Tuesday, 15 October 2019
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to provide answers to the pressing needs facing the nation.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—
This is a prime minister who is characterised as being loose with the truth. There is such a vast gap between reality and his rhetoric. The fact is Australians are doing it tough. They're dealing with wage stagnation. They're dealing with higher power prices. They're dealing with higher costs of living. Those on retirement incomes are dealing with interest rates at just 0.75 per cent. Yet this Prime Minister has no plan for the economy, no plan for jobs. We are in circumstances where emissions are rising, but the Prime Minister has no energy plan.
The one area in which this Prime Minister has been genuinely successful is in avoiding answers, because whenever he is asked a question, whether it's in this parliament, whether it's at media conferences or whether it's in TV interviews, there he is, dodging questions like Keanu Reeves dodging bullets in The Matrixexcept not quite as cool, it must be said! When questioned, he responds dismissively. He speaks about 'the Canberra bubble'. He speaks about gossip. He speaks about rumours. He speaks about unsourced reports. He does anything but answer questions and, when all else fails, he blames the media. This is what he said at the Pacific leaders forum and what he claimed were their views of the government's inaction on climate change: 'Where do they get their information from? Who knows? Maybe they read it. Maybe they read it.'
I repeat the question I put to him yesterday: why won't the Prime Minister just give straight answers, whether it's here or in media interviews? Spoiler alert: he didn't answer that question either! He didn't answer that question yesterday, as he didn't today. Instead, he claims in the government's talking points that 'Australia has the strongest-growing economy'. Let's have a look at the economic indicators. Our economic growth is at its lowest level since the GFC. Real household median income is lower than it was in 2013. Wages growth is the worst on record. Household debt is at record levels. Business investment is at its lowest since the 1990s recession. Consumer confidence is down. Interest rates are at 0.75 per cent. When they were at three per cent during the GFC, they were at emergency levels, according to the coalition. Productivity is declining. Net debt has doubled on their watch. Australia, under Labor, of course, became one of the two fastest-growing economies in the OECD. Where are we now? 20th. From either first or second throughout that period we've gone to 20th.
The truth is that, when you examine who is best to manage the economy, whether it's the Hawke and Keating governments laying the groundwork for 28 years of consecutive economic growth or whether it's the Rudd and Gillard governments seeing Australia through the global financial crisis, the worst crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s, it is Labor who have the stewardship and who can make the decisions and provide the leadership that this country needs.
Let's look at other issues. Today we've been looking at drought. The Prime Minister wants his members to talk about, from their talking points, $7 billion of drought funding. That's just a fantasy figure. Of that, $5 billion is for the drought fund. But the drought fund is actually $3.9 billion, because that's what they took from the Building Australia Fund and put there. What's the other $1.1 billion? That's the interest, because they won't actually be spending anything for such a long period of time. $100 million will be expended in the next financial year from July next year. The drought's on right now, and not a single cent of that money is available to farmers—not one. What farmers have actually copped is that 600 of them and their drought-stricken families have been kicked off the farm household allowance in the past two years.
We saw this morning the train wreck interview with Alan Jones. Here's what some of the listeners had to say about the Prime Minister in that interview—'arrogant bloviater', 'waste of space' and 'talking drivel'. One told the Prime Minister directly: 'Give us some bloody hope, Scott. My town is dying, the country is dying and you're not giving us hope.' They were rejecting the rhetoric and spin of this Prime Minister who won't actually answer direct questions. It's not personal with us; he wouldn't answer Alan Jones's questions this morning either.
But we see it across the board. He talks about dams. There was his media release we tried to table today. He rejected his own words being recorded in Hansard because they don't reflect the facts. It says repeatedly in that media release that there'll fifty-fifty funding, and what we know is that half of that is just a loan and not grant funding at all. Nowhere in the media release did they say that. Of course, we know that some of it is money that was announced three years ago and none of it has been expended at all.
Then we have the consistent prevarication. When the AFP had the raids on journalists, he said, 'It never troubles me that our laws are being upheld.' That was his response to scrutiny. He went to the UN and engaged on the climate change issue. In a speech to the Lowy Institute, he spoke about 'negative globalism', as if Australia has not had a bipartisan position for 50 years of supporting global institutions that we voluntarily signed up for. We have been taking our place in the world. But he's prepared to press buttons of nationalism out there in order to try to criticise us.
He went to the UN as well and said that our emissions were going down, but we know that all the records say that they're actually going up and they'll go up every year until 2030. While he was there, he attacked children for being concerned about the scientifically proven facts of climate change—about caring for the planet that they, after all, will be on for longer than those of us who are no longer young people. He's like a Scooby Doo villain who's sure he would've gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids! That's his attitude. He says we're on track to meet our Paris targets. We know that that's not the case. When he was in the United States he skipped the UN summit on climate change, even though he was there, to visit smart drive-through technology at McDonald's, of all places. Not even there could he follow through.
The fact is that, during his visit, Scott Morrison proclaimed, 'We're making jobs great again.' As much as we used to mock the former member for Warringah for his slogans, at least they were original. FauxMo can't even come up with a slogan of his own—that's the truth of the matter. He also speaks about apprenticeships and training. We know that he's promised 80,000 new apprenticeships but there are 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when they came to office. And that's not surprising, because they ripped $3 billion out of TAFE and training. The fact is that the closest this government has come to a concrete achievement was leaking its talking points to the press gallery yesterday.
Claim after claim in those talking points was debunked yesterday. What they say about the medevac legislation is not true. We know, from the facts, that they said before it was introduced that what we would see was an end to our borders existing—there would be armadas on the waters, invading here, to end any border protection. You would think that, given the period of time that has passed since that legislation was carried, the facts would show that that legislation is working—that it is no threat to the integrity of our borders. You would think they would say, 'Well, we actually have to acknowledge the fact.' But oh, no. They just doubled down. They aren't worried about the facts.
When it comes to Newstart, the fact is that people can't survive on $40 a day. Yet you have a Minister for Social Services who says that the only people that will benefit are drug dealers—a disgraceful attitude from those opposite. The fact is that those talking points just leave us with more questions.
But, if it's answers you're looking for, don't look towards this Prime Minister because he is not prepared to be accountable. He is drunk on power after 18 May, and he's arrogant— (Time expired)
I just wanted to quickly talk about Memories of an Angel. Today I'm wearing the blue and pink ribbon. I don't always wear these, but I think it's important to mention that everyone here in the parliament today is with those people who have suffered pregnancy and infant loss. We know the member for Longman himself mentioned in his maiden speech losing a baby at a very young age, and we think of him and others. A woman in my electorate recently came to see me; she had lost a baby just a week before the cut-off after which she could have had a funeral for that baby, and she was dealing with a lot of grief over that. I just want to say on behalf of the government and the parliament that we are with those people today.
The opposition want to talk here about the pressing needs of the nation, and that's great. I want to talk about the pressing needs of the nation today as well. We heard the Treasurer talk about the 1.4 million new jobs created in this country since 2013. That's a pressing need for those people not just in my electorate but right around the country. People want to have work. They don't want to be dependent on handouts from governments—absolutely not. But what do we hear from the opposition leader? In the 10 minutes that he has just rattled on here before us he has been talking down the economy. That's all we hear from those opposite. That's what we hear from the Leader of the Opposition—talking down the economy—when, in fact, our economy is continuing to grow. It's going well.
From running a small family business before coming into this place, I know that at times business can be tough. The government is continuing to support business. We want to continue to help them because we know that that's where the jobs are created. Most jobs have been created in the small and medium family sized businesses over the last few years, primarily because of the government's tax cuts—reducing tax from 30 per cent to 25 per cent for industry. But what do we hear from those opposite? As the member for Forrest would know, during the whole last term, they talked down those tax cuts. They said that they were actually going to reintroduce higher taxes on businesses over $2 million. That was their policy right up to a few weeks before the last election, and then all of a sudden they did a dramatic turnaround.
In the May election this year, many of those opposite were very arrogant and believed that they would win. They were getting their photos taken and trash talking people on our side and saying, 'Well, we won't see you here next time.' They were very, very arrogant. Well, the people spoke, just a few months ago, in May, and delivered a third term for the coalition government. Why was that? It was partly because of Labor's massive, high-taxing agenda on everyone from pensioners and retirees right through to businesses and people who were renting, who would have seen their rents go up—and it goes on and on.
But what have we been doing? In June this year, we saw the Prime Minister reach out to our Pacific neighbours. He visited the Solomon Islands and Fiji and he has recently come back from the USA, where the President there rolled out the welcome mat for him—something he hasn't done for many other neighbours. Our Prime Minister visited Japan in June as well. June was a great month. We all remember Ash Barty winning the French Open. It was a fantastic month. The Prime Minister has been reaching out to our neighbours and saying that we want to work cooperatively with them.
In July we saw massive tax cuts that were put through this place for people right across the nation—tax cuts that are putting more dollars in their own pockets. But what did this Leader of the Opposition and members of the Labor Party want to do? They wanted to increase taxes on all Australians right across the board, and they particularly wanted to increase income tax.
The opposition leader spoke today about net debt, but didn't speak about the fact that there was no debt at all when John Howard left office and all of a sudden, under the six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, they had billions and billions in deficits.
Mr Brendan O'Connor interjecting—
Have you heard of something called interest repayments?
Interest repayments, son—and it has continued to go up.
Mr Brendan O'Connor interjecting—
The first time I met this fellow here, Mr Deputy Speaker, was when he came into my electorate, when the former member spoke at a Chamber of Commerce event at North Lake. He wouldn't have had a clue what he was talking about. He wouldn't know the first thing about small business, and here he is—
Mr Brendan O'Connor interjecting—
I know the pressure is getting to him. He expected to be on this side of the chamber. Well, the fact is that the people spoke and you're in opposition. They rejected your policies.
Absolutely, through you, Mr Deputy Speaker—if I can get a word in between those opposite. We hear the Leader of the Opposition talking about how Labor are somehow the masters of the economy. The last time the Labor Party ran a surplus in this place was 30 years ago—I was finishing high school—and we continue to see failure from those opposite.
There are so many good policies. Let's talk about what the Prime Minister said in August. In August, the Prime Minister secured the agreement of all state and territory leaders to ban the export of waste, plastic, paper, glass and tyres. All of Australia's environment ministers have agreed that we will deal with our own waste here. That's why we've put $167 million into an Australian recycling plan—to grow and strengthen Australia's recycling industry. There's $100 million for the Australian Recycling Investment Fund. And it goes on. There's $20 million to make sure that the recycling of e-waste, mobile phones, tyres and computers is managed here, locally. There's $20 million for a new cooperative research centre to help with plastics. There's $16 million for our Pacific neighbours to help reduce plastics and other waste in our oceans. There's more than $11 million for community action, right across our electorates and to the Labor members as well. If you go across any electorate, there are environmental grants rolling out across this country. There are things like Seabins going into marinas to help collect plastic. There are things like Green Army projects to help replant native plants and vegetation. And that's just on the environment.
We know that the coalition has created over 1.4 million new jobs, and part of that has been through free trade agreements. For those people in the gallery: we have a population of 25 million people in this country and under our free trade agreements we've opened up a market to two billion people across the world—80 times the population of Australia. We've got $100 billion going into infrastructure projects around the country, including in my own electorate—for things like the Linkfield Road overpass in Aspley—and $1 billion of that $100 billion to upgrade the Gateway Motorway from Bracken Ridge, at St John Fisher, through to the Pine River. I've got to say: the state government is dragging the chain here; the Palaszczuk government is dragging the chain. When it comes to infrastructure investment, the states are the ones that roll it out—like Queensland's Department of Transport and Main Roads.
We're continuing to do a lot. We do need the states to catch up a little bit, particularly on dams and water as well. When it comes to education, we're continuing to roll out increased funding for education. I had to laugh at the member for Hotham's contribution the other day in The Courier Mail on 11 October. This is the member for Hotham:
We haven't had a really good conversation in Canberra about why, even though we're spending more money on schools all the time. Our performance is pretty static …
Well, thank you, Member for Hotham. For the first time in the last six years, that I can remember, a member of the Labor Party is actually saying we're investing more in schools. In every school in my own electorate and the member for Capricornia's electorate, and right around this country, school funding continues to go up. In relation to universities, in my own electorate, we're also seeing the first university on the Sunshine Coast being built at Petrie. So we're seeing plenty of investment. We know that with health we've recently added medicines to treat lung cancer and leukaemia—all on the PBS—and, in some cases, saving patients up to $100,000 a year. That increase in investment, in education and in health can only be done because of a strong economy, yet those opposite continually want to whack the economy. They want to put more taxes on business. They want to put more taxes on individuals. It's just not acceptable; it's not great for our economy. We can't continue to invest if we bring in new taxes.
The coalition government has done a lot. We're focused on the Australian people. The Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison, is focused on the Australian people. That's why we're here in Canberra. We're here to represent our electorates. We're here to represent the needs of Australians. We're not here to talk down the economy—everything that we'll hear from those opposite in a moment.
Unfortunately, the assistant minister hasn't learnt from his previous mistake, just as the solution to homelessness is not to put a positive spin on it, nor is the solution for the economy is to put a positive spin on it. It's a pretty sad day when a journalist's first response to a mistakenly sent talking points cheat sheet is to fact check it—not only that, but for there to be significant discrepancies between what the Prime Minister's office is telling members opposite to say and what the hard facts are actually telling us. It's like people don't trust him, and that may be what happens when you put out media releases that claim to be 50-50 funding for a dam, when in fact, when it boils down to it, it's 25-75 per cent. I say this as someone who spent their 20s testing the voracity of governments and oppositions as a journalist. It strikes me that perhaps the Prime Minister's visit to President Trump has rubbed off on him just a little bit too much.
Let's turn to one of the things that actually matter most to people—one of the things where we do need to have some action. People want a decent, steady, fairly paid job, and they want the means to get the skills so they can get one. It's pretty fundamental. This is the basis of knowing that, if you work hard, you will be rewarded, you'll get ahead of the bills and you'll have some sense of financial security.
But working hard is no guarantee of anything under this Prime Minister. Just getting the skills in the first place is an ever-growing challenge. This Prime Minister promised 80,000 new apprentices, but in fact there are 150,000 fewer apprentices and trainees today than when the Liberals first took office. There's a systemic problem when we have more people dropping out of apprenticeships today than completing them. I'm not going to assign blame to the apprentices or their employers or teachers, but clearly there is an absolute flaw in the system that those opposite are refusing to address. It sees us with fewer apprentices and trainees today than 10 years ago, and all that while we've got 1.9 million Australians looking for work or extra work hours, and three-quarters of businesses saying that they can't find the trained and skilled staff they need.
If you've tried to hire a brickie or a carpenter lately, as I have, you'll know the challenge. The shortages go across a range of skills and trades, from pastry chefs to hairdressers to aircraft maintenance workers. I can't help but think that the $3 billion cut from TAFE and training by those opposite has something to do with the problem, yet the government's solution is a PR one. I like a good celebrity as much as the next person, but how is that a policy solution? We are not in the business of marketing here; we are in the business of solving problems with genuine solutions. It's not just this arrogant Prime Minister doing it; that whole side believe that there's nothing that a marketing, advertising or PR campaign can't fix. How wrong they are! As someone who spent 25 years in that industry, I know it has a role—but not here.
As for jobs, over a million Australians want and need extra work—on average, an additional 23 hours—but they can't get it. Then there are the million who've given up looking and don't even get counted in the figures, because they can see no employment options open to them. I have men and women in their 50s with a lifetime of work skills telling me that no-one will look at them in spite of the experience that they have. I speak to young people juggling multiple jobs to put together a portfolio that just pays the bills but rarely provides paid sick leave or holiday leave. Even full-time workers can see their pay isn't growing at the same pace that costs are rising. These are real problems that need real solutions, not papering over by marketing campaigns.
I want to turn to that other huge problem the government's failing to tackle, and that's the response to climate change. I'm a mum, so I am not for scaring the children unnecessarily. But, sadly for the Prime Minister, kids these days have access to information—the same information that those opposite should be able to access—that tells us the climate is changing, whether we like it or not, and that we need to respond accordingly. The cause of anxiety is not just that things are changing but that the government is failing to act. This government fails to acknowledge that emissions across the economy are rising and have risen every year since it came to power. There are steps we can take, but the Prime Minister won't find them in a McDonald's smart drive-through.
I note the previous speaker's focus on marketing. It's something that exercised the minister at the table, the member for Hasluck. He reminded me that the greatest spending on marketing was actually by the previous Labor government. So, when we talk about spin, we just need to look at the previous Labor government.
In looking at the pressing needs—the MPI today is on 'answers to the pressing needs facing the nation'—I look at my own electorate and some of the simple things that matter most to families and to people who live in our areas. I look at the over $10 billion that's been spent by this government on the listing of important medicines on the PBS. There's not much more pressing than this issue when you talk to people out in our communities. The fact that the economy—the budget we're running—allows us to list these medicines and put over $10 billion worth of new listings on the PBS is just an extraordinary achievement and one that I'm particularly proud of.
When I meet the people most affected—those who otherwise might not be able to afford these medications; Kalydeco is now available for infants aged from 12 months to 24 months—when I meet families in my electorate for whom that means everything, that's when I know that we are meeting the pressing needs facing the Australian people, which is what this MPI is supposed to be about. That's exactly what we're doing. It matters so much that we understand and listen to what the Australian people want and need and respond to that. The Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services talked earlier about the medications for leukaemia and lung cancer. When you're out listening to your community you hear that this is what matters most to them. It's not this debate today; it's how the government takes action on matters that matter most to families and people.
The personal income tax cuts matter there most as well. Many of us have thousands of small businesses in our electorates. It is the tax cuts and the instant asset write-off that enable them to keep doing what they do very well and invest in themselves and jobs for people in their businesses. That matters.
The government moved to protect the privacy of farmers. I saw it directly in my own area and in Harvey. It protected the privacy of primary producers and even the abattoirs. There was legislation to protect members in this sector from the unlawful actions of animal activists—the Criminal Code amendment bill. Those opposite obviously don't feel that that is important, but when you are a farmer whose family is being put at risk by this sort of action it is these sorts of simple things that matter most. This is what we in government are focusing on—the simple things that matter most to people.
I look at the investment in headspace. Young people in my part of the world in Busselton and Margaret River have benefited and are benefiting from new headspace centres. These are real genuine grassroots achievements.
Another one introduced by our government—and this matters so much to us—is the Mobile Black Spot Program. For those of us who live and work in rural and regional Australia, connectivity is a critical issue. This is something the previous government had zero interest in, yet we saw this as being absolutely critical. The mobile black spot towers have proven enormously beneficial, particularly for our emergency services. We've had the bushfires. In Northern Queensland we've had floods, and in rural and regional Australia we have the drought factor as well to deal with. Communication is critical to us. This Mobile Black Spot Program has been invaluable in rural and regional Australia, as has the investment in aged-care facilities.
In my own part of the world there is Hocart Lodge and Tuia Lodge. The minister who is at the table, the member for Hasluck, previously had responsibility for aged care. He understood perhaps better than so many the real and critical needs of rural and regional aged-care providers and why they're so important to a small community. Any funding provided to those facilities for capital works makes an enormous difference, as you saw, Minister, in Tuia Lodge in Donnybrook and Hocart Lodge in Harvey. (Time expired)
Seven continents, seven dwarfs, seven members of the S Club and this government's leaked talking points had seven priorities. I'm not going to allocate who would be Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey or Doc—that would be unparliamentary—but I'm going to outline that in those seven priorities there is no mention of health, no mention of defending Medicare and no mention of investing in our hospitals. There is no mention of the government's alleged No. 1 priority: the drought. Given the debate and the lectures we hear on a daily basis about the urgent need to act on the drought, it is astounding that in their own leaked talking points not one of their seven priorities is 'acting on the drought'. Seriously, I can't believe that they would say that the drought is not one of their seven priorities, but their own document shows that to be the case.
There's nothing about child care. Maybe that's because childcare fees have gone up 30 per cent since this government was elected. Some contest the truth of that, but I went and checked the figures. At the end of 2013, the hourly rate for child care was, on average, $7.50. Now, in 2019, the average hourly rate for childcare services is $9.95. That is a fact. It has gone up by $2.45 per hour on this government's watch. It's a terrible thing for the many families who struggle to make ends meet. The reality is that the government's package that the Prime Minister told us about hasn't actually done what it was designed to do: it hasn't delivered more affordable child care for many hundreds of thousands of families, including families in my electorate. And, of course, in those seven priorities, in those talking points, there's nothing about investing in schools, although that one didn't surprise me so much.
If the government want to talk about the sorts of priorities they could be investing in, let me give them a few things that Western Australians would love to see action on. One is investment in infrastructure. There is a huge need to bring forward infrastructure investment in Western Australia.
There is a huge need, in particular, to act on housing. When it comes to wiping housing debts, sometimes I think that Senator Cormann is the 13th senator for Tasmania, not a senator for Western Australia, because he does more for the Tasmanians to help with their housing challenges, in secret deals with senators who are doing the right thing in advocating for their states. I would love to see some action from this government on housing and homelessness in the state of Western Australia. There are some 14,000 people on the Western Australian public housing list, and there are estimates that some 600 people are sleeping rough in the Perth CBD every night. If we could come to some sort of arrangement for $343 million to wipe the housing debt—I've written to a number of ministers, and I'll continue to do so—that would be a great thing. We've heard from both sides about the need, at times, to act in a bipartisan way. This is one of those times. This isn't about political reward; this is about helping some of the most vulnerable in our community.
Speaking of infrastructure, I would love to see some action on the Perth City Deal. It's been announced twice, by two prime ministers—announced twice, done zero times, much like the number of dams that have actually been built. It was announced by former Prime Minister Turnbull. It's been announced under the Morrison government. I don't know where Malcolm Turnbull has gone, but maybe he took the Perth City Deal with him!
And then we come to investment in skills and training. The member for Dunkley and I have decided that it would've been much better to have Shaynna Blaze as the ambassador for skills and training!
We've started 'Team Shaynna'; membership is still open! But the reality is that we do have a skills crisis in this country. I always look at what governments do, not what they say. When you look at what they did in Western Australia, the now Liberal leader, Liza Harvey, presided over a 510 per cent increase in TAFE fees when she was the responsible minister. I want to commend Premier Mark McGowan for taking serious action, because of the state's strong financial management, to halve TAFE fees for a number of courses, including nursing, child care and disability services—a huge step in the right direction.
I will end on one other priority that the government should take a little bit more seriously, which is climate change. Climate change is real. I had a great conversation with Girl Guides WA on Friday about the need to take action on climate change. I just note that maybe, when the Prime Minister was at McDonald's in the United States, he should've asked McDonald's about their climate change commitments. McDonald's has a 36 per cent emissions reduction target. They are cutting— (Time expired)
The opposition wants to talk about the pressing needs of the nation. I'll just explain a few things about the federation, for the member for Perth. I don't think he was here in 2017, but one of the acts that were passed was the Medicare Guarantee Act, which created the Medicare guarantee fund, which is the first cab off the rank in any budget. Medicare is guaranteed. And, while we're talking about health, there's extra money for WA's hospitals. Every hospital in the country is getting more federal money via their state governments. In our federation, the states build the bricks-and-mortar public infrastructure, like the roads that you're frustrated about and like hospitals. But the federal contribution by this government has gone up exponentially over the last seven years.
What did we inherit? We inherited a deficit and a debt that were never, ever present when those opposite came into government, back in the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd period. We had money in the bank. Those opposite spent it all like there was no tomorrow; they built up and locked in spending programs and deficits for the first four years. Then, for the next six years, they blocked all our savings measures. So we have balanced the budget and brought it back into the black. That's why we've been able to provide money for schools and hospitals, and it's why we've reformed child care.
We are delivering infrastructure. At least in New South Wales we've got a coalition state government that cooperates when we put money on the table. They use it to build the infrastructure like the Pacific Highway. They use it to build infrastructure like, in my electorate, the Bucketts Way improvements and like all the bridges and roads that we've improved. We've improved them courtesy of black spots funding, which we've increased; Roads to Recovery funding, which we've increased; and the Bridges Renewal Program, which we've increased. All of this is happening because we have cooperation from the state government, unlike what we see with Queensland and Victoria. The Queensland Labor government is obstructing our efforts to fund dams and the Victoria Labor government is obstructing our efforts to build infrastructure in Victoria, like the East West Link. The connecting obstructing issue is not us; it's the state governments.
Getting back to health: we have pharmaceutical benefits that the PBAC has approved, and we have funded over 2,100 new medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. This has been a period where we have seen more new cutting-edge drugs made available for Australian taxpayers and, most importantly, for our pensioners than I can remember in my whole medical career. I practised for 33 years before I came into this place. This period is just exploding with new drugs all time, because we've balanced our books and we have grown the economy.
The other thing that we've done is we have the least number of people—about 200,000 fewer people—on income support, because we've grown the economy. I know it's a big problem for those opposite that we have 1.4 million more jobs in the economy, that we've grown the pie and we've grown our revenue, and that we've actually cut taxes. People are getting their tax refunds. Most people in my electorate definitely earn under $90,000, and they are getting the full $1,080 in their refunds; they've just got to get their returns in. There are over four million people that have, and there are many more that will. There are plenty of couples in my area of the country who are both working and earning less than $90,000. They'll get the maximum tax return of $1,080. That is continuing right out to 2022, where, in our tax plan, we're extending the threshold of those paying 19 per cent tax up to $45,000. So we have delivered.
Small businesses are benefiting too; they've got a tax cut down to 27.5 per cent. Most of the small businesses in my part of the country are earning less than $50 million, and they're all getting the benefit of it. With the drought, everyone's familiar with the funds that we've put on the table for state governments. Like I said, New South Wales cooperate; they want to build dams too, and they've just passed through the cabinet the emergency measures to make this happen and cut away all the bureaucratic obstruction. So well done to the New South Wales coalition government.
But we have the record for creating more jobs. We have 70 new apprentices due to our apprentice subsidy scheme rounds 1 and 2. We have $2 million of grants in the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages, North Coast, which has led to $7 million of investment by private industry and 200 new jobs. (Time expired)
Facts matter. The truth matters. This is what we teach students at school. We look around this chamber today, and we have students who've been watching question time and students who are here watching us. What do we teach students at school about how they should prosecute an argument? We teach them to stand up for what they believe in and to make their argument forcefully, but to make it based on facts. We teach students at school that you should politely but firmly address your opponent based on facts. You shouldn't bully them and you shouldn't resort to personal insults. We teach them that if the facts don't support your argument, just admit it. If you get something wrong, admit it. We don't teach children in our schools that we don't let the facts get in the way of a good argument unless, maybe, they're studying advertising, because that seems to be the place where facts don't matter. Sadly, the other place where facts don't seem to matter at the moment is the government benches.
If we want our children to live up to what we teach them, then this place needs to demonstrate what we're teaching them. It's not what they're getting from this government. The Prime Minister likes to claim that emissions per person and the emissions intensity of the economy are at their lowest levels in 29 years. But he has failed to mention that emissions across the economy are, in fact, rising and have risen every year since the government abolished the carbon price. He said emissions in the electricity sector have fallen, but he failed to mention that emissions in other sectors of the economy are rising—for example, in transport. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Mr Morrison, the Prime Minister, has claimed that the media was misrepresenting Australia's climate change record; it's not his fault! Negative media coverage has fuelled criticism of him; it's completely false and completely misleading! People are expressing prejudiced views about Australia's climate policy. The Prime Minister said:
Where do they get their information from? Who knows, maybe they read it.
Maybe they did read it. Maybe they read it in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. Maybe they read the record of what this government hasn't done on climate change. Maybe they looked at the facts and they came to the conclusion that this government has no real plan to reach the Paris targets, and that we are not going to get there. Maybe the young people of Australia are doing what they're taught at school; they're looking up the facts based on research and they're arguing for a better future. The young people are not going to sit back and accept what they are being fed in this parliament by the government and by the Prime Minister. Of course they're anxious about the future. They're not just anxious because the facts tell them that we are facing a climate emergency. They're anxious because they've got a government and a Prime Minister that basically tell them they should just go back to school and not worry about the future, and they've got a government that's not acting. But don't let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Australians deserve better from their government. They deserve better than spin, obfuscation and avoidance. They deserve a government that acknowledges the challenges we are facing now and into the future, and that's willing to engage in a real conversation and a debate about finding the answers, not just yelling at people from across the chamber. But they're not getting that.
In question time yesterday, I asked the Prime Minister whether the record low wages growth we have experienced under the six years of the Liberal government is a contributing factor to record household debt. How can we address the problems unless we first acknowledge the facts and where they've come from? Did I get an answer that made any sense and addressed the facts? Read the Hansard; you'll find out for yourself.
The facts are clear: economic growth is at its lowest since the GFC. Household median income is lower than it was in 2013. We have the worst wages growth on record, household debt at record lows, business investment at its lowest since the 1990s recession and declining productivity. Net debt has more than doubled. What do we hear from the other side of the chamber? 'Don't talk down the economy.' Actually look at the facts, come up with a plan and do something for the future of the country.
We enter parliament to improve the lives of the people that surround us, to work for our community and to unlock the potential of all Australians. Rightly so, Australians expect us to deliver infrastructure, to provide a strong economy, to create more jobs and to lower the cost of living for families. The Labor Party went to the 2019 election with a policy of $200 billion in higher taxes, a retiree tax, a housing tax, a small-business tax and a superannuation tax. In Lindsay over 3,600 retirees would have been hit by Labor's retiree tax, and over 8,000 residents living in a rental house or a flat would have been flogged by Labor's negative gearing proposals. I've worked in social housing, where people want to get out of social housing and move into the rental market, and these people would've been hurt by Labor's renter tax. The Morrison government was given a mandate by the Australian people at the election. Australians simply didn't want Labor's higher taxes and higher costs of living.
While members opposite are playing politics, I'm speaking on the Morrison government's strong track record of unlocking opportunities for aspirational Australians and delivering vital services for people who live in my electorate of Lindsay. Western Sydney is one of Australia's fastest growing areas, and we are delivering the infrastructure, the education and the health services so that we can continue to create vibrant communities with less congestion and safer roads and the education our kids need to be prepared for the jobs of the future. We are backing our local small and medium businesses, as well as investing in new and emerging industries to create local jobs. We are delivering tax relief to over 14,000 local small and medium-sized businesses in Lindsay and extending the instant asset write-off so that our businesses are encouraged to purchase that piece of equipment or to upgrade their systems so that they can expand and grow and employ more local people.
Our biggest investment is $5.3 billion to fully fund the construction of Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) Airport, and $3.5 billion for stage 1 of the north-south rail link from St Marys in the electorate of Lindsay to Western Sydney Airport and the aerotropolis. During construction of the airport, there will be 11,300 jobs. Within five years of opening, there'll be 28,000 full-time jobs, and 50 per cent of those will be local. This will include jobs in construction, transport, logistics, retail, hospitality and professional services right in Western Sydney. I want these jobs to be local, and that's why I created the Lindsay Jobs of the Future Network, to ensure that our schools, our industry and our small businesses are coming together to make sure that our kids are getting educated in those jobs of the future that are coming with all the infrastructure that's coming to Western Sydney.
The Western Sydney City Deal will deliver the infrastructure needed to support the aerotropolis precinct as a hub for advanced manufacturing, research, medicine, education, industries that we have not yet thought of, and space industries, and also agriculture. Our track record shows we're investing in projects in our community. One of the biggest infrastructure projects in Lindsay is $63½ million for the upgrade to Dunheved Road, as well as more commuter parking at Kingswood, St Marys and Emu Plains stations, because we're busting congestion. We're making sure people are getting to work and home again more safely and quickly. That's what the Morrison government is doing.
We're also delivering upgrades to sporting facilities, to the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre, the Penrith Whitewater Stadium and the Chapman Gardens sports precinct, because the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community is of utmost importance to the Morrison government. We're delivering to improve the health of our beautiful Nepean River, and we're committed to the Cumberland Conservation Corridor project to conserve our natural environment. I visited this project and saw the great work that they're doing.
We also announced $1 million for the Great River Walk, which will include lighting between Jamison Road and Nepean Avenue. The safety of our community and people who want to walk at night is of the utmost importance, particularly for women.
We're investing record amounts in health and education. We've also announced funding for mental health, and, with the Minister for Health, we've announced the Lindsay Healthy Active Living Network, to encourage healthy and more active lifestyles. This includes mental health as well. Part of this focus is on preventive health, and I look forward to working with everyone in our community interested in health and wellbeing to come up with collaborative solutions.
A strong economy means that we can deliver for our local community. The Morrison government is not just using rhetoric like those opposite; we're getting on with the job of delivering for the Australian people, including the people of Lindsay.
I get—and I think some of us here get—that most punters aren't really watching the ins and outs of politics up here in Canberra every day. I know that. Most punters usually cast their eye over politics when election campaigns come around. But what I'm noticing when I'm talking to punters and constituents in my electorate, when I'm having those conversations, is that people are starting to have just that doubt around the Prime Minister and this government. That little niggling feeling is coming out in the conversations—that something is not quite right about the Prime Minister and this government.
They saw a lot of the PM in the campaign. He was bouncing around. He was bouncing balls. He was bouncing them on his head. He was kicking balls. He was throwing a few. He was hitting a few. The whole baseball-cap-wearing daggy dad routine was an amusing distraction—but a distraction from what? The answer to that question is becoming increasingly apparent to the average working Australian. It's becoming apparent that the Prime Minister and his whole government are just all smoke and mirrors, that this whole act, his whole schtick, has distracted Australians from the fact that there is no substance to this Prime Minister and that the coalition policy cupboard is bare.
They have no answers to the pressing needs that this nation faces—no answers, whether it be on social justice, meaningful action on climate change, addressing economic inequality or our place in the world. The fact is that in the first few months of the Morrison government Australians have been offered nothing but obfuscation, distraction and bluster. The PM's act is losing its superficial gloss. The schtick is wearing thin. The carry-on no longer hides the gaping policy holes that are at the heart of this government and that are now having a very, very real impact on people's lives.
As well as having no answers, now, more than ever, they try to hide it. They try to hide it by being loose with the truth. Let me give you a few examples. The Prime Minister has claimed that 'emissions are at their lowest in 29 years'. That's just not true. It's provably untrue. Emissions are rising under this government. That's a fact. They have risen every year since this government dismantled the system built by the Labor Party when they were last in power to bring down emissions and transition to a low-carbon economy. When he's called out for being lose with the truth, the Prime Minister attacks the messenger. He tries to undermine the credibility of those relying on established and overwhelming scientific evidence about climate change. Maybe that's why, instead of going to the UN climate change conference, he visited Macca's, or Mickey D's as they call it in New York. That's what he was doing: downing cheeseburgers while the rest of the world were mobilising to tackle a climate emergency. The Prime Minister should know that in an emergency you don't clock off and go to Macca's. You don't order 70 reviews in your first couple of months of government. In an emergency, you act to protect people from harm.
The fact is that this government has no answers. The Prime Minister and his government simply don't care about the interests of working people. It's the only explanation for the failure across such contrasting policy areas, and it explains the misleading tactics that they use to cover up that failure. For instance, with skills and training, the gap between promises and reality gets wider and wider. The government promised 80,000 new apprenticeships, but they have destroyed more than 150,000 since they took office. There are fewer apprentices today than there were 10 years ago, and that's because they ripped off $3 billion from skills and training. That's the substance of their policy. The PM's schtick is: let's pay a TV tradie a lot of money to distract people. They promised to build hundreds of dams. They haven't built a single one, even as drought and climate change hit our farmers harder than ever. They've done a review about dams, they've produced a glossy pamphlet and promised to build 100 dams, but what they haven't actually done is build a dam. It's amazing!
This policy failure, and the subsequent attempt to hide it, is more and more apparent in their economic mismanagement. Under this coalition government, everything is going up except people's wages. They claim that they're actually good economic managers, yet the truth is that they're terrified to take any action. The Treasurer is sitting behind the wheel of a car. He should be driving the economy, but it's veering off the road and all the Treasurer can do is hope that Philip Lowe reaches over and takes control of the steering wheel for him. They seriously try and tell us that they're good economic managers. I wouldn't trust the member for Kooyong to ride a tricycle through a kindergarten. Australians deserve a better government than this—not used car salesmen trying to sell policy lemons. Australians deserve a government with a plan, a government with substance, a government that cares. They deserve a government that actually provides the answers that this nation needs.
All I can say is that it is a great privilege to be able to follow that address from the member for Wills. It's a great privilege, because what the people of Australia did on 18 May this year was vote for a little less conversation and a little more action. When it comes down to it, that is what we are delivering every single step of the way. I fully concede that it is not the action that the opposition is looking for, because the action they're looking for is the thing that led them to lose. It is the policy platform they took to the people of Australia and said, 'We want to do this; we want to increase your taxes by $387 billion.' So, if you're looking for that plan—I'm sorry to break it to the opposition—you'll find it was rejected. It was rejected resoundingly. In fact, everybody expected that, despite all their follies and failures, the plan would be endorsed and they would be sitting on this side of the parliament. That's how comprehensively it was rejected. I know you feel the pain every day, because you wanted to have the chance to govern this country, and the Australian people turned around and said: 'No! We do not want what you have to offer. We do not believe in your policy plan.' What they actually wanted was a government that did act, that did stand up for the national interest and that will take decisive action to deliver against challenges.
So let's talk about the drought. Let's talk about the plan that this government is not thinking about, not getting up in question time and asking questions about, but delivering. Let's talk about the support package we have delivered: $100 million to drought-hit communities. Let's talk about that being on top of the $7 billion in drought support funding already provided by the government, because the drought is a concern for everybody in the Australian community. Yes, there are drought-affected communities in rural and regional Australia and parts of Queensland and New South Wales and Victoria, and they're concerned. But I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, the people in the electorate of Goldstein are also concerned, because they're connected to the land as well. They know it's critical for dealing with issues around our exports, our food supply and for the future growth of this nation. We have provided billions in support to make sure we help our farmers. We back them every step of the way and we back our drought-affected communities every step of the way. The only reason you can do it is that you're running a strong economy and you have the budget surplus to provide the assistance and support in a situation like we're facing right now. You don't have it when all you do is slow the economy, whack massive new taxes on it and then go off and spend it in an indulgent way without any concern for the future.
I fully accept that this action is completely foreign to the opposition, because their plan for heavy new taxes, like the housing tax and abolishing negative gearing as we know it, is what they wanted to do. We're not doing that. The insidious, evil retiree tax, where they wanted to hit a million Australian low-income earners, is not something we are going to do. I see the member for Macnamara over there smugly looking at us on this side of the parliament. He wanted to vote to hit his own low-income earners who are self-funded retirees, people who stood on their own two feet and made a contribution to this country. Their only solution is to wreck them.
Go back to the speech from the member for Wills and look at what he was taking about. He was extolling the virtues of a carbon tax he wants to introduce. He wants a carbon tax to be introduced in this country. Now the International Monetary Fund has tolled the bell and said, 'To deliver Labor's plan of what they want to achieve, you would need a carbon tax in excess of $100 per tonne of CO2 greenhouse gases.' That's your plan. Why don't you take it, and be honest, to the Australian people! This is the plan that Labor has.
I can just keep going. In the end—
Mr Wyatt interjecting—
My dear and beloved colleague at the table, the member for Hasluck, among many other illustrious colleagues, points out that the member for Perth doesn't even seem to know the consequences of his own state Labor government's policy. We have given top-up money for the GST to the WA government. We have given housing agreements. And what's the barrier? The state Labor government! Even a Victorian can see how shallow your arguments are.