Wednesday, 28 October 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2020-2021, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Second Reading
As I was saying before I was so politely interrupted, councils in my electorate are getting a $13 million boost from the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program grant right across the electorate. And another $5 million has been allocated to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport in South Australia to complete roadworks in the same areas.
For any fabrication in Whyalla, a place that the Premier and I visited only a month or so ago will benefit from a $15 million grant, largely to install an onsite galvanising plant. At the moment if they press out metal and they want it galvanised, it has to go to Adelaide and be galvanised and then be brought back up to Whyalla again. Of course there is a lot of interest around Australia at the moment in building transmission towers for high-voltage lines. We're planning to build a transmission line from South Australia through to New South Wales to hook us up to Snowy Hydro mark 2 or the wind energy that sits within the Grey electorate. In fact, almost 35 per cent of the wind energy in Australia is generated in the Grey electorate, so that is a big thing for Whyalla. It is actually telling us something about the government's commitment to the steel industry in Australia. This is coupled with the announcements that have come from the minister for energy about the commitment for new energy schemes in Australia and the possibility developing green steel in Whyalla, where the owner of GFG Sanjeev Gupta has already expressed a great desire to move down that path. I think for Whyalla that's a really big and important announcement that is looking to—there we go!
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Proceedings suspended from 10:32 to 10:43
Ten projects across Grey will receive more than $9.5 million under round 5 five of the Bridges Renewal Program and round 7 of the Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program. I've already been to visit those sites and talk to those people. There's the Moonta historic mine. This is an absolute ripper! Moonta is one of the most historic mining towns in Australia. Its Cornish heritage really has to be seen to be believed. It's listed as a National Heritage site. The whole town will receive $4.9 million as part of the federal government's $61 million budget for environmental restoration and recovery through the $1 billion COVID relief fund. The same fund is providing almost $300,000 for a very similar community in Burra, a historic mining town which is also listed as a National Heritage site, to undertake repair work around the mining site—in fact, to the offices at Burra that sit near the great pit, which is now full of water. Then there are the Ediacara fossils at Nilpena, which is a World Heritage site. This is outstanding stuff in the Flinders Ranges. The area in the Flinders Ranges with the earliest signs of life on the planet will receive $490,000. They are really good wins for the electorate of Grey.
A number of other projects in the electorate are already underway, and some of them are very large infrastructure programs. I'm pleased to announce that work has commenced on the second Joy Baluch bridge at Port Augusta. Port Augusta is the crossroads of the nation. If you go east to west, you go through Port Augusta and you go over the bridge. If you go north to south, you go over the Joy Baluch bridge. It's become congested. The alternative is a trackway to the north called Yorkeys Crossing. If it's wet, that's out as well. At different times we've had accidents on the bridge where East Port Augusta is cut off from West Port Augusta, and there are no emergency services in West Port Augusta. It's a very big project—a $200 million project—with $160 million coming from the federal government.
Down at Port Wakefield, we're solving a perennial problem and one that's sat there for many decades. We're having an overpass intersection to the north of the town and dual lanes right through the town. Work is continuing on the ARTC, the Australian Rail Track Corporation, traffic management system. That's a $50 million program. There's $100 million for works on freight corridors west of Port Augusta, with $25 million of that being chiselled off for works to deal with the closure of the railway on Eyre Peninsula. Eyre Peninsula is where I live. That work is very important to the growers and the community of Eyre Peninsula. There's also $50 million for the Barrier Highway, $42 million for the Horrocks Highway—all with a 20 per cent top-up from the state. There's a lot of work happening in the Grey electorate as a result of the investment decisions of this federal government.
The support that the electorate has received through the Regional Airline Network Support package has put flights back into Coober Pedy, Ceduna and Whyalla. It was very important. I think there are also subsidised flights going into Port Lincoln. Those communities would have been completely cut off. It wasn't a regular service. It was making sure there were two services a week, but it did keep that population in touch. There was also a big increase over this period of time in Roads to Recovery payments. There was an increase of $12 million to the 29 councils across Grey.
In the last two years, I have opened two new headspace units in the electorate of Grey. We now have four. I need one more. I still need another one for Port Pirie. We're working our way down the list. I'm extremely grateful for the funding and so are the communities where those headspace units sit.
There's $6½ million for work shutting down leaking bores in the Great Artesian Basin. Most of this work is not going to be in South Australia, because the work has already been done there. It's largely going to be done in South West Queensland, but it's the same basin, so keeping the pressures up in that basin is very important to South Australia. There's $45 million for the Northern Adelaide Irrigation Scheme. You might wonder why the member for Grey would be talking about Adelaide, but my electorate now runs within 32 kilometres of the CBD. In the last redistribution I picked up a lot of irrigated horticultural country on the Adelaide Plains, and this is a very important project.
There's a new allocation of $200 million for the BBRF. This has been a remarkable program in Grey across the years. In the last round, the Remarkable Southern Flinders received a $5 million grant for the development of tourist facilities and biking trails in the Southern Flinders Ranges. There's $6.6 million for the Silver to Sea Way, which is keeping a hold of the historical landmarks that sit between Broken Hill and Port Pirie. Of course, Broken Hill is where BHP was formed—Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited is what it stands for. The smelters in Port Pirie were built to deal with that first mining venture of BHP. It's a very important part of Australia's history.
There's $3 million for the Cowell foreshore development. We've had great investment in remote airstrips and in regional airports. The Drought Communities Program has run across 20 councils in Grey, and there's been some fantastic work done. I go into communities where they've been able to upgrade facilities, which they haven't been able to afford to do for a long time. I often tell the story about the young sparky I was talking to, who had the job of rewiring the town's showgrounds. He said, 'Without these grants I would have had to let my two men go, and I don't know whether or not I would have been able to survive.' He's providing that town with an ongoing service, which is exactly what the Drought Communities Program is about. In fact, I'm very pleased to be part of a government that has recognised that drought does not affect just farmers, it affects whole communities. If farmers have no money then they stop spending, and then the industries that service them dry up as well. There has been an increase of FAGs funding for councils. I can safely say that never before have we had this level of federal investment in a large regional seat like Grey, and very I'm pleased to be the member at the time when this great support is coming from the federal government.
This is a budget that is devoid of any vision for our nation. It offers no plan for recovery for our economy, and it fails to tackle the problems that Australians are facing on a daily basis. In summation, it offers little hope for Australians and for our nation.
This is a big-spending budget; the deficit will be $213 billion in the coming year. Gross debt will grow to $1.7 trillion, or 55 per cent of our nation's GDP, under this government. Will this budget leave Australians and Australia better off? The answer to that question is, no, it won't leave our nation better off. It doesn't deal with any of the problems that our economy has been facing over the period of this government: low wages growth; chronically bad productivity resulting in very little growth in GDP for our nation; business investment heading down, and continuing to head down; and workers falling further and further behind, and their families being worse off. It won't deal with these issues, or offer a plan to ensure that our economy can recover, and recover in better shape than it was in when it went into this recession. It's a big-spending budget, but the money has been allocated in the wrong areas. It has not been allocated to the areas where you're going to boost productivity, where workers and their families will be better off, where pensioners and self-funded retirees will be better off, and where small businesses have the support to grow and to become medium- to big-sized businesses into the future. None of that support is available from this government in this budget.
I want to deal with some of the myths that are being perpetrated by this government about their management of the economy and their management of our nation's finances. They always make this claim, those opposite, the Liberal and National parties, that the conservatives are better at managing money, that they're better at managing our nation's finances. Well that has been blown out of the water by the fact that the nation's biggest budget deficit and the largest amount of debt that the nation has ever taken on will happen on their watch. And I don't see them all having their little selfies and photos with the 'Back in black' mugs anymore, which they were prior to this budget.
An opposition member: Or the debt trucks!
Or the debt trucks! What about those debt trucks that were rolled out across the country? You would normally have seen the debt trucks rolled out by now, during the election in Queensland, if this was a typical time for the Liberal and National parties in Queensland; but, no, that's not occurring anymore, is it? That is not occurring anymore, because of what this government has done to our nation's finances.
I want to point out some of the wastage of taxpayer dollars that has been undertaken by this government, completely dispelling this myth that they are better managers of our nation's finances. It started with sport rorts. We all remember that, don't we? It was this wonderful program where the Liberal and National parties, through the minister and—guess what?—signed off by the Prime Minister, pork barrelled hard-earned taxpayer dollars into projects in seats held by the Liberal Party and National Party—against the advice of Sport Australia. The Australian National Audit Office uncovered what was going on with this scheme, and it resulted in the resignation of the minister—despite the fact the minister had been in constant contact with the Prime Minister's office. So there we have the first one: sports rorts.
Then we move on to water rorts, where the government paid double the independent evaluation for water licences to a company that was established by none other than the Minister for Energy in—guess where—the Cayman Islands! We've got a minister in this government establishing a company in the Cayman Islands. Why do people establish companies in the Cayman Islands? I can tell you why: to avoid paying tax in Australia. Yet this government paid well above the independent evaluation to a company established by the minister in the Cayman Islands! And it doesn't end there with this minister. Then there was the grass rorts saga, where this minister lobbied the environment minister to have environmental laws watered down because a company that he was previously a shareholder in had been investigated for breaches of land-clearing laws.
Oh, and it doesn't end there. Then we move on to the farcical situation with Badgerys Creek. If you want a good example of the Liberals with their snouts in the trough and abusing taxpayers dollars, look no further than what has gone on with Badgerys Creek, where this government paid a Liberal Party donor—I mean, you can't make this stuff up—10 times the amount that the land was valued at in Badgerys Creek. It's complete rorting, corruption and abuse of taxpayers dollars by this government. And they want to say that they are better at managing our nations finances! What a joke!
Well, it doesn't end there. Then we move on to some of the government big programs like the National Broadband Network. The Minister for Communications announced a month or so ago—guess what?—that this government was actually going to look to moving to fibre to the premises. Remember when the National Broadband Network was established, the original plan of the Kevin Rudd government was to ensure that every Australian had access regardless of where they lived and what their income was to high-speed broadband via a high-speed network to their premises—to their home or to their business. Then, the wonderful Minister for Communications, who thinks that he's the expert on everything to do with the Internet and communications, Malcom Turnbull, came along and said, 'No, we're going to change the system; we are going to make sure that, instead of rolling it out to your premises, we're going to stop at the end of the street and the rest of the connection will be via the copper network. And, in doing so, we'll roll it out more quickly and we will save money.' Well, guess what? They doubled the cost of it and it still has not been completed.
Now the minister has the hide to come along and say—at the cost of $4.5 billion, I might add: 'We are going to go back to Labor's original plan because'—guess what?—'the current system is not working.' The current system is not working because the copper network is basically stuffed and it's not delivering what the government said they would. So there they go—wasting another $4.5 million of taxpayer fund all for political expediency and basically so Malcom Turnbull could fulfil a dream and become Prime Minister of this country.
Then we move on to energy policy. They've had 22 different policies—and all the waste of taxpayers dollars that they spent on investigations and the Public Service putting together 22 different policies that have never got anywhere. And the country still doesn't have an energy policy. We're still paying too much for electricity and gas—guess what?—the nation's carbon pollution is going up and up and up and our kids are going to pay the costs. All of these abuses of taxpayers dollars have been undertaken by this government.
Then last week it was uncovered in estimates what is going on in our nation's postal service, where this government has lined the board with Liberal Party mates that are now abusing taxpayers dollars. They are giving away to senior executives Cartier watches that cost between $15,000 and $20,000 and the CEO spent money on high-priced hotels while basically living in Melbourne; yet, at the same time, the postal service is being cut back! Residents in my area have been told that the mail will only be delivered every second day, not every day as they are entitled to and that they pay taxes for. The government have lined the board with their Liberal Party mates, who are abusing taxpayers' dollars.
And don't get me started on what's going on at ASIC. You'd think they would have learned the lesson after the royal commission and all of the scandals and rip-offs of Australian taxpayers that have occurred and that we'd have a strong, independent Australian Securities and Investments Commission. But no. Once again they line the board with their mates. What's been going on? We find out, through estimates, that the chair of ASIC has had a $118,000 tax bill paid for by the taxpayer. Who on earth in Australia gets that? Who, of the hardworking Australian people who go to work every day and do their job, gets the government to pay their tax bill? No-one. Well, it happens under this Liberal government. Then we find out that the deputy chair has had his rent paid by the government. He has had to resign in disgrace. All of this is going on while only 10 of the 76 recommendations of the royal commission have been implemented by this government. It's almost two years since the royal commissioner handed down his findings in the royal commission, after all of the abuse that Australians had to cop in the financial services industry, and still only 10 of those 76 recommendations have been implemented, because this government is more interested in providing jobs for its mates on government instrumentalities and wasting taxpayers' dollars than getting on and doing the job of fixing up our financial services industry.
Then yesterday we uncovered that the government is providing subsidies to the operators of private jets in this country, whilst thousands of dnata workers who work for airlines in this country missed out on JobKeeper. These aren't high-paid people. They are good, salt-of-the-earth hardworking Australians that are on basic wages. They get nothing. They're out of a job, with no support whatsoever. Yet with people like Clive Palmer and others that fly around the country in private jets—'Yeah, we'll give them a handout, because they're a Liberal Party mate, and don't we owe them for the ads that they ran during the last election.' Qantas has sacked 2½ thousand of its workers and, guess what, they're going to bring in a foreign corporation to take those workers' jobs and offer wages and conditions that are lower than what the workers would have got. There is no support for them from this government. No. They're out on their backside, and the likes of Clive Palmer and other wealthy Australians get a subsidy to operate their private jets. The government are looking after their mates and forgetting the average Australians—the hardworking workers of this country and their families; pensioners and self-funded retirees, who've got nothing from this government during this crisis; and small businesses.
This is a budget that is devoid of vision and does not help those that are in need—not to mention the cuts to services that have been going on in this country. My wife is a registered nurse and works in a public hospital. The chronic staff shortages that are going on in our public hospitals, and the lack of services, are unbelievable. Hospital waiting lists for elective surgery are blowing out by the day. The government is making it harder for our kids to get an education. If you're a low- to middle-income family trying to get your kid into a university degree, this government has just put up the cost of that for anyone going into humanities, in some cases increasing it by 113 per cent. TAFE fees have doubled under this government for a kid trying to get an apprenticeship. And, as I mentioned earlier, Australia Post are now saying that they're going to deliver letters every second day rather than every day, as they should, and which our taxes go to fund. These are the services that are being cut by the government, yet in this budget they're continuing with tax cuts that take $130 billion out of the federal budget in the future, on top of the $216 billion deficit that they're going to leave Australians with. I ask those opposite and, in particular, the Treasurer: if you're taking all this money out of the budget and you're cutting services as they are, what else are you going to cut? You can't continue to run a budget and run the nation's finances like that, taking $130 billion out of the budget without cutting services. That is exactly what this government is going to do. It's going to cut services further so Australians are worse off, and it's not fair. That is why Labor, in its response, is trying to concentrate on the issues that are affecting Australians. Our policy deals with the high cost of child care and the fact that many people can't get their kids into child care because they can't afford to go to work, because of that high cost, making sure that the subsidy is fair and that people can afford to go to work. That will boost productivity and boost the growth of the nation. That is how you allocate public funds to a problem that exists in our economy and make sure you get a better deal for people.
Homelessness has been on the rise. We should be investing in social housing, and that is what Labor is proposing. But this government ignores those problems and instead lines the pockets of mates who do the right thing by the Liberal Party, which is the wrong thing by the Australian people. (Time expired)
I rise to speak on the appropriation bills. When the Treasurer stood up 18 months ago to deliver his 2019 budget, you could tell it wasn't standalone. Like a Hollywood blockbuster, you could tell it was setting itself up for a sequel—the glorious 2020 budget, where the surplus would be reached, the sun would shine and Richmond wouldn't win the football again! And then 2020 happened, and all bets were off. So instead of the budget we wanted to have, we got the budget that we had to have, beyond ideology, to deliver economic stimulus where it was needed—into businesses and into people's wallets.
Around 83,000 taxpayers in Bennelong will benefit from tax relief of up to $2,745 this year as a result of the Morrison government's tax relief measures, which have already passed parliament. Around 7,111 individuals in Bennelong have received the coronavirus supplement, which was added to JobSeeker to provide additional support through this crisis. Around 12,847 aged pensioners in Bennelong received support payments of $750 in April and July, and will receive a further $250 payment in December and a further $250 from March next year. Around 974 carers in Bennelong received support payments of $750 in April and July, and will receive a further $250 payment in December and a further $250 from March next year. This means people across the electorate and the nation will have more of their hard-earned money in their pockets. In tough times like these, that extra money could mean the difference between skipped meals, rent being paid or the air-con running. It could be a lifesaver. Regardless of whether you spend this on necessities or desires, please spend it locally so that it can go towards helping our hardworking small businesses, many of whom have done it really tough.
In my time as the member for Bennelong, I have implemented a number of projects to help local businesses. Perhaps significant in these times is the Bennelong Village Business program. Started in 2010 as small businesses were struggling out of the GFC, it has continued ever since and has found new relevance this year. Through this program, I have actively promoted local shops and local village precincts to surrounding neighbourhoods to encourage people to shop locally. Buying locally means putting money in the pockets of local business owners and creating lively, vibrant local shopping precincts. Earlier this year I had been unable to physically visit shopping centres and meet with business owners because of the impact of COVID. Given the extraordinary success of NSW Health in controlling the virus, case numbers are sufficiently low now that I will be able to resume the Bennelong Village Business program in the lead-up to Christmas. I'm very much looking forward to speaking to our businesses, seeing how they are faring and assisting them as best I can.
Local shops which have been unable to keep trading due to the impact of the COVID virus have been particularly affected by the crisis. I recently conducted a business survey across my electorate to hear the opinions of business owners and to see how they have fared during the crisis. Most alarmingly, I found that not a single store that responded had experienced less than a 30 per cent decline in revenue. The government's JobKeeper payment has been so essential, supporting 7,500 businesses in Bennelong through the pandemic and keeping them connected to their employees. The cash flow boost has helped around 6,200 small and medium-sized businesses, providing payments to help businesses in Bennelong stay afloat.
Bennelong businesses have been versatile and innovative over the past few months. One of our favourites, Formula Chemicals, saw the need in the market and shifted rapidly to produce huge quantities of sanitiser to keep us all healthy. Top Ryde Tailoring saw a dip in people needing suits as people were working from home in their trackies but recognised that their excess fabric was perfect for face masks, which they started making, bespoke, to stay afloat. Scott Morrison has an embroidered one himself. Despite these innovations, they cannot do this alone. This is why JobKeeper payments have been so critical.
The next step is to rebuild, and the government has a plan to support new investment and increase business cash flow. The government is providing a temporary tax incentive that will allow 21,800 businesses in Bennelong to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase. This will build on the government's successful instant asset write-off measure announced earlier in the year. The possibilities with this are endless. Local manufacturers in West Ryde can buy new machines; the car repairers of Buffalo Road can replace their tools; the great restaurants of Eastwood can renew their kitchens before the post-COVID rush descends. Anything is possible. This is hopefully the sort of circuit-breaker that our economy needs to get back on its feet rapidly, encouraging people to get out and spend their money at Australian businesses, trickling the money back up the chain until we are back to where we were 12 months ago.
For all the good work this month, I can't help but feeling that there is a bit of a missed opportunity. By spending money on infrastructure, we can provide jobs and economic stimulus while also providing a future benefit for the people of Australia who get to use this infrastructure. Of course, there is infrastructure in the budget. Some of them, like the bypasses that almost finish the Pacific Highway upgrades, are long overdue and will fill critical gaps in our national infrastructure. Most of them are small, shovel-ready projects that can be turned around now for maximum impact, which is certainly a praiseworthy aim. But, with the continuation of the tradition of ad hoc building of small projects—fixing our problems but not the root cause of the issues—the can is simply being kicked further down the road.
I'll speak later today in the other chamber about the need for vision, but for now I would like to talk about a better way to fund infrastructure. Albert Einstein claimed the greatest power in the universe was compounding interest. I'm currently chairing the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities inquiry into financing faster rail, and we have discovered the greatest power in the Australian infrastructure funding and tax relief universe. This power is the compounding of property values due to infrastructure investment and rezoning. For over 100 years, a select group of property owners have been the beneficiaries, funded by governments with taxpayers' money. We recently heard evidence that conclusively shows the extraordinary rise in property values that have occurred when major infrastructure has been announced, most recently at the Western Sydney International Airport. This is hardly surprising. The land around one of the new metro stations will go from rural agricultural to high-density apartments basically overnight. A quick comparison of rural land prices versus inner-city apartment land prices demonstrates the huge financial gains to be made. The lucky property owners, many of them recent speculators, would be the huge beneficiaries of this great force of price uplift as their acreage goes from $2,000 an acre to over $10 million for selected lands close to train stations. That is an increase of 5,000 times, or 500,000 per cent. The greatest power in the universe indeed.
The fundamental questions are: who pays and who gains, and what responsibility does the government have? The answer is: the taxpayer pays and the select few gain. The government is elected to represent the people's interest. This inquiry has clarified a shocking oversight by governments that has escalated more over the past century. It must be remedied and remedied now before any more infrastructure announcements are made. We heard evidence from Professor Andrew McNaughton, the technical director of High Speed Two, in Britain, who has recently consulted for the New South Wales government on faster rail and high-speed rail. He provided evidence that was a perfect encapsulation of our past mistakes and what we should do now. He said essentially that property prices enjoy significant uplift within 500 metres of a metro station; however, increases in property values around regional fast-rail stations or high-speed rail stations are over a far greater area and are far more dramatic. His concluding advice was that before another infrastructure project is announced you must secure the current value of the lands that will be impacted on which to make your charge, because, the moment you make the announcement, within minutes, the prices have gone up and it is too late.
The purpose of this inquiry, announced pre-COVID, was to find the best practices to fund and finance faster rail, but the virus has now changed the imperative. The huge impact on the economy that this virus has had will obviously require huge amounts of government stimulus. As we have seen, much of this has gone directly to workers and businesses. But we must use this opportunity to invest in major infrastructure as well. Indeed, it has been announced that we will be spending astounding amounts on infrastructure. This will be funded out of debt and this debt will be paid by future generations. Does this mean that the taxpayer will fund even more phenomenal gains for some that will impoverish future generations of taxpayers? Recommendations that will flow from this inquiry must advise the government that they represent the taxpayer to gain a fair share of the profits to fund the infrastructure and therefore put downward pressures on taxes now and for future generations.
Hand in hand with these funding ideas is the idea of master planning. These recommendations followed repeated inquiries which called for more planning for our infrastructure. Long-term planning is essential for setting out the areas which will need funding but, more importantly than that, it gives certainty to industry, politics and the community. Building companies regularly say that the greatest cost of doing business in Australia is the constant gearing up and gearing down for a single project. A continuous program of works would alleviate most of these costs.
But there is a less prosaic reason than that. Imagine if we had a vision of what we wanted this country to look like in 10, 20, 50 or even 100 years—a roadmap of what we think we need and a plan on how to achieve it. In Japan, in the 1960s they planned out their high-speed rail to be rolled out across the country, which included a route to the north to be built in the 2010s—50-year planning that gave certainty to all levels of society about the direction of the Japanese plan. When the line was open on time a few years ago, the supporting infrastructure was ready to go and the community benefited from that certainty. Australia hasn't seen an integrated plan like this since Bradfield planned Sydney—and, even then, political opportunism stymied some of his big ideas. We need long-term planning of our settlement and then, when we suffer from our next economic shock—whenever that may be—we will not need to scrounge around for short-term, shovel-ready projects to stimulate the economy; we will have a full list of important nation-building projects that can be accelerated.
Ten years ago to this day, I stood in the other chamber for the first time and made my maiden speech. I had been the most unlikely candidate for federal politics. I had no credit whatsoever. However, I shared a common complaint that our leaders lack vision and engaged too much in unproductive negative repartee. I asked in that first speech that this be a place, an arena, for the contest of ideas. What I presented may have started out as an idea, but it has survived a number of inquiries and gained enormous support from academics and business leaders. So I conclude by asking our leaders to enter this great arena, leave the tools of your political trade on the sidelines and fight for what the people of Australia want of you. Keep your promise to represent us and give us a vision—a grand vision where our dreams and aspirations can come true.
) ( ): I rise to speak on the Appropriations Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021. We have seen a lot of big numbers from this year's budget: 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 estimate; and gross debt currently over $800 billion, forecast to get to well over a trillion dollars over the forward estimates and peaking at $1.7 trillion over the decade. This budget will rack up a trillion dollars of debt but still leave Australians behind, especially Australians living outside of big cities. The budget doesn't do enough to create jobs and fails to build for the future.
The pandemic has had a devastating impact on regional coastal communities like mine on the Central Coast of New South Wales. Figures from June 2020 show over 40 per cent of businesses on the Central Coast were receiving JobKeeper and, at the height of the pandemic, there were 36 jobseekers for every job vacancy. As of September, there are 17 jobseekers for every vacancy, still well above the national average, and nearly 20,000 people receiving JobSeeker on the Central Coast.
It's said we're all in this together when we're not. In some suburbs in my electorate there's been an increase in jobseeker recipients of over 95 per cent, and in no suburb was the increase less than 35 per cent. Local people are facing hardship and uncertainty, and this will get worse if the government cuts support too soon and if the government doesn't properly invest in a jobs-led recovery. Australians, especially those living in regional and remote Australia, will bear the brunt of the recession for years to come, and this will be particularly felt by younger people.
Before the pandemic the number of students completing TAFE courses in my electorate had dropped by 600 from when this government came to power. The government has announced, and we welcome, 100,000 new places for TAFE, but it's still 40,000 less than what they inherited from Labor in 2013. And under this government we've seen skill shortages, from welders, bricklayers, hairdressers to engineers. Australians, as I've mentioned, especially in the regions, especially young people living outside of big cities, deserve a properly funded public TAFE for when they're starting out, when they're changing jobs or when they need to reskill or upskill. It's critical.
The global pandemic has exposed the risk of being last in the worldwide supply chain and vulnerabilities in our supply chains. We've seen disruptions leading to shortages, and as a pharmacist this has particularly concerned me when it's led to shortages in critical and life-saving medicines. We need to invest in Australian manufacturing. Australia has a strong history and a proud track record of building and creating our own, and that's what we need to do now. On the Central Coast in my electorate there were just under a thousand manufacturing businesses before the pandemic. At one end, there are 430 sole traders—the people like my brother, a plumber—through to the 70-plus businesses that employ between 20 and just under 200 people.
The Central Coast is known for food manufacturing. Businesses like Sanitarium and MasterFoods call the Central Coast their home, and I'm really proud to say that the Central Coast Food Alliance, since its launch in September 2019, has really worked to raise the profile of the Central Coast as a thriving food hub. The government—and I welcome it—has promised in the budget investment in food manufacturing. I'll be pushing really hard to make sure that the Central Coast and other regions like ours get their fair share, because the Central Coast has a track record and the know-how and the people to be part of a manufacturing jobs-led recovery, and that's what we really need to see in my community.
Australia needs a plan for good, secure jobs, especially for people that live outside of the big cities, especially for young people in regional and remote Australia. As part of a 'future made in Australia' plan, Labor has announced the Australian Skills Guarantee. On every worksite receiving major government funding, one out of 10 workers employed will be an apprentice, a trainee or a cadet. It reminds me of when my dad started out. He grew up in public housing, he'd never met someone who'd been to university and he was able to get a cadetship with what was then the Department of Main Roads. That allowed him to start his career as a civil structural engineer. It gave him a start in life that he would not otherwise have had. So I have a strong personal interest in this. We really need to rebuild public TAFE. We need to provide a pathway to secure jobs and we also need through a skills guarantee to make sure that when someone has those skills that they have a start, that they've a foothold, that they can make a start in a steady career.
I want to turn now to infrastructure. The Central Coast is a growing community, and our region has a backlog of major infrastructure projects. It's a popular place for people to live—for young families, for older people. What we don't have and what has been overlooked is the infrastructure to support our growing communities. Investment in infrastructure should be central to the post-COVID recovery across Australia and in the regions. Instead, the coast has been left off the Liberal and Nationals infrastructure list. The Central Coast hasn't had a major infrastructure project since the M1 upgrade, which was kickstarted when Labor was last in government under the then Labor minister for infrastructure, Anthony Albanese. But locals in my community have been overlooked again. The government's original Central Coast Roads Package, which was worth just under $70 million and was welcome, gave 94 per cent of funding to the Liberal-held seat of Robertson, and, according to a breakdown, as recently as March one street in Saratoga in the Robertson electorate received more funding than the whole of my electorate of Dobell. Of course we welcome road funding; it's critical in our community to get people around the coast home safe, but it needs to be fair. We also need to see, in the growth area, which is particularly in the north, more investment in road funding to clear the backlog and to accommodate the growing community.
The Liberals promised to spend $26.7 million of this funding last year, but they've only spent $4.5 million. It's one thing to announce, but it's another thing to follow through. And that's what we need: money into the economy now, particularly local economies. I don't know why this funding was skewed towards Robertson and why the government is behind in these critical projects. Recently, the government announced another $16.7 million as part of the package, but it's unclear which road projects will be funded. The government needs to be upfront, and the community needs to know when their local roads are going to be upgraded and why they haven't been so far. This backlog has to be cleared.
I want to turn now to universities, particularly to the Ourimbah campus of the University of Newcastle in my electorate. The University of Newcastle has a proud history of both equity and excellence, and at Ourimbah campus it runs some of the oldest and largest enabling programs in the country. These are programs that give people a fair go, that give them a shot at higher education which they wouldn't otherwise have. And, importantly, these programs are debt free. Over the past 45 years, over 60,000 students have successfully completed an enabling program like Newstep or Open Foundation. What I'm concerned about is the government's job-ready graduates bill, which is removing funding from enabling programs from the Commonwealth Grant Scheme and replacing it with the Indigenous, Regional and Low SES Attainment Fund. What the local universities are concerned about and what they've said is that, under current advice, up to 60 per cent of their enabling students would miss out on funding under this program, and, if the money wasn't available to fund enabling programs, those students may not fit neatly into the equity categories of low SES or Indigenous or regional students.
This is a real concern because the loss of secure funding for enabling programs is a risk particularly to vulnerable students—students who haven't had the best start in life, whose circumstances mean that they haven't had a fair go at education. The university's own survey suggests that about 80 per cent of enabling students couldn't start if fees were introduced, so we have to make sure that that doesn't happen for people like Sharon, in my electorate. She's 40 now and she had to leave school to help care for her mother and her two younger sisters. At 33, after starting her own family, she decided that it was her chance to go to university and she enrolled in Open Foundation, and she says it changed her life. She studied with mature-age students who'd come through similar difficulties and backgrounds, and she discovered her own love of learning. She completed her Open Foundation course and went onto a Bachelor of Education, and she's got a scholarship to finish her PhD. It's for people like Sharon, whose only shot at higher education was through enabling education, that we have to keep them debt free and not shut the door on people before they even start. I was recently at Ourimbah campus with Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, and we met Georgia, who's studying law; Siena, who's studying nursing; and Nathaniel, who's studying teaching, and they're only studying today because of enabling programs. And do you know what they all said? They want to do enabling programs because they want to help other people who've grown up like them, who didn't get a fair go.
Speaking of a fair go, this budget doesn't have a proper plan for child care. Families were already paying higher childcare fees before the pandemic, with out-of-pocket costs soaring to sometimes more than seven per cent in one year. And, in the middle of a recession, when parents are relying on home load deferrals or rent moratoriums as well as sometimes JobKeeper or JobSeeker to get by, childcare fees will be out of reach for many people. Affordable child care increases workforce participation; it means more parents, mostly women, can take up job opportunities or increase their hours, which grows the economy as well as supports young people's learning. This is why Labor is looking at a working family childcare boost, to kickstart the economy and boost workforce participation, and under our plan 97 per cent of all families will save money, with no family being worse off.
I want to turn now to aged care. In my community on the Central Coast one in five people are aged over 65, which is higher than the state and national averages. It's a popular place for older people to live. As at 30 June, 1,105 people on the coast were still waiting for home-care packages. Over the past 12 months in my electorate three aged-care homes have closed or partially closed—Henry Kendall, the high-care dementia unit at The Orchards and Japara at Wyong.
On 22 September Anthony Albanese came to my electorate to visit an aged-care home to hear aged-care workers' concerns and learn from their firsthand experience on the frontline of the pandemic. Aged-care workers were really concerned that those on the frontline of COVID are not really recognised by the government. They have said to me that the time for applause and cupcakes is over. They really need proper support, whether that means access to PPE or training. These people are dedicated, capable and working really hard, but they aren't recognised. All workers in aged care deserve the retention bonus, not just some. I'm not sure why some are being carved out and others are being left behind. As they said, the time for applause and cupcakes is over. They need to be properly recognised.
That leads me to social housing. We know in New South Wales that over 31,000 people are homeless and another 36,558 people are at risk of homelessness. I used to work in mental health inpatient units and sometimes we would see people come in because they just needed a safe place, a shower, a hot meal and a rest. Hospitals shouldn't be a place of last resort for someone who doesn't have a bed for the night.
On the Central Coast each night there are 2,900 people homeless. We would like to see the government right now repair social housing. About 25 per cent of the social housing stock in Australia needs urgent repair. That would give people secure and safe places to live that aren't full of mould and don't have unsafe bathrooms and kitchens. At the same time it would create jobs. In my electorate there are 2,500 businesses working in construction. At the same time you're creating secure and safe housing for people you're creating jobs and stimulus in the economy. Investing in social housing is a win-win. I think the government really needs to take it up.
I'll finish now by turning to mental health, an area where I have a background and passion. Labor has welcomed the government's additional investment in mental health, but we haven't seen yet a Productivity Commission report tabled. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to really reform mental health and to look at mental health in all portfolios. Where you're born, live and grow up has a profound effect on your health and wellbeing. In order to reform mental health we need to look beyond the provision of health services and look at housing, the workforce and justice. The pandemic has had a big impact on mental health across Australia, and my community is no exception.
Yesterday I co-hosted a youth mental health roundtable with Liesl Tesch, the state member for Gosford, and Tara Moriarty, the New South Wales shadow minister for mental health. We heard from locals on the front line—Lester Pearson from Save our Kids; Dr Ash Bowden, an emergency doctor; and Rhonda Wilson from Arafmi. A common sentiment was that they felt disillusioned and overwhelmed by bureaucracy. They wanted to see community led solutions to local community problems.
I'll finish by asking the government to deliver on their headspace commitment. On 15 May, just a couple of days out from the 2019 election, the government announced $1.5 million for the establishment of a headspace at Wyong. I've written to the health minister and he said it would be in this budget. We haven't seen it in the budget papers. It's urgent. Young people in my community need this support right now. I know that the Prime Minister and the health minister are genuine in their commitment to mental health. We need to see it delivered.
We've heard some big numbers from the government in this year's budget. Let's start with the biggest—$1 trillion of debt, one thousand billion dollars of debt, one million million dollars of debt. And that's only the projection for the forwards. By the end of the decade, gross debt will be $1.7 trillion. That's another $700 billion on top of the $1 trillion. It was the Liberals who established that control of debt and deficit was the benchmark of good economic management. They cannot criticise Labor's $234 billion of debt as 'crippling' yet be permitted to describe their own one thousand billion dollars of debt as 'responsible'. It is hypocrisy. Labor's debt kept Australia out of recession during the global financial crisis. As other nations tumbled into recession, Australia did not, thanks to the economic leadership of Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan. The same cannot be said for this government. Despite $1 trillion of debt, the Liberals have delivered Australia a double whammy: the first recession in 29 years and more than one million Australians on the dole queues. The Liberals have failed their own test of good economic management, delivering Australia the biggest debt and deficit in the nation's history and the worst unemployment figures in the nation's history, and they should be judged by the standard that they themselves have set.
Worse than going $1 trillion into debt is the fact that poor decisions are leaving far too many Australians behind. Nine hundred and twenty-eight thousand Australians over 35 are deliberately—and, frankly, inexplicably—excluded from hiring subsidies. It's going to make it harder for them to find work. There's no plan to make child care more affordable, locking more women out of the workforce. There's no plan to do what's needed to fix the aged-care crisis, despite the royal commission, in its interim report, making it clear in the starkest of terms, from the title of the report, Neglect, that urgent action is required. There's no plan for energy. In seven years, the Liberals have drawn up 22 plans and they haven't delivered one of them. It's thousands of Public Service hours wasted, millions of dollars preparing reports, doing the policy work, wasted. Not one of these energy plans has landed. It's a nightmare for investment, and the ongoing uncertainty is keeping power prices higher than they should be. And there's no funding in the budget to expand Veteran Wellbeing Centres, which are so important for veterans' mental health.
Australians are being asked to shoulder a mighty economic burden, but there is simply not enough bang for the buck. This is a budget of short-term sugar hits, when what we need is long-term structural reform that sets the nation up for the challenges of the 21st century. The government, of course, is desperate to avoid responsibility. It wants to blame the coronavirus for everything from the recession and debt to its own failure to establish a federal integrity commission—just blame the virus, blame the virus, blame the virus. But the fact is: Australia's economy was already stumbling before COVID-19 landed with the Ruby Princesswhich this government allowed to dock. Annual growth was already well below trend, consumption was weak, business investment had fallen, underemployment and household debt had hit record highs, wages growth had hit record lows and debt had more than doubled, long before anyone had heard of coronavirus. Three decades of continuous growth, started by the economic management of the Hawke-Keating Labor governments and defended by the Rudd Labor government when it was most at risk from global forces, were ended by this Liberal government.
The fact is: this Prime Minister has the wrong instincts. His instincts are all wrong, whether it's the instinct to go on holiday overseas when bushfires are already ravaging the east coast or the instinct that says no to wage subsidies when global forces are saying that there's a recession on the way. His initial reaction was to say, 'We don't need wage subsidies.' He had to be talked into it by business, by Labor, by unions. His instincts are all wrong. His instincts were all wrong with his early push to reopen borders. If Mr Morrison had had his way, the borders in Australia would have been opened a lot sooner, and the spread of the virus would have been much worse. It's only through the leadership of the various premiers that we've seen this virus contained. The Prime Minister's instincts are all wrong. His instincts aren't wrong at looking after his own political interests—he's very good on Facebook, very good at getting his photo down at Bunnings with a snag, the happy snaps, the media manipulation. He's very good at that, but his political instincts when it comes to the economy and the welfare of Australians are all wrong.
Now we are dealing with the deepest, most damaging recession in almost 100 years. We've got a million unemployed, and a further 160,000 Australians are expected to join the dole queue by the end of the year. This government has no plan to tackle this crisis. It's put the country $1 trillion into debt and it has no idea about what to do next. By contrast, the Labor leader, Mr Albanese, articulated a clear vision that will drive long-term economic growth. If Labor were in government right now, we would be investing $500 million in the upgrade and repair of social housing. That was just one element in our budget reply. That would stimulate the trade sector. It would see the employment of apprentices. It would provide much-needed economic stimulus, but it would also improve the lives of people who need it most. It's a no-brainer. For the life of me, I cannot understand why this government is not doing more for public and social housing.
Labor would have scrapped the childcare subsidy cap, ensuring that women could return to work without sacrificing the benefits of earned income. Ninety-seven per cent of families would be up to $2,900 a year better off, with no family in Australia worse off. It would be good for the economy. It would be good for families and good for the economy. Secure jobs would be promoted through Labor's A Future Made in Australia plan, which includes a national rail manufacturing plan, a defence industry development strategy and an Australian skills guarantee. Our Rewiring the Nation initiative would drive down power prices and give the economy a boost of up to $40 billion and create thousands of jobs, particularly in regional areas.
Indeed, the federal Labor leader, Mr Albanese, is a great friend to the regions. When he was minister for regional development during the Rudd and Gillard governments, he took the opportunity to work with regional communities during the global financial crisis. He created good jobs in regional towns and cities as the key to maintaining economic growth and capitalising on the strengths of our regions. In his recent vision statement released last month, 'Tapping the potential of regional Australia', the Labor leader spoke about our regions being the key to emerging more strongly from this crisis in better shape than when we went into it, with no-one held back and no-one left behind.
As a regional MP, I firmly believe that investment in our regions is the key to national recovery. When I say investment in our regions, I don't just mean investment in roads and rail and bridges; I mean investment in people. Too often regional communities have seen good jobs, wealth and opportunity flow back into the capital cities. Around two-thirds of Australia's export earnings come from regional industries, including resources, agriculture, tourism, education and manufacturing. I see regions being rebuilt economically and socially. I want to see regional health hubs keeping people well and neighbourhood housing and community sheds keeping people connected. I want to see government agencies staffed by real people, not computers, not online centres—real people—employed in the regions, offering assistance and advice from regional Australian service centres. I want to see TAFE and training centres working hand in hand with industry.
Indeed, I've made the call for new trade training centres. I don't know why this program was cut by Mr Abbott when he became Prime Minister. John Howard created the trade training centres program. It was a great program. I think it was called something else back then. Labor came in, kept the program and renamed it the trade training centre program. Essentially what it means is that the federal government builds trade training centres, and then the state governments pay to operate them. They work really well. The ones that are there work brilliantly. I've got a few in my electorate. One of them in the south-east, in Sorell, run by Rick Birch, is going gangbusters. The next in line in my electorate was Campbell Town, but unfortunately the Liberals came into government in 2013 and axed the program, and the centre never went ahead. I would love to see this centre reborn. It's a terrific program.
I see towns, schools and sports and service clubs repopulated. I see regions full of workers and families, small businesses and industry—all harnessing the great potential that regional Australia has to offer. In Tasmania we have made a start, building for our state a global brand synonymous with quality, freshness and trust. People instinctively know that if it's Tasmanian it's world's best, whether it's whisky, wine, oysters or berries. But there's much more to do. I see us extending the Tasmanian brand out from agriculture to encompass renewable energy, manufacturing and education. I see Tasmania developing all these sectors and more. People around the globe will know that if it's Tasmanian it's the best you can buy.
Labor's vision for regions includes making more things here in Australia, whether it's rail cars, solar panels or irrigation. Under seven years of Liberal mismanagement there has been a 14 per cent decline in regional manufacturing jobs. I'll say that again: seven years of Liberal mismanagement has resulted in a 14 per cent decline in regional manufacturing jobs. It's going the wrong way under the Liberals. Regional jobs are going the wrong way. Only Labor will put it the right way. Only Labor will grow jobs in the regions.
Manufacturing requires more people with skills and training. Federal Labor will create a jobs and skills Australia agency that puts TAFE back at the centre of a national training system. Under the Liberals, the country has suffered $3 billion in cuts to TAFE and has 140,000 fewer apprentices and trainees than the country did seven years ago. In seven years of Liberal management we have had 140,000 fewer apprentices and trainees. Do the maths. We have a skills shortage and crisis now because we've had seven years of cuts to apprentices and trainees. It's no mystery. You can't make those sorts of cuts and then express surprise when there's a skills shortage. It's a disgraceful legacy.
Labor is determined to repair the damage and provide more young Australians with the pathway to prosperity. This means supporting young people from our regions who want to go to university. The ongoing attacks on the value of higher education by this government are making it more inaccessible for kids from the regions to even contemplate going to university. They're not even thinking about it. '$58,000 degrees? That's not even going to be in my mirror of ideas, I'm not even going to think of going to university if I'm going to be lumbered with a $58,000 degree. I'll stick with something else.' It's going to set up a class system in Australia where the kids from wealthy families, the inner cities, the kids of politicians and lawyers and judges and executives will go to university. They'll get the university degrees that high-level jobs in the corporate and public sectors demand. They'll get those jobs, but kids from the regions won't. They'll be relegated to a different class. It's going back to the bad old days. Labor is determined that university education should be accessible to all. A university education should never depend on your bank balance or your parents' bank balance. It should depend only on your aptitude and your endeavour at schooling.
In conclusion, this budget will rack up a trillion dollars of debt but still doesn't do enough to create jobs. It fails to build for the future and it leaves too many Australians behind. There's no plan for social housing, for cheaper or cleaner energy or to address the crisis in aged care. There's no plan to kickstart the economy, to boost productivity, to increase participation or to lift the speed limit on growth. Decisions taken by the government in this budget mean that the Morrison recession will be deeper and longer than it needs to be. Investment in our regions is the key to our national recovery, and investment in regional people, especially, is just as important as investment in roads.
Before I finish I want to speak very briefly on the integrity commission. We need an integrity commission like never before. Paying $30 million for a $3 million block of land is absolutely outrageous in anyone's language. It's a disgrace and it needs to be investigated properly. Jobs for mates—'MateKeeper'—that's what this minister does. We've got Minister Taylor, Minister Tudge, Minister Robert; we've got the Cartier watches and the ASIC scandal. We need an integrity commission now.
Emil Zatopek once said, 'If you want to win something, run 100 metres. If you want to experience something, run a marathon.' The Czech locomotive knew what he was talking about. In the 1952 Helsinki Olympics he'd won gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, and he decided to enter the marathon. He had never run a marathon before, but he maintained a blistering pace in order to win that race.
There are many of us who enjoy running for the simple pleasure of it, well away from winning. As Dick Telford wrote in his terrific book Running: Through the Looking Glass: 'Running's not just a random something tacked onto each day. It's like eating and sleeping. Psychologically habitual, even addictive.' There is a group of us who have used the Twitter tag #auspolrunners to share our running joys in our local electorates. Among us are the members for Warringah, Gippsland, Brand and Paterson and journalists Shane Wright and Sam Clarke. We're among the many Australians for whom running is just part of living a good life. For me, the running genes go back to my grandfather Keith Leigh, who ran 50 miles on his 50th birthday. He clocked up a string of marathons and passed on to me some genes which have allowed me, thankfully, to keep on running at my current age, and hopefully for many years still to come.
For many Australians, running is synonymous with parkrun, a movement founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt 15 years ago, which had emerged to the stage where, in the pre-COVID world, it involved more than 2,000 events in 21 countries with more than 350,000 people participating every week. Parkrun has been called 'the most significant public health initiative of the 21st century'. Saturdays at 8 am, and it's free forever. I congratulate Paul Sinton-Hewitt for his recent receipt of the Royal Society of Arts prestigious Albert Medal, and I admire his aspirations for parkrun's 30th birthday, where he aims to be operating in 50 countries, 10,000 locations with 100 million people having participated one billion times.
Parkrun in Australia has been closed down through much of this year, but is, thankfully, now resumed in Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. This weekend, parkruns will resume right here in the ACT. I know many parkrun organisers are eagerly awaiting that, and I thank the health authorities for the way in which they've worked so constructively with parkrun in order to resume events. I think of my friends, such as Dave Robertson and Andrew Dodd and the Wooters of Newcastle, as they look to bring their parkrun back into effect.
Little Athletics will soon be kicking off, with appropriate COVID precautions, and there has been a series of trial events organised here in the ACT to keep us runners going through the shutdown. I'd would like to thank many people for their important work in organising these events, and keeping the community fit and socially engaged. John Harding organised the Mount Majura Two Peaks race, up Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie, with the cooperation of Frank van de Loo, from Mount Majura Vineyard, who presented every runner with a bottle of his delicious wine as we crossed the finishing line. Pam Muston organised the Kowen Trail Run. Reuben Caley and Robbie Costmeyer organised the Weston Creek Athletics Club half-marathon—an event that was delayed less than 24 hours before it was due to start in March, and was finally able to take effect in October. Prachar Stegemann has organised many Sri Chinmoy events here in the ACT, including a recent half-marathon and also the 100-kilometre event circumnavigating the ACT—for which I was a starter, but not a finisher; making it to the 52-kilometre mark before I decided that Prachar's course had bettered me. Mellita Bingley is organising the Stromlo Running Festival, and it's a reflection of her organisational work that the event, due to take place next month, is now completely booked out.
And then there are the many organisers whose events haven't been able to go ahead. The organisers of The Canberra Times Fun Run, the Canberra marathon and the Canberra Triathlon Festival have all, reluctantly, had to pull their events this year. I know how much hard work goes into this events—into organising the volunteers and the refreshment stalls, and ensuring that the courses are right—and the frustration that it brings for many of those organisers when the events aren't able to proceed. I hope it will be possible for those events to go ahead next year.
There is also the Indigenous Marathon Project, located right here in the ACT. I acknowledge its staff: its founder, Rob de Castella; its lead coach, Adrian Dodson-Shaw; and other staff members—Peta MacKinnon, Dilani Abeysuirya, Amanda Dent, Cara Smith, Elsie Seriat, Laura White and Tim Rowe. This year the Indigenous Marathon Project organised its virtual Run, Sweat, Inspire festival, with all runners receiving a uniquely crafted medal. One of the most inspiring of those runs was by Nat Heath, a Noongar and Martujarra man, who ran 100 kilometres, starting and finishing at Nobbys Beach in Newcastle. Nat is an extraordinary triathlete and an inspirational young Indigenous leader. He is somebody who has competed in multiple Port Macquarie Ironman events and even competed in the Hawaiian Ironman itself. Nat has recently set up TriMob, the first Australian triathlon club focused on Indigenous athletes. I acknowledge his extraordinary work as a leader in his community and the work that he did raising money for the Indigenous Marathon Foundation; he set himself a goal of $10,000 and raised $26,000.
This weekend the Indigenous Marathon Project squad will take part in the Moonlight Marathon in Alice Springs. Ordinarily the Indigenous Marathon Project squad would be heading to New York in order to compete in the iconic New York Marathon, but that, needless to say, isn't possible, so they will be running in Alice Springs, with the support of so many Australians who are inspired by the work that the Indigenous Marathon Foundation does and the work that we know they will do in their communities. What I love about the Indigenous Marathon Project is it's neither just an elite program nor just a mass participation program. It builds leadership among Indigenous Australians but also then seeks to have an impact in the communities, assisting IMP graduates with organising their Deadly Fun Runs. The 12 Indigenous men and women who will take place in the Moonlight Marathon this Saturday night—or Sunday, I guess it'll be, by the time they finish—are Cameron Manning, Alex Blanco, Peter Miller-Koncz, Rhett Burraston, Zak Stephenson, Ethan Mulholland, Lena Charles-Loffel, Samara Fernandez, Cassidy Goodwin, Robyn Liddle, Libby Cook-Black and Maiquilla Brown. I wish them all the best with that run.
This year has also been an exciting one for those of us who watch elite sports. Needless to say, the World Marathon Majors have all been cancelled this year, but we have seen instead the creation of bespoke events. We didn't expect to see it, but Eliud Kipchoge, after a seven-year run of winning every single race he started in, finally lost a race—proving that Eliud is in fact human after all. This is the man who has, under controlled conditions, shown it is possible to run a sub-two-hour marathon and who holds the marathon world record, at 2.01, set in Berlin. The London course—not an ideal course, it has to be said; 19 1½-mile loops—proved not to be to Eliud's liking. Due to an ear infection, he lost to Ethiopian Shura Kitata.
We also have soon two extraordinary runs from Joshua Cheptegei, the Ugandan long-distance runner, who has set world records this year in the 5,000 metres and the 10,000 metres. It is important to recognise how extraordinarily blisteringly fast Cheptegei is. His 5,000-metre record time of 12 minutes and 35 seconds would have seen him lap Emil Zatopek, who was the world record holder in the 1950s. His 10,000-metre time, 26 minutes and 11 seconds, would have seen him lap Emil Zatopek twice back in the 1950s. Joshua Cheptegei really is an astonishing athlete.
The sport of running is an egalitarian sport which allows anyone to line up at the start line and it doesn't require a great expenditure and resources. The test in running is not how big your hopes are but how good your training is. As Archilochus once put it, we don't rise to the level of our hopes; we fall to the level of our training. Many of us runners, when we've been undertrained on the start line, have experienced what that's like. The egalitarianism of running is something that I know so many Australians prize. It brings people together in events like parkrun, and running has kept many of us sane through this very trying year. I acknowledge the runners in Victoria, for whom identifying suitable running tracks which took them no further than five kilometres from their house has become particularly challenging.
I look forward to a time of being able to get out and enjoy so many of the great running trails around Australia. When I think of Perth, I think of running the loop across the bridges around the Swan River. When I think of Adelaide, I think of running along the river. You can do a nice long run, starting in the city, touching your feet onto the sand and then coming back to the city, for about 30 kilometres. In Melbourne, there's nothing like running the Tan, a track which is designed for easy training or sprints, if you're feeling good on the day. The Brisbane River stretches as far as you want to go. Seeing the twists and turns of the Brisbane River is one of the great delights when you're in Brissie. Of course, here in the ACT, running the trails around Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie are a real pleasure. Down in Hobart, you can take the trail going up-river and are able to watch the boats easing in and out. And, when you're in Cairns, you're able to take the gentle run along the boardwalk. That is a beautiful run. Suddenly, you turn at the end, the tourists dip away and you're on your own.
I want to conclude, given that I have so much that I'm trying to get to, by seeking leave to have incorporated in the Hansard some further information on running and on the support that's been given to Little Athletics and to other sports by the government.
The document read as follows—
Prior to entering parliament, I published research on the political economy of grant allocation in the journal Public Choice. I am strongly committed to having information in the public domain that makes it possible to analyse these issues.
After discussion with the ABC's Andrew Probyn, he has agreed to the tabling a subset of the spreadsheet, stripped of its metadata and some other information, for independent researchers to analyse.
The budget that we've just seen was a missed opportunity. In fewer than 10 days since the budget, we've already, found that many of the big-ticket promises were completely empty—puffed up but, in reality, delivering little. They had all the substance of fairy floss and there's no better example than JobMaker, the wage subsidy for young people. It was touted as delivering 450,000 jobs. In fact, the language was really tricky. It's going to support 450,000 jobs. Everyone was getting the sense that it would be the number of jobs created. In reality, we now know that 45,000 jobs would be directly supported by this program. That is a huge disappointment, like a balloon deflating, for all the hopes of anyone under 35 looking for work. Of course, there was never hope for those over 35 in this budget.
I'm much more interested in looking at what wasn't in this budget than what was. There was a trillion dollars of debt but nothing for unemployed people over 35; a trillion dollars of debt but nothing for child care; a trillion dollars of debt and nothing for aged care. In fact, there was nothing in any part of this budget for women or the work that women do. There was nothing for travel agents. There was nothing for the family-run coach and bus companies hit by COVID. There was nothing to tackle climate change—and this comes at the same time that the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is calling on Scott Morrison for bold action from Australia on climate change. There is nothing bold in this budget at all. Job creation has been outsourced to the private sector.
By contrast, we can see that there should have been opportunities to, for example, improve social housing and to upgrade and maintain properties. There would be instant jobs there for tradies right across the country, in every town and suburb. Then you could look at building new social housing. That is a massive missed opportunity by this government. There was an opportunity to say, 'Let's make stuff here. Let's build something big. Let's build trains.' The whole country needs them. We import them now and we have to fix them once they are here. No-one knows that better than the Blue Mountains—the tragedy of being told that we're getting new trains but they are not being built in Australia and they don't fit our tunnels, they don't fit our platforms and they don't fit our tracks.
There was also a missed opportunity to give women more of what they have had a taste of during COVID, and that is free child care. That's a game changer for women's participation in the workforce. It allows them to participate, it allows them to take promotions more easily and it removes an extraordinary layer of stress that exists. When you talk to families about their struggles, cost of living is one but the juggling is another. That was another missed opportunity. There was also a missed opportunity to secure our energy into the future by rewiring the energy grid.
The other missed opportunity was for roads in the Hawkesbury. We're not seeing anything to improve the roads of the Hawkesbury. We are not seeing fast-tracking of the key local project, which is the North Richmond Bridge duplication. This is a vitally needed project. I secured funding for the very early stages of this in 2010 and that funding flowed to the New South Wales government the very next year. At the last election, the Morrison government and Labor both committed to building a third crossing. But, as the work since then has shown, not only is the Morrison government's $200 million not going to build a decent bridge; it's only going to build a budget bridge and it is a duplication with very little flood resistance. It is also not going to happen fast. All we have is a promise of a bridge, which the Department of Infrastructure says is expected to start in 2024 and is expected to finish in late 2026.
I had someone e-mail me just this morning about the progress on the construction of this bridge. Well, there is so little to report. It is not starting for four more years. It won't finish until students who are in kindergarten now are about to head on to high school. And, if they're lucky, students who are in year 7 now might be able to drive across it when they finish their HSC. That's the time frame that we are being promised. Like so many other things, the promise falls way short of the delivery. It's a real kick in the teeth for people who have sat in traffic for years waiting to be heard by the Liberals. It is not like this is a new government that is just finding its feet; this is a federal Liberal government that is seven years old. The state Liberals have been in power for nearly a decade and yet they have made no effort to progress this project—and this budget does nothing to speed it up. That is what the Liberals think of people west of the river. They assume they can take you for granted because you won't change your vote—and they have done it again in this budget. As I've shown for 10 years, I stand by my community. I stand with the community and I'm here for you.
There is another missed opportunity in this budget. There are more than 30,000 Australians stranded overseas. Their families are in my electorate, and they have spoken to me about their stories. These people are teachers or nurses. Some are studying at university and they're on gap years or they might have been visiting family, often because a family member is unwell, and some are overseas because they have had a death in the family. They are desperate to come home. The way it was presented early on, that it's their own fault that they're not there, has been crushing to them—being treated like that by this government.
I had an email from Jacqueline, who is a psychologist, works in my area and is an accredited mental health social worker. She said that this year she has had conversations with clients who are stranded overseas, and she talks about one in particular. She has seen this person more isolated than anyone could have imagined, working in the most difficult circumstances, accruing nearly $10,000 of flight credits with seven different companies which she will likely never use, and she now also needs to face the uncertainty about her flight home. Her flight home was changed and then it was cancelled. Now she is in a position to have a flight available for the princely sum of $7,000 but with no certainty that that flight is going to go ahead. It could just end up as another credit with yet another airline. Jacqueline says that she is concerned not only about her financial resources, which are being whittled away, but also the dilemma of the unknown. What Jacqueline says is that clarity and certainty are two things that would be immensely helpful to her, so Jacqueline asked me what clarity and certainty I could provide. The government's done nothing to address this issue in the budget—it hasn't budgeted for additional flights and it hasn't contributed anything that would change the circumstances for people who are stranded overseas. I really think that it's so beyond time for all the words of the government to be turned into action.
There have been small numbers of people come home but nowhere near the 30,000 who are stranded overseas. And those who have come home—I've had conversations with people in quarantine—feel the relief when they know that they're on Australian soil. One of my constituents was able to get a flight to Adelaide, and just being there lifted all her worries even though she is still 14 days away from being home with her family. That's what we need to see. And one of the things that was a missed opportunity in this budget was to provide additional support to the states so that they could expand the quarantine available in order to help people who are coming home.
When I look at what the government has announced, what it promises versus what it delivers, I see a huge gap. There's a massive gap between what we say we're going to do and what we actually do. I don't know if it's a lack of competence. I don't know if they just like to overcook it. Whatever it is, I think it shows an inability to deliver on your promises. It is just as simple as that.
I've talked about JobMaker, the hiring wage subsidy, where only 10 per cent of the promised jobs that we heard about in the budget are actually expected to be delivered, and there are 928,000 people aged over 35 who have been deliberately excluded from that program. These sorts of decisions by the Liberals and Nationals actually mean that this Morrison recession will be deeper than necessary, it will go on longer and the unemployment queues will stay where they are. There's no point shaking your head at me. You're old enough to know how long it takes to get out of recession.
I'm old enough to know how long it takes to get out of recession. I started a business in the recession in the 1990s. I saw family members unemployed. It is hard yards going from recession and transitioning to recovery. And it's not the data that does it; it's the job queues that are the real challenge.
We've seen promises from this government about recycling, the so-called $100 million Recycling Investment Fund, that has not supported a single initiative—not a single dollar has been spent. There's another overpromise, under delivery. The government's announcements on waste and recycling aren't worth the paper they're printed on, and, gee, I hope they were printed on recycled paper.
The national integrity commission: we've heard promises about that but had nothing delivered on it, yet there is all the reason in the world for it to be here now. There is no excuse to be campaigning in Queensland when you can be tackling corruption and integrity issues within your own government.
The COVID-safe app: there were massive promises that this would be the key, and we supported it. We said, 'If you think it's going to work, we're all for making tracing easier.' It's traced 17 unique contacts, which has costed out at $4 million per contact. That's despite seven million people doing what they were asked to do. The app is a total waste of money and another example of overpromising and under-delivering.
On infrastructure, we've had promises of infrastructure spend. They talk about it a lot, but the actual expenditure is much less than promised. The Morrison government on average spend $1.2 billion less on infrastructure than they promise. Last year, it was $1.7 billion less. You can't blame COVID for that. With the Morrison government, there's always the photo opportunity and there's always the big announcement and the headline, but they're never there for the follow-up or the follow-through.
Then there's the manufacturing fund. The Minister for Industry, Science and Technology revealed at the weekend that only $40 million of the $1.5 billion will be spent this financial year. That's too little, too late. It was meant to help us get through the recession. It's half of what was promised in the budget. Within only a couple of weeks of the budget they already knew that they were going to underspend what they promised in the budget. That's just like what they did with the NDIS. They said, 'We're going to spend all of this money,' and they spent significantly less than they promised, and that caused heartache for families struggling just to get a plan to suit their needs.
The HomeBuilder scheme is already too small and is rolling out too slowly. Four months ago we were told it would benefit 27,000 families. I was disappointed that there was no special consideration for bushfire victims. The $25,000 under the HomeBuilder program might have been able to pay for a couple more windows or shutters—all the extra bells and whistles you need in an area hit by fire to rebuild to a higher standard than your original home met because of the newer standards that exist. As it turns out, out of everybody in the whole country who wanted to access this program, just 780 people—that's less than three per cent—have been paid a single cent, and there are only a couple of months to go until applications close. That's another, 'We're going to promise you the world, but we're just going to deliver you a tiny little bit.' It's very disappointing, but it is typical of what we're seeing.
The Emergency Response Fund is another one. We agreed to pass legislation for a $4 billion Emergency Response Fund, taking money away from another important area, because we thought, 'Yes, this stuff absolutely has priority,' but, 18 months on, not a single cent has been spent. That's two bushfire seasons, and no money has been spent. Here we are, and they've done nothing to help protect communities, not just from fires, but from cyclones or floods. In those 18 months, the Morrison government have even failed to call for applications for funding. Yet again, it's just a big promise. They talk the talk, but they don't walk the walk.
The last one I want to mention is arts funding. We learnt this week that the government has admitted that less than $50 million of the $250 million rescue package it promised has been allocated so far. Guy Sebastian is disappointed about that, but not as much as I am. It's an absolute disgrace.
I want to begin by commending the member for Macquarie, with her small-business background, for her passionate advocacy for her community and years of representing her community. I know how powerful that has been and how disappointing the budget has been for her residents and for my residents.
A government member: It'd be nice just to hear some positivity.
I will take the interjection from the member who wants positivity. I'd be delighted to stand here and give some positivity if there was some positive news in the budget.
A government member: Okay Let's start with the military centre of excellence, the military vehicle centre of excellence—
I'll take that interjection as well. I'm glad that the government finally came on board after my calling for an investment in my community for the amazing new facilities for the Redbank and Carole Park areas, the complex built by the Queensland government after heavy investment by the Minister for Manufacturing, the Hon. Cameron Dick. Of course, the community was not included in that, because the Prime Minister excluded the Queensland government in order to prop up the Queensland Leader of the Opposition. So they went to a centre to open it—and didn't include the local federal member, which he's just outlined as me; partisan politics always coming first with this government—and they didn't let the Queensland government know. That put the facility in an embarrassing position. They were upset about it. They were disappointed that they were used as a prop. At the same time, the Prime Minister didn't let the LNP leader in—and she had to stand outside! If you think that is good campaigning, great. If that's the positive news that you want, well, go right ahead.
In my community we know that, when it comes to defence building and when it comes to jobs, there's one side of politics that will deliver, and that is this side. The contract was signed, sealed and delivered by Queensland Labor after the government travelling to Germany to get that contract. We hear a lot about, 'Whatever happened to Team Queensland?' Remember all of that? That's disappeared off the face of the earth—led by the genius member for Fairfax. Remember, he was there front and centre—not any other member of parliament, not any other member from Queensland. The big star of Queensland disappeared without trace.
Which allows me to talk about the 2020 budget. I am so delighted that the member for Fisher, a fellow Queenslander, is here, so I can talk about the impacts of LNP cuts at both a federal level and a state level and what is at stake at this coming Saturday's election. We know that this year has been a difficult year. We know that it has been incredibly hard, and I pay tribute to all Australians who have been left without a job due to the COVID crisis. We know the daily numbers in Victoria, New South Wales and elsewhere and of course in my home state, which has led the nation in terms of its COVID health response and economic response.
We have seen some big numbers from this year's budget: a $213 billion deficit this financial year and $480 billion of deficits over the forward estimates. The budget is in deficit every year for the next decade. Last year we heard how the budget was back in black—and the coffee cups were made, the t-shirts were designed and the posters were all out there—but that wasn't the case at all. The budget was never back in black. Budgets are about more than just raw numbers; they are about priorities—a vision for Australia and, most importantly, a future for all Australians.
That is where this year's budget falls over. There is $1 trillion worth of debt, but millions of Australians are left behind, including 928,000 people aged over 35 on unemployment benefits deliberately excluded from hiring subsidies. There's no plan for child care, no proper plan for aged care—with the extra home-care places in this year's budget being a drop in the ocean compared to the waiting list today; no proper plan for energy, which would drive down costs and provide investment certainty for businesses; and no plan for the future of JobSeeker recipients, leaving nearly 1.4 million recipients with an uncertain future as to whether they will go back to the old $40 a day. For all of their job-something prefixed announcements, the government expects 160,000 Australians to be added to the jobless queues by Christmas. We all saw the wraparounds at Centrelink—the unprecedented long queues and long lines. You could see the hurt and the pain in those Australians, and in my community, as well due to the lack of dignity that comes when you are without a job. Time and time again we have asked the government to take action and yet those people have been ignored as well.
After spending the last decade complaining about Labor's debt and tightening the nation's belt, the government have realised that they have to spend money—and unfortunately it is not going to where it is needed. With all their spending and the $1 trillion worth of debt, we still have no plan for child care, no plan for safe and secure aged care, no plan to drive energy prices down, no plan to support those who have been left unemployed and no plan to deliver for the future.
This leads me to my home state of Queensland. When it comes to investment in our state and when it comes to delivering for my community, we've seen time and time again the LNP falling short. We're seeing the LNP not investing in our people and not investing in our infrastructure. Whether it is the state LNP or the federal LNP, the record is stark. On Saturday the people of Queensland have a very clear choice. We know that the state LNP have $26.2 billion in unfunded promises. They promised no new taxes and they want to recklessly rush to a surplus in four years—they're their words. The Australian Treasurer, when given these voodoo economics, said:
It would … be damaging to the economy and unrealistic to target surpluses over the forward estimates—given what this would require … in terms of significant increases in taxes and large cuts to essential services.
Given the state LNP have ruled out tax increases, the only way to achieve their plans is with cuts. We know that the Queensland LNP will have to cut 31,373 jobs to deliver on their promises. That's around 16,000 jobs in health alone.
I remind the chamber what happened last time the LNP were in government in Queensland. I will tell a story about my own electorate of Wacol. In late January 2014 the then LNP health minister closed the Barrett Adolescent Centre, Queensland's only special-purpose adolescent psychiatric care centre, despite pleas from parents, employees and clinical staff. I'll remind members of the chamber who are here today what the centrepiece of that LNP state government was. It was to cut, sack and sell. It closed nursing homes. It sold off school land. It tried to close a whole range of centres that the community relied on. As I said, budgets and governments are about visions and decisions.
In the three months after, tragically, three former Barrett Adolescent Centre patients took their own lives. This was a centre that provided specialist care. It provided one-on-one support. Thankfully, after the horrific period of the LNP toxic government, the Palaszczuk government was re-elected. One of the first commitments of the Premier was to restore funding and rebuild a specialist adolescent centre. This is not politics; this is about doing the right thing.
I want to talk about a second example in my community when the LNP were last in charge. They closed down the legal aid centre. The South West Brisbane Community Legal Centre, previously known as COILS, was a brilliant community legal service run by the wonderful Sandra Padgett. They dealt with a whole range of people from non-English-speaking backgrounds. They provided resources for people fleeing domestic violence and offered support services. They provided all manner of legal services that the non-English-speaking-background community that I represent need and rely on. It was located in Wirraway Parade in Inala. It was closed. It was defunded. It was relocated to the suburb of Browns Plains. To access this service people would have to catch two buses and walk 45 minutes. In my books that's unfair, unnecessarily and, quite frankly, cruel.
This community legal aid service was made up of local residents and support groups. They tried to provide services. They asked for satellite services. They asked if specialist lawyers could come through. In my time in the council I thought I could open my office and let lawyers come in. I would give them a meeting room or see if the council library could provide services one day a week. All of these things were completely ignored. They were completely shut out by the state government at the time.
The second proud announcement that the Premier and state member for Inala, Annastacia Palaszczuk, made was about the building of a multimillion-dollar community asset that now houses a brilliant legal aid service, near Richlands East State School in my electorate, co-located with Inala Youth Service, a wonderful community centre space, where people come and do craft and learn, with support services and social inclusion, located about 30 metres from Inala Elders and Inala Wangarra, which is a specialist peak body for Indigenous services in my electorate. Just across the road, a little way up the hill, is a learning space for kids who don't fit into mainstream schools. So it is a wonderful asset to the community.
I wanted to highlight to the parliament today exactly what budgets are about. I wanted to highlight how maybe, in the big figures and the big numbers that we talk about in this place, small amounts of funding make incredible amounts of difference. What we've seen is the LNP, when given the opportunity, either at a national level or a state level, not investing in people. I am hoping that people won't return the LNP to government in Queensland on Saturday, because I know what that will mean for my community. I know what that will mean for local residents who need really important services, because we've seen it before. We've seen services ripped out of the community and frontline workers lose their jobs. I just remind the chamber that the state Labor government restored those 14,000 frontline workers. These were not pen-pushers. These were not public servant fat cats or whatever derogatory terms they used at the time. These were paramedics. These were ambos. They were frontline health workers, wardsmen, nurses. And who can forget the war that Campbell Newman had with doctors in the state, not wanting to pay them what they were due? Time and time again that record speaks for itself.
What I'm fearful of is that the state LNP leader will not announce how she will fund her election commitments—$26 billion of unfunded costing. The state Labor government made its announcement on Monday, for the whole electorate, in the last week before the election. I think that is prudent and responsible economic management. We hear a lot from the government saying that the Queensland government hasn't delivered a budget. Well, neither has New South Wales and neither has the state of Victoria, but we don't necessarily hear that. The Berejiklian government hasn't delivered a budget. We don't hear much about that. But nonetheless, when it comes to budgets and budget priorities, this federal budget has been found wanting. It has been found not delivering for or targeting those who need support the most. We're having a debate in the other place at the moment about reforms and cuts to pensions and to services in the community. So today my call to the government is very clear. We've got an economic crisis in this country, a recession that is getting deeper as a result of the decisions of this government. Almost one million Australians are unemployed. Now is not the time to reduce services. Now is the time to support Australians in need, both in Queensland and in Canberra.
It's the understatement of the century that 2020 has been a tough year, as we all know. We've all faced this massive health crisis that's frightening. It's uncertain and unpredictable, and what we have in front of us is the unknown. It's absolutely stopped us in our tracks. As the Leader of the Opposition said, we really do have a once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild our economy and our country for the better, to launch a recovery that delivers a stronger, fairer and more secure future for all Australians. What Australia now needs is leadership and vision to help steer us through this crisis, and that's exactly what is missing from this Morrison government's budget. The budget fails. It's all about short-term politics instead of long-term vision. Let's face it: our economy wasn't doing that well before the coronavirus hit. We know that two-thirds of the debt was racked up prior to the coronavirus. We were already plagued by slow growth, flat wages, declining productivity and unemployment was on its way up. Business investment was slowing, debt was doubling and people were already being left behind, and this budget just makes a bad situation even worse.
The government wants to cut wage subsidies and unemployment benefits at a time when work is harder to come by, it's harder to get, and we can see that through the figures that come out on a quarterly basis. What Australia really needs now is leadership, but this Morrison government wants to rely solely on a business-led recovery. In fact, this budget is an experiment in subsidising businesses to create demand, and that was according to Michael Pascoe reporting in The New Daily.
We all want businesses to succeed of course. We all want our businesses to grow and do better and be able to employ people, and we all understand how vitally important they are for our economy. However, businesses cannot grow without the consumer being able to spend. It cannot succeed if people don't have enough money in their pockets and if they don't have enough to go out and buy products and to invest and to do a whole range of things. And of course, if they haven't got enough after they've paid for their essentials—as I'm being told by many of my pensioner constituents and young couples—then the economy won't grow. It won't grow, because if you give a millionaire an extra couple of hundred dollars it'll sit in that bank account—even if it's $100,000. If you give someone on a pension $10, they will go out and actually spend that $10 on something that they need, that they desperately have been putting off because they couldn't afford it. That money goes straight into the economy. We saw this during the economic stimulus packages that the other side criticised continuously, but the reality is that we put the money where it was needed—to families, where they needed to go out and buy an extra pair of shoes, or to pensioners, who needed a washing machine because their washing machine had broken down and they couldn't afford one—and that money went straight into the economy stimulating the economy. This is what's lacking from this government. They want to get the economy up and running, they want to grow jobs and they want to grow businesses, but you cannot do it without the consumer, without those people that desperately need products and goods to run a household, a family or a house who simply cannot afford it. We have to put money in those people's pockets so they can go out, spend that money and get the economy rolling again. It's not rocket science. Any economist will tell you that is the best way to stimulate the economy and grow jobs. A great example was our Building the Education Revolution in 2009, when the economic crisis was hitting very hard. We were being criticised every single day by the other side about building school halls. The reality is there are thousands of schools in Australia, and each school received a school hall. What did that do for the economy? I asked the question at every opening I went to: how many people did this construction site employ? The answer would come back from 60 or 70 to 200. Multiply that by around 30,000-odd schools around the country, and you can see how money went into the economy and how we actually stimulated the economy, prevented unemployment and, in fact, were the envy of the world during that economic crisis.
We need a plan to get things done and to stimulate the economy and, most importantly, give people certainty, because at the moment that is what's missing—that certainty. People do not know what the future holds for them. Governments are there to put that in place and give them confidence. For example, my constituents living in the western suburbs of my electorate will be facing about another 15 years of uncertainty and delays before the South Road Upgrade is completed. This was a promise by Mr Abbott in 2013 saying it would be completed by 2023. The then Prime Minister Tony Abbott pledged to upgrade the road within a decade, meaning that it would be completed in 2023. Documents leaked by members of the state Liberal Marshall government last week—often beggars belief why they would leak upon themselves!—show that the South Road upgrade may now not be completed until possibly 2035. In other words, they're not even going to look at starting for a number of years. Now is the time to start that infrastructure project. Now is the time to put the money into the economy. It's said that it will employ around 3,000 people from start to finish on that infrastructure project much-needed by my electorate. It is a bottleneck from Port Road through to the end of the Anzac Highway and further up in other electorates. Here we are in an economic crisis. We need to stimulate the economy. We need to put money into infrastructure projects, and here is a government that's holding back for whatever reason, and we won't see that upgrade completed for over a decade longer than originally planned. We need those 3,000 jobs I spoke about now, not in 15 years.
Social housing repair programs: we're losing jobs in construction and trade, and in this budget there is nothing to address this. A massive drop in the construction of new homes due to the COVID-19 crisis has put the jobs of hundreds of thousands of tradespeople at risk. For months now, we have been warning that the housing construction industry is headed towards a cliff, and we've repeatedly called on the Morrison government to put together a comprehensive housing stimulus plan.
Well, that's not what the economists are saying if you read the Fin Review and some other papers.
The government's HomeBuilder scheme is not doing enough. It is doing something, but it is not doing enough, and we have a great opportunity to put money into infrastructure and build the economy. It's too small and it's rolling out too slowly. You need an injection of funds to keep the economy going, otherwise we'll be left behind. But we have suggested a way of doing this that could be immediate; it could start immediately.
We know that 25 per cent of Australia's social housing needs urgent repair and maintenance. That is 100,000 homes, and repairs could start almost immediately. This investment would be a win-win: it would provide work for local tradies and fix social housing and homes that need to be fixed. Yet not one single dollar of this government's budget was allocated for social housing. A social housing repair program would mean work for thousands, especially thousands of tradies, right across the country in almost every town and suburb from the big cities to our regional centres. And this would be an immediate injection that would stimulate the economy. It would be a win-win: it would mean jobs for Australian workers and homes for those that need them most—the needy.
Another area where this budget fails is education. We know that higher education is in crisis. The conservative predictions are that well over 20,000 people will lose their jobs in this sector alone, and what's the government's solution? Let's make students pay more. Let's make it harder for them to go to university. Let's prevent them from going to university is basically what this last education measure has put on the young people of Australia. Because of this government's reforms, over 3½ thousand South Australian year 12 graduates are going to have to pay more than double for their degree. That is only a preventative. It's not assisting people; it's not helping people getting a higher education. It prevents them. And we know that young people are already doing it tough, and the last thing they need is to finish university with even more debt.
Youth unemployment has gone through the roof in this recession. About one in six young people can't find work, and it's the worst situation for youth unemployment that it has been in 20 years. If young people can't earn, they should have the opportunity to learn. And we should be giving them that opportunity to learn, to go onto higher education—tertiary education or TAFE—so that they can perhaps be assisted in finding a job. On top of this, thousands of Australians will miss out on a university education altogether because this government is failing to provide enough places. We've had many experts who've spoken up against the changes, demonstrating that they won't actually get young people into high-priority jobs, as the government claims. They could also deplete entire faculties of students. This would not only result in more job losses in the sector, it would also impoverish our society because people will no longer be able to afford to study languages, the arts, literature or social sciences.
Now, those on the other side may argue that we want engineers and doctors and scientists—and we certainly do, and people who want to study those courses should be given every opportunity—but we want to be a thinking nation as well. We want to be a nation that learns, that knows its place in the world and has generations of thinkers. It is so important to know who we are and what we are, so you can't just dismiss the humanities and the arts. In fact, there is no research or any evidence that shows someone who has done an arts degree is less likely to get a job than someone who has done a science degree. Instead of penalising students for their choices, we will set up Jobs and Skills Australia. This program will match the needs of our economy now with those training opportunities for the future, and we will ensure that one in 10 jobs on government funded projects will be an apprentice, trainee or cadet.
It's not only families with children who need our help. Another area that is lacking in this government's budget is pensioners. People on the aged pension were already struggling to make ends meet before this pandemic. As I'm sure all of us in this place know, because they come and talk to us, many pensioners tell us how electricity prices, dental costs, health care, pharmaceuticals and a whole range of things are going up, and how pensioners are doing it tough. We know that we are yet to experience the full effect of this recession, so I'm really concerned about the impact it will have on pensioners in my electorate if they're not adequately supported.
The budget contains absolutely nothing to help pensioners access cheaper dental services, for example. Now, dental services can be extremely expensive. If you are a pensioner on a payment and you have rotting teeth or you need dentures, sure, you can go to the public dental surgery and wait, perhaps for 12 months or two years, but what happens in the meantime? It affects other parts of your body. It affects your health. I think it's wrong, it is absolutely wrong, that we're not doing enough in dental care for older Australians. I've heard so many stories about people where their health suffers because they can't get the adequate dental health care that they require. It's okay if you are on a couple of hundred thousand a year or $150,000. You can afford to go to a dentist and pay the bill. But, in most cases, pensioners cannot afford to pay their dental care needs and it affects their health and brings on other ailments. It has a massive impact, and it's a massive problem because, as I said, pensioners do not have the money to get their teeth fixed. This often has serious and detrimental effects on other health aspects.
It also appears, for the first time since 1997, that pensioners will not get the automatic increase because inflation has gone backwards. Many self-funded retirees are also finding themselves in an increasingly difficult financial position as a result of COVID-19 and the recession, and it's compounded by disproportionately high deeming rates. Now, by setting the deeming rates at more than double the actual bank interest rate, the government assesses people as having a higher income than they actually receive. This is affecting pensioners entitlements, as well as many— (Time expired)
I welcome the opportunity to make a contribution on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021 and cognate bills, and to speak about the Leader of the Opposition's and Labor's exciting response to the government's disappointing budget, and how Labor's plans will benefit the Hunter region. I also welcome the opportunity to provide an update on events in Shortland during the recent sitting break.
As I normally do when speaking on appropriation bills, I draw to the attention of the House that, unlike the Liberal and National parties, the Labor Party are not constitutional vandals. We support the passage of these bills. It should never be forgotten that it was the conservative parties of this country that disgustingly and recklessly held the country to ransom in 1975 and denied supply to the democratically elected government who enjoyed a majority in the House of Representatives. The current Liberals and Nationals are heirs to these constitutional vandals, these so-called defenders of tradition and the constitutional monarchy. What shocking hypocrisy!
In the budget delivered last year, the Treasurer declared that the budget was back in black. The budget he handed down a few weeks ago then recorded the biggest budget deficit in Australian history, with gross debt of $1.7 trillion. Despite the record spending, there is a total failure with no comprehensive jobs plan—a plan that millions of Australians left behind need. The budget was notable not for who was included but for who missed out. Women missed out. Unemployed people over the age of 35 missed out. Anyone in need of aged care missed out.
One of the key centrepieces of the budget is the JobMaker hiring credit. The catch with this—as there always is with this tricky mob—is you have to be under 35 to access it. This is a shocking slap in the face for the 930,000 Australians over the age of 35 who are looking for work. Another of the very disturbing figures is that unemployment is due to increase by 160,000 by the end of this year. This is on top of the 2½ million Australians who are already out of work or looking for more hours in their current positions.
Back on the JobMaker hiring credit: Labor supports the hiring credit being applied to young people. Young people need assistance to get into jobs. But the Prime Minister has been unable to explain why he has excluded 930,000 Australians over the age of 35 who are unemployed. The single largest cohort on JobSeeker at the moment are women over the age of 45. The jobseeker demographics have really changed in the last 20 years, with those over the age of 35 making up the majority. This JobMaker credit will instantly put those jobseekers at a disadvantage in any interview. If you are a 49-year-old person going for a job interview against someone who is 29, you're at a $200-a-week disadvantage in terms of subsidies. I have huge concerns with the way that the JobMaker hiring credit is being rolled out.
In contrast, Labor's priorities are clear, as espoused by the Leader of the Opposition in his budget reply speech: transforming child care; creating jobs now; building things in Australia; and powering our economic and social recovery with clean energy. One of the key parts of the job focus is Labor's National Rail Manufacturing Plan. This will ensure there are more trains built in Australia by local workers and that every dollar of federal funding spent on rail projects boosts local jobs in the industry. This is an exciting announcement for the Hunter region, which has a proud manufacturing history. I was very pleased to welcome the Leader of the Opposition, with my Labor colleagues, to the Hunter the week after the budget to visit workers at Varley, which has been manufacturing in the Hunter Valley for over 100 years. Companies like Varley and their employees, not to mention young women and men who want to learn a trade, would all benefit from this plan.
My first electorate office in Cardiff bordered the Downer train yards—yards that had manufactured trains and rolling stock for decades. Those yards were decimated when successive state governments made decisions to send that work overseas. They managed to hold on to a little bit of work, doing rewelds and corrections of shoddy manufacturing by Korean-trained manufacturers, but that's not the way it should happen. The state government is a disgrace. The state Premier was horribly wrong in saying that Australian workers can't build trains. Australian workers are building trains right now in Maryborough, in Queensland, and in Ballarat, in Victoria, because they are led by progressive Labor governments that back Australian workers. I am so proud that a federal Labor government under Anthony Albanese would do the same. The Leader of the Opposition is a valued friend of the Hunter. When he was the minister for infrastructure he delivered the $1.2 billion Hunter Expressway, which has had a truly amazing impact on improving productivity, slashing the time to travel from the Upper Hunter to the Lower Hunter and Newcastle by hours.
Another major part of the opposition's budget reply was outlining Labor's commitment to $500 million in funding for social housing repair. This has two tremendous social and economic outcomes: it will improve the quality of life for thousands of Australians who need urgent upgrades, as well as stimulating the economy and getting tradies into work.
I was also pleased to welcome Labor's shadow minister for housing and homelessness to Shortland after the budget. Jason Clare and I and Jodie Harrison, the state member for Charlestown, visited Casie Martin at Windale. She was good enough to show us around her home. What we saw is just not good enough in Australia. Casey's home was in need of urgent repair. There was black mould everywhere, and the New South Wales department of housing was refusing to do anything about it. This is a great example of where Labor's $500 million would improve the quality of life of fellow Australians and put people back into work. I thank Casie for allowing Jason and me to meet with her, and I assure her that Labor will continue for fight for better and more social housing.
These two announcements by Labor, compared to the budget, really highlight the stark choice that Australians have. That choice has been reinforced by the cuts being suffered right now by my constituents in Shortland because of the egregious decision by this government to cut JobMaker and JobSeeker. Their cuts to JobKeeper affect 17,000 residents of Shortland and have cut $15 million per fortnight out of the Shortland economy. Their cuts to JobSeeker have put another $6 million out of the Shortland economy per fortnight. That is $21 million of income going into Shortland businesses that has just disappeared because of this government's short-sighted management of the budget. I think that's a really important point to make.
In my remaining time I would like to update the House on the visits and meetings I have had the pleasure of having in Shortland in the last few weeks. I was very pleased to receive a briefing from Dr Andrew Magee from the Centre for Water, Climate and Land at the University of Newcastle and to be briefed on the model they have developed which predicts tropical cyclones in Pacific nations up to four months in advance. This is much more accurate than the current Bureau of Meteorology approach. I approached the minister for the Pacific to see whether they could get assistance. I was discouraged by the initial response from the minister, and I am disappointed that they have turned down the opportunity to improve the accuracy of forecasting of cyclones, not just for the Pacific but for Australia as well. I am certainly very interested in working on how we can advance this project.
I visited Design Anthology at Gateshead and met with Josh, and also Matt from Tecevo, and heard about the collaboration these two fantastic local manufacturing companies are undertaking. I got to catch up with Jack Erby from St Mary's Catholic College and presented him with a copy of The worldly philosophers, an excellent tome on economic history by Robert Heilbroner. I wish Jack all the best for his future studies. I met with retail workers at Lake Macquarie Square's Coles, Big W and Woolworths to thank them for their magnificent efforts this year in dealing with keeping the stores open during the COVID lockdown and ensuring that the people of Lake Macquarie didn't miss out on vital supplies. Thanks to Deb from the SDA for introducing me to these workers. I have to acknowledge Michelle from Woolworths at Lake Macquarie Square, who has helped to make over a thousand masks for local hospitals in her spare time.
The tourism industry has been devastated by COVID-19. I met with Brett Dann from Hunter Travel Group, and I want to thank Kylie Leadbetter for organising a meeting with a group of local travel agents to hear firsthand what they are experiencing. They were clear to me that the cut to JobKeeper will hurt them and that there has to be an industry-specific package for tourism. I was disappointed that that demand was not met in the budget. This is the industry most impacted by the COVID lockdown. This is an industry that employs nearly 50,000 Australians. They desperately need more assistance, and this government is ignoring them.
Much of Shortland is bordered by the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere and the magnificent Pacific Ocean. I have met so many times with locals, through advocacy groups such as Save Our Coast and as individuals, to talk about their opposition to oil and gas drilling on our Pacific coast. It was good to get an update from them, and I was so proud that I could announce my opposition to the PEP 11 Project in parliament last week. The PEP 11 Project is bad for the environment, it's bad for our coastal way of life, and it's bad for jobs. It will deliver only, at best, a handful of jobs into our local community, but it will risk the jobs of thousands of locals who are employed in tourism, fishing, both commercial and recreational, and all of the other industries that rely on our beautiful beach life. I was proud to stand with them and say, 'I oppose PEP 11.'
On Friday last week, I attended the Hunter Manufacturing Awards. I'm so proud that Shortland businesses won so many awards. Congratulations to Sirron Holdings Group, Zexa Chemicals and Ampcontrol, who were joint winners of the Manufacturing Pivot Award, which was presented in honour of the late Rod Murphy. Congratulations to Safearth, who won the Collaboration Partnership Award with Ampcontrol and NewieVentures. These are two great examples of local manufacturers responding to the challenges of COVID. Sirron Holdings have moved from making commercial dishwashers to developing disinfectant and surface treatment that kills COVID on kitchen surfaces. This is incredibly important work that I would like to be out there right now selling around the world, but unfortunately a backlog in the TGA lab means that they are unable to get their claims registered until early next year. I'm working with them to advance that time line. Their claims have been validated by HMRI, which is a world-class laboratory. This is really important work that will help defeat COVID and help drive more jobs in the local economy. Congratulations to Safearth, who, with Ampcontrol and NewieVentures, at the start of the COVID crisis, managed to start producing ventilators for the New South Wales public health system in a week. These are companies that had no experience in building ventilators, but, because of their great skilled engineering and research workforce, were able to turn around quickly after an urgent request from New South Wales Health and started to build ventilators. Thankfully, we haven't needed them so far, but it's a really important part of the COVID crisis.
I also got to meet Dr Matt Dun and his team, who are doing important research into DIPG. DIPG is the deadliest childhood cancer. On average, 50 Australian kids have DIPG each year, but it's responsible for half of the childhood cancer deaths per annum in this country. It is an awful disease where the median survival time is 10 months. It's a horrible disease. We urgently need to do more research into it. I was privileged to meet Matt and his research team and I acknowledge their groundbreaking work in raising the profile of this disease, as well as research and treatment options. I thank Matt for sharing his personal story about how his family was directly impacted by DIPG with the passing of his daughter, which is such a sad and tragic event. Quite frankly, I am in awe of the strength of Matt and his family. They faced this tragedy, were able to build on this tragedy and responded to this tragedy by dedicating their lives to researching and fighting this deadly disease. I want to recognise RUN DIPG, which is raising funds for research. I was pleased to take my children on the run along the Fernleigh Track a month ago. I want to say to Matt, his wife, Phoebe, and all associated with the run: you are doing truly inspiring work and I pay tribute to what you are doing on behalf of the 150,000 residents of Shortland. I also met Dr Larry Roddick, who is the national medical director of Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children. ROMAC brings sick kids from the Pacific to this country to perform surgeries on them and repair illnesses. I want to thank them for what they do. I want to thank Brad Hazzard, the New South Wales Minister for Health, for coming to the aid and reducing the cost of the procedures in New South Wales hospitals. This was a great outcome which went beyond politics. I want to thank Larry, Rotary and Brad Hazzard for the great work they've done. (Time expired)
Sitting suspended from 13:04 to 16:00
I rise to speak on the appropriation bills before the House today. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: my community is crying out for investment from this government. The Macarthur region is experiencing rapid population growth. My wife was born in the electorate. With my wife, I moved back to the electorate over 40 years ago, and we have seen incredible growth. Our population has been increasing exponentially and is projected to continue to rise as rapidly over the coming years. This rapid growth in population has been by design. Respective state and federal governments have planned for and allowed this growth to occur. I use the word 'planned' very, very loosely. Very little thought has been given by the coalition to the present and future needs of my community, and their recent budget is unfortunately indicative of that.
Our community's rapid expansion in population has been unchecked. Those opposite have been complicit in allowing unchecked urban sprawl to take place and have encouraged overdevelopment. Population growth is not necessarily a bad thing. Macarthur is a wonderful place to live, and I cannot fault people for wanting to call Macarthur home. However, the government is allowing my community, to this very day, to be overdeveloped without providing adequate infrastructure. Development must be adequately planned for. This is the role of government.
Consideration of things such as public health facilities, schools, roads and public transport should be a given—but not when it comes to my community, unfortunately. This government has not considered any of this. We have schools that have over 40 demountable classrooms. All could have been planned for yet was not. Those opposite and their friends in Macquarie Street are allowing the south-west to be turned into the plaything of their developer mates at the expense of the battlers. They are allowing development to occur unchecked and are failing to provide essential infrastructure and services to my community.
Housing is unaffordable, and it has been for some time. However, the answer is not to merely increase the supply of housing in Sydney's market. This ought to be part of the government's plans. The fact that they are forcing south-west to shoulder the majority of this burden without adequate planning is disgraceful. My community is one of the most mortgage stressed in the state. People have been struggling to make ends meet since long before the COVID-19 pandemic and recession. I do not define affordable housing as encouraging developers to charge half a million dollars for a 300 square metre block of land on the outskirts of Sydney with no public transport in a newly developed suburb with no public infrastructure. This government's failure to plan for this rapid growth and its rubberstamping approach to developers are really damaging young people, their young families and their future, and place my community at great risk.
Our communities are presently under-resourced to deal with the growth. Our schools are at capacity, our hospital wards are full, our outpatient clinics are overbooked and under-resourced, our roads are congested and unemployment and underemployment are rife. The government have demonstrated once again in their budget that they have no plans to address this. I have sought to work constructively with all levels of government ever since I came into parliament. I think that some of the best work in this place comes at times when we act in a spirit of bipartisanship and work cooperatively together for the greater good for our population. However, this budget is a slap in the face to Macarthur residents.
The coalition, at the state and federal level, are blatantly engaging in class and ideological warfare. Inequality is on the rise, and the Liberal and National government are determined to continue to ignore the needs of some of our most at risk communities. Those opposite can rationalise their budget any way they want, but I will not stand for the spin and self-congratulatory messages that I'm seeing the government undertake.
I want to break this down very quickly. This budget will deliver $1 trillion of debt for Australia. That's a lot of money. This tired, third-term Liberal-National government is starving my community and stifling economic activity as a result. Young people are leaving school with no jobs to go to. Young people are leaving school and being forced to accrue a huge HECS debt to go to university. They're not being offered apprenticeships and they're not being offered jobs in the new economy.
History tells us that recessions are the time to embark on bold and nation-building initiatives. We're getting nothing of that from this government. Job-creating projects, such as building the Sydney Harbour Bridge and creating Snowy Hydro, have been deliberate initiatives of government in times of economic contraction to create jobs and stir economic activity. They certainly work. This coalition are doing nothing of the sort. Had they really given due consideration to our economic recovery at the very least they would not have planned for continued urban sprawl without infrastructure. They should be funding essential projects in the rapidly growing south-west part of Sydney, which is the most rapidly growing part of Sydney. They are not.
Through the pork-barrelling efforts of those opposite, both before the recession and now, we stand to be left behind. There have been sport rorts, arts rorts and all sorts of rorts, yet south-west Sydney gets nothing. They're more than happy to fund projects that will benefit Liberal-voting communities while at the same time ignoring the needs of Macarthur. One example of this that I really want to talk about is the government's abysmal handling of the Western Sydney Airport. I don't care about the land deals. I don't care about what rorts they've done with the conservative electorates around Sydney and around the country. What I care about is infrastructure for south-west Sydney, and they're giving us nothing.
The so-called city deals have been spectacularly pathetic for Macarthur. We're getting a billabong. That's all we're getting. There's no infrastructure. We are getting a billabong so that the federal members who get delivered to Macarthur for five minutes can have a picture opportunity and leave. But they don't care.
They have committed to half the rail link to the Western Sydney airport—only to the north, not to the south-west. Shockingly, they continue to refuse to commit to providing the necessary rail link to Macarthur to provide not only a commuter link to the Western Sydney airport but for all the suburbs developing to the south of the airport—Gregory Hills, Arcadian Hills and Oran Park. All these new suburbs have no public transport infrastructure. It's an absolute tragedy and a disaster in the making, and every planning expert says so.
There's one rule for Liberal-National Party friends at the top end of town and another rule for the west and south-west. It's a matter of priorities. The coalition can find money to give handouts to subsidise the operations of a billionaire media mogul's empire, award lucrative government contracts to unknown entities, pay the member for Fadden's internet bills, perform publicity stunts on Christmas Island, give grants to lucrative sporting clubs with ties to the Liberal Party, detain and attack a family that has been welcomed with open arms by the community, mismanage irrigation licences, backflip on the NBN, purchase—and this is completely bizarre—medals for Sir Prince Philip and overpay for parcels of land, but they can't provide the infrastructure in south-west Sydney.
The former Speaker spent $5,000 on an 80-kilometre helicopter flight. The member for Farrer went on a taxpayer funded apartment shopping spree. The former Treasurer and Ambassador to the US made taxpayers foot the bill for nannies. The age of entitlement for those opposite never stops. Are we supposed to believe that this is responsible governance and sound economic management? I don't think so. At the same time as allowing all this waste to go on, these are a few things that the coalition has refused to fund for Macarthur. They refused to provide funding to establish a desperately needed Shepherd centre of excellence in Campbelltown, which I've long advocated for, to service children with hearing loss and their families, forcing them to travel many kilometres by public transport into Sydney to get services. Shame! They refused to fund a rail line to the new airport from Leppington, continuing the rail line where the corridor is already preserved, which would both serve our community for commuter transport and also provide a freight link to the new Western Sydney airport and a connection from Western Sydney airport to Kingsford Smith airport. Shame!
They refused to provide funds to upgrade local sporting fields in Macarthur, to provide female change rooms et cetera, including for Eagle Vale St Andrews Junior Rugby League Football Club at Eschol Park and Minto soccer club at Sarah Redfern Oval, yet they are able to fund golf clubs and rowing clubs et cetera in Liberal electorates. Shame! They refused to provide timely upgrades to the often fatal Appin Road. Instead they piggyback off Labor's advocacy, trickling through the funding in paltry quantities and ensuring that the road is never going to be adequate and is going to remain very dangerous. They refused to provide funding to provide a paediatric intensive care unit at Campbelltown Hospital, despite ample demand for such a service.
They failed to come to the table to defend and protect Campbelltown's uniquely disease-free koala colony. They are still allowing development to occur on koala habitat in south-west Sydney, the closest koala colony to the centre of Sydney. It's a healthy koala colony that's able to move to the south, to Wollongong, to the west, to the Southern Highlands, and also to the Georges River, providing healthy koalas that would provide a koala colony for the future, yet their future is at severe risk because of a lack of funding by the Liberal government. The Liberal environment minister won't even come to my electorate despite multiple requests to view our koala colony, our unique habitat and also the Indigenous sites around the soon to be developed Appin area. It's a great shame and a tragedy that this could all be lost thanks to the Liberal Party's lack of care for the south-west of Sydney.
The priorities of this coalition government are twisted. Communities like mine are being left behind as a result of the priorities of the Morrison government. It's time the coalition began governing for all Australians, not just their friends at the big end of town—not just cherrypicking the winners and the losers. This budget was perhaps one of the most significant in living memory. It was a chance to do the right thing by all Australians. It was a chance for the government to show vision. It was a chance for the government to show us all their credentials as a caring and decent government that governs for all and not just for some. However, they've not moved from their chosen path of trickle-down economics and a laissez-faire attitude to those who are really struggling.
This government have amassed a trillion dollars in debt, yet Macarthur is getting very little to show for it. Similarly, the electorates around Macarthur are not getting the infrastructure they need for this rapidly growing population. This is a population of young families with children, who are the future of our society, yet they're not getting treated properly by this government. I note that the New South Wales state government is able to fund over $70 million to turn a quarry into a park for North Shore residents, yet in Macarthur they're not even able to provide decent watering facilities and decent lighting for some of our playing fields where those who will later go on to represent Australia in a whole range of sports are playing.
This government are unable to fund adequate medical facilities in the south-west of Sydney. We have huge waiting lists, and the waiting lists are blowing out day by day. They've been made worse, of course, by the COVID-19 pandemic, but our waiting lists were already longer than the rest of Sydney's anyway. They are not adequately funding services for children and young families in the health system in terms of providing primary care. Breastfeeding rates are low. There are high instances of nutritional problems, such as iron deficiency and obesity in children, yet this government have shown no vision for child health in the areas that are struggling.
This recession will be longer and worse for this government's failure to invest in areas of need, its failure to fairly distribute infrastructure funding and its consistent attempts to create a class divide. That is what is happening. If one looks at life expectancies, they are worse outside our major cities. The further out of metropolitan areas and into rural and regional areas you go, life expectancies are worse than the centre of Sydney—yet the government is happy for this to continue. Gap costs for accessing specialist care have blown out unbelievably in the last six years, so that in many developing areas of Sydney and in rural and regional areas people cannot afford to pay for high-level specialist care. That an out-of-touch government could find money in a recession to give a subsidy to Rupert Murdoch while blatantly refusing to fund early intervention programs for 400 deaf children in Macarthur is an absolute tragedy. They should be ashamed of it, and they should try and do something now to redress the imbalance.
I rise to speak on the appropriation bills. Australia is in the deepest recession in a century. We have very difficult economic conditions at the moment. What most Australians were hoping for in this budget was a long-term plan to get us out of this recession. I think most Australians are feeling pretty nervous and worried at the moment about both the health situation and the future economic situation. When they knew the budget was coming up, many would have hoped there would be a long-term plan to create jobs, to support our economy and to get us out of this crisis. Unfortunately, those who tuned in on budget night that Tuesday were severely disappointed. I know many in my electorate were severely disappointed. As Anthony Albanese, the Leader of the Labor Party, has said, there were too many people left behind and too many people held back in this budget.
When we look at the Liberal Party having amassed $1 trillion worth of debt and 440,000 Australians losing their jobs to date, I can't overemphasise what a serious problem this is. Unfortunately, though, the government has done nothing to provide any long-term economic growth plan. What we have is very-short-termism from this Prime Minister and this government, which will not really lead to an economic growth story that will go over years. We've seen support prematurely cut for JobKeeper when, even in the government's own budget, the peak of unemployment has not been reached yet. Yet we have a government that is cutting JobSeeker and has already cut JobKeeper. This is pretty serious, and for so many people this has come far too early. Even in its own numbers, the government has anticipated that 160,000 more Australians will join the unemployment queue by Christmas. This is a pretty difficult time.
Rather than endless press conferences and photo ops from this Prime Minister and this government, and the different fancy names—JobKeeper, JobMaker, JobSeeker, whatever—let's actually see some action. Let's see them take it seriously. Let's see them have a plan for jobs. One of the obvious areas of investment that would create jobs in the short and medium term is infrastructure investment. Not only will it create jobs in the short and medium term; it will deliver long-term economic productivity, if you pick the right projects. Unfortunately, we have seen no new investment from this government into major infrastructure projects in South Australia; South Australia has been left behind again. It could be a very simple thing that the government could do. I have written to the minister for transport, outlining many particular projects. Some projects would provide medium-term jobs, some could be jobs for the next year and others could be jobs for the next three, four or five years. We've got rail extensions that could be done. We've got roads that could be improved, to make it much easier for people in my electorate to commute.
Unfortunately, the government has not delivered this. It has not delivered what could be a lasting legacy in terms of infrastructure investments. It has been disappointing, as our state continues to shed jobs, that many work opportunities have been lost. You hear rumours that the state government didn't have any projects worked up so the federal government couldn't give them money. Stop making excuses! Get on and do your job.
Other elements that have been missed are around investing in stimulating local communities and local infrastructure. I have written to the minister with many, many projects. Unfortunately, instead of projects being delivered right across this country, we had sports rorts, which meant that areas in my electorate missed out on important funding for local community infrastructure because they weren't deemed to be in a marginal seat. That's pretty disappointing.
There could have been some really good outcomes delivered. One of the good outcomes could have been the opportunity to support social housing. We had the opportunity in this budget to invest in social housing. The number of people that call me—they live in social housing through life circumstances and they've had no opportunity other than to live in public housing—and tell me that they are living with so many problems and difficulties in terms of repair. There are so many problems. This government could have invested and injected money into social housing. That would not only be good for those who live in social housing; importantly, it would have created jobs for tradies. These were job-ready projects that could have been done and would have done so much more in terms of economic stimulation than the failed 'HomeBlunder' scheme that the government has had. Really, it is disappointing that the Morrison government has once again squandered a real opportunity to support our tradies in a variety of different trades and to have more affordable housing and more investment in housing. It is incredibly disappointing, especially considering the very narrow take-up, when it comes to this HomeBlunder scheme. It just hasn't worked. In fact, in September only one person in the entire state of South Australia received a HomeBuilder grant. One person! I could have given a list of houses that could have done with repairs and gone to the public housing stock and actually created real jobs for our tradies and other people involved in the repairs and home-building business.
It's a sharp contrast to the Leader of the Labor Party's plan. He has outlined a real plan to stimulate the economy, to support jobs for tradies and to address the maintenance backlog that has been so difficult. It would be good for our economy. Once again, we see the missed opportunities in the Liberal Party's budget, this short-termism, this lack of leadership in anything meaningful.
Of course—and I've spoken about this a lot in the parliament—the budget also seemed to forget 51 per cent of the population, and that's women. We know that women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. There is nothing to support and deal with issues that have been there long before COVID but are going to be exacerbated by the Morrison recession: things such as the superannuation gap that women face, gender pay disparities—there are so many issues. Since March more than 200,000 women have lost their jobs and 110,000 women have left the workforce altogether. This is a really difficult time for many women who had to leave the workforce because they lost their jobs or were taking on caring responsibilities. We've seen from this government nothing tangible to support them back into work.
Labor have put out a very clear plan. We don't want women held back from reaching their potential as the recovery from COVID starts. We've announced our Working Family Childcare Boost, which will support many families to deal with the cost of child care. The worst thing out of this pandemic and recession would be if, when the second income earner in a family is offered work, they have to turn that work down because they cannot afford child care. How disappointing would that be? It would not only be disappointing and very difficult for that family but it would be not good for the economy. It is not good for the recovery to have this handbrake on our economic recovery, and that is exactly what the current childcare system is. So we've outlined a very clear alternative.
I think a few people might have thought the government had had a change of heart when it came to early education and care, because they announced free child care. They didn't fund free child care, so they actually required those operators to take the hit during COVID. There was no hit to the government, just a hit to those centres. But of course that was short-lived, and we went straight back to the full fees that were there before the pandemic. The government have dug in now, despite overwhelming criticism that this is not the right time to keep the current system, because it's not working. The government are digging in their heels, and I can only suspect that it is because the Prime Minister himself designed the current childcare settings and is too proud to admit that they are not working.
No, no Office for Women. It was revealed in Senate estimates that the Office for Women did have some input, but they weren't listened to when it comes to early education and care.
We are looking at really trying to address the workforce disincentive rate, a term that's come up as a result of how expensive our childcare system is and the way that women are losing money or not making any money because of the cost of child care on the fourth and fifth day. We've put forward an alternative. The response from the government is that the current settings are right, and apparently women should be grateful because this budget builds some roads. Well, they can't be grateful in my electorate, because you're not building roads in my electorate! You're not investing in roads in my electorate, so not only do women have unaffordable child care but they actually don't have any new roads to speak of when it comes to driving. Unfortunately my electorate is missing out again. They don't get any new roads and they don't have affordable child care. This really hasn't been good for women, or men, in my electorate.
What Labor has announced is that we will make child care cheaper for 97 per cent of families. That is our plan for the first three years, and then we are going to look at our very ambitious plan to move to a universal 90 per cent subsidy system, and we'll be tasking the Productivity Commission to do that work.
In addition to this, we know that a lot of young people have been doing it really tough during this Morrison recession. It's been a really difficult time and I think we underestimate the hit that young people have taken and the consequences of that. The consequences from the global financial crisis are still being realised by people that were young and just trying to get into jobs during that global financial crisis. They are still having the impact today. That was highlighted by the Productivity Commission. We know that this recession is so much worse, so much more difficult and that this is going to be very hard. And what we've seen is the government, during a recession, making it more expensive to go to university, more expensive for young people who perhaps are finishing year 12 and are thinking: 'I just can't get a job. I'm going to better myself.' Well, the government has made it more expensive to go to university. While the hiring credit has been very much lauded by the government as the panacea, Treasury officials have confirmed that, once you put the spotlight on these things, it's only expected to create 45,000 jobs—just 10 per cent of what the government said it would do. The government claimed 450,000 jobs, but of course it's only going to deliver 10 per cent of that, if that. We know that the government has a track record of not being able to deliver these types of schemes. We've seen that with mature workers, where take-up has been very poor.
I'll be keeping a close eye on this because I don't think it will deliver even 45,000 jobs. The proof will be in the pudding. You need to watch what the government do, not what they say, because they are so full of spin. They want to turn up at the marketing opportunities, cut the ribbons, puff out their chests and say, 'Aren't we doing well?' The truth of the matter is that they have a problem with delivery and they have blind spots, and this budget does not set Australia up for the long-term.
The more I look at this government's most recent budget the less I see. If you just listened to the words on the night, you might have had hope, but, when you dig down and look anywhere at the detail, you just find spin and no substance whatsoever. When JobKeeper disappears in March, I feel that in my community, and many like it, we will have quite a cliff, because, despite all of the announcements that were made by the Treasurer on budget night, there's very little to it. For example, the tax cuts are hailed as the driver of the economy. A person might receive between $20 and $50 a week in the tax cut. Great! But, at the moment in Parramatta, in my electorate, we have some 8½ thousand businesses that are paying their staff on JobKeeper and the 30,000-odd staff members will fall off the cliff at the end of March. It is replaced with a $20- to $50-a-week tax cut for those who have work. Our unemployment rate has gone up. Last year, it was 4.9 per cent, just before COVID-19, and it has gone up 250 per cent in the last six months, and it is continuing to grow. It is hard to see how taking people off JobKeeper and replacing it with a $20- to $50-a-week tax cut for those who have work will make a difference.
Then we have JobMaker. There is a lot of 'job' this and 'job' that. JobMaker was a huge announcement, with 450,000 jobs for people under the age of 35, except that, when you dig down and ask Treasury, they say, 'No; it won't be 450,000. Most of those will be jobs that already exist. There will only be 45,000 new jobs,' and that's not in one year but over a couple of years. I did the maths. That is 300 jobs per electorate over a couple of years. So they are taking 30,000-odd workers off JobKeeper, they're reducing JobSeeker down to $40 a day in December, and they're replacing it with 300 subsidised jobs for people under the age of 35. That's the reality when you dig through the spin. It's just unimaginable that this strategy would actually work.
This gives me an opportunity today to talk about some other areas where the government claims things that you think might be fabulous, until you look at them and see that they actually don't existent or they're a mere shadow—just an announcement with nothing underneath. I will talk now about women in the budget. We, the Labor opposition, have been very critical that this budget is not for women. Most of the industries that have been supported, because of the way it works, are male dominated industries. For the care economy, aged care, child care—all the places where women work and where you would expect a big investment because they have been shown to be under-resourced—there is nothing. When you criticise the government for it, they wave the announcement of the Women's economic security statement. What a great thing this would be: the Women's economic security statement. I googled the Women's economic security statement 2020. It says:
The 2020 Women's Economic Security Statement is building on initiatives in the Government's overarching JobMaker Plan for an economic recovery that creates jobs—
Then, do yourself a favour and google 'Women's Economic Security Statement 2018' and see what happens. Here it is:
That is why, in 2018, we released the inaugural Women’s Economic Security Statement with a focus on three key pillars—workforce participation, earning potential and economic independence.
Announced in 2018, it's the same thing—and then again in 2019, then again in 2019 and now in 2020. And, two years after it was first announced with great fanfare and a great announcement, they've spent zero. Nothing! It's just an announcement. It was an announcement in 2018 and nothing else—just spin with no substance. It was an announcement in 2019 twice, as spin with no substance, and now it's been announced in 2020 with no detail and we're supposed to believe it. So I would say to everybody out there: You just have to do look underneath the announcement to see whether there's anything there, and in many, many occasions there won't be anything there at all.
Let's look at another one: the NBN. Parramatta CBD, the second CBD in Sydney, is supposed to be this great city, and it actually is a great place to live, will not get the NBN until 2022. So every time the minister gets up and says, 'Woohoo, we finished it,' we, in Parramatta CBD, go, 'Hang on a second, we're not getting it for another two years. Are you kidding me?' Honestly, it is extraordinary.
Then, we hear an announcement that they're going to rebuild the bits that they built with that 50,000 kilometres of copper that they bought. They're going to rebuild that now with fibre because they think fibre is actually better than copper, and we go: 'Okay, are we going to get the old NBN and then get upgraded, or are we just going to get the new NBN? What's going on here?' We're not told; we just keep hearing these announcements.
Then, we had a fabulous announcement about job hubs—business hubs.
There's $700 million for several hundred business hubs, which would give businesses in various regions the same kind of speed that they get in the Sydney CBD. And I thought: Wahoo! Maybe we could have one of those. It turns out that we are getting one of those, maybe—when you read the website it says, 'Please phone and check,' but it says that we're probably getting one in Parramatta. They've announced 11 business hubs in greater Sydney, and eight of them can see the harbour or the ocean. Mosman gets one. Neutral Bay gets one. Lane Cove gets one. Lake Haven—Yes, you may well smile!
Maybe! Except we don't it at all, until 2022! So tell me that South Australia's getting one. We are the third largest economy, we have got more employees, more workers, in Western Sydney than in Adelaide. We're slightly under Brisbane. We've got more knowledge workers then virtually any—
Opposition members interjecting—
I know! But we've got one! One west of Marrickville! Not Strathfield, not Penrith, not Campbelltown, not Liverpool, not Ryde, not north west—unbelievable. And I'll just say this to the government: as happy as I am that Parramatta eventually—if it ever actually gets the NBN—will get a business hub—I know, from working in business myself and from running a trade association for many years, that it's the speed of your customers that counts for most modern businesses. If you're actually selling online or you're working online or your staff are working from home, it's not just the speed in the little centre where your office is; it's actually how fast everyone else can engage with you. This is absurd. It's absurd that in 2020 I am standing in—not now, but I do live in—what is the third largest economy in Australia and we're not getting the NBN until 2022, and then with a population of over two million people we're getting one business hub. One. Unbelievable. So again, it's all spin. If you dig underneath it, there's no substance.
I can tell you what's happening with this, and this is a really important point when it comes to the NBN. What we're starting to get with this new strategy is NBN for people who can afford it. They have clearly chosen electorates where businesses can pay higher money to get a faster connection. So we will find a two-tiered NBN—which I know we're going to get anyway with this government, but it will accelerate that. It will hardwire in, literally, the inequity. It will hardwire it in. It is so unacceptable I cannot believe it. I just cannot believe it.
Let's look at another area where there's more spin than substance: the announcement of a $1.5 billion manufacturing fund. This is the government that dared the car industry to leave. This is the government that's done nothing on manufacturing for as far back as you can remember. Including during the Howard years, they did nothing. This is the government that has spruiked that business should go where it's cheaper to run. This is the government that totally failed to understand the changing nature of manufacturing for years and that the advantage of labour is disappearing with advanced manufacturing. They pushed manufacturing offshore at the very time when fragmented supply chains and modern manufacturing techniques were giving us the advantage back. But away it goes! They pushed it away exactly at the time when we should have been building it.
Now they've discovered that manufacturing actually really matters, apparently—like they've discovered that fibre is better than 50,000 kilometres of copper!—and they're going to spend $1.5 billion, so they say. Except—again, it was a nice announcement—look at the detail. Finally, Minister Andrews admitted on Sunday that only $40 million of that will be spent this financial year. This is one of the programs that replaces those 30,000 people that come off JobKeeper in my electorate alone at the end of March. This is it: $40 million this financial year. And then she went on to say that the really big grant program was the $800,000 collaboration stream, and it's only expected to fund 10 projects. I'm kind of speechless. It is all spin. There is nothing here. There's a trillion dollars in debt, a deficit of $100 billion, and there is nothing to show for it here—nothing at all.
Let's look at who else was really left out of the budget: the current people on JobSeeker. Again, in my electorate we currently have 12,053 people relying on JobSeeker or youth allowance, up from 4,900 before COVID-19—large numbers. And that doesn't include, by the way, all the people that the government managed to sneak off into the side: all the people here on skilled visas, all the international students, all the people here on bridging visas, you name it—all the people they managed to pushed off to the side with no support at all. So the actual unemployment rate, the actual number of people in my electorate that are struggling and do not have work, is much greater than this. And, of course, JobKeeper is hiding the true number as well—until the end of March and then we'll see what happens. But there's nothing in this budget for these people that are really, really struggling. In fact, the government has said maybe they'll look at it in the midyear, but they're not making any commitment. They said it would go back to $40 a day, but now they're not quite sure.
I just have to say this: there are over 12,000 people unemployed in my electorate, 8,000 of those became unemployed because of COVID. Even if the government actually believes that people who were on unemployment benefits before COVID are just lazy—I don't believe that for a second because I know many of them—the 8,000 who have joined the queue since then had jobs. How on earth can those people plan how they're going to deal with the reduction in their income if they don't have any certainty at all? What do they do if they have long-term leases? Are they going to continue renting or not? They don't know because they don't know what they're going to be getting after 31 December. If they have a kid in child care at the moment, because one adult is working and one's not, and it's becoming unaffordable, do they take their child out of the childcare place knowing that, if they then get a job, they won't be able to get that place back again? Do they move in with their parents even though their parents don't live in the same school area? How do they get their kids to school if they have to sell the car? They have to make decisions. If they're good money managers and responsible money managers, they need to be able to make those decisions now. You don't wait until two weeks before 31 December and then, in some last minute midyear fiscal thing, announce what people are going to receive in January. You don't do that. It's counterproductive. It's absolutely counterproductive. It makes it harder for people to plan their way through what is the worst crisis of their life. It's harder for people because of the uncertainty that this government is creating by refusing to talk about what they're going to do. It's just not fair.
I really urge the government when they look at my community and the community at large who are currently on JobSeeker, who do not have jobs, to not see the worst characteristics of those people—to not see them as people who are going to say, 'Oh, no, I'm not going to work, because I can get $40 a day. Woohoo; I can stay home and watch television.' That is not who they are. When I look at my community I see people who are doing the best they can possibly do at the moment. I see good in them. Occasionally there is one who is not. Every now again we meet them. Rule breakers break rules, by the way—so new rules won't fix it. But, please, when you look at the Australian community, see the good in them. See what they want to achieve, and see what you can do to help them do that. And $40 a day at the end of December, or a lack of a decision on what you are going to do with them until too late, is not giving people in my community and around Australia the best chance to move through this incredible crisis.
I could talk about a whole range of other things—pensions; you name it—but I've run out of time. But I just want to reiterate to the people who listen to the government: you really have to pay attention to what is underneath it, because, in most cases, all you get is a great announcement with lots of fanfare and a nice press release and then nothing—sometimes zero for years.
That was a very good speech by my colleague. I think she articulated many of the concerns we have. These are, of course, very difficult times for the country and for the globe. We are constantly focused on the domestic situation of our constituents, and that is understandable—because I think all the vulnerabilities of modern life have been highlighted. At the start of this pandemic we had a situation where we'd run out of or come perilously close to running out of personal protective equipment. We had issues around the supply of ventilators. We had a fear that our health systems and hospital systems would be overrun. Normally, it is a bit of a chore to go to the supermarket, but even the supermarket became a place of great anxiety for many Australians at the beginning of the lockdowns when we had these runs on toilet paper—which is pretty essential to modern life.
We saw that pretty essential product that we expect to be there and has always been there suddenly disappear from the supermarket shelves because of panic buying, because of the fragile supply lines that we have. We manufacture toilet paper here in this country. We've manufacture it from pulp down in the south east of the state of South Australia. A great company down there provides the nation. So that was a relatively easy problem to fix. But, of course, when we look at these vulnerabilities, I think they have made it very, very clear that the worst case scenario can happen and, if you don't plan for it or you don't think about or you don't account for it, you can find yourself in great peril.
And then I look at some of the external things that can happen to Australia. In my time in this place—I'm coming up to 12 or 13 years now—I can't count the number of times, for instance, that John Blackburn has come to the foreign affairs committee and given us a submission about fuel security in this country. He constantly came before the committee and warned governments of both persuasions—I'm not trying to make this a partisan thing—that we've got a perilous situation when it comes to our fuel security. Seventy per cent of our fuels come from overseas. Only about 20 per cent are refined here. So it doesn't take you long to realise that, in any sort of external crisis where our sea lanes are blocked, we will have a desperate problem very, very quickly and we will have to ration very, very quickly. That will bring modern life to a halt very quickly. So we need to start dealing with these things in a bipartisan way pretty urgently.
When we think about these things, we should start to think more in terms of self-reliance. What do we absolutely have to know is there? What is the lifeblood of modern life?
We know, for instance, that electricity is a pretty critical part of modern life, and over the years we've seen a number of things happen to our electricity system. We could talk a lot about it, but primarily what we've seen is disaggregation at the state level—that is, we had monopoly systems that have been broken up. In South Australia it was ETSA. ETSA had the transmission lines, it had the poles and wires, and it had the generation. It was one system that operated with engineers running it, and they ran it as a unitary system. We've also had privatisation. In South Australia, in 1994, there was a pretty controversial lease of our power assets at the time. The Labor Party opposed that, and I'm proud that they did.
When you think about that disaggregation and that privatisation, you've also got to think about who ended up controlling these critical bits of infrastructure. In South Australia, it wasn't just that things were broken up into generators, into poles and wires, and into transmission lines; it's also that they were sold to foreign companies. At the time we lived in a more benign world, and Hong Kong was controlled, at that point, by the British. It followed their legal norms, and it was seen to be a jurisdiction particularly friendly to foreign investment and as the gateway to mainland China. So it's not surprising that there was a level of comfort in selling a majority stake in the poles and wires of what's now known as SA Power Networks to CK Infrastructure. It's not surprising that, when the transmission lines were sold—I think this is somewhat more controversial—the State Grid Corporation, which is a state-owned company in China, took a significant stake. It's a minority stake, but it's the largest stake in that company; it's just short of controlling it. They are very pertinent facts.
In 1994, those ownership structures might have been appropriate. As I said before, Labor opposed the privatisation of ETSA, and I think it was sensible to do so at the time. But even those who are enthusiasts for privatisation should now realise that you have to have control of your critical infrastructure. You don't have control if it's owned by a foreign owned company, and you particularly don't have control if it's a foreign owned company where the government can influence anything that company does. And that is certainly the case now, with both of those companies.
We need to think carefully about what happened in 1994 in South Australia to the electricity network, and we need to think about whether we have control, ultimately, of this critical infrastructure. Deputy Speaker Zimmerman, in your home state, when the privatisation of Ausgrid occurred, the then Treasurer, the now Prime Minister Scott Morrison, blocked the sale of that electricity infrastructure to those two companies, to State Grid Corporation and to CK Infrastructure. We've now got a situation where, in New South Wales, these companies were blocked from owning the electricity grid and yet, in South Australia, they've owned it for the better part of a couple of decades. So I think, and I mean this as a humble suggestion from a backbencher, that ownership structure should be reviewed.
As I've said before, when I've spoken out about Darwin port, I think there is some infrastructure a country has to own. In a situation where there might be political sensitivities in it, it's better that the nation's government asserts that control in the first instance. To my mind, if you block the sale in New South Wales, you shouldn't allow this ownership to go on in South Australia. Those portions of ownership by those companies should either be subject to nationalisation or to forced divestments, or some combination of both. There are a couple of reasons for this.
Electricity is the lifeblood of modern society. You cannot have a situation where the government does not have control. We now know that these grids are particularly vulnerable to all sorts of interference and technological sabotage, which cannot be easily remedy if it occurs, so it's critically important that we know that this infrastructure is secure, reliable and can be depended on. In my mind that means you have to have some sort of Australian ownership and control.
We now know interest rates are low and the government's capacity to borrow is high. We also have a vast pool of superannuation funds and other private wealth. We're no longer capital starved, as we may have been in the past. To my mind the solution to this is easy. We have a vulnerability. It has been there for some time. We know that it may get worse over time. It should be remedied. The remedy is relatively easy in the modern context.
I'm not the only politician concerned by this. I know Rex Patrick has spoken out about it, and I think that's sensible. We should have a discussion about critical infrastructure in this country. The Prime Minister and the then Treasurer should be commended for their decision. It is not easy to make a decision to block a sale to foreign companies. It's essential that we control this infrastructure. It's essential that we don't have a benign view of the world we live in. It's essential that we take a pretty rigorous and cynical view. To some extent we need to plan for the worst. If we're doing those things then we should secure critical infrastructure in this country.
With those comments I close my argument, as it were. I humbly submit it for your consideration, Mr Deputy Speaker.
We had the budget speech and the budget reply speech. I'll make a few comments on the budget first of all. Again the people of my electorate of Bendigo were disappointed. It was another budget that saw us excluded from any significant local community infrastructure funding, despite the fact that we have many projects on our wish list and active lobbying had gone on. One project that our local Bendigo business community really wanted to see funded was the upgrade of the Bendigo Airport terminal. It was also a key project of our local council. It was not funded in this budget.
The government will spend $33 billion on a piece of land for a future runway that may be built in the next couple of decades, but yet it couldn't find the $4.5 billion to match the state Labor government funding to upgrade the Bendigo Airport terminal. This project would have delivered local jobs, particularly for local small businesses involved in construction. It also would have secured the return of the Qantas route between Sydney and Bendigo, which started not that long ago. It was an incredibly successful route that Qantas are keen to restart. We know that we could secure that if we had a terminal upgrade.
Also not funded was the upgrade to the Fogartys Gap interchange. It is the one major intersection on the Calder Freeway that doesn't have proper on and off ramps. Tragically, it has been the place of far too many road accidents, not just in the last 12 months but in the last decade. For those who don't know the intersection, cars coming from Harcourt or Fogartys Gap, which leads to Maldon, have to cross the freeway to turn right to go to Bendigo. Some people don't realise that they have to cross a lane of the freeway to turn right, so we've had a couple of near misses and, unfortunately, a number of deaths. This is critical infrastructure. The Deputy Prime Minister likes to talk about road safety, but when it comes to road safety in my electorate the funding is not there.
I raise these two projects because they are not on the government's priority list, yet significant funding went to the Nicholls electorate in the north, into Shepparton, and significant funding went to other electorates held by coalition members. There is a feeling amongst the people in my electorate that, because we didn't get prioritised in the election, we haven't been prioritised since this government was returned. We feel left out and left behind when it comes to our fair share of funding for our local community. I know that the local council, the new councillors, will continue to campaign for this funding, so the government has not been let off the hook when it comes to either of these projects.
I note that the government had some token money available—and I say 'token money'—for local councils and local community projects through various grant schemes. When you stand in question time and say, 'There's a billion dollars,' it sounds like a really big figure, until you divide it amongst all the councils that we have in Australia. Then it ends up being a couple of hundred thousand. It doesn't go far. It does help, but it doesn't go far. A couple of my local councils have used this funding to upgrade footpaths, which is vital. This is a program that I'd encourage the government to continue. We have Roads to Recovery and Bridges to Recovery. Paths to Recovery is the next step. Even though I am the federal member, people in my community contact me about the need to build the missing links between housing estates, to upgrade broken footpaths, and what role the federal government can play in that. I believe that, if we play a role in helping councils upgrade local roads, we should play a role in upgrading local footpaths. They're good for health. They're good for mums with prams. They're good for older Australians. They provide safe routes and access, connecting schools, shopping strips and communities to each other.
Another area of the budget that bitterly disappointed the people of my electorate was the complete lack of support for the arts. The government said that they've done enough. They announced a big fund, but no money in that fund has been spent. The arts industry was one of the first industries to be shut down, taking all the associated industries with it. When you put on major events, be they concerts or productions, there's AV equipment, there's crowd control and there's catering that go along with it. Groovin the Moo is a major concert that travels around regional Australia. When we lost it in Bendigo, lots of local businesses missed out. That was the beginning of the cancellation of major events because of the COVID-19 crisis. Everybody accepts that these events could not go ahead because of the health crisis. Everybody accepts that it's still not safe for these events to go ahead. What they want in a federal government is leadership and support to help them get through this season, next season and the year after, when we hope it will be safe for them to open. Instead, what our local showgrounds got was a couple of hundred thousand—in fact, less than $200,000—to do a bit of paintwork. It was well short of the funding they require for the major redevelopment project they have.
I flag our showgrounds because I know that lots of regional MPs have showgrounds in their electorates. They're not just for agricultural shows. These are multipurpose facilities. They quite often host the local football teams and netball teams. They also are a place for major concerts and events. They hold equestrian events. If they've got the facilities, they're also where you have local markets, sport meets and so on and so forth. The showgrounds in my electorate tend to be booked out all year round when you add all those events in together. I'd better not forget the cricket season because it will be remembered if I do not remember the importance of our showgrounds when it comes to hosting local cricket competitions as well. Yet they're ageing infrastructure. Again, there's an opportunity for the federal government. If they were genuine about partnering with regional communities, they would help to fund the restoration and building of our showgrounds. These are just a few projects that this government could pick up on.
I know that when Labor was last in government and the Liberal and National parties were in opposition they were incredibly critical of the building schools program, the Building the Education Revolution fund, which was highly successful, despite all of their criticism. To this day, I still go to completely brand-new schools that were built in my electorate through that fund that the former Prime Minister and then education minister created. A school like Lockwood South Primary School, with its old hall, was never going to be rebuilt because it only had about 40 students, but under that program the entire new building that it got was literally a brand-new school. We have about 15 schools like that in my electorate.
I'm not saying that this government, as an economic stimulus project, could replicate that program, but they could do something similar. They could do something for the schools that still need buildings to help build the buildings that they need. They could partner with local and state government to build the infrastructure, such as upgrading our showgrounds, that would give opportunity for regional communities to rebuild post-crisis. But all we tend to get from this government is a little bit of token money, a little bit of money to help with painting or fencing. It is not really enough to deliver the economic support that the communities need.
Another problem that I have with the government's budget is that it tended to focus on the people who were doing okay. The tax cuts, for example, favoured people already in work. They favoured people already on high incomes. They did not provide a genuine narrative or a program or a plan about how they're going to recreate work. This government boasts about the jobs that have been created since the pandemic and since some jobs have started to come on, but they haven't really been clear or honest about what kind of jobs they are. They're insecure jobs, they're casual jobs, they're jobs in sectors which are still being damaged by the recession and are struggling to recover. Having a couple of hours a week in a job, hoping that business will pick up, is not a job you can count on, yet this government counts it as a job created.
I think about the people in my area of Bendigo. We moved out of stage 3 restrictions, now into step 3A, a little sooner than Melbourne, but business is not back to normal, despite being able to take those earlier steps in regional Victoria. People are trying to survive on one shift a week or a couple of shifts a week. We are not back to prepandemic work levels, yet the government has moved to cut JobKeeper and JobSeeker.
Another criticism that I have of this government, and why I support the amendments that have been moved in the lower house, is that in seven weeks time the Coronavirus Supplement for those on JobSeeker will run out. Right before Christmas this government will push thousands of Australians back to the old Newstart rate. They won't tell them whether they are going to keep the current rate with the supplement going or whether they are going to increase the base rate, the old Newstart rate. It is an appalling way to treat Australians, many of whom have recently lost their jobs through no fault of their own. It demonstrates the meanness of this government. It demonstrates their focus on spin and how they go for headlines and not genuine reform.
This is a recession that we have never seen the likes of before in Australia. Previous recessions have really targeted male dominated industries, our blue-collar industries. When you look at the 1990s recession, it was the industries like manufacturing and construction that took a hit. This recession has not impacted those industries yet, and we hope that it won't. In this recession, in construction they haven't missed a day of work in regional Victoria. In manufacturing we've lost a few days and a few shifts in food manufacturing, but the rest of manufacturing has not missed a day. When it comes to the mining industry—we have gold mining in Bendigo—they haven't missed a day. These industries are male dominated industries. These are the higher-paying industries and they're doing well. I am thankful for that because these are the secure jobs in our electorate.
It means that the people who have been hit hardest by this COVID-19 recession are the industries that women predominantly work in: hospitality, retail, service based industries. Yet there is no plan to support them in this budget. They just hope the trickle-down effect will happen, that in a recession people earning money, who will get the tax cuts, will actually spend on services and goods and entertainment. It's a really big wish of this government, and it actually bucks the thinking of what's happened in previous recessions, where data proves that people save in a recession; they don't tend to spend. We also know through research that if you were to increase JobSeeker and maintain JobKeeper, that money would continue to flow through the economy. Every dollar of relief you give to people on low incomes gets spent locally. It is where the government is not quite in touch with what is happening in reality.
The budget that the government delivered was very much a Liberal-National budget. It talked about tax cuts. It talked about programs and spending in the forward estimates, off to the never-never. The classic was the one that was revealed today about the women's economic statement, which was a commitment made back in 2018 and reheated, repeated, in this budget. We may get some money spent on it next year. What a joke! When it comes to their commitment towards women's economic security, they repeat, reheat, announcements and never actually spend any of the money. The budget that the government delivered focused on the top end of town. It focused on those who are fortunate enough to be in secure jobs. It did not focus on the industries or the areas that are most in need of support post COVID-19. It did not focus on our older Australians. There was not a new dollar for aged care, despite the royal commission's interim report and reports talking about neglect. It did not go anywhere near addressing the problems that we have with home-care packages and it isn't going to significantly reduce the waiting list that we have in our country.
These are the issues that people in my region care about. They care about older Australians having access to what they're entitled to. If people have been approved for an aged-care home-care package, they are just in shock that they're on a waiting list, waiting to get access to the support that their loved ones need. The fact that we have people in our country dying before they get access to the program they've been approved for is a national disgrace and something the government should be ashamed of, yet they stand up in question time and boast about how well they're doing. It's another example of how the government are all about spin and marketing—that one hour that they're on the TV, that grab that they get at the end of the night on the evening news. They're not actually committed to the genuine reform that we need. We are going through a very deep recession. It is a time when we need a government of true leaders. I'm disappointed to say that's not what we have.
The Treasurer has described the October budget as the most important since the Second World War. In many ways, he is right, because our country faces challenges greater than at any point since that time, and so the test for this budget is whether it meets the moment. Does it do enough to support the millions of people in Australia who need assistance right now, who need a leg-up right now? And does it properly invest in the country so we bounce back from the pandemic as a more vibrant, more prosperous place, taking us to a new future of bold initiatives, of true opportunities?
As an Independent, when I look at the budget it's not my job to be a cheerleader for the government, nor is it my job to be simply a constant critic. For me, it's to call things as I see them and to be the voice of my community. And so, over recent weeks, I have conducted a survey of constituents to see how the budget affects them and to understand what they think the recovery priorities should be. From the 1,200 responses I received from right across Indi, the message is clear: though the budget contained some positive measures, it did not meet the moment we're in. For regional Australia, this budget is a letdown because it looks backwards, not forwards. It tries to take the country back to the economy we had nine months ago instead of truly finding the window in this disruption, in this once-in-a-generation moment, to take us to a new and better place.
Today in this speech responding to the budget I want to give voice to the people of my electorate, what they need right now and the future that they want to see for their region. To start with, our small businesses are really hurting, not just from the lockdowns but because, for many, the bushfires had already wiped out the summer trade. The measures for business are really the centrepiece of the budget announcement. While most people in Indi support these measures, many feel that more is needed. Of the instant asset write-off and loss carry-back scheme, while 48 per cent of people supported these measures, another 23 per cent said they did not go far enough. Many small businesses told me that the instant asset write-off will not make a difference to them, as they are too cash poor to be making investments of any kind. Many businesses said that these are not the types of supports that they really need. A restaurant owner in Bright told me: 'Our biggest issue is hiring staff for the summer months. The lack of accommodation in the region makes it almost impossible to get quality employees. Spend money on developing affordable housing.' Then there are businesses of which these supports simply do not touch the sides, especially sole traders—people like Chris, at The Bright Table.
Many small businesses are still facing an impossible pathway out of the crisis. I look to the travel agency businesses. Frank and Fiona Stephens own Benalla Travel, a nationally renowned travel agency that has been around for decades and is an absolute community institution in Indi. I met with Frank and Fiona a few weeks ago, and their story is a harsh reminder of the brutality of this pandemic and why we need a response that does not leave people behind. As a travel agency, Frank and Fiona were hit harder than most. They are in a business that is impossible to fully hibernate. With national and state borders closed, their revenue has gone to zero. It will remain at zero until our borders reopen, which, on some estimates, could be as much as nine to 12 months away. But on top of this, Frank and Fiona have spent the last few months refunding trips booked in the year before the pandemic. This means they've lost not only this year's income but last year's as well. Frank and Fiona did the right thing. They kept on all the staff they could, and they've refunded customers that they didn't need to. They did this because of their commitment to the people they look after in the community. Frank told me, 'We're just keeping our heads above water, but we have real fears and concerns post 31 March, when JobKeeper ends, unless we receive additional and ongoing support.'
In our rush to get out of this pandemic, we simply cannot leave behind people like Frank and Fiona. These are the small family owned businesses right across the country that have spent years doing the right thing. They've been investing in our community. They're the businesses that have sponsored community events, that have given a leg-up to so many in their towns. It's their hour of need right now, and we need to give them a leg-up too. We must not abandon the Franks and Fionas of our business world.
In my survey I heard from too many people who missed out on JobKeeper because it had critical design flaws and because the government repeatedly and inexplicably moved to exclude some sectors. One person told me: 'I'm employed at La Trobe University in Wodonga, and I'm disappointed to say I've not been able to access the JobKeeper scheme. My salary has been cut by 10 per cent for up to two years and I'm not able to access any other support or supplement payments. I'm a single person with a mortgage at the serviceability of my pre-COVID salary.' It's truly alarming that, at a time when we need regional jobs and when we need to upskill our young people for the jobs of tomorrow, we deny regional universities the same supports we make available to other working Australians. It beggars belief to me. For those who find themselves out of work, 70 per cent of people in my electorate believe the JobSeeker rate should not drop below the current $815 per fortnight.
To be short, there is genuine concern among some people in Indi that we don't create a system that is a disincentive to work. But I don't believe it's beyond us as a nation to design a system that both encourages people to work and provides a safety net worthy of the fundamental decency of Australian people. Consider some of these stories from Indi. One woman told me: 'I lost two jobs during COVID and my husband has not been able to find work either. Without the JobSeeker support, we would not have been able to pay our bills, especially our winter heating. We would not have been able to buy substantial food or meet our mortgage repayments. We also would not be able to afford the allied health that our child so desperately needs.'
The government cannot condemn millions of Australians to poverty when the JobSeeker rate is set to be cut again at the end of the year. I implore the government not to cut it. I spoke yesterday in parliament about the need for a serious overhaul of the aged-care system. A whopping 83 per cent of people in Indi think the government must do more on this issue. I've spoken many times in this place about the disastrous impact of the government's emergency COVID-19 childcare policy on the childcare providers in Indi. The government's COVID response halved the income of many childcare providers, most of them council-run, at a time when we needed to remove any impediments to people. We needed to make sure that this budget supported our childcare sector, and it simply did not do that in Indi. Quite literally, though, more broadly in this budget, there is nothing for child care.
On mental health, people are telling me loud and clear that, whatever the government is doing now, it's not working. Just 20 per cent of people in Indi think the government is doing enough on mental health. Too often, it is simply impossible, logistically and financially, to access proper mental health care in regional areas. Even with Medicare funded places on a mental health plan, the gap fees are often prohibitive. One person from Kinglake told me that, after being isolated at home for six months, they booked to see a psychologist, only to discover that the gap payment was over $200 per session. They couldn't afford it, so they just didn't go. I've been a champion of the additional Medicare funded places for psychological support, but I draw the attention of the House to this issue: these gap payments are astronomical and are absolutely keeping people away from services. One mother told me, 'To help my anxious child, so far we've needed five years of going to a psychiatrist, at $450 a visit. So the 10 to 12 Medicare funded visits will help a little, but families such as mine will still be out of pocket.' In too many cases, the services simply do not exist because we failed as a country to invest properly in the mental health workforce and, most especially, in the mental health workforce of rural, remote and regional Australia.
One person from Benalla wrote to me saying, 'I've been so appalled by the lack of correct support here. The lack of GPs with experience in mental health is heartbreaking. We need a team of specialists in Benalla. Domestic violence, drug use, PTSD, depression and anxiety are huge problems in Benalla. The proper support and care is not there at all. People do need urgent care here and it simply does not exist. It's heartbreaking and no-one seems to be listening. This is urgent. People are taking their own lives. So many ways to tackle these problems and yet no-one is truly acting on them. Please help. Helen.' Similarly, a psychologist based in Albury-Wodonga told me: 'We desperately need additional mental health nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists in the Albury-Wodonga region. There's extra funding coming up for services in mental health in Albury-Wodonga, but there aren't the mental health nurses just sitting at home waiting for these positions. Staff will be taken out of already understaffed public and private facilities. As a psychologist, I'm sending suicidal clients home rather than have them being triaged at the emergency departments. And, if you're young person in the Albury-Wodonga region and you need admission to a subacute mental health unit, you need to drive to Box Hill, 321 kilometres away, or to Orange, 446 kilometres away. It's not good enough and it needs to change.'
We've heard a lot this year that COVID-19 could spark a renaissance for the regions as some people look more at remote working and as we look to rebuild our manufacturing capabilities, but this budget offers no vision for the future of the regions. Adding $10 billion to infrastructure spending nationally across 10 years is good, but that equates to less than $7 million per electorate per year. In Indi, we have 47 shovel-ready projects the government could fund today worth millions of dollars, and these new infrastructure commitments don't even touch the sides. The budget has an additional $200 million for the Building Better Regions fund, which is great, but that's spread over five years and is just $270,000 per electorate per year. Overall, the budget papers show that just $58 million of the $553 million set aside specifically for regional Australia, about 10 per cent, will be spent this year. That's not going to create jobs here and now.
Recently, the Deputy Prime Minister has championed a new $100 million Regional Recovery Partnerships program to support regions hit by bushfires, COVID-19 and drought, yet, inexplicably, Indi was excluded from this fund. We’ve been at the coalface of each of these three crises—drought, bushfires and months of a highly destructive COVID-19 related border closure—and yet we miss out on the funding.
In this budget, regional Australia needed a serious transformational investment to get us out of the economic rut we are now in and to set up the economy for the next decade, but we didn't get it. The government likes to talk big about the regions but often appears to be more bark than bite. We could be investing in and fixing the glaring problems in our caring sectors—child care, aged care, disability care, mental health care. And we could and should be building the infrastructure that will allow our economies to grow—better rail, better internet, social housing, renewable energy. I fear that this budget has missed too many of these excellent and incredible opportunities that are in front of us. But we have another budget in seven months' time, and in that time I am committed to continue to work with my local community to put forward a positive agenda for Indi so that our region has what it needs, not just to be the region it was before but to be a better region to truly thrive into the future.
I rise today to speak on behalf of my community about the Morrison government's shared mediocrity. This budget that was delivered a little while ago has laid bare what many of us known for some time about this seven-year-old Liberal government: it has no vision for this nation. Despite all of the grandstanding, the bluster and the spin, and despite the big spend on advertising campaigns, this budget has been revealed as an uninspiring document of mere modest ambition. There was a chance for the government to seek to redefine Australia's future at a time when we need it most, during the worst recession in almost a century. Indeed, we're left to dwell on a massive missed opportunity.
Never before in this country has so much money been spent with so little to show for it. The spending is mind-boggling and eye-watering. The same Liberals who described Labor's relatively restrained spending during the GFC as a debt and deficit disaster have now racked up a record $1 trillion in debt and the biggest budget deficit since World War II. Let's think about that: $1 trillion is $1,000 billion or a million million dollars. These are the same Liberals who shamelessly printed 'Back in black' coffee mugs and showed them off after last year's budget only because it forecast an operating surplus, a surplus that was never delivered and never will be by this government. These are the same Liberals who frequently assert that they are superior economic managers but who, even before the pandemic hit, had presided over seven years of stagnant wages and declining living standards in this country. These are the same Liberals who paid $30 million for a block of land valued at $3 million. Yet, the biggest sin of this government on display here is its sheer hypocrisy.
The worst feature of this budget is that it leaves too many Australians behind. Those Australians who've struggled the most and sacrificed the most through this economic crisis have been snubbed. It's unfair, and it's wrong. The budget has no genuine plan for jobs. There is nothing for women, nothing for child care, nothing for aged care, nothing for social housing, nothing for older workers trying to enter the workforce, nothing for education. There is no plan to address the structural and societal issues that are holding this nation back. The government have failed on all of this while cutting JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments earlier than they should have. In this budget we needed a bold vision, a soaring ambition. Instead, we got Liberal short-termism and repeated mediocrity.
There is nothing in this budget for the people of Brand, the people I represent across the cities of Rockingham and Kwinana, but that doesn't surprise me—the Liberal Party has not made a single commitment to the people of Rockingham for the last two federal election campaigns. Families living in Rockingham and Kwinana should be feeling safer and more secure after this budget, but they are not. This budget falls well short of what is needed to create jobs and boost our local economy. It's not a wealthy part of Australia where I'm from and where I live. Many of my constituents are hard workers and do their best to support their families but they don't have much cash left over after they have paid for housing, child care food and other essentials. Many of these families are struggling with the higher cost of living.
The cost of child care for families in Rockingham and Kwinana is continuing to rise much faster than the national average and is well above the rate of inflation. According to the latest data from the federal Department of Education, Skills and Employment, child-care fees in Rockingham rose by 5.8 per cent during the 12 months to March this year, while fees in Kwinana were up 5.4 per cent. Nationally, child-care fees have soared by about 36 per cent since the election of the Liberal government in 2013. Child-care fees in this country are among the highest in the world. The government's child-care subsidy support, which is indexed to the CPI, is failing to keep up with the out-of-control fee increases.
Only Labor can fix this broken child-care system. Anthony Albanese has committed to introducing the 'Working Family Childcare Boost' to cut child-care fees and put more money in the pockets of working families. Under this plan, 97 per cent of all families in the system will save between $600 and $2,900 a year. No family will be worse off. This will allow more women to work full-time or increase their hours. It is an important structural reform that will increase Australia's productivity by ensuring more women can return to the workforce, while also ensuring that more children enjoy early childhood education. This is a double boost to the productivity of this nation. The need for this reform is way overdue.
So there is nothing in this budget to help the people of Rockingham and Kwinana with child care. But there is also another great shame in this budget: it contains no initiatives for infrastructure projects in Brand, including the long-delayed Karnup train station. Karnup has been a priority for more than 10 years but it is still on the drawing board. It has been on the drawing board for a long time because the Liberals have refused to contribute one cent of federal funding to it. Karnup will service the residents of Baldivis, Secret Harbour, Golden Bay and Singleton and would take pressure off parking at Warnbro train station, which has been at capacity for years. But Lakelands is in the federal seat of Canning, and that is why it was given the green light. The Morrison government decided to bankroll Lakelands as a favour to the member for Canning, while other projects have been denied—just another example of the blatant pork-barrelling we see so often from the Liberals. They deserve a gold medal for it. We all remember sports rorts. We know they are experts. Other projects that missed out in Brand include an upgrade to the Thomas Road freight link and the Baldivis Sporting Complex. Both projects would create jobs in a region where the unemployment rate is above the national average. I've continuously and repeatedly asked the government to help fund these projects, and I will continue to advocate for the people of Brand, even if this Liberal government has no plan for them.
The government's failure to provide any support for the people of Brand or even promise to support the people of Brand over the last two elections just proves that, when the Liberals come into government, they don't govern for all the country; they just govern for their own, and they are all too happy to leave people like those in Rockingham and Kwinana, who support a Labor candidate like me, behind in their wake. It's a shame and it should stop. All Liberals in this place should really consider their position on how they should now start to support all people of this country instead of just their mates.
In the days after the budget was released, I had the pleasure of meeting two of my local constituents, Kelly and Campbell. Kelly has three kids and extensive experience in administration and accounts, and Campbell is a Navy veteran with extensive experience in logistics. Like so many others, they are keen to get back into the workforce and are jumping through every hoop in order to do so, despite the many challenges 2020 has thrown their way. But this Liberal government threw another roadblock in their way in the form of the new age-targeted hiring subsidy scheme. Kelly and Campbell's only crime is that they are both over 35 years old, but this budget ignored them. They, along with 928,000 other Australians aged over 35 on unemployment benefits, have been deliberately excluded from this scheme. How can this be fair?
I have often spoken in this place about the need to provide assistance and more opportunities to young people in my electorate and others, particularly in the face of significant university cuts and TAFE cuts by this government. So this new measure, while initially welcomed, has a number of issues of its own. To hand something to one vulnerable group while taking away from another equally as vulnerable group is a disastrous failure of economic and social policy. Only last week ABS data confirmed that young people and older Australians were among the most heavily impacted by this year's downturn, with payroll jobs worked by people aged 70 and over decreasing by 12.1 per cent and those worked by people aged 20 to 29 declining by 6.1 per cent. With a trillion dollar debt, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this government would surely provide ample support to both those older Australians and those people attempting to enter the workforce for the first time. You might think that, but you would be wrong.
This is just symptomatic of the Liberal government's inability to walk and chew gum at the same time—to do two things at once. Throwing a stack of money at one problem and hoping the others just go away is not good governance and it's not good government. Australia must do better. We must do more, and we have to start doing it now. People like Kelly and Campbell depend on it.
We've heard a lot of chat in this place and a lot of good discussion recently about the state of Victoria and its incredible efforts to crush the second wave of COVID-19. In the process, they have proven that it's better for governments and ministers to listen to medical experts than the naysayers and the cranks. As I said yesterday in the main chamber, I think the Victorian people are heroes, yet many of them have emerged from this lockdown feeling let down by the Morrison government. If you can cast your mind back to the beginning of this crisis, the Prime Minister told us we were all in this together and he promised to work cooperatively with all the states. He held out hope of being a national leader, of someone who would be above partisan politics, but how false that has proven to be. In recent weeks we've seen the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and other ministers line up to criticise the Victorian government's response to COVID-19. Yes, we admit that everyone knows mistakes have been made in Victoria, as they have around the country, but the Morrison government should not be throwing stones given its own record.
They've shamefully presided over the deaths of 683 older Australians in Victorian nursing homes. It's a federal government responsibility. You can't point and pretend it's not. They allowed the Ruby Princess to dock in Sydney Harbour, which allowed those passengers to spread COVID-19 across the entire nation. They are even incapable of managing the COVIDSafe app, which we discovered this week has only been used to trace 17 cases that were not otherwise identified by contact tracing. So this government paid $70 million for an app that traced 17 cases. That's $4.1 million per case. Think about that and think about how Australia has had more than 27,000 recorded cases of COVID-19, presumably involving hundreds of thousands of contacts, and yet this government's app has only traced down 17 of those, at $4.1 million each I might add. As the Deputy Prime Minister might say, what a bargain! That's the government's record, and perhaps that's why they are so keen to frequently shift blame to the states.
As a Western Australian, I've seen how the government is prepared to play politics with the pandemic. Back in June, the government sided with Clive Palmer, a dodgy Queensland billionaire who tells lies, in the legal challenge against WA's border restrictions and against the advice of the state's Chief Medical Officer. As we know, the Prime Minister and his Attorney-General later sniffed the political wind and claimed that they had withdrawn from the case but only after proceedings had finished. The damage had already been done. The Commonwealth's evidence remains on the record ready for the High Court to hear Mr Palmer's border challenge next week. Let's wait and see what comes up on Monday.
In recent weeks, senior ministers have again ramped up their attacks on the McGowan government over its border policy. They just can't help themselves and they won't help themselves. It's clear yet again that they would rather smear a state Labor government than listen to the official health advice. But the people of Western Australia know the truth. This Liberal government was fully prepared to put their health at risk to push forward their own ideologies, and Western Australians will never forget that.
I want to finish today with one more glaring example of the scandal and mismanagement that has become a distinguishing feature of this government. Under the Liberals, Australia Post, an institution Australians know and love, has lost its way. In Brand, it has slashed postal services to 18 suburbs, and many of my constituents are angry that the government gave the green light to these cuts. The impact of the cuts on affected suburbs will be to reduce mail delivery from daily to two or three days a week, increase interstate letter delivery time frames to a minimum of seven full days, up from a minimum of three business days, and potentially also delay the delivery of small to medium-sized parcels, as these products were carried by the postal workers whose delivery frequency is now cut in half. This news was galling enough, but Australians were outraged to be told of these cuts to the mail service at the same time as senior Australia Post executives were trying to hand themselves millions of dollars in bonuses. Then last week we found out that Australia Post had spent nearly $20,000 on luxury watches for four of its executives. I think they're called Cartier watches. It is right the CEO has stood aside while an investigation is carried out, but this latest scandal is a symptom of deeper problems at Australia Post. This government has stacked the board with former Liberal politicians, party hacks and mates of the Prime Minister, and it has allowed and in fact encouraged this once-respected institution to run down our postal service. It's crucial that the focus of Australia Post returns squarely to what matters: community services, consumers, its workforce and enabling the broader digital economy. Australia Post belongs to the Australian people and not to the Liberal Party of Australia. People won't stand for this Liberal Party and this Liberal government wrecking the great Australian institution that is Australia Post. People are more fond of those red letterboxes than you might imagine, and they will not forget it when you take them away. We hear about it again and again. Save Australia Post.
During my campaign for the seat of Paterson in 2016, the Turnbull government talked a big game. They tried to show up and tell the newly redistributed areas of Neath, Weston, Abermain, Kurri Kurri, Beresfield, Thornton and Tarro that they mattered and that the coalition would deliver for our region. They suggested that a coalition government would make good on election commitments, building local infrastructure, delivering jobs and growth. That was their slogan. Fortunately the people of the electorate of Paterson, which spans from Neath to Nelson Bay, and which I am proud to represent, know that sometimes salt can look a little bit like sugar. That's why they backed me instead. They backed me to be their local voice in parliament, and I am still to this day completely humbled and proud to do that job for them.
When elected, I made a promise to my community that I would always be a strong local voice for them, that I would fight not just for the communities of my electorate of Paterson but for my home, the Hunter region. Every day, I try to do that here in parliament. My electorate knew that they needed a local to hold the coalition to account. Over the years, like me, they've watched the Turnbull-Morrison government to see if they would make good on their promises. Alas, they have not. As a newly minted MP, I remained optimistic that the Liberals might deliver on some of the vital issues and the infrastructure that my community desperately needed. I even took a bipartisan approach and approached ministers and worked with them to ensure that they understood the needs and the priorities of my electorate. But, sadly, despite my best efforts, the needs of our community seem to be falling on deaf ears.
At every election, the coalition gets out and promises to deliver on local and national issues affecting my community. They said they wouldn't cut the ABC or freeze Medicare rebates, but they did. They claimed they'd create jobs and turn the economy around, but they haven't. Once re-elected, be it Turnbull or Morrison, they fail to deliver anything but a sense of disappointment in my community. We know they've failed to deliver regional jobs. This budget has clearly demonstrated they don't back local projects and they're not the financial masterminds they make out to be. Even when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community, they turn their backs. Just remember that aged care is a Commonwealth responsibility. That means it is the responsibility of Scott Morrison and this federal coalition government, right now, here today. There is no buck-passing to the states on aged care, but that's what they try and do.
The coalition government betrayed the trust of my region in 2016 and betrayed it again after the 2019 election. They fought hammer and tongs against a reasonable outcome for the residents of Williamtown. They butchered our NBN, and they cut Medicare rebates. Then they changed the modelling to push more GPs out of the regions and into the cities, when we so desperately need them. Do you know that you can't recruit a GP at the moment for Nelson Bay, an area that is going to receive hundreds and thousands of tourists over the coming months? It is just diabolical. This government have underfunded My Aged Care, creating a historic backlog. They've restricted Commonwealth supported places, resulting in fewer people being able to live in their own homes. So much for that the great slogan they had, 'Ageing well at home'! The other component of this is: are they happy to let people's homes fall down around them, while they encourage and assist them to live in those homes, when people can't get decent packages to maintain their homes? It is wrong.
Over the seven years that this government have had control of the treasury purse strings, they've made a terrible mess of the NDIS, they've cut funding to the Auditor-General, the one body that can try and keep track of where the money is going and what they're doing with it, and they've blown out the budget. The government have let power prices rise. National debt has hit staggering new heights. They've delivered us sports rorts and shonky water deals.
In my second term in this place, sadly the Morrison government hasn't made good on the investments for my community or for regional Australia. Last year, during the election, I was proud to commit to 50 new full-time jobs for Centrelink across my electorate. They would have improved service delivery and created many local jobs. They would have helped with the queues we saw as a result of the pandemic and the government being so tardy with its signalling to the Australian people that they were going to get the support that they needed in their darkest hour. It wasn't until we dragged them to Centrelink and said, 'These people are going to need support,' that the government finally came good with its various 'Seeker' and 'Keeper' packages. I also committed $23.6 million in additional funding for all schools across my electorate. Under this government, schools are being left behind, with maintenance backlogs absolutely blowing out. At a time when our children have missed going to school, we should be putting more money into the schools so that we can catch the kids up on what they've missed during COVID and the lockdowns.
A personal project that I've been really proud to advocate for—it's a big one, and I know we need it desperately—is the M1 Pacific Motorway extension to Raymond Terrace. If ever there was a project that needed to be done, it is this one. This government have promised to fund the M1, but they haven't been able to work with their state colleagues in New South Wales to make the project a priority or a reality. They've been dithering around, planning it. They just need to get in and get it done. We've seen delays to the planning. As recently as today, the latest news on the RMS website features an outdated article about the revised concept design from June 2017! We're now almost in November 2020. What is going on? This project is one of the most significant infrastructure projects in the Hunter region, and it just needs to be built. The jobs it would create and the boost it would create for our region are not lost on anyone, yet this government can't work with their own state colleagues to get it done. It's not good enough that the people in my electorate might not see this vital project delivered for, potentially, another 10 years. It might be five years before they even get a shovel in the ground. It is truly outrageous. The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, needs to pick up the phone to his state colleague and tell them to get on with the job. I just don't understand why he hasn't. He says he's for regions, but I'm not seeing evidence of that.
We know that the M1 extension will deliver jobs, boost industry and provide extensive economic investment for our local Hunter economy. This is the last choke point between Sydney and Brisbane for freight. Many local commuters trying to get to work know the pain and frustration of being stuck at Tarro. Many holiday makers know the frustration of trying to get over the Hexham Bridge. This is such a ridiculous situation that hasn't been fixed. This section of the Pacific Highway is one of the most heavily used road corridors for freight in New South Wales. It's critical to the transport of freight between Sydney and Brisbane, as I've said, and also between the west of our state and the port of Newcastle via the New England Highway.
The road between Black Hill and Raymond Terrace is a vital commuter corridor. An average of 22,000 vehicles utilise it during the morning and afternoon peaks. According to Infrastructure Australia data, peak traffic is expected to increase by 36 per cent in the next 10 years. Much of this road is 60 kilometres an hour, but many commuters sit on 23 kilometres an hour during peak periods, as the road becomes congested. And that is if somebody doesn't have a nose-to-tail accident or there isn't a concertina nose-to-tail accident involving half a dozen vehicles. Then your morning or afternoon is completely shot. You drive up the M1 from Sydney and when you hit a set of traffic lights you turn right, go over an overpass and down around the bend. It's worse than a game of snakes and ladders. Honestly, it should be fixed.
At Christmas 2019 constituents took to my Facebook page. In some cases they reported that they had been delayed for hours. Imagine that you've packed the car, got the kids in finally, grabbed the family pet, got the caravan or trailer hooked up and then there is a traffic nightmare and for over an hour you move only 19.7 kilometres. It's simply laughable. In some cases is actually traumatic for people, particularly when the weather peaks at between 45 and 48 degrees and you are sitting in the car with the kids, the dog and an elderly parent, friend or relative. You think, 'How long are we going to be here for?' Whilst we can make light of it, it is actually a serious concern.
I want the parents and families of my electorate and the holiday makers from Sydney to know that I want a clear run on the M1. They should tell their local member that too. Write to them or give them a ring and say: 'We want a clear run on the M1. Get Hexham fixed.' That's what we all need to be doing. Labor understands your pain.
Labor was happy to welcome the government's commitment to fund the M1 extension. We treated it with bipartisan love. We said: 'They've put the money forward. So will we. We want to get this done.' It always should be bipartisan when it's a piece of vital infrastructure like this. Again the government wants to play politics with bricks and mortar, roads, pools and dams. Cut the politics. Build the road. Let's just get this done. Labor promised $1.6 billion to deliver the M1 extension, and this government just talks about it. The most recent budget was yet another let-down for my electorate and the Hunter region more generally.
The Morrison government failed to deliver the funding necessary to upgrade the Newcastle Airport runway. I have to say that this is a bitter disappointment. The code E civilian runway upgrade will be a game changer for our region. It's expected to generate more than 4,000 jobs. This government talks a big game on this, but it has ignored this critical project. I made representations to the minister, outlining the value of the project.
This is the bit where anyone hearing this will shake their head in disbelief. The runway is actually owned by the Defence Force, so by the taxpayers of Australia. Every 15 years the runway at Newcastle Airport needs to be upgraded and maintained. That's a good thing. We want it to be safe and robust. We have that opportunity next year. They're going to dig up a portion of the runway and fix it. Whilst they're digging it up, they just need to put a bit of extra concrete in—admittedly, it has to be structurally engineered and is not just a bit of extra concrete. It's going to cost $60 million to get it done well, but in the scheme of things it's not a lot of money. Whilst they're digging it up let's make it stronger so that wider-bodied aircraft can land more routinely at Newcastle Airport. It will create 4,000 jobs, it will allow businesses to expand, and it will allow freight to move between Newcastle and South-East Asia.
This is the lowest-hanging fruit of them all, yet this government is too lazy to pick it. I implore the Deputy Prime Minister to get on with this project. The upgrade will directly connect the Hunter and northern New South Wales to the rest of the world. I note that the member for Lyne is in the chair at the moment and I thank him for his support on this project. He knows the value of this project, too. We have been trying to get this through the government's head. They just need to do it. I say to the member for Lyne, we need to crack on with this and make sure that we don't miss the deadline of March next year. If we miss this deadline, if they dig up this runway and do not make it stronger, it will be criminal and it will be on this government's head. It needs to be done. The benefits of the project aren't limited to local geography. It will be of benefit to multiple industries across our region.
The Hunter Region is one of the fastest-growing in the country, with a collective population of more than 1 million people. We have a globally recognised university that currently has over 40,000 students. Our port is the largest coal port in the world and one of the largest export ports in the Southern Hemisphere. Our region boasts a range of vibrant industries: defence, agriculture, fisheries, trade, manufacturing and many more. Because of all of these factors, is it any wonder that the Hunter is so well placed to embrace the next phase of global connectivity? The Newcastle runway is owned and operated by the federal government. We need to get in and get this project done, and this government needs to give the Hunter Region a proper shot at true prosperity.
I rise to speak on the appropriation bills 2020-21 flowing from the Morrison government's recent budget. Margaret Atwood envisaged a scary dystopian world in her novel The handmaid's tale. Her book and subsequent television series presents the commanders of Gilead ruling a society, a North American country, transformed into a male version of traditional values after an ecological and political crisis. The rule of law is subverted by men for men. Thereafter, a select group of commanders make all society's laws and decisions. Women's role is simple: to obey men. In Atwood's fictional world, just like in reality, it is intriguing to explore and understand what motivates those in power. What vision of society are the leaders trying to achieve? Who are they making decisions for and why are they so doing?
Now that Prime Minister Morrison is well into his third year in The Lodge, Australians are justified in asking: what does he truly believe in? What are his core values? What gut instinct does he turn to in a crisis? It's not easy to sift through the marketing spin emanating from the man who holds the highest office in our land. After all, the only jobs Mr Morrison has held are in marketing, advertising and politics.
However, we can more readily examine what the current member for Cook has done and said in the past. Just how morally flexible is the Prime Minister? At a base level, any bloke who grew up in Bronte supporting the Roosters and rugby union but then switches to Cronulla Sutherland because it is politically expedient to do so—switches the team he supports!—anyone that does that I could say is a fake; but maybe I will just give the Prime Minister the benefit of a doubt and say that he is a slippery character.
Before entering the adult advertising world, the Prime Minister's first paid job was as a child actor doing television commercials. Perhaps he has never stopped playing a part. With all respect to the actors out there—they're a sector that's doing it tough at the moment—we know that actors love to hog the limelight and say their lines, but afterward they don't hang around to change lives. We, the audience, must do this ourselves after the curtains have closed.
While it is okay for an actor to merely look for applause, political leadership requires so much more than saying your lines and then leaving the stage. Analysing the actions rather than the scripts of Prime Minister Morrison, we reveal a clear pattern. Close observers of the Member for Cook would not have been surprised by his recent budget's neglect of women. Quite a sinister thread runs through his decisions as social services minister, then Treasurer, and now in The Lodge. His ordinary treatment of women is a linking theme. There is no doubt that policies implemented under the Abbott and Turnbull governments worsened the lived experience for women. These policies were mostly designed by then Social Services Minister Morrison. In 2013 Australia ranked 23rd in the World Economic Forum's Global gender gap report, when measuring the gap between men and women in health, education, work and politics. Last year we slipped back to 44th out of 153 countries. Let's call that strike 1.
Encouraging women into the workforce is good for the economy and is good for women. Being financially independent can mean the difference between being trapped in an abusive relationship and having the financial means to leave. So why does child care in Australia cost between 30 and 40 per cent of the average household income when the average in the OECD is just 11 per cent? Why are Australian women disadvantaged three or four times over? Social Services Minister Morrison was responsible for introducing the current childcare subsidy scheme, making our childcare system one of the most expensive in the world—strike 2. In passing, can I thank the opposition leader for committing the party that he leads to cutting childcare fees and putting more money into the pockets of working families.
I take you back to the Fair Work Commission decision on penalty rates made in 2017. Not only was then Treasurer Morrison missing in action when it came to resisting the Fair Work Commission's penalty rates decision; he voted eight times to support the cuts in penalty rates. Women make up the majority of workers in retail and accommodation, where penalty rates matter most. Cutting penalty rates has made it harder for many women to pay the rent, to put food on the table and to feed their children, and it has exacerbated the gender pay gap—strike 3.
In his last budget as Treasurer, in 2018, Treasurer Morrison didn't provide one extra cent for aged care. At that time there were more than 100,000 Australians waiting for home-care packages—and there still are, except it's worse—many of them with dementia and other high care needs. We know that many more women than men need home-care packages. In 2017, 67 per cent of those receiving home-care packages were, you guessed it, women—strike 4. Treasurer Morrison also slashed thousands of jobs from the human services department, and, you guessed it again, 70 per cent of the human services department workforce are women—strike 5.
Women are much more likely than men to delay seeing their doctor because of financial costs. Treasurer Morrison kept in place the freeze on the indexation of Medicare rebates. It was the GP tax, which forced up the out-of-pocket costs of seeing a doctor, disproportionately impacting the health of women—strike 6.
Now, let's move to Prime Minister Morrison. We know that he has a problem with women. We know that because the Liberals' own report says so, as reported in today's copy of The Australian. Journalist Rosie Lewis says that the Liberals' own internal report finds the Liberal Party will fail to reach their own target of equal representation in parliament by 2025. They're nowhere near that at the moment; women make up barely a quarter of their MPs. When you see the men who are here in parliament because they have more merit than credible Liberal women—well, to paraphrase Amy Remeikis, my eyes almost roll so far back into my head that I can see my own brain. These facts help explain why the Morrison government policies are heavily weighted against the interests of Australian women, who make up more than half of our population.
Let's look at some of the facts. The Morrison cabinet is dominated by men. Worse still, the Morrison government's very important Expenditure Review Committee—the one that oversees all government spending—was made up entirely of men until June this year. Perhaps listeners are starting to see the source of the problem. Australian women need solutions to the systemic problems that have resulted in women over the age of 55 being the fastest-growing homeless group. Forty per cent of older, single, retired women are living in poverty. Instead of a policy that will improve outcomes for women, we are seeing policy half-measures—and I don't mean that glorious one of women being allowed to drive on roads; I mean the one allowing women to raid their superannuation to escape family violence. We know the importance of women being able to safely flee from family violence, but we also know that women already retire with significantly less superannuation than men. This government policy will mean many have no retirement savings, increasing their chances of poverty or homelessness in later years.
And, staying in the general area of family law, instead of implementing many of the multitude of recommendations from recent reports and inquiries, what did the Prime Minister do? The Prime Minister launched his own parliamentary inquiry into the family law system—I'm on that inquiry—and he made the point of installing Senator Pauline Hanson as the deputy chair. Rather than acting on the already completed reports from coalition dominated committees, such as the one chaired by Senator Henderson, which could be protecting women right now, the Prime Minister has launched yet another inquiry and Senator Hanson is paid to sit on it. Senator Hanson has repeatedly said women lie about family violence. Sadly, some witnesses at a family law inquiry public hearing were subject to online abuse through Senator Hanson's social media channels when she live streamed the evidence. This whole inquiry is strike 7.
The recent university funding reforms are supposedly designed to increase enrolments in STEM subjects. I say, up-front, it's a noble aim. But those reforms will mean students wanting to study humanities subjects, predominantly female students, will be paying more than double for their degrees. The reform, which experts say will not achieve its stated purpose, will make it harder and more expensive for students to go to university and will, again, disproportionately affect female students. Strike 8.
The Prime Minister's stimulus response to COVID, to the pandemic, has shown his bias towards helping male dominated sectors rather than any feminised parts of the workforce. Women overwhelmingly are employed as permanent part-time or casual employees in the accommodation and hospitality sectors—the sectors that were first to be impacted in the COVID-19 restrictions. There has been a recent uptick, but, at the height of the crisis, 471,000 women lost their employment—a much higher proportion than men. And yet the JobKeeper package was deliberately designed to exclude casual workers, forcing many women to join the long queues at Centrelink offices. That's strike 9.
Women with children welcomed the Early Childhood Education and Care Relief Package when it was implemented way back in April, which essentially provided free child care to families. That was a good thing. However, under this Morrison government free child care was short lived, and abruptly ended in early July. Just a week later, childcare workers were thrown off the JobKeeper scheme—the first sector to be thrown off the scheme, and, surprisingly, as sector comprising 97 per cent women. Strike 10 to the Prime Minister.
At the same time that free child care ended and childcare workers were thrown off JobKeeper, what did the Morrison government do? Prime Minister Morrison announced a new scheme, HomeBuilder, to assist the residential construction market, where men make up 88 per cent of the workers. The university sector is another area with a disproportionately female workforce that is also—surprise, surprise!—locked out of JobKeeper. Universities have already seen job losses in the thousands, but I expect the final figure to be more like 30,000 across the sector. The majority of these people who will lose their jobs will be women. Strike 11.
Many female workers who have found themselves locked out of JobKeeper have availed themselves of the Morrison government's COVID-19 early release of superannuation scheme, which is effectively private stimulus during a recession. I understand why people would: without government support, there is no other way for their families to eat or for them to pay the rent. This private stimulus has kept businesses ticking over and food on the table for some; however, the reality is that the more than $34.4 billion—that's as at today—that has been taken out of superannuation funds will miss out on compound interest, and that will never be made up. And that will mean many more women are going to be retiring into poverty, and that is strike 12. Twelve strikes are enough. I could go on, but time restricts me.
Women make up more than half of the Australian population, but they earn 14 per cent less than men. They retire with 47 per cent less superannuation than men get to retire on. And women are being killed at the rate of at least one woman a week by their current or former partners. Prime Minister Morrison has not given any indication that he has a plan to fix any of these issues. He rarely even pays lip-service to these complicated problems. Nevertheless, the choices that Prime Minister Morrison has made, the sectors he has chosen to directly assist, those decisions reveal the member for Cook's entrenched bias. Not only has Prime Minister Morrison not addressed any of the issues that make women's lives harder, he has never explained why he has ignored them. When we ask questions about this in parliament, he just denies it. For instance, why do childcare workers, where 97 per cent are female, lose JobKeeper while the construction sector, which was actually doing okay, where 88 per cent are male, receive a $680 million boost through HomeBuilder? Was that a coincidence, is it a bias, is it deliberate or is it part of an agenda? 'Because I said so' is the male approach to governing in Margaret Atwood's fictional Gilead. The all-male commanders are always right. In 2020, how close are we to a version of the fictional Gilead becoming a reality for Australian women? Surely not in a modern, secular, diverse nation!
The Prime Minister can continue to act out the role of the footy-loving, knockabout bloke. We know that he is a skilled actor. In fact, he has the curriculum vitae to prove that he's a great actor, Like all good actors, he knows how to fake things. However, a Prime Minister motivated primarily and fundamentally by an outdated notion of patriarchal power is unable to govern for the good of all Australians, especially Australian women. As Rosie Lewis says in The Australian today, 'The Liberal Party has a problem with women. The Gileadification of our politics can't be ignored and should be called out. It is not fake; it is gradual but it is factual, but it is far from being a fait accompli. Such a direction, such a failing, would not be in the best interests of modern Australia.' I finish with what Margaret Atwood said when she was talking about another dystopian work of fiction, George Orwell's 1994. She said:
'1984' is not a wonder tale. Not only could it happen, but it has happened, but under different names.
In the spirit of the late, great Susan Ryan and so many other Australian women, I say: let's work together to prevent the Prime Minister 's Gileadification of Australian politics. Let's keep Gilead as a work of fiction, not as a political project.
I'm very pleased to make a contribution about Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2020-2021, and cognate bill, particularly around the health appropriations. I would like to comment on some matters in the health budget. The first thing I want to talk about is something very topical in the House. We hear a lot from the government about it, and that is the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the PBS. We hear a lot, but what we hear is not generally factual from the government. It is spin and hyperbole and it's wrong. In relation to the PBS in particular, we heard some things on budget night. The government told us that the budget creates a landmark PBS new medicines funding guarantee. What the health minister said was:
The Budget creates a landmark PBS New Medicines Funding Guarantee. This Guarantee provides new funding for the listing of new medicines
That's what he said. When it comes to a minister saying the budget provides new funding, it helps if it's true, but in Senate estimates this week we heard evidence from the Department of Health that, in fact, there is no funding in the budget for the new medicines guarantee. There is no budgetary allocation at all. There is no fiscal measure with an allocation of money to the so-called 'new medicines guarantee'. The new medicines guarantee is not worth the paper it's not written on. This is an agreement with Medicines Australia for the government to list medicines on the PBS without offset. It is not a formal agreement and it is not in the budget.
But I will tell you what is in the budget. As part of the so-called 'new medicines guarantee', there are cuts to the PBS of $250 million a year. So the minister can find the opportunity to write the cuts in the budget but not the new funding in the budget. This goes to the government's track record on the PBS, and it is a lot different to what the minister for health, government ministers and backbenchers would have us believe. Every time the government lists a new medicine, they say, 'It's only because of our strong economic management that we can afford this medicine and expand the PBS.' Well, if that were the case, you would expect the PBS to be growing. The budget would be growing if they needed a strong economic measure to pay for the new listings. It would be growing, but, in fact, in 2018-19—which are the latest figures we have available because there is no Department of Health annual report yet for this year, which is another matter—the government spent less on the PBS than it did three years earlier, in 2015-16. Interestingly, in real terms, this government is spending less on the PBS than the Labor government did in 2012-13. We know that's the case, because this government's rhetoric has not lived up to the reality of the PBS, because not only are they spending less but they are spending less in part because they are very tardy when it comes to PBS listings.
In fact, the government tells us they list everything recommended by the PBAC. The Prime Minister said that in a tweet this week. He said, 'When the experts recommended, we list it.' But he doesn't; it's just not true. We know the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has recommended 110 new medicines or expanded listings since July 2019. If the Prime Minister and the Minister for Health were to be taken at their word, if 110 have been recommended that means that 110 should have been listed. In fact, the number that has been listed is 45—45 out of 110. So we know that this government's track record when it comes to listing is nowhere near 110. If we go back further over the life of this government, we find another 25 recommendations that have not been listed in relation to the PBS. That means that there are 70 medicines that have been recommended by the experts to be listed while this government has been in office that remain unlisted on the PBS. That is to this government's shame and it is to this minister's shame. He talks the big talk when it comes to listings but his actions fall far short—70 unlisted medicines.
This has real implications for real people. I'll give you a few examples. I've met with people who have suffered migraine for 25 years—the debilitating condition of chronic migraine. I've also met with people who tell me that, when they have one of the recently invented drugs, Emgality or Ajovy, the migraine disappears.
And the member for Cunningham has heard the same. She has met with people in her electorate. They tell me that, in a matter of days, 20 or 25 years worth of migraine is dealt with by the drugs Emgality and Ajovy. That is a wonderful achievement. The trouble is, they are very expensive. In the normal course of events, most people can't afford them. So they know that there's a drug there, that there's this miracle that is sitting there on the shelf, which they can't reach because they can't afford it. If it was on the PBS, as the PBAC has recommended it should be, they would be able to reach that, and 20 or 25 years worth of chronic migraine would go away. This government, just as a matter of fact, hasn't listed Emgality and Ajovy. Emgality was recommended 15 months ago. That's 15 months of agony for some people that was avoidable on this government's watch. And there are other examples as well.
I have met with some people, particularly some delightful young people, who suffer chronic eczema. Some people in the community think of eczema as a rash—something that a bit of cream can make go away. It is not; for many people it is much worse than that. It's a chronic condition which affects their schooling and their mental health, and is no trivial matter. Like with migraine, I've met with people who take the drug Dupixent and find that what was a chronic, unmanageable eczema condition is dealt with. But, again, it's expensive. Again, the government have a recommendation sitting on their desk from the PBAC to list it and they haven't.
I always give the minister some slack. I don't expect him to list a drug days or weeks after it is recommended by the PBAC. I recognise that there are issues to be worked through and discussions to be had with the drug companies. I give the minister six months—I think that's not unreasonable—to list a drug before I start criticising him about it and before I start making a point about it. I think six months is a reasonable amount of time. Dupixent was recommended seven months ago. That's seven months of agony for many Australians, particularly young Australians, with eczema that could have been avoided.
I did say that I give the minister time, and I do, but there is one drug that I am going to raise which is quite recent. I fully recognise that it was only recommended three months ago but I am going to raise it because the company has said that the discussions with the Department of Health have broken down and they are walking away. That is in relation to the drug Faslodex. This is particularly serious because Faslodex extends the life of women suffering breast cancer. This is no trivial matter. The fact is that many women who have breast cancer had a hope created that they might get this drug, Faslodex—those precious months they might have had with Faslodex might extend their life—and it's been taken away. I appeal to the government: don't just play the politics of blaming the drug company; get it sorted; get it fixed. There's a recommendation from the PBAC to list it. It should be listed. Those women should be given some hope that they can get access to the drug Faslodex. The other day I held a press conference with our friend and colleague Peta Murphy, the member for Dunkley. This drug is not relevant for her, but she knows better than anyone what that hope means for so many Australians. She gave a very passionate address to the media as to why Faslodex should be listed, and I was very pleased to be standing next to her as she did so. I echo in this chamber: list Faslodex. Get it done, get it sorted with the company and get on with it.
Whenever you raise the PBS, the minister rabbits on about 2011, which is four prime ministers ago, four health ministers ago, nine years ago. He always wants to talk about 2011. Well, I want to talk about 2020. He should care more about the 70 drugs he hasn't listed in 2020 than the seven drugs that were listed eventually in 2011. You can talk about 2011—I'm happy to debate him about 2011, if he wants to—but I'd rather focus on 2020 and the 70 drugs he hasn't listed, not the seven that were listed in 2011.
In the time remaining, I want to deal with one other matter—that is, the important matter of mental health. There has been an increased focus on mental health in this chamber over recent months and years, and it's very welcome. I fully recognise the bona fides, good intentions and good faith of everybody on all sides of the chamber when it comes to improving the mental health of Australians. Some members opposite have done superbly. I'd single out the member for Berowra for the superb work that he has done. But I'm not going to tell the House that simply talking about a matter and recognising that we should be doing something are a replacement for action. Frankly, were are not seeing enough action. Mental ill health costs us $180 billion a year. We know that because of the interim Productivity Commission report that was released some time ago. But, more important than the costs, it costs people. It costs friends, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters. It costs them grief. It costs children their parents' lives in some cases of mental ill health. That is the real cost of mental ill health in Australia. It's time we had a revolution, not an evolution, when it comes to mental health policy in Australia.
I wasn't in this portfolio at the time, but I very much welcomed the fact that the government asked the Productivity Commission to examine mental health policy in Australia. I've got a lot of respect for the Productivity Commission. I knew that they would do a decent job, and I welcomed that. I welcome the fact that the government was handed the Productivity Commission's final report more than four months ago. But I'll tell you what I don't welcome. I don't welcome the fact that I haven't seen it yet, the fact that no member of parliament, apart from the Minister for Health and the Treasurer, has seen it, the fact that no member of the public has seen it, the fact that it wasn't responded to in this month's budget. I don't welcome that at all. Again, I think we've been reasonable. I didn't go out on the day it was handed to government and demand that it be released and responded to. I didn't go out the next week. I thought it was appropriate that the minister took some time to work through it. It is not appropriate that he takes four months to work through it. It is certainly not appropriate that he takes until the next budget to respond to it. It should have been responded to in this budget, but to respond to it they would have had to have released it first, and they hadn't done that.
I have been concerned about some of the evidence we've seen before Senate estimates this week. I've been concerned and, I don't mind telling the House, perplexed as I've watched this evidence. I'm perplexed to see the evidence from the Department of Health that they got a copy of the report in June but that they are not sure, as we speak, that they have a copy of the final report. We were told that the final report went to the Treasurer but that maybe, depending on its reception, it might not be the formal one that gets given to the department. Now, I'm sorry, but the Productivity Commission final report is the final report. It doesn't get amended by the government. It doesn't get worked through with a pen on reception. They can accept it or reject it. They can amend their response to it. They're the government of the day; they can do whatever they like. But they can't rewrite a Productivity Commission report, so it is entirely unclear whether the Department of Health even have the final report of the Productivity Commission, let alone are working on the response and on the release of it.
The government was very keen to announce this inquiry. Fair enough. They were very keen to say that they're getting on with the job and they referred it to the Productivity Commission—and it's a bipartisan thing, to refer it to the Productivity Commission. As I said, I welcomed it. But I'm not going to welcome it if it sits on the shelf unimplemented. I'm not going to welcome it if it's not released for a full and proper discussion in good time.
The government does have to release it under the law, I think by December. They have to release it under the law, so we know we're going to see it eventually. I say to the minister and to the government: Get on with it. We've cut you slack. We know that the Department of Health has a lot going on at the moment. But, we can't kick this in the long grass. The Minister for Health and I both participated in the Don't Wait Mate campaign, and plenty of honourable members have. It was a message to Australians not to put off their health care during the pandemic. The principle of Don't Wait Mate applies to the minister as well, and to the government. Don't wait to deal with mental health because there's a COVID pandemic as well. Don't wait to respond to the Productivity Commission report because you're still working through it. Don't Wait Mate is my message to the Minister of Health. Get on with the job when it comes to mental health.
If the government releases the mental health report and provides a full and comprehensive response, they will have no bigger supporter than me, and I will go out publicly and welcome it. I want to see the Productivity Commission report. I want to work through it. I want to talk to my colleagues about its recommendations and try and give it bipartisan support if it is a good quality piece of work, as I expect it probably is. That's pretty hard to do when this side of the House is not given it and, more importantly, when the public aren't given it. That's a cop-out and an excuse and an alibi for real action on mental health, and I've had enough of it.
I have on very many occasions spoken in the appropriation debate each year in which a budget has been brought down and I have been the representative of the electorate for Cunningham. But I will say that it has been an extraordinary year, and we have, as a result of the extraordinary events that our nation has faced, a later budget than we would normally have. We of course have been through the terrifying and devastating fires, the damaging floods and now the coronavirus pandemic, which is something that none of us, I think, could have envisaged at this time last year. It's something that we have, as a community, as a nation and as a parliament, had to deal with.
Such an extraordinary time calls for an extraordinary budget. I would say to the chamber that we've certainly seen an extraordinary debt. We're talking a trillion dollars in debt from a government, from the parties of government—the Liberal and National parties—that, despite the global financial crisis, which I was also a member in this parliament for, spent an awful lot of time running a debt and deficit fear campaign. We now see the reality that when extraordinary times call for extraordinary responses by government, that means the government needs to get out there and be an active player in the economy, and it should be spending more and investing in supporting jobs.
My frustration and disappointment with this budget is that I think it misses significant opportunities. One of the cleverest things a government can do when it's dealing with significant debt and significant deficits, and that means significant borrowings—and let's not forget that two-thirds of the debt in this budget was actually there prior to the COVID pandemic—is to get as much bang for your buck as you can. That means that you invest in the things that drive productivity, participation and equity in the community, and ensure that opportunities are there for the longer term—that you are spending money now, supporting jobs and supporting communities. The second bang you get out of that is that you're also investing in the sorts of things that create growth and diversification of our economy into the future. Obviously, the two big areas—and this is not just me saying this; this is a well-argued economic position by international experts in this field—are to invest in your people and invest in your infrastructure.
An opposition member: Exactly! It's not rocket surgery, is it?
No, as the member says, it's not rocket surgery. It's very well-established orthodoxy, and it means that you actually get skilled, educated workers who are prepared for the emerging industries and economies of the future, and you get new infrastructure that supports the facilitation and operation of your communities, backing new industries. Therefore you get that double bang for your buck—not only an immediate hit to support jobs but longer-term investment for growth and diversification. And this budget fails dismally in that space and is very much a budget of missed opportunities.
In my own area, I well remember during the global financial crisis the investment we saw happen into transport infrastructure; into our universities and into our TAFEs, providing opportunities for education and training; into community infrastructure, which is used to this day for tourism and the diversification of our economy. Those investments helped at the time, and they continue to be the basis of economic activity and jobs in my region today. There is not a cent for the Illawarra in this budget—not a cent! It's just so frustrating to see that opportunity missed when transport infrastructure projects such as the Picton Road, the Appin Road and completing the Maldon-Dombarton rail link were all supported not just by Labor's state and federal members in our areas but by Liberal state members and the business chamber. Everybody was on board as a coalition about what a significant change this would make for our region, but there was no interest, not a cent, from this government. It is extremely disappointing.
To be honest, I was quite shocked that the government had missed the opportunity to invest in social housing. Homelessness is not a new issue. So often in this parliament, across both sides of the parliament, you hear people talking about the scourge of homelessness and the importance of addressing it. At a time when we're looking for additional government investment in communities, building new social housing and fixing existing social housing so it's at least habitable for people is low-hanging fruit. It is something that actually allows jobs to be supported and apprenticeships to be created, and it creates an asset that helps us deal with the scourge of homelessness. There are many wonderful social housing providers in my area with projects on the shelf, projects that they have ready to go that, with some funding, could be under construction now. And people could be housed in a very short period of time. There were commentators across the political spectrum saying before the budget that social housing is a clear place for government to go, in the budget, expending money to support jobs and create an asset that's going to help us deal with a very difficult problem, and it was completely absent from the budget. Again, it's a disappointment and something I think was a real missed opportunity.
The next area I want to talk about—and some of my colleagues have spoken about this—is participation in the workforce. We know if we get participation up that improves growth and productivity. And one of the areas we really need to address is women in the workplace. People, including the peaks of business bodies in this country, have been saying to government, have been saying to this whole parliament that getting child care affordable and accessible for families means that you increase participation by women, and that has an economic dividend for the whole community. I was very pleased that Anthony Albanese, the Leader of the Opposition, put this at the centre of his budget reply speech. The reality for so many families in my area, and I know in areas across the country, is that women are being held back from full participation in the workforce because of the cost of child care. It's another missed opportunity to invest in people in a way that supports jobs now and means that you get a dividend into the longer term.
I also want to touch on the fact that the budget really did nowhere near enough on the home-care waiting list. I have spoken about this on many occasions, so I will only take a minute to make the point. The government keeps doing this. Every time they do their classic big announcement and, when you look at the detail, the delivery's not great. With home care they've done it time and time again, as they do with apprenticeships. They do this big announcement as if they're doing something significant, but the reality with the additional home-care places is that they barely cover the new people coming on the list, and you have over 100,000 people waiting. I spoke to my local ABC radio about this this week, and I have already got people ringing my office who I didn't know about at that point, saying, 'I'm 92, I'm looking after my 88-year-old wife, and I still can't get my package delivered.' It's just extraordinary.
In the bit of time left to me I want to talk about an area that I really feel the government need to have another serious look at—and I'm disappointed that they didn't do that in the budget. That is around domestic and family violence. We know that internationally there were warnings and reports about the increase in domestic and family violence that we would see in our communities during the pandemic. Sadly, that has turned out to be the case.
I want to refer to an article by Sally Stevenson in the Illawarra Mercury by a very important service in my area, the Illawarra Women's Health Centre. The Illawarra Women's Health Centre is very well regarded in our area. It is a very high-quality service. They've been funded by governments for decades. Sally made the point, exactly as I've said, that we have seen an increase in domestic and family violence. She says:
In Shellharbour domestic and family violence rates over the last year have increased by 27.3 per cent, according to the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. Sexual assault in the Illawarra has increased by 33.7 per cent in the same time period.
She says that these are reported cases, and we know that only 10 per cent of cases are reported, which makes the actual figures horrifying. I just want to read Sally's words, because I don't think I could put it any better than what she says in this article. Sally says:
Our centre is currently experiencing overwhelming demand for our DFV services due to the impact of COVID-19. Our waiting list for counselling and support exceeds three months. To date, we have not received any new funding to meet this highly predictable situation and the projected increasing need for support for women.
Let's take a step back. In March, despite all the global and national evidence that unequivocally predicted that we would experience escalating DFV rates due to COVID, only $150 million of new funding was committed to the sector by the Morrison government. That's $150 million across Australia. Six months later, less than 50 per cent of this has been delivered. No new DFV funding was identified in the federal budget announced on October 6. The National Women's Safety Council announced in August it remains concerned about DFV rates, but made no recommendation or request for additional funds.
This is the reality facing services, where they are seeing increased rates of sexual assault and domestic violence, as outlined in one service in my region. They are in the member for Whitlam's seat, and I know he works very closely with them as well. Quite rightly, we ask: why isn't the government supporting the domestic and family violence sector? These services are there day in day out on the front line, seeing the reality of these impacts. They are a vital service and they really need to be supported, particularly at such a difficult time as this.
Instead what's happening is that, with a small amount of money available, they're competing against each other to get extra funds. Sally goes on to say, 'These are resources that would have otherwise been providing support to women right now.' The point is that they are filling out these forms and things when they could actually be doing frontline services. The maximum amount they could get if they were successful is $150,000 per organisation, which is the equivalent of one counsellor for about 18 months when you have that sort of increased demand for services.
I want to back the Illawarra Women's Health Centre and others on the frontline for domestic and family violence, including our police services and health services, all of whom are seeing the reality of this impact. I say to the government: when you're formulating the next budget in the normal time frames you should have a look at the demands that are there in the domestic and family violence sector. This is critically important for our communities. The government should find additional funding to support these services that do such important work. Clearly, at tough times, sadly, we see increased demand on these services. We need to give them the resources that they require to be able to do that. Our health and police services are intervening in cases and there aren't the follow-up support services there. Women and families are waiting three months. That's not acceptable. I'm pleading with the government as they formulate the next budget to take a serious look in this space.
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 immediate question is that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.
Question agreed to.
Original question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.