Tuesday, 25 May 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. The government's own budget papers forecast a cut to real wages over the next four years. For a retail worker, that amounts to a cut in real wages of around $4,900. How do you rack up a trillion dollars in debt, yet still cut workers' wages?
I thank the member for the question, because, in this year's budget, we set out the plan for Australia's recovery, and that plan was to support workers' wages around this country in the toughest pandemic that this world has seen in a hundred years. We've set out our plan. Our plan means lower taxes. It means investment incentives for businesses, for small and medium-sized businesses. It means investing in the skills and apprenticeship places that this country needs; in manufacturing support, through the modern manufacturing initiative; in supporting innovation through research and development, to ensure the breakthroughs are achieved, whether they're in the clean energy technologies that are needed or in the medical marvels that are going to be required; in medical instrument manufacturing; in the workforce requirements that are going to be needed; in the participation of our workforce, which we're seeing achieved through the women's economic security strategy; in the Digital Transformation Strategy of some $1.2 billion—
On a point of order on direct relevance: this question deals with retail workers, so, even if, in previous questions going across all policy areas, he might have tried to link it in some way to the workers who we were questioning about, these workers get a tax hike under the budget; these workers don't get a tax cut. The things that you're referring to don't happen for retail workers.
No, the Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The Leader of the House will resume his seat. The point of order is not an opportunity to restate the question. I'm ready to rule on this. I was, certainly—when the Prime Minister, in a previous answer on a specific question about wages, started talking about tax, I very quickly pulled him up. This question certainly is about wages, but it's also got another element to it, about: how do you rack up debt? And the Prime Minister is talking about spending in the budget. So that's why I've allowed him to go on. The Prime Minister has the call.
More specifically, I'm asked about how workers can earn more in this country, and they get that in an economy that is growing. We have a plan to grow the economy. I was speaking about the digital transformation, of some $1.2 billion, on top of $800 million. It may be a mystery to those opposite that people who work in the retail sector are able to be supported in jobs because of Australians going out and spending money every day and consumption rising in the economy, and that is done when you're driving an economy that is growing, year on year on year, and recovering from the worst recession we have seen since the Great Depression, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
So whether it's the infrastructure spending, the HomeBuilder spending, the support we're putting in through our innovation and research and development supporting heavy industries in this country, keeping electricity prices low through our investments or whether it's in gas-fired power in the Hunter and elsewhere, that's our plan. That's what we're doing. We've got the runs on the board when it comes to getting Australians back into jobs, whether it's women or young people, getting apprentices into apprenticeships, trainees into traineeships.
What we heard from the Leader of the Opposition is simply a plan to increase taxes and spend money that the states should be spending. There's no plan to grow the economy from those opposite, no plan whatsoever to grow the economy. They want to put up taxes like their mates down in Victoria, whose first response—
My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Australians. Will the minister please update the House on how the Morrison government's investment in the budget is supporting the mental health of Indigenous Australians?
I thank the member for Leichhardt for his ongoing work with Indigenous communities across this nation. Suicide rates from the mid-eighties have doubled in Indigenous communities. What we did during the Darwin and Kimberley roundtables was look at solutions that were community-led and Aboriginal influenced. I involved Christine Morgan in two of those meetings so she had a sense of what Indigenous Australians were saying about the continuity of life and the those suicides happening at a rate that was far too frequent. During the budget process, where we announced $2.3 billion to restructure mental health and tackle suicide, there were some very tangible outcomes for Indigenous programs that would make a difference on the ground. On top of that was the $500 million for the COVID response given what people experienced. Many Indigenous people will access this program as well.
But the specific ones that are important out of the $79 million include: $27.3 million to implement culturally sensitive co-designed after care—it is important that we address the events and provide the interventions for that impact on families; $23.38 million to support the establishment of regional suicide prevention networks, with the appointment of a commissioning officer in each of those regions to work very closely with Indigenous people, government agencies and NGOs; $16.6 million to Gayaa Dhuwi and Lifeline to establish and evaluate a culturally appropriate 24/7 lifeline, which is absolutely critical in ensuring that people have a lifeline they can ring in which they get the right information; $6.1 million to secure a national Indigenous leadership program so that our people are equipped with the skills to reduce those impacts and to reduce suicides; $1.5 million to support a review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector delivering mental health services to look at where we can make substantial changes and improvements and engage better to reduce the loss of life; and then $1.1 million to the Black Dog Institute to work very closely with our people to provide avenues in other areas as well. The combination of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations and Commonwealth and state government agencies has been an exemplary process in both those suicide roundtables, where people have come together, have shared knowledge, data, information and resources, and redesigned the way in which they provide support to those contemplating or affected by suicide.