Wednesday, 4 March 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2019-2020, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2019-2020; Second Reading
I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2019-2020 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2019-2020, which provide appropriations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the annual services of the government for the remainder of 2019-20. I do so within the context of how our country is dealing with the coronavirus, what we've seen around the world and what I think we're about to see in this country. Mr Speaker, you were here when I spoke about this on the adjournment on Monday night. I make these comments in the spirit of bipartisanship, but I want to draw attention to what I think are some constructive suggestions that might improve our response with respect to this particular outbreak.
I'll start where I left off on Monday night. I believe that, with respect to the best way of dealing with not just this outbreak but future outbreaks, our country would be best served by an Australian centre for disease control. That, in my mind, would be the best way of providing an enduring and a coordinated approach to major health outbreaks like the coronavirus. In light of what we've seen recently in the public debate, as an individual, I'm calling for the establishment of an Australian centre for disease control prevention as a vehicle for preventing misinformation or conflicting information emerging in the Australian community. However well-intentioned our efforts have been and continue to be—and I commend the government and the opposition for their efforts—in this era of fake news, this is something that we need to look at and continue to address as the best way forward.
I believe, and overseas experience shows, that a centre for disease prevention would be a useful coordinating agency that would harmonise the provision of information on, for example, the coronavirus, between the Australian government and the respective state and territory governments. In times of crisis, we need to ensure that the Australian public has the best available information at their disposal when they need it. Australians want to know, for example, about our quarantine and isolation arrangements. They want to know about how fast the virus is spreading, they want to know how many people have contracted the virus in Australia, and they want to know what to do if the virus spreads in Australia. An established centre for disease control and prevention in Australia would, in my view, be able to coordinate our nation's response in answering all of these questions not just now but on an ongoing basis.
With this outbreak, we're starting to see that the lessons of SARS, swine flu and the 2014 Ebola outbreak have not been learned by governments. I've seen it described by immunologists as a panic-and-then-forget response. We can't afford to panic and then forget this time.
As I said on Monday night, we live in an age of disinformation and fake news. More than ever we need to find a way to cut through this noise. I hope we consider establishing a properly funded Australian CDC to coordinate and disseminate vital public health messages for the sake of our community and our frontline and vital healthcare workers who need to keep us safe. Additionally, no specific antiviral treatments presently exist to deal with this virus. On the best possible medical advice that I've been provided with at this point in time, a potential vaccination could be at least a year away—that's not to mention how long it would take for large-scale production of that vaccine to proceed. That emphasises that we have to have a centre that is committed to ongoing and enduring funded research that addresses developing treatments that reduce mortality and outbreaks. As I said, research in this needs to be enduring and focused, not just reactive. That's not to diminish the work that some of our fine institutions do, but I do believe that we need to be more focused in how we address this.
As we know with SARS and MERS, most of the serious cases of this virus develop acute respiratory distress syndrome. To quote a recent paper in TheLancet, 'There is an urgent need for focused funding and scientific investments into advancing novel therapeutic interventions for coronavirus infections.' Let us listen to this advice and support those carrying out this essential research on an enduring basis. I'll give an example of why we need to do this. A paper released a week or so ago by six epidemiologists based in Canada—in my last speech I said it was Canberra, but it was Canada—using mathematical modelling and taking into account the number of exported cases, has estimated the present case count of the coronavirus in Iran is about 18,000 people. I actually believe it's more than that. I have heard there are tens of thousands. This is in comparison to the 593 cases in Iran that the World Health Organization publicly reported only a couple of days ago.
As I said on Monday, a co-author of the paper, infectious disease specialist Isaac Bogoch, commented, 'When a country exports cases to other destinations it's very likely that the burden of infection in this country is significant.' We have experienced that as a consequence of the underreporting of the virus in Iran and people returning from Iran. We're rushing to plug the gap, so to speak. That's why we need to have clearer information on an ongoing basis about how viruses of this type spread.
Equally, it is clear we must do even more to contain the spread of the virus and to address what is clearly going to be—and I suspect we'll see this through the national accounts that will come down at 11.30 this morning—the economic damage this virus is creating. According to the ABC on Monday, the ASX 200 was down about 10.5 per cent last week, meaning that we lost about $240 billion on the local stock market. That was last week. The plummeting stock market, which is seeing a slight correction, is I think just the tip of the iceberg. Small businesses that rely on overseas production are suffering. Australian exporters are losing access to valuable overseas markets and tourism is clearly sharply down.
Supply chain disruptions, due to halting production in China and elsewhere, will ripple throughout the economy for months, perhaps even years, especially in critical industries like construction and manufacturing. According to Senator Elizabeth Warren, the coronavirus has exposed a critical weakness in our drug supply chain, for example. A significant proportion of pharmaceutical ingredients for drugs are manufactured in China, which means supply chain disruption may eventually cause drug shortages around the world, including in Australia. Analysts now project that many American and Australian companies will generate zero earnings growth in 2020 because of the coronavirus. If the coronavirus—I guess we could say 'when'—reaches global pandemic levels, experts predict that it could lead to a recession in Australia and across the globe. In response to the coronavirus, I'd encourage the Australian government as an example to work with employers to assist people with providing potentially an emergency paid sick leave for people either suffering from the coronavirus or who need to remain isolated if they have a relative who may have contracted coronavirus. Like I said, this will ripple across our country for some period of time. If you're a casual worker who might need to take 14 days off, as a colleague of mine, the member for Werriwa, mentioned to me yesterday, what does it mean for the person that is forced to take 14 days off? Where is the protection for that person, that casual worker? That might be a mum working in Narre Warren South or in Cranbourne who will need to take the mandated 14 days off because that person has the coronavirus, but where is her employment protection? Where is her wage protection?
These are things that we're having to grapple with and we're going to have to grapple with them very rapidly, because we are requiring, as part of the best possible advice, which we have taken from our Chief Medical Officer and the experts, that it is going to require isolation. We're going to have to isolate people who are contracting this particular virus or who have contracted the virus, and we need to think about it. The ripple effects of this virus through our economy are going to be and continue to be substantial not just in mortality rate, not just in populations that are at greater risk—and we've had a discussion about that, and that has been in the media—but your normal mum and dad that live in the outer suburbs of electorates like mine.
So I encourage the Australian government to strongly consider a stimulus package to support the Australian economy. As a starting point, I think the stimulus package should focus on low- to no-interest loans to companies of all sizes negatively affected by supply-chain disruptions, reductions to tourism or other temporary coronavirus related impacts. In my view, restoring confidence will be the key. We need calm, strong, focused leadership in addressing this issue. The Australian people need it. Our government needs to deliver it. Our parliament needs to deliver it.
When the dust settles we also need to consider contemplating the effect our impact on the environment is having on the current and future spread of infectious disease. The dilution effect is a concept that has been around for some time. Basically, the theory is that healthy biodiversity can be a protection against infection of humans by zoonotic pathogens such as the case of Lyme disease in the United States. Climate change is expected to impact the spread of infectious diseases and the animals that carry them. In Australia, for example, research has shown that dengue fever and other arboviruses spread primarily by a particular mosquito are likely to significantly extend the period of time during the year when transmission of the disease is possible. In Far North Australia there are predictions that disease transmission could be possible for 12 months of the year.
So we need to fully commit to the Paris Agreement, invest in the Green Climate Fund and continue to fund the Global Health Security Agenda to work in partnership with the now other 67 countries to strengthen their public health infrastructure and combat outbreaks before they start. As mentioned, we also need a centre for disease control and prevention. We should also join peer countries and invest in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a public global alliance focused on vaccine development, and actively participate in global coalitions working towards vaccine development.
I give this speech at a time when we're seeing our supermarkets raided for toilet paper and other essentials: hand sanitiser and other things. I think it would be safe to say in this place that there is some significant level of concern in the Australian community. But the point I would make to the Australian people is also that this parliament—both sides, including the Independents—is resolutely committed on a bipartisan, tripartisan or whatever you want to call the level to ensure that we deal with this threat. I think the difficulty is that a lot of Australian people see this parliament through the prism of question time. And I know we have the member for Ballarat, who was an excellent advocate in the health space when she was shadow minister for health, and she will know what I'm saying. People see us addressing collectively a crisis through the prism of what they might see on their local news, which focuses on the issue of the day. For them, sometimes they need information around that blizzard of information that they see—the theatrics that happen in question time. They don't see what's happening on a bipartisan basis, with all levels of government and the opposition working together to come to a conclusion, which I believe leads to a misapprehension that all of us in this place are not committed to doing something to address this very serious issue. I want to take this opportunity to say to the people listening that that is not the case. This House, regardless of what you might see—and the Senate, even though it's in estimates—is consumed by this particular problem and wants to work on a bipartisan basis to ensure that we can address this issue. Do not underestimate, even through the static of what you might see on social media or through some of the misinformation that's being spread, that all of us—it doesn't matter whether it's the people over there or here—are committed to ensuring that we protect our country.
This coronavirus outbreak is a matter of national security. It's the security of our people. On matters of national security, this place has a great track record of working on a bipartisan basis to ensure that we deliver to the Australian people that sense of security that they need. That's what I believe will happen in this case. I inevitably think that the government will have to move to a stimulus package. There is no alternative. We've seen the reserve bank in the United States yesterday or last night cut interest rates by 0.5 per cent—I could stand to be corrected on that. Overseas there is clearly an understanding. Even with an American economy that seemed to be travelling pretty well. Like with the American economy, this virus is going to have a substantial impact on the global economy.
But, again, through the static, through the noise, through the misinformation campaigns that will be run inevitably—you can see that through various manifestations that are occurring, whether it be a particular stereotyping of a particular ethnic grouping or whatever—the fact is that we will cut through the noise. It's our job to deliver health security to the Australian people. As I say to the Australian people, we do what we can in this place on a bipartisan level to deliver that outcome to the Australian people. Regardless of what they may see, regardless of what they may believe and regardless of what they hear, that's what we're here for. I believe that all of us in this place will be doing that job on behalf of the Australian people.
I rise to speak on Appropriation Bill (No.3) 2019-2020, which seeks to effectively provide top-up funding to the 2019-20 budget. A quick look at the schedule of appropriations shows the usual areas receiving the lion's share of spending. The portfolio of Home Affairs receives the largest top-up, with an allocation of just under $1 billion. Next is the portfolio of Social Services, on just under $900 million, where I am pleased to see that the National Disability Insurance Scheme has been allocated a further $5 million. Then, predictably, the portfolio of Defence sits with an additional $533 million, the bulk of which goes directly to the department but a small percentage does go to the Department of Veterans' Affairs, which I wholeheartedly support. Then there's the usual scattering of funds to other portfolios, and it is one of those that I wish to focus my comments on with respect to this bill.
Of the $183 million in funds allocated to the portfolio of Health an amount of $125,000 only has been allocated to the Australian Sports Commission. This is on top of the $388 million allocated in the 2019-20 budget. It's here that I wish to shine a spotlight today—because, as the shameful sports rorts scandal was emerging and the unfolding revelations of the misappropriated funds were being detailed, another saga was bubbling along with the Australian Sports Commission. In a series of media reports, revelations were made about the spending patterns of the commission and particularly spending for the Australian Institute of Sport.
Many Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games sports are facing huge funding cuts, some of more than 60 per cent. For instance, the Australian women's hockey team, the Hockeyroos, once the pride of the nation, have had their future funding slashed by 60 per cent. Other sports to lose funding include synchronised swimming, softball, gymnastics, taekwondo, diving, football, basketball, archery, modern pentathlon, volleyball and water polo. The funding cuts will mean some of those sports will lose their elite sports programs and will not be in a position to hire the much-needed coaching staff to stay competitive.
Individual sporting bodies were allegedly told in February how much funding they would receive for just the first six months after the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, with some additional funding being used to reward the sports that do well. So not only do they get their funding cut but also, if they fail to perform, they will face further cuts. As you can imagine, this puts an enormous amount of pressure on the individual athletes that are competing in the upcoming games in Tokyo, knowing that their performance, their individual result, will impact on the future funding of their chosen sports and the next generations.
There has been widespread criticism and dismay that future funding won't even be maintained at the bare basics that it sits at today for many sports, and an entire generation of athletes will be negatively impacted. Many have concluded that the biggest losers will be the Australian youth, currently aged between 13 and 16, who would be eyeing a shot at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. They simply won't have access to the programs or the coaching that would enable them to reach their potential. At a time when we should be fostering sport in our youth, encouraging them to have big dreams and goals, encouraging them to pursue sporting careers and helping them pursue their dreams, cost-cutting and defunding will mean that certain opportunities are lost. It's at this age that proper support, financial or otherwise, can make all the difference to an athlete and whether they choose to pursue their sporting career or not.
Whilst serious questions were being asked about the defunding of individual sports, revelations were also being made about where some of those funds were actually being spent: $8 million on executive training for high-ranking officials at the Australian Sports Commission; $5 million on recruitment consultants; $17 million in marketing and advertising; $2 million to lease offices in Brisbane and Melbourne; and an estimated travel figure of $3 million for AIS executives who prefer to fly in and out of Canberra for work rather than being Canberra based. As pointed out in the media, that last figure of $3 million is close to the amount needed to fund an entire sport, such as water polo, whose budget is $3.89 million a year; surfing, $2.73 million a year; or softball, $2.26 million a year. I think we really need to understand and ask why such a high proportion of the funds are being spent on travel expenses for AIS executives. Meanwhile, struggling athletes are relying on families and friends to pursue their dreams. They are doing GoFundMe pages. They are doing raffles and they are doing everything they can within their community to put together the funds. I can absolutely relate to that. As a past Olympic athlete, I remember having to fund raise and have the support of my family to afford to take my skis to the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics because the funding we received didn't cover the excess luggage that I had to pay to take my equipment to the Olympics.
Another example: the national baseball team, ranked number 6 in the world, has been told it will not get any money for an upcoming Olympic qualifying camp because it is not considered good enough to win an Olympic gold medal. Similarly, the under-20 athletes taking part in the world championships in Kenya in July will have to pay $4,000 for the right to represent Australia. The reality is that we are creating a situation where fulfilling one's sporting dreams and aspirations is only for those who can afford to do it. We are losing the talent and crushing the dreams of so many that aren't in a position to afford to pay for it. Which of our past sporting heroes would we have lost under that approach? Would it have been Cathy Freeman, Ian Thorpe, Mick Fanning? Sport has always played a huge part in the Australian cultural identity. Which one of our Australian heroes that we celebrate would we give up and say 'Sorry, but funding your sport is not a priority?'
This current financial mess and uncertainty could obviously jeopardise our success and our prospects at the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games in July and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, and also our success or otherwise beyond those Games for the dreams and aspirations of all our young people that are thinking about what their dreams might be now. MPs will recall that Australia used to be the envy of the world when it came to our sporting success. We would often say that we were punching above our weight, as the saying goes. Other nations used to look at us and wonder what our secret was. At the Sydney 2000 games we ranked fourth in the world on the overall medal tally. That's an incredible result for a country of our size. At those games we got 16 gold, 25 silver and 17 bronze—a total of 58 medals. Our tally has gradually been decreasing at every games since. By London in 2012 we had slipped to eighth position with 35 medals, and by Rio we slipped again, with 29 medals. For each of those Olympic years funding continued to be the issue. Sports simply cannot stay competitive if funding is not there for the coaching and the elite level programs.
But this is not just about medal tallies or Australia's love of sport or our desire to do our best or be the best. It is about shaping a culture, creating role models and keeping our community, particularly young people, fit and healthy. The benefits of playing sports are well known: lower obesity rates, better overall health, improved mental health and greater social cohesion. The ripple effects of sport on general health and wellbeing as individuals and as a nation are widespread. The benefits are in jeopardy if we start undermining the way we view and fund our national sports program, especially Olympic sports.
This is about our national identity, our health as a nation and the importance of where our priorities lie. What do we aspire to be? Who will be the role models for our kids and grandkids if we don't support our young Australians getting to the Olympics and having a chance of being competitive at those Olympics? I have been a director of the Olympic Winter Institute of Australia, which takes care of our winter programs for the winter Olympic Games. I know firsthand the challenges of funding. It is a constant struggle, and it's always the families and athletes that are called upon to contribute. Winter sports in particular are consistently disadvantaged in funding in Australia. But our national sporting authority must do better. I call on the Commonwealth government to reassess the funding process, to review the governance in general of the Australian Sports Commission and to support our aspiring athletes. We must be able to have role models, and our youth need to have those dreams.
When I'm back in the electorate, I'm quite concerned at the number of people who are getting quite depressed or even feeling some despair about the direction the country is going under this Morrison government. Their concerns range from a lack of action on climate change and a concern for the young children and what their lives might be like, to an apparent complete unwillingness by this government to seize any of the opportunities in the world that will see our country flourish, to the punitive behaviour when it comes to the most vulnerable people in our society. I want to talk a bit today about what I see when I come here, which is the extraordinary lack of leadership from the Morrison government. It's not just the Morrison government. Those opposite have been in government for seven years now. You can trace it back through Prime Minister Abbott, Prime Minister Turnbull and now Prime Minister Morrison's extraordinary lack of action on anything that would cause this country to grow or flourish.
In the old industrial management models, there was a theory about the way that a big industrial company grew and flourished and then eventually died as the capital assets came to the end of their life. When I come into this parliament and have watched this government over the last seven years, it's almost as if they have been following that path. In the early stages of these companies, you get what was known as a space cadet, who comes up with the idea, and then the operations people come in and make it all work. When it's working well, the administration phase comes in, where people make it more efficient, to get the last bit of profit out of it. Eventually, it becomes the cash cow that funds new activity.
In the modern world, companies need to reinvent themselves all the time, but this government is in this really old mode. What we've seen over the past seven years is a government not managing the country or managing the economy but sending in the administration teams, effectively to squeeze the last little bit out of it. You can see that through its targeting of people on unemployment benefits who might be on drugs and its drug testing of dole recipients; the cashless welfare cards; trying to cut the pension and talking about expanding the cashless welfare card right across pensions as well; and robodebts, sending out debt notices for debts that weren't owed. Whatever they can do that squeezes that last little bit of cash out of the most vulnerable people they will do. The other side of that is their making sure that they get what they need, that their supporters, their sponsors and they get what they need, taking what they can out of the economy and out of the government for themselves.
We come in here, week after week after week and we look at lists of bills that are at best administrative—they don't do anything that causes the country to grow. They are essentially bills that government departments have put together because they see something that wasn't quite right about something that was introduced a couple of years ago. They are small administrative bills, essentially put forward by government departments. We've seen them come in one after the other. Sometimes you can be in this House for a week and there are no speakers on the government side at all, because the bills are of no interest to them because they are simply administrative bills.
I can't recall in the past seven years of this shockingly do-nothing government any bills whatsoever that actually enabled, empowered or enriched our population, that caused our economy to grow and flourish or that put to work the extraordinary capacity of Australians to think. We are one of the great creative nations in the world. In every field where creativity matters we punch above our weight, and yet from this government there's nothing. There is nothing there. Even when they do say they are going to do something they take forever to do it. So the first point I want to make, really, is that this government is in the wrong phase for a country like Australia and the situation we're in. We're in a world filled with opportunities, and we have a government that thinks that the way things are is the way they should stay, and they will simply administer the government into the most efficient, punitive style they can.
When I was studying cross-cultural management, nearly 40 years ago, we studied a book written by a man named Sunzi. It was called The Art of War, or Bingfa. Back in those days it was largely unknown. I was very lucky to have a PhD guy who was studying that particular management text for his PhD, so I was really lucky. I spent a lot of time finding translations of it, because they were very hard to find. I had about six translations of Sunzi:The Art of War. It was a text that in those days was studied by every management school through China, Japan and most of Asia, but was largely unknown in the West. When the West did discover it they thought it was, essentially, machiavellian, but it actually isn't. The single management theory and strategic theory of Bingfa, which comes through over and over and over again, is that if you're really a good leader, if you're really a good general, no-one will have heard of you, because you will have prevented the war. If you're a really good doctor your patients don't get sick. If you're a really good manager the crisis does not occur. So if you're known for solving a crisis you are a bad leader, not a good one, because a good leader sees off the crisis before it takes place. I have lived with that theory and I look for that in my staff. We should look for that in our government, but this government is the opposite of that. This Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government does not act on anything until the crisis is so great that every single person in the country knows about it, and then they decide to make an announcement and maybe do something—but the announcement is usually greater than the action.
This is a government that never acts to stop a crisis until the crisis is so great that everybody knows about it. We saw that with the bushfires, even though every expert on climate change has told us this was coming—the Ross Garnaut report said that we'd be looking at exactly this by 2020. But this government, even when the fires were raging, did not act until the country was screaming for action.
That could be for one of two reasons. It could be that the spin merchants in the government have extended what we all know they do anyway, which is that, before you announce a solution, you make sure as many people as possible know about the problem. If you're going to announce a road in your electorate, you go out and tell everyone of this terrible problem so that when the announcement is made you get more credit for it. That's called spin. We know that happens, usually over a couple of months, and we can watch them do it. I say to anybody out there, if your member of parliament is getting up and saying, 'Look, this is terrible,' particularly if they're on the government side, then you can bet that in a few months they're going to come to you with an answer that has already been approved—probably through a rort or a program that hasn't been announced; who knows? But you can bet that's the case. So it could be that this government thinks, 'Let's wait till everybody knows about the crisis in aged care before we do anything about it. Let's wait till everybody knows that we've lost 180,000 apprentices in the last year. Let's wait till everybody knows before we act.'
But I don't think that is the case. And this is the other of the two reasons. I think this is a government that doesn't actually recognise the role of government and doesn't act early because it doesn't know how. You can go back, right through the Abbott years and the Turnbull years and now the Morrison years, and you can see it has happened time after time.
An absolute example of that is the home-care and aged-care situation at the moment. The government had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a royal commission on aged care, and now we have story after story. One in two people in aged-care facilities are malnourished, literally starving. People are waiting three years for home-care packages. It's truly extraordinary. People in aged-care facilities are lying in urine and faeces. They're appalling stories that we've known about for ages. In fact, a lot of the breaches of regulations were well known to the regulator. These stories have been out there for at least the last seven years, for at least the entire term of this conservative government, yet it has not acted. Finally, they called a royal commission into aged care. The royal commission found the situation so appalling that they've released an interim report, which is rarely done, and the government is still waiting for the final outcome before it acts. If this story was headline news every night, they would be acting. But they're waiting. They're waiting until the crisis is so bad that they simply cannot ignore it anymore. It's truly astonishing.
It is the same for dental services in aged care—even on dental. Many older Australians are entitled to dental services in the public system, and we know that one in two have gum disease. One in two senior Australians have gum disease. One in five have no natural teeth. We know that, and yet older Australians are forced to wait months or years for public dental care. The government have cut public dental funding by hundreds of millions of dollars and they're going to axe it completely in July. How bad does this actually have to get before the government think they should act? Just how bad does it have to get?
You can see it with the royal commission into banking and financial services; it's the same story. We had to drag them kicking and screaming to that. Even though the stories of bad behaviour by banks were out there, and people knew, this government sat on its hands. In fact, we spent 600 days trying to convince Malcolm Turnbull to call for a royal commission into banking, and finally he did. The royal commission's damning report came out in February last year, 2019. There were 76 recommendations, but again the government hardly touched them. There are a few now that they are starting to work their way through, but there are none before the parliament. Again, how bad does it have to get before this government thinks it should lead?
Let's talk about recycling. The government have just discovered that technology might be the answer to climate change! It has been the answer for decades. It's been the answer for decades, yet we've seen cuts to the CSIRO, attempts to wind back the funding for ARENA and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, attempts to pull the funding out of innovation, and cuts to R&D. Now that everybody in the country finally knows, because of the bushfires, that climate change is real, the government are prepared to make a few announcements and take some minor actions—but only minor ones.
Now they've realised everybody cares about plastic in the ocean, they're finally prepared to talk about that. We are still waiting for what the actual action will be. But it has been a crisis for decades. Everybody in this country should have known that our recycling was an issue. Everybody should have known. In fact, China stopped importing our recyclables in 2018. There are 24 types of recyclable materials which China will no longer import. That was January 2018—two years ago. In 2019, COAG met and they made some pleasant announcements about things they might do—and, now, a year later, there's still nothing. It's as if they sit on the problem and ignore it until everybody knows about it and their hand is forced and then they try to take credit for acting on it. It is extraordinary.
These plastics and recyclable materials are commodities. They're actually inputs. The opportunities for Australia to use its ingenuity and imagination to build industries in this sector have been there for a decade or more; yet we've had a government that not only has not been doing anything but also has been actively undermining it by reducing funding for the very organisations and institutions that would drive change. We know that there are 9.2 jobs for every 10,000 tonnes recycled in Australia, compared to 2.8 for export. We know that; yet, when the crisis finally hit and when China withdrew—and we knew they were going to; we knew it wasn't going to last—two years ago, the government didn't think the problem was bad enough to act. What an extraordinary indictment on this government.
And we can talk about the economy. Finally, we've got a government that's talking about a stimulus package to respond to the coronavirus and the difficulties that small businesses are having. But the economy has been underperforming for six years or more. The economic indicators that are reported now for the Australian economy are all bad. They're all worse than they were when this government got elected. Economic growth has slowed since the election. Underemployment is high, with two million Australians looking for work or for more work. Weak wages growth has slowed even further. The Liberals are presiding over the worst wages growth on record, and wages are growing at one-fifth the pace of profits.
The Reserve Bank cut interest rates again yesterday. They're lower than they were in the global financial crisis, which was the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. And for most of the period of this government's term, over the last seven years, the global economy was growing—and we weren't. We were going backwards while the rest of the world actually grew. Household spending is growing at the slowest pace since the global financial crisis. Household debt is around record levels of disposable income, and consumer confidence is below average. Household living standards have declined under the Liberals, with real household median income lower than it was in 2013. Now, finally, the government has decided to do something—but there's no detail. (Time expired).
We are at risk of heading towards a recession. We've got wages flatlining. The climate crisis is hitting agriculture and tourism, with communities still trying to recover from the devastating bushfires we've seen. We've got sluggish manufacturing and construction. And the Reserve Bank is now doing everything it can, but it is running out of bullets. We are heading towards a cliff, but the Prime Minister is refusing to grab the steering wheel. It is his assumption that everything will be okay, but everything is not okay.
We are confronting a coronavirus, which is coming at us like a freight train; the climate crisis; an inequality crisis; and a jobs crisis. Finally the Prime Minister has acknowledged that there might be some need to stimulate the economy and, in his words, 'ensure some cashflow'. So the question is: if we're to avoid recession and we're to deal with the inequality crisis that is gripping us with inequality at a seven-year high, what is the best way to tackle the inequality crisis and ensure Australia does not head towards recession as the Prime Minister refuses to put his hands on the wheel?
He's spoken about cashflow. The best way to get more money moving in the economy is to provide it to those at the bottom who are living below the poverty line, because they are going to go and spend it on essentials like food. And that, in turn, is going to help people like our farmers who are going to grow that food. We have a situation at the moment where people who are looking for work—because the government hasn't created enough jobs in the economy for them to take—are living below the poverty line. Not only that, you could in fact be a full-time worker in this country and the minimum wage is so low that you could be below the poverty line.
Let's think about those people who are on Newstart and youth allowance. They are getting by on a very, very small amount of money that is below the poverty line and is, in fact, a barrier to finding work. We need to lift Newstart and youth allowance by at least $95 a week. It has not been lifted for years and, as a result, it is a barrier to people finding jobs and people are doing it tough. This is a golden opportunity to both stimulate the economy and lift people out of poverty by lifting Newstart and youth allowance by at least $95 a week, because that money is going to be spent on essentials. There's some talk from the government about 'Maybe we'll offer tax cuts to people who are already well-off.' A lot of that is going to go to pay down the record debt that people are in because housing is so expensive and mortgages are so high. But if you want to ensure that the money is going to find its way back into the economy, then let's lift Newstart and let's lift youth allowance, because we will be tackling inequality, lifting people out of poverty and stimulating the economy, and that is what the Green New Deal is about. It is about tackling the crises that this country is facing, avoiding recession and stimulating the economy while making sure that we close the inequality gap in this country that is at a seven-year high. So, if the Prime Minister wants to take action with the economic crises that we're facing and the inequality crises that we're facing, he should lift Newstart and youth allowance.
In a wealthy country like Australia, no-one should go without a home, but we have an affordability crisis in this country. We have homelessness rising. In my area of Victoria, there are 82,000 people on the waiting list trying to get into public housing. I have spoken to pregnant women who, at the moment, are living in crisis accommodation and are likely to be in crisis accommodation when they have their babies because there is no vacancy in the public housing waiting list for them. Just imagine that. Imagine you are pregnant and you know that you're going to have your baby in a couple of months and you don't have a place to live. That is where we are at in modern-day, wealthy Australia.
Meanwhile, this government keeps locking young people out of the housing market by providing billions of dollars in subsidies to people who've already got two, three, four homes to go and buy their fifth or sixth. That not only is a drain on the public purse but keeps bumping up the prices of housing so that young people who think they might be in with a chance of buying a house go along to auctions and keep getting outbid by someone who's already got a couple of houses. That person who's got a couple of houses knows that, if they buy that house, no matter how much it costs, they can write off their losses as a tax break, and screw the young person who gets outbid because they don't have that government largesse in the form of tax breaks subsidising them. That is the crazy situation we have at the moment. We have that situation because we no longer treat affordable housing as a human right. We treat it as an investment class where the government rewards their big donors but young people get locked out of the housing market.
That's for buying, but it's increasingly the same for renting as well. If you are a young person on youth allowance trying to rent at the moment, or if you're in one of those jobs—we have a jobs crisis in this country because nearly 1 in 3 young people is either unemployed or doesn't have enough hours of work. They're stuck in low-hour, insecure work. It is hard now even to rent a house and, if the only income that you've got is Newstart or youth allowance, almost zero properties are available for you in CBD areas in some of our major capital cities.
Housing in Australia is cooked. It is seriously messed up. We have lost sight of the basic fact that housing needs to be treated as a human right. If we turned 82,000 people in the state of Victoria away from public schools because there weren't enough places at the schools, there would be an outcry. But we're turning away from public housing 82,000 people who need it—by definition these are the people who need it—because there have not been enough new public housing units built.
We need to have a construction-led recovery in the economy that also tackles the housing, homelessness and affordability crisis. And that is why the Greens have been pushing, as part of the Green New Deal, for a massive new public and affordable housing build to address the homelessness crisis; to start creating jobs in the construction sector, including for our apprentices; and to start stimulating the economy. This is what the Green New Deal is about. It's about saying we can solve the housing crisis that we've got, we can start solving the inequality and the jobs crises that we've got and we can start to stimulate the economy while tackling homelessness. We can do all of those things if government is prepared to put its hands back on the steering wheel. At the moment, leaving everything to the market, with government inflating the prices and government giving subsidies to people who don't need it, because they've already got three, four or five houses, is fuelling inequality in this country. It means we in this country don't spend our money on productive investments. It means a lot of the money from banks goes off to subsidise housing and big mortgages so that banks keep getting fat off it, because they get to write huge mortgages. The price of housing keeps going up and up, and everyone who has already got three or four houses already loves that, because then they can sell a house and make a bit of money. But everyone else gets locked out and screwed over, and that is what we need to fix with the Green New Deal.
One of the things that perplexes most people in this country is why you can't use your Medicare card to go to the dentist. Why is it that, if you get a soccer ball to the face on the weekend and it busts your jaw, you can use your Medicare card to get it fixed, but, if it busts your teeth, you can't? That is the ridiculous situation that we're in at the moment. We need to get dental into Medicare. Too many people are putting off going to the dentist because they can't afford it. That's not only bad for their teeth; it's also bad for their health in the longer term because, if you don't get your teeth fixed, it can lead to other kinds of diseases simply because the diseases get in through the mouth. That's not only bad because people end up being less healthy and have bad teeth; if the only thing you cared about was the economics of it, it's bad for the federal budget as well because those people end up having to go see the doctor or having to go to hospital because of something that was ultimately preventable.
It's also a social justice issue, because if you have bad teeth it can affect your ability to get a job. Think about someone who fronts up to an interview who's got bad teeth—it can affect your ability to get a job, and it can affect your self-esteem. We need to get dental into Medicare. This is unfinished business for the Greens. In the power-sharing parliament, back in 2010, the Greens worked with Labor and the Independents, and we got dental into Medicare for 3.4 million kids. As a result parents are able to use their Medicare card to get dental treatment for their kids. Now what we've got to do is extend that to the rest of society.
We pride ourselves in this country on having a universal healthcare system. In America they're tearing themselves apart at the moment trying to get somewhere close to what Australia's got. One of the good things about this country is that if you get sick they don't check your credit card. They check that you've got a Medicare card. You can get the help and the health care that you deserve. We need to have the same principle apply to dental care as well. Going to the dentist is far too expensive. People aren't doing it when they should, just because they can't afford it. If we want to make Australia more equal, we could start by extending our principle of Medicare and health care for all to include dental care. That's something that the Greens will be fighting for as part of the Green New Deal.
Child care should be treated as an essential service. I talk regularly to people—they're mostly women, because the burden of organising child care and caring for kids predominantly, not solely, but predominantly falls on women—who are going through the decision about whether to get back into the paid workforce. The decision that they make after a certain point is, 'I could work an extra day a week, but all of that money's going to be eaten up by childcare fees.' We have seen childcare fees go up and up and up in this country. Every parent who has to deal with childcare bills knows what I'm talking about. It's going up so much that for many women—men as well, but it's mostly women—it's now affecting their ability to make real choices about their life, like whether to go to work or stay home. They're saying, 'I could go to work, but everything I earn from that day I'm going to lose in childcare fees.' We've got an affordability crisis. We've also got an availability crisis in many places, where in some instances families are shuttling kids between two different childcare centres. You can get a day a week at one centre but not the other day that you might want to suit your employer, so you have to drop them off at another centre. Add to that the burden that many parents are facing now that they have to do the double-caring job of looking after kids but also looking after their own parents and potentially considering questions about aged care for them. There are people—it's predominantly women—who are stuck in the middle, juggling caring responsibilities above and below and juggling work as well, finding that not only are there all those pressures—which include a lot of pressures to feel like you're doing the right thing that can push many people to the point where they feel really stretched—but the financial pressure of the cost of child care is impinging on their ability to make real decisions about their lives. It is a gender equality issue.
We have had some real advances in this country. I pay tribute to the opposition for what they did when they were in government by lifting the standards of early childhood educators. We now have a situation where our kids are getting great-quality education in those preschool years. But what we haven't got right is the question of government stepping up to fund it. We need to start thinking about child care as an essential service. My goal as part of the Green New Deal is to see free universal child care available to every family who wants it. We can get there. It becomes a question of priorities. It's about how much we value women's ability to have control over their lives and how much we value the preschool education of our children. We've made some steps, but it's been at the cost of affordability and accessibility. We need to fix that. As part of a Green New Deal, we put forward universal services and universal access to child care for everyone in this country who wants it. Free child care, in the way that we start to think about other services being free and universally available—that is where we need to get to. That's what we will fight for as part of a Green New Deal.
I rise to speak to Appropriation Bill (No.3) 2019-2020 and the related bill. We really need to have a proper debate about what's happening fiscally in this country. I think we need to look at a number of things in the economy that are not going particularly well.
I think it's important to note, firstly, that, despite the rhetoric of the Prime Minister and Treasurer, unemployment is rising in this country. What's becoming of critical concern for Labor and indeed others is that underemployment has been rising now over many years. In fact, underemployment reached a record high last month, according to the ABS. We have a very high underemployment rate, at 8.6 per cent. We have one of the highest underutilisation rates, but there have never been as many underemployed Australians in our history. We have more people now looking for more work in our economy and in our labour market who are not able to find it. If you combine those that have no work with those who have too little work, you have an underutilised economy.
That's one of the reasons why wage growth is so persistently low. Wage growth presided over by this Prime Minister and Treasurer has now been lower than at any time in our history. No real wage growth, stagnant wage growth—in fact, wages are going backwards in many parts of our economy. One of the reasons that's a problem is that there is nothing that the government seeks to do to arrest that problem. There are no plans on foot by the government to lift wages. Low wages means an impact on aggregate demand, which means an impact on our economy and an impact on consumer confidence and business confidence, and that is leading to, as I say, very difficult economic circumstances.
The government seeks to pretend, and to convince the Australian public, that somehow these problems that are arising have all happened subsequent to the tragic bushfires and the coronavirus. We know that's not true, and the Reserve Bank knows that's not true. Firstly, the Reserve Bank revised down the forecast of the budget on a number of occasions prior to the bushfires and prior to the coronavirus. That's important to remember.
Labor will work with the government on those two issues. We've been seeking to work with the government on the bushfire recovery. Mr Deputy Speaker Rob Mitchell, you know all too well the impacts of bushfires in your electorate over many years, and so too do many members. We're working with the government there. We have provided suggestions to the government. Some have been taken up. We provided one this week in relation to supporting small businesses in fire affected areas, and I'll go to that a little later.
The fact is the government cannot pretend that the impact on our economy is just due to those two significant events because the revision of the budget forecast and indeed, perhaps more importantly, the deployment of monetary policy by the Reserve Bank occurred in the main prior to those two events. For example, the Reserve Bank cut interest rates on three occasions prior to the bushfires and prior to the coronavirus outbreak. That was because the economy was weakening and because the government does not have an economic plan to respond to the weakening of our economy. The government has left all of the heavy lifting to the Reserve Bank. So the Reserve Bank is using monetary policy, there is no fiscal response by the government and we're now getting to the point where monetary policy cannot be deployed much further, if at all, in the future.
Meanwhile the suggestions we made to bring forward tax cuts to stimulant the economy fell on deaf ears. I think we'll now find ourselves in greater trouble. That really does go to what I said at the outset, which is that we have a growing problem of underemployment in our labour market as a result in large part from the failing economy.
It may have seemed to be the right thing to do at the time, but it was unwise for the Treasurer to boast about returning the budget to surplus. He liked to use the AC/DC album title Back In Black. He probably should have used Split Enz's song title 'I See Red' because the fact is that the chances of us returning to budget surplus are very unlikely. The reason for that is, as I said, they have no economic plan. If they were honest, they would say that they probably didn't expect to win the last election. They won the election and the plan is not there, and that is becoming increasingly obvious. It's obvious in this place too. The amount of substantial legislation being debated in the parliament is woeful. There are not sufficient bills to deal with the economy or other matters that matter to the Australian public. That speaks to a government that doesn't have an agenda and instead is looking for things to distract the public.
We'll work with the government on dealing with the coronavirus, as we have done with the bushfires and the recovery thereafter. We have been critical of the speed by which the government has dealt with that matter. We do think there are major problems. I think the rhetoric of the government doesn't match what's happening in those fire affected regions. Look at the data that has been provided to date in relation to concessional loans and grants. Of all the applications made for concessional loans, as of last Friday fewer than five per cent had been approved.
In terms of grants being provided to small businesses, of all of the applications made to provide grants to small businesses in fire affected areas on Kangaroo Island, on the South Coast of New South Wales, in the Blue Mountains or in East Gippsland, only 20 per cent have been approved—one in five applications. We know that small businesses who rely on cash flow cannot wait for a government that is too slow in providing support to them. They cannot wait. Indeed, if they do have to wait, in many cases they will hit the wall. They will go under. The failure to deliver even those things that have been promised by the government to businesses is a major problem. It needs to move much more quickly. But, I'm afraid to say, it's likely that, as a result of the tardiness, the red tape and the sheer lack of political will, small businesses in these fire affected regions will go under. They will go under because of the failure and incompetence of the government. That's the truth of it.
This week the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, and I, along with members who represent some of these fire affected areas, suggested a policy for the government to consider implementing to support small business—namely, to use wage assistance in a manner that was used for businesses affected by Cyclone Yasi in 2011. The then Labor government provided assistance in the form of Newstart to businesses to maintain the employment of their staff. It was, effectively, a subsidy for wages. It was taken up. It was effective. It was targeted. It allowed for 13 weeks, and subsequently 26 weeks, of subsidies over that 12-month period. We suggest that the government consider doing that here. We know that the first people to get hit in their local economies are casual employees, part-time and even full-time employees. If these businesses have no revenue coming in then they can't maintain employment for those workers. If those workers are not gainfully employed then they're not spending in the local economy. Not only are businesses directly impacted by the fires in trouble; what is also happening is that other businesses that rely upon the consumption of their goods and services will also falter. This initiative has been used before by a federal government, a Labor government. It can be used by this government too. I'd implore the Prime Minister and indeed the minister for small business and other ministers to consider the proposition that was provided and suggested in good faith by the opposition for not only those businesses that have been impacted, in terms of bricks and mortar, but those businesses on the South Coast, on Kangaroo Island, in Gippsland and in the Blue Mountains that are suffering because revenue has just disappeared.
Some businesses in tourism and hospitality have not been directly impacted, in terms of their dwellings having been burnt by fire. But, in terms of the loss of business, they've been well and truly impacted and they will not continue to survive, let alone thrive, if they're not provided with support that's targeted, measured and expeditious. We say to the government: first and foremost you have an obligation to support small businesses in these regions, so when you promise something you have to deliver it, and if you don't deliver it in time then these businesses won't be there to receive the support. The red tape, which is currently congesting the system such that businesses are unable to receive such support, has to be removed. Cut the red tape. Get the support to businesses that need this support, otherwise they won't be there this time next year or, indeed, in a month's time.
Further, insofar as small businesses, we are concerned for those businesses and for their employees. If you provide a wage subsidy, as occurred after the terrible affects of Cyclone Yasi, then you'll see businesses being able to maintain employment for some or all of their staff. I think that's a really useful suggestion. It's one that has been tried and tested. It's something the government should really embrace, and I really do hope they think about that. It has been used before, and I'm surprised the government haven't actually thought about using it in these circumstances, given the scale of these bushfires and the impact upon businesses. I really find it difficult to understand why they haven't gone down that path.
The economy is in trouble. It started to falter before the bushfires and before coronavirus. The Treasury was revising the forecasts of the budget well before the outbreak of the coronavirus or, indeed, the fires. So it's not right to say that the correlation is that the economy's now struggling because of these two events. It was occurring before then. Unemployment was rising, underemployment was rising, and we have enormous underutilisation in our labour market. That's also one of the reasons that wages are stagnant—because there's no tightening in the labour market if you have record underutilisation at 13.9 per cent of the labour market. The only lever that the government wants to use to increase wages is to see a tightening of the labour market—but, when the labour market is as slack as it is because of record high underemployment, that's not going to happen. If there is no other policy prescription, we will not see wages grow in real terms for a very long time. That of course has an impact on consumer confidence, business confidence and aggregate demand, which continues the cycle and will also have an impact on future employment opportunities and future wage growth.
So the government have a lot to do here. We will work with them on these two events, as we have been with the tragic disaster of the bushfires. We have, in good faith, been proposing some good ideas and we ask them to take them up. We ask the Prime Minister to take up the idea of providing wage subsidies to small businesses in fire affected areas, which could do quite a lot for those regions.
I too rise today to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2019-2020 and related bill. Can I start off by saying that this gives us an opportunity to basically talk about what's been taking place in the appropriations in the last budget, what the government has delivered, what it hasn't delivered and where we are at this point of time in the government's life span. I've got to say, it is of great concern when talking to a lot of my constituents, as a lot of people do in this place, to hear the things that they're saying to us, not only over the last few months but also over the last six years whilst this Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government have been in place. If you have a look at every aspect of the health, ageing and welfare systems, we're seeing that they're increasingly being hacked away by this government. There've been unprecedented cuts and changes, which I would say are cruel, which are being made by this government that are vital to services—health services, pensions, Medicare and aged-care policies. I've also got to say, it is of great concern when you see money being pulled out of services that are required, especially when you think about the NDIS—we were only talking about that the other day—where $4.6 billion has been ripped out of the NDIS from people who are some of our most vulnerable in our society, where that money was meant to give them the dignity that they deserve.
We see a Prime Minister who was a previous salesman, a marketing manager. We're looking for leadership qualities—not just us here in this place but all of Australia—and unfortunately they're extremely lacking. I think Mr Morrison, the Prime Minister, is a very ineffective Prime Minister running a do-nothing government. If you have a look at the history of this government from 2013—as I said, the Abbott, the Turnbull, the Morrison government—there is not one agenda item, a big ticket item, where you can say, 'This has changed the nation. This particular policy has changed people's lives or will change people's lives.' There is absolutely nothing that you can actually talk about that has happened that will actually change people's lives.
What have we seen? We've seen the lowest wage growth in the history of our nation, and we know without wage growth the economy will not kickstart. We know without those extra dollars, in low paid workers' pockets that will go straight into the economy, nothing will happen, yet this government has sat about for the last six years and said that, basically, nothing is in that scope to try and pull some levers to ensure that we have some wage growth so people can spend some extra money in the economy and get the economy going.
I know that there are no plans for jobs, there are no plans for wage growth and certainly there are no plans to address climate change. In fact, we had a Prime Minister, who was Treasurer at one point, who came in here with a hunk of coal and proclaimed how proud he was of it. That is very embarrassing for a nation like Australia, who has always been a leader in the world. To see the Prime Minister of this country today, who then was Treasurer, come in with a hunk of coal, hold it up high in this House, be proud of it and say, 'This is our future,' was absolutely embarrassing. I feel embarrassed as an MP and I feel embarrassed as an Australian, a citizen of this nation, knowing that that man today is our Prime Minister. He's trying to backtrack on this. He's trying to backtrack and say that they do believe in climate change, but we know that he denied climate change many times in the past. As I said, there are no plans for jobs, there are no plans for the economy and certainly no plans for climate change, which is one of the most fundamental issues that's facing not just us but the entire nation.
We can look back at many other things as well. Productivity is at the lowest it has ever been. Unemployment is growing at a fast pace. We know people are underemployed, perhaps working part-time jobs but not earning enough to pay their bills and to put food on the table. Those numbers are growing. Then you look at the absolute stuff-ups that have taken place—things like robodebt, where many Australians, through no fault of their own, were sent notices saying that they owed money to Centrelink. We've seen what's taken place with that, where the government has backtracked. They've gotten rid of the system, but it took close to 2½ years before they admitted that it was wrong. No matter what we said in this place on this side of the House, where we raised the issue continuously, where the Leader of the Opposition raised it continuously in the media and in questions in this place, what we heard was: 'There's nothing to see here. It's all above board.' Yet today we find out that the whole system of robodebt was a complete mess which put a lot of pensioners and a lot of people that were on payments in a lot of distress. You can imagine someone who's an age pensioner in their 80s receiving a notice from Centrelink saying, 'You haven't done the right thing and you owe us X amount of dollars.' With many constituents that we saw and that we represented on this particular issue, we had their debts reduced or they were told that they owed nothing. Imagine the thousands of people who, because they're good, hardworking, honest Australians, just went to Centrelink and paid that debt. There'd be thousands of them. We saw these debts were often lacking in detail. They were void of a breakdown of costs, and information was really difficult to access. This was one of the biggest stuff-ups that I've seen since I've been here—taking money off innocent Australians when it was not their fault. But it's not only that; there is the trauma that they were put through.
One particular constituent whom we had contact with back in September of last year has yet to be provided with any clear information or explanation as to how the governance of Centrelink arrived at an allocated robodebt figure of over $1,300. We're talking about someone who is on a minimal income—one of the Australians that is right at the bottom end of the income that they receive compared to the rest of the nation. Basically, they just simply referenced it as an overpayment of a family tax payment in the previous years—no detail, no figures to show where and what. Despite this family's best efforts and ongoing quest to have such information provided, no clear explanation has been forthcoming to date.
This takes me onto another saga that's taking place right now before us, and that's the 2020 sports funding rort. We've heard much about that. We heard that the former minister, Bridget McKenzie, wrote to the Prime Minister, directly attaching the spreadsheet she intended to approve for round 3 sports rorts. She did this, as we heard in this House yesterday, on 10 April, the day before Scott Morrison called the election—the very day before the election was called. We know that the minister then sent the final brief, signed, to Sport Australia on 11 April at 8.46 am, after parliament was dissolved and caretaker conventions commenced. After this revelation, the Prime Minister told the parliament he did not approve the projects and they were signed off by the sports minister on 4 April 2019. There were 136 emails over a 6-month period between the PMO and the sports minister's office about sports rorts, yet the Prime Minister comes in here and denies that he was hands-on with this particular grant. He was knee-deep in it, and what was told to the parliament here yesterday proves it.
We have many sporting clubs in my electorate of Adelaide that are desperately seeking money and are desperately doing community work. Kids are playing sport from under-10s right through to their senior teams. One club is the Broadview Football Club. They have done specular work for the community in my electorate. They are one of these sporting clubs that may well have unfairly missed out. How could they possibly have received a grant when these rorts were taking place? How could they have possibly ever received a grant? And they are a great club. So I feel for the clubs that are doing the right thing and perhaps aren't in a marginal seat or are not in a seat where there's a member of the government that represents it. It's just an outrageous practice, where we're funnelling money away from clubs that need it to clubs that perhaps may not need it, or are getting it for electoral benefit, which is wrong.
Other dedicated, highly visible and most productive sporting clubs within my electorate which also appear to have been disadvantaged and had no show of ever receiving any grants and missed out as well include Croydon Kings Football Club, a club that really desperately needed some funding to relocate because DPTI—the transport department—was taking their land and they were left without a home ground. We tried everything we possibly could to get some funding for that great club, yet nothing came of it.
The Adelaide Comets is another one. Or take the Adelaide Lutheran Sports Club. Go and see their change rooms: the ceilings are falling down. There is no women's change room. The women have to change in their cars during training and during games, which is totally unacceptable. Here are some clubs that deserved some sort of funding, yet they had no show at all. The Ghan Kilburn Soccer Club is a great club started by the Afghan community in the northern parts of my electorate. They have many young people playing who have come here as refugees without parents, on their own, some as young as 15 or 16 years old. It is a great club doing great work. They are after funding, yet they received zero after us writing to the Prime Minister, to the Treasurer, to everyone. These are clubs that should have been looked at. They should have been judged and they would have been deemed as being needy clubs for the community. They not only provide sporting facilities but also provide community contribution. The Ghan Kilburn Soccer Club does amazing work, not just on the sporting field but within the community as well. Without the support of this club, who knows what many of these kids would be doing if this club wasn't there to give them that camaraderie and that family feel.
Then we get onto the waiting list for home care packages. We know that this saga has been going on for a long time and we welcome the extra funding that the minister has put into this area. But still, when you have 120,000 people waiting for a package at any one time to receive some care that they need within their homes, it is not acceptable. Yet we're no closer to resolving this unacceptable state of affairs. Our seniors and frail elderly citizens have been faced with extensive waiting lists with little regard for their health or wellbeing.
Over the Christmas period last year a woman called us who had a carer that was looking after her. This particular woman was in her 80s and had an amputated leg, diabetes and a whole range of other health issues. She needed someone to help her shower in the morning—not every morning; just two to three times a week was all she was asking for. Over that Christmas period the carer for some reason told her that she wouldn't be coming for two weeks because she was on a break. They could not get someone else. We rang the minister's office, we wrote letters and finally, with a lot of angst, we got someone through a package to go and see her. It's not fair, it's not right when you have an elderly person who has worked all their life and paid their taxes, through no fault of their own they have very bad health, they have aged and have no-one else in this world, and yet we couldn't find someone for her, which should have been systematically and automatically done for about a week after Christmas. For a week after Christmas this woman stayed at home, not showered, and who knows what she was eating. It was an unacceptable situation to be in.
Some people passed away before they got their packages, or their relatives received a letter saying a package had been approved or was about to be started, yet they had passed away whilst waiting for their permanent or home care packages to become effective. This is not good enough. We need to look after our elderly. We need to look after those people that built the foundations of this nation that we enjoy today, where we pick the fruits of their hard work today and live the lives that we do. These people have worked, they have paid taxes and they deserve the dignity that we should give them in their twilight years. It is wrong that a person in their mid-80s with an amputated leg and a history of illnesses had no care for over a week.
In another situation, one of my constituents from Croydon Park contacted me about his father, who suffers from a range of health and medical conditions, including osteoarthritis, cardiac ailments, poor memory, dementia, reduced mobility, walking and balance issues— (Time expired)
I'd like to thank all members who have contributed to the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2019-2020 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2019-2020. These additional estimate appropriation bills seek authority from the parliament for the additional expenditure of money from the consolidated revenue fund for this financial year. Passage of the bills will ensure continuity of government programs, commencement of new activities agreed by the government since the 2019-20 budget and the Commonwealth's ability to meet its obligations for 2019-20 as they fall due. Importantly, these bills also include funding in response to the recent bushfires. Once again I thank all members for their contribution and commend these bills to the House.
The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this, the honourable member for Brand has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. So the immediate question before the House is that the amendment moved by the member for Brand be agreed to.