House debates

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Matters of Public Importance

3:31 pm

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

I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government not being focussed on the interests of Australians.

I call upon those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

3:32 pm

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

We have seen during this fortnight, both in this chamber and, most importantly, in Senate estimates, exactly where this government's priorities lie. They lie in the 24-hour media cycle and they lie in politics. They don't lie in the national interest. What we've seen is the contrast between what this government announces and what it actually delivers. What we've seen is how much waste this government is responsible for, how it prioritises looking after its mates rather than looking after the national interest and how, arising from this pandemic, there's no legacy. There's no attempt to look at what's been identified during this crisis—the weaknesses in our national economy, the weaknesses in terms of our resilience and being able to manufacture things ourselves, and how we can emerge from this crisis stronger than we went into it.

The fact is that this government will have nothing to show from this except for a $1 trillion debt, rising to $1.7 trillion over the next decade. How they managed to have $98 billion of new spending in the budget without any issues of substance in terms of economic reform is, quite frankly, beyond me. But for this government it's all about marketing and spin. The announcement is the endgame in itself. It's about a Prime Minister and ministers who treat taxpayers' money as if it were Liberal Party money or National Party money. This is a government with no vision, just division; big on the photo-op, never there for the follow-up. It's a government that still hasn't delivered a plan for aged care.

Today in question time I asked about PPE, a fundamental issue. More than half of the requests from aged-care facilities for PPE have been rejected by this government. We asked about the Emergency Response Fund, where they set up a $4 billion fund, with $200 million each year, and yet not a single dollar of the first year's $200 million has been spent. Anyone would think there were no issues with bushfire recovery or with resilience in the lead-up to the next season. We asked as well about a whole range of the rorts which are there. This government comes to the dispatch box and speaks about manufacturing. But do you know what? We now know that it spent more on sports rorts than it has allocated for manufacturing in the next year. That is its priority.

And, of course, the government forgot about women in the budget. They just forgot. They forgot that in order to grow the economy and to grow back stronger you need to concentrate on the three Ps of economic growth. We put forward a plan for childcare reform through the shadow minister that will deal with the three Ps of economic growth that you need. This will really boost productivity, it will boost workforce participation of women and it will also assist with population by providing economic security for people to make decisions going forward. It's a plan that is about serious economic reform—lifting the cap, increasing the subsidy to 90 per cent and smoothing out the taper rate so that the disincentive that's there in the system for women to work a fourth or fifth day is removed. Those opposite just say no. They say that women can ride on roads. There's precedent for that and their obsession over women's issues with regard to driving on roads and what they can do, because when we asked during the Eden-Monaro by-election about maternity facilities at Yass hospital the Prime Minister responded he was putting in an extra lane on the Barton Highway—the world's first birthing lane there on the Barton Highway!

When we raised women's issues after the budget, one of the things that they spoke about was the Boosting Female Founders Initiative—$18 million. You might recall the day after the budget the Prime Minister talking about that. It was $18 million announced on 20 November 2018. It was reannounced on 21 November and reannounced on 17 March 2020. But guess what? They haven't spent a single dollar, not one of the $18 million. You know what they did in the budget? They announced a second round. They haven't allocated a dollar in the first round, but they have announced a second round. Who says they get ahead of themselves?

What we have seen is revelation after revelation of rorted programs and dodgy dealings—sports rorts, the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the Badgerys Creek land deal, $1.1 million for Crosby Textor, the Liberal Party pollsters, to do marketing on the recovery and $15 million of taxpayers' money on those ads and billboards around the country that provide no information for people, none whatsoever. It's just straight party-political marketing. Then when the issue came out about the $20,000, not $12,000, Cartier watches that were given to four executives, the Prime Minister showed the greatest faux outrage that we have seen from him. There was no outrage about the $30 million for Badgerys Creek, no outrage about the sports rorts saga done in his office with colour coded sheets and no outrage about the other regional rorts fund that have been allocated by this government, but we saw outrage and immediate action on this. She had to stand aside. Do you remember that? That's because they knew that the next day the ASIC abuse of taxpayers' funds were coming as well. Think about this: why would bureaucrats think that taxpayers' money wasn't subject to the same abuse by them that they see ministers and this Prime Minister engaging in? They have set the precedent for this with the funnelling of money to Crosby Textor.

The Prime Minister said, 'If you are good at your job you will get a job.' So how come Angus Taylor still has his? We just had a question from the Manager of Opposition Business about the minister giving a second reading summing-up speech on the wrong bill. Maybe he downloaded it off some website somewhere! We still don't know where that document about the Sydney City Council came from. We do know that it was fraudulent. We do know that.

The fact is that there's a contagion of corruption that has gone from this government to the Public Service, a contagion of the attitude which is: public money, taxpayers' money, is fair game. You can abuse it. You can use it for partisan political purposes. The person who sits in the chair of Prime Minister is less Prime Minister and more first mate. That's what we know. He's turned the Administrative Appeal Tribunal into 'mate keeper': 70 different appointments of former Liberal and National Party MPs, state and federal, across the board.

We also see the announcements that don't result in anything: NAIF, a three per cent spend; the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility, 50 media releases since 2016, then abolished without a dollar going forward; arts, $250 million, with not a dollar going forward; the Recycling Investment Fund—the announcement's recycled, but not a single dollar is flowing; and the Regional Connectivity Program, announced in March 2019, added to in the last budget, with another $30 million, lifting up to $82 million, but they still haven't spent a dollar there. Everything with this PM is an IOU, an IOU to the Australian people that is never paid back. If announcements were a form of renewable energy, we would be a renewable energy superpower today under this government. It is a government and Prime Minister defined by its arrogance and its hubris and by looking after itself and its mates first and the public second.

Arising out of this crisis, Australia deserves better. Australian Labor will give it better. That's why we put forward a plan for childcare reform. That's why we put forward a plan for a future made in Australia, looking after jobs as our first priority, making sure that the Australian national interest is looked after. Those opposite just engage in short-term politics and looking after their mates day after day, which is why they'll be rejected at the next election. (Time expired)

3:42 pm

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

We do know that the Leader of the Opposition really does enjoy this chamber. In fact, if I ever want advice on parliamentary practice, he will be the first person, perhaps the second person, that I will go and speak to. But I will take no advice from the Leader of the Opposition in relation to what's in the best interests of the Australian people, because he has no idea. The Leader of the Opposition's bark is worse than his bite. He loves this chamber. He roars like a lion in this chamber, but the reality is he's more like a little kitty cat.

The government is focused on the interests of Australia and Australians, focused on protecting lives from the global coronavirus pandemic, focused on protecting livelihoods. Nowhere more has this been seen than our focus on helping Australians keep their jobs. The government's cornerstone JobKeeper and JobSeeker programs have sustained Australia's workforce and those Australians who have lost their jobs. We have seen the economy fighting back from the economic effects of COVID-19, with 446,000 jobs coming back over the last four months. That's in the interests of Australians. Of the 1.3 million people who lost their job or were stood down, around 60 per cent of them are back at work. We're going to get Australia out of recession. We're going to support the creation of jobs in the private sector, because they employ eight out of 10 Australians. Our economic relief plan will create jobs, build our economy and secure Australia's future.

There's a monumental task ahead, but Australia's up to the task. This week we embark as a nation on our next stage of the journey. Our plan will grow the economy, create jobs and guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on. It will support nearly half a million young Australians through the JobMaker hiring credit. The $4 billion scheme will support around 450,000 positions by giving employers incentives from 7 October to create new jobs. They will get support for every new job they create in the next 12 months that employs someone who's been on JobSeeker, youth allowance or the parenting payment. We will invest a record amount in skills and training. We will support our manufacturing industry. We'll incentivise businesses to invest in their business, creating more economic activity and jobs.

We are providing tax relief for more than 11 million hardworking Australians, putting more money in their pocket to spend in small businesses across the country and help create jobs. Since the onset of COVID-19, the government has provided $257 billion in direct economic support to cushion the blow and strengthen the recovery. The 2020-21 budget commits a further $98 billion, including $25 billion in direct COVID-19 response measures and $74 billion in new measures to create jobs. The government's economic support since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented and will continue to support households and businesses through the recovery.

If our budget isn't focused on the interests of Australia and Australians then why did the opposition support it? The opposition voted for our fast-track tax cuts, while our JobMaker package went through here on the voices. If the government isn't focused on the interests of Australia, the federal budget being the principal instrument of government policy, why did the opposition support the budget? When we talk about being focused on the interests of Australians, we have been focused absolutely on what is important to them: their health and their jobs. But those opposite, when meetings of the National Security Committee were occurring to deal with the economic and health impacts of coronavirus, were in here playing their parlour games, calling a range of divisions to distract the Prime Minister, the health minister and the Attorney-General from their work.

Mr Conroy interjecting

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

The member for Shortland will cease interjecting.

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

They were irked about not being involved in the national cabinet, and they denigrated its efficiency and effectiveness. The opposition are more focused on political parlour games than on delivering for real people. I walked in here thinking the member for Shortland might be a bit gobby. On cue, he's here—

Mr Conroy interjecting

The member for Shortland should know that 61,100 taxpayers in Shortland 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.

Mr Conroy interjecting

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

The member for Shortland.

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

We will support new investment and increase business cash flow. The government—

Mr Conroy interjecting

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

The member will pause. The member for Shortland is warned!

Photo of Ben MortonBen Morton (Tangney, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Shortland doesn't want to hear how the government is delivering for the people of Shortland. He is absolutely choosing to be deaf on these very important deliverables for the people of his community. I have never met a member of parliament more disconnected than he is from the aspirations and concerns of the people he claims to represent. Four thousand five hundred businesses in Shortland have been supported through the government's JobKeeper payments to help keep employees connected to businesses. Around 7,647 individuals in Shortland have received the coronavirus supplement, which was added to JobSeeker to provide additional support through the crisis. And age pensioners in Shortland, who the former member for Shortland, Jill Hall, was very concerned about—the current member, perhaps less so—have benefited. Around 22,778 pensioners in Shortland received support payments of $750 in April and July and will receive a $250 payment in December and a further $250 payment in March next year. And 2,179 carers in Shortland received support payments as well.

While the opposition have been playing their parliamentary games, this government is focused on delivering on what is important for Australians. The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack, has worked tirelessly to ensure our aviation sector can be supported through its most difficult period. They have also worked to facilitate freight flights, which are really important, from regional Australia, from Queensland and WA, to Hong Kong and Singapore to ensure our export produce can still meet the market. Our Attorney-General has been working with trade unions and business representative towards historic changes to the Fair Work Act and working to make sure Safe Work Australia can provide guidance to businesses when they need it in dealing with the pandemic. There is work that the Treasurer has been doing across all of the government in relation to our economic response, whether it be HomeBuilder or the $800 million Digital Business Plan to drive Australia's economic recovery. There is the amazing work that Minister Hunt has done as health minister, making sure that we were able to secure the use of 30,000 hospital beds from the private sector. Australia was facing a health disaster caused by a pandemic, and this government, when we asked ourselves, acted in the interests of Australians. The health minister, working closely with the Prime Minister, secured 30,000 additional private hospital beds should they be needed in the fight against COVID-19. I am so thankful that they weren't needed, but this government was focused on making sure that we had the health supports in place for the worst. We prepared for the worst, and we hoped for the best.

Those opposite want to talk Australia down. They want to talk Australians down, but I'm very proud of the response that this government and Australian governments, collectively, have made to the coronavirus pandemic. Stuart Robert, the human services minister, has worked very closely with Services Australia.

Opposition members interjecting

A government member: That woke them up!

I thought you'd gone to sleep! The work that Minister Robert has done, working closely with the hardworking public servants of Services Australia, has supported Australians in their time of need. Minister Andrews has worked with industry to ensure that they can deliver the increases that we need to deliver PPE manufacturing capability in this country. And Minister Tehan has worked to ensure that we can guarantee funding for universities, even if there's a fall in domestic student numbers, and has provided regulatory fee relief—around $100 million for the higher education and VET sectors. And that's not to mention the free child care for a million families during the pandemic, providing certainty for families in this sector. (Time expired)

Ms Madeleine King interjecting

3:51 pm

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

The member for Brand is warned. She needs to cease interjecting at the level she is.

3:52 pm

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

That was a bizarre contribution from the assistant minister, who seemed to spend more time talk about the member for Shortland than defending his own government's record. But how can he defend his own government's record? They have no record to defend. The Prime Minister spent a week campaigning for the LNP in the Queensland state election, including attending an LNP fundraiser with the Deputy Prime Minister and the Queensland opposition leader, but at the same time he claims he hasn't had time to establish a national integrity commission. The Prime Minister has got time to help his LNP and other mates in Queensland, but he doesn't have time to establish a national integrity commission. He has time to rack up a trillion dollars of debt, but no time to make sure his government leaves no one behind. He's had time to send out 50 press releases in four years since he personally announced, when he was the Treasurer, the establishment of the National Water Infrastructure Loans Facility, and that facility was abolished a couple of weeks ago without having written a single loan. They wrote 50 press releases; they wrote zero loans. This is a government that produces nothing for Australia but media releases, photo ops and announcements.

This government's message to Australians is: what's yours is ours. The Prime Minister's golden rule is: we look after our mates. This is the sort of Prime Minister that we're dealing with. Can I tell the House that in Queensland the Prime Minister has some frankly terrible mates. I would like to start with the LNP leader in Queensland, Deb Frecklington. She's one of the worst mates to have, and she is someone that the Prime Minister spent a lot of time with recently. By the way, the Queensland LNP have been resisting telling Queenslanders how they will pay for their promises until today, two days before the state election—they didn't want anyone to know how they were going to do that particular pea and thimble trick. Deb Frecklington was Campbell Newman's assistant minister when the LNP was last in government. This is a government—the Campbell Newman government, the LNP government—that sacked tens of thousands of Queensland workers. I'm talking of course—

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

I'm just going to say to the member that, whilst the MPI subject is pretty broad, you're speaking a lot on a whole different government.

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

As you know, Deputy Speaker, I'm talking here about the Prime Minister having the wrong priorities for the people of Australia. This is a Prime Minister who spent time in the Queensland state election campaigning, and you will be shocked to hear about the fact that this LNP leader that I'm talking about, who was, as I said, Campbell Newman's assistant minister when he was the Premier of Queensland, was a direct party to all of those sackings. Tens of thousands of people lost their jobs—my mother included, for that matter—when Mr Newman was Premier of Queensland. It was a very short tenure indeed, but, of course, a lot of damage was wreaked. Remember, he picked fights with the judges, with the teachers, with the doctors—imagine picking fights with the doctors, with the nurses, the education people. This is the sort of mob this Prime Minister is friends with in Queensland. This is not to mention broad-scale land clearing—such massive damage across Queensland.

The fact is it's Queensland Labor that has a plan for the future and it's the LNP that has a plan for cuts. I might also say—

A government member interjecting

I take the interjection. The Premier clearly won. If you have a look at the stats from the votes, you see your poor old leader did not do very well.

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

The member for Griffith will resume her seat. The minister will cease interjecting and the member will direct her comments through the chair, please.

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Water) Share this | | Hansard source

One of the reasons, of course, that the person the member opposite was referring to is so unpopular is that the leader of the LNP in Queensland called for Queensland's borders to be reopened 64 times. These borders have kept Queenslanders safe, and what she said is an absolute disgrace.

But another mate of the Prime Minister's is Mr Clive Palmer, a former member of this House. The Prime Minister—speaking of priorities—has had time to subsidise his mate Clive's private jet but no time to establish a national integrity commission. This is the same Clive Palmer, by the way, who is mounting a disinformation campaign of blatant outright lies to try to hack the Queensland election, the same Clive who spent $84 million in the federal election and said he deliberately decided to polarise the electorate by running attacks on Labor in the campaign's final weeks. It's an absolute disgrace, and the LNP should be ashamed. (Time expired)

3:57 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

It is very hard to believe that the Leader of the Opposition and his strategy team are so bereft of ideas that they bowled up such a pedestrian and unimaginative matter of public importance as this. The government's not focused on the interests of Australians? Who writes this stuff? Did you get the work experience kids to do it? My Lord! We know that the Leader of the Opposition isn't focused on the interests of Australians, their everyday issues and getting through COVID. We know that—and I want to folks at home to listen to this—because media reports tell us that over four days recently the Leader of the Opposition spent $10,000 trying to get Facebook likes. So, when the Prime Minister and the folks on this side of the House are working to get Australia through the worst pandemic we have seen in 100 years, the Leader of the Opposition is spending $10,000 just to get Facebook likes. On one day he spent $2,400. How much did the PM spend? $112.

The Leader of the Opposition doesn't care about the interests of everyday Australians. We know that they don't—that they are totally distracted and totally divided—because the good times just keep on rolling. Check out The Age today. It says:

What on earth is going on inside Anthony Albanese’s office?

Then the article goes on to say:

Fed up with teenage-style antics inside the Leader of the Opposition's office, chief of staff … delivered some home truths to his charges …

He was telling them to stop the cliquiness and that he wants them 'to turn the page on bad habits.'

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

The minister will resume his seat. The member for Scullin.

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Cities and Urban Infrastructure) Share this | | Hansard source

We don't talk about members' staff. It is well established. You can talk about the members—

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

The member is in order. I am listening and the member is in order, but I would caution the minister to just mind the comments he's making about staff.

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party, Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education) Share this | | Hansard source

The article, I agree, is very concerning because it goes on to say that sources in Labor's shadow ministry say that they are frustrated about not being included in announcements that concern their portfolios. They are terribly divided over there, which is why they've got these fringe groups having a knees-up at the Otis restaurant in Canberra that the member for Hunter is organising. I bet the member for Hunter doesn't tell the folks at Cessnock Leagues Club that he goes and has a knees-up at the Otis restaurant in Canberra with his fancy wines. I bet he doesn't tell them that. They are hopelessly divided over there and it's very concerning.

Don't come in and lecture us about who's looking after the interests of Australians and their everyday concerns, because the reality is this budget was the budget that saved Australia. The Prime Minister was right today. He was right. You just have to go and walk down any street—it doesn't matter where you are. In your electorates—the members behind me all know—you walk into a cafe, you walk into a restaurant, you walk into a shop and they all say: 'You guys have done well. You've saved my business. You've saved my staff.'

I was in a cafe recently in Orange. The cafe owner said to me: 'We're like family here. To me my staff are like family. We've only been able to keep together because of the government.' She was talking about JobKeeper. That's what this government has done. When Australia was crying out for help on this side of the House we answered the call. We got those programs in which saved businesses, which kept businesses together, which kept families together, which kept food on the tables of ordinary and everyday Australians. Yet those on that side of the House, what are they worried about? Division and spending big money on Facebook likes.

There were some very exciting developments in this budget for the regions in particular. Two billion dollars for the national water infrastructure development to continue the great work of securing the national water supply in the national water grid, $2 billion on road safety. The one I really like—they were the first elements emerging in our revitalised decentralisation agenda. That's what we like: getting people out of the cities into the bush, building our regions, building capacity and resilience in country Australia. They're calling those folks 'VESPAs'—the Virus Escapees Seeking Provincial Australia. They don't call them tree changers anymore. We want the VESPAs. There was that poem on the Statue of Liberty: 'Give us your huddled masses yearning to be free'. We'll take them in regional Australia. We want the VESPAs, the sea changers and the tree changers. Ordinary Australians know this government has their backs.

4:02 pm

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Dodgy land deals, sports rorts back again, luxury jets for Clive, Australia Post largesse on steroids, Cartier watches, mates' rates for the Liberal Party, government not delivering an ICAC—and it is just Thursday! We know that there are some big numbers from this budget. A $213 billion deficit this financial year and $480 billion of cumulative debts over the forward estimates. The budget will be in deficit every year for the next decade. So much for being back in black. Budgets are about much more than just raw numbers. They're about priorities, a vision for Australia and, most importantly, a future for all Australians. That's where this budget falls over.

We know that the budget will rack up $1 trillion worth of debt but fails to create jobs in the country that needs it. It ignores the urgent need to plan and leaves too many Australians behind. Contrast that to the Leader of the Opposition, Anthony Albanese, who's delivered a plan for child care; who's delivered a plan for aged care—with extra home-care places in this year's budget that should have been delivered—who's delivered a plan for energy; who wants to look after JobKeeper recipients to make sure that the million Australians are brought forward, not left behind. For all of their job 'something fixed' announcements, the government expects another 160,000 Australians to be added to the jobless queues by Christmas. That is a government that is not focused on the interests of Australians.

This week we uncover that Australia Post—a national icon—is delivering $20,000 worth of luxury watches, a Liberal-stacked board and LNP election posters in shop windows in the post offices in my home state in the electorate of Moncrieff. The government has an Australia Post board that is a Liberal swamp of failed Liberal politicians and Liberal connected people. We started off this year with cuts to Australia Post, with mail not being delivered and deliveries only once every few days. As pensioners tell me in my electorate, 'You pay more, but it takes longer to arrive in the mailbox.' You're absolutely disgraceful—through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to the minister—for not holding the Australia Post board to account.

In my home state of Queensland—and I refer to the member for Griffith's comments—when it comes to the LNP at a state level, they're just as bad. We know that today the state LNP released their costings for the next election—the big, bold policy plans of the New Bradfield Scheme and the duplication of the Pacific Highway!

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

Hear, hear!

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Petrie says, 'Hear, hear!' Do you know how much money was committed in the costings? Zero! Zero dollars—because, as the leader said, in the next 10 to 15 years, it won't be funded. What on earth is going on with the LNP in Queensland? The Moreton Young LNP posted on social media last night:

There comes a time when one must put their country before party. The Moreton Young LNP stands resolutely opposed to Peter Zhuang's candidacy—

the state candidate—

in Stretton. We call on the voters of Stretton to place the LNP last …

That is what the LNP is doing! Last week, in the member for Petrie's own electorate, we saw the Queensland Leader of the Opposition condemned after a young Liberal was busted helping Kerri-Anne Dooley, the failed candidate for Redcliffe. Jake Scott rose to national notoriety last year when he was filmed in a Facebook video sharing offensive opinions about Indigenous cultures. 'We've got to stop celebrating a culture'—

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

The member for Oxley!

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

'that couldn't even invent'—

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

The member for Oxley will pause.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

'the bloody'—

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

The member for Oxley will withdraw that. Just because you're quoting it doesn't mean you can quote unparliamentary words.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will withdraw that offensive comment that the Young LNP member made—

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

The member for Oxley will resume his seat. The minister.

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I was going to raise a point of order about language but also the fact that he's talking about a 17-year-old. You want to talk about a minor? You've never made a mistake? Go ahead.

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

The minister will resume his seat. The member for Oxley will continue.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Oxley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I will take the interjection from the member for Petrie. That LNP member is a disgrace and he should stand in this place and condemn the racism from the Young LNP. (Time expired)

4:07 pm

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

This place gets pretty weird sometimes. It certainly has today. As I think the speaker before me said, this MPI, 'the government not being focused on the interests of Australians'—I don't know who wrote that, but let's talk about it.

Deputy Speaker O'Brien, you sit through the MPI every day. I'm sure you would hope that the opposition—a constructive opposition—would come in today and say, 'Okay, we're going through a pandemic, we're going through an issue that is causing economic stress on our economy,' and they'd come up with something like, 'You might be doing this okay, but we think you as a government should be doing this as well, or direct a bit of the resources from there to there; we think that would be a better idea.' Have you heard anything like that today, Deputy Speaker? I know you haven't, because I've been listening to them all, and there hasn't been one constructive idea articulated by the other side in this whole MPI today. There are two more to go. Hopefully one of them will actually come up with an idea.

We had the opposition leader crack what I think he thought were a few funny one-liners, and they all laughed on cue. But there were no actual ideas. We had the member for Griffith, who went through something about Campbell Newman, the previous LNP government in Queensland, and took some cheap shots at them—obviously because there's a Queensland election this weekend. As for the member for Oxley, I actually couldn't work out what he was saying. He seemed to be all over the shop. I even think he thought the Pacific Highway was in Queensland at one stage. But I'll leave that aside.

I want to go through some things that we should be talking about, and I'll bring them up today—the great challenges we have and how the government is focused on the interests of Australians. First, I want to go through some statistics that I think are very interesting about how Australia is performing relative to the rest of the world, not only in pandemic statistics but also economically, and what we as a government are doing to make sure that Australia does as well as it can through what are very challenging times, Deputy Speaker, as you well know. Johns Hopkins University has been tracking deaths per hundred thousand of population throughout the entire globe. I'm going to give you some comparisons. The deaths per 100,000 of the population in Australia is 3.63—all tragic. The USA is at 69.2. The UK is at 68.36 per hundred thousand. Canada is a lot lower, but still much higher than Australia, at 27.12. Has there been anyone from the other side saying, 'Look, I think we've done reasonably well and the government has done reasonably well on the pandemic front?' No. There's just cheap shots.

The other thing that was weird this week was when the opposition leader moved a suspension of standing orders before question time and wanted to talk about Daniel Andrews' performance in Victoria. Well, blow me down! They've been the one problem—the Victorian government—with the way they did quarantine and the way they messed that up. They're actually the one thing, statistically, that has put us worse off than we otherwise would have been.

Let's also look at the economy. Obviously this pandemic has caused great challenges for Australia but also great challenges across the globe. We've heard that Australia's economy—as tragic as it has been—has contracted by seven per cent in the June quarter. That is not good for anybody. It has been a great challenge for the men and women of Australia, for the businesses of Australia and for the wage-earners of Australia. But let's look at a comparison. I have a great friend over in New Zealand—a lot of people laud on the left. Their economy has contracted by 12.2 per cent. And Canada by 11 per cent, France by 13 per cent and the United Kingdom by nearly 20 per cent.

On the pandemic, and the management of this health risk, Australia has done very well. Economically, while we've been doing it tough, we have certainly done better than most comparable countries overseas. We know that the Treasurer has spoken more recently about consumer confidence being up, especially since the budget has come out.

What did we do with the budget? The budget this year was a really important budget, because we know about the health crisis and the economic crisis and what that's doing to people's jobs and livelihoods. Because we have so many people on our side of politics who have worked in private enterprise and have, very importantly, employed people—like my good friend the member for Petrie here, who has employed people in his pest business—we know that eight out of 10 jobs are in the private sector. What was the budget targeted on? The budget was targeted upon doing everything we can do to help those people who employ others and those people who are in the private sector, because they are the people who create the wealth and will grow us out of this crisis.

4:12 pm

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

Sometimes, with the greatest respect, the most powerful voices in this place don't come from the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition or ministers or shadow ministers. The most compelling words come from the people we humbly represent. Yesterday I received an email from a bloke in my electorate that upset me quite a bit. I had spoken up for him previously and, like many Australians, the company he works for has been doing it tough over the last few months. He sent me an update on how he's going. I want to give this House an insight into his life right now, because the MPI rightly says we need to focus on the interests of Australians—we should focus on people like him.

Over the last few months, he and his workmates had to go into standdown and couldn't work. I won't read the entirety of the email, but I do want to give you an insight into what he has gone through. He said: 'I've been continuing to work for around eight hours a week over two days. When I inquired how much support I could get with that low amount of work, I was entitled to a massive $12 a fortnight. Finding casual work to fit in with the time I was working was extremely difficult. To support myself and my family, I have been using what's left of my annual leave and my long service leave. I've been using what I was able to withdraw from my super, which is dwindling fast. Since I last wrote to you I was on standdown. After the first three months of standdown it was extended to a further three months and it's continuing on. We're expected to take special leave without pay or come to some agreement of a temporary position of approximately 20 to 24 hours, but the company has since admitted they can't even promise that much to employees.'

This bloke has applied for 50 jobs. He doesn't care what he does. He'll stock shelves, drive trucks or delivery vehicles. He's been for a few interviews but to date has been unsuccessful. He said—and this is what got me: 'I feel my life and work experience and the skills I could bring to a new employer get ignored when they see my age. I'm now 40 and I'm soon to be 41.' He said to me, 'What I would really like to know—if at some stage you could ask him—is what Mr Morrison expects people in my position to do, when we try to do the right thing: paying taxes, being decent citizens, trying to gain meaningful employment. How are we supposed to achieve this when he and his government keep changing the rules and moving the goalposts? I feel like I've been kicked in the guts by Mr Morrison.'

Do you know who he works for? Dnata. That is the firm that was expecting JobKeeper and was denied it. Australian workers, working on Australian soil and paying Australian taxes, were denied support at the moment they needed it. By the way, like many of us, I lobbied the government to put these people back onto JobKeeper and was told: 'Nuh, it can't happen.' It could have been changed at the last minute but we couldn't change their minds. I think of this bloke, Adam from Lethbridge Park, and I wonder what he thinks when he sees the government spend $100 billion extra in the budget. They're going towards a trillion in debt. A bloke like this in the suburbs can't get support—and you've heard what he's going through, Mr Deputy Speaker—but Clive Palmer gets support out of the government to run his private planes.

There's no plan for the aviation sector. There are people wondering when the international borders will open and they can get work again. They can't find other work, and they see all this stuff happening around them. They see Cartier watches in Australia Post. And the people in Australia Post who are worried about their jobs or their take-home pay see the government pay donors for land at 10 times its worth in the deal at Badgerys Creek. They see all the money wasted on sports rorts, with more money spent on sports rorts than on actual manufacturing in this country, and a corporate watchdog who spends hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own tax advice. This is really bad for ordinary Australians. It's shameful that the government couldn't look ordinary people like Adam of Lethbridge Park in the eye when they really wanted their government to be there for them. The government refused, but they are there for all the big people, who can already look after themselves, with some of these rorts that have been going on. It is absolutely shameful. Those on the other side of the House should absolutely hang their heads in shame.

4:17 pm

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

With reference to the speeches of a number of members on the other side of the chamber, I would note that I'm personally on record as being in favour of a strong anticorruption commission. Like many within the community, I've been shocked by some of the revelations that have come out of Senate inquiries. They have caused me grave concern. I would also say with a great deal of regret that such revelations are not new. I think ever since Senate estimates were invented we have come across, time and time again, revelations of behaviour that should not be followed. I also agree with the previous speaker that airlines and, I would add, travel agents are two sectors that we do need to look at. This government is looking at both of them, and a number of members have been making representations on their behalf.

If I come back to the main question of the MPI, focusing on the interests of Australians, I can tell you what the people of my community have come to me about over the past six months. They have come to me with concerns about their health, they have come to me with concerns about their economic security and they have come to me with concerns about the financial, sovereign and physical security of our country. They are the three main areas that people frequently have been coming to me about. On each of those fronts this government has listened, acted proactively and—and this is the thing that pleases me most—responded. When issues have arisen that were not necessarily predicted or contemplated, this government has responded. Our Treasurer, our Prime Minister and, in fact, all of our ministers have responded when issues have arisen with perhaps a program that had to be put in place within two weeks and wasn't working as well as it should. Our ministers and our government have responded.

So what have we done on the health front? We have done an enormous amount on the health front. The two things which have been of particular interest to the members of my community have been the increase in mental health services and the telehealth services. Right back at the beginning of the pandemic I had numerous GPs contacting me wanting to have telehealth in place. Let's go back to prior to COVID: telehealth was not widespread at all. It was a very, very small undertaking. Since that time, since March, we have had in excess of 35.4 million telehealth services delivered to 11.26 million patients. That doesn't just happen overnight. That happened because of people asserting and arguing that we needed to put this in place and the government responding and getting in place telehealth services. There was a lot of background that had to be put in place for that. The systems had to be put in place to be able to support it. On the health front, we've been investing in treatments, in vaccine research and in building up our health systems to make sure that if we have a great rush of people who require health services we will be capable of actually delivering that and supporting people.

On economic security, 7,300 businesses in Curtin have received JobKeeper, 6,500 businesses in Curtin received the cashflow bonus, thousands have used the instant asset write-off, close to 5,000 people in Curtin have received the JobSeeker supplement and close to 10,000 age pensioners in Curtin received the two supplementary payments of $750 in April and July. These were what were requested by my constituents. Constituents wanted economic security. The businesses in my community have all expressed enormous support for and overwhelming endorsement of the 2020-21 budget initiatives to help keep their businesses going and to ensure that they can continue to employ people.

This is what this government is about. It's about making sure that people are safe and that our health is our priority but also that our livelihoods are maintained, that people can get an education, that people can get training, and that people have jobs to look forward to so that they can live their best lives, notwithstanding the huge impact that COVID has had on our health and on our economy.

4:22 pm

Photo of Joanne RyanJoanne Ryan (Lalor, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

[by video link] I'm pleased to join colleagues on the matter of public importance today. There are 151 members of the House of Representatives and we represent every corner of this country. As the member for Lalor, I represent a community under extraordinary pressure, just like every other member in the House of Representatives. In Lalor, we have gone from having 5,500 people on JobSeeker, or Newstart, in December 2019 to having almost 15,000 people on JobSeeker in August 2020. We have 6,637 businesses in receipt of JobKeeper. The estimated number of workers affected is 25,000.

This government is failing all of those people under extraordinary financial pressure. Like the member for Chifley, the people I represent are very concerned that we are finding now, after having had an enormous conversation early in the piece about casual teenagers being in receipt of too much money, that JobKeeper is funding executive bonuses and that companies are recording record profits while in receipt of JobKeeper under this government's watch.

People in my community are concerned, as they are in the communities of the member for Chifley and others who have spoken today. Dnata workers live in my community, as they do in the community of the member for Chifley, and they are very concerned to learn that while they can't get JobKeeper support because of a decision from this government Clive Palmer has been supported to the tune of $40,000 for his private jet. They are concerned about that. This government needs to take stock and take stock quickly. It continually takes a good idea like a wage subsidy and perverts it and then fails to see the perversion of it. It fails to see the impact it is actually having in the community. Similarly, as we've heard today, we have announcement after announcement—most recently the JobMaker announcement. We were promised that over 400,000 jobs would come from JobMaker, but we found out through Senate estimates from Treasury that the reality is 10 per cent of that—40,000 is the actual, real assessment.

It pains general people in the Australian community when they read these things. It pains them to hear that, after sports rorts, after community grants having been used for political ends, the ANAO is having its funding cut. It pains people to think that the Audit Office, which will expose a misuse of taxpayers' funds, has actually had its ability to hold the government to account, to shine a light and to determine transparency cut because of a budget cut. This worries Australians, and this government needs to really think about the way it's making its decisions. This government needs to act on a national integrity commission, but it says it doesn't have time. We heard the Prime Minister in question time hiding behind the pandemic, hiding behind the recession, saying that there's not enough time to get national integrity commission legislation into the parliament, although we know that the draft has been there since December.

To government members and those who have spoken today: instead of coming in to a matter of public importance debate and waving your arms around defending the government's actions, when it is clear that errors have been made, I urge you to consider these things. Consider the people in my electorate of Lalor and those Australians who are really doing it tough. They know this isn't over, even though the government would like it to be and continues to talk about it in the past tense. They know they've got tough months ahead of them. They want to know that they've got a government that has their interests at the centre of its daily work. This government needs to get serious about doing things for ordinary Australians in this incredibly difficult time and seeing us through this recession.

4:27 pm

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today a little bit concerned for the member for Grayndler. It is a difficult time to be the Leader of the Opposition, I must admit, leading such a divided party. I doubt that he's focused on the interests or the needs of Australians because he's too busy looking over his shoulder. To know what's in the best interests of Australians you have to ask them and you have to listen to them.

The good people of Moncrieff tell me that their best interests are served by having a job, more of their own money in their pockets and tax cuts. There is $200 million worth of tax cuts coming into Moncrieff alone in this budget. If you multiply that by three electorates on the Gold Coast, you have $600 million extra going into the economy through tax cuts alone. Perhaps the Leader of the Opposition should spend less time listening to the member for Melbourne and to the member for Hindmarsh, who is enthusiastically green but has no plan. Perhaps he should spend more time listening to sensible voices like that of the member for Hunter, who can see a future for coal, gas and jobs and for coal exports, so that other countries can raise their living standards too. The CFMMEU and AWU want their members to have a job. At least a third of the Labor caucus support coal and gas, presumably because they know it translates to jobs.

The member for Grayndler must have no clue how we think on the Gold Coast. It's not surprising, because on the Gold Coast there is only one Labor member out of 16 and, on Saturday, when Kirsten Jackson wins the seat of Gaven back, there'll be 16 out of 16

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

The member will resume her seat. The member for Scullin on a point of order?

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Cities and Urban Infrastructure) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes. I've let her go for quite a while. She should confine herself to the very broad subject that is before the House.

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This debate could do with a little bit more bipartisanship. Perhaps the member for Grayndler and those opposite should take a leaf out of John Howard's book and support the government from opposition when it does the right thing, as Mr Howard did with particular Hawke-Keating reforms.

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

The member will resume her seat. It's 4.30, and we're about to move to the adjournment debate.