House debates

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Matters of Public Importance

3:23 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the Manager of Opposition Business proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The gap between this government's announcements and its delivery, and the impact on Australians.

I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

Each year, when budget night comes around, there will be different things that people hope to have said in the budget speech. We've got this unusual situation now where, if you want something to actually happen, the last thing that you want is for the government to announce it, because the moment they announce it you know it's doomed; you know it doesn't stand a chance. So this year we have to choose between what we might want announced and what we actually want to occur. It all comes down to a mug. When the Prime Minister says, 'No-one could have predicted the pandemic,' that's true, but what those opposite forget is that they promised a surplus every single budget. We've now had six budgets and they haven't done it once. They say, 'The crisis we're dealing with now is bigger than the global financial crisis.' Yes—but we've had six years without a global financial crisis, and they've more than doubled the debt. And when they announced it last year, let's not pretend that it was then the pandemic that was the reason that the announcement didn't come true, because it was back in January that they refused to continue their commitment to a surplus. It was before the coronavirus had reached Australia, before the coronavirus lockdowns had started to hit the economy, that the surplus was already gone.

So this government is now in a situation where, having come to government claiming and announcing that they would deliver a surplus every single time, they never have delivered a surplus. They never will deliver a surplus. They have gone from doubling Australia's debt to now being on track towards $1 trillion of debt for Australia. And every single time they make the announcement we know what's coming, because, if you want to stop something in this country, the most effective way of stopping it is to get the Prime Minister of this country to announce it! He's there for the photo-op but never for the follow-up. If you go into the CBD of Sydney, there are all these old sandstone facades, and if you look behind the facade that's being propped up there's just rubble and a big hole. Every time I look at that rubble I think: 'The Prime Minister must have announced he was going to build something there,' because the facade is all that's there! He's like the kid playing knock and run, and the Australian people come to the front door and think, 'Oh! Nothing here.' It's like that scene in TheSound of Musicwhere the MC comes up and announces the next act, and the big announcement is: 'The von Trapp Family singers!' Nothing. Then it's: 'The family von Trapp!' Still nothing. And before you know it someone runs on and says they're gone, and the main act is halfway up the hill hiding behind a tombstone in a convent!

What this government does, every single time, is just to riddle the Australian public with announcements. They made such a mess during the bushfires, and realised that the communications strategy wasn't real great, from the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Instead, they'd have a communications strategy—and nothing else!

Remember, year after year, we normally get, in the lead-up to the budget, that this is going to be the infrastructure budget. Every year we get told about the infrastructure changes that will happen. And when the Prime Minister today was challenged on the fact that, for six consecutive budgets, what they've announced has never been matched by what they've done, and when the member for Ballarat pointed out the $1.7 billion shortfall in what they'd announced compared to what actually happened in the last financial year, what was the Prime Minister's response? To get up with a series of talking points and tell us what they'd announced! That isn't the point.

They've announced a whole lot of things. They announced, for example—and I love this quote—that incoming cruise ships would be put directly under the command of the Australian Border Force. And that announcement was incredibly powerful—unless you were a cruise ship, because, for cruise ships, nothing changed. And the public came straight off the Ruby Princess. And what was the Prime Minister's response? Not, 'Well, I announced it and it was meant to happen.' Blame the states—blame someone else. Always find someone else to blame.

The announcements have become more elaborate. In the arts portfolio that I've got, we had the announcement where they even got celebrities there. They went to the theatre with the empty chairs. And a hundred days later: not a dollar spent.

I don't want to be too critical of this, because, at one level, I do find the minister for communications—like, I want to encourage him. I just want to encourage him. There used to be a comedian called Elliot Goblet whose entire style of humour was to have zero personality—a complete monotone. And this bloke's really got it nailed! What he did with the arts announcement was: he spent months telling us there was not a problem. He then made the big announcement, delivered nothing, and then returned to saying: 'There's not a problem.' But nothing quite comes to the fore. I did feel—I think we all felt a little bit—for the Deputy Prime Minister today.

Opposition Member:

An opposition member interjecting

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

I did, because he's not the minister who bought the land. It was the minister for communications. The minister for communications was the one who, at the time, held the infrastructure portfolio. They announced as a government that they would pursue value for money. How does value for money work? You take a property that's worth $3 million that you don't own. You go to the owner of the $3 million property and say: 'I'll buy it from you for $30 million, and then you can rent it back from me. But when you rent it back, it won't be worth $30 million. We'll base it on the fact that it's now worth less than $1 million.' So if you're buying it, it's worth 30 times the price; if you're renting it, it's a third of the price.

What was the response from the minister for communications when he was asked about this happening under his watch? He actually stood up at the National Press Club and begged people to believe that he knew nothing about what was going on. Only a very special minister like that bloke wants you to believe he was asleep at the wheel. And tonight, in the biggest spending budget ever, with Australia facing the biggest debt ever, one of the challenges we have is that we know they won't be smart in how they spend the money. It was the perfect question time for the minister for energy to give an answer. It's the first scandal in a while that he hasn't seemed to be part of. We'd better check the electoral map, because, if there's a scandal and the minister for energy is not yet involved, I reckon we haven't all done our homework yet. We'll make a note to self on that.

The Prime Minister, then, in the outrageous claims about houses on fire—I'm not going to take lectures from a Prime Minister who has overseen the state of aged care. Going into this pandemic, we were told right from the start that aged care was going to be one of the most at-risk areas. It was already an area that was seen to be doing poorly enough that we had to have a royal commission, yet we discovered that they didn't even have a plan. We have had the hundreds of deaths in aged care. And, let's not forget, it's not like the government can claim that the royal commissioners were poorly chosen. They chose them, they've looked at this, and they are the ones who are coming back with no plan for aged care.

The bushfire clean-up is probably the most horrific of all the examples. We have a circumstance where they announced a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund. Most of that money is still locked away. They then thought, 'We'd better do something,' so they announced a further $4 billion emergency response fund. Eighteen months later, not one dollar has been spent. In tonight's budget, let's face it, it is important to the nation what they do. But all we will get tonight is what they announce. And, for the last six budgets, we have seen a government that has gotten every number wrong and has failed to deliver what they have announced.

3:33 pm

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

If you needed any demonstration that the Labor Party in this country is completely out of tune with the Australian people, you've just seen it. The opposition fail to understand that, globally, 35.3 million cases of coronavirus have had an impact around the world. Sadly, there have been over one million deaths. Here in Australia, there have been over 27,000 cases and, very sadly, 894 deaths. We are facing a dual health and economic crisis. We are facing the single biggest economic shock this country has ever seen.

Those opposite like to talk down Australia. They like to talk down the response that Australia has taken to the coronavirus, both on the health front and in relation to our economic response. But what has The Medical Journal of Australia said in relation to the Australian response?

Let me quote:

Australia has had a remarkably successful response to COVID-19, even considering the second wave experienced in Victoria. The Australian rate of COVID-deaths of 33 per million population, is 15 to 20 times lower that that observed in countries across Europe and the Americas.

These researchers have estimated that there could have been over 16,000 additional deaths if Australia had experienced a similar outbreak to England and Wales.

On the economic front, COVID-19 is an economic shock like no other. Globally, the equivalent of 600 million people have lost their jobs and, here in Australia, 10 per cent of our entire workforce have either lost their jobs or have seen their working hours reduced to zero. But in the year through to June 2020, GDP in Australia reduced by 6.3 per cent. This compares to 9.1 per cent for the G20 and 11.7 per cent for the OECD—or in the UK where GDP shrank 21.5 per cent and, across the ditch, in New Zealand where it shrank 12.4 per cent.

We have faced a health and economic crisis and, with the leadership of the Morrison government and the hard and courageous work of our health professionals, both on the front line and in our health bureaucracies, we can claim to be proud of the response of the Australian people to this crisis. I am proud of the response of the Australian people to this crisis and I am proud of the government's response, albeit one should always acknowledge the suffering that has occurred to many and the deaths that have impacted on far too many families.

This government has a comprehensive plan, one that is focused on jobs, one that is focused on supporting the private sector recover those jobs that have been lost. More than $300 billion of support, including JobKeeper and JobSeeker, has been put into our economy, and $750 cash payments to households, and our cash-flow boost, which business people in my electorate claim has kept their heads above water. This is about cushioning the blow and keeping businesses in business, and keeping Australians in their jobs.

With the next phase of our recovery, which will be announced by the Treasurer in the budget this evening, we have seen announcements already taking place: $7.5 billion in national transport infrastructure to boost the national economy, deliver safer roads and create 30,000 direct and indirect jobs; support for 100,000 apprentices and trainees to help support young people into a job; 1,200 additional university places to make sure Australians have the right skills to get a job; and an additional 10,000 places under the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme to help first home buyers break into the market. That's not to mention a $250 million injection into regional Australia, encouraging more Australians to travel and experience a home-grown holiday in their own country. We're also taking action to secure Australia's long-term fuel supply, to keep prices low for consumers and to create more than a thousand new jobs by building domestic fuel security.

On that note, I'd like to talk about the contribution of Minister Taylor, because the Morrison government has focused on delivering affordable, reliable and secure electricity for Australian households and businesses, and this is where we have succeeded. It is a credit—

Mr Conroy interjecting

to Minister Taylor that our plan is working, member for Shortland. Central to our economic plan is making sure that we support jobs—like those in the member for Shortland's electorate; we seem to support them more than he does—productivity and economic growth, and our plan is working. We have seen CPI reductions in retail prices in every quarter since 2019—for the first time since records began. We have seen wholesale electricity prices fall 13 months in a row, and they're now the lowest level in five years.

Mr Conroy interjecting

The member for Shortland wants to put electricity prices up and put the people in his electorate out of work. That's what he wants to do. That's his policy. The member for Shortland pursues policies that are completely out of sync with the people in his electorate. I know, because I know those people well. From 1 July last year we have put in place our price safety net, capping standing offer prices—

Mr Conroy interjecting

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Shortland is warned.

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

Residential customers who were on the higher standing offers before 1 July 2019, member for Shortland, could be better off by $666 a year in New South Wales—your home state—$590 in South Australia and $725 in South-East Queensland. We've seen what the closure of dispatchable energy power stations does, like the closure of Hazelwood. That's why the government has set a target for the electricity sector to deliver a thousand megawatts of new dispatchable energy to replace the Liddell power station before it closes down in 2023. Closing this plant without dispatchable replacement capacity risks prices rising by around 30 per cent over two years. This would be an unacceptable outcome for families, business and industry. Closing that plant will see prices rise for families, prices rise for business. That's why the government will step up and they will back a new gas power plant in the Hunter Valley if the private sector doesn't replace Liddell's capacity. This government is focused on what we can do to protect jobs, what we can do to protect businesses and families, while at the same time reducing emissions.

In my own space, I gave a speech—I'm sure members opposite tuned in on Friday to my speech to the BCA—to outline the government's deregulation agenda. It was a speech in person and it was also presented online over the World Wide Web. For this government deregulation is not about getting rid of all regulation. It's about making sure that we get rid of unnecessary regulation where it's disproportionate, where it's deficiently implemented regulation. It's about the ease of doing business. Deregulation measures have been central to the budget announcements that we've seen already and there will be more to come tonight. We need to make sure that this economy is operating at full bore in order to ensure that we can support the creation of jobs in the private sector. It's about saving time and money for businesses.

We are streamlining agricultural levies legislation and making sure that it's delivered on time. We are going to, and this is something that I'm very proud of, invest in the TGA to ensure that businesses engaging with the TGA can do so effectively and they can do so efficiently. We can get rid of the old ways of doing things .When medical businesses have to report an adverse reaction to the TGA they have to put their data in a PDF, send that data to the TGA to have it entered into their system in order to come back and give the medical business a receipt number. We can invest in technology, not so people in the economy can run wild but so we can take what is the objective of the regulation that we have. How do we make sure that we invest in technology to ensure that that objective is achieved in the most effective, efficient way, which saves time, which makes it more productive for businesses and which allows businesses to employ more people? I could talk for hours in relation to deregulation. I am excited about the government's deregulation agenda. It is an agenda that's going to make a difference to the economy and help grow jobs.

3:43 pm

Photo of Mark ButlerMark Butler (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a triumph of art over life that in a debate about the gap between announcements and delivery, my opposite number chose to talk about energy policy and the minister for energy. I think we're up to 21 energy policies in five or six short years and not one has managed to stick the landing yet—not one!

Seriously, this budget tonight is, as everyone admits, going to be one of the most crucial budgets in modern history—certainly, perhaps, one of the most crucial budgets since World War II. It's delivered at a time, we hope, when we're coming to the end of the second wave of this pandemic in Australia. As the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister said, we can be immensely proud of the efforts of millions of Australians, particularly those on the frontline but Australians more broadly who've given such efforts, made so many sacrifices to combat this pandemic. It's their efforts that mean that, as the assistant minister said, our nation is one of the best positioned in the world as this global pandemic wreaks such havoc.

We do remember that hundreds have died in the face of the pandemic here in Australia. We do remember that hundreds and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs or are at risk of losing their jobs, and businesses are, in many cases, struggling to survive. But we look overseas and we thank ourselves that we are not so many other countries. But it is important to note that there has never been a time in the memory of any of us when a government has received more constructive support from an opposition than the support that this government has received from this opposition over the past several months. There has not been a time that anyone, hand on heart, could point to when an opposition has been so constructively supportive of the efforts of the national government.

But the truth is that this Prime Minister has too often been too slow to act. He's too slow to put supports in place for Australians in this pandemic, and now he has been too quick to rip those supports away. It is a matter of record that he resisted wage subsidies when we were arguing for them and they were being argued for by business and the Australian trade union movement. He called them 'very dangerous', and the result was there for all to see: the longest queues in front of Centrelink offices in the living memory of anyone. It's true that he got there, but he got there too slowly. As a result, many, many Australians lost their jobs who otherwise would be in jobs today.

When he did act, his targeting was terrible. Students living at home who might have had one or two casual shifts a week ended up with a bonanza of $750 a week from JobKeeper, while working households with young kids to support were cut out of the system altogether because they were casuals or because they worked at universities or with local government or for companies like dnata. Now, in the middle of the deepest recession in almost a century, he's cutting JobKeeper, he's cutting JobSeeker and he's giving the so-called legacy businesses, who have recovered, powers to cut their workers' wages by 40 per cent, cutting a minimum-wage worker to less than they would now be receiving under JobKeeper. All of this has a real impact.

He takes offence, as we saw again in question time, to this being called the Morrison recession, but it is an undeniable fact that this recession will be longer, it will be deeper and there will be more people in unemployment queues because of decisions taken by this Prime Minister. There is no clearer example than the premature withdrawal of JobKeeper and the JobSeeker supplement. But the recovery will also be slower as a result of this Prime Minister's addiction to announcements and his abysmal record on recovery. The member for Ballarat pointed out today that the final budget outcomes reveal that yet again last year the government underspent infrastructure announcements to the tune of $1.7 billion. That is six budgets in a row—six out of six. It is a perfect record of underspending their announced infrastructure commitments totalling almost $7 billion.

We have heard about the gas led recovery. It is long on promise and absolutely thin on any jobs that could be delivered in the time frame that we require in the deepest recession in almost a century. As the member for Watson said, there is the bushfire recovery. As the member for Gilmore, the member for Eden-Monaro and the member for Macquarie have pointed out, of the $200 million allocated last financial year to make those communities more prepared and more resilient for the next fire season, not a single dollar was spent. Australians have reacted magnificently to this pandemic, but we now need more from this Prime Minister than an avalanche of announcements with no real delivery.

3:48 pm

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

The Morrison government is focused on delivering the economic lifeline that Australians need to get through COVID-19. We're building confidence and momentum in our economy for the future and we're creating jobs to keep Aussie families going and supporting business. This health pandemic has been a big blow worldwide, and people right around the country have struggled as governments, particularly state governments, have forced lockdowns. The Prime Minister should be congratulated for setting up the national cabinet, bringing in the heads of governments from the states and territories to make sure that, as best as possible, we're on a unity ticket and working together for the Australian people.

The Morrison government has committed an additional $1.5 billion to expand the wage incentive to keep apprentices in work. More than 180,000 apprentices and the 90,000 small and family businesses that employ them will now be supported. The initiative covers 50 per cent of the wages paid to apprentices and trainees—up to $7,000 per quarter. That's an awesome policy, and something that many businesses, not just in Petrie but right around the country, will take up. One of the businesses in Clontarf, Sunelec, which installs solar systems in businesses and homes, has taken that opportunity. They have an apprentice electrician right now getting that wage subsidy.

For small and medium businesses, the government has also extended the instant asset write-off for an additional six months. What we're seeing there is businesses right around the country working out how they can sell to other businesses that take advantage of that instant asset write-off and also how they can buy new equipment for their own business so they can hire more people. Any business with a turnover of up to $500 million will be able to take advantage of the instant asset tax write-off. This measure, this incentive, will support over 3½ million businesses throughout Australia, employing more than 9.7 million Australians.

This is also helping businesses like Grand Prix Mazda in Aspley in my electorate, who said to me just today, when I spoke to them, 'So many trucks sold—we actually sold out of utes because of the instant asset write-off, and now people are also switching to other vehicles.' The JobKeeper and JobSeeker supplement have already supported millions of Australians. We're continuing that ongoing support for Australians and employers who need it. As a government we're committed to helping Australians who are financially vulnerable for as long as necessary. We help them with items like Commonwealth rent assistance, the coronavirus supplement, emergency relief payments and support to help problem gamblers. All these measures have helped so many Australians in need.

The Prime Minister and the Treasurer recently announced the extension of JobKeeper by another six months, up to March 2021—six months from now—and the JobSeeker supplement has also continued at a higher rate than the old payment, right through to the end of December 2020. I've heard from many local businesses in Petrie and around the country that they are thankful for these measures that have helped keep their employees connected. Many businesses have told me it's been a lifeline, and they've asked me to pass on my thanks to the Prime Minister and the government in the parliament during this time.

I also think of HomeBuilder, which has helped local people. Today I was talking to Justin from Oxmar Properties in Griffin. He told me that in the Griffin area they've just opened up another land release, and nine out of 10 property sales are because of HomeBuilder. And when you put this on top of things like the First Home Super Saver Scheme and the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme that's also now been extended, that's going to help tradies and people who are wanting to get into their own place so much.

The gap between what we're seeing here from the Morrison government and what we would have seen under the opposition if they had won government last year is absolutely huge. When I look at what their plan was for higher taxes—I mean, they like to talk about social housing stimulus during the GFC, but what they don't tell you is that there was a 14.11 per cent increase in homelessness under the opposition up to the 2011 census. We'll keep representing Australians well and listening to people. (Time expired)

3:53 pm

Photo of Ed HusicEd Husic (Chifley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is not a problem in this country that cannot be solved with a big, bold announcement. That is all you get out of the government. Whenever there's a problem, there's a big announcement—always small delivery, but at least there was a big announcement, at least there was something in the media that they could run out with and say they'd done. Tonight we will have, with the Morrison recession, an announcement led recovery—a lot of newsprint—and we'll have economic stimulus that will be funnelled through ad managers, because ad campaigns will always be the big priority of this government. When you look at any of the things we've raised concerns about on this side, there's always an ad campaign by this government but very little delivery. Infrastructure is the absolute classic. This government has spent so much money on ad campaigns talking about infrastructure. The ad companies have done well. It's not road builders; it's ad managers. It's not rail builders; it's marketing managers. But there's never any actual delivery to make a difference where people are depending on it.

In the part of Western Sydney that the member for Greenway and I represent we see huge growth—200,000 people moving in to the north-west growth centre. What do we see out of both the federal and state governments? Nothing. We have a place that's bursting at the seams. We have roads that cannot cope with the congestion, no schools, and hospitals promised but not delivered. The T1 main rail line is at 286 per cent capacity—not 100 per cent capacity; three times capacity. There's no money being put into it.

When the Deputy Prime Minister was asked yesterday at a press conference what is going to be done to fix congestion in that part of Western Sydney he pointed to the Western Sydney Airport. So, if you're stuck in a traffic jam, you can get a plane out of it! That's basically the response of the Deputy Prime Minister. He pointed to the airport. That is kind of like telling me that putting traffic lights on the Harbour Bridge will fix Western Sydney congestion. It is an absolute joke. We've heard all the things this government has put forward—all the money and announcements—but what has happened? Constant underdelivery—$1.7 billion this year. Every single year of this government they have failed to deliver on infrastructure.

What does that mean to the residents of Marsden Park who were on the Channel 9 news last night? They said that their neighbour had moved into a new housing estate and then moved out because of frustration with infrastructure. What about the other residents from Marsden Park who have written to me saying that they had moved from Ryde in Sydney to escape congestion and now want to leave again. That's what they're saying.

They are depending on both the federal and state governments to deliver. The federal government is underspending and the state government can't get ferries to fit under bridges and can't get trains to fit on railway lines. We're supposed to depend on the combination of the Deputy Prime Minister, who thinks that paying 10 times more for land is a bargain, and the New South Wales transport minister, who thinks that naming a boat Ferry McFerryface will save urban congestion in New South Wales. This is what we're depending on. It's an absolute joke.

This is the same crew who said that they could deliver the NBN for less than $30 billion and spent nearly double that. They said we didn't need fibre at all and could rely on copper. Now they have embarrassingly had to crawl back and admit that we on this side of the House were right in pushing for fibre and making sure that that was delivered. When people have relied on governments, particularly from that side, to deliver they constantly haven't.

The worst thing I heard today in question time was the Prime Minister refer to burning roofs. Prime Minister, there were roofs burning in Cobargo. Where were you? You were in Hawaii. You claimed that you didn't hold a hose. You were failing to claim responsibility then. You always announce drought funding and never deliver. You announce bushfire funds but you never deliver. You said that by stopping cruise boats we'd be safe, and the Ruby Princess came in and all these people suffered as a result. You're an absolute disgrace. What you're doing is corruption, and we shouldn't have to put up with it. (Time expired)

3:58 pm

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic Australia, along with the rest of the world, has found itself in completely uncharted territory. This is not just a health crisis. It's also causing unprecedented economic and social upheaval. The responses by governments around the world have varied quite considerably. I really want to put on record here that we as an Australian government, Australian parliament and Australian people can feel incredibly proud of the response that we have taken. Yes, it is true that every Australian has had to do things and that the health sector has been so hardworking in delivering for COVID, but you cannot do these things without a strategic plan, and that strategic plan has been delivered from the very top. It's been delivered from the Prime Minister down through the Minister for Health and through the AHPPC and national cabinet. As Australians, I think we should feel incredibly proud of our democratic processes that have supported the delivery of an outcome that Australians can hold their head high about, and this includes a number of things regarding the delivery of a strategy.

We know that, in January, Australia was facing an incredibly unknown and fast-moving situation. Australia is in the heart of the Asia-Pacific, and we knew that the Chinese outbreak was going to result in something that we needed to deal with very, very quickly—and we were on the front foot. Firstly, we had a test that was ready to go in mid-January, led by Professor Sharon Lewin, the director of the Peter Doherty Institute and a constituent of Higgins. The national cabinet and the AHPPC, led by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health, were quick to roll out this test. In fact, the Minister for Health should be congratulated on the fine work he did in procurement, to make sure that the millions of tests that have been available for Australians have been delivered by the Morrison government to the states and territories so that they can provide the services required for testing. So we delivered testing.

The second thing that our government has done has been to make sure that masks and PPE equipment were available at the height of the crisis and then throughout the crisis. I have to say that the procurement that was required at the international level will come out in stories to come. I know some of the behind-the-scenes stories about how procurement was a very difficult thing to do when the world was pivoting to the acquirement of masks and gowns at speed. Millions of PPE equipment has been distributed to the states and territories to keep our healthcare workers safe and to keep Australians safe.

We've also delivered on intensive care ventilator beds. When this crisis was coming at us at speed we had 2,200 ventilator beds, and we ensured that there were 7,500 ready if there was a problem that was going to result in an outbreak like we've seen in other parts of the world—outbreaks that we've seen in other parts of the world that haven't been seen here in Australia.

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Members opposite really need to stop talking down our health response. Quite frankly, it's appalling that you can't recognise that Australia has done exceptionally well. We have had mortality rates across the community that are the envy of the world. It is something that we should feel proud of as Australians.

As a federal government, we have also delivered fever clinics, testing clinics, ADF support and AUSMAT support, and we have delivered in seven of the eight states and territories an incredibly low community transmission rate. Despite that, we've had a breakdown in quarantine in Victoria—which is unfortunate—followed by poor contact tracing.

Mr Husic interjecting

There's no point worrying about whether you blame them or not; it is just a matter of fact. Every Victorian knows that we've had a failure in Victoria. Every Victorian knows that we have had to take it on the chin that we've had lockdowns. In fact, it is quite disrespectful of you to say those thing, because, in Victoria, we're doing it really tough.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Higgins will direct her comments through the chair, please.

Photo of Katie AllenKatie Allen (Higgins, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will direct my comments through the chair, but the member opposite is making comments that really are inappropriate. We know in Victoria how difficult it has been to deal with hard lockdowns. The mental health impact in our community is very hard to understand unless you live in Victoria. Many of my constituents have contacted me because they have been concerned about their mental health, they have been concerned about their health, and they have been concerned about the mental health and health of their loved ones. I've had GPs and specialists contact me because they're concerned that people are not being supported because of the Victorian lockdowns. (Time expired)

4:03 pm

Photo of Anne AlyAnne Aly (Cowan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There's a really great children's early reader book by New Zealand author Joy Cowley. It is called The Gonna Bird. I remember reading this to my kids when they were young. It is a story about a bird that puts off everything until tomorrow. This bird, the gonna bird, who goes around saying 'I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna,' actually refuses to do anything until he finds himself all by himself and with no friends. When I read my kids this book, I said to them, 'The lesson of the gonna bird is this: if you say you're gonna do something, you should do it.'

Well, Deputy Speaker, I introduce the 'gonna' government!

Every single time, this Prime Minister stands up in front of a camera, straightens his tie and announces, with great fanfare, that they have a plan to develop a plan, that they have a work group to develop a plan—a road map, a spreadsheet! But if you really listen to these big announcements there's no substance. There's nothing to them. They are just announcements. In all seriousness, that is not without consequence. That has consequences for Australians, who expect more. Australians expect that when their government announces something that is going to benefit them, something that will get them through a crisis—a job, an income or an opportunity—their government will follow through on that announcement. From the local level right through to the national level, this government has a litany of announcements that have not been followed up.

At a very local level, I'll start with grandparents rearing grandchildren in my electorate. At the last election, they were promised that, if the coalition won, they would get $30,000 for advocacy. It's not a lot of money, not much at all, but to them it would mean everything. To them it would mean the world, because they have been going on all these years just through volunteers and with no money at all. But they never got that money. When the time came to deliver on the announcement, this government turned around and walked away, just like the Prime Minister does every time he stands up and makes an announcement in front of those cameras.

Also at the last election, we were promised by Minister Cash—again to much fanfare—that we would get a training hub in Wanneroo, in the heart of my electorate of Cowan. It was a very popular promise and a much needed promise, I must say, particularly for the young people who live in Wanneroo, who have poorer outcomes at school and who generally need to have options other than university. A training hub was going to deliver for them the kinds of opportunity that they needed to get ahead—to get a job, to get qualified and skilled. Guess what? I don't think I have to tell you the end of this story. This gonna government never delivered it. This gonna government never came good on its promise of building a training hub in Wanneroo. I have been forced to write to Minister Cash and ask, 'Where is the training hub we were promised?' Many parents had laid their hopes on that training centre being there when their children graduate from school.

We could go right through to the national level as well. JobKeeper: this government said it would support six million Australians. It's only really supported half of those. With the JobKeeper money that wasn't spent, you'd think they would do the right thing and plug all the holes, to provide for casuals, temporary visa holders and university staff who lost their jobs and were ineligible for JobKeeper, all of those people who have fallen through the net. But, no, they didn't do that.

Then there are the bushfires, which I know members after me will speak about. This gonna government has already wracked up a series of failed promises and empty announcements, and tonight we're going to get more gonna.

4:09 pm

Photo of Dave SharmaDave Sharma (Wentworth, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The first and foremost duty of any Australian government is to help keep its citizens safe and protect their lives and their welfare. This year, in particular, we've faced one of the biggest threats the world has ever faced: the emergence of the COVID-19 global pandemic in Australia and across the world. It has threatened the lives and the livelihoods of people across the world. At the last count, there have been some 35 million cases with over one million lives lost across the world. No-one has been immune. We've seen the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson, succumb to the virus. We've seen Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil succumb to the virus. Indeed, on Friday, we saw President Trump and his wife taken down with the virus. Of course, we wish President Trump and the First Lady a speedy and safe recovery from that illness.

Australia has not escaped unscathed. In Australia, there have been 894 deaths from the virus—every one of them a tragedy in miniature. There have been 27,000 cases. Viewed in a global perspective, you'd have to say that Australia is not doing too badly. Our death rate has been 33 per million. In France, it's been 14 times that; in the United States it's been 17 times that; in the United Kingdom, it's been 18 times that; and in Spain, it's been 19 times that. I think the key here has been national leadership and the national government. Our early border restrictions helped stop the entry of the virus. Our testing regime—and we've done over 7.7 million tests so far—is one of the best in the world. Our social-distancing measures and the other restrictive measures we put in place early—causing considerable hardship to people and lives and businesses—have had an impact. We should pay tribute here to all of those health workers, frontline workers, public health professionals, and essential staff and services who have been so integral to Australia coming through this response. Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia on Monday states that more than 16,000 people would have died in Australia if our outbreak had been as widespread as that of the United Kingdom. That would have been a tragedy of truly gargantuan proportions. The Medical Journal of Australia report states:

This enormous difference underlies the importance of Australia's response using a combination of extensive testing and contact tracing, mandatory quarantine of people returning from overseas, and shutdowns to control community transmission.

The report begins:

Australia has had a remarkably successful response to COVID-19, even considering the second wave experienced in Victoria.

The economic shock from COVID-19 has been equally profound. This has been undoubtedly the biggest economic shock to the globe since World War II. The IMF and the World Bank predict that the global economy will contract by 4.5 per cent this year. As a point of comparison, during the global financial crisis, the global economy contracted by 0.1 per cent, so we're talking here about something that is 45 times bigger in terms of its impact on the global economy. In Australia, of course, we are not immune from this. We've seen an economic contraction of seven per cent in our second-quarter GDP figures. This has, of course, had a very real impact on people's jobs and on businesses and industries right across Australia. In my own electorate of Wentworth, I've seen travel agents, tourism operators, people who work in hospitality, and people who work in arts and events and the entertainment sector all take a significant hit to their livelihoods and their mental health as well, but the government's response has been rapid and effective, I would submit. We've spent upwards of $314 billion in the response package through measures like JobKeeper, JobSeeker, the coronavirus supplements, early access to super, and expanded instant asset write-offs for small businesses. We've saved, by some estimations, 700,000 jobs which would have otherwise been lost. That would have amounted to an additional five percentage points in unemployment. We've had 760,000 jobs restored which had either been lost or had been reduced to zero hours as a result of these measures. There is certainly a long way to go to restore the economy, but we are well on our way, and we've got the fiscal space to do this because we helped restore the budget to balance.

In addition to cushioning the blow and supporting recovery, tonight's budget will focus on building the economic future. I'd like to highlight two announcements in particular in recent weeks that I think set up Australia well for the future. The first is a $1.9 billion investment package in future technologies to lower emissions and support new technology like hydrogen and batteries, help transform our energy landscape and create new clean-tech jobs. Australia is an energy power today, but we can become a global renewable energy superpower producing green steel and aluminium, harnessing renewable energy, building new battery technology and exporting hydrogen. Our low emissions technology statement sets us up to do exactly that.

Australia is facing challenges this year unlike any we have encountered in the modern era, but we are well placed to come through them.

4:14 pm

Photo of Fiona PhillipsFiona Phillips (Gilmore, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In my electorate on the New South Wales South Coast, we are all too familiar with the government's flashy announcements which turn out to be duds. The government loves a flashy announcement—a great headline. This year, my electorate of Gilmore has seen many of them following a year of drought, bushfires, floods and COVID-19. I have spent the best part of this year trying to chase down those announcements and see where they have actually translated to action on the ground, and I am still doing it. It's like one giant maze. It didn't start with the bushfires. Our farmers have been dealing with this for years. As they struggled to deal with the impacts of the drought, losing stock, losing income and struggling to get by for years, the government stood up time and time again to announce drought support packages. They were packages that sounded great—rejigging the Drought Communities Program extension or the new Drought Community Support Initiative and more. They were flashy announcements to help farmers, unless of course they lived on the New South Wales South Coast. Our region was left out over and over again, because our farmers, according to the coalition, were not in drought. It was a slap in the face for local farmers and totally incomprehensible.

Until recently, local farmers were ineligible for drought loans. They were ineligible for any form of federal government drought support. We watched, over and over again, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister get up to talk about how they were looking out for farmers and how they cared about farmers. They were flashy announcements with no substance for farmers in my electorate. Even worse, on numerous occasions the coalition voted against support for local dairy farmers. They voted down bills that would have investigated a fairer farm gate milk price for our farmers, something that is desperately needed—very disappointing. Then there were stimulus announcements. In an area with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, you would think we would be high on the list. Take, for example, the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund—a golden opportunity to support local businesses wasted with only one grant to my electorate—just one.

There can be no better example of this government's flashy announcements with no follow through than the response to the bushfires. Slow and inadequate is the only way to describe it. Let's start with the government's $2 billion fund. That was a flashy announcement. I know in my electorate this felt like sweet relief. I have been calling for more urgent support since the bushfires began, and it seemed like the government had finally listened with a free clean-up of impacted properties, support for tourism operators, support for small businesses and support for local governments. But here we are more than nine months after the bushfires and we are still yet to see many of these funds.

I welcomed the announcement of $440,000 in successful grants for local events. That announcement, made less than three weeks ago, was funded from the $2 billion fund, which was announced in January—that is, nine months later. There were special disaster loans that were slow or non-existent for farmers. There was a bushfire clean-up, but that has fallen far short of the mark. Councils are still looking for funding support for local projects under local economic recovery plans. The list goes on.

The coalition love to use statistics. They use numbers to make it sound like they have done more than they have. Perhaps if they spent more time on the ground they would see the reality. Only last week we had more flashy announcements that fell short for the South Coast community. Last week the Deputy Prime Minister announced $100 million for Regional Recovery Partnerships, targeted at regions suffering from drought, bushfires and the pandemic. That is the South Coast to a T, but, for some inexplicable reason, our community has not been included in this announcement. Apparently we have not suffered enough—absolutely shocking. It would be simply unbelievable if it didn't speak to a wider pattern. Announced only yesterday was $7.5 billion for transport infrastructure, but there's no money for the Princes Highway. There's no money for the South Coast. Where is the logic there?

Today, with the budget set to be handed down, I implore the Treasurer and the Prime Minister: my electorate of Gilmore does not need any more flashy announcements or false promises. We need help to recover from this year of terrible economic hits. We need targeted support and local projects that create local jobs, and we need them now.

4:19 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Since coming to this place in May last year, my electorate of Cowper has been hit by three severe natural disasters and then COVID-19. It has been a really tough time for my region and, indeed, for many regions around Australia. Many areas have suffered the triple crisis of drought, bushfires and then coronavirus. So I think if there were ever a time when a government could hide behind a veil of excuses of why there might be a gap between announcements and delivery, it would be now. But this government does not have to hide.

I am very proud to be part of the coalition government, the Morrison-McCormack government, because not only have we kept delivering our usual services and infrastructure, infrastructure that Australians rely on; we've also been able to support them in their time of need. I'm confident that tonight's budget will see more support for Australians, will help those who don't have a job get a job and will help those who do have a job retain that job.

We have had the single biggest economic shock this country has ever seen. Despite this, in my electorate, over the last 18 months our government has successfully completed over one hundred projects from our Infrastructure Investment Program. Just yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister shared that this budget will provide an additional $491 million for the biggest infrastructure project in my area, the Coffs Harbour bypass. This hugely important 14-kilometre bypass will cure the current bottleneck on the Pacific Motorway, where the excellent dual carriage at the moment grinds to a halt at Coffs Harbour, requiring motorists to go through 12 sets of lights.

Members opposite—who have vacated the chamber—questioned the gap between our government's announcement and its delivery. On this Coffs Harbour project alone, in the past 18 months we have delivered an environmental impact statement for the bypass, a further EIS public consultation on the refined designs, the release of EIS submission and amendment reports, and early on-ground works by Transport for New South Wales for geotechnical investigations and maximising benefits to local contractors. In fact, on 9 September, I met with roads minister Paul Toole; and state member for Coffs Harbour, Gurmesh Singh, and announced a market interaction process, inviting industry to put in expressions of interest for delivering the bypass.

Another major infrastructure project is the Port Macquarie tidal pool. This is not just a pool. This would bring in further investment through sport, through health, through aged care and through rehabilitation. I gave this my full support during my election campaign and secured a commitment to $4.5 million for this project. Since then, we've completed a feasibility study and we've started work on a development application to the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council. This is real action on completing the tidal pool. Further examples of us delivering are the Deep Creek Bridge replacement in Bellingen, the Lanes Bridge replacement in Nambucca, the Bardens Bridge replacement in Coffs Harbour, the Turners Flat Bridge in Kempsey—over $4 million worth of bridges. And yet the backdrop to this is a one-in-100-year global health crisis.

During this crisis, this government has delivered a safety net to Australians, to keep as many Australians in work as possible. There are 5,300 grateful businesses in the electorate of Cowper. In the words of one JobKeeper recipient in my electorate, John Cassegrain of Cassegrain Wines, 'JobKeeper allowed me to retain my staff and keep making wine, so my winery can recover when the market returns.'

Before that, there were the bushfires. There was $29 million in the first round of $1,000 for adults and $400 for children, and then compassion moved to double those amounts. There was over $34 million in New South Wales alone, with over $10 million in grants of up to $75,000 to about 175 producers in my electorate alone, as well as $10,000 grants to numerous small business owners.

We will continue to fight the virus, we will continue to deliver the economic lifeline to Australians, and I look forward to hearing more about the Treasurer's road map tonight.

Photo of Llew O'BrienLlew O'Brien (Wide Bay, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion has concluded.