House debates

Tuesday, 25 May 2021


Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2021-2022, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Second Reading

4:43 pm

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Morrison government's budget is nothing more than marketing, mismanagement and missed opportunities. It's just a shameless political fix, rather than the genuine reform that's actually needed in our economy. Despite spending almost $100 billion and racking up a record trillion dollars in debt, the Morrison government's budget reveals that real wages will in fact go backwards. So, after eight long years of neglect from the Prime Minister and his government, there are still so many urgent issues they've failed to address in regions like mine, the New South Wales North Coast, including a plan for housing affordability, the rental crisis and homelessness. The Morrison government's also bungled the vaccine rollout. They won't tell us exactly when locals will be vaccinated and they have failed to deliver fit-for-purpose quarantine facilities to protect us all. These are federal government responsibilities, and they have failed when it comes to the vaccine rollout and the quarantine facilities. So, instead of securing Australia's recovery, the Morrison government is actually risking it.

Also after these eight long years, this government's presided over an aged-care crisis, an energy crisis, a housing crisis and a skills crisis. Even in the face of the damning royal commission, the aged-care packages they put forward really fall well short of the commissioner's recommendations. The fact is that this budget would have racked up less debt if there were fewer Morrison government slash funds, rorts, dodgy land deals—all of those things that they have racked up debt for. So, after eight long years of job insecurity, weak wages growth, neglect, waste and no action on climate change, this budget really is another missed opportunity to invest in Australians and their future.

The New South Wales North Coast faces a huge housing affordability crisis, a rental crisis and a homelessness crisis. Our region has seen the largest increase in house prices across the nation, and rental vacancies are at 0.3 per cent. Every day, locals tell me how hard it is to find a rental, or that their rent has skyrocketed overnight and they suddenly have to move out—they're forced to move out. We simply have no affordable housing in our region, and our community is calling out for support and solutions to fix this problem. The housing crisis is worse in my area than it is almost anywhere else in Australia, and the Morrison government have no plan to fix it. They're just not listening. The Liberals and Nationals have been in power now for eight long years, and in that time housing affordability has just gotten worse. The fact is that it's harder to buy, it's harder to rent and there are more homeless Australians than ever before. This is truly shameful.

Only last week the shadow minister for housing and homelessness, the member for Blaxland, came to my region to hear about it firsthand, to listen to locals and community groups and to discuss the housing and rental crisis that we're experiencing on the New South Wales North Coast. Many of the things that we heard were really staggering and very upsetting. For example, in the Byron Shire, there actually is no women's refuge. There is no crisis refuge and police estimate there are approximately 400 women in the region who are sleeping in their cars. This is a disgrace. It must be addressed. But the problem is that the Morrison government are just not listening. The Liberals and Nationals are just not listening to and hearing the concerns of our community. They're not listening and they're not acting.

But we're listening. Labor is listening and we're on your side in this. That's why we announced our housing affordability plan. During the visit, the shadow minister highlighted Labor's plan to build social and affordable housing now and into the future. We talked about how an Albanese Labor government will create the Housing Australia Future Fund to build social and affordable housing in places, like the New South Wales North Coast, which are experiencing this crisis. These particular funds and these plans will create jobs and will, in fact, change lives. It's so important to have that massive investment in housing projects—social housing projects, affordable housing projects. It will provide affordable homes for those heroes of the pandemic who have kept us safe, such as the frontline workers, police, nurses and cleaners. It will provide housing for veterans and crisis accommodation for women and children fleeing domestic violence. These are such important issues in my community.

Another major issue is how slow the vaccine rollout has been in our region. Locals contact me every day, concerned they're not able to get the vaccine because the Prime Minister has failed to deliver enough vaccine to our region. Many of our great GPs are ready and able to provide vaccinations to our community, but they're just not getting the supplies. Last week the shadow minister for health and ageing, the member for Hindmarsh, visited my region and met with doctors and staff at the Tweed Health for Everyone Superclinic to discuss the Morrison government's failure to deliver a speedy and effective vaccine rollout for the New South Wales North Coast. This clinic has 8,000 1b patients. To date, they've been able to vaccinate only 800 of them. Eight thousand 1b patients is a lot. They've been receiving only about 100 vaccine doses per week. Hopefully, that will soon increase to 300 a week, but it's still not enough. Our locals urgently need this vaccine. We have a very large proportion of older Australians living in my region, and the bottom line is that the Liberals' and Nationals' bungled handling of this vaccination rollout means that the lives of many of our seniors are being put at risk because they are failing to get that vaccine.

The Prime Minister initially said that we were at the front of the queue. Well, we're not. We're way behind the rest of the world. He promised that four million Australians would be vaccinated by the end of March. He failed that target. His next target was that six million Australians would be vaccinated by 10 May. That hasn't happened. With just over three million vaccinations completed, the Prime Minister has utterly failed, in terms of this target, when it comes to vaccinations. We urgently need them on the New South Wales North Coast. Many frontline healthcare workers and aged-care workers in my region, and disability residents as well, who were supposed to be vaccinated first are still waiting to actually receive their first jabs. This is astounding. It just isn't good enough, and I'll continue to call on the Morrison government to get more vaccine to our region.

Another big issue in my area is the Morrison government's inaction on climate change. This government has had more than 20 energy policies in eight years, and all they have to show for that is more emissions and higher electricity prices. That's it. Nothing more. What we've seen is really wilful vandalism by the Liberals and Nationals over that time, because for them it's actually about politics rather than delivering solutions to climate change or lowering electricity prices. That's not what it's about for them; it's all about politics.

For the regions, action on climate change is very important. It's good for jobs, it's good for lowering emissions and it's good for lowering power prices for both businesses and families. But do you know what happens? The Nationals constantly sell out the regions. I've said many times in this place that National Party choices hurt. Their decisions and their climate change denial are constantly hurting the regions economically and environmentally.

Renewables are by far the cheapest form of new energy, and our nation has the capacity to be a renewable energy superpower. We can create new jobs in technologies at the same time as reducing power prices and creating many jobs across the economy, but the fact is the Liberals and Nationals have no plan at all when it comes to climate change.

Another major issue in my region is young people and all of the issues that concern them. Young people in our regional communities are really being left behind by this government, because this government constantly treats young people with a policy that is often too little, too late, an afterthought, refusing to provide our youth with a fair go. That's when it comes to TAFE, access to university, their working conditions, their penalty rates, their healthcare needs or their vital mental health services. Young people are often forgotten. The Morrison government's eight-year record leaves young people behind at every turn, particularly in terms of mental health.

Now, I acknowledge that the government did make some announcements on mental health in the budget, but it's just not good enough and not good enough for the regions and our younger people. According to the ABS, one in seven young Australians suffer from a mental health condition. Sadly, this number is increasing in regional areas across the nation. In my electorate of Richmond, locals often tell me the way to access mental health services sometimes results in hospitalisations. Youth mental health must be a priority for the Australian government. We need to take an approach of early intervention with educational programs and also follow evidence based solutions. Our young people, like all of our community, deserve to be treated with compassion and respect, especially during these very troubling times. All the evidence has shown that early intervention is the best solution. Improving on this is vital for our region and for all young Australians, The government needs to start addressing the needs of all young Australians, and it's particularly felt in the regions.

Sadly, across so many areas, we see the Liberals and Nationals at state and federal levels continuing to show that they are just not on the side of regional communities. We see it time and time again. I point out one area in my region that really highlights the cruel and callous decisions of the Liberals and Nationals when it comes to the state government: their decision to close all four schools in Murwillumbah. This is a major issue for our local community. Last October the New South Wales state Liberal-National government announced suddenly, without any consultation with anyone, the decision to close all four schools in Murwillumbah and force them into one location. The actions of the New South Wales education minister, Sarah Mitchell, the Tweed Nationals MP, Geoff Provest, and in fact all of their government in doing this, are indeed disgraceful, shameful and wrong. The way they so rudely dismissed our community, didn't consult with anybody—the minister hasn't been back there. It's now been seven months, and she will not answer any community calls to actually come and talk with the community. To date she has refused any meeting to come to Murwillumbah and meet with the parents, the teachers and the children of that community. At seven months after making this really cruel decision, she still actually refuses to face the community. So I will continue to call upon her, the education minister, Sarah Mitchell, and Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest to front up and talk to the community. It's your government that have done this; you need to face this community for what you have done.

Of course the decision is wrong and should be reversed. Closing these four schools—two high schools and two primary schools—and forcing a megaschool will just mean fewer staff, job cuts and worse educational outcomes for our community as well. It's also a concern for other areas of regional New South Wales. Who's going to be next? Who overnight will be told, 'All your schools are getting shut?' People should be concerned about the way this government behaves.

We heard in only the last few days some other harsh action they're taking in relation to this. They've actually broken a promise that they made about staffing levels at Murwillumbah High School. In fact, the education minister of New South Wales lied when she said she'd maintain the staffing commitment for schools nominated for a rebuild or a major refurbishment. What's happened now? She claimed months ago there would be no cuts, and of course there are cuts. Staffing cuts have been imposed on Murwillumbah High School with the government axing almost two full-time equivalent positions. So we had the government starting off saying: 'We're going to close all your schools. We're going to build a mega school. Don't worry, there will be no staff cuts.' But already there are two. Imagine how many more there will be once they are able to proceed with this mega school and closing.

This has caused huge concern in my community. They're very concerned about their children's future educational opportunities and about the job losses as well. It really shows that in those regional and rural areas you just can't trust the Liberals and Nationals. They just can't be trusted at all. So I call upon the New South Wales government to reverse this unfair decision. They must listen to the community. First and foremost, again I call upon Sarah Mitchell to actually front up to that community. For seven months she has been in hiding, and that is a disgrace. Sarah Mitchell and Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest must front the community.

Whilst I am speaking about the state government, another issue I want to raise is the lack of police that we have in our area, the Tweed-Byron Police District. The fact is we have fewer police than we had a decade ago. That is the shameful legacy of Tweed Nationals MP Geoff Provest and his government. It has caused huge concern right across our community. Can I say that as a former police officer I have great respect for the outstanding job our local police do, and I know why they need more resources to keep our community safe. They work very hard under very difficult conditions, but their numbers have dropped dramatically. The fact is that in 2012 our police numbers were at 198, but under this government they dropped to 165 in 2017. That is 33 fewer police officers. We don't know what the numbers were beyond 2017 because—what did the government do?—they stopped releasing the figures, which is appalling. They should start releasing those figures.

The issue of allocating police as a purely political decision. They could fix this today. Recently we had a major forum at Pottsville, and I commend their community for hosting this. Because of concerns about the lack of police in the area, they have started a community petition to get more police, and I certainly encourage locals to sign that. We really have a situation where we have increasing crime in the region yet fewer police than 10 years ago. This is absurd for a growing region like ours. Again I call upon the government to listen to the community, provide more police and start reporting on that as well.

Across the board, whether it is the federal government or the state government, we see the Liberals and Nationals failing to provide the support and services that we need. When it comes to the regions, it really is the National Party choices that have really hurt our region across so many areas. Whether it's health or education, police numbers, action on climate change, providing correct aged-care services for our elderly, providing that vaccine rollout, we have seen failure after failure by both the Liberal and National parties right across the New South Wales North Coast.

4:58 pm

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

As the Treasurer of Australia announced in his budget speech a fortnight ago, Australia is back. It has been a tough 2020 with COVID, but the Morrison government is creating jobs and increasing investment to ensure our recovery is locked in. As part of our plan, not only are we continuing with programs that work but we are also ushering in landmark reforms off the back of the Morrison government's ambition for Australia's future growth and prosperity. Across my electorate the Morrison government is delivering for the people of Higgins. With record investment and real reform in policy areas of aged care and mental health, coupled with lowering taxes, we are securing our future.

On the side of the House we understand that in securing our future, we must ensure low and competitive taxes to stimulate economic activity. In the 2020-21 budget, the Morrison government brought forward the second stage of our tax relief plan by two years. This has meant that in this budget the low-income tax offset will be increased from $445 to $700, the 19 per cent threshold will lift from $37,000 to $45,000, and the 32.5 per cent threshold will lift from $90,000 to $120,000. Again, this year, we are delivering this additional tax relief for over 10 million low- and middle-income earners by retaining the low- and middle-income tax offsets for a further year. Consequently, this will provide further tax relief of up to $1,080 for individuals and $2,160 for families. Tax relief puts money back into the pockets of Australians—tax relief that rewards, not represses, hard work and that supports local enterprise and creates jobs.

In my electorate of Higgins, I'm thrilled to know that approximately 65,700 taxpayers in Higgins will benefit from tax relief of up to $2,745 this year. This is a result of the continuation of the Morrison government's decision to extend the low- and middle-income tax offsets in 2021-22. Take the example of my constituents in Higgins, Amy, who is a kindergarten teacher, and Darren, who owns his own small business. Darren and Amy are expecting their first child. They know the extension of the tax offset for low- and middle-income taxpayers will support the increased costs that happen when you start a family. This is in addition to the 86,900 people in Higgins who have already benefited from the government's tax plan. When our stage 3 tax cuts are implemented, we will see 95 per cent of Australian taxpayers paying a marginal rate of no more than 30c in a dollar. That's real reform, and it's coming down the pipeline. We're also backing businesses in Higgins, with the continuation of tax incentives that will allow around 27,300 businesses in Higgins to write off the value of any eligible asset they purchase. Furthermore, approximately 9,499 businesses in Higgins will benefit from the extension of the loss carry-back measures, supporting cash flow and boosting business confidence.

With life returning to normal in Higgins as Victoria extricates itself from the COVID lockdowns of 2020—and I'm sad to say there have been nine reports of COVID cases, so we are not yet out of woods in Victoria—I am keen to see the further benefits flow, particularly for families and small to medium enterprises, as a result of the Morrison government's tax regime. We don't have to look any further than my home state to see the evidence that Labor governments are addicted to tax. The newly imposed $3 billion property and payroll taxes will unquestionably stifle business investment and employment growth, hamstringing employers as Victoria tries to emerge from the big lockdowns of last year which are being threatened again this year. All the while, infrastructure blowouts and spending inefficiencies from the Andrews Labor government have continued to mire our beautiful state of Victoria in debt. Indeed, this is the blueprint for the opposition were they to win the next federal election. This is Labor; tax increases are in their DNA. There is no doubt that, under the coalition government, your taxes will always be lower. Under Labor they will increase.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety revealed some harrowing truths occurring within the sector—truths that alarmed us all and that we as a government must confront. That is why I welcome the final report from the royal commission and the Morrison government's response to ensure senior citizens of Australia are treated with the respect, care and dignity that they deserve. As announced in the budget a fortnight ago, the Morrison government is responding with an absolutely transformational landmark investment of $17.7 billion of funding for aged-care services. This signifies record investment which, most importantly, will be partnered—because we are a government that cares about this—with record reform to ensure that the spending is efficient and effective to guarantee the provision of high-quality support, to secure the future viability of the sector and to improve strict reporting and transparency measures. Australians, as we age, deserve this.

Fundamental in this response by the Morrison government is the five-year five-pillar aged-care reform plan. This is important because it will address the whole system: home care, with $7.5 billion towards supporting senior citizens who choose to remain in their home—and we know Australians are choosing to age at home and that that is their preference; residential aged-care services and sustainability, with $7.8 billion towards improving and simplifying residential aged-care services and to ensure senior Australians can access value-for-money services; residential aged-care quality and safety with $942 million to drive systemic improvements to residential aged-care quality and safety; and workforce. We know the workforce is changing and it needs to step up to deal with the ageing population, not just across the general population but the ever increasing ageing population within residential aged care where residents, unfortunately, are becoming more frail with more comorbidities because people are choosing to age at home. And we are getting a change to the population in the residential aged-care sector. There's $652 million to grow a skilled, professional and compassionated aged-care workforce. It is a good workforce. It just needs more support. This will be the powerhouse of the government's reform agenda.

Importantly, there will be $698 million for the fifth pillar of the five-year five pillar aged-care reform plan to look at the issue of governance. This will help across the aged-care system by embedding respect, care and dignity at the heart of the system; guaranteeing better choice, higher quality and safer care for senior Australians. The sector has undergone major change as our population ages and more senior Australians receive at-home support. Realising these trends, the Morrison government is working to secure a future that we all face.

Our senior Australians built this country. They've imparted so much to strengthen our great Australian project. We are indebted to senior Australians. It's our duty to ensure that all receive the care they require later in life. It's our duty to protect them later in life and that was made all the more clear through COVID in 2020. Unfortunately, we know that those over the age of 70 are most at risk from COVID. We saw how the outbreak in Victoria raced through our older generation last year. If that outbreak hadn't have happened, following quarantine breakdown and failed contact tracing in Victoria, Australia's death rate from COVID wouldn't have been over 900. It would've been far fewer, perhaps as few as 100. That is a remarkable statistic out of a population of 25 million Australians in this country. That is why the Morrison government is, as our first step of the COVID vaccination rollout, making sure that it's our senior citizens in aged care and their workers that are the first to receive the COVID vaccine.

Across the country we have 4,122 aged-care facilities and they have received their first or second dose of the COVID vaccine—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 17:07 to 17:29

To continue, I'm very proud that the Morrison government has targeted the COVID vaccination rollout to our senior citizens. Across the country we have 4,122 aged-care facilities, and we now know that at 94 per cent of these facilities first doses have been administered. This is a great outcome for the protection of the vulnerable in our community, particularly our older citizens.

The other aspect of our recently announced budget which I'm very proud of is our groundbreaking $2.3 billion National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. This is another key priority for the Morrison government, to spearhead much-needed reform and assistance for Australians in need. On the back of the longstanding recognition by the coalition that mental health is just as important as your physical health, the Morrison government remains steadfast in its commitment to guaranteeing all Australians access to world-leading mental health and suicide prevention services. Through the transformation of our mental health system, Australians can have access to top-quality care whenever, and wherever they might be.

Every year, we tragically lose more than 3,000 of our fellow Australians to suicide. Heartbreakingly, suicide continues to remain the leading cause of death amongst Australians aged 15 to 44. In my first speech I spoke of how I had lost my cousin to suicide. He was a young man who lived in the regions and had difficulty accessing services. He came from an extended family of doctors, but unfortunately there were no services that were age appropriate in the town of Beechworth, where he lived. That is why I'm proud that the Morrison government is ambitious in its unwavering commitment to the transformation of Australia's mental health system, and that is through a fivefold plan.

We heard from the previous speaker that they believed we didn't have a plan that looked at prevention and early intervention. That, indeed, is not the case. It's a misrepresentation of the facts. The facts are: our fivefold plan includes prevention and early intervention, with $248.6 million to go towards access to essential services, including the creation of a landmark digital platform that will provide online professional counselling, peer support, clinical support and referrals. We want there to be no wrong door. When people are in need, they need to be able to access mental health support, whichever portal they go through.

Secondly, we're investing record levels of funding in suicide prevention, with $298 million to work towards zero suicide. Most prominently, this will be through funding universal aftercare so that every Australian discharged from hospital following a suicide attempt will have services wrapped around them. We know this is a highly vulnerable subpopulation and we need to provide targeted services to support those who've attempted suicide.

Thirdly, there is an increased package of treatment, with $1.4 billion to improve and enhance accessibility to and effectiveness of mental health services through the creation of a national network of multidisciplinary mental health treatment centres.

Fourthly, we have further investment to support the vulnerable, with $107 million for marginalised community members, including $79 million for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, $16.9 million for migrants and multicultural communities, and $11 million for those with complex mental health needs.

Lastly in our five-point plan is workforce and governance, with $202 million for measures to grow the mental health labour force and provide additional staff resources and training.

Just last week I was fortunate to visit, with the Prime Minister, headspace Elsternwick, which in 2007 was the very first headspace centre to open in Australia. In meeting with counsellors and carers and the great Australian of the Year Professor Pat McGorry, it was wonderful to be reminded of the brilliant work that these facilities and the workers in them are providing to those who need mental health support. Recognising the brilliant work of headspace, we are also enhancing and expanding the network, with 10 new headspace centres and five satellite services, at a cost of $278.6 million, bringing the total number of headspace services throughout Australia to 164. This will include a headspace in Higgins. I'm delighted, because we really need one. I know this because, when I spoke to the headspace in Elsternwick, they told me that they receive many referrals from my electorate of Higgins.

As a paediatrician and mother, I appreciate just how important these services are to so many young Australians, but we need more than that. We need services for children and for adults, including the Head to Health initiatives that are also being rolled out as part of this budget. My community is benefiting from the real reform and record investments made by the Morrison government. I'm proud that we are backing our community and businesses as we secure Australia's future. I'm proud that we are taking care of Higgins.

5:35 pm

Photo of Anne AlyAnne Aly (Cowan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

When my family came to Australia in 1969, they knew they were coming to the lucky country, to a country which had opportunities for themselves and for their children, a country that would afford them social mobility, a country with universal health care—thank you very much, Labor governments—and a country with good public hospitals and good public schools. In 1973, my father was actually offered a job in the US. It was my family's original intention to go to the US, but we got the offer to come to Australia first. So they packed up and were ready to move to the US, but they were convinced to stay in Australia and give it a go. So instead they packed all three of us up and we headed north to Brisvegas. In 1974, we were living in a modest home that we'd bought in a place called Hill End when the floods came. I think it was then that our family also realised that they had come not just to a lucky country but to a country of people who look after each other, a country of people who roll their sleeves up and help each other and face adversity head on.

We've been here for well over 50 years now. We are heading into three generations of my family that have been in Australia. Hopefully there'll be a fourth generation if my two sons can get their act together and give me a grandchild! But we now see with COVID-19, again, that kind of endurance that really marks the Australian spirit, that ability to roll your sleeves up, that ability to face adversity head on. The fact is that Australians have really done the heavy lifting during COVID-19, whether it's the frontline workers, the mums and dads educating their kids at the kitchen table or the parents and the grandparents who went for months without being able to see each other. We did the right thing. Aussies did the right thing. They followed the rules, they social distanced, they stayed indoors, they wore masks—they did all of those things.

When I think of Australia and her people, I think of the people that don't ask much of their government, not really, not when you compare it to some other countries, certainly not when I compare it to the country that my parents left, where there isn't health care and there aren't good public hospitals. We Australians really don't demand that much of our government. But what Australians did ask of their government was simply that the government fulfil its constitutional responsibility to keep them safe by providing effective quarantine facilities and a timely vaccine rollout. That was all. They did everything else and just expected those two things. But, sadly, I have to say that Australians feel let down in that space.

Last week's budget had a range of things I thought were good. Let's be honest and fair and give credit where credit's due. It was great that the government finally started to address the aged-care crisis that they have presided over. It is great that they have put more funding into social programs that need funding. But there was no mention of quarantine. There was zero mention of their responsibility for quarantining. I take the Prime Minister's point from when he was asked in question time about the federal responsibility for quarantine about the national cabinet and the states taking on that role. I want to go to that point just for a little while tonight.

Sometime in May last year I came across an article that was written and published 100 years ago in the journal Nature, which is a very well-known and highly respected journal. The article was titled 'Lessons from a pandemic'. The pandemic that it referred to was actually the Spanish flu. It gave a range of lessons that they had learned from the Spanish flu. So I did a bit more research into the Spanish flu. Did you know that the Spanish flu had five waves? It was actually the second and third waves that were the most deadly. They were the ones that claimed the most victims. So, while we've used the word 'unprecedented' many times during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's actually not that unprecedented.

There actually are lessons to be learned from the Spanish flu of 100 years ago. One of those lessons is that the virus is knocking on our door. It's not going to go away immediately and we must be vigilant against the virus. But we must also plan for the future and for the prospect of the virus returning in different iterations. There will be different manifestations of this virus, and we have now seen different strains in various countries, including the Indian strain. The fact is that hotels are woefully inadequate as quarantine facilities for airborne strains of the virus. They are simply not built for the purpose of being quarantine facilities.

I would have said that, even if at the beginning of this virus we had started on the footing of having hotel quarantine in consultation and in agreement with the states, there should have been enough lessons learned, enough foresight and enough vision to have started building quarantine facilities to ensure that various strains of the virus would not take hold in Australia, that we would not get community transmission in Australia and that we would have quarantine facilities that could take us through the inevitable various waves of the COVID-19 strains, just as we had learned from the Spanish flu 100 years ago. The Howard Springs quarantine facility should have been the model for what other dedicated facilities could look like.

I just have to point out here that Australia is a world leader in rapid building technologies. Do you know what we do here in Australia? We build dongas and mine sites, and we build them in a really timely fashion. We build them really quickly. We could have built rapidly, using that technology. Using Australian ingenuity and world-renowned Australian technology, we could have built a number of quarantine facilities around Australia that would have allowed us to do a number of things. It would have allowed us to bring stranded Australians home. It would have allowed us to keep state borders open. It would have allowed us to continue to keep our citizens safe. But, most of all, it would have allowed us to have a foolproof plan for the future as this virus mutates into different strains and as we face a longer-term period of dealing with COVID-19. Anyone who thought that COVID-19 was going to go away with the first wave surely had no understanding of how viruses work. But, also, they had no understanding of human behaviour and what we needed to do to plan for that future.

But, as I mentioned earlier, in this budget there is not a single mention of quarantine. Instead of allocating money to the things that people in Western Australia want, like a quarantine facility, the budget actually provides for $1.2 billion to be set aside for a road to nowhere that Western Australians have voted against. It's a road that Western Australians have resoundingly rejected time and time again. Yet in the federal budget $1.2 billion is allocated for this road, the Roe 8 and Roe 9. The people of Western Australia have said, 'We don't want it.' This is holding West Australians hostage for $1.2 billion.

I want to talk a little bit about the vaccination rollout. I don't need to repeat what's been said time and again by people on our side reminding Australians of the constant variations in the information that they're given: the Minister for Health saying one thing, the Prime Minister saying something else and somebody else saying something else; the mixed messages; the inability to achieve the targets that were set; the fact that, as of last week, only one per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated. Compared to other countries, we are way behind.

I'm sure that everybody else, like me, is getting calls, emails and constituents coming into their offices saying that they simply cannot get the vaccine, that they have been unable to access the vaccine. We know that frontline workers, healthcare workers, aged-care residents and disability-care residents are really counting on this vaccine. I've got a constituent who is really counting on the vaccine so that he can finally visit his mother in the nursing home. He is still waiting on the vaccine. It's just not good enough when it's all that Australians asked for: a timely vaccine rollout and an effective quarantine regime. That's all they asked for: two jobs. This government had two jobs and it failed on both accounts.

As those in this place may know, my husband works in anticorruption. I've said before that I find it quite astounding that my husband has the capacity and the ability to investigate my state colleagues but there's nobody to investigate me or any of my federal colleagues. The establishment of a federal anticorruption body is something that is not just popular with the people. Yes, it is a popular thing. A lot of people want that. When I ask people, 'What do you want?' that's what they want. But it was also an announcement that was made by this government, and we're still waiting on it, still waiting on a federal integrity commission. Apart from that, the budget didn't have a single cent put towards any kind of staffing for a federal integrity commission. To me that says very clearly that there is absolutely no intention to establish a federal integrity commission even after this government has made the announcement that they want one.

I'd like to finish on one thing. We get this spiel, as you would know as politicians, when we ring constituents or when we talk to constituents and say to them: 'Are you concerned about jobs or education? What are you concerned about?' People will say, 'Yes, jobs. Yes, employment. Yes, education. Sure,' but, when you really dig down and have a conversation with someone, what people really want is security. I'm not talking about national security or the ability to leave home with the doors unlocked. Sure, people want that kind of feeling of security as well, but when I say 'security', I'm talking about a feeling of wellbeing, a feeling of belonging and a feeling of security in that they know that their jobs are secure, their wages are secure and they're going to be able to go to work and put food on the table.

It's not just about protection. It's not just about more police services—that your car or your home are not going to be broken into. It's not just national security, of which I am very fond, as you would know, Deputy Speaker. It's not just about defence or anything like that. It's actually about a feeling of security that people have. That's what people want. They want a sense of belonging to their community. They want a sense that they can plan for the future, for their children's future, and that they have a vision for that future so they can follow their dreams and their children can follow their dreams. That's what people want. They may express it in the political terms of policy that we give them: more employment, better wages, more police on the beat or education. But, when you really sit down and have a conversation with someone, when you really talk to them about their lives, their hopes, their futures and their dreams, what people want is security—that's all they want. It's up to this government to provide that for them in a whole range of areas, certainly including a timely vaccine rollout and an effective quarantine facility. Sadly, this government has failed on both those counts, and on other counts as well. I urge the Morrison government to really talk to people. You've got two jobs: vaccine and quarantine. It's your constitutional responsibility. Get it done and get it done right.

5:50 pm

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

It's a privilege to be given this opportunity to provide comments on the appropriation bills as they relate to the budget that was handed down recently by the Treasurer. It's also great to be given the opportunity to do it after there being a little time for the community to digest the content of that rather substantial piece of work. The sense I get from being in my community is that Australians understand that this budget effectively builds on the excellent work that our government has been doing since first being elected in 2013.

The coalition are known for their ability to be good economic managers. Over the last eight years that we've been given the privilege of government, it's at least my suggestion that we've consolidated that reputation. For the first time in 11 years, in the lead-up to this pandemic, the budget was set to be back in black. That was because of good economic management, and it meant that we were in a position to weather the inevitable economic storm that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. It meant that we were in a position to guarantee the essential services that every Australian relies on, constituents in the electorate of Barker, of course, included. These are services like aged care.

The budget assists 33,535 senior Australians living in my electorate. There is $17.7 billion in additional funding—it's practical, it's targeted, it's new—aimed at significantly improving the aged-care system. It will have an impact on older Australians in Barker, and I can tell you, having spent a week in the electorate, it's very welcome news. Like everyone in this place, but I think I speak for every Australian, I found the findings of the aged-care royal commission and much of the evidence confronting. It was heartbreaking, to be truthful. That's why this important structural aged-care funding adjustment has been applied. The reforms that we're talking about are being undertaken through a five-year, five-pillar aged-care reform plan, which will see the funding increase that I mentioned. It will include $6.5 billion for 80,000 additional home-care packages to get our senior Australians the support they deserve. This is a legacy issue—it's across governments—but we are chasing down the waiting list. We are also set to improve face-to-face care. There is $3.9 billion in the budget that will ensure, once in care, our loved ones receive the care and treatment we all expect that they will.

The investment of $123 million in our rural and regional health workforce, including $65.8 million to increase bulk-billing incentives for doctors working in rural, regional and remote Australia, is also very welcome news. It's news that I hope will deliver practical solutions to issues we face in our regional towns when it comes to seeing a GP. For those who don't need to see a health professional face to face, there is $204.6 million invested in extending telehealth arrangements. That's fantastic news if you just need a script and you don't want to leave the farm, or you can't, or, indeed, you are too busy to go and see the doctor. This is our government continuing to provide access to health services for all Australians, regardless of where they live.

Mental health, I am pleased to say, was an important focus in the budget, as it is for my constituents. The announcement our government will undertake significant structural reform to mental health and suicide prevention systems in this country was welcomed. There's a $2.3 billion package in the budget. It's a fantastic step forward. Our government understands that mental health funding and the resources for suicide prevention services benefit Australians quality of life, quite obviously. But it's also my respectful submission that it's an investment that reduces dependence on emergency services, while improving barriers to economic productivity.

We're also cutting the cost of child care for families in Barker by increasing subsidies available for families with more than one child under five in child care. Not only is this lowering the cost of living for families but it's boosting, and will boost, workforce participation in our regions, which is all great news.

Our budget also contained a women's safety and economic security statement, outlining the budget's $3.4 billion commitment to improve women's safety, economic security, health and wellbeing. This funding, importantly, includes $164.8 million in financial support for women who escape family and domestic violence. That continues to be a scourge in our society, and one that I know across the divide in this place we are committed to doing real work to address. There's $129 million for increased legal assistance enabling women to access justice. Our budget supports women not only through economic empowerment but also as a safety net if women experience, as I said, the scourge of domestic violence.

Another important budget measure, for my constituents at least, was the commitment to fully fund the NDIS with a further $13.2 billion in funding for the scheme. Mr Deputy Speaker, you know that we are committed to ensuring the NDIS is a demand-driven scheme, which is why the last two budgets have allocated an additional $17 billion to the scheme to make sure it remains fully funded. Not only is it important that the NDIS remains demand driven, but it is important that the eligibility and appropriate plans for recipients are made in a timely, objective and consistent manner to be fair for all Australians that are in need of that care. The strength of the NDIS is highlighted by the fact that currently approximately 450,000 Australians are accessing services via the scheme.

Getting Aussies skilled and into jobs is how our economy will bounce back. I know it's something you are personally past passionate about, Deputy Speaker. It's the fastest and best way to bounce back from the COVID-induced recession. That's why I was pleased to see that we are doubling our commitment to the JobTrainer fund to support a further 163,000 new training places to upskill jobseekers and meet skills shortages. We're funding more than 170 new apprenticeships and trainees. These measures, I've got to tell you, have been popular in Barker. I've spoken to numerous businesses and countless apprentices and trainees who have been taken on as new apprentices or trainees because of these initiatives themselves. Of course they were very pleased to hear that the next cohort of apprentices and trainees were likely to find their way into employment because the 50 per cent apprentice wage subsidy was continuing.

We also firmly believe that once in a job, Australians spend their own money far better than government spends it for them. To support Australians in keeping more of what they earn, the budget expands personal income tax cuts for low- and middle -income earners. Low- and -middle income earners earning between $48,000 and $90,000 will benefit by up to $1,080 for individuals or $2,160 from couples, increasing the amount families can spend on the goods and services they are keen to consume or buy.

In addition to these personal benefits embedded in the budget, infrastructure improvements, I got to tell you, are a standard in the coalition budget and so it was for Barker in this budget. Connectivity is the No. 1 issue in my electorate, as I expect it is for many rural and regional electorates around the country. Being connected by road is a big part of this. It keeps our local economy ticking and gets our loved ones home safely. So it's great news that the government's record support for infrastructure places regions right at the centre. We are building the infrastructure our economy needs for the future, with a record $110 billion infrastructure pipeline which is already supporting 100,000 jobs across the country.

This budget goes even further, with $15.2 billion in additional infrastructure commitments which will support a further 30,000 jobs for projects such as the Truro bypass, upgrades to the Heysen Tunnels, investigation into duplication of the Swanport Bridge, upgrades of the Princes Highway and Dukes Highway and investigation into the construction of upgraded freight routes connecting the regional north-south freight route via the Sturt Highway to bypass Adelaide. The new National Water Grid is also allocated $3.5 million for a detailed business case to bring a sustainable alternative water supply to the Barossa Valley.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I don't have any knives for you, but wait—there's more! As well as these major projects, our Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program has also received a significant boost. In addition to the $1 billion for our Road Safety Program that will deliver thousands of kilometres of road upgrades to regional Australia, our Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program, which has already injected a whopping $1.5 billion into our local communities via local government, has been extended with another $1 billion for local roads, bike paths, community halls, public facilities and almost whatever local councils and local decision-makers deem a priority.

In Barker this means a total of $37 million in additional money being pumped into our local councils to spend on community priorities. From the Beachport Bowling Club to the riverfront lighting in Renmark and many local roads in between, this project is funding direct, tangible projects, putting spades in the ground and jobs on the books. Of course this is on top of the additional $250 million for a sixth round of the highly successful Building Better Regions Fund; $22.7 million for a seventh round of Stronger Communities; and a new program, Rebuilding Regional Communities, which will provide microgrants to grassroots community organisations to assist communities in their recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. This funding is not only delivering outcomes for local communities; as I said earlier, every brick laid and every metre of bitumen applied is creating jobs, supporting local communities and leaving legacy infrastructure in its wake.

This brings me, in the time I have, to local businesses. This government is continuing tax incentives that will allow around 23,500 local businesses in Barker to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase. Additionally, around 4,620 businesses in Barker will be able to use the extended loss carry-back measure to support cash flow and drive confidence. It's stimulus measures like these—in particular, in my view, the instant asset write-off extension—that have seen business spending on machinery and equipment increase at the fastest rate in nearly seven years. It's measures like these that have seen employment go above its pre-pandemic levels ahead of any other major advanced economy. It's worth repeating: it's measures like these that have seen employment go above pre-pandemic levels.

Our government also understands the value Australians place on homeownership, which is why we are proudly the party of homeownership. Despite the last budget's success in getting 133,000 applications for the HomeBuilder program, we are committed to continuing to support even more Australians to get into their own homes. This includes establishing the Family Home Guarantee, with 10,000 guarantees available to single parents with dependents, allowing them to purchase a home sooner with a deposit of as little as two per cent. First home buyers seeking to build a new home or purchase a newly built home will be able to do so with a deposit of as little as five per cent. All other first home buyers are able to save more under the First Home Super Saver Scheme; we've increased the maximum allowed to be saved from $30,000 to $50,000.

So whether it's providing the essential services that my constituents depend on, securing our economic future or getting more Australians into work, our government will continue to work hard to provide an environment for all Australians to not only survive this pandemic but of course to thrive following it.

6:05 pm

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

I'll be clear from the outset for anyone listening at home—if anyone listens to the Federation Chamber; you never know—this is a debate about the budget bills giving the government $142 billion to spend next financial year. The budget confirms that the Liberals are on track for $1 trillion of debt, but there has been nothing to show for it in eight long years. The Prime Minister likes to pretend he's all shiny and new and he's running for his second term. This is an eight-year-old government with a budget that's just a marketing exercise. There are no real plans outlined in the budget, no actual reform. There's just spraying money around to fix the Prime Minister's political problems that he's created in his eight years in government.

Aged care? We hear a lot about aged care. It's budget is about one-quarter of what is needed. It doesn't implement the royal commission's recommendations. There is no actual reform that will see wage rises for aged-care workers or quality staff ratios. There's no guarantee that even the little pittance that was put through will flow through to food for people in aged care to eat. There is nothing in the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-22 and the other budget bills that's actually going to reduce the waiting times for home care. My office is inundated, day after day, with calls made by desperate families needing high-level homecare packages. There is none of that. There's just a failed ad man with $100 billion of new spending and $1 trillion of debt.

But at the centre of this budget is the real scam being pulled on Australian workers—that is, in this budget real wages under this government will go backwards in the next four years. I mean, how do you rack up $1 trillion of debt, $100 billion of new spending over the next four years, $142 billion of spending next year, and have real wages in this country go backwards? That gets a gold medal for a special kind of incompetence. The government says about wages: 'Well, it's COVID. We're doing the best we can.' That's rubbish. It is a deliberate design feature of Liberal economic management. The facts don't lie. Have a look at what happened to wages in this country before COVID. From 2013 to 2019—this is OECD data—real wages in Australia fell. In 2019, real wages in Australia were 0.7 per cent lower than when this mob were elected in 2013, and they've just handed down a budget with $1 trillion of debt that's going to see real wages go further backwards.

In 2019, Australia sat in third-last place out of every developed country in the OECD—before COVID. They had managed to push wage rises down to the bottom of the developed world. It's no accident they have opposed the minimum wage increase year after year. They cut penalty rates—they took delight in cutting penalty rates, voting against it about 27 times. Last week they snuck a dodgy little announcement out that's slowly but surely converting the international student visa into a cheap labour visa. And, for the eighth year in a row, they have refused, as a government, to index the minimum salary that employers have to pay to bring low-skilled migrants into this country. You can see the data. If you come in as a low-skilled migrant on a meat labourer agreement, you are not paid $1 more on average than you were eight years ago. It's the same with labourers and personal care workers.

It is not an accident that wages are going backwards; it's the deliberate point of Liberal economic management. No. 1 on the Liberal Party's real political agenda is to boost the profit share of big business in this country by reducing the wages share. That's who funds them. That's actually the point of the Liberal Party. All the aspiration stuff is just marketing spin. They exist to boost the profit share of business by reducing the wages share, trashing working conditions and superannuation, and that's what this budget locks in—that is, lower wages.

It also shows they're bankrupt ideologically. They don't stand for anything anymore. At least John Howard and Tony Abbott had some beliefs. I didn't like them, but you could point to them, and they were broadly consistent. This shapeshifting failed marketing guy we've got as Prime Minister was sacked from Tourism Australia. He left the Tourism New Zealand body under a cloud a year before his contract was up. He has no plans for the future, just a plan to sneak through the election by spraying a bit of money around to fool people into thinking that, after eight years, he's fixing the messes that he's created. It's just brand propaganda that they're good economic managers; the data does not back it up. This budget makes that clear to anyone who reads the charts. We've had 30 years of lectures from them on how they oppose fiscal stimulus, oppose budget deficits, oppose public debt, oppose investment in urban infrastructure. We had decades of Liberal governments refusing to fund urban rail in this country because, apparently, it was bad. We've had them kick the car industry out of Australia, opposing Australian manufacturing and saying the market will decide.

Their budget figures themselves—the graphs, the charts and the numbers in this budget—expose, in black and white, eight years of incompetent economic management. Take the debt. The Liberals now record five times the net debt of the last Labor government. Of course, it would be a lot less without their rorts and their slush funds, which are built into this budget, and the $1 billion of taxpayer funded advertising. They've spent $1 billion of taxpayer money on ads since they got elected.

Take JobKeeper: billions of dollars to profitable businesses. Not just profitable businesses but businesses that actually increased their profits during the pandemic have received billions of dollars of taxpayer largesse from this mob—these great economic managers—who have put it on the national credit card. Apparently Labor debt is bad but Liberal debt is good. We'd be causing congestion in the big cities if they had the debt truck out, wouldn't we! It would be like a freight train. There wouldn't be enough little trucks to glue on the back, with all the zeros. The deficit is seven times as big as it was under the last Labor government, and there's nothing to show for it.

There's nothing in my electorate—not one single election commitment. All the pork went down the road. There's nothing for the most disadvantaged community in the whole of Melbourne. In a city of five million people, for the most disadvantaged council area there's not one dollar from this mob. Family violence is through the roof. It's the highest in the state in the south-east of Melbourne. Do you think, Mr Deputy Speaker, that from the minister's $60 million family violence slush fund we got anything for new housing for women and children facing homelessness? No. We got absolutely nothing.

The last Labor government, with much lower debt and a much lower deficit, at least left a legacy. We built the National Broadband Network, which this mob stuffed up. We left 20,000 social housing units—they're still there today. We created an asset for people to live in. Education infrastructure, urban transport infrastructure—we left a legacy. What has this government actually done?

Let's just go back to debt. When we left government, federal net debt in Australia was 11 per cent of the OECD average. This mob have got to 36 per cent, and it's going to touch 45 per cent. That's what their budget papers say. But that's not because of COVID. Two-thirds of the debt in this budget was borrowed by the Liberals before the pandemic. They more than doubled the national debt before COVID. This budget, if you read it, exposes the hypocrisy of the fear and scare campaign they've run for years.

There's tax. We hear about taxes all the time in question time: 'We're for lower taxes!' This budget locks in a tax hike for Australians on modest incomes—but after the election. They'll just kick that little can down the road till after the election. The Treasurer is saying: 'Well, you know, the offset will have to end sometime.' It's a temporary tax break for average income earners, yet the highest income earners in the country enjoy a permanent tax cut—forever. That's point No. 2 of Liberal economic management: deliver tax cuts for those who need them least and pay for them by undercutting and underfunding income support and spending for struggling families, child care, pensions, health, education and aged care. That's the point of them: boost profits to big business, cut the share of the economy going into people's pockets through wages, and then cut taxes for the top end and raise taxes at the bottom end. That's what this budget does, in black and white. Those opposite exist to protect those who already have wealth—to keep wages low and to protect those who already have the most.

There's infrastructure. We actually heard the previous speaker say, 'Infrastructure is standard in a coalition budget.' That's what he said; I wrote it down. We've had eight long years of the nonsense marketing scam where in every budget they announce projects that they don't actually build. They pretend to deliver infrastructure, budget after budget. The Prime Minister goes out with that idiotic grin, the hard hat and the thumbs up, honking the horn in the truck. 'It's a hundred billion dollars'—we heard that last year. 'It's a hundred billion dollars'—we heard that again. But it's a scam.

Last week in Victoria they quietly announced—when they thought there was a bigger announcement coming, they buried it in the paper. 'Actually, you know those railway station car parks we promised around Melbourne? Well, we're not going to build them any more. It's too hard.' They announced it. They campaigned on it. They put the leaflets out, but they're not going to actually build them. Thompsons Road in south-east Melbourne? 'Oh, we're not actually going to fund that duplication and extension. It's too hard.' But my favourite is that the member for Hindmarsh has told us about the north-south corridor in Adelaide. There is one little bit of the north-south corridor that got built. It was because Albo, the Leader of the Opposition now, when he was the infrastructure minister announced it and funded it in 2012, and it was finished. I think Tony Abbott turned up to the announcement and took the credit for it, but it was a Labour government that funded it. But this government, the Liberals, have announced this project eight times, eight budget in a row. They've never built it; they've just announced it. They announced it again two weeks ago. Except they say, 'We will start it in 2023, and it's going to take 10 years to build.' Eight times they've announced it, but now they say they'll start it in two years and take another 10 years. It's a joke.

If you read the numbers, though, this budget cuts infrastructure funding. It's in the tables in black and white. They're cutting infrastructure funding by $3.3 billion. But they're out there in the hard hats with the shovels, with the shovels, with the fluoro vests on. It's a marketing scam, and this government is led by a failed ad man. You can't believe anything they announce. Remember the centrepiece of last year's budget, JobMaker? JobFaker! The Prime Minister told us it was going to create 450,000 jobs. It created 1,000, and they've dumped it this year. They see government as a never-ending marketing exercise not to leave a legacy but just to stop us getting in and doing anything, like Medicare, the disability scheme, universal superannuation, the world's first disability pension in 1908. We called it an invalid pension. It was by an Labour government. NDIS. Universal services. These are things that Labor governments build and the Liberals try to stop and cut.

But the biggest omission—the thing the Prime Minister does not want to talk about or get people to think about—is quarantine and vaccines. He's had two jobs above all else with the pandemic in the last few months: manage quarantining to stop COVID coming in and stop it leaking out of hotel quarantine, and get a reliable, diverse supply of vaccines and get them out to states and territories to get in people's arms. He's obsessed with Labor every question time. He doesn't want to talk about doing his own job.

The vaccination program is way off track. As of last Thursday, we've got one per cent of people in this country vaccinated. That's an embarrassment across the whole of the developed world. We're vulnerable to outbreaks and lockdowns. We're seeing it now re-emerge in Melbourne because it leaked out of South Australian hotel room because there are no national standards for quarantine. Imagine if Labor had made a mess like this. You'd run out of black ink to print the newspapers. The borders: 'Labor mess.' But apparently it's OK when we have one per cent of Australians vaccinated because of the government's incompetence, mixed messages and confusion.

We need to be careful not to confuse antivaxxers with vaccine hesitancy. I was down the shops for two hours and had a lot of very sensible people come up saying: 'I'm not sure about the AstraZeneca vaccine. I heard the health minister saying, "Well, you can get another one in a few months."' You need a consistent, serious message. They spent $1 billion on taxpayer ads since they got elected but not when it actually matters. Literally right now there are ads on TV, funded by the taxpayer, promoting the Liberal Party, promoting roads that haven't even been built, but they haven't got a proper vaccination campaign out. Why is that? Because they've stuffed up the supply, they've stuffed up the distribution and they don't actually want people to think hard about that. They put all their eggs in one basket and the government owns this shocking failure. It's adding billions of dollars to the debt, costing billions of dollars to the economy, and it's on their watch.

And then there's quarantine. The Prime Minister never takes responsibility when it matters. He turns his back on people. If you are a cat or a dog or a horse and you come to Australia, you go to a Commonwealth quarantine facility, but, if you're a person, apparently that's not his responsibility. He had a report on his desk seven months ago—the Halton report—saying, 'There are a bunch of things you have to do. You've got to have national standards.' There are still no national standards for quarantine. All the states and territories do different things. The Prime Minister likes it that way because he can blame them instead of doing his job. Still the health guidelines in the country don't even accept that COVID's airborne, because then he'd have to fund N95 masks and put ventilation standards in. The best time to build a quarantine facility was last year, and the next best time is today. He needs to fix hotel quarantine and build purpose-built quarantine.

With regard to the borders being open, we hear a lot of footsie. He doesn't want people to think about what the future will be like. It's way too early to know about quarantine-free travel. But keeping the virus out does not mean keeping all people out. Australians should not have to live in a gilded cage. Australia under this government needs to overhaul completely how it is managing the coming and going of people and to scale up nationally auspiced quarantine. There can be no certainty about how and when borders open safely, and its way over time that the Prime Minster stood up, did his job, took responsibility for quarantine and fixed his vaccine mess.

6:20 pm

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

Australia's recovery is underway. On the Gold Coast, the mood has been shifting for many from gritty determination to a sense of cautious optimism. There's a shift taking place from the production of jobs to the creation of jobs. Many businesses and individuals have shifted from being supported to supporting themselves. All of that is about jobs for Gold Coast families. If there is a note of caution that I hear most often it's that businesses and families are still a little bit nervous about the prospect of state border closures being foisted upon them once again. But, overall, business confidence is up, consumer confidence is up and people on the Gold Coast have more spring in their step.

That spring is the national economy step two. Consider that nearly one million jobs have been added since the peak of this twin health and economic crisis. Australia is outperforming similar advanced economies and, in 2021, GDP is expected to grow by 5¼ per cent. To avoid lockdowns, state border closures and, most importantly, harm to the health of Australians, we will need to remain on guard and increase our resilience. To that end, the budget included an additional investment of $1.9 billion in the vaccine rollout, and Australia has secured supply of 170 million vaccine doses.

For some sectors, this process is slower and the support continues, such as the $1.2 billion support package for tourism and aviation, delivering close to 200,000 half-price tickets to the Gold Coast so that our local businesses have more customers. I was at the Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival on Sunday, and there were customers everywhere. Tourists usually spend 10 times what they spend on air tickets at their destination. Other support is in place for the arts and entertainment sector. As I said, Blues on Broadbeach proceeded last weekend with COVID-safe measures. It was supported by government funding to the tune—of course, a blues tune!—of $200,000.

Beyond the temporary support measures, the government is busy delivering major infrastructure investments like the additional $26.6 million in contribution to the Gold Coast light rail stage 3, announced recently on the Gold Coast. I see the smirks on my colleagues' faces across the chamber when I talk about the federal government coming to the rescue of the state government in Queensland. We came to the rescue—hook, line and sinker. The minister for communication and urban cities announced that big gaping hole and we covered that up with federal funding—yes, we did.

What the arts, urban cities and communication minister knows is that infrastructure investments not only are good for jobs during the construction phase but also help underpin long-term prosperity. The Gold Coast needs infrastructure to enable our growing city to grow at pace with the population whilst maintaining our enviable lifestyle. It's the most enviable lifestyle in the country, in my view. One of the mischievous refrains coming from those opposite is not to oppose the level of spending by the government but to feign concern about what we'll have to show for it. Well, $110 billion in infrastructure over 10 years is certainly something to show for it. That's what I would say to those opposite. On the Gold Coast, one of the greatest examples is the light rail stage 3, which is Broadbeach to Burleigh. It's the kind of world-class public transport that a world-class city like the Gold Coast, Australia's sixth largest city, needs and deserves.

Another is increased capability and potency for the Australian Defence Force. Labor's appalling neglect of the ADF was ended by the coalition coming to government. Can you imagine what it would be like now after eight years under Labor? Defence wasn't even mentioned in Labor's address on the budget. But we did not stop there. We are delivering the sustained funding commitment required and two per cent of GDP on defence to maintain and enhance the Australian Defence Force.

National security is without doubt a vital duty of federal governments. The prosperity and freedom of our liberal democracy and the security of our peace-loving, industrious people cannot be left to good luck. These require good management. They require commitment. My wise and resolute Queensland colleague, the Minister for Defence, is leading that commitment, and I will quote his words. He said:

In 2020, the Australian Government delivered on its commitment to grow the Defence budget to 2 per cent of GDP. The 10-year funding model in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update and 2020 Force Structure Plan builds on this by providing Defence with a total funding of $575 billion over the decade to 2029-30. This includes—

Opposition Member:

An opposition member interjecting

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

I'll take that interjection. Those opposite ask me what it includes. This includes a $270 billion investment in the capability and potency of our defence force. That's what it includes.

So I say to those opposite: what do we have to show for the pandemic response that supported our economy through the crisis, and what will we have to show for this budget? On the Gold Coast, we have domestic tourists spending at Gold Coast businesses. We have a prosperous economy across Australia that working Australians rely upon to support their families. We have infrastructure jobs now and transport, like light rail, that will provide value for decades to come. We have a more secure Australia with a formidable ADF. We have a safe, free national vaccination program. That's what we have to show for these budget measures.

There's a lot more that we'll have to show for this budget. For those opposite, I will touch on a couple more key examples. I can let them know that the Treasurer understands, although some opposite may not, that tax cuts will be good for families and that growth in household spending will flow through the economy. That'll be good for small businesses in Moncrieff. There will be an extra $1,080 in the pockets of individuals, and $2,160 for couples. That will be welcomed by over 10 million Australians, over 70,000 of whom are in Moncrieff. For some families, that will make the difference in being able to afford a safer car or a new car, or being able to afford school fees. It'll help with all of those household bills. It'll take some of the pressure off paying the rent or paying the mortgage. It does help. Absolutely every little bit helps during these difficult times. For others, it'll be a contribution to the education of their children. It may help with fees or sports fees. Regardless, those Australians in Moncrieff will know what they have to show for this period during the pandemic, and they will be able to spend it themselves.

I previously mentioned the investment in light rail, but let's take the time to consider infrastructure needs across Australia. As I mentioned before to those opposite, this budget commits an additional $15.2 billion as part of the government's record $110 billion infrastructure pipeline over 10 years.

An opposition member interjecting

Well, we announced it, yes. I'll again take that interjection from those opposite, because we did announce $26.6 million in gap funding for the light rail stage 3 on the Gold Coast, and the Deputy Prime Minister knows that many regional communities will share in the over 30,000 jobs that will be created from the $110 billion in infrastructure. He knows that tourists need transport to get to the Gold Coast and that farmers need transport to deliver produce to their markets. He knows that workers need to travel to their jobs and home safely again. Australians know they can trust the Deputy Prime Minister to deliver on infrastructure.

Let me pivot to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. Recently, just in the last week, he visited Moncrieff. The feedback that I have received from the locals who met him at Ashmore Men's Shed and at TriCare aged-care home in Mermaid Beach is that they see the qualities of intellect and compassion that the minister holds and that will be required to lead improvement in our aged-care system. The most important thing that we have to show for this budget, I think, is an aged-care system that treats older Australians with the respect and dignity they deserve. The record investment of $17.7 billion over the next five years, along with the reform we are delivering, will improve the quality, safety and provision of aged-care services. It's a $10 uplift per day per resident, which is considerable in the aged-care environment.

Let's talk about the Minister for Employment, Workforce, Skills, Small and Family Business. He knows that one of the best things that we will have to show from the budget is driving unemployment down to low levels. Of course, that requires investment—a great deal of investment—in skills. Except perhaps for the Greens, everyone in this place understands how fundamentally important jobs are to the mental, physical and financial wellbeing of individuals and how that flows through to their families, and the minister understands that small businesses provide jobs to 50 per cent of all Australians. Low unemployment will be one of the great achievements of the Morrison government. It is great to have a Gold Coast colleague looking after small business, which is the heart and soul of the Gold Coast's economy.

Another legacy of this budget will be a major contribution to the transition to affordable, reliable low-emission energy supply—a transition driven by technology, not by taxes. The Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction understands that taxing our way to lower emissions would also be a path to lower employment. Instead he's enabling change driven by technology. As the Prime Minister has said, higher taxes are bad policy when you are seeking to recover, which is exactly what this country is doing: we are in recovery. The Prime Minister reciprocates the trust the Australian people have given him and the coalition. Everyone on this side of the House trusts the Australian people to be the best judges of how to spend their own money. The tax cuts that they will receive they will be able to spend. We trust the ingenuity of the Australian people to both invent new energy technology and deploy the best of global technology. We trust that, if we lay road, rail, digital and all other kinds of infrastructure, Australians will literally and figuratively drive their own recovery.

6:31 pm

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If after eight long years the Australian people didn't know it already, the one thing that we can be sure of now is that the Morrison government cares more about its own image than it does about Australian citizens. The legacy of this Liberal-National government will be that they saddled future generations of Australians with debt without delivering any actual economic benefit to the majority of Australian citizens. Again and again this government has been dragged kicking and screaming to the table on issues which are important to all Australians. They only acknowledge the needs of Australian communities when it's politically convenient, not when it is most necessary. They make grand promises but rarely stick around to ensure that their promises are fulfilled, caring more about a photo-op than they do about the communities they claim to help. When the smoke is clear and we look back on the legacy of the Morrison government, we will see a government that abandoned Australians in need and cared more about scoring cheap political shots than supporting real people.

You don't need to look any further than this year's budget to see that the Morrison government care more about their image than they do about Australians. The budget is yet another marketing exercise that tries and fails to rebrand the mismanagement and missed opportunities that define the eight long years of this Liberal-National government. Despite plunging Australia into over $1 trillion of debt, the Morrison government's budget revealed that real wages for real Australians are only going to go backwards.

Despite their claiming, even today, that they're on the side of working Australians, at the end of the day it is only the highest income earners who are going to enjoy the tax benefits touted in the government's budget. We need to be clear: for low-income workers, they are extending the low-income tax offset for one year to get themselves through an election, but for themselves—for every member of parliament and every high-income earner—there is an extra nine grand in their pocket. When the government talk about anything, all they are really talking about is themselves. That's all that matters. Once the election is done, the low-income tax offset's gone and we will have low-income earners paying more tax in two years than they are today. So take away the smoke and mirrors. Take away all the garbage. The simple fact is this: if you're a low-income earner, this government will make you pay more tax in two years than you do today while the members of the government themselves each pocket a minimum of $9,000. They want to pretend that they're on the side of working families, but reality shows that those most in need of support are the ones the government plans to leave behind.

The government's budget makes for grim reading, and it gets worse when you scratch below the surface. It was based on an assumption that all Australians would be vaccinated at the end of the year. Remember, we were told that four million would be vaccinated by March. When did that happen? There was a 90 per cent miss. There was $60 billion for JobKeeper missing in last year's budget. This government has not hit any targets. The only thing that they have reached 100 per cent on is the failure to actually live up to what they've put out. They have failed on every single occasion. Their only 100 per cent success rate is failing to meet their targets. The people out on the streets are the ones who feel it the most.

The failed effort of this government on the vaccine rollout means it's no longer expected to happen. In fact, yesterday the Prime Minister couldn't even name a time or a date when people would be fully vaccinated. The most fundamental thing to do during a pandemic is to look after the Australian people, yet they look themselves more than they look after anyone else. When the government based its budget on the false assumption all Australians are going to be vaccinated, they failed to provide any real benefits to the majority of Australians. We can only wonder just how much worse the reality is going to be when the full impacts of this failed vaccine program are realised.

The government wants this budget to be one that addresses the PR crisis, not a national health crisis. They thought the budget would save them from glaring issues that have risen with regards to their attitudes towards women, their failure to protect aged-care residents and their failure to provide quarantine facilities and a vaccine rollout capable of bringing Australia out of this pandemic along with the rest of the world. The government's own budget didn't even achieve that. It aimed to be a marketing exercise that would save the government from admitting their gross failure to the Australian people but it has failed.

We never heard one word for pensioners. Pensioners are suffering with not getting extra support and facing rising costs of living. What did the government do? It slammed the door on them, turned its back and said, 'We don't care about you'. The Australian people can see that the vast majority of them are going to be worse off under this government. They can see their children, and generations upon generations of Australians, are going to be saddled with the national debt topping $1 trillion. What do we have to show for it? There's no vision, no nothing for 10, 20 or 30 years. There's no prospect of wage growth under the Morrison government. The members opposite laugh about that. They think that's funny. There's no plan to address the housing affordability crisis facing so many families and no plan to protect workers' rights. It's never been more clear that a Liberal-National government is leaving Australia behind.

Along with the trillion dollars of debt which the Morrison government has accrued and the lack of real wage growth across our industry, it should come as no surprise that the Morrison government is failing to protect Australian workers. Not only are Australians having to accept uncontrolled house prices and stagnant wages but the issue of workplace safety and employment security are being ignored by this government as well. Only Labor has committed to the criminalisation of wage theft. The rights for gig economy workers, through the Fair Work Commission, for job security, should be explicitly inserted into the Fair Work Act. And Labor has proposed a comprehensive plan to tackle the gender pay gap. The Morrison government has not. Instead, the Morrison government has ignored Australian workers and their calls for criminalisation of wage theft. It is estimated that wage theft costs workers $1.3 billion every year. That is money coming out of the pockets of essential workers and young Australians and it's going straight into the piggy banks of big business and the donor friends of the government's frontbench. It has never been more clear that the Morrison government is abandoning Australian workers, the hard-working men and women of this country who have supported Australia throughout the pandemic, particularly our essential workers on the frontline—in health care, in education and, of course, in retail. They deserve a better government which is not going to be condemning them to lives without the possibility of growing wages and financial security.

One of the so-called key successes that the government talks about is their HomeBuilder grant scheme. But beyond the one success story that the government's lauded, the HomeBuilder grant scheme has failed hundreds of families, causing stress and uncertainty for the many people it was designed to help. Families are being left behind by this government, overwhelmed by the bureaucracy, the misinformation that has defined this government. Two brothers bought homes right next door to each other in Wallan, one of the many towns in the electorate of McEwan. Like so many young Australians they hoped to build their homes, their futures, their families with the assistance of the HomeBuilder grant scheme. Both brothers faced delays in receiving commencement dates from the builders, which are required for applications to proceed. Despite already having begun their application for the HomeBuilder grant scheme, they found out they were unable to continue the application after these delays, having literally been locked out of the application system. These brothers relied on the grant scheme in order to secure loans for their homes. Now that they have been shut out from accessing that grant their future is uncertain. This is the case for so many Australians who've been shut out from accessing this scheme due to circumstances beyond their control.

The HomeBuilder scheme originally required prospective recipients to have already signed a contract with a builder prior to applying. The process of planning renovations, securing finance and receiving council approval is complicated and extensive. What the Morrison government has continued to overlook is that the HomeBuilder scheme requires an immense amount of effort to apply for, as applicants are forced to jump through hoop after hoop to meet deadlines and cut-off dates that are unrealistic and to meet documentary requirements that are far too complex. Families are being left behind under this government. The coalition want us to believe that, just because their scheme has assisted a minority of prospective first home buyers, it's been a success. It hasn't. The hypocrisy of this grant is that you can be a first home buyer in every state. You can live in Victoria, buy a house in Queensland and get a first home buyer grant, then pop over to WA and buy another one. How is that helping young people? It doesn't. It doesn't help people get homes.

Honourable Member:

An honourable member interjecting

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No, it's a matter for this government. You should read your own bills. What this is about is that this government is happy for people to buy five or six houses and claim the first home owner grant. The people sitting over here, the multimillionaires, don't care about the people trying to buy their first home. This is the difference between us and them: we care about people; they care about themselves. The reality is that the scheme is failing many young Australians and locking them out of the housing market, and those opposite can smirk, but it doesn't help people get into their first homes.

Let's have a look at childcare, another huge issue facing McEwen families. The Liberal government have been dragged kicking and screaming into childcare reform due to immense pressure and hard work from the member for Kingston. After this government ignored the calls of Australian women and families, business leaders and economists in the early learning sector for years, the government tried to address child care. What did they do? They failed. They failed the majority of Australian families. We can see that in their own plan, with this cynical attempt to avoid the PR crisis that is all the government is about—protecting themselves, spinning away from the issues that they have faced. Regardless of all the hype and the media spin, the government's plan for child care fails to benefit the majority of Australian families.

Whereas our plan, Labor's plan, would benefit around one million Australian families, the government's plan will benefit about 250,000, supporting only a small amount of families with more than one child requiring child care. And we have seen the issue raised, where, if you've got twins, you only get one lot of child care. That's just absolutely stupid. What we see is benefits getting ripped quickly away from people. In contrast, our childcare plan benefits 86 per cent of all of Australian families.

Just yesterday, I received an email from a woman in my electorate, named Doreen, who has two children under the age of four. She pays $3,000 a month in child care. After eight long, dark years of this government, this is something that is getting not better; in fact, it's getting worse. It's like having a second mortgage. Like many families, Doreen's family hoped that, when the government made an announcement, it would help them. But, as we find with everything this government does, it's a show bag. It's all pretty on the outside, but, as soon as you open it up, you find out you have paid a high price for absolute rubbish. Thousands of families across Australia in our electorates are in the same position; they need relief now, but they get nothing from this government.

An issue that is very close to my heart is veteran suicide. We welcomed the Morrison government's backflip on 19 April about the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide. It was about time. Labor had been calling for this since 2019, and the government failed. Only a week before, the minister said, 'It's not going to happen.' Veterans and their families have been failed by this government. Since the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, we have lost more veterans to suicide than soldiers killed in combat. That is a blight on our society. The royal commission is a once-in-a-hundred-years opportunity to fix this, to identify the problems and the solutions, to listen to the ideas of veterans, defence personnel and other Australians, and to implement changes that will save lives. We need to get this right.

Contrary to what the government is proposing, Labor believes it is critical the royal commission has the power to make findings of civil or criminal wrongdoing and be able to refer those to the proper authorities. We believe the royal commission should be able to hold public and private hearings, as many veterans and their families want to talk in a public platform to tell their story. This should not be a political fix. It needs to be a royal commission for veterans by veterans. We can only hope the government will put politics aside this time and engage with everyone to ensure the royal commission delivers enforceable recommendations that will prevent tragic deaths from happening in the future.

Australians deserve a government that is on their side, that cares about them more than it cares about a photo-op. Australia needs a government that understands the experience of working families, supports local jobs, stands up for fair pay and conditions, supports cheaper child care and focuses on pensioners. The Morrison government is more focused on its political image than on what's best for Australia. It designs policies based on what it thinks sounds best, not what ensures we get the best outcome. This is a Liberal-National government that really doesn't know what to do, except leave people behind. Instead of coming up with a plan to get Australians back to work, to support real wage growth, to fight wage theft and to address underemployment, the Morrison government proposes a budget that will leave many generations of Australians paying off a debt.

The Morrison government, instead of confronting the failures of its vaccine rollout, has left behind rural communities, aged-care facilities and disabled people, as well as leaving many Australians behind the rest of the world in the vaccination rollout. You can't have the economy grow and fix our business issues until you fix the health crisis. But the government has washed its hands of the health crisis. Every promise it has made, it has broken. Every marker it has put through—remember last year when we were told that 40,000 Australians stranded overseas would be back by Christmas? How many are still overseas? You won't get an answer out of the minister. You certainly won't get an answer out of the Prime Minister! The answer is this: every one of those Australians left overseas was stranded by a government whose first duty should be to its citizens, not a photo opportunity.

Even when this government does take notice of the issues facing real Australians, it's only there for the photo op and not the follow-up. The Morrison government is leaving Australians behind, and Australians deserve a government that is on their side right now, but they're not getting it. The question we will have in years to come is, what was the point of the Morrison government? What did it leave us, apart from debt and deficit? Nothing. A lot of empty promises, lots and lots of media releases for photo ops, but still nothing—except for failure after failure after failure for eight long years. Australia deserves better. Australians deserve a government that is on their side. An Albanese Labor government will be that government.

6:46 pm

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm pleased to rise today to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-22 and its cognate bills. The 2021 budget delivered extremely positive news for all Australians. I would like to take this opportunity to bring to the attention of the House how it is securing my electorate of Bonner's recovery. It is remarkable how far we have come since the start of the pandemic. Our government has guided the Australian people through the COVID-19 pandemic, and delivered unprecedented support to our local communities, to first home buyers, to low- and middle-income earners, to families needing child care, to homebuilders, and for women's safety, aged care and more.

It was fantastic to be out and about in my electorate of Bonner last week, spending time with my community and hearing their overwhelmingly positive responses to the budget. The week started with a visit from the Prime Minister to announce a further boost to Australia's long-term fuel security. We are locking in the future of our refining sector at the Ampol refinery in Lytton—one of only two refineries across the country supporting the operation. This fuel security package will help secure Australia's recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. It will secure our sovereign fuel stocks, lock in 550 local jobs and over 500 indirect jobs, and protect families and businesses from higher fuel prices. I couldn't be more thrilled to keep Lytton open. I thank our government for this great investment, and I know many local families are ecstatic that their jobs are secure. We are keeping our skilled workers in jobs and we are safeguarding our fuel security onshore. The Morrison government is ensuring our country is more self-sufficient and secure. Thank you, Prime Minister, for your visit to Bonner.

During our visit to Lytton, we were able to spend time with workers at the Ampol refinery, hearing their sincere thanks for enabling this project, and our government's commitment to the refining sector. It made me so proud. The plan for Australia's recovery is focused on creating jobs. This naturally extends into supporting our hardworking small businesses. Bonner is home to incredible small-business and family business owners, and they are the backbone of our community. This budget benefits small brewers and distillers by delivering $255 million in tax relief to support more jobs and investment. I had the pleasure of visiting Hudson Brewery in my electorate, in the suburb of Wynnum, which can benefit from this tax relief. The only thing better than beer brewed in Australia is when it's brewed in your own neighbourhood. This tax relief will be able to support Bonner's hospitality sector by providing opportunities to invest in these businesses.

Backing these businesses means that we can create more local jobs for our community. We are backing businesses small and big and keeping our economy moving. There is only one thing better than a new family owned business opening Bonner, and that's when it's a family owned chocolate shop. Everybody loves chocolate, but there is something even more magical when it's handmade on site by passionate locals. Last week I had the pleasure of dropping in on Phil and Dawn, a couple who have put their heart and soul into this delicious new business. Our community has welcomed Chocolate Elements with open arms.

The past 12 months haven't been easy on small business, but our government is doing everything it can to make sure they stay afloat. We will be continuing tax incentives that allow 21,500 local businesses in Bonner to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase through the instant asset write-off. On top of this, over 8,000 businesses in Bonner will be able to use the extended loss carry-back measure to support cash flow and confidence. This will stimulate more economic activity, helping local businesses and creating jobs. Under the coalition, taxes will always be lower. This budget proves our government is on track. We are looking out for all Australians and providing a helping hand to those who need it. Bonner is coming back stronger, and our country is coming back even stronger, all thanks to the Morrison government.

6:51 pm

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's now nearly five years since I first stood in this building and addressed the House. On that day I laid out my goals and made commitments to the people of Fisher who elected me. Throughout my life I have believe that when you set goals and make commitments, you should follow up on them and evaluate your progress against them. As we discuss this government's federal budget today, I want to take the opportunity to do just that.

In my maiden speech, I promised to represent the people of Fisher with integrity, honour and respect. I've certainly always sought to uphold and embody those values, but I will leave it to others to judge my success in doing so. However, I can say that I have never once taken this privilege for granted during the five years that I have been in this place. I committed to work tirelessly for Fisher and I believe that I have lived up to that commitment. I've contributed over 400 times to debate in this place, chaired four parliamentary committees, served on a total of nine, and represented the Speaker on the Speaker's panel. I've travelled to nations on four continents to represent Australia, brought more than 30 ministers to my region, conducted more than 150 listening posts in Fisher and taken part in thousands of meetings and community events across the Sunshine Coast. I've advocated for and secured more than 350 separate funding commitments for organisations and individuals in my electorate, totalling more than $3.7 billion in federal government funds. In doing so, I've stuck to the priorities that I told Fisher residents would form the core of my mission as their federal member.

In 2016, I stated that my No. 1 priority for the people of Fisher would be better road and rail infrastructure, and I believe that I'm fulfilling that commitment. Of course, these things are always a work in progress. This coalition government has invested more in infrastructure on the Sunshine Coast than any government before it. Residents in Fisher are benefiting right now from $900 million in upgrades to the Bruce Highway between Caloundra Road and the Sunshine Motorway which are almost complete. They are seeing work begin on upgrades to the congested highway between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, including construction underway between Deception Bay and the southern Steve Irwin Way exit.

Since my election in 2016, this government has committed the funding we need to deliver upgraded intersections and additional lanes on the Bruce Highway on congested stretches all the way from the northern boundary of Fisher to the outskirts of Brisbane, and we haven't stopped there. It's important to recognise that whilst Mark Bailey, the Queensland state minister, is always out there spruiking Bruce Highway upgrades, it's the federal government that funds those upgrades to the tune of 80 per cent. Very rarely does he give any mention to that whatsoever.

Since my election, we have committed $390 million for a long-awaited duplication of the north coast rail line, $5 million for a network planning study on congested local roads in Kawana and Caloundra, $12 million to build a new four-lane bridge on Brisbane Road in Mooloolaba, $14 million for safety upgrades to Steve Irwin Way and millions more for a planning study into the possibility between faster rail tween the coast and Brisbane.

In the 2021-22 federal budget, we've seen another $172 million in new projects funded by the Morrison government for what are, in effect, state government projects. The government is investing $160 million to transform the congested deathtrap that is the Mooloolah River interchange. We are allocating $7 million to extend Caloundra's Third Ave to Nicklin Way and achieve a real solution to the gridlock around the Caloundra Road and Nicklin Way roundabout. The budget also includes $5 million for a study to pave the way for further duplication of the north coast rail beyond the existing funded upgrades.

I remain committed as ever to the promise I made in 2016, and I won't rest on my laurels. This year I've stepped up my campaign to secure funding for heavy rail along the CAMCOS corridor from Beerwah through Caloundra and Kawana and up to Maroochydore. The people of Fisher can rest assured that I will keep fighting for this transformative project.

In my maiden speech I said that the state of our construction industry was dire and that I would work to improve it. I've spoken out more than 40 times in this place about the bullying and intimidation of the CFMMEU and voted again and again in support of this government's efforts to protect construction workers. In 2019, I took up the cause of private building certifiers publicly and played a part in ensuring that professional indemnity insurance would continue to be available to them so that buildings could go on and be built.

Most recently, I played a part in the creation of the HomeBuilder scheme which has saved hundreds of thousands of jobs in construction and helped create the greatest boom in residential construction indicates. To date, this scheme has led to a massive increase of some 34 per cent in residential building approvals from the previous year in Queensland.

During my first speech in this place, and in dozen speeches since, I spoke about my commitment to play a role in supporting better mental health in my community. I'm delighted to say that, since my election in 2016, the Sunshine Coast has become a true leader in mental health research and treatment. I advocated for a total of $7.5 million in funding for the Thompson Institute in Birtinya, which has paid for cutting-edge mental health programs and research, culminating in recent months in the publication of a world-leading study into the use of ketamine in protecting against suicide.

I've also advocated on behalf of those living with an eating disorder in my community, resulting in almost $10 million in funding flowing to the region. Today, the Sunshine Coast is the site of Australia's first ever residential treatment facility for eating disorders. Wandi Nerida is its name and it's the location of a multimillion dollar trial into new approaches to Medicare funded outpatient treatment. Both of these programs are now forming a model which this government is expanding across Australia.

In the most recent federal budget, this government has gone even further on mental health and the treatment of eating disorders. The budget allocated $2.3 billion in the landmark national mental health and suicide prevention plan, $1.4 billion to a high-quality national network of mental health treatment centres for adults called Head to Health, similar to the headspace program for young people, which will also be expanded, with more centres across the country. Most importantly, from my perspective, this package of reforms will also include new measures for eating disorder treatment and research, which I've been fighting for since 2016—$26.9 million will go towards providing additional support for people with eating disorders and their families, including critically $13 million to establish a national eating disorder research centre. As it stands, we don't have a good understanding of the causes of eating disorders, which include the most deadly of all mental illnesses, anorexia nervosa. This new centre will be a big step forward in developing more effective approaches to its prevention and its treatment.

In my maiden speech I committed to working tirelessly for Fisher's 31,000 seniors and, with the latest federal budget, the government has delivered for them. The budget includes a once-in-a-generation increase in funding for aged care that is going to create transformative change in the system as well as introduce important new measures to support self-funded retirees. The government is committing an additional $17.7 billion to a five-pillar package of fundamental reforms to aged care in Australia. This includes $7½ billion to create 80,000 new home-care packages over the next two years, $7.8 billion for residential aged care to increase the amount of face-to-face care time for each resident and billions more for strengthening the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, providing better access to GP led care and dramatically improving training and governance for aged-care workers.

Above all, in my maiden speech I committed to working positively with my colleagues in this place to deliver a stronger economy and the creation of jobs for people living in our region. Nationally, I've been part of a government which before COVID-19 had supported the creation of more than a million new jobs and delivered the first federal budget surplus in more than a decade. Since COVID, this government has provided direct financial support to more than 20,000 small businesses and 50,000 taxpayers in Fisher to ensure that our economy recovers as quickly as possible and Sunshine Coast locals get back to work. Locally, I've worked on economy-building projects, including promoting the Land 400 contract and infrastructure such as the Bruce Highway and fast rail. I've developed local activities like the Support Sunshine Coast and Tourism de Fisher campaigns, the Fisher Defence Industry Initiative and my tourism, fishing and small business councils, which have sought to promote local businesses and local jobs. I've done as I've said I would in every decision I've made in this place and in my community. I've considered whether the outcome would strengthen our economy and create new jobs.

Today, despite the challenges of COVID-19, the Sunshine Coast continues to benefit from a growing, vibrant and ever-more-diverse economy. I'm proud to say that, though there is much more work to be done, on every commitment I made in my maiden speech we have made progress since 2016. From my Ready Set Go bursary to the Fisher Community Awards, from my community forums on the NDIS to bringing Facebook and Google to Fisher, from my campaign to Say No to Council's Casino to my Sunshine Coast veterans' days, I've worked hard to support volunteers to uphold our debt to those who have served this country, protect our environment, support those with a disability, promote small business and keep the Sunshine Coast family friendly.

Of all the professional achievements of my career, I believe that the faith of the people of Fisher have placed in me has been the greatest and most humbling. I'm proud that, when given the opportunity in 2019 to pass judgement on my first three years as their federal member, more people in my community voted to give me their trust again than they had in my first election. In the last five years, I have worked assiduously for the veterans in my community. I've held numerous veterans forums. I've had the veterans' affairs minister to the electorate, I've had the defence minister to the electorate and I've had the assistant defence minister to the electorate, all of which have been only very recently as well, on top of previous visits.

We owe a debt of gratitude in this country to the men and women that have served us so proudly in uniform, whether that is domestically or whether that is in harm's way in faraway places. When men and women join the ADF, they do so knowing that at some point in their career they may be called upon to pay the ultimate sacrifice, and they do it regularly. I've been very proud to visit men and women—

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 19:04 to 19:16

Before we had to rush off, I was talking about how proud I am, and I know every member in this place is, of members of the Australian Defence Force. When men and women put on that uniform, they put themselves in harm's way. Whether on deployment, in training, on Australian soil or in far-afield places, the professionalism of the men and women of the ADF is really first rate. It has been a great privilege for me, and for many of my colleagues on both sides of the fence, to see these men and women at work through the Australian Defence Force Parliamentary Program, a wonderful program that has enabled us to get just a very small glimpse of what life is like in the ADF. It has been my immense privilege over the last five years to participate in that program at least once or twice each year. I want to pay tribute to veterans both young and old for the work that they have done for our community. I want to continue to work for all ADF members and all community members in Fisher as we head into the next election, and I ask for their support next time around.

7:18 pm

Photo of Matt KeoghMatt Keogh (Burt, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Defence Industry) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor is the party of the social safety net, but it's also the party of prosperity—nobody left behind and nobody held back. We are on the side of Australian families. Australia is a wealthy nation, and there is no reason why people can't have access to good health care, quality education, a roof over their head and a job to go to as well. This is a core belief of Labor. Good economic policy is good social policy and vice-versa. They are two sides of the same coin, not distinct and separate areas of work. In my community, there is some wonderful work going on to support those who need it most. I've stood in this place before to discuss some of those programs, and I believe there are lessons we can learn and ideas we should adopt to support families across our nation.

Research tells us that the most important time in a child's development is the first 1,000 days from conception, and we're obliged to provide every support from that time onward, especially to new families. Mr Deputy Speaker, you would have heard about Labor's childcare policy. Currently, Australia is home to some of the highest childcare fees in the world. The way the current system is designed, many families actually lose money if the primary caregiver, often a woman, works more than three days a week. Labor wants to fix our childcare system, and our policy will make child care more affordable for some 97 per cent of families who currently access it. You see, child care is more than just babysitting; it's early education. All over the world there are programs where children are in the education system years before kids in Australia. We are falling behind. We should be fostering our children's minds and development from the early years. Up until the age of four, children are absolute sponges for information. We should be nourishing these young minds, ensuring that kids come into schools with the proper level of knowledge before they reach the formal classroom. Similarly, for kids in households that might be struggling, kids from vulnerable families, the introduction of more accessible and affordable early education will ensure these children have stability and are being looked after properly.

Today the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that children are beginning school without basic literacy and numeracy skills such as recognising letters and numbers. This is contributing to Australia's poor results in international primary school maths tests. Sue Thomson, the Deputy CEO of the Australian Centre for Educational Research, said these gaps were evident when children began school and grew as they got older. She said the research shows:

We need to focus on getting all kids through solid pre-school and having all kids do that, not just some kids and kids in advantaged areas.

We don't want equity to be an issue at kindergarten level, so if we don't want to start there it's important that we do something about bridging that gap. Universal, high-quality early childhood education would be ideal.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Death, the CEO of the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia, said vulnerable and disadvantaged children needed at least 35 hours of early learning a week. She says this will pay dividends for educators and children.

Further to this, as much as we want to get parents back into work through a childcare policy—it will improve our nation's productivity and GDP significantly—we must also support parents to be parents. In my community we have child and parent centres in two of my local primary schools, Westfield Park Primary School and Brookman Primary School. They are run by Parkerville. These are hubs that provide high-quality, approachable and accessible services for the whole family. Importantly, these facilities are safe. Families like those in my community often find approaching formal support services difficult. They can be intimidating to those who need to access what they have to provide. But these wonderful services, which are based at local primary schools, are headed by fantastic teams and are excellent hubs of support and guidance. Many people are understandably overwhelmed when they become parents, and these facilities provide a friendly way to access support and resources for new and struggling parents and families. They allow for early intervention to take place, to make sure that there's a connection to services that are required and that children and families are receiving the developmental support and education they need. In 2019 the first cohort of students who started with this program graduated from Westfield Park Primary School. I'm told that their academic and developmental results were a noticeable improvement on those of previous cohorts. That's why I'm so happy to see these services made available in my community, and I'd like to see them expanded throughout more schools so they're available to more people and families in my community.

One of the great benefits that can come from the expansion of these services is the building of a critical mass of benefit across our entire community, making sure that our entire community is lifted through the supports being provided to these families. Using a full-service school hub model would establish a support network for families, both the children and the parents, from a young age, setting them up for success. The Minderoo Foundation funds the Challis Primary School Integrated Early Childhood and Family Support Service. The aim of that program is to prevent early disadvantage from becoming an ongoing drag on a child's chances of success in life.

Challis is located in Armadale in my community. It's an area of great intergenerational disadvantage. The model integrates of suite of services, including a child health nurse, various allied health services and a community engagement worker. Working together through this program, they seeks to address barriers to child develop and reinforce the family and community support necessary to raise thriving children. The model established at Challis has had significant impact. It has enabled local children to go from a position of disadvantage to exceeding the state average at the start of their education. It's through this early intervention that we are setting students up for success when they enter high school.

While the approach undertaken at Challis is comprehensive, it's also at relatively low cost. In the main, it is redirecting existing funding instead of requiring lots of additional funding. Rather than trying to solve problems of early disadvantage via heavily layered, costly, multiagency, top-up interventions that often result in duplication, inefficiency and intervention fatigue among families, this is a lighter, more efficient model. It does this through targeting long-term, cumulative actions that commence soon after birth and extend through the primary school years. It is more accessible. Families access it through a central community location already being accessed by them and familiar to them, the school, instead of trying to run around and find different services at different places that they may not be familiar with.

This program ensures that more children start school ready to learn. Then they're supported through their schooling, as are the parents and their communities, better preparing whole families for the challenge of high school. Evidence from this program at Challis supports the potential of systemic, well-planned interventions to make a difference to outcomes for children, especially those living in areas of significant disadvantage with complex needs—communities just like mine. This research confirms that work. Like the work that has been occurring at Challis, it is likely to be most effective in changing the life course of children in disadvantaged families. The children start school better prepared; therefore when they are graded they have better results. This can change the story of the trajectory of a child's education and life, and that of their family and the wider community around them.

This research is backed up by research commissioned by COAG, the Council of Australian Governments, and points to the merit of establishing integrated and intensive child and family centres in the nation's poorest areas. Across the country, 41 per cent of Australia's most disadvantaged zero- to five-year-olds live in the top 20 per cent most disadvantaged suburbs. The national average for the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas, SEIFA, disadvantage measure is 1,000. A lower score reflects greater disadvantage. For context, Perth metropolitan area's score is 1,033.4. The catchment area for Challis Community Primary School, where this research was undertaken, is a mere 965.9. Children from socially and economically disadvantaged areas such as Armadale typically have poorer physical health, have less access to learning materials from infancy and are less likely to access material and cultural resources than their counterparts in more affluent areas. These are the areas that need this type of intervention.

Last week, I visited Southern River College in Gosnells, the next local government area over from Armadale, where Challis is. Southern River is a school that has come such a long way in a short amount of time, turning around the lives of children and, indeed, the reputation of their school. Sixty per cent of the students at that school are coming into high school, year 7, under standard. They have three years to catch up on six years of literacy and numeracy learning, due to only progressing four years in the seven years that they were in primary school. That's right; they're entering high school with a year 3 level of literacy and numeracy. It takes an average of three years of intensive work to have them catch up, which means it's often not until year 9 that they hit that minimum high school entry level.

Schools like Southern River are working hard to support their students and are going above and beyond, but they are siloed, which they shouldn't be. Southern River wants to work with other schools in our community, both feeder primary and other local senior schools, to support these vulnerable children. They're looking at setting up a community services hub on site that can be utilised by both the school community and the wider community. Similar projects are being taken on by other schools, such as Armadale Senior High School, which is trialling a full service model with additional supports, and other schools are looking to follow suite. But all these schools are siloed. We need a systematic rollout of support to make a true impact on the community that is in need. We need a critical mass. We need federal funding to support these programs for schools in vulnerable communities across the country in order to support students and their families.

Through appropriately funding early childhood education, community support hubs in primary schools and support measures in high schools, we can change the story. We can also fold in and involve federal agencies like Centrelink and the work of Primary Health Networks, headspace and more. We are currently operating on an 1800s school day. The school's structure assumes that parents are available to drop off kids at 8.30 and pick them up at 3.15. This is not reflective of modern Australia. Parents are working. Parents are vulnerable. Parents need additional support. It's in the best interests of communities like mine that we make these changes and support these hubs. We need that critical mass of investment, the right intensive interventions and support at a local community level in order to change the story.

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

I understand it would suit the convenience of the Federation Chamber if the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:31