House debates

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Questions without Notice


2:25 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. I refer to the fact that the burden of the Morrison recession has disproportionately fallen on women. Why is the government racking up a trillion dollars of Liberal debt without a plan to support the participation of women in the workforce? Why has the Prime Minister left women behind in this budget?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Everything the Leader of the Opposition has just said, unsurprisingly, is untrue. First of all, the recession that has been caused in this country has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a fact that seems lost on the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow Treasurer. And every time he ignores the impact of COVID-19 on the Australian economy he demonstrates his lack of understanding of the Australian economy. If you want to do this job, there are two things you particularly have to know about. You need to know about economic management, and you need to know about national security—two issues that this Leader of the Opposition has shown no interest in, in his more than 20 years in this place.

But the Leader of the Opposition raises a very important point, and that is the economic opportunities for women in this country. It may come as some surprise to the Leader of the Opposition, but women run small businesses. Women pay tax. Women hire other Australians in their businesses. Women want to drive on safe roads. Women want to go to university, and they want to study science and technology and engineering and maths, like the minister for industry did, becoming an accomplished engineer before she came into this place. They want to get apprenticeships. They want to get traineeships. They want to get jobs. And 60 per cent of the jobs that have come back in measured employment since the pit of the COVID-19 recession have gone to women.

We are on the road to trying to restore the record participation of women that we were able to put in place before the COVID-19 recession hit and the gender pay gap was reduced to its lowest level. And those jobs are coming back for women. But, not content with that, we had in this year's budget the Women's Economic Security Statement. That statement is $240 million of specific initiatives to support women in their businesses, their entrepreneurship, their training and their mentoring support and to increase their participation in the labour force.

But it's not just that. In this budget we have listed Lynparza, the ovarian cancer drug. And I can tell you why we have been able to list so many drugs that support women in this country. It is because we've provisioned for it, we've budgeted for it and we've run an economy that can pay for it. When those opposite were in government, they cut funding to the PPS and they didn't list drugs. The Australian people saw that at the last election, and that's one of the many reasons they decided not to put those opposite on the Treasury benches. We back women, because we're getting women in jobs.

2:29 pm

Photo of Fiona MartinFiona Martin (Reid, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment, Skills and Small and Family Business. Will the minister outline to the House how the Morrison government is backing small business to recover from the COVID-19 recession and create more jobs for Australians?

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Minister for Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. I know that she, like many of the members on this side of the House, has owned and operated a business herself and that she, like we do, understands how challenging it can be to run a small business. It's very clear that the last six months have been particularly challenging for our small businesses, and that's why we as a government acted very quickly to support our small businesses, because they are the engine room of our economy and they are the job creators.

We now are focusing on recovery and the future, and last night's budget was designed to turbocharge our small businesses, with their investment and also with their growth. When our businesses thrive, they create jobs. They create opportunities for all Australians. Once again, we're backing business investment in this budget, with $31.6 billion in business tax relief. This includes a massive extension of the very successful instant asset tax write-off, with 99 per cent of businesses being able to write-off an asset of any value. This means that small businesses—and that includes our cafe owners, our tradies, our builders and our manufacturers—are going to be able to boost their productivity by looking at new equipment and new technology as part of this, for example, new vehicles. Members on all sides of the House know how important the instant asset tax write-off has been to support the businesses in their electorates, so it does promote opportunities for businesses to grow, for businesses to expand, and that's how they create jobs.

But there are many other things in this budget that support our small businesses. We're providing incentives, with the JobMaker Hiring Credit, for businesses to take on new employees and to give our young people a start. We're helping our small businesses access the benefits of digital technology, to expand opportunities and to keep them safe online. We're investing in skills training so our small businesses have the pipeline of skilled works that they need so that they can create the jobs that are needed now but also the jobs of the future. We're strategically investing in our manufacturing sector because, as we scale up our medium and our large enterprises, they will bring with them the small businesses behind them.

There are some very important initiatives in the budget for our small businesses, and one of the wisest investments that this government can make is to support our small businesses to create the lasting jobs of the future. That's what this budget does. It is a plan for small business. It's a plan for investment. It's a plan for jobs. It's a plan for our future. (Time expired)

2:32 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] My question is to the Prime Minister. The burden of the Morrison recession has fallen disproportionately on women, but announcements in the Prime Minister's women's economic statement total just 0.024 per cent of the $1 trillion Liberal debt. Why is this government leaving Australian women behind in this budget?

2:33 pm

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. I refer her to the answer that I just gave, because, under this government, we have seen 60 per cent of the jobs that have come back since the pit of the COVID-19 recession go to women. What we've seen is this government's investment in women getting jobs, because we're investing in an economy that can create jobs. Women will be seeking jobs in manufacturing industries. They'll be seeking jobs in the agricultural industry. They'll be seeking jobs right across the economy. But this budget, above all, is a budget for all Australians, who are dealing with the challenge of the biggest global recession that we have seen since the Second World War.

These facts may escape the Leader of the Opposition and the members opposite, as they go on with their embarrassing reviews. But, honestly, what we are seeking to do through this budget is get as many women in work as we possibly can, and we're well on the road to doing that. The Women's economic security statement 2020 is our second economic security statement for women. The first one was delivered by the former Minister for Women, Kelly O'Dwyer, and this one was delivered by Senator Marise Payne, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Women.

Our plan for women is ensuring that they do get back into jobs, that the businesses they may have had to close reopen—that the businesses that are going to employ more Australians are able to employ more Australians, and the tax that they pay will be less. All Australian families sitting around the table at home will have woken up this morning with an even greater sense of confidence, knowing that this government has their back—including women, because women are an increasing part of our labour force, and they will continue to grow in our labour force because of the skills and the attainment that they're able to achieve. Under this government the gender pay gap got to its lowest level and under this government the labour force participation of women got to its highest level, and that is what we will continue to pursue through the many policies that are outlined in this budget.

2:35 pm

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

My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Women. Will the minister update the House on how the Morrison government's economic recovery plan is delivering greater economic security for women, including by creating more jobs and opportunities?

Photo of Sussan LeySussan Ley (Farrer, Liberal Party, Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Higgins for her question and her outstanding leadership in so many women's groups, causes and initiatives, not just in Melbourne but across the nation and the world. I was talking to the member for Higgins this morning about her involvement with Global Sisters and with Tradeswomen Australia, and about how she reaches out to working women in her electorate and asks them what they would like to see, and responds. She is so connected. Indeed, every woman member on the government side is absolutely across the need, coming out of COVID, for a plan out of the budget that provides jobs for women. Our plan for jobs in yesterday's budget is, indeed, a plan for women—for their participation in the workforce, for their ongoing opportunity and for their financial security. Women's success is intrinsic to our economic success and the success of the nation, and we completely understand that.

As the Prime Minister has said, central to all of the measures that we're undertaking to support women and their families and their communities and whatever stage of life they are at is the Women's Economic Security Statement, first introduced by the member for Higgins's predecessor, Kelly O'Dwyer, in 2018 and updated by Minister Payne, senator in the other place—and a huge recognition for her contribution. The updated statement and its associated measures build on what we've already done. Priority areas include repairing and rebuilding women's workforce participation, greater choice and flexibility for families to manage work and care, supporting women as leaders and positive role models, and supporting women to be safe at home. That's the Women's Economic Security Statement. There's $50 million over four years through Women@Work, expanding our leadership and development program. We can continue to partner with industry, such as Master Builders and their Women Building Australia program—that's going to be so important—that recruits, retains and supports women entering the construction industry, which is so important right now. It supports women like Melanie and Emma Fasham in Victoria, sisters who run their family construction budget.

The member for Higgins mentioned an extraordinary young woman called Grace Halifax, who she helped on a Zoom call to teach her fellow students Zoom. Grace is eight years old. She'll be an ideal candidate for our Boosting Female Founders Initiative, which will support up to 4,300 women entrepreneurs, and $24 million to support women in study and to complete STEM qualifications.

There is record spending in this budget on health, on NDIS, on aged care, on listing new drugs for ovarian cancer and of course on our continuation of JobKeeper, which helps so many women in small business, whether they're employees or employers. JobKeeper will help us tackle the tough times ahead. As we come out of COVID, we're helping grow small business. We're helping women gain better jobs. We're helping women stay— (Time expired)

2:38 pm

Photo of Amanda RishworthAmanda Rishworth (Kingston, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. Why has the government racked up a trillion dollars of Liberal debt but refused to provide additional support for child care, leaving behind mums and dads trying to get back into workforce?

2:39 pm

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like to thank the member for her question because it enables me to detail what was in the budget for the childcare sector. There is a record $9.2 billion worth of funding for the childcare sector. And, importantly—and this seems to have been completely overlooked—there was $900 million of additional funding for the childcare sector to support them through the pandemic. Do you know what that led to? It led to 99 per cent of all childcare providers remaining viable throughout the pandemic, providing services to those on the front line during the pandemic—those nurses, those doctors. In particular—and I say this on behalf of all members here in the House because I'm sure this is one thing we will all agree on—I thank those members who were on the front line when it came to providing those important services of keeping those childcare service providers open. A majority of women were servicing those childcare providers and educators.

Ms Rishworth interjecting

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

The member for Kingston is now warned.

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

We backed them with $900 million of additional funding. What has that meant? Those opposite often say, 'Okay. What did this lead to?' What have our reforms led to? CPI data shows that, on average, our changes across the country have delivered real savings to families by reducing out-of-pocket costs by 3.2 per cent from July 2018 to March 2020. We've seen out-of-pocket costs go down under our childcare reforms, and we will continue to provide the support that the sector needs. There will be $900 million of additional funding to help them through the pandemic, and there will be a record $9.2 billion in this budget to support the childcare sector throughout this year.

2:41 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Health. Will the minister please outline to the House how the Morrison government's budget is increasing access to vital mental health support through the course of the COVID-19 recession and ensuring the future mental wellbeing of all Australians?

Photo of Greg HuntGreg Hunt (Flinders, Liberal Party, Minister for Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to thank the member for Berowra. Along with all members in this House, he has a deep interest in mental health and suicide prevention, but he is one of the leaders in this place, with his focus on such a profoundly important topic. In any one year we know that four million Australians will face some form of mental health challenge. But this year, above all years, the challenges have been even greater: flood, fire, drought and, of course, the catastrophic human toll of the pandemic. There has been the health toll, the lockdown impacts and the anxiety related to economic circumstances and employment.

Significantly, throughout the course of the pandemic, we've worked together with the states and territories, the opposition and all others to invest in this space to provide support and to provide confidence. Already over $500 million has been provided throughout the course of this year with regard to mental health, with telehealth being a fundamental component of that. It is now at over 33 million services, and mental health remains a huge part of that. This budget lays down the systemic reform pathway to make telehealth a permanent and abiding legacy for the better of the pandemic. That's positive for mental health; it's positive for all Australians.

As well as that, though, the budget very specifically lays down a framework for mental health for the coming four years. In this year alone, there will be $5.7 billion of investment in mental health and suicide prevention support for Australians, and that includes an additional $485 million of mental health funding right now, this year. Very specifically, as part of that, there is the addition to and the doubling of the Better Access psychological support services—from 10 to 20 services. That will provide relief and support for many Australians. It's an important step forward that will give them hope, give them confidence and give them mental health support.

In addition to that, $64 million is being provided for the vital work of suicide prevention. That suicide prevention funding comes on top of the $740 million which the Prime Minister and the Treasurer very passionately allocated last year. That includes $26 million for headspace, $13 million to extend the National Suicide Prevention Trial program and $7 million for Beyond Blue's vitally important The Way Back Support Service. The Way Back program is about giving people hope after they have attempted suicide, have recovered and have been discharged from hospital.

Ultimately, the budget as a whole is about hope and recovery, but the budget for mental health in particular is about hope, recovery and support.