic Equality Taskforce are continuing to look at how we can ensure that parents are really encouraged to share that, and I think this is an incredibly important thing. We'll look at how this policy can encourage more dads to take more time out when they welcome a new baby into their family. I think that ultimately we really need taking time out of the workforce to be supported and seen as normal for both parents if we are ever going to genuinely achieve gender equality in the workplace.
Another incredibly important thing that we are using this final fortnight to do is the industrial relations reforms I mentioned earlier. This is about getting wages moving for Australians who have been waiting too long for a much-needed pay rise. I mentioned earlier that we've managed to secure an increase for aged-care workers, but we need it go beyond sector-by-sector increases; we need to bring our workplace relations system into a more modern era, and we need to ensure people have secure work. We saw through the pandemic just how damaging it can be when people don't have security in their jobs. Increasingly, Australians do not have the secure jobs they had in the past. This is about ensuring people have a job—one that they know will be there to support their families and themselves.
Housing is an incredibly important part of our budget as well. It included $10 billion to build 40,000 homes through the Housing Australia Future Fund. We've also committed to doing a long-term plan around a housing and homelessness national strategy, which is so important because these are issues facing our whole nation. Particularly in Canberra we see more and more people facing issues of homelessness and housing insecurity, and we see rising costs of both renting and buying. It is something that really needs the work to go into it to get it right, and I'm really proud our government is doing that.
I'm proud to say too that this is an excellent budget for Canberra. Many of the things I've mentioned are the things Canberrans know are important for our nation—investment in renewable energy, cheaper child care not only so more young Australians can access great early childhood education but also so more parents can be involved in the workforce if they want to be—but there are a lot of local commitments we are delivering for Canberra as well. The budget includes $15 million to upgrade the Australian Institute of Sport arena, which I know Canberrans will be thrilled to see operating again, with the sorts of sporting and entertainment events we have missed while that has been closed. It delivers $85.9 million in funding for stage 2A of our Canberra light rail; $5 million to upgrade the Gorman House Arts Centre—again, a much-loved precinct in the ACT that provides an opportunity for community and arts events, and it is really important to get that up to scratch; and $5 million for the Garden City cycle route, which will enable more Canberrans to cycle safely to work.
We're also investing to restore Canberra's urban waterways. I was really pleased to work on the proposal for that with our local Landcare groups—volunteers who are out there every weekend looking after our natural spaces—and to support the incredible work they do. We're investing $10 million to build a youth foyer at the Woden CIT campus which will support young Canberrans to combine study and— (Time expired)