Tuesday, 1 September 2020
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable the Manager of Opposition Business proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the government to deliver on its announcements in areas of critical importance to all Australians.
I call upon those honourable 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—
Every question in question time today from the opposition went to the gap between the announcements from this government and the delivery, and we've worked something out: whether it's aged care, whether it's JobKeeper, whether it's debt and deficit or whether it's superannuation, if there's something that you really don't want to happen how do you make sure something won't happen? You get the Prime Minister to announce it, if you're really worried about something. I imagine this is a message to lobbyists all around the country who are working with a department towards an announcement: if at any moment the public servants say to you, 'Oh, we could get the Prime Minister to announce this,' stop it. Run a mile. Don't let it happen, because this is what happens in every instance. They don't seem to understand. Normally parliamentary debate goes back and forth as to whether or not the right programs have been announced, but here, with this government and with this Prime Minister, ever since he said, 'I'm ambitious for him,' we've really understood the difference between what he announces and what he does within a couple of days.
The Treasurer today was asked a question, and he thought he was boasting. It's really interesting when someone's asked about a gap between what you announce and what you do and he stands up and says, 'Well, let me show you the numbers.' When he was asked, 'You promised $314 billion in economic support; what have you done?' the numbers that he reported to the parliament added up to just over a quarter of the announcement.
Then we had another dixer from them today—it wasn't just our questions that were making this case; it was in their dixers as well—where they stood up and boasted that there would now be an additional $30 billion for JobKeeper, taking it to $101 billion. So they've added $30 billion, and it's still $30 billion less than what they originally announced. They originally announced that they would help six million Australians. They then decided to design the rules to make sure that six million Australians were not eligible. They cut out a million casuals, they cut out the visa workers, they cut out local government, they cut out arts and entertainment workers, they cut out aviation workers and they cut out people who work at universities. Then they said: 'Oh, isn't this great? We don't need to spend as much money as we thought we did.' They gave hope to six million Australians, and they let down half that number. It's a bit late now to be boasting that somehow they're adding extra support when it's still less than the original announcement. That gap is the story that is told in unemployment queues around Australia. Yesterday we had the Prime Minister boasting that aged care apparently is not a real problem at the moment. Why do we know it's not a problem? Because he could rattle off 14 announcements. If you've got your list of announcements and we still find somebody with ants crawling in an open wound, that tells the story of neglect. That tells the story of the gap between announcement and delivery.
We heard the same when they thought they had got off scot-free on the Ruby Princess inquiry from New South Wales. They said, 'Oh, no, we've been told that we weren't in fact responsible; it was the state government.' But here is the problem: the problem was that they had actually announced that they were going to take responsibility. The Prime Minister had stood up and announced that the cruise ships would be placed 'directly under the command of the Australian Border Force.' The only reason they did okay in that royal commission was because they never delivered on what they announced. The only reason it wasn't their responsibility was because they hadn't done what they said they would do, which is going to lead us to what will be one of the defining broken promises of this government, because we all know where they are headed on superannuation. We all know exactly what's happening on superannuation. We know it's going to be the attack on retirees in all three ways: freezing the pension; stuffing up aged care; and attacking superannuation. Of course, we know they're going to claw back on superannuation. How do we know this? Because in November 2018 the Prime Minister announced they wouldn't.
In November 2018, the Prime Minister made an announcement. He said: 'No, no, no, it's all legislated. It is going to go up to 12 per cent. Working people will get their money.' Well, they won't. The backbench started the drum beat. We know it's nothing to do with the pandemic. They've been in for seven years. This was meant to be coming in all of that time, and working Australians haven't been getting the money. And they have always argued, 'Oh, yes, but, if you get the superannuation increase, then you miss out on the pay rise.' Well, for the life of this government, they haven't been getting a pay rise or a superannuation increase, and that has been the lived experience of working Australians.
Yesterday, we had a fine first speech from the new member for Eden-Monaro. Let's not forget the big story of Kristy McBain, the member for Eden-Monaro, becoming a national figure by standing up to this government and saying, 'We need support for bushfire-ravaged communities.' When they needed support, what did the government give them instead? It gave them an announcement. It announced on 11 May a $650 million boost for bushfire recovery. The Treasurer announced it. Before, I was critical that it was only about a quarter of what they announced. Well, for bushfire recovery, 1½ per cent of what they announced has been spent.
Bushfire recovery is where people are dealing with having lost everything not just in what they're going through, personally but in what entire communities are going through. Of all the areas for there to be a gap between announcement and delivery, I've got to say that is one of the most offensive. Don't announce $650 million if you have no intention of spending it. Don't announce that you're going to help six million Australians with a wage subsidy if you only have the intention of helping half that number. Don't announce that you've got 14 new announcements on aged care if we're then going to get royal commission reports titled, Neglect. Don't announce that the most important thing in fighting the coronavirus is going to be for everyone to download the app and then find out after all this time it has helped us trace contact on 14 occasions.
You get millions of Australians following the advice of the Prime Minister. Why do they follow the advice? Well, he made the announcement. He told us this was what we had to do. Download the app. That's right, get out from under the doona and all you have to do is keep your distance, wash your hands and download the app. They don't tend to run that run of three anymore. I don't know what happened to the app, but it certainly didn't do any of the things that were in the announcement. Then there were the responses we had today from the Minister for Health to the shadow minister for health. There was one thing that he would not say when he was saying: 'It's an agreement. It's a deal.' He wouldn't say how many vaccines are now guaranteed for Australia, because the answer is zero.
The Treasurer would hide behind words and hide behind announcements, but, once again, the delivery was where it fell short. I guess we know this from a mob that, when they were in opposition, promised that every single budget from the time they came into office would be a surplus budget. We've now been here for a seven-year-old government—that, at the next election, are going to ask to be a 12-year-old government—and never will they once have turned a surplus budget. They had doubled the debt before anyone had heard of coronavirus, so don't hide behind the virus in terms of this. The thing that we know—it's not just that they overpromise and underdeliver. No, no—it's not even as complicated as that. They make announcements to avoid doing anything, because all they care about is the marketing. I tell you what: people out there don't live in a marketing world. People live with a government that either delivers or it doesn't, and we have, for seven long years now, a government that fails to deliver.
First and foremost, can I welcome the member for Eden-Monaro to the parliament and congratulate her on her victory in the recent by-election.
It's always a great pleasure to follow the Manager of Opposition Business, a very passionate individual—in seven years, I'm sure there's one opportunity somewhere. The Manager of Opposition Business talks about a number of catchphrases and catchwords, the first one being 'ambition'. Of course we're ambitious. We're ambitious for the Australian people. We're ambitious for where they might go. We're ambitious for our economy. We're ambitious for growth and jobs. We are ambitious for every single individual in this country and the opportunities that can be made for them.
They talk about hope. Well, we of course are out there providing hope for the Australian people. This is an incredibly challenging time right around the world. There is a pandemic. With regard to lists of announcements, they are lists of investments. They are investments in our country. They are investments in lots of areas, including for those representatives from the opposition. To get onto retirees and economic management I think is pretty dangerous ground for those opposite. It is incredibly dangerous ground. I think the retirees around this country very clearly remember what happened at the last election and what was promised from those opposite in terms of an attack on their retirement savings and investments.
The other point I would like to make, though, is around downloading the app, ensuring you keep your distance and you wash your hands—that continues to be very good health advice. We need to ensure that all Australians do abide by those basic hygiene requirements, because it does make a difference. It makes an actual difference to what happens around this country in terms of the pandemic and its effects on people, particularly around community transmission.
The pandemic has been a very confronting challenge for all Australians, and of course we are concerned about the impact on individuals and the economy. But, on this side of the parliament, we continue to support not only business but individuals, and we do that through assistance measures like the JobKeeper payment, a wage subsidy to support business and not-for-profits and one which is providing support to some 3½ million Australians right around the country and right now. We are looking to ensure that cash flow is available so that businesses can pay their bills and wages. We've provided temporary cash flow payments of up to $100,000 that are available to keep eligible small and medium businesses operating, paying their bills and retaining staff.
There are wage subsidies for apprentices and trainees. Apprentices and trainees find it incredibly difficult. They are on lower wages than adult wages, in the majority. They are usually in businesses which tend to be small businesses, which find it very difficult in the current environment. That's why it's so important that we continue to provide those subsidies to businesses that have apprentices and trainees that keep them connected to those businesses so that they can continue training, complete their apprenticeship or traineeship, come out the other side and add their skills to the Australian economy.
The list goes on. Ten minutes simply won't be enough to cover all of it. A time-limited asset write-off of $30,000 to $150,000 for businesses with an aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million—what does that actually mean? It means that an individual business that invests in a new piece of equipment can write that off, 100 per cent, in the year of purchase. I come from business. I ran a small business for 10 or 12 years, depending on whether you consider it the family farm, a consulting business or a training business. Can I tell you the enormous difference the capacity to write down 100 per cent of the purchase cost of an asset in the year that you purchased it would have made to me in the operations that I had.
With credit and loans under the Coronavirus SME Guarantee Scheme, we are providing a guarantee of 50 per cent to SME lenders to support new short-term unsecured loans to SMEs. We're supporting the regional economy. We're supporting regional Australians through a $1 billion fund set aside to support communities, regions and industries that have been most significantly affected.
Mr Deputy Speaker O'Brien, I know you're incredibly interested in the tourism sector. What does it mean for regional tourism? A $715 million package to assist our airline industry means bums on seats. It means individuals moving to other parts of the country who potentially stay in hotels, visit and go into those domestic regions where they can build on the economy.
In recent weeks I've been throughout the north—I've been in the Territory, Far North Queensland and western Queensland—and I know there are some areas where it is incredibly challenging. Those areas which are almost completely reliant on international tourism are doing it very, very tough—Cairns, in particular. It's an incredibly difficult period of time for business in Cairns. What I know is that they're resilient and they're looking for new opportunities to expand and ensure that they can diversify their economy. That includes going further into resources, further into agriculture, and we will continue to support them to do that. That's why it's important that this billion-dollar fund continues to be rolled out.
We are supporting hardworking Australians throughout the pandemic. It's not just the hardworking Australians, I have to say. Those opposite want to make merry about our pensioners, those who have retired and contributed to the Australian economy for their entire working lives. There are some challenges for them, as there are for all of us. That's why we've provided two $750 economic support payments for eligible pensioners, seniors, carers and students. It's made an enormous difference to their life, lifestyle and what they can do in their local regions. It's not just across the board. We are looking to support individual economies.
As good local members, when you get the opportunity on your feet, you should always talk about your local electorate and what we're doing for them. In my local electorate, everything hinges on the Hinkler Regional Deal: over $170 million of Commonwealth investment, combined with support from the local government and some support from the Labor state government, who were dragged kicking and screaming to the deal. They never signed but have supported some roads projects, which is very positive.
We are delivering on the ground $9.2 million to redevelop the Hervey Bay Airport. That work is currently underway. That means that in my local economy there are jobs being delivered with support from the Commonwealth. There are a number of other stages to come afterwards. There is $7.7 million to extend the Urraween Road through to Boundary Road and Hervey Bay. That doesn't sound like much in parliament to the individuals who are in here and have never heard of Urraween Road and Boundary Road, but this is an interconnector in Hervey Bay and means we can split that cross-flow and ensure, in particular, that emergency vehicles can get to the Hervey Bay Hospital through this new connecting road. It is a long-awaited construction—more than two decades, 20 years. The total investment is $21.7 million between the Commonwealth and local government, the Fraser Coast Regional Council. There is $7 million for a palliative care facility at Hervey Bay—Woollam Constructions has been appointed to lead the eight-month build. That'll be underway very soon. They're going out to contractors right now to deliver that facility. That is good news for those individuals who find themselves in incredibly difficult circumstances towards the end of their natural lives, and I'm very pleased that that is available. There's $4 million towards overtaking lanes on the Isis Highway, which should go out to contract later in the year, and $40 million for the redevelopment of the Hervey Bay CBD, working closely again with Fraser Coast Regional Council. But we continue to wait for the Queensland Labor government to make further commitments to jobs. Mr Deputy Speaker, I know you'll be surprised at this. We are actually funding some of these projects 100 per cent—not 50, not 75, not 80, but 100 per cent. Yet the Queensland government still won't deliver these projects.
The one in particular that I want to talk about is down at the Bundaberg port, where we have put forward $10 million. Sugar Terminals Ltd has put up the remaining $2.3 million. The project is ready, the project's business case is completed, the design is done. What are we waiting for? We're waiting on approval from the owner of the port, which is the Queensland Labor government. So at a time of a pandemic, at a time when jobs are at an absolute premium, at a time when the Commonwealth continues to invest in regional Australia, at a time when the Commonwealth continues to put up the money—right now, 100 per cent funded—we have Premier Palaszczuk and the Queensland Labor government again holding up jobs in regional areas. I would say to them: it's not that hard; just approve the project. There are many other projects that are waiting for this connecting infrastructure to be done. It is a conveyor that can be utilised by other companies at the port facility. It will mean an increase in utilisation. It is very, very straightforward. All they have to do is approve it.
I say again to the Queensland Labor government: stop standing in the way of jobs, stop standing in the way of projects, stop standing in the way of regions; get out of our way and let us get on with our economy. Once again, we'd be very pleased to see them approve the project.
This government is great at slogans. They're really good at making up slogans. If they were an advertising company, they'd be a roaring success. But that's not what government is about. Ultimately, people judge us here on what we deliver. And this government is hopeless at delivery. The most tragic example of that is what's happening right now in aged care. There was a great announcement in one of the main committee rooms here in Parliament House back in May setting out a plan to keep aged -are residents safe. And what's happened since? If there was a plan it was a pretty awful one, because it didn't keep residents safe. As we stand here today, more than 450 aged-care residents are dead. I can't think of a more serious failure to deliver than that.
But it's not the only one. There are lots of examples. Think about the press conference announcing the COVIDSafe app. This was our licence to get out of the house. The Prime Minister said it was 'sunscreen that you can put on and it would make you safe'. It had all this promise, and we all signed up. Millions of Australians bought into the idea. We said, 'We'll do it,' and we assumed that, if we did do it, the app would keep us safe—that it would help to trace down people who had the virus and stop the sort of second wave that we're seeing across Victoria now. How many people do you think the app has traced? How many people do you think the app has uncovered? Fourteen. It was a $2 million investment. Millions of Australians downloaded that app, and it has only found 14 people with the virus. This government is great at the slogan but hopeless at the delivery.
It was the same with the arts announcement. Remember the big press conference with Guy Sebastian? There was $250 million to help the arts sector. How much money do you reckon has been spent so far helping out the arts industry? Zero.
It was the same problem with the bushfires. There was more focus on the PR and not enough focus on the problem. The Facebook ad went out before the Army got out. We found out today in the contribution by the member for Watson. He referred to the $650 million bushfire recovery package. How much of that do you think has been spent? It was announced in May, and we found out this week that only 1½ per cent of that money has gone out to bushfire communities. It was announced in May and it is now September.
Another terrible example is superannuation. There was a big promise before the election to keep it, and now they are walking away from that at 100 miles an hour. I tell you what, this will hang around this government's neck like an albatross. Everyone here gets 15.4 per cent super—and this government says 9½ per cent is good enough for everyone else!
The Prime Minister gets 84 grand a year in superannuation. The Treasurer gets 60 grand a year in superannuation. All the Australian people are asking for—all we're asking for here—is a couple of hundred extra bucks for people in their superannuation every year. This government says, 'No, we can't afford that.' That's just plain mean, plain unfair. It's another example of a broken promise and failure to deliver.
The final beauty is HomeBuilder. It was announced three months ago and it took 2½ months before people could even apply. The Declaration of Independence took less than a month to draft, amend and pass. This took 2½ months just to draft an online application form. We had the minister boasting today that 3½ thousand people have applied and, apparently, that's going to save hundreds of thousands of jobs. Do you remember 'renovation rescue'? You could renovate your house. It turns out there was a little bit of a hitch: you had to spend more than 150 grand. Expensive dunny! We find out now from Treasury that, as of the middle of August, only 39 people have applied for that grant.
This government is great at slogans, but slogans don't create jobs, slogans don't save jobs and slogans don't pay the bills. This government is slowly being found out here, because we've got a million people unemployed. Another 400,000 people are expected to lose their jobs by Christmas. Tomorrow we're going to be officially told we're in recession. Recession means pain, pain for millions of Australians around this country. We need a bit less time on slogans and a bit more focus on fixing them, because Australians at the moment are saying to this government: 'Where the bloody hell are you?'
I rise to refute a lot of the intent of this MPI. As if we haven't delivered on things that are incredibly important to people, have the opposition been hiding with eyes wide shut? We have delivered JobKeeper and JobSeeker, the biggest wage support that any Australian Commonwealth government has ever initiated. We have delivered on our promise to support child care during the immediate period. It was made free for people. There is still support for child care coming through. There are initiatives that we have already delivered for small businesses, particularly those with apprentices, because we know we need to build our skill base. Nothing would be worse than to lose those people in apprenticeships, because they'll be the 'skill deliverers' of the future.
We've helped many businesses through the tax changes, in improving cash flow for small and large businesses. We have also underwritten unsecured loans, to the tune of 50 per cent of the loan, to try and help small businesses where, even though they are getting JobKeeper or a benefit out of an improved cash flow initiative, their PAYE retained tax from their employees gets recycled into their business, to help keep people employed. We have delivered so much.
The most critical services people have delivered are in the health portfolio. You've got to realise the length and breadth of the response—it is mind-blowing, what has been achieved in the health portfolio. In the first instance, we've been building hospital capacity, by negotiating with private and public hospitals, and increasing ICU and ventilator capacity. While there was a global race to get hold of personal protective equipment, we've built up our national medical stockpile of personal protective equipment. We've set up GP respiratory-led clinics. We've given extra money to the states for a large proportion of the extra costs, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have funded extra money into research, through the Medical Research Future Fund. We have announced an aged-care pandemic response plan.
As to what the people on the other side are trying to make out: there was community spread of the disease, and, sadly, a few institutions got it. As we've seen around the world, with lots of elderly, frail people in close quarters, if the community spread gets in there it can have dire consequences. But you have to keep it in perspective. There has been financial support for the aged-care industry, starting back in March. Just two days ago, we announced another extra tranche of support, another $563 million, including support for those at home who have left aged care to go back to a home-care situation. There are further tranches of support for workforce retention. There's support for aged-care workers, particularly available to the Victorian situation. That's another $1½ billion.
The mental health response pandemic plan has rolled out, with extra work for frontline health workers, for older people, for carers of those with mental illness, for Indigenous people, for people in the national disability scheme. We've set up—particularly again because of the problem in Victoria—a mental health task force with 15 more mental health clinics in both metropolitan and regional Victoria. We've increased funding for existing services in the digital space and also extended funding for headspace. Wherever you look, there has been support.
We have tried to stimulate the economy in regional areas with our response, through local governments, getting the infrastructure rolling, to keep people in employment. But the big support through JobKeeper, JobSeeker, tax flow— (Time expired)
The previous speakers on the government side have completely missed the point of this MPI. All they've done is stand here and reiterate lots of glossy government announcements. We acknowledge that this government has made big glossy announcements. There wasn't a photo op the Prime Minister wouldn't attend. There wasn't a vest or a hard hat he wouldn't put on. There wasn't a worker he wouldn't stand next to. But they've failed to deliver. So standing here and repeating announcements not yet delivered misses the entire point of this debate. This is a government that gets a gold star in announcements, and fails—fails to deliver, at a time in Australia's history when we need a government that delivers, a government that does the work and does what it says it'll do.
Talk about JobKeeper: this government had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to a wage subsidy model. The restrictions had already been in place. Workers had been stood down. The hardest day of employers' lives, they'll tell you, were when they had to shut their businesses on the Thursday. They were closed. It wasn't until the following week that this government even made an announcement about JobKeeper, and they had to be dragged to it. On that announcement of JobKeeper: they grossly overestimated how many workers they would help; they excluded people who work in universities; they excluded casuals; they excluded people who work in the airline industry—and the list continues, not to mention how they failed to deliver what they'd committed to businesses.
One particular measure which they outed themselves on in today's question time was that they committed $40 billion in loans to help small businesses survive, yet have delivered less than five per cent of that. The whole point of this funding was to help people in the early days of the pandemic. We are now in September. Businesses needed this support in March, April, May, June, July and August. You are behind in your delivery program. And why? Because you've already announced it, so you don't really care. It demonstrates a government that cares more about the announcement, more about the headlines and more about the evening news than about the actual community and economy and the people they claim to represent.
Child care is one of the biggest failures of this government, in an area where the minister doesn't even know what's going on and with a Prime Minister who just makes it up as he goes along. They first extended JobKeeper to early childhood education, and it did help keep some people in that area. Then when the restrictions came back on in Victoria they cut JobKeeper. They kicked all the early childhood educators off JobKeeper. Then we started to hear that workers in the sector were being stood down. The government came out and guaranteed no worker would be stood down. Maybe they should pick up the phone and speak to early childhood educators in Victoria, because far too many have lost their jobs, far too many have had a significant loss in pay and loss in hours, yet this government won't talk to them. It's not a headline.
This government has drastically failed with what is going on in aged care. They are up here trying to defend the indefensible. They've said they've made all these announcements, yet when I talk to people in my electorate about what's happening in aged care there's a big gap between what the government is saying and what's happening on the ground, particularly with the workforce.
I want to acknowledge the hard workers, the people who are working in aged care, working back-to-back shifts, working seven-day rosters, to try and make sure that their facilities stay safe and that residents are protected. Not many of them have seen the retention bonuses that the government boasts about. Not many of them have seen the extra payments so they work in one facility—not many employers have actually applied for it, because it was so complicated or because they didn't technically qualify for it. Yet the government will stand here and claim, 'We've got a plan; it's under control,' when it is so grossly not true. It's not what's happening on the ground.
It's not just what's been happening during the pandemic where this government has failed. It happened prior to the pandemic. It is what this government does. Prior to the pandemic they announced this great new fund for female-friendly change facilities to be built across regional Australia. Yet we discovered later that most of the money has been spent on pools, and even pools in northern Sydney—not really regional Australia. This government has failed. They announce big but deliver little.
Having listened to the member opposite speak, I don't know what planet she's on, because this country can be incredibly proud of what it has achieved. It has achieved the most incredible international outcomes, whether it is one of the lowest case rates in the world, meaning the lowest number of cases of COVID; one of the lowest fatality rates in the world, including in aged care; one of the lowest hits to our GDP or one of the lowest unemployment rates as a result of COVID. If we ask, 'What are the big issues that are important with regard to the last six months?' I think most Australians, if not all Australians, would say dealing with the health consequences of COVID, followed by the economic consequences of COVID.
If we look at this MPI, which is about the failure of the government to deliver on its announcements in areas of critical importance, what is more critical, what is more important, than saving lives and livelihoods? If we look at the outcomes of those, we are absolutely doing a fantastic job as a country, and that is because the federal government has the trust of the public. They understand that we care about the health implications of this COVID crisis, and making the tough decisions to keep us all healthy, but then the economic implications.
When this pandemic first started it was like there was a crisis of unknown proportions coming at us at speed. So you can imagine that there were huge numbers of decisions that had to be made. For a federal government to make such a huge number of critical decisions in such a short period of time is absolutely extraordinary. It's absolutely extraordinary that they've been made so swiftly, so effectively and to the benefit of so many Australians.
The government's decisive actions have resulted in what is regarded as one of the most remarkable economic programs of support in the world, and that is JobKeeper. I haven't heard a single person say that JobKeeper isn't a wonderful economic support program. We now know that there are over 900,000 businesses, in fact almost a million businesses, around Australia that are benefitting from JobKeeper, and that includes 3.5 million employees in Australia who are receiving JobKeeper to help them to have a livelihood, to help them to get through this incredible crisis.
For those who don't have JobKeeper there is JobSeeker. JobSeeker has been almost doubled to about $1,150 per fortnight with the introduction of the coronavirus supplement over the last six months, and that's now been extended to December 2020 at a rate of $250 per fortnight in addition to the underlying supplement. I've had so many locals call me and say, 'Our business was going to collapse without the support of JobKeeper.' Cafes, restaurants, retail and flight services—you name it—have been so relieved that they've had this temporary targeted support to get them through the tough times.
But, unless we have dealt with the health consequences, we are not able to deal with the economic consequences, and we can see that happening in Victoria, because unfortunately the Victorian Labor government hasn't delivered on the health promises that we need in order to ensure that we can have good economic outcomes. That is really concerning because we know that at the national cabinet level we've had a very good Australian approach to how to deal with the COVID response, but unfortunately Victoria has let the side down. Unfortunately, the quarantining hotel fiasco, followed by a poor effort with regard to the COVID tracking and tracing and not using the COVIDSafe app, has resulted in an outbreak of community proportions that has put huge amounts of pressure onto our systems, particularly our aged-care systems, because, as everybody knows, this COVID, unfortunately, unfairly, targets those who are older Australians.
But I do think it is worth mentioning that, despite this, the fatality rate in Australia in the aged-care sector is amongst the lowest in the world, if not the lowest in the world, with around a 0.1 per cent fatality rate. That compares to the fatality rate in the Canadian aged-care sector, which is 15 times higher; the rates in the Irish and Italian aged-care sectors, which are 30 times higher; or the rate in the UK sector, which is 53 times higher. What is quite incredible is that the fatality rate is so low in Australia. Absolutely every death is a tragedy. We are really very, very sad and deeply grieved about anyone who has died from COVID during this terrible, terrible pandemic. But in fact it is the actual response that stopped that. (Time expired)
[by video link] If there was ever a better example of a government overpromising and underdelivering, I'd like to know, because the fact is that the Morrison government is all talk and no walk. It's all credit taking and no responsibility taking. It's all photo op and no follow-up. The member for Watson mentioned this government's propensity for marketing. It's as if we've been stuck in a perpetual marketing conference for seven years. We've had Mad Men on reruns for seven years. It would be laughable if it were not for the serious and terrible impacts on Australian lives because of their abject failure to deliver on their empty announcements.
The Prime Minister takes all the credit for the good work of state premiers and territory chief ministers through the national cabinet, but, when the heat is on and mistakes are made, he goes into hiding or, worse, takes a swipe at them. He's made all these promises. He's announced this program and that program. There are all these announcements coming, but in the end the effect is that people are always left behind. People are always left out. Workers are left behind. Businesses are left behind.
Just on the JobKeeper, they said they would support six million Australians. The real figure was three million. They said they would inject $130 billion into the economy. Then they revealed the stuff-up of the $60 billion shortfall, the biggest budget error in Australian history. They say they've injected $314 billion worth of stimulus into the economy, but how much have they actually spent? A fraction of that number.
Small businesses are so important to our economic activity. They contribute to over a third of our economic activity, keeping millions of Australians in jobs, and they are responsible for paying wages to more than half of our workforce. Not enough is being done to support small businesses who need it most. The Morrison government has had this lack of urgency. It has left gaps in support and has not gone far enough in protecting small businesses. Labor called for a wage subsidy at the start of this pandemic, and Prime Minister Morrison resisted these calls, saying that it would be too technically difficult to implement, only to be dragged kicking and screaming to that decision by the union movement, by Labor, by the premiers and presumably by watching Prime Minister Johnson put a wage subsidy in place in the UK. He announced it a few weeks later.
The effect of this delay is that support for small businesses came too late, and too many otherwise viable businesses have found themselves on the brink of collapse. We have heard from sole traders. They cannot qualify for the federal government's cash flow boost. The cash flow boost is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, and it goes only to those businesses employing people. Sole traders are left out. Small businesses rely on casual workers. They have been left out—over a million Australians who are casual workers. This has hit small businesses hard. I've heard from local businesses in my electorate of Wills about how much this has hurt them. We're all doing our bit to support small businesses across Australia. The government needs fewer empty announcements and more substance for small businesses.
Even in the arts, we've seen the emptiness of the announcements—standing alongside some pop singer or whatever and announcing $250 million in funding for the arts. It took the government a hundred days to do something, because they stubbornly insisted there was no problem. Of course, that package itself is partly made up of commercial-level loans. They made a separate announcement for the screen sector, and it turned out that even the production company that they used for that announcement wasn't eligible for funding. So the PM stages a photo op and then even fails to actually deliver for the people that he used in his own photo op. It's remarkable.
To quote the great man former Prime Minister Paul Keating, Prime Minister Morrison is all tip and no iceberg. This government is all smoke and mirrors, hoping that Australians won't notice the shallowness of the photo ops and the shallowness of the empty announcements, hoping that Australians won't figure it out. But they will. They will catch up with you, Prime Minister, because Australians can smell a fake a mile away.
I want to start by thanking the member for Wills for that disjointed contribution. I always admire somebody in 2020 quoting a prime minister dating back to 1993 because they're relevant. As the Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology made the point, he's been exhumed from the crypt in Potts Point over the past 48 hours in a Zegna suit and a Ferragamo tie, but that doesn't—
Let's face it, despite the attempts by the member for Wills to criticise the government in his own little way, everybody across Australia right now knows the enormous challenges that all of us are facing. It doesn't matter where you are or who you are; there are Australians who are doing it tough because, for the first time in their adult lives, they've found themselves underemployed or unemployed. We know that there are self-funded retirees who are struggling to make ends meet. We know that there are pensioners who can't go out and see their families. There is a sense of isolation. There are schoolkids who have to learn from home. There are parents struggling to balance childcare responsibilities and raising their children while working online. Even the member for Wills has had to demonstrate that.
At every point, what this government has done is provided the systems and the framework to aid and assist people so they don't fall through the cracks. Yes, we've had the JobKeeper wage subsidy, which made sure that employers could keep people on the books and put themselves in the best position to transition and reboot the economy when we get out, particularly when the Victorian wave ends and people are able to get back on their feet. Yes, we've got the JobSeeker boost and some extra payments for those people who found themselves unexpectedly unemployed. Yes, we've provided support to child care so that, where child care is available and assistance can be provided, we can aid and assist parents. Yes, we've provided half a billion dollars to mental health support and assistance, because we know—and I know this firsthand—that many Australian families, and Victorian families in particular, are struggling with mental health. I hope the member for Wills understands that, as well, in his engagement with his community. Stress and anxiety have, sadly, become a large part of people's daily lives.
I was recently on a tele town hall with the Prime Minister and the Goldstein electorate, and, during it, Alison spoke of the concern she had for the daughter of one of her friends who, sadly, was at risk of suicide, and we made sure that she got follow-up support and assistance to address those mental health concerns. But it's not just at that extreme level; it's also at a more ongoing, daily level for many people—the stress and anxiety of keeping your business afloat, the stress and anxiety of not knowing what's coming next, the stress and anxiety about whether we're going to continue to have lockdowns. That's why this government has adapted, at every stage, to address it.
Now, I recognise nothing short of perfection will ever do for the opposition. They will always set the bar at a level that no-one can meet except them, even though there are practical realities which mean they wouldn't be able to do it either if they were in government. But, because we went into this crisis with a strong budget, because we were prudent and responsible in the good years, we were in a position to be generous when times got tough and we were able to transform so many public services to help Australians in their time of need. There are many people who now can't even leave their homes—and, again I stress, people in Victoria. So what do we have? Telehealth services that were resisted for many years by different sectors of the communities were available within days, thanks to the health minister. The generosity of the support that was able to be provided was because of the efforts of the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. At every point, this government has focused on what Australians need to get through this stage so that we as a country can be in the best position to rebuild. (Time expired)
[by video link] This is a government that promises the world but does not deliver. We are in the midst of a deep recession, a public health emergency and, in Victoria, in my state, a lockdown. People here in my community need help. They need leadership and they need a federal government that gets on with the job. Instead, this government continues to leave many Australians behind: aged-care workers, early years educators, workers in the university sector, casual workers, workers in the arts—and the list goes on.
Months ago, the Prime Minister got up and announced the JobKeeper program. He claimed JobKeeper would support six million Australians, but the real figure was actually three million. Three million Australians missed out on support—a $60 billion stuff-up, the biggest budget error in Australian history, and one that has had devastating impacts on my community.
We were told by this government that the economy would come roaring back and everything would be fine at the end of the six-month hibernation. Instead, in my electorate of Corangamite, many businesses are struggling to keep the doors open. Our small towns along the Great Ocean Road and the Bellarine Peninsula, which rely on tourism to survive, are suffering; and many small businesses, from the iconic Apollo Bay Bakery to the wonderful Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery, are only just holding on. We need to stop pretending that JobKeeper, JobMaker and 'job-candlestick-maker' programs are a comprehensive plan for jobs. They're not. What we need is a plan to help our economy get through this crisis—a plan for the future. We need paid pandemic leave; better support for casual workers, who are doing it tough; and more help for businesses to keep people employed.
Nowhere is this more evident than in our childcare sector. The education minister declared 'Job done!' in June, when he announced a snapback to the old childcare system and ripped JobKeeper from the sector. The Prime Minister guaranteed early educators wouldn't lose their jobs in Victoria without JobKeeper. Well, that's not what's happening in my community. Two weeks ago I spoke to a local childcare educator who wished to remain anonymous, out of fear she would lose her job. But she was stood down last Tuesday, with no pay. She will not receive any government support. She will have no choice but to apply to Centrelink to survive. In her own words, 'This government has let me down.' She is just one of many workers in my community who have spoken to me about just how much damage this government has done to the childcare sector recently. These early-years educators are frontline workers. They're losing their jobs and their hours of work, and they feel forgotten by this government. The journey for these workers has been brutal. The government needs to wake up and it needs to start delivering for these workers.
Nowhere is the government's total failure to deliver for Australians more evident than in aged care. What is happening in our aged-care homes is a national tragedy. The Prime Minister has boasted about the number of announcements the government have made in aged care, but they've failed to deliver the policies and resources our aged-care sector needs to survive this pandemic. Here in Victoria, older Australians in aged care are sick and dying. The government promised an effective surge workforce but didn't deliver. They promised PPE for all aged-care workers, but many of them continue to miss out. The government have also continued to leave more than 100,000 older Australians on the waiting list for homecare packages. This is a government led by a Prime Minister who is always there for the photo op but never there for the follow-up, and a cabinet that is more interested in headlines than actually helping people. The failure of this government to deliver on its announcements is hurting my community of Corangamite. It's time for the government to get on with the job.
I have listened to the various contributions of members opposite. When it comes to the areas of critical importance to all Australians, the Morrison government has been characterised by steady achievement and delivery, with a solid track record. Through sound economic policies and a series of free trade agreements with our international trading partners, the government has delivered growth and export income from the mining and energy sectors, creating thousands of new jobs. By maintaining strong fiscal discipline and spending restraint, our government has been able to strengthen the nation's finances, to be able to respond to national disasters, domestic emergencies and international shocks. These events have included the drought, the bushfire emergency and the global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The Morrison government has been in a position to provide an economic stimulus and welfare safety net to individual Australians and businesses unparalleled in the world. Meanwhile, our government has continued to keep taxes low and inflation under control. A low-inflation environment helps keep interest rates low, maintaining housing affordability for millions of Australian households and families paying off mortgages on their homes and small-business loans. The government has been cognisant of the increasing cost-of-living pressures faced by Australian families, our key constituency, who are experiencing a reduction in their disposable income, with reduced spending power. Recognising the financial pressure on households, our government is pursuing policies which minimise increases in the cost of fuel, electricity, gas and utilities. Labor's zero net emissions by 2050 target is unrealistic and will drive up costs and make our industry less competitive.
Investment in infrastructure has been one of the hallmarks of the Morrison government, with a commitment to delivering $100 billion in infrastructure over 10 years, including roads, bridges, rail and buildings. This long-term transport infrastructure commitment will support job retention and growth, simultaneously assisting the economy in an effort to suppress the impacts of COVID-19. Around my electorate of Moore, the government is delivering the Mitchell Freeway extension to Alkimos, the northern suburbs railway extension to Yanchep, grade-separated bridges at Wanneroo Road and the expansion of the Joondalup hospital.
In terms of health care, which is of critical importance to all Australians, the Medicare system has been enhanced. Subsidised access has been expanded to include new medications under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and also to a wider range of imaging and diagnostic services, pharmaceutical benefits, telehealth and professional consultations. For instance, recently subsidised access to medical devices such as continuous glucose monitors for diabetics has been expanded to cover a wider range of eligible patients.
By continuing to provide an appropriate level of resourcing to the Department of Home Affairs, the Morrison government is ensuring our national security, in particular, by intercepting the smuggling of illicit drugs, weapons, contraband and prohibited imports at the border before they enter our country to be distributed through organised criminal networks and cause harm on our streets. I draw the attention of honourable members to the success stories of the Australian Border Force and the Royal Australian Navy intercepting shipments of illicit drugs destined for our communities. Similarly, strict enforcement of visas by persons entering Australia ensures the integrity of our immigration system and preserves our national security.
Under the coalition government, defence spending has increased to beyond two per cent of gross domestic product to ensure that the Australian Defence Force has the necessary resources and operational capability to protect Australia's national interests within our geopolitical region at a time when many of the emerging nations in our region are expending a significantly greater proportion of their GDP on expanding their military. Australia's playing a key role in maintaining the security of our region by protecting key freight, trading and energy routes.
The government is investing in our domestic defence industry and upgrading our defence bases across Australia and in the acquisition of vessels, equipment, armaments, technology the training of military personnel.