House debates

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

5:53 pm

Alison Byrnes (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

The Albanese government's budget is sensible, and it is right for the times. Our budget has three main tasks: providing responsible cost-of-living relief to Australians, helping people without adding to inflation; investing in a stronger, more resilient, more-modern economy; and beginning the important job of repairing the budget.

Childcare costs have increased by 41 per cent over the past eight years, and many people are deciding not to work due to the cost. In 2021, 73,000 people who wanted to work did not look for work due to childcare costs. Australians are also having to choose between vital medicines and feeding themselves and their families. In 2019-20, more than 900,000 Australian families delayed or did not get a script filled, due to the cost. These are people in our communities who are not getting the medicine they need because they need the money to eat or pay their rent or mortgage. For too many Australians it is increasingly hard just to put or keep a roof over their heads. Australians are spending more on housing than they used to. This is particularly true for people on low incomes. Working Australians, the backbone of our great country, driving our economy, serving our communities and caring for our loved ones, are struggling with stagnant wages as inflation continues to rise.

A decade of neglect by the previous government has got us into this mess, and, with this budget, the Albanese government is beginning the hard work of cleaning it up. Our five-point cost-of-living plan will bring relief to Australian families in a responsible and productive way. We are making child care cheaper for Australian families. We are making medicine cheaper. We are expanding paid parental leave to six months. We are creating more affordable housing and we are getting wages moving. Labor's policy on cheaper child care will make child care more affordable for around 1.26 million Australians and around 5,700 families in Cunningham. We are doing this by lifting the maximum childcare subsidy rate from 85 per cent to 90 per cent for families with a combined income of under $80,000. Subsidy rates for families earning less than $530,000 will also be increased. This change will improve workforce participation and productivity. It will help improve gender equality and give Australian families some much-needed cost-of-living relief.

By reducing the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme general co-payment from $42.50 to $30, we are making medicines cheaper for Australians. This change reflects Labor's deep commitment to universal health care for Australians. Medical conditions are difficult enough as it is. We do not need the added stress of having to make tough decisions between putting food on the table and buying medicine.

We are increasing Australia's paid parental leave scheme, adding an additional six weeks of leave for families, taking the total to 26 weeks by 2026—a full six months. This will give families greater flexibility, with extended leave able to be taken in blocks. It is great for women's economic equality and for the Australian economy.

The opposition wants Australians to raid their superannuation to buy a home, sinking their retirement savings. Labor's policies will increase housing affordability and supply, enabling more Australians to buy a home and protect their super at the same time. Our ambitious housing reform includes $10 billion for the Housing Australia Future Fund, which will build 30,000 new social and affordable housing properties in its first five years. The Regional First Home Buyer Guarantee guarantees up to 15 per cent for eligible first home buyers, allowing them to avoid lenders mortgage insurance, with a deposit as low as five per cent. The Help to Buy program will reduce the cost of buying a home. On top of our election commitments, the budget introduces the National Housing Accord. The accord seeks to build one million new homes over five years from 2024—a huge boost to housing supply.

We are building a stronger, more resilient economy, with investments in 180,000 fee-free TAFE and vocational education places in 2023 and 20,000 new university places over the next two years, including 936 at the University of Wollongong. We are leading a national push to close the gender pay gap. There is $15 billion for the National Reconstruction Fund for a future made in Australia, and the $20 billion Rewiring the Nation plan to upgrade and expand the grid, unlock renewables and drive down power prices.

With this budget, we are investing in Australians. We are taking responsible action to ease cost-of-living pressures, build the economy and repair the budget over the long term. It is only through responsible budget management that we can pay for the things Australians care about and build a better future.

The Illawarra has a strong history of manufacturing and heavy industry, and our region is renowned for its beauty, nestled between the escarpment and the ocean. The combination of a strong, working-class history and a stunning natural environment is reflected in the views of our community. We are a region that cares deeply about jobs. We are grounded in the reality that there are bills that need to be paid and families we need to provide for. We also care deeply about the environment; it's almost impossible not to, with our beautiful beaches and rainforests.

Our government's budget is great for the region and aligns with these community values. There were many issues that community members raised with me throughout the campaign that our budget is now addressing. Action on climate change was right up there. I commend the work of Minister Bowen, who has set a cracking pace in implementing real action on climate change. Already we have legislated a 43 per cent minimum emissions reduction target by 2030, and we are beginning the work to establish an offshore renewable energy industry in this country, which, it is estimated, will created between 3,000 and 8,000 jobs annually.

One of the six potential offshore renewable energy zones announced is in our region. This is an industry that would fit the Illawarra perfectly, but we need skilled workers to fill these jobs. I often hear people speak of the need to create renewable jobs, but very little thought has been given to the training that is needed for these jobs. That is why the Labor Party is the true progressive party in this country. We understand how to make progressive change a reality. We know that it is not enough just to create renewable jobs; we need to train our people to do them—and not just renewable jobs but other vital jobs too, such as in the health and care and education sectors.

That's why this budget creates 20,000 additional university places for students starting in 2023 and 2024. Nine hundred and thirty-six of these places have been allocated to the University of Wollongong. These places will train more teachers, nurses and engineers and build our workforce in the areas we desperately need. Our community has welcomed this investment in our local university. An editorial in the Illawarra Mercury praised the $29 million investment. The editorial outlined the need to prepare Australia for a future where engineering and innovation are needed for economic survival, and it welcomed the $29 million announcement. The editorial also rightly noted the benefits these investments give to the broader economy, particularly by training more early childhood educators to free Australian mums and dads to return to the workforce.

Other community members identified the importance of our housing reform in meeting the increasing demands of our region. Through the National Housing Accord, we are encouraging the investment needed to create housing supply. Michele Adair, CEO of the Housing Trust, spoke positively of the National Housing Accord to the Illawarra Mercury, stating that they hadn't ever seen this from the previous government. I look forward to working with Michele and the Housing Trust as is the policy is rolled out.

Adam Zarth, the executive director of Business Illawarra, also identified our community's critical need for housing, particularly for key workers, when speaking to ABC Illawarra. He noted that our reforms are a big first step to meeting this need. Adam also praised our commitments to renewable energy, pointing out that Illawarra businesses have been battling rising energy prices for too long. He noted that local businesses are also pleased to see our government working to lower the deficit and repair the budget. Business confidence has dipped but, as Adam pointed out, our budget charts a course through these difficult times.

This is an honest budget that doesn't sugar-coat the harsh realities. Community leaders in the Illawarra have spoken in support of our sensible and necessary reforms—reforms that will help our region and Australia to better weather the hard times we are facing. Our budget delivers for Australians, and it delivers for communities in Cunningham. I made a promise to the people of Cunningham that I would hit the ground running and I would never let the Illawarra be ignored. When I make a commitment, I work hard to make sure that it is delivered. In this budget, I have secured nearly $14 million for local sporting groups, multicultural and community services, disability services, Wollongong TAFE and the University of Wollongong.

Sport plays such an important role in bringing our communities together and keeping us healthy. Local sporting groups are usually run by a dedicated group of volunteers who give their time to organise events and maintain their clubs. This budget delivers nearly $500,000 for sporting clubs in my area. A hundred and fifty thousand dollars will be provided to Football South Coast for drainage works at the Coledale, Wollongong Olympic and Russell Vale clubs, as well as for new fencing at Helensburgh football club. Ann-Marie Balliana, the CEO of Football South Coast, and Daniel Hunter, president of the Russell Vale Junior Football Club, welcomed the announcement and said that the upgrades will enable local volunteers to work with their communities in their own back yard, where previously they were having to use other fields. I know it means a lot to them, and I am thrilled to be delivering the funding that they need. A hundred and twenty thousand dollars has also been allocated to Cricket NSW for new nets at Hollymount Park, Woonona. There is $100,000 for the Corrimal Rugby League Football Club to accommodate the growing number of female players; $75,000 for Helensburgh Netball Club for new fencing; and $40,000 for Thirroul Rugby League Football Club for shelters at Thomas Gibson Park.

The University of Wollongong and our local TAFEs are a great source of pride to our region, and thanks to our government's investments they will play a vital role in training our renewable energy workforce. $10 million will go to the University of Wollongong for the creation of an energy future skills centre, and $2.5 million will go to Wollongong TAFE for a renewable energy training facility. This will help put our region on the market as a serious player in the renewable sector. Climate change is such an important issue in our community, and this investment has been well received. We also delivering a community battery for Warrawong and another one in Dapto in the electorate of Whitlam, secured by my good friend the member for Whitlam. Our battery in Warrawong will allow around 500,000 households with solar panels to feed into the battery during the day and draw from it at night, cutting electricity bills and emissions.

The community and multicultural organisations in Cunningham are an inspiration, and the funding I have secured for them will help them to continue their important work. $1 million will help the Illawarra Legal Centre continue to help vulnerable people in our community. $120,000 has been granted to the South Coast Portuguese Association for refurbishment of their centre in Lake Heights. $100,000 goes to Bulli PCYC for accessible toilets. I used to attend the Bulli PCYC blue light discos when I was at school, and the toilets haven't been updated since then. It's a great improvement for our community. There is $100,000 for the Bellambi Neighbourhood Centre to refurbish their cafe and outdoor area; $100,000 for the Coomaditchie United Aboriginal Corporation for facility and sporting upgrades; $100,000 for the Wollongong PCYC for refurbishments; $90,000 to Narelle Clay and her team at Southern Youth and Family Services to retrofit homeless and at-risk youth housing services with solar panels and water tanks; and $50,000 for the IMAN Foundation for a new van for community food distribution programs.

Some of our local disability organisations are also getting much-deserved funding. There is $100,000 for Interchange Illawarra for new toilets and disability access; $83,000 for the Cram Foundation for a client transport bus; and $70,000 for Greenacres Disability Services for refurbishments. In addition to this direct funding we will be delivering a Wollongong urgent care clinic to help take the pressure off our local hospitals.

I care about people, I care about their jobs, and I care about the environment. When I commit to something I follow through. This budget delivers on my commitments to the people of Cunningham. It helps the people in our community and it helps the organisations that serve our community. This is a true Labor budget, responsible and compassionate, a budget crafted for all Australians and a budget to take us forward as a nation.


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