House debates

Thursday, 8 October 2020



12:18 pm

Photo of Julie OwensJulie Owens (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Having watched the budget on Tuesday night, it's actually really hard not to be angry. I waved between anger and extraordinary disappointment. There are very few times in a nation's history when a government is given the moral authority by the people of Australia to spend an enormous amount of money. It's a time in any member of parliament's life when you think, 'This is the opportunity where we can actually make a difference and build the world that we want to build, the world that we've been held back on because we've had to balance this or that the whole time.' Every day in this place, we choose one thing or another. The government were given the opportunity by the Australian people to take the dreams and the vision out of their back pocket, put it on the table and build the future of this nation, and they squibbed it. They well and truly squibbed it. Again, my first reaction is anger—anger at what they failed to do to address issues of climate change, to really work towards renewables, to change the nature of society, to invest in education, to invest in social housing, to solve the very problems that were highlighted during the pandemic. They squibbed it. What they did try and do is grow Australia out of its problems with the same tired old approaches they've always had, and, by doing it, they have left so many people behind.

I just want to raise even one industry that is now seriously struggling. It's the tourism industry—strangely enough, Parramatta has a tourism industry. We have people that run minibuses to the airport, we have bus-hire companies and we have travel agents. And I know from talking to these businesses that, in the last six months, travel agents have been working to refund people and so their income is actually negative. They're actually seriously in the negative, because they are spending money to get refunds for their past clients. They have no possibility of trading this out. No investment allowance will help them. No wage subsidy will help them. They are struggling. They are facing death at this time. And there is nothing in this budget that helps them, until, maybe, loss carry-back—an old Labor policy that the government scrapped in 2013 that has now been brought back but won't have any impact for at least a year-and-a-half, maybe two years. Travel agents will not last that long. Nor will the minibus companies They won't be investing in new buses; they'll be selling the ones they've got. The hold on insolvencies will not stop banks from repossessing buses from those companies, and we know that that will start very soon, because the budget did not provide support for those businesses. They are in dire straits.

There are many, many thousands of businesses—in fact, there are 8,483 businesses—in Parramatta that are currently relying on JobKeeper. Very few of them are in a position where they can invest and then look forward to an instant write-off at the end of the next tax year. They're struggling to even pay their bills. They're struggling to pay their rent. They have been left behind. For a lot of these businesses, including the restaurants, what they actually need is customers. What they actually need is people who are going to go out there and spend their money. This government, again, is ripping money out of the pockets of the people who spend it. JobKeeper has been cut and will be cut again. JobSeeker is not guaranteed to return back to the old Newstart level. There will be some people who'll get the tax cut. They'll get maybe $50 a week in their pocket if they're on the median wage. The neighbour next door will lose $250 a week because of the cuts to JobSeeker. This is less money. I used to run a business, and after I ran a business I ran a trade association for businesses, and I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, the single thing businesses need is customers that spend money. If you don't have customers that are spending money, an investment write-off won't help you, because you won't be investing. You'll be selling your assets. A wage subsidy won't help, because you won't be employing anyone. You'll be sacking people. And each person you sack will have less to spend in the business next door.

With this budget, the government have set in place a spiral to depression. They will rue the day they brought down this budget—trillions of dollars, for zero effect for most businesses in my electorate. As I said, we're really between anger and despair. I know that in my community, I'm getting a lot of anger at the moment. The despair is coming. We know that. The government really should have done better. They had a once-in-a-century opportunity to go forth and spend to change the nature of our economy, and they squibbed it. It's a budget for last century, not this one.