Wednesday, 26 May 2021
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022, Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2021-2022, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022; Second Reading
It's a pleasure to rise and speak on the appropriation bills 2021-22. As we've seen from the Treasurer's speech in the House, the appropriation bills this year cover an enormous range of facets of our economy. We see the range of issues that we are seeking to deal with as we come out of the impacts of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, yet today, as we stand here in this House, we see more new cases in Victoria. We know how fragile this recovery can be until we actually defeat coronavirus over the long term. Despite that, over the past 12 or 18 months we as a country have outperformed the world in our health and economic response, and that's seen, particularly into this year, a very strong recovery in our economy. The budget is designed to ensure that economic recovery continues.
JobKeeper ensured that unemployment remained low over the past 12 months. I know from speaking to any number of businesses across my electorate the importance of JobKeeper in helping those businesses keep their doors open and keep their employees engaged. In the latest unemployment figures, a low of 5.5 per cent tells some of the story of this extraordinary achievement.
When I was at Struddys sports last week with the Prime Minister at Loganholme, the CEO, Ross Strudwick, very clearly said to us that it was JobKeeper that kept the business afloat during the coronavirus pandemic last year but now they've started to turn the corner and turn the corner so well, in fact, that they've put an additional 10 staff on. What's important in this is that every business I talk to around my electorate is actually struggling to get staff. It's a terrific problem to have.
The people across the electorate of Forde are benefiting from this budget and previous budgets as well. I will go through some of the highlights for this budget in my electorate of Forde. Nearly 75,000 taxpayers in Forde will benefit from tax relief of up to $2,745 this year. This is the result of the decision to extend the low- and middle-income tax offset to 2021-22 and the decision to bring forward stage 2 of the government's tax relief plan. The government's tax plan has already benefited nearly79,000 people across my electorate of Forde. The extended and expanded JobTrainer Fund will support some 450,000 new places to upskill jobseekers and young people. We've already seen nearly 2½ thousand apprentices in Forde. And these new measures will only lead to more opportunities for apprentices and trainees, with the expanded wage subsidies. I know any number of my manufacturing businesses are looking to put on apprentices and trainees to fill the gap they have in trying to find additional staff.
The tax incentives that the Morrison government has provided for around 18½ thousand businesses in Forde to write-off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase has been very well received. Additionally, around 5,900 businesses will be able to use the extended loss carry-back measure to support cashflow and confidence. This has helped many businesses invest more in building the capability of their business and their efficiency—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives
Sitting suspended from 10:05 to 10:22
I'm very pleased, as I said in my earlier remarks, to be speaking on the appropriations bill 2021 and talking about the benefits it is providing to the electorate of Forde. But I know the measures that are providing these benefits to the electorate of Forde are also providing benefits right across this country. The cashflow boost has helped around 4,800 small and medium businesses across the electorate of Forde to stay afloat in addition to many of the other measures.
But I'd like to use most of my time today to talk about the extensive infrastructure investments that have occurred from the north to the south, from the east to the west, from Upper Coomera in the south to Carbrook and Cornubia in the north, out to Park Ridge in the west, North Maclean in the west and to Beenleigh and surrounds and Yatala in the east. If we start with our investments on the M1, in our term of government we have completed the M1 M3 Gateway merge upgrade between Eight Mile Plains and Springwood Road.
We are now working on the Sports Drive north upgrade on the M1 to the Gateway. It's a $750 million project, funded in part by $510 million of Commonwealth investment. This is a critical lifeline between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, but also between the city of Logan and Brisbane and the city of Logan and the Gold Coast. It carries some 140,000 to 150,000 traffic movements per day. This work is critically important to ensuring that this lifeline continues to flow throughout the day.
In addition, we are investing in a range of upgrades of the Mount Lindesay Highway. And we've already completed a $20 million project at North Maclean, improving the safety of that stretch between Chambers Flat Road and Greenbank Road. Where the service road has been extended down to Greenbank Road, a new set of traffic lights has been put in. The Mount Lindesay Highway has been separated out from the service road to improve the safety along that section, which was particularly crash prone.
I'm pleased to say we're now entering into the next major upgrade of the Mount Lindesay Highway, and that is a $75 million project of duplicating the highway between Stoney Camp Road and Chambers Flat Road. The federal government is funding 50 per cent of that—$37½ million. I have been talking to the community in the area of Park Ridge, North Maclean and Munruben. I share that particular piece of road with the member for Wright, and I know he, too, is very pleased to see that work on this upgrade is now well underway.
In addition, there has been a range of safety upgrades on local roads. Beenleigh Redland Bay Road has benefited from a $15 million investment in road safety upgrades by the Commonwealth government. There have been new safety barriers, the removal of roadside vegetation and upgrading of the surface of the road in patches. I know that was done in conjunction with a safety upgrade by the state government near one of our schools, in terms of installing traffic lights on a very busy intersection where three schools are located very closely together. That has benefited the community in Carbrook, Cornubia and Shailer Park and all the families who use the three great schools of Calvary Christian College, Kimberley College and Carbrook State School.
In the southern part of my electorate there has been a $1 million investment, in partnership with the council of the City of Gold Coast, in the upgrade of the intersection of Days Road and Williamson Road. This, again, is an intersection which was incredibly dangerous, particularly at school time—it is surrounded by two schools, Coomera Anglican College and Assisi Catholic College—because of the sheer volume of traffic moving through that intersection. That intersection has now been signalised, and when I was speaking recently with Mark Sly, the principal of Coomera Anglican College, he said to me that, in the couple of months since that work has been completed, it has undoubtedly already saved lives.
The reason these projects are so important is that the area I, along with the member for Fadden and the member for Wright, represent is one of the fastest-growing areas in Australia. Wherever you look, there is development continuing apace, whether it's through Upper Coomera, Pimpama and Ormeau or in the west in Yarrabilba, Flagstone—in the member for Wright's electorate—Park Ridge and Logan Reserve in my electorate. These areas are growing exponentially.
There are other terrific projects coming online over the next few years that will help improve the infrastructure in our local communities. There is the Chambers Flat Road upgrade, a $23 million project, to which the Commonwealth government is putting in $11½ million, in conjunction with Logan City Council. We are also partnering with Logan City Council to upgrade the High Road-Easterley Road structure around Canterbury College.
But, as I've already touched on, our business community is also critically important, and that is why we are spending nearly $100 million in upgrades to duplicate exits 41 and 49 on the M1. In addition, we're spending another $10 million on upgrades to exit 45. But exits 41 and 49 are particularly important. Exit 49 services the Pimpama community on both sides of the highway. That is a major bottleneck now, predominantly for residential traffic. It is creating issues of tailback onto the M1 in peak hours, which creates a major safety issue when you have traffic going past at 110 kilometres an hour. Exit 41, which, in conjunction with exit 38 a little bit further north, services the Yatala and Stapylton industrial areas, is being duplicated because, again, there are issues there, in terms of the volume of traffic now using exit 41 to go to those industrial areas. If you go past there in the morning the traffic both northbound and southbound is banked well back onto the M1 for at least half a kilometre, and maybe longer. Again, this is a major safety issue, because the traffic that is on the highway proper is going past at 110 kilometres per hour.
In addition, not only are we building the road infrastructure that our growing communities need but we are building the rail infrastructure that our growing communities need. Announced during the budget was a $178 million investment by the Commonwealth government for the upgrade of the Brisbane to Gold Coast rail line between Kuraby and Beenleigh to facilitate, in time, faster rail. That's a critically important investment in improving the speed of rail between Brisbane and the Gold Coast and making it more attractive for people to use public transport to get to work in Brisbane, in particular, rather than driving.
As part of that, too, we had previously announced a $50 million investment in the relocation of Loganlea train station, which is a key part of that upgrade plan. The station will be relocated further east so it will be much more adjacent to the Logan Hospital, which is our major hospital serving the city of Logan and the broader community. In addition to that $50 million investment for the station relocation, there was a $15 million investment in commuter car parking, because one of the issues that we have at all of our train stations, particularly the ones where the Gold Coast to Brisbane express train stops, is car parking. If the car parking spaces aren't there, the incentive is not there for people to use the train; they prefer to drive. Not only are we doing that at Loganlea train station but Beenleigh train station will also benefit from a $15 million upgrade to its car-parking arrangements, and we are looking to do that in conjunction with the relocation of Beenleigh train station, depending on what we're doing with the bigger rail upgrade that I just mentioned. Coomera train station is also benefiting from a $15 million upgrade to its parking facilities which will commence shortly.
I look at all of these things that are critical to the provision of services and getting people home sooner and safer. This includes getting tradies to work sooner and allowing them to get on the job when they need to be, and that is critically important because, as I talk to the tradespeople across my electorate, all of them are flat-chat, and the reason they are flat-chat is the government's support of the housing and construction industry, particularly through our HomeBuilder program. We have seen an enormous amount of growth, and I have talked to any number of first home owners who have now had the opportunity, through the HomeBuilder program, for the first time to look realistically at getting into their own home. I was also pleased to see in the budget a focus on helping single parents get into their first home through our support of that package.
All of these measures show that the Morrison government continues to deliver for the Australian people each and every day. I commend this bill in its unamended form to the House.
I rise today to speak on behalf of my community and my home state about the Morrison government's eighth budget and Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022. This budget is deeply disappointing and deficient on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin, but I will begin with the eye-watering headline numbers: $100 billion in fresh spending and net debt forecast to rise to $1 trillion. Let's think for a moment about what $1 trillion actually is. That's $1,000 billion or $1 million million. It's a one with 12 zeros behind it. It's a staggering figure. Eight years ago, when the Liberals came to power, net debt stood at a relatively modest $175 billion. By early 2020, even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Liberals had overseen a surge in Australia's net debt to around $400 billion. Now we have a budget that is forecasting debt to continue rising to $1 trillion by 2024-25. This government is spending taxpayers' money with greater abandon than any government in our history.
If these numbers sound big, it's because they really are big, especially when analysed in the context of the size of the Australian economy. In 2013, when the Liberals took over government, net debt was equivalent to 13 per cent of Australia's gross domestic product. Under current projections, that figure will rise to about 41 per cent of GDP in just a few short years from now. And this is from the same Liberals who have the gall to declare that they're a party of fiscal responsibility. These are the same Liberals who shamelessly printed the Back in Black coffee mugs for their 2019 budget because it forecast an operating surplus—a surplus, of course, that was never going to be delivered and now will never be delivered. These are the same Liberals who have spent much of the past decade condemning Labor for the actions it took to protect our economy during the global financial crisis. Back then they demonised this means of spending as a debt and deficit disaster. Now the Treasurer says his $1 trillion in debt is sensible and manageable. We all know COVID has affected our economy—of course it has—but the hypocrisy of this Liberal-National coalition government is staggering and it's there for all to see in this latest budget.
The high level of government spending in this budget is so immense and yet it fails to be carefully targeted to ensure that as many Australians as possible can share in the benefits of the economic recovery. Unfortunately, that is just the case of this budget. What we have here is a budget of record deficit and massive borrowings yet hardly anything to show for it—no lasting social benefit, no long-term economic dividend for this nation, no vision to set Australia up for a sustainable recovery that will benefit future generations. Instead, we have a shameless political fix designed to get this government re-elected. After eight long years, there is nothing to show but a trillion dollars in debt.
The Liberals are pretending to care about the very issues they have deliberately ignored for the past eight long years. After disastrously neglecting the nation's broken aged-care system, the government is spending $17.7 billion on an aged-care package that doesn't even clear waiting lists or do the right thing by workers in the sector. After overseeing record increases in childcare fees for families, the government is now spending $1.7 billion on a plan that increases the complexity of the payment system and only provides extra support to one-quarter of the families that Labor's policy would do.
Another obvious problem with this budget is that the bevy of promises it contains is not worth the paper it's written on. Just look at last year's budget; the centrepiece of that document was the JobMaker scheme that promised 450,000 jobs. Instead it has created just 1,000 jobs, so that's a success rate of less than a quarter of one per cent. That's quite the KPI the government has set for itself—less than a quarter of one per cent success rate. We know this is a government that is all about the announcement but hopelessly inept at the delivery. We know only too well they're more interested in photo ops and marketing than actual substance.
Perhaps the most damning aspect of this extraordinarily bad budget is a complete failure to do anything about the wages of Australian workers. Under the Liberals, Australians have already endured eight years of flat wages. The fine print of this budget contains even worse news than that. It shows real wages will go backward over the next four years. That's right; the workers around this country who ensured our economy kept going during last year's COVID crisis, many of whom put their own health on the line, are being rewarded for their effort with a pay cut. This is from the same government that tried to cut workers' wages and conditions through their awful industrial relations bill. None of this is by accident. We know this for certain. The former Minister for Finance let the cat out of the bag a few years ago when he said low wages were 'a deliberate design feature' of the coalition economic policy. This is what Australian workers right around this country have to thank the Liberal-National coalition for: an economic policy that sets low wages as a deliberate design feature. That's a disgrace. It's no good for Australian workers and it's no good for the Australian economy.
Many government speakers on the appropriations bill are letting everyone know about the projects in their electorate. They can do that because the budget is yet another massive exercise in pork-barrelling that is leaving the people of Western Australia, and in particular the people of Brand, well behind. There is nothing in this budget for infrastructure projects in my electorate across the cities of Rockingham and Kwinana. There is nothing for the long-delayed Karnup train station which has been on the drawing board and planned for at least for 10 years and forms part of the McGowan Labor government's METRONET transport plan. The Karnup station is intended to service the residents of Baldivis, Secret Harbour, Golden Bay, Singleton and many others. It would take pressure off the Warnbro train station, which has been at capacity for years in its parking. The Liberals have refused to contribute one cent of federal funding to it. Instead the Morrison government decided to bankroll a train station and unplanned train station—an unplanned train station—at Lakelands as a favour to the member for Canning. This is just another example of blatant pork-barrelling and rorting that we see so often from the Liberals and shows no respect for the people of Brand.
Remember sports rorts? So many worthy sporting groups, including in my own electorate, missed out when the Prime Minister decided to hand out more than $100 million in taxpayer money to benefit Liberal electorates rather than those that actually deserved it. Remember safer seats rorts? That was when the Liberals were caught red-handed redirecting taxpayers' money into electorates the Prime Minister wanted to win at the 2019 election. In Rockingham, my home town, that meant the loss of $500,000 in funding for community safety that had already been allocated by experts for these projects. That money instead went to Liberal and marginal seats. I have repeatedly asked this government to help fund projects in Brand and I'll continue to advocate for my local community even if this Liberal government seems content to ignore them.
The people of the cities of Rockingham and Kwinana deserve a federal government that will support local employment and economic activity, but what we've seen and the track record proves is that the Liberals simply do not care about the people of Brand. They have not made an election commitment to the people of Brand since before 2016. It just proves that, when the Liberals come into government, they don't govern for the country; they govern only for their own, and that's shameful and disgusting. In fact, it's un-Australian.
It's obvious the Liberals don't care about the people of Brand. We have mounting evidence that they really don't care at all for the entire state of Western Australia. Look at last week's announcement from the Prime Minister that he will throw more than $2 billion to keep two east coast fuel refineries open. I honestly felt quite ill when I saw a photograph of the Prime Minister on the front page of the Australian Financial Review. There he was, all thumbs up and beaming for the cameras, standing alongside the workers of a Brisbane fuel refinery whose jobs he had saved. I'm grateful that those jobs were saved, but I want to contrast that with the Prime Minister's actions when BP announced last October that its Kwinana fuel refinery would shut down within months at a cost of more than 600 jobs. What did the Prime Minister do then? You can probably guess: he did absolutely nothing. Not a jot. He does not care about the livelihoods of those Kwinana workers and their families and he sure doesn't care about Western Australia's precarious fuel security.
We see his power. The member for Tangney, the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, has once again managed to squirrel away $1.2 billion for a road project that has been rejected not once but twice by the people of Western Australia. This government is willing to cling ideologically to rows 8 and 9. Why not help the BP workers that have now lost their jobs? Why not apply that $1.2 billion provision to the very real fuel security problem in Western Australia? Instead, you throw it at a road that's not going to exist and that never existed. It exists only in the member for Tangney's mind these days. It's been rejected by the people, but instead you keep that on your books for your own ideological nutcase ideas, and now it's all too late for the workers of the BP refinery in Kwinana. It's a stark reminder for me and for all Western Australians that we do not count in the government's political calculations.
We saw this last year when the government played politics with the pandemic. The Prime Minister and his former Attorney-General, of course, sided with Clive Palmer in a High Court challenge against Western Australia's border restrictions. This is Mr Palmer, the Queensland billionaire who has robbed workers of many of their entitlements and closed down the nickel refinery in Queensland. Of course the government and Palmer lost the case, but that didn't stop senior ministers in the Morrison government continuing to undermine the advice of Western Australia's Chief Health Officer and the actions of the McGowan government in keeping people safe.
The people of Western Australia will not forget that this government was fully prepared to put their health at risk to push an ideological goal. We still don't know what the Commonwealth's involvement in Mr Palmer's High Court challenge cost taxpayers; that figure is not contained in this year's budget. Whatever the cost, the whole affair was scandalous.
There is a number in the budget, however, that tells a similar story about the government's contempt for Western Australia. I mentioned it earlier. It's just incredible that the government can find that $1.2 billion for a road that isn't needed or wanted yet can't find a cent to help the workers of Kwinana and has refused to build a quarantine facility that is urgently needed to take the pressure off Perth's hotel quarantine system.
Of course, in April we all got a shock in WA—you would have too, Deputy Speaker Goodenough—when the Prime Minister actually visited WA for a few photo ops. He was shamed into making the flight across the Nullarbor after the media reported he hadn't been to WA in more than 18 months. To be fair to the PM, I fully understand why he's a bit nervous about showing his face in the western third, given the disgraceful way he has treated all Western Australians.
This month, of course, we had another surprise visitor to WA. The Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia, Keith Pitt, actually managed to head west for the first time since he was appointed to the role 15 months ago. That's right—it took the resources minister of the government of Australia 15 months to set foot in the Pilbara, the nation's most important resources export region, which is literally saving this nation's economy from the troubles and travails of the COVID-19 pandemic. The minister tried to blame the McGowan government's border policies for his sluggishness, ignoring the fact that many eastern state MPs, including, might I say, the Deputy Prime Minister, had managed to enter WA during this time. This is the kind of respect that the Prime Minister, the minister for resources and other Liberal government ministers have for Western Australia—that is, none at all.
There must be a better way for Australia than what is presented by this government. I believe that in this country we have a once-in-a-century opportunity to reinvent our economy, lift wages, invest in advanced manufacturing and in skills and training, provide affordable universal child care, fix our broken aged-care system, address the housing crisis and take advantage of the global shift to decarbonisation. As the Leader of the Australian Labor Party, Anthony Albanese, spelt out so well in his budget reply speech, this is all within our grasp. He announced that a Labor government would create a $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund to build social and affordable housing. This will create jobs, build homes and change lives and opportunities. Labor will invest $100 million to support 10,000 new energy apprenticeships. We will protect workers from exploitation and rip-offs by criminalising wage theft. Our Secure Australian Jobs Plan will deliver rights for gig economy workers through the Fair Work Commission. The plan will also tackle the gender pay gap by requiring companies with more than 250 employees to report publicly on this. We will make child care cheaper for 97 per cent of families in the system and remove the financial barriers that discourage women from working more hours. This is good for children; this is good for women; this is good for the economy. Labor will rebuild Australia's energy grid, using Australian expertise, steel and workers to deliver cheap, reliable and clean electricity. Our Power to the People policy will connect 100,000 homes to 400 community batteries around Australia, reducing power bills and emissions by making households less reliant on the electricity grid. And we will back the Uluru Statement from the Heart by providing a voice to parliament enshrined in the Constitution and a makarrata commission to examine our history since occupation and supervise a process of agreement-making with Australian governments.
This is a future I want for Australia, not one overseen by retrograde government with no ambition or imagination. Labor has a vision to fix Australia.
The Toowoomba region is a leading light in Australia's economic recovery from COVID-19, and our future is only looking brighter with the strong measures announced in this budget. That applies across the myriad industries that are based around the Toowoomba region.
We've got a wonderful agricultural industry, of course. I was speaking to the good people at the Port of Brisbane recently, and they told me that over half of their exports come from around Goondiwindi, in an area of about a 200-kilometre radius. They come right into the electorate of Groom, which is an absolute hub for agriculture. We've got a fantastic transport industry, which has benefited from recent investments like the second range crossing. We've got a wonderful defence industry—I'll talk more about that later on. We also, sadly, have a declining mining industry. It's the only down point here. It's wonderful to hear the members opposite talk about their support for mining. I genuinely would have loved to see some Labor government support for mining in my patch. The New Acland mine is potentially a great contributor, and not just to my region and my state. I'll be out there with CEO Ronald Schmidt shortly talking about the future. Sadly, we're not talking good things there.
I won't dither too long on the downside of the state government's lack of support for the mining industry in my area; I want to talk about the wonderful things that have come out of the budget over the last year. In the most recent regional labour force data, we saw the unemployment rate drop to five per cent in the Toowoomba region. That's the lowest of any region in Queensland and well below the state figure of 7.3 per cent. This last budget was a very Toowoomba-friendly budget, as is the current budget that's just been released. That was very much what was being put to me by the people at the TSBE political leaders summit that I attended last week. That was business leaders from around the Toowoomba community as well as other elected representatives. We were discussing the many ways over the last 12 months we have seen the Toowoomba region really grasp all of the incentives that have been put in front of it and continue to grow and thrive. The message loud and clear back from the good people there at TSBE was that this was a good budget that was going to continue to drive jobs and growth in the Toowoomba region.
As wonderful as it is to hear from those leaders, it's much better when I get out and do a little bit of doorknocking and hear from the people themselves in their homes. How wonderful it was last week to do a little bit of doorknocking in Highfields and hear from a lovely lady and her husband, both teachers in the area. They moved to Highfields to teach. The husband was teaching at the Highfields secondary school there, one of the quickest growing schools in Queensland. This is just another area in which this budget is driving the Toowoomba region. It's bringing people to our region, it's bringing families to our region and we're growing.
The number of people in employment from March 2020 to March 2021 rose by a staggering 18.7 per cent in our region, with an extra 11,800 people in a job. The great example I have of business growth in our area is the Finch Cafe. When the pandemic first struck, the Finch Cafe, like many others in the service industry, were hit very hard and were trying to work out what to do. They adapted. They started a line called iCooked of precooked meals, frozen meals, that they were selling to get them through those first couple of uncertain weeks. But then, as JobKeeper kicked in and as the economy started to open up, not only did the Finch come back, not only did the customers come back and not only did they continue to grow but they have done well enough to be able to sell iCooked, the business they built in the pandemic, and also to open a second cafe. This is a great example of new jobs being brought into Toowoomba by the incentives of that last budget.
I'm happy to say the Morrison government's measures that got the Toowoomba region through the turbulence of last year and have placed us on such strong footing will continue on in this budget. It's that simple process of continuous improvement that I think any other engineer would be familiar with—building upon what works. We have seen jobs and growth come to Toowoomba over the last 12 months and we will continue to see that.
There are 61,400 taxpayers in Groom who will benefit from the tax cuts of up to $2,745 this year. That is pumping more money back into the local economy, places like the Finch and places like Hannah's, a long-time local store. You can pop in and get a new hat or a new check shirt. Or, potentially, that's money going into local charities. Just last week I was at the LifeFlight ball, a fantastic organisation that raised $420,000 on the night. That's keeping choppers in the air. Toowoomba has the busiest base in Queensland and one of the busiest in Australia. That is being supported by the local community. That support is there because our community is thriving and growing. So that's what we see. These are the benefits that flow into the community when you're able to drive jobs and growth.
The instant asset write-off will be extended to 30 June 2023, allowing up to 17,000 Toowoomba regional businesses to write off the full value of any eligible asset. This means things like new machinery for factories and farms. I was out at a feedlot recently. We've got quite a few feedlots. In fact, while I know Rockhampton loves to call itself the beef capital, I think Toowoomba has that title. I know the member for Dawson agrees with me. Toowoomba is the beef hub of Australia and, one day, the world. I was talking to Mort & Co at their wonderful Grassdale feedlot. This is a place where a one per cent improvement can have a significant impact on their bottom line; a one per cent improvement can bring in more jobs. When we have these instant asset write-offs, when we bring in new equipment that introduces with it new efficiencies, this is where we see this growth. I know that they're very excited about the opportunity to continue to take advantage of that.
To date, 2½ thousand apprentices have already been hired locally under the wage subsidy schemes. This number will only grow, with an extra $1.5 billion this financial year for the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements program. This is very important to our area, because this is going to really fill Toowoomba's skill bank. We're going to need that, because we have a wonderful project coming through our area called Inland Rail. In fact, I was out with Minister Coulton only a couple of weeks ago on the site where the first bit of work will be done in the Toowoomba region on the Inland Rail project. If we look across the full expanse of that project, the Toowoomba region will undoubtedly benefit most amongst anywhere along that line. We've got a significant amount of expenditure going into the Toowoomba region, as the line comes up close to the Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport, continues in a tunnel underneath north Toowoomba and then heads down the range. That work will be done in Toowoomba. We can see what happened in Parkes, where 90 per cent of the expenditure went to local businesses, and we can expect something similar. The apprenticeships that people are entering into under these incentive programs are so important because they're going to build up our skill bank and ensure that we can deliver this project with local people.
I stood on the site of Interlink SQ, the only intermodal hub that has been approved at this point. This is where the western line comes in and will intersect with the inland rail. We have the Warrego Highway and the second range crossing all within cooee of the one spot, and you can see how much of this area will benefit by this infrastructure coming into play. Those apprentices have work in front of them. There is plenty of work there for them to do, and we need that. In fact, an article in today's Chronicle, titled 'Jobs galore: Toowoomba businesses begging for more workers', states: 'From boilermakers to funeral home workers, Toowoomba is screaming out for more people to come in.' We are growing at such a rate. We need more people to come to Toowoomba.
There's a further $2 billion worth of infrastructure going into Queensland, particularly road projects, and this includes $6 million this year going into resurfacing the Gore Highway between Toowoomba and Millmerran. We saw a similar amount of work done on the Warrego Highway upgrades recently. I think everyone in our region who's travelled that road and who's seen what that improved surface does not just for our commuting but for our transport industry, moving our agricultural products to market along those roads, knows how important that work is. Now we will have that same investment, those same improvements, on the Gore Highway, and that's fantastic news.
On top of this is an extra $250 million for the Building Better Regions Fund and an extension of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, which has been successfully used by Toowoomba Regional Council to upgrade local roads and community infrastructure. In our patch, over the last two years, that meant $11 million going straight towards council approved, council prioritised projects, improving our local road network. What it means in this budget is another $8 million coming in, another $8 million worth of support coming to the Toowoomba Regional Council to improve our local roads. That's so important in a regional area like Toowoomba, where our roads aren't just getting us to and from work or to and from the shops; this is how our product, the work of our hands, is moved to market. It is so important that these roads continue to be invested in.
Water infrastructure is another key area for our region, and it will get a boost under this budget. The On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme will be extended for 12 months, with an extra $50 million poured in to ensure drought affected farmers can access the rebate that was originally oversubscribed by the state government. This is important because this is a way for the federal government to directly help farmers in my region address their water security issues. That means farmers being funded to put on their own land the dams they need to secure the water to continue to grow and to continue to supply to a market that is wanting their produce.
This government's once-in-a-generation spend on aged care will help in more ways than one. There's $17.7 billion in targeted spending that will improve the quality of life for more than 125,000 seniors living in Groom and increase employment opportunities in our already strong health sector. I went out to Beauaraba, a wonderful aged-care facility at Pittsworth. And I think it's not far from the truth to say this could be some of the best accommodation that there is in Pittsworth. It's a fantastic location. They don't want it to feel like a resort, but with the standard they provide; the excellent quality of service, provided by the local staff, it's so wonderful to experience, coming in and seeing the smiles on their faces and watching the good work that's happening there. This encourages me that this is the standard we can aspire to and it's wonderful to see it in Pittsworth. It's so wonderful to see the support that the local community give to this aged-care facility. I would very much like to thank all those local donors I met on the day, who are there to help and support and who know very clearly that this is the standard we must aspire to.
More than 1,300 local families will benefit from the increased childcare subsidy. As a father of three kids I certainly am aware that the cost of child care is something we must always keep an eye on. I think of putting my kids into the local Kath Dickson facility in Toowoomba and how great that was but also what the burden was for us to be able to put our kids into that and the cost. It's wonderful to see the government addressing that.
I want to turn to the point that I think I was most happy to see in my region from this budget and that's the funding that's going to go towards our local defence industry. Down the hill from us we have the Amberley air force base and it gets a lot more attention. But in the seat of Groom we have two barracks, with one at Oakey and one at Cabarlah. These both play such an important part in our local communities, supporting not only jobs but the supply chains of local communities who provide work, services and products into these places. The defence industry has been fantastic in supporting our local manufacturing industry and using local manufacturing to supply its needs.
We have $60 million in this budget going towards defence bases in my patch. We have $31 million that will be going to upgrade engineering services and buildings at the barracks at Oakleigh, with these works commencing mid-year for completion in 2023 and another $29 million for infrastructure upgrades at Cabarlah. This is part of a $270 billion spend in defence over the next 10 years. I'm so excited about this. This was something that I spoke about in my maiden speech: the opportunity for us to grow our defence capabilities in the Toowoomba region, for this to become something that we become very, very good at. This becomes a speciality of our region. I've had great conversations, at length, with different suppliers who want to move to Toowoomba, who want to take advantage of our growing defence industry. I think this is a wonderful investment in our local community. I think that continued investment will only reap better dividends.
This is the eighth time in eight long years that I've stood in this place to respond to a Liberal budget—Liberal budgets mired in unfairness and riven with cuts, Liberal budgets that look after their mates, Liberal budgets declaring victory in battles yet to be won. This eighth Liberal budget is unimaginative policy pulled together by a tired government after eight long years. But all eight Liberal budgets have one characteristic in common: they don't deliver for Melbourne's west. They don't deliver for dramatically growing communities, like our city of Wyndham, which is growing at a phenomenal pace. It has just crossed over the 300,000 population mark. Liberal budgets don't deliver because they don't get us. And after eight long years it's pretty obvious that they won't ever get us. They're not on our side and they never will be.
The pandemic has given us many challenges, and no-one was hit harder in 2020 than my community—the people I represent. I could rattle off the stats, but it is the individual stories that paint the picture: sitting on the phone hearing about the deaths of parents in aged care and listening to locals struggling to make ends meet as they were forced onto unemployment support for the first time. I heard from others who were denied support because of the visa they were on or because of the owner of the company they worked for—not on the list of those deserving of support. I spoke to childcare workers deemed to be of less value than other workers, as they were cut from early support. And I heard about the challenges facing students in the virtual classroom, while carrying the burden of family job losses on their shoulders in their most important years. The challenges were deep, and they're not done yet. The scars are still there, and some wounds are yet to heal. But these challenges do present an opportunity—an opportunity to reimagine, to challenge the status quo, to change our society for the better, and to turn the tide of eight long years of Liberal neglect of the west and their fairness-free zone.
This budget was unimaginative and it missed the mark. In contrast, Labor is on the side of working families. After COVID, Labor will deliver national reconstruction that's squarely focused on jobs—good, secure jobs. Under Labor, no-one will be held back and no-one will be left behind. This budget was full of missed opportunities to provide a better future, but it also forgot to address the real issues we must get right to bring that future closer. There's no extra money to fix the shambolic vaccine rollout or to build purpose-built quarantine facilities. If anything has been proven by the mutant strains of this virus, it's that hotels are not built for quarantine. Our capital cities have been crippled, our businesses shut and family travel plans thrown up in the air. There have been 17 leaks from hotel quarantine right across the nation, and how many commitments to permanent quarantine have there been from this government? Zero.
Right now, residents across Melbourne are changing plans and lining up for hours to be tested. They're masking up and they're scrambling to source a vaccine program, and they're doing this again because the Prime Minister has failed them. Let's be straight: if Australians had been vaccinated to the levels we were promised, this would not be happening. If the Prime Minister had built for-purpose quarantine facilities, this would not be happening. But there have been no plans from this 'prime shirker'. Victoria took the initiative, offering to run a fit-for-purpose quarantine facility close to the airport, but Treasurer Frydenberg—who is from Victoria, but not for Victoria—failed to fund it in this budget. Quarantine is a federal responsibility. Section 51 of the Constitution says it in black and white. The Prime Minister, who didn't hold a hose as the country burned, has failed us again. It's all smirk and no work. I represent the community which had the highest numbers of cases across the country in 2020. Now, as we wait for more testing to be done, I know my community is waiting with bated breath, and with fear and anxiety, that it could all happen again. And that will happen with every outbreak until Australians are fully vaccinated. It isn't just the slow, incompetent rollout; it's the mixed messages being pushed by ministers and conspiracy theorists on the government backbench. That's what's hindering the vaccination program as much as the failed ordering and the failed delivery. The government itself is seeding a hesitancy to get vaccinated, and vaccines are our ticket out of this pandemic and into our future. The sooner we're vaccinated the sooner the risk of lockdowns and restrictions will go away, but this budget fails to realise and address that fact.
I must admit that there was something unique about this budget. It had a grand total of one commitment specifically for the seat of Lalor. Finally, the Liberals have been able to find us on a map, and I'm proud that it is a project I've campaigned for. In fact, I've raised it 15 times in this House since 2015. The federal government's commitment of $11 million for modernisation of the Werribee Irrigation District is welcome—if it's not just an announcement. It would have been welcomed in 2015, when I first raised it in this place. It would have been welcomed when the Victorian government made a commitment to their share in 2018. But, finally, we're here. I want to congratulate the farmers of Werribee South for their advocacy, their campaigning and their determination. It was an honour to break the news to them that their efforts had finally been successful.
But, unfortunately, that's about as far as the west got: minuscule funding for more investigation into the Outer Metropolitan Ring Road and funding on the never-never to create a wedge between Melbourne's west and Melbourne's north over a freight hub that Victoria will get on with. When we compare this to Labor budgets—federal under Gillard and state under Andrews—it's clear that only Labor invests in the west of Melbourne. It's because Labor gets our community.
This eighth Liberal budget not only failed to deliver on local projects in Lalor but failed to deliver for the locals in Lalor. Cost of living continues to go up as wages go backwards. Australians are struggling to make ends meet, and there are at least 14,000 of them doing that in Lalor right now. Choice has described the two major postcodes in our community as hotspots for mortgage stress, and the only support this Prime Minister can offer is a tax cut that will be taken away and a pay cut baked into the budget. Australians are suffering under a Prime Minister who fails to understand the pressures they face. They're struggling to pay rent and they're sleeping on their mates' couches. They can't get secure full-time work, and they're struggling to get the training to find that work.
For Australians out of work, there was no support to find them work. We must address the situation they now face. Australians who are on support payments need more than the $3.50 increase they were offered by this government earlier this year. It's not enough. It's not enough for the almost 11,000 locals in my community who are on JobSeeker, a number which is double the pre-pandemic number. This is a number to remember when members opposite start chest-beating while declaring the war has been won.
There's no plan in this budget for local jobs. Last Wednesday, once again, I was on the phone to the member for Gellibrand to discuss more jobs leaving the western suburbs of Melbourne. I enjoy the company of the member for Gellibrand, but I am getting sick of having these conversations. Toyota was dared to leave by a Liberal Treasurer, the Williamstown shipyards were left with no work in order to enable pork-barrelling in marginal seats in other states, the oil refinery was left with a support package that was too little too late, and Qenos was a victim of the refinery closure. Too many small businesses in the supply chain have been left as dominoes to fall. Four thousand four hundred manufacturing jobs are gone in the west of Melbourne, and highly skilled locals are out of work. These job losses could have been avoided. They would have been avoided if the Liberals were on our side. We need jobs in the west. We need jobs for the 11,000 locals on JobSeeker. We need jobs for those stuck in a jobactive system which ticks boxes to satisfy a heartless government but does nothing to get those out of work into jobs. We need jobs that will last.
I love my community. It's my home. I was one of eight children raised by my widowed mother in Werribee, an inspiration for when I was a single mother making ends meet for my boys. I went to our local schools as a student and taught in those schools as a teacher and a principal. I'm the daughter of a Werribee South farmer, and I stood alongside those farmers to fight a toxic dump. I'll fight for my community at home and in this House. This is my pledge to the people of our community: you have always come first and you will always come first. Our community is special and growing. Whether you're a fifth-generation local like me or one of our newest local citizens, you need someone on your side—someone on your side to tackle cost of living and flat wages, someone on your side when you're stuck in traffic on the freeway or trying to get kids into affordable child care, and someone on your side when your child is struggling in the classroom or, as an adult, is stuck in insecure work. I'll always be on your side, and only an Albanese Labor government will be on your side.
I want you to imagine for a moment, Deputy Speaker, a future under a federal Labor government. Imagine a future where renewables are seen as the powerhouse they could be for employment in this country. Imagine a future where the care economy is valued and our frontline workers who saw us through a pandemic are treated fairly, have a single job and are directly employed by their employer, not moving from job to job and risking taking germs of any nature from one aged-care facility to another. Imagine a future where people who work in child care are valued and we know they're valued because they're paid well. Imagine a future in this country where everybody knows that if they get up early go to work they'll get a decent week's pay; that a job will mean that they can pay the rent, take out a mortgage and have security; that next week they'll get up and go to the job again because they're not waiting for a text message from a labour hire company at 11 o'clock at night. They'll know every day they're going to work and they're not living the stress and the chaos of insecure work.
Imagine if we had a government right now in this place who saw this as a once-in-a-century opportunity to reimagine the Australian economy, to improve the Australian society, to create a fairer country for every Australian. Imagine a government that didn't use a pandemic as a reason to leave 30,000 Australians stranded overseas. Imagine a government that valued Australian citizenship and what it means. Imagine a government prepared to send repatriation flights not only when it becomes a problem in the media as a political fix. Imagine a government that's committed to supporting and assisting Australians overseas wherever and whenever they need it.
In my community, we know how important these things are. We know that the last time we had a Labor government, under Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the stronger regions grants that were given included everyone across the country. We know because we had things funded by a federal government eight years ago. We had the Regional Rail Link established in our community, which is now an absolute linchpin in Victoria's public transport network. It was established by a Labor government, but since its establishment there has been not one commitment from this government—not one new station, not a new carpark, not a new or larger train. This government has ignored Melbourne's west for eight long years. It's a tired government, and the people in my community are tired of it.
The theme of the budget reinforces our focus as a Liberal-National coalition government, which is to act swiftly first and foremost to safeguard the health and wellbeing of Australians in our communities by implementing a vaccination program as we set about rebuilding our national economy by restoring jobs, promoting confidence and eventually re-engaging with the rest of the world. I support Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022, which proposes appropriations from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the ordinary annual services of the government. Other annual appropriations that are not for the ordinary annual services of the government are proposed in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 2021-2022 and Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022.
Total Commonwealth payments to my home state of Western Australia are expected to total $13.2 billion in 2021-22. Combined with record iron ore prices in excess of $200 per tonne, the WA state government is in a strong financial position to deliver quality services and infrastructure to the community. However, health services in Western Australia are in crisis due to delays in completing hospital expansion projects in Perth's northern suburbs. To support our infrastructure needs, I am pleased to inform the Chamber, the Commonwealth Grants Commission recently announced that the state of Western Australia will receive a GST payment of approximately $5.3 billion in 2021-22. This figure is $629 million more than anticipated in last year's budget. The increased revenue reflects the strength of our economic recovery, enabling the WA state government to fund projects around Moore.
My home state of Western Australia will receive $1.6 billion for projects designed to ease congestion, connect communities and improve road safety. This investment will support the national economic recovery in the short term and boost productivity in the longer term. At a local level, the budget delivers for the residents of Perth's rapidly growing northern suburbs, with major federal infrastructure funding for roads, the northern suburbs railway and community buildings. WA state Labor members of parliament within my electorate have recently complained that there is no specific federal funding for local infrastructure projects. To the contrary, record levels of federal funding have been delivered to the state of Western Australia. I cite two examples of federal funding—namely, the $158 million for the Joondalup hospital expansion and $10.4 million for the Yanchep health clinic. Both were delivered in 2019, yet the facilities have not been delivered more than two years later. Meanwhile, our local hospital emergency department waiting times have increased beyond the four-hour benchmark.
Hospitals, Medicare, mental health and disability support services will always be guaranteed under a Morrison government. Health and hospital funding to WA is estimated to be $2.8 billion in 2021-22, including $42.7 million for the COVID-19 public health response. Health funding for WA is estimated to increase by $474.3 million from 2021-22 to 2024-25. Major commitments in the 2021-22 budget include $2.7 billion for national health reform funding, including $42.7 million for the cove 19 public health response, $9.7 million for public dental services for adults, $20.3 million for community health, hospitals and infrastructure projects. Since March 2020, over 3.4 million Telehealth services have been delivered to patients in WA as at 31 March 2021. The government is continuing the temporary Medicare benefit schedule for telehealth items for general practitioner, allied health and specialist services to 31 December 2021. In my electorate, construction work on a major $256 million upgrade of Joondalup hospital is about to commence. The government has committed to funding essential medications recommended by the medical experts, putting life-saving treatments within reach of everyone. Over the last year, more than 1.6 million low-cost subsidised prescriptions have been filled for residents in my electorate under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
The government will provide $260 million nationally across 2021-22 and 2022-23 to states to support the safety of women and their children from family, domestic and sexual violence. The Patricia Giles Centre operates in the northern suburbs of Perth, particularly within my electorate, providing a range of support services to assist victims of family and domestic violence in our community. The centre provides safe accommodation, housing support, counselling, a crisis response service, group programs, and Newstart kits for women and children escaping family violence and abuse. Australian police deal with domestic violence every two minutes. Violence against women is estimated to cost the Australian economy $22 billion a year. A total of $14.2 million was provided to WA over the past budgets to respond immediately to increases in family, domestic and sexual violence as a result of COVID-19.
With one in five residents aged over 60 in Moore, a record investment in aged care will assist approximately 18,877 senior citizens living in my electorate. This investment will deliver more home-care places and more funding for residential aged-care facilities while equipping regulators to monitor and enforce the standards of care. I am pleased to report that leading aged-care providers are investing in the development of new aged-care facilities currently in the planning phase and about to commence construction in suburbs including Joondalup, Currambine and Kinross. This will increase the supply of modern, purpose-built aged-care accommodation available locally, helping to shorten waiting lists.
The Joondalup Business Association is the premier advocacy organisation for small businesses within my electorate, led by president Neil Gerrard. In Joondalup, which is the business hub of Perth's northern suburbs, the continuing tax incentive of the Morrison government will allow around 15,000 businesses in my electorate to write off the full value of any eligible assets they purchase, including productive machinery, office equipment, tools and commercial vehicles. Additionally, 4,400 businesses in Moore will be able to use the extended loss carry-back measure to support their cash flow. This will help businesses invest more in the local economy and create local jobs in Joondalup. The federally funded Business Station has provided valuable support to newly established businesses. I acknowledge the exemplary work of Colin Jorgensen, Mark South, Trevor Gaynor and David Legg.
I am pleased that last week's federal budget included $1.2 billion for promoting Australia's digital future, providing the framework to ensure that we develop a world-class digital economy by 2030. Last week, I attended the opening of Sapien Cyber, based on the ground floor of the new science building at the Joondalup campus of Edith Cowan University. The facility was opened by the Governor of Western Australia, His Excellency, the Hon. Kim Beazley, a former member of this House. I also acknowledge the presence of the chairman, the Hon. Stephen Smith, a former defence minister and member of this House. I also acknowledge the exemplary contributions of: ECU's vice-chancellor, Steven Chapman, CBE; the chief executive officer, Glenn Murray; and the chief operating officer of Sapien Cyber, Rochelle Fleming. This is establishing a state-of-the-art facility which is a collaboration of academic and industry experienced practitioners, building upon Edith Cowan University's 20 years of world-leading research and cybersecurity in the form of a new commercial entity model. It will enable the local business community to effectively prepare for, defend against and respond to cyberincursions and protect against losses to business continuity, safeguarding reputational and financial loss.
I have a vision that the city of Joondalup will develop into a centre of excellence for innovation, technology, research and development. Our educational institutions, such as Edith Cowan University, will continue to collaborate with industry to promote the commercialisation of intellectual property. Our city has the potential to evolve into a digital hub, supporting software development, cybersecurity and advanced information technology. We have the highly skilled and educated workforce necessary to attract advanced industries into the heart of Joondalup. Attracting both government funding and private sector investment is essential to realising this vision. The information technology sector in Joondalup has been supported by the federal budget as part of our digital economy strategy. I look forward to supporting the work of Sapien Cyber in the digital sphere, safeguarding our IT infrastructure which the economy of the future will be built upon.
In an effort to return more of their hard-earned wages to their bank accounts to spend according to their choice in the economy, approximately 58,300 taxpayers in Moore will benefit from tax relief of up to $2,745 this year. This is the result of extending the low- and middle-income tax offset to bring forward stage 2 of the tax relief plan carried out by the Morrison government. The tax relief plan has already benefited 69,800 people in my electorate. Statewide, it is estimated that more than one million low-income and middle income earners in WA will receive tax relief of up to $1,080 for the 2021-22 financial year. That's up to $2,160 for dual-income families.
For young families, child care is now more affordable and accessible in this budget, directly benefiting 1,320 families in the Moore electorate. It will allow parents to return to the workforce, contributing their skills and boosting productivity.
Education and skills funding for WA is estimated to be $2.8 billion in 2021-22. This includes $2.5 billion for Quality Schools. Education and skills funding for WA is estimated to increase by $337.9 million between 2021-22 and 2024-25. We are fortunate to have a range of quality schools, both private and public, in our suburbs. Many of them are having their facilities upgraded, and they are delivering excellent outcomes for our younger generation. Funding for private and public schools in Moore continues to increase as part of the Quality Schools package, placing importance in the education system. Major commitments in 2021-22 include $2.5 billion for Quality Schools, including recurrent schools funding; $164 million for national skills and workforce development; and $32.5 million for early childhood education.
The budget increases opportunities for apprentices and trainees, with an extended and expanded JobTrainer Fund supporting 500,000 new places to upskill young people. In Moore, an estimated 780 apprentices attending vocational education and training colleges located in the Joondalup Learning Precinct will benefit from these new measures through expanded wage subsidies.
In concluding, I commend these appropriation bills to the House. The legislation enables the provision of improved services, facilities and amenities for the benefit of my local community. This budget will ensure that our nation comes back even stronger, securing Australia's recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
There were two tests that the government was expected to meet when it set out its plan for the future in its budget speech a fortnight ago. The first was a plan for vaccination, because we all know there will be no recovery, whether it be economic or health, unless we get the vaccination rollout sorted. It's so far off track at the moment it's not funny. Before coming in here I tried to get myself enlisted for a vaccination—and this is not about me; it's just an example. I fit within the category, I'm eligible, but 25 June was the earliest I could get a vaccination. I live in a large regional centre. I can only imagine the struggle people have in accessing a vaccination urgently if they're living in regional or remote Australia or in a vulnerable community.
If you want an example of why this matters, Mr Deputy Speaker, look at what's going on in Victoria today. There is a heightened degree of anxiety and concern because of the COVID-19 outbreak that has spread from a quarantine facility, out of South Australia, into the Melbourne community. We hope and pray that it's contained, but the fear and apprehension that it may not be contained is having significant flow-on health and economic impacts. People will be reluctant to make holiday plans. People will be reluctant to make business plans. People will be reluctant to make restaurant bookings. Businesses will be reluctant to bring people together for important conversations. Families will be reluctant to get people together for family gatherings.
This underscores the importance of us getting the vaccine strategy right and it puts a spotlight on the abject failure of the Morrison government to use the budget speech, a speech which sets out the priorities for the next 12 months and beyond, to say: 'This is our target. This is our strategy.' An opportunity for clear communication to the Australian people was there for the taking, but the bloke who doesn't hold a hose also wasn't going to provide the people of Australia with a clear plan for how we get out of this horrible mess that we're in. It's not too late to turn this around, and shortly I will make some suggestions about how that can be done.
The other big missed opportunity in the budget was a clear economic plan for the future. When you listen to the Prime Minister, you get a sense of a bloke who thinks the best part of the journey is the part of the journey you can see through the rear-view mirror. All the good stuff that's gone on is the stuff that's behind us, and the vision for the future simply isn't there. You can see it in his language about a snapback or about returning to how great things were before the pandemic. Look, this is a great country. I'm a proud citizen of this country and a proud representative of my district and there's so much to love about Australia. But we're kidding ourselves if we say everything was perfect before March 2020, because it certainly wasn't. There were high levels of insecure work and casualisation. Wages were frozen in place for over a decade. Business investment was falling off a cliff. Productivity had been flat in this country for over five years, and there was nothing coming from the government to turn it around. We thought the Prime Minister's address to the nation a fortnight ago was going to draw a line in the sand and say, 'This is the way forward,' but instead we heard crickets. There was nothing there. It was a vision to get to the next election but not a vision for the people of Australia. It was a vision for the Prime Minister's political fortunes but not a vision for the future of the Australian people.
Thankfully, two days later we saw an alternative vision set out by Anthony Albanese—a vision for Australia built on building more things in Australia and rebuilding our manufacturing industry. We've set out a plan to rebuild train manufacturing in this country. It's crazy that we are ordering a whole heap of new rolling stock in this country but we're importing it from overseas when we have the skills here in Australia. But we see a lack of imagination and of a plan for pulling it together, and Anthony Albanese has said that he's going to deliver that plan and that imagination.
It's obviously not just about trains. It's about saying, 'Why can't be we build electric vehicles in this country?' It was Joe Hockey who chased the car industry offshore. We want to bring it back onshore. We want to ensure that this is a country that can build cars again. We have the know-how. We have the raw materials. Every single component that goes into the batteries that drive the cars of the future is dug out of the ground in Australia, but we export it out of the country in an unimproved form. We think we are so much better than that as a country. Let's have some vision. Let's have a plan. Let's have some energy. Let's build batteries and the cars that go around those batteries, because we are a smart nation if we are led by smart people with the vision to do that.
At the moment, if you pick up a newspaper in any town in the country on a Friday or a Sunday, you'll see stories about house prices going through the roof. On every Saturday afternoon through the country, there are young couples returning from housing auctions with their hearts broken and their dream of getting a home absolutely smashed, because they are seeing the prices demanded at those auctions rise to 10, 20, 30 or sometimes 100 per cent above the advertised indicative price. The smallest of hovels are selling for the most extraordinary amounts of money in our capital cities, and it's not confined to the capital cities. I was talking to a young man from my electorate a couple of days ago. The house that he made a bid on was sold for over $80,000 above the reserve price. He didn't have a hope.
So that's why Labor has a plan for housing and ensuring we get a roof over every head. We want to break the cycle of homelessness and the disadvantage that that creates, with 30,000 new houses, 10,000 of them reserved for frontline workers and families fleeing domestic violence. That's a vision for housing and a vision for the country, and there'll be more to come, because every single policy that this government has put out there has made the problem worse, not better. If some of the rebels and clowns on the government's back benches get their way, housing prices will double, pushing the price of housing even further beyond the reach of people attempting to get into the housing market.
Labor outlined a vision for apprentices. It is a tragedy that we have fewer apprentices enrolled in a course of training today than we did in 2013. If you're wondering why you can't get a plumber or an electrician or a carpenter out to do a home renovation or to fix the faulty taps or to sort out the lights, it's because we're not training them. If we aren't training them, we won't have enough electricians. We don't have enough tradespeople in this country. It means the prices are going through the roof for the simplest of projects, and it means we are denying young Australians who want to get a start the opportunity to do that. That's why we are focusing on our electrical and new energy apprenticeships. But it won't stop there. There'll be more because we believe in giving a young kid a start. Immigration has always been a part of the national vision in this country. One in four people in my electorate came from another country—a good cross-section of the Australian community—but, if we are saying that the solution to our skills crisis is to import skilled tradespeople from other countries instead of training them here ourselves, we are falling so far short of what we can do as a country and we are denying young Australians their opportunity to get a start in a great career or a great business and make a great future for themselves. We can be so much better, and we have a plan to make that happen.
I want to take the opportunity to say a few things about some local issues that we were hoping would attract funding within the budget and didn't. We were told that this budget was going to be a women's budget, and I was excited about that, frankly. I didn't care whether it was a Labor budget or a Liberal budget—a women's budget that was going to fix some of the endemic issues facing women struggling in my community. Fantastic! I was eager to hear of funding being granted to a project that has obtained bipartisan support at the state level and at the federal level. I'm talking, of course, about the Illawarra Women's Health Centre and a proposal for a trauma recovery centre for women and girls and families fleeing domestic violence in the Illawarra. It's an Illawarra led initiative of national significance because it will provide a pilot and it will test a model that can be rolled out throughout the country. It simply must be funded. The numbers speak for themselves. The New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research showed that, in the five years to December 2020, there was a 15 per cent increase in reported sexual assaults and a 7.7 per cent increase in other sexual offences in the Wollongong region. This is the reported number; of course, we know that so much of this, tragically, goes unreported. We want to stop this; we want to nip this in the bud. We want to ensure that we are not adding to those statistics, but it would be negligent of us and reckless of us if we thought for a moment that the problem was going to go away overnight. Hospitalisations due to domestic violence have risen by 30 per cent in the last decade. Right now a woman is hospitalised ever two hours in Australia.
The problem is that the services just aren't there, and the Commonwealth has a role to play in this. Did you know that, in the budget that was supposed to be a women's budget, the government has set up a system where it's a lot easier to get the funds for a building. So you can fund a building through a Commonwealth government program, but you can't open that building because there are no funds available for the staff. What is the point of a building if nobody works in it? So we are calling upon the Morrison government to listen to their own side, listen to our side, and listen to the experts. Yes, it's great that we are funding buildings, but we need the staff to operate those buildings, otherwise the lights will be left off. So we want to see the Commonwealth take up the offer. I have written to the Prime Minister, and I'm thankful that he responded to our correspondence. I have written to the Prime Minister and I said: 'I want to bring a delegation from the proponents from the Illawarra to speak to you so you can hear firsthand about their proposal, the problems that they're facing, the fact that buildings without staff is as good as doing nothing.' It's proposition for the Prime Minister to put his stamp on a proposal, which would be great for the Illawarra, but also great for the nation, setting a pilot and an example of how we deal with this terrible scourge of domestic violence by providing women, girls and their families with a pathway out of a desperate situation. Surely as a nation we're good enough to deal with this.
I have spoken at great length about the vaccine rollout. It's a complete and utter debacle. I want to say a few words about quarantine. I want to make this point: hotels aren't hospitals. Hotels aren't quarantine stations. It strikes me as quite strange that if you wanted to bring a cow or a horse or a dog or a cat into this country it would have to go into a Commonwealth controlled and operated quarantine centre. But if you're a person trying to enter or re-enter this country at the moment we put you up in a hotel and we think that's secure enough and that's good enough. Why do we keep treating livestock differently and in many respects better? The Commonwealth is taking greater responsibility for livestock than it is for people. It's extraordinary. The Prime Minister runs around and says, 'Not my responsibility. Get that hose away from me. Quarantine is not my responsibility.' Right now we are treating livestock with more care and responsibility. We think the biological threat presented by livestock is more important than the biological concerns, the health concerns and the public health concerns of people. It's extraordinary.
There is not one cent in this budget to turn this around and that is a diabolical situation, because it is naive of us to think that this is a problem that is going to go away in a few months time. It simply is not. All the health advice that is coming through is saying: 'We've got to get the vaccine rollout done. We got to get high proportions of the population sorted. We're going to have to get on top this quarantine thing and this vaccine rollout because this is probably not be the last round'. Whether it's a variant of COVID-19 or whether it's another mass health event, we have got to develop our competency of this. We have of the infrastructure and the capacity. This is not a one-off event. It's extraordinary that within this budget you can spend $100 billion of new spending—a trillion dollars worth of debt—but not one cent to fix a problem that is a Commonwealth responsibility. It's extraordinary that we have a situation where we're treating livestock better than we are people. It's untenable.
This budget is a recovery budget. If we wind the clock back two years we find ourselves in a very, very different place. The coalition government's economic leadership was steering us towards a run of budget surpluses. Just two years ago nobody was speaking about a pandemic, just two years ago, nobody was speaking about a recession and just two years ago nobody was speaking about a world in catastrophic turmoil. Twelve months ago we weren't talking about it, we were actually living through it. In the midst of all of this the coalition government chose to change tact and chart a new course for survival, chose to engage the auxiliary engines and chose to sail through the storm. Most of all, the Morrison-McCormack government chose to back the people of Australia. We chose to back our skills, chose to back our resilience and chose to back our businesses. The measures so boldly taken by the coalition government have helped us weather the eye of this storm, but we are not there yet. We must ensure a strong recovery. We must continue to back our people and our businesses and let Australians play their part in this important recovery process.
The tax incentives in this budget will support the recovery of our economy by putting more money back into the hands of individuals and businesses, helping to drive businesses and create jobs. This government is a government that believes in tax cuts, not tax increases. Our local workforce has been adaptable, flexible, understanding and committed during this pandemic, and it is important to recognise the efforts and sacrifices made by so many. Bringing forward stage 2 of the government's tax relief plan and the extension of the low- and middle-income tax offset will benefit around 56,000 taxpayers in my electorate by up to $2,745 this year. This means more money for the household budgets for families and individuals across the region, so they can keep more of what they earn to spend on what is important to them. This is why campaigns such as the Go Local First campaign are so important to promote local spending so that these benefits stay in the region and get passed on to our local businesses who are the engine room of the economy and who employ 80 per cent of our workforce.
This budget is also a plan to help our businesses recover. In my discussions with business owners and chambers, they are overwhelmingly grateful for the COVID support measures of JobKeeper and a cash flow boost which has helped them keep afloat and in a position to emerge and secure a path for recovery. The temporary full expensing measure will allow over 19,000 Cowper businesses to invest in eligible assets to the end of 2022-23. These write-offs have stimulated the local economy. I speak to people excited to tell me about their new equipment, new machinery and new business vehicles. They tell me this incentive has allowed them to expand their businesses, invest in technology and employ more people. Over 5½ thousand businesses access the temporary loss carry-back measure to support cash flow and confidence. This measure provides Australian business with certainty after a year of uncertainty.
I spoke recently in this place in support of the digital games development industry and the incredible range of job opportunities it provides across the nation, including in the Mid North Coast. I'm pleased that this budget recognises the potential of this industry to capture a further share of the global games development market through the introduction of the first national digital games tax offset as part of this government's $1.2 billion Digital Economy Strategy. This has been described by the industry as a landmark step that will assist offset costs of game development and support growth in the sector. I'd like to thank Interactive Games and Entertainment Association CEO Ron Curry for writing to me and for his advocacy for the industry. This budget supports passionate entrepreneurs like Ron. He believes:
This new federal investment will underpin a new wave of Australian video game development, leading to even more amazing Australian-made games to take to the almost $250 billion global video games market—which is arguably the largest entertainment market in the world—and bring new Australian voices and stories to a truly global audience.
This is a plan for the future.
The Mid North Coast of New South Wales is known as a great place to retire, and the demographic in my electorate is skewed towards older Australians. In fact, almost 30 per cent of my electorate is over the age of 65. In responding to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the government is delivering a record additional funding of $17.7 billion to deliver a comprehensive aged-care reform package ensuring that we have high quality and sustainable aged care systems into the future. In fact, spending on aged care in 2021-22 is expected to be $25.9 billion, almost double the $13.3 billion spent in 2012-13. This will support older Australians so that they can stay in their homes longer and receive the care they need by providing an additional 80,000 home-care packages, bringing the total to 275,000, and, importantly, also delivering support for informal and family carers. This will directly benefit the 6,800 seniors receiving or awaiting home-care packages in my electorate of Cowper. This will ensure those choosing to remain in their homes receive the same level of respect, care and dignity as those choosing to enter an aged-care facility.
The reforms will also ensure the aged-care sector's sustainability by growing and upskilling the aged-care workforce to provide the level of one-on-one care required to ensure good quality of life. There are significant aged-care skill shortages on the Mid North Coast, and these reforms will ensure that additional places are provided through JobTrainer, adding more than 2,500 aged-care and residential care workers in my electorate.
I've received a lot of positive feedback on the government's reforms to aged care, including from the CEO of the Older Persons Advocacy Network, Craig Gear, whom I will quote:
This is a win for reducing elder abuse, improving the aged care experience and keeping older Australians connected to their communities …
This government wants to ensure that aged-care services are accessible and equitable for all Australians, regardless of their background or where they live. That is why $630.2 million is being allocated to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and special needs groups, as well as people living in regional, rural and remote communities, access aged-care services. The reform measures contained in the budget mean we are well down the pathway to realising a transformed aged-care system that is well resourced and provides high-quality, safe and compassionate care for the growing number of older Australians.
This budget allocates an additional $1.7 billion in child care, building on the $10.3 billion already provided annually. This is important in Cowper, where we have 87 registered childcare providers making a wonderful contribution to the lives of children and families on the North Coast. These vital services allow parents and caregivers greater choices. The additional funding in budget measures provides incentive and confidence for parents to either return to work or to work additional hours without additional burden. Of significance is the removal of the childcare subsidy annual cap of $10,560. This will make a positive difference to many of the 6,290 families utilising child care and family care in Cowper. Commencing in July 2022, the childcare subsidy for second and subsequent children in care will be increased by 30 percentage points, up to a maximum of 95 per cent.
The Morrison-McCormack government's total investment in early childhood education and care improves the affordability of child care for families with multiple children aged five and under. These measures will benefit around 1,370 families in the Cowper electorate. It gives families greater choice and flexibility to manage work and care. In addition to this, I make note of the $2 billion funding agreement to guarantee preschools for Aussie kids. The Morrison-McCormack government is allocating $2 billion over four years to guarantee $1,340 for every Australian child to attend preschool in the year before school. Imagine the head start that that will provide for kids entering kindergarten. Even better, imagine the fair start it will provide for all Australian kids. This will be a game changer for many kids in many families. The education system in Australia will reap the benefits of this life-changing education initiative. It is the first time in history that Commonwealth funding for preschools will be ongoing. This means that federal government funding for all stages of education in Australia is now guaranteed.
In this budget, tax relief for brewers and distillers will see the excise refund scheme cap increased from $100,000 to $350,000. This means all eligible brewers and distillers will receive full remission—up from 50 per cent—of any excise they pay on the alcohol they produce, up to a cap of $350,000 each financial year. This aligns the brewers and distillers with the wine producers rebate, placing all alcohol manufacturers and wine producers on equal footing. Around 600 brewers and 400 distillers will benefit from the $225 million in tax relief under this plan, and the measures will ensure the sustainability of the independent brewers and distillers in my electorate. It will support jobs and further grow Australia's alcohol manufacturing sector.
Local brewers in my electorate who will directly benefit include Sam and Amanda from the crew at Bucket Brewery in South Kempsey, Bellingen Brewing Co. in Bellingen, Black Duck Brewery in Port Macquarie, Moorebeer Brewing Co., Wicked Elf Beer in Port Macquarie, Maria River Distillery and King Tide Brewing in Coffs Harbour. Our incredible local brewing and distilling talent create award-winning products, investing in our communities through tours and tastings, sourcing local ingredients where they can and employing local people. This is value-adding at its best.
Importantly, this budget is the first step in delivering on our towards zero target to end violence against women and children. It represents the Commonwealth's down payment on the next national plan, which will commence in mid-2022, with further investment to follow after consultations, including the National Women's Safety Summit, to be held in July this year. Our investment includes a range of measures that will go to improving frontline responses, providing financial assistance and support, leading prevention, targeting services to women from diverse backgrounds, building on existing support in the family law system, providing better data for policy development, addressing women's safety at work and improving online safety. One of the highlights is that the government is investing up to $261.4 million under a new national partnership agreement on family, domestic and sexual violence, to be negotiated with the states and territories. This funding will bolster frontline family, domestic and sexual violence specialist services to ensure women and children can access timely support.
In conclusion, as a nation, we've fought through a year of uncertainty. Now we have a budget to provide certainty. This budget is the next stage of the government's economic plan to secure Australia's recovery. The tax incentives in this budget will support the recovery of our economy by putting more money back into the hands of individuals and businesses. The budget creates jobs, guarantees essential services and builds a more resilient and secure Australia. It does this with personal income tax cuts, business tax incentives, new apprenticeships and training places, more infrastructure, and record funding for schools, hospitals, aged care, mental health and the NDIS. This budget brings security and confidence in Australia's recovery, and I commend these appropriation bills to the House.
This month's budget was an opportunity. It was an opportunity to chart Australia's path out of COVID; to deliver a recovery focused on good, secure jobs and fair pay and conditions; to build the long-term productive infrastructure Australians need to boost our productivity; and to improve public transport and get workers home more quickly, safely and cheaply. It was an opportunity to support our regions—all of them, not just those that vote for the National Party—and to deliver accessible, affordable child care; affordable housing; decent aged care of a quality that we would be happy to have our own parents in; and more support for the transition to clean energy that is happening in this country and across the world. This month's budget was an opportunity to build our nation back better, not just to fix the problems created by an eight-years-long government that has been patching up the problems that it created.
I heard the member who spoke previously say, 'Isn't it fabulous that we've now guaranteed child care for 4-year-olds'? Who were the people who didn't guarantee it, who were putting it on life support year on year? It was the Morrison government. I hear them talk about what they've done for child care. Because of the reforms they have put in place, we have seen child care become unaffordable and unviable. Who did that? It was the Morrison government. This is what this budget is. It is them fixing up problems they have created because of their own values system, because they have cut programs.
Who was it that, in fact, cut the instant asset write-off? It was these guys. The Morrison government did it. Now they're saying: 'Let's forget about all the last eight years and all the terrible things we did, all the terrible cuts and the loss of apprentices and trainees. Let's pretend none of that happened and let's fix all that and then we want you to congratulate us for fixing all the problems we created.' That's what this budget does. It says, 'Here are the problems we're fixing,' but it actually doesn't say: what are the things that we want to see this country develop and do into the future? How do we make sure that we have secure jobs in this country? How do we make sure that we actually build this nation better for those who are coming after us? That is what this budget doesn't do, and it is a huge missed opportunity.
Again, it is about the nature of this government. It's focused on marketing and spin. After eight long years, it's no longer interested in anything other than being in power. That is what the purpose of this government is. When you look back on this eight long years, you go: 'What was the point of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government? What was the point of this government?' It was to keep themselves in power. It was not to improve the nation, not to improve productivity or to actually make Australians' lives better. It was just simply to stay in power.
That's despite spending almost $100 billion—it's unimaginable—and wracking up $1 trillion of debt. Remember it called us the party of debt and deficit, with the debt trucks going around? It has no economic credibility now. Despite doing that, the budget actually reveals that real wages will go backwards. Despite spending $100 billion and racking up, again, a record $1 trillion of debt, it doesn't leave any legacy. Despite the big promises, it actually cut infrastructure spending by $3.3 billion over the next four years from what it was promising it would be spending.
The day before the budget, the Prime Minister and his ministers told every Australian who would listen that the budget would include a new $10 billion for infrastructure projects around Australia. It made for quite a few headlines, but it simply was not true. The government wasn't investing an extra $10 billion in infrastructure. In reality it was delivering a $3.3 billion cut to infrastructure spending over the next four years. Ever since the budget was published, the government has been trying to say: 'It's not a cut. This is how they always spin these things.' But it's there on page 84 of Budget Paper No. 1. It states:
… payments relating to the Infrastructure Investment Program, which are expected to decrease by … ($3.3 billion over the four years to 2023-24) …
I don't know what a decrease is other than a cut. It's a cut. No number of weasel words can hide the fact that it is a cold, hard cut. Nor can the government hide that, of the new projects and new funding announced in the days before the budget, well over half of the funding isn't included in the budget at all. It's beyond the forward estimates, on the never-never, on that sort of fiscal cliff that they leave to incoming governments, saying, 'You figure out how you're going to fund any of that into the future.' The money isn't actually there.
The government's infrastructure announcements were a fraud, once again, but the government didn't care about that. It wasn't worried about delivering infrastructure. It was worried about the announcements. It put all of the effort into the announcements, into the media, but not into the delivery. That's why it rolled out overhyped and overpumped announcements for each state and territory. I want to take you through those.
In the Northern Territory, 99 per cent of the money they promised on that day is not actually in the budget. How much of the new money do you think the Territory will get over the next four years? It's $4 million. It doesn't go very far when you're talking about infrastructure. Instead of getting highway upgrades now, they're been pushed off to the never-never. For Victoria, 87 per cent of the promised money isn't in the budget. The $2 billion so-called commitment to a new intermodal freight hub in Melbourne's north or west is off budget. It has no settled location. It isn't expected to even begin until 2027. It will be dependent on matching Victorian government funding. The department was unable to tell us whether it is even actual money or whether it's going to be an equity funded commitment. We just don't know. At the moment, it's not worth the paper it's written on.
In New South Wales well over half of the newly announced funding isn't in the budget. The biggest-ticket item for New South Wales, $2 billion for the Great Western Highway upgrade, is again not in the forward estimates and isn't expected to be completed until 2028 at the earliest. In estimates this week, nobody had a clue when the money would even start to flow. In New South Wales not a single cent of new money has been committed to public transport projects, despite public transport being a major priority for the state Liberal government. When this was pointed out to officials, you know what they said? They said: 'Oh, don't worry about that. Buses can go on those new roads. That's our public transport commitment.' It pretty much sums up the approach this government has to public transport.
In South Australia over a third of the money promised is not in the budget and the biggest promise, the north-south corridor project, is nothing more than a reheated announcement of a project that had already been announced back in 2019 and still won't start until 2023. Even the South Australian government has told us that. There were two announcements but no work on delivering a thing. What good is that for commuters today?
In Tasmania it's the same thing. The promise to upgrade the Midland Highway has been reheated more times than a dodgy takeaway to once again borrow the phrase of the member for Lyons. The half-billion-dollar Bridgewater bridge project continues to languish, and the government can't even reach agreement on which congestion-busting projects in Hobart it will fund.
Queensland missed out, with less new infrastructure funding per head than any other state or territory. What money does flow Queenslanders will be left waiting years for. It's the same story in Western Australia, where only $81.1 million of new spending will go out the door.
What all this adds up to is longer communities, less safe roads, more crowded and inaccessible public transport and fewer jobs for Australians who need them today. After eight long years, this government has no ideas left beyond making announcements they know they won't deliver on, writing cheques that simply cannot be cashed.
Infrastructure is important. It's an enabler. Infrastructure connects Australians and opens our economy. It connects people within cities, within states and across the nation. It's the road that gets our kids safely home from school. It's the train that gets us quickly and efficiently to work in the morning and home in time for dinner. It's the airports and flight routes that allow us to visit our loved ones in distant corners of this vast country. It's the highway which safely allows truck drivers to transport our goods across the nation. It's the freight routes that get our farmers' produce to customers here in Australia and around the world. It's the work site where apprentices learn their trade and it's the driver of growth where government investment is harnessed to grow Australian industries and to create new ones. It's about creating jobs in local communities. That's what we're missing out on under this government. There is no procurement policy, no link of these billions of dollars of infrastructure that they say they're spending to actually increase the number of apprentices and trainees in this country, and then they have the gall in this budget to cut?
Their billion-dollar broken promises each and every year have had a real impact. It's an impact felt in fewer jobs, less time at home and more costs for commuters. Its impact is felt in project delays and cancellations. We got a prime example of that just last week with five more commuter car parks across Melbourne cancelled, two in the electorate of Dunkley and one in Macnamara. If you want to see an example writ large of just how this government operates when it comes to infrastructure, you only have to look at this Urban Congestion Fund and the commuter car parks that are part of it. This was a fund announced in the 2018 budget, a few years ago now. In the 2019 election campaign the Liberal Party ran around the country. There were a few seats they were a bit nervous about, particularly in inner-city Liberal leafy suburbs. They sprayed out this Urban Congestion Fund money all over the place, 83 per cent of it in coalition and targeted seats. They sprayed it on projects that they've not talked to state governments about and not talked to local councils about, and now they're having to clean up the mess because they can't deliver on them. That's the problem. This week at estimates the government couldn't rule out that there would be more cancellations of those Urban Congestion Fund projects.
The Morrison government never had any intention to deliver some of these car parks it's cancelled. In the heat of the election campaign, as we saw, they went around making these promises, and yet you only have to look at where these announcements are to see how they treated taxpayers' funding when it came to this. Once the election was over, their interest in actually delivering seemed to wane. No wonder Australians don't trust this government and its promises, because they're not worth the press releases that they're written on.
We know that, just yesterday, survey results released by the Australian Automobile Association showed that the average Australian household spent $354 per week on transport over the first quarter of 2021. This represents a 14.3 per cent increase over the previous quarter, the largest jump on record. With the Morrison government cutting infrastructure spending by $3.3 billion in the next four years and cancelling projects across Melbourne, costs for Australian commuters are only going to rise even further.
Again, we've seen over the government's term in office that it likes to talk about its delivery of infrastructure but it loves even more to talk about the projects that Labor delivered, claiming them as its own. We've seen the Bolivia Hill upgrades in New England, the Princes Highway duplication and Bruce Highway projects—all projects that a Labor government actually delivered.
Briefly, in the time I have left, I want to talk a little bit about regional Australia and regional development. In particular, one of the major problems that we're having in our communities at the moment is around affordable housing. The government's approach to regional development, frankly, is incredibly disappointing. Instead of investing equally in the regions, they use the budget to top up the slush funds that are ready to be pulled out again ahead of the next election campaign. Ahead of the last election, coalition seats or target seats received 94 per cent of projects and 94 per cent of all money through the infrastructure component of the Building Better Regions Fund, and the government have topped this fund up with another round in the budget. A hundred and twelve of the 330 projects approved under that round of the program were approved by a secret ministerial panel against the recommendations of the department. Independent grant processes are designed to try and make sure that communities are supported across this country and that the projects have proper value for money. The government is in the process of assessing round 5, and we'll be scrutinising the allocation of those funds very closely. For my own community of Ballarat, it's incredibly disappointing to see the Morrison government treat people in my community with contempt. What it's done with its regional portfolio, frankly, has become quite obscene. The sort of money that you see poured into National Party and Liberal Party seats—the slush funding—has gone absolutely beyond a joke, and I'm very glad that the Audit Office is looking closely at the Building Better Regions Fund.
What the government should have done in this budget is also commit funding for social housing in our regions. We know that housing has become simply unaffordable for many people who live in our communities. Access to affordable rental accommodation and to low-cost affordable housing for home ownership is simply not there at the moment, and this government had no answer to that. The policies they have put in place are, in fact, actually inflationary and are making it harder for people in my community to obtain housing. Labor's going to change things, and Labor's very determined that there be better and more affordable housing in the regions.
I rise today to support Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022, which is effectively the appropriation for this year's budget. Last week, I was out and about in my electorate. I visited the towns of Manjimup, Collie, Esperance and Mount Barker, and I also briefed the Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry about this year's budget. So I rise today not only to support the budget but to provide some feedback from those great, hardworking men and women of my electorate of O'Connor and their view of the budget.
We can't really talk about the 2021-22 budget without putting it in the context of where we've come from. It was only a little over 12 months ago that people across my electorate and, indeed, across Australia were closing their businesses down. They were being told by state and federal governments under emergency health laws that they had to close their businesses. Gymnasiums, coffee shops, restaurants and hotels were in dire straits, and no-one really knew where this pandemic was going to take us. Businesses were suffering from enormous uncertainty, and the government had to provide some support and provide it very quickly. Of course, the JobKeeper program was announced in early or mid-April last year, and the first money started to go to businesses at the end of April.
Just the other day I was at a luncheon where there were two ladies who own significant businesses in the town of Albany. One owns a series of car dealerships and employs 61 staff. She told me that the day before JobKeeper was announced she called in all her staff and said: 'I'm sorry but I'm going to have to put you off. I can't offer you any ongoing work in the middle of this pandemic.' The following day we announced JobKeeper. She was able to call her staff back in and say: 'Forget what I said yesterday. You're back on for at least three days a week.' As we all know, the economy started to improve through May and June. June was one of the strongest Junes they'd had in some considerable period of time. Beyond that, the business is now going as well as it has ever gone.
The other lady owned a caravan park. She had told her 41 staff a couple of days before we announced JobKeeper that they would be out of work. She was able to call them back in. As we all know, particularly in Western Australia, domestic tourism has never been stronger, and they've had a wonderful 12 months since then.
We've got to look at this year's budget and some of the spending initiatives in the context of where we've come from. Looking at the big picture, during the March and June quarters of last year the Australian economy contracted by three per cent. To put that into context, during the global financial crisis the Australian economy contracted by 0.1 per cent. That gives an indication of the magnitude of the economic crisis we were facing 12 months ago. What we're seeing today is nothing short of an economic miracle.
Obviously, people are interested in their own personal financial situation. As I went around last week talking to people in my electorate, the feedback I got was that, among the nearly 59,000 people across O'Connor who will receive it, the low- and middle-income tax offset of up to $1,080 for a single and up to $2,160 for a couple is very well received and very much appreciated. Those low- and middle-income families will be out spending that money, putting it back into the local economy and supporting the local businesses that employ them. So that was very well received and I got some terrific feedback on it.
As I've spoken to chambers of commerce around my electorate, the thing they're very appreciative of is the reduction in small business taxes. For the 19,000 small businesses across my electorate that turn over less than $50 million per annum, the tax rate has this year come down to 27c in the dollar, and it will fall to 25c in the dollar in the 2024-25 financial year. They very much appreciate that, and they're very keen to invest the extra income back into their businesses, grow their businesses and grow jobs across my local economy.
One of the big initiatives around investment has been the instant asset write-off. Not only has it been a boost to those businesses that are investing in new equipment, growing their businesses and growing the number of people they employ; it also has been terrific for the dealerships and businesses that sell equipment. Across my electorate, the biggest complaint of machinery dealers is they just can't get stock to sell to farmers. They're run off their feet with orders at the moment. It's the same with car yards. As I've driven down Albany Highway in Albany, where there's a strip of car yards, I've noticed there are no vehicles in the yards. They can't get stock. So they are having some of the best of times, but times would be even better if they could get stock.
There is the extension of the loss carry-back. Businesses that paid tax in 2018-19 and 2019-20 but are suffering losses this year will be able to access the loss carry-back measure. My heart goes out to the travel agents in my electorate, who are really doing it very tough. They are the types of businesses that will be able to access the loss carry-back measure and get a tax refund this year, which will put a bit of cash flow back into those businesses. Hopefully, for those travel agents and other businesses that have been impacted particularly by the lack of international tourism that's happening at the moment, that cash flow will keep them on their feet until things turn around. There are around 20,000 businesses in O'Connor who will access that particular facility.
As I spoke to people across my electorate, particularly those in businesses, the biggest issue they have is finding skilled workers. Albany, Kalgoorlie and Esperance are the three largest towns and cities across my electorate, and unemployment has a three in front of it in all of those towns. It's as low as 3.2 per cent in Albany. Of course, a big component of this year's budget is our commitment to the JobTrainer scheme, which has been doubled, so we're making available up to 450,000 new training places. I hope that, for many of those people across my electorate who are currently looking for work—and there are not that many of them—there's an opportunity to get new training and an opportunity for those businesses to put people on and put them into training places. Hopefully, we'll see some other people who are currently in work upskill and move on to better-paid positions. We'll also be providing a 50 per cent wage subsidy to support 170,000 new apprenticeships. There are already 3,235 apprentices in O'Connor. I love to see these young people set their life's path on a trade. We need skilled tradesmen in my area and in my regions to support the mining industry, the ag sector and the general community as a whole. Anything we can do to get more of these young people into jobs so that they can live and train in the towns they grew up in and so that they don't have to leave and go to university in the metropolitan areas is all to the good. I'm very pleased to see that we're making more of those apprenticeships and traineeships available for people across my electorate.
In terms of infrastructure, I spoke to many of the local governments across my electorate and they're very, very pleased with some of the programs that we've put in place. I'll run through some of those announcements. There is the Roads of Strategic Importance initiative, which is about moving product and produce from the inland areas where it's produced to the ports, and the Central Wheatbelt freight network has received $160 million. That involves a group of about 15 local governments across my electorate and also in the electorate of Durack—my very dear friend Melissa Price's electorate. That will allow the local government authorities to upgrade their road networks where they're used by freight that's actually travelling through their shires—not produced by their ratepayers but costing their ratepayers to maintain those road networks. The Roads of Strategic Importance initiative will assist them to do that. What is particularly popular amongst the local governments is the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. Across my electorate, currently 38 local governments receive $38 million in total across those local government authorities. This is untied spending of about a million dollars per local government authority. I've got a couple of examples of some nice little projects that were conducted by some of the small shires with a very small rates base who wouldn't normally have the money to carry out those projects. The Shire of Cuballing has probably got a couple of hundred people living in it and even fewer people who actually pay rates. They were able to spend $73,800 on a main street upgrade, an upgrade to a rest area, and upgrades of playgrounds and toilet facilities for people who stop in the town and the local community to use. That's a little project that wouldn't normally have happened if they hadn't received some money from the government. Just up the road, the Shire of Brookton spent $180,000 to upgrade their local caravan park, which is about attracting, and providing a good amenity for, visitors and also to provide some temporary accommodation for seasonal workers. Those are the sorts of nice little projects that wouldn't normally be funded without the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program.
We've also announced $130.4 million for our regional connectivity program, and a very important component of that across my electorate is $80 million for round 6 of the mobile phone blackspot program. We all rely on mobile phone communication today. We all take it for granted that we'll be able to pick up the mobile phone wherever we are and make a call or download some data or do some business. If you live in the electorate of O'Connor there are some large areas that still don't have consistent mobile phone coverage so we'll be looking for some more support for new mobile phone towers across my electorate out of that particular program. The $250 million for round six of the Building Better Regions Fund is a very important fund for the larger projects across my local government area. An example of a project that has been completed previously: the Shire of Broomehill-Tambellup, through the Great Southern Housing Initiative, have built 56 houses for shire workers, community workers, in those small towns where the market has failed. There's no private investment in new housing in those particular places. It's nice to see that that money was invested in those housing assets for local government and other workers in those small towns.
Although it wasn't part of this year's budget necessarily, although the ongoing funding is, another example is the HomeBuilder program. In the city of Albany in the December quarter we saw a 300 per cent increase in the number of housing approvals. So there were 279 new houses approved in that quarter, which has absolutely put a rocket under the local building trade industry. They are so flat-out. They're able to be well paid. They're taking on new employees, new apprenticeships. The extension that we have given will keep them busy for at least the next two years. I'm very pleased that we have been part of that.
I want to quickly mention agriculture and the resource sector—two of the main industries across my electorate. Part of this economic miracle that we've seen over the last 12 months in this nation has been driven by both agriculture and mining. My electorate certainly played its part in that terrific season last year across the Southern Wheatbelt in my electorate. Record grain crops were produced. The biggest problem we've got at the moment is getting that produce to port. There's shortage of truck drivers and a shortage of train drivers. So we need to get more people into those positions and trained up very quickly.
In the resources sector, the gold mining sector, which is centred around Kalgoorlie, had its best year ever. There have been some big projects started and there's plenty of work in the pipeline. There's a huge contribution to the national economy out of my electorate and I'm very proud of them.
In conclusion, this year's budget is about building on the economic recovery that we've started. We're not quite there yet, and we've had a wonderful result, but this budget continues to support the families and businesses across O'Connor that have been part of this economic miracle.
What is the purpose of all of this: of government, of parliament, of all of the work that people come here and do? Why do we do it? If you believe the Liberal Party, their sorts of views of the world, they would like government to just provide for national defence, make sure that there are enforceable property rights and do not much else. Other than that it should be everyone for themselves. That's their world view. But our world view, as Labor, is we think government should be here to make people's lives better, to lift the living standards of the Australian people year after year, generation after generation—that's the purpose of all of this. All of this activity, all of this work should be so that the next generation has a better life than the previous one did.
In a budget you find out what's really important to a government. In this budget we found out that they're casting around. They don't know what's important. It's no surprise. They have been in government for eight long years. They're a tired government. They're a government without a real vision for the future of this country or an agenda of a future of their own administration. You can see that from the real lack of legislation before the parliament in the sitting week—one of several in the next few weeks.
So we know that the government is casting around. They're old. They're tired. They don't know what they're doing. At the same time, you've got a Labor opposition, which is seeking to become a Labor government, that strongly believes that we can build on our past—our history as reformers. Our history is as the party that has always brought this country into the future, modernised and built living standards. We can do that if we can form an Albanese Labor government. Anthony, as the leader of the Labor Party in this place, made a series of announcements in the budget reply about what we can do. The great thing about them is that, like the best tradition of Labor throughout our history, he has looked at the contemporary challenges. What are the challenges that we face right now, and what do we need to do to face them and make things better for Australians?
I've been reflecting on our reformist past, on our history of making things better, and I always come back to thinking about my own family. I was thinking about my grandfather. My grandfather's dad worked on the railways. It was not a particularly good, long or healthy life. He'd been a World War I veteran. He'd worked on the railways. He'd died young. My grandfather, his son, grew up in a really poor family; they'd lived in a tent at one stage. He was born in 1932, so, as a child, he grew up in very difficult economic times. He grew up and his first real job out of school was as a fireman on a steam train from Mt Isa to Townsville. That was his job. He worked in this job, and it was hard work, exhausting work, hot work. My other grandfather, my father's father, had a very similar background. His dad had been a shearer in Barcaldine. They'd moved up to Far North Queensland, to a rural area on the tablelands, and my grandfather became a greengrocer.
These men had difficult lives, tough lives—lives that were lived through tough times. My maternal grandfather ended up buying his own business. He saved up through that hard work and he then started his own very successful business. You've seen the capacity for social mobility that some people have in those situations, but what does it take to make sure that everyone gets the opportunity for social mobility? What's the difference between their generation and my generation? Their kids, my mum and dad, came up through these families that were not well off. They finished school at year 10. Like virtually everyone else they ever met, they didn't go beyond year 10. I think that, as a kid, when I was growing up, the only people I knew who were adults who'd even been past year 10 were my teachers and my GP. It wasn't common to go past year 10.
They finished school in the 1970s, and what happened in the 1970s? Gough Whitlam's government came in and brought in sweeping changes that created the circumstances for social mobility so that kids from working-class backgrounds could get into universities, expand their opportunities to get trades and expand their opportunities in life. Then, in the next generation, my generation, we got to go to year 12 and we got to go to university. We wouldn't have done so if it weren't for Labor governments. We wouldn't have had those opportunities if it weren't for the Whitlam government and, then, the Hawke-Keating government.
I said earlier that the great tradition of Labor governments is to look at the circumstances and think about what needs to be done to meet contemporary challenges. You had Whitlam saying that we needed to open up education. For Hawke and Keating, the great economic challenge at the time was the fact that inflation was ridiculous. We had this terrible inflation crisis in this country. We had to bring Australia's economy into the modern age, and they modernised. That's what they did. They faced these challenges, and they did it in a Labor way. At the time, it was really fashionable around the world—you had Margaret Thatcher; you had Ronald Reagan—to go to very, very extreme liberal positions. As I said, there was this idea that you just let everyone fend for themselves. That's not what happened here, because we had Hawke and we had Keating. We had great Labor heroes who said that not only did we need to modernise our economy; at the same time we also needed to continue the Labor project of increasing living standards—building those living standards and making lives better.
So, at the same time that they were tackling those economic challenges, they understood the importance of the social wage and of the conditions that we had and that we needed as Australians. Think about Medicare. Think about universal superannuation. Think about the accord. All of this work was done to say not only are we going to face the contemporary economic challenges but we're going to make lives better for every single Australian. That's what they did, and that's what reforming Labor governments do: they manage the economy, and they manage the economy for the benefit of every person and every household, because we believe in better living standards and in leaving a better place for future generations than we found.
I have to say that this government is a such a strong reminder of why we need great Labor governments. We have a situation now where this tired eight-year-old Liberal government has just been unable to come face to face with the key challenges. Inflation was the key economic challenge in the 1980s. What's the key economic challenge right now? It's wages and slow growth. We've been having year after year after year of pathetic wage growth and sluggish economic growth more broadly. That's what we are facing as a country. We're in a situation where we've had eight years of a national government that has been unwilling to even admit that it should be doing something about wages, because it thinks it's up to everyone to fend for themselves. In fact, the former finance minister even said that low wages growth was a deliberate design feature of their economic approach. They're not fixing wages growth, because they don't think it's their job to fix it. That's what's going on here.
This budget, the budget that we are responding to right now, forecasts a cut in real wages. What is a cut in real wages? A cut in real wages is a decline in living standards. It's a decline in the standard of life for Australian households. It's a decline in the ability of Australian households to provide a better life for the next generation. That's what a cut in real wages is. What are the government doing about it? We have a bloke who, as Treasurer, presided over cuts to penalty rates and, as Prime Minister, is presiding over a budget that forecast a cut to real wages after year on year on year of pathetic wages growth.
What do they do? You saw them on budget night, Deputy Speaker, sitting behind the Treasurer, looking like a wet weekend, so grim were their faces. They looked miserable. You'd think that they'd lost the last election, not won it. They were so miserable. The Treasurer was standing up. I don't think he'd ever anticipated, as a Liberal, that he would come in and hand down a budget which racked up a trillion dollars in debt, spending $100 billion with nothing much to show for all this. I've got to tell you that, if Labor were in government, we'd certainly have some legacy out of that sort of thing, but there is nothing much to show for it from this Treasurer. Behind him were the wet weekend crowd, all sitting there looking grim because they don't really want to be doing this. They came here to make sure that we didn't do things. They don't have a positive vision of their own; they just want to stop us. The reason they can't grapple with the big challenges, can't manage the economy and can't write a budget that actually sees an increase in living standards, not a decline in living standards for Australians, is that they are not up to it and they don't believe in it. Their hearts are not in it and they never have been.
We want to see a government that will take real action when it comes to wages, because this is a key economic challenge. What do you think happens in our economy when wages growth is sluggish? I will give you a tip. What's the biggest component of GDP? Is it consumption? What do you reckon happens to consumption when people's pay isn't keeping up and people aren't getting ahead? When you don't get that pay rise, do you buy the extra coffee? Do you buy the extra video game? Do you buy the extra leisure activities? Do you go and have the slightly longer or slightly better holiday? Do you go and spend more at the beautiful amusement parks that we have in beautiful Queensland? What happens to consumption when wages growth is sluggish is that consumption doesn't grow as it should, and that's a problem for economic growth. This is why we need to face up to this challenge. It's a contemporary challenge. It's a challenge that Labor is continuously pushing the government to deal with, and it's a challenge that the government are fundamentally incapable of responding to, because they don't believe in it. They don't care about it. It's not what they want to be doing. They don't care about your wages. All they are delivering is a real wages cut.
In responding to the budget, I also want to say a big thank you, not to the government—because, frankly, they've had two jobs this year, quarantine and vaccine rollout, and they've managed to botch both—but to all of our communities who in the face of the COVID pandemic, despite the national government's woeful performance in managing it, are so resilient and are working so hard. Our communities are doing their absolute best. They need a government that's going to do the right thing when it comes to the vaccine rollout and quarantine. They're not getting that at the moment, but our communities are persevering, just like communities around the world.
I have to say that locals in my communities on the south side took to this pandemic with their characteristic sense of fellow feeling, community, looking after each other, reaching out a hand and keeping in touch with older people, people at risk of being isolated and people at greater risk of being affected by the pandemic. We see people all the time doing their bit, wearing masks when they're needed and respecting the lockdowns to make sure that there's less of a disruption down the track. We have seen frontline workers in so many occupations doing their best and putting themselves in harm's way to look after the rest of us. We are so grateful. I want to say on behalf of our community that we're all so grateful to you for what you're doing.
I want to record again my thanks to everyone who works in our hospitals, GP clinics, pathology services, pharmacies and other health services. I wanted to mention that I recently visited World Wellness Group. They have been administering vaccinations and doing their part to counteract vaccine hesitancy in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. They're a great facility and I congratulate them on the work they're doing. I have been in contact with so many frontline health workers with our local hospitals via the metro south district and also our GP and primary healthcare community through the PHN. I want to say thanks to Mike Bosel and his team at the Primary Health Network. They have been work with the community towards making sure they can do their best to support the vaccine rollout.
The pandemic doesn't mean that everything else stops, of course. I wanted to say thanks to everyone who's working on the non-COVID health response as well. I want to say a big thanks to Sophie at Coorparoo Discount Pharmacy for my recent flu vaccination. She did an admirable job in administering it very painlessly—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives—
Sitting suspended from 12:46 to 12:57
One of the quite stark things about this budget is the fact that it's really confirmed that the Morrison government has no intention of delivering on its proposal—or so-called proposal, I guess—to introduce a national integrity commission. The budget papers confirm that not a single staff member has been allocated for this commission for at least another 14 months. It's been 2½ years since the Prime Minister promised a Commonwealth integrity commission and more than two years since he and the then Attorney-General promised that legislation would be brought into the parliament before the end of 2019, but this long-promised national integrity commission has failed to materialise. In my portfolio of water, in fact, the previous interim inspector-general for the Murray-Darling Basin was meant to be able, once it was established, to refer matters to the to-be-established National Integrity Commissioner. Well, that position was never created, nor was the integrity commission ever created.
It's just promise after promise after promise from this government. They're all promise, no delivery. They're all about the photo op and never about the follow-up. It's a real problem because Australians are actually crying out for an anticorruption commission at a federal level. We've seen all sorts of scandals: sports rorts, the airport purchase where the government managed to spend about 10 times the value of the land when purchasing that particular land, rorts in other funds where the just the majority of the money is allocated quite brazenly to Liberal or Liberal-target seats. Australians actually want a national integrity commission and anticorruption commission to scrutinise government to make sure that we can have confidence that money is being spent well and that people are doing the right thing in government. That's really important, I think, to all Australians. It's a real shame that this budget reveals once again that the government has no intention of delivering.
I rise to support the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 and the associated bills. Equally, I indicate that I won't be supporting the amendments of Mr Bandt and Mr Chalmers, whatever they might be. This bill, substantively, is the budget that was handed down by the Treasurer a fortnight ago. This is a budget that is, in equal measure, great for the country, great for my state, and great for my electorate of Sturt, so I'd like to take the opportunity, in the time I have to contribute to this second reading debate, to talk through each of those three elements, perhaps in reverse order.
In my electorate of Sturt, this budget continues to invest in local infrastructure. We have three major congestion-busting initiatives in the budget under the Urban Congestion Fund in the electorate of Sturt: the Magill Road-Portrush Road intersection, the Fullarton Road-Glen Osmond Road intersection and the Fullarton Road-Cross Road intersection. All three are excellent outcomes for my local electorate, and all three are going to help families get home more quickly and more safely, as well as increase productivity. The Portrush Road-Magill Road intersection is on Highway 1, the national highway network. That's the one that's most advanced so far. I know this stretch of road very well. In fact, a little over 20 years ago, I grew up probably less than 100 metres from Portrush Road when it went through a major upgrade by the then Howard government around the turn of the millennium—the year 2000 or so from memory. It might have 1999 or 2001, but it was around about then. Now we're continuing to invest in that corridor, and there is a $98 million investment jointly between the Commonwealth and state governments for the Portrush Road-Magill Road intersection. It is a fifty-fifty funding partnership, and progress is very well advanced.
There has been a little over 12 months of hard work on land acquisition for that project. Land acquisition, as we all know, can be difficult at times, and it's important that you take your time when you're undertaking land acquisition to do the best you can for those who are having their properties acquired and support them as best you can through the process of relocating. I believe that in all cases we have met that important test of being modelled through that process. It is a responsibility of state government, but of course I've been very close to it as the federal member. We now have the land acquired, and the tender has been awarded. The major relocation works have been undertaken. The big 66 kilovolt line that had to be realigned has recently been powered up by SA Power Networks. So the fun part begins. All the hidden works that no-one would notice are now done, and we're going to see a transformation of that intersection over the coming months.
Every day, 65,000 vehicles use that intersection, so I'm thrilled to see that that project is progressing very rapidly now. In August, we should see some of the early new access roads opened on that project—some of the left-turn lanes from Magill Road onto Portrush Road. Once the surface pavement is done there, they'll be open to traffic and my residents will start to feel the benefit of that project. By the end of the year, the practical completion of that intersection will have been done, and it will be early in the new year that the final beautification of the streetscapes et cetera will be finished. I'm very proud that we've been able to deliver that in my first term as the member for Sturt. It's one of the most significant infrastructure investments in the electorate of Sturt for a long, long time, so it's excellent to see that, that commitment having been made at the last election, whenever the next election may be, I'm very confident that that project will be largely completed. I'm glad that we've been able to keep our commitment to the people of Sturt in a great partnership with the state government.
The other two intersections that I touched on are on Fullarton Road. Both the Glen Osmond Road-Fullarton Road and Cross Road-Fullarton Road intersection projects are proceeding well. They're at earlier stages than Portrush Road-Magill Road because, again, land acquisition has been sensitively handled. One of those in particular had a significant heritage issue which we have been able to overcome very successfully, and I'm glad about the outcome. The old Waite gatehouse is now going to be relocated on the Adelaide university site instead of being demolished, which was contentious, locally, from a heritage point of view. We've been able to work through that challenge and, I think, get an excellent outcome. Not only is the intersection upgrade, which is vital and which we all support, going ahead but also we have been able to ensure that a critical part of our heritage is going to be protected and, in fact, enhanced because, in relocating that building, we're going to turn it into something that can be used for the local community by local community groups.
I had the Treasurer in my electorate last Monday, and one of the projects I was able to take him to was the Kensington Gardens Reserve upgrade. I've spoken about that quite a few times in this chamber, and it's great to see that project is well and truly past the halfway point. The site demolition and remediation has been completed. As I said before in relation to the Portrush Road-Magill Road intersection project, the fun part starts now. The tree planting is commencing. The civil works have been done for the wetland construction, so now it's about vegetating the site. We're also getting the new tennis courts, which are being graded as we speak. It is a great outcome for the local sporting infrastructure at Kensington Gardens and for the surrounding suburbs and also a great outcome for families that use that community asset for a whole variety of things, including sport and recreation. As I say, there's not just tennis there; there are also cricket, rugby, walking the dog, keeping fit and all sorts of other activities. Of course, it's a beautiful, pristine, locally protected environmental asset as well. The Stonyfell Creek wetland project, as part of that, is an excellent environmental outcome locally.
We committed $5 million to the Max Amber Reserve to rebuild the clubrooms there for the Athelstone Football Club and the Athelstone Cricket Club. Again, now the foundations have been poured for that project, so site demolition is concluded and all the re-alignments et cetera are done. We've poured the slab and construction is apace. Hopefully, in six months time we'll see that site completely transformed. With next year's football season and the subsequent cricket netball et cetera seasons, we'll see a great outcome for the local community in the Paradise-Athelstone area, not just those who are members of the various sporting clubs that play there, although they of course are going to get an excellent outcome. Again, we're seeing a piece of vital community infrastructure reborn, and it's not just the sporting clubs that'll be able to have access to it. The RSLs, the Rotarys—all those volunteer organisations in our communities that work so hard as volunteers to serve in their various capacities deserve our support. I'm so proud that again we've been able to work as a funding partner with the local Campbelltown council in that case to see that $10 million upgrade proceed. Again, I anticipate that will be completed before the next election, whenever that will be—another example of making a commitment, following it through and delivering it for the people in Sturt.
Finally in Sturt, the Magill Village project is also well underway. It's in exactly the same category as those I just touched on. We made a commitment of funding before the last election and we're seeing these projects well and truly being constructed now and being delivered in my first term as the member for Sturt. So Sturt's done very well in this budget. South Australia has done well in this budget. The city deal which we signed a few years ago between the South Australian state government, the Adelaide City Council and the federal government is a fantastic transformation of that old Royal Adelaide Hospital precinct in the heart of the city. It's actually just outside my electorate, unfortunately. I wish my boundary were a few hundred metres further west, and then I could say that it was in my electorate. But nonetheless the people of Sturt, like the people of Adelaide, will benefit enormously from this city deal project.
Again, progress there has been very rapid. Subsequent to the city deal being signed, we also made decisions at the Commonwealth level around the Australian Space Agency, which is now open and operating on the site in the McEwan Building. Of the five heritage buildings there, four have been completely restored, and they're all full of a wide variety of private sector businesses with people with new ideas in the industries of the future. It's a fantastic incubator site for new ideas and people that want to start small but have ambitions of building very large businesses. They've got a home there at lot 14 on the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site thanks to the partnership that we have in place between the state, federal and local governments. There is more than $150 million of Commonwealth funding, and in the upcoming year alone more than $40 million in the budget is going towards that precinct, which has a wide variety of very exciting developments as part of that project. I won't go through them all now given the time I have left, but I'm very proud that we've delivered that partnership. It's a great example of three good governments working together—the city council, the Marshall Liberal state government and the Morrison Liberal federal government. These are things that people in my community talk about when they say they're pleased to see governments working together and having some vision for the future and understanding how you can leverage government expenditure to also unlock private expenditure to grow our economy. That's the point I want to turn to now at a more national level when it comes to this budget.
Last week, as I said, the Treasurer was in Sturt. Apart from some of the other things that I've already mentioned, we went to a great local business in my electorate, a cheese manufacturer called La Casa Del Formaggio. La Casa Del Formaggio—'the house of cheese' in Italian—is a second-generation business. I think they're in the 33rd year. They make a fantastic product. It is one that they're selling right around the country. But, of course, they have ambitions to sell it right across the globe. What do they love about the budget? Well, the budget backs them. The budget gets behind them and says to them, as a business, 'Hey, we want to support you and help you make decisions to grow and expand your business. We want to be partners with you and give you the confidence to make decisions so that you will grow your business, expand your markets, employ more people and grow our economy.'
One of the things that they, like tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands—possibly towards a million—of businesses in this country, are taking advantage of is the instant asset write-off. Who wouldn't be looking to the instant asset write-off as an enormous opportunity to bring forward investment decisions? Obviously, it puts them in a position where they can now invest in the expansion of plant and equipment. They can invest in eligible assets to grow their production capacity, knowing that they can immediately write down that expenditure in the year that they incur it. This has meant that they have made the decision that they will dramatically expand their operations at this business, which has given them confidence. They're going to employ more people. They're already employing nearly 200 people, but if their plans are successful, if they export and if the demand is there for them to increase production to that extent, through this expansion they'll be able to employ many, many more, possibly hundreds, into the future. They're very honest about making that decision because it gives them an opportunity, and they're not going to miss that opportunity.
They're an example of a business, like so many other businesses, that is saying, 'Wow, when there's a government out there that understands what it is to back businesses and that sends us a message that says you want us to make these investment decisions, you've got to take some risk. When you're in the private sector, you've got to put your money on the line.' But, as a government, we're saying, 'We understand that risk. We understand some of those hesitations. We understand what you're weighing up. Hopefully, it will go well, but it could go wrong. What can we do to help you have more confidence in making that decision?' The instant asset write-off is one of the best examples of us saying to businesses, 'We want to join you and support you in making those decisions, taking those risks, expanding your business, investing in your business. We'll give you a higher incentive than usual to go ahead and make those decisions.'
This unashamedly needs to be a private sector led recovery post COVID. When you have a private sector led recovery, the best thing is that it's not sugar-hit, one-off expenditure. It's investment that lasts for years and decades into the future. We're talking about stimulating our economy in a way that's going to have a constant, permanent, future dividend. We're not sending cheques to dead people, putting pink batts in roofs and doing all those sorts of things that we recall were so unsuccessful in the global financial crisis response of a previous government that shall remain nameless. Instead, we're backing the private sector to make their own decisions and invest in those decisions. We're not telling them what to do or how to do it. We're just giving them the incentive to make the decisions that they have thought about but haven't yet had the confidence to go through with, and this has made a huge difference for them.
I saw it in black and white last week when the Treasurer and I went to just one business of the hundreds, if not thousands, in my electorate that are going to take up this opportunity. It's one of the great measures in the budget. It's going to provide enormous, front-loaded economic stimulus. But, as I said, the dividend from it will be constancy, because it's getting people to invest in assets that can grow their business, and that growth, and the benefit of that growth, will be enduring well into the future. So I commend the work of the Treasurer in this budget. I'm proud to be part of the Morrison government, the team that has delivered it. I'm very pleased in particular at the fact that businesses in my electorate and across the country are going to be able to use this budget as an opportunity to make decisions and lead us out of the economic challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 and other bills that accompany the budget just handed down, in support of the second reading amendment moved by my friend the shadow Treasurer, the member for Rankin. In my remarks, I'm going to focus particularly on the things that aren't in the budget but should have been, because that goes to the heart of what is wrong with this government: its failure to take responsibility for things that need to be at the core of the work of a national government at this point in time.
But, before I turn to these issues, I want to reflect on the circumstances back home in Melbourne's northern suburbs, where a number of my constituents are literally fighting the coronavirus right now. The hubris that was on display in question time yesterday from the Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs about their alleged role in this is something that I feel needs to be reflected upon. The Minister for Home Affairs is actually a member of this government whom I have some regard for, but I hope that she reflects on the contribution that she made in question time yesterday—firstly in, frankly, boasting about the success of the vaccination rollout at a time when there is so much anxiety in Melbourne's northern suburbs, as is shown by media reports today and reports I've had from constituents about people who have not yet been vaccinated and their connection to transmission. For her then to go on to accuse the Labor Party of undermining this effort is quite extraordinary, particularly as, just before she made this contribution, Senator Rennick, a member of the government, delivered a profoundly unhelpful message on Sky.
The government should take responsibility for the two fundamental jobs it had to get this country through the pandemic: to deal with the vaccination rollout and, of course, to look after quarantine. If we look at the vaccination rollout issues, we see a series of promises that have been broken from the get-go. We were to have been at the front of the queue. Of course, we weren't; we were pretty close to the back. What makes that even worse is that we have not, seemingly, taken advantage of the experiences we have seen overseas.
We are determined to do everything that we can to encourage every Australian to keep themselves and their communities safe. I urge everyone in the Scullin electorate, and in Melbourne more broadly, in particular to do everything that they can. If they're eligible, they should get vaccinated right away, and they should keep following public health advice, which people have been doing. I'm so proud of the efforts of the people I represent, particularly right now, when people are under strain. I'm so proud of the efforts of all Australians. But they deserve—we deserve—a government that's on our side right now.
When it comes to the vaccination rollout, we have seen failure after failure after failure. I urge government members: it's not too late to redouble your efforts. Think about the sort of positive messaging that we need to do. Let's think about the campaigns that have been rolled out in other countries which have been successful in combating hesitancy. Let's think about effectively targeting all the communities that make up modern multicultural Australia and harnessing their strengths to boost the uptake while, of course, we make every effort to boost the stock that will enable an effective rollout. The government must redouble their efforts. They've got to stop hiding from responsibility and take up their responsibility to keep us all safe, particularly the people I represent in this place, who deserve a little bit more respect than was shown yesterday in question time.
The other issue is, of course, quarantine. It continues to baffle me that our government won't take up its constitutional responsibility. The Prime Minister even now continues to hide behind the leaders of our states and territories. He can't continue to do so. This latest outbreak is evidence of exactly that—of why we need the appropriate facilities. I urge the governments to keep working with the states, who have been so constructive, as we in federal Labor have been, to make sure we all get through this.
It is time for the Prime Minister to step up and take responsibility. Quarantine is self-evidently a national responsibility. The consequences of not having assumed this responsibility are great. They are great today as people in Melbourne are dealing with a state of high anxiety. They are great today because so many Australians are separated from their loved ones. I refer in particular to those people in India right now who have been abandoned by this government, as have so many other strands Australians. Also, we need—and I suspect that in the government ranks there is some sympathy for this point of view—to find ways to safely open up to the world again, and the longer we delay national quarantine arrangements, the more challenging it will be. So I urge the government members here to think about assuming this most fundamental responsibility.
In terms of the appropriations that are contained within the budget, what they demonstrate is that this is a government of tactics and not strategy. It's a government that is resolutely focused on the political problems of today, not the challenges of building a more secure, more prosperous and more equal tomorrow. We see it when we look at some of the significant expenditure items contained in the budget—those that relate to aged care, to child care and quality early learning, and to mental health. In all three of these areas there is a response to a huge real issue. But when we look at aged care we're not seeing an adequate response to the royal commission recommendations. We're not seeing an adequate response to the devastation we've seen. I think about facilities like Epping Gardens, in my own electorate, or St Basil's, not in the Scullin electorate but a place that's so important to the Greek community in the northern suburbs. We need to do justice to what has happened and make sure that every ageing Australian is supported to continue to live their later years in dignity. But what we have seen is indignity upon indignity for vulnerable older Australians and contempt for the good people who work with them. This budget doesn't fix that problem. It applies a bandaid to a political issue, when what we need is fundamental structural reform—reform that does justice to our collective sense of what it means to be an Australian and the responsibility of a national government to look after older Australians and those we engage to look after them.
With child care, similarly, we see a fundamental distinction between the vision on our side of the House for a society that's fair and productive and a business-as-usual approach on the other. After the government denied there was a problem, the budget response acknowledges the problem but does not offer a solution. To compare the two approaches is to do a great injustice to the fantastic work of the shadow minister, the member for Kingston, and the entire Labor team, who are focused on building a society that is both equal and productive. We are focused on boosting employment participation, particularly amongst those with caring responsibilities, and recognising the extraordinary benefits of high-quality early learning for our children. We want to make sure that every Australian child has the benefit of the best start in life and that every Australian parent has the opportunity to participate, on their own terms, in the workforce and be a present parent with their children. It is beyond disappointing that this is not something that is recognised by members opposite, who, again, see a political problem to be fixed rather than an economic opportunity and a great social transformation to get on board with. I say to members opposite: it's not too late; you can join us on this.
In terms of mental health, similarly, I'll say that there are welcome investments here but they are incomplete. One thing the budget could have done was to acknowledge loneliness as a fundamental issue that we need to talk more about in our national politics, and I acknowledge that there is bipartisan interest in responding to this. Other governments, including the Conservative government in the UK, have done so. Throughout the pandemic we have seen an increase in the prevalence of loneliness amongst Australians and an increase in our understanding of how it damages individuals and our communities—the mental health impacts and the physical wellbeing impacts. There is a great cost to individuals through failing to acknowledge that loneliness is a crisis, and there is a cost to our society as well.
In terms of my portfolio responsibilities, this budget provides no answers to the questions Australians are asking. In his second reading speech introducing the budget, the Treasurer didn't say the word 'cities'. He didn't say the word 'suburbs' either. Yet these will be the engine rooms of our economic recovery, and they are, of course, the places where the vast majority of Australians live and work. We've seen revelations as to how our cities function and how they might continue to function through the experiences of lockdown restrictions. There is a huge challenge to get them moving again effectively and a huge challenge, which should be embraced by all sides of politics, to use the experience of last year and the opportunity we are presented with to build cities and suburbs that are more productive, that are more livable, that are more sustainable and, fundamentally, that are also more resilient to future shocks. This is a missed opportunity in the budget, to the cost of millions of Australians.
The previous speaker mentioned the Adelaide City Deal. In Labor, we have been very interested in city deals or city partnerships as the way to drive growth in our cities and make them more livable and sustainable too. What this budget shows, though, is a government that's walking away from city deals. It's a government that's walking away from a national urban policy; it's a government that's walking away from the vast majority of Australians who live and work in our cities and suburbs. Instead of this sort of framework, which has been embraced by some on the conservative side of politics, we are seeing a recourse to slush funds—slush fund after slush fund—in terms of the sort of approach that joins local and state governments with national government, community groups and the private sector in pursuit of shared objectives. This is a fundamental dividing line between the two sides of politics that needn't be. We should have a bipartisan focus on supporting genuine city partnerships, not squirrelling billions of dollars away in funds that, frankly, are there to be rorted.
We think about the Commuter Car Park Fund, in particular, and the Urban Congestion Fund. The Urban Congestion Fund pushed millions of dollars out the door in advertising long before a single project was underway. It is going to consume so much of the work of the Auditor-General, instead of dealing with real issues in our communities, fundamental issues that affected the quality of individuals' lives and that should be addressing the biggest handbrake on productivity growth in Australia right now, which is congestion. But, instead, it's always cheap politics. In the rush towards the last election so many projects were announced that were never going to be built, including in my electorate, but right around Melbourne, in particular—projects that the government are now walking away from because they were just shameless bids for votes.
I also want to touch on how this budget sees multicultural affairs. The short answer is that the government are carrying on as they have been. Throughout the pandemic we were unusual—indeed, almost unique amongst OECD nations—in how we treated people who were trapped here. International students were told to go home, and people on temporary visas were denied any support. A decent society constructs a safety net that catches everyone. We learnt during the pandemic how leaving people to fend for themselves isn't just morally bad and isn't just bad for them; it impacts the whole society if it forces people to engage in dangerous work in the midst of a global pandemic. The government have doubled down on this, because the only big saving in the budget is the forecast saving of more than $600 million in terms of extending the waiting period for newly arrived migrants.
Lastly, I will turn to one thing that's missing in the budget, and I reflect on this particularly. We have a reckoning going on about gender and a reckoning about race that we will respond to on this side of the House. We will take seriously the recommendations of the Respect@Work report and commit to them in full, as Anthony Albanese did. We will take racism seriously and respond to the movement of change that is Black Lives Matter. Today, on Sorry Day, I say this again: we are the only party committed to implementing, in full, the generous offer that's the Statement from the Heart, as we must.
When a local community wants a new footpath, improvements to their local park, a road upgrade or improvements to local sporting facilities, they'll most likely to turn to their local council. But last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and jobs were at risk, it was clear that the federal government needed to play our part to keep people in those jobs. One of the ways we did this was through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, announced last May. This program supports local councils to deliver priority local projects across Australia, including in my electorate of Longman. Not only does this fantastic program support jobs and help local economies weather the pandemic; it ensures that towns like Caboolture, Dakabin, Burpengary and Beachmere get local improvements that make them better places in which to live.
The great thing about this program is that there's no politics involved. It's just two levels of government—the council and the federal government—working together to get stuff done in the community. Due to its success and the clear benefits it has for local communities, the program has since been expanded not once, but twice, bringing the total investment across Australia to $2.5 billion. That $2.5 billion investment is the federal government saying, 'Yes, we understand the importance of grassroots improvements like new footpaths or roads and park upgrades to local people.' New playground equipment at the local park might not sound as impressive as a billion dollar highway upgrade or a new inland rail service, but, for the parents who bring their kids to the park on the weekend to spend some time with family outdoors, it's just as important.
In the first phase of the program, Moreton Bay Regional Council received $1.66 million to help fund four projects in Longman. A further 12 projects were funded in phase 2 of the program, with a federal government investment of around $5.3 million. Longman will also receive a share of $10 million allocated to Moreton Bay Regional Council in phase 3 of the program. Two of the four projects announced in phase 1 have already been completed, including a 3½-kilometre concrete footpath along Bigmor Drive at Elimbah, between Pumicestone and Mansfield roads. Mums and dads with prams and people with mobility issues will now find it easy to get to shops and parks, thanks to this new footpath. It also provides safe pedestrian access to the massive new commercial development next to the iconic Big Fish Tavern, anchored by a new Bunnings Warehouse, which, by the way, will employ hundreds of locals.
Central Lakes Park in Caboolture near Summerfields Drive received a big overhaul, with new playground equipment, barbecue facilities and landscaping. This was a project that locals had been asking for for around five years, and I was delighted to help the council get this one over the line. Not long after the work on this upgrade was completed, I attended a Neighbourhood Watch event at the park, and it was great to see so many locals out there enjoying the new facilities. Ultimately, that's what this investment is all about—making things better for locals and supporting local jobs during construction.
The two other projects from the first phase are well underway and should be completed within weeks. These include a new fauna crossing at Wamuran to help keep our local wildlife safer near the roads, and new LED sports field lighting at Bob Brock Park in Dakabin. These new lights will enable local sporting clubs, including my old soccer club, the mighty North Pine Gorillas, to train across all the fields at the park after dark. It will particularly make a big difference to the junior football teams, who now have a lot more room to train rather than being crammed into a small space. While these phase 1 projects are nearing completion, this week we are announcing the list of projects to receive funding under phase 2.
The $1 billion phase 2 extension of the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program was announced as part of the 2020-21 budget. We will provide Moreton Bay Regional Council with around $5.3 million for 12 fantastic projects in Longman that will again support local jobs and improve local communities. Perhaps the biggest project on the list is an overhaul of the Petersen Road sporting complex at Morayfield. We are contributing $1.5 million towards this $4 million project, which will help it get done much sooner than would otherwise be possible. This is a project I have been fighting to get funding for since last August, and I'm really pleased to see it get some love under this program. It will involve demolishing the old clubhouse and constructing a new clubhouse that will be shared by the more than 1,650 members of the Caboolture Rugby Union Club and the Caboolture Touch Association. The new building will also have offices, a kitchen and tiered seating for spectators.
This project has been in planning for some time, and I'm delighted that the federal government has been able to pitch in for this project through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. Other phase-2 projects include three new footpaths—one on Bribie Island Road at Ningi, another at Elkhorn Avenue at Bellara and a third on the D'Aguilar Highway between Scotts Lane and Mount Mee Road. The latter project, in particular, is much needed in that area and will ensure pedestrians, including schoolchildren, can get to where they're going much more safely. All three projects will improve pedestrian access for parents with prams or people with mobility issues.
Funding will also go towards the installation of a new playground at the Aird Street park, Sandstone Point, making this great little local park more enjoyable for local families. Carramar park in Dakabin will get $200,000 towards a new playground, barbecue facilities, pathways and landscaping. Nearby, in Alma Road, we are helping fund a new pedestrian refuge near the Woolworths development so locals can safely cross Alma Road, which can get really busy during peak times. We are also helping to fund netball courts at the Burpengary sports complex and a basketball court at Cash Street in D'Aguilar. The skate park at Sheep Station Creek in Morayfield will also be upgraded from a district facility to a major skate facility. The federal government is chipping in $1 million for this project—and I won't be getting involved on the skateboard for fear of breaking my neck! Once completed, it will be a great place for local kids, encouraging them to get outdoors with their scooters and skateboards and keep active. Finally, we are funding 50 per cent of a streetscape upgrade for Biggs Avenue in Beachmere and $400,000 towards improved pedestrian and cyclist access along Station Road in Burpengary. These projects will be of big benefit for local residents in Longman who live near or use these facilities and infrastructure.
I was also pleased to learn that, as part of the recently announced 2021-22 budget, Longman will share in another $10 million under the next phase of this program, which will be delivered to Moreton Bay council at the start of next year. The Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program is already delivering for locals and their communities, and it will continue delivering for sometime yet. So far it has delivered funding for 16 important local projects in my electorate, two of which have already been completed and two of which will be completed shortly. Work on the further 12 projects from phase 2 of the program will get underway between now and the end of the year, when funding for phase 3 of the program will become available to the council. This program and others, like those in the federal government's Stronger Communities Program or the Powering Communities Program, support real, grassroots, local projects. They deliver the improvements that our communities ask for, and that's what my job is all about—getting local projects delivered for the people of Longman.
Helping get people who want to work into a job is one of the most important roles of any Australian government. Our government doesn't just talk about getting people into work; we put in place the policies that help employers to thrive. When businesses are flourishing, they are more likely to invest in their businesses, create new job opportunities and employ new people. I'm aware that, in my electorate of Longman and in many other towns and cities around the country, employers are struggling to find staff who are willing and qualified to fill the roles they have available. Therefore, the Morrison government, in the 2021-22 budget, has allocated $6.4 billion to help people learn the skills that employers require to fill these positions. We are delivering more apprenticeships, building on successive reforms, investing in skills and providing further investment in free or low-fee training places.
Almost half of this $6.4 billion investment will go towards extending the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements program. This demand driven program is expected to support more than 170,000 new apprentices and trainees across the country. In Longman there are already around 1,300 apprentices and trainees working across a whole range of different roles, from carpentry to boilermaking and cooking to administration. This program works by paying businesses a 50 per cent wage subsidy over 12 months for new apprentices and trainees signed up by 31 March 2022. The subsidy is capped at $7,000 per quarter per apprentice and will lead to even more opportunities for young people—or even older people—who are looking to get into the workforce or embark on a different career. The extension of this program will deliver on our commitment to the building of a pipeline of skilled workers by further supporting growing businesses to take on new apprentices and trainees. This government is also delivering pathway services for 5,000 women to take on a non-traditional apprenticeship. On top of this program, we are committing a further $500 million to be matched by the state and territory governments to expand the JobTrainer fund by 163,000 places. We are also extending this program until the end of 2022. JobTrainer will support hundreds of local jobseekers, school leavers and young people by providing access to free or low-fee training places in areas of skills shortages. This could be training in digital skills or upskilling in critical industries like aged care. An extended and expanded JobTrainer fund will support new training places in Longman to provide jobseekers and young people with the skills they need to fill the job vacancies across Longman. JobTrainer is also delivering an additional 33,800 training places so that care workers can improve their qualifications.
Getting people into a job is such an important step towards making Longman a better place in which to live. There are also around 64,800 people in Longman who will enjoy tax relief this year, which reinforces one of our core beliefs in allowing people to keep more of what they earn. The coalition understands that money in the people's hands is far better than in any government's hands. I'm proud to be part of a government that manages the economy in a manner that gives us the ability to invest in the people in my community of Longman and the entire Australian population.
I rise to make my contribution to the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 and related bills. If the past year has shown us anything, it's that Australians need a secure job, functional and efficient government services and investment in future technologies. Even with the advantage of hindsight, this government still got it wrong. Another missed opportunity will leave millions of Australians behind. After eight years of cutting government services and wages, this government has handed down a budget that has no plan that extends past the next year. With $1 trillion in debt, the government has no plan to tackle the jobs crisis, build for the future or help struggling families and small businesses.
What those opposite do have is a plan for the next election. It is the same continuing regressive government that will leave Australia on the edge of the global stage and leave Australians, especially our younger generation, worse off. You don't have to look far to see who this government is trying to make better off. Among listed businesses, one-fifth of JobKeeper went to companies whose profits were rising. In numbers, that's $15 billion to $20 billion of taxpayers' money which was intended to go to struggling businesses that instead became corporate welfare—$1,000 of corporate welfare for every Australian adult. Taxpayer money is not Liberal Party money.
This mishandling of funds for government services continues with the government's updated aged-care policy. The policy ignores several recommendations of the royal commission. It is an announcement with no delivery. The aged-care sector has been in dire need of support for years and, in eight years, this government has done nothing, even though it has had 22 different reports. With the royal commission confirming this, indeed, is an archive of shocking stories due to government neglect, the government chose to disregard the recommendations and leave the sector pleading. We know how much the system is failing. Services such as home-care packages just aren't available for people in certain areas. The government can announce home-care packages, but they don't seem to be able to ensure they're delivered. Every week in my electorate office, I get inquiries from those who are approved for My Aged Care packages but who are still waiting for funding. Worse still, if they are successful and the funding is available, there are no services for them to access. If you need the lawn mowed or some help with light housework or shopping, the waitlists in my part of the country are so long that they're not even adding names to them. It shows a system in crisis.
It's time that we accept a higher standard for our older Australians. We need structural change. Aged care needs to be managed, rather than allowing private companies to profit off the sector. It's clear from the royal commission's finding that this is not an area we can simply let the market decide. The stories of neglect, malnutrition and other horrors from our aged-care facilities must be addressed urgently and properly. The government has had eight years and 22 reports to provide the support and changes that the sector desperately needs. Those families and individuals deserve this now. The budget will not remove the My Aged Care waiting list. It does not address staff shortages or train staff that are needed to provide support.
Along with senior Australians being actively short-changed by the government, people with a disability are also feeling the weight of deliberate inaction. Established under a Labor government, the NDIS aimed to allow Australians with a disability to fulfil their potential and fairly choose what they want their lives to be. However, under successive coalition governments this important system has been undermined and mismanaged. This government in particular has spent the past two years dismantling the NDIS to cut costs at the expense of what should be the best disability scheme in the world.
Recent reports have revealed that the government rewrote an independent review of the NDIS recommending compulsory independent assessments for participants. This in turn was used by the government as an excuse to justify cuts in services. The review included so-called evidence from the assessment that involved only 35 people living with a disability. It is a disservice to all those living with a disability and the workers and carers and families in this sector. Even more reports have surfaced that expose the new minister's plans for the NDIS razor gang. Leaked government documents have outlined guidelines for all frontline staff to hold back from people utilising the scheme.
I've spoken to many who utilise the NDIS—both providers and participants or their families—who are frustrated by the time it takes for reviews and the potential disturbance and changes to packages that they fear will adversely affect their loved ones. They want to do the best for the people they care for and they are concerned by the uncertainty. I've had people in my office end up in tears. They should not have to come to me because they are so stressed and distressed about what is happening to their loved ones and what the future may bring.
The NDIS, done properly, can change the lives of the people that it supports. The party of great economic managers yet again does not seem to be able to manage those funds correctly. This time it is over 430 vulnerable Australians who are paying the price—all of this following the $4.6 billion cuts to the NDIS in the 2019 budget. The government is willingly abandoning people living with a disability, the carers that support them and the workforce underpinning the sector. Disability groups across the country have expressed their disappointment with the findings, along with several state and territory ministers, and I stand with them and the people that they care for.
The centrepiece of the jobs policy, the JobMaker hiring credit, promised 450,000 jobs to reinvigorate the Australian economy. Unfortunately, it only delivered 1,000 jobs. Over 90,000 jobs have been lost in Australia since the coalition has been in government, and 140,000 fewer people are doing apprenticeships and traineeships than when the coalition took power. These numbers are expected to grow, especially in south-western Sydney, where they are determined to cut staff and services, leaving teachers overworked and underpaid and students undertrained. The coalition even dared manufacturers to leave the country, so they did. Australia is suffering and will continue to suffer those consequences—consequences such as being last in the OECD when it comes to manufacturing self-sufficiency.
More urgently, vaccinating the population and ensuring safe quarantine are the two necessities in opening our economy and truly entering a post-COVID world, and this government fails to deliver on both of them. The Morrison government promised four million people would be vaccinated by the end of March. We're now nearing the end of May and we still haven't reached that target. The failure to secure more than two vaccine deals has been part of that. The government failed to get vaccines to GPs, creating confusion about the rollout going forward. The failure continues into quarantine. Quarantine is a federal responsibility. While the states have been doing a good job, it is up to the federal government to show leadership and make sure that it is done properly. Labor has consistently called on the government to implement a national quarantine strategy for the safety of returning citizens. Over time, the government has failed to meet its own targets and deadlines during this pandemic.
The former head of the Department of Health, Jane Halton, briefed the Prime Minister three times last year, suggesting national quarantine facilities would be beneficial for emergency situations, yet the government left quarantine to the states. This budget was a perfect opportunity to create such a system; however, again, it hasn't happened. Even in my own electorate the lack of adequate health services is evident. The government is unfairly delivering a second-rate service in Sydney. Liverpool Hospital does not have equitable access to funds. It also has a greater-than-average challenge in its efforts to meet the health care of the community, significantly diminishing Australians' quality of care and quality of life in the electorate.
The overall problem is a lack of funding—funding for services and funding for infrastructure. Recent reports have highlighted the need for alternative routes to the future aerotropolis rather than the metro link through the St Marys corridor. The St Marys rail line has been the subject of criticism, as the reports show the project's costs will far outweigh its benefit. I've urged the government for several years to build the railway in south-west Sydney so it will link Liverpool, Campbelltown and Kingsford Smith Airport to the new Western Sydney airport. A land corridor is already preserved for the project and would easily and quickly connect the airport to south-west Sydney, where the people who will be working at the airport actually live. But, instead of sustainable solutions, the government and their state counterparts can't see past short-term political benefits, so, they haven't done it. It's a disturbing trend in south-west Sydney.
Austral is a suburb in the south-west growth area. Once a semirural community on Sydney's fringes, urban sprawl has inevitably caught up with Austral. What hasn't caught up are the amenities to support it. First there are public schools. Public schools are over capacity, and that is already an ongoing issue over most of New South Wales. But two schools in my electorate are more than 200 students over capacity and three further schools are more than 300 students over their capacity. A school will in the next year be building demountables on the small bit of playing surface that they have left. In the coming year, Austral will see the construction up to 17,000 new dwellings, putting the population on par with Wagga Wagga and Albury, both of which have their fair share of amenities—and rightly so. Suburbs such as Austral also deserve their fair share.
What those opposite seem not to understand or seem to disregard is that good government changes lives. Policies and decisions of good government can make all the difference. They build a strong economy and a fair society. They open the door to education, employment, good housing, proper healthcare and, more importantly, a better life for everyone. That's why Labor is committed to investing $10 billion into social and affordable housing now and into the future. The Housing Australia Future Fund will build 30,000 social and affordable houses, including 4,000 for women and children escaping domestic violence, in the first five years.
Labor is committed to investing in apprenticeships and encouraging apprentices to train for the new energy jobs of the future. Where there are incentives, there's Australian ingenuity and jobs. Australians need a government that invests in them and one that believes in its services and that it should be leading. Labor is committed to protecting Australian workers from exploitation by consulting with states and territories, unions and employers to develop laws that criminalise wage theft nationwide and end worker exploitation. We are also committed to investing in our young Australians to drive a new generation of innovators, creating sustainable and good-quality jobs for the future.
Building social and affordable housing, investing in skills and training, protecting Australian workers from exploitation, strengthening laws to prevent sexual harassment at work and investing in young Australians will strengthen our recovery and create a better Australia. These are the policies that back every Australian. Even though the recession could have been worse, it matters that the recovery could be much better. Australians deserve a good government that works for them to deliver secure jobs, has functional and efficient government services and invests in future technologies. They need a government on their side.
I am not supportive of the amendments, but I am supportive of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022. The last 12 months, it must be said, have been among the most testing periods, outside of war, since the Great Depression. By comparison, the GFC, the global financial crisis, shrank the world economy by 0.1 per cent, and the world economy lost 3.4 per cent in 2020 alone. And let me tell you that the damage is not over yet, because the COVID virus is raging across the world.
We should be enormously proud here in Australia of the collective performance in combating the COVID virus—of our businesses and our workers, including healthcare and aged-care workers and volunteers. I think most Australians, are admiring, if not proud, of the job the Australian government has done. It has fought on every front to protect Australians. Our economic success is all but unparalleled around the world, and that has been built on the foundations of our success in containing the virus—keeping the virus out of Australia and getting it under control when it breaks out. Really instrumental in our ability to do that, I think, was the recognition by the federal government, three weeks in front of the WHO, that we were dealing with an international pandemic and that we should shut down Australian borders while we worked out how we deal with it.
Things have changed throughout the last 12 months. There have been constantly changing circumstances, if you like, and predictions are only sometimes useful. What I think has been really useful is the establishment of the national cabinet and the government's ability, combined with the states, to change the way we're dealing with the pandemic on a weekly basis as the pandemic has changed. That's what you would expect good governments to do, and this has brought into place a structure that we have not had previously, where the state and federal leaders are meeting on a regular basis. I think that has been very important.
The government recognised early the importance of, and possible problems with, international supply lines on essential articles, particularly in the medical field with personal protective equipment and ventilators, and it supported the ability to manufacture our own vaccines. All this was recognised early and acted upon. That led to us establishing a capacity in Australia to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine. It would be fair to say that there have been a few glitches with AstraZeneca. Certainly there are microscopic, or very low, chances of actually causing any illness or damage to most people, and I must say that I've had my shot and come through it very well. I had a small sore spot on my shoulder for a few days, and that's about it.
No, I've had both. But imagine if, in Australia, we had a crisis like the one in India, where close to 4,500 are dying daily; in Brazil, where 900 are succumbing; or in Russia, with 360. Italy, which was the first hotspot outside China—so they've been in it right from the start—is still losing 70 people a day. The US is still losing 230 a day and Japan is losing 100. Some estimates suggest that perhaps only 30 per cent of the deaths associated with COVID-19 worldwide have been reported. It's a pandemic up there with the worst in human history. It's not yet as bad as the Spanish flu, for instance, but it's not over yet, as we can see. I urge my constituents to switch on SBS television every now and then and have a look at how this battle is going overseas. In comparison, Australia has not had a COVID death since November 2020. It's an absolutely astonishing performance.
It is on that health dividend that we've been able to build a financial and employment miracle here in Australia, a miracle that nobody predicted—not Treasury, not the Reserve Bank, not the OECD and not the IMF. The bounce-back in the Australian economy has been extraordinary. The management of the health risk has allowed for some of the smartest government expenditure we have ever witnessed in our lives. The GDP shrunk by 0.3 per cent in the March quarter, then seven per cent in the June quarter, which was originally predicted by some to be as much as a 10 to 20 per cent reduction, but the government acted quickly. The centrepiece of their actions has been the JobKeeper package which assisted businesses to keep workers on their payrolls and associated with their businesses. Workers kept getting paid even if there was no work. It was absolutely revolutionary but it worked. So 3.8 million workers were kept in place. More than a million businesses accessed the assistance.
Special packages were designed for child care, the aviation industry, the tourism industry, cinemas. Payments were made to pensioners—two lots of $750 and then another two lots of $250. Jobseekers were given solid support through the supplement and relieved of their mutual obligations for a while. Eventually the supplement expired and their base rate was raised permanently. Stimulus was provided through the HomeBuilder package. Cashflow boost payments were provided to businesses. Lessors and renters were protected. Banks provided interest holidays. Tax relief and an ability to clawback taxes previously paid were put in place. The federal government has been on everyone's side and guess what? It has worked. It has worked a treat.
We've had two quarters now, September and December, which have provided GDP growth of greater than three per cent. It has never happened before. In early June the March quarter figures are due and businesses in Australia are betting they're good. I am also of that opinion. Almost certainly the economy will be larger than it was in January 2020, prior to COVID-19, and certainly the unemployment figures are good. Early Treasury forecasts suggested that we could have an unemployment rate as high as 15 per cent. In the first two months of the pandemic 1.3 million Australians had been stood down or lost their jobs. Following the government's actions unemployment eventually peaked at 7.4 per cent and is now down to 5.5 per cent. As I said, nobody predicted an outcome that good. Given the extraordinary claims made by the opposition of impending doom, with the expiry of the twice extended JobKeeper, last month's unemployment figures of 5.7 down to 5.5 per cent are extraordinary. The opposition, and I said this in the chamber once before, have proved to be more Cassandra than Nostradamus. Seriously, they must feel silly. It should teach the members of the opposition to read something besides the Guardian and the Labor Party talking points.
In Grey we have seen unprecedented support. I can't tell you how proud I am to be a representative of our government in Grey—
A division having been called in the House of Representatives
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There's been unprecedented support of Grey, particularly but not only for roads. The Augusta Highway duplication project is to receive an extra $148 million from this year's budget to accompany the $64 million already in the pipeline and pledged from the time of the last election. This won't do the whole project—it's 200 kilometres long—but it will certainly go a substantial way and will allow for the planning to do the work between Crystal Brook and Port Pirie on the same duplication project. A total of $212 million now will be enhanced by a 20 per cent contribution from the state. I'm very pleased to be able to announce an extra $64 million for the sealing of the Strzelecki Track, which brings the commitment from the federal government to $164 million. I expect that, with the state contribution, this will go very close to completing those works. That's another very important project not just for Grey but for the whole of South Australia.
There is a further $12 million allocated for the upgrades of the main APY Lands access roads. That should bring that project close to fruition as well. There's another $5 million for extra works on Eyre Highway, and there's already over $100 million in works taking place there at the moment. There's $5 million to do a study of a bypass of Greater Adelaide. Adelaide is not in my electorate—one of the few places that seems not to be!—but I would expect that bypass to come through the southern portion of Grey on the Adelaide Plains. So there is $1 billion for roads, either under construction or in the pipeline, in Grey at the moment. There are substantial upgrades to the Eyre, Stuart, Todd, Horrocks, Barrier, Augusta and Spencer highways. They are all having significant work done on them, and they are by no means an exhaustive list of the works being undertaken in Grey. I've never in my lifetime seen this kind of federal contribution to a seat like Grey, and it is greatly appreciated.
Councils didn't miss out either. There's a continuation of the special local road component for South Australian councils. It is a fund that has been in place most of the time since 2002—it lapsed for a couple of years. It recognises a flaw in the formula that divides the financial assistance grants for councils when they apply for local roads, so I was very pleased, along with the member for Barker, to lobby for and achieve that outcome. There's another $250 million for another round of the Building Better Regions Fund. This fund has been an absolute star in the electorate of Grey and, I think it would be fair to say, right across regional Australia. We've seen some great projects get off the ground, things that could never have been done without the support of the federal government. There are a couple underway at the moment, and another round will be announced soon. I think it's gratifying for those of us who represent regional Australia to see that that fund is being continued.
Already in Grey we've had 564 apprentices start under the Boosting Apprenticeship Commencements scheme. That's good news, and it's particularly good news that the scheme is being expanded by another 70 per cent. I'm expecting another 300 or 400 apprentices to get a start in Grey, and certainly we could do with those skills. There's another $84 million to the Regional Connectivity Program, which recently announced the first round of funding in the electorate of Grey. There was a fantastic upgrade of the link between Hawker and Leigh Creek. The upgrade of that link will allow Telstra to provide more mobile phone services in areas that have been too difficult to service before. And there's an upgrade for the Wudinna township. It's somewhere that I always thought should have been on either a wireless network or fibre to the node, but it has been serviced by satellite because of backhaul difficulties that existed around the township, or its location.
In general terms, Grey, like every other electorate, will benefit from the $17 billion boost in aged care, a response to the findings of the royal commission. That is an enormous boost, but it should be noted that real growth in aged-care funding has increased by 50 per cent—from $14.2 billion to $24.3 billion—between the time we came to government, in 2013, and the current year. Those who want to throw stones should contemplate that figure. In that period of time the increase in the population of those aged over 65 was 23 per cent. So there has been a very real increase in the amount of money going on aged care, but there's more to do, and we accept that. Home-care packages have almost doubled in the time we've been in government, and there are more to come. As demand grows, we have responded. We've taken the steps, year after year after year, to increase the in-home aged-care packages and support the residential aged-care sector, and this budget takes us to unprecedented levels.
There is a $1.7 billion package to support women's health and wellbeing, to provide more assistance to women fleeing domestic violence and to provide a pathway for women to increase their superannuation savings. Women in Grey, like those everywhere else, will benefit from that package.
There is another $1.7 billion going to the childcare sector, reducing pressure on families and bringing more women back into the tightening labour market. This is a very important point. With no immigrants coming into Australia at the moment, we are going to have to mobilise our entire workforce to meet the demands of our economy in the near term, so women are desperately needed.
The NDIS has received significantly more funding, and there is very significant extra support for mental health, including extra headspace units. I already have a number of headspace units in my electorate—it's geographically vast—and I will certainly be working to ensure one of these is situated at Port Pirie, which is more than a hundred kilometres from any other service of that type. Around 14,000 or 15,000 people live in that area, and I think it will be ideal. I hope we can land it.
There are, of course, the tax cuts—the further extension of the accelerated tax write-offs—which are stimulating more jobs and building a bigger economy. By and large, my electorate has welcomed this budget. I'm struggling to remember a negative call, it must be said, Mr Deputy Speaker. I congratulate the government. I'm certainly looking forward to getting on with the job.
The Labor Party won't be opposing the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 and the related bills, but we do wish to highlight areas where this budget does not meet our national need or that of my electorate of Bean. I know the Prime Minister recently quoted from Talking Heads, in a moment almost as weird as the former prime minister John Howard professing a love for Bob Dylan—the music, not the lyrics. This government really is the Phil Collins of governments; it has an invisible touch. It doesn't hold a hose, it doesn't hold a syringe and it can't build quarantine facilities. It can let close to $100 billion walk out the door in this budget without addressing systemic issues with aged care and early childhood education. It's best work, like JobKeeper, is cover versions with a limited shelf life.
It is a budget that is part political fix—covering up the cracks of eight years of neglect and eight years of cuts, and designed to get this tired government to an election. It is part missed opportunity, with $100 billion spent with little reform, little wage growth or productivity growth to go with it and no vision or plan to drive such productivity. And it's part generational irresponsibility—loading up future generations with a debt burden that doesn't transform our energy network, build our national infrastructure, invest in our universities and world-leading research, or drive investment in climate action and well-paid skilled jobs. And it's part wrong priorities—a lack of priority towards addressing affordable housing, long-term underemployment, and job uncertainty, and even the most basic requirement to invest in our national culture and technology institutions. We weren't left with a plan or a vision to build a better Bean community or, indeed, to build a more prosperous nation. We were left with an invisible touch.
Indeed, the government itself seems reluctant—even embarrassed—to get out there and sell this budget. It's like they know already to disbelieve the litany of announcements after the experience of JobMaker last year. They even forgot to rattle their jewellery on budget night. You could feel the disbelief coming in the air that night and it was clearly not a moment that they had been waiting for all their life. Perhaps I'm a touch harsh. I promise not to quote from 'Sussudio'. Sure, there have been a couple of valid and genuine attempts to sell these bills in the chamber but none have dealt with that fairytale on wages growth that the government has been running in their budget predictions now for the last eight years. Year after year, the budget predictions on wages growth have been wrong and never in the favour of workers and working families. This budget makes it pretty clear that Australians won't be expecting wages growth; in fact, they'll be going backwards over the forward estimates while the cost of living increases. Those in Bean have had little to no increase in take-home pay now for a long time. Indeed, over eight long years of coalition rule, real wages have grown at less than one per cent per year. We shouldn't be surprised by this, as former finance minister Mathias Cormann admitted in 2019 that low wages growth is a design feature of coalition economic policy, and it is clear that this remains the case. None of the funding for aged care or child care is linked to the provision of ongoing higher-pay outcomes for the low-paid workers across these critical sectors or addressing the workforce gaps. There are limited retention payments to a small part of the aged-care workforce, but that doesn't substitute for appropriate pay increases across the sector.
Where the government could lead by example with their own workforce, the outcomes have been consistently low across government service. Those in the Public Service know this all too well. We have seen protracted bargaining, little progress on real wage growth and a focus on the big four consultancies and labour hire firms over the in-house policy and program capability of the Public Service. The budget papers themselves 'bell the cat' on wage growth. For what they're worth, the major economic parameters say that, for the 2020-21 financial year, the consumer price index will be up 3.5 per cent while, comparatively, the wage price index will rise by a mere 1.25 per cent. That's a wage cut for many workers across our economy, and this trend is set to continue until the lofty distant period of 2024-25, when we might finally see wage growth at a mere 0.5 per cent larger than CPI.
However, if we cast our mind back to the Treasurer's opening line of the 2019 budget, words that aged like the finest home brand milk, 'The economy is back in the black,' we find how reliable this government is with economic projections and estimates. The reality is that you can't trust the government on wages. They are the most underwhelming of barbecues, all sizzle and no sausage. If the government wanted to do something for wages, we would have seen initiatives across the board.
Where could they have started? They could have started with our own staff. Unfortunately, that is a group that knows firsthand the reality of a policy to limit wage growth and provide conditions that improve work culture—or try to. Bargaining representatives have worked in good faith to attempt to deliver a fair enterprise agreement for our staff over the last 18 months. Following the defeat of the government's last agreement offer, the first 'no' vote since 2003, delegates on all sides returned to the bargaining table to try and find a way forward. They gave clear advice back to the government on what the sticking points were, but, unsurprisingly, the government took little notice of that feedback and put up an enterprise agreement that has few significant changes from what was offered in December. Indeed, it's likely to have a lower wage outcome.
Too many government members praise their staff to camera, yet won't support a better deal on wages and conditions. The government's offer to be voted on next week is pretty much the same meal ticket, with a couple of peas on the side. In a clear indictment of the government's proposed EA, there were few employee representatives from the bargaining committee that were willing for the new offer to even go to a vote. If any member of this chamber takes the time to read what has been put to staff, they will see that it fails to offer a salary adjustment to all staff in years 1, 2 or 3 that, according to forecasts, keeps up with inflation. And it fails to provide any certainty about what their remuneration will be in years 2 and 3. It puts no floor in a floating wage price index.
Our staff aren't asking for significant pay increases but rather for a basic floor in their salary and a wage that roughly keeps pace with inflation and recognises their exceptional skill set. Yet this is how the government leads by example as an employer. When a government nickels and dimes their own workforce, you know what they want to do with the broader workforce. I add my voice and call on other MPs to join me in stating that our staff, regardless of their side of politics, deserve better.
More broadly, if we are interested in lifting wages, we need to also extract greater value from our existing resources, particularly our most valuable resource—our people—and to recognise these efforts through relevant support in wage cases and agreements. Labor's plan for high productivity starts with skills training. Rather than relying on recruiting overseas, we should boost the training and higher education sector, with TAFE and our universities at its centre, to accredit more Australians for jobs that will provide security and long-term careers. And we must start the repair job across our higher education sector.
At least 17,000 jobs at universities have been lost because of the decision to prevent universities getting JobKeeper and not provide appropriate support, despite the catastrophic consequence of COVID for revenue from international education. Hundreds of jobs have been lost in our region alone. We're talking about world-leading researchers, lecturers and tutors who've lost their jobs, but also many other workers—admin staff, maintenance staff, everyone who keeps a university up and running, and the small businesses that are part of the economic ecology of a healthy university campus. They've all got families and bills to pay. Those issues are set to continue as international student revenue continues to dry up and support from the government falls by a further 10 per cent in the next few years. Because of the government's decisions, universities have been forced to abolish and merge courses and cut faculties across the country in areas such as neuroscience, engineering, maths and Asian languages—areas that will be essential to Australia in coming years and decades. And there is no clear plan for this workforce beyond university, despite the critical role they are capable of playing.
Instead of building back better from COVID-19, this budget is leaving us without the skills and research we need to drive growth and productivity and to prepare for the jobs of the future. We know that universities and skills investment drive economic growth. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, international education was Australia’s fourth largest export industry, contributing almost $38 billion in export earnings to the economy every year and supporting over a quarter of a million jobs across the Australian economy. In the ACT, this is worth more than $1 billion alone. Every dollar invested in higher education research and development is linked to a $5 return to GDP. Every dollar invested in university, teaching and scholarships by government contributes $3 of additional taxation revenue.
In the 2020 budget, the government provided $1 billion to partly cover the impact of falling international student revenue. But, this year, the government cut that funding despite the fact that a consequence of the federal government mismanagement of the vaccine rollout and quarantine means we still have no idea when international students will be able to safely return. They cut that funding. Indeed, the international student model may now be broken. Emergency funding to support research also ended after a year while the universities are still clearly in the grips of crisis.
Another area of missed opportunity in the budget was child care. Not only was the opportunity to fundamentally and permanently reform child care missed but the approach to only provide increased subsidies for families with more than one child in the system has created confusion for families as to whether the reforms will leave them better off at all. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Australian families will miss out.
By contrast, Labor's plan would help more than 90 per cent of families in this country as well as provide support for out-of-school-hours care and vacation care, areas that won't benefit from the Morrison government's changes. Our plan doesn't wait until you have a second or third child in care for you to get any benefit. Unlike the government's policy, our plan helps every child get more support and access to early education. We note that we need structural reform to help people get into the workforce, and we know that we need children to access quality early education. Both measures drive participation, productivity and long-term national prosperity.
Unsurprisingly the government did not address housing affordability or homelessness in any meaningful way. Instead, they have introduced further measures that will push housing prices higher. Housing affordability and access to social housing are twin policy challenges here in the ACT, and leadership on this policy area is needed. Labor's policy will also create jobs and, at its core, transform lives. Across the nation, this initiative will build homes for women and children fleeing domestic and family violence and older women on low incomes who are at risk of homelessness. It will also provide accommodation for veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness. We know that one in 10 homeless Australians are veterans. Importantly, we'll provide much needed funding for the repair, maintenance and improvement of housing in remote Indigenous communities. As Denita Wawn, the CEO of Master Builders Australia, said:
Last year when the country was in the grip of the pandemic and the economy was locked down, Master Builders in conjunction with the CFMEU, called for a $10 billion social housing stimulus fund …
The Opposition Leader and the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness have listened. We applaud the Opposition's $10 billion social and affordable housing fund.
I should note that the budget does have some limited infrastructure spending in Canberra, most of it being reheated announcements. But, again, this government won't properly invest in institutions like the National Archives of Australia, despite numerous government reviews. Indeed, the National Archives of Australia is being forced into crowdfunding to do its essential work.
We're not going to hold up this appropriations bill, but we should see it not just in light of the holes in the budget that was handed down two weeks ago but in the context of those eight years of missed opportunities, mismanagement and political fixes and the failures in this last 18 months on quarantine and now the vaccination rollout. It's enough of the invisible touch.
I came to Australia when I was just a young, bright-eyed student. I had hopes and dreams, but, beyond that, I didn't have much else. Over time, I built up a family, a career, and a fulfilling life. For me, this encapsulates the Australian dream—the idea that hard work yields results.
I know that so many Australians are hardworking people. I've worked alongside countless men and women who have toiled away so that they can reach their dreams too. The desire is there, but it's important that the jobs are there to match. High unemployment is a wicked trap that Australia, like the rest of the world, needs to take care not to fall into. In the wake of the pandemic, it's imperative that our government ensures that Australia's employment market is full of opportunities for those who work hard.
The latest budget makes serious tracks towards investing in the jobs of today and the jobs of tomorrow. This budget recognises this importance of creating jobs and the role that has in rebuilding the economy. Over the early days of the pandemic, Australians were concerned and terrified over the thought that they would lose their jobs, that they wouldn't be able to put food on the table for their families and provide for those they loved. Over the last year, the Morrison government has put jobs on the priority list for Australia. We listened and we responded to the concerns. Back in August last year I saw the unemployment rate skyrocket to 9.2 per cent. Today, the unemployment rate has been reduced to 5.5 per cent. Other countries have not been so fortunate.
Creating jobs for Australians is key to securing our economic recovery. Part of this process is giving Australians the skills and training they need to get a job today and beyond. The Morrison government's commitment to this idea is through record investment in skills and training. In this budget our government has doubled our commitment to the JobTrainer Fund. We are supporting a total of more than 450,000 new training places to upskill jobseekers and young people.
Our government recognises the valuable role our tradespeople play in our communities. They are vital in the function of our society. Therefore, we are building on the 100,000 new apprentices we have already helped into a job in the first stage of the JobTrainer program. Now, what does that mean? It means that the Morrison government will create 170,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships with an investment of $2.7 billion.
Our government wants to see those who exist in marginal positions in Australia given the opportunities they deserve. We focus on helping more women break into non-traditional trades, with training support for 5,000 places. We are supporting more STEM scholarships for women, in partnership with industry. We will provide 2,700 places in Indigenous girls academies to help them finish school and enter the workforce. Importantly for those who find themselves without work, the government has strengthened the safety net, increasing the JobSeeker payment while enhancing mutual obligations.
We are a government that believes in the power of choice. We want Australians to be able to choose what they believe is best for them and we want to empower them in their decisions. We recognise that, for many Australians, owning a home is important. We want to give Australians the choice and power to afford their own home. That's why the Morrison government has rolled out a number of programs to assist hardworking Australians with achieving their dream. Our government has expanded the First Home Loan Deposit Scheme to include an additional 10,000 guarantees with homebuyers offering as little as a five per cent deposit. We are increasing the First Home Super Saver Scheme from $30,000 to $50,000 for voluntary contributions that can be released for a first home.
Additionally, we have created jobs in the construction industry while giving home builders a hand under the HomeBuilder policy. The results speak for themselves. We have the highest level of first homebuyers in a decade, with more than 155,000 in the year to March 2021. Our carefully devised policy is having real and positive impacts on Australians. I am beyond happy that our government is having such a good and tangible impact on our great country. Giving Australians the chance to afford their own homes means giving them more incentives to work. For young families this dream can be difficult to achieve. Some families may not have the support network to take care of their child while they are out working. Subsequently, this can take one parent out of work to look after their child, making it that much harder for them to save for the things that matter. As a mother, I understand these difficulties. I also understand how this issue tends to disproportionately affect women, reducing the rate of workforce participation for women and subsequently their economic security. This is an issue that the Morrison government cares deeply about.
To drive women's workforce participation and ease the burden on young families we are making a further and targeted $1.7 billion investment into child care, greatly increasing the affordability for low and middle income families. Beyond women's economic security, their safety is just as important. While I'm out in my community visiting organisations that work with women who have been victims of domestic violence, I am constantly reminded that there is so much more work to do in this space. I understand that as a government we have a responsibility to ensure all Australians are safe, especially women. The Prime Minister and Treasurer understand this too. That is why I'm so proud to see $1.1 billion delivered to help ensure women's safety in our community. We will be investing in more emergency accommodation for women when they need our help the most and more legal assistance to make sure women are supported in the long-term. We are making sure that there are more counsellors available to women. We are making sure that women have access to more financial support. Women who are escaping abusive relationships need support on so many levels, but the tangible and immediate way we can help is to make sure that they have the financial tools to escape violent relationships. A coalition government will always ensure that those Australians who need our help will get it.
When I was running to become the member for Chisholm I made a commitment to deliver a headspace facility in Chisholm. I made this commitment after consulting widely with my community, especially the Monash Youth Committee. I listened to my community and I acted. I was overjoyed to visit the Syndal Headspace with the Treasurer recently and proud to show him the good work that the facility has started doing. I look forward to their official opening later in the year. I don't need to remind any member of how tough this year has been on the mental health of Australians. This government is listening and responding. The 2021-22 budget is guaranteeing this essential service by investing $2.3 billion in the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. This facility could not come at a better time and it is so valuable to the Waverley area. I will always listen to my community and deliver on genuine need. If you need the help of headspace Syndal, you can visit them at 265 Blackburn Road in Mount Waverley.
I visit aged-care facilities in my electorate all the time. I have over 65 of them in my electorate of Chisholm. I love sitting down with residents and listening to their stories. Their shared wisdom is so important to me. When I come to this place, I always advocate for the needs of older Australians. Committing a further $17.7 billion to our aged-care system is the right thing to do. When I head back to Melbourne, I can look my constituents in the eye and tell them we are doing the right thing by older Australians. While we are ensuring there are higher payments for residential care, this government will ensure that older Australians wishing to stay at home are also supported. We have added another 80,000 new home-care packages. This brings our total commitment to 275,000 home-care packages. We are looking into the future as well. By committing to 33,000 new training places for personal carers, we are making sure we have the right staff well into the future. My regional colleagues will be pleased to know that we are upgrading care in regional areas as well. The aged-care sector does amazing work, but this government has seen a need for stronger regulation which will ensure that good operators are protected and able to continue to do the good work that they do.
I got into politics because I wanted to bring my community together. I want to bring Chisholm together. It is well known that my electorate of Chisholm has a large migrant population that wants to call Australia home. There is a rich community of local clubs and societies in Chisholm for new migrants to get involved with. One of those clubs is the Bennettswood Bowling Club. I was thrilled to be involved in their new members open day, and it is brilliant to see so many new faces from a diverse background give lawn bowls a go. For many of them, it was their first time holding a ball and experiencing lawn bowls. The coalition will always back these local organisations that add so much to our community. Over $26 million will be spent under the Stronger Communities program in the 2021-22 budget.
This budget is comprehensive, considered and exactly what Australia needs at this exact point in time. It drives the needs of all Australians and ensures that everyone is given opportunities. This budget makes me proud to be a Liberal woman in the Morrison government, looking out for the interests of all Australians.
You'd think that with $100 billion of spending and $1 trillion of debt there would be an embarrassment of riches in this budget for my electorate, but that isn't the case. Some of it might be secret spending, saved up for those magic election announcements coming out of a $10 billion slush fund. But let's look at a couple of the key areas that I know my community expects this government to deliver on and where this government has failed. The spend falls well short of not just what people expected but what the people of the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury deserve.
I'm going to start with child care. It is always flattering to see a government take large chunks of a policy that we've developed in opposition and present it as their own. So, yes, we're very flattered that that occurred. However, you really can't compare the two policies. One policy supports a very small number of families. Our policy would make a difference to 97 per cent of families with young children. So, to start with, you're not comparing apples with apples. So what's different about the policies? It can be very easy to go, 'It sounds the same,' so I want to spell it out. The fact is that Labor's plan helps 97 per cent of families in this country and in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury who currently face a real challenge with accessing child care and affording it. Of course, it is not just child care; it is early education. We know how important it is to have early education. Quite frankly, as a country it saves us money further down the track the better our early education is. So Labor's plan has a long-term vision that actually provides the structural reform that we need to help people have quality early education for their children and get back into the workforce. Labor's plan doesn't make you wait until you have your second or third child before any savings or benefits kick in. Labor's plan helps every single child get a quality early education and get access to something that they might otherwise miss out on.
I also want to address a myth that the Liberal Party has been peddling, and that myth is that Labor's plan doesn't give as much to low- and middle-income people. Let's be really clear: for every family with one child, which is 75 per cent or three-quarters of families in early education, our plan helps every single one of those families up to a combined family income of $530,000 a year. In addition to that, if you have two children in early education and care, you're better off under our plan. So it has been very disappointing to see that. If someone is going to take your plan, couldn't they at least take all of it? Our plan was really well thought through and contributes to quality early education and an equity of access for people to be able to have their kids looked after in quality care. That's the disappointment about the childcare policy. It's failing to really deliver on reducing the cost of early education for most families.
The second area that there were big expectations and a big build up for was aged care. Of course, we've had a royal commission. After eight years of neglect, people expected and in fact deserved to see some really good commitments here. But the government have failed to take much of the advice of the royal commission and the other 21 reports that they've received. Let's look at a few key areas that were covered in this budget. Nothing in aged care will change without reform to the workforce. There's nothing in this budget to bring about reform for the aged-care workforce. There's nothing to improve the wages for overstretched and undervalued aged-care workers. I speak with them a lot. My father is in aged care. They are really good people. They do a job that I would not like to do. They look after my dad. They give him bright moments in his day. But they know they don't have enough time to spend with him in the way that they would like to and the way that he deserves. So what this government has done is shirk the key responsibility, and that was the key recommendation to increase the mandatory care minutes in residential aged care. I'm going to spell that out so people can hear what was recommended.
The royal commission had two phases in the rollout of mandatory care time. From July next year, the royal commission said there should be a minimum care time of 200 minutes, 40 minutes of which needs to be from a registered nurse. That's per day. A registered nurse must be on site for a minimum of 16 hours during the morning and afternoon. Then there was a second phase where it ramped up even further, and there would be a registered nurse on site 24/7. So what has the government done? They've accepted this recommendation, but all they are funding is phase 1, and phase 1 won't come in from the middle of next year. It won't be mandatory until October 2023. Quite frankly, there are a lot of people in aged care who may not get to enjoy the benefits of this very small improvement. I think that's disgraceful. This is a time when there was a real hope that the government would seriously address such an important issue, and this budget fails.
Also in the funding—and this is what the government will tell you—there's extra money for better food. There is. The recommendations of the royal commission were for a $10 per resident per day increase to the providers to improve the quality of food, in terms of the nutritional value. It's a total cost of $3.2 billion The royal commission was quite specific on what the accountability needed to be for this additional funding. Without accountability, it's a gift to the providers. The accountability needed to include that it would be spent on raw food, preprocessed food, bought-in food, and kitchen staff with costs worked out across the average number of residents. That would all be accountability. But, in fact, all the government has asked providers to do is to let them know that they'll give an undertaking to report to the government on expenditure on food on a quarterly basis, and that's it. That's the only benchmark you have to meet. These are fundamental things that ensure the health and the quality of life for elderly people in aged care where their families have made a big decision to say, 'We can't look after them in their home, but we'd love them to feel at home in the facility that they're in.'
Let's talk about those who do want to stay in their home. One of the other big gaps is the home-care package waitlist of 100,000. I've got a constituent right now who knows that her mother requires a higher level of care but has been told, 'If you apply for more care, you'll just get pushed further down the waiting list,' because this government has not addressed the needs of people on the home-care waiting list. The recommendation from the royal commission is really, really clear: immediately increase the home-care packages available and allocate a package to all people on the waiting list who do not yet have a package or do not yet have a package at the level that they have been approved for. That was to be done by 31 December this year. What has the government funded? They've accepted the recommendation in principle but will only release 80,000 additional home-care packages over two years up until 2023. It's not enough packages and it's delaying even further and, honestly, making people wait longer. Again, we know some people will not live to get the benefit of these packages. Those are some of the giant flaws in the aged-care funding that's been provided by the government in this budget, and there are many others.
I want to move on to infrastructure. There was nothing in this budget for my community to bring forward funding for the construction of the North Richmond Bridge. Depending on who you listen to, the Morrison government calls it a third crossing, whereas the New South Wales RMS, who is actually building it, calls it a duplication, so I think we know where the spin is there. The planning of this duplication goes back to 2010 when the first federal funds flowed to the New South Wales government to start the exploration of what could be done to alleviate the appalling traffic conditions. We're now 11 years on from that and we still don't have anything. We don't have a plan; there is no plan. We don't know where this bridge is going to go, what it's going to look like or how flood resilient it's going to be—and, remember, this is the duplication of a bridge that went under really fast only nine weeks ago.
What this has shown me is that, when I made a commitment in 2010, the Gillard government delivered on that commitment, even though I didn't win the election. They delivered on every commitment I made. There was no underspending in Macquarie, because every commitment was met—every single one of them. The big difference is that this government is very good at making the big promises. You can give them that. They're great at the spin and they're great at the marketing, but there is no delivery, and we're seeing already. There is no delivery on this bridge.
We should put this into context. It isn't just in Macquarie where there's no delivery. The chance of us seeing these budget infrastructure announcements being delivered on is so slim. The Morrison government averages an infrastructure underspend every year of $1.2 billion, and in the last financial year it underspent by $1.7 billion, so it's hard to take seriously any of the promises that are made. Of course, the one in Macquarie is $2 billion for the Great Western Highway. That is for roadworks that the Medlow Bath community don't even want. They want a tunnel, yet that's not what they're getting funding for. So I think we can pretty quickly say that there's not a lot in the infrastructure spend.
It's been eight long years of promises not met—things promised and not delivered. We are still waiting for a headspace in Macquarie. There's been this promise that some money for extra headspaces might be there. We must be one of the communities at the top of the list of communities needing a headspace, yet there's still nothing from this government about that. My community will continue fighting for that. But not only has there been a lack of meeting promises; there's been record low wage growth. Things are tight. We've had natural disasters that make thing even tighter. And what's the promise in this budget? The promise in this budget is that wages will go backwards over the next few years. It's not just that they won't grow; real wages will actually go backwards. That's the thanks that people are getting.
What they're not getting in this budget is any commitment to improve or fast-track the vaccination rollout. There is nothing around that, nothing to make people safer there and nothing to allow more Australians to come home because we have an effect quarantine program. I have one family in my community hoping to get their three-year-old home from India. Through a very tragic set of circumstances, including their business catching on fire, they felt the only thing they could do was allow the child's grandmother, who happened to be out here, to take this child home. But that was more than a year ago, and they've not been able to get permission to get their son back. A decent quarantine system would alleviate the anguish that families are going through. There are families who haven't seen their children. In fact, some of the kids are saying, 'Australia has abandoned us.' They're working overseas or they've had secure work that has now gone. They honestly feel betrayed by this government and betrayed by Australia.
I'm not the only one in this place who has spent years of her life living overseas. I've spent four years living overseas during different periods of my life and I've never felt that I was locked out of my country. I've never questioned that, if I needed to be home, I'd be allowed to come home. But that's what we're doing. That is a first, and this budget does nothing to give people any reassurance that they would be welcomed home. I'm so disappointed by that. I'm beyond angry. I'm at that point of saying that I'm also disbelieving that that could be the case. While there'll be a lot of talk and a lot of bluster about this budget, I think it's just a disappointing budget, and I know my community is going to be feeling that disappointment.
Let's cast our minds back to the beginning of 2020. The idea that over the next 15 months Australia would go through its first pandemic in a century, have its first recession in decades and close its domestic borders for the first time since Federation would have been unimaginable. Then again, in the middle of last year we would have been surprised to know how far we have come by now. Back then, most of the east coast was approaching a second deadly wave of COVID, the economic forecasts were grim, unemployment was at record highs, and the imminent recession threatened to be long and deep. It is in this context that we have all rejoiced at the latest budget—well, maybe not all; there are some who are misinformed. It shows that Australia has weathered the storm of the recession and grown back stronger and faster than even the greatest optimists could have hoped. Australia is the only country in the OECD to have more people in employment now than it had before the pandemic. The recession is a distant memory. Walking around Bennelong, it can be tough to remember that we were ever locked down, with crowds in shopping centres and sportsgrounds more or less back to what was our normal.
While we bask in the glow of our miraculous recovery, it is important to remember how we got here. Bennelong was one of the first places in Australia to have live cases. False rumours in the Chinese community that COVID-19 was already circulating around Eastwood were leaving a huge dent in local confidence. I visited one of our many Chinese restaurants at the time of lunar new year. Rather than fighting for a table, we found that the restaurant, at this the busiest time of the year, was empty apart from us. This is a microcosm of what was happening across Bennelong and, indeed, Australia. Businesses shut up shop, people were laid off, social activities ceased and the motions of our community seemed to come to a steady stop. There was fear, uncertainty and pain in homes and businesses everywhere. The government has to be commended for the incredible and rapid stimulus that sped out to wallets across Australia. JobSeeker, JobKeeper, HomeBuilder and other noun and verb combinations were all rolled out to help communities caught in suspended animation. Through these schemes, families and businesses weathered the storm, and, when the waves of COVID passed, we were all in a good place to get back to work and society.
This year's budget is designed to secure our recovery and continue to support the areas of our economy and community that still need help. We can't take our foot off the accelerator until we have arrived at our destination. This is a strong budget which has enormous benefits for my community of Bennelong. It is worth us considering the tremendous impact this budget will have across a variety of sectors. One of the most substantial reforms the budget introduces is welcome tax relief across the board. Around 71,100 taxpayers in Bennelong will benefit from tax relief of up to $2,745 this year. This is as a result of the Morrison government's decision to extend the low- and middle-income tax offset to 2021-22 and to bring forward stage 2 of the government's tax relief plan. The government's tax plan has already benefited 86,600 people in Bennelong. For families and workers who have struggled to make ends meet during COVID, this boost in income will be a huge benefit.
In addition, the government's new JobTrainer Fund will support 500,000 new places to upskill jobseekers and young people. This includes more than 1,450 apprenticeships in Bennelong. Having seen how businesses in Bennelong have bounced back from last year's COVID recession, I am sure that this new funding to support upskilling will only further benefit our economic recovery.
In addition to financial benefits for taxpayers, this budget provides huge opportunities for businesses, both large and small, to retain more of their earnings and invest them in their businesses. More than 23,000 businesses in Bennelong are now able to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase. In addition, roughly 9,800 businesses in my community will be able to use the extended loss carry-back measure to keep their cash flows working smoothly. For many businesses, this last year has been very challenging, to say the least. The government understands the pressure that businesses face, and that is why the policies that have been announced are targeted at helping smaller to medium businesses bounce back and return to strong growth.
Another area which deservedly received great attention in the recent budget is aged care. The government will be investing an extra $17.7 billion in aged care, responding to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, and establishing a once-in-a-generation reform for senior Australians. This budget delivered a record investment in aged care to help the 24,220 senior Australians living in Bennelong. This investment will deliver more home-care places and more funding for residential aged care and increases the amount of time that residents are cared for, while strengthening regulators to monitor and enforce the standards of care. I have seen firsthand the difference high-quality aged-care living can make to the lives of older citizens. We're fortunate to have so many fantastic aged-care facilities in the Bennelong electorate. I have enjoyed my many visits over the last decade as an MP.
Bennelong is Australia's capital of innovation, and it was fantastic to see our local innovative sector at the heart of the budget. Indeed, when describing the heights of Australian innovation, the Treasurer listed wi-fi and Cochlear—one invented and one now based in Macquarie Park. We're the home of Australia's medical industry, and this budget holds great promise for the companies of 'Pill Hill'. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the great strength of Australia's medical and biotech industries. In recognition of the need to foster local innovation, the 2020-21 budget papers unveiled plans for a patent box policy. The government has promised $206 million to effectively halve the concessional tax rate for Australian developed and patented medical and biotech innovations, to 17 per cent compared to the 30 per cent standard company tax rate for large companies. These figures are encouraging and will be of an enormous practical benefit to many companies based in Bennelong. In addition, we hope to see the patent box drawing out more local innovation in the Bennelong area, securing Australia's economic recovery through fostering research, development and commercialisation of new Australian technologies.
As in every budget, there has been a slate of new drug listings, many of which are from local companies and all of which will benefit local residents. One of the happiest announcements is that of the product Emgality, made by the local company Eli Lilly. Emgality treats migraines and will go from costing $1,000 a month down to under $50 and will be available for thousands of Australians. Across Australia, there are nearly five million people who suffer from migraines, and more women than men suffer from them. This announcement will bring relief to thousands, and we are so grateful to the government for listing this and also to Eli Lilly and all of the numerous groups that have been lobbying for this for so many years.
As we have learnt in the last 12 months, investing in health and wellbeing pays enormous dividends. It's very encouraging to see that the government has made a strong and deliberate effort to upgrading several different aspects of our health infrastructure, including $1.9 billion on the medium- to long-term vaccine strategy designed to give Australia its own mRNA vaccine production capacity. Moreover, the government has made a substantial commitment to women's health. The budget provides $100 million for improving cervical and breast cancer screening programs. It has extended free mammogram services to all women in Australia, and it has assigned $47 million towards depression services for pregnant women and new mothers.
Additionally, the government's investment in child care and preschool has seen an expansion worth $1.7 billion as compared to the current budget. From next year, eligible families with two or more children in day care will see rebates of up to 95 per cent, making more than 250,000 Australian families better off by an average of $2,200 a year. The new policy will be directly and tangibly a benefit to over 1,400 families in the Bennelong area. Further, not only does the increased funding make child care more affordable and accessible for local families; the roll-on benefits will be felt elsewhere across the electorate, with the policy set to encourage greater workforce participation and generate jobs in the childcare industry in this time of economic recovery.
On top of the investment for hardworking Australians, this budget has also got important provisions for providing infrastructure in our local communities: $3.8 billion is being committed in New South Wales for projects that will ease congestion, connect communities and improve road safety. They will support the economic recovery in the short term and boost productivity in the long term. I've been fortunate in recent months to open a number of local infrastructure projects in my electorate which have been announced in previous budgets and which only now are coming to fruition. Carlingford Ovals has new lights, better drainage and is the first step towards the vision of a number of soccer and cricket grounds linked by lockers and catering facilities. It was great to open this recently with Rohan from the Roselea Football Club, and I look forward to seeing this club and these facilities.
Another I opened recently is new Scouts boatshed at Meadowbank Wharf, which has been needed for many years. The old boatshed was full, old and threatening to fall into the Parramatta River. The new one emerged over the course of 2020 and will be a fantastic asset for Scout groups across the electorate and the Meadowbank community. Congratulations to Alan Cunningham and Peter Buckley, after whom the shed is now proudly named, and all the Epping Scouts, who put in so much effort to get this important project off the ground.
Before I close, there is a disappointing note: again not to see a commitment to more sustainably funded infrastructure and a broader vision for Australia's settlement; I've spoken too often in this House about the need for high-speed rail linking our east coast cities, about the need to master-plan our infrastructure and open up our settlement, provide an endless supply of affordable housing, and fund it through taxing the windfall on property speculation. We have the opportunity to use the recent crisis to fundamentally change the way we fund infrastructure; stop the ad hoc, piecemeal, pork-barrelling way we have done it; and finally set out a vision for the future for this country. Once again, we have missed this opportunity.
In closing, the previous 12 months have put tremendous strain on Australia's businesses, which have had to navigate challenges: adopting COVID-safe practices, managing weaker demand and adapting to new economic landscapes. Similarly, people from all walks of life have had to deal with the pressures of a weaker job market, slower wage growth and the demands of the COVID economy. The government understands these challenges. I am proud to see that the budget recently announced by the Treasurer comprehensively addresses these difficulties that Australians are facing and puts a strong economic recovery at the heart of the budget's objectives. Australians together will come back stronger than ever.
I spent last week and the whole weekend talking to the good people of Cooper. I doorknocked, I caught up with people at shopping centres and cafes and I also had emails and phone calls, and all of them have raised with me the glaring gaps in this government's last budget. My electorate is widely representative of the broader population. It's fabulously diverse, from retired teachers, academics and knowledge economy workers to gutsy blue-collar workers who keep our manufacturing sector alive. I have high-wealth workers and individuals and small business owners, but I also have half my electorate earning the minimum wage: blue-collar workers from factories and distribution centres, in the retail sector, working machines and cutting for clothing and textile manufacturers, and repairing cars. I have proud multicultural groups from Africa, China, India, Vietnam and right across Europe, and I have a very proud First Nations community. They are hardworking and they love their community clubs and sporting clubs, and—it might surprise some in this Chamber—they vote Labor.
I am so eternally grateful for the healthy Labor vote that we have in Cooper. I do my best to represent them all, but it's not hard. It might surprise some people in this Chamber, but there are some things that are important to them all. They care about equality and respect for women, they care for the climate, they care about our elderly, they care about workers' rights and decent jobs, and they care about schools and hospitals. On just about all measures, this budget has let them down.
Now, let's go to climate. The Liberal Party's spectacular failure to tackle the climate emergency is terrifying. Lack of investment in renewables, no eye on the future. Not only will they not listen to science but they do not listen to that all-powerful, in their eyes, market that they so idolise. Labor knows that good climate policy equals good jobs. It is the way forward. Labor understands that we need to start planning now for the jobs of the future. We announced new energy apprenticeships because we want our young people to be ready to work with groundbreaking innovation. We're actually going to pay kids to study. We need people with the skills to make sure that Australia will be the renewables superpower that we want it to be.
We don't want to leave anyone behind. Labor will set communities up for the future. If we don't present a clear way forward, then action on climate change will never happen—like the appalling decision of the minister for resources, knocking back a wind farm that promised 250 jobs to the people of North Queensland and instead investing $600 million in a gas plant that will ultimately create 10 jobs and virtually never be turned on. The government's own environmental impact statement said it might be open seven days of the year. The New South Wales government has actually supported the installation of renewables and battery power to make up for the Liddell power plant closure. The federal Liberal government, on the other hand, wants a gas plant that will be a $600 million stranded asset. And there was no money for community batteries—something that people are screaming for. The technology is there, the know-how is there, the batteries are there, but where is the government's support to get such a program off the ground? Stuck in the dark, or in the dark ages. Labor will support community batteries.
While I'm talking about climate, I just want to give a big shout-out to the school climate strikers who flooded the streets all around Australia last week in their hundreds of thousands, demanding urgent action on the climate emergency. I marched in solidarity with them, with my union comrades, with Cooper constituents and with my 87-year-old mother-in-law, who cares equally about climate change. I was thinking about those kids when I moved a motion at our 2021 conference that said:
Labor takes an emergency footing in tackling climate change, adopting renewable energy at a rapid pace in order to address the existential threat of the climate emergency and to reach Australia's potential as a renewables superpower.
Getting to net zero by 2050 is a once-in-a-generation economy-wide reform, and we, Labor, are the only party up to this enormous task.
Another important thing that my electorate is very worried about is aged care. The Liberal Party announced a half-hearted response to the comprehensive royal commission. For example, they only announced stage 1 of the minutes-of-care requirement in nursing homes. They refused recommendations to put a registered nurse on every shift. You know, throwing money at providers will not fix a broken system if there's nothing there for the workforce which is crucially vital to quality care—no fix for better wages, no changes to auditing practices, no accountability for the billions of dollars of taxpayer money that goes to the sector. Labor will support reform in the aged care sector. We will support mandated minimum staffing levels and better pay for staff. We know that that is the key to quality care.
On the issue of equality, and in particular for women, again, the Liberal Party has failed to fully implement the Respect@Work recommendations. They said they had. Maybe they noted some or noted that some of them may not be implemented. It was pretty wishy-washy response all together. If you read the sneaky footnotes in their response then you really know that they're negating pretty much any strong action on that report.
For Labor women are at the centre of everything we do. They're not just an afterthought or an add-on or a political problem to fix. This government began its time in office with just one woman in a cabinet of 19. Since then it has fought tooth and nail to block any reform that would increase female political representation. Almost half of Labor Party senators and members of parliament are women, but, unfortunately, only about a quarter of coalition MPs and senators are. This means poorer policies for Australian women all around.
The last year, in the middle of a global pandemic and economic recession, the federal budget showed no meaningful measures to address the problems facing Australian women at work, in the family, or in retirement. Female Liberal members of parliament were forced to defend the budget by claiming road funding was a women's measure, because women drive on roads too. After the widespread panning of last year's budget, the Prime Minister is trying to show that he's finally learnt his lesson, but the budget is again full of half measures, backflips and old policies announced anew.
Australian women deserve real leadership, not cheap political fixes. We need a government committed to decent pay; to job security for women and to their independence in retirement; to properly funding essential services and care; and to safety at work, at home and in our communities. Real leadership means economic security and independence and safety for Australian women. This requires thoughtful investment, not photo-ops and political fixes.
For my First Nations community in Cooper and across the country there was virtually nothing to help close the gap, nothing for a referendum on a voice to parliament, no commitment to Uluru. We, in the Labor Party, are committed to justice. We are committed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart and we are committed to closing the gap.
On workers' rights there was a commitment in the budget from the government: there was a commitment to record low wages growth. That's it. That's what workers got. We know on this side of the House that workers need decent, secure jobs and that is at the heart of everything we do—jobs that pay the rent and put food on the table, jobs that mean you don't have to work three jobs just to make a living. Labor will actually criminalise wage theft.
In my electorate there is a big university, La Trobe University, and it employs thousands of people. For that sector, and for the university in my electorate, there's a big fat zero. In fact, they gave them a massive funding cut. This is on top of the devastation wrecked on the sector by COVID where we heard, on an ABC report the other night, that up to 70,000 jobs could be lost. La Trobe University has a very high proportion of university workers living in Cooper. They have lost their jobs or they've come to me saying how anxious they are that they are going to lose their job. So many small businesses and medium sized businesses in my electorate, and landlords for that matter, depend on the university for their business.
Now on to housing. The gift for the people of Australia on the issue of the high cost of housing, affordable housing, is to use up your retirement savings. That's their answer. They said, 'Don't rely on us to pull all the levers that a government can pull so that you can have a home and a decent retirement'. You don't have to choose between the two, but the government says you do—that's great. How about making housing more affordable? How about helping low-income earners rent? How about trying to house our homeless people, the biggest group of which are women over 50? Labor committed to a $10 billion housing Australia future fund with a special focus on older women. That is leadership. That is what the country needs.
Finally, I want to talk about the issue of child care, an issue that is so important to our economy and to the women of Australia who find themselves locked out of the full-time workforce because they simply can't afford child care. The Liberal government saw that this was actually a political issue. They saw that Labor was running very, very well with a decent childcare policy and they came up with another childcare policy that was half-hearted at best. It was a political fix. It was labelled a women's issue. Child care is not a women's issue. It is a social issue for all of society. We know that if we can properly fund child care the economy benefits, men benefit, all women benefit and our kids benefit. The Labor policy is so superior to the Liberal Party's policy that 86 per cent of families with children under six would be better off. This government has let the people of Cooper, of my electorate, down. It has let the country down.
I am very happy to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2021-2022 and highlight the impact that this budget will have in my electorate of Curtin. From the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic early last year, this government has understood it and dealt with it as both a health and an economic crisis. It has been and continues to be an extraordinary challenge for all around the world, testing our health systems, testing our economies and testing us individually and collectively.
At times such as these, the prime role of the government is to ensure the safety and security of the nation and its peoples and to preserve and protect their health and wellbeing. Any steps which are taken and any measures introduced by government, be they health, economic or national security measures, need to be carefully measured and they must factor in and effectively weigh up all potential risks and consequences. This risk action assessment can't simply be focused on the here and now; it must also factor in future consequences and future effects on the country and its people. While governments must govern for the here and now, they must also be stewards for the future.
By way of example, as we have seen over the past 12 months, border closures have been extremely effective in Australia at slowing the spread of the virus. But we also know that they have come at a cost. Some of these costs are comparatively easy to identify and calculate. For example, the decrease in tourism has had a huge financial impact on tourism related businesses. But there are also costs which are less easy to quantify, such as the long-term impact on our social fabric, on our wellbeing, as people have been unable to see or visit loved ones who are not resident in Australia.
This government has also understood, right from the start of the pandemic, that the assessment as to what steps to take is not a perfect science or something which should be set, fixed and forgotten. The key to responding in times like these is to take a measured and proportionate response and to retain the flexibility to change and adopt when the circumstances require. There is no hiding from the fact that our response to COVID-19 has come at a significant fiscal cost and that net debt is anticipated to grow to 40.9 per cent of GDP by June 2025. The dollars involved are enormous and, again, there is no hiding from the fact that it will impact on all of us for many years ahead. I would, however, note that this net debt to GDP will still be far less than that which is anticipated in both the UK and the USA.
As the Treasurer said in his budget speech two weeks ago, the 2021-22 budget is one that's designed to secure Australia's economic recovery. It is a budget which is focused on both the here and now and the future. A lot of money is being spent, but it is being spent in direct and targeted ways. This budget, and the economic plan which underpins it, will continue to set the right environment for the creation of more jobs, more innovation, more investment and greater confidence, all of which are needed to ensure that we continue to deliver essential services and rebuild our economy. There are too many initiatives in this budget for me to go through line by line. All of them, in fact, deserve to be highlighted. I want to mention a number of key initiatives which do impact on the people in my electorate of Curtin.
The first of these is tax relief. An estimated 10 million low- and middle-income earners in Australia will receive tax relief of up to $1,080 in the 2021-22 financial year, and there will be tax relief of up to $2,160 for dual-income families. There are over one million people in Western Australia who will benefit from this, and, in my electorate of Curtin, there are 52,400 taxpayers who will benefit. The second group of initiatives in this budget which are of particular importance to those in my electorate are those which go to incentivising businesses to invest, creating more economic activity and more jobs. During last year, over 9,000 businesses in Curtin accessed JobKeeper, and 24,000 employees were supported by this mechanism. Around 6,600 businesses benefited from the tax-free cash flow boost. Local businesses, such as the Herdsman markets, Deli Chicchi and Barchetta—all of which I visited in the last couple of weeks—used these initiatives to invest back into their businesses. This budget continues to deliver benefits to those businesses in my electorate. More than 25,000 businesses will be able to write off the full value of any eligible asset they purchase. About 12,000 businesses will be able to use the extended carry-back measure to support cash flow and confidence. Despite being seriously impacted by the pandemic and, I have to say, despite being continuously anxious about the potential for future lockdowns, the extension of these two schemes gives the businesses in my area the confidence to back themselves and their businesses for the future.
The HomeBuilder grant, as you know, Deputy Speaker Irons, has been extremely popular in Western Australia. There have been over 17,000 applications, and I would note, in this context, that the extension to the construction commencement qualifying date was a move roundly applauded by the state of Western Australia, which is suffering from a shortage of skilled labour at the moment—a fact which jeopardised the capacity of a number of builders to start work in the appropriate time frame, thereby jeopardising the grant going to the people who were relying on it. Likewise, the increase to the excise refund scheme cap from $100,000 to $350,000 is a significant initiative which will provide significant support to Australia's small distillers and brewers. I may be biased, but one of the best new distillers in Australia is located in West Leederville in my electorate. Bad Penny Distilling, run by locals Nicole and Damian Clement, uses botanicals sourced from Rottnest Island to create Rottnest Island Gin. Damian told me: 'These changes will make a profound difference to our business. It will enable us to market and promote our product more widely, invest in new equipment and infrastructure, and advance-purchase a new range of consumables. Most significantly, by helping lower our production costs, it will help lower the cost of our product to the consumer and aid us to compete more evenly with the large distillers.' As a big fan of Rottnest Island Gin, I am looking forward to the reduced prices.
The government has a long commitment to supporting medical technologies from their infancy—that initial world-changing idea—all the way through to commercialisation. We are doing this currently through the Biomedical Translation Fund and the Medical Research Future Fund, and through R&D tax incentives. The 2021-22 budget will continue to support Australian companies to keep their ideas in Australia through the patent box, which will tax income derived from Australian medical and biotech patents at a 17 per cent effective concessional corporate tax rate. Curtin is home to some of the best researchers, start-ups and medtech and biotech companies in the country. One of those is OncoRes, which is developing an intraoperative imaging technology that translates the surgeon's sense of touch, improving surgical accuracy and reducing complication rates. This will help them thrive and grow. As the CEO, Dr Katharine Giles, recently said to me, 'This measure makes it more attractive for us to grow as a business, and it's just another part of government support that is helping to create a strong anchor for us to stay in Western Australia.' Medical and biotech companies are also very enthusiastic about the government's new global talent visa and temporary activity visa, which will directly support their efforts to attract critically skilled staff to relocate to Australia.
On the topic of medical research, I want to note the significant investment this government continues to make in medical research. There will be $6.7 billion over four years, with an additional $228 million in new grants and program openings for our world-leading scientists to find cures and treatments. I want to give a particular shout-out to the Women and Infants Research Foundation in Subiaco, which is led by Professor John Newnham. They have been granted $13.7 million across four years to take the successful work that they have done to reduce preterm birth in WA to a national scale through the Australian Preterm Birth Prevention Alliance. This is literally a life-changing program, as preterm birth is the single greatest cause of death in young children and one of the major causes of lifelong disability, including cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness and behavioural and learning problems at school age.
The third measure I wish to highlight relates to our investment in skills and training to fill skills shortages and to provide Australians with the skills they need to get a job. The expanded JobTrainer fund will support 500,000 new places, upskilling jobseekers and young people. We already have 680 new apprentices in Curtin, and these new measures, with expanded wage subsidies, will lead to more opportunities for trainees and apprentices. The owner of a local training provider told me late last week that this program is, in his words, 'a real winner' and that many of his clients—from small firms to national firms, in fields as diverse as pathology, mining and infrastructure—were using this initiative, which is benefiting them and a countless number of Australians to develop new skills.
Finally, I just want to note the significant investment being made through this budget in the essential services that we rely on. Over the course of the last year, over 3.4 million telehealth services have been delivered to patients in WA. There have been over 180,000 telehealth consultations in Curtin, and these services have been continued. In the last year, over 1.5 million free or subsidised medicines have been delivered in Curtin through the PBS. This budget will see more, with the government listing more medicines to treat breast cancer, lung cancer, osteoporosis, migraine, eczema and asthma. This budget is delivering a record $17.7 billion investment in aged care. It is responding to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and is establishing a once-in-a-generation reform for our senior Australians. This will help the 23,000-plus senior Australians living in Curtin. There will be more home-care places, more funding for residential aged care and a strengthening of the monitoring and enforcement of standards across aged-care providers. There is a $2.3 billion investment in the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan. This is the largest mental health investment in Australia's history, and it is needed now more than ever.
By way of conclusion, COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives over the last 12 months, and it continues to do so. Through this budget, the government is continuing to ensure the safety and security of this nation and its people and to preserve and protect their health and wellbeing. It is addressing what we Australians care most about: our health and the health of our loved ones; our financial security now and in the future; and the financial security and stability of the country now and in the future. It is a budget which continues to create the settings for people to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential and to live their best lives, and to ensure those who cannot provide for themselves are supported to live in dignity.
Last week we saw a budget that was delivered by the government, and most Australians are looking at the budget to see how the economy will work for them and not the other way around. The same goes for the government that they have elected: they want to see how that particular government will work for them and how it will benefit them through the budget and the economy that was laid out in that budget.
We have seen that this government is continuously more concerned with self-promotion rather than the financial prosperity of all Australians and not leaving anyone behind. At a time when Australians are all doing the right thing and we've had a tough year where everyone has done the right thing—some were working from home, others had to take pay cuts and others changed their working arrangements to work less to keep businesses going—we must be doing everything we possibly can in this place to get the economy back up on its feet and also to set a legacy after the pandemic for the economy.
The Australian public, who have done the right thing, also deserve a government that does the right thing by them. Honestly, at the moment, I don't think that is happening and I don't think the Australian public have a government that's doing the right thing by them. A great example is infrastructure. It is the perfect example. In their pre-budget announcement, the government talked up $10 billion of additional infrastructure investment, but the budget papers, in effect, show a $3.3 billion cut to infrastructure over the next four years. This discrepancy that we saw pre budget and just after budget is perfectly reflected in my home state of South Australia. South Australia was promised $3.2 billion in major road project funding, and boy do we need it. But, in effect, just two-thirds of it is actually in the federal budget. When you look at the budget papers and you look at the detail, there's only two-thirds of the 3.2 that we were promised. What's more, only $130 million will be delivered this year and it's unclear where the remaining $1.1 billion will be handed over.
The government talked a great deal about specific projects in my electorate such as the north-south corridor, one of Adelaide's biggest infrastructure projects. It goes through my electorate of Adelaide. But, as everyone has confirmed since then, this is nothing but another re-announcement. It is funding from 2019. In fact, it's been announced and re-announced since Tony Abbott was the Prime Minister and whatever construction will be undertaken is unlikely to start until late 2023—and who knows when it will be completed? This comes on the back of a long string of delays, uncertainties and changed plans. The project could deliver much-needed jobs right now and infrastructure that's needed right now in the inner metropolitan area of Adelaide.
My constituents in my electorate, and all South Australians, deserve much better. As I said, this announcement has been announced in 2014, 2015, the 2016 budget, the 2017 budget, the 2018 budget, the 2019 budget and—we still go on—2020 and 2021. It is a rehash announcement. To complete the project from start to finish we need $8.9 billion, yet we only see an odd billion dollars going in over the next 10 years. So next year, I am predicting, if there is no election and the same government is in, we'll hear the announcement again and again and again. This is a great example of a government that's great on the spin, great on the announcements but very lacking on the delivery, which is the thing that counts and that changes people's lives.
I'm not sure if this government thinks Australians are that gullible, but I have news. I talk to people all the time in my electorate, and Australians, especially in my electorate, are anything but gullible. They know and they're on to it. They can see through these empty promises. I had a street corner meeting on the weekend after the budget was announced, and people had actually looked at the detail. They were coming up to me and asking about the north-south corridor and the money for it. People do look at the detail in the budget.
People are on to it, and they're especially on to empty promises like the 'once-in-a-generation' reform to aged care. That is another area that has turned out to be smoke and mirrors. The government have announced 80,000 home-care packages to clear the current waiting list. They're not going to clear the current waiting list with 80,000 home-care packages. We have over a hundred thousand people waiting for packages right now, today, and that list is growing. We then have people who have been allocated a package but haven't had it come to fruition yet, so you can add on another 10,000 to 20,000 there. That takes the actual number of people waiting for an aged-care package to about 130,000. There are 80,000 new home-care packages, and that's great, but that leaves close to 50,000 people waiting to get a home-care package so they can be looked after in their own home. That is not good enough. We need to look after these people. They are people who have worked all their lives, who've built the foundations of this nation, yet nothing seems to be happening. We plug holes in one area and a big gush opens out of another one somewhere else.
There is nothing in the government's response to address, for example, the workforce shortages in aged care. One of the major reasons that people are waiting so long for a package is that there aren't the people to deliver them. You can announce 300,000 packages, but the trained workforce to go out and deliver them isn't there. You can announce millions of packages. It sounds great and you can do some fantastic marketing and advertising with it—especially if you've got the skills the Prime Minister has through his marketing career—but the reality is: how does it affect the lives of people on the ground, those elderly people who are waiting for those packages and who need that assistance to stay in their homes? Many of them die whilst they're on the list waiting for a package, or they get weaker and frailer, which means they then have to go into an aged-care facility, something that costs the government quadruple what it would have cost to keep them at home. It is just not fair.
There is no guarantee that registered nurses will be onsite at all nursing homes 24/7, as was recommended by the royal commission. The royal commission recommended that a registered nurse be onsite 24/7. There is no guarantee of that in this announcement. And there will be no oversight of how providers spend the extra $10 per resident per day. A lot of these providers could refurbish their manager's office or fix the car park outside. It's absolutely wrong that there will be no oversight to make sure that the $3.2 billion, which comes down to $10 per resident per day, gets spent on the care of the elderly Australians who need it.
What's even worse is that there's no urgency to implementing any of these reforms, so unfortunately many of those people already living in aged-care facilities or waiting for packages will not live long enough to see if any of these reforms work. Many who want to avoid going into an aged-care facility won't be able to, because there will be no package to allow them to be looked after. Older Australians deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. From what I've seen in the budget announcements on aged care by this government, that is not happening. This government continues to let older Australians down. There are marketing ploys, like the announcement that was just made, but no delivery.
I'll give another example. The centrepiece of last year's budget was JobMaker. We all remember JobMaker. It was another great announcement and marketing opportunity for the Prime Minister, who went out spruiking it and doing interviews. It promised to create 450,000 jobs. That was the promise made at last year's budget: JobMaker will create 450,000 jobs. But they've only created 1,000 out of that program. Again, great sales and great marketing—as I said, the Prime Minister is skilled at marketing; that was his career before he came in to politics—but on the ground, where it actually affects people's lives and would make a real difference to someone getting a job through this particular program, only 1,000 jobs have been created. They sell a concept to hoodwink people, basically, with smoke and mirrors and then deliver zero.
We have one of the longest periods of stagnant and negative wages as well. It is not good for the economy when wages are stagnant or negative, yet there seems to be no urgency to deal with this. There seems to be no concern from the government. We know if wages are stagnant and everything else is going up, people have less to spend, there's less going into the economy and less circulating around the economy. That's not good for the economy; it has a flow-on effect. More and more working women are suffering under this government, especially under this government's poor workforce strategy. To top it all off, this government couldn't deliver on their own JobMaker target, the absolute centrepiece of last year's budget. You have to wonder how many of the promises of this year's budget, the 2021 budget, will go the same way. I've given a quick example of one particular announcement, and that was the aged-care announcement for the packages and the aged-care facilities.
Deputy Speaker, you might want to have a look at the government's childcare policy because that's obviously another discount policy that the government cobbled up to together in response to Labor's much superior policy announced by the member for Kingston, Amanda Rishworth, and Anthony Albanese late last year, which would abolish the cap and increase the subsidy to lower childcare costs for virtually every family. Obviously the Prime Minister got into a bit of a panic about that and thought, 'We haven't done anything on child care!' So they decided to cobble together this policy which will only help one in four of the families who would benefit from Labor's plan.
Childcare is one of the major costs facing working families. Currently it is a disincentive to many, many parents who wish to work more hours. This Liberal government has announced a policy that will not assist families, will not boost workforce participation and, again, only pays lip service to this pressing problem. Once again this government is letting Australians down, especially mums and dads who need child care. We know that getting mums and dads into the workforce and getting more hours to work increases productivity and helps the economy, which means they have more money in their pockets to spend and keep the economy going.
Another area is the environment. What about the environment? There's virtually nothing in this budget to address the problems with the EPBC Act. There's no rural energy or climate change policy. We even heard the announcement that they're going to spend over $600 million on a new gas-fired power plant. Why is that happening? Why are they spending $600 million on a new gas-fired power plant? Because the private sector refused to build it. What does that tell us? If there is no money to be made in it, of course the private sector will not invest in it. It makes no economic or energy sense; otherwise the private sector would be in there doing it. The Morrison government can't even commit to net zero emissions by 2050. On the opposition benches, on our side of the House, in Labor, we want to ensure that Australia is ready to transition to a low-carbon future and ready to transition into the jobs of the future, and that's why we plan to make electric cars more affordable and we support the rollout of community batteries.
In the few seconds that I have left: I think for too many Australians the answer to some or all of these questions will be no, from what we have heard in the budget. Many will not be delivered. Again, this is a budget that promises a lot but delivers zero. (Time expired)
They say budgets are about priorities. This afternoon schoolkids from my old primary school visited Parliament House. I asked them what mattered to them and this is what they told me. Jayden said, 'People doing the same job should be paid the same.' Eliza said, 'Women and men should be treated equally.' Jamie and Michaela both said that potholes in local roads need to be fixed. Leah said, 'We should find money to help people living overseas.' Summer said, 'All medicines should be free.' Stevie said that kids who are homeless should get the same chance at education as she does. All the kids agreed it was expensive to buy things and that, for those who had pocket money, it didn't go very far. What schoolkids in the electorate I represent on the north end of the Central Coast of New South Wales care about are things that everyone relies on. When they grow up, they should be able to find a good job locally. They should be able to buy or rent a home on the coast. They should be able to afford health care when they need it. What worries me is that this budget has let them down.
Australians felt let down when they found out the government expects real wages to fall over the next four years and has no plan to do anything about it. A government that for the last eight years hasn't supported increases in real wages and stood by while penalty rates were cut has done nothing to combat wage theft and is content to let another generation of Australian women face a gender pay gap without taking any meaningful action. As Eliza said to me this afternoon, men and women should be treated equally and that means in the workplace too. Eliza deserves better.
Older Australians should have the care they need without having to wait. Over Christmas last year, there were 1,057 of older people on the Central Coast waiting for a home-care package. Across Australia, there were 97,000 older people waiting for the care they need. The government's announced 40,000 packages this financial year and the next is, of course, welcome, but they won't clear the waiting list while more people join the end of the queue. Older Australians shouldn't have to wait for the care they so desperately need. Older people on the coast can wait 12 to 18 months for a home-care package, people like Alan. His daughter told me: 'My father is currently living with us as myself and my husband care for him. He was approved for a level 3 package seven months ago. Over the last six months, my father's needs and requirements have been increasing, placing a great deal of pressure. We contacted My Aged Care and have been informed that the package will still have a nine-month wait.' She goes on, 'This is really concerning as we're now trying to work out how we can support him appropriately.' She says, 'Both my husband and I work full time and this has created a great deal of stress and anguish.' Her father is still able to do much and they just wish for him to be able to maintain the independence he still has. That's what everyone deserves—people like Alan and the 97,000 other people like him across Australia waiting right now. They deserve to be independent. They deserve quality of life. They deserve dignity of care. Alan deserves better.
I am increasingly concerned about access to health care on the coast. You might ask: why does this matter? It's because in Australia your health and your quality of life is worse if you live outside a big city. Your life expectancy is shorter and your risk of hospital stays increases. People living outside of big cities face longer waiting times to see a GP or a specialist. The budget does nothing to fix this. The community and local GPs have described the shortage of GPs on the Central Coast as a crisis. I wrote to the health minister about their concerns and the reply from the minister's office said: 'Lake Haven and surrounding arounds of the northern Central Coast are non-DPA because they have been assessed as receiving adequate GP services for the needs of the community.' Well, Minister Hunt, this is what local GPs in my community are describing as a crisis. The shortage of GPs means many local GPs are working a 10-hour day in their practices and following up with shifts at the Bridges after-hours clinic on the grounds of Wyong hospital. If that clinic is overwhelmed, which it often is, people end up waiting in the emergency department of Wyong hospital, sometimes for up to 12 hours.
I worked at Wyong hospital for nearly 10 years. The staff there are dedicated and capable. They're doing the very best they can under enormous and growing strain, and the government doesn't recognise the problem—or, if it does, it doesn't care or isn't acting on it. In this correspondence, the minister's office said that if the situation were to change significantly, the status would be reviewed by 1 July. I'm urging the minister to act now and make the coast a priority so locals can get the care they need when they need it. It's better for them, it's better for our community and it's better for the budget.
Out-of-pocket costs are another barrier to local people getting health care. Despite a trillion dollars of debt, this problem isn't going away. Out-of-pocket costs have soared in the eight years that this government has been in office. The average out-of-pocket cost to visit a GP has increased by 29.6 per cent, while the out-of-pocket cost to visit a specialist has increased by 44.7 per cent. Costs for cancer patients needing radiotherapy have nearly tripled. The budget announcement of incentives for bulk-billing in remote areas is welcome, of course, but will do nothing for people living in the outer suburbs and the regions, where this crisis is growing. At the same time, real wages have stalled, so people are finding it harder to meet these costs. The concerns of locals were summed up in a letter from Joanne of Wyong, published in the Coast Community Chronicle this morning. It reads:
I am absolutely furious.
I've been sick for about eight weeks and because I have a cough, I’m not allowed to go into my GP's medical centre, even though I have had a negative Covid test.
I was forced by them into a telehealth appointment, the doctor even told me it was a waste of time because he couldn't examine me, and sent the pharmacy a script for some antibiotics, which he told me probably wouldn't work (and they didn't).
The medical centre advised me that there would be a $20 fee charged to my credit card as a "gap" and Medicare covered the rest.
Our family has been with the centre for several years, they only started charging a gap in April.
However, they charged me $50 … and when I contacted them I was told because I hadn't been into the actual centre for a year (yes, in a global pandemic and I was there in March 2020), that Medicare required them to charge $50 with no rebate …
Between the medical centre's charge and antibiotics, I'm $70 out of pocket and still sick.
Now I have another appointment as the doctor says I have to go into the centre and he will see me in person, ready to be charged another consultation fee for that privilege, bringing me up to $90 plus any additional medication.
By the time I see the doctor it will be four weeks since I tried to see a doctor.
Good job I'm not dying or unable to work.
This goes back to what Summer from St Cecilia's primary school told me earlier today. She said that medicines should be affordable. As Summer knows, this is just not good enough.
I'll now turn to roads and infrastructure. The government is spending a billion dollars on local roads across the country, right around Australia, but not a single cent is being spent on the northern end of the Central Coast. So I'm sorry, Jamie and Mikayla, there is no money to fix your potholes. The government must invest to clear bottlenecks like the Pacific Highway through Wyong and Bryant Drive in Tuggerah so locals can get around safely and to open up investment to boost local jobs. The government has announced spending to build better regions, but despite a rapidly growing population, there is, again, nothing for the northern end of the Central Coast. In fact, the last major roads project in our region was the M1 upgrade started by the member for Grayndler when he was minister for infrastructure.
It gets worse. When I put a question in writing to the Deputy Prime Minister last November, asking him to explain the allocation of road funding on the coast in last year's budget, which seemed skewed towards one end of the coast, his reply, which came six months later, was: 'The allocation of funds is a decision of the Australian government.' What does this say about the government's priorities on the coast? It says, 'I'm sorry, Jamie and Mikayla, there is no money to fix the potholes in your street in Tuggerawong.'
Everyone deserves a safe place to call home. This government has had eight years to fix the problems of housing affordability for renters and buyers on the coast, and it is just getting worse. It's harder to rent than ever before, it's harder to buy than ever before, and there are more people, especially women and young people, couch surfing or living in their cars. When a local family of two police officers and three kids can't get a start in the housing market, we have a problem. Vacancy rates are as low as 0.1 per cent in parts of the coast and rents have climbed by over $100 a week in just the last few months. In some cases, tenants are paying $430 a week for a small studio apartment. One of the many posts on my Facebook page on this subject was from Dana of Hamlyn Terrace. This is what she said:
We recently found ourselves seeking a rental after seven years and could not believe how competitive it was!
Two fulltime working incomes - rental mortgage history for over ten years and rejection after rejection.
She went on to say:
I couldn't believe it.
And it is tough. It is a growing problem. When two full-time workers with a rental mortgage history for over 10 years can't secure a rental, we have a problem that the government hasn't recognised or doesn't care about.
Homelessness on the coast is a growing, but often hidden, problem, as women and young people couch-surf or live in their cars. Last year, 10,000 women and children across Australia were turned away from refuges because there wasn't a bed, and the shortfall of social housing has climbed to 3,500, leaving many people waiting up to 10 years for a place to call home. To fix these problems won't be easy. It reminds me of Geoff, the social worker I worked with in Wyong hospital in the acute adult inpatient unit. He would hand someone a phone book and point them to the phone in the public mental health ward and say: 'You've got to try. You need to call. You need to find a place to stay.' What chance does someone who's been discharged from a mental health unit in a public hospital have in a competitive rental market? What chance do they have of having a roof over their head, being safe and being able to get the support that they need for their wellbeing? It is just not good enough.
Labor has a plan for housing Australians: a future fund which will change lives and create jobs. Over the first five years, it will build 30,000 new housing properties, including homes for women and children fleeing family and domestic violence and for older women aged 65 plus who are on low or fixed incomes or receiving a pension and who are at the greatest risk of homelessness. How can you rent in a competitive rental market and, at the same time, be living or getting by on an age pension? You can't. It doesn't stack up. It's just not good enough. There needs to be a plan for housing for people in communities like mine.
There really needs to be a plan for jobs. As I said earlier, people on the coast—such as the young people from my old school like Jaedyn, Aliza, Jamie, Mikayla, Leah, Summer, Stevie—deserve, when they grow up, to be able to go to Wyong TAFE or to the Ourimbah campus of the University of Newcastle or to go straight into work to be able to get the skills they need locally to be able to go into a secure job, have a good career and be able to support themselves and their families. But this government has no plan for jobs. The number of apprentices and trainees in Dobell is currently 25 per cent lower than when this government took office. So what chance do people like Jaedyn, Aliza, Jamie and Mikayla have? They deserve better. Kids on the Central Coast and kids in the regions and the outer suburbs deserve better. This government has overlooked the outer suburbs and the regions in its budget, particularly in coastal communities like mine.
I have met with local small business owners and visited manufacturers. They're punching above their weight. They're innovating, they're designing and they're building word-class products, but they need proper support. TrendPac in Berkeley Vale, a contract manufacturer specialising in personal care and home-care products, have been supplying large retailers since the 1960s, and they employ more than 220 locals. I met Larry and his team at Bioaction in Tuggerah, who have developed leading technology in wastewater management and protecting infrastructure, and they are providing skilled jobs on the coast. I recently caught up with Joel and Breah from the Marshmallow Co. in Wyong. They've built their business from the ground up with passion and hard work, and growing demand since 2020 has led them to new premises and a larger kitchen. TrendPac, Bioaction and Marshmallow Co. are capable local people who are innovating. They need better support. They need to be able to obtain capital for start-ups. They need to be able to scale up. They need to be able to face the challenges of businesses getting off the ground or expanding in regional communities. But there is nothing for them in this budget. Local manufacturers on the coast have the know-how and the ideas to compete with anybody locally, nationally and globally, but the government needs to do more to support them to scale up, to expand and to employ more locals.
As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be squarely focused on jobs—secure, local jobs in the outer suburbs and the regions. If you want good, secure jobs with fair pay and good conditions, you need a government which makes regional Australia and the outer suburbs in the regions a priority. If you want an Australia that makes things and supports local jobs, you need a government focused on skills and training, working in partnership with industry and with the education sector. This budget has once again left the people on the northern end of the Central Coast behind. Those young kids that I met from my old school, St Cecilia's in Wyong, care. I want to thank Jaedyn, Aliza, Jamie, Mikayla, Leah, Summer and Stevie. They know what matters. They know what the needs of our community are. The government should listen to them. They should listen to local school kids and really do better for regions like ours.
I welcome this opportunity to make a few remarks about the appropriation bills in the federal budget handed down by Treasurer Frydenberg a few weeks ago. Of course, this is a budget that is aimed at achieving two principal things. It's firstly about securing our recovery from what has been an extraordinary 12 months for all Australians and, indeed, the global community. Importantly, it's also a budget that thinks beyond that. Not only is it about securing the recovery, it is about what comes next and how we, in fact, rebuild an Australian economy and an Australian society that is even stronger than that which we entered the pandemic with.
I want to focus on some of those elements of the budget which I think are most important in that regard, particularly on securing the recovery. Obviously, the primary focus of the government continues, as it has been for the last 12 months, to protect and to restore jobs for those Australians that have been affected by the pandemic. And, of course, the budget builds on the work that we did over the last 12 months to secure that outcome. But I mention that it also focuses on the future. It is a budget that focuses on critical areas like the skills that Australia needs to meet the demands of a modern economy; like the opportunities that exist in a digital economy, which surely must be one of the areas in which Australia expands its strengths. It also focuses on that third pillar of the priorities that have been identified by the Prime Minister of making sure that Australia can capitalise on the energy transition that is underway, particularly as we head towards a net zero economy.
But before I talk about some of those things, I want to reflect on the context of this budget, because the last 12 months have been hard for Australians. They have been hard for the citizens of the world no matter where you live. It's quite extraordinary to think, particularly as a Sydneysider, about where we were just a little over 12 months ago. Those months of lockdown have left a scar and enduring memory for so many of us, as we saw the norms of our society, the norms of our economy, literally taken away from us overnight.
Of course, back in those days we wondered where we would be heading. We wondered what the impact of this pandemic would be upon us. Many of us, quite understandably, feared those daily news bulletins showing the increase of infection rates; feared what it would mean for our parents and loved ones; feared, in some cases, what it would mean for ourselves. But we also feared the economic consequences. I don't think any Australian of this generation will ever forget the sight of those queues outside Centrelink almost immediately the day after the lockdowns were implemented across Australia. They were scenes probably not seen since the generation who lived during the Great Depression. They were scenes of despair and heartbreak as people in otherwise secure employment and an otherwise secure trajectory in their lives saw that suddenly pulled from under them.
The predictions back then about the impacts of the pandemic were severe. We know that so many of our economic agencies, including Treasury, predicted that we could see unemployment rise to 15 per cent. We predicted the worst in relation to the impact that the pandemic would have on so many businesses large and small.
So we entered 2021—it's hard to believe we're almost halfway through—with a different landscape, a different environment. What has happened in Australia has truly been nothing short of miraculous but it hasn't happened by accident.
On the health front we have been an extraordinary success story and that's been the result of the combined efforts of federal and state governments, particularly working through the national cabinet. But just as importantly it's been through the success of Australians following the best health and scientific advice. Economically, we didn't see that 15 per cent unemployment reached. In fact, we saw half of that. And now today we enter an era where, in fact, as a first of all developed nations, there are more people employed in Australia today—over 70,000 more than there were before the pandemic. No other developed nation has been able to achieve that outcome.
Again, that hasn't happened by accident. It's happened through the combined actions of Australians and their governments. And it's particularly happened because of the structures that the federal government, the Morrison government, so quickly put in place when the magnitude of the pandemic caused the realisation that it would require a massive and unprecedented effort to support Australians. We have, in fact, seen over $300 billion spent over the last 12 months to try and secure the employment and the livelihoods of Australians and the businesses that employ them. That's why we are in the situation today, almost unique in the world, of being able to sit here on this continent of ours and not have to endure the pandemic that is raging around the world at levels as great as they have ever been, and not have to endure the economic consequences that are besetting so many other countries and causing such despair.
We know that we're not out of the woods. The events of this week have shown that we are not far away from more outbreaks, but we also know that, through the support of government, we can actually make sure that the type of protection that we saw last year continues. This budget does that in so many ways—be it the measures through which we have continued to provide tax support for low- and middle-income workers, or be it the support that we're providing for businesses, small and large, through things like the instant asset write-off. We are seeing it through the investment that we're making to support for today, but also, importantly, for tomorrow, the skills of Australians, the traineeships and the apprenticeships that will keep young people focused on the opportunities that Australia can provide them.
I continued to see that in my own electorate and over the last 12 months. I've seen the multitude of businesses—in fact, over 9,000—that relied on JobKeeper. I met with the business owners that said that their employees were only there because of JobKeeper. I have seen the businesses in some of our smaller industrial areas which, believe it or not, North Sydney has, that have been utilising our apprenticeship scheme. For example, a few months ago I visited a high-tech manufacturer of drones and met, in the aviation sector, some of the very skilled apprentices that were being brought on board. I have seen, last year and this, the benefits of the instant asset write-off scheme—businesses that have made the capital investment in their future. In fact, only last week I was talking to some businesses that were looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunities provided through its extension in the budget. For example, a business up the road from my office, famous in our area, Maggio's Cafe and Bakery, has just bought new dough machines to expand its operations, with the instant asset write-off providing that opportunity so that it can continue to provide significant sugar hits to the people of North Sydney in a way that has caused it to be much loved.
I have also seen the other side of the equation—that is, the heartache that the pandemic caused. I just want to pause to thank all the wonderful organisations in my electorate that supported residents in distress over the last 12 months. They are multitudinous, and I can't mention them all, but I particularly think of our local community services, like the Crows Nest Centre or Sydney Community Services, which services the Lower North Shore, or the role that many of our churches played. During the height of the pandemic, I had the great pleasure of helping find volunteers and volunteering myself for a local food bank run by the LifeSource Church in Chatswood. These are contributions that we need to capitalise on as we continue to emerge from the pandemic.
I want to touch now on three areas where I think this budget will deliver for the residents of North Sydney but also deliver for Australia. They are areas of the budget which I think are particularly relevant to my own electorate. Firstly, I do think it is so important that the government, as it has done in this budget, continues to focus on the opportunities of lowering the tax burden for Australians. What I am excited about is our commitment, brought forward last year to help as a stimulus measure, to provide real personal income tax reform. Of course, phase 3 is still a couple of years away, but that is going to be such a game changer, when we enter that era with so many Australians—in fact, I think 95 per cent of Australians—paying no more than 30c of tax in the dollar. That is a game changer for incentive, for reward for effort, and for encouraging Australians to be entrepreneurial, to use their initiative and to work harder.
I also want to focus on an area which perhaps hasn't received as much media attention as it ought, and that's the opportunities of the digital economy.
This budget contains a package of $1.2 billion to support the digital economy. It's a sweeping package which covers everything from an investment in artificial intelligence, to making sure that we have the skills, to renewing our commitment to getting more women into STEM, to supporting areas like quantum computing to support the workforce needs of the digital economy. I particularly want to focus on one area which I spoke about in this chamber the other day: the incredible opportunity that we have identified for new areas for endeavour in Australia. In this case it's through the support that we are now intending to provide to the interactive games industry through a 30 per cent tax offset. An offset, which we have shown time and time again has been so vital to our vibrant film industry, will now be applied to the creativity of those involved in interactive digital games. For my electorate, which is already a hub for that type of creativity, we're going to see that offset drive further growth, further opportunities for young people in particular, who have those unique skills which for sure elude me in relation to interactive games development. That is something I'm very excited about.
The other aspect of that budget which flows into the commitment that we're making to innovation, the digital economy and then more broadly to science and technology and which I'm particularly excited about is the government's commitment to a patent box. The term 'patent box' doesn't mean much to most Australians, but it will be a game-changer. It will provide a 17 per cent tax rate to those that are creating intellectual property in Australia and registering their patents in Australia. That is going to make a real difference to the research efforts that are made, firstly, in the biotech industries and the medical industries. We've flagged that we want to extend that to clean energy as well, which is just so important.
That leads me into the third area I want to talk about tonight, which I know is something my constituents are passionately interested in: what we are doing to support the transition to a low-emissions economy. Again this budget provides over a billion dollars to support the technology that we and the world will need to make sure that we achieve our goal of reaching net zero emissions. It builds on the $18 billion technology road map that the government has already released. Of course, there is a lot more to do, which I will continue to strongly advocate for, but these are important steps on that journey.
Finally, I want to touch briefly on some very practical ways in which my own local community has benefited from this budget. I particularly want to make reference to the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, overseen by the Deputy Prime Minister and his ministerial team. It is providing stimulus on the ground for shovel-ready projects that otherwise wouldn't have been funded, to be delivered by our local councils. So far the four councils in my electorate have received $7 million through that program and through this budget will receive $2 million more. I have seen the practical ways in which they're applying that funding to projects which are going to make a real difference in the lives of residents in our area. Some councils are using it to upgrade roads and pedestrian footpaths. Others, like Willoughby council, are making our streets safer through CCTV in areas like the hub of Chatswood. We're seeing some councils spend it on sporting and recreational facilities. For example, in Lane Cove, the upgraded Tantallon Oval is being supported by this program. In North Sydney, a tennis court complex used by over 500 residents will be completely rebuilt with this funding. It was subsiding due to a pretty dodgy construction many years ago. Its future is now saved. That program is also supporting programs like playground upgrades—for example, the Helen Street playground in the Lane Cove municipality or the Grasmere Reserve playground in North Sydney.
It's also being used to support exciting projects—for example, revitalising some of the laneways of Chatswood to replicate what we so admire about Melbourne's achievements in making laneways so important and vibrant. It's also being used for the upgrade of community facilities like the Dougherty centre in Chatswood, which is being done by Willoughby council. These are all changeable outcomes of this funding, which is going to be so important to helping our local area recover from the pandemic.
I want to conclude with one final point. In this budget we invest in those essential services that are so important: aged care, NDIS, child care, education and record levels of hospital funding. But of course we keep the funding going for the health needs that have arisen because of this pandemic. Obviously, central to that is our vaccination program.
I want to conclude by saying that whilst we have achieved so much as a nation, our path to normality depends and rests on one thing and one thing alone and that is Australians taking the opportunity, when their turn comes up, when they become eligible, to receive the COVID vaccination. I did that last week. It's a sense of relief. It's a sense of protection that you have when you have had that vaccine—in my case the AstraZeneca vaccine. I want to say, as the events of Melbourne today have reminded us, it is not something that we should be delaying. We should be doing it today, if our turn has come up. Let's get on with getting Australia vaccinated so that all we've achieved can be locked in to the future.
I've been listening carefully to the speeches by members of the government all day today, and I have to say in many ways we really do live in two different worlds. For me, the budget that we have just seen the government deliver, at the end of its third term—looking for a fourth term in government—is a budget for the wrong decade. It's a budget that doesn't look ahead, that doesn't address the real issues facing our economy and our population. It doesn't address the issues of housing. It doesn't really act on climate change. It doesn't really address the needs of aged care. It doesn't address the needs of child care. It does some things. There are nice announcements in the budget that talk about these things, but when you actually get down to the detail there's very little there that will actually make a difference. It is an election budget.
When you look at the history of this government over the last three terms what you will see is in the first term of government they cut like crazy. They cut, cut, cut. We watched Prime Minister Abbott do it. We watched Prime Minister Turnbull do it. We watched Prime Minister Morrison do it—cut, cut, cut. Then in the third year, just before the election, out comes the money, in most cases to fix the crisis that they caused by cutting in years one and two. And this is what we've got now. We've got a much bigger spending splash, because COVID seems to have given them a change of heart and they now believe in spending enormous amounts of money—in fact, $1 trillion in debt with no sign whatsoever of ever being able to manage that debt. It's a bigger spend, but it's still essentially headline grabbing, let's win an election, spending. There is very little there that will actually make the changes that we as a society and as a country need.
I want to start with one of the biggest, splashiest announcements that the government have made, which is about aged care. We really do need to talk about aged care. We've known about the ageing population for many decades now. When he was Treasurer Peter Costello made a huge fuss about it, so did Paul Keating when he was Treasurer. We've known about it for a long time. Every year we have more and more people in the post-retirement age, if you like, and our costs keep going up and our needs keeps going up. We've known about it for a long time. The government has cut funding to aged care for three terms. Rather than grow aged care, rather than sit down and work out what we as a country need, they have cut the budget year after year in real terms. This is not a government that has displayed any commitment to aged care. In fact, there have been 22 reviews into aged care that have condemned the state of aged care during these three terms. There have been 22 reviews that have said something needs to be done. The biggest and most extraordinary one, of course, was the royal commission, which put out an interim report called Neglect. It said that 60 per cent of residents were malnourished, that people were lying in faeces and still the government did nothing. They did nothing and then they did nothing and then they did nothing. Then a few months before an election they decide to do something.
I say to anybody out there who is paying attention to this and listening to this: you need to consider whether you're going to trust a government that has been cutting the hell out of it for three terms. It comes along when the crisis is so bad that an interim royal commission calls its report Neglect. The report says that 60 per cent of residents in aged care are malnourished. Then you do nothing until an election is called and then you make a big splash.
Let's look at detail of it. I'm going to start initially just by looking at the home-care packages. We have known for years that there was a waiting list for home-care packages. Home-care packages, for people who don't know, are for when a person decides to age at home and they get people coming in to provide services for them on an aged-care package. There are various levels, from a really simple one where someone just comes in and gives a small amount of help, to level 4, which is really quite substantial. The waiting list for these have been going on for ages. I have been speaking about the waiting list on these for years now. It has sat at around 120,000 people on the waiting list for several years. In fact, the more you need the care, the longer you'll wait. If you really need a substantial amount of care, you're probably likely to die before you get it. That's where we have been for years, and the government has done nothing.
The royal commission made a recommendation that the government must immediately increase the home-care packages available, allocate a package to all people on the waiting list that do not yet have a package or do not yet have a package at the level they have been approved for by 31 December, and keep the waiting list clear. It's an absolutely clear recommendation by the royal commission. What we got from the government is an additional 80,000 home-care packages over two years. We have a waiting list over 100,000 now, and it grows every year because every year there are new home-care packages coming on and people coming off them. It grows every year, so 80,000 home-care packages over the next two years won't even clear the waiting list that we have now. It won't keep up at all. It will not solve the problem. It's a bandaid. It is a bandaid to stick on a crisis of this government's making. That's what it is. This government created this crisis by doing nothing and by cutting funding to aged care, and now they're sticking a bandaid on it and saying, 'Well, 80,000 home-care packages over two years.' It won't even cover the current waiting list. It won't do it. It is not enough. They are not doing enough. That's before you get into the other aspects of the home-care packages that need reviewing. This is simply: 'Stick a bandaid on it. It won't solve it, but it'll get us through the election. We can say we're doing it.' Watch what happens if they win again. Watch what happens if this government gets a fourth term. They will go back to where they have been for the last three years. This is an election budget. Make no mistake about it.
There is another aspect of aged care that the government is claiming to do something about: nutrition. The royal commission said that 60 per cent of residents were malnourished. They are literally starving in aged care. If people listening don't think it's going to affect them, one in two women and one in three men end up in residential aged care at the end of their life. So look around. If there are two of you in the room, one of you is likely to end up in residential aged care if you're women, and one in three if you're men. This is going to affect everybody. It's already affecting our parents, our partners, our grandparents—you name it. People are actually starving in residential aged care right now.
The royal commission came out with very strong recommendations about the need to increase the allocation for each person, but they also said that there needed to be incredibly strict accountability measures including public reporting that includes 'details of the provider's expenditure to meet the basic needs of residents, especially their nutritional needs'. In other words, transparency. Holding the aged-care providers to account. What the government has done instead is provide a nice splashy announcement of an extra $10 per day per resident for providers, but with no requirement to report. When they made this announcement, by the way, the share price of some of the biggest aged-care providers went up. That pretty much tells you what investors out there think is going to happen with this money. There is no guarantee whatsoever that this $10 per day will actually go into nutrition or go to residents at all. There is no guarantee. A lot of aged-care providers will use it the way it should be used, but there are a hell of a lot of others that won't. There is no guarantee. Again, it's a nice splashy announcement to get them through the election. Then after that, stories will come out of another person's mum or another person's partner effectively starving in an aged-care facility. It will get them through the election, and that's all.
When it comes to aged care I also want to talk about the workforce. The royal commission made very strong recommendations about the workforce. We all know—all of us that have visited an aged-care facility, have spoken to workers or have known someone in an aged-care facility—that the staff can be amazing, but they don't have the time to do the work that they need to do or want to do. They are struggling. They are working longer hours than they should. They're not going home. They are working unbelievably hard. The residents tell me how great the staff are, but there are not enough of them and they cannot do the amount of work that they need to do. And they're leaving in large numbers, so there's a need for a larger workforce, as well as a workforce that is actually more available to its residents.
At the moment, aged-care workers start out at about $21.90 an hour. That is one of the lowest rates around. You can earn much more than that stacking shelves in a supermarket. You can earn more money than that at McDonald's. So the people that we trust to look after some of the most important people in our lives at their most vulnerable moments are some of the worst-paid people in the country. If you go and talk to those workers on a day when one of their residents has died, they are crushed. The real infrastructure in an aged-care facility is the relationship between the residents and the people who care for them. In a service sector, that is the thing which is your real infrastructure. That's what you pay for. That's what makes your product, if you want to think of it in those terms, valuable. It's not the building. The building is very nice and you have to have one, but it's the level of belonging and attachment that people have in an aged-care facility that actually makes life worth living. It's about people.
You cannot solve the crisis in aged care, which is of this government's making, without dealing with the workforce issues. They are underpaid, they're not staying long enough, they're taking other jobs and they do not have the time to actually spend with the residents in the way that is needed—they just don't. There is nothing in this aged-care plan that—nothing at all. There is nothing that deals with the chronic shortage of aged-care workers. Again, we've been talking about that in this place for years. I've spoken about it at least four times. We've known for years that there is nothing in this plan that actually addresses the fundamental issue in aged care, which is the workforce.
I also want to talk about housing. The government, again, has made a nice, splashy announcement about the Family Home Guarantee. It is interesting that, when you look at all the policies that the government has for home ownership, affordable housing or whatever you want to call it, they're all demand driven. They're all about increasing demand, which pushes up prices. So we have taxpayers subsidising this person and that person and that other person to own a home. Other taxpayers are paying for that. For the taxpayers who don't get on that little train, the price goes up. So they give their taxes to another person, and then housing becomes less affordable for them.
The government has a really interesting strategy. But this particular one, the Family Home Guarantee, is really interesting for what it is not. The government spruiks these 10,000 new places for single parents with dependants. Essentially, the government will guarantee 18 per cent of the deposit. So, with two per cent of the deposit, a single parent can buy a house, effectively, if they can afford to do it. The measure will allow single parents with a household income of less than $125,000 to access this scheme. Housing advocates have welcomed the change, but they also point out that the benefit will really only flow to single parents earning between $80,000 and $125,000. The median income for a single parent with one child is $54,000 after tax. So you have the median of $54,000 after tax and you have the median price in Parramatta of $1.2 million for a house and $620,000 for a unit. You have data from the Melbourne Institute showing that there's only one suburb in all of Sydney where a person on even $80,000 would be able to afford to buy, and that is Carramar, out in the west. The median price out there is $345,150. A single parent with two children with a median income of $56,000 would be able to borrow only that amount. So the number of single parents who could access this scheme is actually quite small. It will be a very small cohort. Good for them! That will get them into home ownership.
If you look at the numbers, there will be 10,000 new place over four years. That is 10,000 homes over four years. It's capped. That's 2½ thousand homes a year. There are 150 electorates, so I reckon that if the scheme were spread out evenly over each electorate in the whole country—which it probably won't be—Parramatta would get 16 houses. Sixteen single parents a year would actually make it into this scheme under that cap. The numbers look really good. It's a nice flashy thing: 10,000 people, four years, 2,500 a year, 150 electorates. There are one million single parents in Australia, by the way, so assistance for 10,000 isn't going to go that far. But sit down and work out what it actually means for your electorate. It means 16 or 17 parents per year, if they can afford it. And even then it will be the parents at the upper end. It won't be the median, those on $55,000 or so; it'll be the people who earn $80,000 or more. It's a nice, splashy announcement, but it won't do very much at all.
After eight long years of the coalition government, Australians would be entitled to look back and ask, 'What was the point of that?' This budget sets Australia on course for $1 trillion in Commonwealth debt—$1 trillion of Liberal debt—but for all that spending what will we have to show? This budget spent plenty of money on the Morrison government's political problems, but go out into the street, grab a random passer-by and ask them what they have gotten—what the nation has gotten—out of that trillion dollars of Liberal debt, and they'll come up blank.
When Labor was in power during the global financial crisis, the Rudd government invested in stimulus to support the economy through an external shock, but it did so in a way that left a lasting legacy. It left a legacy of upgraded fibre-to-the-home broadband infrastructure. It left a legacy of city-shaping transport infrastructure projects, like the regional rail link project in my electorate of Gellibrand—new train stations and new train lines easing the commute of my constituents. It left a legacy of investment in school infrastructure. Despite the confected nonsense of those opposite and their conservative media enablers, even today you can go to any school in Australia, ask them about Building the Education Revolution, paid by the Rudd government, and they'll proudly show you the new school building, multipurpose room or classrooms that were built with this funding. We made those investments because we had a vision for Australia's future—a vision for a better education system, a vision for how to improve our major cities, a vision for how government could provide the infrastructure needed to create new growth opportunities for the Australian economy. But, 10 years after this budget, you won't be able to point to any enduring legacy from the trillion dollars of Liberal debt in this budget.
A budget should set out a government's vision for the future of a country, but what we see in the Morrison government is a government that has no plan for the future of the nation, just a short-term plan to get itself re-elected. Where there should be a vision for the nation, at the top of this government all there is is a media strategy developed by a marketing guy. Take what is seemingly the only investment flagged in the budget for my electorate in Melbourne's west. While the Morrison government's prebudget media drop spruiked a multibillion dollar investment in the Western Interstate Freight Terminal in Truganina on the front page of the HeraldSun, the budget papers revealed zero dollars for this project in each of the four years of the forward estimates. It was just more smirk and mirrors. And that's all that will be left at the end of the Morrison government: an archive of quickly forgotten media announcements and news clippings. Even today, looking back through the three years of the Morrison government's media announcements, it's like sifting through a childhood toy box filled with ephemeral marketing fads, like Tazos or Pogs or Beanie Babies. Morrison government media announcements are triumphs of marketing over substance. There's a new three-word slogan every other week, a new dress-up opportunity at a photo op, a new gimmick that's forgotten before it comes time to deliver. Nothing this Prime Minister does is meant to last. All he's interested in doing is catching the public's attention with something new long enough for a new fad to be developed to take its place. He has to do this because he's not a real leader. There's no 'there' there with him; there's no substance. He doesn't have the skills or capability to actually deliver anything, so he has to keep changing the subject. He's like a travelling snake oil salesman, pulling up stumps and moving on to the next town before people realise that the miracle tonic is actually bunk, or like the guy on the beach in Bali selling 'genuine' Rolexes at a knockdown price and promising that he'll send the warranty in the mail when you get home from your holiday.
Just look at the Prime Minister's performance during the COVID-19 pandemic. He's gotten all the big calls wrong and been on every side of every issue in the process. Let's do what the Prime Minister hates the most and check the record. When the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off and lockdowns and health restrictions threatened millions of jobs, Labor called for wage subsidies to support Australian businesses and workers, to save jobs. The Prime Minister called this 'a dangerous idea' and opposed it—for a fortnight, until the queues formed in front of Centrelink and he was forced to work up another slogan.
The Prime Minister then told Eddie McGuire and Triple M radio: 'We've just got to understand that we've got to live with the virus. The idea that you just shut down everything and put all the borders up, that is no way to live with this. It is not sustainable.' Twelve months later, in this budget, the Treasurer told the House, 'You've just got to understand that suppressing the virus, not living with it, is the key to the government's economic strategy.' It was full backflip. In this Triple M interview last year, the Prime Minister bagged the states for closing borders and for implementing health measures to protect Australian lives. But today the Prime Minister has a new talking point and is bragging about the number of lives saved in Australia relative to other countries.
In that Triple M interview of months ago, he said: 'Eddie, I can't stress it enough. The COVIDSafe app, that's how you live with the virus.' The COVIDSafe app—do you remember that? That's a blast from the past. Years in the future someone will come across an old phone, switch it on and see the COVIDSafe app and get a nostalgia hit—'Oh, yes. I remember that, but I don't really remember what the point of it was. I don't know remember when I stopped using it. But I remember it was a thing that was around for five minutes.' The COVIDSafe app was the Prime Minister's favourite gimmick for a few months in 2020. He spruiked it on 70 separate occasions. He told Australians that it would be our 'sunscreen' against COVID-19, that it would be our 'ticket out of restrictions'. Of course, like everything this Prime Minister announces, he bungled the delivery and now he barely mentions it. I don't think he's ever mentioned it in the last six months. The COVIDSafe app identified just 17 unique close contacts during the height of the pandemic. Despite the Prime Minister's marketing puffery, it comprehensively failed Victorians and failed to prevent a second lockdown.
This week we heard that, in total, the app has identified 567 unique close contacts, on a bit of a different statistical definition, out of 30,000 cases. I've spoken to doctors who have worked on the frontlines of our hospitals in Victoria treating COVID patients who never registered a contact on the COVIDSafe app. You could see the Prime Minister's priorities for the COVIDSafe app before it even launched—$5.8 million to develop and $7 million to sell it to the public. After all that, it is worth about as much to Australians as a shoebox full of pogs, except you wouldn't have to keep paying ongoing $100,000 per month hosting bills for the privilege of owning a shoebox full of pogs.
When it comes to things that actually would have protected Australians from COVID-19—vaccines—the Prime Minister's hype-over-substance MO prevailed yet again. The Prime Minister really thought that he was on to a good thing with the marketing for the vaccine rollout. He thought he was going to ride this all the way through to the next election. You know this because he even put the Liberal Party logo on their vaccine announcement. Even the COVIDSafe app didn't get that kind of treatment. But when the questions started to arise about how many different vaccine supply contracts the government had secured in those critical weeks of August 2020 the Prime Minister didn't reply on the substance; he replied by upping the rhetoric. He foolishly and mendaciously told the Australian public that we were at the front of the queue for vaccines. Of course, we weren't even close to being at the front of the queue, and Victorians are now paying the price. We are 101st in the world for percentage of people vaccinated, just behind Uzbekistan. New Zealand is 77th, the UK is 10th and the US is seventh. President Biden announced today that 50 per cent of Americans are fully vaccinated. As of today, less than two per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated.
The Morrison government haven't been able to keep up with their own rollout targets. Originally they said we were going to be fully vaccinated by October. There should have been around 14 million people vaccinated under that target by now. But they bungled that and they realised they couldn't do it, so they moved the goalposts in March. They were going to have six million vaccinations administered by earlier this month, but they couldn't even manage that and they have had to move the goalposts again and now it's around 12 million by October. We're at just 3.8 million now. On current trends, we'll have just four million vaccinated by October. Again, we're being left behind by the Morrison government. Most recently, we have seen him strike upon vaccine passports. On the weekend, they were the Prime Minister's hot new thing, but by Monday they were definitely not. The idea got a bit too difficult and it became time for him to move on once again.
After eight long years of coalition government, after $1 trillion of Liberal debt, we are now in the shadows of another federal election. At this federal election, those opposite will be asking the Australian public to put them in power potentially for 12 years, longer than the Howard government. Yet this Prime Minister still does not have an agenda. He still doesn't have a vision or a plan for the nation. So he's put on his marketing cap once again, assembled the focus groups and got the consultants in to find the political issue that he can take to the next election. What have they landed on? Beating the drums of war with China. It gives me no pleasure to say that such a serious issue is being used in this way. But there is no issue that is too serious not to be exploited for base, short-term politics by this Prime Minister. There is no national interest that he will not subvert for his own domestic political interest.
There are big issues at stake for Australia in its relationship with China. It's something that I, myself, as a member of parliament—and I know many of my colleagues in this place—spend a lot of time thinking very seriously about and working through. The relationship has become far more complex and consequential as China itself has changed under the leadership of President Xi. Both our national sovereignty and the equal dignity of a million Australian citizens of Chinese ancestry are challenged by this new environment. The stakes could not be higher. In this context, our strategic policy and our economic policy demand a steady hand. They require our leaders to eschew short-term political interests and to focus on the long-term national interest. But this Prime Minister is too small for that. He's willing to take the most serious issue imaginable and weaponise it for partisan advantage in the most volatile of environments—an election campaign. Playing with fire does not begin to describe the irresponsibility. No previous Prime Minister would have subverted the national interest in favour of their own short-term political interests on an issue of this gravity.
Of course, this Prime Minister is so lacking in substance that he can't even do this competently. He shows no interest in seeking to understand the issues in our relationship with China or the history that underpins it. Indeed, early on in his leadership, he described our relationship to China as being one of a customer and a supplier. What a trivial farce. More recently, he incorrectly claimed Beijing's preference regarding Taiwan, 'one country, two systems', as Australia's. He then doubled down and covered up this mistake, this basic, fundamental mistake, with dissembling when he was called out on it, not by the Labor Party but by the foreign policy establishment, by geostrategic experts, by people who take this issue seriously. He talks up the Quad with the United States, Japan and India as the most important development for Australia's security in 70 years and then he trashes our relationship with India by threatening Australians seeking to return home from the COVID calamity in that country with jail terms. What are people in India supposed to make of that?
There are long-term challenges facing our nation that will matter after this pandemic is finished. Our leaders should be rising to meet them. Our focus should be on the long-term national interest, on the kind of nation that we want to live in after the pandemic, on the kind of nation that we want to build for after the pandemic. Automation threatens our existing manufacturing industries. Climate change threatens the future of our agricultural and tourism sectors. We need leaders who will meet these challenges. Yet, at every turn, the Prime Minister bungles the important decisions in pursuit of short-term political opportunity. He has no solutions, just marketing slogans and political strategies.
Australians have been magnificent during this pandemic. Indeed, Victorians are being called on to be magnificent once again as we speak in this chamber. And they rally. They get tested, they get vaccinated and they socially distance. They sacrifice for each other so that we get through this challenge together. Australians' efforts and sacrifices deserve a government with a vision for the future of the nation that is worthy of these efforts and sacrifices. They deserve a government that's on their side. In the budget reply this year, they saw one—an Albanese opposition that puts climate change and building a new jobs industry, through our response to climate change, at the heart of government; an Albanese government that recognises the housing crisis facing our nation, all the way through from people fleeing domestic violence to people suffering homelessness, to young families trying to get onto the housing ladder, and that responds through government leadership; an Albanese government that's on the side of Australians. That's what the Australian public is entitled to after the COVID-19 pandemic. That's what will be a question at the next federal election, and that's the choice that those of us on this side of the chamber will be offering to Australians when they go to the ballot box sometime in the next six months.
It being 7.30, the debate is interrupted and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. In accordance with the resolution agreed to on 13 May 2021, the Federation Chamber stands adjourned until 10 am tomorrow morning.
Federation Chamber adjourned at 19:30