Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Matters of Public Importance
I have received a letter from the honourable Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government's focus on announcements and not delivery.
I call upon all 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—
What could be more symbolic than a Prime Minister appearing in this parliament projected on a screen, a virtual PM—from hollow man to hologram? That's what we have—more promo than ScoMo. There he is in quarantine for two weeks, and he could have taken anyone with him—the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, an economic adviser or a national security adviser—but who did he take? His photographer, because that was the priority for this Prime Minister, a Prime Minister who believes you can fake it until you make it.
He is not a Prime Minister—more a prime marketer. We've seen it with the advertising campaign, paid for by taxpayers, with over a million dollars paid to Crosby Textor for feeding into their questions and answers in question time. What we see from this Prime Minister and this government is all about the marketing and never about the substance. It's all about the announcement and never about the delivery. Look at infrastructure. There's a $6.8 billion gap between what they said on budget night they would spend and what they've actually spent. You can't actually drive on a promise; you need to drive on a road, and you need to ride on a train. You need to fix a project like Inland Rail that doesn't even go to a port.
This is a government where, when you look at the announcement, you wait for the delivery and it just doesn't happen. Remember the National Integrity Commission, announced way back in 2018? But there's nothing—just crickets. The Emergency Response Fund is $4 billion, $200 million each year, so they've had $400 million available to them this year, and not a dollar has been spent. This morning, with the member for Eden-Monaro and the shadow minister Senator Watt, we were out in Braidwood talking to Rural Fire Service cadets and to the people who protected those communities. I tell you what those students in that cadet program could do with: a bit more input and a bit more funding. There is $200 million available but, from those opposite, not a dollar has been spent.
The arts sector rescue package—remember that? Two hundred and fifty million dollars was announced with Guy Sebastian. Twenty per cent of that has been allocated up to this point. Even Guy Sebastian has taken to social media to say, 'What is actually going on?' But that's not the worst. The Boosting Female Founders Initiative is, perhaps. Two years ago it was announced, and there has been not a dollar invested and not a dollar spent, and this year in the budget they announced round 2. They haven't spent a dollar in round 1, but they've announced round 2.
Then there's the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy, of which three per cent is available this year. Anyone would think that there hasn't been a recession going on. Three per cent is available this year. Then there's the NAIF, with $5 billion announced five years ago. How much has been spent? One hundred and sixty-nine million dollars. No wonder we call it the 'no actual infrastructure fund'. Then there's the National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility. It's a doozy. It was announced way back in May 2016. They have had no fewer than 50 media announcements and press releases. Not a dollar has been spent, and now it's been abolished. All it produced was 50 media releases. Then there's a range of other projects. They have a Threatened Species Recovery Fund. That's not about small-l liberals in the Liberal Party; it's actually about koalas and other threatened species. But what we know is that there's no habitat they're not prepared to rip down under this minister for koalas and other endangered species. So one of the themes of this government is that it's all announcement, no delivery.
But there's another big theme as well: the wasted recovery—waste and mismanagement. Robodebt's the worst—an illegal, cruel scheme that led to self-harm and to people literally taking their own lives. What we get from those opposite is just nonsense, absolute nonsense. When we had the question asked at the end of question time, what we had from those opposite was just contempt for the processes here. It was pointed out that they were threatening that people would go to prison. That's what they were threatening. At the same time, they said, 'We'll track you down,' for a scheme that they knew at the time was illegal. That was what Minister Tudge had to say. There's been a settlement that cost $1.2 billion, but they say: 'Oh, we haven't admitted there's anything wrong here. We just handed over $1.2 billion. Why not? It's only taxpayers' money.' Just extraordinary!
Then we had the NBN. We told them, the world told them and anyone who knew anything about communications told them that, funnily enough, fibre is this century's technology, not copper. But oh, no. They had their mix. Four point five billion dollars they're having to pay to fix up the NBN. Then there's the Leppington Triangle. Thirty million dollars they paid for it—it was worth three million—to a Liberal Party donor—surprise, surprise!
Then there's the sports rorts scandal. Remember that? It was worth $100 million. There were the coloured charts in the Prime Minister's office, colour coded by electorate and by marginality. They were not worrying about all those voluntary sports groups that were so naive they believed in the system. Those groups spent hundreds of hours putting together applications, but they never had a chance. What they should have done was just look at the electoral pendulum.
So the fact is that under this government there is waste and mismanagement. It is all announcement, no delivery. But there's something else that defines the government as well: the people who have been left behind and the people who've been held back. There are the people left behind in aged care during this crisis—685 deaths. The federal government are responsible for aged care. They fund it, they regulate it and they manage it. Yet there was no COVID plan. This week we learned that they didn't have a COVID plan for people with disabilities either. We learned that from the disability royal commission. We know that, when it comes to child care, not just older people but little people as well miss out under this government. Childcare workers were the first people thrown off support for wage subsidies. We know as well that casuals, arts workers, university workers, dnata workers and people who are visa holders are all missing out on support.
Labor, though, has a plan. We have a plan with an emphasis on follow-up and delivery, a plan to create jobs as our first priority. We have a plan for child care economic reform, not welfare, that will increase participation of women in the workforce, a plan for a future built in Australia—whether it's building our trains here, whether it be a power transmission network for the 21st century that will help to make us a renewable energy superpower. We want an economy that's resilient. We want to continue to export resources, but we want to value-add here where we can and make sure that we create high-value jobs here.
That's our priority, an economy that's resilient, one that recognises the weaknesses that have been exposed during this period. We want a future where no-one is left behind and no-one is held back, a future where aspiration is embraced. We want to create wealth as well as be concerned about its distribution. What that needs is a government that's focused on the national interest, not a government that's obsessed with marketing, that's obsessed with advertising, that is obsessed with having the announcement and not worrying about the follow-up or the delivery. But with this Prime Minister we've seen the priorities exposed, this week, yet again. It's a government that comes in here during question time, gets every question with all the slogans that have been worked out by Crosby Textor, the answers all worked out as well, and there's nothing about the real concerns of Australians.
Today we asked about those people, such as workers in the gig sector and Qantas workers and others who've lost their jobs and been left behind, but they're too busy self-congratulating themselves, too busy with their hubris and their arrogance. Australians deserve better. We deserve a government that's concerned about the interests of the Australian people—rather than concerned about themselves, like this government is.
I'm proud to be part of the Morrison government that is delivering for all Australians. When it comes to this place and what we should be doing as MPs, delivery is what counts, and the Morrison government is delivering in spades. As Australians look at this tough year, 2020, we've seen this global COVID-19 pandemic not just go through Australia but go right around the world. Australians know the Morrison government has kept them safe.
What did the Minister for Health say not too long ago? He said he would introduce universal telehealth. What's been delivered, in relation to universal telehealth? We have 12 million people who have accessed 40 million services and over $2 billion in benefits delivered by the Morrison government. Look at GP respiratory clinics. As part of our COVID response we announced $206 million on 11 March this year to raise up to 100 clinics across the country, to provide access to testing. And would you believe that by 19 August there weren't 100 clinics providing this service but 146 clinics operating here.
In relation to vaccines, we saw the Minister for Health and the Prime Minister say, on 19 August, 'We announce that we have signed a letter of intent with AstraZeneca to access the Oxford vaccine.' By 4 September we had signed a binding agreement for them to supply 33.8 million doses, and that included, on top of that agreement, a partnership with our very own Australian CSL to manufacture them. That's what delivery is about and that's how the Morrison government is delivering.
I think of my good friend the member for Hinkler, and cabinet minister in the Morrison government, up in Bundaberg. Before the last election, the Morrison government committed $7 million to ensure that the Fraser Coast—not far from you, Mr Deputy Speaker—had its own palliative care centre in Bundaberg. That now has been delivered, the sod has been turned and construction is starting. Look at the Butterfly Foundation. In April 2019 we announced $4.5 million for the this foundation, a specialist eating disorder centre on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. Building is underway. You can check with the member for Fisher on how that's going.
In my own department, the Department of Social Services, the Morrison government are supercharging our safety net, delivering additional support to Australians doing it tough through this extraordinarily difficult period. We're doing this by delivering on our committed announcements. For example, in relation to social housing and community housing in the Hobart City Deal, we promised 100 social houses worth $25 million. To date, 48 dwellings are complete, another 24 homes are currently occupied by tenants and a further 26 dwellings are close to completion, with more to be done.
There are 8.7 million volunteers in Australia, and, in the wake of the bushfires and a global pandemic, the contributions our volunteers make are vital. Volunteers are local champions. Yesterday, I announced a further $2.7 million for community volunteers across 779 local organisations, including all of yours. This is on top of the government's funding boost of $9 million earlier this year, in May, for 2,698 local places.
Tomorrow, of course, for the House, is International Day of People with Disability, and it's important we work every day to ensure inclusion of Australians living with disability. The NDIS is now supporting about 412,000 Australians with disability, an increase of approximately 100,000 participants in the last 12 months alone. Around 193,000 are receiving supports for the very first time under the Morrison government. I'm pleased that we have bipartisan support on that. We've continued to deliver significant and immediate improvements to the NDIS, and the latest NDIS quarterly report verifies that.
Yesterday we heard from the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Minister Taylor. He was saying, 'When the Morrison government makes commitments'—in relation to our international commitments—'we meet them and we beat them.' This is evidenced by the release of the Quarterly update of Australia's national greenhouse gas inventory: June 2020. The update confirms that the Morrison government has beaten our 2020 target by 459 million tonnes. Emissions are now 16.6 per cent lower than 2005 levels.
Unlike Labor—unlike these people interjecting—we actually have a 2030 target. That mob over there still can't work out whether they're Arthur or Martha. Look at Defence—we're absolutely helping our Australian Defence Force personnel. We know that those opposite cut $18 billion out of Defence. They gutted Defence. They brought it down to 1½ per cent of GDP. We said before the 2013 election that we would increase Defence investment to two per cent of GDP, and we've now beaten that. We've delivered that—once again, the Morrison government delivering. That runs across Air Force, Navy, Army—I could go through all the infrastructure that we've delivered, and I'm very proud to be a part of the government that is delivering it.
When we look at infrastructure, not just in my electorate but in all 151 electorates around this country, the Morrison government has committed to over 1,000 major land transport infrastructure projects, of which, would you believe, 399 have been completed, 195 are under construction or underway and 481 are in planning, and we've committed to more than 31,000 smaller transport infrastructure projects, of which 2,900 have been completed and delivered. Nearly 2,600 are planned and underway. I only have to look in my own electorate to know what's being delivered. These are all projects that we promised before the last election. Construction of an autism hub, the AEIOU, in north Brisbane, in Pine Rivers, a $4½ million project that the member for Dickson and I promised, is now completed, helping young children with autism get a great start in life. The shade cloth and upgrades for the Aspley Memorial Bowls Club—$590,000—has been delivered. It's up and running. The member for Sydney should come up and have a bowl! It's done and delivered.
You're welcome any time. The Aspley East Kindergarten playground development has been delivered. The lighting at Ridge Hills United Football Club at Bald Hills has been delivered. The Coast Guard Redcliffe, protecting people on the water, worth $500,000, has been delivered. The North Lakes Eels AFL Football Club lighting project has been delivered. The upgraded facility for Redcliffe Harness Racing and Sporting Club has all been delivered. Dolphin Stadium, at 7½ million bucks, has been delivered by this coalition government. To help tourism in Moreton Bay, the surf club's currently being delivered, and all these things—
Opposition members interjecting—
Let me save the best until last. We know that every one of these people sitting opposite here went to the last election promising to increase taxes on Australians.
Ms Kearney interjecting—
The member for Cooper was part of that as well. They wanted to jack up taxes. What have we done? Since the 2019 election in May, we have delivered tax cuts, and what that means is—listen carefully—if you were earning $50,000, you used to pay 19 cents in the dollar on the first $37,000; you now pay 19 cents in the dollar up to $45,000.
Ms Kearney interjecting—
Thank you, member for Cooper. We have also increased the threshold up to $120,000 where you pay 32½ cents. What that means is that for every tradie, every nurse, every police officer, every teacher and everyone who does overtime they are no longer going to get hit with a big tax bill, because we have delivered tax cuts which will help with bracket creep, which will put more money in people's pockets this financial year when they most need it during this difficult COVID year. So, if you want to talk about delivery, I've just named a few items. The Morrison government is delivering in spades. We don't take it for granted. We won't be arrogant. And we'll continue to do it.
This projection, this pixelated, paused Prime Minister, comes to us remotely—he doesn't have enough bandwidth to come to us with clarity, and the audio certainly leaves a lot to be desired. I think it is emblematic of a prime minister leading a government that is all about spin and not about substance. How can the people who elected me, the good people of Paterson, put their trust in this government, a government that has been at the wheel for eight years and yet has achieved so little? And some what they have achieved has actually been patently illegal, as we're learning from robodebt. It's a scandal. I stand here today and hear the minister say, 'Oh no. We've been using average incomes for X number of years,' and he said when they were starting to be used. The true question that needs to be asked of this government is: when did human oversight stop being used? It stopped under this government. So, if they want to talk about delivery, the one thing that this government has delivered is an illegal debt scheme. They have delivered heartbreak to families of Australia who do not deserve it. They have delivered deceit at monumental levels. They have delivered waste. They paid $30 million for a $3 million block of land in Western Sydney in the Leppington Triangle. The money that has gone, wasted by this government, really is eye-watering.
The Prime Minister visited my electorate just a couple of months ago, in October, to posture on a new gas-fired power station. If he was serious, those jobs would be welcomed in my electorate. However, the industry has said that there is not a chance that it's going to be needed. So he just came up to make a big man of himself in my community, in my home town, in the hope that the people would think: 'Well, this government's good. They're going to build this gas-fired power station. That's going to bring my energy bills down.' Let me tell you, after 20 energy policies—they're not policies; they're actually just thought bubbles!—we still do not have lower electricity prices. We've still not done anything meaningful in relation to delivering better outcomes for our environment. And we are still waiting on where the energy is actually going to come from. I know this topic so well because I have the New South Wales and the eastern seaboard battery in my electorate, and it is in the form of an aluminium smelter. On the weekend, when it was clocking over 40 degrees, it was the smelter in my electorate that had to be curtailed so that we had enough energy in New South Wales to keep the air con running. For the members of the government who say, 'The Labor Party doesn't understand energy,' we actually understand it very well.
Also, one of the things that really makes me absolutely wonder about this whole question of delivery versus announcement is when this government says: 'Well, it's not up to us. The market will sort it out.'
Yes, I know—very convenient. Thank you, Member for Brand, for that interjection. This government has done more to divide the market from what it's supposed to be achieving in this country than any other Liberal market faced government in the modern history of Australian politics. The market and the states have had to get into gear when it comes to climate and energy. They say that nature abhors a vacuum. So much so is the vacuum from this government that the state premiers have had to step in to fill it, because this Prime Minister and this energy minister have sucked all of the life out of anything that might have resembled a decent energy policy in this term of government. The state coalition energy minister is running around writing his own rules on energy policy and is refusing to consult with federal colleagues and his Prime Minister. (Time expired)
When you get a MPI and it has the words 'government' and 'delivery' in it, it has to be a dorothy dixer. Seriously! If we want to talk about delivery, every member on this side could stand here for the full 10 minutes and talk about everything that they've delivered not just nationally but across their electorates. When you look at this year, if you look what happened in this country this year, there have been two major themes. This country has faced great challenges. It's faced a health challenge and it has faced an economic challenge. That has obviously not just been for Australia but for the whole globe. And on both measurements Australia is a standout.
We're a standout on the health challenge. When comparing Australia's health stats on coronavirus—the number of infections and the number of fatalities—with international comparisons, we have done very well. There was a hiccup, and that hiccup was in Victoria, but we'll leave that aside for today. Generally speaking we have done very well as a national government, as have a lot of the state governments. I congratulate the New South Wales state government for their handling of the coronavirus while keeping their borders relatively open compared to a lot of other state governments. They have done very well there.
But, of course, there have been the economic challenges. If you look at the falloff in GDP of a lot of countries and unemployment rates across the globe, which have gone up, again, while we have challenges, this government has done well on a lot of those. We've seen growth figures in the last couple of days and consumer confidence numbers which, while we're not out of the woods, at least give us some cause for great optimism.
To touch on a couple of national issues first, in the last sitting week we had a very similar MPI. I was talking about some of the local projects that I've had the privilege to deliver as an MP for my local region, and I didn't get through them, so I'm going to pick it up from where I left it last time. But first let's go to the budget. We on this side of the House are very conscious that the private sector is the main driving force of our economy. Eight out of 10 jobs are in the private sector. We know that and we are very much doing everything we can to help the private sector grow us out of the situation we're in. The previous assistant minister was talking about the tax cuts that were given to 11½ million people. We know that the Australian public know how to spend their money, and we want more of their money in their pockets.
The JobMaker Hiring Credit—$200 a week to encourage people to employ young people on JobSeeker—was another initiative in the budget. Another great one is the instant tax write-off. I remember when we did this four or five years ago, and it was much smaller in scale with the size of businesses that could apply and the amount. That has been a driving force. We put that onto steroids, again, because we know that the private sector will help us grow out of this. There's much more in the budget. I have the pleasure of having the Minister for Defence Industry behind me—and there's an amazing $270 billion over a 10-year plan for defence industries—and she's a driving force in the economic recovery of this nation as well.
I will pick up on some local deliveries, some of the things that I've had the great pleasure of being part of delivering in my local economy and region. I will just mention it again: the Pacific Highway is the big daddy of those—a $5 billion project, all about reducing fatalities in our region. In fact we always said when we got into government that we wanted this completed by 2020, and guess what? It's going be completed by 2020. We have one section to go: it's about a 10-kilometre section just south of Woodburn. Another section opened last week, so we will have delivered on that promise all about reducing fatalities, a great economic boon as well—2,500 jobs there directly when it was being built. Obviously, it's making our region much closer for tourism, and for our producers and exporters to get their products and services to market.
But let me pick up: I think we arrived in Casino, and I was talking about the wonderful beef capital of Australia, Casino, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker. We were talking about the $40 million saleyards that have been delivered there. We've had bushfires and also drought, and a lot of the stimulus packages we're doing with the New South Wales government. We were in Casino about two or three weeks ago, and part of the stimulus package that we're sending there is to completely revamp the local showgrounds, build a new equestrian centre and upgrade the racecourse. We know showgrounds bring a lot of people and the equestrian centre will bring a whole new group of tourists to our region. That was announced and will be delivered—very exciting.
You can tell the health of a rural town or city by what is going on in the industrial precinct. The industrial precinct is really important. Richmond Valley Council came to me, and they want theirs extended. We're going to upgrade the industrial precinct in Casino—and, again, I'll come back another time and finish this; there's much more to go.
The topic for today's debate is the government's focus on announcement, not delivery. The only hard thing about that is choosing which of the literally hundreds of examples of exaggeration, spin, fake announcements and utter nonsense to talk about today. We just sat through question time and we heard about the government's new slogan. They spent $15 million on an advertising agency to come up with 'Comeback' and they're now putting it on bus shelters and billboards across the country, congratulating themselves.
I want to take a non-traditional approach for this debate just for a minute. The situation the country faces is deadly serious. We're in the midst of the first recession for 30 years and growth, as we hear from the government all the time, is only part of the story. By Christmas, on their own projections, there'll be 1.8 million of our fellow Australians living off unemployment benefits of some sort. Unemployment and underemployment are at record levels, the highest ever, in this country. The economy was weak before the recession, and the government's best outcome they hope for is: it'll take four years to get back to where we were.
We've got the biggest budget deficit ever—$1.7 trillion of Liberal debt we're hurtling towards with nothing to show for it: no reform, no jobs plan. We've got a water, climate and extinction crisis; bushfires and floods that we're not prepared for; and the most serious set of strategic challenges and circumstances since World War II. Power is shifting rapidly round the region. It's economic power, military power. We've got a trade crisis. We've got billions of dollars of our exports sitting in ships off the coast of China, our major trading partner. The relationship with China is the worst it's been for over 50 years because this incompetent bunch of marketing fools have so mismanaged the diplomatic relationship that there are no ministers to even talk to other ministers. They've outsourced foreign policy to backbenchers, because the foreign minister's so weak she doesn't say anything.
At the very moment our nation needs capable leaders, strong government, adult government, what do we have? We have a government led by a failed marketing guy, a fake—an ad man without a plan, the guy who was sacked as the head of Tourism Australia; all announcement, no delivery; all about the photo-op, no follow-up. He's been in quarantine for two weeks, and what does he choose to do? You get one person on the island with you. You might take the head of the public service. You might take the national security adviser, given what's happening around the world. You might take your economics adviser. You might take the Chief Scientist and learn something—facts, evidence—or the head of the APS. But, no, he takes his personal photographer. It sounds farcical, but it's true. What do taxpayers get for that? Fresh from the fake chicken coop photo before he went into quarantine, we've got photographs of the Prime Minister riding an exercise bike; running around in his shorts and half a suit, looking deranged; and wandering around alone during the day at home by himself in a suit. Then there was the question time special, of course: four flags—you could have fit one more in, maybe, if you'd tried—and a crotch shot for the national parliament. Well done, Prime Minister!
He's all about politics, and, you have to admit, he's very good at politics. Truth and facts don't matter anymore. He's like his BFF. He's like a mini-Trump: you just say stuff, and you announce but you don't deliver. Where's the national integrity commission? Anyone? Eighth year of government and no national integrity commission? He went one better there; he actually cut the budget of the Auditor-General, the one independent watchdog we have! What about aged care? 'I'm going to fix the aged-care waiting list.' Every time, every budget, every mid-year budget, he announces it. There are over 100,000 senior Australians waiting for home care; 28,000 people have died waiting for home care in the last two years. Bringing home 36,000 stranded Australians by Christmas—who believes that? Is that actually going to happen? A $1.5 billion manufacturing strategy—this from the mob who chased the car industry out of Australia. They've suddenly decided manufacturing matters! Of $1.5 billion, they're only going to spend three per cent this year. It's a fake announcement. The submarines—how are they going? They were going to be $50 billion and delivered on time. They're running behind time and they're now going to be $80 billion. Who knows? Bushfire recovery—a $2 billion fund and people are living in caravans.
The Prime Minister is a fake, and people are working him out. But you know what? He's not just a fake; he's a nasty, mean fake, because the one thing he's delivered out of this budget—on time, on budget—is a cut to JobSeeker. The most vulnerable people in the country will be living on $40 a day under this Prime Minister, the biggest single act in the history of the Commonwealth that any government has taken to push 1.5 million Australians into poverty. Australians deserve much better than this nasty, fake Prime Minister. (Time expired)
Australians know this one thing: they know that this government has their back and now our economy is coming back. It is a comeback. It's happening right now. It's not a slogan. It's not a message. It's not an ad. It's right there in front of the eyes of every Labor MP. Instead of embracing it, instead of embracing the hard work of all Australians, what do Labor want to do? They want to deny it, for political purposes, but they can't stand in the way of the facts—a 3.3 per cent jump in September quarter growth.
The Labor MPs keep missing what is in front of them. Perhaps they are far too distracted by their own slogans, which don't work, or by their own internal ructions and whether or not somebody is still going to be the leader at the end of the year, but they keep missing what is right in front of them. First they missed that there was a global pandemic, which was why Australia went into recession. Remember? They tried to call it the 'Morrison recession'. That was the Labor Party's slogan. Where's that gone? Gee, we haven't heard much about that lately. Could it be that it just fell flat—that perhaps Australians thought to themselves, 'Actually, we understand that there's a global pandemic that the Morrison government is trying to help us through?' Is it the fact that the Australian people understood, more than the Labor MPs opposite, what was happening? And now those opposite have missed the comeback that is occurring. They want to talk it down, they want to pretend it doesn't exist, they want to pretend that the efforts of hardworking Australians don't exist—they want to diminish that—and they want to diminish the success and the achievements of the government's support programs.
For goodness sake, they would even deny the important reason that the PM went into quarantine in the first place. He went to Japan to sign an incredibly strategic defence agreement. He is just doing what many Australians have done this year, which is to self-quarantine and to work from home. I think there's a bit of professional jealousy among the Labor MPs, because the Prime Minister has achieved more in two weeks in quarantine than all of the Labor MPs combined have managed to achieve this year when it comes to supporting Australians to get back into jobs.
The Morrison government is delivering the most important commitment to Australians, and that is to get our economy going again and to get them back into work. That is what Australians want from this government. That is what Australians want from the support programs we have delivered. And that is what they're getting in the accounts we saw today. The national accounts September quarter statements show that 80 per cent of the 1.3 million Australians who either lost their jobs or saw their working hours reduced to zero at the start of the pandemic are now back at work. Our economy is in comeback mode. Over the last five months, 650,000 jobs have been created. The participation rate is at 65.8 per cent, approaching its precrisis level. This is a real result for everyday Australians. This is what is making the difference to Australians families all around this country. It is no slogan to them. It is food on the table, it is opportunity for their kids, it is their job back and it is their purpose and their meaning. That's what's important.
I will take you directly to a family in my electorate of Ryan. There are families, business owners, mums and dads right across the country, including in the electorate of Ryan, who have been doing it tough. They are benefiting from what this Morrison government has delivered. There are 74,700 taxpayers in my electorate alone who are benefiting from tax cuts that have been delivered. Recently, I caught up with a local business in Ryan, The Single Guys Coffee Co. in Kenmore. It is a small family business. I caught up with local constituent Fiona, who had just been to the great 12RND gym next door, and we stopped to grab a coffee. She was determined to put the extra money that she had received from her tax cut back into her business, to employ new young people in our electorate of Ryan. It is stories like Fiona's that the Labor MPs are failing to grasp when they say these things haven't been delivered.
In Ryan there are 5,500 businesses that have been supported by JobKeeper. One local business owner, from Suburban Social in Chapel Hill, said it meant he could pay his staff. He said, 'Julian, it saved my bacon.' That's what Australians are saying about what the government has delivered. They've never said it about the Labor MPs opposite. They've never said that about a Labor government. It's because the Morrison government is delivering for all Australians.
One of the enduring images of our Black Summer is of the Prime Minister trying to force a pregnant woman to shake his hand during a fly-in visit to the fire ravaged town of Cobargo. It's a photo-op that the Prime Minister wants to forget, but the image says so much about the approach of those opposite.
Leading up to the Eden-Monaro by-election in July, the Prime Minister and his ministers crisscrossed the electorate, promising to repair and heal our shattered communities and economies. With the cameras clicking away in June this year, the Prime Minister stood up and announced a round of funding for primary producers covering apple growers, forestry and wine producers. At the time, the Prime Minister made a big song and dance about the support the Liberals and Nationals would provide to primary producers in Eden-Monaro. It was a lifeline desperately needed—$86 million for the forestry industry, wine producers and apple growers, who were all hit by bushfires. It sounded great, but when the government lost the by-election, just two weeks later, all we heard was crickets from the Liberals and Nationals. It took months for the government to approach these industries about funding and, surprise, the dollars are still to hit the ground. With the cameras and the razzle-dazzle of the by-election gone, desperate communities have been left waiting, and it's cruel. The industries and businesses that the Prime Minister and the government promised immediate relief to have waited months for even the opportunity to apply for funding.
In the middle of the by-election the Prime Minister was full of announcements, but bushfire communities have been forced to wait too long for any follow-through, and it's time the Prime Minister and his ministers heard it directly from these communities themselves. Go back to Cobargo, sit down with people there and ask them how they're doing. I'll happily take any of you there—the Prime Minister or any of those ministers—but don't turn up empty-handed like last time. Bring an open mind and a willingness to help people who so desperately need it. We have been calling for months for an extension to HomeBuilder for those in bushfire affected communities. The impact has been enormous. Finally, we have got an extension, but if they apply after 31 December they receive a lesser rate than other people.
In the last four months I have clocked up 20,000 kilometres meeting with people, listening to their needs so that I can advocate for them in this very chamber. When I ask people how they are travelling, people from Tumbarumba to Kiah and from Cobargo to Bombay, they tell me the same thing—they feel abandoned. The whole nation heard it on Monday night during Q+A. Graeme and Robyn Freedman travelled from their burnt-out block in Cobargo to tell Australia they feel abandoned by this government during one of the darkest chapters in Australian history. We just heard then they are facing two crises this year—the pandemic and the economic recovery. What about the bushfires? What happened to that?
It gets worse. Having witnessed the heartache of the last bushfire season, 750 people in my electorate alone lost their homes. The government have done nothing to prepare communities this year for the fire season. There is a $4 billion mitigation and recovery fund and $200 million per year available to communities across Australia for recovery and resilience. In the last two financial years nothing has been spent. That's $400 million that could have been spent on assisting our communities.
The bushfire royal commission suggests the way forward, but the Liberal-National government is ignoring one of the key recommendations and refusing to invest in a sovereign aerial firefighting fleet. Don't allow this royal commission to go the way of the 240 other inquiries and investigations into natural disasters. Black Summer happened on this government's watch. Delivering on the recommendations of the royal commission should be core business for this government. But instead communities are left unsure and are doubting the commitment of the Morrison government.
Nothing has changed since last summer. While we wait for the government to do its job, people in my electorate feel abandoned. It is truly shameful, and I urge those opposite to get on with what the Australian public expects of them—meaningful delivery rather than just the same old photo op with no follow-up.
I would like to echo the previous comment of members before me—that I cannot believe the title and topic of this MPI. It's almost as though the opposition has run out of ideas. Clearly they are not listening to what the rest of Australia is seeing and hearing—that is, that we are delivering. We have delivered, we will deliver and we will continue to deliver. Labor, on the other side, are living in a Labor bubble.
I only have five minutes, and that's really disappointing because I have so many things I'd like to talk about. The most important thing is the Morrison government has delivered on a dual health and economic crisis. We have been at the helm of the ship that is Australia. Those on the other side have simply been backseat drivers.
Here we hear them again! They love to talk about the things that don't seem relevant to the Australian people. We're listening to the Australian people and we are delivering for the Australian people.
We know Australians want us to deliver on the health and economic outcomes that the COVID crisis has delivered. Today we have seen from the Australian Bureau of Statistics a testament to the economic response that we have delivered to the most extraordinary economic crisis this country has seen in living memory. This data release showed that there was a GDP rise of 3.3 per cent in the September quarter, officially taking Australia out of a recession. This has largely been demand driven, and we know that the restrictions that have occurred in, unfortunately, Victoria have meant that that state is behind the rest of the country. But the recovery we've seen in the rest of the country is due to the cash boost we have delivered with regard to things like JobKeeper, which has supported 3.3 million workers; the HomeBuilder grant program, which has accelerated the construction sector; and the instant asset write-off, which has helped businesses have the confidence to invest in their own businesses. These measures have generated a demand led recovery, a recovery that puts us in a strong position to prepare for a post-COVID world.
As someone who comes from the health profession, I would like to list the many things that we have delivered with regard to our health response. We have acted swiftly to develop and fund a comprehensive health response—amongst other things, a $2.4 billion health package to protect and keep safe all Australians. We have ensured our health professionals are protected with adequate supplies of personal protective equipment. That has been an extraordinary delivery of an outcome which was, in a crisis, quite an unbelievable and unprecedented global supply chain difficulty. We secured COVID tests from overseas at a time when competition with this supply chain was incredibly stiff. These tests were delivered to states to enable them to do the contact tracing that was required.
We've provided $669 million to expand Medicare subsidised telehealth services for all Australians so everyone has access to quality health care while we've been living through COVID; we funded home delivery of most prescription medicines for those unable to get to their local pharmacy; we've delivered an extra $1 billion to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on aged care; and we've entered into advance purchasing arrangements with three vaccine manufacturers, with 134 million vaccines that are actually contracted. In addition to this, we've delivered $48 million to the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. I could go on. There are 100 fever clinics. We've delivered expert advice and an evidence base with regard to committees. That has underpinned a very science based approach to what has been seen internationally as a wonderful response here in Australia, something that all Australians should be proud of.
I want to turn in my last minute to what we've delivered locally in Higgins. I'm very proud of the fact that we've delivered solar panels to St John's Anglican Church in Toorak and the Sri Venkata Krishna Brundavana temple in Murrumbeena. We've delivered for an exciting new biodiversity campaign run by the City of Stonnington. We're keeping our Jewish community safe with comprehensive security upgrades at the King David School in Armadale and at Chabad in Malvern. We've delivered for our sporting clubs, with projects approved, locked and loaded to commence first thing in 2021 now that restrictions in Victoria have finally been eased. These projects form part of a broad suite of ready-to-commence infrastructure projects across the country.
The road to recovery has been long and bumpy, but the Morrison government has a firm hand on the wheel. Our economic comeback is now underway, and Australians should all be proud. The Morrison government has delivered for Australians on both an economic and a health front, and we will continue to do so now and into the future.
It gives me great pleasure—no, actually it doesn't give me great pleasure—to stand here and speak to this MPI. This MPI goes to this government's failures, and it gives me no pleasure to talk about a government's failures. This government has failed this country for seven successive years, and it is now in its eighth year of failing this country. Corruption, incompetence, cruelty—that's a trifecta that no government should be proud of, and this government has all three.
I'll go to a few of these failures. The first is robodebt—heartless and illegal. A government was actually stealing the money of its own citizens. And who are those citizens? The poorest people in the country. The government didn't go to stockbrokers. It didn't go to day traders. It didn't go to the top end of town and steal their money; it stole the money of people who could least afford it. That's the tale of this government. The disaster of robodebt has this Prime Minister's fingerprints all over it from start to finish. This is not like the chicken coop in the photo opportunities; we can say for sure that we know that this Prime Minister built robodebt from the ground up.
Next is NBN. The government now admit after 7½ long years that Labor's NBN plan was the right one, after wasting billions and billions of dollars. That mistake is costing taxpayers billions to fix, and the opportunity cost is even higher. Businesses, educators and homeowners have had to put up with substandard broadband for years because of this government's rank incompetence at running an economy and running a country.
Next is Leppington Triangle. In the scheme of things, when we're talking about the trillion-dollar debt that we're now running into, I guess Leppington Triangle is small beer, but it is so emblematic of this government's manifest failures—a parcel of land bought from a Liberal donor for 1,000 per cent of what it was worth. They spent $30 million on a $3 million block of land. What's more, the seller got to keep the land. The Liberal donor gets to use the land for the next few years, virtually rent free.
There is no scandal that this government won't enter into. It is absolutely disgraceful. The budget is racking up $1 trillion of debt—one thousand billion dollars—with nothing to show for it. There is no plan for the future—no jobs plan, no infrastructure plan and no energy plan. We've had 22 energy plans under this government, and it hasn't landed a single one. They keep coming to the dispatch box and talking about lower power prices, yet power prices keep going up. After 7½ years of incompetent Liberal government, power prices are still going up. Home owners in Australia are still paying the price of a government that has rank incompetence, no ambition, no courage and no vision.
And there is sports rorts: $100 million of taxpayers' money spent not because clubs had done the right thing and shown that they needed the money; this government put the money where it was in its own political best interests. Sports clubs did the right thing. They filled out the paperwork. They spent hours and hours filling out paperwork and meeting all the criteria, and it was all ignored, because in the Prime Minister's office he had coloured charts showing where to put the money based on the marginality of the seat. Corruption. This Prime Minister and his former minister are blocking every chance at genuine inquiry, as the Senate has just found. They're inquiring into this scandal, and the Prime Minister and former Minister McKenzie are blocking it. If they have nothing to hide, why won't they provide the evidence?
This government is holding people back, with 37,000 Australians stranded overseas. They've left behind aged-care residents, with nearly 700 dead because this government refused to come up with a COVID plan. Even before the pandemic, the royal commission damned this government's approach to aged care by titling their report Neglect. At every stage, this government fails. Corruption, cruelty, incompetence—it is not fit to govern and it deserves to go.
The feigned indignation of those opposite—they're more than happy to use unparliamentary language and more than happy to cast aspersions about the leader of our nation. There's been one key theme through question time today, and it's the same theme that we've heard through this MPI where the Leader of the Opposition has been happy to lead the charge. That theme is that the Labor Party, for some reason, are deeply injured by the fact that there are photos of the Prime Minister. That's their key message today: there are too many photos of the Prime Minister. Here we are as a nation in the midst of a global pandemic. We are facing the greatest economic challenges our nation has faced since the Great Depression. We are in the midst of some challenging times with our largest trading partner. What does the opposition bring to parliament? The opposition brings to parliament a debate about whether there are too many photos of the Prime Minister. I don't know if it's jealousy and I don't know if it's pettiness, but I tell you what it's not: it is not the action of a party that is capable of governing.
When it comes to the delivery of the Morrison government, it's always good to start with the outcomes. We saw some of the outcomes today through the national accounts for the September quarter. What they showed was a 3.3 per cent increase in GDP. That's the greatest lift in GDP growth since the 1970s. That's the outcome. There were 650,000 new jobs created over the last five months. That's the outcome. In addition, there were 700,000 jobs protected through JobKeeper. That's the outcome. Australia maintained its AAA credit rating. Three agencies confirmed the AAA credit rating. That's the outcome. That's the outcome of a strong government that is delivering. There is not one single person in this nation who is in ICU today due to COVID-19. That's due, again, to a good government that will deliver and to the Australian people, who are prepared to work together. That's what it's all about.
So JobKeeper—done, tick, delivered. JobSeeker, with supplements helping the most vulnerable—done, tick, delivered. Cash flow boosts, ensuring small businesses are looked after—done, tick, delivered. Small business, and let's also talk about the SME guarantee—done, tick, delivered. How about the instant asset write-off, bringing forward investment and creating jobs—done, tick, delivered. The apprentice and trainee scheme, ensuring young people, in particular, have an opportunity for work—done, tick, delivered. Look at the major infrastructure. Look at defence. Record defence spending right now—done, tick and being delivered. Look at transport infrastructure. In my part of the world alone, we have $3.2 billion on the Bruce Highway between Pine Rivers and Curra—done, tick, delivered. We've got $390 million on the north coast rail line—done, tick, delivered. Right now, we have works that have just begun at the Maroochydore interchange, with over $200 million of federal government money—done, tick, delivered.
What do we get when we have this delivery? Colleagues, what we get is jobs and economic growth. Those opposite can be petty and they can be jealous, but I'll tell you what we're going to do in response to such jealousy. We're going to keep focused and keep doing our job, because we do it—done, tick, delivered. (Time expired)