House debates

Wednesday, 24 March 2021


Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021; Second Reading

10:06 am

Photo of Kevin AndrewsKevin Andrews (Menzies, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Before the debate is resumed on this bill, I remind the House it has been agreed that a general debate be allowed covering this bill and the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-21. The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this the honourable member for Kingsford Smith has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. If it suits the House I will state the question in the form that the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question.

10:05 am

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

We're in the eighth year of this government, that's a fact they don't actually like to talk about. They like to pretend the Prime Minister's all shiny and new and forget that bloke called Malcolm Turnbull and that bloke called Tony Abbott. How many treasurers? You'd need fingers and toes to remember how many defence ministers and Muppets have been through other portfolios. But it would be stiff competition you'd have to say to pick one of the greatest failures, the greatest matters of neglect, in this eighth year of this failing government.

I want to make a few remarks on the scandal of ever rising house prices and worsening house affordability in this country. It's a tricky thing to talk about, to call out the problem that is rising house prices. The fact is many Australians own homes and people quite like their house prices going up, especially people with more than one house. Of course, like most Australians, if you only own one house generally it doesn't matter. You buy and sell in the same market. A bit more equity can help you leverage and get another house. But it's really only the people with multiple properties who love this bonanza of rising house prices, because no society should ever want to see prices rise as fast as they are in this country while wages flatline. The fact is wage growth has not kept up with the cost of housing and the goal of many Australians to own their own home is increasingly unattainable. Shockingly, a fact the government doesn't like to talk about—I've never heard them talking about it—Australia is now the third most unaffordable housing market in the OECD. Amongst all the developed nations we're the third most unaffordable housing market. This is the Liberal's record of failure. When you take away the spin, the marketing, the announcements and the crocodile tears—whatever other distraction and stunt they'll come up with today—it's a record of failure.

We've had record low wage growth in this country. Real wages under this government fell in real terms between 2013 and 2019. We're the third last place in the OECD for wage growth. Out of 35 developed nations we're the third lowest wage growth and the third highest house prices—the most unaffordable housing market. We've seen the market take off again. We had a brief pause last year with COVID but off they go, two per cent a month in Melbourne and Sydney. This is a crisis. This is a problem. This is not something to get up and go, 'The economy is going gangbusters. Look, house prices are going up.' This is a problem for our society. Housing markets—it's a longer speech, you know, demand and supply. It's not rocket science. The government has nothing to say on supply. I get that a lot of those levers sit with the states and territories but that's why you need a partnership and why you need nationally coordinated policy. You also need to invest in social housing.

There's a trillion dollars of debt under this mob—these great economic geniuses over there, these great economic managers. There was $100 billion in new spending in your last budget and nothing on social housing, nothing to show for it. Commonwealth land—a lot of talk. They keep re-announcing the same things, to develop the same pieces of land—nothing. No land released. Nothing but pork-barrelling in marginal seats for their so-called cities program, nothing to really deal with housing affordability.

On the demand side some days you wish they'd do nothing, because I think the prize for the dumbest proposal, the gold medal for policy stupidity, goes to the idea of letting people withdraw superannuation to buy houses. It's a triple whammy. It would be hard to think of any policy that is so profoundly bad. Not only would it trash people's retirement savings; it would push up house prices—pour petrol on the fire that is now raging in the housing market in capital cities. It would also transfer enormous amounts of wealth from the younger generation to the older generation, because the only people who are going to benefit from this dumb idea are people who are selling houses, particularly those who own multiple properties.

To be very clear, Labor thinks superannuation is good and home ownership is good—and you don't have to choose between the two. Labor's out there every day, every year, trying to protect the superannuation system that provides for the long-term dignity and retirement of working Australians. It used to be the province of the elite—the very top few, in banking, the top of the Public Service, the military and whatever, who got super. But we extended it to everyday working Australians. The Liberals are out there trying to destroy it. But the great lie of this policy is that it's not about first-home buyers. The only people who benefit are the vendors. Say there are two young couples bidding in an auction. Let's say they withdrew $30,000 each from their superannuation account. These two young couples turn up to the auction, and all they do is bid up the cost of the housing by that 30 grand. You might as well get a vacuum cleaner and stick it in your superannuation account and suck all the cash out into the pocket of the person selling the house—it's usually a guy, but whoever it is. All this policy does is get your superannuation balance drained into the pocket of the house seller.

The latest modelling that I've seen from Industry Superannuation Australia—independent modelling, with the assumptions all out there; the government decries it, because they don't like the answers—shows that if we saw this policy adopted, if the government was loony enough to adopt this idea from their nutty backbenchers who are trying to get their names in the paper, there would be an eight to 16 per cent increase in the median house prices in the five biggest capital cities. Joe Hockey even floated this idea back in 2015 but within a couple of days had ruled it out as a very dumb idea, as Mathias Cormann told him, as the Grattan Institute told him and as leading economists like Saul Eslake told him.

And the facts haven't changed, but it's come back, because of attention-seeking Liberal backbenchers like the member for Goldstein. He's got a great advantage over most of us in this place, you must admit. It's not his great intellect. It's not his extraverted nature—a few of us have that. It's certainly not his judgement. It's not his respect for parliament, after he was found misusing parliamentary committees last term. It's that he has no shame. He has no shame in prosecuting any idea that will get him in the newspaper. But he's pushing a stupid idea, desperately hoping someone will make him a minister—there might be some vacancies soon. But the great nonsense, the untruth, is the lie that super would make it easier to get a home. I do accept that he's interested in increasing home ownership. But the Liberal MPs who are pushing this idea should be honest. The only people who benefit are homeowners. He and his husband between them own five properties; it's on his parliamentary declaration. He'd stand to benefit from this policy, but first-home buyers would not.

You don't make housing more affordable by making it more expensive. It is a ridiculous policy to pour more cash into people's pockets as house prices are already rising—petrol on the fire. It's also bad for taxpayers. The early withdrawal would see billions more dollars spent on the pension. To his credit, the Treasurer said no to the request by the member for Goldstein for an inquiry. But he needs to go the whole hog and rule this out—rule it out now and go and find a real answer to housing affordability, not fake promises to young people. (Time expired)

10:13 am

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

The Morrison government is getting on with the job of delivering for the good people of my electorate of Higgins. I'm very grateful for this, because I'm passionate about taking care of Higgins. These commitments were formulated in consultation and with the support of my local community, and I'm really pleased about them, because the commitments are about keeping Higgins safe, active and healthy.

Once such project, which is going to not only bust congestion but also deliver a much safer intersection, is the removal of the notorious Glenferrie Road level crossing at Kooyong Station in my electorate of Higgins. The Morrison government has committed $260 million to its removal. This project will enable the removal of this level crossing and allow commuters from the south-east of Melbourne faster passage across this busy corridor. Further, our government is firmly committed to providing an integrated solution to the wider Glen Waverley train line, which is why we have also committed funding of $10 million to a business case looking at stations on either side of the Glenferrie Road level crossing, including Madden Grove in Burnley and Tooronga Road in Malvern.

I've heard from my constituents all about how hard it is for them with this Glenferrie Road crossing and the Taronga Road crossing. We need an integrated solution, which is why the federal government has stepped in to make a change. An important element of why we're doing this is that VicRoads released a study back in 2013 listing the Glenferrie Road level crossing as one of the 20 high-priority level crossings needing to be removed. It is one of the most dangerous and congested level crossings, and it sits on a key arterial corridor for the wider south-eastern Melbourne region. It sees thousands of vehicles pass through it each day. It is one of the only level crossings left that sees cars, trams, trains and pedestrians all intersect at this one dangerous crossing. There are around 24 trains in the peak-hour period between 7 am and 9 am and this means that members of my community sit at boom gates for almost one third of the time of the peak hour in the mornings.

I know this because I lived on the street along this train line many years ago and I also worked in a local medical practice right on the train line. As a mum with little kids, I used to push my pram across that level crossing and I used to see children run across it, in front of the level crossing coming down—very, very dangerous. So I'm delighted that this is something we've committed to. We have a business plan which is due to be released in the coming weeks to look at the integrated solution for the whole line, but particularly this important level crossing. As a local doctor I used to sit there waiting for my patients to arrive, knowing that they were sitting in peak hour traffic at the boom gates and unable to get to the other side in order to get to an appointment. I'm just one of the many local businesses that have been affected by these boom gates and I'm pleased that this is now going to change.

I want to thank both the former minister for urban infrastructure, the Hon. Alan Tudge, and the new federal minister, who is now in the chamber, the Hon. Paul Fletcher, for supporting this important project for my community. This project is part of the Morrison government's commitment to supporting local jobs, businesses and the economy during our post-COVID recovery. Most importantly, it's about helping keep my community safe with real and practical solutions.

Our government is also getting on with the job of delivering safer community spaces, which is why we've committed $100,000 towards the installation of new pathway lighting along the popular Rosanna Street Reserve in my electorate in Higgins. This is in the part of the electorate called Carnegie. This shared path forms part of the Rosstown Rail Trail east-west commuter path, and the new lighting will be both solar and LED powered. I'm very pleased about that because Higgins and I care deeply about a sustainable future. This was responding to the City of Glen Eira's Environmental Sustainability Strategy, and I'm very pleased that we are partnering with our local council for this important project.

People in my electorate are now getting out and enjoy their community recreational spaces much more. We know that Higgins is one of the electorates with the least open space, so we really need to make sure that every single part of my electorate which has an open space is made safe and easy for people to use, because those spaces are a very important part of my electorate. This will help improve connectivity with our local paths and street networks, and it will encourage more walking—or active transport, as we like to call it. I look forward to switching on these new lights in the coming months with our local council in Glen Eira.

We're also providing new lighting, to be installed in the Riversdale Soccer Club, with an $88,000 grant from the federal government to support this wonderful club. Great new sports infrastructure like this will encourage locals in Glen Eira and Ashburton to get involved and stay active in soccer. This funding complements the Morrison government's spending on community sports infrastructure so that local communities have the facilities they need to enjoy sport and recreational activities. And, of course, in areas of the inner city like Higgins we really do need to make sure that we care for and respect these small spaces and make sure that they're well utilised.

The Morrison government is also committed to developing inclusive early intervention programs that will support improving outcomes for vulnerable young families and children in my electorate, like those who attend The Craig Family Centre in Ashburton. I recently visited the centre and met with their board to hear firsthand how federal funding announced at the last election has supported this wonderful organisation to deliver these programs. It was pleasing to hear the funding has been put to good use and that this centre is looking to continue these programs into the future, including group sporting activities, bush playgroups and a new garden kitchen project. The Craig Family Centre provides a wonderful community support to those who are really vulnerable in our community, and I really congratulate them for the wonderful work that they're doing.

As I said earlier, Higgins is a very active electorate. We have a passion for both sport and health. It's about keeping active, whether through COVID or now post the pandemic. I'm pleased the outdated Murrumbeena Park Pavilion will be getting a major facelift, transforming the local pavilion into an integrated community hub with multipurpose spaces for local sporting clubs and events. In fact, just last week I welcomed the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Michael McCormack, to Higgins for the ceremonial turning of the first sod to signal the beginning of construction on this long-awaited project. This new hub will be a reality thanks to a contribution of $4 million from the Morrison federal government and will provide a home base to support the growth of local sporting clubs, particularly female participation, which has seen a welcome explosion in numbers in recent years. The new pavilion will, importantly, have separate change rooms for male and female players to ensure young women will have the very best local facilities. Importantly, it also has a world-class changing facility called Changing Places which is dedicated to the support of those with a disability having change rooms that are fit for purpose. I really welcome this world-class approach to our local sporting communities. It's important for those who want to get active but have a disability.

I thank the City of Glen Eira, including the CEO, Rebecca McKenzie, the mayor and local champion for our community, Margaret Esakoff, and the local member for Oakleigh, Steve Dimopoulos, for their effort to bring this project forward which is being matched by the Victorian state government to the tune of $2 million. These upgrades will benefit community groups, including the Murrumbeena Football Netball Club, the junior football club, the cricket club, the Murrumbeena Park Bowls Club and the Oakdale Angling Club. I look forward to seeing construction kick off next month now we've done the turning of the sod. I have to say the Deputy Prime Minister has very good kicking skills. We were kicking a football around the oval with some local kids. He was pretty surprised that I could kick a football, but with brothers and having grown up in Albury locally I think I can manage that. When the project is finished in mid-2022, I am looking forward to being able to watch some great local sporting highlights from the wonderful decking that is going to be provided at the Murrumbeena community hub so that parents can enjoy watching their kids and young adults getting out there and getting active.

Our government has also committed $400,000 to the Melbourne Yarra bike trail project. This is being delivered by the City of Stonnington to upgrade a dangerous section of existing pathways along the busy Alexandra Avenue in Toorak. The pathwinding project will see the installation of a barrier protecting cyclists from adjacent traffic and will complete stage 7A of the Yarra River biodiversity project. My community are keen cycling enthusiasts and so am I. I can't wait to get out there and enjoy with my local community the wonderful Yarra River bike trail. It's a wonderful place for people to enjoy getting out and getting active. This upgraded pathway means that we can do it in a safer way.

I am also proud of the fact that Higgins cares about staying healthy. We care about the provision of world-class health care. As a doctor myself, I care about delivering the best quality health care that Australia doesn't just deserves but expects. Along with that comes the Very Special Kids Hospice. This is a place that has a very special place in my heart. It has a very special project which is one step closer to completion thanks to a $7.5 million federal government commitment to embark on a totally new hospice for seriously ill children and their families. This wonderful facility provides 24-hour specialist care, with nurses trained in complex needs. Very Special Kids is a team of doctors, nurses, carers and other professionals who work around the clock to help children in a home away from home at a time when families are dealing with an amazing journey, when their children have life-threatening conditions. I really want to mark and honour the work of the previous member for Higgins, the Hon. Kelly O'Dwyer, on this. She fought valiantly for this funding. I want to put on record my thanks to her and to the wonderful CEO, Michael Wasley, for his efforts in providing the plans for this new hospice which is very close to getting full funding, with matching funding from the Victoria state government and some wonderful philanthropic funding. It will provide an amazing new world-class hospice. It is one of only two hospices in the whole of Australia for children. It was actually, I think, Australia's first hospice. We must give our thanks to these wonderful people doing this work. They are the angels who are looking after our very special angels.

I'm also pleased that we have a wonderful hospital in my electorate, Cabrini hospital. It's the only hospital in my electorate. It is a private, not-for-profit hospital. I was on the board of the Cabrini hospital. The federal government has provided very special funding of $6 million for a new state-of-the-art cancer facility, which will allow researchers and clinicians to work towards lifesaving breakthroughs. As a former director of Cabrini Health, I know the top-quality work that this institution does both with regard to clinical care and research outcomes. This will provide better health outcomes for people in the south-east. It's a much-needed special research centre, and I'm very proud to be supporting that with a federal government commitment.

Finally, young people in Higgins have been doing it tough through COVID. We know that depression and anxiety and, unfortunately, youth mental health issues, including suicide, are on the rise, so it's so important that we step up and provide committed mental health services. I'm very proud that there is a $3.5 million commitment to a brand new headspace facility in Glen Iris in Higgins. This is due to be opened in September this year, initially in temporary facilities and then in new facilities going forward. As a mum and a paediatrician, I know how valuable these services are, and I know that there are many Australians who have been dealing with a pretty tough period of their life over the last 12 months, so a local headspace facility is needed now more than ever. Our government is committed to ensuring that young people have the right support services no matter where they live.

My community is benefiting from the significant investments made by the Morrison government. I'm proud to have fought for our community to be safe, active and healthy. These projects support our community to live more healthily, to have more active lifestyles and to prepare for the future growth in the inner east of Melbourne. I'm proud to be helping to take care of Higgins.

10:26 am

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We're debating Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021. Appropriation bills are, of course, the very lifeblood of government. It's important that these bills pass so that the government has money to keep our economy ticking over during a very difficult time. But what has this government been doing? What have those opposite been doing? They have been presiding over a series of scandals and shambles.

One of my constituents, Pamela Trotman, a mental health social worker, recently wrote a letter to the Prime Minister voicing her concerns. I'm not sure if the Prime Minister has read it. His office certainly haven't acknowledged it. But she's urging him to reconsider his decision not to hold an inquiry into the events of 1988 in which it was alleged that Christian Porter raped a teenage colleague. She writes:

Christian Porter and you have both … argued on the importance of upholding the rule of law as a key foundation of a democratic society … however there are other key principles of law which you and Christian Porter appear to have overlooked and in doing so you have both compromised the integrity of the role of Attorney General.

Ms Trotman says that Minister Porter had the opportunity to declare his innocence, but the woman who is making the allegations has not. She writes to the Prime Minister:

What is particularly galling about your actions is your apparent insincerity with respect to ensuring survivor's voices are heard. That insincerity, or was it duplicity, is evidenced in the fact that you made those assertions in support of Christian Porter just five weeks after you stood beside Grace Tame while she delivered her impassioned speech in response to being awarded Australian of the Year. Which 'persona' of you as Prime Minister do we believe?

Ms Trotman writes to the Prime Minister further:

We need leaders, men, and women, who despite the challenges and personal costs, will fight to uphold and protect the very fabric of our civil society … neither he nor you have demonstrated this level of leadership and in so doing have tarnished the integrity of this pivotal role in sustaining Australia as a civil society.

She closes by saying:

Your decision not to hold an inquiry is to silence not only the voice of Christian Porter's accuser but all the other rape victims who struggle to live healthy and rich lives while their perpetrators go unchallenged. That, Sir, is not my idea of a how a civil society should work.

I agree with Ms Trotman. We should not be silencing the voice of victims; we should be amplifying them. This is true of the victims of sexual assault as well as those who have served our nation, and that is why I've been so vocal in my calls for a royal commission into veteran and Defence Force suicides. We've managed to get the government over to the side of overwhelming public opinion. I acknowledge the support we have had from all sides on this issue. But I do note that the Prime Minister still hasn't been able to bring himself to say that there will definitely be a royal commission; he only says that he won't oppose moves towards establishing one. Yesterday in question time the Prime Minister couldn't say there would be a royal commission. On behalf of veterans and families I say: 'Prime Minister why are you delaying confirming that there will be a royal commission into defence and veteran suicides? Why won't you establish that for the nation? I hope you do it today. You've got the opportunity to do it before we go to a break from sittings.'

We know that work is a tremendous lifeline for people and sustains families. But, over the last year, work has been incredibly uncertain for many Australians, who are now facing even more uncertainty. There are only four days left until this lifeline to businesses, especially to small businesses, is cut off. It's going to be disastrous for a lot of those small businesses, including in my electorate of Solomon—Darwin and Palmerston—the northern capital of Australia. Our workers have sacrificed so much during this pandemic and they've paid a very high price. One million people are unemployed and 1. 1 million are underemployed looking for more work or more hours. Some 3.3 million have raided their super account, with many thousands of young people reducing their balances to zero. This will cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars upon their retirement.

What Australian workers and businesses need right now is a government that will listen to them and hear their fears, worries and concerns. During this highly unusual period, they are hoping for a helping hand—and I speak for my electorate—to get through to the vaccine rollout, which is slower than anticipated, and to get to the dry season, when the tourists return. That's why Labor first proposed a wage subsidy system—and we understood that this sort of help would be necessary for some time. Now is not the time to lift this support.

But no-one thinks that this payment, JobKeeper, should go on for ever. Economists are estimating that, when the tap gets turned off on Sunday, anywhere between 100,000 and 250,000 Australians will immediately lose their jobs. JobKeeper has been the only thing keeping them afloat. So, whilst this Prime Minister fights for the jobs of his colleagues with serious allegations against them, in four days we are facing a situation where many Australians around this nation, through no fault of their own, will join the unemployment queues. That's mind-boggling.

The temporary rate of JobSeeker has been cut too, so Territorians and people in my electorate won't get much support there. A miserly boost of $3.57 a day from those opposite isn't going to help keep the lights on at home or put food on the table or pay the rent. More than 4,000 Territorians were still on JobKeeper at the end of January, and three-quarters of them live in Darwin in my electorate. So I speak for them when I say it is premature to be pulling this support away—particularly for people connected with the tourism industry because, as we know, the borders remain closed. In my electorate Chris Cleanthous runs a business servicing cruise ships. They normally service 50 to 70 ships a year. They've been doing that for 30 years. It was a very profitable business until COVID-19 hit and the ships stopped coming. Chris and his brother George have already had to lose two-thirds of their staff, dropping from 30 employees to 12. Those 12 are all on JobKeeper and all look to be out of a job from Monday, when JobKeeper goes. Overseas tourism is still a long way from returning to Australia, and we all understand that, so some consideration needs to be given to businesses such as these that have been paying their taxes for so many years. Domestic tourism coming back isn't going to be able to fill that gap for them, so there is a big, real need for targeted support with JobKeeper. We all know there's massive corporations that have been getting JobKeeper whilst making massive profits, whilst giving out executive bonuses and whilst paying out dividends funded by the taxpayers of Australia. Targeted support to small businesses that are still struggling is what's required.

The $1.2 billion tourism package that the government announced two weeks ago initially didn't include the Top End at all, despite our heavy reliance on tourism. How could Darwin be overlooked when Broome was included and when Cairns was included? We have many world-class tourism icons, such as Kakadu. How could they be ignored? It was only added to the list of eligible locations after the fact, when we raised our concerns about it. I acknowledge all those from all sides of politics representing the Northern Territory who raised those concerns, but it hardly sends and encouraging message to tourism businesses in the Top End.

What is the government actually offering to the tens of thousands of tourism and hospitality businesses in the Territory and around the country who are hanging on by a thread? Some of those businesses are going to go to the wall. And yet those opposite, the federal government, refuse to even consider making companies who have made massive profits pay back the JobKeeper they didn't need. In a targeted way, those funds could have kept some of these small businesses afloat.

We want Territorians and, around Australia, Australian workers to be connected to their businesses. David Malone is the CEO of Master Builders Association Northern Territory. Today in the NT News he noted that we are entering what he calls the great unwinding, as those billions are pulled back and the economy returns to being powered by citizens not stimulus. One of the biggest impacts, he says, is the end of the federal government's HomeBuilder incentive and the Northern Territory's BuildBonus scheme. These schemes have helped shore up private investment. David is calling for the creation of a major projects coordinator and an infrastructure commissioner to take charge around investment as stimulus payments ebb. There is, of course, light on the horizon. The NT government has done a great job of considering the longer term future and has been busy shoring up many projects that will give us a stable base for the recovery. These projects include major investments in renewable energy. There is the Sun Cable project, which will result in up to $8 billion being invested in the Territory, which will be home to the largest solar farm and renewable energy system in the world. It will form part of the $22 billion Australian-ASEAN Power Link, for which 1500 jobs will be created during the construction phase from October 2023, with 350 ongoing jobs once operations get going. It will create both job security and energy security, both of which are absolutely essential in the NT and around our country. It will be good for the environment and good for the economy. It means that in six years from now this power link will provide a huge amount of renewable energy for the NT as well as powering a fifth of the energy used by Singapore. It will export one billion per year in solar electricity.

The NT will be a renewable energy powerhouse and will be set to become a green energy manufacturing hub. It could, in fact, be a key cog in a federal renewable energy precinct network, which could support a cluster of manufacturers powered by 100 per cent renewable energy. It could help Australia get on the front foot and capitalise on a growing global demand for carbon zero products. It could position us as a world leader in zero-carbon, sustainable manufacturing.

A proposal from the World Wildlife Fund suggests that 3,000 regional manufacturing jobs in Darwin could double under such a program. That's a big deal for the northern capital of Australia. So there's a bright future ahead of us, especially for the Northern Territory. But many of these fantastic initiatives are still a few years away. We need support to help our local businesses hold on during this very tough time, so that they still exist when the time comes to capitalise on the opportunities ahead. This is not the time to cut JobKeeper. The government must reconsider this.

If it escapes the government's attention, let me make it very clear: like in other regional areas of Australia, in my electorate in Darwin and Palmerston there are many small businesses, including First Nations businesses, whether they be in the travel booking industry or connected to international tourism, that still require this assistance in a targeted way—those exposed to the dramatic decline in those coming from overseas to visit our magnificent Northern Territory. They still need a hand in a targeted way to get through to the vaccine rollout, which those opposite are responsible for. If the vaccine rollout is a lot slower than anticipated, keep JobKeeper going—particularly to those businesses in the tourism industry that are going to struggle or close. Many of them will simply cease to exist. It behoves those opposite to take the concerns of these small businesses and their workers in the Northern Territory seriously. I seek leave to table a letter from Ms Pamela Trotman, one of my constituents, to the Prime Minister, because I have no faith that it has been read.

Leave not granted.

10:41 am

Photo of Tony PasinTony Pasin (Barker, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When we entered this pandemic, we entered it with very clear eyes. The Prime Minister and the leadership team consistently referred to a strategy, and that strategy was about saving lives and preserving livelihoods. As a result, the COVID-19 restrictions we were forced to impose at the beginning of the pandemic were harsh. We weren't used to those draconian measures. The appropriations bills, Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021, are an opportunity to reflect on the year that was, and I want to reflect against that matrix—lives saved and, of course, measures that go to preserving livelihoods.

Mr Deputy Speaker Kevin Andrews, you know that Australians, our community at large, sacrificed a lot. But it was those sacrifices which ensured we saved lives. Compared with comparable jurisdictions around the world, Australia has done exceptionally well. Today we have zero community transmission in the country, and that has a lot to do with the early action taken on our international borders. Our economy today, I would suggest to you, is the envy of the world. According to the OECD, Australia's economy only contracted 3.8 per cent compared to the 5.5 per cent average across advanced economies. Our economic success was dependent on our success in fighting the health crisis in the first instance. We took action quickly to combat the pandemic. We declared COVID-19 a pandemic well before the World Health Organization; we even received criticism from that organisation for that declaration. We closed our international borders quickly.

On 11 March 2020 the Prime Minister announced that a new body called the national cabinet would be established to ensure a coordinated response across the country. Establishing a national cabinet would have been considered impossible prior to the pandemic, but our government, in conjunction with the states and territories, including a majority of Labor governments, made it happen. Since then, we have supported the states' hotel quarantine systems, provided increased health funding and, most recently, ensured we have a sovereign vaccine manufacturing program so that we are not dependent on other nations for our health response.

I think we can say the actions taken to save lives were a stunning success but there's more work to be done. We heard the usual whinges from the member for Solomon, but the vaccine is being rolled out, and I ask people across my electorate to be patient as we do this. It is the largest peace-time undertaking in our nation's history. Early indications are positive because Australians feel as though they want to do their bit and doing their bit right now is lining up for the vaccine, if you're in the 1B cohort. As the CSL production facility at Broadmeadows comes on line, and there's been brilliant and positive news on that front today, we will produce those one million doses a week, which will ensure every Australian has access to the vaccine, should they wish to take it.

I will now move to the government's response and how we maintained livelihoods during the pandemic. In the early phases of the pandemic, it was perhaps not considered as pressing, but I'm very pleased that equal attention was given to it in the early days because, of course, saving lives was pre-eminent. If we hadn't gone about saving lives then we would be facing not just an economic crisis right now but a crisis that would visit itself on people's psychological sequela today much more significantly than it is.

The most significant economic stimulus our government provided was of course a $77 billion JobKeeper payment. It has provided support to businesses and their employees since the beginning of the pandemic. As we heard from the member for Solomon and as we know, it ends at the end of this month. It was always intended to be a temporary measure. It was one that was scalable and provided that soft fall into which businesses could land and it maintained that connection between businesses and their employees. Across my electorate, and I hasten to suggest the other 150 members in this place have the same experience, it's clear that businesses would have closed without the payment. I'm glad to report many of those businesses once dependent on JobKeeper have not only graduated from that but have thrived in the new economic settings. Had the relationship between employers and employees been severed at that point, I doubt I would be able to say that.

Investment our government provided totals over $267 billion in direct economic and health supports. Of that, $251 billion was in direct economic support and $175 billion has already flowed to Australian households and businesses. Although many of these economic support packages were inconceivable prior to the pandemic, they've saved our economy from the negative impacts seen across the world. JobKeeper, JobSeeker, JobMaker programs and many other programs our government introduced all have the same aim: to create jobs by getting more shovels in the grounds.

So speaking of shovels in the ground, particularly those shovels in Barker, I would like to address a few of those programs. I begin with Building Better Regions Fund. It's one of those programs ensuring that post-pandemic we are getting shovels in the ground. It has seen projects both completed and under construction in my electorate of Barker. Drought-affected regional communities in Barker took a share in millions of dollars under round 4 of that program. Projects approved through round 4 of the Building Better Regions Program are currently under construction, including: the Southern Mallee commercial centre revitalisation project, which received $2.25 million; the Loxton Wellbeing and Community Centre, which received a touch over $1.2 million; Destination Swan Reach received $224,000; the Bordertown Caravan Park received $700,00; Waikerie Age Friendly Community Project received $600,000; and the Murray Bridge Golf Club and Community Clubroom Redevelopment received $339,000.

In previous rounds, this program has provided enormous benefits to the community, not only building social infrastructure but also creating jobs, both in the construction and post-construction phases. Applications for round 5 recently closed. I'm looking forward to those determinations being made and announcements being made shortly. It's a $200 million fund, and of course colleagues would know that $100 million of that is dedicated—hypothecated, if you like—to tourism related infrastructure, which is the right investment at the right time. Barker has some of South Australia's, indeed our nation's, prime tourism offerings: the Barossa Valley, the Coorong, the Riverland and the Limestone Coast, meaning our local regions will benefit from this increased domestic tourism and the diversity of the tourism offer. More local jobs, better community infrastructure, a boost to the local economy: that's exactly what the Building Better Regions Fund is about.

Another fund which has operated positively in my electorate during the pandemic is the response fashioned for local governments through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. It's led to better infrastructure and better facilities. It's allowed councils to keep building and keep employing Australians through the pandemic. The first round of the LRCI program provided $500 million and brought forward $1.3 million in financial assistance. That's nationwide. Across Barker, that meant $30 million for local councils in round 1. This unprecedented economic support allowed councils to not only get on with the job of providing services but get to those projects they were unlikely to fund in the short term or even in the medium or longer term. The success and sheer number of these projects submitted through round 1 of the program led, with the assistance of many colleagues, to the establishment of a second round, and that provided to my electorate an additional $10.5 million. I could spend the remaining time I have listing these projects but let me simply say these projects included playground projects, footpath projects, road resheeting projects, reconstruction projects, lighting projects, sporting infrastructure upgrades, stormwater projects, community hall projects as well as some larger applications where councils took this injection of funding and parlayed it with existing funds to get about doing very significant works.

It's important to remember that prior to the pandemic many regional communities were suffering from the implications of a prolonged drought and, indeed, in many places around Australia, the effects of bushfire. Our government understands the effects of long-term droughts don't end when the rain starts, just like the floods being experienced in New South Wales today—their impacts don't end just because New South Welshmen in affected areas woke up this morning to sunshine. That's why the government's Drought Communities Program was so important to regional communities, another program that rolled out during the pandemic, another program that put shovels in the ground. Eleven councils in my electorate were eligible for $1 million, 10 of them were eligible for $2 million. The councils that benefited from this program included the District Council of Loxton Waikerie; the District Council of Karoonda East Murray; the Southern Mallee District Council; the Mid Murray Council; the Berri Barmera Council; the Light Regional Council; the Rural City of Murray Bridge; the Renmark Paringa Council; the Coorong District Council; the Tatiara District Council; and, of course, the Barossa Council. As I travel around my electorate, I'm seeing the rollout of projects across that program, which is raising the spirits of people who live in these communities who've dealt with prolonged drought—24 months of drought—effectively doubled down with the pandemic. Not only is it raising their spirits; we're seeing local employment stimulating the local economy and improving services and amenities for those regional communities.

Preserving community and social needs through the pandemic has been, I think you'd accept Mr Deputy Speaker Andrews, a priority of our government. I know that people who are connected and engaged with their community have much better outcomes than those who are isolated. That's why every year I attend most agricultural shows and field days across my electorate. Last year, almost all of them were cancelled, and their future was put in jeopardy because, of course, the profit earnt from this year's show is invested in making sure that show societies can run next year's show, meaning: no show, no profit. No profit, potentially no show. That's why our government had shows' and field days' backs. We offered $34 million worth of agricultural show grants to make sure the agricultural shows and field days bounced back. I'm here to tell you that they have bounced back.

In the last four weeks I have attended shows at Angaston and Tanunda in the Barossa, Mount Pleasant and Mannum. The one thing that was common, aside from the joy on people's faces because they were back at community events, was the very significant crowds. I've never seen crowds of that size at those shows. I thought I might have been unusually optimistic, although I think I'm the parliament's pessimist. I confirmed it with the show societies. They said, 'Tony, we have never seen this many people through the gates.'

There's a silver lining to the dark COVID cloud. I think we had come to a place in life where we took many of the things we love for granted—'I won't go to the Angaston show this year. I'll go next year. I won't do that thing at the Mount Pleasant show because I'll do it next year.' People have had 18 months to remember. One of the things it has done is shocked them to realise that the things they love might not always be there, so they better go and experience them. I'm very pleased to say that but for the agricultural show grants program those shows, those events, wouldn't have been there. It was the injection of that funding—that smart, targeted assistance—that meant that the things that constituents love doing were there to do post pandemic.

It has been a very tough year. I'm incredibly grateful to the executive members of our government who have worked day in and day out to negotiate the need to save lives and livelihoods. I congratulate them on their efforts. There's more work to be done, but we're in a very good place.

10:56 am

Photo of Alicia PayneAlicia Payne (Canberra, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021, which are of course about the government's priorities. This government has failed to prioritise some of the most vulnerable people in our society and their carers. I want to talk today about aged care, the NDIS and carers. I want to start by sharing the story of Angelina Giorgio and her sister-in-law Tania Giorgio from Canberra.

Tania came to meet with me in 2019 to talk about Angie's situation. She was living in a dementia ward in aged care here in Canberra. Angie has catatonic schizophrenia and has had a stroke. She was in this dementia ward, despite being only 59 years old and not having dementia. She was mostly bound to her bed and was lucky to be taken out in her wheelchair once a week. When I talked to Tania about this she said that she was basically told, 'You need to accept that this is life for Angie now and she will die here like this.'

She had been approved for a supported disability accommodation package. Part of the reason Tania met with me was that she was concerned that at her upcoming assessment she would not get sufficient funding for this to become a reality. Tania has been a fearless and tireless advocate for her sister-in-law. In writing to me and being in touch with some other great advocates in the ACT, including ADACAS, her situation has been improved.

In February I went and met Angie at her new home in Canberra with the shadow minister for disability, Bill Shorten; the shadow assistant minister for disability, Kimberley Kitching; and our shadow assistant minister for carers, Emma McBride. It was heartwarming and fabulous to see Angie in her new home. Her condition has improved so much since being there. She has been feeding herself a bit and brushing her teeth. We chatted with her about things. She has even been doing a little bit of cooking herself. She has her own little garden she can go into. She just seems so much happier.

This is exactly what the NDIS is supposed to be about—innovative solutions. She's living in a townhouse with support from CHC Canberra. They were able to have this innovative solution where she has around-the-clock care and support in her own home. She doesn't need to be in aged care. She doesn't need to be in a group home. This is exactly the innovative solutions that were supposed to come out of the NDIS. But it took so much fighting to get there and it should not be this way. Everyone should be able to get these things and they shouldn't have to wait so long. If not for a carer like Tania, who, at great personal cost, advocated for her sister and never gave up, this wouldn't have happened. I wanted to put this story on the record because it says so much not only about the NDIS but about aged care; and I want to talk more about that.

The NDIS, under this government, is not being implemented properly. It is not delivering the choice and control that was promised. The latest issue is the proposal of independent assessments. This is raising incredible concern in the disability community because it fundamentally destroys that choice and control people are supposed to have under the NDIS. I spoke about this in the Federation Chamber earlier this week. In sharing my speech, many people with disabilities and their carers from Canberra have got in touch with me. I want to read some of their comments to give a sense of the distress that is out there about this. Julie said: 'I have never been so made to feel like a beggar for funding and assistance as I have since the NDIS. I am a carer for my 26-year-old daughter and I'm sick of hearing how generous NDIS is for giving me funds. You guys changed the funding model and now we have to jump through hoops to get what we rightly deserve. The worst bit is that my daughter's daily life is dictated by people that have never met her and have no idea of her needs. It's jobs to the people who make decisions, but for us it's our lives.' Jasmine said: 'I have been so psychologically damaged by the whole NDIS process I can't even deal with them without having severe panic attacks. The supports I receive are life-saving but the hoop-jumping and never-ending stress that the NDIS puts participants through is cruel and cold-hearted. This government that's in power is a disgusting blight on politics and a stain on Australia'. Jessica said: 'On behalf of my baby son, who is an NDIS participant, thank you. I was so hopeful for his future to be born into a time of the NDIS. He is thriving with regular therapies. I am now very worried that independent assessments will result in a reduction in his funding and that he won't have the opportunity to reach his full potential, that a reduction in therapy will impact his ability to become a thriving independent adult who is able to provide meaningful contributions to society and to participate in paid employment to feel fulfilled with his life'. Helen messaged me and said: 'As a mother of two young men with complex disabilities, one of whom has significant impairment caused by autism, I can see how these changes have the ability to take away the decent life we have worked so hard to create for our boys. I am crying as I type this. Please do all you can to help others understand what is at stake if these changes are allowed to occur without significant modification.' And there were many more comments.

This is indicative of the fear that is being placed on people with disabilities trying to deal with the NDIS at the moment. And this is not how it should be. I'm on the NDIS committee and I hear from people all around the country about these issues. And unfortunately what we are seeing is that the approach is around cost-cutting. The approach is this disgraceful attitude that somehow people with disability don't know what's best for them and are trying to get something that they are somehow not entitled to. They are after the supports they need to live their lives—bottom line. We need to be listening to them, and these independent assessments should be scrapped.

I want to move on now to aged care. The aged care royal commission recently handed down its final report, with 148 recommendations to fix aged care. Aged care affects us all. Our parents, our grandparents, our partners, our friends—any of us—could one day end up in aged care. Many people would have seen Hamish Macdonald reduced to tears on Q+A about the fact that people are in fear of going into aged care. We should not be in fear of going into aged care. It should be a place that people go with dignity and for the care that they need in their older age. Instead, under this government we have seen $1.7 billion worth of cuts. In response to the aged-care royal commission report, we did see $500 million announced, and we welcome that. But we need a serious response to this in the budget. This absolutely needs to be addressed. We have 100,000 people on waiting lists for home care at the moment, and we have seen 28,000 people die while waiting on these lists. It's not good enough. This government has been in power for eight years. It's time to get this right. We really need to get it right.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank the people who have brought forward their stories and those of their loved ones to the aged-care royal commission. I want to share a story as well from a constituent of mine about her parents. She has written to the Prime Minister and also sent me her letter. Her father passed away in 2019 and her mother last year. They were in an aged-care facility in Brisbane. Her father had a wound that was mismanaged and allowed to become necrotic, and this contributed to his death. It is horrific for people to see their family members, their loved ones, in these situations. Her mother passed away last year. In the final month of her life, she suffered abuse and lived in fear. My constituent has made a complaint to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, but she doesn't feel that it has been dealt with and it's time for changes to be made in that facility for the benefit of other residents. She's written to the Prime Minister and cc'd me. I just want to read some of that letter. She says: 'I have reached my wit's end in dealing with the nonresponsive, obfuscation, disinterest and lack of accountability of the aged-care industry and the ineffectiveness of your own Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. I am therefore humbly writing to ask you add your power to my voice and restore justice, meaning and purpose to the lives of my late parents. In their lives and deaths, justice, meaning and purpose was denied them by the facility. Despite my representations to them and to the ACQSC, this continues to be the case.'

Then she's written to me, saying: 'In the preceding context, I request that the recommendations of the royal commission into aged care be fully considered and legislated by parliament. My parents' legacy is that future aged-care residents are protected by robust federal legislation with severe penalties for clinical failures, false written records and bullying behaviour within nursing homes.' This just needs to happen. These are our loved ones—our parents and grandparents. We need to get this right.

I want to say about that as well that, while the findings of the royal commission are nothing short of horrific, shocking and completely unacceptable, for those of us who've had a personal experience with aged care, unfortunately, they are not surprising. We know that these things are common. I want to talk a little bit about my grandmother, Joan Handsaker, and her own experience in aged care here in Canberra. My grandmother was a wonderful woman, wife, mother and grandmother. She was a nurse, a formidable tennis opponent and a talented artist. She was and remains an inspiration to me. At the end of her life, she lived with dementia. She lived with us for sometime but eventually had to go into aged care. I'm not going to go into the details, but suffice it to say that many of the most horrific things that have come to light I saw happen to my own grandmother. I know what that's like. For my mother, this was one of the most painful things that she lived with.

I want to share a bit of a story because it points to some of the policy responses. I want to talk about staff ratios, the need for registered nurses and the need for better treatment of our aged-care workers. My grandmother was in a dementia ward with eight other women. We were told that the ratio at the time was one staff member. That must have been a policy of the home that she was in because people would be surprised to know that there actually are no ratios for aged-care staff. We have ratios for child care, classrooms and hospitals, but not for our older Australians. So there was one person there with those eight people, and, at some times of the day, that might have been okay, but at other times—at a mealtime, for example—that is not enough to care for those people. My mother would go in there at least once a day, usually twice a day, to help with the care of my grandmother. I remember sitting there at mealtimes. The meals would come out and many of the people could not feed themselves. There was no-one to help them and the meals would be taken away. Then someone would say, 'I need to go to the toilet,' but someone else would be taken, so they would have to say, 'You have to wait.' Then people needed to be put to bed, and my mother would end up helping the staff to put the other residents to bed because there simply was no-one there to care for them.

New staff would come in, and these were the most passionate, dedicated, wonderful people, who wanted to spend time talking with the older people and making their lives brighter. But, as soon as they had been there a little while, it became clear that they could not do their jobs in the way that they wanted to because there were simply not enough staff, and either they would leave or they would just do their best. But that was the crux of the issue—not enough staff, not the proper training, not registered nurses around to deal with the issues of wound management and of abuse that was going on. That absolutely needs to change.

Before the royal commission report came out, Labor had announced an eight-point plan. In that plan, we included staff ratios and 24-hour registered nurses. These are recommendations of the report. It is absolutely time that, as a nation and as a parliament, we prioritise aged care. We need to prioritise people with disability. We need to prioritise older people and their carers—people like Tania and people like my mother. It is the most selfless task to be a carer, and carers also are neglected by this government. The informal care is valued at $78 billion a year, but carers receive only a fraction of that. They give of themselves, and we should support them. (Time expired)

11:12 am

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

I rise to support these appropriation bills, in their original form, which make provision for the moneys required to be appropriated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for expenditure on new activities agreed to by the government since the introduction of the 2020-21 supply bills in October of last year. Mindful of the needs of our fellow Australians as our nation emerges from the COVID-19 global pandemic, these appropriations are intended to facilitate the recovery phase of our economy. Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 proposes expenditure of approximately $2.5 billion, while Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021 proposes spending of approximately $141.3 million.

Our focus as a Liberal-National coalition government has been to act swiftly, first and foremost to safeguard the health and wellbeing of Australians in our communities by implementing a vaccination program as we set about rebuilding our national economy by restoring jobs, promoting confidence and reopening borders. To achieve this, an appropriation of $701.2 million is made to the Department of Health, which includes $539.1 million for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout during the remainder of 2020-21. The vaccination of the Australian population is an essential health measure which will serve to contain the pandemic and allow life to return to some degree of normality. No vaccine is 100 per cent effective, nor absolutely guaranteed to be free from adverse side effects. However, mass vaccination of our population is arguably, scientifically and medically, the best option available to bring the global pandemic under control.

Vaccination, although highly recommended on medical grounds will not be compulsory for conscientious objectors. I am pleased to say that the vaccinations have already commenced for elderly residents of aged-care centres in a number of suburbs within my electorate in a bid to protect the most vulnerable cohort in our community. The rollout will be gradually expanded to include other groups, in order of need and based on health advice, to mitigate the potential risk of exposure to an infection such as that faced by frontline workers. Plans are being made to broaden the network of vaccination centres across the electorate to make access more widely available, including at Joondalup hospital.

The federal government has delivered on its $158 million commitment to expand Joondalup hospital to a total capacity of 1,020 beds to alleviate the long waiting times and record levels of ambulance ramping currently being experienced at the emergency department. Multiplex has been awarded the early contractor tender for construction works due to start later this year. Meanwhile, the Department of Health has reached an agreement with Ramsay Health Care on the key terms that will form the basis of Ramsay's contract extension to operate the Joondalup health campus for at least another 15 years from 2028, with an option for an additional five-year renewal. The contract extension will include the contemporary funding model and performance management regime, implemented from 2025, to enable Ramsay Health Care to plan future investments in its private services with confidence beyond the current expiration in 2028.

Population growth in the northern coastal suburbs is placing greater demands on Joondalup hospital. Even the planned superclinic at Yanchep will not be sufficient in coming years to meet the growing demands caused by residential growth in the northern coastal suburbs. Visionary forward planning is required for another major hospital based in the Yanchep region to meet the future healthcare needs of a rapidly-growing community. I call upon the WA state government to start the planning design and funding for a major hospital around the Alkimos and Yanchep area now, based on the population projections, to take pressure off Joondalup hospital.

Moving on: the bill provides $408 million to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications for programs to support the economic recovery from COVID-19 by improving transport access and supporting regional development. I strongly support the City of Wanneroo in its advocacy for the road funding necessary to unlock the economic development potential of the Neerabup Industrial Area. The local economy of Joondalup is, to a large extent, reliant on access to the vast commercial and industrial areas in neighbouring Wanneroo.

There is a compelling requirement to upgrade both Flynn Drive and Neaves Road without further delay, providing an efficient east-west link between the industrial estate, the Mitchell Freeway and the productive regions of our state to the Perth to Darwin National Highway. An efficient road network will also better connect Neerabup with future economic and employment estates proposed at Nowergup and Pinjar. The extension of Lukin Drive from the Mitchell Freeway to Wanneroo Road, a distance of 800 metres, will connect the coastal suburbs with Nowergup, providing improved access to employment, the transportation of building materials from the quarries and an alternative emergency access route in the event of bushfires.

A key regional project which needs to be brought forward is the Whiteman to Yanchep highway. This will benefit the adjoining electorates of Cowan and Pearce. I repeat my previous calls for the government to bring forward the construction of the highway. The Whiteman to Yanchep highway will connect to Flynn Drive and Neaves Road. The construction of this missing link will complete an important east-west freight corridor. Further to the south, the Whiteman to Yanchep highway will connect with Gnangara Road, improving access for businesses based in the existing Landsdale, Wangara and Enterprise Park industrial estates. The connection of Whitfords Avenue to a realigned Gnangara Road is a priority project which I have been long advocating for as essential to promoting economic development by linking the Wangara commercial and industrial area with the residential areas of my electorate. The WA Liberal opposition made a $10 million election commitment towards progressing this project. I call upon the McGowan Labor government to match this commitment.

Another regional infrastructure project, which I have been advocating strongly for, is the grade separation of the Reid Highway and Erindale Road intersection. This will benefit residents in the neighbouring electorates of Moore, Stirling and Cowan. An estimated $80 million will be required for the construction of a flyover bridge, which will minimise traffic congestion at this busy intersection, allowing free-flowing traffic access from the coast to the Balcatta and Malaga industrial areas and to Perth Airport and beyond via the Reid Highway and Northlink.

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment has been allocated $237.5 million for various programs, including additional funding for the Transition to Work and jobactive programs. Assisting Australians to return to the workforce remains a main priority for the government. Young Australians in their prime are disproportionately represented in the unemployment figures, so our government is taking action to increase workforce participation amongst young Australians aged between 16 to 35, providing incentives for businesses to recruit additional employees. These measures will benefit young people in my electorate as they transition to opportunities in the workforce.

Continued investment in the Joondalup Learning Precinct is critical to develop the skilled workforce of the future, through university courses and vocational education and training. Federal funding of $245 million has been allocated to the Edith Cowan University over the forward estimates to establish a new campus specialising in creative industries, business and technology courses. The new satellite campus, which will be based in Perth's CBD, is scheduled to open in 2025 at a total cost of $695 million. For residents of my electorate, it means a wider range of courses to choose from and having access to a broader selection of learning facilities and educational resources to equip them for future careers in the workforce.

We need a bold futuristic vision for our city. I have a vision that the city of Joondalup will develop into a centre of excellence for innovation, technology, research and development. Our educational institutions, such as the Edith Cowan University, will collaborate with industry to promote the commercialisation of intellectual property. Our city has the potential to evolve into a digital hub, supporting software development, cybersecurity and advanced information technology. We have the highly educated and skilled workforce necessary to attract advanced industries into the heart of Joondalup, such as the specialist medical services, medical research, technology and diagnostic imaging. Attracting both government funding and private sector investment is essential to realising this vision.

Federal and state governments can also give Joondalup a boost through decentralisation by relocating government departments and agencies to Joondalup. I have been working closely with the City of Joondalup's economic development unit and the Joondalup Business Association to engage with stakeholders through a series of workshops to develop a destination marketing strategy to attract more visitors to our region.

There are currently more than 1,000 vacant sites within the City of Joondalup. Measures designed to initiate the construction of homes and commercial buildings, such as the federal housing grants, have boosted our local economy. Local tradespersons and building contractors based in my electorate have gained work through a combination of greenfields development in new subdivisions and urban renewal.

To aid Australians stranded overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic, an allocation of $199.4 million has been made to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The government is aware that thousands of Australians are seeking assistance to return home from overseas. However, it is essential that they go through proper quarantine to prevent the transmission of infection internationally. The weekly caps on hotel quarantine places imposed by the states have created a considerable waiting list. To improve security at our border Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2012 provides $45.1 million to the Department of Home Affairs to support the development of a secure digital platform for the collection and management of incoming passenger information.

Providing humanitarian assistance to our neighbouring countries to boost their vaccination rates will also help to ensure that international travel may resume soon. The provision of $62.1 million has been made to support COVID-19 vaccine access in the Pacific and South-East Asia to ensure that our neighbours in less developed countries have adequate access to vaccination. Having reopened the international borders our focus must turn to diversifying our international trading relationships with a range of emerging economies in South-East Asia and the Indo-Pacific region, developing new markets so that our nation does not become overly reliant on a single market for our exports.

An allocation of $253.3 million has been provided to the Department of Defence, which includes additional funding for defence operations, including the deployment of Australian Defence Force personnel to staff checkpoints and quarantine hotels as part of Operation COVID-19 Assist. The bill provides $142.1 million to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources to improve our domestic fuel security, which is critical to our national security.

In concluding, I commend these appropriation bills. The legislation enables the provision of improved services, facilities and amenities for the benefit of my local community.

11:27 am

Photo of Anika WellsAnika Wells (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Morrison government stands today in the midst of a political storm led by outdated ideology and a broken moral compass. They are frantically trying to avoid jagged rocks of scrutiny whilst looking for a passage back to calmer waters. Now that they're desperately paddling against the tides themselves what the Morrison government are failing to do in their basic duty as the government for Australian people is to realise that for too many Australians the water was never calm and there isn't any way back and it has been like that for years.

Insecure work and low wages have created the perfect storm for workers. The nature of Australia's workforce has been shifting for a decade. Wages are flatlining whilst the cost of living continues to climb. Job insecurity is rampant, directly impacting many workers ability to provide for families and to plan for their future. Combined with the chaos of COVID-19, these trends have manifested into a volatile environment for too many northsiders in my electorate of Lilley who are now struggling to find their feet at all. Ill-designed policies have only exacerbated this reality. Schemes like the government's out of control childcare policy hurt northsiders who want to work.

The Morrison government's contrived optimism about the economic and budgetary forecasts betrays the granular reality of an economy that doesn't work for too many in my northside community. What LNP governments never seem to be able to wrap their heads around is that budgets are about much more than numbers. They are about priorities. They are about your vision for Australia. They should be about people, the people that we are elected here to represent. The economy is supposed to work for the people, not the other way around. A slight improvement in budget and economic forecasts is pointless if people are still struggling to get by.

Labor has been arguing for some time now that we cannot allow the economy to snap back to business as usual, meaning how it was before. Instead the reconstruction of our economy should be used to fix what structural flaws that COVID has exposed. When talking to aged-care workers about the impacts of COVID in the suburb of Chermside, in my electorate, we talked about how COVID has actually been like an X-ray, in that has it has thrown up what was already there structurally and has exacerbated those problems.

When COVID hit, northside workers in insecure work—people who were casuals, contract workers, gig economy workers, labour hire workers—suddenly saw their hours slashed or taken away altogether overnight. Despite what the Attorney-General said at the time about casual workers earning more money to get them through hard times, the pandemic exposed the darker side of casual work. On those first few days when the COVID impacts were starting to hit our communities, I walked the lines of constituents of Lilley standing outside the Centrelink centres at Nundah and Chermside. I talked to them about why they were there and what they were hoping their government would do in this time of crisis. Those queues of jobseekers snaking down Sandgate Road in Nundah Village stretched for hundreds of metres. It laid bare the consequences of a casualised workforce. I spoke to one lady who was five months pregnant. She was a childcare worker, and because she was the last in she was the first out of the system because of the changes to childcare payments put in by the government. She was genuinely at a loss for what to do. I thought: 'You are doing such important work for us in our community. You are an early educator. You are five months pregnant, and, as a community, we have abandoned you right at your hour of most need.'

Over one-third of the workforce is insecure or non-standard forms of work, and the majority instantly fell through a trapdoor into financial abyss, without sick pay, holiday pay, family leave or annual leave. Initially they were left with no options and no support from the Morrison government, and many of them were forced to access their superannuation to tide them over. In fact, 14 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women used their super to pay down debt, and 13 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women used their super to buy food. Think of that—having to access your superannuation, your savings for your retirement, in order to put food on your family table that evening.

Low wages are only adding fuel to the fire. For too long Australian workers have seen their wages flatline while the cost of living continues to skyrocket. This isn't by accident. Last year the then Minister for Finance declared that wages were low by design as part of the Morrison government's deliberate economic strategy. Unsurprisingly, those same tactics have not been applied to corporate interests. While wages have hit the wall, company profits crashed through it pre-COVID. By August 2019 over 60 per cent of listed Australian companies had seen their profit margins grow in the previous 12 months. Corporate profits were growing at five times the rate of wages, and instead of profits going to the workers—the people who put in the work to make those companies grow—they were being privatised in returns to shareholders. Instead of getting their fair share, the workers were told to be grateful because the only way they were going to be able to keep their jobs at all was to settle for whatever was going.

Decent pay is in everybody's interest. Workers with money in their pockets to spend are the engine rooms of economic growth and our local community economies. Sixty per cent of our economy is domestic spending. That money is spent in small business, in our local shopping strips and in shopping centres, and that creates the demand our economy needs to generate more jobs. But, instead of addressing low wages or taking action to combat the rising cost of living, the Morrison government is telling northsiders, 'It is what it is.' They're being told that spending on average $112 on child care per child per day is the best the federal government can offer. They're being told that they will have to choose between a comfortable retirement or buying a house because it is simply impossible to have both. To buy a house, to support your family and to keep up with the cost of living day by day whilst trying to tuck some money away into savings are simple aspirations. But, under this third-term government, we find ourselves having to defend these aspirations, to defend the basics of what Australians expect their government to help them to do.

I have a message for the Prime Minister: northsiders are not going to jump on another ride on the merry-go-round of austerity. They are tired of more being asked of them whilst heads of multinationals pocket the profits generated from their hard work. To emerge as a stronger and fairer society, Australians need a government that can lead the way. National economic reconstruction will not happen by hoping for market miracles. Government has the responsibility to shape the future of Australia's economic security and to ensure it has a place for all, not just a few.

Those on the other side of the chamber who want to look in the rear-view mirror and pine for the destructive, trickle-down economics of the Thatcher and Reagan years—I see that the member for Goldstein has entered the chamber!—have abdicated their responsibility to guide Australia through a crisis that has exposed the depth of inequality of opportunity in this country. Australians need a comprehensive, progressive plan for economic reconstruction that will see us emerge with a stronger economy, one that ensures that all Australians can look forward to a future that offers secure and decent jobs and a vibrant future for their families and for the communities that they love.

Only Labor has a plan to tackle exploitative, insecure work. A federal Labor government will defend your penalty rates and rights at work. We will legislate to properly define 'casual work'. We will explicitly insert job security into the Fair Work Act. We will crack down on cowboy labour firms to guarantee same job, same pay. We will put a cap on back-to-back short-term contracts for the same job. And we will enforce portable entitlements for workers in insecure industries. Only Labor has a plan for strong wages, especially in female-dominated industries, which are too often overlooked. A federal Labor government will strengthen the ability and capacity of the Fair Work Commission to order pay increases for workers who are in low-paid female-dominated industries. We will legislate so that companies with more than 250 employees will have to report their gender pay gap publicly. We will prohibit secrecy clauses and give employees the right to disclose their pay if they want to. We will take action to address the gender pay gap in the Australian Public Service, because we understand that you can't ask the corporate sector to do what you are not prepared to do yourselves.

Only Labor has a plan to make sure that early education is affordable, accessible and high quality for working parents. A federal Labor government will scrap the $10,560 childcare subsidy cap, which often sees women losing more money from an extra day's work. We will lift the maximum childcare subsidy rate to 90 per cent, and we will increase childcare subsidy rates and taper them for every family that is together earning less than $530,000. Only a federal Labor government will actually invest in nation-building infrastructure that creates jobs, instead of just making grand announcements in high-vis and hard hats with absolutely no follow-through.

When is comes to creating jobs on the north side and boosting our local economy, I am not just talking the talk; I am walking the walk. To identify funding gaps in local infrastructure and our local community projects, which will create new jobs on the north side and boost our local economy, I have conducted suburb-specific community surveys across the electorate of Lilley for the past six months. The responses I have received from those community surveys, from my constituents in Lilley, in addition to feedback I've received by conducting mobile offices across every suburb and at community events across the electorate, have been used to inform the drafting of the 2021-22 Lilley budget submission. This is a budget submission by the people of Lilley for the people of Lilley. It includes a list of our local funding priorities, relating to sporting infrastructure, roads and transport, the Urban Congestion Fund, health, education and community initiatives.

I seek leave to table the 2021-22 Lilley budget submission for the consideration of the Treasurer, ahead of the release of the next federal budget in May.

Photo of Ken WyattKen Wyatt (Hasluck, Liberal Party, Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

Leave is not granted. There are other avenues for the member to follow.

Photo of Anika WellsAnika Wells (Lilley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I didn't expect much different, and I will, from here, head straight over to the Treasurer's office and hand deliver him the Lilley electorate budget submission, because my community has worked very hard to put it together, and I am here on their behalf, trying to work with the federal government to get things done on the north side. That's what I was elected to do, and that's what we are all elected to do, as 151 different communities in this place. I think, particularly after the past month, what our constituents are crying out for is to see a bit of responsibility, a bit of dignity in this place, and a bit of bipartisanship, working together to actually get things done and make things better.

This isn't a partisan document. I am just trying to tell the government what we need on the north side in order to create jobs, what we need in order to boost our local economy. For leave to table the Lilley budget submission to be denied is disappointing. But, as the minister said, I will use the opportunity to go directly to the Treasurer after this and hand deliver that submission myself. I will do that because, now more than ever, targeted community driven infrastructure projects are fundamental to creating jobs and to improving our local economy on the north side. That's exactly what this budget submission does and what the initiatives, if taken up by the government, would do.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused far-reaching and ongoing difficulties for communities right across Australia. As the federal member for Lilley, I know how difficult COVID-19 has been for the 108,608 northsiders I am privileged to represent. Approximately 8,687 Lilley residents currently rely on JobSeeker support, 4,716 more than the number of pre-COVID-19 recipients. We also have 1,792 businesses and 5,515 workers who are still relying on JobKeeper even to this day and who will be negatively impacted when the scheme is axed on 28 March, in just a few days.

The end of JobKeeper will rip away approximately $2.7 million a week in support of the Lilley economy. The extended period of economic turbulence experienced by businesses and workers in Lilley is in no small part due to a result of the unique characteristics of our electorate. We are home to the Brisbane domestic and international airports as well as the 6,600 aviation workers who work there. The tourism economy is critical to the economic recovery of the north side of Brisbane, with approximately 23.8 million passengers travelling through those airports each year. One in 70 Queensland jobs are enabled by Brisbane Airport. Over 425 local businesses are located in the Brisbane Airport precinct, employing nearly 24,000 people. With international passenger numbers down by 98 per cent, terminal retailers have been forced to close, and thousands of workers who support international and domestic movements have been stood down or made redundant. The mass job loss experienced at the Brisbane Airport has had severe flow-on effects for jobseekers outside of the sector as aviation workers have flooded the job market.

I know northsiders have aspirations and they want a government that invests in them but this government has phoned in any real plan by turning a blind eye to the plight of our workers and electing to parade failed policy. As elected representatives, this is our moment. We have been asked to meet a challenge we could not have foreseen and with no road map. I want a pathway forward for the north side. (Time expired)

11:42 am

Photo of Tim WilsonTim Wilson (Goldstein, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As we emerge from our present crisis, it inevitably raises questions about the course our country should take hereafter. Some celebrate a lessening of fiscal constraint and monetary policy as ushering in a new modern era of economic policy and wish to rebuild the economy and society on green foundations divorced from economic and human reality. In politics there will be others with their agendas but it should also give a moment of pause for those that hold the Liberal moniker to revisit our approach. Sailing across the sea of economic and geopolitical choppy waters, we need more than ever to find a safe harbour. We need a confident course lest we be overwhelmed by tides originating from beyond our shores.

In his essay, Why I am not a Conservative, Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek rejected the centre right political zeitgeist of his adopted homeland in the second half of the 20th century. He saw socialism on the advance and the deficiencies of conservatism but thought the viable alternative was moderation to merely slow socialism's advance. Hayek's observation was to recognise conservatism's inherent strengths and limitations. The spirit of his comments was reflected in my first speech in this place, that conservatism is a virtue not a vision; an anchor, not a compass.

Hayek argued conservatism's proper place is legitimate—probably necessary—and certainly widespread attitude of opposition to drastic change. However, by its very nature, it cannot offer an am alternate direction in which we are moving. It may succeed by its resistance to current tenancies and slowing down undesirable developments but, since it does not indicate another direction, it cannot prevent their continuance. It has, for this reason, invariably been the fate of conservatism to be dragged along a path not of its choosing. The tug of war between conservatives and progressives can only affect the speed, not the direction.

As progressivism is an accelerator to a car, but undirected, which can lead to a crash, conservatism is a brake that, unrelenting, ensures that you are only overtaken and, when other forces are applied, dragged slowly along. They are speeds, not directions, and there is no logic to defining yourself by your speed. To advance a nation's politics it is your competing destination that matters. Without a vision, you tacitly accept the one of those who have put one forward.

There are only two fundamental motivating principles in politics: power or ideas. Condemning ideology is celebrating politics for power, and politics for power only ever favours the few. Political ideologies are gravitational forces that centre the foundation of policy to improve humanity. Political ideologies often want central governments empowered and their pull strengthened so that they can be manipulated to the ends of the few at the expense of empowered citizens. The role of liberalism is to offer an alternative orbit for human progress. As Hayek also observed:

… I personally cannot be content with simply helping to apply the brake. What the liberal must ask, first of all, is not how fast or how far we should move, but where we should move. In fact, he differs much more from the collectivist radical of today than does the conservative. While the last generally holds merely a mild and moderate version of the prejudices of his time, the liberal today must more positively oppose some of the basic conceptions which most conservatives share with the socialists.

While occasionally pitted against each other, in practice, moderation and conservatism alone achieve the same result: the drag of gravity to a centralist alternative. An ultimate gravitational force is required with enough strength to achieve rebalance and an alternative direction. This was expressed in the audacity of Sir Robert Menzies' speech at the 1965 federal conference of our party: 'The effect of this forward thinking, this liveliness, this being modern, being prepared to be a little adventurous … We have won because we have been the party of innovations. Not the party of the past, not the conservative party dying hard on the last barricade, but the party of innovations. … These were innovations, these were evidences of a lively mind and a forward-looking heart.'

In Australia, the challenge of politics is to appeal to ideas and ideals and to implement them practically using that power. In his seminal 'Forgotten people' radio broadcast, Menzies articulated the case for people because, without a constituency, ideas have no currency. Only people vote. Ideas are the foundation for those who practice the art of persuasion to sacrifice for what is right over the platitudes of the easy or the popular. The harshness of our continent has tempered our idealism, and the absence of revolutionary fire at the modern foundations of our nation has ensured our politics are anchored in the practical. Hence Australians will always choose the imperfection of lived experience over the purity of ideology. It's a world view consistent with Isaiah Berlin's message to the 21st century:

If you are truly convinced that there is some solution to all human problems, that one can conceive an ideal society which men can reach if only they do what is necessary to attain it, then you and your followers must believe that no price can be too high to pay in order to open the gates of such a paradise. Only the stupid and malevolent will resist once certain simple truths are put to them. Those who resist must be persuaded; if they cannot be persuaded, laws must be passed to restrain them; if that does not work, then coercion, if need be violence, …

Berlin's observation of history highlights the distinction of liberalism from other political ideologies. Others seek conformity to empower a common goal over people. Liberals seek structural pillars to empower a common people. There is not one vision, but many. And through empowerment of people and the stitches sewn in our soft economic and social fabric a mutualism is achieved which binds us together and which moderates our interactions through convention and expectation, compared to the sharp edges of bureaucracy and laws.

Adam Smith identified the strength of mutualism in his undercelebrated work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, where he observed that people measure their conduct to be held in the good standing of others. That is why, in a liberal democracy, a liberal's unyielding obligation is to confront emergent justifications to faddishly corrode the empowerment of the individual. We need, necessarily, to show courage and to stoke the torch of liberty often, especially when society is tempted down dark passages.

Courage matters to survive the darkness. That is why being moderate is equally deficient. We should not let the liberal flicker feint in moderation to succumb to the darkness. Moderation is the palliative ideas that underpin courage or conviction, which cannot exist without core belief. You cannot be passionate in your moderation; you can be in limited conservatism lest you risk becoming a reactionary and fail to heed Edmund Burke's warning that 'a state without the means of some change is without the means of its own conservation'.

Today there is an attempt to create an ideology around conservatism, but it will always be limited because it lacks a framing to consider the future beyond the conservation of the past for its benefits. As Orwell understood, he who controls the past controls the future; he who he controls the present controls the past. Therefore, the Left progressives seek to rewrite the past, and they do so to create the institutions of the 21st century—which would leave no-one surprised that some younger Australians are hypnotised by their agenda. And, as conservatism lacks a vision for the future, it cannot defend the past nor command present institutions. As alternative ideologies progress their agenda and the equity of institutions is eaten away, all that is left is indulging insecurities and pandering to prejudice.

An alternative is required: conservatism is management; liberalism requires leadership. A liberal understands that the sustainability of a society depends on building foundations for the nation. The foundation comes from the strength of its citizens, communities and commerce, and the future of the nation rests in driving the change to keep their power, not corporates, Canberra or state capitals. As outlined in the new social contract, what makes liberalism in Australia unique is that it is not a rebellion against an existing order, but the continuation of a truly democratic nation politically, socially and economically—a nation governed from the citizen up, not Canberra down, through the empowerment of Australians in the organic and proximate institutions they build: family, home, community, enterprise. Doing so decentralises and democratises multiple forms of power from the few to the many: rights and freedoms to the individual, for cultural and social power; private ownership and prices, for economic power; and the franchise for voting, for political power—to name but a few. While each may lack the gravity of a larger ideal, combined they create a different orbit for the practice for whom politics is there to serve: the Australian people and our shared mutual interest. And policy guided by these guard rails will bond and strengthen the nation.

That does not mean that there isn't a relationship between liberalism and conservatism. As an institutional conservative, I share a reluctance to recreate the architecture of our nation—our polity, economy and society. But that is because I am a liberal and they were evolved to empower people. While I accept that nationalism can rarely be decoupled from conservatism, my nationalism comes from my understanding that liberal ideas need the context of a legal, societal and economic Petri dish to germinate—and against those who would seek to undermine it, foreign and domestic, and with the aspiration that other societies will pursue these humanist ideals for themselves. So too, as a cultural conservative, I resist the ambition of the modern progressive socialist, who wants to shift our relationship to each other away from our common humanity—to group rights and identity bingo. But it is because I am a liberal, committed to formal equality before the law, whereas on economic and social issues I am liberally focused on doing what is necessary to keep policy focused on unpacking concentrations of power from monopoly Canberra to corporates. The opposite of a centralist state socialism and corporatism is not conservatism. The opposite is empowered, responsible liberal citizenship.

Liberalism necessitates persistence and to constantly reconsider what may be the accommodation of noble causes to advance empowerment: the freedom to choose universal education or health providers; taxes and regulations that are not a burden to equality of opportunity nor favour established operators; an environmental policy that fosters responsibility and stewardship, whether it be local litter or global gases. Hence I cannot identify as a conservative, and my liberalism does not come in moderation. Australia's success calls us to be confident, forward-looking, modern liberals.

11:54 am

Photo of Josh WilsonJosh Wilson (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for the Environment) Share this | | Hansard source

Budgets and associated appropriation bills can be viewed as instalments in a story of a government. I think governments should have a story. I think it helps to have a story. I don't think it's helpful to take an overly technocratic approach to the way government proceeds and just think about government in terms of dollars and cents, numbers, dry programs and other kinds of measures. There should be some sense in which a government has an ethos, even a managerial ethos, and certainly some kind of vision or purpose that covers off on that part of a government's intentions that could be described as transformative or reformist.

We'd like to think that all governments have a managerial aspect, but they certainly should have some kind of transformative or reformist aspect as well. I think that ought to be the case at any time in history, but in the time in which we all presently live it doesn't much matter if you're not interested in transformative government, because that's being required of us by the circumstances that we confront. You can look at that in terms of climate change, energy and, obviously in the last 12 months plus, the challenges that are presented by a pandemic. This is not the first brush with a pandemic that we've had in the 21st century. As we deal with COVID-19 we'd be foolish to expect that it's the last time we'll have a brush with a pandemic.

The difficulty with this government—now eight years old and three prime ministers old—is that it has never really had a story. I'd be very interested to hear from a member of the government or the Prime Minister what the story of this government is. It's very hard to put your finger on any significant theme, any narrative trajectory or any transformative achievement really, and I think that tells you something.

It's a government that is fundamentally managerial. That's the nature of coalition governments. They see it as their role to just steer the ship—or that's the way they would have people see it—but they have failed to step up to the needs of the times and the transformative challenges that we face. You can see that in many areas. You can see that in terms of climate change and energy. You can see it in terms of the things they inherited from the previous Labor government.

The previous Labor government had two terms over six years and faced a global financial crisis that descended upon it in the first 12 to 15 months and yet it created the National Broadband Network, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the national network of marine parks—the most significant protection of marine estates globally. So in a relatively short time, in the face of some very significant challenges, it took on that transformative role.

The government inherited some of those things. If they had simply picked up the baton in some of those areas, they might have achieved something. But, as we know—NBN being a classic example—they straightaway broke the model. They straightaway moved away from a fibre-rich network that would have been the foundation of our 21st century productivity and innovation and would have provided easier and fairer access to social services, information, entertainment and all those sorts of things. They said: 'No. You know what? We'll have a 21st-century broadband network based on 19th-century copper. We'll buy up more copper than anyone else on the planet and we'll keep rolling out new copper and making use of old copper so that when we get to the point of delivering the NBN, much later and at much greater expense than we said we would do, it will essentially be obsolete at the point of delivery. That's what we've achieved.'

The government inherited work that Labor had done in the waste and recycling space. We created the National Waste Policy, some product stewardship reforms and a number of things. That had been really abandoned until the last 18 months or so. Even in picking up that challenge, the government has found every way that it could to do very little and to avoid the big challenges in procurement, infrastructure, product stewardship, labelling and all those things that are necessary if we really want to move towards a circular economy.

Managerially, the coalition love to tell one enduring story, or they try to, which is that they're superior economic managers and that they're ideologically free, that they don't have a value system and that they simply try and run things according to some sort of foundational and efficient economic orthodoxy. But we actually saw the value system that they bring into that space as early as 2014, and we see it in these appropriation bills and in their recent budget. The terms that they used back in 2014 were 'lifters' and 'leaners'. The terms they use these days are 'class warfare' or 'the politics of envy'. What they essentially do is divide Australia. They suggest that people who are already doing well and companies that are already profitable need to be further assisted and that that then results through the weird magic of trickle-down economics into benefits for everybody and that it's the people doing it tough who really need to get a bit of a move on courtesy of some governmental stick.

When we talk about addressing inequality, when we talk about a focus on people facing disadvantage, when we talk about the benefits of broad participation in Australian life and the Australian economy and how that kind of social and economic inclusion actually lifts everybody up, we get accused of class warfare. We get accused of the politics of envy. In reality, what we're prosecuting are the politics of fairness and the politics of justice. We've seen the government's skewed approach to that task and their neglect and dereliction of what should always be top of the list for any government, which is looking to create greater shared economic and social wellbeing. We've seen their dereliction of that task in multiple instalments.

We saw it through the pandemic. They were dragged to recognising the need for a wage subsidy in the form of JobKeeper, but they then managed to deliver a distorted version of what could have been a sensible and helpful wage subsidy, and their distorted version has been patchy and uneven and it's been yanked away too soon. It hasn't gone to many parts of the community that needed it. It has gone to very large and profitable companies that have seen their profits increase. What have they done with those increasing profits? They've paid out big dividends. They've paid out executive bonuses. The dividends have often gone to CEOs, like the CEO of Harvey Norman, to the tune of millions of dollars. So our local government workers, university staff and people in the arts and creative sector have missed out altogether or have received very little or are having their support withdrawn too soon while we've seen literally hundreds of millions of dollars paid to profitable big companies that have no intention of giving that back. Whether they have an intention of giving it back should be irrelevant, because it should be government's task to say: 'Hang on a second. We got this wrong. We didn't have the settings right. But I'll tell you what. We're not going to allow hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' funds to go to companies that don't need it. That's money that should be going to people who are on the brink of personal disaster. That should be going to small businesses and enterprises that are on the brink of disaster.' But that's never the approach this government takes.

Some of those companies that received money they didn't need decided to pay it back, and they should be applauded for that. But those that haven't have been left to pocket this government's largesse. All the Prime Minister will say is that it's good for them to have the money and it's good for them if they want to pay it back. Contrast that with the industrial cruelty of robodebt, where people were literally told, 'We're coming for you. The computer tells us that you got a few dollars that you don't deserve because you're a leaner and we're coming for you. We'll prosecute you and we'll take you to court.' You could not get a more stark contrast between the approach the government takes to someone like Gerry Harvey, with $10 million plus of taxpayer funds in his pocket that he doesn't need and doesn't deserve, and the approach it took to tens of thousands of low-income Australians—pensioners, unemployed people and veterans—who, in many cases, were told that they had received money they didn't deserve. Those assessments were wrong, They then had the living daylights scared out of them, and their relatively meagre material circumstances were put further under the cruel vice of this government because it wanted to tighten the purse strings at that end of the budget—at the end where people already have so little and could do with just a little bit more.

The government delivered tax cuts to big business. They would have gone further if we hadn't opposed that. As I said, for low-income Australians, there was robodebt. There were tax cuts for individuals, the large majority of which go to high-income earners. There were penalty rate cuts for low-income earners again. Why? 'Because we make the workplace more flexible, and then more jobs will result.' Did more jobs result? No. Is there any great surprise there? Does all the money tipped in at the top end ever trickle down? No. When you cut the wages of people who are already at the low end of the income scale, does it actually create any more work? No. It just fattens profits and makes life meaner, colder and harder, and less free and more full of misery for people who have already got enough of that. As I say, even in the context of the pandemic, the government has taken that approach.

If there were a story of the government, it would be inequality, inaction and unfairness—a user's manual. That might be the novel version of this government, in terms of this budget and all the previous budgets. And we see that broadly, as I've described, but we see it particularly in some sectors. We certainly see it with Indigenous Australians. Some of the key measures that we look at through closing the gap have not moved under this government. Employment participation has not moved at all. Employment participation for the population as a whole has increased marginally; employment participation for Indigenous Australians has got marginally worse. The gap has got larger. In terms of life expectancy for Indigenous Australians, the gap has not closed. The gap remains stubbornly high. The gap in life expectancy between Indigenous men and non-Indigenous men is 8.6 years, and, for Indigenous women, it is 7.8 years. Nothing has been done to address that enduring problem in Australian society.

Take women, who face economic disadvantage as part of the patriarchal and misogynist aspects of our culture which persist. We know that. We're talking about that a lot at the moment, quite rightly. But look at the economic circumstances. The gender pay gap remains stubbornly high. The government has no interest in doing anything about that. Labor has identified a number of ways in which you could actually begin to close that gap, such as requiring the disclosure of the pay gap and looking at reducing the pay gap in the Public Service, something that the government has control over. We know that, when you address those kinds of things in the Public Service, it flows through to the private sector. These are practical things; they're not that hard. They're things that the government could take on. Look at superannuation. Women retire with, on average, half what men retire with, yet the genius idea that the government had recently was that, in circumstances where there is domestic violence and they are seeking to escape that kind of scenario, women should be forced to draw on their super. So they've done nothing in that space.

People expect their government to put its shoulder to the wheel of achieving positive change, to achieving greater fairness, and to achieving greater equality. This government has failed to manage the economy. It's less strong and less fair, and they've failed to step up to any of the transformative challenges. (Time expired)

12:09 pm

Photo of Barnaby JoyceBarnaby Joyce (New England, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think that it's really important that, whilst you are the member of your electorate, you operate in such a way as to make that electorate a small country for which you, as a servant, try to do the very best job you can. You work towards a theme and within that theme you try to bring delivery. One of the key themes that has been part of my role in parliament, certainly my role in New England, is dealing with water infrastructure.

We have now put quarter of a billion dollars at a federal government level towards Dungowan Dam. This is a vital piece of infrastructure for the security for the Peel Valley and the city of Tamworth, which is probably the epicentre or the most prominent area of growth in the seat of New England, which also includes the Upper Hunter. It was important. Whilst we already have Chaffey Dam, if we hadn't have expanded Chaffey Dam—I was very happy to be part of that program when I first arrived back home to New England—then the city of Tamworth would have run out of water. We took it from 60,000 megalitres to 103,000 megalitres. As we speak today, I believe it's about half full, which would have been more than three-quarters full in the old volume. But it's not just Dungowan Dam or Chaffey Dam; it's also other pieces of water infrastructure, such as the first lot of funding for the Mole River Dam in the north of the electorate, the Quipolly Dam in the south of the electorate, the upgrade of the Tenterfield water treatment plant in the north of the electorate and also the recreation capacity of the Dumaresq Dam at the centre of the electorate. Water infrastructure is so vitally important.

If it's not dams, it's the upgrade to the Upper Horton water supply in the west of the electorate. They're drilling a new bore and installing tanks and pipe work to the underground. This assists the town. There's also the construction of a new swimming pool in Bingara. Upper Horton is basically a small village. It's got the Upper Horton Sports Club. It sort of sits between Bingara and Moree on the back road. But this shows that we even reach into those small areas.

I think that's the next step. What I'd like to discuss is how we look after the smaller areas. There are many, but I'll pick out one. I grew up in the hills in a place called Danglemah. I still live there. Across the hills from us is a place called Weabonga. It is like it sounds: it's been forgotten by time. It used to be a gold mining town. I made it a goal that as a member I would do things for those communities that I grew up in. At Weabonga we got a new mobile phone service in. We had about 30 people, I'd suggest, in an area where no-one believes anybody lives that turned up because they wanted improvements on that mobile phone service. They were very thankful that they got it. The fact that Weabonga could get a mobile phone service is an incredible reflection of the Nationals and what the Nationals do in regional areas. Our focus is particular and pertinent to the people who live in the weather board and iron on the edge and outside the spotlight of the urban electorates. Whilst I was there, I said, 'What else do we need here?' Their hall was falling over and they needed a community focus point. So we went to work again and we found money to build a new community centre, a new hall, which is going to be incredibly important for the people of Weabonga. It was $82,500 for the Weabonga hall development.

There are a whole range of areas, whether it's tennis courts, whether it's water facilities, whether it's swimming pools, whether it's walking tracks—these are all vitally important. But roads and bridges are also seminal to how we get the commerce and the economy of New England also going ahead. We have been instrumental in such things as the Legume to Woodenbong road, making sure that that corridor that takes people from the tablelands down to the coast is upgraded. We have invested immense amounts of money in the New England Highway. In fact, I've almost taken people ad nauseam in showing them the Bolivia Hill realignment. But it's not just that. It's the money we have poured into Waterfall Way between Armidale and Dorrigo, or the work that we have started on between Kempsey and Wollomombi. Unfortunately with massive the rains we're back to square one. We poured money into the second range crossing over the Liverpool Plains between Merriwa and Willow Tree—which we have to start working on again because of the weather.

There are other roads as well and other bridges. Retreat Bridge is a classic example of the Nationals once more investing away from the major spotlight. Retreat Bridge is on the most direct route between the city of Tamworth and the city of Inverell. It's near Kingstown. To open up that area this bridge basically needed to be replaced. We got more than $1 million to make sure that we worked on that bridge. There's also Fishers Bridge. There are a number of bridges. I might remind people that over half a million dollars of the funding for Fishers Bridge came from the federal government. As much as I admire my state colleagues, we've got to know where this money comes from. It was the Paddy's Flat Road bridge that we put money towards, as well as the Martin's Gully bridge and the Benama Bridge. There's the Yarrow Creek Bridge replacement on Mount Mitchell Road. All these bridges go on the back of everything we have done before, such as the Munsie Bridge in Uralla. We could go right around the electorate and show you the bridges in New England that we have replaced—so that we build the economy, so that people have capacity to move B-doubles of cattle across to get them to the saleyards. The wealth from the saleyards flows back to the hairdressers, flows back to the tyre businesses on the high streets of the regional towns in New England.

Sporting infrastructure is so important for the social fabric of New England. Sporting infrastructure also has to take into account the populations. In places such as Glen Innes we've put a substantial amount of money for the upgrading of the Glen Innes netball facilities—in excess of $1 million towards that facility. Glen Innes, of course, has a bigger population. When we go to Sunnyside Hall Road, which is west of Tenterfield—which is really a location more than any sort of town—we've put in money that assists them to upgrade the tennis courts. The great thing about tennis is you only need two people. Two people and an esky and you've got a tennis match. This is important in keeping the fabric of those small communities going. It shows them that the Nationals reach out to the small areas to make sure that their lives are better. You could see it in the Ben Lowmond Hall. You could see it in the Bundara hall. You could see it in what we've done at the Deepwater Hall. We know these halls are the focus of those towns—of Christmas celebrations, of school celebrations. We have put the money in there because we acknowledge that Australia is not just a story about Sydney. It is not just a story about Melbourne. It's a story about those people who live towards the edges, in areas that're not recognised. We've put money in there to make sure that we show them a sign that they're part of this nation as well.

People will always look at what you've done and they expect you to go into bat for them. They expect you to do such things as the chlorine mix at the Walka water treatment plant—yet another piece of water infrastructure. They're thankful for what you've done.

Back near where I went to school, Woolbrook Public School, we've upgraded what we call the 'stampede grounds'. We don't recall it a rodeo. We call it a stampede, which is basically a bush horse, bush stockman event. All the time I was there those facilities were never actually upgraded. They were quaint but they were probably out of date in about 1943. Now they've been upgraded. The community all went together to upgrade them. Everybody was working towards making sure that we got the best bang for our buck for what we've fought for. I do get a sense of pride being able to go back to a village like Woolbrook and see that there is advantage from what we've done.

Also, going along some of the roads there, there is sealing on either side of the ramp. One of the greatest annoyances in some areas is that on a public road the grader comes along—it can't help it—and pushes the dirt into the ramp, so the cattle just walk across it and you can't control the stock. But if you just put a little bit of asphalt on either side of the ramp, then the grader, when it's grading, has capacity to stop and not damage the ramp. The other thing we've had is trucks, looking after the railway lines, going up and down our roads and smashing our ramps. So it's great to get some assistance in trying to deal with those issues. When they're over their load limit they're supposed to use the gates, but they never do.

What is our vision for the future? We've got to have a vision for the future. Sooner rather than later, this nation is going to have to start thinking about what the path ahead is, and there are some major issues before us that this nation is going to have to contend with. We have seen the rise of China and, unfortunately, it is run by a regime, not a democracy. We have seen the fading of democracy across the world. We always believed that democracy would be the pre-eminent form of government and would grow into the future, but it has not; it's fading. And we are lucky and blessed that we live in a democracy.

However, we must prepare ourselves to live in a world where the superpower in our region is not a democracy but is unitary control. It is almost a tyranny, a new lineage, which, as we've seen in how the Uighur people have been dealt with, can be very belligerent. We see what's happening in the South China Sea. We see the recriminations on trade. So, Australia had better be a strong place. We have only one job in this nation: to make it as strong as possible as quickly as possible. If we believe in the ideals that I presume people on both sides stand for in this parliament then we must be able to stand behind them with a capacity that says that we will never be browbeaten, never be pushed down, never be silent, because we're strong enough to stand up for ourselves. That is our No. 1 goal. I say that, and this will sound pretentious, but our No. 1 goal is not about climate change and our No.1 goal, to be quite frank, is not about COVID; our No. 1 goal in this nation is to make ourselves as powerful as possible, as strong as possible, as quickly as possible, because you've got no hope of managing the other two unless you do that first.

So, how are we going to do that? We have to rebuild sovereignty—sovereignty in our capacity, in our manufacturing industry. We don't have a sovereign satellite capacity, even in our weather predictions. We use American satellites. We use three Chinese satellites. We borrow information from them. We use Indian, European and Korean satellites. Australia does not have them. This is, once more, a flaw—to think that if things went wrong, although people say it could never happen, we don't have the sovereign capacity, if other people decide to switch it off, to even get a weather report, let alone GPS. These are the sorts of things we ought to look for. These are the sorts of visions we've got to take forward. We've got to take the next step in the development of this nation. Taking water from the north to the blacksoil plains of western Queensland, into western New South Wales, to give a stronger environmental security to the southern parts of the Murray-Darling Basin, is a project that other nations would have done by now. But we are such cynics, and everybody finds a reason to snigger and laugh. Well, that has to be put aside. Our nation now has to take this forward as a program over the next 40 years and drive towards it.

With the Nationals, I was very proud of what our party did, when so many people sniggered and were cynical about the inland rail, saying it would never happen. Within the Nationals, with my colleagues, we negotiated a coalition agreement to get that money, and that project has now been started. It is being built—just as we started on decentralisation, a Regional Investment Corporation that no-one thought we'd ever get, and the Murray-Darling Basin medical school. These are the things, amongst many others, that we fought for and achieved. And now comes the time, as we're probably within about a year of an election campaign, at the very least, for us to start laying down a path and a vision for the future that stands on the foundations and the structure of what we've delivered in the past. I believe that with the work we've done thus far we have set ourselves up to do precisely that.

12:24 pm

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

I'm pleased to make a contribution to this debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021. It's an opportunity for me to examine in detail an ongoing failure in public policy in this country—a failure of successive governments, not just the current government: the failure of governments to adequately address and fund the overwhelming housing needs of First Nations Australians across the country, but I am referring in particular to my own electorate of Lingiari. I'm not quite sure as to why it is, but it seems that successive governments have failed to understand or acknowledge the costs involved in not addressing the overwhelming housing need. I look at health costs in particular.

The relationship between overcrowded, unsafe and inadequate housing and chronic disease and mortality rates in First Nations households is very well documented. As an example, it is clear there is a direct relationship and a correlation between overcrowded housing and the high incidence of scabies and rheumatic heart disease in many remote communities. This means, of course, there's an extremely high cost on the health system, but it also means that, sadly, the lives of Aboriginal Australians in my own electorate of Lingiari in the Northern Territory are being undermined, and that their life expectancy diminishes significantly. The relationship between that and overcrowded, inadequate and unsafe housing is there for all to see.

I was in Barunga—which is in the Northern Territory in my electorate of Lingiari, about 90 kilometres south-east of Katherine—only a week or so ago to observe new houses being built. It's great that there are new houses being built, but there was no kerbing and guttering and no drainage. As a consequence the houses were being flooded. That's poor planning, clearly, but it goes to inadequate resourcing of the housing needs of that particular community. It's stressed by perennial flooding and the lack of stormwater abatement.

It's clear that governments have been blind to this relationship between poor, overcrowded and unsafe housing and the costs involved in areas such as health. There's a lot of duck-shoving between the various governments. Although the current government pledged $550 million over five years for Aboriginal housing in the Northern Territory in its 2018 budget, matched by a similar contribution from the Northern Territory government, frankly it's clearly insufficient. We know that it's the intention of the Morrison government to withdraw from the field post this investment. That's clearly not good enough. The poor housing that exists in the electorate of Lingiari is largely a legacy from when the Commonwealth administered the Northern Territory prior to 1978. I remember vividly that in that period there were people still living in tin shacks—in some places, they still are. We've not done sufficient work to address the appalling housing needs.

It's time that this government spent what is required to deal with the historical legacy of inadequate, inappropriate and unsafe housing, and the disadvantage that it perpetuates. It is a federal responsibility, in my view, and I know that the Commonwealth government has been progressively withdrawing from these responsibilities. I would argue that the 1967 referendum gave the federal government a particular responsibility and that this government is withdrawing from it.

Frankly, the state governments, and in my case in particular the Northern Territory government, they have insufficient resources to address the long-term housing needs and even the short-term housing needs in reality. Only this year some of you will have read the very good book that Henry Reynolds has written about the legacies of past conflicts since James Cook arrived in this country. He talks about the frontier wars and all that happened to First Nations people across this nation. It's an interesting document, because, when you reflect on it, you can see how the disadvantage occurred and how people's rights were ignored. I would argue that, over the decades and the centuries, there's been a high level of institutionalised racism existing in this country, and it still exists, because we have yet to come to terms with our obligations to make sure that our First Nations people have the rights they properly deserve, one of which is housing. Yet we have failed to do it. We know what we need. As I've explained, overcrowded, unsafe and inadequate housing has a direct relationship with better health outcomes, better education outcomes and so on. Of course, it's hard to argue because the facts are there. This dreadful coronavirus this provides us with additional evidence as to why we need to have appropriate housing. It becomes more important that we, in this place and across this nation, resolve this vexed issue. Lockdowns and other mechanisms, like people isolating in their communities, have been very effective, but one of the problems is—and it's very clear in the way in which some chronic diseases exist in many remote communities—the impact of overcrowding. If, God forbid, this virus got into some remote communities, its direct impact as a result of overcrowding would be just awful. This is not an issue which shouldn't be addressed; it's an issue which people don't seem to want to address in an appropriate way. When we think about it, we do have an obligation here to do these things. We have international obligations. We have signed covenants, but we seem to ignore them and our responsibilities that arise from them when it comes to addressing these very important issues.

Compared with other Australians, research in 2019 shows us that across the country First Nations Australians were half as likely to own their own home, with or without a mortgage; 10 times as likely to live in social housing; three times as likely to live in overcrowded dwellings; and nine times as likely to require access to specialist homeless services. In remote communities, the situation is even more dire. If you live in a remote community, you're three times as likely to live in social housing, in First Nations communities, as you would be in non-remote communities.

In 2014, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey collected information on basic types of household facilities that are considered important for a healthy living environment and on where the household dwelling had major structural problems. In 2014-15, 29 per cent of First Nations Australians were living in dwellings with major structural problems. In the same period, 15 per cent of First Nations Australians were living in households in which at least one basic facility required for a healthy living environment was not available or did not work. Nearly one-in-five First Nations Australians were living in houses that did not meet acceptable standards. This evidence is before us. If you are a First Nations person living in a remote community, the likelihood of major structural problems is 37 per cent compared with 27 per cent for those living in non-remote communities; lacking basic household facilities—27 per cent compared with 11 per cent; or did not meet acceptable standards—31 per cent compared with 16 per cent. We have the capacity within us here to address these problems. We need to understand the nature of them, and I don't think, as much as we might express good intent, that we're prepared to commit ourselves to addressing what is a really overwhelming need.

My office has been working with the Parliamentary Library to try and update data on how many First Nations houses are needed across this country to address the current shortfall, in terms of both overcrowding and also inadequacy. Sadly, this data is not easily assembled, and nobody has known the real answer, including from a major government review in 2017. So the work which the library has been doing has been quite revealing. That research tells us that up to 76,000 additional dwellings are required across this country to address the housing needs of First Nations Australians. In the Northern Territory alone, that figure is about 21,000, and the requirement is for an expenditure of around $5 billion. As I said, there has been a commitment from this government in its 2018-19 budget of $550 million. There has been a matching commitment from the Northern Territory government of $550 million. But it's not enough. It's not even addressing the replacement costs. It's not addressing the population growth or keeping pace with the population growth This is a really significant issue. Between 2009 and 2016, the First Nations population across the Northern Territory grew by 10.1 per cent or thereabouts. We haven't seen a commensurate increase in the number of bedrooms that are required to house that population, let alone sufficient funding for the replacement of inadequate and inappropriate housing.

I do want to commend the work which is being done by Aboriginal community based organisations in the Northern Territory and elsewhere and by the community sector for shining a light on this inadequacy. We do have a responsibility here. I know that the amount of money we're talking about is eye-watering, but we've got to find ways to deal with it. Maybe what we've got to be talking about is different ways of financing. There are possible alternative ways of financing, but it appears to me that governments haven't accepted the challenge of what that might look like and then gone to the money in the private sector to see if there can't be a partnering in the development of this infrastructure in an appropriate way that meets this housing need. It's important that we here understand the fatal impact of not addressing that need. It's clear to those who have any knowledge, understanding or experience of remote Aboriginal community health, for example, that housing is such a driver. I said that at the outset of this contribution. Housing is such a driver of better health outcomes, yet we're not seeing the resources being put into housing, let alone into primary health care services. Not enough has been put in there, and not enough is understood about the relationship between health and housing and the prevention strategies that can be implemented by investing in housing.

We do have a responsibility here, and it's time we accepted that responsibility. I'm not saying this to be critical just of the government. It's a matter for the parliament and it's a matter for successive governments. Whatever the next government might look like—hopefully, it's a Labor government—they'll be stuck with the same problem. It's going to require a commitment, it's going to require an understanding and it's going to require partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across this country in a way we haven't seen previously. Not only will it address issues to do with housing in the real sense but it will provide opportunities for business and employment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across this nation. It's an opportunity which can't be missed, but it's an opportunity which, at this moment, has been missed.

12:39 pm

Photo of Rowan RamseyRowan Ramsey (Grey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The seat of Grey was formed in 1903 and, despite the fact that I am only the third Liberal to represent that seat, this is the 28th year that it will have been in Liberal hands and I'm proud of that outcome. As such, it is considered a safe seat, even though there are times when even safe seats are pushed to the limit and certainly that was the case in 2016. But in any case, as I work my way around the electorate and talk to people, from time to time it is put to me that 'we would be better off voting for the Labor party and the independents so the seat became a swinging seat and we would get more attention, more money from the government, more support'. I would like to take that to task given that we are dealing with the appropriations bill.

I have been keeping a running check on the grants and programs that are coming into Grey. I hope 15 minutes is long enough but I'm going to have a go at taking you through them. The No. 1 issue for people who live in a seat like Grey, which is not as big as Lingiari—I must say to the good member who has just sat down—but bigger than New South Wales in any case, is roads infrastructure. I will start on roads. There's just on $900 million in current works underway or in the pipeline coming from the Commonwealth government on major projects in the seat of Grey. We have $160 million for the duplication of the Joy Baluch Bridge in Port Augusta. There's $80 million going into the Port Wakefield overpass, and those works are underway at the moment. There's $100 million going into the upgrading of the Eyre Highway. There is $50 million for the Barrier Highway, the one from Adelaide to Broken Hill. There is $44 million for the Horrocks Highway and $100 million—one I'm proud of and pleased with—for the sealing of the Strzelecki Track, which is currently cut by floodwaters or at least wet roads. The Strzelecki Track would be a wonderful connection to your home state of Queensland, Deputy Speaker Wallace. There is another $5 million for the Adventure Way, which is the little bit of road that connects Innamincka to the Queensland border. The APY Lands will get a new road with $113 million. The Augusta Highway will get a $130 million upgrade and, on top of that, another $64 million to begin its duplication. There's $114 million recently committed for safety works. There's $8.8 million going into the Dublin turn-off, which takes you into the South Australian sale yards. That's an enormous effort. We have never seen this kind of support coming into a regional seat like Grey before, and I am extremely grateful to the government for those outcomes.

There is more, though. It's like the steak knives, I must say—there's more yet. Local government has been receiving substantial funds through local roads and community infrastructure funding, the Roads to Recovery program grants and, in South Australia, the special local road component, which the member for Barker and I are lobbying the government furiously to continue in the next budget.

Councils are very happy with the support they are getting from the Commonwealth government across a range of projects. The Adelaide to Tarcoola railway re-railing project will get $252 million. Not only will it bring up a heavier, better freight load—an extra two tonne an axle—but that rail is coming out of the Whyalla steelworks, so it's a win, win, win and there's a lot of people employed getting that job done. More than $8 million has come in for bridge replacements around the electorate of Grey. The electorate of Grey isn't covered with vast rivers, it must be said, but we do have bridges over some of our waterways. They need upgrading and replacing and that's getting done.

There is a list of programs here with outcomes that will take a little while to get through. We have three uni hubs. We have now got one of the 10 training hubs that was recently announced in Port Pirie at the top of the Spencer Gulf.

We've had drought community support. Twenty councils have received two allocations of $2 million. An enormous amount of good public works has been done. Importantly, they have employed local contractors to get the work done. That is what the Drought Communities Program was about—making sure we have a workforce in place for when the farming economy comes good.

We've had good grants for sporting infrastructure. On the weekend I opened the new Kadina hockey pitch. There was a $422,000 grant there. We've had a range of capital grants going to aged-care facilities. We've had ARENA back backup battery projects and studies on how to build pumped hydro at a couple of locations in Grey. We have had money coming in through the Safer Communities Fund. Our country publishers have enjoyed some support from the federal government. Tackling Tough Times Together is another program that pumps money into my rural communities. The Stronger Communities and Volunteer Grants are very important grant programs.

There have been school infrastructure grants. I've lost count of the number of schools I've gone to to help snip a ribbon to open new facilities. They are greatly appreciated. There have been water grants. Ag shows have been supported coming out of the drought and the cancellations last year because of COVID. They have had support.

The dog fence is another one I'm incredibly pleased to associate my name with. I didn't know whether we would ever nail this one. The 1,600-kilometre dog fence in South Australia is over 100 years old. It is being replaced. There is $10 million from the federal government, $10 million from the state government and $5 million from growers. It's a wonderful coming together of the people who need to get this job done. It will ensure that we can continue to farm sheep in the southern part of South Australia.

Programs to address 30 mobile phone black spots have been either approved or completed—most of them have been completed. Rural and regional airstrips have benefited right across the electorate. There are not too many airstrips left in Grey that aren't sealed. Most of them have lights and appropriate facilities.

There have been some fantastic heritage grants. Just recently over $5 million went to the Copper Coast for the preservation of the old mining sites at Moonta that were so instrumental in the building of South Australia. We support remote art studios, particularly on the APY lands but not only there. There has been a lot of money come in through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

We have four headspace units. That's a pretty good outcome. Smart farms, men's sheds and the RSLs have all benefited from a number of grants, including armistice grants, RSL infrastructure grants and saluting their service grants programs. RJIP, the Regional Jobs and Investment program, has $20 million for the upper Spencer Gulf. Indigenous protected areas have had support. I am very pleased to announce in this place that the NBN is complete in Grey. Everybody in Grey who wants NBN service can get it.

That's a pretty long list. At every opportunity I take to task those who think they miss out because the electorate looks safe. I don't often get enough time to tell people about that long list. We should remind people of what we actually provide for an electorate like Grey. If you live in one corner of an electorate like Grey, you might not be very aware of the expenditure and support that is going to the other side, given it could be up to 1,000 kilometres away and you mightn't read the same newspaper or see the same television signal.

For business we have some good tax breaks. There are tax breaks for individuals as well, but for business there is the accelerated tax write-off for capital expenditure for water works and for fodder conservation. These are all good things to build a stronger and more resilient agricultural sector.

JobKeeper has been very important. I think there are about 2½ thousand left on JobKeeper in Grey. That gives an indication of just how busy the economy is. There are jobs all over the place. There are positions we just cannot fill. That is one of the great challenges we are facing at the moment.

We've had higher caps. This wasn't in the last budget, but over the last few years: we've had the doubling of the Farm Management Deposits and of course the support for apprentices, which we just uncapped the other day. We anticipate that there will be another surge of interest in that across Grey, given that we've just opened the training hub in Port Pirie, as I said before.

At the moment, the Grey economy is in the fast lane. The building industry is absolutely flat strap on the back of HomeBuilder. Conversely, the tourism industry, somewhat at difference to parts of Australia, is going very well indeed—while South Australians were confined to South Australia they decided to go and have a look at it! Many of the regional tourism operators have recorded record, or close to record, seasons since about July last year. The same thing can't be said for Adelaide, which relies on conventions, major events and inward traffic from internationals. But in Grey we've certainly had a pretty good result.

We have a burgeoning space industry in Grey, given that we've had this long relationship with Woomera. The interest now is on the lower Eyre Peninsula, with Southern Launch. There's the possibility of building a really large industry out of this. The world is looking for hundreds and hundreds more low-orbiting polar satellites to be launched and we happen to be sitting on one of the prime pieces of real estate in the world, shooting down over the Southern Ocean where planes don't fly regularly. It's relatively empty sea and air space in that direction so it's an ideal site.

There are a number of port projects on the burner at the moment. There are a couple of deep-sea ports and a barging facility which are all trying to raise finance to get them established. I don't think they'll all go ahead but I certainly hope that at least one of them does. In fact the government has put some money on the table for one of them, to try to get that project over the line. It would be very important in providing some diversity in South Australia, particularly with the farming community

We do have challenges, though. One that I've spoken about in this chamber many times is the challenge of getting professionals to come and work in our rural communities. We are faced with long-term population decline in the inland areas, largely caused by the super efficiency of modern agriculture. This is an issue that I've raised here many times: the lack of doctors in rural areas. I couldn't ask for better attention from the government and the Minister for Health—certainly, everybody is aware of the problem. But being aware of the problem and finding the solution are not necessarily the same thing. I have certainly moved to a stage now where I favour the view that we're going to have to come up with a different payment structure for rurally based doctors.

Let me lay it on the table here: I think it shouldn't cost the government anything at all, because linked to this dire shortage of doctors in country areas is exploding overservicing in metropolitan areas. We know that metropolitan people and doctors are accessing Medicare items at more than double the rate they're being accessed in country areas. It's clear that it's overservicing and we are going to have to move as a government—or someone is going to have to move—to put a cap on it or otherwise we'll go through the same process that we did in the 1990s when we cut the training numbers because we had overservicing in the cities. But if we cut the training numbers then we'll be right back to where we started and importing doctors again and whatever. Of course the imported doctors have saved our lives in country areas, so don't let me talk them down, but the advantage of the imported doctor is that when you import them they'll go where you tell them to. When you train them in Australia they're beyond that kind of guidance! I think that's one of the failings of the system.

But it's not only doctors. We don't have enough dentists and we don't have enough vets, we're struggling for nurses and we're struggling for age-care workers. A local town—and I don't know what the current rate is over the last two weeks—was unable to open its pub on Friday nights because they didn't have enough workers, the motel had cut the number of rooms it had available because it couldn't get enough cleaners and one of the roadhouses was shutting on Saturday afternoons. This is a town of a thousand people. It's a great little place to live in but they can't get workers. And I know of a French cafe in a coastal town that has cut its hours because it can't get workers. I'm aware of Nyrstar in Port Pirie looking for tens of workers—20 or 30—and they can't get any starters. These are good, well-paid full-time jobs and yet they're struggling to fill them at the moment.

These are some of the issues facing government, but certainly the opportunities are out there. There are opportunities out there in a seat like Grey. That long list I went through demonstrates that the government believes in the regional areas and is building the infrastructure fit for purpose so we can employ all those people and get them out there. (Time expired)

12:55 pm

Photo of Amanda RishworthAmanda Rishworth (Kingston, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm very pleased to be able to speak on this Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 and to raise a number of issues of great concern to my local community. I was back in my community on the weekend after sitting in parliament and, as I was talking to people at my shopping centre stall, there was a growing frustration about this federal government that is focused all on announcements and always wanting to be there for the photo-op or getting out a marketing slogan but really failing when it comes to delivery. There are many members of my community that are feeling frustrated in a range of different areas. I'm going to touch on a few of those today.

The first is people being left behind with the end of JobKeeper. We hear this government say that there is just no problem, that there are jobs out there for people. Well, I've been speaking to people employed by small businesses that are staring down the prospect, at the end of JobKeeper, of losing their jobs. That is absolutely the case. Next week, when we see the end of JobKeeper, which has been an important lifeline for many small businesses in my electorate of Kingston, we will see some of those wondering how they are going to survive. Throughout the pandemic, I continued to visit and reach out to countless local businesses. It was heartbreaking to speak to business owners who had been running successful, longstanding, well-established business for many years, some for over 10 years, and last year they were faced with the prospect of closing their doors due to events completely out of their control.

It's also been devastating to speak to those business owners who had only recently taken the leap to start their own business and were then hit, as their business was taking off, with some of the issues that have come from the pandemic. These were Australians who had developed and pursued a good idea, taken a risk and gone out on their own. Again, through no fault of their own, their livelihoods were suddenly thrown into disarray with the pandemic and recession. JobKeeper, something that those on this side of the House had called for, ended up being really important to many of my local businesses in keeping them afloat and allowing them to support their staff and their families.

That is why Labor really did call on the government to introduce wage subsidies at the start of the pandemic. We knew that, without the support, countless small businesses as well as those workers in many businesses across Australia would lose work and those small businesses would collapse. Thankfully, in 2021, a lot of businesses have started to recover, but there are many industries that are still struggling and need this government's support. These are industries that have not felt the economic bounce-back that the government keeps bragging about. This government is now going to pull the rug out for these hardworking Australian businesses when it cuts JobKeeper next week. In doing so, it will be putting local jobs, livelihoods and small business at risk.

Many of the struggling industries have been widely reported on—tourism, entertainment, the arts and hospitality. But one that hasn't really been spoken about much is the events and party industry. I have spoken to a number of local businesses in the events and party industry and it is clear that they have been some of the hardest hit by the pandemic and are still feeling the impact of ongoing social distancing requirements and COVID-19 restrictions. I spoke to Tina, who is the owner of Eco Party Box in Moana, a small family owned and run business that has been operating for over 10 years. Tina runs the business from a shed at home. She supplies environmentally friendly party supplies, things like compostable plates, napkins and cutlery. It's a clever and successful business idea at a time when people are starting to really care about minimising their environmental footprint. Tina told me at the start of COVID virtually all orders stopped and her business was at a standstill. JobKeeper was a lifeline for Tina's business and helped her to look after her four kids and kept food on the family's dinner table. Eco Party Box is still struggling with the ongoing impact of COVID-19 restrictions on parties and social gatherings. Many people still aren't hosting parties, and those parties that are happening are usually smaller and scaled back due to restrictions on the number of people at gatherings. For businesses like Tina's, this means their bottom line is still taking a huge hit. When I spoke to Tina at the start of March, she said her business was only just starting to recover. She said that February was the first time since the pandemic began a year ago that she had more than a couple of orders on her books for the week. Tina told me she wishes that JobKeeper could continue for at least a few more months while her business is still getting back on its feet.

Another local business is Down South Party Hire at Lonsdale—once again, a family-owned business, which has been operating for 16 years. They do an amazing job of providing party supplies and hiring out party equipment, like audiovisual equipment, lights and gazebos. They've told me that, in 2020, they experienced a 98 per cent drop in their business and they had to rely on JobKeeper to get through. They told me that bookings are still not back to normal yet. The uncertainty around the regularly changing COVID-19 restrictions means that people aren't planning ahead for parties and events. Many of the bookings they are receiving are only being made a week or even a few days out from the event. This lack of certainty about income is making it incredibly hard for them to plan ahead and run their business effectively. The scaled-down nature of the parties that go ahead means they aren't seeing bookings for items like marquees and gazebos. Even at the best of times, winter is a quiet time for the events and party industry. These businesses rely on the revenue from the busier spring and summer seasons to make it through. Without any reserves from last year, winter is quickly approaching and JobKeeper is ending. Many event and party businesses don't know what's going to come next.

Local businesses in the events and party industry like Eco Party Box and Down South Party Hire are just two of many, many businesses out there that have been hit hard by the pandemic and are still feeling the impact, and none of the government's packages are helping these businesses. Both of these businesses say they would still be eligible for JobKeeper if the current criteria were to continue past 31 March. The pandemic isn't ending on 31 March. With the vaccine rollout delays and chaos, which have caused people to become increasingly frustrated with this federal government, events based businesses will continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 restrictions. The fact is that more than one million Australian workers will still be on JobKeeper on 31 March but won't get anything the next day. That's 10 per cent of the workforce. With a week to go, there is still no real plan from this government to replace JobKeeper for many, many of those businesses and workers. Not all sectors, industries and communities have shared in the recovery, and it is time that this government looked comprehensively at how they can support businesses which, through no fault of their own, are going to struggle when JobKeeper ends, many of which have been very successful for a long time.

Another issue that has very much got the attention of many people in my electorate is the failings of this government in aged care. On 26 February, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety handed down its final report. This report made clear what we have known for some time: the aged-care sector is in crisis. Funding cuts and neglect by the Morrison Liberal government have had devastating repercussions on the sector. The final report outlined the true extent of the neglect of the Morrison Liberal government and highlighted its horrific effect on older Australians. It is appalling that, under this government and under this Prime Minister, 68 per cent of residents of aged-care facilities are malnourished. One in three are receiving substandard care in the home and in aged care. The report outlined countless horrific cases of abuse that have taken place in our aged-care system. There were reported instances of residents being left with maggots in open wounds and residents being left lying in their own excrement due to the lack of staff and resources. The state of the aged-care system is terrifying for those who are in the system already. It is also terrifying for those faced with going into the system in the future; I hear that time and time again. I have people say to me, 'If I look like I'm going into an aged-care facility, I want it to end.' That is just not good enough. Our aged Australians should be enjoying their twilight years, but they have a fear of going into an aged-care facility.

Many families of older Australians are terrified at the prospect of their older Australians not being treated with dignity and respect. I regularly hear from children, partners, siblings—those who are dreading the prospect of working with their loved ones to move them into aged care and are deeply concerned about their loved ones already in residential aged care. Every Australian deserves the comfort of knowing that either they or their loved ones will be safe and looked after in aged-care facilities. No Australian should have to feel scared about entering residential aged care. When an older person needs to enter aged care we must ensure that they can enter quickly. Unfortunately, at the moment, the wait time to enter care is close to 200 days. The crisis in aged care can be directly brought home to this government's mismanagement and underfunding.

One of the central issues is that aged-care workers are overworked, are underpaid and lack the support they need. Many staff are responsible for too many residents, and, as a result, cannot offer the standard of service that is required or that they want to provide. I have heard from aged-care workers who say they work in the industry because they love looking after older Australians. They get a sense of pride and purpose when they do this. They themselves are desperately upset when they are not allowed to sit with an elderly person feeling upset or angry; they may be experiencing some sort of memory loss and want some comfort. Our aged-care workers are telling me that they're not even able to pause for a moment to provide that comfort and support—the reason they wanted to get into aged care in the first place. It is for many of these reasons that Labor repeatedly called on the government to mandate minimum staff ratios to ensure each resident receives the care and attention they deserve. Unfortunately, older Australians and their loved ones say, when they talk with me, that they have lost faith in this government.

In October 2019 the Morrison Liberal government was told by the interim report that one of the things it could address immediately was the waitlist for home-care packages. Nearly two years later the waitlist is still a staggering 100,000 people. Over three years 30,000 older Australians have died waiting for in-home care—and this is care that's already been approved. In southern Adelaide there are over 1,500 people who have been approved but have not been offered the correct package. Too many older Australians have nowhere to turn, and the Prime Minister cannot sweep this crisis under the carpet any longer. This government has now received 22 reports about the broken aged-care system since 2013. Each time they've chosen spin over substance, neglect over action. Enough is enough. Older Australians deserve better.

Finally, I want to quickly touch on the other end of the age spectrum—that is, young Australians, who have also been left behind during this pandemic but in a different way. Young Australians have felt the brunt of the COVID pandemic, with many working in casual and insecure work in industries that have been hit hard, like hospitality and the arts. Many young people have been the first to lose work since the pandemic started. Youth unemployment is still at 12.9 per cent and underemployment is at 19.4 per cent.

I hope that we will see real action from this government in terms of a youth recovery strategy. At the moment the youth portfolio, from what I can tell, has no resources attributed to it. I want to see a proper recovery strategy that brings in young people and ensures that their needs are looked after as we recover from the COVID pandemic. At the moment there's meant to be a report on the minister's desk. We don't know what's in it, we don't know if it'll ever be released and we don't know what resources will go along with it. I look forward to seeing that report made public, because young people deserve transparency and direction from this government.

1:10 pm

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

It's a pleasure to stand in this place and speak on the appropriation bills, because it gives me an opportunity to talk about many things that this government has done and is doing, and not only across my electorate of Forde; many of the things we are doing benefit every electorate in this country, every segment of our community. I think it is incredibly important for people to remember that this government is actually doing stuff and delivering on its commitments, on what it's talked about doing for the Australian people. That's one of the big differences between this side of the House and those on the other side. We're focused on delivery and on making the lives of ordinary Australians better each and every day. We can see that, firstly, through this pandemic over the past 12 months, with the government's response through JobKeeper, through increased JobSeeker and through other supports it's put in place to ensure that we keep businesses afloat, doors open and, by extension, people employed.

In my electorate of Forde, with the many small to medium businesses across the electorate that I have talked to and met with, I know of their thankfulness for JobKeeper, to ensure that they can keep their doors open and keep people employed, and many of the grant programs that this government has run, like the Manufacturing Modernisation Fund, for businesses like Holmwood Highgate. They were successful in obtaining a grant through that fund that allowed them to buy a new state-of-the-art laser cutter for aluminium and steel for the tankers they make for trucks and also, over the past few years, their water and fuel tanker product that they've developed for defence industry and for our defence forces here in Australia, but also they are developing an export market in that space.

The consequence of those investments is that they are growing their workforce. They are putting on more apprentices. All of this leads to jobs in our local community. They have partnerships with our local high schools to bring in school based apprenticeships and trainees. That creates jobs and opportunities. Many of these kids come from families that maybe haven't had those opportunities previously. It continues to build and strengthen our economy. This shows up in the unemployment numbers that were released this week. We see now an unemployment rate of approximately 5.5 per cent. Would we all like to see that lower? Absolutely we would. But in January nearly 89,000 jobs were created, all of them full time. Importantly, more than 80 per cent of those jobs went to women, and another 40 per cent went to young people.

For me, representing an electorate that has an average age of 37 or 38, seeing the opportunities created for young people in my community to get jobs is very heartening. I know that many employers across my electorate, because of the confidence that has been generated in our community because of the economic support the government has provided over the past 12 months, are looking to hire. They want to hire people to grow their businesses, because the opportunities continue to present themselves. Prior to Christmas I met with a business that is one of the largest suppliers of library books in Australia and New Zealand. They are continuing to grow their business and to look for new employees, because they can't keep up with the level of activity that they have. In fact, they're now talking about going the next step and moving into new premises. They're looking to build a new building and employ more people.

These incentives the government has created for people to build and grow their businesses are going to grow and drive our economy as we move forward out of the coronavirus pandemic. Part of that is funded by the fact that this government, through our Economic Recovery Plan, has to date delivered some $9 billion in tax cuts landing in the pockets of some 8.8 million Australians. That occurred from July 2020 to February 2021. This has helped boost household balance sheets and has seen consumer confidence rise above pre-pandemic levels.

As I go around my electorate I see positivity for the future despite the difficulties we've had over the past 12 month with coronavirus. People want to get out and do things and take opportunities—for themselves or in their businesses. We've seen this too with the impact of HomeBuilder. I talk to builders, developers and tradesmen around my electorate. The developers have problems; they can't develop the land quick enough. The builders can't get the blocks of land to build on quick enough; they need to be registered before they can start building the new homes. And the tradesmen that I talk to are flat chat; there's not a single tradesperson that I know around my electorate who hasn't got a book full of work for at least the next six to nine months.

They are very grateful for the fact that that opportunity has arisen. It allows them to have confidence in the future of their businesses. That gives them the incentive to take on apprentices. The 100,000 places in our apprenticeship scheme have been taken up extraordinarily rapidly—to the extent that, as a government, we've now had to expand that scheme out till, I think, the end of September this year to provide the opportunity for businesses to continue to take on those apprenticeship places. That creates the opportunity for the young people in my community to build their skills. That will give them the foundation they need for themselves as they move forward into the future.

I'm focusing on skills and apprenticeships because our apprentices and tradespeople build this country. We need builders, bricklayers, electricians and carpenters to build buildings like the one we're in here today. They build our factories; they build our production lines. They're the people who build the country for the future. And that's why I'm so pleased, with all of the things that we're doing as a government, to see the support and encouragement we're providing for the working class of Australia to move forward, to build and grow their lives and to deliver on the potential they have to make this country an even better place.

I had cause recently to go back and read my maiden speech, and it's always interesting to do that. One of the things I talked about in my maiden speech was the cost of living. I've already touched on our tax cuts. There is also the stuff we've done with energy policy. We see the reduction in the wholesale cost of electricity now reflected in retail prices, going directly towards reducing the cost of living for everyday Australians. I'm so pleased to be part of a government that has achieved that. The trajectory we were on when we came to government in 2013 was entirely in the opposite direction. I remember coming into this place in 2010, and not long after those opposite introduced the carbon tax they never said they would introduce. When we came into government in 2013 we repealed that carbon tax and have worked assiduously ever since to ensure that we reduce electricity prices and cost of living for everyday Australians.

One of the other things I reflected on in my maiden speech, Mr Deputy Speaker, was the importance of infrastructure in my electorate of Forde. I've got no doubt infrastructure is a big topic of discussion up in the Deputy Speaker's electorate on the Sunshine Coast as well. In my maiden speech I mentioned the Mount Lindesay Highway, which is a main corridor in the west of my electorate that runs between Browns Plains down to Beaudesert and also up into Brisbane. I'm very pleased to say that in my time we have delivered one major project at North MacLean, upgrading the Mount Lindsay Highway and building a new service road on what was quite a dangerous piece of the highway, as well as installing new lights—in conjunction with my good friend the member for Wright because that piece of road sits right on our boundary.

I'm pleased to say that we've succeeded for getting the funding for the duplication for the next stretch of the Mount Lindesay Highway from Stoney Camp Road to Chambers Flat Road. That's a $75 million investment of which the Commonwealth government is putting in $37½ million. That will deliver new northbound and southbound bridges across Norris Creek, a range of safety upgrades, improved fauna connectivity and protection across either side of the highway. But most importantly it will greatly improve the safety on that stretch of road, which given the new developments further south in Yarrabilba and Flagstone is an increasingly busy corridor and artery of commerce and travel. So it is tremendous to see these investments being made by this government through our infrastructure investments, some $110 billion over 10 years.

Equally, the work that we're doing on the M1 between the Gateway Motorway and the Logan Motorway. We've already completed the southbound project from the Gateway Motorway to Springwood. We are now working on the northbound upgrade from Springwood to the Gateway Motorway, and that work is well underway. There are already plans for the next part of that from Springwood down to Loganlea Road. It's a $375 million investment by the Commonwealth government in conjunction with the state government, so a total project of $750 million.

In addition to that, investments in upgrading Exit 45 at Ormeau and Exit 49 at Pimpama—a total of nearly $100 million of investment by this government. It's these investments and many others across our community, that were issues 10 years ago, that we're now finally delivering on and achieving.

One of the other great things in my electorate of Forde is the willingness of business in my community and the community more generally to get involved in waste and recycling. We recognise the importance of ensuring that we minimise our waste and where possible we recycle and reuse those commodities to ensure that it's not all going to landfill—or in the past it has been exported overseas. Our waste has the tremendous capacity for us to reuse scarce, raw, natural materials and to repurpose that for other things.

In the city of Logan its largest wastewater treatment facility has been one of the first in Australia to take human waste and turn it into energy. This facility will also transform sewage sludge into renewable energy and a safe, environmentally friendly product called biochar. We know that biochar is a very important component of our soil carbon strategy, because biochar plays a really important role in improving soils and improving the capacity of soil to retain carbon, but also, importantly, improving the quality of soils for water and moisture retention, which in one of the driest countries on earth is a critically important outcome.

With many of these things and many other things that I haven't touched on—I've run out of time—we see that this government, each and every day, is focused on delivering for Australians right across this country and, more importantly, delivering for my community of Forde. I'm so pleased to be part of a government where we have a positive story to tell. We're making this country a better country each and every day.

1:25 pm

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the appropriation bills before the House: Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2020-2021 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2020-2021. I'm delighted to do so, but in doing so I want to express my frustration at the failed policies of this government and the fact that, whilst we are a wealthy society, we are by no means an equitable one. It's been almost five years since I've been a member of this House, since I was elected as the member for Macarthur, and I've seen, increasingly frustratingly, a lack of action on climate change, a lack of action on energy policy and a government that, as I've said, knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

In my own particular field of health care, we've seen a government that pays lip-service to public health policy, to preventative medicine, to preventative health. Whilst they have done well during the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen evidence of a lack of provision for the future and a lack of planning for the healthcare needs of our society. We've seen gap costs for high-level specialist care increase now to levels where it's really only affordable for the very wealthy. We've seen increasing difficulty in people accessing health care. Particularly in my electorate of Macarthur there are real problems in recruiting general practitioners to provide primary health care through our electorate and to people who have the highest need for health care. I've been constantly contacted by constituents and by general practitioners themselves saying it's very difficult to recruit doctors to work in some of the areas of highest need in my electorate of Macarthur. We've seen long waiting lists for hospital treatments and they've certainly blown out during the pandemic.

We have seen people who are struggling to access education. We have new schools in my electorate that have over 30 demountable classrooms. The playing fields have been taken up by demountable classrooms in the electorate. We've seen businesses who have—

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

We're nearly at 1.30. I'm going to ask the member for Macarthur to resume his seat. He will be needing to continue his remarks later anyway. There is a statement I need to make before we get to the 90 second statements. I thank the member for Macarthur.