House debates

Wednesday, 21 October 2020


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2020-2021, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Second Reading

10:14 am

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

Before the debate is resumed on this bill, I remind the Federation Chamber that it has been agreed that a general debate be allowed covering this bill and the two related appropriation bills. The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Whitlam has moved as an amendment that all words after 'that' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

10:15 am

Photo of Ms Catherine KingMs Catherine King (Ballarat, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development) Share this | | Hansard source

It is terrific to be able to continue the contribution that I was making last night on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021 and related bills. I was saying that, despite the fact that Victoria is really only still slowly emerging from lockdown, much of the support is being withdrawn far too quickly, not just from Victoria but also from some of those sectors we know are going to take quite some time to recover, such as aviation and tourism. At the same time the government has been reducing JobKeeper and changing eligibility requirements, the Prime Minister's budget is also cutting the coronavirus supplement received by almost 25,000 in my own community. This will cut about $7.36 million per fortnight out of the local Ballarat economy. That's money that will not be available in our local economy.

We know that people who are on unemployment benefits and on those supplements are spending pretty much every dollar that they earn. So, let alone the impact that it has on individuals and the families that are supported by them, that withdrawal of $7.36 million a fortnight, while we are still recovering, has a huge impact. Based on average weekly earnings, it's equivalent to around 2,822 local jobs that could be had in our community if that money was still flowing. Our economy is still reeling. We need more money circulating in the local economy, not less. People receiving this supplement, as I said, are the very same people we know are likely to spend every single dollar that they receive. They are exactly the people that the budget should be supporting—those who need help most—but, again, they are the people the government has decided to leave behind.

At the same time, my community of Ballarat is once again missing out on infrastructure commitments through the budget—no Western Ring Road, no improvements to the Western Highway or the Midland Highway and no capital infrastructure works beyond the top-ups being given to every local council around the country. It is lovely to hear members opposite talk about the many projects that are being funded in their constituencies, but there is a stark contrast when you hear from people from this side of the chamber. When we have had a crisis that has affected every community, not just those held by Liberal and National seats, I really do caution the government about its business-as-usual approach when it comes to these regional buckets of funding. You can't treat regional communities differently just because of their political stripes.

We have seen lots of funds directed to set up further regional funding rounds in the budget—big buckets of money, controlled largely by the Deputy Prime Minister in their allocation—and we hope that we might be able to apply for some of these in the future. But, frankly, given the government's record of pork-barrelling, I am not holding my breath. The Deputy Prime Minister isn't even trying to hide that. On ABC Ballarat, the Deputy Prime Minister was asked, straight after the budget, why my own community of Ballarat missed out in the budget. The answer of the Deputy Prime Minister was, 'Maybe you need to look at your federal member.' That was the statement he made on our local radio station the day after the budget about why there wasn't money for Ballarat—that it is somehow my fault and the fault of the people of Ballarat because they vote for a Labor MP! He is not even trying to hide it. It is hugely problematic for those of us who represent millions of Australians that they are being sent the message very clearly, 'You might be suffering from COVID but don't look to us for any assistance.'

We all know that the Morrison government continually use infrastructure and regional development funding to electoral advantage. That is what they have been doing. The Deputy Prime Minister's comments on ABC Ballarat clearly show he is not even trying to hide it. He has just acknowledged that that is the case. Ahead of the last election, four regional Labor seats in Newcastle and the Hunter shared in just over $200,000 through the Community Development Grants Program—the program that the government largely uses to funnel its election commitments through, but it has been using it a bit more generously—I will be polite about it—a bit more unusually in recent days, with two of them receiving absolutely nothing and two neighbouring Nationals seats receiving $20 million each.

In the lead-up to the last election the Morrison government's signature Urban Congestion Fund funnelled 133 of 160 Urban Congestion Fund projects into Liberal and targeted seats. Recently 10 regions, mostly held by the coalition, were chosen because they were regions whose economies had experienced the brunt of natural events such as bushfire, COVID-19 and drought. But there was no funding for the New South Wales South Coast and no funding for the Blue Mountains, obviously held by Labor Party members. That's no way to deliver funding to the nation, particularly when we have had a crisis such as this.

The government likes to make big noises about its infrastructure commitments. They like the headlines that they generate, but again their delivery falls well short of expectations. Australians now know that with this long list of infrastructure projects hearing it is one thing, but they know that many of them will not be delivered for decades in some instances. They know this because they have seen an average infrastructure spend of $1.2 billion every single year, now up to $6.8 billion across the budgets of this government.

I will take just one project as an example of what is actually happening with the infrastructure budget, underspent each year by $1.2 billion—it was actually $1.7 billion last year. In this month's budget, again with much fanfare, the government announced that the Bolivia Hill upgrade of the New England Highway was being given additional funding. That sounds great, and the local community goes 'Thanks, we're getting more money for the highway.' The only problem is that that project, alongside a number of other projects that the government is counting, was actually funded by the now Leader of the Opposition back in 2012. The reason the project needs more money and the infrastructure budget has been boosted is the poor delivery and cost overruns, because the project hasn't actually been delivered. That's a cost blow-out; that's not stimulus. It's because the government has done such a poor job of delivery that it has had to put more money into this project.

Again we saw this underdelivery in the 2018 budget commitment, $806 million promised across financial years but promised last financial year through the Urban Congestion Fund. They got $142 million out the door. In New South Wales there was $200 million promised, and $4 million actually got out the door. These are small projects. These are roundabouts and pedestrian crossings and traffic lights. They are important to local communities, but we're not talking about big infrastructure planning required here. This is what has been happening. We all know what means: more empty announcements from the government, which cares more about the headline than it does about actually doing the work to deliver these projects.

Of course, after the week so far it is impossible to speak of the Morrison government's infrastructure program without mentioning the Leppington Triangle airport rort. This is a really serious scandal. The government, frankly, has not taken it seriously enough. We had the Deputy Prime Minister, again even yesterday, doubling down on this and saying that it's a bargain and a good investment. You would think, now that the AFP are scoping an investigation, that he would be a bit more cautious about what he says about this. We have a Deputy Prime Minister responsible for two of the largest infrastructure projects in a long time, the Western Sydney airport and the Inland Rail, and he thinks that spending $30 million on a piece of land worth $3 million—a tenth of the valuation—is a bargain and good value for taxpayers. This is a minister who is responsible for billions of dollars of infrastructure funding—Western Sydney airport and Inland Rail and countless others—hundreds of millions of dollars of infrastructure funding. If he thinks that is okay and is good value, what else is he ticking off that his department is doing? How can we trust any announcement by the government when you have a Deputy Prime Minister who thinks it is a bargain?

We have a Prime Minister who has initially brushed this off: 'It's a process issue in the department and it's all about process'—again not taking it seriously. Evidence at Senate estimates clearly shows that you have to be careful about the Morrison government's infrastructure promises. The department of infrastructure had actually factored in an order of $30 million for the purchase of this land even before the dodgy valuations were done or any acquisition process had commenced. I'm not sure what kind of acquisition process begins with the final price and works backwards from there; it's not one that I have ever seen or recognise. The government's response to the scandal to allow the department of infrastructure to hold more investigations into themselves, despite a previous interdepartmental investigation clearing any wrongdoing and the department failing to comply fully with the ANAO's initial inquiries around its financial statements, I think was worthy of further answers. That the AFP have now launched an investigation highlights just how flawed this is.

When it comes to infrastructure and their promises in the budget, it is impossible to believe what the government is saying. They could rebuild trust by stepping up and legislating a national integrity commission and ensuring that this deal is investigated properly and independently and that it does not happen again. We've again seen in this budget cuts to the Australian National Audit Office, the very body that has uncovered this scandal. This would not be in the public domain if someone in the ANAO had not questioned the financial statements of the department and then, when the department didn't provide them with accurate information, undertaken a performance audit. What has the government got to hide?

This stuff is incredibly important in the governance of this nation. It's symptomatic of a government that continually lets the Australian people down, none more so frankly than what's been happening in the aviation sector. We have seen this industry literally brought to its knees, whether it's the airports or whether it's the airlines and the multiple supports that are factored in around those. This is an industry that employs around 200,000 people overall. We've seen the government abandon dnata workers. We've seen the government say that a market solution to Virgin is the best thing since sliced bread. Well, we're about to see what that market is about to deliver, and we think it is going to be a reduced budget airline with less jobs and less routes, and every one of the lost jobs is on this government because it took the decision that it was not going to intervene in this. It wasn't going to intervene before the company went into administration and wasn't going to intervene or do anything to actually support Australian jobs by making sure the millions of dollars going to this company had some guarantee around work. We're seeing what's happening with Qantas and the outsourcing there as well. Again, this points very clearly to the failure of the government to actually have a national aviation plan that is in the national interests of this country, and it is absolutely disgraceful. (Time expired)

10:27 am

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

What an interesting year 2020 has been. When we came back from the Christmas holidays of 2019, we could hardly have imagined, in the depths and midst of the bushfire crisis at the start of the year, that at the end of 2020 we would be dealing with a global health crisis precipitated by the coronavirus. Many in my electorate over this last nine months or so have found their lives changed irrevocably, and we've all had to recalibrate what we do, why we do it and how we do it. Many have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, families have struggled to make ends meet and many of our small and family businesses have also been affected, particularly those in the retail, hospitality and tourism sectors.

The importance of this budget can't be understated in view of what has happened this year. What this budget was all about was providing hope to Australians that there is opportunity in the future. The Treasurer said in his budget speech that there are early signs that the Australian economy is fighting back. Businesses are reopening their doors and people are getting back to work. Of the 1.3 million people who lost their jobs or were stood down early in the crisis, more than 760,000 are now back working. And I've seen that in my electorate. Of the people whose businesses have reopened and, surprisingly, even the people that have taken a chance and started a new business during this crisis are doing well and prospering. But they are doing well and prospering because of the sense of confidence that the supports that this government has provided over the last nine months have worked. They are supporting people through difficult times. It is this light at the end of the tunnel that we seek to provide and Australians can be confident the Morrison government is there to support them and their families on the road to recovery. What is important is that often we can talk about things such as support and help and assistance, but what's more important in times of crisis is that it's actually delivered. That's what this government has done. It has delivered the supports necessary for individuals and families, for businesses and the broader community, to get through this crisis and be in reasonable shape to recover and rebuild our economy as we come out of this crisis and the COVID-19 impacts wane over time.

This budget lays out our plans for that economic recovery, and fundamental to these plans is jobs. Our plans are about creating the opportunity for our businesses and individuals to build new businesses and create jobs to employ people, because we know that economic activity that employs people is what creates our economic wealth. It's about getting Australians back to work and, importantly, securing the future for thousands of young Australians, who also have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. Our plans put everyday Australians front and centre of the recovery, not government, because on this side of the chamber we recognise that it's everyday Australians, through their hard work, ingenuity, grit and determination, who will carry this nation forward into the future. It's not about the government constantly being involved in that. It's about letting Australians get on with what they do best. Government is not the solution; our Australians are.

There are Australians like Terry Gulliver, who owns and operates Gullivers Coomera on the northern Gold Coast. Terry founded the small family owned business way back in 1998 and has since grown the business to one of the Gold Coast's largest swim schools, delivering 65,000 lessons a year and a sports based outside school hours care program. Gullivers Coomera was the pilot used in 2003 to launch the federal government's outside school hours care program, which is now active right across the country. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gullivers Coomera employed a total of 53 staff. When the pandemic hit, Terry faced the prospect of having to close his business and stand staff down. Fortunately, the Morrison government's JobKeeper program meant Terry could retain 46 of his 53 staff and eventually even hire four more workers during this period. He also took advantage of our expanded instant asset write-off by purchasing two new state-of-the-art water purification systems at a cost of $60,000. Importantly, these were manufactured by a local business down the road at Nerang, Brauer Industries. This is a story of growth, following one of the most difficult periods in our nation's history. Importantly, it's not unique. I'm sure many members in this place would tell similar stories of recovery and growth happening across communities around the country and, importantly, in my electorate of Forde.

The Morrison government's 2020-21 budget is one designed and focused on jobs. It is designed to build on the measures that have saved jobs and create even more jobs in order to drive the economic recovery in the electorate of Forde and across the nation. Measures such as providing a temporary tax incentive will allow around 18,000 businesses in Forde to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase, building on the government's successful instant asset write-off measure announced earlier this year. This measure will allow thousands of businesses in Forde like Gullivers Coomera to invest in and grow their businesses. Terry has already told me that, as a result of these tax incentives, he will purchase for his business new pool covers, a coffee machine, a new air-conditioning system and a new bus to improve his services to the community and grow his business. This represents investments of over $130,000 for this year alone, in the middle of a pandemic.

Why is this important? Well, I think we can use this one example, of Gullivers Coomera, to explain why when we break down the impacts of this business investment in the local community. As I mentioned earlier, Terry's $60,000 water purification system meant work for local Nerang based manufacturers Brauer Industries. When I was at Gullivers recently, I was speaking to the technicians from Brauer who installed the system. They were saying over 90 per cent of the components of the system were sourced from local supply chains in Australia, so there were jobs created through the installation. There were also jobs created through the installation and maintenance of the pool covers. The installation of new air conditioning means work for our local installers and electricians. And the new bus will need to be maintained and serviced, which means more jobs for local mechanics and service centres. In just this one example we can see how the government, acting as a catalyst for recovery, is enabling business to invest and grow while creating dozens of jobs in the process.

It is not just business benefitting from the budget. There are also hardworking Australians who will benefit from the tax relief delivered by bringing forward stage 2 of our legislated personal income tax plan by two years, and extending the low- and middle-income tax offset for an additional year. This measure alone means some 79,200 taxpayers in Forde will benefit from tax relief of up to $2,745 this year to support their spending on their lifestyles, and to help them get through this difficult period. Treasury estimates the personal income tax relief from this budget will create an additional 50,000 jobs by the end of 2021-22. These jobs will come from locals spending in their community on the things they want and need, because this government has ensured that more of what they earn stays in their pockets. They get to make the decision on how they spend it.

In addition, some 17,186 aged pensioners and 2,686 carers in Forde have already received economic support payments of $750 in April and July, and will receive a further $250 in payments in December and in March next year. This will support senior Australians and those on income support in a particularly difficult time, and further support our economic recovery. Senior Australians like Diane and Gordon Bradbury, who live at Palm Lake Resort at Waterford, used the initial economic support payments on some unforeseen medical expenses, repairs to the car and to help the family. They told me the additional payments announced in the budget were a welcome boost to their household, allowing them to bring forward plans on purchasing some new furniture. Stories like Diane and Gordon's are not unique across the electorate of Forde, and thousands of residents are benefitting from the Morrison government's strong economic management, which has put us in a position of strength to respond to this crisis with targeted economic support while keeping Australians safe. That's what this is all about. It's about giving Australians the support they need to face the challenges ahead.

This year has been tough for all of us, especially for young Australians, whether it's somebody who has just started at university or a new job, or decided to start a family or get into their first home. I know the past few months have been challenging for young people in Forde. We know now that many of the jobs lost at the beginning of the pandemic were held by young people, and that young Australians also face the greatest risk of long-term unemployment as a result of the recession. This budget seeks to prevent that from happening. The budget seeks to secure the future of young Australians by giving our kids a solid foundation to achieve their hopes and dreams. It secures their future by investing in skills and training, delivering incentives for employers to hire young people, helping Australians getting into their first home, cutting waste and superannuation and, where necessary—and importantly, as we know across this place—providing mental health support to young people who are struggling. Equally, it also guarantees the essential services many of our young people rely on, whether its education or health.

Locally, we've seen the impact of our positive plan for the economic recovery on our young people. Our plan has given businesses in the electorate of Forde the confidence they need to invest, grow and, importantly, hire young people, businesses like Holmwood Highgate at Loganholme, a local family owned business involved in advanced manufacturing. I had the great privilege of visiting Holmwood Highgate recently with the Prime Minister when he was in Queensland. We spoke to the owner, Wade Mellish. When I asked Wade what the budget meant for him and his business, he said, 'The budget has been a good stimulus to our business. What we can now do is go out and happily invest and be a successful business going forward because we have the confidence to invest in new technologies, put on apprentices and keep employing Australians to make good Australian products.' In fact, thanks to measures such as the JobMaker Hiring Credit and the Boosting Apprenticeships Commencements program, business owners across Forde, like Wade, can move forward having the confidence and the incentives to give young Australians a job. That's what this is all about: giving our kids the skills and opportunities they need for a successful life.

This budget also delivers on the infrastructure our communities need to get residents home sooner and safer, while creating much needed construction jobs to drive economic activity. Locally, the Morrison government is delivering $38 million in road safety upgrades and shovel-ready projects in Forde, with work starting this financial year. We're also getting on with fixing the M1 and upgrading the Mount Lindesay Highway, with a $37.5 million investment to upgrade the Mount Lindesay Highway at Park Ridge, duplicating the highway from Stoney Camp Road to Chambers Flat Road, creating a safer road to ensure commuters, tradies and transport companies can get home sooner and safer. Some of the road safety improvements include Beaudesert Beenleigh Road, Beenleigh Redland Bay Road and exits at exits 41, 45 and 49 on the M1. We are doing all this without raising taxes, because our strong economic management over the past six years has put us in a position of strength to respond to the challenges.

I commend this bill in its original form to the House.

10:42 am

Photo of Michelle RowlandMichelle Rowland (Greenway, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

I want to take this opportunity from the outset to thank the people of Greenway for getting through and continuing to get through what has obviously been a very trying time not only for Australia but for the world in both an economic and a health sense—and also an emotional sense. Certainly, there is, I believe, a great risk of complacency possibly being our biggest enemy at the moment. I said a couple of months ago that as I walked through the main street of Blacktown it was hard to find someone who didn't have a mask on, but then a couple of weeks later that all appeared to change. So I think we all need to ensure that we are maintaining social distancing, that we are not going to work when we're sick, that we are not sending our kids to school when they have symptoms. Another thing not a lot of people realise is that Western Sydney is a big place, as my friend the member for Werriwa will attest. Whilst there have been some outbreaks in various parts of Western Sydney—and we have had those at some shopping centres in my electorate and just adjoining my electorate—the reality is that right across Sydney there is a great risk. It doesn't matter where you live, whether it's Western Sydney or south-west Sydney. It depends upon all of us doing the right thing and ensuring that we don't become complacent.

The other thing that I wanted to note was that, more than ever, myself personally, my family and many people I engage with are very conscious of supporting local small businesses in any way they can. Be it through who you purchase from for home improvements and for your gardening, for example—I think we've all taken up, and are probably still at the tail end of, some special projects we thought sounded like a great idea a couple of months ago—more than ever, it's important to remain conscious of supporting local small businesses.

At the great risk of excluding the myriad small businesses and, in particular, restaurants and cafes that I frequent in my local area, I want to mention a couple. There's Sam's Gourmet Cafe in Riverstone, who, the last time I went there, were not able to accommodate sit-down customers, but are still serving the community and keeping everyone going; Limestone Cafe in Schofields; Young Lions Cafe in Blacktown; Borrowed Table in Kellyville Ridge; and Oregano & Oil in Blacktown. Walking through the main street of Blacktown, there has been, I believe, a sense of vibrancy. People are getting out and about, but we need to make sure that we do that in a very sensible way.

My electorate has a very large number of people of faith—and many different faiths, at that. This has been a very trying time for people of faith who are used to gathering in large congregations for events as well as regular weekly services. Last week I was so pleased to be able to join with some of my local community for a socially distanced and COVID-safe dinner. I've spoken in this place about the big functions that they have and how disappointing it was for them and also for me not to be able to attend one of their main gatherings this year. It was a delight to be able to have the opportunity to engage with them again as well as the Ahmadiyya Muslims at Marsden Park—a large number of whom live in my electorate—and to listen to how they've been coping and continuing that outreach with their various communities. I also had the opportunity not too long ago to catch up with Pastor Mark Tough, of St Clements Anglican Church in Lalor Park. As he was showing me through their church, he pointed out that it has been a difficult time for them but they have done what they needed to do.

On a personal note, I have spoken in this place a few times about my dad, who is a devout Catholic—a beautiful man of 88 years old who lives alone and independently. He made the decision very early on—it was a very difficult decision for him—to stop going to mass at St Bernadette's in Lalor Park. With the COVID restrictions, that was probably the best for him. As I continued to check up on him, he said to me, 'It's great; I go to mass every day'. I said, 'Dad, what are you talking about?' He goes to a virtual mass every day. He goes through the Catholic resources. It's always a delight, Dad, when you let me know which church you've popped up in. He contacted me a little while ago and he said, 'I just heard the best homily,' and he went through the homily and how great it was. I said, 'Who was it, Dad?' He said, 'It was a cathedral in Darwin.' So, of course, I contacted the member for Solomon and said, 'Look, my dad is a fan of your church,' and it just so happens that the member for Solomon is in the choir there. I take my hat off to those people of faith in my community who kept their faith strong—and whose faith has become stronger as a result of the pandemic.

I also want to send out some special well wishes to all those young people who have commenced or about to commence their HSC exams. We expect so much of our young people. I think two things in particular have come through in this pandemic. The first is how adaptable young people are. By and large, as I have engaged in various online forums, in particular, with young people, I have noted their sense of adaptability but also their sense of optimism. Whilst I don't want to undermine the fact that mental health is very important and needs the best support it can get, I think we sometimes underestimate young people a bit too much. They really are adaptable. They really are doing their best. I personally believe that much of this generation is going to come through stronger than mine came through. But, of course, there are many people who are going to need assistance, and I think it goes without saying we all support any measures that can be provided in a variety of formats, be they through health professionals or counsellors or giving parents the tools they need in order to support their children.

The second point related to that is: having gone through that period of virtual learning with my own eight-year-old, and having my three-year-old continue to go to preschool every day, especially during the height of the pandemic, I want to thank all those educators right around our community, and certainly around Australia, who have done such an outstanding job. The school pick-up and drop-off is a nightmare at the best of times when you have large housing developments, as I know the member for Werriwa has in her area. It's bad enough without a pandemic—the traffic problems and so forth. I take my hat off to all those local schools in Greenway who have adapted as best they can to do this for the safety of their children, their staff and their local communities. Thank you for that.

I want to make some mention of what is one of the centrepieces of Labor's budget reply—that is, child care. Greenway is a relatively young electorate. It is among the 25 youngest electorates by median age in the country. I have some 9½ thousand children under the age of five in my community, many of whom's families choose to utilise local childcare services so that their parents can work. As a consumer of child care myself, I can say how much I have valued that. I think we have all met those constituents. Invariably, it is the mother of the family unit who will say: 'I work three days a week. I would work four, and I'd love to work five, but any more than three and I actually start to lose money.' That simply does not make sense. It does not make sense from an equity perspective and it does not make sense from an economic perspective.

I think it's so important to make child care more affordable. The announcement that Labor has made, making child care more affordable for 97 per cent of families in the childcare system, is so vital. This will cut costs by between $600 and $2,900 a year, with no family being worse off. We would scrap the $10,560 childcare subsidy cap, which, as I said, often sees parents losing money from an extra day's work. I recently had the great pleasure of welcoming the Labor leader and the member for Kingston to Kids Early Learning in Lalor Park, which is operated by Blacktown City Council. What a fantastic job our local council childcare operators do. They were excluded from wage subsidy assistance. I take my hat off to Blacktown council and the other local councils in my area—but Blacktown in particular, who went to such extraordinary lengths to not lay anyone off and to keep their workforce gainfully employed.

In the short time I have remaining, I want to acknowledge the passing and legacy of one of Blacktown's great servicers: Dr Russ Dickens OAM, who was a councillor on the Blacktown City Council. He really did live and breathe Blacktown City. The fact that our community is the business hub it is today and a fantastic place to live, work and raise a family in is in no small part due to his 36-year public service contribution. Russ was first elected to Blacktown City Council as an independent councillor in September 1980 and served until 2016. He was mayor in 1987 and deputy mayor from 2012 to 2014. Russ was a Blacktown stalwart. He was a local veterinarian—probably, I would say, the best known vet in Blacktown. He cared for thousands of local pets. He was the person, including the entire period he was serving as a councillor, who would be at the Blacktown Pet Fest checking people's pets free of charge. You would go and visit him, and his place in Seven Hills—which I think everyone knew so well—would be a Noah's Ark. Russ's legacy extends far beyond Blacktown city. He was actually one of the first vets to study disease in koalas and provide clinical management advice. He was a founding member of the Australian Koala Foundation, a non-profit, non-government organisation dedicated to addressing the causes of population decline in koalas. I had the great privilege of serving alongside Russ on Blacktown City Council from 2004. In that time he was always a tenacious advocate. He was a strong believer in the ability to make immense and lasting changes in local government. He was also fiercely independent. He would vote the way the merits of the argument were going. He made conscious decisions, in many cases, to support either the incumbents or the opposition on council at the time, and there was absolutely no doubt about this man's integrity. I had tremendous respect for him. He was a very gently spoken, strong-willed man who always had Blacktown as his first priority but also the welfare of animals, which was his lifelong passion. I extend my deepest condolences to Lorina and their children, Sue, Helen, Jenny and Rowan. Vale, Dr Russ Dickens OAM.

10:56 am

Photo of Vince ConnellyVince Connelly (Stirling, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I rise to speak about the importance of critical minerals, particularly in Australia and into our future. Global supply chains have been rocked by COVID-19. While Australia has done comparatively well, we have not been immune, and supplies of many important goods have been strained. For some goods, this has been reasonably quick and easy to solve. For example, when we needed more face masks, resources were diverted towards domestic manufacture, and we were quickly able to solve those related problems. For other goods, however, shifting to domestic supply is much harder. We currently import 90 per cent of medicines, and the manufacturing of complex molecules that are safe for humans can't simply be easily switched on and off. We need to assess our broader supply chain risks and opportunities. Sadly, the 21st century has already seen several incidents of trade being used as a diplomatic weapon. The pandemic has compounded geopolitical relationships that were already under pressure, and the risk of trade restrictions being used as a foreign policy tool has substantially increased. Diversifying our export commodities and markets is therefore essential. We need to grapple with an uneasy realisation that, along with cost, supply risks and national resilience are extremely important considerations. Australia can and must adapt to this new reality and be prepared for future shocks. We can and must become more resilient.

The Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade has opened an inquiry into the strategic implications of COVID-19. The terms of reference for this inquiry include the identification of practical measures for an effective national resilience framework that will underpin Australia's economic and strategic objectives. I wish to speak about one of these measures: the full realisation of Australia's critical minerals potential. This has rightly been recognised as one of six key national priorities in the modern manufacturing strategy announced in the 2021 federal budget. I know that this is welcomed by Australian critical minerals companies such as Northern Minerals, in my home state of Western Australia. Critical minerals are those that are essential to the economy or national security of a country and have supply chains that are prone to disruption. Supply risk factors include production being concentrated in one or only a few countries, which are able to manipulate prices and export quantities; a lack of suitable substitutes; and a high risk of supply disruptions due to civil unrest, environmental factors such as floods, or political interference.

Those risk factors mean that critical minerals markets are almost always highly volatile. Almost all modern technology contains at least one component that requires a critical mineral. Consider our beloved smartphones. The touch screens are made of a film that contains indium. The microphones have neodymium magnets. Praseodymium, terbium, yttrium and gadolinium are used to make the vibrant colours in the displays. They're hard to pronounce, but all of those critical minerals are extremely important. Our National Broadband Network wouldn't work without the germanium that is added to the core of fibre-optic cables.

As the world looks to renewable energy, it's important to note that critical minerals are vital components of those technologies as well. Magnets made of neodymium, dysprosium, samarium and praseodymium are needed in wind turbines. Dysprosium stays magnetic at high temperatures, so it is used in electric cars to increase their efficiency, as well as their range. Vehicle manufacturers are concerned about the supplies of cobalt and lithium, which are important components of batteries. The list is endless. Basically, if something is new and innovative, more efficient and better for the environment, then it contains critical minerals. Although critical minerals are essential to modern technology, the amounts required are often minuscule. An electric car, for example, contains about 100 grams of dysprosium. The critical minerals trade is small compared to the trade in bulk commodities, like iron ore and coal.

Production concentration can make critical minerals a useful political weapon. An exporting country can restrict or halt supplies at little cost to its own economy. This will inflict significant damage to large value-adding manufacturing industries in importing countries. Japanese manufacturing is heavily reliant on rare-earth minerals, almost all of which are mined and processed in China. In 2010, during a dispute over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands, Beijing halted exports of rare earths to Japan. That sent a clear message to Japan and also to the rest of the world: 'Your economies need rare earths and only we produce them.' In the aftermath, the US took an assessment of its own economy and the findings were stark. If China or Russia were to stop exporting critical minerals for a protracted period, that would cause a significant economic shock to both the US and its allies.

The consequences are not just economic. There are critical minerals in a wide range of modern weaponry, including missiles and radar and targeting systems. As the world transitions to a low-carbon future, our current fleet of petrol and diesel vehicles will be replaced with electric or hydrogen models in the next 50 years. Whichever countries manufacture the billions of replacement vehicles will capture a significant slice of future economic growth. This leads us back to the 100 grams of dysprosium that I mentioned are in every electric car. Almost all dysprosium is currently produced in China. That will undoubtedly result in that country capturing a bigger share of electric vehicle manufacturing and/or gaining leverage over other nations that rely on dysprosium as a critical input to their own production. Australia has recently begun to produce rare earths on a modest scale and we have the capacity to produce a great deal more. This will reduce our economic reliance on our exports of raw materials, particularly iron ore and coal, and boost domestic manufacturing.

Countries right around the world are waking up to the importance of critical minerals to their economic wellbeing. The US is import-reliant on 31 critical minerals and, in 2017, President Trump signed an executive order implementing a critical minerals strategy for the US. The EU's critical raw minerals list defines 27 critical minerals, India considers itself reliant on 12 and Japan on 31. Australia also has a critical minerals strategy that was developed in 2019. While the major economies of the world are scrambling to secure their supplies, our strategy aims to position Australia as a reliable supplier. Around the world, there's a growing realisation that Australia has something that the rest of the world needs. We recently signed a memorandum of understanding with India, agreeing to work together to increase trade investment and R&D in the critical minerals sector. At the same time, Australia is working actively with the US towards a joint action plan, and this joint action plan will improve the resilience and the diversity of global critical minerals supply chains.

Realising this immense potential isn't as simple as commissioning another mine though, so the government is right to fund research and development of innovative ways to reduce costs, such as new drilling techniques or the use of big data to better target prospective deposits. In the near term, we also need to position ourselves as a preferred supplier for high-end manufacturers. In the medium to long term, our aim should be to shift value-adding manufacturing onshore. Most value is added after the mining and processing stages, and too much of that occurs outside of Australia. The Modern Manufacturing Strategy will assist in shifting value-adding activities onshore. Once produced, active trade diplomacy is also needed to develop our export potential. Investors need to be encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities Australia has to offer. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's efforts in this area are beginning to bear fruit. The Critical Minerals Facilitation Office has been set up for that purpose, and Austrade and the export credit agency also assist with investment into Australia.

Our mines will always need skilled geologists, engineers, explosive experts and competent operators, so it's also vitally important that we turn our attention to developing and maintaining an appropriate skills base here in Australia. A vibrant and adaptable education centre is going to play an essential role. If we are to progress to manufacturing in Australia, our university, TAFE and apprenticeship programs must be able to meet those needs and build our processing and manufacturing know-how.

We also need to think beyond just the minerals sector. We are an extremely large country and, whilst our wide open spaces are undoubtedly a blessing, remoteness does increase the costs of doing business. Australia's Critical Minerals Strategy rightly recognises that broader infrastructure investment is required to better connect remote Australia to roads, rail and ports. This will reduce the cost of doing business and increase the viability of projects in remote areas. Processing, refining and manufacturing are all energy intensive activities, so reliable and affordable energy will improve Australia's competitiveness in these areas and help us to capture more of the downstream value chain.

The blow delivered by COVID-19 has been substantial and has laid bare shortcomings in our supply chains. It is absolutely essential that Australia meets this changed world, as it is, with the confidence to make our own changes to secure our own better future in which we can continue to prosper. Clearly, as outlined today, critical minerals are going to play an important role in securing Australia's future—for the value that's added in mining these critical minerals, which are plentiful in Australia; for the value which will be added by processing more onshore; and for the value that will be added as we seek to export more processed critical minerals to the rest of the world. We must be able to withstand future shocks. We must be able to sustain critical goods and services during disruptions in an economically changed world. Although this will undoubtedly be a challenge, Australia has every reason to be rightly optimistic. We can produce critical minerals to meet our own future needs as well as the rest of the world's, and that will further enhance our enormous comparative advantage which we enjoy in mining and processing here in Australia.

11:10 am

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

I rarely do this in debates on the appropriation bills, but I want to extend my compliments to the previous speaker, the member for Stirling. It is good to hear MPs, members of parliament, who actually think about these issues. He's not used to people giving him compliments, so he's walking out. I'm actually giving you a compliment on your speech.

Hon. Members:

Honourable members interjecting

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

It is good to be able to hear a contribution without the usual blah, blah, blah that we get. You're someone who has obviously dedicated some time to the thinking and the application of that, and I commend you on your speech. That is what we should be using them for. It is important that we think beyond the talking points on these things.

I know that these budgets are marketing exercises, but this budget was marketing on steroids. It was fully pumped up. When I look at the budget and the contributions that members of parliament give during the budget session, particularly on the appropriations, which is what we are talking about now, you can either talk about the budget at the national level or at the specific local level. There are a whole range of ways that you can slice and dice these things. From my perspective, I will be talking about a national issue that has a critical impact on my area—and I suspect on my colleagues' electorates too—and that is infrastructure.

I come from a part of Western Sydney, north-west Sydney, which the member for Bennelong would be broadly familiar with. We have 200,000 people moving into our part of the world. If you're going to move so many people in, you've got to make sure that the infrastructure is there to move them around. I've got a lot of regard for the member for Bennelong's commitment to a massive, truly nation-building project, which is high-speed rail. I think it will have a big impact in the longer term if we get it right.

We talk about decentralisation. Today is six years to the day that Labor icon Gough Whitlam passed away, back in 2014. He was big on decentralisation and did a lot to encourage it. We owe it to people that have gone before us, who thought about this, to progress it.

One of the things that I'm proud to stand with a coalition member, the member for Bennelong, on is high-speed rail. I think it would genuinely change the way the nation goes—twinned with high-speed broadband. It would mean that people could work remotely and, if they needed to travel, they could live remotely and move quickly. If we were able to get this connected between Brisbane and Melbourne, it would transform the place. That would be infrastructure investment that would make a difference. It would create a lot of jobs, change the way we live and change the dynamic of the way the nation operates. In time, if you had the vision, you could see it connect up other parts of the country as well. It would be a leading thing to do. It would be good to do.

In my part of the world, governments love to announce new homes being built, but they never like to pay for them. By that I mean putting the infrastructure in place so that people aren't crammed in like sardines on the main roads or on public transport. In my part of the world, I'm looking at 200,000 people moving in. We've already got roads that are choked after they were built up just a few years ago. Richmond Road out near Marsden Park has dual lanes either side. That was increased from a single lane either side a few years ago. It's already choked. People can't move.

Recently on TV, on Channel Nine, a resident talked about how his neighbour had moved into the new estate in Elara, Marsden Park and then moved back to Wentworthville. He had his dream home, but he moved his family out because it took him 25 minutes to get from where he lived in the estate to the main road, because the main road was already choked and that created a backlog all the way through. This is what people are putting up with.

I've spoken about that. I've also spoken about other bottlenecks in our area that I was really hoping we'd get some money in this budget to fix. I wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister about Francis Road and Railway Street and the Davis overpass upgrade in the Rooty Hill and Mount Druitt area. This road connects to the Mount Druitt Hospital. Every day you see traffic lined up. It's another road in my area that's choked. I wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister. He took his sweet time to respond. He sent me a typical response—blah, blah, blah. The letter said: 'The Australian government remains committed to delivering a $100 billion 10-year infrastructure pipeline'—blah, blah, blah—'laying the foundations for a financial bridge'—blah—'to meet the challenges of a fast-growing population'—blah, blah, blah—'to support jobs and the economy to stem the economic impact of COVID-19.' All the little catchphrases and fancy phrases are in there. There's $100 billion over 10 years.

Last year there was an underspend of the infrastructure budget under this Deputy Prime Minister and infrastructure minister. There was $1.7 billion they didn't spend in the last financial year. How could that escape any normal person? They would all say that, with all the stuff that's going on in this country, how can you underspend by $1.7 billion? If you go back over the course of this government, you'll see that they're underspending $1 billion a year. They talk about $100 billion over 10 years as a financial bridge, but there are all these holes in the bridge that we just passed and that was just laid out. They are underspending all the time.

There are all these people who are frustrated. They don't see the infrastructure working. I don't see the Metro North West, which stops at Tallawong, getting connected to St Mary's. One of the busiest transport connections from Penrith to the city—the T1 line—even according to the New South Wales government's own statistics, is late three out of five days. It's crowded and it's late. We haven't had a plan to decongest that rail line since Kristina Keneally was the Premier. There has been no plan. Minister Andrew Constance can't fit a ferry under a bridge or put new trains on tracks—they don't fit properly and have to be refitted. The can't-do minister, Andrew Constance, teamed up with the no-clue infrastructure minister, Michael McCormack. We are depending on them to generate jobs through infrastructure at a time when COVID is having an impact, and they can't do that right.

The infrastructure minister was asked recently about people in the north-west feeling like the airport is sucking up all the infrastructure dollars. He was asked what he is doing for them there. His answer to those infrastructure problems in north-west Sydney was, 'We're putting all this money into the second airport.' That second airport will not help at all the people on clogged roads or on late trains. They are now connecting another rail line to St Mary's from the airport. It isn't going to open for six years. Meanwhile, you have 200,000 people moving into north-west Sydney, the trains being late and the roads being clogged. They're not getting the support that they need. You need to decongest the rail line, connect the Metro North West—and I commend the New South Wales Liberal government for building this; I had my doubts about it, but it is a good rail system—and build the M9, which is the next motorway parallel to the M7. There is nothing about that in the budget.

When I asked Michael McCormack, the infrastructure minister, to fund Francis Road, which connects to the Mount Druitt Hospital and has ambulances on it attending to emergencies, he said, 'No, I can't.' He said, 'Should the New South Wales government prioritise the project you've mentioned, the Australian government would be prepared to consider a request for funding.' That's what he said. What happens when citizens ask for infrastructure funding to be delivered? They don't get heard. Who gets heard? The cronies get heard, like Daryl Maguire, who doesn't even represent Western Sydney—he's from Wagga Wagga. He was getting meetings with key officials in the New South Wales government, as revealed by ICAC, plus the New South Wales Premier, and getting the ear of those people for infrastructure projects and decisions around the second airport, in an area that he does not represent. He is not an MP for that area. He gets their ear, but the ordinary citizen gets ignored. It's wrong, wrong, wrong that cronies get prioritised above citizens in this case, when they're stuck in traffic and stuck on late trains. It's wrong. That's the reason, more than anything else, that I think the Premier should go out of New South Wales, in terms of allowing that to happen, turning a blind eye, allowing this to happen under the Premier's watch, with this 'can't do' minister in Andrew Constance, who couldn't fit a ferry under a bridge. They had all that stuff happen.

Then, when you look at the budget papers—this is Budget Paper No. 2—and you turn to infrastructure in New South Wales, let me read these projects. There is $600 million for the New England Highway, a coalition seat; another $600 million for the Newell Highway, a coalition seat; $490 million for the Coffs Harbour bypass, a coalition seat; $360 million for Newcastle, because you have to have some Labor in there to make it look slightly legitimate; $150 million for grade separating roads in places—I'm sure the bulk of that will go to coalition seats; $120 million for the Prospect Highway—in part that covers a Labor seat; $94 million for Heathcote Road upgrade, a coalition seat; $63 million for Dunheved Road, a marginal Liberal seat; $60 million here the M1 North Smart Motorway, largely through Liberal seats to the Warringah freeway; $46 million for Mulgoa Road upgrade, a Liberal seat.

That is coalition infrastructure spending right there. But if you're in a Labor seat and you have high growth, you get nothing—nothing at all. It's not about the needs of the citizen; it's about the needs of the politician. That's the way it's working with infrastructure. It is plain wrong. People should be getting the support that will make their lives easier.

It's not just about clearing people off clogged roads or late trains. The infrastructure projects themselves deliver jobs while the build is on, but in my part of the world, if for example you see the M7 and M9 built, you open up economic lands between those two motorways. The movement of people in between there as well means it is not just about residents; it is businesses. We transform that part of the world, as we see right now with the Sydney Business Park in Marsden Park, which is creating 60,000 direct and indirect jobs. Everyone talks about the second airport as having an impact on my area. Garbage. Having the second airport creates as much economic activity for me here as saying that Sydney Airport creates all this economic activity in Hornsby. I am sure it delivers economic activity close to where the airport is, but it doesn't uniformly deliver it. But if you get the infrastructure moving in my part of the world, there are business and industrial parks that open up that create a diversity of business opportunities in the area. New jobs get generated. This whole idea is that if you want to see locals working close by, not having to travel long distances—the 30-minute city, as it has been called—you see that actually happen.

The other thing is that by having the broader infrastructure improvements in terms of rail, stopping those late trains, seeing faster movement of people, in big cities you can have the 30-minute city, but the big productivity benefit is that you are always going to be moving people from the west to the east in a city like Sydney. You are going to need to get them into the Sydney CBD—that's a reality. So get them moving faster. Clear up the western expressway, that T1 line. Decongest that rail line. Get people moving in. Have alternative ways of moving people around by connecting up the Sydney Metro to St Marys railway station so you have the metro and the T1 connected. That's the longer-term stuff. By the way, connecting the metro up to St Marys is not in the Chifley electorate. That is in the Lindsay electorate. It's a Liberal electorate. Again, picking up on what the member for Bennelong has said about his vision, he's not arguing for high-speed rail for his electorate, he's arguing it for the nation. I'm arguing it for the city of Sydney, so we are on a unity ticket there my friend. That's the way it should work. There will be some people who'll say, 'All those projects that you read out that were in coalition seats, well the coalition won government.' It was very close, and not all projects can be in coalition seats; infrastructure dollars should be for the benefit of a broader number of Australians. That's why this budget should be condemned, because it is for pork barrels rather than people.

11:25 am

Photo of Gavin PearceGavin Pearce (Braddon, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me pleasure to speak to Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021 this morning. This year's federal budget represents the next phase of the Morrison government's economic recovery plan. There's no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic. The statistics are sobering, and, on the ground in my region, the impact on businesses and on Tasmanian families right across the north-west, the west coast and King Island has often been heartbreaking.

When the crisis first hit this year, it was the responsibility of the federal government to provide support to all Australians in this time of need and in this time of crisis. They expect it and they deserve it. The Morrison government has been there for all Australians, and the programs needed to cushion the blow have been put into place. The response to the COVID pandemic has been swift and effective, and centred on a comprehensive, targeted strategy. Whether it's JobKeeper, JobSeeker, the $750 cash payment to the householder or cashflow boosts, the government provided the lifeline that many businesses and individuals needed to keep them afloat when the pandemic first struck.

These programs and these measures have done their job in Tasmania. To that end, the NAB business survey for September 2020 confirmed that Tasmania is once again bucking the national trend when it comes to businesses confidence about their futures. They understand that the government has their back. Tasmania continues to be ranked first in the nation for business conditions, more than 20 points higher than the national average. It's great news for the north-west, the west coast and King Island, and it puts us in a strong position as we recover from the impacts of COVID-19 and we rebuild our community and our economy. The survey also indicated that Tasmania was one of two states that have seen positive business confidence. The Deloitte Access Economics business outlook report for the September 2020 quarter also confirms the government's strategies are working on the ground in states like the great state of Tasmania. The report indicated that, despite the pandemic, Tasmania's economy is forecast to grow strongly. Importantly, Tasmanians are starting to spend again, to the point that retail trade has bounced back to above pre-COVID levels.

On the jobs front, nearly 16,000 jobs have now returned since the state reached the height of the pandemic impacts in May. These statistics are testimony to the important partnership between the Morrison government and the Tasmanian Liberal government, led by Peter Gutwein. But, of course, there is much more to be done, and we can't rest on our laurels. Business still needs us, and Tasmanians still need us. It's time to move to the next phase. It's time to shift the focus, to move from crisis management to recovery; to supercharge job creation, to stimulate the economy and to drive investment; and to provide direct assistance to families, to encourage them to continue to spend in our circular economy.

It's important to understand that government's role is not to drive our economy. It doesn't do that. That is not its job. It's businesses role to drive our economy, and we understand full well that businesses, particularly small businesses, are the engine room of our economy. They will be responsible for leading us out of this dark place. Businesses have always driven our economy, and it will be businesses that will lead us out of this pandemic. The government's role is to provide the opportunities for businesses to get back on their feet, to streamline process and to support them, to give them the tools that they need to go about their business. That's the focus of this budget. That's where the focus lies: getting businesses back up and going again, getting employees back into jobs and getting businesses spending and investing in our local communities.

Quite rightly, the 2020 budget's priority areas are job creation and business support and skills development. This is an investment in our future that will ensure, as our region rebuilds from this pandemic, we are best placed to maximise the benefits of emerging opportunities. The budget does not just focus on getting us back to where we were before COVID-19 but it's targeted at ensuring that our region is able to take advantage of all opportunities that lie ahead of us. It prioritises the opportunities available and ensures that everyone—whether you are young or old, whether you live in the city or the bush—can make the most of these opportunities and to be the best that they can be.

This budget, more than any budget before, recognises the vital contribution of our regional communities—like ours, like the one I'm proud of and I represent today—and the part that we play in our nation's prosperity. We are the food bowl of the nation when it comes to dairy, beef and minerals. We are a leader in advanced manufacturing and defence manufacturing, and we're home to one of Australia's great regional universities. During the initial outbreak of the pandemic, it was these industries that did the heavy lifting. It was these industries that were the first to start the recovery, and they underpinned our initial economic response to the pandemic. I want to thank every last one of them. Every last small business in Tasmania that did the hard yards, that kept people on, that kept them employed, that took that extra step and made those employees part of their business family, I thank you all for that. This budget focuses on what needs to be done to take our region to the next level.

I now want to take a little time to talk about the JobMaker Hiring Credit, which I think is a wonderful and very worthwhile initiative. The JobMaker Hiring Credit is a game changer in my region. It's already working. Businesses right across the region are looking to employ new staff because of this important initiative. I was contacted by Catalyst Business Improvement last week. They're a great small business in Devonport on the north-west coast. They told me that the program is a winner and that they were looking at putting three or four new staff on because of that JobMaker Hiring Credit. 'Great policy at work,' they said. It's working on the ground. I have no doubt that the JobMaker Hiring Credit will make a huge difference right across our region, giving businesses, small, medium and large, the extra motivation to employ young people and to grow their business to the level that they should be at. This will improve the economic, health and social outcomes for the region and will reduce the scarring from long-term unemployment, and we know where that leads us.

The JobTrainer and new apprenticeship program is, again, a wonderful and very worthwhile strategy in our budget. It strengthens the skills and training system and is a priority for this government, a priority that is reflected in the budget. The $1 billion JobTrainer program will provide up to an additional 347,700 training places right across the country from school leavers up to people that are entering tertiary and vocational job institutions. School leavers and jobseekers, right across the north-west, the west coast and King Island in my electorate, will benefit from this increased access to low-face-to-face free training under this significant investment. Over $21 million will be injected into Tasmanian's vocational education system. And $10.52 million from the Australian government, matched dollar for dollar by the Tasmanian Liberal government, will increase this important role in our VET system. The JobTrainer Fund represents substantial and significant investment in Tasmania's training system and continues to be government's commitment as we ensure that the state's VET system delivers quality training for learners and is representative of the needs of people living in the region.

Complementing this program is the new apprenticeship and trainee wage subsidy program, and, importantly, the budget has extended the subsidies that include businesses of all sizes, in all industries and in all locations—that's important for my region. Employers will be able to receive subsidies for up to 50 per cent of the wages for a newly commencing apprentice or trainee to the value of $7,000 per quarter. That makes a real difference on the ground to a business. I know this program is fit for purpose and is exactly what our region needs.

I want to talk about our tax relief and support payments. The best way to stimulate an economy and economic activity isn't to tax people; it's about getting businesses back spending money again. The 2020 budget provides an additional $17.8 billion in personal income tax relief to support the economic recovery. Around 36½ thousand taxpayers across the north-west, the west coast and King Island will benefit from tax relief of up to $2,745 per year. The timing of this couldn't have been better for the region. We're moving into the vital Christmas spending period, and it's important for families to have a few dollars to spare. This Christmas will not look like any other, but this measure will ensure that thousands of hardworking people in Tasmania will have a little bit extra money in their pocket when it's important. This means that those businesses who are relying on Christmas spending will get that extra boost that they need, right when they need it.

Also supported in the region are lower-income people and pension recipients. Around 16,740 recipients across the region will benefit from two separate payments of $250, the first being delivered prior to Christmas. That'll make a real difference. Our tax relief is also targeted at business, supporting economic activity. The extension of the government's successful instant asset write-off will allow over 99 per cent of all businesses to deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets of any value in the year that they are installed—a game changer for business. I don't have to go too far across my electorate to see people who are taking that measure up. Truck drivers, farmers, family people, printers, accountants, you name it—they've all told me how great the measure is and how much of a difference it's making to them to get them back on their feet. I don't have to go too far to find business owners taking this measure up either. Businesses in the transport industry, agriculture, printers, accountants, our forestry industry, our thriving fishing industry—they're all taking this up and it's all helping to get businesses more confident and spending money again.

Agriculture is a key part of my region's prosperity, and this budget will inject an additional $2 billion into projects through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. This announcement will go further to strengthen the industry. Irrigation water is liquid gold, and it's important to my farmers. In the partnership between the state government and the federal government, our pipeline to prosperity is a statewide irrigation plan that's expected to provide almost 78,000 megalitres of water and create 2½ thousand full-time jobs. It will trigger an additional $150 million of on-farm private investment and inject an estimated $114 million into this sector just this year. It's incredible.

I also welcome the inclusion of Project Marinus as one of the three key project areas of the federal government's injection of funds. We share in the $250 million to accelerate this major transmission project across Australia, continuing to deliver more affordable, more reliable electricity, underwriting dispatchable energy and shoring up the energy that renewables are making in our energy system. The Marinus Link represents, once again, a generational opportunity for the region. It means that we are able to deliver the valuable hydroelectricity capability that we have in the state to the mainland in their time of need, to shore up the national electricity grid's requirement for dispatchable energy and provide my state with a revenue source as we go forward—not just for today, not just for tomorrow, but for many years to come. The project will deliver many jobs and is a key driver for training opportunities, particularly across the north-west. We've invested $7.1 billion into our economy and creating thousands of jobs in our region.

I have great faith in our region's local councils and I talk to them on a regular basis. Across my region, there are eight great councils, which are elected by the people for the people, and they continue to do a great job through this pandemic. It's our local councils who best understand how to spend that money and what their communities really need. That's why I welcome the budget's announcement that there will be an additional $1 billion for local governments through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. It's a great program, and they really appreciate it. This builds on an initial $500 million announced in May this year, and this funding will facilitate grassroots, community-led recovery plans right across our eight local government areas. It empowers local government in our region and, again, it gives them confidence. The 2020 budget provides our region with a range of programs and opportunities that support them through the pandemic. I know that they all appreciate the work that not only the state government but also the federal government have done and will continue to do, and that they will stand by them. They know they have their back and that they will be back in business and jobs.

11:40 am

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As we know, in 2020, Australians are living through a global pandemic. They're also living through the reality of the worst national account figures since the 1930s. As it is across the country, people in my community of Dunkley are feeling the economic impacts—there is no doubt—and also the mental health and other impacts of the restrictions that we are living through in order to save lives and suppress the virus. There is no doubt that reviving economic growth and creating jobs are critical challenges facing Australia's leaders and will be for many years to come. As we imagine a post-COVID or COVID-normal Australia, whatever they may be, we also need to ask ourselves: are the traditional measures of national income, such as GDP, sufficient indicators of our progress? I don't believe that they are. As economist Simon Kuznets said:

The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income.

In a speech to the University of Kansas back in 1938, Senator Robert Kennedy noted:

The gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.

So, while economic prosperity, fairly shared, must play a central role in our national agenda, in order for Australia and Australians to truly thrive, that economic prosperity should be embedded in a larger story of wellbeing—a story of people and of communities; a story of the places that we live in and that we love.

Reflecting on the way in which my constituents in Dunkley have responded to the challenges of 2020 and the issues that they have asked me, as their federal member, to champion in this place, they describe to me social connectedness, opportunities to participate in community, equitable access to physical and mental health support, employment and education, and the preservation of our local environment as part of our national and global environment. There is no doubt that people in my community care about economic growth, but they care about a lot more as well. In July this year—which simultaneously seems like not a long time ago and approximately 20 years ago—more than 70 locals responded to an open invitation that I put out on Facebook to attend a virtual charities and community groups forum. At the start of this forum, there was some discussion about the dearth of government funding and support for individual and group projects—at all levels of government, it must be said—but very quickly the participants themselves drove the conversation towards how they could work together to deliver programs and resources for those in our community who find themselves isolated or disadvantaged. Rather than pushing their own barrels, our charities in Frankston, Carrum Downs, Langwarrin, Mount Eliza, and all of the suburbs in Dunkley, and the community groups, sporting groups and arts societies that were there all wanted to explore with each other what they could do together, because they knew that together they could achieve what none of them could ever hope to do alone.

So, as I speak today on this appropriations bill, on the budget that the government has handed down in this historic year, the message I want to bring foremost to the debate from my community is that we genuinely are all in this together and now is not the time in our nation's journey for piecemeal, short-sighted or divisive leadership. Now is the time to do what we need to do to get through the crisis we're facing but to also step back for a moment and reflect—because not only can we grow wealthy again; we can also grow wise and well by working together towards the future we want.

In that spirit, I want to put forward a number of suggestions that I would ask the government to look at and consider as they move forward over the next 12 months. Some of them we know the government won't accept, but I will continue to put them, and others I put forward as ideas that I think are worthy of consideration. So, rather than taking this opportunity to attack the government, I want to take this opportunity to say, 'Here are some things that, on behalf of my community, I would like you to consider.'

Having had a forum with childcare workers in Victoria, I would like the government to consider restoring JobKeeper to Victorian childcare workers and to help that very female dominated industry, the workers and the people who run the centres to continue to function. I would like the government to look at what is happening to Victorian businesses, in particular, and keep JobKeeper at its initial level through the second wave and as we come out of it. We know that, in the same two weeks that the level of JobKeeper was cut, there were 110,000 jobs lost across Australia in every state and territory, not just in Victoria—but we are doing it hard in Victoria, because we have had a second wave that we have had to deal with.

I would like the government to do more than lean into the idea that Newstart can't go back to $40 a day as at December, and actually commit to a long-term increase to unemployment benefits that is above the poverty line—not just because so many more people will be relying on unemployment benefits, sadly, over the next 12 months but also because it's the right thing to do. It's the right thing to do to help people to be able to function as they're looking for work and to help people to be able to look after their families as they're looking for work.

I would like the government to look at travel agents and the travel industry. Travel agents in my community participated in a Zoom forum with me last week. It's not their fault that international borders have been closed—as they had to be closed. It's not their fault that the COVID virus appears to be raging around most of the rest of the world who haven't had the same success as Victoria in suppressing a second wave. It's not their fault that they not only are devastated now but also can't see where their income will come in the next 12 months. They need some targeted assistance, because they tell me that the measures in the budget aren't going to assist them.

I would like the government to look at how to provide more support for not only the workers over the age of 35 who were unemployed before the pandemic but also, particularly, the almost one million workers over the age of 45 who have lost their jobs during the pandemic to help them get back into work. The Restart program, though well intentioned, isn't working and hasn't been working to help older workers find long-term, secure work. There is more and more evidence coming out that shows that, if you are over the age of 50 and you lose your job, it is almost impossible to find another job. That is wrong for people but it is also wrong for our economy that people who are sometimes in the prime of their working life are on the scrap heap. So I would like the government to work more towards doing that.

I'd like the government to build on the things that it started to do recently to help bring home more Australians who have found themselves stranded overseas because of border closures. I would like the government to look at some of the policies that Anthony Albanese announced in his budget reply speech, including, importantly, rewiring the electricity grid, so that we can genuinely become a renewable superpower and so that our electricity grid can be the NBN of energy and be fit for purpose for this century and as we go forward.

It would be remiss of me not to ask the government, on behalf of the many constituents who have contacted me about their or their parents' experiences in aged care, before the pandemic and now, to look at investing more money into that system. I'd also ask them to do more than just invest more money and really look at how we can fix that broken system. It's a system that has been undermined for many years, but the government have the opportunity now to do something about it, and I respectfully request that they do more about it. There are 100,000 people waiting for home-care packages. Keeping people at home for as long as possible is absolutely in their and their family's best interests.

Affordable child care is an economic stimulus investment. It's about productivity. It's about more women being able to be in the workforce. It's also about something that I don't think has been spoken about much yet in the national conversation. I can anecdotally point to my friends and say affordable child care and allowing women to go back to work more days a week is about helping women's career progress. Often women's careers are stunted for a period of time when they have young children, because their colleagues are working full time and they're not able to. It's also a very good measure to stimulate our economy. It's about disposable income—and the Grattan Institute has put out a report that I think is very important to look at.

People are now talking about our arts and culture industry and the over $100 billion that it contributes to the economy every year. This is now an opportunity, because it has been hit so badly by the pandemic, to look at developing an arts and culture strategy and policy for this country, not just for now but for the future. It's an opportunity for the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts to grab this opportunity, develop a new form of Paul Keating's Creative Nation and really support Australian voices, faces and talent in this country as we go forward.

I would like to see greater investment in homelessness services and social housing.

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Hear, hear!

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm on a House of Representatives committee looking at this—with its deputy chair, who is in the Chamber—and there is a real bipartisan willingness, I think, to acknowledge the significant problem and that work needs to be done going forward. We've handed down an interim report, which I know the minister will look at. I urge the government to reconsider direct investment in fixing and building social housing, as one of the things out of that.

Everyone knows that I talk about women's health a lot; in particular, breast cancer because of my personal experience. We know that coming out of this pandemic there is going to be a greater burden on our health system because of the number of people who haven't accessed treatment and testing, who haven't even gone to their local GP, because either the services haven't been available or they've been scared to go because of COVID. The Breast Cancer Network Australia is really concerned about the number of women who in the next 12 months will find themselves diagnosed with a breast cancer that should have been caught earlier, and the need for more services, such as palliative care. I urge the government to look at that and the Minister for Health to look at that as well.

I urge the government to rethink its position on universities. I know this is a politically contested space, but I'm the daughter of a university lecturer who, after he was a public school teacher, was head of the school of education at Charles Sturt University in country New South Wales, and my father wouldn't forgive me if I didn't take this opportunity to say that people like my father are very concerned about the equity of children from poorer communities. He's concerned they won't be able to go to university, because they face leaving with a massive debt. It was a long time ago now, but I know that friends of mine at Kooringal High School in Wagga Wagga didn't do their chosen subjects because their parents couldn't afford to support them. I can't imagine what they would think now if they were facing, for example, a $58,000 debt on leaving university.

We know we have a shortage at the moment, unbelievably, of nurses, welders, bricklayers, engineers and hairdressers in this country. We urgently need skilling up in those areas. We urgently need some reforms to our democracy and our processes—the Uluru Statement from the Heart and an Indigenous voice to parliament. I would ask the government to look at reforms such as four-year terms. Australia needs to become a republic. And, of course, there are the fledgling green shoots of improved trust in politicians and government that we've seen during the COVID crisis, because governments have taken decisions based on experts, scientists and medical advice, not for political interests in the majority of instances and broadly. We need to tender those green shoots. We need to fertilise them. We need to help them grow into trees. Integrity commissions and parliamentary standards are important, and I ask the government to look at them as well.

11:55 am

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

In the hurly-burly of debate, discussion, disagreement and argument in this place we can often forget what a momentous, challenging, different, extraordinary year 2020 has been. The nature of the year and the circumstances in which our country and, indeed, the world find themselves as a result of COVID-19 is the backdrop for this budget, for which the appropriation bills we're debating today form the basis.

I think it is worth taking a few moments to remind the House of some of the things that have happened this year, because it does feel like it has been such a long year, because so much has happened this year that has put in place the questions to which this budget is an answer. This year, in one month alone more than one million Australians lost their jobs or saw their work hours reduced to zero. We've had over eight million people tested for COVID. Over 27,000 Australians have been diagnosed with coronavirus, and, sadly, over 900 people have died. Hundreds of thousands of Australians have had their international travel plans cancelled. As a result of that, business opportunities stalled. Family reunions were put on hold. People pressed the pause button on their opportunity to go and see and explore the world. Internally in Australia families have been separated due to some of the internal border closures which have caused such disruption to our country. People who ran successful businesses, who risked everything, turned up to work one day to find a business that was going gangbusters completely flattened. Major companies in industries as diverse as travel, like Virgin Australia, or clothing, like Tigerlily, have gone into administration. Families have had to juggle working from home, teaching their children from home and the pressures that that has placed on daily life. People have dealt with fear and uncertainty alongside isolation, and those challenges have been particularly acute in Victoria, where people have been locked down for so long.

Australia is remarkable in its ability to persevere and adapt to change. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was fond of saying, 'To be born in Australia is to win the lottery of life.' I think coronavirus has demonstrated we are so lucky to be here—it's something my constituents say to me all the time—because of the good leadership of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the health minister and the officials who have put together the extraordinary response to COVID-19, and the fact that our systems in this country have worked. When you look around the world, when you look at the economic results and the health results, there is no other country that you'd want to be in at this time than Australia.

We went into this economic crisis caused by COVID-19 not with an economy on its knees but with an economy that was in a strong position. We were on track for a budget surplus. Confidence was high and businesses were strong. The strength of Australia's economy was highlighted this week when Standard & Poor's reaffirmed its AAA credit rating for Australia. We are now one of only nine countries around the world to hold a AAA credit rating from all three major credit rating agencies. To put this in perspective, although we know that growth in Australia dipped seven per cent in July, compare that to New Zealand where it was 12 per cent or the United Kingdom where it was 20 per cent. It's into these settings that the budget has been delivered.

The focus of the budget is about restoring confidence. It's about restoring the productive capacity of our economy. It's about ensuring that we can grow and that we can have a secure economic future. I, like so many on this side of the House, did not come into this place to increase the size of the Commonwealth or to see more Australians in Centrelink queues, but this unprecedented event has caused us to take unprecedented and extraordinary measures. This is a budget that no-one would have planned to deliver. It's a heavy burden but a necessary one. And, in order to improve and restore the productivity capacity of the economy, the focus of the budget has been on job creation, on training and on supporting manufacturing and businesses, because it is manufacturing businesses and it is employment that are the wealth creators of our future.

For people in Berowra, the budget will have a direct impact: 72,500 taxpayers in my electorate will benefit from the tax relief that has been provided by this budget, and 19,900 businesses will be able to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase. JobKeeper, in my community, has supported 6,400 businesses, supporting them through the pandemic and keeping them connected to their employees. The phone calls and the emails I love most are the ones where somebody calls me up and says: 'Thank you for JobKeeper. It has been a lifeline.' But I am so proud to tell you that we are now coming off JobKeeper because our business is coming back. These are calls and emails that I get every single week, and I salute the people who have acknowledged the support of JobKeeper and who are looking to get off it as quickly as possible.

They are big numbers of people, and the budget contains big numbers, but each of these numbers represents businesses, families and real people, people like Sonja Cameron of Cameron's Nursery in my electorate, who's used the budget's measures in relation to apprenticeships to take on two new apprentices. And the instant asset write-off has enabled her to purchase equipment and to make changes in her nursery business that she wouldn't have done otherwise. George Kerrison and Jason Jamerfrom Absolute Automotive in Dural: these are great automotive electricians in my constituency who were so keen to take advantage of the apprenticeship programs that they are bringing on new apprentices, which is a great opportunity not only for their business but for a young person to have the chance to have a go at a trade that they've always wanted. Providing the support that we're providing through the wage subsidy for apprentices has given the business more stability and more security and ensured that a young person stays on a training path rather than a welfare path. As one of my constituents, Gemma, said to me last week, the economy is not just about money; it's about people. It's about how we live, how we work and how we provide for the people we love. It's about peoples' creativity and industry. It shapes what sort of life it's possible to live and what sorts of opportunities exist for our children.

I want to talk about a couple of measures in particular that I think are so important. The first is, as I mentioned, the wage subsidies that we're providing for apprentices and young people. When you look at the facts from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, those statistics show that young people aged 35 are four times more likely to have lost their job or had their hours cut as a result of COVID-19. We also know, if you're unable to get work early in your career, it can be very difficult to establish the habits of work in the future, because you don't get into the habit and because employers use the period of unemployment as an excuse for not hiring you in the future. That's why the JobMaker Hiring Credit is so important, supporting around 450,000 positions, giving employers incentives from 7 October for each new job they create over the next 12 months that employs someone who's been on JobSeeker, on the parenting payment or on youth allowance. It's a great boon to get those young people into work as soon as possible.

The evidence from every previous recession indicates that the sooner you get young people into work, the sooner you get those habits of work going, the more successful their working life will be. That's why we're also committing to the wage subsidies for apprentices to support any employer who hires an Australian apprentice from 5 October up to 30 September next year. We've had a skills shortage in Australia for as long as I can remember. This is a great opportunity for young people to get the skills that we need, not just for this period but for the future of our country. Skilled jobs in the trades are part of a lifeline for Australia. They are indeed among the most secure jobs in Australia. There are many professional jobs that could be taken offshore in the future, but we still need the physical trades in this country, working on our building sites, working in technical services and working in places as simple as restaurants and hairdressers. It's very important that we take the opportunity to give young people a go.

The tax relief for working Australians, particularly for low- and middle-income earners, has been so important, giving people a boost to their pay cheque to ease the stress and burden that so many Australians are facing at this time, giving people more money that is theirs in their pocket to decide how to spend. Some will retire debt, but we hope that many people will use the extra money in their pocket to go and spend money in their local community, on local services and on local businesses that will help us create local jobs. The Treasury estimates that reducing the personal income tax burden on hardworking Australians will boost GDP by something in the order of $3.5 billion in 2020-21 and $9 billion in 2021-22, and create an extra 50,000 jobs by the end of 2021-22. It is not only the tax cuts for working Australians that are important but also the measures that we've put in place to extend the instant asset write-off and to allow people to carry their losses back against previous years' profits to improve cash flow for businesses so that businesses can invest and employ people and give people a chance.

I'm the chair in this parliament of the Parliamentary Friends of Suicide Prevention, and I note the presence in the chamber at the moment of my friend the member for Fisher, who is the chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Mental Health. He and I are both passionate advocates, as are many others in this place, for improved mental health and suicide prevention funding. COVID-19 has put an extraordinary burden on our mental health services, and it is has put an extraordinary burden on peoples' lives and created a mental health situation the likes of which we have never seen in our country before. In response, the government has invested an extra $5.7 billion—a record $5.7 billion—in mental health and suicide prevention. One of the game-changer measures that I have been calling for, for a long time, is the doubling of the Medicare funded psychosocial and psychological supports from 10 sessions to 20 sessions. That will make an enormous difference to people who are in a time of crisis.

The government is also proving an extra $500 million in funding to rapidly scale up other vital mental health services to help Australians deal with lockdowns and the challenge of isolation, fear for loved ones and concerns about employment. I think about the money provided to those frontline services, whether it be Beyond Blue, Lifeline, SANE, headspace, Kids Helpline or the many other services that in a time of crisis are there for Australians in need. Nationally, since 16 March there has been a 15 per cent increase in the number of Medicare subsidised mental health services delivered, with 7.4 million services provided and $819 million paid in benefits. That gives us a sense of the scale of the mental health response that is required in this budget. We're entering into an environment where the mental health situation in Australia, although better than many other places in the world, is something that needs constant attention, so I applaud the measures in this budget. I look forward to the government's response to and releasing of the Productivity Commission's final report, which I hope will chart a path forward for both after care and for early intervention, which I believe are so important in addressing mental health issues and the suicide rate in Australia.

Australians should feel confident that the government is committed to providing the best platform possible for our country to emerge stronger from COVID-19. I say thank you to the people across our country who are taking a risk to support a young worker and give them a chance as a result of this budget. I say thank you to the doctors, nurses, hospital orderlies, GP receptionists and people engaged in the health response at every level. I said thank you to the workers, the students and the carers who've adjusted to a new normal.

Under our government's plan the economy is forecast to grow by 4½ per cent next calendar year and unemployment is expected to fall to 6½ per cent by the June quarter 2022. This means more opportunities for everyone. COVID-19 has reminded Australians that there's no other place on this earth we'd want to be. This budget sets us up for a strong, stable and secure future.

12:11 pm

Photo of Shayne NeumannShayne Neumann (Blair, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs and Defence Personnel) Share this | | Hansard source

No-one in this place doubts that the coronavirus pandemic has been the defining feature of 2020 and no-one doubts that strong action needs to be taken by the government. However, this government has neglected to acknowledge the fact that the economy was in a downward spiral even before the health crisis hit. Don't take it from me. Former federal Treasury secretary Dr Martin Parkinson said, 'Going into COVID, we'd had very weak productivity growth, very weak income growth, economic growth was quite anaemic.'

Almost a year ago the OECD was calling on the Morrison government to support the floundering economy. Instead, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer were denying and dithering as the economy deteriorated. Even before the drought, bushfires and the coronavirus crisis, annual growth was well below trend, consumption was very weak, business investment had fallen, underemployment and household debt had hit record levels, wages growth had hit record lows and the debt had more than doubled. The national accounts confirmed that the Australian economy shrank in the first three months of the year, even before the worst impacts of the coronavirus were felt.

When the coalition came to power in September 2013 gross debt stood at $280.3 billion. By the end of January 2020 gross debt was $568.1 billion. Something likes two-thirds of government debt was borrowed by the government before the outbreak hit. We need to be clear that COVID-19 is not the sole villain in this government's blockbuster horror movie of a budget, featuring an eye-watering $1 trillion of debt—that's right, $1 trillion of debt—without a comprehensive plan for jobs.

They've locked in damaging cuts to JobKeeper in the face of serious underemployment and unemployment. The government's stubborn refusal to change JobKeeper has locked out of JobKeeper 600 meatworkers at JBS in my community. They have changed the eligibility criteria again and again, but they've locked 600 workers out of JobKeeper, causing them to lose their jobs. This government deliberately and intentionally harmed meatworkers in my electorate in terms of their financial prospects. In answer to a question of mine in question time the Prime Minister said that they could get JobSeeker and that JobSeeker is the same as JobKeeper. Prime Minister, JobKeeper is not the same as JobSeeker. These people want to keep their jobs. What you've done is sent them to the dole. That's what you've done.

The ABS labour force figures for September reveal the staggering reality. Over 400,000 jobs have been lost since the crisis, with 200,000 Australians dropping out of the labour market altogether. In September alone 30,000 jobs were lost and the unemployment rate rose to 6.9 per cent. Almost 2.6 million Australians were looking for either work or more work.

One thing that really strikes me about this government is the fact that the budget we're discussing today has a $213.7 billion deficit this year. The cumulative deficit over the forward estimates is $480 billion. That is a budget deficit in each year for the next decade. I got elected in 2007, and I can remember Joe Hockey, the member for North Sydney, the Shadow Treasurer, saying repeatedly—again and again and again—that upon them coming to government they would deliver a budget surplus in their first year and every year thereafter. I wonder how that's going now, Mr Hockey? And I wonder how that's going for those frontbenchers, so many of them who are still there from the Abbott years in opposition and the Turnbull years in opposition and, of course, the Nelson years in opposition. Where are those debt trucks now that we saw in the 2013 campaign? Those double-Bs—a conga line of double-Bs all over the place!

An opposition member: There'd be a shortage of trucks!

Exactly! Because what's happened is that the criticisms of the Labor government, of our side of politics, have been smashed to smithereens by these guys, by this government who have delivered budget deficits every year that they've been in—all seven years—and are projecting across the forward estimates budget deficits as far as the eye can see. They're going to get to a point, according to the budget papers, from a gross debt currently of $800 billion to a forecast of over a trillion dollars across the forward estimates but going up to $1.7 trillion over the decade. Let's not cop this nonsense from the Liberal and National Party that they're better managers of the budget. Let's not cop it.

The history of Australian politics and certainly of the last decade shows that the coalition government spent and spent and spent. They racked up deficits and they racked up debt, and they have the temerity to say to us, 'Where are you going to get the money from?' when it comes to our childcare reforms that the Leader of the Opposition announced in the budget reply speech. They've made $98 billion—not million, billion dollars—of un-offset expenditure in this budget.

One thing that really gets me about this budget, when you have a really close look at it, is what happens in 2021-2022. We've got a snapback, but they've forgotten about that snapback—they used to talk about it all the time. There's a 17.5 per cent spending snapback—spending falls off the cliff. But what are the budget papers saying? The budget papers say there are going to be 300,000 more people unemployed at that point in time than there were pre-COVID-19. That's right: a 7.25 per cent unemployment rate. So they're snapping it back when we're going to have 300,000 more Australians unemployed, let alone underemployed, than when the COVID-19 pandemic hit our health system and our economy and our community. So this government just hasn't got a clue on this stuff. They really don't. They've got no credibility on debt and deficit. They're not really fair dinkum about sustaining jobs.

When the member for Gorton asked the Prime Minister in question time about some form of a wage subsidy, he dismissed it. He was only forced into that wage subsidy, which we call JobKeeper, by the fact that the ACTU, the Labor Party and the business community rounded on the government and said they had to do it. It was inadequate—casuals were left off, the university sector was left off, the childcare sector was punted, the local government sector was punted and a lot of people were left out. But the government at least did something, and now they want to be patted on the back for their economic management! They were forced into JobKeeper, but they stubbornly refused to help the meat workers in my electorate. They refused to help them.

The Governor of the Reserve Bank, Dr Philip Lowe, argues that much more needs to be done to tackle the jobs crisis. He's absolutely correct. He said the RBA wants to see more than just progress towards full employment. The Prime Minister doesn't have a goal to achieve full employment. They don't. The budget papers that we're debating here today show they're not interested in full employment. The government's unacceptably high six per cent target for unemployment will see a generation of Australians sacrificed to the crisis, and 200,000 more of them when the snapback takes place in 2021-22.

Budgets, whether it is at home or in business or in a community organisation or a government, tell us a lot about your values, your ethics, your priorities. What about this government? This was a really big opportunity, because there was a lot of bipartisanship from our side of politics and goodwill in the community to undertake great nation-building and historic reform. But what are we left with? They could have had a new deal like Franklin Roosevelt's in the Great Depression in the 1930s. They could have acted like Labor prime ministers had done, like Ben Chifley had done following World War II, with the great post-war reconstruction and establishing the Snowy Mountains Scheme. We would have been very supportive that, I can assure you. In the 1970s what did Gough Whitlam do? He launched significant urban renewal programs, which saw local road infrastructure, sewerage to homes, better funding for local councils. That is what happened. In my community so much of Ipswich was sewered because of the work of Gough Whitlam and the work they did to renew communities. People in the suburbs, not just in the rural towns but in the urban areas, should be treated like all Australians should be treated. It is not just an economy that is built for the rich; it should be for all of us. Consider the lasting impact of what Bob Hawke did on economic and industrial reforms; Paul Keating's superannuation scheme; Kevin Rudd's nation-building; Julia Gillard's NDIS. This was an opportunity for this government in the budget. They could have done a lot, but what did they do? Even John Howard, to give him credit, established the Future Fund, which I think it is a good thing. But this government lack vision; they lack ambition; they want to leave people behind; they give us platitudes about us all being in it together. The National Cabinet was this wonderful initiative that was going to unify the country, but they spend the whole time attacking governments, interestingly, led by Labor Party premiers, like in Queensland and Victoria and Western Australia—even to point of litigating in Western Australia until they realised that that was a political disaster in Western Australia. In Queensland, just because there's an election, you have seen the Prime Minister spend a week—I can't believe it. I think I read what Denis Atkins said: in 40 years of covering politics he has never seen a Prime Minister spend a whole week campaigning in a state election. That is because the Leader of the Opposition in Queensland, Deb Frecklington, is so hopeless and incompetent and has lived up to my expectations of her lack of intelligence and capability. Honestly, Prime Minister, concentrate on your job and not campaigning against the Queensland government or getting your ministers to launch jihads on the Victorian Labor government or litigating in WA against the Western Australian Labor government. There is not a word about Tasmania, New South Wales or South Australia. This is a Prime Minister that should be doing his job. It's all about politics, it's all about the announcements, it's all about a marketing exercise and not about economic reform or the budget or the best interests of Australians or what we need to do to take the economy towards full employment.

Even then he divides Australians. Look what they have done in terms of their hiring subsidy and their credit, where 928,000 people over the age of 35 are left off any support. So it's not a budget for middle-aged people or older people, let alone people who need home care. There are about 103,000 places required in home-care packages for older Australians as our population ages. The government has spent nearly every MYEFO and budget cutting funding for aged care, even when the Prime Minister was the Minister for Social Services and the aged care portfolio was in that area, not back with the health portfolio.

The government seems like it's bereft of ideas. All they are doing in many ways is rolling out money, hoping that the business community will come back and snap back. What hasn't snapped back so far is that even on the budget's projections there are 160,000 people more who will lose their jobs by the end of the year. Guess what the government's doing? The government is going to force people by the end of the year to go back to $40 a day when it comes to JobSeeker. JobKeeper is being reduced as well, and it finishes in March next year. This is a government that seems to lack focus.

In my community, this budget has provided nothing. It doesn't matter whether we have a state MP, a mayor, a councillor or a senator with an LNP membership ticket in their pocket, our community seems to get nothing under coalition governments. So there's no funding for the continuation of the Ipswich Motorway project. There's no funding for the business case for the Ipswich to Springfield rail line. There's no funding for the Cunningham Highway upgrade around Willowbank, from Ebenezer Creek to Yamanto. There's no funding for a second Bremer River crossing such as the Norman Street Bridge. There's no funding for an Ipswich sports stadium at North Ipswich Reserve. There is no extra veterans recovery centre. They've got six veterans recovery centres. I've got the biggest RAAF base in the country, at Amberley. We projected we would have seven if we won the election. Guess which one has been left out. It's my community again, with the biggest RAAF base in the country and no veterans recovery funding in the budget. This is an outrageous government that ignores my community. It continually ignores our area, doesn't fund our community and ignores the meatworkers in Ipswich. It ignores the workers in Ipswich, whether they work in Woolies or in Kilcoy Pastoral Company. It has done nothing to assist regarding the challenges we have with the China embargo. It should do far better, and this budget proves it is a government out of touch with my local community.

12:26 pm

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to support these appropriation bills in their original form. They make provision for the moneys required to be appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for expenditure for the remainder of 2020-21 and for the new activities agreed to by the government since the introduction of the 2020-21 supply bills in March of this year. Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021 proposes appropriations of approximately $36.8 billion, whilst Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2020-2021 proposes expenditure of approximately $14.9 billion and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021 proposes appropriations of approximately $141.7 million to support the functions of parliament, including security, new videoconferencing arrangements and the maintenance of assets and services.

This is an extraordinary budget for extraordinary times. The advent of the COVID-19 coronavirus has changed the world order in unexpected ways, disrupting trade, commerce, markets, plans and lives in a manner unseen in generations. The financial affairs of many of my constituents have been thrown into disarray, with reduced incomes, declining asset values and volatility surrounding their investments causing much anxiety and stress, particularly among retirees. People who once considered themselves to be financially secure and provident, for the first time in a long time have faced the stress of financial uncertainty. Mindful of the plight of our fellow Australians, our focus as a Liberal-National coalition government has been to act swiftly, first and foremost to safeguard the wellbeing of Australians and our communities, restore jobs, promote confidence and rebuild our national economy.

When the coronavirus shutdowns were first implemented and Australians directed to remain in their homes, it was distressing to see the long queues forming outside Centrelink offices across Australia, including around the corner from my own electorate office. Through the JobKeeper program, our government acted quickly to support around 3.5 million of our fellow Australians by enabling eligible businesses to keep workers in jobs through a wage subsidy for qualifying employees. This economic lifeline came at the very heavy cost of $101 billion. In hindsight, the system could have been improved to ensure that part-time workers did not receive more than their normal wages under JobKeeper and were incentivised to continue working when required to by their employers. However, most of these issues have since been addressed.

Young Australians in their prime are disproportionately represented in the unemployment figures, so our government is taking action to increase workforce participation for some 450,000 young Australians aged between 16 and 35, under the JobMaker program, by providing incentives for businesses to recruit additional employees. For those without the requisite work experience or training, the JobTrainer program is designed to provide up to an additional 340,000 places for school leavers and jobseekers in free or low-cost courses to boost entry-level skills needed in the workforce. The budget also contains $2.8 billion for the supporting apprentices and trainees wage subsidy to support businesses to employ up to 180,000 apprentices and trainees. These measures will benefit young people in my electorate as they transition to opportunities in the workforce.

For those who are retired or unable to participate in the workforce, the government has chosen to provide more support for discretionary spending to stimulate the economy. The government is mindful of the impact of rising cost-of-living pressures for those on pensions and fixed incomes. An additional $16.8 billion in income support has been provided for individuals, including extending the coronavirus supplement, and $12 billion in support of age and disability pensioners and other eligible recipients. On the other hand, for those of working age, the focus is on incentives to achieve increased workforce participation. Those who are able to work must be encouraged to do so, even if it means taking on temporary work in a new field for an interim period.

For the over 11.6 million hardworking Australians fortunate enough to remain in employment throughout the crisis, this budget delivers an additional $17.8 billion in personal income tax relief to support economic recovery, bringing forward the second stage of the government's Personal Income Tax Plan for 2020-21. Providing a one-off additional tax benefit will ensure that low- and middle-income earners receive tax relief of up to $2,745 for singles and up to $5,490 for dual-income families when compared with the 2017-18 settings. The majority of the benefits of reduced taxes will flow to those on incomes below $90,000, typical of many households in my electorate. As Liberals, we believe in returning more personal disposable income into the hands of individuals so that they may choose how best to spend their own hard-earned money. Discretionary spending drives our economy. Treasury estimates that reducing the personal income tax burden on hardworking Australians will boost GDP by around $3.5 billion in 2020-21 and $9 billion next year, creating an additional 50,000 jobs by the end of 2021-22.

The construction industry is a major sector within our economy that employs an estimated one million Australian workers. The Morrison government is supporting families and the home-building industry with grants of $25,000 to eligible owner-occupiers under the HomeBuilder program to build a new home or rebuild an existing home. There are more than 1,000 vacant sites in the City of Joondalup, so measures designed to initiate the construction of homes is beneficial to our local economy. This measure will support a range of local tradespersons and building contractors based in my electorate through a combination of greenfield development in new subdivisions and urban renewal in older suburbs. The issue of housing affordability is partially addressed with the grants helping many families enter into homeownership for the first time.

Many businesses in the Moore electorate are experiencing extremely difficult times due to the restrictions of international and interstate travel. A significant reduction in the number of international students and their visiting families has had a significant impact on the Joondalup economy, as has the decline in international and interstate visitors staying with family. From observation, retailers, service providers and food and beverage venues are not trading at optimum capacity. Turnover is down and cash flow is tight for many small businesses in my electorate. To assist, the Australian Taxation Office has changed its remittance arrangements to improve cash flow for eligible employers to between $20,000 and $100,000, benefiting around 800,000 small-business employers. The City of Joondalup's economic development unit, led by Nashid Chowdhury, has been proactive in engaging with local stakeholders, including the Joondalup Business Association, in forums and workshops to support local businesses through initiatives such as the development of a destination marketing strategy to attract more visitors to our region.

For viable businesses with a demonstrated track record of profitability, which would normally be profitable but for the coronavirus crisis, temporary loss carry-back measures have been introduced to allow companies with turnovers of up to $5 billion to offset losses against previous profits on which tax has been paid to generate a tax refund. It is estimated up to one million financially sustainable companies which employ up to 8.8 million workers will be eligible for loss carry-back relief. Losses incurred up to 2021-22 can be carried back against profits made in or after 2018-19. Eligible companies may elect to receive tax refunds when they lodge their 2020-21 and 2021-22 tax returns. This measure is estimated to deliver $4.9 billion in tax relief to businesses over the forward estimates and $3.9 billion over the medium term.

Focused on the future economic recovery, the budget introduces tax incentives such as temporary full expensing for productive assets which are designed to promote investment by the private sector in plans and equipment, boosting productive capacity and creating local jobs. Ninety-nine per cent of Australian businesses will be eligible. A wide range of businesses in my electorate will benefit from the full tax deductibility of assets such as delivery trucks, office furniture, commercial kitchen equipment, industrial machinery, power tools, earthmoving equipment, computers and electrical appliances.

The Morrison government is investing $1.3 billion through the Modern Manufacturing Initiative to support manufacturing research and development. With this funding, government will co-invest with our world-leading manufacturers to help them achieve scale, commercialise our world-leading research in intellectual property and connect with international markets. This will support commercialisation of some of the collaborative projects with industry being undertaken at the School on Engineering at Edith Cowan University, led by Professor Daryoush Habibi and his team. In addition the government is investing an initial $2 billion in the research and development tax incentive, supporting more than 11,400 companies which currently claim this incentive.

The budget allocates $245 million in federal funding to Edith Cowan University, based in my electorate, to establish a new campus specialising in creative industries, businesses and technology courses. A satellite campus, which will be based in Perth's central business district and house the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, is scheduled to open in 2025 at a total cost of $695 million, with the university contributing $300 million and the WA state government providing land worth $150 million. For residents of my electorate, it means a wider range of courses and subjects to choose from, access to a broader range of learning facilities, and educational resources to equip them for future careers in the workforce. This investment by the federal government transcends electoral boundaries. The Perth city campus will complement the courses offered at ECU's main Joondalup campus, based in the Moore electorate, and is expected to accommodate more than 8,000 students and 1,200 staff. During the construction phase, the project is expected to deliver $1.5 billion of economic activity and create more than 3,100 local jobs, adding to the government's economic stimulus program.

In our rapidly developing regional city of Greater Joondalup, investment in infrastructure is the key to meeting the needs of a growing population in Perth's northern suburbs. Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, $14 billion has been spent to boost demand and create jobs over the next four years, supporting 40,000 jobs over the construction period. This investment is part of the government's 10-year transport Infrastructure Investment Program, which has been expanded to $110 billion nationally and is already supporting 100,000 jobs across the nation. Locally, we will see the extension and widening of the Mitchell Freeway, grade separation of Ocean Reef Road and Joondalup Drive, the extension of the northern suburbs railway to Yanchep, upgrades to the Reid Highway and completion of the NorthLink project. The connection of Whitfords Avenue to a realigned Gnangara Road maintains a priority project, essential to promote economic development.

The budget provides an additional $3 billion towards fast-tracking shovel-ready projects that create jobs. This includes $2 billion to deliver small-scale road safety projects, as well as an additional $1 billion of funding for the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. Funding will be provided to state and local governments, such as the City of Joondalup, on a 'use it or lose it' basis, ensuring that road upgrades and safety projects are completed within the agreed time frames. Locally, this will provide an economic boost to local earthmoving contractors, civil construction firms and a range of engineering consultants.

12:41 pm

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There are a few things I want to talk about, but let me respond briefly to the previous speech. It sums up this government, really: it's a random grab bag of platitudes and spin. There's no vision, no strategy and no point to it—a bit like that member. We read in the newspaper that the only reason he's here is that he stacked a bunch of branches in the Liberal Party for Senator Michaelia Cash. This is his little reward: to hang out in federal parliament. Unbelievably, the first thing he talked about that concerned the residents of his electorate were their asset values and their investment outlook. Let me tell you what concerns the people in my electorate about your government's budget. They are terrified about what's coming down the pipeline in this budget: the cuts to wages, the cuts to JobKeeper in March, the cuts to Newstart, or JobSeeker, or whatever platitude and spin you want to put on it and call it—$40 a day. The budget that you're speaking in support of is going to push millions of Australians back into abject poverty, to live on $40 a day, and you think that's a good thing. There are the attacks on superannuation and the refusal to guarantee their superannuation entitlements. You've effectively privatised half the stimulus by getting the most vulnerable people in this country to clear out every last dollar of their retirement savings just to survive, because you didn't act fast enough or do enough. Your industrial relations agenda to cut penalty rates—

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I just remind you to direct your comments through the chair.

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There's the government's industrial relations agenda to cut penalty rates for the most vulnerable workers. That's a good thing, is it? It's all very well to talk about the incentives for young people—we support those—but what about everyone looking for a job who's over 35 years of age? They get nothing; they've been forgotten. There is casualisation. I heard the member opposite say, 'People just need to take a bit of temporary work if they find it.' Yes—true. Any work is good work, but this budget bakes in the agenda of privatisation of public services. Only yesterday in Victoria, in the middle of a pandemic, with unprecedented demand for Centrelink services, the government cut 420 call centre jobs from Centrelink, half of them in my electorate. Do you know what those people are getting from the government? They're getting nothing—no redundancy; no pay-out—because they're just casual labour hire workers. The government has privatised the Public Service and the government bakes in that privatisation in every agency—tens of thousands of casual labour hire workers. This is the world that the government wants to return to, accelerate and run towards in this so-called snap-back recovery. People in my electorate are worried about the fact that they can't get food. It's all very well for the government to tell us, 'We put $200 million into emergency relief.' Well, that's not landing in the disadvantaged suburbs. There's nothing in this budget that fixes that problem.

The government say to people, in a pandemic, that they should leave the suburb where they can't get food and catch a bus to where those big four charities, which they've loved to hand the money out through, happen to have offices. They're not prepared to reverse the cuts that Prime Minister Abbott put in place from the small local benevolent societies, the neighbourhood learning centres and the local charities, who get nothing from the federal government. They say, 'We put $200 million into four big charities,' which don't service people properly in my electorate, but the member opposite is worried about asset values and investment outlooks.

The member for Werriwa and I were saying, whilst listening to that drivel, that the people in our electorates are worried about having to sell their house at the bottom of the market when the mortgage relief suspension runs out soon, just at the very time that the government is pushing people into poverty by cutting unemployment benefits and cutting JobKeeper. Unbelievable! There's another bill, which we will talk about later, making it harder to get an education. I hope the Australian Electoral Commission roll you at the next election, Member for Moore, and, if they don't, that your party rolls you and replaces you with someone who makes some kind of contribution to this place other than reading out the drivelous platitudes that whoever sends you in here gives you to read out. It's just pathetic.

This budget is a lost opportunity. The big lie is that somehow the economy was strong before this crisis. The economy was weak and tanking before this crisis. Underemployment was at record levels. Over a million Australians were not able to get enough hours of work to survive. Business investment was at historic lows—the lowest since the government was elected. There was no business confidence. They weren't investing. Productivity growth was anaemic at best. The government has now managed, unbelievably, to rack up a budget that's hurtling towards a trillion dollars of debt at the end of this four years, on the path over the next decade to $1.7 trillion of debt, the highest budget deficit ever and the highest in percentage terms of GDP since World War II, with no real plan for jobs and no real reform. That's the thing that really gets you at the heart of this budget. I get the tax cuts. I get them. It's nonsense to say that they're fully funded. They're borrowed. They're on the credit card for the next generation. They're just another instalment of 40 years of failed trickle-down economic theory that somehow, if we give money to people over here and to businesses, a bit might trickle down to the rest of us. It doesn't work like that. It's failed.

The government is running up a record budget deficit, a lifetime of debt, with nothing to show and no real reform. It has no plan for energy, to modernise our energy grid, which is the real reason that power prices are so high. It has no plan for child care, to support women's participation in and return to the workforce. It has no plan for education, except to make it harder to go to university. As Jacqui Lambie said—I agree with her on this—it makes it harder for poor kids, like people from my electorate, and Northern Tasmania and your electorate—

An honourable member interjecting

Not yours over there, but from Northern Tasmania. The member opposite should be ashamed of having voted for that legislation, which will make it harder for people from her electorate to get a tertiary education. She should be ashamed.

The government have drifted pointlessly, now in their eighth year of government. Visionless, pointless—there is no purpose to this government. They like to pretend that they're all shiny and new. They're on their third Prime Minister, their third Treasurer. They have a lifetime of debt and nothing to show for it. There is nothing on social housing. They hate scrutiny, and that's another thing to talk about. This is not just a lost opportunity. There are active nasties in this budget, very deep in the budget papers. They've refused to introduce a national integrity commission. They announced it three years ago. They love the announcements, but nothing actually happens. It's all about the photo-op. There's no follow-up. Where's the National Integrity Commission? It's not in this budget. 'It's not a priority,' the Attorney-General says.

Unbelievably, not only haven't they introduced a national integrity commission; they don't want their rorts and their waste and their corruption exposed, because they've cut the Auditor-General's budget. They've used COVID-19 and this budget to cut the Auditor-General's budget, to silence the independent watchdog. Make no mistake: this is revenge for sports rorts. It's revenge for exposing the corruption, as it now looks, in paying $30 million to a Liberal Party donor for land worth $3 million. The Defence contracting blowouts, the casualisation of the public service—what's the government's response to this? Cut the budget of the independent watchdog that is exposing their rorts, waste and corruption. Who knows what else they're hiding? It's vengeful and it's pathetic.

The Auditor-General has been in structural deficit for the last few years because of the accumulation of cuts. They call them efficiency dividends. Let's be clear: for a small agency, that is a cut. The efficiency dividend piles up, year after year, and it's cut after cut after cut. Last year he lost $3.3 million and the year before $4.4 million. We're at the point now where the Auditor-General said to the Prime Minister, who's supposed to look after him—he's an independent officer of the parliament, and the Prime Minister is supposed to look after him—'I can't do it anymore. I can't meet KPIs of 48 performance audits a year without fear or favour.'

Auditors-General are appointed for a 10-year term, one term, and their job is to scrutinise whoever is in government. You would think at the very time you're blowing a trillion dollars of taxpayer money on the credit card, and you've pushed government spending to the highest level ever since 1970—if you look in the back of the budget papers, there's this table that says the government is now spending 35.4 per cent of GDP on the economy; that's the highest level I can find anywhere in Australia's history—maybe World War II would have been higher—you would also think this is the very time you'd want to invest in independent scrutiny and make sure you're getting value for money. We want every dollar of taxpayer money to count when you're spending that much. And what's the government's response? 'We're blowing a trillion dollars, but we can't find the $6.5 million for the Auditor-General that he asked for. And, to top that off, we're going to cut another $1.28 million from his budget and make sure his total resources are $14 million less.' This is a cover up. The impact will be that every year there are two fewer performance audits. They're on the way down to 38 at the end of the forward estimates. It's a trillion dollars of Liberal Party debt and avoiding independent scrutiny.

The Public Accounts and Audit Committee, which I'm a member of, is supposed to stick up for the Auditor-General. It's failing in it's duty. The Prime Minister has failed the Auditor-General. The government members should be ashamed. I remember, as a Victorian, when the Jeff Kennett Liberal government tried this little trick on the state Auditor-General. It led to a backlash against the Kennett government, as people caught on and realised what was happening. It was a small issue, it was a small amount of money, and it was a big part of why that government got chucked out at an election that no-one thought they could lose. Labor went to the election on a platform of restoring democracy and restoring accountability, and that built trust, particularly with people in regional areas, who sniff this stuff out.

The other thing I want to call out is that this budget is horrible news for tens of thousands of Australians waiting for their partner visas. When Labor left office, people used to wait about six months for a partner visa. You fall in love with someone from overseas—this is quintessentially Australian. It has been part of the Australian story for decades, that people fall in love with people from other countries and they want a visa so that they can come and build a life here. That's a good thing. Under this government people are now waiting 2½ years, tracking towards three years, for a partner visa. Nearly 100,000 people across the country are waiting for partner visas.

The news in this budget is literally destroying the relationships of tens of thousands of Australians. It's nasty, it's insidious and it needs to be called out. On the surface it looks okay, because they're increasing the number of partner visas from about 40,000 to more than 70,000. That sounds okay, but you have to scratch into it to understand what's really happening. They've cut the number of partner visas each year that have been issued. It's an illegal cut. Section 87 of the Migration Act explicitly says that the minister has no power to cap the number of partner visas. Unlike other visas, the minister cannot cap the number of partner visas. They're demand driven. People fall in love with other people, and they have a right to bring them to this country. The parliament twice, in the 1980s and 1990s, rejected attempts to give the minister the power to cap partner visas, but this government are doing it anyway, even though it's illegal.

So the government have felt a community backlash over the last few months as people have realised this, and we've aired in this chamber and the other place and through the media what's actually going on. The devil is in the detail. What they've said in the budget papers is, 'We're going to issue more partner visas this year.' But they've actually said, 'We're going to prioritise onshore partner visas'—this is for people who are already here, who are already with their loved one; they're just hanging around on a bridging visa for a few years, waiting for the government to get around to issuing a partner visa. The government are doing this to cut the waiting list, to try to get rid of some of their political problems and under the cover of COVID, because they won't show up in the migration headline statistics. All these caps were driven by the Prime Minister's Pauline Hanson racist suck-ups to try to implement a cut to migration. He said, 'I want to cut migration.' He hadn't cut migration. What he'd done was cut the number of permanent visas issued every year. There are more people than ever hanging out in the country on bridging visas. They're here; they're waiting. He hasn't cut migration; he's cut permanent visas, which causes hardship and pain to people who fall in love with someone from overseas.

They've said, 'We will issue the onshore visas.' Well that's good. They should have done it last year, they should have done it the year before, but that's good. Issue the onshore visas. But they've also said they will not prioritise offshore visas, except where the relevant sponsor resides in a designated regional area. The impact of these measures is racist and discriminatory, and I say that very deliberately for two reasons. It's discriminatory because anyone who lives in a city in Australia—like in my electorate or your electorate—who falls in love with someone from overseas will not be eligible for an untold number of years to bring their partner here. Yet, if you live in a country area—undefined—a apparently that's a better form of love, that's a better relationship, than if you happen to live in a city. That's discriminatory. That is disgraceful. I have a letter from the assistant minister, who told me, 'Partner visa applications are generally considered in the order in which they're received to ensure fairness and equality for all applicants.' That's patently not true. For any Australian who lives in a city who is waiting for someone offshore, that's no longer true, is it?

The other aspect which is disgraceful—it's a subtle one but it's disgraceful—is that, if you fall in love with someone who is from a nice white Western speaking country, they're going to get a visitor visa to come here, aren't they? Then they can apply onshore and hang around and wait and they will get looked after—because they're nice. But, if you happen to fall in love with someone from Africa, from the Middle East, Sri Lanka or South Asia, well, we can't trust them to come to the country on a visitor visa, can we? So they can just wait offshore for years. This is discrimination.

How do you think Australians who fall in love with people who happen to have a different skin colour or happen to be from a country that the Immigration department is a bit suss on feel about this blatant discrimination buried in this budget? It is disgraceful. So just to be clear with the government: this remains a mess. People will try to bring their partners here to apply onshore but they will continue to fight. People are angry. The government talk of keeping Australians together, but they are keeping and breaking couples apart. (Time expired)

Sitting suspended from 12:56 to 16:00

4:00 pm

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand here today full of anger, rage, frustration and disappointment. I apologise to the House if, in the next 15 minutes, I'm not able to keep my emotions in check. Today I read a story published in The Australian, by David Penberthy, the South Australian correspondent, titled 'Coronavirus: Why were these four newborns left to die?' I quote from his article:

Victoria's stage-four lockdown prevented four sick newborn babies who subsequently died from being flown from Adelaide to Melbourne to receive lifesaving cardiac surgery.

The babies, the fourth of whom died only last Friday, would normally have been taken by a team from Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital and flown to Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital for specialist heart surgery.

But with Melbourne under lockdown the distraught families of the infants were told that their children were not permitted to enter Victoria for the operations.

Let me repeat that:

But with Melbourne under lockdown the distraught families of the infants were told that their children were not permitted to enter Victoria for the operations.

Last Friday, 16 October, when that fourth child died, there were two detected cases of coronavirus in the entire state of Victoria. Those four children are dead. They will never know what it is like to enjoy the life that we do. This should not have happened. Section 92 of our Constitution says:

… trade, commerce, and intercourse among the States, whether by means of internal carriage or ocean navigation, shall be absolutely free.

'Absolutely free' means that sick children that need an operation get to fly from Adelaide into Melbourne. Then there is section 117:

A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State.

What that means is that a child born in South Australia or born anywhere in this country has the right, under our Constitution, to go to that hospital in Victoria and get life-saving surgery. Every single person involved in this disgrace has blood on their hands. Deputy Speaker, I apologise that I'm upset over this, but it is not the first time this has happened. Back in August, we had a Ballina mother left to mourn the loss of one of her twins after that twin was denied entry into Queensland for emergency care. And we had the shocking and callous response from a politician in Queensland, who said:

People living in New South Wales, they have New South Wales hospitals. In Queensland we have Queensland hospitals for our people.

What a disgraceful comment when one young child has died. Then we had the case of a Queensland man having his treatment in New South Wales, under the great Dr Charlie Teo—brain surgery that was needed to save his life—and Dr Teo said: 'When you get back to Queensland, you need all the rest and recuperation that you can get. You should be able to go to your home.' We have the bureaucrats in Queensland, at a time when they let footballers go to resorts and let rock stars and movie stars go to their homes, forcing a 70-year-old recovering from brain surgery to be locked up in a hotel room. What an absolute disgrace!

Then we have the young mother, the Northern Rivers mother from New South Wales, who was refused entry to a Queensland hospital where her newborn baby was receiving urgent medical treatment. The paediatrician treating her, Chris Ingall, said it was a desperate situation, particularly in the vital early days usually shared by a mother and her new baby. He said:

"It borders on medical negligence actually because sick babies need their mother's immunity.

"To have this separation at this point for any baby, there is no medical upside. It is just bad.

"It's very saddening for the family and bad medicine for the baby."

This is what these lockdowns are causing. These are the appalling decisions that we are seeing by some politicians in this country and medical bureaucrats. It is an absolute disgrace.

But there is no worse disgrace than the continued ban on the drug hydroxychloroquine. We have state chief medical bureaucrats banning Australians getting access to a drug and a medical treatment that we know the evidence shows is saving lives around the world. Yet that medical treatment is being denied to sick Australians. What's the evidence? Only this morning, a new meta-analysis was published. It found that 19 out of 19 early-treatment studies found that hydroxychloroquine was effective in saving lives and reducing hospitalisation—and not just by a small amount; 63 per cent improvement was the average found in those 19 studies. What's the probability of there being a random chance of this being correct? They worked it out. The random probability that hydroxychloroquine is not effective, when you have 19 studies looking at early treatment, is one in 524,000—one chance in 524,000 that those 19 studies could be wrong.

It's actually worse than that. When you look at all 115 studies, 86 have concluded that hydroxychloroquine actually benefits you. The average improvement found in those studies—some were early treatment, some were late treatment—was 32 per cent improvement. And what did they say in this paper? That the probability that an ineffective, cheap treatment generated results as positive as the 115 studies to date is estimated to be one in 20 million. There's a one-in-20-million chance, based on the evidence, that the drug hydroxychloroquine is not effective. Yet today that treatment remains banned in every state of this nation. In Queensland a doctor that prescribes it, a doctor that looks at these studies and says, 'Wow, a one-in-20-million chance that this is wrong', can go to jail for six months.

How did we get to this stage? How did this happen? We've got a group called the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce. They have done a report on all the treatments and all the drugs. If you go to their summaries page, they state:

The evidence indicates hydroxychloroquine is potentially harmful and no more effective than standard care in treating patients …

That's completely contrary to the evidence. How did they come up with this? They say that the evidence comes from 11 randomised trials that compared hydroxychloroquine plus standard care. Hang on a minute! We've got 115 trials here, and this mob have looked at 11. Then they go on: 'The vast majority of evidence is from the RECOVERY trial which randomised 4,716 hospitalised patients with COVID.' So, basically, denying Australian citizens access to a medical treatment all comes down to one study—this RECOVERY trial.

Let's look at the RECOVERY trial. Firstly, the RECOVERY trial should be completely irrelevant because every doctor who advocates for hydroxychloroquine says that you must give the treatment in the first five days and you must combine it with zinc. In this RECOVERY trial, firstly, they did not use zinc and, secondly, they started the treatment, on average, nine days after the patient first started to get symptoms. So they gave the drug to the people too late and they didn't include zinc. Yet we are holding up this trial as the reason why we are denying sick Australians medical treatment.

It gets worse. When someone first told me that in this trial they had overdosed the patients I thought that couldn't be right. I didn't think you could overdose patients in a trial like that, so I looked at the evidence myself. It's clear that in that trial they gave the sick patients 2,400 milligrams of hydroxychloroquine in the first 24 hours and then they gave them another 800 milligrams every day for the next nine days, so all up they gave them close to 10,000 milligrams of hydroxychloroquine, a drug that has a half-life of 20 or 30 days. They loaded those people up. What did they find? Surprise, surprise, the people loaded up with such a dose died.

How do we know that this was an excessive dose? The medical protocols written in published peer reviewed studies recommend 200 milligrams of the drug twice a day for five days, so that's 400 milligrams on day 1, 400 milligrams on day 2, 400 milligrams on day 3, 400 milligrams on day 4 and 400 milligrams on day 5. Yet in this study they gave these people 2,400 milligrams—six times the recommended dose—and they wondered why they got sick and died.

What's even worse is that, when the French online newspaper FranceSoir interviewed the gentleman behind this trial and asked him to explain how he came up with 2,400 milligrams—such an excessive dose—the only explanation from the answers given was that the people behind that trial confused the drugs. When they were asked that question they said—and there's a recording of it, so it can't be denied—the reason they went for 2,400 milligrams is that that's the typical dose you give to someone with amoebic dysentery. The problem is hydroxychloroquine is not a drug that you give for amoebic dysentery. Another line of drugs is—hydroxyquinolines. Yes, you can give 2,400 milligrams of hydroxyquinoline without a problem. As they said in that interview, you can give them 10 times as much. They confused the drugs.

This RECOVERY trial, which our clinical evidence task force hangs its hat on to ban treatment for Australians, should be investigated by the police. The size of the dose is verging on criminal. There should be a full investigation of this. The clinical evidence task force should take that off their website. Instead of looking at just 11 studies, they should look at all 115 studies and they would come up with the conclusion that there's a one-in-20-million chance. That's where we're up to.

It's very serious for these people to recommend that. There are universal human rights laws that apply that should guarantee Australians access to medicine. Firstly, article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including … medical care …

Medical care is being denied to Australians and yet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that everyone has a right to medical care. There's also article 12 of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Australia is a signatory. That concludes that there should be:

The creation of conditions which would assure to all medical service and medical attention in the event of sickness.

That is not being provided to Australians.

These bureaucrats are in breach, in violation, of these international treaties by denying Australians access to these drugs. I ask them to go back and look at the evidence and change things. Australians should not, for one more day, be denied access to this treatment. (Time expired)

4:15 pm

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I too rise to speak on the appropriate bills. The fact is that this is a government whose harsh cuts and cruel decisions continue to hurt Australians, particularly those in regional areas, like in my area on the North Coast of New South Wales. Regional Australia has been left behind by the Liberals and Nationals—left behind by a government that has no plan to create jobs in the regions and no plan to secure a future for our regions, despite the fact that we are now in the Morrison recession. This is a government led by a salesman. That's all he is—a salesman. He is not a leader. In fact, he's such an ineffective Prime Minister, he's running a do-nothing government with absolutely no substantial agenda for the country. There's no plan for jobs, no plan for wages growth, no plan for social housing, no plan for child care, no plan to address the crisis in aged care and no plan for action on climate change.

All we saw in this government's budget is that the Liberals and Nationals will rack up a trillion dollars of debt. But what has the community got for that? The budget doesn't do enough in terms of creating jobs or securing the future. The budget just leaves so many people behind. So many were left behind in this budget. The fact is that the decisions made by the Liberals and Nationals in the budget mean that the Morrison recession will be deeper and longer than necessary. In my area on the New South Wales North Coast we need much greater support. We have 33,000 locals on JobKeeper and over 14,000 people on JobSeeker. They need support and assistance.

The government's leaving Australia with a trillion dollars of debt and not much to show for it. That's $1 trillion of debt, but millions of Australians are left behind, including the over 900,000 people aged 35 and over who are on unemployment benefits, who have been deliberately excluded from those hiring subsidies announced in the budget. In the budget there was no plan to lift the permanent rate of JobSeeker from $40 a day, no plan to tackle insecure work, no plan to create opportunities for women and no plan to improve access to child care. The Morrison recession is the worst in almost a century, and the decisions made by this government are making it so much harder for millions of Australians.

In terms of JobKeeper, so many were left behind, particularly casuals and those in the arts and entertainment sector. This government has really failed to provide adequate assistance to the arts and entertainment sector, which impacts so many people in my region. Unemployment has been too high for too long, and now another 160,000 Australians are estimated to be on the jobless queues by Christmas. As I have said, this is a government with no plan for jobs, no plan for infrastructure investment and no plan for investing in our regions—where we need it. In fact, all we get in the regions is more of the National Party's lies, cuts and chaos. As I've told the House many times, that's all we get—cuts to health, cuts to education, cuts to aged care, cuts to services like Centrelink and NDIS and cuts to TAFE and universities, right across the board.

Of course, one of the most shameful acts of this government is their cuts to aged care. We must always remember that it is our seniors who built this nation. They worked hard, raised their families and paid their taxes. We have a duty as a nation to ensure that every older Australian is treated with dignity and respect and we must ensure that they can access services when they need them. Instead, the Morrison government's crisis in aged care has shown how incompetent they are when it comes to protecting the elderly. Prior to the pandemic—and particularly once the pandemic started—the government were warned by experts that our already troubled aged-care system was vulnerable. They were warned and didn't act, and there have been tragic consequences—and this from a government that shamefully cut $1.7 billion from the aged-care sector. We're seeing the results of those cuts right across the board, and they are hurting some of the most vulnerable in our community.

Shockingly, the budget had no significant funding for residential aged care, but we've seen tragically so many older Australians dying during the pandemic. All we saw were those 23,000 additional home-care packages announced in the budget, but that won't come anywhere close enough to meet the massive demand; we've got over 100,000 Australians on the waiting list for home-care packages. What about them? There are so many of them desperate for those home-care packages. The fact is this government is a disgrace when it comes to aged care, and their legacy will be their incompetence, the $1.7 billion in cuts and all of those tens of thousands of Australians waiting for home-care packages. The government has absolutely no plan for aged care.

Labor has. We've put forward some of those suggestions. Firstly, we need minimum staffing levels in residential care and proper funding, because of those massive waiting lists when it comes to home-care packages, so more people can stay in their homes longer. We also need to see better training for staff in our nursing homes. The fact is the legacy of this government, the Morrison government, when it comes to aged care is quite simply neglect and incompetence. The cuts they've made to aged care and the very tragic results of that are absolutely shameful.

Also, the pandemic has really presented some very unique challenges for the higher education sector in the regions and in my electorate, specifically for the Southern Cross University. Recently the Southern Cross Uni announced a $33 million funding shortfall, which will lead to catastrophic losses of more than 130 local jobs. Seventy-one local staff have taken voluntary redundancies, and there are a further 63 full-time job losses. SCU is a really strong economic driver in our region and produces quality graduates and great research outcomes, and now more than ever we need to be focusing on the fact they need to keep delivering for their students and our community. It's imperative that the Morrison government takes the necessary steps to ensure the survival of Southern Cross Uni, because when you take hundreds of jobs out of a regional area like the North Coast it has a massive impact on the local economy, devastating right across the community.

Southern Cross Uni has identified the need to grow their domestic student numbers, which of course are currently restricted due to the funding caps. They're seeking a removal of those caps and increased funding for alternative entry pathways. An increase in this federal funding will allow SCU to offer far greater opportunities for those students who desperately need to retrain and upskill during the Morrison recession. So I'll continue to call on the government to commit more funding for SCU, and I'll also continue to condemn the government for their unfair increases when it comes to university degrees.

Students and parents right across the North Coast were outraged to learn this government will cruelly increase the cost of university degrees. This is outrageous, particularly for students in the regions. An ordinary four-year degree will now cost about $58,000 for many disciplines, making it so hard for those students from the regions to actually go to university. But, make no mistake, every student who pays more, every student who misses out on a place and every job loss in the university sector is the fault of the Liberals and Nationals. That is the reality. This government is doubling the cost of a university degree for thousands and thousands of Australians, many of those are in regional areas like mine and already experience disadvantage.

The fact is what we want to see, what Labor wants to see, is university and TAFE more affordable, more available and more accessible, because investing in people and education and training is one of the best investments we can make as a nation. Yet, what do we see? Again we're seeing cuts to the university sector and increases in the cost of degrees. What it is is the Liberals and Nationals yet again failing regional communities.

Another major issue in my area that locals constantly raise with me is the need for a national integrity commission. We, in Labor, have made it very clear we'll establish an independent, transparent and powerful national integrity commission. It's been almost three years since the Morrison government claims to have started work on a national integrity commission. But, to date, what's been delivered? Nothing. We heard in question time there's been a draft bill since December 2019, yet we've seen absolutely nothing. Apparently it's too hard to do that at the moment. That's just outrageous! The government have been stalling on this for far too long. In my community and, indeed, right throughout the country, people are calling for a federal ICAC, for a national integrity commission. We see, despite the sports rorts and this ongoing airport-land scandal, the Morrison government just refuses to act. We really did see highlighted, particularly in light of the recent events in New South Wales when we saw the disgraced Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, how important it is to have a national ICAC. We saw shocking evidence in ICAC over the past week confirming that New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian turned a blind eye to the corrupt business dealings of her boyfriend, Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, and she didn't report it to ICAC. All last week I was inundated with people who want to see action when it comes to a federal ICAC.

In terms of the budget itself, it was great to see the Leader of the Opposition's speech in reply and the very important issues he outlined. Firstly, there was the early childhood education and care package. It's so important to have affordable child care, and Labor absolutely has a plan for that. It also has a manufacturing plan and a rewiring-the-nation plan, and it also has a plan to address social housing. It's only Labor that outlined all of those important aspects.

I want to go back to some of the lies, cuts and chaos that we see from the Liberals and Nationals. We don't just see them federally; we also see them at the state and council level in New South Wales. What we know about the New South Wales Berejiklian government is that they're rotten to the core, as was exposed by ICAC over the last few weeks. Let's have a look at some of their lies, cuts and chaos—particularly those of the Tweed Nationals MP, Geoff Provest, and his rotten government—and how they impact us on the North Coast.

First of all, let's have a look at their pay cuts for public servants. These local workers are the heroes of the pandemic, and now they've been forced to suffer a pay cut thanks to the New South Wales Liberal-National government. Nurses, teachers, police, firefighters, paramedics, cleaners—so many fantastic public sector workers—risked their lives to look after us, and what do they get from this government? A pay cut. Outrageous! There's also the lack of health services in regional New South Wales. With recent border closures, what we saw is how underfunded the health and hospital services are in northern New South Wales. It is absolutely outrageous. This has been going on for a long period under the Liberal-National government and must be addressed. It is disgraceful and absolutely shameful.

Talking of shameful actions, it was outrageous to see in the New South Wales state parliament the Liberal-National government voting to essentially kill koalas. That's what we saw. We saw the Tweed Nationals member, Geoff Provest, and his disgraced Liberal and National party mates vote for legislation that will allow for the widespread killing of precious koalas on the North Coast. Make no mistake about it: they all voted for this legislation this afternoon in the New South Wales parliament. They voted for the local land services amendment bill, which will allow private rural landholders and property developers to destroy our koalas through widespread land clearing. This is an act of environmental vandalism. It's absolutely outrageous. My community is angry at the Liberals and Nationals for pushing through this legislation that will allow such harsh action when it comes to our very precious koalas.

Another issue on the North Coast is a lack of protection at our beaches in terms of shark mitigation. We have had many shark sightings on the New South Wales North Coast. We need more drones, smart drum lines and helicopter surveillance, but, of course, we're not getting them from the Liberal-National government or from the Tweed Nationals MP, Geoff Provest. We're not seeing that at all. The fact is that it's just not good enough. While Sydney beaches get lots of protection, on the New South Wales North Coast we're forgotten. We have outstanding surf lifesaving clubs, and they desperately need effective shark mitigation, detection and other general beach and surf safety measures. They need to have those in place. The fact is that the Liberal-National government have failed locals yet again. Labor will always fight for our community—we will always stand with them—and these issues around shark mitigation are vitally important.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the Tweed deputy mayor, Reece Byrnes, who successfully passed a motion at council to purchase and provide drones for Tweed surf clubs to assist with shark monitoring and swimmer safety. Congratulations on that. But it shouldn't be up to the council to be doing that. Our state government had a plan in terms of shark mitigation. It had a plan. It went to other places in the state, but not enough went to the North Coast at all. We have had so many shark sightings. This is an issue that people constantly raise with me.

Whether it's the federal Liberal-National government or the New South Wales state Liberal-National government, their harsh cuts continue to hurt regional Australia and areas like mine on the New South Wales North Coast. Of course, we're now in the Morrison recession, and this government's trillion-dollar debt has left so many behind. As I said, it's a government with no plan—no plan for jobs, no plan for wages growth, no plan for social housing, which is so desperately needed, no plan for child care, no plan to address the crisis in aged care and no plan for action on climate change, which our community desperately wants to see. When it comes to the regions, we primarily blame the National Party for that. As I've said many times in this place, National Party choices hurt, and they really do hurt the regions. We have particularly seen that when it comes to the budget and the number of people left behind, particularly those older workers—nothing for them—particularly women and particularly people in so many different sectors, like the arts and entertainment sector. They've all been left behind. They were left behind with JobKeeper, as were the casual workers. We've seen such a severe impact in my region, and a lack of support from this government.

We need to see greater investment in our regions. We need to be providing security for the future of the regions and our country, but we're not seeing that from our government. Most importantly, for our young people, we need to see training and education and opportunities they can access to get secure, permanent jobs. We desperately need to see that. I continue to call on this government to invest more in our regions as they've been forgotten in the Morrison government's budget.

4:30 pm

Photo of Lucy WicksLucy Wicks (Robertson, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today in support of our government's economic recovery plan for all Australians, which is already assisting many businesses and households across the Central Coast. This budget is about creating jobs, rebuilding our economy and securing Australia's future, including through tax relief. Around 61,600 taxpayers in my electorate of Robertson will benefit from tax relief of up to $2,745 this year. Other important economic initiatives include two one-off payments of $250 for our age pensioners to assist them with the costs of living and to cope with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through this budget, the government is expanding our record 10-year infrastructure pipeline, which is already supporting 100,000 jobs across the country. On the Central Coast, there is a $15 million boost in funding going towards planning for faster rail between Sydney and Newcastle, which will assist in finalising the scope, cost, timing and delivery of this project. Faster rail is something that residents of the Central Coast have been advocating for many years. With one in four people from our region commuting to Sydney or Newcastle for work or study every day, this initiative will mean commuters will be able to spend more time with family and friends and doing the things that they love. The vice-president of the Central Coast Commuters Association, Eddie Ellis, said he fully supports the Morrison government's announcement of additional funding, and can't wait to see the outcome of the planning when it's finalised. This builds on earlier announcements to improve the daily commute, including delivering continuous mobile coverage along the RailCorp corridor between Wyong and Hornsby, free wi-fi at train stations and $35 million for commuter car parking at Gosford and Woy Woy stations. A total of 14 new mobile sites have already been delivered with a further eight to be completed, and wi-fi connectivity is now live at all 19 station platforms.

The 2020-21 budget also delivers $16.7 million to the already announced $69.8 million Central Coast Roads Package, totalling $86.5 million going towards local upgrades. This additional funding is part of a $2.7 billion boost to infrastructure in New South Wales, and it will assist in upgrading the existing single-lane roundabout at the intersection of Ocean Beach Road and Rawson Road at Woy Woy. I know that many peninsula residents who use this roundabout to get to work and school every day will be pleased to hear that the upgrades will assist in reducing congestion, especially as this busy thoroughfare can increase commuting times. Kylie Brown from Woy Woy uses the intersection daily, and told me it can be a nightmare at peak traffic times and very dangerous for motorists and pedestrians. She said she's looking forward to seeing the intersection fixed for the safety of the community.

Eight road upgrades have already been completed as part of the Central Coast Roads Package, with an additional 12 currently under construction. Overall, the package will see 29 individual road upgrades across our local area, and I'm advised that all are expected to be completed by mid-2025. Infrastructure improvements like these mean jobs, they mean stronger local communities and they mean building a more secure future for our nation. That's why I'm proud to be part of a government that is backing local employment with 190 direct and indirect jobs expected to be supported as part of these upgrades.

A number of important initiatives funded in previous budgets are also underway, which includes the Central Coast Clinical School and Research Institute, which is currently under construction. Students are due in semester 2 of next year. The new club house and change rooms at James Brown Oval in Woy Woy are due to be completed by the next soccer season, while upgrades to the amenities block at Rogers Park will commence in early 2021. The federal government's $9 million investment for the Glen for Women is on track. I'm advised land has been purchased and the development application is underway. Progress has been made on the Peninsula Recreation Precinct, with Central Coast Council, I'm advised, completing a final concept design for the new skate park, and consultation on the sports amenities is well underway with local sporting and community groups. There is a grant agreement for the upgrades to the club house at Lemon Grove Netball Courts, and designs are being developed by council. Improvements to Pinyari Park in Kincumber and the highly anticipated Woy Woy scoreboard are already delivered, as is the linear accelerator at the Central Coast Cancer Centre, which will be ready to take its first patient as early as next month.

As part of this year's budget, the federal government is also supporting our next generation of skilled workers through the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy. The $1.2 billion wage subsidy will support up to 100,000 new apprenticeships Australia-wide. This is in addition to financial support already provided under the Morrison government's $2.8 billion Supporting Apprentices and Trainees package for existing apprentices and trainees. This support will benefit hardworking small businesses like Terrigal Electrical Services, run by Ryan and Yvette in my electorate of Robertson. Ryan said that the new 50 per cent wage subsidy has given their business the confidence to hire two new apprentices, bringing his team to around 11 people. The JobKeeper payment has also enabled Ryan and Yvette to retain their existing staff and help cushion the blow of the coronavirus pandemic. Other key measures backing local business in the 2020-21 budget include the increase to the instant asset write-off, from $30,000 to $150,000, enabling hardworking businesses to claim an immediate tax deduction for the full cost of equipment installed by 30 June 2022. Ryan and Yvette shared with me that they have been able to use this initiative to invest back into their business by purchasing two new vans in the last three months. These are just some of the examples of how the Morrison government's budget is helping people and business on the road to recovery out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The budget also guarantees the essential services that Australians rely on, including an additional $1.6 billion to support the aged-care sector, which will deliver 23,000 more home-care packages across Australia, and $10.3 billion in funding for the childcare system in 2020-21. The Morrison government is also investing $51 billion into education, injecting $550.3 million into short courses and additional university places. One billion dollars will be provided for university research, and regional students in universities will benefit from an additional $400 million in support. Importantly, the budget invests over $5.7 million into mental health, including $100.8 million to support the Better Access initiative, and will double Medicare funded psychological services from 10 to 20. This is so important to people in my electorate and right across Australia who are struggling as we deal with the impacts of recent bushfires and COVID-19. The 2020-21 budget sets out our economic recovery plan for Australia and it's designed to fast-track business and infrastructure investment. I know that the measures in this budget will assist people and small businesses of the Central Coast. While there remains a significant task ahead, there is hope and Australia is up to the task. I commend the bills to the House.

4:39 pm

Photo of Warren SnowdonWarren Snowdon (Lingiari, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for External Territories) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a pleasure to be able to speak in this debate on the appropriation bills. We heard the Treasurer's speech and we had the budget reply. I want to commend the Leader of the Opposition for his speech and his commitment to a plan for Australia's future, unlike what we saw in the budget. I'm not so churlish, though, as to not acknowledge the investments which the government is making through this budget—needed investments into my own electorate and into northern Australia around roads and other infrastructure; investments into national parks in my electorate, at Kakadu and Uluru and on Christmas Island; the investment to address the issue of ghost nets; money for Rum Jungle rehabilitation; and of course the ongoing commitment to defence infrastructure in the North, which is a common view across the parliament and something which is unsurprising.

As we know, we're all Keynesians now. I had the pleasure of being here in the global financial crisis, when the now government were definitely not Keynesians.

An honourable member: I thought you were going to say you met Mr Keynes!

I'm not quite that old! I'm getting close. I remember well the oppositionist views which were expressed by the then opposition, including the now Prime Minister, which I thought then were a sad indictment of what should have been a more bipartisan approach to addressing the crisis that was induced through the collapse of the financial instruments. Nevertheless, I think it is important that we accept that the world has changed significantly and that those who were then critics of us and bleating about deficits and balanced budgets have now understood that, in times of crisis, as we had then and as we have now, it's important to invest government resources into developing the economy and addressing infrastructure.

Nevertheless, this budget will rack up—as you well know, Mr Deputy Speaker Zimmerman—$1 trillion in debt and, I think, a forecast $1.7 trillion over 10 years. That's an enormous commitment of Australian future wealth. But, with all that, as the Leader of the Opposition has observed, this doesn't do enough to create jobs. The budget fails to build for the future and leaves too many Australians behind. That's really sad. We know that the millions who are left behind will include 928,000 people over 35 on unemployment benefits, who have been deliberately excluded from hiring subsidies. There are no real plans for child care. There is no proper plan for aged care. There is no proper plan for energy, one which would drive down costs and provide investment certainty for businesses. There is no plan for the future of JobSeeker recipients—and I'll come to that in more detail shortly—leaving 1.4 million recipients, as at 25 September, with an uncertain future as to whether they will go back onto the old rate of 40 bucks a day. I invite any member of the government to tell me or tell the Australian community that they think that's a fair cut—40 bucks a day.

I want to concentrate on an area of particular need, in my view, and that is the failure of the budget to address the needs of Indigenous Australians, our First Australians. The budget fails to offer any funding that will make substantial and overdue improvements for First Australians. Some of the many areas it fails in are housing, closing the gap, access roads to communities, communications, providing Indigenous jobs, reforming CDP, improving social security, building clinics and reducing incarceration and inequities in education. On the need: only this week, communities out at Arlparra, north-east of Alice Springs, were cut off for over five days as a result of wet weather. Not only did they lose complete access to the community for two days; there was a substantial period where they had no communications and no access to EFTPOS. No access to EFTPOS meant, apart from anything else, they couldn't make purchases at the local shop. In addition, it meant they couldn't actually undertake their Centrelink obligations because they couldn't get onto the internet, and they become penalised. This budget doesn't address any of those issues. It does not address those issues. It doesn't address the poverty that exists amongst First Nations Australians.

Before the onset of COVID-19, in 2016, more than half—that's 53.4 per cent—of First Australians lived in very remote areas and were living in poverty. In urban areas, in 2016, the average First Nation household incomes were only three-quarters of what they were for the rest of the population. In 2018-19, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey found that more than a third—that's 38 per cent—of very remote First Nations households experienced hunger. This means they ran out of food and could not afford to buy any more. There's nothing in this budget for that. And it makes me cranky. Forty-two per cent of the population in my communities are Aboriginal people, most of whom live in remote communities, most of whom are dirt poor, most of whom live in overcrowded housing. This budget does nothing to address those issues, except to raise uncertainty around whether or not, as I said, the JobSeeker income will fall back to 40 bucks a day.

The failure to address the stupidity of the current Community Development Program scheme, the job scheme, the Work for the Dole scheme, which operates in remote communities, is appalling. It is a failure. It is an absolute failure. We've been continuing to bring this to the government's attention, and they've continued to ignore us. It's discriminatory, and it doesn't work. It needs to be chucked out, and the government need to start again. There's nothing in this budget to fix that.

An area which is totally underfunded is housing. The government has committed, along with the Northern Territory government, I think $2.8 billion over 10 years for housing in the Northern Territory. The view is that the government's expenditure into housing will reduce overcrowding by a level of 25 to 30 per cent by 2028. Well, tell me how that works if you've got a household of 14 people? How does it work? Does it mean a quarter of them will move into another house? That means there are still 12 people living in that house. Yet this is common practice in remote communities. And what this investment by the government does not anticipate or plan for is the decrease in mortality in Aboriginal communities and the high birth rates. While the population is growing—the curve is going up dramatically as a result of natural increases—the housing curve is going down. There is a disjunction; they're moving apart. And, if we want to address the health issues in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, we need to address the issue of housing. This budget provides $150 million through the Aboriginal business organisation for house purchases. That will have no impact—absolutely zero impact!—on the poverty I've been speaking about or the need for housing in remote Australia. We need to be a lot better than that. We need to be a lot better than that!

As I said, the CDP scheme—well, what can you say? It doesn't work. And, despite the criticism that the government receives on a regular basis, we don't see change. I've offered and am happy to sit down with the government at any time to work in a bipartisan way to try and address these issues, but the government's got to be fair dinkum, and, frankly, the government isn't. And that's a problem.

How do you address this issue? The government did what is, on its face, a good thing in this budget. They provided $39.8 million for extra funding for the Clontarf program, an education program based on attracting young Aboriginal men to go to school, stay at school and complete Year 12. On its face, that's very good thing. But that's it. Nothing—zero—in this budget for equivalent girls' programs, one of which—the Stars Foundation— I know very well. It is at least as good as Clontarf. If you don't understand, if this government, if the Prime Minister can't see the need to educate young women, the mothers of the next generation, what are we talking about here? What we should have seen was an equivalent amount of money—$39.8 million—for equivalent girls programs—not dodgy ones, not part-time things, but ones that have an outcome. They are about retention and getting young women through Year 12 and providing for their welfare, such as Stars does.

So I'm disappointed. If you look at this through the prism of those most disadvantaged Australians, you have to say they have not done well. There is a drastic need across this country for improving health outcomes—we know that, obviously—with all the close the gap targets, which clearly have not been met. But to do that you need infrastructure. We know there is a substantial need for investment in First Nations clinics across this country. There is nothing in this budget for any substantial increase in expenditure on providing primary health care services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around Australia.

I could go on and on. I could and I would if I had more time. I won't have time to address the issues around the deep policy fault lines that exist between us and the government around the Uluru statement. It's not addressed in this budget: the need for a voice, the need for treaty, the need for truth-telling, the need for a makarrata commission. We can do a lot better than this. As I say, I am prepared to accept the bona fides of those who are prepared to work with us, but where deliberate decisions are made which leave the interests of First Nations people outside the door, not in the room, not at the table, with no-one to speak to, without a voice, there's a problem. This budget does nothing to fix that problem.

I end where I started and commend the Leader of the Opposition for his contribution in his address in reply. I say to the government, I know it's not common practice. Unlike you—that is, the government—when you were in opposition around the GFC, we want to be constructive and productive. Listen to what the Leader of the Opposition has put forward. It's a way ahead, a strategy for improvement of the Australian community and the Australian economy. I ask you to look at it seriously and not just disregard it.

4:53 pm

Photo of Celia HammondCelia Hammond (Curtin, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very happy to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No.1) 2020-21 and highlight the impact that this budget will have in my electorate of Curtin. 2020 has been a year none of us will forget. We didn't expect it, but we won't forget it. Tragically, lives have been lost, businesses closed, jobs lost and families separated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of the pandemic we are experiencing the most extreme economic crisis since the Great Depression and the Australian economy has entered its first recession in almost 30 years.

While Australia's performance on the health and economic front has been better than many other developed countries, the global economic environment remains uncertain, with the impact of this crisis likely to be felt for many years to come. But Australians are resilient. I have spoken previously in this place of the resilience of the people in my electorate of Curtin. The can-do, buckle-down attitude alongside the strong community ties we all share have been tested this year. But, rather than being frayed, they have, if anything, been strengthened.

Australia's better placed than many countries to recover, because of the health and economic measures that have been implemented since the pandemic first hit our shores. Since the onset of COVID, the government has committed $507 billion, or 25.6 per cent of GDP, in overall economic support, which has kept Australians safe, protected jobs and ensured that Australia is in a very strong position upon which to base its economic recovery.

Some of the actions already taken have had a direct impact on my local community. The government's JobKeeper payment has supported 6,700 businesses in Curtin, supporting them through the pandemic and keeping them connected to their employees. Ian Belton, the managing director of Caterlink, a third-generation family-run company in my electorate, managed to keep their 30 employees employed because of JobKeeper. Ian said, 'We were flying through a storm and the government assistance has been one of the strategies we are using to extend our runway so that we have a safe landing.' JobKeeper has also supported Creative.adm. Run by Marty Shearwood, Creative have been supported by the JobKeeper payments, allowing them to keep their 11 staff in work. Marty told me, 'The JobKeeper wage subsidy gave us the confidence we needed to retain our staff, to boost team morale and, most importantly, ensure we could provide a consistent level of service to our clients as they dealt with their own COVID-19-related issues.'

The cash flow boost has helped around 6,000 small and medium businesses in my electorate of Curtin. Glen from my local cafe Deli Chicchi in Mount Claremont had this to say: 'The government measures have helped us when our business had to close to sit-down diners because of the restrictions. In fact, one of the biggest help provided has been the boost in cash flow measure. At the point at which these payments came through, I was just about to have to remortgage or close my doors. It, along with the JobKeeper payments, kept my staff in jobs, allowed the business to keep going and helped me to pay my small independent suppliers.'

The instant asset write-off was equally welcomed by many businesses. For example, the owners of the Floreat Market the Herdsman Market in my electorate, who employ 140 people, used the instant asset write-off to build up additional facilities. Anthony Pullella, one of the owners, told me: 'Through the insignificant asset write-off we were able to improve our kitchen facilities up at our store. Because of this larger kitchen, demand for our meals has increased and we are actively looking for a new chef and kitchen hands. We also upgraded our IT system to streamline our proceeds to be more efficient, installing new checkouts for faster service, better reporting systems and faster to use. We are proud people, proud of our quality and service, and, through the asset write-off, we've been able to afford these changes, which will kick our business into a great space for the next decade.'

The supplement for age pensioners saw about 9,000 age pensioners in Curtin received payments of $750 in April and in July. Over 300 carers in Curtin also received this benefit. George Bowden, a constituent in my electorate, said this: 'The first $750 payments were such a help. It doesn't sound like much but it went so far in helping with the weekly shop, especially when it was hard to find the cheaper essentials, and it assisted with other household costs like care insurance.' And 4,864 individuals in Curtin have received the JobSeeker coronavirus supplement, which was added to provide additional support throughout this crisis.

The people in my electorate have been overwhelmingly positive about the measures taken to date by this government. This bill, outlining the 2020-21 budget, continues to build on those measures. It's one which provides a way forward, a path of hope and encouragement. Of course the 66,000 taxpayers in Curtin and the 1.2 million taxpayers across WA who are going to benefit from the tax relief are pleased with this measure. They earned their money. They know what they want to spend it on, and we're going to allow them to do it. Importantly, we're also going to continue to provide much needed transitional support to those in need. For example, our aged pensioners and our carers will receive a further $250 payment in December, and then again in March next year.

Above all of these, it's the measures that go to supporting jobs and job growth and the underpinnings of our economy which are going to benefit the people in Curtin, both throughout the coming very difficult times we are about to face and into the future. There are a number of them I want to highlight—and I, like all the other speakers, will probably run out of time, so I'll do my best. The first category of measures that I want to address are those targeted at small business. In Curtin there are close to 25,000 small and medium-sized businesses across a vast range of industries and professions. There are a number of initiatives supporting them directly. The two which I know will be of great interest to the Curtin businesses are the extension of the instant asset write-off and the loss carry-back initiative.

Given how successful the earlier version of the instant asset write-off has been, I've no doubt that the extended version will be fully embraced. This will allow businesses with a turnover of less than $5 billion to immediately write off the full value of eligible assets that they purchase for their business. As I said, the first tranche of the instant asset write-off was embraced by businesses in my electorate. This one will be again. Secondly, complementing this measure, if a business paid income tax in 2019 and then incurs a tax loss in 2020, the tax from 2019 will be refunded. I know many businesses who, because they struggled with the shutdowns this year but otherwise ran a very successful business, will utilise it and will really appreciate the cash flow support this measure will provide.

There are people looking for work throughout Australia. In February 1,981 people in Curtin received JobSeeker. By May that number had, sadly, climbed to 5,297. While the number of people on JobSeeker in my electorate is slowly coming down and is now at about 4,800, this figure shows that there are still many people in Curtin actively looking for work. I want to highlight two key initiatives which will help those in my electorate trying to seek work. The first of those is the JobMaker hiring credit. This is designed to support small businesses and create jobs for young people. Substantial funds are being made available to support small businesses hiring new staff aged between 16 and 35 currently on JobSeeker. The credit will be payable for up to 12 months and will provide for new jobs at a rate of $200 per week for those aged between 16 and 29, and $100 per week for those aged between 30 and 35. The second significant support is the extension of support for apprenticeships, with a new 50 per cent wage subsidy for businesses who employ apprentices or trainees, supporting them and creating 10,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships across Australia. Businesses in my community have already reached out to me to find out details on both of these measures. They want to go out and find new staff members. They love this measure and I know they will embrace it.

Another area of significant interest to the people of Curtin is health. In my electorate we have 11 hospitals, a mix of private and public, which service not only the people in my community but also people all over Perth and Western Australia. Curtin is also the home of many healthcare workers. It's the largest employment sector for people living in my area. To all of you who have been working tirelessly over the last six months, I say: thank you.

This budget delivers record funding of $93.8 billion in 2020-21 for health—an increase of almost 43 per cent since 2014. WA's health funding is increasing by $184 million over last year. The extension of Medicare subsidised telehealth services has enabled over 30 million consultations since the crisis began. I know that access to telehealth was warmly welcomed by patients and doctors in my electorate. I also commend and highlight the $5.7 billion being put into supporting mental health across our nation. Mental health is a vital issue—it's an issue of national importance—and this budget delivers.

Manufacturing is something that, surprisingly, excites me. The Modern Manufacturing Strategy is a stroke of genius. What we are doing here will be significant. It creates jobs and more career and life opportunities for people. Very importantly, it helps support our national sovereignty and security. I have a number of people who work in the areas that are targeted under our manufacturing strategy and I want to highlight one company—Chironix.

Chironix, a company founded by Daniel Milford, is at the forefront of rapid deployment and the management of autonomous robots and digital wearables. This company is playing an important role in the defence and resources sectors by optimising and integrating new software into existing technologies and allowing them to work more effectively. An example of this is the work they're doing on Project Simpson with the US Office of Naval Research. They're going to develop a technology that will significantly improve outcomes for casualties in the field. Project Simpson is named in honour of the Anzac stretcher-bearer Jack Simpson. It will integrate three cutting-edge technologies that will allow a single medic to provide a casualty with lifesaving treatment, monitor key vital signs hands-free and evacuate the casualty to a field hospital.

These sorts of projects are really exciting. They're really the future of advanced manufacturing in Australia. It's these sorts of projects that we'll be targeting under the Modern Manufacturing Strategy.

The people in my electorate care deeply about the environment and the impacts of climate change. They all want energy that is clean and cheap. To this end, the budget's inclusion of $1.9 billion in new funding to support low-emission and renewable technologies has been welcomed. Likewise, the $250 million to modernise our recycling infrastructure and build an improved recycling industry so that we reduce waste and do more of it here is also being embraced in Curtin.

Most of the schools in my electorate have their own dedicated recycling and management programs. There is also a local organisation, Greenbatch, that works with many of the schools to collect plastic waste and turn it into 3D-printing filament. It's an example of the circular economy at work.

I also have to give a shout-out to my local councils, many of whom have stepped up on their local recycling and waste initiatives. The five councils of Mosman Park, Cottesloe, Claremont, Subiaco and Peppermint Grove have joined with Cambridge through the West Metropolitan Regional Council to manage waste. They have done significant work with respect to recycling. Not only do they collect it and invest in it but also they have a vast recycling educational program.

It would be completely remiss of me when talking about environment initiatives to not note the incredible work done by the numerous volunteer organisations in my area that ensure that our natural environment and wildlife are preserved, enhanced and, where necessary, restored. The friends-of groups and the Coastcare groups are simply phenomenal. They do incredible work. Most of it is just taken for granted. I thank them sincerely for that. I also thank them for the time they take in educating and enlightening me about all the things I don't know. I also thank them for frequently challenging me and giving me cause to rethink and reconsider things.

I have other things, but I note that I have only eight seconds left. All I say is that this has been a pretty bad year—I was going to use a word you're not allowed to use—but I know that this budget sets the path ahead. In our future we have to live with hope.

5:09 pm

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

) ( ): COVID-19 has thrown the world into turmoil, and I accept that. It has disrupted normal life right across the world. It's exposed weaknesses in countries and in societies throughout the world, including here in Australia. It's also caused widespread divisions and differences of opinion as to what is the most effective response to COVID-19. The immediate priority for most governments of course has been to keep people safe, to provide the health services that they need and to minimise the economic and job losses that have occurred.

COVID-19 has also become a test of government competency. Governments have choices about the decisions they make and choices that reveal their ideology, their priorities and ultimately their competencies. Those choices will of course determine how long and how severe the COVID-19 fallout will be and, importantly, how quickly the recovery will be. And that is a matter that the Morrison government will have to contend with at the next election, because the recession we're currently in is very much dependent on the policies of this government and how well it manages the situation that we are in. In doing that, the budget was about choices—all are budgets are—and the 2020-21 budget of the Morrison government sets out its priorities for the coming years and its COVID-19 recovery response. It's a shallow, short-sighted response and very poorly thought through, with no evidence base behind many of the policies and announcements that were made and with no long-term economic or social strategy. It's more like a marketing budget framed for the next federal election, and, whilst the Prime Minister denies that it will be in the second half of next year, we'll have to wait and see about that. It's a budget with a lot of electoral sweeteners, with billions being spent but with no long-term economic structural reform, no reset of economic direction and no new foundations for Australia's future. The only legacy of the Morrison government's 2020-21 budget will be a massive debt, indeed, the worst in Australia's history for years to come.

The government's own budget figures are very clear: a $213.7 billion deficit this year, $703 billion of net debt this financial year growing to $966 billion at the end of the forward estimates and gross debt, currently at $800 billion, is expected to hit $1.7 trillion by the end of the decade. Yet, with all that debt, 928,000 people aged over 35 years who are currently unemployed will be worse off because they've been excluded from the government's job subsidies programs. They will find it even more difficult getting back into the workforce when they have to compete with people that will be subsidised ahead of them.

In this budget, there is nothing for an aged-care sector that is currently in crisis—nothing of substance. I notice that there are some additional aged-care packages. They fall very far short of what is needed to reduce the waiting lists for those packages. We have no national energy security strategy in this budget. Again, that's something that Australians have been calling out for for years. There is no healthcare reform for a sector severely under strain. There is continued uncertainty about both the JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs, which this government and members opposite continuously laud. None of those people who are on either of those programs know what the future holds for them, and, indeed, for those on JobSeeker, it is just over two months away and their supplementary payment will cease, bringing them back to the $40 a day Newstart allowance that they will be expected to live on.

It's a budget that does very little for a struggling housing construction sector, and we know, even from the budget's own figures, that that sector, which would traditionally rely on population growth, now has the additional challenge of a population in this country that is not likely to grow in the immediate future. We have a university sector, heavily reliant on overseas students, where some 260,000 employees equally face a very uncertain future because we don't know when overseas travel will resume. And we have a budget, that everyone on this side of the House have continuously reminded the government of, that completely ignores climate change. I accept that for many people right now climate change might not be at the forefront of their mind. But, in reality, for governments it should be because it's an issue that will affect the future of our country and indeed the whole planet. We cannot just continuously push it aside because there are other supposedly more pressing issues to deal with. Yes, those pressing issues are there, but to suggest that you can't deal with both again reflects on government competency.

Perhaps the most demoralising aspect of the Morrison government's 2020-21 budget is that it offers no hope to the one million Australians who are currently unemployed and the up to 2½ million who are possibly underemployed. In my own electorate there are 10,234 people who are presently on JobSeeker payments. That's almost twice the 5,695 who were in that position in December of last year. The figure has effectively doubled. Some 1,196 people are currently receiving youth allowance, which again is almost double the figure of 636 at the end of last year. What future is there for those people when not only have the numbers doubled but the opportunities have shrunk? They've shrunk to a point where I have no doubt that the future will indeed be bleak for many of those people. It will be even more bleak when perhaps JobKeeper ends in the early part of next year.

I now want to turn to the decimated travel and tourism industry of this country. My understanding is that the sector overall employs about a million people across the country. It has been perhaps the hardest hit of all the different sectors, and for many of the tourism operators or the people in the travel industry sector there may never, ever be a recovery for them. I was recently contacted by a local Makin travel agent, Connie Dziwoki, who owns and runs Genesis Travel and Cruise at Ridgehaven in my electorate. Connie has been in business for over four decades—pretty much all her life—working in the travel industry. Up until the beginning of this year she employed 3½ people. The interstate and international border closures have ruined her business. Connie now has no idea what the future holds for her, and, despite industry lobbying, the Morrison government's federal budget provides no business security for Connie or the 40,000 travel industry employees across Australia. The loss carry-back provisions announced in the budget are of no benefit to Connie or indeed any of the other 1,300 sole traders who operate a travel business or who operate one under a family or unit trust or a partnership. My understanding is that they will not benefit from the loss carry-back provisions at all. So what does the future hold for those like Connie? At 63, she's very unlikely to easily find another job, particularly when her expertise and experience is in one industry sector alone, and one that is not likely to rebound very quickly in any event. She had a business that was worth money. It is now worth absolutely nothing. She has nothing to onsell that she previously had that might have enabled her to set herself up for her retirement years.

The Morrison government's budget has not only failed Connie; it has failed so many others in a similar situation to hers, and it has left them behind. Members opposite quite rightly come in and talk about the success stories of the Morrison government, but I never hear them talking about those who have been left behind, who I'm sure have contacted their offices, just as they contact the offices of opposition members of parliament.

For my home state of South Australia, the Morrison government's budget is indeed a disappointment. Despite the efforts of South Australian coalition members to try and put a positive spin on the budget, it does very little indeed for South Australia. The demise of manufacturing over the past five years has hit South Australia particularly hard. South Australia was a state that in the late sixties and early seventies relied on manufacturing to the point that around 30 per cent of the economy depended on manufacturing, as did about 30 per cent of employment. Those figures have dropped, just as the national figures have, to around five or six per cent today.

The provocation of GMH by this government in this parliament in December 2013, prompting GMH to shut down its Elizabeth car making plant, was a massive blow to South Australia. Business confidence in that state has fallen away ever since that day, and you can track it. It's pretty clear. Population growth has now stagnated in the state. The housing sector, as a result, has also stagnated. In fact, last year I think we had 11 or 12 or maybe even 13 housing construction companies go into liquidation. In the last couple of years we've had iconic brands like Coca-Cola shut down their manufacturing plant in Adelaide. And only last week West End brewery announced that in a couple of years it would no longer continue to manufacture in South Australia. Again, it's not just the direct numbers of employees that these brands have; it's also the flow-on they have when they close down, and there's a psychological impact on the state when iconic national brands close their doors. Then, today, I read that BHP's $3.7 billion expansion of the Olympic Dam mine has also been abandoned. That was lauded as the possible savour of South Australia in the years ahead, and $3.7 billion of expansion would have been a terrific injection into the state. That has now been abandoned.

It goes further than that. What is the Morrison government's response to what is happening in South Australia? When we look at infrastructure funding, despite the spin about the figures, the reality is that by 2023 South Australia will get less than four per cent of national infrastructure funding, which is far less than it would be entitled to based on population or road length in the state. When we look at the full-cycle docking of submarines, there's been no decision about where that's going to take place. There's no certainty for the people down at Osborne as to whether they'll have jobs in the future or not. And, when we look at the new submarines that were supposed to be built in South Australia, with 90 plus per cent of jobs created being in South Australia according to the former member for Sturt in this place, we now know there is no commitment to a minimum Australian local content of jobs on those submarine builds. So we have a massive $90 billion, or thereabouts, expenditure for a product about which we have no idea how many jobs it will create in Australia, let alone in South Australia, which is very much dependent on all of that.

The Morrison government has failed South Australia time and time again, and it has done so again in this budget. Compare and contrast that with the response from Labor leader Anthony Albanese in terms of the budget response. The budget response from Anthony Albanese was not a comprehensive list of issues that will be taken to the next election, as I'm sure members opposite would appreciate, but it certainly addressed some of the key issues the Australian people have been calling out for: a major reform of childcare, the rebuilding of the national energy grid, the revival of Australian manufacturing—a real policy that also invests in Australian skills—an Australian centre for disease control and a social housing strategy. Each one of those isn't simply just throwing a few dollars at some industry sector, trying to keep people happy for a few moments; they're about setting a new direction for the country. They're about building a new economy and providing certainty for the long-term future of this country. That is the kind of response we should have but didn't get from the Morrison government.

COVID-19 was the perfect opportunity, given the way the whole world has changed, to reset the direction of this country. It was an opportunity for the government, given that it literally had a free hand to spend whatever money it wanted—and it has spent that money but not very wisely—to set some new policies and new directions and, indeed, prepare Australia for the years to come in a way that provided confidence to the people of this country and kept Australia competitive with the rest of the world. It was an opportunity to invest in nation-building initiatives and a vision and a strategy for Australia's future. But this government failed to do that. Labor's response, I believe, has at least set us in the right direction.

5:24 pm

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

The federal budget delivered at the start of this month lays out a comprehensive economic recovery plan for this nation. The COVID-19 pandemic, on top of the tragic loss of life that it's caused, is the biggest shock to hit the global economy since the Great Depression. The global economy is forecast to contract by 4.5 per cent through 2020, and in the last major economic shock, the global financial crisis, the world economy contracted by 0.1 per cent. So we're talking about a shock in orders of magnitude bigger than we experienced in the global financial crisis. There have been over 32 million cases of COVID-19 around the world and no-one has proven immune. We've seen world leaders, from the UK Prime Minister to the President of Brazil, and indeed the President of the United States, struck low with COVID-19. In a normal year around the world, malaria kills 600,000 people, HIV/AIDS kills 950,000 people, and over 800,000 people take their lives through suicide. So far this year, COVID-19 has killed over one million people, and there are still several months to go. So anyone who plays down the lethality and seriousness of this disease is not only wrong; they are dangerous. They are encouraging complacency where none is warranted.

The economic shock of COVID-19 has been equally profound. It's undoubtedly the biggest economic shock to the globe since the Second World War. As I mentioned, the predicted global economic contraction is about 4.5 per cent, and that's across all major economies. The IMF expects the United States economy to contract between four and five per cent over 2020; Japan by five per cent; the Euro area by eight per cent; the UK by around 10 per cent; and New Zealand has contracted by around 13 per cent. In fact, the only major economy that's forecast to grow in 2020 is China's.

The 2020-21 budget outlines further measures to help cushion the blow of the pandemic, accelerate the recovery and help rebuild the economy for the future. It builds on previous support measures, including JobKeeper, JobSeeker, cashflow relief for small businesses and early access to super. All up, these measures will amount to some $507 billion in government fiscal support since the onset of the pandemic. This is one of the biggest fiscal stimuluses ever delivered by a government.

This year has been hard for many Australians, but we are emerging from this crisis intact and together. Of the 1.3 million Australians who either lost their jobs or had their hours reduced to zero in April, over half are now back at work. Four hundred and forty-six thousand jobs have been created in the past four months. Consumer confidence has been up for seven months straight. In just this month, consumer sentiment jumped 11.9 per cent on a month-on-month basis, following an 18 per cent jump the previous month, to what is 105 points on the Melbourne Institute and Westpac Bank Consumer Sentiment Index. Quoting from Westpac-consumer sentiment October, it was 'the highest level since July 2018' in the 'ongoing success across the nation in containing the COVID-19 outbreak' and the response to the October federal budget. Whilst the Australian economy is expected to contract by 3.75 per cent in calendar year 2020, it's forecast to recover in 2021 and grow by 4.25 per cent. Unemployment is expected to peak at around eight per cent in December and decline after that. These are sobering figures, but, without direct government support, it's estimated by Treasury and the budget papers that unemployment would have peaked at 12 per cent and stayed there for considerably longer.

Although I know it's perhaps of little comfort to Australians doing it tough right now, Australia has fared well in terms of managing the health and economic impacts of this crisis. Our deaths from COVID-19 are significantly fewer than in other developed countries and our economy has weathered the storm better. We entered this in a strong fiscal position, having restored the budget to balance, and, even with the additional spending of over $500 billion, our net debt to GDP ratio will peak at around 44 per cent and remain low by world standards. Just yesterday, Australia had its AAA credit rating reaffirmed. We will manage this debt burden by restoring jobs, growing the economy, positioning Australia's future industries and shrinking the debt as a proportion of the economy.

The budget lays out our strategies to rebuild the economy and secure Australia's future. First of all, the budget is supporting households. The budget will bring forward stage 2 of our income tax relief, increasing the low-income tax offset and lifting the tax thresholds. As a result, more than 11 million Australians will get a tax cut backdated to 1 July. Lower and middle income earners will receive up to $2,745 in tax relief for singles and up to $5,490 for dual-income families compared with 2017-18. This will support consumption and small business.

The budget is also helping job creation. There will be a new JobMaker hiring credit to encourage businesses to hire younger Australians, payable for up to 12 months and available to those employers who hire Australians aged 16 to 35 who have been on JobSeeker in one of the past three months. Treasury estimates that this will support around 450,000 new jobs for young people. The budget also commits an additional $1.2 billion to create 100,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships, with a 50 per cent wage subsidy for businesses who employ them. This is in addition to the earlier $2.8 billion commitment to protect 180,000 apprenticeships and trainees.

The budget will also help Australians looking to retrain and to upskill, providing funding for 50,000 new higher education short courses in areas such as information technology, health, science and teaching. The budget is also providing investment incentives. Business investment will be the key to economic recovery, and the budget provides support for new investment. Four out of five jobs in Australia are in the private sector, so this is the obvious focus of our efforts. This will be the engine room of our economic recovery.

In measures announced in the budget, businesses with a turnover of up to $5 billion, which is nearly every Australian business, will be able to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase for their business, with no limit on the value of assets eligible for full expediency. Businesses will also be able to offset losses from this financial year against profits made in prior financial years, back to 2018-19. These loss carry-back measures will provide instant relief for viable businesses that have found themselves in tough times this year.

The budget is also caring for the vulnerable. The budget will provide record funding for hospitals, for schools, for child care, for aged care, for mental health and for disability services. An additional $3.9 billion will be provided to the National Disability Insurance Scheme to further its life-changing support for the 400,000 Australians who have a disability. As we all know, the mental health impacts of this crisis have been significant, with around seven million Medicare subsidised mental health services delivered since March and some very troubling reports about increases in mental health episodes across the nation.

In this budget, the number of Medicare funded psychological services available will be doubled from 10 to 20 per year, and there will be more funding provided for headspace, Lifeline, Beyond Blue and Kids Helpline. I would like to give a special shout-out to headspace in here today, given it is headspace Day and given the work that headspace in my own electorate in Bondi Junction does. The budget also makes provision for 23,000 additional home care packages that will be provided to the elderly, increasing the total to more than 180,000—a tripling since 2013. Age pensioners will receive two supplementary payments of $250 in each of the next two quarters.

The budget will also provide help with affordable housing also. Under an expansion of the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme, an additional 10,000 first home buyers will be eligible to purchase a home with a deposit of as little as five per cent. The budget also provides an additional $1 billion in low-cost finance to support the construction of affordable housing, taking the total concessional finance that has been provided to community housing providers to $3 billion. That is on top of the $4.6 billion that is provided annually by the federal government in rent assistance.

Importantly, the budget is supporting clean energy and supporting the environment. Australia has a promising future in a low-emissions world, and this budget helps accelerate and support this transition. A $1.9 billion package of assistance will be used to fund research and development and help commercialise promising new technologies in areas such as clean energy, clean hydrogen, battery storage, low-emission steel, low-emissions aluminium and soil carbon. Of this, $1.6 billion will be provided to the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, or ARENA—a renewal of funding that I campaigned hard for.

The budget also contains almost $250 million to modernise recycling infrastructure and help build a recycling industry here in Australia, so we reduce our waste process more of it here. This will help implement the 2020 decision of COAG, the Council of Australian Governments, to ban the export of waste glass, waste plastics, waste tyres and waste paper. Once the relevant legislation is enacted, the export of waste material from Australia of glass, plastics, tyre and paper will be prohibited unless it is processed first into a value-added material or it will be reused as a manufacturing input overseas.

This will help phase-in the end of the almost $645,000 tonnes of unprocessed plastic, paper, glass and tyres that Australia ships overseas each year. It will fund and encourage the development of a circular economy in Australia, by enhancing voluntary product stewardship and supporting businesses to consider the full life cycle of products before they're manufactured and before they sell. It will impose obligations for manufacturers, distributors and importers of certain products to manage the full life cycle of these products, and to take greater responsibility for their impact on the environment. And it will help realise the economic and community benefits of processing Australian waste here in Australia. In doing so, it will create new industries, create new products and create new jobs.

In the budget, there is also a significant sum to protect the health of our oceans and waterways and marine ecosystems, including sea grasses, coral reefs and, of course, the Great Barrier Reef.

The budget is also investing in the future, in high-technology, knowledge-rich, innovative industries that will be the key to Australia's future economic success and prosperity, and I'm pleased the budget is helping to nurture these. There is $1 billion in research funding for the university sector. The Universities Australia chair, Professor Deborah Terry, said:

The Government clearly understands you can't have an economic recovery without investing in research and development.

This will ensure world-class research and discovery can continue on Australia's university campuses. That means universities can play their part in the national effort to rebuild the economy.

I agree with that sentiment. We can't have an economic recovery without investing in research and development, and universities will play a part in the national effort to rebuild the economy. An additional $459 million will go to CSIRO, to fund essential scientific research, and there's our Modern Manufacturing Initiative of almost $1.3 billion that will help improve collaboration, support commercialisation and build new, promising industries in areas such as space, recycling, clean energy, medical products and food manufacturing.

A few weeks back I was at a blood plasma fractionation facility that has just opened up at Macquarie Park in North Ryde. It's in the electorate of the member for Bennelong, Mr Alexander. We were there to open a new blood plasma fractionation facility being started by two Australian founders—Aegros is the name of the company—and they're doing research into a promising hyperimmune to treat COVID-19. When I spoke to the founders, John Manusu and Hari Nair, they told me how important the investment incentives in the budget were. They have spent a lot of money acquiring new plant and equipment to run this blood plasma fractionation facility, and they were encouraged about the future with the measures announced in this budget.

In the week after the budget, I took the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, to a local Bondi cafe in my electorate of Wentworth, Bennett Street Dairy. There he met the owners, who told him how they'd used JobKeeper and the cashflow relief to small businesses to pivot their business and to invest in new technology. What had been a sideline they were doing in cookie dough had turned into a mainstay of their business, because of the measures we provided in response to COVID-19.

I'm pleased to announce that there is also significant money available locally in my own electorate of Wentworth. Many of my electors will benefit directly from the measures in the budget. There are over 85,000 people in Wentworth who will get tax relief through the tax cuts. There are over 33,000 small businesses that will be eligible for the investment incentives and the carryback provisions. There are over 10,000 people in Wentworth who have kept their jobs, through JobKeeper, and there are over 7,000 businesses that have benefited from the cashflow boost. There are 5,000 people who benefitted from the coronavirus supplement, and over 6,000 aged pensioners will receive the additional support payments.

There is also additional funding through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, which will benefit community infrastructure projects in Wentworth, from walking paths and bike lanes through to picnic shelters. Woollahra Municipal Council, Waverley Council, the City of Sydney and Randwick City Council will, together, receive an additional $15 million to spend on local infrastructure and community upgrades by the end of 2021. I'll be working closely with local mayors and councillors to identify high-priority projects.

This has undoubtedly been a challenging year for governments and nations around the world. We, in Australia, should each feel proud, each one of us, of how we have performed so far. We have good reason to feel confident about our future. This budget is another important step towards a post-COVID Australia, and I commend it to the House.

5:39 pm

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We are in perilous times, facing the deepest recession this nation has seen in almost a century. Australia needs a federal budget that does some serious heavy lifting, to drive the economic activity and create the jobs that we so desperately need. Regrettably, this federal budget fails to deliver on both fronts. Despite creating a trillion dollars of debt, it offers no comprehensive plan for the future and leaves far too many Australians behind. This budget has no plan for social housing, no plan for child care, no plan for cheaper, cleaner energy, no plan to address the crisis in aged care and, critically, no plan for jobs. It fails to deliver the stimulus we need to support the recovery process. It fails to invest in so many critical local projects, including some fabulous ones in my electorate of Newcastle. And it fails to drive greater workforce participation by addressing the child care affordability disaster.

Worse, this budget slashes support for hundreds of thousands of businesses and workers at their most critical time of need. The reduction in JobSeeker and JobKeeper tears close to $25 million every fortnight out of Newcastle at a time when many of our local businesses are already on their knees.

The other truly remarkable aspect of this budget is that, despite accumulating an eye-watering amount of debt, it still manages to miss the mark and leave so many citizens without. Women have been left behind. Jobseekers over 35 years of age have been left behind. Australians and their families who rely on aged care have been left behind. Many tens of thousands of businesses and their workers have been left behind. The 2020 budget has been touted as the most important and consequential budget of our history, but, tragically, it fails to deliver what Australia needs to protect our economy and our people. It leaves way too many Australians behind in its very narrow view of the recovery process. Make no mistake, decisions made by the Morrison Liberal government in this budget mean that the Morrison recession will be deeper and longer than it needed to be.

To be clear, there are many tried and tested ways to drive local and national activity and to spur our economy back to life. First, the Morrison government needs to kickstart residential construction and get more Australians into safe, secure and affordable housing by investing in social housing and repairing the existing stock. The housing construction sector is heading for a 27 per cent collapse, and there's a projected shortfall of now almost half a million homes in Australia. There are also 100,000 social housing dwellings in urgent need of repair. Roofs are leaky, mould is creeping and pipes are corroding. Regrettably, the government has instead chosen to splash millions of public dollars on its flawed HomeBuilder scheme, which subsidises private property owners with zero lasting community benefit. It says a lot about the priorities of this government.

Another great way to speed our national recovery is by increasing productivity. Currently, one of the largest handbrakes on productivity is spiralling child-care fees. Child-care fees have skyrocketed by almost 35 per cent under this government, with families now paying, on average, $3,800 more per year. When parents weigh up whether to go back to work, the cost of child care means that it's often just not worthwhile. That doesn't make any sense. That's why a Labor government will introduce a working family child care boost. This will support Australian women and parents to get back to work, to put more money into the pockets of working families. Under Scott Morrison's current child-care system, a family with two kids in child care and a primary earner earning $100,000 will gain nothing in disposable income if the secondary earner works a fourth day each week. But, under Labor's childcare plan, the same family will be better off by up to $2,100 per year if the second income earner works that fourth day. Indeed, Labor's boost will make child care more affordable for 97 per cent of families in the system, and, importantly, no family will ever be worse off. The Morrison government needs to take Labor's lead and to invest more in child care.

The government has also failed to support important infrastructure projects that could be key to our recovery, particularly in regional communities. In my city of Newcastle, there was nothing for a series of key projects that would have diversified and strengthened the entire regional economy for decades to come. The Morrison government turned its nose up at the University of Newcastle's STEMM regional transformation hub, which has a significant job creation potential and the capacity to position our region as a leader in the critically important technology based industries of tomorrow. And it failed to support the Port of Newcastle's $1.8 billion deepwater terminal, despite the fact this project will create 15,000 direct jobs and indirect jobs and transform the regional economy. Of course, the government did not need to stump up that amount of money; the Port of Newcastle actually has a whole lot of dollars ready to spend, but this government needs to provide assistance, to work with their belligerent state counterparts to make this happen.

Instead, the budget provides $360 million to fund the Newcastle Inner City Bypass, a project, I might add, that the state Liberal government had already promised Newcastle. While this is a great project, and it will be good to see it being delivered earlier, the point is: it was already funded. All that the Morrison Liberal government have done is actually bail out their mates in the Liberal New South Wales state government from honouring their promise to Newcastle. Unless the state government come through with the funds that they promised, there will be almost zero net gain for the city. So I do hope that it is a requirement of this Commonwealth funding that the state government must ensure that the money they had promised for the Newcastle Inner City Bypass now gets spent on new projects in Newcastle. I'll be looking out to make sure the Commonwealth holds the state to account in that regard.

A remarkable feature of the 2020 federal budget is that, despite creating towering mountains of debt that will linger for generations, it still manages to leave so many people behind. Women, who have already been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, have been left behind by this budget. We know that the economic impacts of the pandemic have not been distributed equally and that women have borne the brunt of this pandemic. Women were more likely to have lost their jobs but less likely to have qualified for government support through JobKeeper, but this budget offers almost nothing to address the grave structural inequities that face Australian women. There is no new funding for frontline domestic and family violence services—and shame on you, the Morrison government, for ignoring that sector in this budget, when you know full well that we are now facing spiralling increases of domestic violence as a result of COVID-19. There is no new funding to drive down the gender pay gap. There is no new funding to bolster women's superannuation. And, as I said earlier on, there is nothing more for child care. And there's nothing to support women's economic security in retirement. Indeed, despite the budget racking up more than $1 trillion worth of debt, the Prime Minister's rehashed Women's Economic Security Statement—which they had forgotten to print and produce at the time that the Treasurer was doing his budget, which suggests just how much of a priority the Women's Economic Security Statement really was—only allocated $240 million in new funding. For those interested in what proportion that might be of the Commonwealth's budget, that amounts to 0.024 per cent for 51 per cent of the population. For some additional perspective, the budget actually invested more in waste management than it did in women's economic participation measures. Just let that sink in for a little while—for 51 per cent of the population.

Older Australians are another group who has been dudded by the Morrison government as a result of its failure to properly fund our aged-care system. Despite almost 700 older Australians tragically dying from COVID-19 in our aged-care residential facilities now, this budget confirms that the Morrison government still has no plan to fix our country's broken aged-care system. The budget offers no new significant funding for residential aged care, despite the fact that we've seen as a result of this pandemic a desperate need for increased funds and resourcing in this sector. It was needed to protect residents, to protect those families and to protect our most vulnerable residents.

The 23,000 new home-care packages in the budget won't even come close to fixing the current list of 103,000 older Australians who are waiting for home-care packages that they've already had approved. They already know they're eligible for them, they've been approved for them and they're on the wait list. Indeed, we learnt from the aged care royal commission that shockingly only 300 new home-care packages will in fact be delivered by 2024 despite the fact that the Morrison government has announced tens of thousands more. That is not good enough. Nobody in my electorate of Newcastle thinks that is good enough. Indeed, I doubt there is an electorate in Australia that would actually think that is okay.

Likewise, it's not good enough that nearly one million jobseekers over the age of 35 have been excluded from the government's new JobMaker wage subsidy scheme. On this issue, I'd like to share with the House some words from a constituent of mine who lives in my community and wrote to me of his deep worry about his 35-year-old son after watching the Morrison government's budget. On this issue, Mr S—I'll refer to him as—wrote: 'It pains me as a parent of a 35-year-old who has been struggling unsuccessfully through COVID to find employment and fallen between the cracks for JobKeeper support to hear news reports and commentary lumping him and his peers into the less relevant basket. Since when was 35 years old financially comfortable? They are a vulnerable group of still relatively young Aussies. They do not deserve to be left to their own resources again.' I couldn't agree more with Mr S. We learnt last week that more than 100 jobseekers are competing for every low-skilled job vacancy across Australia, and the government expects another 160,000 Australians to join the unemployment queues by Christmas. It's simply unconscionable that the government is abandoning jobseekers when they turn 35.

It's not just individuals who are abandoned by this budget, indeed whole industries have been betrayed. Many in the tourism sector, especially travel agents, saw their revenue disappear overnight and are now facing closing their doors without any support. Similarly, thousands of people working in the arts sector found themselves out of work and ineligible for JobKeeper through no fault of their own. There's no targeted support for these hard-hit industries. Likewise the budget locks in the government's so-called university reforms, which will slash a billion dollars every year from university revenue at the worst time possible. This has all the hallmarks of a vendetta. Indeed, the government changed the rules three times to ensure that universities would not be able to access JobSeeker payments. Universities should be central to the recovery, not left to fend for themselves in the face of multibillion-dollar losses. I call on this government to do more.

5:55 pm

Photo of Julian SimmondsJulian Simmonds (Ryan, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The 2020 Morrison government budget and the appropriation bills before us are all about jobs. It's our nation's economic recovery plan to create jobs, rebuild our economy and secure Australia's future. We are investing in skills and training, building the instant asset write-off scheme, providing tax relief for hardworking Australians, increasing our sovereign manufacturing capability, investing in shovel-ready projects in infrastructure, supporting mental health services and NDIS providers, and advancing our renewable technologies and recycling capabilities.

The 2020 federal budget will provide the necessary support to families, businesses and industries to lead Australia out of the COVID-19 recession. The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed an economic shock like no other, and it has seen our global economy contract by 4.5 per cent. Compare the scale of that challenge to the GFC, where the global economy contracted by less than one per cent, to understand the scale of the economic challenge and the economic mountain that Australia has to climb now. Ten per cent of our workforce have either lost their job or had their working hours reduced to zero, decimating businesses and forcing many people to become unemployed—some for the first time in their lives.

The record $257 billion of direct economic support provided by the Morrison government has cushioned the blow of the pandemic and provided the necessary social safety net to protect Australian lives and livelihoods. The JobKeeper program has enabled businesses whose revenue has been impacted due to the pandemic to retain their staff, to keep Australians in jobs and to keep those employees connected to those businesses so that business can come out the other side of the COVID-19 recession. The cash flow boost gave businesses a leg-up when the downturn first hit. JobSeeker rates were increased to ensure that those who were not eligible for JobKeeper still had the support they needed.

As I have moved around the electorate during the COVID-19 recession and the health crisis, I have been talking to local businesses, local employers and local employees about the supports that the Morrison government has been offering. For a number of businesses that operate within the electorate of Ryan, the economic support provided by the Morrison government has been absolutely instrumental in retaining staff, keeping their doors open and just making sure that they exist on the other side of the COVID-19 recession. I spoke to Dean, the franchisee of JAX Tyres at Mitchelton. He undertakes a range of things—like it sounds, it is a car servicing and tyre changing business. They are accessing JobKeeper. The support has meant he hasn't had to let staff go. He said this: 'The support has provided peace of mind, especially to my long-term casual staff who, without JobKeeper, would have been the first to be stood down.'

Lisa is the owner of F45 gyms located in Indooroopilly and Pullenvale. They are using JobKeeper for permanent and part-time staff, including their PTs and trainers. Because it is being supported by JobKeeper, the business is able to afford to also keep on its short-term casual staff who didn't qualify for JobKeeper. When the gym was shut, when the initial pandemic occurred, the staff were doing three Zoom training sessions a day and pre-recorded sessions with clients. Because of JobKeeper, their business was able to rapidly adapt to the new circumstances and the new model that they found themselves in so that they could focus on retaining their clients, not on the bill to retain their employees.

Luke is the owner of Suburban Social at Chapel Hill—a local restaurant and bar that, when the pandemic first happened, switched to takeaway service and a drive-through service. It operated throughout the initial shutdown without dine-in but has since, thankfully, been able to open back up to its dine-in patrons. They had six staff on JobKeeper. His quote was as simple as this: 'JobKeeper saved our bacon.' His words, not mine: 'JobKeeper saved our bacon.'

Dal at Performance Physio said that JobKeeper not only assisted them to continue to operate but also enabled them to honour their rent agreements. This put them in a strong position to ensure the success of their business as they navigate through these unprecedented times. This support is helping not just their small business but the local landlord as well.

The Picabeen Community Centre in Mitchelton is a fantastic not-for-profit organisation within the Ryan electorate. It works directly with young people and their families and provides essential support and wellbeing services. Never have their services been so important to our local community than right now while families are dealing with COVID. David, who does the centre's administration, said that the cash flow boost has allowed them to increase the services they provide to the community at the time that the community needs it the most. He said, 'More people are requesting mental health services and food packages, and the cash flow boost has allowed us to meet the demand.'

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary was hit hard by the COVID-19 restrictions. It initially had to close its doors. Still it remains a shadow of its former self because it relies heavily on international tourists, who simply can't come at the moment. However, while the people who normally attend the sanctuary can't attend, there are ongoing operation costs. It has to provide animal care, medicine, landscaping, maintenance, security and plantation management. All of this continues despite the lack of visitors. Robert, the general manager of the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, said, 'It is government support schemes, such as JobKeeper, that have allowed us to maintain the employment of many full-time equivalent staff and continue to care for our 470 resident animals.'

Finally, I look at Flash Printing, a family business in Brisbane that provides printing and digital photocopying services. The owner, Jeff, lives in the electorate of Ryan. He said that JobKeeper has been fundamental to the ongoing survival of his business. Initially it enabled him to plan a period of grace while demand collapsed and then it ensured that the extended families related to the business were confident that bills would be paid and food put on the table.

This support has a human face right across the Ryan electorate, whether it be in the not-for-profit sector, the tourism sector or the small business sector. This is food on the table for families. This is jobs. This is opportunities for them. These are just a handful of examples from across the Ryan electorate where the economic downturn is being alleviated by the government's current support packages, which are continued in these appropriation bills. The Morrison government, through its economic recovery plan in the 2020 budget, is going to continue to back local businesses like these, to protect lives and livelihoods, and to secure our future post COVID.

There are a couple of other aspects to the appropriation bills that I want to touch on. Firstly, the commitment of the Morrison government to local infrastructure in the Ryan electorate. This is significant because one of the key aspects of the last election, when I put myself forward to the Ryan electorate, was that our focus had to be on fixing local roads, reducing congestion and getting more federal funding to get people home to their families sooner and safer. I'm glad to see that that advocacy is starting to yield results.

The 2020 budget is providing $112 million to upgrade the Centenary Motorway, which affects Ryan residents; $50 million to upgrade the Indooroopilly roundabout; $12.5 million for the Kenmore roundabout upgrade; $1.4 million to upgrade the intersection at Sir Fred Schonell Drive in St Lucia; $700,000 to contribute to the upgrade of the Gresham Street Bridge in The Gap; and $11.7 million for the Brisbane City Council to upgrade local roads and to improve safety. These investments might seem small in the scheme of the federal budget, but, gee, they're big for the Ryan electorate. They're going to help connect our communities, improve road safety and create local jobs.

When construction on the Indooroopilly roundabout project starts next year it will create over 350 jobs for our local community. These projects are going to get people in my electorate home sooner and safer. Investing in these shovel-ready projects is an important focus for the Morrison government in the 2020 budget. Overall, the Treasury estimates that the full $100-plus billion infrastructure package will support over 30,000 direct and indirect jobs over the life of those projects.

In addition to the infrastructure funding, there is other local support for our community. There is $150,000 in grants through the Stronger Communities Program that will go to our local community organisations and to the fantastic volunteers who work day in, day out to support our community and who need those grants in order to either improve their service to the community or to get improved facilities. There's $100,000 to establish a new Australian cadet unit at Kenmore. There's $50,000 for the Bardon Bowls Club for a project that they're currently undertaking. There's $50,000 for The Gap men's shed for a project that was recently signed off, which is going to include both new CCTV cameras—can you believe that there are some grubs within the wider community who would seek to vandalise something as important as the local men's shed, but unfortunately it happens—and more sustainability equipment.

I want to particularly talk about the new Australian cadet unit that will be headquartered in Brookfield. This has tremendous support from the local community, and it is something I personally advocated for with the Treasurer. COVID has been tough on our local kids. We know that. The new cadet unit will provide an exciting outlet for them to learn new skills and to make lifelong friends. With the support of the Kenmore-Moggill RSL and the Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera, the new unit will be an important addition to our community. Army Cadets is a community based youth development organisation that focuses on preserving the customs, traditions and values of the Australian Army. Prospective cadets in our local community will have the opportunity to develop leadership, team-building and survival skills that will set them up for life. This is a community that isn't currently serviced by a cadet unit. The closest is at the barracks itself, at Enoggera. The president of the Kenmore-Moggill RSL sub-branch, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Maher, and the sub-branch Treasurer, Richard Ponsonby, have been instrumental in proposing this initiative and ensuring the necessary support is in place to make this project is a success so that the federal government, in providing support, can be assured that we can get on with establishing this cadet unit for the local community. It's intended that the proposed unit will be named after Corporal Mathew Hopkins, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2009 while serving with the 7th Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment. Corporal Hopkins was educated locally at Kenmore State High School, just down the road from where this cadet unit will be placed, so it's fitting that the proposed cadet unit will be named in his memory—the memory of a distinguished soldier and father. The Department of Defence has already approved the cadet unit application and the costs associated with its establishment, and the project has the support of the Gallipoli Barracks at Enoggera. Although the Brookfield cadet unit will run independently, the Enoggera cadet unit has agreed to facilitate their establishment and operational logistics.

I was very pleased that when the Prime Minister came up to Queensland last week to talk to Queenslanders about the budget and what it means for their families he took the opportunity to visit the Ryan electorate. We went out to the COVID-19 vaccine lab at the University of Queensland where some of our nation's best researchers are use federal funding to test a possible COVID-19 vaccine. Can you believe that there of all places, where such important work is going on, some infantile student protesters were running amuck and vandalising the PM's car? But not even that could prevent us from talking to these researchers, who are doing vital work for our Australian community and for our nation. We are incredibly grateful for the sacrifice that these researchers are making, away from their families and friends, and working long hours on long days, to make sure that we are given every opportunity to get our community COVID-safe and to get our economy firing again.

There is so much in this budget for the electorate: the JobMaker Hiring Credit, the extra support for apprentices, which is going to help our young people, and the extra funding to improve recycling and waste management. Overall the Morrison government is committed to seeing Australia through the COVID-19 recession. Our strong economic plan—this recovery plan, the 2020 budget—will provide the support that Australia needs to create jobs, rebuild our economy and secure our families' future. As the Treasurer said on budget night, our plan will grow the economy and our plan will create jobs. This is the discussion around the kitchen tables of Australian homes that is important. This is the focus that they want to see from the Australian parliament, from the government. We are focused on that 100 per cent—to give your families jobs and opportunities.

6:10 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Communications) Share this | | Hansard source

We debate these budget measures here today, in perhaps the most trying times that have faced our nation since the Second World War. The COVID-19 pandemic has been a test of who we are as a nation. I've been really proud of the way that my community has pulled together to confront these challenges. From the community Facebook groups to the neighbourhood WhatsApp groups, people have been looking out for each other and doing the little things for each other that we need to get by. We've done our best to support local small businesses that have been forced to pivot their business model to adapt to COVID-19 health restrictions. Most importantly, we've been following the health recommendations from the experts—social distancing, hand-washing and mask wearing—in a way that has crushed the second wave. It's been tough going, but we know that the best way to get through this is to come together. That's always how Australians have gotten through crises. When natural disasters hit we're there for our neighbours. We're there to help a mate and we know they will be there for us too. It's the Australian way.

But, unfortunately, there have been those who've sought to use this pandemic as an opportunity to divide us—those people who have put their own interests before those of the community; those people who have sought to use this crisis to build their own profiles, spruiking conspiracy theories that offer anxious members of the community the false comfort that there is a grand plan to the calamities that beset us. There are those who have sought to use this crisis as a political tactic, undermining the advice of medical and public health experts in pursuit of short-term political point scoring.

Perhaps worse of all, there are those who have sought to use this crisis to set one Australian against another, laying the blame for this crisis on one ethnic group or another—playing the politics of race at our nation's most challenging moment. The first target for this were Asian Australians. Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have seen a small minority of people direct incredibly harmful language at Asian Australians, painting them as spreaders of COVID-19. They have imported the hateful and divisive language of US President Donald Trump in calling COVID-19 the 'Wuhan virus' or the 'Wuhan flu'.

I regret that a member of this place has been one such person using this tactic. The member for Hughes, who we heard from earlier in this debate, has over the past month published numerous Facebook posts and opinion pieces where he refers to COVID-19 as the 'Wuhan flu', all while peddling dangerous conspiracy theories about medical treatment for COVID-19 not approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association and downplaying the threat of the pandemic—all of this without any rebuke from the Prime Minister or the Minister for Health. It's rhetoric like this that, at the height of the pandemic, led to social media posts laying blame for supermarket shortages at the feet of Asian Australians. In my own electorate, a fake social media post was created in March claiming that Asians were hoarding food, baby formula, toilet paper and medical supplies to be exported to China from a Footscray warehouse. This wasn't a Facebook post with a few hundred likes; it was shared almost 95,000 times. Victoria police were forced to investigated and debunk the post.

It's tempting to think that these attacks on multicultural communities are only being carried out on social media. But, sadly, this year we've increasingly seen COVID-19 related racism incidents on the streets of Australia, and they are getting physical. Research from the Asian Australian Alliance and Per Capita found that 60 per cent of reported COVID-19 related racism incidents involved physical or verbal harassment; 40 per cent of incidents happened on a public street or a sidewalk; and 22 per cent of incidents happened in a supermarket. Only 9.4 per cent of them happened online. The research quotes participants detailing the abuse directly, and it makes for disturbing reading.

The increasing strategic tensions between China and the United States during COVID-19 have further exacerbated the prejudices being experienced by Chinese Australians. One of the authors of this research from Per Capita, Mr Osmond Chiu, appeared before a Senate committee last week to give evidence on the issues facing diaspora communities in Australia. Unfortunately, the behaviour of government senators at this hearing towards Mr Chiu could have been tabled as direct evidence on the very topic he was there to give evidence on. Senator Abetz had the gall to begin his questions to Mr Chiu and his fellow attendees at this hearing, Yun Jiang and Wesa Chau, by demanding that they 'unconditionally condemn the Chinese Communist Party', as if by virtue of their mere ethnicity their loyalties to Australia were somehow in question.

I am proud to say that I know Mr Chiu and Ms Chau personally and regard them as friends, and I know that they have lived lives of public service and the best kind of patriotism—a desire to make our country a better place. I was embarrassed and revolted by their treatment by Senator Abetz, and all members should be clear that an Australian's ethnicity should never bring their loyalty to our country into doubt. Disappointingly, in spite of Senator Abetz's behaviour being not just morally repugnant but patently absurd, neither the Prime Minister nor the acting minister for immigration and citizenship have been able to see their way to condemning this ethnic McCarthyism.

We've also saw a series of articles from a columnist at the Herald Sun Andrew Bolt laying blame for the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria at the feet of multiculturalism more broadly. In an article on 14 October, titled 'Toxic multiculturalism has weakened Victoria leaving it vulnerable to coronavirus', Bolt stated:

Multiculturalism has weakened Victoria, leaving it more likely to be smashed by a pandemic … This virus hit hardest in suburbs with big foreign-born communities, and in schools, housing commission towers or businesses with many immigrants. The Victorian catastrophe is not just a failure of government. It is also a failure of an immigration intake, plus multicultural policies, that produced a fractured people that cannot be trusted to voluntarily do their basic civil duty in a pandemic—keep a social distance, wash hands and don't work and socialise when sick. How stupid we are. So pure in our multiculturalism. And, in Victoria, so sick from it, too.

That's just one of a series of articles Mr Bolt has published through the pandemic blaming the Victorian second wave on multiculturalism. On 12 July Mr Bolt wrote an article titled, 'Multiculturalism made Victoria vulnerable to coronavirus'. It reads:

The second wave of this coronavirus outbreak has hammered home the dangerous pitfalls of diversity, with immigrants a common denominator in the worst virus hot spots.

He goes on to say:

multiculturalism has made Victoria more vulnerable not just because we're increasingly a nation of tribes, less likely to make sacrifices for people outside of our 'own'.

Again, on 25 June, in an article called 'Victoria's coronavirus crisis made by multiculturalism', he writes:

Victoria's coronavirus outbreak exposes the stupidity of that multicultural slogan 'diversity makes us stronger'.

These articles are wrong and out of touch with modern Australia, particularly modern Melbourne. We don't have the data, but perhaps COVID-19 infections have been higher in industries with higher numbers of migrants because often these are the essential services that have continued to operate while non-essential workers have remained at home. They're the supermarket staff, the warehouse workers, the truck drivers, the aged-care workers, the doctors and nurses who have kept the state running during COVID-19 restrictions. I've spoken to many of these staff, and they and their unions understand well the dangers of COVID-19 and have sought to protect themselves and their community as much as humanly possible while continuing to do these essential jobs. They deserve our thanks, not our blame.

As for migrants only caring about their tribe and not the broader Australian community, Mr Bolt could not be more out of touch. Walk into any charitable or community endeavour in 21st century Australia, particularly in Melbourne, and you'll see a room full of migrants, people who love our nation and feel a sense of public service to Australia. Just this year, I was proud to speak in this place about the incredible contributions made by inner city multicultural groups in my electorate to the bushfire relief effort for Victorians in rural and regional areas. The Australian Islamic Centre volunteers from Newport Mosque collected five truckloads full of donations and drove to Bairnsdale at 3 in the morning, with the assistance of the MFB and the CFA, to put on a breakfast sausage sizzle for exhausted firefighters. Buddhist Vietnamese volunteers from the Quang Minh temple delivered $33,000 in donations to the CFA in Bairnsdale and the CFA District 11 Headquarters Brigade. Sikh Volunteers Australia organised their volunteers to stay for 15 days in East Gippsland and help serve a thousand meals a day. They were helping out their fellow Australians, not their own tribe.

It's been the same in the current COVID crisis. Sikh Volunteers Australia have organised the delivery of well over 100,000 meals to the needy. And, when Richmond premiership champion Bachar Houli's mum was infected with COVID-19 and put into intensive care, he put the community first at this incredibly difficult personal time and spoke out at a public awareness campaign about the real risks of this virus. Again, they deserve our thanks, not our blame.

Public rhetoric blaming multiculturalism for COVID-19 is dangerous. Unfortunately the stresses of COVID-19 provide fertile soil for those who are willing to exploit Australians' anxiety for their own ends. Indeed, just this week, ASIO DG Mike Burgess acknowledged in evidence at Senate estimates:

Many of these groups and individuals have seized upon COVID-19, believing it reinforces the narrative and conspiracies at the core of their ideologies.

They see the pandemic as proof of the failure of globalisation, multiculturalism and democracy and confirmation societal collapse and a race war are inevitable.

The AFP deputy commissioner Ian McCartney said before estimates effectively the same thing, that young people are particularly at risk of being radicalised because:

We're finding now … that the concern for us is young people being radicalised online—very aggressively in relation to right-wing extremism.

Our security agencies have been warning about the threat of right-wing extremism for some time. ASIO's Mr Burgess repeated his evidence yesterday that 30 to 40 per cent of their priority counterterrorism caseload is now dedicated to extreme right-wing individuals.

It's not only the stresses of COVID-19 that have caused this up-tick in right-wing extremist activity. The actions of the Christchurch terrorist, an Australian who murdered 51 of our brethren in New Zealand in the name of this ideology, has poured accelerant on the trends before COVID-19. Despite warnings from our intelligence services, the threat of violent right-wing extremism remains almost unaddressed in the budget. There's nothing for new initiatives countering violent extremism and nothing for early intervention and nothing for deradicalisation. Indeed, the only direct response to the rising threat of right-wing extremism from those opposite is to ask for it to be called something else. It makes them uncomfortable. They don't want to think that people on the political Right could be extremists.

Well, it should make them uncomfortable, because those on the far Right of our politics are complicit in the rhetoric that radicalises right-wing extremist violence. It's a straight line from the title of the Christchurch terrorist's manifesto to the Great Replacement to the 2017 YouTube video of the same name, published by Lauren Southern, who is now a regular guest on Sky News, to the 2011 book on the same title by Frenchman Renaud Camus, and to the inspiration of it all—one of the most revolting books ever published, the 1973 book by Frenchman Jean Raspail, The Camp of the Saints. The Camp of the Saints enjoys general obscurity amongst decent people in our society, but on white supremacist forums it's regarded as a foundational book. It's been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the top 2 books in white supremacist circles. It tells the story of an invasion of France by a flotilla of 800,000 migrants from India, led by a man who eats only human excrement. It depicts Indians in the most dehumanising manner imaginable to promote the idea that Indians are morally deviant. The book exploits the most egregious racial traits imaginable—migrants as vectors for filth and disease, while white women are forced into sexual servitude in the face of the invasion. As one representative example, the death of one character is described thus:

Lydie ... She died in Nice, in a whorehouse for Hindus ... each refugee quarter had its stock of white women, all free for the taking. And perfectly legal. (One of the new regime's first laws, in fact. In order to 'demythify' the white women, as they put it.)' ... The enterprise was even given a name: the 'White Female Practice and Experimentation Centre' ... white women soon lost all pride in their colour, and with it, all resistance.

At one point, the hero of the story, a violent vigilante resisting the arrival of the Indians, murders a young Frenchman sympathetic to the migrants, while lamenting:

That scorn of a people for other races, the knowledge that one's own is best, the triumphant joy at feeling oneself to be part of humanity's finest—none of that had ever filled these youngsters' brains ...

It's disturbing stuff. Even worse, the author argued in an interview in 2016 in favour of violent resistance to immigration saying:

We're fed up ... There is going to be a resistance movement, and it has begun ... If the situation comes the one I predict—catastrophic—there will be certainly resistance that is both tough and armed ... Without the use of force we will never stop the invasion'.

This book incites violent right-wing extremism, and yet Andrew Bolt has bragged in his Herald Sun column about owning an autographed copy inscribed to him by the author: 'For Andrew, hoping without believing that the book will remain fictional. End game in 2045 to '55. Good luck, and in friendship.' Mr Bolt described the revolting premise of this book as 'prophetic and brave' and 'prescient'.

Research from the Victoria University has shown that 'exclusionary narratives contribute to violent extremism. The mainstream discourse around Great Replacement theory—originated from The Camp of the Saintsradicalises violent right-wing extremists, and we need to fight it.' It's no coincidence that the first commitment of the Christchurch Call, the global initiative to fight violent extremism in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack, led by the New Zealand government, was to:

Counter the drivers of terrorism and violent extremism by strengthening the resilience and inclusiveness of our societies to enable them to resist terrorist and violent extremist ideologies, including through education, building media literacy to help counter distorted terrorist and violent extremist narratives, and the fight against inequality.

Australia signed up to the Christchurch Call and we need to live up to it too. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we're strongest when we're united in a common cause. We're most resilient when we come together to the aid of those in need in our community. When we live up to the ideals of mateship and egalitarianism in the face of a crisis, especially in these difficult times, we need to counter the inaccurate and exploitative narratives that seek to weaken us and divide us. Those of us in public life, particularly in this place, have an obligation to lead this effort. In particular, as the member for Scullin has so rightly pointed out, we are in desperate need in these times of a new anti-racism strategy. We need to invest in the things that bring us together as Australians, to tell the real story of modern Australia, the inclusive story best described by Noel Pearson in his Declaration of Australia and the Australian People—three stories make Australia: the ancient Indigenous heritage, which is its foundation; the British institutions built on it; and the adorning gift of multicultural migration. Three stories make us one as Australians. That is the national story we must honour in this place.

6:25 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I stand to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2020-2021 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021. It's certainly been a tough year for most of us in Australia. There have not been too many people who have escaped the scourge of coronavirus. Some places in my electorate have fared reasonably well. It was big industries who kept their industries open because they had to, and they kept the jobs going in most parts of Central Queensland. I'm referring to the coal industry, the gas industry, the cement industry, the chemical industry, and, of course, the ports and the rails kept on ticking over. Although the profits might have been down a little, overall they were able to keep their doors open. The real losers were, of course, the retail shops that weren't allowed to open and, as a lot of members have spoken about today, the travel agents. They've been really hit; a double whammy has hit them. They've had to try and recoup their client's money from overseas prebookings of holidays et cetera. Tourism in general has taken a big hit.

My electorate covers 133 square kilometres, and it's a mixed industry—agriculture, farming and resources. Overall, the budget has widespread support, and I have not had any complaints that I know of directly into my office re the budget. Because of the diverse economic commodities, roads, bridges and transport infrastructure is very important to my electorate. It's an important lifeline for many of our rural communities. I'm pleased that the recent 2020 budget answered the call. Our government has now secured funding for some of those critical infrastructure projects for Flynn.

There is money for the John Petersen Bridge, a narrow, one-way bridge on the Boyne River, south of Mundubbera and on the way to Durong—$20 million. That will be very much appreciated by the people who use that bridge and by the people who don't use it because it's very dangerous. For instance, car carriers do not use that bridge because it actually does damage to the cars on the carrier. That's how rough that section of road is. When it's finished, that will make a great improvement. The bridge is on the way to Wellcamp airport in Toowoomba, which is expanding nicely. We now have two plane loads a week at 45 tonnes per plane going out of Wellcamp direct into the Asian markets. So it will be greatly appreciated by those people who use that bridge: heavy vehicles, cattle trucks, timber trucks, grain trucks—and, of course, agricultural products. So that's been a great win for the electorate. It will provide a back bone for economic growth, and it will be good for our regional towns, accelerating agricultural growth and building a more resilient and agile agricultural sector and therefore creating more jobs.

Another particular road of importance is the Springsure to Tambo road, which is 250 kilometres in length. That services many properties along the way—Beauchamp, Mantuan Downs, Bucklands Road properties, Yarrai, Ian and Norma Roth's property, Wharton Creek, Albinia, Cungelella and many, many more. Goodliffe is another big property. For instance, Mantuan Downs will carry 13,000 head of cattle per year along that road. At the moment it's a dust bowl in these dry conditions. They will appreciate, no doubt, all those different properties along that road when the job is completed.

Upgrading a section of the Dawson Highway is also a blessing. It will improve the safety and reliability of the heavy traffic in that area. It not only cuts the cost to cattle producers but also reduces the bruising of the cattle on the roads. As those roads lead into the Gladstone port and the Brisbane port, it will benefit all those users—including the new intermodal hub at Yamala, just outside of Emerald.

The agricultural industry around Central Queensland continues to grow overall, although we have had dry weather and drought conditions all along the eastern coast of Australia. It's good to see from the agriculture minister that agriculture has actually grown this last year, from $60 billion to $61 billion. That is pretty good in times of drought.

The Springsure-Tambo road has been closed 21 times in the last five years. We have also had the money gazetted for the Philip Street four-lane project in Gladstone city itself; this is a section of road on Philip Street, a main carry-on road, that has lacked that four-lane highway all the way through. This $20 million will complete the road.

The Australian economy is dependent on the resource industry. The resource industry adds $290 billion to our coffers each year. It's not to be neglected and we should promote it whenever we can. Living in regional towns throws out many challenges to our people, and drought is the only thing that is stopping us from going ahead at the moment.

Our government has invested heavily in water infrastructure. It needs to, because if we want to increase our agriculture—to get that from $60 billion up to $100 billion—we need water infrastructure. I am pleased to say that the federal government has put aside another $2 billion for such good projects.

Building the Cooranga Weir on the Boyne River near Mundubbera will be a blessing for all those farmers who use and need the water. The Boyne River has a dam on it at Boondooma, but quite often this dam is insufficient to supply the people on the Boyne River. The weir will generate reliable water for good agriculture which already grows blueberries, citrus, avocados, nuts et cetera.

A new weir on the Barambah Creek close to farmers at the Coalstoun Lakes and Ban Ban Springs will also be a great addition to supplying farmers with much needed water. There is 5,000 hectares of rich agricultural land in the Coalstoun Lakes, and the average rainfall is about 30 inches a year. If we could get permanent water into those places, it is unbelievable how much product that that country will be able to produce. However, it's the lack of reliable water that stops most farming in my area. Dryland farming is mainly where the products come from. The irrigation out of the Fairbairn Dam at Emerald is a blessing and just goes to show what permanent water can do for farming in any area.

Building the Bardwell weir upstream from the Silverleaf Weir on Barambah Creek will also be a wise investment. It will benefit cotton, wheat and sorghum growers in the area. Building the Paranui Weir on the Dawson River will also have the same effect for those farmers in the Banana Shire. It will be great for that area once those weirs are built. Upgrading the Bedford Weir at Blackwater and the Claude Wharton Weir at Gayndah is something I will be fighting for in next year's budget. We must get started. We need to work with the Queensland government, whoever gets in after next weekend. We want to work with them and get these up and running as soon as possible. The money is there for water infrastructure. If they don't use it, it will go to some other state. I don't want it to go out of the area because it's needed in Flynn. It's a must for us.

As I get towards the end I'd just like to say that Rookwood Weir is finally going ahead but at a reduced volume and that the Paradise Dam is being knocked down. So the federal government is wanting to build extra dams and the state government is wanting to pull one down and reduce the water in the new weir at Rookwood. The Rookwood Weir, once we get it, will be a shot in the arm for agriculture in that area. That's what we're all planning on. I'm grateful that the federal government has put forward money for these projects.

The next big project would be building an Inland Rail line from Gladstone to Toowoomba. This would be a major project. As I see it, the Brisbane port is crowded out with rail, roads and all sorts of infrastructure. It makes perfect sense to bring the rail from Melbourne through to Gladstone, where we have the best port on the east coast. A container terminal would be a great asset to the region. Australia as a whole would benefit.

Business has been tough, but I can see a huge light at the end of the tunnel. We're going to face labour shortages, and we as a government are going to have to address that in the future. The 2PH farm in Emerald, a big citrus farm, requires up to 500 workers a year. Australians cannot or will not fill those places, so we need to work on that. It's all about jobs, jobs and jobs. I think the budget suitably enhances those criteria for getting Australia back to work.

6:37 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

The Morrison government loves making announcements, but it never delivers. It is always hardworking Australians who end up paying the price. We have seen lots of numbers recently through COVID and the federal budget, but budgets should be much more than just numbers. They should be about agendas and priorities. That's where this year's federal budget falls over. It completely and utterly lacks vision.

Protecting Australians should be the Morrison government's biggest priority—protecting their health, protecting their jobs and protecting their livelihoods. They can't let people just go it alone. The key word here though is 'should'. Unfortunately, time and time again they've proven that they're all about the photo op, not the follow-up. In this budget this government has put pen to paper to rack up $1 trillion of debt. It seems that it has little inclination to seek any sort of bang for that buck. I think it's useful to go through how this will affect our communities. Let's first turn to infrastructure funding.

The Morrison government spends on average $1.2 billion less on infrastructure each year than what it has promised in its budgets. Last year it was a whopping $1.7 billion less than what it said it was going to spend. Little wonder that the Australian economy was in a dire situation before the COVID pandemic hit us. It's essential that the projects that have been announced in this year's budget—projects intended to deliver more jobs and stimulate our economy—are delivered now, not many years down the track.

My community has yet again been left off the list. WA is often forgotten when it comes to federal funding and national schemes, so much so that when I looked into the allocations for the last three rounds of infrastructure spending for WA what I found was appalling. Of the total $2.5 billion of funding allocated to Western Australia in the last three major infrastructure announcements under this government, less than 11 per cent was spent in electorates held by Labor members of parliament—the very well-deserved and sorely-needed Fremantle Traffic Bridge and part of the Tonkin Highway project in the federal electorate of Perth. That's it. Labor electorates represent nearly one-third of Western Australia's population and yet are receiving less than 11 per cent of the overall spend under this federal government. The way that the Morrison government is dealing with infrastructure spending is simply shameful.

Let's look at what they're doing to assist people on lower incomes. People on lower incomes are going to be left worse off under the Morrison government budget. The federal government tax cuts will leave more than a million Australians earning between $37,000 and $45,000 a year paying a higher rate of tax on their superannuation contributions than on their take-home pay. That's not fair. In Burt, the average household income is around $1,500 a fortnight. Often that's a combination of incomes from both partners in the family in the household. That's less than $90,000 a year. According to the government's budget tax measures, while almost no-one earning less than $90,000 will apparently be worse off, nor will they actually be any better off. Taken by itself, the stage 2 tax cuts that we've just passed would notably give tax cuts to only those who are earning more than $90,000 a year. That means that many, many people in our community are missing out on tangible benefits that should have been flowing to them through tax cuts. To make matters worse, despite the protestations of this government about always being the party for lower taxes, next financial year the Morrison government's budget is going to deliver higher taxes to those people who are relying on the low- to middle-income tax offset. People who are earning up to $126,000 a year will have their taxes increased by up to $1,080 a year under the Morrison government, who will be withdrawing that low- to middle-income tax offset at the end of this financial year.

Let's also look at the situation when it comes to the systems and programs that the government has to support the unemployed and people in work in Australia. Under this government we've seen a decrease in the rate of JobSeeker. We've got a decrease in the rate of JobKeeper and changes to the availability of JobKeeper for businesses in our community. This is going to hit a huge number of people across our communities and across our nation. In my electorate alone, in the seat of Burt, there will be up to 15,000 employees potentially affected by these changes from the Morrison government. But this is precisely the wrong time to be withdrawing economic support. The country is in the depths of a recession. They might not like it being called the Morrison recession, but under this approach, where they're withdrawing economic support early, we are certainly going to end up in what will be the Morrison recession. It will be something that has developed under their watch, and it is not appropriate. The government likes to say that, with economic conditions improving, it's appropriate to reduce the rate of JobKeeper because businesses won't need it. Yet, to qualify for JobKeeper, a business still needs to demonstrate a 30 per cent decline in turnover. So, yes, fewer businesses might be qualifying for that, but the businesses that still have a 30 per cent decline in turnover clearly need the full rate of the JobKeeper that was available before because they clearly haven't benefited from the economic growth that is allegedly occurring through our communities at this time.

The government tries to claim that it has a plan for jobs in this budget. Let's look at that. The government's plan for jobs is going to produce an additional 160,000 newly unemployed people by Christmas. How on earth is that a plan for jobs? That is a plan for fewer jobs. Whilst nearly one million unemployed people aged over 35 have been deliberately excluded by this government from being eligible for hiring subsidies to help them get back into work, the average worker in Australia will no doubt gratefully receive a $50 a fortnight tax cut. Meanwhile, millions of JobKeeper recipients have seen their pay cut, just this last fortnight, by at least $300 a fortnight. I'm already having constituents contact me about these reductions in their take-home income—and it is hurting them. It means that they are now unable to pay their rent. What does the Morrison government have to say in response to that?

There are many things that the government could have done in its budget to better support our communities. For starters, it could have address the costs of child care and the current disincentives to work. We should instead be looking at a universal provision of affordable child care in this country. That is not a welfare measure; that is a fundamental economic reform. Children in Australia are fortunate enough to be able to go to any public school in the country and get a good education and education support. It doesn't matter how much their parents earn, everyone is able to access that education. Everyone is able to access Medicare. So why is it that that education support is only available on a universal basis from the age of five and above?

We know—the research is in—that the first thousand days of a child's life are fundamentally critical to their development and prosperity later in life. Wouldn't it make sense to try and increase the universal accessibility of education—it's in the name, 'early childhood education'—to as many children in this country as possible? The beauty of this is it's not just about improving the development and education of our children. It also enables more parents to get back into the workplace, not only to be able to feed their families and to be able to pay for the things that their families would like to do, but also for the fulfilment that comes from being able to pursue the career of their choice.

The way the current system operates, it denies parents that opportunity of being able to pursue their career, to be good role models to their own children and to our communities about what is available and possible for them to pursue. Finally, as we think about the recession that we are currently facing in our nation, remarkably, if we made child care and early childhood education more accessible to more children, it would require more staff in those centres and it would be a job-creating program. This is a fundamental economic reform, and the government has blinked at the opportunity that it presented.

Another thing that the government could have done—and it speaks loudly about its priorities—is invested significant funds into repairs and upgrades to the social housing stock that we have in our country. On my side of politics, we believe that at least $500 million could have been put into this sort of scheme, working with the states on a matching funding basis. This would allow repair work to start immediately, not only making sure that our rundown housing stock would be improved to provide better dignity to those that are living in public housing but also it would provide immediate work for the local plumbers, the chippies and the sparkies, who are in need of that work in the construction industry. We would have been supporting our communities, the people who are homeless and the people that have been out of work because of the recession that we're currently confronting. The McGowan government in Western Australia put aside $142 million in its budget to refurbish 15,000 existing social housing dwellings, and a further $97 million was allocated to build or buy an additional 250 dwellings for new social housing. Why couldn't the federal government have looked at a scheme like that and expanded that on a national basis, helping so many people in our community?

Finally, I want to turn to areas that are confronted by one of my portfolios, in defence industry. It's not just local communities that have been negatively effected by this pitiful budget under the Morrison government. COVID has also delivered to us a unique insight into why sovereign, self-sufficient defence manufacturing and supply chains are so vital, not just for supporting our businesses but also for our nation and its defence as a whole. Australia should be a country that makes things. We need to leverage the money that is there in the budget to make sure, as I said at the beginning, that we get the best bang for our buck. We should be a country that is making high-value, high-end manufactured goods and the supplies that are required for defence industry and leveraging that into a broader, high-end manufacturing industry in our nation.

The Australian government has embarked on a $270 billion defence acquisition program over the next decade. Unfortunately, despite the headline-grabbing media releases, the commitment to the Australian defence industry and Australian industry capability has been completely lacking. You only need to look at last week's great media announcement, with Naval Group Australia, about its $900 million tender to manufacture equipment in Australia for the Attack class submarine program. I don't see why it needed all of this hoopla, because it should have been a given that at least $900 million of manufacturing opportunity will be provided under the new Future Submarine program. It shouldn't be a surprise that Australian companies are merely being given the opportunity to tender to do work in our defence industry space. You see, this announcement is, quite literally, a drop in the ocean. The overall spend on the Attack class submarines is $90 billion, so this $900 million across a 25- to 30-plus-year build, that will go out to the 2050s, is around only one per cent of the total project acquisition cost.

Frankly, it's offensive to Australian defence manufacturing industries and businesses that this government, and the prime contractor responsible, have such little faith in our local industry. They have worked so hard to promote that they're providing an opportunity for business to seek a mere one per cent of the work, with no commitment that that will be delivered to Australian business. It's why Labor made a commitment to ensure that we will have mandated, enforceable, audited and transparent Australian industry contract requirements in major defence projects going forward, because our defence industry not only demands it to ensure that we've got the jobs, the skills and the capability here in our nation, but it's the opportunity to make sure that we're supporting our high-end manufacturing industries across the board in our nation. But this government only pays lip-service when it comes to supporting the defence industry. It's all about the headline, it's all about the photo op, but it's never about the follow-up.

6:52 pm

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

Early on, the Morrison government identified that the COVID-19 crisis was not just a health crisis, but it was also an economic crisis. All Australians have been impacted in some way, particularly in my home state of Victoria. As we know, women have also been heavily impacted by the economic fallout from COVID-19. Between February and May, 482,000 women lost employment and the women's unemployment rate rose by two percentage points to 6.9 per cent. This was largely the consequence of women predominantly being in hard-hit industries such as accommodation, food services and retail. It was certainly through no fault of their own. However, the easing of restrictions in these industries in states other than my home state of Victoria has seen a recovery in women's employment, with 60 per cent of the jobs created since May being filled by women. This is a very welcome development.

The Morrison government understands the important economic role of female participation in the workforce. That is why this year's budget includes the Women's Economic Security Statement. In 2018, my predecessor in the electorate of Higgins, Kelly O'Dwyer, the then Minister for Women, released the inaugural Women's Economic Security Statement. I am so proud that the 2020 budget included an updated Women's Economic Security Statement. This builds on the important strides already made by the Morrison government, and complements the broader array of budget measures designed to see us tackle the COVID recession.

The 2020 WESS—the Women's Economic Security Statement—has five priorities. The first priority is to repair and rebuild women's workforce participation and further close the gender pay gap. Before COVID-19, Australia had made significant progress on women's economic security. Most notably, women's workforce participation had risen from 58.7 per cent in September 2013 to 61.6 per cent in January 2020, pre-COVID. These are among the best rates in the world. However, as a result of COVID-19, those participation rates have unfortunately fallen to 57.5 per cent in May 2020. The Morrison government recognises that population, participation and productivity are the keys to economic prosperity. We have, therefore, built programs for women's participation to increase and to return to the workforce. One of these central planks of the economic revival program is JobMaker. JobMaker is a $74 billion plan, which includes $50 billion in tax relief to households and businesses. This means more money in the pockets of families and more money to keep businesses open and to lead to job creation. This is critical for female dominated industries such as hospitality and retail. The tax cuts are going to low- and medium-income earners, and that means they spend it in the economy.

There's also a very important signature program called the JobMaker Hiring Credit program, which is worth $4 billion. Young women have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19 and they account for one-third of the total fall in women's employment. The hiring credit program is available to employers for each new job they create over the next 12 months that hires an eligible young person between the ages of 16 and 35 years. We know that when an economic recession hits—it doesn't matter where it is in the world—it hits the young hardest. With this program, the businesses will receive $200 per week if they hire an eligible employee between the ages of 16 and 29 and $100 per week if they make a hire aged between 30 and 35 years. This will stimulate new employment. This will help the young and it will help women.

There's also $2.8 billion for the Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy. This will benefit around 90,000 small and medium businesses to keep 180,000 apprentices in work. More than 14,000 women apprentices and trainees have already benefited from this measure. That is a very welcome development. $1.2 billion has been committed to create the new Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements subsidy to support employers to take up 100,000 new apprentices and subsidies. This will prevent a skills shortage and create opportunities for women.

There is also the Mid-Career Checkpoint, because we understand how difficult it can be to re-enter the work force when you're raising a family. Having four kids myself, I know how sometimes the confidence can ebb. It's important that we support women going back into the workplace after they have had their children or during the times they are in and out of employment. It can be a very challenging task. The government is investing $75 million to support up to 40,000 Australians looking to return to the workforce. The program targets women aged 30 to 45 years looking to step up their career. This is an incredibly important program. All Mid-Career Checkpoint participants receive an introductory skills assessment which considers the participant's employment goals, skills and qualifications.

I am also very passionate about making sure that women step up to the jobs that have higher salaries. We know that the gender pay gap is partly because women are attracted to employment which has less robust salaries. We really want to encourage women to take the jobs that are flourishing, that are increasing in number and that also have higher wages. That includes encouraging women into STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We know that those are the jobs of the 21st century knowledge economy and those are the jobs in which we want women to become trained and educated in preparation for their own future. If we are to bridge the gender pay gap, it is critical that we equip women and girls to gain the skills to access high-skilled, high-paying jobs. That is why the government is providing an additional $14.5 million to support women and girls looking to enter STEM fields. They are girls like Grace Halifax, an eight-year-old student in my electorate of Higgins who is passionate about coding and wants other students to learn too. Many of you will have heard of this amazing young woman because of her efforts to launch 'The ABC of coding' in lockdown via Zoom. She encouraged 250 students to sign up to free coding lessons for six weeks during lockdown in Melbourne, which was an amazing outcome—showing that she has a passion for understanding that the ABC of coding is like the ABC of language, and that is the base for mathematics and technology going forward.

The government is also providing additional funding for the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grants program—called the WISE program, very appropriately. To date, WISE has provided $7.97 million to 46 organisations supporting a range of projects that have increased girls and women's participation in STEM and entrepreneurship. Our government is also committing $25.1 million for the Women in STEM Cadetships and Advanced Apprenticeships to create STEM career pathways for up to 500 women through industry sponsored advanced apprenticeship-style courses starting in 2021. These course will be hotly contended for. I already know many constituents who are going to put their hand up for these exciting apprenticeships and cadetships. We're also providing support for women in vocational training through our VET funding of $585 million to deliver skills for today and tomorrow. I'm only through the first priority of the Women's Economic Security Statement—and look how many programs there are and how much funding is committed to women.

The second of these priorities is to provide greater choice and flexibility for families to manage work and care. This includes ensuring that we have provided enough support for a child-care recovery packages in Victoria in my home state, where the Morrison government recognises the hardship that the childcare centres have gone through during COVID and the extended lockdown in Victoria. We've committed $372 million to a child-care recovery package for Victoria. This means that Victorian services can continue to receive a 25 per cent recovery payment through to 31 January 2021. This is incredibly important to provide choice and options in an accessible and well-supported child-care program.

The third priority is to support women as leaders and positive role models. We know that women have not had the same role models to look to that men have had because it is relatively only in our recent history that we have witnessed women in power. Like men, women need to be able to look across the country and see themselves represented at every point of significance. One of my local constituents, Melanie, recently wrote to me about the business she runs with her sister Emma, Fasham in Armidale. To them, mentoring is such a vital tool to support women who have entered any industry and inspire them to achieve their goals. Emma and Melanie joined the family business 15 years ago after a long and successful career in real estate. They know better than anyone how important it is to be surrounded by mentors who inspire and challenge them. They also know how vital it is to have mentoring opportunities to assist young women who may face challenges, particularly like the COVID challenges we face today.

One such Australian woman I look up to is the CEO of Alcidion, in my electorate of Higgins, Kate Quirke. For those of you in this House who are not aware, Alcidion is a healthcare informatics company focused on using data and technology to provide safe and smart healthcare delivery across Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Kate Quirke was named Women in Technology Executive Leader and is a great example of the importance of taking Australian innovation to the rest of world.

The concept of 'if she can do it so can I' is a very powerful motivator. Men take for granted that they have role models of power and influence. For women, this is a relatively recent development. That is why the government is investing in the Women's Leadership and Development Program. This program aims to improve outcomes for women across six key focus areas: job creation, leadership, economic security, workforce participation, safety and international engagement. An additional $47.9 million is being provided to expand this program to help women retain employment and build career pathways, with an emphasis on male dominated industries.

The fourth priority is to respond to the diverse needs of women. Women experiencing multiple disadvantage have lower workforce participation rates than the national average. The Morrison government is committed to supporting women from diverse backgrounds to overcome these barriers and strengthen their economic security. This includes women who are not located in metropolitan locations, those who are taking breaks from the employment market and those who are looking to return to work after extended time away.

Young women will also have support through our government providing $729 million from 2020 to 2024 to support the Transition to Work service. This service provides intensive assistance to young people aged 16 to 24 who have disengaged from work and study and are at risk of long-term welfare dependency. We also have funding for older women and have committed $41.7 million for a Career Transition Assistance program. This program makes it easier for mature age jobseekers and volunteers to access training to increase digital literacy, find job opportunities and identify transferable skills. I'm of an age where I understand how hard it can be when you're not a digital native. We know how hard it can be to access software programs and to upskill, and I welcome this development. There are so many women who can take advantage of this to build their confidence, to get a better job and to get back into the workplace.

The last priority is the fifth priority, and that is to support women to be safe at work and at home. We know that this is very important for empowering women and for their economic security. As we know, COVID has been particularly tough for women and children in violent households. The government recognises this and has provided $2 billion to the National Legal Assistance Partnership to support frontline legal assistance services delivered by legal aid commissions, community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and specialist domestic violence units and health justice partnerships. Increased funding for the Federal Circuit Court as part of the 2020-21 budget includes $12.8 million over the forward estimates in additional resourcing for family law matters. The government is further supporting women and children experiencing family and domestic violence through the $60 million Safe Places Emergency Accommodation program to provide new and expanded emergency accommodation facilities. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their home, and I'm very proud of this support we're offering vulnerable women.

To close, I'd like to say that this is a budget essentially for all Australians; however, what it has nailed is a targeted and proportionate approach to the unique challenges faced by women, which the government is cognisant of. I welcome the measures in this budget that go to the heart of the five priorities set out in the Women's Economic Security Statement. We recognise that women have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognise that women are central to the healthy and robust Australian economy of the future. Australian women know we have their back.

7:07 pm

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in support of the appropriation bills. The numbers in this budget are big—a $213.7 billion deficit this financial year; $480 billion of cumulative deficits over the forward estimates; the budget in deficit every year for the next decade; net debt of $703.2 billion this year, growing to $966.2 billion at the end of the forward estimates; and gross debt, which is currently over $800 billion, forecast to get to well over a trillion dollars over the forward estimates, peaking at $1.7 trillion over the decade. I note these numbers and ask those opposite to remember them the next time they consider reheating old debates of debt and deficit.

But budgets are much more than numbers. They're about priorities and they're about delivering on those priorities. They tell the nation what matters. No-one on this side of the chamber will ever forget Labor's budget priorities to deal with the GFC—investing in our schools and social housing and driving demand to keep the nation out of recession. As a Labor member, I won't forget the 2013 budget that funded the NDIS and better schools funding reforms. Certainly I will never forget the Liberal-National budget of 2014 that cut funding for the ABC and SBS and cut funding to public services across the country. It went for savings from Newstart recipients, youth allowance recipients and pensioners. Clear priorities indeed. This 2020 budget lays out the Morrison government's priorities: how it's going to deal with this deep recession, what it will invest in, how it will drive demand and what policies matter. This is where this year's budget falls over.

It's no secret that the Australian economy has been hit hard by the pandemic, but what the government has chosen to ignore is that the economy was suffering long before COVID reached our country. Before this budget was being crafted, debt was more than double what this government inherited, and growth had been the weakest it's been since the GFC. With all the talk about these being unprecedented times, the truth is that the problems gripping our economy existed long before COVID arrived, and the solutions need to endure long after it's gone.

To its credit, this government supported proposals for wage subsidies proposed by the Labor movement. How have they now responded in this budget? Not by increasing support for groups that needed it most, but instead by withdrawing funding from those already in strife. What's worse than withdrawing support is continuing to neglect the groups that weren't being helped in the first place. They include casual workers, women and elderly Australians, who are being excluded from vital support. There is no plan for the future of JobSeeker recipients, leaving well over a million recipients, including over 4,000 in my electorate of Bean, with an uncertain future as to whether they will go back to the old rate of $40 a day.

There is nothing in the budget to drive jobs through the transition to a clean energy future—the opportunity to rewire the old central distribution stuctured grid. Modernising the grid will provide thousands of new construction jobs for Australians, many of those in our regions. It will revitalise traditional industries like steel and aluminium, and it will allow growth in new sectors like hydrogen and battery production, laying the foundation for the next stage of renewables investment, driving down costs and providing investment certainty for businesses.

There are no funds in this budget to stand up and build the workforce of the National Integrity Commission or to appropriately fund the National Audit Office. There is nothing to seriously drive our science, research and development sectors, with much of the potential gains chimeric or narrowly defined—the sectors that will be the very drivers of productivity gains in the future. There are no additional funds to address the crisis in aged care, with the extra home-care places in this year's budget being a drop in the ocean compared to the waiting lists today. Nor are there any meaningful measures to advance opportunities for women. And, as we debated this week in this chamber, there is nothing to support our vital aviation sector.

We also see this budget as missing a huge opportunity to invest in higher education. On top of the stress that many year 12 students face this year, the government, with its usual disregard, increased university fees, with some degrees more than doubling in cost. This will mean that thousands of Australian will likely miss out on going to university and getting a degree.

After spending five years creating a tradie crisis in Australia, the government back in 2018 promised an extra 300,000 apprentices over a four-year period. After a complete failure on this front they have reheated this approach to promise an additional 100,000 apprentices and trainees by the end of 2021. The reality is that more than 140,000 apprentices have been lost on their watch. The gap between announcement and performance is massive. This budget doesn't go close to making up for seven years of failure that has seen more than $3 billion cut from TAFE and training.

For those in the ACT, be aware that this budget, disappointingly, continues with an APS-wide staffing cap, a policy which is driving billions of dollars in inefficient contractor arrangements and which is undermining expertise in our public service. Since 2013, 15½ thousand fewer people have been employed under the Public Service Act and there are over 19,000 fewer ongoing employees. In the ACT alone, since 2013 we've lost over 7,500 ongoing positions. While there have been small gains in non-ongoing roles, this government has missed an opportunity to create thousands of entry-level jobs, despite having work that needs to be done across every state, city and town in this country. The efficiency dividend is continued, screwing down on our valuable national cultural institutions and across the public service. It is a policy that, as highlighted in a bipartisan Senate committee report, is having detrimental effects across the ground. Whilst there have been one-off equity injections that are welcome, there is nothing in the budget that addresses the ongoing cuts to staffing in our national institutions. It doesn't address the erosion of critical expertise in science and engineering across the public service. Our nation's population has not got smaller. The work of the public service has not got less complex. Demand for needed services has not got any less. Yet this government doesn't address these issues.

This budget continues with an infrastructure deficit here in the ACT. Despite recent announcements of $155 million in projects, there is only $75 million in new project funding over the forward estimates. Further, when you consider the population of the ACT compared to the overall spend, ACT gets less than half of its share. That's right: 1.7 per cent of the national population, but only 0.7 per cent of the spend. These figures really highlight that, despite the spend, the ACT is being short-changed.

An area that many in my electorate care about is integrity. Governance and audit processes matter to them and to me. They want better oversight of decisions made by this government. Given the sports rorts scandal, the regional infrastructure scandal, cash for visas and recent revelations on land sales, there is a drive for better oversight, accountability and improved standards as integral to good government. This is a position those opposite pretend to agree with. However, they still haven't even produced a draft bill, despite promising to do so before the end of 2019. The list of scandals the government has been embroiled in seems to go on and on. It seems that now more than ever the funding and support for the National Integrity Commission must be appropriated.

This budget also highlights what the Morrison government really thinks of oversight and integrity. It has delivered a devastating blow to the Australian National Audit Office's ability to continue to hold it to account. Led by the Auditor-General, the Audit Office helps ensure taxpayers get value for money for the government's spending. As the recession takes hold and Australia hurtles towards $1 trillion of debt, now is the worst time to cut scrutiny of government spending, as every dollar must count. Yet instead of providing the $6.5 million boost the Audit Office requested, the Prime Minister has cut the budget by a further $1.28 million. For the record, an Albanese government will do the opposite and stand up for integrity and transparency in government.

But it's the critical area of jobs where this budget really falls down. This budget will rack up $1 trillion of debt, yet still doesn't do enough to create jobs. It fails to build for the future and leaves too many Australians behind. It's a budget that aims for six per cent unemployment. That's right—it doesn't aim for full employment. It doesn't even say, 'Let's at least work to a goal of an unemployment figure with a five in front of it.' That's why it has plenty of headline-seeking announcements but still forecasts that another 160,000 Australians will be added to the jobless queues by Christmas. Sadly, some of these people will be in my electorate of Bean.

In fact, with $1 trillion of debt and not even replacing our ageing school science labs, you could argue this budget is not delivering bang for buck for the nation at all. These bills and this budget say, 'We don't really have a problem with thousands being out of work and we don't have a problem with tens of thousands being underemployed.' This government has little plans for the 928,000 people aged over 35 on unemployment benefits who have been deliberately excluded from hiring subsidies. This budget says to those people, 'Good luck finding a job, because we really haven't got much to offer you.' It says to businesses like travel agents in my electorate, 'We only have a tax initiative that relies on turnover and dollars in the bank for you.'

As one business, Absolute Outdoors, said:

The instant asset write-off is only useful if you're in a cash position to invest and for that investment to be useful to generate more revenue. Or else it's useless.

This will be the case for many businesses across the Bean electorate. Here's the news for those opposite: if you don't put in levers to drive demand, to bring business through the front door, being able to write off a new asset is cold comfort. This is why we've been saying this budget misses the mark.

In contrast to these shortcomings, the Australian people got a positive viable alternative from the Leader of the Labor Party in the budget reply—a plan to kickstart the economy and boost workforce participation through policies such as housing investment, a working-family childcare boost and an Australian skills guarantee. It is a plan for a future made in Australia and a plan to invest in the skills, research and training to kickstart the next generation of Australian manufacturing jobs.

At a recent visit to the Wonderschool in the Lanyon Valley in my electorate of Bean with shadow minister Amanda Rishworth and our federal leader, we could see firsthand the value of investing in early education. It's an excellent early education provider, and families and their children should not have barriers to accessing such an environment.

Labor recognises that many working mums and dads currently cannot afford to work more than three days a week. This has been affirmed by new research by the Grattan Institute that shows the significant financial barriers many Australian parents currently face to working full-time. Under this government's childcare system, for a family of two children in child care and a primary care earner earning $100,000 the gain in disposable income if the secondary income earner works a fourth day in the week is zero. Under Labor's childcare plan, the same family will be better off by up to $2,100 per annum if the secondary income earner works a fourth day. Our plan is to scrap the childcare subsidy cap, which often sees women losing money from an extra day of work, and lift the maximum childcare subsidy rate to 90 per cent. Under our plan, 97 per cent of all families in the system will save between $600 to $2,900 a year, with no family being worse off. As our shadow minister said before, the evidence is overwhelming that removing the financial disincentives for women to work more is great for families and great for the economy.

Unlike those opposite, another critical area that Labor has a real plan for is manufacturing—not a glossy brochure type plan to be used in question time but a robust plan for meeting the challenges of this recession through good secure jobs. That includes a national rail manufacturing plan to see more trains built in Australia by local workers, ensuring every dollar of federal spending spent on rail projects boosts local jobs and industry. It also includes a defence industry development strategy that leverages our $270 billion investment to develop sovereign industrial and research capabilities and build skills and expertise within the Australian workforce, and an Australian skills guarantee to give apprentices, trainees and cadets a genuine foot in the door when it comes to work on major Commonwealth projects by ensuring that one in ten jobs on major federally funded projects are given to apprentices, trainees or cadets.

Labor is not blocking supply and will vote to pass these bills. But let's not pretend that this budget contains what is required for our nation, for our territory or for the electorate of Bean. It's a budget that looks in the rear-view mirror. It's a budget that racks up a trillion dollars in debt and looks to fast forward the nation back to pre-pandemic settings: an economy that was not working for many in our community. As my colleagues and I have said, our best days lay ahead of us, and we cannot miss this opportunity now to do things better. We cannot miss this opportunity to build a better nation.

7:21 pm

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Small businesses know what it takes to create local jobs, and they have what it takes to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic and lead our economic recovery with the support we are delivering as part of the budget. Around 5,000 small businesses in my electorate of Lindsay used the JobKeeper program to stay in business and to stay connected to their employees. There have been challenges for all businesses. For Phil and his team at Quest Penrith, the border closures and travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have had a significant impact on his business. They've used JobKeeper to get through the difficult time and are eagerly awaiting further borders to open so they can get on with work. Luke, the general manager of the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre, described JobKeeper and the cash-flow boost as being given a lifeline, allowing them to continue to work through the pandemic as well as get on with the vital refurbishments and upgrades that I delivered as part of my election commitment. As part of the Morrison government's $257 billion in direct economic support to cushion the blow of coronavirus and strengthen our position for recovery, JobKeeper has helped businesses in Western Sydney, like Quest Penrith and the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre and so many more, get through the pandemic.

From our sports facilities and small businesses to Australian manufacturers in our community, like SpanSet in Emu Plains, JobKeeper has been the link that has kept their employees connected and has put them in a strong position to respond now our economy is fighting back. More than half of those who lost their jobs are back to work and, with the measures announced in the budget, we're helping small businesses to emerge from the pandemic, expand and employ more Australians. This budget is all about jobs. For businesses in Lindsay it means tax relief, incentives to hire young Australians and purchase equipment to grow business, and support to take on and maintain apprentices and invest in the skills and training to sustain a highly skilled workforce. We've delivered tax relief for over 11 million hardworking Australians. Over 80,000 taxpayers in Lindsay will benefit from these tax cuts. Not only will these measures allow people to keep more of what they earn to spend on what matters most to them; they are also expected to create around 50,000 jobs. This is part of our economic recovery plan to rebuild our economy and create jobs without increasing taxes.

We're also supporting businesses to get the equipment they need to scale up and create more jobs by extending the instant asset write-off. Now 99 per cent of businesses will be able to write off the full value of assets they purchase. It will unlock investment, expand the productive capacity of the nation and create tens of thousands of jobs. Not only will this support business looking to purchase what they need to grow but it will generate economic activity across our economy as small businesses buy, sell, deliver, install and service these purchases. This will lead to more local jobs for our community.

Tracy, the managing director at Plustec at Emu Plains, this week received the Australian-made certification for her business. The energy-efficient doors and windows at Plustec are the types of Australian-made products recognised for quality and value. Plustec is the type of business that will benefit from the extension of the instant asset write-off, allowing them to scale up and continue to manufacture Australian-made products and, very importantly, create local jobs. With nearly 15,000 small and medium sized businesses in Lindsay and so many manufacturing businesses, it's important we support them to come out stronger as part of our economic recovery. From July 2020, we introduced immediate deductions for eligible startup expenses and we're investing over $2 billion for research and development for businesses. Eligible businesses that have struggled will now be able to offset tax losses against previous profits. This will assist nearly one million businesses that employ around 8.8 million workers.

I talk a lot about the backing of Australian manufacturing and the importance of this. It is more important now than ever. I've met with many local manufacturers, such as Pandrol in Blacktown, Jeff from J Sinclair Engineering; Tanya from Da-Mell Air Conditioning, Robert from GPC Electronics, and Grant and Scott from Custom Denning. Custom Denning want to see more support for Australian jobs, and that's exactly what we want to achieve. Established since 1955, they're Australia's oldest bus builder, and Sydney's only bus builder now. They're based at two facilities. Across St Marys in my electorate of Lindsay, they employ over 150 staff and have invested over $30 million into their company. I visited their business and saw firsthand how they are moving towards new advanced manufacturing techniques and have partnered with universities and TAFE to provide more opportunities for Western Sydney to ensure they can create more local jobs. We're also incentivising businesses to take on young people, because we know that young people have been particularly impacted by the pandemic. The $4 billion JobMaker hiring credit is expected to support almost half a million young Australians. Love Beans is a small local business on High Street in Penrith that launched their espresso bar at the beginning of the pandemic. While it's been tough for Tamara, Greg and the team, they've worked hard and they've been resilient, and they've taken on two more young Australians, and now they have five employees under 35. These are the types of aspirational small businesses that we know will create jobs, and that's why we're getting behind them to lead our economic recovery.

I'm passionate about making sure kids in Lindsay have access to pathways that will equip them with the skills to take on the jobs of the future. Recently, I visited Grant Engineered, a welding and fabrication company based in Penrith. Grant Engineered is a fast-growing company in the truck and trailer industry, with over 20 years of experience. Their work ranges from aluminium and steel fabrication to fuel tank modifications and even custom-made Live Floor rigid bodies and trailers. I met Grant and the team and was so proud to see that they have taken on four apprentices. We need to make it easier for businesses like Grant Engineered to employ more people and take on more apprentices. That's why we're investing over $1.2 billion for the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy, which will support our next generation of skilled workers, like the apprentices at Grant Engineered. This will support 100,000 new apprentices, with the potential to lead young Australians in Lindsay into the jobs of the future, in emerging industries. The Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements wage subsidy comes on top of the government's $2.8 billion Supporting Apprentices and Trainees package, which is now expected to support 90,000 employers to keep around 180,000 apprentices and trainees in employment and training. This means that more people in Lindsay will have the opportunity to gain the skills and experience they need for an exciting career, which could take them into the industries coming to Western Sydney, including advanced manufacturing, defence, space and more.

For many of these emerging industries, science, technology, engineering and maths will play a key role. We're taking action to increase the number of women in these fields, because our workforce can only reach its full potential when we back women to reach their full potential. In this budget, we have made critical investments to support women in STEM, including $10 million to expand the Women in STEM and Entrepreneurship grants program funding to an additional 50 projects to remove barriers and increase participation. We're also investing $35.9 million to expand the Boosting Female Founders Initiative, designed to address some of the challenges experienced by women taking their startups to the next level. The data shows that in many cases women only raise half the capital compared to startups founded by men, and even when they get the finance the terms can be less favourable. Improving access to early stage capital for female entrepreneurs will help them grow their startups, create jobs and contribute to our economic recovery.

Sparking an interest in a job in STEM can start at an early age. At Jamison High School in Lindsay, the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology and I witnessed Girls in STEM in action, as the students took part in activities with drones and four-wheel drive challenges. As part of this budget, we're investing $900,000 to expand the Girls in STEM toolkit as well as $27.3 million to improve STEM skills in early learners and school students through a range of STEM programs.

As part of the budget, we've also delivered the second Women's Economic Security Statement. This includes $2 million to extent the Women in STEM Ambassador initiative, an integral part of our efforts to remove the barriers and open opportunities for women and girls in STEM. We're also making sure these opportunities are available across our country with $1 billion to fund research at Australian universities to drive the discovery of new products, ideas and innovations to power our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, and with $40 million to fund universities to embark on important projects in their local communities that collaborate with industry. Importantly, this collaboration happens with industry to drive projects in the national interest.

This is about supporting families and businesses to get through the pandemic, rebuilding our economy and creating jobs. We have delivered targeted support with 90 per cent of the spending committed in response to the crisis occurring over the next two years. Reaffirming its AAA credit rating today, Australia remains one of only nine countries around the world to hold a AAA credit rating from all three major credit rating agencies. We entered the crisis in a position of strength, thanks to the Morrison government's strong economic management. Now we're delivering the support that businesses need to get back to their best and to create more local jobs. Australians can have the confidence in our economy recovery plan, and the response shows they do. This month consumer confidence has increased 11.9 per cent—the largest increase in a budget month on record since the series began in 1974.

Creating local jobs is part of my plan for Lindsay, is part of the Morrison government's plan for our economic recovery, and is what this budget is all about. We will achieve this by putting businesses at the centre of this plan, enabling them to do what they do best. For GPC Electronics in Jamisontown, it's creating advanced electronic systems, like the tactical edge servers for the Army's Boxer combat renaissance vehicles. For Pran and Jitesh at the Kuisine Company at Emu Plains, its providing delicious meals to supermarket chains, health services and Meals on Wheels. For Alan and the team at Nepean Swim and Fitness, it means getting more local kids and families through the door so they can learn to stay safe and get fit and have fun in the pool or at the beach, which will be so important this summer. And for all the hardworking aspirational manufacturers, small and family businesses, this budget means they have the support they need so they can continue to create jobs. I look forward to seeing small and family businesses taking advantage of the Morrison government's support in delivering and leading our economic recovery and creating more local jobs. Thank you.

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It being past 7.30 pm the debate is interrupted. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:33