Thursday, 8 October 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister outline to the House how the Morrison government's economic recovery plan benefits all Australians by creating jobs and rebuilding our economy from the COVID-19 recession?
I thank the member for his question, and I know he'll be pleased about the additional support for growth funding, particularly in Townsville, where I had the opportunity to speak to his electors this morning.
This is a budget for all Australians, in the national interest, because at a time of great national crisis and indeed great global crisis it is important that the budget focuses on what is best for all Australians, to take all Australians forward. The budget has received great support—particularly, I note, from the ratings agencies, as the Treasurer will be aware—as we look at the significant burden that Australia will carry. As these agencies have noted—and I refer to the Fitch rating agency:
Australia came into the coronavirus shock with fiscal space to counter the effects of the pandemic in the near term.
Well, I know how that was created: six years of hard work getting the budget back into balance from the fiscal nightmare that was left to us by those opposite. And S&P said that Australia is outperforming most of its peers. That's how we came into the global crisis. Moody's have said:
Its experience with fiscal repair—
They're talking about our government—
following past shocks and the likelihood of an extended period of low servicing costs mean that its debt remains manageable.
But that's not all that people have had to say. The head of COSBOA, Peter Strong, has said, 'This is the budget we needed to have.' That's from the head of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia. Master Builders have said that the budget 'is going to support the country to build its way out of recession'. Infrastructure Partnerships says:
The Commonwealth has responded decisively to the COVID-19 crisis …
Fiona Simson, the head of the National Farmers Federation, has said that the budget helps 'kickstart our nation's recovery'. The Minerals Council, the member will be pleased to know, says that the budget will 'boost investment and jobs without increasing taxes to support the industry's contribution to the national regional recovery'.
But it was Pat McGorry, the head of Orygen, who said that the budget 'has signalled the commitment of the government to putting young people at the centre of its plan' and that this 'will assist more vulnerable young people with mental illness in more locations', and that:
Orygen recognises the Australian Government's commitment to ensuring Australians have improved access to much needed mental health care during this challenging time …
The ovarian cancer council has equally welcomed the budget, with Medicines Australia and so many others in the Australian Medical Association.
This is a budget for all Australians. It's a budget that brings Australians together. We came here to build Australia, not pick fights.
My question is to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister yesterday rejected extra childcare support for parents on the basis that it would simply help people on very high incomes. Given the Prime Minister deliberately designed a childcare system where a police officer and a teacher lose money if they're both working full time, does the Prime Minister seriously think that this family doesn't deserve extra childcare support because they earn too much?
I thank the member for her question. Can I tell her that this government believes in providing support to the childcare sector at record levels—record levels—and that support goes directly to families to help them to be able to afford child care, and that will grow from $9.2 billion this year over the forward estimates to $10 billion. Can I say that the government stands ready to help and assist the childcare sector as it comes out of this pandemic, because we stood by the sector throughout the pandemic, providing an additional $900 million to the sector throughout the pandemic, as was recognised by the sector at the time. They said:
We applaud the Government's commitment to ensuring that early learning and care services could survive the COVID-19 pandemic …
And they also appreciate the support we're continuing to give in Victoria, which is still being hit by the pandemic. This is what the Australian Childcare Alliance President has said:
We commend the government for recognising the unique circumstances facing Victorian early learning services and for continuing the extensive support offered to our vital sector since the beginning of the pandemic.
And that support will last up until April next year. This government has stood with the childcare sector right throughout this pandemic. We're standing with it as we come out of this pandemic, growing our funding from $9.2 billion to $10 billion.
Can I once again place on record our appreciation—I'm sure I do this on behalf of all the House—to those early childhood educators who've worked right throughout this pandemic to make sure that our young children could get the support that they needed while those essential service workers were there making sure that we could continue to drive our nation throughout this pandemic.
Wait till I find it! My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House how the Morrison-McCormack government's plan for economic recovery is focusing on Australians' future by investing in regional Australia?
He might have dropped the question but he never drops the ball, Mr Speaker! I tell you what—if you want a fighter, it's the member for Flynn. He's always on the ball. And he understands full well how important water infrastructure is. He understands that regional Australia is at the heart of our nation. It is the heart of this government and it's going to be the heart of the COVID-19 recovery.
Today, I delivered the inaugural regional Ministerial Statement on Rural and Regional Budget Outcomes, outlining this government's backing of a regionally-led economic recovery.
Honourable members interjecting—
I can hear the shouts of joy from those opposite, because they know, too, how important the regions are and they know how vital it is going to be to supercharge those regions as we lead out of the COVID situation. It is writ large, the recovery, in our infrastructure investment, agricultural investment and various regional development measures designed to boost, promote and build our resilient regional communities. And when the Treasurer stood at this point on Tuesday night, he delivered a budget for infrastructure, for jobs and for the regions. In the member's electorate of Flynn in Central Queensland the regional recovery package will back-in existing regional development plans to do just that: deliver jobs, better outcomes, economic recovery and economic diversification.
We see the resilience and tenacity in regional Australia every single day. We are optimistic about regional Australia. I know the member for Flynn is optimistic about regional Australia. Give us a cheer everybody who is optimistic about regional Australia!
Honourable members interjecting—
Absolutely! By identifying the strengths, giving people the right tools, recognising the adversity and investing in the resilience, regional Australia will have the support it needs to recover and grow from this pandemic.
Water infrastructure is at the very heart of everything that we are trying to do to grow our town populations and grow our country areas. The member knows the value of adding water, and in Queensland we're doing just that. Add water, grow output. Grow agricultural output, grow water by growing jobs. Our more-than-doubling of investment to $3½ billion, through an additional $2 billion under the National Water infrastructure Development Fund, will create hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs and boost agricultural productivity through a more reliable water supply. We have Rookwood Weir in the member's electorate, we have Big Rocks Weir, Emu Swamp Dam, Hells Gate Dam, the Hughenden Irrigation Project, Urannah Dam, Mareeba-Dimbulah, the South Burnett scheme—$3½ million. We're backing that. We're backing that area. We're backing Flynn. We're backing water. We're backing jobs. (Time expired)
My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister says, 'The reforms we've put into child care had their desired effect.' The budget has nothing additional for child care. Why is this Prime Minister punishing parents for working an extra hour or an extra day when they are just trying to get ahead during the Morrison recession?
I thank the member for his question. As the Minister for Education has just outlined: $9.2 billion for child care. It is up on last year and it will be up again next year and the year after that. Child care will continue to be provided and supported by this government, particularly for low- to middle-income families, for whom it has been a game-changer. We know that when Labor was in government childcare fees increased by 53 per cent. It was a complete muddle of a policy under those opposite. So, when we came into government, we worked on changing that scheme. Since we've changed the scheme, we have seen childcare fees, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, fall by 3.2 per cent, in terms of childcare costs. As a result of the changes we put in place, we saw workforce participation increase for men, and for women in particular, to record levels.
I notice that those opposite are saying here today that debt is too high and the deficit is too big. That is what they are saying. But they are also saying that the debt should be greater and we should spend more. Tonight, the Leader of the Opposition has an opportunity. If he wishes to spend more, he needs to say what in the budget he wants to spend less on.
Tonight, the Leader of the Opposition, if he wishes to spend more on something—he says the budget deficit is too big; he says the debt is too great—needs to say what he is going to cut. He needs to say which roads, which dams, which hospitals, which schools. The Leader of the Opposition has an each-way bet on everything. He would go for a win and a place in a two-horse race. That is what this Leader of the Opposition is about. He is the biggest each-way operator that we've seen come into this place. He's for everything and he's against everything at exactly the same time. I've got a tip for the Leader of the Opposition: if you're a person of conviction, you need to be consistent in what you're for and consistent in what you're against. You can't be for both at the same time. When this Leader of the Opposition sat in that chair, he became an each-way bet on everything, which means he can't be counted on for anything.
[by video link] My question is to the Prime Minister. Independent analysis of tax office data published today reveals that next year 69 per cent of the benefit of your tax cuts goes to men and only 31 per cent to women, and that the top 30 per cent of income earners get 96 per cent of the benefit, while the bottom 70 per cent only get four per cent of the money. Prime Minister, in the middle of the biggest recession we've seen in our lifetime, which has hit women the hardest, why do your trickle-down tax cuts massively disadvantage women and put millionaires ahead of the million unemployed?
This is a budget for all Australians. All Australians who work pay tax—men and women. The tax system does not discriminate based on your gender. It doesn't discriminate based on your age. It doesn't discriminate on any of those things that go to who you are. The only thing it discriminates on is how much you earn. If you earn more, you pay more tax. If you earn more, you pay higher rates of tax. If you earn less, you pay lower rates of tax. The truth is that the great majority of the income tax paid in this country is actually paid by those who are on higher incomes.
The top five per cent pay a third of the tax in this country.
In this budget, we brought forward the stage 2 tax plan that we outlined to this parliament in budgets in the past. That was designed to support low- and medium-income taxpayers, and it does. It brings forward the opportunity for Australians to keep more of what they earn, and it's not a cost to government. We're not spending anything. We're letting Australians, as we should, keep more of what they earn. When the Greens and the Labor Party talk about tax cuts, they call them a cost. They say it costs. No, it doesn't. It's their money, and it is our intention, before we leave this chamber and before those in the Senate leave their chamber this week, to ensure that those tax cuts will be passed and to ensure that Australians, at the end of this week, will have the absolute assurance—those on low and middle incomes—that they will be able the keep more of what they earn, because that's what they need right now, in the middle of this COVID-19 recession. We are bringing those tax cuts forward to ensure Australians have the help they need right here, right now, and that's what we call on members of this parliament to support before they leave this place.
My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline to the House how the Morrison government's economic recovery plan, as outlined in this week's budget, will create jobs for all Australians, which will be of critical importance as we come out the other side of the COVID-19 recession?
I thank the member for Bass for her question. She's been a mayor of George Town Council, she's been a farmer and she's a great representative for the people of Bass and for the people of Tasmania. Around $1 billion in JobKeeper payments have gone to the people of Tasmania, over $500 million in cash flow boost payments have gone to the people of Tasmania, and more than 230,000 Tasmanians will get a tax cut this year as a result of the actions of those on this side of the House.
The budget on Tuesday night was 'the right budget at the right time'. They're not my words; they're the words of the Business Council of Australia. The budget on Tuesday night was 'a budget for business, new and old. It pulls two fundamental economic levers: productivity and participation.' They're not my words; they're the words of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 'The budget on Tuesday night was arguably the most important budget of a generation, outlining a pragmatic but bold spending agenda that will accelerate agriculture's growth and regional Australia's contribution to the nation's bottom line.' They weren't my words; that was the National Farmers Federation of Australia.
The reality is that this budget was all about jobs. This budget was all about jobs because we've seen our unemployment rate go up. The history of recessions in Australia is that unemployment goes up the elevator and comes down the stairs. Those who have been most impacted have been young people. In the 1990s it took a full decade to get the unemployment rate back to where it started, but it took 15 years to get the unemployment rate for younger people back to where it started. That's why this side of the House supports a JobMaker hiring credit for those who are aged 16 to 35, which will support, according to Treasury, around 450,000 jobs. That's why the people on this side of the House have supported $4 billion in support for 180,000 apprentices, protecting their jobs, and including incentives to embed another 100,000 apprentices into jobs, with $1.2 billion of support. That's why people on this side of the House support our JobTrainer program, helping to create 340,000 places for training. We on this side of the House are in favour of jobs. The budget on Tuesday night will deliver just that.
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to his budget, in which the Prime Minister cut JobKeeper, left those over 35 on the scrap heap, cut JobSeeker back to $40 a day and failed to deliver anything additional for child care. Why is this government racking up $1 trillion of Liberal debt during the Morrison recession while making it harder for a 36-year-old mum or dad with a child who has started primary school this year?
We must not make the mistakes of the past and allow the young people who lose their job today to become the long-term unemployed of tomorrow.
In a global recession young people always feature heavily in the ranks of retrenched and laid off workers.
This Compact is to ensure that young Australians who lose their job in this recession are trained to be the tradespeople and professionals of the recovery.
That was Julia Gillard in April 2009.
Back in the early nineties there was a program called Jobstart that was introduced following the Keating recession, not a recession produced by a global pandemic today. This recession has been produced by a global pandemic. Australians know that. The Leader of the Opposition seems to be the only person in the country who doesn't know there has been a global pandemic. Back during that time, the former Prime Minister said that that program was about supporting young people.
Now, I don't know what the Leader of the Opposition has got against getting young people back into jobs, in opposing the programs that we're putting forward and characterising them in the way he does, but he might want to listen to this. From March to August there has been a 6.2 per cent decrease—
I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his point of order. I was obviously very tolerant to the point he's trying to make. The problem, as I suspect he knows, is that the question mentioned JobKeeper, over-35s, JobSeeker, child care, debt and recession. I can't think of what else you could have included in it—it was within 30 seconds—but it does make the answer fairly broad.
Between March and August, there was a 6.2 per cent decrease in the number of jobs for those aged 15 to 34; in contrast, over the same time, the decline in jobs for those aged over 35 was 1.7 per cent—that is, there has been more than three times the impact on those younger workers under 35. The effect is even more stark when you look at the hours worked. Over that same time, the number of hours worked by those aged 15 to 34 declined by 8.5 per cent, while, for those aged over 35, the decline was 2.3 per cent. That means the effect has been four times greater.
The Liberals and Nationals believe that, when people are at the age for starting their working life, they shouldn't be starting it in unemployment and on welfare. Our plan is to ensure that young people get into jobs and that they experience the benefit of jobs for their full lifetime. Having policies that would see them stay unemployed and commence their working lives on welfare—that's not the way I want to see an Australian start their working life in this country. Our budget is designed to address that during one of the worst crises, economically, this country has seen, and certainly the worst crisis since the Great Depression. We make no apology for wanting to see young people in work. Our budget looks to get those young people back into work and to back them each and every day. That was a principle understood by Julia Gillard. It was a principle understood by Paul Keating. It's understood by this government. (Time expired)
My question today goes to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer outline to the House how the Morrison government's economic recovery plan is providing greater incentives to make it easier for businesses to increase their investment and also to generate more jobs?
I thank the member for Fairfax for his question and acknowledge in this place his prior experience as a trainee baker, his subsequent experience as a businessman and his experience now as a hardworking and great advocate for the people of Fairfax. Indeed, he's a great advocate for the people of Queensland.
In Queensland, we've seen more than $11 billion go from the JobKeeper payments to the workers of Queensland. We've seen more than $5 billion in payments from the cash flow boost go through to the businesses and workers of Queensland. We will see 2.3 million workers in Queensland get a tax cut this year as a result of the actions of those on this side of the House. Nearly nine out of every 10 jobs in the Australian economy are in the private sector. These are businesses—small, medium and larger businesses. These businesses have the drive. We want these businesses to thrive in our economic recovery by helping to create jobs. That's why, in this budget, we have backed businesses and their ability, their creativity, their innovation and their ability to hire Australians.
There are a number of significant incentives in this budget to drive more jobs, including the most significant investment incentives any Australian government has ever introduced into this place. Ninety-nine per cent of Australian businesses will be able to immediately expense eligible purchases for their business. A business will be eligible if they have a turnover of up to $5 billion. This will be available up to June 2022. This will drive productivity, and this will drive jobs across the nation. It will be a game changer in terms of the investment that it will help create. We will see a trucking company buy a new lorry, we will see a farmer buy a new harvester, and we'll see a manufacturer update and upgrade their production line. Another significant measure includes loss carry-back, because we do know that today there are businesses that have been previously profitable but, because of the health restrictions, have incurred losses. So, rather than waiting until they earn a profit again, they can carry back those losses against previous profits and taxes paid. That will give them money in the pocket and money that they can spend on investment.
There are businesses right across the country who saw the announcements on Tuesday night and are now deciding to invest, like Mark Hobbs from Beefy's Pies in Buderim, who's going to put in a new freezer room. He's also considering a new apprentice. This is creating— (Time expired)
My question is to the Prime Minister. Rose is 47. She's a single mother of two, and she lost her job in March. Her daughter has cystic fibrosis. Rose says, 'You buy two loaves of bread and two cartons of milk, and you wonder whether it will last a fortnight. I've never had to do that before. My kids miss out and it's not fair.' Why has the Prime Minister racked up a trillion dollars worth of Liberal debt but left women like Rose behind?
I thank the member for her question—and the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services may wish to add to this answer. But the reason that the government have taken on the cost that we have in this budget is that we have responded to the biggest global recession and global pandemic that this globe has seen for a century—in terms of the recession, the worst since the Great Depression.
Our response to that was to double the social security safety net—double it. The JobSeeker allowance was to double it. The response was to increase, in separate payments of $750 on two occasions, the payments that were made to all welfare beneficiaries. Our response was to keep people in jobs, through the JobKeeper program, at a cost of some $101 billion, and that prevented some 700,000 additional Australians becoming unemployed in this country. That is what the money has been spent on. The money has been spent on providing cash flow support to businesses to keep people in jobs. It has been spent on boosting the health response of our country to this pandemic.
And the result of these measures throughout the pandemic is that, as tough as this global crisis has been as it's impacted on Australia, Australians can stand here today knowing that around the world there is South Korea, there is Finland, there is Norway, there is the economy of Taiwan and there is Australia who have been able to cushion the blow, both the health effects and the economic effects, of this pandemic better than any other nations in the world today. Now, that is an extraordinary achievement by Australians—their resilience and their determination to push through very difficult times, to follow the health advice, to look out for each other, to make sacrifices in their own lives, and most particularly, most recently, down in Melbourne, where it's been extremely tough. But what this government has done right from the outset, because we came into this from a position of strength, is seek to provide every support we possibly could, and we've done it in a way that has outperformed most countries in the world today. So, while it might be tough in Australia and we know that, I'm sure all Australians would rather be here than anywhere else in the world today.
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Will the minister outline how the Morrison-McCormack government's Ag2030 plan will support the farm sector's $100 billion per year agriculture industry, create jobs and secure Australia's future as we come out the other side of the 2019 recession?
I thank the member for Nicholls for his question. Despite the fact that over the last 18 months we've endured a flood up in north-west Queensland, where over 500,000 head of cattle were lost in a matter of days; we've had an ongoing drought that some parts of the nation are recovering from; we had devastating fires; and then we were hit by COVID, agriculture has still grown. Despite those headwinds, we will go from a $60 billion industry to a $61 billion industry because the Australian government have stood shoulder to shoulder with our primary producers and those regional communities. Over $10 billion has been committed to our drought response. Our response to the fires has been in excess of $2 billion, and $3.3 billion with respect to the floods. For COVID, we announced more measures in the budget with respect to more freight subsidy for our exports to get out and around the world to make sure we continue to be a reliable exporter to trading partners. We've also made sure that we're freeing up and incentivising young Australians to go out and see their country and also work.
But the budget isn't just about immediate priorities. It's about the future and supporting agriculture's ambitious vision of having a $120 billion industry by 2030. We announced, as part of that, our Ag2030 plan. There are seven key elements, and one of them is particularly around exports. We're a nation of 25 million people and we produce enough food for 75 million. We're investing $328 million in modernising our export platform, making sure we're working with those key industries to make real difference around quality assurance, giving them the regulatory guideposts that they need to protect our brand and brand Australia. In fact, the CEO of the Australian Meat Industry Council said:
… the Federal Budget strongly invests in a contemporary, forward leaning export and business framework, not just for now, but well into the future that is fleet-footed enough to change as quickly as global events demand … Australian meat exports have long been considered world best class. These budget measures will propel that reputation into the future.
We're also protecting our image around biosecurity, with $873 million being invested into protecting our clean, green image, and we're investing in technology to make sure that we can do a more efficient job. We're investing in farmer stewardship, making sure we reward farmers for the stewardship of their land and their custodianship of our environment. We want fairer markets, making sure that farmers understand where the market chain priorities and pressures are. We're investing in infrastructure: $3½ billion in water infrastructure and $1.5 billion in roads. We're also looking at innovation, creating a new pillar of agriculture—innovation, research and development. We're bringing our young people home through education investments, reducing courses by 62 per cent, and investing in our people. I'm proud to say that the department of agriculture has now hit its target of having over 50 per cent female board representation. We're investing in our people to make sure Australian agriculture hits $100 billion by 2030.