Thursday, 10 December 2020
Matters of Public Importance
The Speaker has received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government's failure to deliver for 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—
Last summer, this Prime Minister wanted to force a handshake on you. This summer he wants to shake you down for your pay. This week he has reminded us, emphatically, that Labor values are very different to the values held by those opposite. They're in their eighth year and, by the time of the next election, they'll be shooting for 12 years in government. They have had eight years and three prime ministers—it's like a bad version of Dr Who. The lead character keeps regenerating: we get a different face, different voice and different shtick, but the values are the same.
This Prime Minister is using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to cut the wages and conditions of Australians. His proposed changes will allow employers to eliminate penalties, loadings and other conditions simply by claiming they've been adversely affected by the pandemic. What thanks to the nurses, the cleaners, the supermarket workers, the childcare workers, the teachers, the truck drivers, the aged-care workers who've got us through this pandemic! The Morrison government wants their reward to be a pay cut. The government pretended it was consulting unions and employers. It didn't mention any of this—not a word—but waited until it was over and then sprung this in the legislation.
The bottom line is this. The Labor Party that I lead won't be supporting legislation that cuts wages and conditions—not now, not ever. For the past few weeks, this announcement-crazy government has been telling Australians that the economy is going gangbusters and that growth is strong. They're spending millions of dollars telling Australians there's a comeback but at the same time arguing that businesses are in so much trouble because of the pandemic that they should be allowed to cut wages. Both arguments can't be right. The characteristics of this government are becoming very clear. There are three themes of this government: (1) they stand for promises, not delivery; (2) they are characterised by waste, rorts and mismanagement; and (3) they leave people behind and hold them back.
First, when it comes to announcements and not delivery, the national integrity commission: we're still waiting. It was announced years ago. And when it comes to funding, the $4 billion emergency response fund: there are still people living in caravans; they haven't spent a dollar of it. They talk about manufacturing—$1.5 billion—but they're going to spend three per cent of it this year. Then there's the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility—better known as the 'no actual infrastructure fund'. In five years they've spent $169 million of the $5 billion. But the Water Infrastructure Loan Facility is perhaps the best, because it didn't get a dollar out the door, just 50 media releases before being abolished.
Then there is waste and mismanagement—robodebt: illegal, unjust, cruel, resulting in a loss of lives, literally. The settlement was $1.2 billion, but the government say that that doesn't amount to a concession that there was anything wrong or illegal. The NBN was obsolete before it was even built, and now they've got to go back and fix it, with $4½ billion. The dodgy land deal out at Western Sydney: $30 million for a $3 million piece of land. And then there's sports rorts. It'll just keep going. Sports rorts: $100 million based upon a colour coded map, with dozens of emails between Bridget McKenzie's office and the Prime Minister's office—colour coded, ripping off those people who, in good faith, had put in applications. This government is producing $1 trillion of debt that will rise up to $1.7 trillion, but they don't have any reform program.
And then we come to leaving people behind and holding people back. Aged-care residents: there will be at least 685 empty chairs around dinner tables at Christmas because this government refused to step up to its responsibility and have a plan specific to aged care in the pandemic. The government had been told by the interim report of the royal commission and still didn't respond. And there are women and families being left behind when it comes to child care. In the programs rolled out, a million casuals were left behind. And, if you look at the interim report of the disability royal commission, disabled Australians were left behind. University workers and the arts sector were ignored. Workers aged 35 and over don't get any support. They're going to lose JobKeeper and they're going to have their unemployment benefits lowered to $40 a day but they're going to be excluded from any subsidies or any support whatsoever. Then there are the aviation workers. They've lost their jobs only to be replaced by cheaper workers, and this government just gives them a clap. When it comes to leaving people behind, 39,000 Australians have been literally left behind overseas. They're stranded overseas. Remember, four months ago I said we should be using the RAAF VIP fleets. They said, 'No, it's busy.' But it's not too busy for Mathias Cormann to fly around Europe, not too busy at all. Those planes could be used right now to bring Australians home, but, once again, they're leaving Australians behind.
So the next election will be a clear distinction between those of us on this side and those on that side. The truth is that we got through the pandemic because of Labor values. Labor values are about looking after each other. Labor values are about the power of government to change lives for the better. But this government's reverting to type, as we see in the IR legislation. We on this side stand for cooperation; they stand for politics, spin and needless conflict. We stand for understanding the role of government in improving the lives of Australians; they think if government gets out of the way it will all be fine. We see a role for government intervening in the economy in the interests of Australian families. We want the economy to improve not just in itself but so that the economy looks after people, not the other way around. They believe in trickle-down economics, which rains misery on working people. We stand for social and community housing; they look down on people who live in social and community housing. We see taxpayer money as the means through which government can serve the public good; they think it's Liberal Party money to just slush around as they want. We support cheaper child care; they punish those who want to work more than three days a week. We stand for a future made in Australia, creating jobs and resilience in the process; they dared car manufacturers to leave the country. We stand for an Australian rail manufacturing plan that will trigger a renaissance of rail manufacturing in this country; they stand for importing trains that aren't fit for purpose and that have to be fixed up here. We stand for creating an Australian skills guarantee with one in 10 workers on government projects to be apprentices; they've smashed apprenticeships such that there are 140,000 fewer than when they come to office. We stand for a commitment to zero emissions by 2050; they stand frozen in time while the world warms around them. We have a Prime Minister getting on the phone, begging to be able to speak at a conference this weekend but being dismissed by world leaders. We stand for our future as a renewable energy superpower; they stand still, tied to the past. We stand for respecting and valuing older Australians; they failed older Australians. We stand for transparency and accountability; they stand for Angus Taylor.
What we have is a PM obsessed with marketing slogans, more prime marketer than Prime Minister. We have a Prime Minister who is always there for the photo op but never there for the follow-up, who is always political and who is wasting the economic recovery. We have a PM who will force a handshake but flee from accountability. Remember this: he is a Prime Minister whose attitude towards responsibility is summed up in that one famous phrase, 'I don't hold a hose.' It's someone else's problem. He's never about fixing it; he's just about the announcement. (Time expired)
Well, it wasn't The Audacity of Hope, was it, Deputy Speaker? If you were looking for The Audacity of Hope, you would have been sorely disappointed. That's what we get from the opposition in a year where we've had the most difficult challenge faced by the Australian community in 100 years. No audacity, no hope, but a collection of negative, negative material at the end of a year.
This year I believe we've seen the best and the finest of Australians—our community, our people, our businesses, our governments, our states, our territories, our Commonwealth, our defence forces, our health personnel. We've seen the best of people. Together we have come through in a more cohesive state than any other society on the planet. Whatever your political ideology, and we have different ones, all of us know that in a crisis, in an emergency, the government has a pivotal role to play—and there's no doubt this is a crisis and an emergency. Regardless of our differences in approach, regardless of our fundamental differences in political beliefs in this chamber, there's no doubt that all of us come together at this time.
For the Leader of the Opposition to stand here on a matter of public importance on the last day of the year, after the year we've had, and simply pick a collection of things he finds very negative is a failure of leadership. I think people over there think it's a failure of leadership. I think they understand it is a failure of leadership when you think about what was needed from Australian leadership this year. The standing up of the national cabinet at the beginning of this year is a great example. There are political differences, differences in approach, differences in nuance, yet they've come through it together. Tomorrow when the national cabinet meets here in Canberra, again after having successfully steered this country through this, you'll see examples of state leaders and a federal leader who have been prepared to put aside their differences to work together in the broader interests of the Australian community.
I don't know where the Leader of the Opposition spends his time, but you can walk down any street of this country, you can go into any pub in this country, you can go into any club in this country, you can go into any hospital in this country and people will tell you in every corridor, on every street, in every bar: 'We are really grateful to our governments, collectively, for the way this country has gotten through a very difficult year.' That's what you hear.
We are grateful to them. The question time that the government put forward today was about our gratitude for what Australians have sacrificed, what they have done for this country to get us through this in the most cohesive state of any country in the world. We are the best region in the world, because of what we've done together with partners. It does require people to put aside their differences. It does require oppositions to not be relentlessly negative at this time. We understand that in opposition you've got to be negative—people do. But in a crisis it might've been better not to be.
At the end of this difficult year it might be better to come to the table and have some audacity and have a little bit of hope for people. That's the government's message going into this break. There is reason for great hope of recovery, a comeback in 2021, where Australia will be well placed in the world to take advantage of what we have achieved and the sacrifices we've made. Because of the sacrifices of Australians, we find ourselves in the best position to take advantage of the vaccinations that are coming on. The government has made investments in those vaccinations. It's a key deliverable for the Australian people next year. We've got the right investments in the right vaccinations. We're making sure that we have access. We have not just looked after our own population, we have said to our region—with real regional leadership of the kind Australians expect us of us—we will vaccinate our partners, our neighbours, in the Pacific and South-East Asia. We will help others as well as help ourselves. That's real leadership.
We've also prepared Australians by putting out more money than has ever been spent before. The Labor Party says it isn't enough, but it's a record amount for any government to ever put forward to sustain people in their jobs and keep businesses' doors open this year. Whatever your view about when it should come off and when it should taper off, we all agree on the fundamentals. The Labor Party agrees. The Leader of the Opposition agrees. It should be tapered off when it can be. We must get people off it and back into work, with jobs being retained but also created again, and that's what we're seeing now at the end of the JobSeeker period. We are seeing businesses graduating off it. They're saying: 'Our revenues are up. We can come off.'
That is where one difference about ideology comes back into play. Of course we should put it aside in a year like this. Of course we should work together with the power of government to help people's lives. But what is the purpose of welfare? It's to get people through a tough period, not to keep them permanently on it. It's to get them back on their own feet. It's to make them stand up again. It's to give them their own dignity in their own job. It's to get them back into their own business. It's to give them hope again. It's to get them moving forward, not to keep them permanently chained to it. Everyone who believes in that understands what that is about. Given that we have had the toughest year ever, we must do everything possible to keep people getting back to work. That's why this year we've seen the biggest comeback in our economy's history. That is fantastic. Thank you to the Australians that are doing it. Thank you to every small, medium and family business that has toughed it out and has very tough scars from this year but is still employing, keeping its workforce on, keeping their hours. We as a government are trying to do as much as possible to make sure you can keep all your employees all through 2021 and you can add more shifts.
Of course, the Labor Party is running the mother of all scare campaigns on it. We are saying, 'Let's reasonably and properly release some of the shackles of the industrial relations system so that employers can keep people in jobs and bring people in the door.' And they've run the biggest scare campaign today—relentless negativity again—instead of saying, 'We are in the toughest economic conditions in 100 years, and in 2021 we want to make sure that employers and employees can continue to do what they do best, which is work together on keeping businesses open.' That's the only way forward, the only way we will recover, the only way we will come back.
We can look at the achievements that we've made in health—and we thank everybody who has worked in health care, our hospital workers, the people who have done significant work in aged care that has put us in such good stead—but we can also turn to the other achievements that have been made this year. When you think about how many things have been done while we've had the pandemic on, it's quite a list. Instead of criticising the government on minor and technical issues and trying to find some point of difference or a wedge, it is time to continue to work together while we get through what is going to be a very difficult 2021.
I've spoken about vaccinations and I've spoken about the need to continue to get Australians home. The opposition has said the government hasn't done a good enough job. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I remind the House, 432,000 people have returned home. That's a fact—432,000 Australians. And we welcome them home. And everyone who needs to come home will come home, and we'll keep working at it. I again want to thank DFAT and our consular officials around the world for the work they've done in what is a most difficult year, with sovereign countries shutting their borders, transnational and internal. We've been able to get people out of very difficult situations, and not enough credit has been paid.
To our officials.
Opposition members interjecting—
No, no. I do want to thank our officials. I want to thank everyone. We have spent all day today thanking every Australian we can—in every agency, in every Public Service sector, in every part of our country—who has done something to contribute. They have been magnificent. That's the difference between government and opposition. That's the difference between leadership and a failure of leadership.
We are coming to the end of the year and going into the Christmas break. In every pub, in every street, in every bar, in every part of the country, Australians have a great pride in all of their governments and their country, and they should. They should be proud because we've come together. They should be proud because we've done something which no other part of the world has done. They should be proud because we've got a plan going forward to not only retain the benefits from the health sacrifices we've made, which have put us in the best stead in the world, but to take advantage of the economic opportunities with our advanced industrial manufacturing plans, our defence sovereign capability plans and all of the forward-thinking things that will put us in good stead to have sovereign capability here to create those jobs, to back Australians' innovation, to back those small and medium businesses. That's what people want from their governments, state and federal. They want some hope. They want some audacity of hope. They will not get it from the Leader of the Opposition.
This afternoon we've heard a remarkable contribution from the member for Lingiari. He reminds us of what a privilege it is to serve in this place. All of us come here seeking to make a difference. All of us come here wanting to leave our mark. We seek to play our part, but the focus of our attention is on the Australian people, the people out there that we represent. But that isn't the motivation of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. When the Prime Minister comes to work each and every day, there is only one problem that he is trying to solve: how can he shape the bulletins that will be on the news that night? That's the only thing he is trying to do. It's all about the marketing; it's all about the publicity. We've just seen the 10 minutes of self-congratulation—that's what it's about. It is not about the Australian people.
When there is a difficult issue, they are nowhere to be seen. Think about the IGADF report, the Brereton report, which is one of the most difficult and complicated issues that have faced this government and the Australian Defence Force. We have been supporting the government in dealing with this very complex issue, but I make this one observation: on the day it became public, the political voice of this country, as represented by the government of our country, was silent. The government did not appear. It was one of the most difficult days in the history of the Australian Defence Force, and they weren't there.
What it means is that you have a situation where the gap between the talk and the walk has never been more profound. We've got a government which, 18 months ago, announced a $4 billion Emergency Response Fund. Since that time, we've had the biggest megafire ever recorded on this continent. Where we're up to right now is that not a dollar of that fund has been spent. They're always there for the announcement, but there has been absolutely no delivery.
Back in September, the Prime Minister announced his promise to bring every stranded Australian home. That's what he did. We've seen him try to wriggle out of that promise a lot over the course of this week, but back in September that's what he did—because that's what he needed to say that day in order to shape the news that night. Well, here we are today. If you arrive back in this country after midnight tonight, you'll be spending Christmas Day in quarantine. There are 37,000 Australians stranded overseas right now who have not been brought home by a government that promised they'd do it. The delivery is nowhere to be seen.
We saw all the hoopla around the COVIDSafe app. This was going to be one of the most innovative and important steps that this government was going to take in terms of managing the coronavirus crisis. Seventy million dollars was spent, most of it on marketing, all there for the publicity. I'm advised that, to this point in time, there have been 17 confirmed case traces as a result of the app. Do the sums. That's, like, $4 million for each confirmed case trace. They're there for the publicity but absolutely not there for the delivery.
For me, one of the biggest examples is our Future Submarine Program. When this government came to power, they were promising it in the mid-2020s. In the last seven years, it has slipped by 10 years and the price has almost doubled. There was a commitment to have 90 per cent Australian industry content, and right now what this government has delivered is no commitment whatsoever, because there is nothing contracted. For all the hoopla we've seen over the last few years, the delivery has been hopeless.
This is a moment in time where we need leadership in our country. But we've got a Prime Minister who avoids responsibility, who absolutely shuns follow-through, who avoids delivery and who is all about himself. He is not about you.
Mr Deputy Speaker, for me, and probably for you, this feels a bit like Groundhog Day, because I think this is the third week in a row that I've had the great pleasure to speak about an MPI. This MPI contains the words 'government' and 'deliver'. I'm delighted to speak about what the government has delivered, not only on a national level—
I can hear members opposite agreeing with me. I'm delighted to speak about what the government has delivered, not only nationally but also locally. I know that the minister here, the member for Nicholls and other people in the chamber here could all stand up individually and talk for 15 or 20 minutes about what they've delivered just in their electorates, let alone—and the member for, whatever your electorate's called, on the Sunshine Coast.
I said this before in an MPI last week: this year, two generic themes have dominated our country and countries throughout the whole world. We have faced a great health challenge, and, because of the health challenge and the impositions that have been placed on businesses and economies, we have also faced great economic challenges. Whatever measurements you use in looking at how Australia has fared on the health issue, given the number of people who have been infected with coronavirus and the number of fatalities, tragically, from coronavirus, Australia has done very well compared with what has happened internationally. Australians feel very, very grateful that governments across this country have done so well with the coronavirus. There was a bit of a hiccup in the quarantine system in Victoria, but we'll let that one go today. Australians have felt safe with—
Honourable members interjecting—
New South Wales—what a great example! I commend the New South Wales government. The New South Wales government is much better than any—
An honourable member interjecting—
The Victorian government—a Victorian MP opposite me is talking about the Ruby Princess.
An honourable member interjecting—
Your Premier stuffed up.
An honourable member interjecting—
With your quarantine system, he stuffed up—
I take your correction there, Deputy Speaker. Any Victorian should be very disappointed with what Daniel Andrews did and the loss of control they had with the quarantine system. Another member opposite brought up New South Wales. I think New South Wales have done an excellent job. They've had their borders more open than just about any other state. I live near the Queensland-New South Wales border. Those border closures were very damaging. And they were unnecessary because we were COVID-free in northern New South Wales. The commercial damage that was done was very extensive. I'm glad the New South Wales government has been brought up. They did very well.
If you look at the statistics, the COVID pandemic has done a lot of damage to the global economy, but, looking at global statistics, Australia has done very well, albeit that unemployment has gone up, which is a tragedy for everybody who has lost their job. Growth levels fell in the second quarter, which has been very damaging to our economy. But, if you look at consumer confidence and growth in GDP since then, Australia has done very well compared with international economies. We can have great confidence that next year will be very positive, because, as a government, we on this side of the chamber understand that what's going to help us out of this is the private sector. Eight out of 10 jobs are in the private sector. We know that. and we want people in small businesses and in large businesses to invest in their people and to invest capital so we can grow our way out of this. That's why we have given 11½ million people a tax cut. Some 11½ million Australians have got a tax cut because we want Australians to have more money in their pocket so they can help us grow out of this.
I've mentioned the instant tax write-off before. We implemented this policy about four or five years ago on a much smaller scale. I know that businesses in my community are very positive about it. They noticed economic activity pick up as soon as that was brought in. We've put that program on steroids; big business can now have access to that program. And what's it about? It's about businesses investing in capital equipment and businesses, therefore, being able to employ more people. We've provided two obvious economic supports, and the one that has affected a lot of people is JobKeeper. This has been a massive investment by the Australian government and, therefore, the Australian taxpayer to keep people in their jobs.
Thank you so much, Mr Deputy Speaker Llew O'Brien, and I wish you and your family a happy Christmas. You can imagine the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol retold in the setting of the parliament here with the Prime Minister as the character Scrooge, visited over three successive nights by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Future. What would be the nightmare from the Ghost of Christmas Past? It would probably be the Harvester judgement, saying that a worker needed a living wage to raise his family in frugal comfort. What would be the Ghost of Christmas Present? It'd be a strong union movement, standing up, with the Labor Party, against the government's proposals to cut wages. What would be the Ghost of Christmas Future? Well, I think the most terrifying thing that the Prime Minister could drag out of his subconscious would be an enterprise bargain, with year after year of wages growth locked in for the workforce. That's the Ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future: the fear that our Scrooge of a Prime Minister has, imagining that Australian workers actually keep the pay they're on or—God forbid!—actually increase their pay and their comfort at home after this most difficult of years.
This plan to cut wages we know has been the government's plan for some time, because the former finance minister—the one jetting around Europe at the moment at $4,000 an hour—tipped it out. He didn't mean to, but he tipped it out. He said, 'Low wages are a part of our economic strategy.' Well, we see that in this legislation. This is the embodiment of that. But what's the government trying to do? They're trying to slide it through with nobody noticing. They have used COVID as cover. They're trying to use COVID as cover to do what they have always wanted to do, which is: cut wages and conditions; make work less secure for Australians; make sure their take-home pay is cut or doesn't grow.
They're using COVID as cover, and not just to cut wages. They're using COVID as cover to cut superannuation. So it's not just today's take-home pay that they want to see fall. It's your future comfort. It's your retirement income. The government made 600,000 Australians drain their superannuation to survive the initial weeks of the COVID crisis. They used COVID as cover to smash superannuation, because, from the day that Paul Keating first explained that he wanted to make superannuation something that all workers could benefit from, not just managers—from the day that Paul Keating said he wanted to democratise a comfortable retirement—those opposite have opposed it, and they've used the cover of COVID to smash the superannuation system and to claim that increasing superannuation to 12 per cent, as they promised they would do, would come at the expense of wages. Well, every other time we've cut superannuation, we haven't seen an increase in wages; we've just seen an increase in poverty in retirement.
Universities—here's another battle that the government has been wanting to have for—who knows?—however long. They've always been after the universities, haven't they? Again, they have used COVID as cover to more than double the cost of a university degree. Those opposite cry crocodile tears for the terrible year that year 12 students have had this year. They have had a shocker. It has actually been a year from hell for these kids. They're going to be graduating into an unemployment market—much tougher. They're going to struggle to find work. No gap year; no chance to save a bit of money before they go off to uni—none of that. What they're facing is no job and university fees twice what they should be: a $58,000 debt—an American-sized university debt—when they graduate. And then those opposite will say: 'Oh, isn't it hard that they can't save a deposit for their first home?' No wonder, when they're paying off American-sized university debts!
This government continues to use COVID as cover for the $30 million land deal for land worth $3 million; for the $100 million sports rorts; for the $1.2 billion compensation bill for the illegal robodebt scheme. It doesn't matter—ministerial accountability is gone; it's dead, and those opposite are using COVID as cover for that. (Time expired)
The best thing about being able to talk about what the Morrison government has delivered this year is that I get to talk about what I've delivered for my community of Lindsay. Throughout the challenges this year, the bushfires—
An honourable member: You've only got five minutes!
I know. It's an endless list. But the reason I'm doing it is because I'm always fighting for what my community needs and what they deserve. It's like the upgrade to Dunheved Road: we had $63½ million committed as part of my election commitment. That was delivered, but our community deserved the full upgrade to that road. So the Morrison government came in as part of the budget and fully upgraded that road for people in my community so they can get to where they're going and home again safely and quickly. That is just one of the things that we have delivered this year in the electorate of Lindsay. We delivered it together; it wasn't just me, it was our community working together. We've worked together when it comes to jobs and we've worked together when it comes to health. As the Prime Minister said today it's a united national effort and it's been very much a united local effort too.
As I said, we had Dunheved Road, but we've also delivered on safety for our community. Everyone in Lindsay loves the Nepean River. We walk around that river daily—families walk around the river, young children ride their bikes and we have a great men's group which uses the river too. I know that our community deserves to be safe, so I committed $1 million to be invested into the safety of our community on that river, and that was delivered.
We're also delivering congestion-busting infrastructure. This is because of Western Sydney airport coming in—a great opportunity for our community in Western Sydney that is being delivered by the Morrison government. We also have that great rail link from St Mary's all the way to the airport, and a science park being built. These things are about opportunities for our young people, something I am completely passionate about—ensuring that our young people who are growing up have the skills and the education to take on those jobs of the future that are coming into Western Sydney. We are delivering on that as well.
We're also delivering for our small and medium-sized businesses. The biggest feedback I get when I go out and about in Lindsay is that JobKeeper was an absolute lifesaver and a lifeline for them. Over 5,000 businesses in Lindsay accessed JobKeeper. And it's not just me saying that; I have people telling me that, including Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre. Luke Hepburn is the general manager of the centre, and he said: 'Witnessing all the local trades that have engaged in our renovation program'—from an election commitment that I delivered—'means that we've been able to keep people employed. We were on JobKeeper, and those people have been able to keep their jobs.'
Across Lindsay and Western Sydney, something that I'm always really excited to talk about is the way that we're delivering for Australian manufacturing. I had a petition signed by many people across our community, our small businesses and our manufacturing businesses to drive manufacturing into Western Sydney. I believe we have the key to the new era in manufacturing. I established an advanced manufacturing task force, bringing experts in manufacturing, small businesses, higher education, schools and TAFE together to work out how we can ensure we are at the heart of Australian manufacturing. From Baker & Provan in St Mary's, to Grant Engineered in Penrith and Plustec in Emu Plains, the list goes on. We have a strong manufacturing industry, and they know that we're supporting them and that we're delivering for them—over $1 billion in delivery for Australian manufacturing by the Morrison government. As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, we're backing businesses like these to do what they do best: create local jobs for local people.
Over the last five months, 650,000 jobs have been created across Australia. This year in Lindsay we've delivered infrastructure, we've supported jobs through the pandemic and we've backed manufacturers while helping Australians most in need. We've done this, but it's been a hard year for us in Lindsay and we've gone through much together. Most importantly, I want everyone to have a safe and happy Christmas and the best new year. (Time expired)
( Not only is this government not delivering for Australians; it also, you could almost say, enjoys misleading Australians. It is a government that likes to make announcements and then almost do the exact opposite. There are a few examples. This government also likes to rewrite history. It was only after we had the Centrelink queues out the front of their offices and in their electorates growing that they actually moved to do something like a wage subsidy. It was this government and this Prime Minister who suggested that wage subsidies, when Labor put them forward, were socialism. A ridiculous idea! Now they're the best thing ever. The JobKeeper program is a wage subsidy. It was only after we started to see the shutdown of industries because of the COVID-19 crisis and people—after being stood down, after being told they didn't have work—turning up at the Centrelink offices did this government act. It's a government that's not delivering for Australians, not when it's needed, not on time, not in a prepared way. It's a government that likes to rewrite history. It's a government that likes to mislead.
Take the university reforms: the government said the university reforms would be great for regional students. They're not great. What we've seen since their reforms have come out is not only a doubling of course costs but many universities being forced to sack staff, sack academics and close courses because this government didn't extend JobKeeper to their sector. We've seen entire courses go online. So for regional students, like those in my electorate of Bendigo, if they want to do an arts degree next year, not only will they have to pay double for it but the entire degree will be delivered online. This isn't good news for regional students. This sees them disadvantaged. This government said they did a great job and they support our educators. We had the minister stand up in question time and say, 'Thank you for the job you've done.' Well, thank you is not enough and it doesn't make up for the fact that this government kicked them off JobKeeper.
The first workers in this country to be kicked off JobKeeper were our early childhood educators. So it was: 'Thanks for the job you've done. We're going to cut your support and kick you back to JobSeeker or back to the low pay you're on.' These educators have worked hard. They turned up and they did the job, and they didn't really get the thanks they deserve from this government. Many casuals are still unemployed. They're waiting for numbers to pick up and hoping 2021 will be a better year.
Let's talk about the lack of support from this government for our aged-care workers. They keep using the excuse of the royal commission not to fix the issues in aged care. There's an interim report that's been released that details how this government now can help our aged-care workers, who are tired, who are stressed, who did everything they could to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our community. They worked longer shifts. They worked back-to-back rosters to make sure that their residents were safe and supported, yet they haven't got extra staffing; the government hasn't agreed to Labor's proposal of having minimum staffing levels. Instead, all they get are more excuses. The government is not supporting not only our aged-care workers but the residents they care for.
Probably one of the greatest areas where this government is not delivering and is not supporting people is the area of insecure work. The pandemic this year has exposed the fault lines in insecure work. Many people who were stood down and many people who might have come back into hours didn't get the hours they had. The Prime Minister boasted that 80 per cent of jobs are back, but they're not at the hours that they were. On top of that he said that they're now going to give employers the opportunity to cut pay, cut conditions. How is that delivering for Australians and Australian workers? Putting forward a proposal where the BOOT, the better-off-overall test, is paused—I cannot get over how we have an IR minister who doesn't understand his own legislation. When you say that you can pause the BOOT for two years, it means that we will have agreements that undercut minimum conditions. We will see workers end up on less money, workers in industries where they can't bargain for better pay.
This government in 2020 has failed Australians. It's failed Australian workers and failed Australian families. I hope that they pick up their game and do better in 2021, because our country cannot afford another 12 months of a government not delivering for them. (Time expired)
2020 has been a difficult year, and we all hope for a better 2021. Australia has successfully suppressed COVID and the economy has begun its comeback. We on this side of the chamber know that if Australian small business is okay then families will be okay and communities will be okay and ultimately all will be okay. That's why we have cushioned the blow with the outstanding JobKeeper program and so many other programs that I'll talk about today as a matter of public importance.
There are 15,000-odd people in Moncrieff on JobSeeker. They know firsthand how the extra support of the coronavirus supplement has cushioned the blow of the pandemic. Small-business operators graduating from JobKeeper were grateful for the swift action that kept them going. They are now seeing their sales pipelines refill as the comeback gains momentum on the Gold Coast. That's certainly been the case for Southport Printing Co. in Southport in Moncrieff. I visited there last week to see them graduating off JobKeeper. Their business is growing and moving into a bigger premises. They're investing. With the instant asset write-off, they're going great guns. I applaud them for the hard work they've put into their business over this period.
Parents all around the Gold Coast have heaved a sigh of relief because of the apprenticeships that have now become available. One of them was at Southport Printing Co. Actually, I think they put three new people on at Southport Printing Co. during this period. All around Moncrieff people stop me in the street, and do you know what they say? They say: 'Member for Moncrieff, can you please tell our Prime Minister and our Treasurer how grateful we are for JobKeeper here on the Gold Coast. Thank you for cushioning the blow, for keeping the doors open, for keeping Gold Coasters in jobs.'
We shouldn't be surprised by the ineffectiveness and the desperation that we've seen on the other side from the Leader of the Opposition, because trying to have a bet each way just never works on significant challenges. You can't have one foot there and one foot somewhere else. You can't have a bet each way. You have to commit. That is the failure and the desperation that we've seen even today in question time from the other side. I would suggest that the member for Grayndler get a new message that's not so obviously bogus to the Australian people. Something a bit more believable, I think, is what we need. In the real world, I have to say, the fake news from the other side has failed. We've seen time and time again in question time the untruths that come from the other side around industrial relations, for example.
The good people of Moncrieff and all Australians are the ones who are delivering our comeback. They are the ones who are working hard. Small business are pushing their businesses forward. The Morrison government has been backing Moncrieff and backing Australians to deliver through an array of measures, some of which I would love nothing more than to highlight today in this chamber. Those on the other side really need to acknowledge that this Morrison government has delivered over $500 billion in response measures. That's right—$500 billion. We've delivered not just to those Australians who vote for the Liberals or those Australians who vote for the LNP. No, we've delivered for those Australians who vote for Labor and those Australians who vote for the Greens. Even those Australians who vote for One Nation or Centre Alliance, or whoever it is they choose to vote for, have also been supported. The Morrison government have not left an Australian behind. We have supported all Australians through this pandemic.
I'd like to highlight a couple of other measures. The $101 billion economic lifeline that is JobKeeper has been vital for Moncrieff. It's been vital for the nation. Tax credits have been vital. The cashflow boost has been vital. Small businesses are so important on the Gold Coast. What about the $200 million in tax cuts that have gone back into Moncrieff alone? The instant asset write-off is supporting businesses—small businesses and medium businesses—and they're spending it in the economy. The instant asset write-off is absolutely being used by small business across Moncrieff, and I'm very proud of that. The Gold Coast is being backed with $10 million in regional tourism funding as well, $50 million is going to business events upon which we rely and $62.8 million is for the local jobs program. The Gold Coast has its own employment facilitator.
As the sitting calendar comes to a close, I know in my heart of hearts that my government and my Prime Minister and cabinet have delivered for the 10,500 small businesses in Moncrieff and for our families and communities. I know that when I go to my coffee shop on Saturday morning. When I go to my butcher, Steve, and say, 'Give me some lamb chops for lunch,' he knows this is the government that has kept his doors open and his business going.
I was just listening to the speech from the member opposite, who used the term 'fake news' about the opposition. If you want to talk about fake news, we all remember 2001 and 'children overboard', which was the panacea of fake news that was propagated to the Australian public through lies and propaganda. So don't talk about fake news, because you guys are the experts on it!
We've seen three prime ministers in eight years. We had Mr Abbott in 2013, and we saw the cruellest budget cuts this nation had seen. Health, education and a whole range of other things were cut. We then had the Turnbull Liberal government where, really, there was nothing happening. Mr Turnbull was dominated by the extreme right wing of his party. About the only thing he can claim to have achieved was to sit on the fence getting a sore bum because he didn't want to upset the right-wing element in his party. And we saw the blowout in waiting times for aged-care packages under his leadership. And now we have the Morrison Liberal government, a government that has left far too many Australians behind. Too many promises are being broken. It's a government that loves the marketing, photos, handshakes and constantly being in the media but without actually producing something, without actually doing something for the betterment of Australians.
What is truly important to this government? Today we have seen industrial relations again on the forefront. In other words, they are looking at how they can chop the minimum basic wage of some of the poorest people who are struggling on the lowest wages in this country. The government can't help themselves. Cutting wages and workers' entitlements is in the DNA of this government. It always has been. The industrial relations minister got up today and said, 'No, that's not right, this isn't true.' I was here when Work Choices was on, and that's what they were saying back then—every day there was another story of someone who had lost work entitlements or had lower wages because of the government's policies. And we're heading down the same track again.
What is truly important to this government? The reality is that it's about cutting wages and ensuring that their big mates in multinational companies are doing well. Why go after the workers with this particular policy that they are trying to sell? Instead they should be chopping at the multinationals who are paying no tax—companies that have offshore accounts and companies in the Cayman Islands. But we've seen nothing in that area. Instead, they came up with robodebt. Someone in the government thought: 'Let's go after some of the most vulnerable people'—the unemployed, people on the disability pension, people who are on the age pension—'and see what we can recover to get a budget that will put us back in the black'. There were other ways of doing this. They could have tackled some of those businesses that pay zero tax in this country.
We have seen sports rorts—$100 million of taxpayer money to prop up the Liberal Party's electoral chances. We've seen their faulty NBN. They were ridiculing our NBN when we were in government. They ridiculed it year after year after year. But they've put their tails between their legs and have now implemented what we were promoting back in 2013. We've sent dodgy land deals—$30 million for a $3 million piece of land from a Liberal donor mate, $30 million for a piece of land that was valued at $3 million. If that isn't dodgy, I don't know what is. And still we have no integrity commission. They promised us an integrity commission. Where is it? I wonder why! It would look at deals like the dodgy land deal paying $30 million for something that is valued at $3 million. They promised a $4 billion Emergency Response Fund that would spend $200 million a year, yet not one cent has been spent.
The list goes on and on and on. They announced the $1.5 billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy—and only three per cent will be spent this year. It would have been great if they'd put some of that money into South Australia when GMH was there producing cars and employing 1,000 people, and 30 jobs per assembly-line worker— (Time expired)
I rise to speak on this important issue. Listening to those opposite whinge and whine and moan and complain incessantly, it reminds me of that scene from Life of Brian. 'What have the Romans ever done for us?' they said. Aqueducts, sanitation, roads, health—the list goes on.
But I want to talk about something very, very important, because we all know that one of the principal obligations of any government is to keep its citizens safe. This government has done such an outstanding job in delivering for all Australians, unlike those opposite when they were in government. This government walks the talk when it comes to defence. As the Chair of the Defence Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Joint Committee, it has been my absolute privilege to see our great men and women in uniform, to be able to work alongside them to some extent and to assist them to do their job. We're doing that by providing unprecedented sums of money. A sum of $270 billion is being spent on defence procurement over the next 10 years. That $270 billion is the largest expenditure in Australia's peacetime. In fact, it takes our commitment to two per cent of GDP, which is what we promised we would take our defence expenditure to.
I know, Mr Deputy Speaker, you're thinking: what was the defence expenditure under the Labor government? When the Labor government left power in 2013, their defence industry expenditure was the lowest that it had been since 1938. How many ships did they build when they were in government? It was zero—zip, zero.
We walk the talk when it comes to defence. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that our men and women in uniform have the best kit, and nothing is more deserving of the best kit than the best defence force. As we saw in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, we want to ensure that our policies shape, deter and respond. We want to be able to shape the Indo-Pacific, the environment in which we live. We want to be able to deter those countries who may seek to do us harm. And, if they do seek to do us harm, we need to be able to respond with credible force. That is exactly what this government is enabling our Australian Defence Force to do.
I want to send a big shout-out right now to the Minister for Defence, Senator Linda Reynolds. She has done an absolutely outstanding job, as has the Minister for Defence Industry, Melissa Price. Together, those two ladies have worked absolutely exceptionally in continuing the great work of the previous defence minister and the previous defence industry minister, who both set Australia up to do an absolutely fantastic job. Both our existing defence and defence industry ministers have continued on in those traditions and are doing absolutely outstanding jobs. When I talk to men and women in the military, they tell me that they are so pleased that they actually have the gear that they need.
I spent some time recently on HMAS Collins, one of our Collins class submarines. I was very fortunate to spend three nights and four days—somewhere around there—on board. It was a great time. I got to see our men and women working for the defence of our nation. Really, they are absolutely professional, and I've seen that right across the board. Why? It is because we enable them to do the job that we ask them to do by giving them the kit that they require, by giving them the kit that they demand and by giving them the kit that they expect. Those opposite did nothing other than cut defence budgets for the years and years they were in government. But we support our ADF, and we will continue to do so.