House debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2022


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2022-2023, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2022-2023; Second Reading

6:19 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs) Share this | Hansard source

The Australian government is committed to investing in a better future for defence personnel, veterans and families. In opposition, we stood with defence personnel, veterans and their families to call for a royal commission into defence and veteran suicide. In government, we took quick action in responding to important recommendations put forward by the royal commissioners in their interim report, making that report public as soon as we got it, and rolling up our sleeves and following through with our formal response a month after the report was released. This budget follows through on our commitment to take action on the recommendations of the royal commissioners' report and delivers on our commitments from the federal election. Our veterans have protected us, and in return we must look after them.

Key investments made in this budget seek to improve the claims processes for veterans, simplify legislation and ultimately better support defence personnel, veterans and families as they not only need but deserve. In implementing the government's response to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide interim report, the Australian government will invest $233.9 million to engage 500 new frontline staff at DVA to eliminate the compensation claims backlog, delivering on a key election commitment made by the government. Recruitment is already underway, with several hundred people already employed. We will invest $9.5 million to develop a pathway for simplification and harmonisation of veterans legislation and $87 million to modernise IT systems in the Department of Veterans' Affairs, improving claims processing. We are committing $24.3 million to provide increased support to veterans who are having their claims processed and to improve modelling capabilities needed to forecast and manage future demand for DVA's services. We've committed $15.5 million to support DVA's continued and timely engagement with the royal commission.

The budget delivers on our election commitment to provide long-term benefits for defence personnel, veterans and families. We are committing to a better future for the veteran community with significant investments, including $46.7 million for 10 new veteran and family hubs across the country, more than doubling the size of the existing network, providing critical services to veterans and families in areas with significant defence and veteran communities. The veteran and family hubs will be established in regions, announced during the election campaign, which have the most significant defence and veteran populations. That is backed up with data from the Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Bureau of Statistics from the census.

We've allocated $24 million to deliver the Veterans' Employment Program, which will not only support veterans as they transition to civilian life but also champion veteran employment by raising awareness of the skills and experience veterans have to offer the civilian workforce. We know that veterans sometimes have difficulty in getting access to employment as they leave defence, but we also know that they represent a great capability to support our economy moving forward by being able to fill some of those skills gaps. For people that have left defence or are looking to leave defence, we want to make sure we smooth the pathway for them to be great contributors to our economy, bringing their skills to bear. We invest so much in our defence personnel, and, when they choose to leave, we want to make sure that they can provide the greatest benefit to businesses and that businesses understand the great benefit that our veterans can provide, whether it's in their leadership skills, their teamwork capacity, their analytical skills or their ability to work under pressure and to be agile. These are all critical skills in the modern economy for any business.

We've committed $4.7 million for the development of the Operation Navigator app, working with the Oasis centre in Townsville to better support Australian Defence Force personnel as they transition to the civilian workforce, be that through employment support or through access to other services. In parliament, we've also been discussing our $97.9 million commitment for a $1,000-a-year increase to the totally and permanently incapacitated payments for veterans, providing additional financial support to around 27,000 of our most vulnerable veterans. We have allocated $46.2 million to boost homeownership among defence personnel and veterans.

The Australian government recognises the important role ex-service and community organisations play in supporting defence personnel, veterans and families, and the budget commits $8.1 million to community focused programs that not only support but pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of our veterans. These commitments include marking war graves, supporting the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway in Sydney and combating veteran homelessness, alongside a $3.6 million commitment to support the planning, design and construction of the Scott Palmer Services Centre in Darwin. The government is committed to providing practical services and supports to defence personnel, veterans and families to ensure a better future for our veteran community.

Our government is committed to delivering for local communities, like the electorate of Burt, the community I represent in Perth's south-eastern suburbs. The Albanese government has hit the ground running, and the October budget is an important part of that. We focused on cleaning up the mess the previous government left behind, helping Australians with cost-of-living pressures and building a better future. We've been upfront with the people about the challenges facing the economy and the budget. After a decade of wasted opportunities and wrong priorities, the Liberals left us with a trillion dollars of debt without the economic dividend to show for it. These are difficult times, and hard choices are required to get the economy and the budget back on track. We can't clean up that mess overnight, but we are working every day to build a better future for Australia. That starts at home.

We've announced the biggest boost to paid parental leave since it was introduced—an additional six weeks of leave for families, expanding the total leave payable up to a full six months. It brings with it flexibility to split the leave between parents so responsibilities can be shared more equally to best suit your family. That brings me to our other massive win for local families. I'm proud that around 6,100 families in Burt will benefit from our cheaper childcare policy. Childcare costs have skyrocketed recently, with a 41 per cent increase in the past eight years. It's a big cost to families and a massive disincentive for parents, especially mums, to do more paid work. Some parents can only afford to do three days a week of work because any more than that ends up costing them more in childcare costs. They go backwards. This commitment will mean that parents who want to work more can, not only supporting family finances but benefiting our economy and easing our skills shortages at the same time. These new laws mean that around 96 per cent of local families with children in early education and care will be better off.

We all know that cost-of-living pressures are really biting in our community. That's why it's so exciting that, for the first time in its 75-year history, the maximum cost of general scripts under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the PBS, will fall. From the beginning of next year, no-one will pay more than $30 for their PBS medications on a script. That's a decrease of $12.50. We're also working on delivering more secure, well-paid jobs and delivering the pipeline of skills that the country needs to drive future economic growth. Our government is delivering $9.6 billion in nation-building infrastructure projects, including right at home in Burt. Investments in Burt include removing the William Street level crossing in Beckenham, upgrading the train station and making people's journeys faster and safer, and upgrading the Nicholson Road-Garden Street intersection, which is a massive bottleneck, not to mention a headache for many people in our community. The member for Tangney and I share a goal in getting this problem fixed.

We've committed $4 million towards building the new Langford Indoor Netball Centre so that our amazing athletes can train right in their backyard, closer to home, and have a pathway to elite sport. We've contributed $14.9 million to protect the Swan and Canning rivers. We're supporting the Armadale Community Family Centre Toy Library with $50,000 to build a new shed. We've put $40,000 towards a new community bus for the Australian Arab Association, based in Thornlie.

I am so proud that our community has chosen to elect me for another term as their representative and this time as a minister in the Albanese Labor government. Thank you for putting your faith in me. I will not let you down. I would like to just briefly also mention that a big part of our agenda in government includes education. Our government will give Australians studying in areas of skills shortage access to free TAFE. We'll also deliver over 3,000 additional university places in WA to train more teachers, nurses and engineers. We also know that the housing market is, frankly, mental at the moment. There's no point beating about the bush; it is completely insane. Too many Australians struggle for safe, secure and affordable housing, which is why we are committed to making meaningful, life-changing investments to help build new homes for those who need them most. We'll deliver 40,000 new social and affordable homes across the country. We're also working on implementing the Help to Buy Scheme, which will support Australians on low incomes to buy their own homes.

These are just some of the measures from our budget that we've delivered since coming into government. They show how committed the Albanese Labor government is to delivering a better future for our nation. These are measures that will help responsibly address cost-of-living pressure. They are measures that go to the heart of making sure we can get access to more skilled workers to support our businesses, to allow people to earn more and to make sure that our economy can move on from the suffering that it has undergone under the previous decade of government, where we saw, frankly, anaemic wage growth.

We need to see wages grow. We need to see jobs be more secure. We saw no action on that under the previous government, and now is the time to act. We now have the opportunity to solve this problem and we need support in the Senate to make sure that our laws to provide secure work, better jobs and better pay are passed. I call on the support of all parliamentarians to do just that.


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